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

Darcy looked at her guard/date/helper as they walked into the fundraiser, smiling slightly at her boss. "Hey, Shelly." Clay had to do this part because the others were working on a bigger lead. Plus he was tougher in case things went south among all the suits and gowns.

She flinched, looking around then at her. "You've got two problems," she hissed. "Thor's here with Jane because they're raising money for a science oriented project and the dickhead's in the other corner holding court," she said with a point.

Darcy looked then at her guarding date. "The only reason I can see for going over there is the bar's there."

"Do you drink at these?" Clay asked.

"No. I drink sparkling water at these." She smiled at someone she knew.

"He's handsome, dear. Where did you find him?" the man asked sarcastically.

"I hired him," she shot back with a mean smirk. "Yours?"

"He's my brother's new in-law who's looking to start working for a charity," he said with a hand-wave. "Boris, this is Darcy."

She smiled and held out a hand. "Hi, Darcy Lewis. I work with a group that does tutoring and helps at risk teenagers get at least their GED, if not higher."

He shook her hand with a smile. "I'm hoping to work with newly fired or outsourced blue collar workers," Boris said.

Darcy looked at Shelly. "Is that Horey or is that Davil?"

"Horey does more of that," Shelly said. She looked. "And of course he's not in here."

"He's due later. Look for the Asian guy with the bad toupee and the suspicious mustache, that's his senior social worker."

"Thank you, ma'am. I hope some day we don't need your jobs."

"We all hope that," Darcy agreed with a smile. "Oh, watch out for the politicians. They've been known to glomp onto you for photo ops to prove they do charity work but that'll stick you for a while."

"I can do that. Thank you for the advice." He frowned, looking at one group then at her. "Oh, that's you."

She smiled at him. "And I'd never touch him even with someone else's pole. If he tries again, he's going to get it again. Otherwise he can stay in his little corner full of morons who only care about others if it gives them a tax break."

The guy smiled, nodding as he walked off. She looked up at Clay then at Shelly. "Do you want to brave the bar?" she asked Clay.

"Why would Thor be mad at you?"

"I was Jane's assistant until she needed a nanny," Darcy said. "Which I wasn't going to be."

"Ah!" he nodded. "So they're mad."


"You think it'll cause a problem?"

"I think it'll cause a loudness," she said quietly, turning away from someone walking their way. "Damn."

"Miss," one of the agents said. He was staring at Clay. "Is she yours?"

"My date for tonight," Clay said dryly. "Why?"

"One of the donors in the corner wanted to talk to her."

Darcy looked at him. "If it's the douchebag, no thank you." The agent glared at her. She stared back. "This is work for me. If it's another donor I'll gladly go talk to them. I love talking to our donors about our work and projects we have coming up."

He swallowed hard. He recognized her now. "No, I don't believe that's a great idea, ma'am." He nodded at Clay then left. He hissed that the one who had defended herself was there with an obviously former military guard and they were staying out of the way.

Shelley giggled. "Thank you," she said quietly. "That was very polite, Darcy."

"I do try sometimes," she said dryly. She groaned. "It's coming," she muttered. "Oh, and the loudness," she sighed, looking up at Clay, who smirked a tiny bit. "Jane," she said with a smile since the woman was heading right for her. "How are you and Thor? This is my boss Shelly. Shelly, this is Dr. Jane Foster and her intended, Thor."

"Pleasure," Shelly said, smiling as she shook their hands. "I hope your native people don't need people like us, Lord Thor."

"We don't usually. We have more equality than some areas down here do." He looked at Clay then at Darcy. "Your intended?"

"My date for tonight," she said quietly, glancing off to the side then at him. "It's always better to have someone to talk to at these events."

"It is, they're boring," Jane agreed. "Which area are you working in?"

"Shelly and I run a group that helps at risk kids get some education and hopefully they go for more than their GED's." She smiled. "I work with a lot of really nice teens, Jane. I tutor and I taught a few some simple dishes to cook, and I helped one who hadn't slept for a day due to teething. I shot down a teen mom who thought welfare was good enough for her and her kids to survive on." She smirked at Shelly then at Jane again. "It helped a lot. Her mom agreed with me and told her that's why she was there for tutoring, so she could get her GED and do something beyond be a mom."

"That's actually really important work," Jane said with a nod. "One of the last few math geniuses came out of a poor village in India and he couldn't read at all before they found out he understood math that way."

"I'm just hoping my kids get to go on and do stuff," Darcy said. "They all really are good kids. A few who got sucked into worse things but they're still really good kids."

"That's great," Jane agreed, smiling at her. "I saw that video."

"Which one?" she asked dryly. She glanced at the idiot slowly making his way toward her while pausing to suck up to others then at Jane again. "I have to have tact," she said quietly.

Jane looked up at Thor then at the idiot then back at him. He snorted and looked pleased. "Saw them both. Stark was watching them in his lab to see if you could use something new like an updated tazer."

"I have one. Which I wrote him a nice thank you letter for."

"He got it and he was happy it helped when someone tried to mug you," Jane assured her. "Are you two being honored tonight?" Shelly smiled and nodded. "Good job. It's a great thing." She patted them both on the arm.

The wannabe politician finally made it over to them. "Lord Thor," he said happily, holding out a hand.

"Mortal," he said seriously, shaking it.

"Are you here about the excellent charities we're honoring tonight?"

"I am. One of the ones we help is being honored so Jane's delivering an award to them."

"Hhmm, Stark's new PA?" he guessed, looking Jane over.

"Dr. Jane Foster," she said smugly. "Astrophysicist."

"The one who rebuilt the Bifrost bridge," Shelly said with a smile. "We hold her up as a 'see, women do science' example all the time to the kids we work with."

Jane beamed. "Thank you. There's still not enough women in science these days. My own daughter included. I think she'll want her father's cape."

"Someone forwarded me film of her," Darcy said with a grin. "How's her eyesight?"

"I..." She looked at Thor. "We've checked everything but that. It'd explain why she keeps running into mirrors."

"It would," he agreed, patting her on the back. "Thank you, Darcy."

"Not a problem. The kid's a cute little thing from what I've seen."

The politician sneered at her. "What are you doing here?"

"I actually work at one of the charities they're honoring tonight, sir." She smiled at Shelley then at him. "I'm very involved in it, including doing a lot of the tutoring jobs."

"She arranges everything for me," Shelly said. "I'd be a lot more hard up if it wasn't for Darcy."

"You said you're wealthy," he sneered.

"I am. That doesn't mean I don't believe in putting my time where I put my money." She stared at him. "Some of us work because it's the right thing to do. We don't use it to prove ourselves to anyone." She sipped Jane's drink when she held it out. "Thank you, Jane. I was going to head to the bar soon to get my own sparkling water."

"Real women drink."

She snorted, staring at him. "Real women do many things and know that drinking at events like this looks bad on us. Thank you anyway for your concern." She looked up at Clay.

"Let's go talk, Darcy. Dr. Pym's here," Jane said.

"I haven't met him but Scott said he was a mostly nice man." She walked off with them, with Clay guarding them with Thor.

"You know, girls like that get people in trouble," the politician sneered.

"Or they make a great difference in the world," Shelly said with a smile. "Which she's already doing, just like her mother did. Her mother worked with abused wives and set up shelters, but Darcy knew that you needed to start a bit younger to build a firm base to build from. She's made a world of difference in our agency, even though she's not allowed to donate to us by tax laws. The woman does the work of two others and doesn't ask for a paycheck. I adore Darcy." He huffed off. She stared at his back then went to talk to a few constant donors. They all avoided the idiot as well. The few that didn't avoid the idiot in that group sneered but then again they didn't donate to charity out of more than a tax break.

Poor Darcy was being all but pawed by someone until Clay growled. She hoped they didn't have another incident here. She really did. Of course, someone ran in with a scream, heading for Thor until Clay pointed his gun at them. Then they quit running, quit screaming, and started to beg for mercy.

Clay smirked. "Quit threatening people. Now," he growled. The man tried to run off but the agents in the room got him. Clay put up his gun and smirked at Darcy, who grinned back.

"You're a nice guy, Clay. I appreciate that about you. That and you're faster on the draw than a few others I know." He snorted but looked amused. "But I'm still going to try to keep Jensen. He's neat to hang out with."

"If I need to hide him, I'm sending him to you anyway," he shot back. She grinned.

"Oooh, boyfriend?" Jane asked with a smile.

"No," Clay said, shaking his head. "One of my people."


"He liked my cartoon curtains," Darcy quipped. "He's like a fun, cute thing to hang out with who doesn't even stare at my chest."

"I made sure he wasn't an asshole to women," Clay said dryly. "Boys like that in the military get into trouble. We had enough without that sort of trouble." Darcy hugged his arm. He smirked at her. Then he felt someone coming up behind them and that one tried to move Darcy and Jane away from the men to talk to them.

Jane looked at the man, smiling some. "I'm sorry, my giant brain is busy doing science so I'm leaning on my boyfriend's arm while I consider how to destroy a nearby planet to get the resources." The man spluttered.

Darcy considered it. "Just mine the asteroid belt, Jane. Not as many explosions but it'll ease the way for later space flights or if we find other people like Thor from other planets."

Thor nodded. "There are some," he agreed. "We don't associate much but I've heard stories of them." The donor stared at him, looking confused. "There are many other peoples out there that don't come from our nine realms," he said. "My mother had met many before she married. She told us stories of the people she met and was diplomatic with."

"Bedtime stories?" Shelly asked as she joined them. It looked like an interesting conversation instead of the one she had just had. "Not to insult your mother but most humans consider aliens weird and unreal. Outside of you of course because you seem closer to what we'd see as a human, Lord Thor."

Thor nodded. "We are close to you Midgardians," he agreed. "Though the elves were not much the same." Darcy nodded at that, grimacing. "Many of them do appear humanish but may be different colors or slightly differently shaped. My mother noted one race of warriors to us who are blue. Strong, fierce conquerors but blue. Wear symbolic makeup and have good weapons."

Darcy frowned. "Someone saw a picture of...." She looked it up on her phone, showing Thor. He nodded. "That's coming out in a movie soon so apparently they've been visiting."

"I shall pass that on," Thor said, staring at her. "Make sure they are recognized as sentient if they should show up soon."

"Dangerous?" Shelly asked.

"That may depend on which member of that species and why they come," Thor said.

"So in other words not one that's going to show up and decide 'hey, you're humans so therefore roaches'," Darcy decided. "So better than the Dark Elves!" She smiled.

"Much," Thor agreed happily.

"I hope another convergence never happens again," Jane complained. She sipped her drink. "Once was enough." Thor stared at her. "What?"

"They're timed events," Thor reminded her. She winced. "I would hope not to lose you by then," he said quietly.

"I have no idea on that, Thor," she said, squeezing his hand. "We still have a lot of things to work out." He nodded, pulling her closer to hug.

"I hope you guys do work it out," Darcy said. Jane smiled and nodded. "We should go talk to other donors," she said, looking that way then at her boss.

"Don't," she warned. "They're all like the idiot that tried to molest you."

"Damn. It figures though," she sighed.

Clay looked over then at the two ladies. "Maybe some aren't? They're staring over here."

"Yeah, two of them are ones that write nice twitter rape threats," Darcy said dryly, smirking at one and lifting her glass. "Read your tweet," she mouthed. He flinched and turned away. She looked at Shelly, shrugging some with a small smile. "I hate bullies."

"Good. That's a good idea to hate," she agreed. Someone else came over to them. "Yes?" Shelley asked with a smile.

"Miss, is this lady bothering you?" he asked.

"No, this is my assistant," Shelly said with a point at Darcy. "This is Dr. Jane Foster." The man winced and backed up, not looking toward Thor. "I have no problems from my assistant, but thank you for making sure."

"We know her...reputation," he said dryly.

"Yes, some women can protect ourselves from unwanted groping," Darcy said dryly. "If he hadn't escalated it, he wouldn't have felt the tazer at all." She stared at him. "I made sure he wouldn't be bothering me tonight. But thank you for assuming I'm here to kill everyone in the room. Never was like that but gee, thanks."

The guy flushed and walked off shaking his head.

Shelly looked at Darcy, who sighed. "I should go," Darcy said.

"No, you should stay," Jane said. "It's the only way to get them to stop it."

Darcy looked at her. "Did you see what I had to do to defend myself the last time?" she asked quietly. "Even the SHIELD agents that showed up to help were thrilled that gang kids helped me first." Jane winced. "I probably wouldn't have made it out of the second attempt if it hadn't been for them because I saw the uniform and assumed, Jane. Then help got there." Jane hugged her. "Thanks."

"You need to come home. I won't even make you make sure I eat. My new assistant sucks at that but he does the science better."

"I like what I do," she said.

"Can you do it in New York?" she asked, giving her a begging look.

Shelly looked at her, wincing some. "There's a group in New York. They're almost completely downtrodden by the locals and they're seriously overrun by need. People went to other charities because they decided that educating the masses isn't as important as making sure they eat. Which I can see the point of; we just combined those functions recently."

Jane stared at her. " banks."

"Supposedly for a week's worth of food, you can go once a month, and some of them give out a ton of candy," Darcy said dryly. "And a lot of them think a week's worth of food is actually three day's worth because donations are down." She grinned. "We've recently hooked up with a program that gives school kids fruit and weekend food packs. We give them out during tutoring sessions. And sometimes I bring in cookies." She smiled. "Healthy cookies because it's important but sometimes it's a good thing."

"Aww," Jane said with a smile.

"Ask Scott, he was most helpful when he was there," Shelly said with a smile for Jane and Thor. They were a cute couple. "And when Mr. Rogers showed up for a night, he was very helpful too. He explained how things were at least slightly better now and yet slightly worse."

"Yeah, back then younger kids could get jobs," Darcy agreed. "The kids were amazed that people were kinda the same sort of poor back then. Thankfully he wasn't there the week that the mom decided welfare was enough." She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "We had a talk about reality. She thought she could live poorly but well enough on it. I pointed out with a little exercise called 'how do you pay for that'." Shelly laughed. "One of the boys complained to his mom about her and her mom knew that one's mom, who showed up to tell her daughter just how hard they had it while she was trying to get somewhere with her own life.

"And then we went over some simple, easy, cheap recipes that kids might actually eat without complaining." She grinned. "They loved that stew. I did a cooking thing the next meeting to go over fractions and measurements." She smiled a tiny bit. "The kids were great with it. We baked some bread, and that mom showed up and showed them how to make biscuits. We made stew in the crockpot for them. I showed them how to make cobbler from frozen cheap fruit and biscuit mix. It went well and the kids ate good. We made enough that everyone brought home seconds. I got a few tweets of thanks from some moms. The boys fed their moms."

"That's sweet to see," Jane agreed.

"Oooh! One of my kids just got a baby brother. Mom's still sick so he called off to take care of the kiddo. I sent him a happy baby kit," she told Shelley. "With a few diapers, and some really soft baby washclothes, and a few pacies."

"That's sweet, Darcy."

"The girls helped me set it up."

"Aww," Shelley agreed. "That's so sweet of the kids you work with."

"It is. They're good kids."

"They are," Shelley said, patting her on the arm. Darcy smiled. The dinner was announced so they went to their seats.

Jane looked up at Thor. "She seems really happy," she said quietly.

"She does. She's making much of a difference and helping more than you with things."

"She is. I'm proud." They went to their seat and found themselves at the same table as a few of the donors. She had nothing to talk with them about. They were all talking about money. She smiled at Thor. "Do you think she'd come visit?"

"We can arrange that," he agreed. "She should see her godchild relatively often." Jane smiled and nodded. He nodded at the people staring at them. "Good evening."

"I haven't seen you at this event before," one woman said.

Jane smiled. "We're giving an award later from the Maria Stark foundation," she said. "This is Thor."

"Oh!" she said, blinking at him. "That's charming, sir. It's good that you support charities as well."

"I do. Much can be done if people consider it and put themselves to it. Many of my teammates also do charity work and have brought me to see if any of them find my skills useful. My lady Jane is someday soon going to be helping with science related charities." He smiled at her.

"I'm working on a small grant for a few science oriented groups. I'm not sure how that's going to work out but Pepper Potts is helping me with it."

"That's a great thing," that woman said, smiling at her.

"My former assistant is here. We were talking with her about her at risk teenager education group."

"They still do that instead of just giving them computers with a program?" one of the men asked, looking confused.

Jane looked at him. "Most of those kids don't read very well because education's already failed them. They might not be able to read the computer."

"Oh, I had no idea. Which one does she work with?"

She looked and pointed. "There's Darcy with Shelly. Darcy was my assistant for years."

They looked then one winced. "That's that pushy thing," one sneered.

Jane stared at him. "I would've shot the man who groped me without my consent." He flinched back. "I'm really proud that she used a non-lethal method. Darcy was with me when Thor showed up and in London."

"Plus protected her dorm when men who should not be called such broke in to hurt women," Thor agreed. "We were most proud when we heard she helped protect them all and then had to deal with the senator who came to defeat them for having his son be so dumb."

"That was her?" one of the other men hissed. "At that college?" Jane nodded. "Oh, dear." He looked at his friends.

"They broke in to harm them," Jane said. "We're glad she managed it with a few other adults there. Otherwise it'd have been a massacre."

"We heard that someone attempted to kidnap her," the woman said, glancing around. Then looking at Jane again.

"Yes, there's apparently a price on her head for defending herself and her body," Jane said, grimacing. "That one I'd like to talk to with Thor's hammer."

Thor patted her on the hand. "As would I." A few of the men nodded at that urge. "Thankfully Darcy has managed to save herself to this date. I hope she won't need to keep saving herself but one never knows how things will work out in this life."

"True," Jane said. "Or else your mom would still be with us nagging you."

"Quite," he agreed, smiling at her.

Darcy jogged over, handing Thor her phone. "Problems."

He watched the video, grimacing. "What is that?" Darcy ran the video back, pointing at it. He peered. "Can we enlarge that?"

"It came out earlier and I caught it on my social media feed. Someone who was in London was freaking out."

Thor frowned but nodded. "That is him."

"Yeah, that looks like Loki. Does he have a son?"

Thor shook his head. "Not that looks like his twin." He sighed. "I will call the others. Thank thee, Darcy."

She punched him on the arm. "If he's reformed or leaned from things, maybe it's a good thing."

"Perhaps but I thought him dead."

Darcy shrugged. "Loki's a master of illusions, Thor. Who knows how he survived."

He nodded. "True, he could have healed there or he could have limped to an ally. I will look into that." She smiled and went back to her seat. Thor looked at Jane.

"If he's alive, I get to slap him before Sif takes off his head," Jane quipped.

Thor smiled. "I get the first blow, Jane, but I will try to save you and the Lady Sif some." She smiled and patted his hand. Food was brought. Thor looked at the artfully designed bits of food on his plate then sighed. "We will eat a proper meal later."

"Yes we will," Jane said, looking at it. "I can't identify what two of them are. Are those...parsnips?"

Thor tasted them, nodding. "One was, one was a radish."

"Oh, okay." She tasted all but that one, letting Thor have it.

The others shared looks but they weren't their kind anyway. They wouldn't understand an artful meal.

Jane looked at the tiny plate, shaking her head. "At least I won't be up all night in the lab."

"True," Thor agreed. "You have a few days before you go back to your grueling schedule." She hugged his arm. He smiled. "I do not mind. Science calls to you as many other things do and you must heed it." She nodded, relaxing again.

Darcy suddenly kicked the table, wincing as she rubbed her knee. She kicked something under the table and the small lizard ran off. "That's not a usual pet kept in some woman's handbag," she said, looking at her leg.

Shelly looked at it then at her. "Are you all right, Darcy? Did it injure you?"

"Yes, but it's not hugely problematic. I can bandage it." She used her napkin to tie a temporary bandage over it. "Excuse me while I go to the lady's room." She limped off, Clay escorting her. She looked at Clay in the hallway. "I can't believe someone brought a biting lizard to this event."

"I'm just happy it's not the precursor to an attack or an assassination attempt," he complained. "Are you going to need stitches?"

"I can clean and bandage it. I'll let you check if you want," she sighed, looking at him.

"Not the team's field medic, sorry, kid."

"Take a picture and send it?"

"I can do that." He did that and helped her clean up the mess it made. They both heard the gunshots and groaned. Clay stared at her.

"It follows me," she agreed dryly. "Let's tie a bandage." He nodded, helping her do that. She handed over her hidden gun. He smirked and got up to go check on things, calling in what he saw. She limped after him. "Oooh, Thor's mad," she hissed. "He's got the full cape. Mew-mew's mad. Someone's going to go boom splat." Yup, there was someone trying to menace them and they went boom into the wall then splat onto the floor. A few tried to run out and spotted her, sneering. She zapped one. Clint shot the other two. She looked back at him. "Fancy meeting you here."

He grinned. "I was watching Thor's back since Stark saw a video that showed Loki was somehow back."

"I showed him a few minutes ago." She looked. Smiled and waved at the guy staring at them. That one stared at Clint, who smirked and waved too. The guy yelled something and they came out. Thor stomped after them. Darcy stabbed one that tried her. Clint got another two down and out. Clay got another few. Darcy sighed at the end. "Thank the Goddess that dresses that aren't designer are built to dance in so you can move comfortably."

Clay looked at her. "That's off the rack?"

"Bridal," she said with a smile. "Designer stuff never fits the boobs."

"I don't need to know that," Clay said. "I'll never have breasts. I hope."

Thor looked back. "I would beware of my brother. He may be able to do that."

Clint stared at him. "Thank God he thought I wasn't that sort of pretty," he said dryly. Thor burst out laughing, clapping him on the back hard enough to make him stumble into Darcy, who yelped as she shifted her weight. "Did you get hurt?" he demanded, looking her over.

She pointed. "Someone brought a biting damn lizard."

"Excuse me?" he demanded.

"Looked like a miniature croc," Clay said. "It's not too deep. Pooch said she might need a few stitches but just bandage it."

Clint stared at her. "How do you have these things happen?"

"I'm thinking sometime in my family's history, a chaos god blessed us." He burst out laughing. Jane ran out. "Are you okay?"

"I'm good. Are you? You got bitten by a lizard! You need a tetanus shot!" She hauled her off. "Let's go clean it up. I don't have any bandaids but we can make sure it'll be okay."

"I'll drive her to the ER in a few minutes," Clay called. "Put some pressure on it if it's bleeding." Jane waved a hand back. He looked at Clint. "By the way, she moved."

"I got the card with the pass for her sensor."

"Good." He walked off. "She has a guest room now too."

"Wonderful. She could use one." He watched him go. "Where do I know him from?" he muttered. He shook his head.

Thor shrugged. "I know not other than someone said he was military."

Clint straightened up, looking back there, seeing Clay smirking. "Tell Hat Boy I said hi?"

"Already have, Barton. Took you long enough."

"Yeah, my head's clouded by fussing Starks." Clay snorted but looked amused. Clint helped tie up the people that needed it until the cops got there.

"Who're you?" one of the officers demanded.

"Well, that's Thor," Clint said with a point. "And I'm Hawkeye. I was guarding Thor at this charming event. Then people decided to show up to rob people." He handed over one of the idiots. "This one's got a stab wound. He tried to run over someone." He looked at Thor. "Want me to shadow them? I doubt Jane's going to let Darcy go to the ER by herself."

"We can both go," Thor said, calming himself to the point where his hammer shrank back into his pocket again. It let his clothes fade back into the suit Stark had gotten him.

Clint's phone rang and he sighed, looking at it. "Stark, she's on her way to the ER. Before all that happened, some sort of lizard bit her." He spotted it and shook his head as he hung up, walking inside to pick it up by the tail and carry it out. "This is going to the ER with us so they know what to treat her bite mark for." The officers all stared at it. "It bit someone just before this happened and I know it's not hers. She's the one who stabbed the idiot." He carried it out. Thor took it to carry properly. "Thanks. Didn't want to lose a finger to it. Might make it hard to use my bow."

Darcy glared at it. "You need to be a pair of ugly shoes for Tony." Jane laughed. "You're not big enough to make some for Thor but you might fit Tony's feet." Clint helped hold Darcy up. "I'm okay. It's not deep."

"Yeah, they have all sorts of funky mouth diseases, Darcy," Clint said. "Don't make me carry you."

"I'd never make you carry me. You're not my husband and he should only carry me if I'm drunk or in labor."

"I'll pass that on when you find one," he quipped.

"Please send one and tell him first," she shot back. She winced as they went down the few stairs to the valet parking. Clay got their car and them evacuated to the ER. An officer followed to get a statement from Thor and Jane. Darcy's statement that she had been in the bathroom cleaning the wound made the nurse wince. Darcy smiled and pointed at the creature. "That bit me at a formal awards dinner."

She looked at it then at Darcy. "How did it get in?"

"I don't know," Darcy admitted, moving the dress's skirt. "It's not totally deep, my leg's not falling off, but it might need some stitches."

"She needs a tetanus shot," Jane said firmly. "You always do for animal bites."

The nurse smiled and nodded. "Quite often, yes. I'll get someone to swab the ...lizard's mouth. Do we know who owns it?"

The officer nodded. "He's complaining it got confiscated."

"He can have it back once we make sure it's not carrying a poison," Clint told him, giving him a look.

"That's what we've told him so far, sir."

Darcy looked at him. "He's a former agent."

"Oh. All right."

"He's the bow guy on the Avengers," she said more quietly. "It's sweet he's protective of people."

"Yes, ma'am, I'm sure it is. Are you his girlfriend?"

"When I was a lab assistant we shared many a late night movie but otherwise no. He's not into dating."

"Oh. Fine."

"Friends do for friends," Jane said firmly, glaring at him.

"Yes they do," he agreed to keep the peace. The ER didn't need more work when Thor stomped on him for upsetting his girlfriend.

"I'd just really like some novocaine shot into the area," Darcy told the nurse. "Please? Soon?"

"Relatively soon," she admitted. "Go ahead and sit down. You don't want to stress that leg right now, Miss Lewis." She nodded, being helped to a seat. The nurse went to tell the shift supervisor. "We have a weird one. We have a pet lizard of some sort that bit someone not the owner at a formal event. The police are here to question what happened when people showed up to rob the event after the biting. The lizard's here so we can make sure it's not poisonous."

The head nurse looked at her. "What?" The check-in nurse told her again. "All right. How bad?"

"Minor, she thinks it'll need a few stitches, asked for some local anesthetic. The police are questioning the two Avengers members with them."

The shift nurse looked out there, then sighed and got some swabs to bring with her. "Let me swab the creature's mouth please, sir. The tests to make sure of any weird germs or debris in it will take a bit to run." Clint and Thor held it still so she could swab the mouth a few times. Then the officer got handed the lizard to hand back if he wanted to. The nurse sent the swabs up to the lab with an explanation written by the check-in nurse and orders for the testing. Then the nurse got to tell the attending doctor, who was so confused looking it was almost cute. Even though he was an asshole.

Darcy got taken back to a room. The doctor looked at her. "Wedding?"

"Awards dinner that was honoring the charity I work for." She moved the dress out of the way. "It dry cleans."

The doctor nodded, removing the bandage. "That's not too huge."

"It's got a few deep puncture spots and it aches like a bitch. They thought I might need a few stitches in this deep part here," she said with a point.


"My escort tonight is former military and he talked to a friend who was a medic in the army."


"He took a picture to send since I couldn't really cut out. They're honoring my boss. I was just going to bandage it but he asked."

The doctor nodded. "That's not a bad idea if you can't get to an ER right away."

"I was figuring in about two hours," Darcy admitted. "Long before it was too old."

"Good." He pressed gently, watching the blood that came up. Darcy hissed and grabbed the edges of the table. "Sorry." He pressed a few more places. "It looks like you could have two or three stitches and yes, I can do some local," he said, looking up at her. "I'm not writing you pain killers."

"Good! I don't take that shit." She stared at him. "Doc, I'm rich enough that if I wanted to go find drugs, I'd go buy drugs. I don't want drugs, don't do drugs, and am not looking for drugs. I don't want drugs. Just a bit of local so I can get to sleep tonight since that's the side I sleep on."

"All right." He went to get what he needed, coming back with a needle, a stitching kit, and a nurse. "Here we go." He looked up at the complaining. "Yours?"

"Yes, she's my friend. She's insistent that I get a tetanus shot if I need one, which I'm all for if I need one."

"How long since your last one?"

"Five years."

"It's not a bad idea," he agreed. "We can do that after this." She closed her eyes and grabbed the table when he draped her leg. She took a deep breath as he injected her leg, then got to work on the stitches. "You've had many stitches?"

"A few," she panted. She swallowed hard. "Not that many. Jane chases science like that guy on A&E chases bail jumpers." The doctor laughed. "Seriously. She's an astrophysicist."

"That's interesting." He finished up and applied a new bandage. "There we go." The nurse left to get the tetanus shot and came back with a lab report. He read it over. "The lizard's mouth had a bit of mouse fur but nothing too huge. We'll do an antibiotic pill and the tetanus shot."

Darcy nodded. "I'm good with that."



"Good." He wrote it out for her, letting the computer take a copy for her records. He handed it over then hit her arm with the tetanus shot. "There you go. Try to have an easier night."

"I'd like that," Darcy admitted, sliding off the table but holding onto it for a few seconds until she got her balance. "How long should I keep it covered?"

"Until it seals."

"Gotcha. Thank you." She shook his hand and limped out. "All shots given, a few stitches, and some local so I can sleep tonight." They escorted her out to her hotel and Clint stayed to tuck her in while Clay reported to the others.


Clint was in the living room of the suite when his phone rang. Darcy had graciously allowed him the couch so he didn't have to get a room for himself. He read the all capital letters 'SHE WAS BITTEN BY A LIZARD! WHO BRINGS A LIZARD TO THOSE SORT OF THINGS!' from Stark. Clint answered back patiently that she was fine, had some antibiotics in case, had a tetanus shot, and was sleeping. He got one back that was calmer about who he got to yell at about carrying a lizard to that thing. Clint gladly gave over the name. They deserved the hell they were about to get. Stark sent back a growl and didn't write back again.

Clint looked up the lizard, finding it was the Mexican Bearded lizard. Interesting. Biting definitely. Nerve toxin... He snuck in to check on Darcy but she was fine so far. She nearly woke up when he touched one of her hands to see if it'd move. He went back to the couch to text that factoid to Stark. He got back a growl from Pepper, who apparently knew who the lizard belonged to. Great! She could deal with petty annoyances like that instead of Darcy. Darcy had too much to deal with right now.


Jensen walked Darcy back into her apartment when they got back to Chicago, stopping to sniff. "Someone cooked."

Darcy looked around slowly, then went to look in the closets and bathroom. Jensen checked other places. They found the reason in the bathroom. "Sif," Darcy said, hugging her since she was only washing her hands. "Thank you for coming. Did you make dinner?"

"I brought you dinner," she admitted, coming out wiping off her hands. "Thor was worried about you when I came to check on him." She stared at Darcy then at Jensen. "New mate, Darcy?"

"This is Jake Jensen. He helped guard me the last few weeks because there's idiots who don't understand the meaning of the word no."

Sif smiled at him. "Sometimes a true warrior needs backup," she said, holding out a hand.

"It's a pleasure, Lady Sif. I've heard a lot about you, and not even from mythology, which said you were a blonde."

She laughed, nodding. "They confused me greatly," she agreed happily. She smiled at him. "There's enough for you if you want to join us."

"I've just escorted her home to make sure she made it here since someone tried to grab her at the airport."

"Really stupid reporter," Darcy muttered, shaking her head. Jake patted her and nodded at Sif before leaving. Darcy dropped her bag on the couch and looked at her. "I saw Jane and Thor in DC."

"I heard. You shouldn't be on that leg, Darcy." She sat down at the table, dishing out food for them. "Thank thee. Not as good as yours but very nice."

"It is good. Bruce did a good job." Sif smiled at her, looking smug. "It's the spices. He always uses those in pork dishes." She ate another bite. "Are you mad at me like Thor was?"

"If you had turned down being a guardian I might be but I learned that it was not what you were being asked to become. A caretaker is different. I had a talk with Thor about those as well. One of his mother's maids used to help her with the boys when she needed some but otherwise she raised her sons herself."

"My mom did the same thing with some babysitting from friends," she agreed, smiling at her. "I think the kid's a cute little thing but I... I'm not giving up my life for that, Sif."

"I understand, Darcy, and I agree. It's not a healthy thing they asked of you. You already served that purpose for Jane."

Darcy nodded. "Some days, yeah." She ate another bite. "So how are the Warriors Three and yourself?"

"We are tolerable. A bit bored without things going on, but tolerable."

"That's cool. Tell them I said hi if it won't make them mad?"

"I will do so," she agreed, eating some. "What are you doing now?"

"I'm working with a group that helps teenagers get an education if they had to drop out of school." She smiled. "I work with some great kids who I hope find a way out of the bad parts of the city."

"That's special work. Plus taking care of others is something you do good at." Darcy smiled at her for that, stuffing her mouth again. "Why are you limping? I heard you got injured but not how."

"Someone's pet lizard bit me." She looked at her. "Totally stupid but at the formal event I ran into Thor and Jane at." She stood up to let her see the bandage. "Not exactly a heroic injury." She sat down again.

Sif giggled. "A lizard?" Darcy pulled up the facts on those lizards on her phone so Sif could see. "A big lizard. Not too dangerous though."

"No, not too dangerous. Apparently it didn't have much toxin when it bit me. So I've got some antibiotics because it had been eating a mouse before it bit me." She grimaced. "And it got us out of there after someone tried to rob the event."

"I heard that had happened." Darcy took her phone back and tossed it at the couch once it was off. Sif grinned at that move. "Are you happier here?"

"I'm really kinda happy with my job and most of my life," she said with a smile. "I miss some people but I see a few of them real often. And I talk to them online."

"That's good then." She patted her on the hand. "The Warriors Three would say hi back you know."

"I know. They're nice guys." Sif nodded. "You know, there's people who make up stories about Thor and them having fun times together in bed. Not as many as with you though." Sif burst out laughing, shaking her head. "I ran into some the other day and nearly wrote back that they hadn't put in Fandral's chest hair." Sif's peal of laughter got louder. "Seriously, the fictional stories thing? Lots of fun sometimes." Sif gulped her water to help her not choke. "I showed one to Jane and she muttered about making her Thor gay."

"Oh my Goddess Friga," she snickered, shaking her head. "Thank you, Darcy. I needed that."

"Welcome." She smiled. It was good to catch up with old friends.


Darcy was out and about when she saw someone slightly familiar. She smiled and nodded slightly at him, getting a nod back. She went back to picking up vegetables for dinner. Plus some extra to bring with her that night. She grimaced at the citrus selection. "I was hoping to bring in oranges tonight," she muttered, searching for a better bag of them.

"It's better to buy singly," Bucky said quietly from behind her.

"Not always. They have some moldy ones there too," she said with a grimace. She went to look at the other type of oranges. "Well, the tiny ones are easy peel and you can eat ten of them in one sitting," she decided, loading those into her cart. She turned to smile at him. "How have you been, Bucky?"

"I'm good. This isn't where I'd expect you to be."

"Even I've got to grocery shop."

He nodded. "True. It was too easy to follow you though."

She smiled. "I knew someone was but it didn't feel like a threat." She moved closer, adjusting his shirt's collar on him. "I'm still pretty paranoid but nothing's happened recently. Unless you're following me because of that?" she asked quietly. He shook his head. She smiled. "Then that's great. I'm tutoring tonight if you wanted to join us. Scott and Steve both have."

"I don't think I can help much," he said. He stared at her. "They're still going to try to come."

"I know. They're insistent on some things, even if it makes no sense to anyone else." She waved a hand around. "It happens."

He looked at her hand then at her. "We didn't get a letter about that?"

She let him see it. "It's got an emergency key."

"Oh. That's neat." He let her hand go. "Pretty too."

"Thank you." She smiled. "Someone made that specially for me." She looked at the oranges then loaded another box into the cart. She looked at him. "If you need a couch...."

"I could just to make sure you're safe. We heard they're definitely going to try again soon, Darcy."

"That's fine. I have a couch and a guest bedroom both." He nodded, shifting closer. "Let me check out and I can bring you there. I've got about a half hour before I need to leave for the school." She went to get a few more things with him following, then going back to her apartment. She did text the security team she had a friend in from New York. "Want me to tell Steve you said hi?"

He shook his head. "He's moping. Again."

"He and Sharon need to man up and screw, yeah," she said, making him smile. She grinned back. "He does."

"Yeah, he does." He looked around the apartment. It was nice looking. Windows had some sort of stuff on it so it was partially darkened. "What's this?"

"It's an anti sniper film. The other side's more shiny so you can't get a good look in." She smiled. "The people I had help from finding this place put it up for me." She pushed her hair back. "You sure you don't want to come with me? The kids won't mind."

"No. You go do good things. I'll watch some tv and maybe I'll toss Steve a bone and say hi."

"Okay." She kissed him on the cheek, carrying the oranges out with her once she had her purse.

Bucky sat down, checking his email from her system. It was a nice one and had protections against being hacked from the outside.

Darcy called from the car. "Hey, Steve, it's Darcy," she told his voicemail. "I'm on my way to tutoring but I thought I'd let you know that I've got a couch guest and he's finally gotten a haircut. Yes, that one but I'm being subtle in case someone hacks your voicemail. Laters." She hung up.


Steve looked at his phone when the voicemail notice popped up. He had been texting when the call came in so it didn't interrupt him. He listened and smiled. "Bucky's visiting Darcy," he told the others. They were in a meeting room.

Stark looked at him. "Is that safe?" Steve glared at him. "We don't know where he's been since he hiked off with a huff at you. Could they have retriggered him? Because if he's there to take out Darcy I will kill him."

Steve shook his head. "She said he's on her couch, not that he attacked her."

"She's usually pretty safe," Natasha said.

"There's still three prices on her head plus HYDRA," Clint reminded her.

"Point," Natasha said with a grimace. "She should be fine. She'd know if Barnes was acting like he used to when you first brought him here."

"Point. That doesn't mean he can't act," Stark reminded her.

"Darcy is not helpless."

"She's trusting," Natasha said. "If you think he's acting, would she see through that?"

Stark sighed and pulled up the cameras he had installed in Darcy's apartment. One had been taken out but the others showed Bucky surfing the internet on her computer. He got into his special little thing to hack her, he had Jensen put it on there just in case, and looked at what he was doing, showing Steve. Steve winced and texted Darcy back as he walked off. Her 'don't break the couch' was enough to make him laugh.


Darcy came back that night and found Bucky unconscious and Steve looking pissed off. "So what was it? He seemed more quiet than usual."

"They sent him to hit on you, had him retriggered and convinced you were his true soulmate." He stared at her. She grimaced. "Darcy...."

"Yeah, it figures with the way that they got my gyn records," she admitted.

"Gyn," he said, looking confused.

"Girl doctor stuff, Steve."

"Oh!" He nodded once. "Why would they?"

"To find out the state of my birth control and uterus?" she guessed then shrugged. She handed over the last few oranges. "The kids were oranged out."

"Thanks." He sat down to peel and eat one. "I'm pretty sure I untriggered him because he gave me this horrified look when he seemed to wake up." He ate a bite. "But I didn't want to take the chance and he insisted I knock him out."

She kissed him on the forehead. "That's nice of you." She went into the kitchen. "Want dinner?"

"It's nearly ten," he said.

She looked out there. "I don't have to be at the office tomorrow until noon and I doubt I'm getting to sleep very shortly." She went back to making a quick dinner, coming out. "Besides, I need the stress relief. I had to dispute the fact that we don't help the kids past their GED's. I pointed out if they wanted more help, it wouldn't be the first time I had helped someone learn how to write college papers and all we'd ask for was them to help tutor while we worked on their own homework. The kids both agreed and got to work with the others, showing them how hard the GED actually was. It worked out well and whoever is paying off the principal is getting my heels up his ass." She dug in with a sigh. "So, how's things in New York?"

"Still really boring without any life," he admitted. "We all want you back, Darcy."

She looked at him. "I love working with the kids, Steve."

"I know. It's a hard choice but we'd want you closer."

"Even if I moved back, I'd be doing the same sort of work and not being Jane's assistant."

"Pepper needs help, a lot of help sometimes," he offered.

She stared at him. "I like what I do."

"I know. I'm sorry, I'm not trying to guilt trip you, Darcy." He shoulder nudged her and ate some of the nice dinner. "You got anything fun coming up?"

"An interview on live tv through a supposed news station?" she offered.

"Eww. Like that Piers guy?"

"Yup, him."

"Oh, well, at least you can confuse him a lot."

"Probably true." She leaned against his arm. "It'll be okay."

"It might not be. We have no idea how to save Bucky and he wanted me to put him back in ice earlier."

"Isn't mind screwing one of Wanda's powers?"

"She's not sure if she can help him."

"Huh. Well, ask Thor if they have mind healers."

"I...I actually hadn't thought about that," he admitted. "Maybe they can give Wanda ideas."

"Maybe." He smiled and hugged her. "Aww, I need a teddy bear built like you." He laughed but shook his head, digging into his dinner again. "I made the sleeping beauty there a plate too since it looks like he's waking up."

Steve went to get it and brought it back, settling in to feed Bucky by hand since his own were tied. Darcy had to admit it was hot to watch but she wasn't going to even dream about getting between those two ancient friends.

Bucky looked over. "Liking what you see, Doll?" he taunted.

"Yup, you look great as his captive," she said with a smirk. "The whole hand-feeding thing is really hot too." She ate a bite of her dinner. "So, why did they decide I was your fated soulmate sort?"

"Not sure," he admitted. "They were insistent that you were mine and meant to be mine, but I had to make you want to join us."

Darcy considered it then sighed. "I'm going to make sure my IUD is in place. Just in case they get super sneaky."

"Please do," Bucky agreed.

"I'll make that appointment tomorrow." She went back to eating. "You're pretty and all but I doubt dating me is going to make anything in your life easier."

"No, probably not," Bucky agreed quietly. "But you're very ...perky."

Darcy smirked a tiny bit. "Especially when I have to protect myself?" He nodded. "Yes I do try."

"Have there been ones we didn't hear about?" Steve demanded, staring at her.

"Did you hear about the lizard?" she asked dryly. "Because the owner is society scum who said it was wrong of me to protect myself and wrong of the agents to step in to protect me." She gave him a look. "I kindly made fun of him and his lizard the next day."

"GOOD!" Steve insisted. Darcy grinned. "Are you okay now?"

"More or less. A bit bored sometimes because I never have time enough to do more than watch an hour of tv." She shrugged. "That's the price you pay for adulting too well I guess."

"Maybe," he agreed. "Can you look into jobs like yours in New York?"

"I still wouldn't be at the tower, Steve, and who said that they'd leave me alone even if I moved back?"

"Point. But we could watch you better."

"Or they could try stuff while you're out avenging something," she shot back. "It's not a good idea to attack someone you'd protect while you're there."

"True," he agreed. "We'd still like you closer, Darcy. We miss the fun you used to have with us."

She got up to hug him. "Maybe some day soon we'll have some fun again." He nodded. "But really, I have to leave for Central America in about three days." He winced. "But I'm taking a helper-slash-bodyguard with me."

"Excellent idea," Bucky agreed. "Can they protect you if HYDRA comes?"

"Damn I hope so. Down there women are sneered at for being strong enough to beat the living fuck out of a man. They have an even worse rape culture than the US does." She grimaced. "We all think it'll be fine."

"We'll be listening just in case," Steve said. She grinned. "Does Coulson know?"

"Yeah, pretty sure he got the paperwork I have to file each time I want to leave the US. He has my passport under watch so I can't be stolen out of the country."

"Why would they use yours?" Bucky asked. "That makes no sense. They probably have someone who can legally get you a new one."

"Probably," Darcy agreed. "But that's what they demanded to do after Antigua and my spring break that got interrupted."

"You never have it easy," Steve complained.

She smiled. "I have a lot of easy things, just not free time. I think it's some sort of plot to keep me busy so I can't complain or make plans for world domination."

"We'd have to stop those, Darcy," Steve joked, smiling at her.

"Sure, you give me nubile young assistants to hit on like I'm a Stark and I can tone them down," she quipped back. "The more helpful those boys are, the less I'll want to take over the world to make it a better place."

Steve stared, mouth open slightly. "How many do you need, Darcy? Most women only need one."

She gave him a dirty look. "Most women only get one and have to substitute their own hands for the inadequate one they have. Finding someone fantastic in bed is nearly impossible these days. Too much attention span problems popping up in the bedroom. Hell, I've had more than one guy tell me foreplay took too long and wasn't a benefit to his sex life anyway. I told him foreplay made sure I wanted a round two."

"He was young and stupid," Steve said.

"He was thirty-five!" she said dryly. "And did the same sort of work I do, Steve. Men these days don't take their time and they definitely don't take their pleasures with ours."

"You could still date Bucky," Steve said dryly, staring at her.

She smirked. "I heard you had Sharon on your penis hotline."

Steve shook his head. "No, we're just dating. We haven't gone that far yet. Thanks for asking though. Much less subtle than Natasha's been trying to hint to get intel."

"Really? Most of the bets have gone by. Did you do that on purpose?"

"I knew Tony would bet on it if someone started a board," he complained but he grinned at her. "She said I'm not getting in her panties for at least another few dates, flat out told me because we all know I wouldn't ask that sort of question."

"Yup, real men don't have to ask, they just wait patiently," Darcy agreed.

"Used to be you could wait years," Steve complained. "Until the wedding night."

"Or later if she was on her cycle," Darcy quipped.

"Or that. Though any extra days might've killed the guy."

She smirked a tiny bit. "Blue balls doesn't kill anyone and all guys have at least something they can use as a friendly hand or a hole in the wall."

"So do women."

"Yes I do and I'm really too familiar with it. It's starting to get creepy how it works without my conscious thought now," she said dryly. "That and I'm a member of the dildo buyer's club, every two months they send me a special new buzzing friend in the mail." Steve burst out laughing. "Not totally kidding but yeah, I'm all too familiar with ways outside having a boyfriend."

"Try girls yet?" Bucky asked.

"Back in high school. It was good too. Haven't found one I could stand recently though."

Steve was shaking his head while he laughed. "Jesus," he muttered. He looked at her. "Would you hit on Natasha?"

"No, because she insisted that I had to be a gold digger the whole time I was in the damn tower," she said bluntly. "Tolerate, yes. Maybe forgive her some day, maybe. Fuck her? No. She's pretty but no. Not my type. My girlfriend would have to be supportive of my career the same way I would be of hers and I doubt she could do that."

"She does support charities," Steve said more quietly.

"Yeah, but she still doesn't like me and she can't be the sort of girlfriend that you'd lean on for comfort. Missions would get in the way and so would a lot of other problems. I don't mind being the one leaned on but I've had plenty of days I could use some for myself and I really can't see her doing that. It's not the lady she is."

"She does care."

Darcy nodded. "About her teammates, yes." She stared at him. "If there's an assault she'll care if you're trapped. She did the few times someone got into the tower. I can't see her being the quietly cuddling on the couch girlfriend."

"No, I can't either," he admitted. "She's got stuff still to settle in her life."

"Which will always take precedence because that's a choice you make," Darcy said. "Sometimes living well is the best revenge."

"True," he agreed. "She's settled down some."

"I'm happy for her, truly happy if she's found a niche and a happy spot. I think that's great and I hope she gets to keep it."

"I hope so too. She needed the peace now and then. Bruce has been having her help him meditate."

"Sometimes that helps you clear your mind and work out problems. Mine would only be solved if humanity suddenly started to care about the weaker humans, and that's something that hasn't happened yet."

"True," he agreed. "Even with support it just keeps getting worse." She nodded. "Are you okay?"

"I'm good. Most of the kids are doing okay."

"No, just you. Not the kids. You sound depressed, Darcy."

"It's just been some long weeks of mostly hiding," she admitted. "Because last time I had to get free there was an agent there. He was a skinhead, but he was an off-duty agent." She smirked a bitter little smirk. "And the officers tried to blame me for ducking him shooting me from a moving car for some reason. When I pointed out what happened and that I habitually wear a body camera to work because of threats, they were horrified. He's still free but the officers decided it was just a misunderstanding and I was conveniently in the way coming out of work. One of them geniusly mentioned our fire escape masturbator and decided he was there for that pedo."

Steve shuddered. "Scott told us about him."

"I finally got him arrested. He had escalated to where he was using supposedly legal porn."

Steve shook his head. "Guys like that need help. A lot of help. Some of it should even come from a few boots."

"I got him with the letter opener," she said with a slight smile. "He didn't come back for two days then. He came back on my day off. Shelly pepper sprayed him." Steve laughed, shaking his head again. "Yeah, things aren't always that boring. Just private life boring."

"It happens, Darcy. You should go rest. You could use the sleep. You look tired."

"I am, a tiny bit." She went into her bedroom, coming back with pillows and a top sheet. "Here you go. For whichever doesn't end up in the spare bedroom." She went back to get ready for bed and climb into it.

Steve looked at Bucky then got him onto the couch, still in cuffs at his insistence. Steve got the nice, soft guest bed for the night.

Around two or so, Darcy snuck out to look at Bucky, who was staring at the ceiling anyway. "We should talk," she said quietly. He stared at her. She sat in front of him on the coffee table, staring at him. "Why me?"

"I don't know. Maybe they think I'll trust you even without remembering you," he said quietly. "Steve does and I've instinctively done the same thing before realizing."

She nodded. "And what's their usual method? Beyond kidnaping and drugging?"

"That might depend on if you're brainwashed first," he admitted. "Probably drugged and taken. Or just plain kidnaped off the street." She nodded at that. "They might do medical checks first, make sure if you're on something it goes away."

"I'm actually on more than one method," she admitted. "And my doc agreed that I could go on a hormonal and an IUD."

"I don't need to know."

"You may need to know," she admitted. "Because it can take up to 90 days for the hormonal one to go away."

He blinked a few times. "That's handy."

She nodded. "Very. Which is why he agreed." She stared at him. "If they do take me and lock me somewhere with you, are you they going to trigger you automatically?"

"I don't know," he admitted. "It'd be more psychological fun for them if they didn't wash either of us."

"They'd get off from making you rape me," she said with a nod. "That's classical sadism yeah." She sighed, grimacing. "In that sort of situation, I'd never blame you, Bucky. That or death is a bad choice. I'd rather block and then if I had to give in."

"I'd...I'd try to make it not horrible."

She shook her head quickly. "No. No you will not because that's for chosen times, not for forced or else you die times. You only make it good when you want them to come back, not to keep us both from dying." She stared at him. "You will make it cold, clinical, and just get it over with," she said very quietly. "Because that'll hurt us both the least."

He nodded. "I can do that," he agreed, sighing at the end. "I can see that point." She leaned over to pat his hands. "I don't want to make this plan."

"Neither do I. But we all know they're persistent and it'll be a while before Steve and you and whoever can make them stop it. It's stupid not to and I may be nice but I'm not dumb."

"I find you nice and not dumb," he agreed, smiling slightly. She grinned back. "I still don't want to see you captured."

"Me either. I'll do everything I can to make sure they can't. I also realize I work in an area of town that's not that safe. I've nearly been a shot bystander a few times thanks to the local officers and gang members. Once in the office." He grimaced but nodded at that. "So I'm realistic. Is there anything we can do if they do get me beyond me kinda expecting you to help me get us free? I'm not great but I'll beat a bitch if I have to."

"I can do more than that. Can you shoot?"

"I can. I'm not great but I can hit the broad side of a barn. Clint made sure of that."

"He's a good shot."

"Yeah and I might be if I practiced every day of my life and got laser eye surgery. My depth perception is a bit off so I'll never be a marksman."

"Not everyone can be," he agreed. "Can you fight?"

"I've taken self defense lessons. I'm not great but I can get free of being held and the like. Usually I can't punch worth a damn but I can pick up something and hit them with it."

He nodded. "I can make plans for that," he agreed. "Have you put in a tracker?"

"The last one they tried, when we first moved into the tower, made me seriously sick. They had to remove it before they had to remove my forearm from the infection."

He grimaced. "We'll see if we can get you one that can't be found by a scanner. I know someone's working on a chemical one."

"That might be nice. If it won't make me sick I'd like that. Thank you."

He nodded. "You need it. You have more than HYDRA after you."

"You guys have federal level morons after you too," she reminded him. "It sucks and I hope like hell we suddenly get a real hydra here so they can eat the assholes. And so they realize that hydras and octopuses look different." He burst out laughing. "They do."

"They do," he agreed. "Thanks."

"I figured we needed to work something out before hand. And you need to find some way to let me know you're not your normal self. Earlier I wasn't sure."

"I probably won't call you anything cute if I'm triggered. The Soldier isn't about mushy things."

She smiled. "You called me Doll earlier."

"I did?" She nodded. "Damn. I was thinking I was more separated."

"They could've uploaded that into the last triggering," she offered. "Given you some of that personality. Because they knew I'd never go for someone cold and unemotional."

"Could be," he agreed.

"I'm still wondering why they're focusing on me."

"You're a dame I would've fallen for back in the day."

"Yeah but there's plenty of us out there, Bucky."

"Not who could handle it if I went off. Or who would know how to handle it if I went off. Some of that's instinctive. Probably can't be washed out."

"Point. So I was the easy choice that fit the best?" He nodded. "Wow." She grimaced.

"Like I said, I could've fallen for you back in the day."

She grinned. "Thanks." She got up. "You should try to get a few hours of at least resting. I don't have to be up until nine." She went back to her room.

Bucky shifted until he got comfortable again, thinking about that problem. He had to make sure they couldn't take her. That was a fate worse than death and she had ways of handling it that he didn't want to see her have to use. HYDRA just might have underestimated this young woman because she wasn't an easy target by any means. He looked toward where Steve probably wasn't sleeping and caught his eye, shrugging some. Steve grimaced but nodded he had heard. So yeah, they'd try to make sure they didn't pick her up.


Darcy was walked onto the stage, pointing at a seat and getting a nod so she sat down and let the assistant put the microphone on her shirt. She pushed her hair back. "Okay?" she asked the assistant.

"Just fine, Miss DeCriths," she said quietly. "It's going to be about five more minutes." She left her to sit there.

Darcy smiled at the two men coming out. "Pleasure to meet you both," she said, holding out a hand with a smile. "I can tell you're an agent by the suit."

"Former Secret Service," he admitted, shaking her hand. "The agent that helped you?" he asked quietly.

"I'm told he got moved but he got to ask where."

"That's nice of his supervisor." He sat down and checked his own microphone but Darcy caught it when it fell and hooked it onto his tie. "Thank you."

"Welcome. My first time wearing one but those things are tiny." She smiled at the host, shaking his hand. "Thank you for helping me stop that crappile of stupid that keeps showing up."

"If it's warranted," he said with a smirk.

She smirked back. "I brought tape."

"Good. I asked you to. Do they have it?"

"Yes. I handed it over first thing."

"Excellent." He sat down and his own microphone was put into place. "How long?" he called.

"Two," someone called.

Darcy looked around. "I used to wonder why my father liked his work. Now I see it's a lot more hectic than I thought from his stories."

"You're...that DeCrith was your father?" the host said. Darcy smiled and nodded. "Oh!"

"I never got bitten by the acting bug. He wasn't disappointed I was more like my mother. We've seen a few actresses that basically got eaten by the system until drugs seemed like the best idea in their lives. A few, rehab saved them from suicide from all the judgmental crap."

"I've seen some that have gotten to that point," the host agreed. "It's sad."

"It is. And it never really seems to happen to guys." She frowned. "Or at least not as often or as vocally."

"True. People don't remark half as much on the actor's weights and all that."

"Unless you're Steve and then they think he's a dorrito," she quipped.

The host cracked and nodded while laughing. "Yes, I've seen those memes online."

"I sent him one and got a picture of him blushing back."

"Five, four," someone started to count down.

The host looked at the camera over Darcy's shoulder. "Welcome to our talk tonight. We're talking to Miss Darcy DeCriths, who had the unfortunate problem with a political candidate at a charity event and we're talking to a former Secret Service agent as well. He's a political contributor to CNN, Retired Agent Howard Stultz. Welcome to you both. Let me start off with the film. It's been all over the internet." He let it run on the monitors, watching Darcy's grimace as she watched it. "Howard, what is the proper protocol there?"

"The agents guarding him's job is to keep him from touching anyone and anyone from touching him. Frankly, I fault the agents for not protecting her from the primary incident."

"So they shouldn't have been able to touch her," the host said with a nod. "Darcy?"

"I was just really mad that I got slapped on the butt and his finger tried to get...intimate with my body orifice in the rear. To be polite since we're on camera. It was a deep enough touch that I could tell through my skirt and slip and hose. Which is pretty bad considering how short his fingers are."

"That's sad," the agent said. "He shouldn't have been able to touch you at all, Miss DeCriths."

She smiled at him. "You can call me Darcy. I'm not going to be formal tonight." She looked at the host. "I'm pretty sure the agents with him were just shocked. They didn't step in until he escalated it and I pulled my tazer." They rewatched the video from him getting up to menace her. "I was certain he'd be hitting me and then I would've reacted with lethal force. He wasn't going to suddenly pull back and hold his hands up going 'just kidding'."

The host looked at the agent. "She's right," Stultz agreed. "He was going to punch her. By now the agents should have stepped between them, one of them removing the protected person and one of them walking her off to take a statement if she wanted to press charges."

"A few agents have told me I should've been arrested," Darcy said dryly, looking at him again. "Including an agent that took over after the agent that did step in removed himself from the event." She smiled and handed over the tape player the assistant in black next to her handed her. "Someone handed it to me from the security room." She let it play.

Stultz shook his head. "I would've fired any agent that didn't follow protocol and if he had let that person rape someone he would've been in the jail cell with him for being an accomplis." He leaned forward to look at the video monitor again. "I can't fault the agents for more than stopping him from touching her in the first place and for not reacting fast enough. We're trained to step in the way of someone punching our protectees. I'm really upset they didn't step in to stop her from hitting him but not that she hit him. She has every right to hit him. I told my daughter when that came out I wanted her to do the same thing."

"I got nagged by a few people I know I should've pulled my gun first instead of the tazer," Darcy said. "I always want to try to use non-lethal methods first unless I absolutely have to."

"Have you ever had to shoot someone?" the agent asked her.

She nodded. "A few weeks after I went back to work after this, we found out there was a contract out on my life. Two of them. I had to shoot the guy running at me with his gun out and a manic grin; I hit him in the leg. I know, and was taught, if I have to pull my pistol I'm to aim to kill but I was in a major metropolitan city and even Chicago people call 911 when there's gunshots. I was hoping that was the end of that event but it wasn't that night."

"Who had the contracts out?"

Darcy handed over the papers that were sitting beside her. "From the bulletin board where those things are put out. I believe Agent Stultz's people arrested one of them for it. The other...I'd rather not talk about at this time as it could become a problem almost immediately."

He looked and winced. "Yes, that second group would be more of a problem and it's not related to this?"

"No. Not in the least. It was there a bit before then. They just jumped in when they saw their chance during that attempt on my life."

"I saw the hastily edited and removed diary on that blog site," the host said, looking at her. "How did you do that one?"

She smiled. "Talk to text software. My hand hurt so I was updating the earlier one when that problem burst into the room. It was fortuitous."

"I guess that would be." He stared at the agent. "Should she have shot to kill instead of wound during this first event?"

"Yes," he said. "With the way he was menacing her and kept getting back up to escalate it, she should have shot him instead of tazing him the second time. It would've been safer for her if she had. I like how the agents handled it at the end to get her evacuated safely. That was textbook training. I'm glad they could evacuate her safely. I know there were two other attempted rapes at the same event, by different men."

"I saw their childish exhibition problem," Darcy said dryly. "I told one of the," she coughed, "models that I hoped she found a better job soon as I walked past her."

"They had models there?" the host asked, looking confused.

"Yes, scantily clad women in really high heels with semi-automatic rifles," she said dryly. "So very charming as living statues and oh so classy," she finished sarcastically.

The host grimaced. "That's so bad," he said.

"I saw a few taking pictures," Darcy said, shaking her head. "I was only there to hand over some information to one of the charity I work with's donors. I was in, handed it over, and was walking out when that happened. And frankly, I didn't want him the first time he tried to hit on me during a news broadcast." She handed over her statement with a grin. "I pointed that out during that altercation, he said I couldn't be that woman I was fat."

He looked her over. "You look healthy and curvy but not overweight," he said. He looked at the statement and put it onto the screen that put it onto the monitor. "I think we all saw that."

"Yeah. I go by my grandmother's maiden name most of the time to not only not live with people wanting me for my parents but also due to my stepmother's death contract on me that started when we got her arrested for poisoning my father. Which he died of. It was attempted twice when I was in my undergrad so I had some help from the agents on the campus at that time to informally change my name without having to go through the legal proceeding."

"That makes sense," Stultz said. "Why were agents on campus?"

"I went to Culver." She smiled. "I really liked Culver."

"Oh!" He nodded once. "Yeah, there's still probably an agent settled on campus just in case to this day."

The host looked at her. "Why did she try to have you killed?"

"Because I had her arrested for poisoning my father," she said. "She wanted to be his only heir. She was a money-grubbing bitch to put it bluntly but she'll probably be happy I remembered her unfondly if her prison is allowed to watch tv."

"I remember hearing about your father dying of dementia."

"No, my father was declining mentally to the point where he didn't recognize himself but it was induced by that poison she gave him every day in his fresh squeezed orange juice she insisted he drink because it was good for him. He was poisoned daily for about two and a half years. Dad, well like most dementia cases he did have lucid days."

"Why did he remarry?" the host asked. "I remember he and your mother were the sort of gooshy lovers that made everyone smile when your mother gave him that look in public."

"Mom died and Dad really needed something to take his grief out of focus, give him something new to think about and worry about and all that. At that time it pissed me off but I understood that need. I needed the same thing when Mom died but I wasn't old enough to even date back then." She shrugged a bit. "He just needed someone he could focus on instead. And he picked an easy choice, which was a really bad one. Including trying to force me into an arranged marriage with a guy who later killed his wife. Running up the bills so much my father nearly had a heart attack when he found out she bought her boyfriend a condo on the mastercard." She smirked a tiny bit. "After that fit was when I nicely told a CHP officer we knew up the street about her and her DUI habit. They originally arrested her on that and then found out Dad had been poisoned when he ended up in the hospital for a week during the trial."

"Oh, dear."

"Yeah. Dad...he was pretty strong willed about a few things. I offered to come back home, go to a closer college, to take care of him. He refused. He didn't want me to see him like that as he declined. Which I understand. His order to me was to find him a pretty nurse who would remind him of my mother and to visit on holidays after making sure he was having a good day. And I broke it by visiting a lot more often than he thought I should. Some of his last few lucid days he decided he was getting too bad.

"He and a few professional people talked about his options and he didn't want to go to a nursing home. He was getting to the point where good days weren't coming even once a month sometimes. So his last lucid day, when he realized that, he gathered some things and he curled up in bed beside his nurse, who was sobbing on him as he called her by Mom's name, and took a handful of pills. I was on my way home for a visit when I got the call."

The host blinked, staring at her. "That's..." He cleared his throat. "I'm not sure if I should be upset or not."

"I think that's a personal choice and I can see both sides, but I know my dad didn't want to spend another two years slowly fading into nothingness." She wiped off a tear. "He had mentioned it a few times when he was more healthy so I wasn't totally caught off guard. I had kinda thought that if he still had the facilities he might've been planning it after that visit." She shrugged. "It hurt a lot but ...his doctor said he probably would've spent another two years that way."

"I can see why you would make that choice," he agreed. He cleared his throat again. "Your mother...."

"Probably would've taken a broom to him," she admitted with a small smile. "She fought cancer three times and only lost once. My mom was a strong, subtle woman. She would've hit the bimbo with her car probably. Mom couldn't fight, she couldn't throw a punch and I inherited that from her. She was a mean hand at softball, as proven after I was born and she went after some idiot with a bat. She was at the end of the mood swings," she said with a smile, laughing a bit. "Mom had her ways of making sure people knew she was mad at them."

"I remember her doing some snubbing at times," the host said with a small smile. Darcy nodded. "We have to go to commercial for a minute then we'll talk about this interesting statement and a few other problems. Like the hate levels online." The producer pointed and he sighed, looking at her. "I had no idea," he said quietly.

She patted him on the hand. "Most people didn't. I understand why he did. I'm not sure what I'd do in that situation." She shrugged. "Generally I'm a lot more like mom and I'll stubborn a problem to death but sometimes you just can't do that."

"True. I'm sorry." He handed her a tissue. She smiled and blew her nose then tossed the tissue out. He looked at the agent. "Have you seen any of the other footage?"

He shook his head. "Not really."

Darcy waved a hand. "After that one incident I started to wear a body camera more often. I used to wear it to tutoring, not when I was in the kids I tutor, but going there and home. It's a dangerous neighborhood. I'm just really happy some of the kids helped me that night. That was a run of luck."

Agent Stultz looked at the information she had. "Did the FBI get this?"

"That's why they finally arrested him," she said with a small shrug. "It was brought to me by a former SHIELD guy."

"Wow." He sighed. "That's bad."

"Yeah but bad is relative. That SHIELD guy? He's a really nice guy and he spent that night on my couch so I didn't get alcohol poisoning. Because by the time I got home I just really wanted tequila to make it all go away for a night."

The producer pointed. "And we're back," the host said. "With Former Agent Stultz, who is a political commentator, and Darcy DeCriths." She smiled at him. "We're going to look at the second incident's film. Where was this?"

"Around the corner from my work actually. The reporters caught me coming out of the building I work in and I walked away, going to tutor."

The film was run. It wasn't great quality but it was clear enough to tell what was going on. The host paused it. "So the three reporters?"

"One reporter," Darcy said, holding up a finger. "We found out later two of them had no film in the cameras and were there as a diversion." The host winced but let it go on.

"Pause it," Stultz said. It was paused. "Are those CPD cars?"

"I didn't realize it at first," she admitted. "But those are the tv version. They're really close but not perfect. Which is why I let them handle it. I thought they were the real CPD officers." It was restarted and they finished watching it.

"Who was the sniper?" the agent asked.

"The same one who brought me the information earlier that my life was threatened."

"Oh!" He nodded. "So a former agent." She nodded. "Huh." They went back to watching it. He looked at her. "The security team?"

"At that time I lived in a very security conscious building. I had pushed my panic button I wore on my belt with my arm. They brought me to a neutral location so the actual police could come take a statement, and I went with the agent in question, he showed up there. Then we got broken in on after that by someone wanting to take us hostage. It was not a good night."

"Wow," the host said, shaking his head. "Your phone being on speak-to-text was pretty fortuitous."

"My hands hurt and I was updating that earlier entry," she admitted. "When he broke in I didn't turn it off. I was kinda hoping someone would see it and report it. I hit send as we were being hauled up to be walked out."

"Who trained you how to get out of incidences?" the agent asked.

"A few people," she admitted. "Including picking it up here and there, and I took a few classes at the college I did my masters at."

"Your college," the host said, staring at her, smirking slightly. "Where did you do your masters?"

"At a small college in Pennsylvania. Yes, there was an incident while there too. That's when I seriously started to get politically more conscious and more active in the 'that's wrong, stop it' part of my life. I knew before then I didn't want to run for an office but someone has to stand up and go 'stop it, dude' about the wrong stuff."

"That college," he said, pulling up a police report. "Yours?"

She looked. "Yeah, he was a HYDRA agent who had hit on me a few days earlier. I had an agent there checking on me due to their nearby base so I gave the guy a cover to get out of the pub. The owner's a really nice guy, very good to the students, and made one hell of a burger that I adored. It was coincidence that we were in there when he came in. It was just after finals and a few days of interviews so I had no groceries." She shrugged. "I noticed him coming in and got in his way to give the agent a chance to sneak out the back door."

"I can agree with that action," the agent said. "I'm surprised he didn't mention the other incident."

Darcy grimaced. "I did what I had to do," she admitted. "And that did break open the dual identity thing since the summons to testify was in my use name instead of my actual one."

"Do you still use that?"

"Yeah, I do. It's a lot easier doing things when no one has expectations of you or wants to suck up to you because of your name. I can do good for everyone in any name but it's easier for myself and others to do it in my use name."

"I've heard that before from children of famous people," the host said. He pulled up that incident. "How did the national news hear of that?"

She smirked a tiny bit. She pulled up the second report. "Because the senator showed up with weapons to take out anyone who had been there that night so no one could testify against his son, that he got out on bail," she said dryly. "He also paid the college a bribe to tear apart my room, supposedly in a search for my legal, allowed by the FBI, tazer. I didn't know that the seam of my panties were big enough to hold it, but they thought so."

The agent read it, then looked at her. "Who?"

"An agent; I was in my room being talked to about that initial incident. There was one on the campus recruiting and was on the floor answering questions when the senator stepped off the elevator and sneered at him. He handled it when the geezer attacked. I nicely got the girls on the floor to go hide with their new pictures of the fight and asked if they would post them online." She smiled. "I thought he deserved it."

"I agree," the host said. "The fool proved himself stupid doing that. They were going to ..."

Darcy pulled up film from her thumbnail drive. "I had been recording a video about a date for a facebook friend in London." He watched it and gasped. The agent was wincing. "It had to be handled. I was the floor monitor at that time. The girls were having a long weekend so thankfully most of them were at home. We handled it and the next day the college's residence hall staff all gathered for a meeting to see how they could stop it next time." She pulled up that footage. "That's from the fight itself. Cut into floors." He selected the one on her floor and they watched it, but it had no sound. Then the main floor's was switched to and it still had no sound but they could tell some girls were running and screaming from the lounge area.

The agent looked at her. "Nice moves, but clearly untrained. But you did an excellent job with the other hall monitor."

"Thank you. The girls needed to be protected."

"They did," the host said, staring at her. "You mentioned London," he said dryly.

She smiled. "I adore visiting London. Such great museums and historical sites."

"That's not what I'm thinking about, Miss DeCriths."

"And colleges," she agreed with a grin. "Had to happen."

He groaned. The agent stared at her, mouth open. "That was not in your file."

"I'm kinda shocked at that," she admitted, looking at him. "It happened and we were there. Did you want us to faint and scream?"

"No," he admitted. "But you worked in Avengers tower. That was in your file."

"As a science intern, yes." She grinned. "I adored the years I was there. I got in a lot of fussing time."

He cleared his throat. "Did you do that after Culver?"

"The incident you're thinking of was about a year after I left Culver."

"Wow. Okay." He stared at her. "Some people are once again screaming for a certain former scientist's turning over."

"Yes, I hate those racist assholes, sorry to use such language but warranted in this case I think," she said bluntly. "And I hope they die a death they deserve thanks to the hate they live with every day." He gaped. "Why would they want to capture Dr. Banner? Beyond to treat him as a science experiment."

"He's dangerous," he said.

"So am I. And?"

"He's more dangerous. He can do a lot of damage."

"Yes, when he changes due to his anger problems. Unfortunately there's a lot of operant conditioning going on there. They attacked so he defended himself. They attacked and he had to defend himself and others. He tried to run away and doing that did cause some damage, yes. Would you have stood there and let the problematic people like Ross take you in? I mean, it was Ross that screwed up his experiment on him. It was Ross that tried to kill him. It was Ross that taught the Hulk that he had to fight to protect himself. Personally, I hope Ross has a fun time in hell because he's earned it repeatedly."


She shrugged. "I don't care because if he comes after me, I'll handle it if I have to. I know Bruce fairly well. I worked up the hall from him. I brought him tea sometimes. He attended picnics when the team held one. He's a pretty nice guy. Yeah, he has an anger issue and thanks to that experiment it has a solid form instead of him hitting walls. Or if he does it dents the walls. Would your anger at things be any prettier? Or mine? Or our host's?"

"No," the host said. "Mine would probably be pretty ugly. Though probably blue instead of green. I look better in blue."

The agent nodded. "I can see that point."

"Can you see the point where Bruce's experiment was tampered with?" she asked.

"I can," he said. "I've heard that and that he got caught in it while trying to stop it." She nodded. "Is he dangerous in general?"

"Bruce has a pretty good handle on his Other Guy as he calls him. He knows his triggers, he tries very hard to avoid them. If people like Ross didn't provoke him, would we have the sort of problems we had when he had just barely been changed? If Ross had asked, wouldn't Bruce have probably told him what he wanted to pull him apart to find out?"

"He probably would have," the agent agreed. "They were trying to contain a public menace."

"That he made," Darcy shot back. "The same as he made a second one to go against Dr. Banner. Do we do the same thing to that guy?"

"No," he agreed. "I thought that was voluntary."

"Ross had the experiment's equipment, information, and any leftovers. So how did he volunteer?"

"I hadn't thought about it," he admitted, looking at their host. "Is he safe?"

"Yes. I've been in the same room with the Hulk twice thanks to lab accidents from other people's mistakes. Once he patted me to make sure I woke up. The other time he was glaring and growling but we were treating a small cut he had on his leg instead of him going to stomp on someone. I'm pretty sure the Hulk is only a threat when you make him be or if there's an attack that he's helping defeat. The same as most of us are."

"I...yes, that's when I'm dangerous as well," the agent agreed. He looked at the host. Then back at her. "What do you think about the Accords?"

"I think that someone higher up prompted it and it's a pile of shit that leads to conscription," she said bluntly. "I read the Stephen King length document. In there were provisions to send people to fight, even if they didn't want to. To forcibly train anyone who was found to have those gifts and then make sure they joined the same incident response team. Also in there were provisions to torture, though put more genteelly, anyone who had the gifts and doesn't want to do that sort of work." She stared at him. "If they had actually managed that, I would've helped the rebellion and I know I wouldn't have been alone."

"What about Steve Rogers?" he demanded.

"What about him? He's a really nice guy. He really likes chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies but likes my peanut butter ones the best of the ones I make."

He blinked a few times. "He was made by the government."

"He was made by his parents, he had his health fixed by the government program. Which they never stopped by the way." The agent gaped. She stared back. "They didn't. There's been a few noted in history, though covered up fairly well. One of them happened to be from near where I went to high school and the teacher knew him. So we talked about him and he came to talk to the class."

"I didn't know that," he admitted.

She took the keyboard from the host and pulled up a site, letting him see it. "That one?" she asked with a point. That was put onto the main screen and was read over by both men. It was also suddenly reloaded and disappeared. She smirked. "Some people are still trying to hide that."

The host blinked a few times. "They died."

"Yes, a lot of them did. A few survived but apparently didn't show a useable enough gift."

"Do you think he should be property of the government?" the host asked.

"I didn't know we went back to slavery," she said sarcastically. "When was that passed?" He spluttered. "That would be conscription, which is slavery. If he *wants* to work for the government, he can and probably will. Not like he didn't do the work for SHIELD and still does some of the work taking down HYDRA. Someone's got to do it and our government sure isn't. Not like anyone's paying him to do it anymore either. You can't have it both ways.

"Someone's got to do the job, but if you make them conscripted slaves then no one does the job because you can't force someone to go to battle for people. I sure as hell would fight back if I was conscripted. They'd have to torture me to get me to do that for them. I might do it on my own but not when I'm being used as a warrior slave. I don't speak for Steve, but I'm pretty damn sure he wouldn't let himself be conscripted that way. He kinda fights against that thing since that's HYDRA's plans."

The former agent blinked a few times. "That was?"


"He destroyed parts of DC, including the SHIELD headquarters building."

"Those helicarriers had a program that would've killed thousands who would oppose HYDRA. Which did you want?"

"He couldn't stop it beforehand? Before the launch?"

"Apparently not," she admitted. "You'd have to ask him. I wasn't in DC then. I was locked in the tower like everyone else in there."

"Oh." He slumped, shaking his head. "He still made a mess."

"Did *he* make a mess or did he make a mess *fighting back*?" Darcy asked patiently. "Big difference."

"The one on the highway?"

"Yeah, did you watch where they were? They were in a single car. So who made the mess?"

"That metal armed man," the host said. "Who is he?"

"Ask Steve. I'm not at liberty to talk about him." She looked at him. "Not even thinking about all the NDA's I signed but that's something that Steve has to talk about because I do not know everything."

"I can see if someone will ask him," the host admitted. "Did you hang out with the response team?"

"No. I worked with Jane. I was her lab assistant and helper. Sometimes I made food. Sometimes I fed others when I made food. I helped pick out movies sometimes if someone wanted something new to watch. I had ideas about things that could be done if they were bored. I helped a few set up their facebook and twitter accounts." She shrugged. "I did some personal assistant type stuff for some and sometimes I was there during movie night with Jane and sometimes I made food. I wasn't a best friend or anything, I was just there."

"I can see how that happens," the host agreed. He stared at her. "You've managed to be a secondary character at a few very important places."

She smiled. "Being subtle is sometimes the best thing in life. I've never wanted to be the guy in front." She shrugged. "That's a lot of stress I don't want to deal with. I like what I do, I like the charities I work with, I love the kids I tutor. I'm happy with my life. Until things like that attack happen. Then I turn into a bitch."

He blinked but smiled. "Well said."

"Thank you."

"And let's go to commercial." He looked at her. "You do swear."

"Sorry. It's a bad habit, I know that. I don't mean to."

"It's all right, it's been the moment for it," he said, staring at her. "We're going to have to take calls about that assault."

"Okay. I've got a pretty thick skin. Especially after all the 'you should've been raped by him there for fighting back' comments I got online. Including by the guy that had his lizard bite me at an event."

The host winced. "I heard." She smirked a tiny bit. "Did it heal?"

"I have a tiny scar."

The former agent shook his head. "I heard too. So very weird."

"Yes it was," Darcy agreed.

They came back. "I think we should take some calls about the assault incident. I'm told the first one is David from Omaha. You're on the air."

"I think she should've been arrested for hitting him, much less tazing him," the guy on the phone said. "That's illegal."

"It's not illegal to protect yourself," Darcy said. "Would you have expected your sister or daughter to let him grope her?" The man hung up. "Apparently he would've." She shifted to cross her legs, shrugging some. "I don't understand that sort of attitude. I know plenty of men see women as useless accessories but still."

The host shook his head. "I know better." He took the next caller and they actually had a question.

"Is the tazer a legal weapon in all states?" she asked.

"No," the former agent said. "In some states, and a few individual cities, it's illegal to own one. Though you probably won't be charged if you use one in self defense. Most officers would rather not clean up a horrific murder scene instead of writing someone a tiny ticket for owning and using a tazer to defend themselves."

"How did Darcy get hers overseas?"

"I had federal permission," Darcy admitted. "It's illegal in London too but I didn't have to really use it over there. There was one guy who tried to follow me home from the club, and had a bat to convince me I'd like him, but the officers didn't respond to his pleas to come make me quit kicking him."

"If you call your local police department's regular line, they can tell you if it's legal where you are," the former agent finished.

"Or pepper spray is always legal," Darcy said. "It's non-lethal and can give you enough time to get away from an attacker."

"Thank you."

"Welcome and I hope you never have to use it," Darcy said.

The host took the next one and it was a male who was more interested in Darcy's charity work so she smiled and told him what she was working on presently and the few she gave time to. He hung up after a note he'd be looking into them to make sure they weren't militant like her. Darcy rolled her eyes but shook her head with a sigh. The host winced. "Some people are annoying that way," he admitted.

"They'd probably never support it anyway because 'omgee, poor people!'," she mimicked. "How can we put up with poor people getting somewhere!"

He cracked a tiny laugh. "Possibly. I know a few of those. Next caller?"

"I think the agents should've held her down for him," he started and the host hung up on him.

"I don't think we need to hear rape threats on the line. There might be children watching," he said with a glare at the camera. "I think that's out of line for humans and especially on this show."

Darcy nodded. "But I got plenty of those after that incident and after the death threat." She shrugged. "I don't know why. I didn't study psychology, I studied societies and public policy. Frankly, I hope those sort never breed but it's probably too late to save their abused spouses."

The host winced. "That's a stereotype."

"Probably," she agreed. "I haven't met one that wasn't yet though. They might exist but I've never met one."

The host nodded. "Quite plausible then." He took the next caller and had to hang up on them nagging that women should be subservient to men. "I don't think we need that one."

"I think they misread their book," former Agent Stultz said dryly. "I also think that they're not God to judge anyone. Judge not lest you be judged," he said patiently. "If they lived by that cardinal rule the world might be a better place."

"Amen," Darcy agreed, giving him a high five. "I try very hard not to unless I'm kinda pushed to it."

The host looked at her. "Yet you just did."

"I said I try, not that I'm perfect. I feel I can judge racists because they do things to be judged for."

He nodded. "That could be." He took the next caller. "We have someone from the nice state of Ohio."

"Miss Lewis, are you going to be writing a book?"

Darcy recognized that voice. Natasha. Interesting. "No. I am not a writer and I haven't done anything weird or important enough to have a book about. I might write a book on how to work with various charities and integrate them into a working project but otherwise no."

"You sure? You have done important things."

"No, I was present when important things happened," she said. "Until a few years ago."

"If you're sure." They hung up.

The host looked at her. "You'd turn that down?"

"Who'd want to read about that? Let those books go to people who've done things. Or Oprah since so many like her advice."

"You don't?" he asked.

"I'm actually not going to comment. I don't know the woman; I don't really watch her show. I know she's an influential woman, she's done a lot of good, she's helped a lot of people, but I don't tend to read advice books. If I need advice I think about what my mother would've done."

"Your mother would've yelled about that incident?"

"My mother would've yelled about my language," she admitted. "It's a bad habit I picked up somewhere and I apologize for the few I've let out tonight. As my mom said, swears are basically mouth farts."

The host burst out laughing, nodding. "I've heard her say that when I was younger." He shook his head but was smiling. "We have time for two more callers." He answered one of the lines. "You're on the air."

"If she's so uninteresting why did you put her on a show?"

"To clear up all the threats and misconceptions, plus to highlight the conversation about women being able to protect themselves if needed," the host said. "As proven by some of our callers tonight, a lot of people think that women shouldn't protect themselves. Or shouldn't have to protect themselves because a man would do it for them." Darcy shook her head with a sigh. "Yours?"

"One of the people at my master's college," she admitted. "That was his idea and he was a teacher. That women being able to protect themselves ruined the macho factors most guys had."

"I think he was right," the caller said. "You're a pushy broad."

"Thank you," Darcy said. "Pushy women get things done and I hope I do that with my daily work." The guy slammed down the phone. She shrugged at the host.

He shook his head. "I think a man's ego needing a woman to be weak for him means he's got a weak ego," the host said dryly. "And our last call tonight." He pushed the button. "You're on the air."

"Miss Lewis," the voice sneered. "How nice of you to mention us."

Darcy looked at the phone, grimacing. "Who are you?" she asked. "I don't recognize the voice or the phrasing as one who's threatened me before."

"I'm one of those other groups."

"Oh, you're HYDRA," she said dryly. "You have a nice night, dude."

"We will be talking," he said before she could hang up.

"Bring it, dude." She hung up on him and pushed another button. "We have another minute and you're not a threat, right?"

"Um, no," the man said. "I wanted to say it was great you could defend yourself that way. Many women couldn't. I think more women should be able to."

"Thank you. I hope more women don't need to but learn just in case guys like the other caller was. You have a good night and thank you."

"Welcome, Miss DeCriths." He hung up.

The host smiled at her. "Thank you for handling that."

"I won't be giving in to the fear that HYDRA tries to shove at us. I'm not like that." She grimaced. "They're cowards. They prove it by that call."

"I hope you're okay if they come."

"Me too," she admitted. "But I will be eventually." She smiled. "Thank you for having me on."

"Thank you for answering questions," he said, shaking her hand. "And thank you to former Agent Stultz." They shook his hand.

"And cut," the producer called.

Darcy slumped, shaking her head with a groan. "Damn them."

"They're the other group?" the agent hissed at her. She nodded. "Why?"

"I don't know. I don't really truly care," she admitted. "I just hope they go away soon because I'm not the sort to give in to idiots. Especially not fear raising, hate mongering idiots." She took off her microphone and took back her thumbnail drive and papers. He took them back with a smile. "Sure." She pocketed the thumbnail drive with a smile and headed back to the green room to grab her purse.

The host looked at the agent. "Can she?"

"There's hope," he admitted. "I'm hoping her former friends get it done first."

"True, it's possible." They went back to their own rooms to clean up and leave.

Darcy walked out with her phone to her ear, looking around for her hired car. No car. She winced, looking at the guard. "My hired car?" she asked him.

"No idea, Miss." He moved closer. "Who're you?" She held up her pass. "Oh, you're just off camera." He took a swing at her and she kicked him in the stomach, making him hiss and get back up.

"HELP!" she yelled. People came running. He attacked her again. Darcy put her phone into her pocket as she moved away from his swing.

"Hail HYDRA," he sneered before running off.

Darcy panted, staring at his back. Someone patted her and she flinched, looking at him. "Doug?"

"Darcy," he said with a nod and a smile. "Are you okay? I was up the row when he attacked you."

"Yeah, I'm okay. He only hit my arm when I blocked." She took a deep breath. "Damn it."

He nodded. "Let me have the real security guards check on your car."

"Please," she said, looking around. "I hired a bodyguard for this."

"It's a shame you need one." He called someone. "It got sent away by the lot security. I can give you a ride to your hotel."

Darcy looked at him. "I hired a bodyguard, Doug. That would violate the contract I signed with them. But thanks. It was good to see you again. Are you on facebook? We can catch up some night."

"We can go out to dinner."

She shook her head. "I'm flying out in four hours to go back to Chicago."

"Pity." He patted her again. She went limp against him. He looked at the others, who were his team.

"Freeze," a real guard ordered. "We saw that." They got shot at and called that in. Then suddenly there was a gas canister and commandos. Darcy got taken from the choking people. The guard got in their way.

"I'm her bodyguard," one said, smiling at him, holding up his letter. "It's okay. I'm going to take her to the alley and make sure she wakes up."

"We have an on-site paramedic," the guard said, calling that in. The others were coming out of it so he led them there. They pulled Darcy inside to check her over. One of the paramedics shot the guard and the commando with tranq darts then his partner when he started to protest.

"Hollywood PD," a male voice said, walking into the trailer with his gun up. "Put it down." The paramedic stepped back with his gun raised and other hand up. "Put it down now!" He dropped the gun and it went off. Into the bed. The officer hauled him out to handcuff him and called that in. That got them some help. He kicked the commando awake. "I thought you were dead," he said bluntly.

"It was that damn arms dealer that did that," he said. "Not us. He shot down the chopper and had us declared traitors." He sat up, rubbing his head. "I hate sedative darts."

"Uh-huh." He stared at him. "So what are you doing here?"

"I'm Darcy's bodyguard tonight. She has nice people like HYDRA after her."

"Damn." He stepped back. "The others?"

"Waiting at the hotel," he admitted. "Pooch's around here somewhere to back me up. He showed up when they called the show she was on."

"Fuck. All right, take her and go. I can tell you most of the ER's around here are overcrowded. Can you handle it?" He nodded, getting up with a moan. Pooch ran in to help him. "Nice to see you're alive too, Pooch."

He punched him on the arm. "If we could get Max down, we'd be alive again to everyone."

"I heard, man. Good luck."

"Thanks," Jensen quipped. "We might need it." They carried Darcy out and to the rental car, taking her back to the hotel.

The officer got backup there and had them arrest the ones that needed it up the street and these ones that had started to kidnap the young woman. He explained that her bodyguards had removed her to keep her safer. They could talk to her in the morning. The host of the show she had been on stomped out to talk to them about what had happened. He got really pissed and released the transcripts from that night in case it helped.


Darcy woke up to a poke, groaning and holding her head. "I hate sedatives." She sat up and heaved but kept it down. "Gross." She blinked, looking at Clay. "Am I okay or am I going to wonder why I'm missing parts?"

"You're not missing anything you weren't already missing." He helped her adjust herself. "You better?"

"Maybe?" She blinked at him. "Was it a nightmare?" He shook his head. "Was it HYDRA?"

"At least some of them. One of the responding officers was a fellow commando and let us bring you out before you got taken to a hospital."

"Okay," she said. "Thank him for me?"

"Yeah, I can do that, kid." He handed her a bottle of water. "You okay?"

She blinked at him as she sipped. "Did HYDRA really call in?"

"Yup," Jensen said with a nod. "Huge idiots or trying to install fear and scare the others who called in."

"Great." She took a sip. "Do I have to stay extra?"

"Probably an extra day," Clay said. "We called Shelly to warn her but she was watching and was horrified at the ones who called in." She grimaced but nodded while sipping again. "You gonna be okay if we go into the other room?"

"I might puke but I can hold my own hair. I had many nights of drinking in college, guys. Thank you." She got up to hug Jensen and Pooch. Then the others. "You guys are really special guys." She went to the bathroom to wash her face off.

The guys went into the living room. "Congrey find us yet?" Clay demanded.

"He called," Cougar said, holding up the message. "He recognized the grunt." He held up two more. "Clint's mad. So's Stark."

Darcy leaned out. "Why is Stark mad?" She came out to get the notes. "Awww, but suck it." She went back to the bathroom. Clay laughed a bit but she knew her own mind on those things. She'd call them later. After she was more awake and less pukey.

Cougar shook his head, looking at Jensen. "She's like your sister would be," he said in Spanish.

Jensen grinned and nodded. "She is. It's cute on her too."

Clay shook his head with a sigh. "Don't get attached."

"I'm not."

"Good." Clay looked at Pooch.

"I agree, she's mouthy like Jensen is," Pooch said. Darcy came out to raid the mini fridge. "You're going to pay five bucks for a water? There's a machine up the hall."

"Am I allowed in the hall?" she asked.

"Yeah, you can go to the machine, kid," Clay said. "We can watch from the doorway." She put the water back and went up there to get some water and came back trudging while drinking with someone nagging behind her. Clay glared at that one. "Who're you?" he demanded.

"My highschool girlfriend," she said, walking her inside to talk to her.

Clay blinked but nodded. "Okay then." He shut the door, not seeing people coming off the elevator but something made him reopen it. "Aw, fuck," he muttered. "That's Roque." The guys armed up and Jensen went to move Darcy and her former girlfriend.

Darcy stormed out to get into his face. "I've faced down the Hulk three damn times," she sneered. "I'm sick, I'm tired, and I'm being hunted by things that's a nightmare for most everyone. Back the fuck down until I'm out of here or I'll make your little Max friend a pitiful goddamn wreck."

"You're just a girl," he sneered.

Darcy zapped him. "Yeah, I'm a girl with the personal number of SHIELD agents. Watch me call them again." He backed off, hands up. His people backed off with him. "I'm not part of your shit. I don't want to be part of your shit. So back the fuck down and go the fuck away until they're not under contract protecting me from slime like HYDRA and those who wanted to kill me for daring to protect myself. Before I make a few more calls." Roque glared but waved his people to leave. "Good idea. Now, anything you wanted to ask about?"

"You've made a powerful enemy, little girl."

She sneered back. "I have fucking HYDRA looking for me, dude. Seriously, yours is a pussy compared to that." The guy winced. "I need these guys more than you need a pissing match. Which I'd win anyway because urine is a good conductor of electricity." She stared at him. "You're not shit compared to staring down the Hulk. Got it?"

He nodded and stomped off. "I'll talk to them once there's not civilians."

"Thanks." She waved at his back. "On the way, go screw someone, it'd make that growl disappear for a bit. Then you might be able to think for yourself for a change." She stared at him. "Have a great life, dude." He glared again but huffed off. He wasn't going to mess with HYDRA. She looked at Clay, who was giving her an amused look. "What?" she demanded. "He's not!"

"He thinks he can be that scary but yeah, he's just a growly mutt," Jensen agreed, walking her back inside. "Our job, Darcy."

"Yeah but you guys can't guard me if you're fighting with him." She called the agent she had on speed dial, Clint. "It's me. No, Jensen and Pooch saved me from HYDRA when I came out and I just sneered at some scarred guy that he's not as scary as Brucie when he's greenish. Yep, that one." He complained to her. "I'm coming down from a sedative dart or something. Be nicer to my ear." He complained some more. "Well I can go looking if you want. Really." He growled and said he sent her something. "Thanks, Clint. I miss you, buddy. You have ways of making this gross headache going away faster." He told her how. "Really? It's not working so far. Yeah," she pouted. "Thank you. Sure, fudge or cookies?" She grinned. "I can do that. Show up, Clinty." She hung up and went to get more water and came back to sulk in her room. "Check my email, Jensen."

He got into her email address he had helped her set up, reading what he had. "We had some of this." Clay took it to read, growling in happiness. "Thanks, Darcy."

"Welcome, Jensen." Her former girlfriend giggled. "He's a really nice guy. I need a nice guy like him but I know he's off limits. Which is a pity, he's hot." Her former girlfriend laughed again.

Jensen printed things off for everyone to read. Max's ego wouldn't let him work with HYDRA because they'd want to be on top. HYDRA wouldn't want Max as more than a pawn so they were pretty safe about the two not combining. Hopefully they could get Darcy home without a new incident. They really had to teach her not to bait the bad guys verbally. It had taken a while to teach Jensen that but he could tell her how that was a bad idea most of the time. It got one tortured and other unpleasant things.


Darcy got her mail the first day in the office, smiling at the thank you card from Bruce. It went onto her desk beside the one complaining from Pepper that HYDRA had dared to call in that night. She settled down to do the daily tasks, nodding at Shelly when she came in.

She dropped her bag and came back. "Darcy, are you safe to be here?"

"Yeah. It's no more threat than usual, Shelly." She stopped working on the calendar to look up at her boss. "It's gonna be a while before they try again."

"That politician's personal spokesbeing said she thought you should've been beaten and raped. In that order."

She nodded. "She's the same one that threatened to wear a fetus necklace too," she said dryly. "She doesn't worry me. The fanatics that follow the asshole worry me a tiny bit but I'm almost nowhere usually. Here, tutoring, sometimes the grocery store."

"You could work from home more often."

"I can't do tutoring that way, Shelly."

"No, you can't," she admitted. "The principal is still throwing fits about you."

"Yeah, he got paid ten grand by the mayor. Who is a friend of that jackhole." She nodded slightly. "His mistress put it in the paper yesterday."

Shelly winced. "Great."

"Yup." She grinned. "It'll be okay."

"They might not care about collateral damage," she pointed out.

"Yeah but you and the kids aren't worth the stress that the press would bring," she said. "To be honest, there's been some press about the threats and if you suddenly showed up dead or they tried when I was tutoring, they'd be eaten alive by many people. And I'm good enough, and have plans for just in case, to get the room cleared in an emergency. Even if they do have the kids in they're usually with someone instead of in the corner. I go over it every month with the kids and anytime they seem worried they'll ask me to make sure. We have an alarm we put on the main door to tell my phone if anyone else comes in, and it activates the camera."

Shelly sighed but nodded. "That's a good plan."

"Thank you. I actually had that same thought and then I figured out how to get around it." Shelly nodded, going to her desk. "It'll be okay, Shelly, I promise."

"If you're certain."

"I'm certain. I really am." Someone stomped in. She squealed as she bounced up to hug him. "Jensen said to pass that on," she quipped.

He stared at her. "You almost looked like a cheerleader."

She grinned. "Thanks and for the advice."

"Welcome." He stared at her. "Are you okay?"

"Really mad that they called in and then tried to grab me," she said quietly. "How dare they!"

He nodded, staring at her. "They got awfully pushy and even Steve went into fussing overdrive over that."

"I thought it was to remind people that they're boogey man in the shadowy corners again," she said, sitting back down. "It was mostly to raise fear and taking me after defying them by hanging up on them would've sent a message for that."

He nodded. "Stark went into nitpicking details about how you had to come back to New York."

"I like my job and the kids, Clint."

"I know." He grinned. "He's going to sponsor three workers to come help."

She stared at him. "He's bribing my boss to fire me?"

"To transfer you to one in New York," he corrected.

"Just got shut down," Shelly said from her desk. "I told him that when he called me at six this morning." She leaned out. "I promised I had things they could do here with me but that you wouldn't have a job out there."

"I like being here," she said, looking at Clint. Who was pouting at her. "I liked being with you guys but if I go back I'll just get sucked back into Jane's lab."

"Oh no you won't," he said dryly. "Jane's now locked out of the lab for the next eight months because she nearly biobombed the city. That's by order of SHIELD." She winced, shaking her head. "We won't even make you live in the tower, Darcy. Please?"

"What would I do there, Clint? Here I'm making a difference. There's nothing like this job there and I wouldn't be doing the same sort of making a difference."

"There's a ton of charities who'd adore working with you," he said. "Especially with your experience here. They're trying to rework the one like this one. It's definitely needed."

She sighed, staring at him. "Someone's packing up my apartment on me, aren't they?"

He shrugged. "Not that I'm aware of. If so, it's probably HYDRA," he said dryly. He stared at her. "Please? We worry a lot about you and we can keep you safer. That way you don't have to get into a pissing match with a commando that went evil for his version of Caesar."

"I told him he's not half as scary as the Hulk," she said, staring up at him. "I have to tell my kids. I can't tell them over twitter. "

"I brought Scott and he was looking over your safe room set up. You go tomorrow night. We can do that."

"She has a safe room?" Shelly asked, looking out at Darcy. "You do?"

"Yeah. It's necessary sometimes. People can still break in and what happens if we end up with the Purge movie."

Clint shook his head quickly. "If so, you'll need more than a safe room and a few hand weapons." She smirked at him. "You do."

"I know I do. It's in the safe room because I'll probably need it in there."

"True," he agreed. "Are you even carrying your tazer?"

"Both," she quipped, patting them. "Thanks for asking."

He leaned down to stare at her. "We're going to kidnap you."

"I'm realizing that."

"If you're really unhappy, in about a year, you can come back to Shelly." Shelly nodded. "By then hopefully we'll have a good chunk of HYDRA gone."

"That'd be nice," she agreed. "But probably not practical."

He grimaced. "Please don't fight about this?" he asked quietly. "We're all really worried, Darcy."

She sighed, staring at him. "Shelly?"

"You can go tell the kids." She came out to stare at her. "It's probably for the best, even though you have plans in case they come for you when you're near the kids." Darcy slumped. "You can still work from home for me. We can arrange something." She stared at her. "The only thing that won't be easy is the tutoring and fussing over the kids. I'm hoping one of those new three will be the sort to make healthy cookies instead." She came out to hug her. "I don't want to lose you so you're working from home for now. We'll work out any testifying thing or anything like that. You go be safe. It's the smart and wise thing. You can probably find something as safe in New York."

"Yup," Clint agreed with a grin.

"I'm not living in the tower," Darcy told him.

Clint shook his head. "Good idea with all the stress going on around there. Or in the facility upstate for Avengers members." He stared at her. "There's four apartments, I sent Jensen to go look at them for you." She stared at him. "We listed yours last night." He grinned. She scowled. "Sorry?" She glared. "Sorry but it was this or Stark was going to show up in a limo and kidnap you off the street." She sighed. "Plus you'd be able to spend more time with your mom's foundation; you were saying you haven't had a lot of time to do that stuff."

"I only need a few more hours a week for that."

"Yeah and now you'll have it." He pulled her up. "C'mon. We'll pack stuff and cookies hopefully." He helped her pack her desk and let her hug Shelly. "We'll talk to the kids tomorrow night."

She nodded. "We can do that. I'm sorry, Shelly."

"No, it's the smart thing! I'm shocked they didn't do it a few a few months ago." She went back in there and gave Darcy stuff to fill out so they could forward things to her. They went back to her apartment once her things were packed. Shelly was a bit teary but it'd be okay and Shelly would show up for the tutoring time because she'd have to take over for a bit.


Across the city, Scott had rounded up the kids at a local pizza place, they were mostly there already studying for the GED test that weekend. "Guys." He slid into a chair, staring at them.

One of the girls looked at him. "You guys are repossessing Darcy?"

"We're outright kidnaping her," he admitted, nodding some. "We listed her apartment on her, someone's packing her up right now, and Clint went to tell her at work. She'll be working from home for a bit probably but we're giving Shelly a grant so she can hire three more people. Clint's got a huge fight on his hand and I have an ear on it." He tapped his earpiece, which looked like a bluetooth. They all stared at him. "Seriously, did you guys watch her interview?" They all shook their heads.

"HYDRA was the next-to-last caller." They all moaned. "And then she was nearly kidnaped from outside the studio. If she hadn't hired some bodyguards that were super tough, she probably would've been missing for good." A few nodded. "We're sorry. We don't want to pull Darcy and Darcy's been arguing with Clint for a good half an hour about staying. He just told her we listed her apartment on her and she's kinda huffy. She's going to be at the tutoring tomorrow."

"We take the test this Saturday," one of the girls said, cuddling her daughter. "We really could use her, Scott."

"Can I fill in?" They all stared. "It's not like they'll try to kidnap me and if I have to I'll vid call her on my tablet so she can talk to you guys from her computer. Would that work?" They nodded. "Then that's cool and I'm buying lunch."

"Don't try to bribe us," one of the boys said dryly.

"I'm not. Stark got me up at three to rant at me about them coming for her again and put me on a jet at five. I really need something to eat for lunch by now." They laughed but included him since he was buying and it was good. He wasn't as perky as Darcy was but he was just as good and he was still encouraging. He knew that they could fail when Darcy kept telling the they couldn't.


Darcy showed up in the tower that Sunday, staring at Stark. "That was underhanded."

"You should've come sooner," he complained.

"Those kids needed me, Tony. They're having their GED's yesterday and were cramming for the test. They've worked their asses off to get to this point and they needed me to help them." He nodded, waving a hand around. "No, not whatever. Scott and I both helped them all week. And really, I needed the time anyway to arrange for a new apartment and selling my old one." She stared at him. "By the way, crappy forgery, Tony."

"We're trying to help. Why are you avoiding that!"

"You're smothering," she said. "Like you did when I was little and you were a teenager." He scowled. She stared back. "You are. I'm a big girl, I can make decisions."

"Yeah but they were all bad." He walked off.

"Maybe but being scared of them doesn't make them go away. They're not bogarts, you can't laugh at them."

"True, if it was that easy I'd do that," he shot back. "They had three snipers in town."

"I know, I stabbed one yesterday." He stopped walking to stare at her. She stared back. "The other two were actually stopped by cops for walking through a barrio with a shotgun." He groaned. She stared at him. "It's sweet," she said quietly, moving closer. "But you're pushy."

"I may be but it was needed. They actually called CNN!"

"Yup, and I hung up on them. And apparently they had been planning to snatch me after that interview anyway since there were a lot of them in place dressed as security guards and things. And a paramedic, which is why others were knocked out." He growled. She stared at him. "Do you need ear scratches?" she asked, smirking at him.

"No!" He scowled at her. "It's not safe out there."

"I'm still going to be traveling for work and stuff, Tony."

"I know but we can get you better bodyguards than some supposedly dead commandos."

"Actually, they've been great to me. Jensen helped me when I was moving, he helped me find the right spot to move to, he got me movers to help me, and who picked up a couple of things I needed to fill the bigger apartment. He set up the specially shielded email stuff for me again, and they set up my safe room setup completely." He blinked. She smiled. "Jensen's a geek like you, Tony, only he doesn't build AI's."

"I didn't think that commandos that had tech ops skills went into the field," he admitted.

"Yeah, Jensen's a full Delta guy. His team's kick ass. Clay was great in DC."

"He's...huh." He nodded and sipped his bottled water. "Still, you can...."

"If Clay has to drop Jensen off somewhere suddenly to hide him, I'm so going to steal him for myself," she said dryly, smirking at him. "And he'd be respectful about it when I kept him in soft stuff in the closet."

He snorted but looked amused. "Sure, you do that, kid."

"I'm not that young."

"I'm old enough to be your dad."

"Yeah but my mom wasn't into young teens so you're not." She stared at him. "I can make choices for myself," she reminded him quietly.

"I know. Quit nagging. Before I demand cookies in tribute."

"I have to find an apartment to cook."

"You can stay here."

"The hell I can." She stared at him. "It's less safe here than if I was in a roach motel uptown."


"Thank you for the caring, and helping Shelly, Tony."

"Not a problem." He looked back at her. "It's the right thing to do anyway." He smirked. "You still owe me brownies for my birthday." He got onto the elevator and went to talk to Pepper. Darcy protested and it made him hurt but he knew she would. Pepper had reminded him she would and why. So she could make him unpouty now.

Darcy went to her hotel for the night, sinking into a tub of bubbles with her tazer next to her on the tub rug.

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