Darcy came out of her meeting at the UN with the charity she had interviewed with, finding a driver staring at her. She walked past him. "Miss DeCriths," he called. "I'm here for you. My client sent me for you."
She looked at him. "Why?" she asked.
"I work for Mr. David DeCriths, ma'am."
"Uncle David could've called me."
"I don't think he had the time, ma'am. He's in the hospital."
"Oh, dear." She walked over. "Prove it." He held up a picture of him and his uncle standing beside a new car. "That's good. Let's go." He nodded, letting her into the back of the car and walking around to drive them off. "What happened to him? I wrote him last month and didn't hear a thing about this."
"His wife was high and stabbed him."
"I'm going to kill that bitch," she said. "He should've stayed with his first wife."
"She's there, and she's the one that sent for you for him."
"That's nice of Aunt Mabel." She fussed at her hair in her compact and checked her makeup then put it away. She sent a text message to someone then put her phone up. When they got to the hospital, he let her out and she nodded. "Thank you. Have a better day." She walked up there to where he had told her and nodded at the nurses. "My uncle David?" she asked. The nurse pointed. She walked in there after a quick knock on the door. "Why didn't you tell me about this when I wrote you?" she asked dryly, coming in to kiss him on the cheek. She saw the new wife in there and sneered. "Do you really think you should be near him since you put him in here?"
"It's my choice, Darcy," he said firmly.
Darcy looked at him. "Mom would've killed her. I'll just have her thrown out. And not even out the window."
"No." She rolled her eyes but sat down on his free side. "Why are you up here?"
"I was interviewing earlier with a charity I like."
"To work with."
"Good." He smiled. "I saw your withdrawal the other day. It was good choices." She grinned. "I'll be fine, dear."
"You'd better be. I don't want to help your son through a funeral. He's a dick but I'd never let him do it himself."
"He'd have to be released from jail for his habit."
"Hmm." She nodded. "That happens to many. I'm glad I avoided that trap after Mom died." The new wife was sneering. Darcy looked at her. "Don't make me beat you to death, Belinda."
"Betty," she said.
"Whatever." The woman started to fake cry. Darcy rolled her eyes. "You're not the actress his sister was. Or his mother." She looked at her uncle again. "Sorry," she said at his dirty look. He stared. She smiled and kissed him on the head. "You never should've driven off Aunt Mabel, Uncle David."
"I know. I was stupid in those days."
"No comment," Darcy quipped.
"Do you have a man yet?"
"Nope. I've dated some but they're not worthy of a second date, much less panty touching time as your mom used to put it."
He snorted, looking amused. "You could get a trophy husband."
"Why would I want something that uninteresting? Eww! I don't want a gold digger. I want a guy who can keep up with me and my work and what I like to do. And I want to help him with what he likes to do. I'd never take in a trophy cub. They're boring and usually crap in bed." He laughed so hard he coughed. She helped him lean back. "Easy on that. If you die I'll have to bury her under you for putting you in here." She got up and stomped off. Darcy waved at the bimbo's back. She looked at her uncle. "Really?" she asked quietly.
"We're divorcing but she doesn't know it yet," he said. "For spousal abuse."
"Good!" He smiled and patted her hand. "So coming to hide with me in case she hires a hit man?"
"I may. Did you ever sell the old house?"
"It's rented," she said. "I'm not sure I could sell it. I had a lot of good memories there."
"The last renters renovated."
"I only allowed a few things and I made sure," she said. "They pouted and I told them I'd sue them and move them out. I flew out to make sure." He smiled and patted her hand again. "Did they?"
"They tried. The lawyer stopped it. They evicted them so it's empty now."
She nodded once. "Not my fault then."
"No it's not. You could sell it."
She stared at him with a sigh. "I'm not sure I can let go of Mom that way. The last I saw my blood was still staining the concrete from riding my bike."
"It was," he agreed. "I was there last month and stopped in to stay there while I was in LA." She shrugged but grinned. "It's pitiful sitting empty, Darcy."
"I know. I'll think about it."
"Good girl." He patted her hand again. "I've remade my will."
"Cutting out the new bimbo?"
"That too. The son's got a very small trust fund he's not in charge of. I put Magnus in charge of it. Yours too."
"No. I won't let him be in charge of my money. He treats women horribly, like we're mindless toys. I'm not going to fight with him over my money. So who am I having it moved to?"
"He can fight that since I'm the executor."
She smiled. "I'm an adult now, Uncle David. Fully able to make my own legal decisions. Frankly, Magnus makes me think he's the sort that'd embezzle. So who am I moving it to?"
"You can move it to Chuck's people but they're not as good. Or you can hire someone you'll have to watch every day for your life."
"As opposed to the guy who tried to pat me on the head and said some day it'd go to my future son's college needs because women don't need college?"
"I forgot about that." She smiled. "Well, you go fix it today then."
"I can do that." She shifted to cross her feet. "Anything else I need to handle?"
"The son might be out soon and he might come after you."
"Why? I'm not giving him anything. I work for mine."
"I've admired that about you, Darcy, and I tried to use you as an example. He got all huffy."
"Pity about that but that's why he needs a therapist probably."
"Probably," he decided. "You're like your mom but not always the nicest parts."
She smiled. "She'd be pleased."
"Probably true. She'd say that's why you're still single too."
"No, I'm single because I have taste and want brains, not just a gym hard body. Most of the guys my age are pretty pathetic. Think what you were like when you were twenty-six."
"Don't remind me," he sighed. "I grew up, most of them will too."
"Yeah, and then I'll give them a try for dating."
"You'll be too old to have kids."
She stared at him. "Since when do I need to use my womb to be worthy of this family?"
"I didn't say that. Your father's will had a clause about you not adopting your only child."
"I thought that got remade."
"I'm not so sure about that."
"I'll ask the lawyer," she said.
"Good girl. I know you're smart but you're getting bitter."
"I'm at a conservative college that had a teacher who decided women knowing self defense was what was robbing men of their macho ideology," she said dryly. He snorted, shaking his head. "It's the area. I dated plenty in London and when I was here in New York. I probably will once I get back away from that school."
"Probably. You finally graduated?"
"My masters a few days back." He frowned. "Uncle David, I got my undergrad while I was in New Mexico after my first year. I just didn't walk. I finally got around to my masters in public policy and graduated this week."
"Two points below."
"Yeah. But I had a teacher who trashed me all semester about knowing Thor."
"Oh, god, them," he muttered.
"Yeah, them." She nodded as she shifted again. "These chairs suck."
He laughed. "So people don't have to stay too long."
She stared at him. "You're my uncle. If you need me I'm here."
"No, I'm good. I'll be fine, Darcy."
"Good. Don't make me go to another funeral." She stood up to kiss him on the forehead. "Good luck with her." She stared at him. "Want the name of the group I use for bodyguards?" He nodded so she looked them up and wrote it down for him. He smiled, patting her on the hand so she could go. She went to the brokerage firm. They were horrified at who she was. "Yes, Uncle David told me he moved my executor and I want it switched." She smiled. "Isn't he here? He usually is on Saturdays."
"I'll get him for you, miss." She called back there. "It'll be a few minutes."
"Thanks." She sat down, arranging things on her phone. Including sending notes to her bank that the executor switch over her trust fund wasn't signed off on yet so he had no access to anything. After an hour he finally came out to smirk at her. She looked up at him. "You have some explaining to do about the three thousand dollars taken out of my trust yesterday. Because I didn't do that." She stood up. "And I don't want you managing my money. So let's go talk about that."
"You're pushy today," he said sarcastically.
She smirked. "I'm exactly like my mother most of the time, Magnus. I'm not a damsel, not a little lady, and sure as hell not a good girl. You're not using me for anything and you're not in charge of my money. Technically, I had control of my trust at eighteen. I have someone to look it over for auditing purposes. Do I have to call the lawyer?"
He laughed. "He'll never agree with you. You're a girl."
"I'm a woman with a master's degree," she said. "And a second bachelor's in accounting." He stepped back, glaring at her. "So let's talk nicely now about how you took money from my account without my authority. Because I never signed off on the switch so that's illegal."
"It's been a year," he sneered. "Not too careful are you, Darcy?"
"It's been six weeks by the paperwork you tried to file. Thankfully I've already had the lawyer working on it. He's due here soon. I called when you made me wait because you thought I was just a girl." He huffed off. She smiled at the men walking in. "Mr. Pritchard."
"Darcy Lewis," he said, smiling and shaking her hand. "You found embezzlement?"
"Yes I did." She showed him the entries. "He's still huffy about it too."
"Let's go talk to him." They went back to the office and they stopped him from doing anything with the restraining order they had paused to file with the bank. By that night, Darcy was in charge of her own money, Magnus was in jail for stealing from her, and being in HYDRA with one of the lesser lawyers. Apparently a few people thought she was stupid. Boy were they about to be proven wrong.
Darcy smiled at the reporter she met the next day. "Hello, dear."
"Who're you anyway?" she demanded. "My editor said I had to talk to you."
"Darcy DeCriths. Hannah was my mother." She gaped then sat down with a groan. "Frankly, I talked to your editor about a few things because people are trying to treat me like a little girl who's an imbecile. Pity." She smiled. "I just brought down half of my uncle's investment firm yesterday for it." The reporter moaned. "And some of them were HYDRA."
"Oh, damn," she muttered.
"Yeah. So we can talk if you'd like." She smiled, sipping her coffee. She waved at a few joggers going past, earning a smile from one.
The reporter looked. "That's an avenger guy." She looked at Darcy. "You knew them?"
"I know Sam. We met at something. He's a very nice guy. Very well read. We talked about books for almost an hour."
"Oh. So, you're Hannah DeCrith's daughter. What are you doing now?"
"I just graduated with a masters in public policy and a second bachelor's in accounting." She smiled. "Two points off honors."
"Good job. Why a second bachelor's?"
"My first was in poli sci."
"I want to work with charities. There's a lot of problems in this world and if I can make it better, my mother would be cooing about it."
The reporter smile. "It's good you're trying to live up to her legacy. We noticed that she had stopped her charity giving for a few years."
"She died when I was fourteen and Uncle David had my trust fund I set up at my request. He didn't even when I asked. He's pouty about that right now and me having his business partner arrested for theft."
"Sometimes you gotta be a bitch to get things done," Darcy said with a shrug and a smile. "It gets things done right."
"Yeah, I can see that. So what else have you done? You look familiar."
"I interned as a science intern for a bit but we parted on not good terms so I don't really talk about that."
She snapped. "You were in London."
"Oh." She grimaced. "So you knew Thor."
Darcy smiled. "I considered him like a brother for a long time."
"That's sweet." She took notes. "So now what?"
"Now, I'm interviewing with some charities, hoping to get in without using my name. I go by a family name due to a few death threats."
"From your work as an intern?"
"No. One's from my former stepmother and the other's from a senator who's son I kicked the ass of. It apparently ruined him enough that he lost his mind and came to the campus with weapons to kill me."
The reporter blinked. "That campus in Pennsylvania?" she asked with a wince. Darcy smiled and nodded. "Oh, dear."
"Oh yeah." She nodded. "I would've been fair to him but he got his son out on bail very fast and then tried to retaliate. He even tried to override the FBI authorization I had for a tazer. Pity."
The reporter smiled. "At least you're not stuffy or uptight."
"No. My mother was. She had that proper backbone. She would've hated how often I wear jeans in public. She wasn't republican by any means but she was just as uptight as a Bush matriarch. I live up to her myth in other ways."
"That's always a good thing for a daughter to do." She stared at him. "I looked up your mother. You grew up in LA."
"I did." She smiled with a nod. "It was sometimes fun. Sometimes not. It was pretty normal and my parents made sure I didn't grow up to be a princess by any means."
"That's good. Most kids these days aren't that way."
"I hope any future kids I have won't be."
"We can all hope so," she agreed. She made more notes. "So now what are you doing beyond that?"
"Well, I'm going to announce soon that I'm starting a limited fund grant fund in my mother's name for certain types of charities. I'm still building so up front it won't be huge grants but some of the minor ones that need it the most can turn ten grand into a lot of good work."
"True. There's shelters who'd adore that."
"I've made it for charities that work with kids, especially to get them off the streets and to get them an education so they can break the cycle of poverty. It's for small schools. It's for groups that feed kids who are homeless."
"You're focused on kids yet don't have any. Are you infertile? Usually that level of investment is compensation."
"I think that's a bit impertinent but no." She smiled. "I think that we need to start help there and then next generation it'll get a bit better. A lot of charities do a lot of work with the parents, and some day I will too, but almost no one takes care of the kids. Giving mom job training helps a lot but until she finds something, the kid's gotta be held steady and growing."
"Good point. It's something most of those groups don't want to think about."
Darcy nodded. "I've seen that. I've done a lot of research about the charities I do give to. I think it's important I agree with their goals and their purposes instead of just blindly tossing money at things. There's some groups that do okay work but their underlying ideology is something that makes me mad so I don't give to those sort." Someone walked up behind her and kissed her on the hair. She frowned up. "Oh, Steve." She smiled, hopping up to hug him. "Hi. How are you?"
"I'm okay. I can see you're busy."
"Dinner at the pizza place in Brooklyn?" she offered with a grin.
"I can do that," he promised. "Have a great day, Darcy."
"You too. I saw Sam." She sat back down, smiling at the reporter. "He's a really nice guy. I taught him how to use netflix."
The reporter blinked. "That's sweet of you. There's days I still don't understand netflix." Darcy grinned. "So...charity work." Darcy nodded, getting back to the interview.
That night, Steve showed up scowling. "Tony said you fibbed because he taught me netflix." He sat down across from her.
"I taught you how to move around netflix. It kept anyone from suggesting we dated."
"True. He thought it was that."
"Yeah." She grinned. "So just okay?"
"No, I'm pretty good. Still mad at Bucky taking off again to hide."
She nodded. "Not like he wouldn't come if you needed him."
"True. So happy graduation."
She smiled. "Thank you."
"And I heard taking down an investment firm?"
"My uncle's partner thinks women are little girls without need of any education. He was stealing from me. And half the law team I lean on was HYDRA." He winced. "So no clue why. Just had to happen."
"At least you're safe."
"Most of the time."
"That's good." He smiled. "Things are really boring around the tower most days."
She nodded. "They were before but if you got bored we found something to do. Like taking that kindergarten class to the museum."
"Point. I haven't done that for a while." She smiled. "Yeah, I can do that later. The new guy, Scott, he has a daughter."
"That's sweet. I hope she's okay?"
"She's fine. We protect her like we do any girlfriends."
"That's cool." She smiled. "You guys were always fussy about Jane going anywhere but it was sweet of you."
"Because I was dragging Jane places usually."
"True," he admitted, smiling at her. The waitress came over and they ordered, then went back to catching up. Darcy had some funny stories about the campus. Steve had some about the wackiness that sometimes invaded the tower. It was good to catch up. She gave him a ride back to the tower on her way to her hotel then went to settle in for the night. No messages from her uncle so he was still mad at her. Sorry but tough. The lawyer was probably mad at her too. She really had to find a new one. Just in case they tried to screw her up too.
"It's tough being me but I gotta persevere," she muttered as she looked up law firms.
Clint nodded at Steve when he came in that night. "Darcy good?"
"She seemed pretty happy with things," he said, flopping down in a chair. "She had to break bad on some thugs recently but otherwise she's good."
"It was on the news about her busting the lawyers and investment firm."
"She was talking to a reporter earlier."
"That's good though," Clint said. "Because it makes her harder to take out if she's a bit more public. Coulson was worried about that."
"Think they'll try to sue her?"
"Yup," Clint agreed with a grin. "But I think Darcy's probably pretty smart so she's got it handled."
"That's good." He leaned back, getting comfortable. "It's quiet tonight?"
"Yeah. Jane's out with Pepper and Maria Hill. Thor's got the sprout."
"I thought Thor went home last night."
Clint stared at him. "No, he was at breakfast when I got coffee."
"I didn't see him. Let me go check." He got up and went to Thor's suite, knocking on the door. No answer. "FRIDAY, is Thor here?" he asked.
"No, he is not," she said, opening the door. "However the nanny isn't either, Steve."
He hurried in to look at the baby. She was a mess. "Oh, no. FRIDAY, can you do a medical scan on her?"
"She's weak but not that ill."
"Alert our infirmary please." He carried her down there carefully. The nurse hopped up as he walked in. "People thought Thor was still here."
"He left about nine this morning," she said. "We had that storm." She took the baby. "Oh, you're a mess."
"She's not waking up," Steve said.
"Let's do some checking." She walked her back to the exam room. "Doctor?" she called. "Come help me please." He hurried out of the office, swearing when he saw what she was carrying. "Not waking at all and we all know she's the fussiest thing ever."
"Yes she is." He took her to look at, letting the nurse draw blood. "She's got to be sedated."
Steve leaned on the doorway. "Her bed's a wreck too. Should I call Jane?"
"Please," the doctor agreed. "Where's the nanny?"
"She doesn't work nights."
"Oh, crap," the nurse muttered. "Can you get Mr. Stark too?"
"Definitely." He went jogging to the labs, knocking on Tony's window before walking in. "Tony, huge problem." He spun to look at him, Pepper looking up from their shared dinner. "Isn't Jane with you?"
"We broke up an hour ago."
"The baby won't wake up, she's in the infirmary, no one was with her, and she's a horrible mess."
Pepper texted Jane while she and Tony hurried off. "Jane's swearing she's just grabbing something in the lab. The baby has medicine and the nanny will be back soon."
"The nanny doesn't work nights," Tony muttered. He stormed into the infirmary. "How bad?"
"The baby's sedated," the nurse said. She looked at him. "The mother?"
"Lab," Steve said. He pointed at Pepper. "Do we need an ER?"
"If we do that, CPS will come," Pepper said. The doctor scowled at her. "Jane's absent minded. That's why she has the nanny."
"Who doesn't work nights," Tony reminded her. "She never asked me to sit or anyone else that I know of."
Scott walked in with the diaper bag. "I repacked it just in case." He looked at the baby then at Tony then at the doctor. "We've been noticing that the baby can't focus on things. I remember seeing Cassie at that age and she could focus on people."
"You're thinking autism?" the doctor asked.
"I don't know. I know nothing about it but I know I rolled a ball toward her yesterday and she just stared at it like it was strange."
The doctor nodded. "We can figure that out once the baby's awake and off the sedative." Scott nodded, leaving it with them.
"I'm trying to get the nanny," Pepper said. "She's not answering."
"Okay, we're going to keep the baby," the doctor said. "If something's going on, we're required by law to report it to CPS as well." Stark nodded once. "Lord Thor's...."
"Home," Steve said. Clint walked in. "Thor left this morning."
"I just heard that." He came in to look at the baby. "She's making a really bad face, guys."
They looked, it was a grimace. They took a swab and ran it as well. The baby went on an IV like she had just come out of surgery and they waited to watch her wake up.
Darcy answered her phone the next morning. "Darcy Lewis," she said, even though she was nearly yawning. "Steve." She sat up. "What happened?" She listened. "Oh, no. Did she know?" She frowned. "Okay, so let's work on getting a better pseudo mommy for her? Yeah, I don't think it'll do much. Science is going to win. Stark's the same way, science wins over most everything. They've trained themselves to sink anything wrong or bad in their lives into science. Ask Scott. He might not know anyone who's an official nanny but he probably knows a few people who could do the work and be realistic." She pushed her hair back. "Exactly. Thanks." She hung up and got dressed, then packed and left. She ran into an agent downstairs. "Hi," she said when he grabbed her. "Get off me."
"Miss Lewis," he sneered.
She got free. "Yes, that is my name."
"It's not officially. I still have death threats on me so I'm still allowed to use my grandmother's name."
"You have credit cards in that name."
"No, I have full bank accounts in that name and they all know why." She stared at him. "Why does that concern you?"
"You're not supposed to do that. That's fraud."
"That's bullshit," she said with a grin. "I made sure first. For that matter, my debit card, which is what I use, is in my actual name now." He still tried to haul her off so she tripped him. "Dude, you're not an agent. You're a guy wearing a cheap suit. So don't even try."
"Your *friends* won't save you," he sneered. "You'll be of use."
She snorted, shaking her head. "I doubt that. And if I disappear, everything of mine goes to a few friends who I trust. You can't get much more trustworthy than someone like them."
"We have them too."
"Really? I hadn't heard the news that you guys kidnaped Rogers." He smirked and pulled out cuffs. "You'd better present a warrant too. Officer!" she yelled. "This man's pretending to be an agent!" He tried to pounce her but hotel security came to help her. Officers came right after them. Then a second set. The first set got arrested by the second with the agent. Darcy looked at the officers staring at her at the end. "I don't know," she admitted. "I've got three death threats against me. One from this week. One from a senator." The officer questioning her winced. "I have no idea what's going on beyond the fact that he tried to snatch me."
"That's a good idea to yell about, miss," the officer agreed. "Who're you?"
"The name I go by is Darcy Lewis. That's due to the death threats. My natal last name is DeCriths."
"Like that investment.... Oh."
"Yeah, that was my uncle's partner. He stole from me. He thinks all women are little girls who are stupid by nature."
"I know men like that," he agreed. "All right, can you sit down?"
"Yes. I'm not flying back for three hours." She sat down with her bag on the nearest chair and let them work. A detective came in to take a statement. She pulled up information on all the problems that had happened around her for him. That way they could figure out which cause it was. They had her escorted to the airport and she went back to her safer campus area. By that night she was in the middle of moving. She had heard back from one of her prior choices and would be working with them in Chicago. The move got moved up due to all this.
Darcy looked up from her filling out forms for a grant, smiling slightly at the woman standing there. "Yes, Agent Romanoff. Can we help you?"
"You're needed in New York."
"Jane's losing her mind."
She nodded once. "That's not my business any more. Jane was my friend but she made it not so."
"You could have given in."
"Yeah, I could've given in to be my boss's nanny instead," she said dryly, leaning back. "But I was her assistant and that's not who I wanted to be. She never asked, she assumed. If she had asked I would've turned her down."
"That may not be an issue now. Jane's been in a car wreck."
"And Thor's...." She waved a hand.
"Jane's sister and mother?"
Natasha blinked. "Her mother?"
"We lived with her mother in London. They talk all the time. Jane actually gives up science to talk to her mother. I think Jane would want her daughter going to her instead. Even if I was the nanny she would've wanted that. Which is the problem with being the nanny. They become your kid then get yanked away from you."
Natasha stared at her. "I'll call her mother then."
"If you still need me, let me know. I can travel for a few days. Most of what I'm doing right now is preparing speeches and writing grants so I can do that long distance if I have to." She nodded and walked off. Darcy sighed, getting back to work. Her boss leaned out of her office to look at her. She looked up at her. "The scientist I was interning with decided I'd be her nanny instead." She winced. "Without asking. Just handed me the baby. I hate nannies and the whole nanny culture. My mom managed to work and raise me with some juggling and some babysitting now and then. I think most kids with nannies get screwed up a lot by the dichotomy of having a paid attendant they're supposed to respect like a parent."
"Yeah, I've seen that."
"So did I." She sighed. "I walked when Jane told me I was the nanny and handed me the kid. She got all huffy and pouty but no, that's not who I am. And I doubt Jane would want me to take the baby in front of her mother."
"Probably not. What about her husband?"
"Thor's at home."
"Oh!" She blinked a few times. "Oh. Really?"
"Yeah." She smiled. "I met Jane before I met Thor." She smiled. "Funny story, I actually tazed Thor once."
Her boss smiled. "You have balls, Lewis. That court case is next week."
"I know. I was planning on working from there anyway."
"I saw. It's fine if you have to go."
"If I have to go I will. She won't want me though. We didn't part on good terms when I basically told her I thought nannies were pathetic and I wasn't that way."
"No, you take care of people but not that way." She went back to her desk. It explained a lot about Darcy's suddenly going back to college. And why she had been in London during the elf thing.
Darcy showed up in New York with her bodyguard, who was actually Clint but she wasn't letting on that she knew that. He told her not to. They went to the hotel and checked in then settled in for the night. She looked at Clint once he had checked the room. "Okay, give. I'm used to the guys they send when I need one."
"We think HYDRA's going to do something," he said, sitting across from her on the bed. "They were involved in your uncle's partner and the law firm."
"So we think they're trying something against you."
"Like Magnus they probably consider me a weak little girl."
"Probably," he agreed with a grin. "We know better."
"I hope I don't turn into one."
"Me too, Lewis. Settle in. It'll only be for a few days."
"You know, they won't try it during the trial because I have to show up."
"You not showing up would tank the case and let the judge, who is related to a HYDRA agent, rule in their favor."
She nodded once. "Point. But I have anti-kidnaping things that would be released from the bank if I don't text every day. Including about all of that HYDRA stuff. Because that senator was taking bribes from them." Clint blinked. She nodded. "I looked. That was too strong of a response for his son screwing up. Showing up with weapons at the campus was a move of desperation, not of a mad father."
"We didn't think about him."
She smiled. "I'm a bit paranoid. You guys taught me that."
She smiled and nodded. I know. She didn't really like me in London. Considered me hanging on her brilliant daughter's coattails as her intern. She told me Jane had a nanny more than once."
Clint shook his head. "We all thought you guys were close."
"We were. Then she ended it."
"You could've been more polite."
"Same ending," she said. "Same net effect. Being bluntly honest was nicer of me."
"Any idea why HYDRA is wanting me so hard?"
"No. Not a bit."
"Damn. I was hoping it was something I've done that got their notice instead of them going 'she's an easy hanger on sort' about me." She grimaced. "It's sad when you want respect from the bad guys who want to kill you."
"I don't think they want to kill you. We think they want to do something to you."
She considered it. "Unless they want me to carry someone's spawn, and there's plenty that could do that, I don't know why. I'll never be the warrior Natasha is so they can't turn me into Bucky or a programmed agent."
Clint nodded. "We have no idea either. Though that's one we didn't think about."
"That's because you're not a woman."
"And even if they married me off to someone and tried to control me, my trust fund goes to a few people. Including Steve. I know he'll use it in a way my mom would've liked."
"Probably," he agreed with a nod. "Huh. Does he know?"
"No." She smiled. "But I don't expect to die anytime soon."
"Good." He nodded. "Why don't you rest?"
"I'm fine. I rested on the plane. You should remember that since I napped on your arm."
"At least you don't drool," he quipped, going to the other room. She laid on her bed and fiddled with things on her laptop. "Don't update your facebook in case they're tracking you."
"I coded it as I'm doing something about the lawsuit," she said. "But I can remove it." He walked in. "I didn't mention the hotel. I go through a masking site so they can't track my ISP."
"Because I learned about being paranoid from somewhere."
"Always something useful." He walked back to the living room. He had his own bedroom in the suite. "Where are you going after this?"
"I'm meeting my boss in Paris for a UNICEF sponsored conference."
"Wow. How can you go back to the farm when you've seen gay Paree?" he quipped in a bad accent.
She smiled. "Not that hard since I've been there twice." He leaned in again, giving her an odd look. "High school trip then I went with Jane to a conference. I showed her a neat little bistro my class really liked."
"Huh." He went back to the couch, telling Coulson that. He pulled up her full file for Clint. "You went to the upper Middle East?" he called.
"On an educational thing. Mom always wanted to go and I went in her name. It gave new school books to kids."
"We were there for two weeks. We played with the kids and read to them. We taught them some english words. I learned about ten phrases before I went over. I was the only one under the age of twenty-five and the kids were really nice to me. I only got hit on once by someone and I said I had to finish my own education so it'd be years before I became a wife. He wanted someone to help him with his goat herd."
Clint shook his head, making that note into the file. It was a nice story. Coulson's note back noted a few other trips so Clint brought his laptop in so she could make notes about them. She corrected one that it wasn't her but otherwise she had some good stories. Much nicer than his of going places for missions.
Darcy came back after her first day of testimony grumbling and swearing under her breath. Clint followed looking amused. Not even Thor could probably swear about people and goats that way with that style of phrasing. "Do women often have those problems?"
"Yes!" she complained, staring at him. "Often." She stormed into her room to change clothes and then eat a cookie. She had brought some up. She took two more then tossed Clint the bag, making him hum happily. She was pacing around muttering while she nibbled and thought. Maybe she'd have to show her ass a bit more the next day. So she pulled up more things her mother had done, staring at one. "Huh," she said. She followed that one. "I forgot all about them."
Clint knocked and walked in. "Your uncle got carjacked."
She looked up from her tablet, staring at him. "His present unfortunate wife or someone else?"
"We think it's her. Nasty divorce?"
"She's a money grubbing ho and a drug user. She's the one that got my cousin hooked." He winced. "He was cutting her off so she stabbed him a few months back. Which is why I went off on the investment people." She pulled her hair back into a ponytail. "Do we need to go to the ER or the morgue?"
He called that in and winced. "Morgue."
She nodded. "We can do that. I hope she's in jail."
"Have we turned over that information?"
"That's not really how SHIELD works, Darcy. We deal with terrorism."
"So what do you do with information you get that's not part of that?"
"I think we hand it to someone. I'm not involved in that."
"Can you ask if they did?"
He nodded, following her once she had what she'd need. "They said they'd hand it to the detective."
"Thanks." She walked into the morgue. "My uncle was just brought in. David DeCriths."
The morgue attendant looked. "His wife's made the identification, ma'am."
"She's not his wife. The divorce is mostly final and she's the reason he's dead." He called that back to the officers. She walked back there at an officer's wave. The woman shrieked and came at her so Darcy punched her. "That's for stabbing him a few months back, bitch." She hit her again. "That's for hooking my cousin on drugs." She kicked her. "That's for hiring someone to kill him."
"I didn't!" she shrieked. "It was his son!"
"Really? The sixteen year old kid you hooked on drugs and fucked repeatedly to groom him into your next husband? He did that? You sure? Last I heard earlier, he was still in jail." The woman got up and tried to scratch Darcy so she hit her again. "Real women punch because we worry about more than our nails. Just like my stepmom, you're a whore. An expensive one at that with the way you were trying to soak him in the divorce." The woman was sobbing while holding her nose. Darcy sneered at her.
"Watch me call someone about you. That family they mentioned that got removed by my great-grandfather? They're mobbed up. Uncle David and Mom both knew that." She was still crying. She looked at the detective. "I don't want her near her former husband. The divorce decree was signed and becomes legal in sixty days. Uncle David had preplanned a ceremony while he was with his first wife, Mabel. I can call her to see where it is." The ME nodded slightly. Darcy looked down then at her. "I'm sure you've seen plenty of former spouses in here," she said dryly.
"We sure have. Not too many nieces."
Darcy smiled. "I got treated like I was a bimbo earlier by a judge. She's my last straw."
The officer cleared his throat. "Ma'am? Who're you?"
"Darcy DeCriths, though I go by Lewis due to death threats."
"I'm going to tell them where you are," her step-aunt sneered.
Darcy looked down at her then shrugged. "So? Let them come. Some of us do more than lay there and think of the money." Her step-aunt tried to stab her in the leg so Darcy kicked her in the face. Darcy was wearing hiking boots. It made a pretty mess. "Huh, I didn't think I broke her nose but apparently I did. Oh well." She looked at the officer. "She's got two sugar daddies on the side, they can pay to fix it." She smiled. "It came out during the divorce. It was granted so fast because she stabbed him a few months back while she was high."
"Those divorces are heard faster for safety reasons," one of the detectives agreed. He looked that up and showed them. "It does say that. Also, he made a note if he died he didn't want her to do a thing about it."
Darcy nodded, pulling out her phone. "Aunt Mabel, it's Darcy and it's real bad news. Oh, on the news. Sorry. No, I'm at the ME's office. She's here too. Bleeding but here. Please. I know he had a preplanned one but not where. Thank you, Aunt Mabel, and if you talk to Auntie Cyndy and Auntie Betrice tell them I said hi and I'm sorry about his death." She smiled slightly. "You too, Aunt Mabel." She hung up. "She'll call the other ex-wives to make sure they didn't have different plans." The Detective was staring at her oddly. "Uncle Dave fooled around. A lot," she said dryly. "He was young, stupid, and a party boy. Aunt Mabel divorced him over that. Aunt Cyndy divorced him over him finding Aunt Betrice nicer than her, because she was a bit bipolar and kinda scary, and Aunt Betrice divorced him because he was a dick with power who had just started an investment firm. Long hours, thinking he was God, all that stuff. It annoyed her enough she sends most of her alimony payment to her church."
The detective nodded. "Wonderful. Would they have a reason?"
"He didn't leave them much in the will," Darcy said. "He remade it two months ago. He uses his friend Bradley. I used to use Bradley but half of his lower people were messed up in that problem with his investment firm and HYDRA."
"I remember hearing about that case," the officer said. Darcy smiled and wiggled her fingers. "Are you less mad now?"
"I wasn't mad at you guys. You guys didn't kill him, did you?" They shook their heads. "Then I have righteous anger against the whore that killed my uncle." Mabel stomped in. "Aunt Mabel." She hugged her.
"Darcy, doll." She hugged her back, sneering at the thing on the floor. "Pity you survived. I should fix that."
"I offered to call the distant cousins who're all mobbed up so were expelled from the family," Darcy said with a smile for her.
"Don't tempt me, dear. You know I'll do it. Just like your mother used to."
"Uncle David did say that you reminded him of his sister." She smiled at that. "And his grandmother."
"Often. She went to jail fighting for the right to vote and a few other times. Including for stabbing her philandering husband."
"Cheating is always wrong," Darcy quipped. She looked at the detective. "Am I being arrested for the righteous ass kicking I gave?"
"If she wants to press charges." He looked at the woman on the floor.
"No, she's not," Clint said, pulling out his ID. "We're guarding her due to the death threats and the HYDRA issue she stumbled into."
Darcy looked at him. "Don't do that, Clint. Really. You don't have to. If I go to jail for assault, so be it." She smiled. "It's a badge of honor in our family." Her aunt nodded but laughed.
"In many families," the ME quipped. "I'd do the same thing." She pointed. "I'm not required to clean up her mess."
Darcy got some paper towels and tossed them at her. "Clean up your mess. Real women can do that." She smiled at the officer again. Then at the ME, then at her aunt. "Do you need me to help, Aunt Mabel?"
"No, Darcy. You're stressed from that idiot judge. I was watching and he's a moron. You made sure payments were outlined in the trust paperwork. I remember you insisting on it." She patted her on the cheek. "Go soak in the tub and mourn him, dear. Even though he tried to screw you over, you were his niece and you have the right to mourn." She nodded, leaving with Clint. She clapped her hands. "Now that the young cub is out of the way." She turned and glared at the new wife. "I'm going to kill your pretty, stupid, greedy ass," she vowed. "I'll make sure you're *never* going to touch a cent of his money and if I can't, Cyndy can. Her uncle's got connections too. He'll be happy to help. He promised after the divorce anyway." The girl was cowering away from her. "How much did you pay them?" The woman sneered at her. She grabbed her by her hair, hauling her up. "I'd confess unless you want to join him."
"We'd have to stop you, ma'am," the detective said.
"Please don't make me more work," the ME said. "I need to make it home to my kids tonight."
She stared at the young woman. "I'd confess then kill yourself unless you want to see the rest of us. Because you will be and I can guarantee that you won't enjoy it." The woman dove for a scalpel and was stopped by the detective, who was glaring at her. "She needs to do it."
"We'd prefer her being in jail, ma'am."
"Why make others suffer by exposure to her?" she asked genteelly. "It's a horrible thing for those other prisoners." The woman struggled and tried to grab her but Mabel stared at her. "Come on if you're coming as Darcy says. I can handle your flirty little whore ass." The woman got free and panted, glaring at her. She pulled her bra gun and shot herself in the stomach. Mabel grimaced. "Really ineffective with that too. Bad in bed, bad in death. Pity you're so pitiful." She walked off to meet the other ex-wives. "She shot herself in the stomach."
"Pity she couldn't get that any more right than she could oral sex with David," Betrice said dryly. "You'd think girls like her were better in bed than she was." They came in with the paperwork for the funeral.
Darcy walked in the next day in a somber suit and her glasses on. "Hangover?" the judge asked dryly.
She glared at him. "My uncle was killed last night, Your Honor. No, I don't have a hangover. Nor did I drink." She watched him flinch back. "Some of us may have fun some Saturday nights but we're not the whore patrol or like our step-aunt was. Am I still on the stand? Also, I pulled out the award letters my mother received from various charities since it was noted yesterday that you didn't like the wikipedia list." She handed them to the bailiff. "That's from the last ten years of her life." She sat down and put her bag down beside her.
The judge took them, looking them over. "I see your mother was quite active in charity." Darcy nodded. "NOW, a few other pro-choice groups."
"My mother was very pro-women's rights. In all forms. She was very against the thought that women were weaker, should be weaker, and should be silent. It comes from well back in the line since my great grandmother was arrested multiple times as a suffragette."
"Interesting. So you're following her will?"
"Yes, I am, though I do tend to focus more on children's charities most of the time. They're usually understaffed and underfunded. I can pull up a list of my own donations for the last three years if wish."
"No, that's fine," he said, handing it back. "That answered the lingering question about your mother's wishes."
Darcy pulled out two other envelopes. "My mother's will, a certified copy. I had the lawyer fax it to the hotel last night. My father's will, again a certified, faxed copy." She handed them to the bailiff.
The judge took them to look over, nodding. "I see that they both said that you were their only heir and child. Your father's states you could lean on your uncle to do your self-appointed trust fund until you were ready to manage it." He grimaced, looking at her. "So why did you stop that?"
"My uncle handed my trust to Magnus, Mr. Steele," she said with a point at him. "Who believes women are bodies to be used with the mind of a newborn baby. I'm not like that. When I went to change it, he kept me waiting so I looked over my accounts. I had just graduated with an accounting bachelors degree. I found embezzlement so I called the lawyers while I waited for over an hour. If he had treated me with respect I wouldn't have found it until the yearly audit. Then again, I would've had it audited when I removed it from him as he always irked me with treating me like I had no use outside my vagina."
"Do not use that language," the judge ordered.
"Sorry, your honor, I thought the medical term was appropriate." She stared at him.
"Fine." He let the lawyers see the wills.
"Your Uncle died?" the defense attorney asked.
"Yes. His last ex-wife had him killed by a few thugs who car jacked him," Darcy said. "A few months back she stabbed him. It was during that visit that I found out he had moved me to that odious creep's handling."
"Is she in jail?" the defense attorney asked.
Darcy smiled. "I have no idea but I'm hoping she's in hell. I heard later from one of my other step-aunts that she had shot herself but it was a pathetic attempt in her stomach instead of a real one. The detectives had her confessing on the way to the ER I'm told. I can give you that step-aunt's name so you can ask her yourself if you wish."
"Did you hurt her?"
"My step-aunt or his last wife?"
"Yes. I hit her for stabbing him, for addicting his son to drugs and screwing him repeatedly to groom him for her future spouse, and for having my uncle killed. She tried to fight back once so I kicked her. The detectives were standing right there with the ME."
He blinked a few times. "Most women wouldn't have."
"Real women worry more about their families than their nails," she said dryly. "My mother couldn't throw a punch worth a damn but she could and would have used a bat. She was aces at softball. Taught me how to catch." She smiled slightly.
"Yet you're letting a friend's child go to hell?"
"That is nothing to do with me. I was her intern, and her friend. She decided without talking to me about it that I'd be *honored* to be her nanny. And I'm not. When I heard something bad was going on, I told the person asking who she would have named custody to. We hadn't spoken since the day I walked off after telling her I wasn't going to be her nanny. If something happened and I had to take that child in, I would and I'd love her just like she was my own. Her mother was still in front of me and I told them that so they could do the proper things."
"Her mother called you a limpet."
"I was her intern and took care of her," Darcy said dryly. "She forgot to do things like eat and sleep for days on end due to being involved in her scientific work. Many of them are like that. Yes, I was staying with her half the time to make sure she didn't die. It was close a few times."
"Oh." He looked at the forms. "Is that the only time you've been to London?"
"No, I went when I was sixteen for a weekend while we gathered together for a trip overseas with a charity that gave books to poor schools in rural areas. We didn't get much sightseeing in but we did get to the spots around the hotel. I was the youngest on that trip."
"So that wasn't your first trip," he said.
Darcy shook her head. "No."
"Did your employer know that?"
"She didn't ask. I was happy to go to London. I remember liking London. I also took some weekend trips to nearby countries when she didn't need me."
"Oh." The lawyer grimaced. "Did you not have your own apartment?"
"I did. It was tiny and real estate is more expensive over there than it is here. I was a few blocks away but I had to keep with her because she got alcohol poisoning a few times when her studies depressed her and she was stuck so we went for margarita nights. I'd have the bartender cut her off after a few so she'd go home and drink some more while forgetting to eat to soak it up."
"Did her husband help with that?"
"He hadn't come back yet. That was before that incident."
"I see." He looked at the papers then at her. "What are you doing now?"
"I'm working for a very nice charity in Chicago that helps underprivileged children in the city get better educations through helping find them tutors, safe places to study, grants to some smaller schools to help them, and other things."
"Is that a precursor to public service of a different kind, Miss DeCriths?"
"It's been mentioned to me but I'm not thrilled with the idea because I don't want to live my life under a spyglass. Some day I may rethink that. Right now isn't the time for it."
"Someone applied for you to join an art council?" He held up a form.
She took it to look at, grimacing. "That's Uncle David's signature. I wish he had told me." She handed it back. "That's not my signature."
"Can you prove that?"
She looked in her bag, holding up something. "A signed statement from last night?" He took it to compare. "Mine loops a lot more."
"I see it does." He handed it back.
"Can I have a copy of that as well? I might like the art council. I'm not really into art but if it's supporting local artists I'm into that." He handed it over with a grimace. "Thank you." She tucked them into her bag then looked at him again.
"Do you still talk to any of the people you used to work with?" he asked.
"Yes, now and then I do. I have a few facebook friends from among the science staff and others in the tower. Including the bottom level receptionist that greets you when you come in."
He blinked a few times. "Is one of them an Avenger?"
"Yes." She smiled. "He's a very nice guy. He was a good friend to hang out with when I was there. We had many bored nights watching movies."
"Nothing romantic?" he sneered.
"No. I'm not his type. Even if I was I don't tend to date where I live or work. It causes stress so it's always a bad personal policy."
He stared at her. "At all?"
"No, not at all. The closest I came was going out on a single date with one of the security team in the tower. Far different department and he only saw me in the elevators every few days. He asked very nicely, he was a nice guy who I had talked to more than a few times. We went out to dinner but he was looking for someone who wanted to be a stay-at-home wife and I'm not that sort. We still chatted afterward and I introduced him to a new intern that came in who was more his sort."
"Interesting." He looked at his notes then at her. "Did SHIELD ever interview you?"
"Once. We were in New Mexico."
"You've been seen with their director."
"I met him in New Mexico when he stormed in to take all our work for a bit for daring to do something they couldn't. I remember they stole my iPod and I fussed about it until I got it back."
He blinked a few times. "Your last college had a letter from them stating you had permission to own a tazer."
"Yes they did. I've had that since London."
"What happened in London?" the judge demanded. "You're talking around it to protect someone's identity."
"We were there when the convergence happened, Your Honor. With the Dark Elves. We were on site at the college when it happened."
"Oh, I see. What did you do?"
"I helped a bit." She smiled. "It was thought someone might come after me for that so I got permission to carry and own my tazer no matter what. When they fell they asked someone in the FBI to do the same and I have a letter from them as well due to the prior death threats. I have laminated mini copies if you want to view them."
"Not necessary," he decided. "Get on with it."
"Miss DeCriths....are you going to go by your natal name anytime soon?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. I've gotten used to Lewis. All the banks I deal with know about it and why so I don't have any problems."
"Are you maybe sticking with it because you feel you don't live up to your parent's wishes?" he asked with a mean smile.
"No. I feel my parents would be pleased with most of my life." She smiled. "I use it still because in the last four years I've had three attempts from the first death threat." He gasped, stepping back. "I think that sucks and I'd like to avoid it. These last two just add to it."
"Are you going to change it again?"
"No. I can stay with Lewis. If they come for me again I'll handle it like I did the last one. Meanly." She smiled slightly. "I may not be the hardest thing to attack but I'm damn sure not going to let myself be taken out by some skinny whore's little minions. *That* my mother would be ashamed of."
"I..." He cleared his throat. "Your mother could fight?"
"No, my mother hired when she had to fight. Or when she thought my father was cheating that once. The PI told her he wasn't so he didn't have to beat my father up for it."
The defense attorney for the investment idiot blinked a few times. "Was he cheating?"
"No, he was planning a surprise anniversary present for her."
"Oh. Why didn't she look herself?"
"She was fighting her first bout of cancer."
He grimaced. "Would she have done it herself?"
"She would've locked him to the bed and talked to him in the middle of the night so I wouldn't have heard his screaming for mercy if he had cheated on her. I slept with a white noise machine back then because my mother used to snore." He groaned, shaking his head. She smiled. "It's something I've recommended to some others."
"You're not what most people would expect from a girl who grew up with money in LA," the judge said.
"No, Your Honor, some of us don't drink that often, wear panties, don't carry around a dog to talk to, and know how to drive," she said dryly. "They just get more attention because they do those mentioned things on purpose and people like paps like that. People like to see people doing bad things. That's why they watch NASCAR for the wrecks. Those celebutantes are like the wrecks of rich kids."
He looked at her. "Not all of them."
"No, some are worse and are in jail." She smiled. "I wasn't raised like that. I was taught to be the power behind the power until I had to step out and prove that I could do it myself."
"I can see that. Can you actually manage your own trust without help?"
"I can. I had plans on going to a new investment person I trust to do the minimal investments I do as I'm still learning stocks, bonds, and futures. Actually, I was handling it just fine for a year after my mother died as a way to distract myself but then I got wound up in school and didn't have the time or energy so I signed on with my uncle to let him do those things. It takes a lot of time to do that every day."
"You're still going to let someone do your investments?"
"Yes. I'll be doing a lot of hands on work with them over it but they already agreed with my ideas on how to invest and how much to invest. Plus where to invest. As soon as this is over with, I'll be turning that account over to her."
"Is she going to do this?"
"No. She's bonded and her company is a rather prominent firm that has good results. We work together on a political charity group. Also, I never let more than two percent of my net worth go to investments that aren't safe."
"I could rule all this goes to your uncle's partner." The judge smiled.
"Which would be appealed the same day," she said. "As nowhere in anything would give him that right even if I died. Also, that is not all my net worth. That is what I got from my mother's will when I was fourteen. Upon my majority I received control of my mother's funds and upon my father's death I received the rest of their marital assets. None of which were covered by that small trust fund, Your Honor." He groaned, shaking his head. "Frankly, that fund's going to be going toward my charitable donations over the next thirty years. I'm using most of it to set up a foundation in my mother's name."
He stared at her. "You're mouthy."
"No, like Mr. Steele there, you expect me to be brainless and a bimbo," she said dryly. She stared him down. "Mouthy is not telling the truth, which I've been doing. Mouthy is pointing out that you should have recused yourself because you play handball with both lawyers." She smiled. "If you wish I can switch to being mouthy instead of honest."
He spluttered. "All lawyers know each other, miss."
"I figured they do," she agreed. She smiled slightly. "Some more than others. The first judge over this had to recuse himself because he was someone's brother-in-law."
"I heard that." He glared at her. "I could still give it all to him."
"Which has no legal basis," she said. Her lawyer was nodding. "And really you'd have to fight to find some of it. I was turned paranoid a few years back." She stared at him. Her lawyer was laughing. "Sorry but truth."
Her lawyer stood up. "Your Honor, there's no precedent for moving any of her money out of her care. She inherited it. It's her duty to figure out how to spend it and save it. He blatantly stole it from her. We, and her last lawyers, all really detest his actions of making Darcy turn mean and tougher. She's usually much nicer and happier. Most people consider her to be a fluffy, happy person. Then this happened and a few of her friends are wondering where that happy person went."
Someone kicked in the door. "Freeze, hands up, guns down," they shouted.
Darcy looked at him. "I don't believe you did that."
"Do you know him?" the judge demanded.
"No. I know what he is. He's wearing HYDRA's marks." She pointed. The guy stomped her way. Darcy put up a fight. He clubbed her in the head and she bit him, making him scream. She kicked him back and grabbed her tazer, hitting him with it. He screamed and wet himself. "I don't think so." She looked around. "My bodyguard?" she called.
"In the hallway fighting with people," the bailiff noted after looking. "Can I, Miss DeCriths?" She handed him the tazer. "Thank you for the assistance."
"He was coming for me. Women have to be self rescuing these days." She grabbed her bag and a few things from it. "Your Honor, for obvious reasons I'm going to go somewhere safer."
"Go," he agreed with a hand wave. "We'll skype your testimony tomorrow, young lady."
"Yes, sir." She hurried off. She kicked one of the guys fighting with Clint in the knee then jammed her mini tazer into his neck. He screamed and went down. Clint got the other one. "We're skyping the rest of the testimony." He nodded, taking her outside. "Subway?" she suggested with a point.
"Too many people."
"For them too. Cabs are more dangerous and confining."
"Point. The rental car's probably boobytrapped too." He took her with him down into the subway and uptown then back to Bed-Stuy to his little apartment off-tower. He called in once they were safely in the train. "What was that?" he asked her, hovering over her. She handed over the mini tazer, making him smile. "Yours?"
"Bailiff. I left it in the guy's legs."
"Good point." He looked it over then handed it back. "Anything more useful?"
She held up her wallet and phone. "And I grabbed the poisoned lipstick someone mailed me recently." She held it up with a grin. "I was going to give it to you later so you could figure out who to give it to."
"That's fun," he said, tucking it into his jacket pocket. They got off a few stops early and walked, Darcy looking at her feet. He looked at them. "Nice shoes," he said.
"Comfy enough but not for miles of walking. I can manage it."
"Okay. I have bandaids for when it starts to bleed later."
"That I might need." He grinned at her. She grinned back. They headed into his apartment and he called an agent to gather their stuff from the hotel to bring to them. He went out to meet them somewhere and came back with their bags. Darcy took her laptop to look over, tossing over a small USB stick device that she didn't own.
Clint took it to run, shaking his head. "Natasha."
"That's nice of her."
"HYDRA upped your capture reward."
"Why?" She looked at him. "Why would they want me at all? We're not that close of friends. I'm not in the tower anymore. Most of you won't talk to me anyway. So why me? They can't hope to get the family money and probably don't need it."
"We've been trying to figure that out for months," Clint admitted. "Or why they kidnaped a few starlettes."
"Why would they?" she asked with a grimace.
"They're pretty, kind of curvy, and a lot more meek than you," he said.
She stared at him. "So I fit the need for something and they don't know many curvy brunettes?"
"There's tons of us."
"We don't know, Darcy. We're blind and confused."
"Has anyone interrogated?"
"Twice now. They don't know."
She considered it. "Is Bucky safe?" He looked confused. "They could be trying to take him back to the forties. Then curvy was in and meant healthy."
He considered it then nodded. "That could be but he's safe in Louisiana."
"He was in Chicago three weeks ago. I caught a side-view of him at something in the park. I didn't fully look because I didn't want to draw attention to him or me."
He sent that to Natasha. He waved his phone. "Natasha said she didn't realize that but was that a political rally?"
"Yeah. For some new up and comer who has ideas. I was listening to see what he was babbling about. We think he's an idiot against humanity but weren't sure because he says nothing when he talks."
"I've seen those," he said. "HYDRA?"
"Not that I've seen. He didn't proclaim it." She frowned, shrugging some. "He was very much all poor people are bad and going to kill us all for being wealthy."
"Those do suck on the level of stupid."
"They're the vacuum on the end of the stupid side of the line, sucking others closer."
He grinned. "Did you hear a presidential candidate mentioned you?"
"Yes, and I sent him a legal letter saying I did not want associated with him and I was against everything he stood for," she said blandly. "Then published it the next day." Clint laughed. "Eww, even if I didn't have taste, I have taste. He's the only guy I know who had to keep buying new models when he wore his out. They all age really fast, have you noticed?" He walked off laughing. Darcy relaxed, looking at her feet. They were red but not bleeding. She got into her social feed. "Hmm. Steve facebooked me to be careful today." Clint took her phone to read over as he walked off to make coffee. She smiled, pulling out a book. Clint could handle things and if he wanted her help he'd ask.
Darcy was on the roof that night, with Clint's permission to see if she drew anything to her. She turned at the sound of quiet footsteps, smiling at him. "Bucky. How are you?"
"Safer than you," he said, staring at her. "What are you doing?"
"Suing someone while avoiding a lot of problems."
She smirked a tiny bit. "I have no idea why they want me. The rest just think I think with the boobs instead of my brains."
"I knew guys like that," he admitted.
Clint walked over, bow over his shoulder. "Hey, Bucky, any idea why HYDRA wants pretty brunettes?"
"No. Not a clue," he admitted with a grimace. "No one has any idea and I've asked."
She patted his metal arm. "Thank you for trying to protect me from them." She looked at Clint then at Bucky. "I can let you guys talk."
"Nothing I can't say in front of you, Lewis."
"I don't work in the tower anymore, Bucky. I'm not privy to Avengers secrets." She stared at him. "So if I should go I can."
"You're good," Clint said. He looked at Bucky. "Any good news?"
"It's some higher up's plan but no one's sure and they're in the Belgian office." Bucky put his hands in his pockets. Darcy was staring at him. "What?"
"Belgium? HYDRA wanted chocolates?"
"Or diamonds," he said.
"That's The Netherlands," Darcy said. Bucky blinked a few times. "It is."
"It is," Clint agreed. He hit his emergency switch and pulled a knife but Bucky had already thrown something at him. Darcy had ducked out of the way and inside the building.
Bucky followed her once he had knocked Clint out. She wasn't in Clint's apartment. Or anywhere else he could track. He didn't find her phone so he could track her that way. Only she had changed her number or turned it off when he tried that. "Smart girl," he said. He walked out onto the street and into Stark in his suit waiting on him. "Awww. You're protecting her."
"No," Stark said. "Lewis is here?" Bucky glared and attacked. Stark fought back. From upstairs an arrow came down to embed in Bucky's lower back, making him scream as he fell down. "That's sweet, Hawkass," Stark called. "She with you?"
"No. She ran. She's smart that way."
Darcy looked out of the alley, waving some. "I'm still hiding because you're not the smarmy asshole you usually are." She ran off again.
"Lewis," he called. "It's safe."
"Sure it is," Natasha said as she got out of a car. She looked at Bucky then at Stark. "Barton?" she called. He came out of the building. "Track Lewis before she runs into a gang or something evil."
"Someone put something on him earlier and it's screwing with him. He managed to make it out of the tower while under guard." Clint nodded, heading off. "We should talk," she told them. Bucky went into the trunk with something to disable his arm. Stark's armor got opened and he got hauled into the back of the car while the armor was left there for Clint to handle. Or a SHIELD agent probably. She took them to a nice, neutral warehouse to talk to them.
Clint found Darcy in a tiny coffee shop. The owner waved at him and pointed. He walked in. "Lewis?"
"Pretty girl running like hell?"
"Yeah." He went to get her. "Hey," he called into the storage room. He looked behind the door first. It was stereotypical but dangerous. "Darcy?" No answer. "It's Clint, Darcy." He heard a muffled move and went that way. He found something he didn't want to see. Thor, a very mad Thor. "Put her down, Thor. Don't make me shoot you."
"She defamed my wife," he said.
"I didn't say a thing that wasn't true, Thor," she ground out. She could barely breathe. "I had to take Jane to the ER three times for alcohol poisoning." He roared and lifted her up. Clint stabbed him in the side and Darcy tumbled but managed to get back to her feet, holding her side. "If you had seen it, I didn't say a thing about Jane. I never do to protect her. Unlike her trashing me in the press for not wanting to be your servant." He glared at her. She stared back. "I'm done," she decided. "Fuck this shit." She hit Thor with her tazer then looked at Clint, who backed up with his hands up. "What the fuck is going on, Clint?"
"We have no idea, Darcy." She glared. "I swear, we don't."
"Uh-huh. Maybe I should go somewhere else to be safer. Let me go do that." She limped off.
"Want medical?" he called.
"No. I'm fine." She disappeared outside and headed off. She knew taking a cab was a danger but the cab driver didn't do more than give her funny looks. She paid and left, heading back home to hide. No one could find her apartment. It was inside a security conscious apartment complex that held sixteen buildings, of which three had apartments randomly spread throughout it mixed in with fake apartments. Hers was in one building and she knew she had another neighbor somewhere in the building but not where. She had made sure they had no ties to HYDRA or any other bad group. They may have a tie to the mob but otherwise nothing huge. She was safe there. She paused in the security office, staring at the head guard. "I had HYDRA show up for me," she said quietly. "Three times while I was in New York."
"Miss Lewis, do you need a medic?" he asked. "We have one on call."
She shook her head. "It's a sprained knee and a bruise on my chest right now. Just letting you know, Craig. We even had one that broke into the courtroom to kidnap me." Craig probably wasn't his name but it was on his shirt tag.
"Got it, ma'am. If you need us, let us know."
"I will. I'm going to hide and maybe cry a bit." She limped off to her building through the tunnels. She tossed out her fake phone in a recycling bin on her way. Her real one was in her apartment. It had no GPS chip. Craig's people had removed it for her when she had asked. The building wide wifi system was all shielded. It cost a ton to get in here but it was safer. She walked into her apartment, taking down her hair on her way to the bathroom. She looked at her phone and sent out an 'I'm fine and safe' message to her friends and left it there. If someone wanted to text or call, they'd have to wait until she had a bath. Maybe a good cry too. It was a good day for it.
When she got out she had three facebook messages saying she should be safe now, they had fixed their own problems. She sent back a 'thanks' and left it there. She was done. "Maybe I'll change my name again," she said. "It might be easier." She got dressed in something comforting and took some advil with some wine then sat down to watch tv. The whole complex got a huge cable package included in their purchase of their apartment and yearly fees. It was comforting at times.
Darcy looked up the next day as someone knocked on her door, frowning at it. She thought about not answering but it was probably someone on the security team. She turned the tv to the hall camera, wincing at who she saw. She got up and went to open the door, staring at Coulson. "No, I'm not helping with anything," she said, taking her bag. "Thank you for rescuing that for me." She tossed it onto her couch.
"Your laptop's in there," he said, staring at her from the hallway. "They rescued Barnes and fixed Stark last night."
"Steve sent me a facebook message." She stared at him. "How did you find me here? So I can warn them."
"We have two agents who live in this complex," he said dryly. He smiled at her. A real smile. "Nice job hiding, Lewis."
"Thank you. Are you HYDRA now too?"
"No." He walked in and shut the door, staring at her. "We still have no idea what the plot was. Barnes knew something about it, they were supposed to help him with something going on." She grimaced but made a hand-waving motion in the air. "The actresses were saved after being brainwashed."
"Were any of them any good?"
"Wouldn't you care if they weren't?" he asked.
"Usually. Today...." She grimaced. "I'm not really caring about much today to be honest. Right now I'm having to make plans."
"I hope the plans include more safety?" he asked.
"The plans are possibly hinging on me changing my name again and leaving the country."
He blinked a few times, sitting down on the couch. "I don't think that's necessary."
"No one thought HYDRA would break into the courtroom either."
"No, that was a feint to get you into somewhere more open."
She stared at him. "Good to know."
"You confused them a lot by hitting the subway."
"Cabs were even less safe and more confined."
"True. Uber would've taken too long." She nodded. "Your car?"
"I emailed the rental company about the death threat that broke into the courthouse and where the car was. Plus made sure to mention we couldn't use it in case they had it jury rigged somehow."
"They found it was rigged to stall after a few blocks so they could pick you two up."
"So they wanted me and Clint?"
"Clint was an added value target," he said. "Are you mad at him?"
"No. But I know I can't trust a single one of you."
He sighed. "I don't think that's going to happen, Darcy."
"I think it already has. Who told them I was with Clint?"
"We think Stark when he was controlled. What happened to your phone?"
"That was one I got out of a machine," she said. "I reformatted it and tossed it into a recycling bin. Expensive but practical."
"It was," he agreed. "Clint's idea?" She shook her head. "Oh. That's good."
"I did learn hard about paranoia," she said blandly. "You all made sure of it."
He nodded. "We tried to keep you safe."
"And you usually did. But I still learned by watching. And last night I learned not to trust anyone I used to know since Thor attacked me."
"Clint said that. Are you all right?"
"Bruises. No offense but I'm not flashing them at you since they're on my chest."
"I don't need to see," he promised. He stood up. "Someone had a talk with the judge about being HYDRA related. The head judge of the district had a talk with him about his condescending problems towards women." She smiled but shrugged slightly. "I don't think he'll need to call you back."
"I have that number forwarded to mine through an answering service so they can text or call if they need me."
"Good. Smart girl." She barked. He smiled a tiny bit. "Also appropriate. Are you safe here?"
"I'd hope so. They'd all hope so."
"Point. I'll let you recover and rest. When you're ready to go back to work, your boss knows that you'll be safe. It was covered on the news out there because of the fight." She winced. "Oh, Clint sent your heels back as well." He pointed at the bag. "Be safe, Darcy."
She nodded. "I'm trying. Just make them leave me alone."
"If I can." He left, going back to his people. He didn't like how defeated she seemed, she was usually more spunky, but he'd be upset after a few attacks that way as well he supposed. Hopefully this was mostly done with so she could go back to being a normal person again. His team had new information for him and he took it to the Tower. He walked into the meeting room. "People."
"Is she all right?" Natasha demanded.
"Yes. Paranoid but fine. She wanted to make sure HYDRA wouldn't come near her again." He sat down. "We have some information." He let them see it.
"This plan using Barnes?" Clint asked from his seat in the corner watching the doorway.
"Ended we hope," Coulson said. "What happened with Thor?"
"He decided she dishonored Jane," Clint said. "He had her in a bear hug when I found them and nearly threw her down like a football until I stabbed him. He dropped her but she rolled mostly effectively."
"She's bruised but she insists she's fine."
Natasha handed on the information to Steve. "Where is she?"
"Chicago. Her very safe speciality apartment."
"It's safer than here?" she asked.
"That one complex?" Clint asked. Coulson nodded. "Yeah, that's pretty safe and they do test for HYDRA." Natasha looked at him. "Where Berrings lives."
"Oh, there. That sounds nicely safe," she agreed quietly. Steve was staring at her. "Specialty apartment for spies and the like."
"Interesting." He handed on the information. "What do we do about this?"
"We stop the stupid as she put it," Coulson said. "Hopefully very hard and very soon. Is Barnes in any shape to figure out what they wanted?"
"He's been doing that from the infirmary all night," Steve said. "He's still not sure why her."
"She thought it might have something to do with you two's original time frame," Clint said.
"She could pass with some hair styling," Steve admitted, considering it. "The other actresses?"
"About the same style of woman," Natasha said. "Probably couldn't handle themselves. Darcy is known to have some street smarts and abilities to defend herself."
Coulson smirked a tiny bit. "She found out that senator was HYDRA related too. They're the ones that sent him after her to avenge his son."
Steve groaned. "They've wanted her for a while then."
"Yes. We don't know why."
"I can ask Bucky," Steve said quietly. "Maybe he knows." He looked at Natasha. "Did you catch anything?"
"Not a thing about her. None of them knew anything but they wanted her. Can we get her to stay inside for a few days?" Natasha asked. "So we have time to clean it up?"
"That could take months," Steve said. "She's working."
"She can do a lot of it at home," Coulson said. "I talked to her boss about what happened. She was panicking because of the news broadcast. I told her Darcy was fine, just bruised and sulking some."
"Sulking?" Natasha demanded.
"Thor," he reminded her. She grimaced but shut up. "She was considering changing her name again and leaving the US to get away from all this."
Clint nodded. "It's something that the college student Darcy would've done," he agreed. "Not this Darcy."
"It's possible it's smarter," Steve said.
"Most of the places that aid workers go are horrible," Natasha told him. "War zones and having droughts. Places that aren't always safe for women even if they're from there."
"That's not a good idea then," Steve agreed. "Can we stop all this wanting her?"
"I don't know," Coulson said. "She's proved she's not the usual target to sit down and cry."
"I can see that," Steve agreed. "Which makes her a more exciting target. They have to realize that Natasha didn't teach her anything though." Natasha glared at him. "You didn't. None of us worked on her hand-to-hand. We just made sure they didn't go out if it was too much risk that day."
"She didn't ask."
"I wouldn't ask you either," Clint said. "You were kind of a bitch to her, Nat." He looked at Steve. "She hasn't had a lot of teaching but after that campus attack she took some with the dorm's girls. The local PD and the campus sent in people to teach them how to protect themselves just in case because they didn't want to see that again either."
Natasha looked at him. "What?"
"There were frat boys who decided to do a raid and attack on a dorm," Clint told her. "Darcy was the RA on one of the floors due to lack of housing in the area."
"Oh." She nodded. "The time she was bruised." Clint nodded. "Then it's good they learned how to protect themselves."
"The campus was all about the women being protected," Coulson said. "They had to have a long protest against the teacher who thought women were there to be protected like children because otherwise men couldn't be men." She shook her head with a groan. "Darcy helped lead that."
"Of course she did. Women should be respected," Steve said. Stark stomped in. "Are you better?"
"Fully cleared," he said. He sat down, glaring at Coulson. "Why do they want her?"
"We don't know," he said. "There's a thought that the women they were kidnaping could have passed for Bucky's original time."
Stark paused. "Yeah, she could." Steve nodded. "Is she safe?"
"At home," he agreed.
"In New York?"
"Chicago," Clint said. "She's working with a charity in Chicago."
Stark snorted, shaking his head. "It's not safe there."
"She's got an extremely safe apartment," Coulson told him. "It's very hard to find; you can't get their records even with a warrant."
"There's former SHIELD agents who live there," Clint said. "Very paranoid ones."
"Good to know," Stark said. "Do we have that sort of thing here?"
"No," Natasha said. "Not that we've seen."
"So how do we help her?" Stark asked.
"We stop the HYDRA plans," Steve said. He handed over the information they had. Stark read it over, grimacing. "We don't know what their end game is."
"So it's safer for her there," Stark agreed. "For now."
"I doubt she'll want to come back," Clint said. "Last night she was looking at us like we all betrayed her." Stark grimaced. "You, Thor, Barnes. Hell, she looked at me like I was part of it before limping off."
"She's bruised," Coulson agreed. "Her leg had one. She was wearing shorts. She mentioned her chest too."
"Thor can do that to many people," Natasha said quietly. "Can we get her someone to watch over her?"
"No," Coulson said. "We can't insert someone into the charity she works with to watch over her. She'd know."
Scott walked in reading something. He handed it to Steve. "From the group's email. The judge found in her favor and sent the investment guy to jail." He looked at Coulson. "Can I help? Almost no one knows me. I've barely heard of Lewis but it sucks that some young woman is in danger."
"She's twenty-six," Stark said. "Not a college kid." He looked up. "She's tougher than she looks, Scott. She always was. She gets it from her mom."
"You knew her mother?" Coulson asked.
"Yeah. Her mother was my godmother. My mom was hers." Coulson winced. "I didn't realize it until the day she quit and told me but yeah, I knew her as we grew up. She's younger of course but I looked out for her sometimes. Her parents ran in the same social circles I used to when I wasn't partying for fun. Her mother was the backbone of steel when she wanted to be. After my parents' funeral she pulled me aside and warned me not to do something stupid to follow them. That my father would kick my ass and then hand me to my mother to finish off. Damn, that was the about three years before she went into the hospital the first time."
"So Darcy's got the same steel will," Scott said. "That's helpful. It means she'll protect herself instead of sitting down to cry."
"She'll do that later," Clint said.
"Most people do," Scott agreed. "Especially if it's too bad."
"The night after the attack in London she and Jane just got drunk," Coulson said. "Then Jane went home slightly sober with Darcy and wasn't seen for two days."
"With the way Jane doesn't eat, alcohol poisoning is very common," Stark said.
"That's what she said on the stand that made Thor mad," Clint told him.
"Great. Though we've all seen her do it."
Clint frowned, looking at Coulson. "What happened in New Mexico that nearly killed Jane?"
"Some sort of desert parasite was eating her from the inside out," he said. "We checked before going out there to handle that situation." He looked at Scott. "That's when Thor landed."
"Interesting. Was she on SHIELD's radar before then?"
"No. Not in the least. We had no idea who she was when we went out. The background check missed the name change since it wasn't legally done. We had no idea about anything until the day she quit. She wasn't actively hiding it but she never said anything so we didn't note it."
Clint grinned. "That's helpful though."
"Not really," Coulson said. "It could be dangerous for her now."
"The more we know about her, the more HYDRA seems to want her," Steve said.
"She said they can't want her family's fortune," Clint said. "They have plenty of money. I didn't think it was Stark level of money."
Stark shook his head. "Not fully. About a third of what I'm worth. Now, her uncle's estate might be a bit weird." Coulson frowned. "His last ex-wife hired some thugs to kill him. Darcy kicked her ass and his first ex-wife made her want to commit suicide but she only shot herself in the stomach. The detective's report and the ME's report both state that they don't want to run into Darcy being mad again and hope that they never have another relative of hers. We have no idea what his will's going to state. That could raise her up more." He shifted to lean back. "She's high enough up that I'm shocked she hasn't had any male gold diggers show up."
"She's dated a few times," Clint said. "She can see through those sort."
"Good. Sometimes they hide it better but good."
Steve shook his head. "I don't remember anyone being like that before."
"Remember all those bimbos that hung on my dad?" Stark asked sarcastically. "It'd be marrying one of those only male."
"Oh, them. Gold digger is their present name instead of bimbo or a loose dame?"
"Bimbo was around that long?" Scott asked, smiling at him.
"Yeah, started out as a really dumb guy but then when I was a kid it turned into a blonde dame who had curves but was kinda dumb when I was a little kid."
"Bimbos who wanted wallets," Stark said. "Same thing as a gold digger. Meaning they'd dig the gold out of the old guy's teeth when they're sleeping with him for his wallet."
"There's been women like that all the time," Steve agreed. "Guys too. Pretty, rich women always had to be extra careful of their reputation."
"Yeah, now the reputation is easier," Clint said. "Darcy at least hasn't been on anything like TMZ for doing slutty stuff."
"She doesn't wear loose outfits," Steve said. "Usually you can't see a thing of cleavage, just the shape of her body."
"Women's clothing isn't built for women with her chest size," Natasha said. "It'd usually show more than it would on other women." She looked at Coulson. Clint coughed so she glared at him. "What?"
"She compared you to her stepmother a few times," he said dryly. "Something about how women were really predators and couldn't be decent to each other."
"She wasn't like us."
"So you couldn't be polite?" he asked, staring at her. "I could be polite and I have less manners than you."
She scowled. "I did try to keep it to myself and be polite to her. If I had known she spoke some Russian I would have kept it farther from her."
"If she had been the gold digger you accused her of being, many times," Clint said. "Don't you think we would've seen cleavage a lot more often than her scarves and beanies? I started to worry she had a body issue thing going on with how covered she usually was. Then she started to pat people and didn't mind it back so I figured it wasn't trauma induced."
She huffed. She looked at Coulson again. "I was indelicate," she said at his curious look. "But I said it in Russian. Apparently her school had everyone take some to satisfy the headmistress."
"Who ended up marrying some Russian diver she rescued," Stark quipped.
Coulson looked that up, frowning at it. "She did. They still teach Russian in honor of her. She died a few years back. Interesting." He closed that tab. "I've been hoping she'd go into politics so we could have an ally."
Steve stared at him. "Being in the public like that sucks. They report on everything you do."
"Which was her reservation," Coulson said.
"Shouldn't you ask her about it?" Scott asked. "It's her life."
"I only suggested it and she gave me reasons why she hated that idea," Coulson told him. "You can't force someone into politics against their will."
"Her mother thought that politicians were worse than Satan," Stark said. "They all succumbed to power and politics eventually."
"Not like they'd listen to most women anyway," Steve said. "The ones they have there they don't listen to now."
"Good point," Coulson agreed. "If one of you wants to run for office, let us know first please?" They all scowled at him. He smirked back. "It could help."
"No thanks," Stark said dryly. "I'd never get it."
"You'd get the bimbo vote," Clint quipped.
"They don't vote," Steve said. "They're too busy doing their nails." Clint laughed but nodded. "So how do we handle this?"
"We talk to Barnes," Coulson said. "See if he can confirm anything in our theory. Maybe it'll shake something loose. I have agents keeping track of her online presence and work to make sure she's not attacked there."
Steve texted someone from his phone. Barnes walked in. "We have a few theories about why they want Darcy."
Bucky sat down, taking the information to look over. "Is she safe?" he asked Coulson, staring at him.
"Outside of maybe at work," he said. "She's already ordered a new tazer."
"Good. Though I'd feel better if she had a gun."
"I'm not sure if she knows how to shoot," Coulson said. Clint nodded. "She any good with it?"
"We made sure," Clint said. Steve nodded once.
"Good," Barnes said. He handed back the sheets. "What theory do we have?"
"They think they're kidnaping women who'd remind you of the old days," Steve told him.
Bucky frowned. "I don't know why they would but she could pass."
"Is there some sort of event that could require that?" Natasha asked.
"Not that I'm aware of," Coulson said, looking at Stark. He looked it up, shaking his head. "Nothing social?"
"No, nothing social anywhere that the press has heard. So I'm going to guess a wacky plan. Bucky's older than they probably want. Injured repeatedly. If they have him brainwashed again, they could probably brainwash someone to be his wife sort."
"Which would give them kids that they'd train with me," Bucky said quietly. Stark nodded. "That makes sense. It'd work with the original memories too. They'd only have to compress the later ones so probably easier." He looked at Steve. Who patted him on the arm.
"They might also bring in some orphans that Darcy would inherit," Natasha said. "Some supposed cousin's child."
"Because that happened," Steve agreed. "That's going to suck."
"Maybe the actresses weren't fertile?" Stark asked, staring at Coulson.
"That wasn't noted anywhere but I'd expect any woman to be on birth control these days." He typed out a message. "The after incident medical records don't note anything except one was complaining about her IUD not being there afterwards. So maybe. When they had you do you remember them introducing anyone to you?" he asked Barnes.
"No." He frowned. "Not that I'm aware of."
"Could be that you rejected the others," Steve said. "Noticed something about them that said it was wrong." Coulson pulled up their pictures, sliding his tablet down. "They're all too skinny," Steve said. "Healthy girls had some weight but not a lot. They had real curves. All these are skinny girls with fake breasts."
Barnes looked, frowning and pointing. "I remember seeing her but not where."
"We saw her last movie a few days before you got taken," Steve said.
"Oh, okay." He shook his head quickly. "They are kind of skinny for forties women. Jane Mansfield they're not."
"Which is something that drew your attention," Coulson said. He pulled up a picture of Darcy in a fifties style dress for something. "What about that?"
"Dress is a bit puffy but she's the sort of dame I'd ask to dance."
"I'd have danced with her too," Steve agreed. "Then she'd smile at you and you'd be hooked." He noticed Clint grinning at him. "She reminds me something of my mother too."
Barnes looked at him. "Not physically."
"No, but her manner. She takes care of those she likes. She bakes. She cooks, she talks to what she's cooking."
"True, your mom was like that. She was definitely a womanly woman." He nearly jumped when he heard a kid screaming. "What's that?"
"Jane's daughter with Thor," Stark sighed. "FRIDAY?" he called. "Is the baby in trouble?"
"Walking, sir," the AI reported. "Ran into the elevator door. She's frustrated."
"Can you herd her back toward her mother?"
"She didn't know how to teach her things. She said she gets on better with older children," the AI reported. "Her nanny hasn't shown up today."
"That's because her nanny's under arrest for drugging her," Coulson said. "If Thor's here can you herd the baby his way?"
"He's in the gym," the AI said after a pause. "I've let her onto the elevator and selected the right floor so she could toddle that way." Another pause. "She squealed at the mirrors and is in the wrong room. Let me tell Lord Thor where she is." Downstairs she cleared her virtual throat in the gym. "Lord Thor, your daughter is in the other gym playing with the mirrors." He quit working out and went to find her.
Upstairs Stark smiled. "Hopefully that'll keep getting better."
"Definitely," Natasha agreed. "I'm worried about the child's safety around here. We do get attacked regularly and she's never somewhere safe."
"She's got to get a new nanny," Stark said. "I'll have Pepper look up bonded nanny agencies again." He sent that message to her. "Maybe the Asgardian one will be here soon."
"Maybe," Coulson agreed. "Maybe a former agent?"
"If we could be sure of them, that's not a bad idea," Natasha agreed. "Would she allow it?" They all heard a door slam and Jane or someone stomping off. "Hopefully she would."
"I'd think she would," Stark said. "I have no idea what's wrong with her."
"Some people are not meant to be mothers," Scott said firmly. "Or dads."
"Sing it, brother," Stark quipped. "I'm one of those."
Coulson looked at him. "What about the Stark legacies? You don't have any cousins to take over."
He grimaced. "Don't remind me, Coulson. Really. I might have to leave it to Lewis or someone."
"Her will leaves things to Steve or a few others to take over for her," Clint said from his corner.
Steve looked at him. "Why would she?"
"Because you'd follow her charity work," Clint said. "And she'd trust you not to misuse it to hurt people."
"There's some others on the list too."
"That's weird," Steve decided. "Maybe she'll have a kid some day." He looked up the hall at the sound of crying. "What now?"
Stark listened. "One of the interns. I'm in here," he called. "What's happened!" Sometimes they were more fussy and whiny than the actual kid. The intern came walking in with someone else, handing her over. "She okay? I didn't hear an explosion."
"No, her experiment nearly exploded in her face so I canceled it on her," the intern, who Darcy had saved once, told him. "She's frustrated but we didn't want blown up today." He walked off.
Stark looked at her. "We'll talk about it in a minute. Take ten minutes until I'm done." She huffed off. "I'm really happy with him. I'm damn glad Darcy wrote me about him and saved him."
Coulson looked at him. "She did?"
"He did something screwy that sent his mind into a computer so he was in shock and called the suicide hotline. She got him talked down the day I went to recruit him."
"Huh." He nodded. "That makes sense. I can see her doing that."
"She said she had the experience a lot of the kids didn't so she was helping," Clint told him. "She and I have been writing for years. Now that no one's taking my mail from me I get cookies too."
Coulson hid his smile. "It's good you're still friends, Clint. You could both use more friends."
"She has many," Natasha said.
"In the life, you make acquaintances," Stark said. "Not friends. Friends are dangerous, just like they are for you, and mostly for the same reasons. They could use you or turn on you in a minute to get what they want to get done. It's why she didn't use her actual name to get a job. And why she refused to come to that charity award event I threw."
"That would've caused some drama," she admitted. She looked at Coulson. "What's my part in this problem?"
"Help us find their base," Clint said. "The one near her last college is shut down."
"We got it a few weeks after I visited to try to talk her into politics," Coulson said.
"Last night Barnes mentioned Belgium and diamonds but she corrected him that it's the Netherlands, not Belgium," Clint said. "That's when he attacked."
Bucky frowned. "I did?" He nodded. "Huh."
"We can look that way," Natasha said. "Let me start that." She went upstairs to start looking that up.
Clint nodded. "We'll figure it out but send me to help her. She'll still trust me."
Coulson nodded. "I can make that plan. Stark?"
"I'll help by looking but why diamonds?"
"It's what you buy your dame," Bucky said. "Your claiming mark."
"That makes that theory more likely," Coulson decided. "I'll warn her." He looked at Barnes. "Can you warn Steve if you get the urge to go see her?"
"Yeah, I can."
"Thank you. Let me go brief others." He left, calling Darcy on the way. "It's Coulson," he said. "We have an idea. Are you at work?" She quipped something and went to the bathroom to talk to him. "We think that the present plan was that you'd fit the forty's woman stereotype so they were trying to trick Bucky into thinking that whoever was his wife and bearing him kids." She quipped something. "Be serious." She said something.
"I hadn't known that. Would that matter?" He nodded once. "That's good to know. Yes, then they'd have people to train in the future. Please do be extra careful going to and from work. It's the least secure place you can be." She said something. "Good. Let me know if you get any hints of them." She told him where the local HYDRA people were in Chicago. He made notes. "I'll have them looked into. Be safe please." He hung up and sent that to Natasha and Stark then to his own people to look up.
Darcy's boss Shelly leaned out of her office when she heard the office door open, smiling at the nice looking young man there. "Can we help you?" she asked. It had been a quiet week since Darcy had come back to work so she hoped this wasn't a problem in the making.
"Hi, I'm Scott, your unpaid intern for the next four weeks, ma'am." He smiled.
She blinked. "I've heard nothing about that."
He grinned. "The college said they arranged it."
"Did they talk to Darcy, my assistant, about it?"
"They didn't tell me. I can call if you want me to. Is this a bad time to show up?"
"No, not really. Today's just a day of scheduling things. My assistant's at a meeting for me right now to arrange for another group to join ours for tutoring. Are you interested in working with children?"
"I'm more interested in working with post-offenders who want to go straight and are having problems. There's a lot of obstacles in their way. Including education usually."
"There are," she agreed. "And to be honest, with the current political climate, some of our kids will some day be some of yours."
"It's always a great thing if we can stop that from happening." He smiled at the pretty brunette coming in muttering at her coffee cup. "Afternoon, ma'am."
She paused, staring at him. "Do I know you?" she asked. She could've sworn she's seen pictures of this guy somewhere.
"Darcy!" Shelly complained. "He's an unpaid intern."
"That's cool. Unpaid is often a lot of fun in the end. I did that for a few years." She shook his hand. "I'm Darcy."
"Darcy, why were you muttering?" Shelly asked, looking worried.
"Marjorie said that poor kids don't matter as much as her orphans and they should all go to juvie anyway. Apparently some of her kids got jumped by some future gang members and she's against doing anything with them. I pointed out half of our kids were just as parentless as hers even if one was physically present on occasion, and that by discriminating that way she was forcing the kids into a tougher life, which they'd take out on other kids who had it just as bad but were happier. She's sobbing now that she was pushing the bad kids to attack her kids."
Darcy sighed. "Helena agreed with her but said it's good we're trying to stop them. She'd like to help us stop them, but we really had to focus on bullying problems. I told her that we were focusing on teaching them to read first. She got all huffy that her pet project isn't being covered." Shelly moaned, shaking her head. "Helena also quipped I must have PMS because my tact was missing. I noted her tact had never been inserted and was she pregnant because she was having mood swings.
"She called me a wanna-be do gooder with a trust fund. I pointed out I worked for my paycheck, unlike her. Who is living off her husband the senator. And that her husband's been known to father a few of the kids we work with. It was in the press. So she's crying that I don't appreciate her attempts to help even though she just can't understand why these parents can't get their lives together like normal people. So I laid down a lecture on her about the differences between her, who grew up richy rich, me, who grew up in a practical household that didn't worry about money, and the kids we all worked with.
"Marjorie agreed with my points but called me huffy and suggested I go find myself a nice man to help me do things. I snarled and reminded her *real* women don't need a man to make them feel better. It's great when you find one but it's getting damn hard to find a real man with real values these days and some of us don't like players like her fourth husband used to be. So Majorie's pissed I blew shade toward her pookie boo. Helena's mad that I pointed out she's the real trust fund brat trying to atone for being born rich.
"Then Sean got there late, saw the tear tracks and blamed me until I told him why. Then he sided with me and suggested those ladies both should have their husbands fix their mental problems instead of a new therapist and could we please work with the group that put therapists into schools. I told him to write me a paragraph about how, where, who was doing it, all that stuff because I'd only heard of it but never looked into it and I'd bring it to you tomorrow." She smiled. "So they're off getting their bad moods solved like the damsels they are and I got told to go find a dildo since I can't find a man to cure it for me.
"Sean laughed but said I had great taste since I didn't fall for most guy's immature BS. I told him I'd be happy to find anyone that was at least slightly decent but apparently I was hunting in the wrong places. I had better luck when I was out partying. He agreed, guys liked girls like that and when we grew up they were scared we were smarter. I pinched his little gay cheek and kissed him on the forehead then told him I'd be baking tonight if he wanted to steal a few cookies when he brought that paper to me." She dropped things onto her desk.
"Is the alliance ruined?"
"No, the Empire still stands," Darcy said dryly, staring at her. "The Storm Troopers are still wandering around the city shooting people for being not like them and the Emperor is still an asshole to everyone who can't use the Force." Scott burst out laughing.
Shelly sighed, walking back into her office. "Show Scott how things are done and write apologies to them, Darcy. We need their help."
"I know. I suggested they actually come meet some of the kids we tutor to see what they actually needed since one of them wanted to hand the kids pastries." Shelly moaned, thumping her head into her wall. "Yeah. I invited them to come help me tutor tomorrow night." She smiled at Scott. "Sorry but it's drama llama day today in Chicago." She held out a hand. "Darcy Lewis."
"Scott Lang." Her eyes widened and he winked. "So, paperwork I suppose?"
"Much paperwork as an employee and other things to teach you." She pointed at a free chair. "Pull it over so we can get to that." He did that, letting her pull out paperwork. He even had his own pen. "Smart move. Shelly has to buy the cheap pens," she quipped with a grin. "So, who referred you here?"
"The college did. One of the people in the office had seen you in your masters program."
"Really? Was it Phil?"
"No. He agreed I'd do great learning here but he's busy."
"That figures. He's a busy guy." She stared at him. "Did you find a rooming spot?"
"Yeah, I'm in a residence motel. It's pretty safe and I've got portable alarms."
"That's wise in some neighborhoods. We're practical people here, Scott. Life sucks in a large part of Chicago for many of the residents."
"It does that in most cities. New York wasn't much different."
"So how's people?" she asked with a smile.
"Worried, fussy, Stark," he muttered. She laughed but nodded at that. They went over the paperwork and she got him set up to help her tutor the next night. He even scared off a mugger.
Shelly huffed. "Darcy, our fire escape masturbator is back. Can you come be scary? He just gave me a look like I'd be fun."
Scott stood up, walking out there to stare at the guy. "Do you mind? These women have important work to do and don't need the visual from someone who clearly needs a bath. Don't make me shiv you." He smiled slightly. The man out there shuddered and climbed back up there. "Have a better day and I'd suggest you get that rash looked at, sir. It looks unhealthy." He carefully put the window down and smiled at her. "Sometimes guys like that only listen to men. Because they know they're faulty and real women make them scared because their mother couldn't fix them." He went back to Darcy's desk since Shelly was smiling at him.
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