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

Kate answered Darcy's phone. "Hey, David. She's getting scanned and more blood work. No, she's okay. The poison's mostly gone. She's actually staying awake for hours at a time now. Some minor muscle cramps but otherwise she'll be fine in a few weeks." She listened then smiled. "I'll tell her you said to get better. What? Why would someone want....I'll definitely let her know, yeah. Yeah, we can figure out who's doing that and stomp on them for her. Thanks, David. How you doin'?" She smiled. "That's great though, right? Excellent! Yeah, I'll have her call since she hasn't emailed in a few weeks. No, it's been a hectic mess. Sure. Be safe if someone tries for you, David." She hung up and leaned backward, looking at Darcy. "Your cousin David called," she yelled.

"Is he okay?" Darcy called back.

"Yeah, he's good. Healing nicely, his therapist is great but cranky and told him you wouldn't have supported him but he's shot back that you would've been there if you had known. Also, someone came up to him to talk to him about pressuring you to move away from the city."

"Fuck 'em. I like my apartment."

"Whoever actually owns the building wants you gone too."

"I'll deal with 'em when I get out of here." She yawned. "Any idea who yet?"

"Not yet. Want me to look it up?"


"Got it. You rest and we'll figure it out." She looked up the city's tax records to see if she could get it the easy way. It led to a corporation. Who led to a blank wall. Natasha suddenly appeared beside her so she held up her phone with a grin. "There's a concentrated effort to get Darcy out of her apartment and off that block."

Natasha took the phone to look at. "That's not a well known front but I can look it up." She did a search in a place that took a password. "Hmm. The mob is still mad she's so mouthy with them." She looked. "Interesting." She handed the phone back, pointing. "He is the highest in the city for the Russian mob." She walked off. "He's in jail but we can talk to him."

"Yes, I will," Darcy called. Then she yelped. "Hey!"

"Sorry," the nurse said. "Quit wiggling."


"Thank you. It's clear you're feeling better."

"When can I have coffee again?"

"Three more days," she said patiently. The doctor was laughing behind the machine controls. "If you're a good girl we'll let you go home tonight."


"Good girl." They got done and put Darcy back in her room. Clint was back in there. "She's feeling much more perky."

Clint grinned. "Great." She left. He looked at her. "They're used to us giving them hell."

"I'm trying to be good."

"We know," he agreed. He leaned on the bed railing. "So, what're you going to do about them trying to force you out by saying you aren't paying your rent?" He handed over the warning letter they had to send by law. It was dated yesterday.

"I sent money over. I have records showing I sent money over."

"They put it into a holding account and didn't accept it. Which they can by law but it's iffy. Brian said to tell you it's iffy and you may win but it'll cost way more than buying the building and kicking them out."

"I can probably do that," she agreed dryly. "Though someone online suggested I put up a huge compound sort of house like the facility upstate and invite people to come live with me."

"You could," Clint agreed. "If you were close enough to mine and Kate's place we'd still probably be over all the time. Or you could do what I did and just buy the building."

"I'm thinking about that too but it means I'd have to face down the guy in charge's minions. But it's a good investment in this city."

"It is," Clint agreed. "I live on the income from my building since no one pays me to be an Avenger. Some of your building could use fixed up too."

"Thinking about it, if I bought the building on the other side of you, it'd be a better, cheaper investment. Needs less work, has an elevator. The rooftop deck. It's empty so I could go in to fix all the apartments at once. I could make a huge apartment of that top floor."

"It has a lot of structural issues. That's why no one's bought it."

"Which means I could probably get it on a lot of sale."

Clint nodded. "Maybe. It'd probably take more to fix it up than to buy it."

She nodded. "Then maybe I'll just buy mine." He grinned. "And make them rent controlled because rent's stupid in our area."

"Yes it is. Kate pays more than you do."

"Which is wrong and they've sent letters around saying they're raising the rent six times in the last two months and each time the price goes up. I've been planning on buying it anyway."

"Good. What about your building's old elevator?"

"It needs replaced."

"Yes it does. Which is expensive."

"Expensive is I'm going to have to update all the apartments while people are living in them."

"You have a free one, right?" She nodded. "Move each apartment for a few days and fix it then move them back?"

"Probably. I'll talk with Brian and my trust manager later," she said through a yawn. "When I'm ready to be perky again."

"Okay." He patted her hand. "Brian said he needed a call anyway."

She grabbed her phone and turned it on, finding a missed call from him. She called. "It's Darcy...." She got transferred. "What's going on?" She listened. "No, I didn't die. Not even close. Passed out a few times but I'm not dead. Sure you can make that statement, Brian. Clint, who poisoned me?"

"No idea," he admitted. "Or they'd be begging for mercy. Why does he need to make a statement?"

"Rumors going around that I'm dead."

"No. I can send Katie Kate to do that." She grinned and repeated that, nodding. "Okay, I'll send her at Brian." He sent her a message, getting a 'let me change after class, three hours'. "She's got class and has to change. It'll be about three hours."

"Three hours, Brian. Thanks, man. Oh, I'm buying my building. Yup, that one. Thanks." She hung up. "He'll have the paperwork drawn up."

"Good. That makes it easier." He patted her wrist. "The dogs are pouty."

"They can come back."

"Lucky's having a heat treatment in the pool area." She grinned. "They're hovering over him to make him feel better. They'll come make you feel better later." She curled up on her side, facing him so they could keep talking. He yawned. "I need a nap."

"You can come nap."

"No, someone will say something and that'll hurt you."

She looked at him. "I'm known to be cuddly, Clint. And anyone like that would probably say something about you being in that chair the whole time I was sick."

"Not all of it."

She leaned over to kiss him on the cheek. "You're great at making me feel better too, just like the dogs are." He grinned. She settled in again. "I'm okay if you want to go nap."

"I'm good." Cutey walked in dragging something fabric that was large and dark. He got up to look at it then at her. "Who did you get this time?" She barked and wagged her tail, looking pleased with herself. "You're a good girl, Cutey." He picked her up to pet and cuddle her then let Darcy do it while he took the jacket to see who it belonged to. He didn't get to hear Cutey growl and attack someone but Darcy's yelp of pain brought him back. The janitor was in there and was now rubbing where the broom had nearly been shoved into his chest. "He try to touch you?"

"Yeah, he did. I have no idea why a janitor would need to grope my hip." The doctor walked in and dragged the guy out. She grinned at Clint. "Go play with someone."

"I can do that. Good dog, Cutey. You guard the Darcy human." He petted her again then went off with the jacket. He ran into a guard, holding it up. "Who did the dog get this time?"

"Some commando guy that snuck in."

"One she knows?"

"No. We have no idea, Barton."

"Where are they?"

"Secure room." He pointed.

"Thanks. Watch over Lewis? She just had to get the groping janitor."

"Got it. We've already got eyes in there." Clint grinned as he walked off. The guard went to hang out by the infirmary. It was safer if he did that.

Clint walked into the secure room, staring at the guy sitting there. "I remember when you were a newbie SHIELD agent and still really stupid. Apparently not everything has changed," he said dryly. He held up the jacket. "Why did a dog have to attack you?"

"I brought information for Hill, Barton. What are you doing here?"

"All Avengers have rooms here." The agent looked murderous. "Hill?" he asked her.

"He did bring intel that I already had." She handed it to him. "What is she doing about the mob trying to force her out of her apartment?"

"Taking care of them." They shared a look. He grinned. "It'll be nice to watch and Bishop's going to go stop the rumors that she's dead."

"She is," the agent said dryly.

"Funny, I was just talking to her. She's not dead."

"She is. We've seen pictures."

"I doubt that." He looked at Hill. "Let me go take pictures for Kate." He strolled off, leaving the jacket there. He came back. "Cutey reacts to gunshot residue and blood." He walked off again.

Hill searched the jacket, having someone come in to disarm it. The agent hopped up but a guard got him for her so she didn't have to fight yet. She was still sore, it was nice of him.


Kate Bishop walked into the meeting room, smiling at the two reporters in there. One of them was an entertainment one. One was an actual news one. "Darcy DeCriths sent me."

"She's dead," one of them said.

"She was poisoned, like Barton's dog was poisoned, but she's not dead. I sat with her when she was passing out all the time but she's very much alive." She slid down her tablet, which had a live stream from the infirmary. Darcy was awake enough to be talking to the dogs while sipping tea. "That's live from the Stark infirmary."

They stared then at her. "Then who reported she was dead?"

"We'd like to know that too since we think it may be the people who poisoned her," Kate quipped, smiling at them. "And even if she were dead, I'm one of her heirs until she has kids."

"Her cousin was saying it was all a lie but we know he's in therapy."

"His last whore of a stepmother screwed him up greatly by hooking him on drugs," Kate agreed, sitting down looking completely comfortable. "He's gotten clean, he's in a good place. He's been working over all the problems she created for him."

"She hooked him on drugs?"

"From what Darcy and he told me, she was basically molesting him and drugging him up so she'd have a future sugar daddy when she did away with his dad."

"Crap," the entertainment reporter said. "We never heard that."

"It did come out at her trial. Thankfully she killed herself in jail after being sentenced to life in prison for hiring people to kill his dad." She grinned. "Darcy had a few martinis in thanks that she offed herself."

"That's sweet of her," the other reporter agreed. "So she's really fine?" They were still watching her talk to the dogs. "Is it looped?"

"No. She's not allowed to do anything but play with the dogs and drink fluids. I brought in her laptop to read over the stuff on her mom's charity so she could make decisions on some grant applications. The doctor complained but Darcy told him she needed to get those done sooner instead of next week."

"That's good," the entertainment reporter said. "How much longer is she in there?"

"Probably until tomorrow afternoon. The poison was at minimal levels, her kidneys are working fine, and they've flushed her system very well so she shouldn't take any long term harm."

"What's this about the Coast Guard?" one of them asked.

"Hmm," Kate said, licking her lips. "The tower got invaded to remove a few people from it. Darcy was one. Their stated goal was to kill Darcy so the plan HYDRA had wouldn't go through. We believe the poisoning came from a few hours before then." They both nodded. "Two of the three women they had taken managed to get free and get to the surface since it was underwater and barely in international waters. They were found by a HYDRA boat and took it from the HYDRA agents, using it to get away. The Coast Guard found them and helped since neither one knew how to sail a boat. They got the third woman rescued and one of the other two air lifted. Darcy got taken to the harbor and to an ER. She was treated and released, sent home, and we found out about the poisoning about four days later."

"That makes sense. Did she thank them?"

"She sent out a thank you post," Kate said. "She wasn't sure how to thank them otherwise. Usually she'd make cookies or give a grant. She wasn't sure how to do that with an official group like the Coast Guard."

"That's sweet of her. Is that why some people in her neighborhood call her Cookie Lady?" the entertainment reporter asked. Kate grinned and nodded. "That's very sweet."

"It is and she's taught me how to make cookies too," Kate quipped.

"What about her building trying to get her out?" the entertainment reporter asked.

"We think that's some of the bad sort that hang out in the neighborhood. They're finding it a bit hard to do some nefarious things with her there. Or me a few blocks up, or others who live near there." She smirked a tiny bit. "They're wrong and she's acting against it once she gets out."

"That's good to know. What about that lawsuit?"

"She's absolutely certain her lawyer, who is a sweet guy, can be evil in her stead. She's praised how evil he can be until now so I'm pretty sure she'll keep being happy that he's evil on her behalf."

"She's snarling," the other reporter said, sliding the tablet back.

Kate watched then called her. "What's up? No, I have a live feed with the reporters. We noticed snarling. Oh, well, that's sweet and they can kiss my ass. You can tell them to come talk to the dog's owner too, Darcy. Sure, put me on speaker." She paused. "Listen, dickhead, this is Cutey's owner. She bit your agent for a very good reason. His jacket had an explosive device in it. She's got all her certificates to help me protect others and if you come near my dog again you're going to be food for her." The man pulled a gun on the camera and Darcy got up to beat the living crap out of him. Another agent came in to try to get the dog. "FRIDAY, please get her some help," she said. "I'm not near there. Protect Darcy and the dog."

The AI answered that help was coming, the dog was protected with a forcefield, and Darcy was going to kill someone in a second. The reporters had moved to see over her shoulder. There was Conor coming in to help and an agent tried to shoot him too but Darcy bit the guy's arm and then pulled his gun from his hand while he screamed to shoot him in the leg then the other one. Darcy was panting in anger and swearing at them while yelling about idiots who think they're good guys.

"Darcy, calm down," Kate said. "You're okay, the dogs are fine." Stark stomped in and yelled at the same agent, then glared at her and told her to get back into bed. Darcy said something back and huffed. Stark picked her up and put her back into bed, handing her both dogs and stomping over to deal with those agents/idiots. "Good job. No, I'm here with the reporters, Darcy. It's cool. Sure, if you want to make a statement." She let them have her phone to put on speaker so she could have her say about the stupid rumors. Kate grinned at Brian, who was sitting in a corner making notes.

He shook his head. "If someone should try to have the dogs put down for protecting their human friend, I'll gladly help you protect them even if they have to be moved suddenly, Kate. We know the dogs aren't violent. They're just protective."

"That's why she got Conor, to be protective and cuddly." The reporters handed back the phone so she put it in front of her. "You good?" She smiled. "That's good. You rest. I'll be there in about four hours, after my night class. I know you wouldn't expect me to skip it, Darcy. That's important to you and I agree. So rest, I'll be there tonight. Pet my dog and give her dog biscuits for me. Sure, I can bring some over. Good. You rest." She hung up, looking at the reporters. "She's still really mad at them. She's going to get up and tear them into pieces soon." They smiled, that sounded more like the Darcy they knew. "But anyway, how do we stop all those stupid rumors and figure out who started it?"

"We'll gladly find out who started it and tell you," the entertainment reporter said. Someone rushed into the room and Kate got up to kick them around, making them groan on the floor. "Wow." She stared at her. "We just figured you were a debutante she was coaching and mentoring."

Kate smiled. "I'm that too." She winked. "Let me pick up dog food and go hover over her until my night class." She strolled out with her phone and tablet.

Brian stood up. "Please do let us know in case they're involved in her poisoning."

"Of course. Can you comment on that lawsuit's progress?"

"He's tried very hard to cause problems, including trying to have her accounts canceled on her. It hasn't worked yet and each time he tries that another judge gets caught for tampering. Clearly, the dirty one is showing signs of others in their little mudpile. We do have a hearing in a few days to get on with it. The judge was tired of all their motions to continue." He smiled a shark's smile. "I'm fairly certain she'll have a happy day that day because it always makes her happy to triumph over evil. You guys have a nice day." They nodded and left to go make their reports. Brian sent Darcy an email about how it had been as the NYPD came to clean up Kate's mess.


Darcy looked up as she was walked out of Stark tower, nodding at a few reporters. "Don't get close to my dog, he's highly overprotective right now." They backed away when Conor sniffed at them. "He's not vicious but he's protective. He's a good boy." He barked at her, getting petted for it. He sniffed the car then let Cutey rush into it to sniff everything. When she laid down he got out of Darcy's way. "Aww, thank you, guys." Lucky came walking out, still limping a bit, but curled up with them.

"Later, guys. I have to heal for a court hearing in two days." She checked then shut the door, letting the hired driver take them home. They paused for Darcy to pick up her envelope from the financial manager, smiling as they got out in their neighborhood. "C'mon, guys." The dogs went with her, but Lucky stayed outside the pizza place. The hired car left. Darcy got a few scared looks and her landlord looked very worried. She smiled, sitting across from him. "I'm going to be cheesy and quote a movie. I have an offer you shouldn't refuse."

"That's not how the movie went," he said, taking a sip of his drink.

She smiled. "Men make offers you can't refuse. Women make offers you shouldn't." She tapped the envelope on the table. "I'm going to mimic Clint." He moaned. "So get the building's owner for me. Please."

"You can't do that. He won't allow it."

She shrugged. "I've already bought another one on the block. It's not like I can't."

He swallowed, then took another drink. "He won't like that."

"Yeah, I don't care. Is that the same guy that tried to torture me and Natasha beat?"


She smiled. "That's a pity, watching him cry was great." He shuddered. "So, introduce me. I might be willing to keep you on as the maintenance guy but I'd be fixing a lot of things."

"That takes money. You have no idea how expensive that is."

"And I'd be getting rental income," she quipped with a smile. "And fixing the rent problem you guys have tried to have. I doubt our rents will need to be Manhattan levels to fix the elevator or replace it." He slumped. "And the stairs, and the hallway lights, and all the apartments. I know what it costs. I do own other property." She smiled, patting him on the hands. "Just introduce me. Okay?"

"He won't like you."

"Yeah and I give exactly one-quarter of a percent of a fuck."

He nodded, looking back at someone. "He'll call him."

"Great." She smiled, handing the staring waiter a twenty. "Can I have glass of ice water and something not salty to nibble on while we wait? I'm supposed to be low sodium for another few days." He nodded quickly, heading into the kitchen. She got comfortable. The dogs were in the next booth and someone got them some water. "Thanks, Arvil." Lucky came in to rest too.

"Welcome, Cookie Lady. You gonna be okay?"

"I'm fine. Now. The poison's all gone." He nodded, going back to his seat. "Though if anyone knows who poisoned me, let me know please? I want to kick someone in the ass."

"If we hear, we could probably tell you," another of them agreed. "It'd be entertaining like Barton going off over his dog."

"They used the same poison," Darcy said dryly, smiling at him. He moaned. "Which is why I'm on low sodium." She smiled at the waiter who brought her a salad and water. "Thanks, dear." He nodded and fled since someone new was stomping in. "Is that him, Mike?"

"Yeah," he said quietly, getting up and taking his food with him.

Darcy smiled at him. "Sit, please." She waved a hand.

"I heard you were dead." He sat down. "It still won't get you out of paying the rent."

"You cashed both the checks," she said. "I have proof from the bank." He glared. "But we're here to discuss me taking that debt off your hands. That way I'm more secure." She stared at him. "That way you don't have to worry about why someone was going to raise the rent. Repeatedly by the letters."

"The building's a wreck," he snorted.

"So is the other one I bought. The construction teams will have it done in six months." She shrugged and ate a bite. "Sorry, real food after being in the infirmary." She ate another bite. "So, what do you want for the building?"

"I'm not selling it."

She laughed, a happy sound. "You sure? Because the housing department for this city got handed those letters about the rent raises. They're not happy. I got interviewed about that and the fact you were trying to say that you didn't get paid. I proved to them that I did pay you with bank records. So you can't get a hearing for that."

"I can go to court."

"Yeah, you could. You won't though because I'll have my lawyer ask you if you've got a green card for starters and then find all your mob connections. He's really good at that." He stared at her, looking furious. "I can pay you fair market value. I can pay you something decent beyond that. You fighting with me means I have to take valuable playing with my dog time to deal with you."

"We can kill the dogs."

"You'd die," she said with a smile. "Very painfully. Ask anyone in the neighborhood." She waved a hand. Most of the guys in there weren't looking at them but nodded. "I'm *real* overprotective of my dog and his doggy friends. If you thought I was mean to the guys who tried to get us in the park, just you wait because I'm out of patience for the year." Someone came near her dog and she deployed her tazer, making him scream. More of the mob guys showed up. She smiled and waved.

"He was going to threaten my dog. Pity." She looked over the back of the seat at the guy. "So, we going to do that again?" He whined, shaking his head. "Good boy." She petted the dogs. Then she looked at the owner of her building again. "I gotta say, you guys, so much easier to deal with than the people in Hollywood. I grew up watching my father deal with people who were three times worse than you and did even more illegal things.

"Seriously, you guys are kinda pussies next to the Hollywood sorts who fund things and the producers and the agents. Really, I don't mind the guys who live and work around here. They're generally good to the residents, they quit threatening people for no reason, and they're highly protective of their areas. I have a lot of respect for them. They've helped me a lot in the past and on one of the worst days I've ever had one of them help me get home. I have a ton of respect for them. But I'm not going to be putting up with threats near me. So let me evacuate the threats so you don't have to worry your receding hairline about it. So what will you take for the building?"

"I can get more going to the hipsters."

Darcy chuckled, smiling at him. "I can offer you six mil, the value of the building, in cash right now."

He licked his lips. "You can't do that."

"Yes I can. Or I could call an agent I know and tell her where all your stashes are so the guys get a finders fee for daring to take artillery away from bad people and hiding it for the agents to pick up. So what's your counter offer to my six mil?"

"I can go to the one you're suing and have him buy it."

"Yeah, he's not got that much money. He had to release his tax records to the court." The guy winced. "And besides, I already own another building. I can make a *huge* apartment for myself if I want. Buying my building will save me some work and me having to find a swimming pool sized soaking tub." She tapped the envelope on the table.

"That a check?"

"No." She smiled. "It's not a check. It's my shopping fund for the next six months. Whatever you don't want of it is going to the construction crew for the new building." He made a snatch for it and she smiled. "No, if you accept money from me that means we have a deal."

"That's too thin," he sneered. She opened it to show the bills. He swallowed. "That building's a money pit."

"Then that's my folly. Right?" She smiled. "I love my present kitchen. That's why I put it in." She stared at him. "We can remain at peace or not but would keep someone legal from confiscating the building when they show up. You know they will. You make too much noise not to be noticed. The local guys wouldn't be bothered most likely but you, you've made waves. Now," she said, switching the way she was sitting to face him. "We can make a deal and you can quit stressing about my evil lawyer friend showing up in your life, which means I get to be happy and safe, or I can fix the new place as a super safe six story apartment for myself complete with guest apartments and a tub that's the size of a kiddie pool at the park. Which stress do you want to have?"

"We'd hate you fixing that one building up," he sneered.

"And I give exactly no fucks. I had some earlier but I lost it in the salad." She grimaced. "Sorry. Especially since the construction crew I chose has a lot of former convicts and agents working with it to get a new start."

He swallowed, looking around then at her. "We could run you off this block."

She laughed, a light, happy sound that made him shiver. "I could buy this whole block. It'd be my shopping account for a year but I can do that. I'm sure the businesses would like to have less people breathing down their necks for protection and the like."

"Why does someone like you live here?" he sneered.

"I like the neighborhood. I'm not new money." He slumped. She grinned, patting his hand. "Old money has what it needs and just wants to be comfy. New money spends a lot to prove they have the cash. My mom's former people haven't been new money since the Renaissance. She really married down into Hollywood."

He stared at her. "What do you want in return?"

"Just keep things the way they were a few weeks back. Nice, calm, peaceful, quiet, protective. Don't bother my construction people and I'll try to arrange for interesting people who aren't hipsters. There is equal housing opportunities in this city and state." She patted his hand again. "So what will you take?"

"Ten," he said, staring at her.



She smiled. "Nine?" He shook his head. "Fine, ten." She pulled out the cash to count out, making him drool. The rest came out of her purse and another few envelopes. "There," she said when it was all counted out. She pulled out a paper, putting in the price and letting him see it. "Sign, date. Have a witness."

He looked it over, signing it and waving someone over to witness it. She signed it and had another witness. He looked at her. "Now what?"

"I have my lawyer buddy file it tomorrow first thing. I get a list from the maintenance guy about what needs to be fixed for real. He decides if he wants to continue to be my maintenance guy. If not, I'll find a new one pending the beginning of the month." He nodded stiffly. "I go back to making cookies. Especially the guy that helped me get home that night. He deserves more than cookies considering how badly off I was."

"You, attacked?"

She pulled up a news story on her phone, letting him read the headline. "Me, and a few others I work with."

He swallowed. "One of mine helped you?"

"He caught me walking from the bus that comes near here. It was the only one that came near the hospital. He got me a ride home and made sure I got into my apartment." That one nodded. She smiled. "I owe you a lot more than cookies, man. Thank you." She looked at him again. "Things go back to the quiet way they were a few weeks ago. Is that too hard on you?"

"No," he said, sucking in a breath though his nose. "That's not too hard. What happens if things get hard?"

Darcy shrugged. "I'm not concerned about your business outside of where it intersects my health and safety. I like most of the neighborhood. I like the restaurants and all that. This place spoils me rotten when I need pizza." She ate another bite of her salad and grimaced. "I hate salad but I know I need it." She sighed and ate another bite. "Thanks to the poisoning I'm low sodium for a bit."

He shook his head. "That wasn't us."

"Oh, I know." She smiled. "We're figuring out who it was and if they're behind the rumors that I died." She grinned. Two people walked in. "Brian." She handed over that form. "Here."

He looked it over, nodding. "Are the witnesses US citizens? They'll ask." Another one came over to sign it. "Thank you." He tucked it into his briefcase. "This agent...."

"I know Melinda." She smiled at her. "Problems?" She shifted over. "Come sit, Melinda. Brian, want lunch?"

"I'm good, Darcy." He pulled a chair over. "Your cousin was behind the rumors you died."


"We think his therapist convinced him you were taking his birthright."

"No, I'm always very supportive of Dave. I pay his fees above what his trust pays for."

"She's of the opinion that you stole his title and his dad's estate."

"He got most of the estate. I got a fifth of it. His mom got more than me."

Melinda May stared at her. "She did?"

"Yeah. All I got from him was the house in the Caribbean and custody of the library. His wives split the art collection and about a third of the money. Dave got the rest in his trust. His dad's will stated he knew that Dave didn't addict himself and that he knew his son wasn't a willing user. The lawyers debated that clause when the bimbo that killed him tried to contest but Dave told them how he got hooked when they asked him. That was a few months before she killed herself in jail though."

Brian made that note to someone. "Hmm. Dave agrees with that but he has a conservator."

"Why? He shouldn't need one."

"We can look into that for him," Brian agreed, sending that message to her cousin then putting his phone up. Dave was confused about having a conservator. "I can have a judge overturn that. That way no one's in his money but him." She smiled at him. "So, new building? Which one?" She pointed and he leaned to look. "That looks like a wreck but it could be pretty."

"I took your suggestion and hired that second chances construction crew. I added a clause into their contract that said they should ask vocational students for help if they needed extra hands. They liked that." Brian smiled. "So what else is going on?"

"Just making sure that this wasn't a problem." He looked at the guy. "It's not, right?"

"No. We heard she's real protective of the boys around here."

"They're nice guys who helped me a lot when I got attacked," Darcy said. "They deserve that respect."

Melinda May nodded. "They have proved it in the past even before we at SHIELD could step in." The old landlord shuddered. She smiled at Darcy. "Does that mean that elevator will finally work?"

"Oh hell yes, that's one of the first things being fixed." She smiled at that. "It'll make it easier on everyone. I need that list this weekend if you can," she called with a smile and a wave. "My construction head's showing up to do the official paperwork for permits on Saturday morning."

"Fine," he agreed. "Hire someone."

"Okay." She smiled at the guys. Who all shook their heads. That was a lot like work. "I'll see if my construction guys know of anyone." She smiled at Melinda. "So why else are you here?"

"Protecting you tonight. There's some weird people around here."

"Like Clint's brother weird or other weird?"

"His brother died."

"That's what he thought."

"Huh." She nodded. "I can make that note. But yes, he's probably one." She looked at Darcy. "You should be on the couch with the dogs." One of them licked her neck, making her flinch. She stared at them. "Thank you." Cutey barked happily at her, lapping her again. "You're adorable."

"Cutey usually only does that to Natasha. She likes to pounce her."

"I'm flattered by the comparison," she said dryly, petting the dog then the other two when they shifted. "Lay down, Lucky, I can reach you so you don't have to get sore." She petted him too. She looked at Darcy. "Are you ordering tonight so I can order with you?"

"Probably. Jensen agreed I didn't have a bit of food in the house. He cleaned out the fridge for me when he stayed over with Clay that night."

"Who were they?" one of the guys called.

"Jensen and Clay? They were commandos and now run a security firm. They've helped me tons. Including finding me people to do the door thing and my safe room." They all nodded at that. "Jensen's a sweetie and Clay dates crazy bitches." A few laughed. She looked at Melinda. "You can have the couch or the guest room, whichever isn't used."

"Thanks." She looked at Brian, who was smiling. "It's safer tonight."

"It is. Next time she might not be able to get out of their underground lab." Darcy heaved. "Sorry." Melinda was pushing on a pressure point in Darcy's wrist to calm her stomach down. "I didn't mean to bring up a bad thought, Darcy."

She sipped her water. "It's fine, Brian. I'm not having flashbacks about it." She leaned across Melinda to hug him then her. "Thank you for stopping that."

"Welcome." She got lapped again. "Thank you as well, dog." Darcy made herself finish her salad and water then they left, going across the street to Darcy's apartment. She went to lay down for a bit with the dogs. Melinda sent in a report about her buying the building and Clint's brother. Coulson was not amused at that news. He sent that back but said to tell Darcy to feel better. She could do that when she woke up.


Darcy showed up for work a few days later, all three dogs guarding her this time. She nodded at the security team, running her pass. "Morning, guys."

"Lewis, dog'vengers," one said with a nod. "Going to the lab or your office?"

"Office. Why would I go to the lab?"

"Dr. Foster wanted us to tell her when you got in," the other one said with a grin.

"Sure, but I gotta sit down." They nodded and the dogs escorted her up to her office to curl up on her couch and watch her type. They barked when Emma walked in and pouted at Darcy, getting pets from her. Darcy looked over the edge of her desk at the young one. "What's up?"

"You haven't visited in days."

"I've been sick."

Emma scowled at her. "Mommy didn't tell me that!"

"Then go nag her for not telling you," Darcy said dryly. "Want a hug?"

"Are you tagous?"

"No, I'm not contagious. Lucky and I were both sick recently."

She cooed, petting that dog. Who lapped her and got her covered in drool. She just huffed and kissed him then drooled on him back. She walked over to stare at her aunt, who shifted her seat so she could climb up if she wanted. She climbed up and tested her forehead. "You don't have fever."

"I'm out of the infirmary." She looked at her, giving her a hug. "I'm better. That's why I got to come back to work today." She looked over at Conor bathing Lucky's head. "Did you really drool on the dog?"

"He does it to me."

"True. Kiss, don't drool, on the dog. Okay? Their fur gets icky."

"That's why they drool on each other when they give baths." She snuggled in, resting her head against Darcy's chest. "You're not breathing funny."

"No, I'm not. I've still got to take some medicine with lunch if you wanted to make sure I take lunch."

She smiled. "I can do that. Mommy said you used do that to her."

"I sure did. Your mom used to never come out of the lab so I had to trick her into eating a lot. Even Poptarts."

"Wow. Mommy really likes poptarts. She gave them up for science?"

"She did, and sleep, and even your dad's snuggles." She grinned at her. "She's done less of that since she had you so you're a good girl."

Emma beamed. "Of course I am." She snuggled in and pointed. "What's that?"

"That's a request letter from a charity that wants money from us." She looked at Emma. "I get to read through it and tell Pepper if we should give them money for their research projects."

"Science?" she asked, looking up.

"A lot of them. A few art things. This is a grant giving group that Tony set up to honor his mommy."

"Wow. Did you do that?"

"I did. I have one for my mommy to honor her. She actually helped Tony set up his to his mommy."

"Huh. So you've known Uncle Tony since he was my age?"

"No, not quite that long. He's older than I am." She poked her with a grin, getting a grin back. "Tony's known me since I was your age. He was a teenager then."

"Wow. That's a really long time ago." She looked over. "Isn't it, Mom?"

"Yes it is." She clapped her hands, getting all three dogs barked at her. "She's mine, mutts. I can take her from Darcy so she can rest."

"I'm going to lunchies with her to make sure she takes her medicine," Emma said, staring at her mother. "Just like she used to do for you."

"That's great and we can do that," she agreed, smiling at Darcy. "Are you better?"

"Mostly. I have a few days of meds left." She hugged Emma then stood her up. "Go nag your mommy about science and outside time."

"That's right, we should steal a dog and go outside, Mommy. They can help you read to me and all sorts of stuff." She put her hands on her hips and stared at her mother. "You're more pasty than Daddy said his brother was so we should go get some sun with the dogs to help you read to me."

"Sure, we can bring the dogs onto the porch to go read to you," she said patiently. "Dogs, wanna go sit on the porch?" They all stared at her.

"Outside on the fire escape time," Darcy said. "Go with Emma, guys." She pointed. They barked and got up, all of them stretching on their way over to Emma, who grinned and walked up to the elevator with her hands on their necks. Cutey hopped up to ride on Conor to get her own petting in.

Jane watched then looked at her. "Wow."

"I had to tell her she didn't have to drool on the dogs because they drooled on her." She grinned.

"My daughter's a little smartass," Jane agreed, following her daughter. There were books up there to read to the kid.

Darcy got back to work making a report on the new grant request.

Clint leaned in. "Emma drooled on Lucky?"

"Yeah. He drooled on her when he licked her so she let a bit of drool out onto his head but didn't lick him back." She smiled at him.

He shook his head. "She's such a little smartass."

"She told Jane she was as pale as Loki was according to her dad so they needed to steal the dogs to go read to her on the porch."

Clint nodded. "It's good for her." He smirked at her. "The infirmary was expecting you today." She looked at her phone then at him. "I know, I don't know why they didn't call the usual way."

"I'll go after lunch, after I take my meds. Emma promised to remind me."

"That's fine. Come upstairs and eat?" She nodded. "Cool." He strolled off, nodding at Hill when he walked past her. "The dogs are with Emma. She stole them."

"It's great they're so protective." She walked into Darcy's office. "I got a call saying you're missing a court date?"

"No, I missed a court date by being in the infirmary. My next one isn't until tomorrow the last I knew." She sent a message to Brian, who said it was tomorrow. "According to my lawyer it's still tomorrow." She looked up. Brian messaged her again. "No, he got it moved and we weren't informed. That's sweet. I'm so going to file against that judge for misconduct." She gathered a few things then left with Hill sending a guard to drive her. "I can go, Hill."

"Shut up, Lewis."

"Fine." She smiled at the guard. "Thank you for the ride." He nodded, following her down to the garage.


Brian hung up and went to talk to that judge. He was in the courthouse anyway. "Your Honor, we weren't informed you had moved the case up by a day."

He smirked at the lawyer. "I sent over the message."

"That's fine. At least I'm here now and my client's on her way. She's just out of the infirmary."

"I heard she's dead."

"No, that was a lie started by someone stupid who wanted to try to claim her cousin's money for himself." He put his briefcase down and sat down. "Are we holding the meeting in chambers?"

"It was felt it was safer for your client with her multiple death threats."

"That's fine." Darcy got there about ten minutes later and he stood up, hugging her. "Are you feeling better?"

"Much. I have some maintenance meds I have to take with lunch but I'm fine. No more poison in my system." She nodded at the lawyers and the judge. "Your Honor." She sat down beside Brian. "I wish I had known it got moved up, I would've been here instead of going back to work today." She checked and turned off her phone after sending a text message to Jane. "There, I'm here for at least a few hours."

He stared at her. "You didn't have to give it up at security?"

"No," she said. "They said that it's more important that I have a way to summon help if something happens." He grimaced. "It's been a practical concern in the past." She smiled at the bailiff that came in. "Morning."

"Morning, Miss DeCriths. Your phone?" She pointed. "Off?"

"On silent. I had to cancel my lunch date."

"That's fine. Your usual allowed carries?" She pointed in her bag again. "Even better. Thank you. Let me handle it if something happens."

"Sure, please do. I'm not at full Darcy strength right now anyway." He nodded, staying by the doorway. She looked at her lawyer again then at the judge. "So, why are we meeting today instead of tomorrow?"

"I have something to do tomorrow, young lady," the judge said. "I heard you were dead."

"It appears that someone has tried to take over my cousin's life as a conservator without a court hearing or his consent. They spread that from what we've been able to find out. That way they could try to push him away from any family support and could try to claim his trust fund without anyone protesting." She crossed his legs. "Their state police are aware and are investigating and my cousin's going to a judge to have it removed."

"I heard he's in heavy therapy."

"He's in rehab," she corrected. "Part of that is therapy over what his stepmother did to him. She did molest him repeatedly and drugged him during those."

"He didn't take them himself?" the other lawyer asked.

"No. He has never liked medicines of any type. Dave used to hate to take aspirin. That's how we knew something was wrong. He was getting headaches and taking meds without nagging. His father had him drug tested and found injectables, which he wouldn't do. He loathed needles and had a phobia of them. That came out during his hearing about the drug thing and at the murder charges against his stepmother that did that."

"Will she want something?" that lawyer asked smugly.

"Only if the courts recognize money grubbing ghosts," she shot back. "She killed herself after being sentenced to life in prison for killing my uncle." He grimaced, slumping some. "My cousin's mother and his other two stepmothers, who took great care of him, were all holding a party over her death the next day."

"That's tacky," the judge said.

Darcy shrugged. "She killed their mutual husband and tried to addict her stepson to be her next sugar daddy so they were celebrating the end of the tacky, Your Honor."

"That is tacky on all parties then." He shuffled some papers. "I see yet another request to carry on this lawsuit." He looked up at that side. "Did I not say that I was not accepting any more of those?"

"Our client's extremely busy with his political drive of the moment, Your Honor," that lawyer said. "He has no time to attend these meetings."

"Yet, Miss DeCriths got out of an infirmary bed a few days back and is attending. He doesn't have two hours?"

"He's in the midwest today," one of them said.

Darcy frowned, looking it up on her phone. "He's in California today." She dropped the phone again. The judge glared at her. She stared back. "Correcting an assumption, Your Honor."

"How would you know?"

"I'm on the mailing list of a few groups that are presently picketing his speech today."

"Interesting to know. Is that what this lawsuit is about?"

"No, it's about their client not being able to keep his hands to himself," Brian reminded him. "He actively tracked my client through part of a civic center to grope her, Your Honor, then kept escalating it until she finally had to threaten his life to make him leave her alone. That's the baseline then a lot of things happened afterward."

"How many of those were her fault?" the judge demanded.

"Not a one," Brian said. "She didn't promise the charities she worked with money to fire her and then not pay," he said dryly. "Or send out contracts on her life. Or work with a terrorist organization to go after my client." The judge gaped. He looked at the file. "You only have the file on the charities, Your Honor. The full file is about a box thick now."

"I've seen that box. I'm over the charity problems, Mr. Dandiwist. Not the full suit."

"Oh, that's fine. I thought you were over both."

"I am but they're not combined."

"I'm going to offer a motion tomorrow to combine them, Your Honor. That way they're not too trying for you to handle and try to keep apart."

"I figured you were," he agreed. He looked over what he had. "I have evidence on his letterhead signed in his name but how can you prove he wrote them?"

"Your Honor, do you see a fingerprint report?" Brian asked.

He looked then pulled it out to look at, frowning. "I do see one here that lists the fingerprints on a document by an FBI level lab that's been used by the court before. How did you get the other reference samples?"

"They were already on file," Brian said with a small smile. "He had to be fingerprinted for his gun license, Your Honor," he said at the stink eye he received. "Both his sons have ones with their hunting permits."

"I see. So they compared to already gathered samples." Brian nodded. "Wonderful." He let the other lawyer see it. "As you can see, they presented evidence of who touched that one letter."

"That should cover two letters, Your Honor," Brian said.

He looked and nodded. "It does list two letters and both have a few names in common. Who is that female name?" he asked.

That lawyer looked. "His assistant, Your Honor." He read it over, trying not to wince. He looked at Brian. "What would your client take to get rid of this part of this lawsuit?"

"He pays them," Darcy said. "Plus twenty percent for the court costs and aggravation. I'm only supporting them in this one and filed to have this put under the other lawsuit since he did it because I was me."

The lawyers shared a look. "Let us talk, Your Honor. May we have twenty minutes? That way Miss DeCriths can get a drink to take her medicine with?"

"I need a full meal to do that but I could use a water," she agreed. "But I'd have to put in a clause saying he'd actually pay them within a month's time as he has that bad habit."

They stared at her. "That's not nice," one of them said.

She shrugged. "Who said I'm nice? He stopped me helping a lot of people for his vanity because I told him no. He's acting like a spoiled child. For that matter, so does his daughter. I had the misfortune of being at an event with her last month and she was trying to spread rumors that I had AIDS. Thankfully the person she told that to asked me and I went to yell at her little mind about that. It embarrassed her but she shouldn't be telling tales like she's in school. The rest of us grew up."

They slumped. "We can discuss that clause," they decided. "May we, Your Honor?"

"Take thirty," he agreed. "Miss DeCriths, go ahead and get some water or something from the cafeteria downstairs."

"Thank you, Your Honor." She looked at the bailiff, who let her out of the office with her purse. He did radio about her going down there and coming back with a drink. She smiled at the bailiff she ran into in the elevator. "Caf?" He pushed the right button. "Thanks."

"Welcome, miss."

She got off and got a water and a bottled coffee for Brian, he liked those. She paid and went back up there, handing it over to him since he was in the hallway. "I thought you might need a drink too."

"I am a bit dry," he agreed, shaking it and opening it to sip. "How you feeling?"

"Just a bit tired and dizzy. It's about how I felt earlier."

"Okay. If you pass out, don't make me catch you." She smiled, punching him on the arm. A bailiff came toward him. "Don't even. It was a friendly thing, she's not threatening me. If my client wanted to threaten me, she'd actually hit me."

"You sure?" he asked, glaring at Darcy.

"I'm quite sure I'm not threatening my friend and lawyer," Darcy said. "I've hit him on the arm a few times in the last year or so. Frankly, I'm not going to threaten him unless he sells me to HYDRA or something." Brian choked while he laughed, shaking his head. "I promise, I'm not mean to him. I only encourage him to be mean and evil."

"My client is correct, Bailiff, thank you though," he said, wiping his mouth off. The judge came to the doorway. "Sorry, Your Honor. A slight misunderstanding. Darcy swatted me on the arm so the bailiff was worried."

The judge looked at him. "She'd just punch him if she wanted to. She hangs out with Avengers."

"I work for the Maria Stark Foundation," she agreed, smiling some. She leaned against a wall. Brian made her sit down. "Yes, dear."

"Thanks." He finished his drink, tossing the bottle into a trash can and popping a breath mint. "It's fine, sir."

"Fine. We're watching. There's a dangerous woman on premises and we're all on high alert."

"I didn't know I was considered dangerous unless someone was coming for me," she said dryly, staring at him. The bailiff stared. She smiled, holding out a hand. "Hi, Darcy DeCriths." He moaned, nodding and walking off calling that in. She looked at Brian then at the other bailiff for this judge. "Am I really considered that scary?"

"Only if you have to be, ma'am, but we're more worried that you're a high profile target that someone will want to take out. As they've proven in the past."

"If so, I'll gladly evacuate myself and Brian if I can so they don't hurt the courthouse."

He smiled. "Thank you." The other lawyers came back. "Sir," he said with a nod at the talking lawyers.

He looked. "Are we ready to restart?"

"Yes, Your Honor," the other lawyer said. "We are willing to negotiate a settlement on this problem."

"Good. It's taking up a lot of the court's energy today." Brian helped Darcy up, making him look at her. "You're pale and shaky."

"I'm fine, Your Honor. I'm still low on caffeine since I could only have tea for over a week. I went from two pots of coffee a day to two mugs of tea a day." He shuddered, going back to his desk. She looked at Brian. "I get real caffeine back tomorrow."

"Congrats," he said. He patted her back. He could feel some tremors so he made sure she sat down first. She looked at him but he shrugged. The judge called them back to order. Someone knocked so the bailiff answered it, taking the mail to hand over. The judge put it aside.

Darcy tipped her head, pointing. "That one's bleeding." The judge looked and grimaced, handing it to the bailiff, who had someone come get it open it in security.

"Thank you, Miss DeCriths," the judge said. "All right, has the defendant made a decision?"

"We have no qualms about the stated stipulations outside the payment time penalty," the lead lawyer said. "With the election...."

Brian shook his head. "It might actually look good on him to look responsible for once," he said. "And while we can extend it to two months we would insist on a stiffer financial penalty if he somehow forgot he needed to pay them," he said, looking at them then at the judge.

"I'm not sure that's reasonable," the judge said.

"He's got a proven history of not paying people," Brian said. "There's over twelve hundred people who have sued him for non-payment in the last five years, Your Honor. He's tried to get out of it via bankruptcy and I'd like this one to be refused that relief."

The judge considered it. "I've seen articles stating he's not paid people." Brian pulled up some on his tablet, letting the judge see the judicial records of liens against the orange one's estates. "That is a lot of liens for non-payment." He licked his lips. "I will allow the two months time limit but if he has not paid in that time I'm going to make it double the original promised and not paid amounts."

He handed the tablet back. He looked at those lawyers. "And I am going to put in there that he can not discharge this debt via bankruptcy. I'm surprised no one's confiscated his estate to sell to pay off those judicial liens, gentlemen. I would suggest they not give me a reason. Unlike those other ones, I have no patience." He glanced at Darcy, who was testing her pulse. "Are you ill again?"

She shook her head. "No, Your Honor. I'll be fine. It's just about time for my medicine." She frowned but let it clear up almost immediately. "I'm fine."

"If I can ask what happened?" the judge asked.

"Someone poisoned me and a friend's dog the same day I was kidnaped from the tower."

"Kidnaped?" the other side sneered.

"I was removed from the tower while unconscious," Darcy told him. "So yes, that is kidnaping."

"That is a definition case," the judge agreed. "Why?"

"Not totally sure," she admitted. "I don't think they were related but no one's told me the reason behind either one. All I know is the dog's poisoning was to make the owner go back to being an agent. That one went to the jail via the ER."

"Where did you end up?" the judge asked.

"Some underwater lab. The Coast Guard helped me and others when two of the three of us they took escaped."

"Couldn't get the third?" the other side's junior lawyer sneered.

"We were underwater and she had a machine on her back burning through her flesh," Darcy told him. "Do you think that would've went well?"

He slumped. "Probably not."

The judge cleared his throat. "That's disgusting. I hope they find out who it was."

"Me too," Darcy agreed. "I owe them a few hits."

The judge nodded. "Let's get back to the agreement to settle this matter." They worked over the agreement. Darcy signed it and handed it over. "Your client has one week to sign that or he'll have to start over and I will be putting on an additional penalty," the judge said. "By noon that day, gentlemen." They nodded, taking it to go see their client's assistant. He looked at them. "Have a good day, Miss DeCriths."

"Thank you, Your Honor," she said quietly. "Let me go back to work and have lunch." She stood up. Brian stood up and helped her. "I'm good, Brian."

"Don't care." He grinned. "I'm going to model good, mannerly behavior for younger lawyers." He walked her out and took her back to the tower. He handed her to a guard. "She's a bit shaky but she's fine."

"Thank you, sir. Dr. Foster was pouty about lunch, Miss Lewis."

"I can do lunch now." She grinned, kissing Brian on the cheek. "Thanks, Brian." He grinned, heading to his own lunch date. She signed in and went upstairs. FRIDAY dropped the elevator on the lab floor so she strolled that way. Emma spotted her first since she was looking out in the hall to find something interesting to stare at and opened the door with a squeal to pounce her. "Hey, sprout."

"You're shaking! Are you cold!"

"No, I need lunchies." She grinned and her mother came out pulling up her hair. "Lunch?"

"Gladly. The science is hiding from Emma since she doesn't like math." They went up to the main area to eat. The dogs were napping in there on Natasha and Bruce. He was staring at Conor, who was using him as a comfy lap until he sniffed his human.

"Be gentle, Conor," Darcy warned. "Don't hurt the Bruce." The dog sniffed Bruce then lapped him before hopping off without making him groan. "He does that to Clint and Bucky both."

"Thanks. I didn't want to have that sort of pain from claws." He got up but Lucky pounced him to make him sit down again. "Hi, Lucky," he said dryly. The dog stared at him. "I ate. I promise I ate."

"Lucky," Natasha said, petting him. He licked her hand but laid on Bruce again, getting comfortable. Bruce was shaking his head but the dog was insistent. Even more than Conor had been. Lighter than the other dog though. "He listens like his human."

"I don't think Clint's ever sat on my lap," Bruce quipped. "Darcy, are you all right?"

"Time for meds and lunch, Bruce."

"Eat something then we'll see." She nodded, going to help Jane fix lunch for them.

"Eww, salad," Emma complained.

"It's good for you. Before you end up that short for your whole life," Darcy said, staring down at her. "Do you want to always be that short?"

"No," she pouted.

"Then you gotta eat veggies. Even Clint eats veggies." She pouted at her mother. Darcy leaned down, one hand on the counter to make sure she didn't fall over. "You know, there's people who only eat veggies," she told her with a smirk. "Your dad likes that idea." Emma got wibbly lips and begging eyes. "There's all sorts of kids who grow up eating nothing but veggies and yogurt. At least we let you have other things. Do you want to go vegan?"

"No!" she said, still pouting. Now her arms were crossed over her chest. She blinked up at Darcy. "Can we at least have cookies? We can mail cookies to those poor kids that only get veggies."

"There's ways to make vegan cookies but you can't use the good stuff in them."

"We can mail them some," she promised. "Even the oatmeal ones that Mom tried to make and burned."

"Hey!" Jane complained, staring at her. "Your father liked them."

"Daddy likes most things you do, Mom." She looked up at Darcy. "We need to help those kids."

"Then I'd learn how to look things up so you can bring your mom good ideas on how to show them that other things will help them grow up better," Darcy said with a grin. "That's research and a bit ahead of you, but I'm pretty sure you're that smart. If not, you can start on it next year. When you can read better."

"I read good," she defended.

"Then go look up how vegans eat," Darcy told her. Emma huffed but got FRIDAY to pull up a virtual screen so she could google it. Darcy grinned at Jane, who winked back.

"Ewww, they eat brussel sprouts?"

"Those are those things that you liked fried," Jane told her, handing her a sandwich. Emma sat there to read over things while she and Darcy ate their food and salads. Darcy took her meds as soon as she had food in her stomach so that helped a lot. She quit shaking a few minutes later.

Emma looked at them. "They don't eat meat? Dad would never allow that."

"Half of the warriors on Asgard are vegetarians," Jane told her. "They're the ones that need a tan usually." Emma grimaced but got back to reading. "Are you going to help me this afternoon?"

"Nope. These ones need help more, Mom." She ate another bite while reading, swinging her legs back and forth while she considered it. "If they can't eat animal stuff, does that mean no milk?"

"Soy or almond milk," Darcy said. She pulled up a wiki page on that topic. "You soak the nuts and then grind stuff or however."

"Huh. That's stupid." She went back to her reading.

"Hey, some kids have no food and eat bugs," Darcy told her. "You're really lucky you're not in a country where that's normal."

"Can we help them?" she asked. "Send them cookies too?"

"They need real food, not cookies," Jane told her daughter.

Emma grimaced, opening up another screen to look at that topic too. "Does Asgard have stuff that could help?"

"A few but we're not allowed to bring samples down here in case they do funny things to other crops," Jane said. She stuffed her mouth. "We're working on that one."

"Good!" She went back to reading, frowning and sniffling at some of those poor kids who had to eat bugs and oatmeal stuff. They definitely needed soup and cookies and stuff.

Thor walked in, kissing his daughter on the head. "Good afternoon, daughter."

"Hi, Daddy." She pointed. "Can we sneak some plants down here to test to see if people who have to eat bugs and oatmeal all the time can eat that too?"

"We're waiting on approval," he told her.

"Oh. How long will that take?"

"I have no idea," he admitted. "We are working on it."

She nodded. "We have to help them, Daddy. They eat bugs and are happy that they get them."

"Some people are that poor," he agreed. "It speaks well of you that you care about them."

"We need to send the kids who can only eat veggies over there. Or maybe their parents because that would make those kids eat veggies and give their kids a break so it'd do good for both of them."

"Veggies don't grow that well over there or they'd be eating veggies," Jane said patiently.

Emma stared at her. "Why won't they grow?"

"That depends on the area. Some of them are having a drought," Darcy said. She sipped some water to keep down the food that was upsetting her stomach. She still got up and ended up running for the nearest bathroom.

"Darcy?" Jane called, following her to help her.

"It was probably too much on a sensitive stomach," Bruce called. "Let me up, Lucky. I need to check on Darcy." The dog got off him so he could go check on her.

Thor sat down to show her why those children were poor and had not enough food. Emma was scowling but perhaps one day she'd come up with a solution. She was muttering about plots to help them get vegetables instead of bugs, and maybe cookies too. "There are those that send them food."

"The oatmeal stuff?" she demanded. Her father nodded. "Hmm. Is Auntie Darcy okay?"

"Her stomach was a bit upset," he said, petting over her hair. "We can look at those groups to see if you wish to help them." She nodded, letting him look those up for her.

"They don't give veggies or cookies?" she demanded, scowling at it.

"Vegetables go bad fairly quickly if they're not preserved by canning or freezing," Thor said patiently. "Neither of which would do those people much good."

"Oh. That sucks." He nodded. "Can we figure out how to get them veggies?"

"We can work on that if you wish."

She smiled and nodded. "We should. They need to take some of the veggies from the kids who can't eat anything but veggies and send them to those kids."

"Maybe some day you'll figure out how to do that," he agreed. "Though children who are vegetarians are mostly that way due to their parents."

"I know but they need daddy and mommy lessons," she said, looking totally serious. "How evil are they that they don't even make real cookies! They make fake cookies with icky things like fake milk, Dad!"

He smiled. "They seem to enjoy it enough and you cannot dictate what others do, daughter."

"I know but still!" She finished her sandwiches as she read. Her mother didn't need her sandwich, she had an icky salad.

Thor shook his head. At least he never wondered what was on his daughter's mind with the way she mumbled to herself. She was much like her mother most of the time.

Bruce and Jane walked Darcy down to the infirmary, the dogs following them. The doctor waved them at a room and paused to let all three dogs in before following the weird procession. "What happened?" the doctor asked.

"Threw up lunch," Darcy complained, pouting at him. "Salad hurts on the way back up."

"Yes it can," he agreed. He pulled out his stethoscope to start an exam.

Bruce let him by getting out of the way and Jane hovered in the corner for now. She could stay out of the way.


"Hey, Miss Elizabeth," Darcy said as she got out of Clint's car with the dogs. "Are you okay?"

"You look like hell, Darcy child."

Darcy gave a weak smile. "I thought I was okay enough to eat peanut butter. I was wrong. The salad was okay but not the sandwich." She leaned on the car. "Go pee, dogs." They went to pee on things. She looked at her. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine but we've been hearing strange rumors." She stared at her.

Darcy nodded. "I bought the building. I'll be fixing them over the next few months. The rent's not going to increase. If we have to move you temporarily during the move, we'll stick you in that open apartment for a few weeks." Miss Elizabeth was staring at her oddly. "It's safer. I didn't need that sort of problem on top of the others."

"Will the rents pay for all that and the mortgage?" she asked.

Darcy smiled. "I inherited some money, Miss Elizabeth. It's okay. I promise. We worked things out so they're going to stay calm and I can quit being so panicky about weird people around here." She looked over, spotting Lucky staring at Clint's brother, then back at her. "They were trying to get me to leave because I'm not easily cowed." She yawned. "The first thing being fixed is the elevator." She grinned. "The construction guys I hired agreed."

"That'll help a lot," she agreed. "How long will all that fixing take?"

"They said six months total for everything that needs to be done, including the stairs and the hallways plus all the apartment fixes. Miss Maisy let us in and gave us a list of stuff she's noticed going wrong."

"She said someone came to look it over so we knew we had a new landlord. Are you sure you want to do that?"

"Yeah." She smiled and nodded. "I love this little neighborhood. Nowhere else would put up with the dogs running to visit Bucky." The older lady laughed, nodding. She looked over. "Lucky, fetch the other two," she called. "It's time for the couch." She looked at Miss Elizabeth again. "I'd rather be able to eat peanut butter instead of salad but I'm going to have to eat light stuff for another week." She grimaced.

"You poor thing." She smirked at her. "Why were you sick? You weren't pregnant, right?"

"No. I got poisoned like Lucky did. Possibly by the same plot." Miss Elizabeth groaned, shaking her head. "Yeah, that's why I've been in the infirmary for the last few days. I *so* wanted a pizza tonight and it'll probably be too heavy."

Clint walked over with Bucky and the dogs. "Pizza might be okay. You can get a small one and put it into the fridge if it's too much after the first few bites." He stared at her. "You should be on the couch by now."

"I'm setting the rumors straight." She grinned at him then at Miss Elizabeth. "The construction people are finding me a nice person to do the maintenance stuff. They give second chances to non-felony criminals and former agents who just really want a normal life again."

"That's sweet. Robbers?"

"No, ma'am, and the construction guy is *rabid* about watching his people. He's only had one that went bad and he turned him in. It's the same group that'll be doing the building on the other side of Clint's."

"That's nice. I'm hoping we won't be getting those weird, bearded folks." She frowned at Bucky. "You should shave before they think you're one of them. There's no telling what sort of cult things they'll be talking you into soon."

"It's bad enough they tried to get me into yoga," Bucky told her. She giggled, swatting his arm. "My razor broke or I would've shaved this morning." He looked at Darcy. "You go lay down."

"I'm going. I'm resting right now, Bucky. I'm okay, I just can't eat anything too heavy and solid. Apparently peanut butter was worse than I thought." She looked at the older lady. "I'm going to put the apartments as rent controlled but I'm hoping I get solid, decent folk here, Miss Elizabeth. People like me, Clint, you, Miss Maisy. People who'll want to help the neighborhood be more energetic and like to walk in the park, all that. Most of the hipsters I know are a bit too weird and they're kinda sketchy. I'll let them all live in the arty section of DUMBO."

Miss Elizabeth smiled. "No rent increase?"

"No. No rent increase. I'll be sending a note around tomorrow. I needed printer ink to print it off." That got a nod. "You know how I am and I'm not mean. I'm not too weird. I'm not going to let people who'll threaten us all move in. Frankly, rent is stupid in this area. So high and it's unreasonable."

Miss Elizabeth smiled and patted her on the arm. "You're a good egg, girl. Go rest. Let those two hovering men get you tea and stuff."

"I finally get coffee back tomorrow," Darcy said with a smile. "It's been over a week." Miss Elizabeth walked off laughing. "Okay, dogs. Couch time!" She pointed. They ran inside and up the stairs. Darcy looked at the two hovering snipers. "You can come watch me lay on the couch too if you want."

"Please," Clint agreed. "Since the doctor said someone had to or else he was going to do an autopsy on my living body." She snorted but walked off shaking her head. He looked at Bucky. "She came back from the courthouse shaky," he said quietly. "Threw up lunch, and then went back to the infirmary before hitting her desk again."

"She's a seriously tough dame," Bucky agreed. "Dinner?"

"Has to be lighter than a salad." They walked up together. "She's had a few of those over the last few days." Darcy was already half-redressed. She was stuck in her shirt so Clint undid the zipper for her. She grinned and kicked the door shut. "Do you want to try a pizza tonight, Darce?"

"Please. I miss cheese."

"Okay, we can try that. If not, Bucky and I can finish it." He went to get one from across the street. The pizza guys all stared at him. "Darcy's actually allowed to try to eat a pizza again." A few grinned, hiding it by ducking behind their card hands. "It's a happy night. She can have coffee in the morning." A few more laughed. "It's the same as it was, guys. She's just a bit shaky still." He paid for the pizza and took it after glancing inside. It was just cheese but they could handle that.

Darcy was on the couch with Bucky making tea. The dogs were scattered around her. Conor was in her lap since she was laying down. Cutey was on the back of the couch. Lucky was pacing between the windows in the main living area. Clint put the pizza on the table and stopped his dog. "I've got it. Settle in." The dog whined. "Sure, we'll go for a run in a bit. Or do you need out for a walk?" The dog barked but ran to sniff at the pizza. "I know, you're a pizza hound."

Bucky shook his head. "Did the vet like that?"

"Better pizza than a whole pie, a sock, a towel, or three pounds of cheese," Darcy said dryly, petting her dog. "Or whipped cream, or berries, which got spread around the floor as he tried to get the bitter taste out. Or peaches, complete with stones. Or soap that once by accident. Or the stuff that's inside the chicken that he stole. Along with the raw chicken."

"I think it shows a lot of brains that he managed to figure out the spray can of whipped cream," Clint quipped.

Bucky stared at him then at Conor. "I'm glad you haven't tried to get into my fridge."

"He's very smart," Darcy said with a grin for him. "He's figured out all sorts of locks that we put on the fridge."

"Chains and a padlock gave too much room," Clint said. "Cutey helped by climbing inside the fridge to drop food out."

"Yes, I remember waking up to grapes and berries all over the kitchen," Darcy said, looking at her innocent, napping dog. She looked at Bucky. "They're really smart little asses."

"Yes, it seems they are. Just like their humans."

Clint hid his laughing by getting plates for the pizza. He looked down and stepped over Scott, getting a wave and a grin back. Sure, he could watch over Darcy too. She could use it.


Darcy wobbled into her office the next morning, without the dogs, and settled down with a sigh of pleasure. She looked up as the doctor who had taken care of her came to her doorway. "I made it through breakfast," she said happily. "And coffee!"

"What would you do if I told you that you shouldn't have coffee for another six weeks?" he asked with a wince.

"I'd choke you to death," she said dryly. "Why can't I have coffee? I need coffee. Health studies have proven that coffee's good for people too."

"We didn't realize that the poison reacts with caffeine, makes you dizzy and unstable, because dogs can't have caffeine anyway." She glared at him. "Sorry."

"Well, that explains why I wobbled in this morning," she said dryly. "Any side effects outside vertigo? I can wear flats or sneakers for a bit if I have to."

"It could cause blood pressure fluctuations and increased heartburn."

"I can fix those," she said with a nod. "Coffee's just that important."

He nodded. "Try to keep it at very low levels if you can."

"I can try. Thanks for letting me know, Doc."

"Welcome, Miss Lewis. Is that why you were dizzy this morning?"

"Probably. I usually have two cups of coffee with breakfast."

"Switch to decaf?"

"That's an evil psychological warfare from the stupidheads who want people to be sleepy," she told him, looking totally serious. "But I can keep to tea most of the day."

"Might be a good idea," he agreed. "Let me know if you have any other problems." He left her to get to work, wincing when he heard her hit her head on the desk. He passed by Barton in the hallway. "Keep her low on caffeine for two weeks, Barton. We didn't realize that the poison reacts with it to cause vertigo and blood pressure problems."

"Damn, I just got her this coffee too." He looked in the cup then at him.

"A few isn't going to do more than make her dizzy. A she usually drinks, it's probably not going to go well for her."

"I can handle that. Thanks for letting me know."

"Dogs can't have caffeine so we didn't realize."

"It happens, Doc. She won't be mad at you." He carried her coffee in there, letting her have it. "Fortunately it's not a high octane blend." She gave him a weak smile. "It'll be okay. You can work your way back up to the caffeine whore status you used to have."

"We need to give that to some of the dirty agents to make them suffer." She sipped her coffee with a moan. "Oh, perfect, Clint. Thank you."

"Welcome. Sip slowly." She grinned. He went to check in with Natasha and Steve. Scott was back to full size and already kicked back on a couch. "She's low caffeine because we didn't realize it could hurt her."

Natasha winced. "That will not be pleasant."

"She's been on tea only for the last few weeks," Clint said.

"Still. Does it cause a relapse?" she asked.

"Dizzy, blood pressure problems," he told her.

"I can listen for her to start to fall into the wall." She went back to making her breakfast. Things would soon get back to normal around the group. Stark proved it by trying to blow up his lab with his latest creation, making Natasha sigh as she walked her breakfast down there to see what he had done this time.

The End.
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