Despite it being the beginning of October, the thick heat of a groggy New York summer had struggled on and remained for a few weeks into the new season and it seemed to stick to Darcy's skin, enveloping her body in a thin sheen of sweat as she basked under the late morning sun. Despite the fully air-conditioned Tower, Natasha had all but dragged Darcy to the roof as soon as the younger girl had finished cleaning up after her breakfast.
The heady scent of the flowers Pepper had planted perfectly into large tubs around the roof terrace carried on the warm breeze, masking the smell of the city below and Darcy sighed deeply, inhaling the dizzyingly sweet perfume of the flora. It made a nice change to the smell of burning metal or bitter coffee she usually encountered in the science labs, especially since her promotion to 'laboratory manager'. She was glorified babysitter for all of those who worked themselves to death in the labs but she wouldn't have it any other way.
If Darcy flexed the fingers on her right hand, she would have brushed against the Black Widow's forearm. That was a thought in itself.
Natasha had laid down beside the brunette some minutes earlier but neither exchanged any words. Both were happy to live in the comfortable silent bubble as they relaxed in the gardens in a rare moment of freedom. Nat wasn't needed for training or saving the world or something just as badass and Darcy had finally overridden Tony's coding and locked down the entire floor containing all of the labs in the tower after realising that Bruce, Jane and Tony himself had not left in over seventy-two hours, despite her best efforts.
Eventually, the noise of the busy street filtered through and created a white noise which would have masked Steve's footsteps but the man never seemed to make a sound when he walked anyway. It was Clint's rolling, casual steps that broke Darcy's light slumber. His battered old Converse crunched on the gravel as they approached the two women on the fake turf although Darcy didn't doubt that Natasha had heard them enter the penthouse below, let alone the terrace.
With a sense of elegance that most wouldn't be able to replicate, Clint dropped to Natasha's side and rested his head on the expanse of her stomach. She automatically brought her fingers to his temple and began to trace the shape of his eyebrow without opening her eyes.
Steve remained rigid and standing, feet planted shoulder-width apart with his tall frame blocking the sun over Darcy's face. He fell into parade rest and she pouted slightly.
"Good morning," Darcy blinked up at him and Steve raised an eyebrow. "What's with the face?"
"If the wind blows it'll stay that way," Clint teased childishly before the super-soldier could answer and Natasha flicked the bridge of his nose, much to his annoyance.
"This is my normal face Darcy," Steve sighed good-naturedly, folding his arms as Darcy's lips quirked into a smile.
"Oh yes! Between all the sulking and the brooding, I completely forgot you could also manage the look of 'annoyed'," she smirked, lazily adding air quotes with her fingers. "Was there any particular reason for your visit?" Steve forgot how quick the small girl could be when she wanted to verbally spar. There was a reason she was the only one besides Pepper trusted to bring Tony around from his all-encompassing Science! benders.
"Heard a message through the Tower but if you are more interested in maintaining your tan then I shall seek out another port of business," Steve told her and Darcy finally sat herself up on her forearms. If someone had told her that Captain America had been a gossip she would have told them to pull the other one but here she was, nearly eighteen months after moving in, on the strange end of his hunt for the truth in all the gossip he heard.
"Steve, you're so full of shit," Natasha said without emotion but Darcy could see the redhead's lips quirking into her version of a coy smile that looked more like a muscle twitch than anything remotely joyful. "Go on then, what's your gossip now?"
Steve sniffed as Clint followed Darcy's lead and propped himself up on an elbow to feel more involved in the conversation.
"I don't remember you ever complaining about our little fly on the wall," Clint's lips quirked as he looked back down at Natasha. There weren't many things the undefeatable team of Black Widow and Hawkeye couldn't find out in regards to Tower life but sometimes, it helped to send in their so-called 'secret weapon' in the form of Steve Rogers and his uneasy charm. His ability to somehow secure invites for the three of them to Alice Glenn in Medical's wedding was legendary (more so than the fact that she had managed to refuse said invites to Nat and Clint out of fear of her uncle recognising either of them from his time in the CIA trying to bring them both in.). "If I recall, it seems to have served you extremely well over the past few years."
Natasha rolled her eyes with fond annoyance and she gently pushed on Clint's shoulder, digging her blunt nails into the muscle. "Spill it, Steve. Darcy and I have training at midday and she is not missing it."
"Crap, Nat!" Darcy whined but everyone ignored it. Tony himself had called for Darcy to begin self-defence training and his order was quickly backed up by every other Avenger. They took turns each week into beating her ass into a mat in the gym and dared to call it 'training'. At least when Clint worked out with her he was aiming to get her to achieve something, like kick her way out of a headlock. Natasha, on the other hand, seemed to just enjoy beating the crap out her without breaking a sweat or messing up her hair. Sadist, Darcy thought.
"A certain lady in artillery down on thirty-seventh mentioned something about-"
Clint flopped back on Natasha's stomach with a dramatic sigh at the interruption, making the spy pinch at his ears as she swore in dull pain. Darcy held her hand up for Steve and he automatically slipped his palm into hers, helping her up from the plastic turf without a second thought. He kept his hand in hers, his thumb stroking the soft skin of her knuckles.
"Like a puppy," Darcy cooed, patting his cheek with her free hand. "Wrapped around my little finger."
The shout came filtering through the penthouse once more and Darcy reluctantly turned towards the double doors of the terrace, knowing that her morning of carefree nothingness had come to an end. She felt Steve squeeze her hand and then his warm presence slipped away.
"Oh Darcy, I just asked Barton if he had seen you but he slipped off. I'm looking for Cap."
"He's sunning himself, Sam," Darcy told the man who had come stomping through the penthouse. She gestured vaguely behind her. "Steve is also basking."
"I don't bask," Steve quipped as she led the Falcon over to the faux-grass but Steve had his head tilted back as the sun rays warmed his cheeks, soaking in the sunshine.
Sam knocked his boot against Clint's. "How very cold-blooded of you both," Sam mused at the spies still laying on the floor, a humorous glint in his eye and Natasha scoffed as Clint chuckled. "I saw you and thought I'd better give this back before someone sees it," he turned and slid his hand over Steve's, shaking it and depositing a little silver key into his palm.
"What were you saying earlier Steve, about that woman in Artillery?" Natasha asked with a raised eyebrow as Darcy peeked around Sam. Steve waved away Natasha's question and slid the key into a hidden pocket in his sweats with quiet ease. She raised an eyebrow and he waved her curiosity off.
"Artillery?" Sam perked up, his face split into a large grin. "Do you mean Lisa Raskin? She finally asked you out yet? Does she have a death wish?"
Clint sat up once more and Natasha shuffled away from him, annoyed at his constant movement. "This is terrible gossip if Falcon already knows. What happened to our renowned 'fly on the wall', hmm, Steven?" he said as Darcy dropped to his side and forced him to be her pillow.
Steve scowled and muttered something along the lines of not being a gossip. "It's not Tower-wide news yet, I overheard Lisa telling Jackson Lake in Finance in the queue for coffee about an hour ago, that's all. And no, she hasn't and do not encourage her, Sam."
Clint made a non-committal noise at the Captain's answer. "Well, go one then, one of you put us out of our misery," he asked. "It's my week off and no spying is happening. Laura's demanded it."
Darcy snorted into her hand. She knew for a fact that Clint had been in the vents above research and development with Natasha yesterday trying to find out the release date for their new equipment but she remained quiet under the Black Widow's cool gaze.
Sam gestured for Steve to speak and the Captain ran his tongue over his teeth, irked at not being the only one with the information like he usually was.
"Pepper and Tony are hosting a Halloween party this year. They had their lawyers draft the guest list and run it by Happy and the rest of security yesterday. Apparently, there's one for those with less than level four clearance in the ballroom downstairs and then one for us up in the penthouse," Steve told them and Darcy made a noise of delight.
"A party?" she asked excitedly. "I didn't know about that. What makes this one so special?"
They had just celebrated Clint's birthday in early August and it had been a rager in all sense of the word. Never before had such a prestigious group of people been reduced to so little in one night due to an unlimited supply of top-shelf alcohol. A Halloween party was something to look forward to but Pepper never usually took personal charge and drafted a guest list. The more Darcy thought about, the more she realised that they never really organised parties anymore, they usually just happened.
Steve smirked. "Yes, well, I am the fly on the wall and all of that. You need a date to go apparently. Something about not dying alone and picking up morale."
Clint's mouth dropped open. "A date?"
"Yes, Clinton. I'm sure if you ask nicely you might find someone who will put up with you for the night," Sam snickered.
The archer ignored him and turned to look at Natasha who hadn't opened her eyes or even acknowledged them for a while. If he was anyone else (Darcy for example), he would have thought she had fallen asleep.
"Tasha," Clint said, somehow conveying all he wanted to into two syllables as Natasha's lips curled into a feline, predatory smile.
"What about your wife, Barton?"
Darcy smiled at the mere thought of her ultimate girl-crush that was Laura Barton (who was on par with Pepper Potts). She was studying for her doctorate in fine art history whilst lecturing at Parsons and somehow managed to have a solid relationship with a man that threw himself off of buildings into battles with just a bow and arrow. That, and Laura Barton had a filthy wicked sense of humour.
"She's already got your costumes sorted," Clint replied just as easily.
Amazing personality and cool job aside, Laura Barton also managed to thrive in a healthy three-way relationship with her husband Hawkeye and their girlfriend, the Black Widow, so that was another reason Darcy thought she was the coolest woman in the world.
"What'cha say, Cap? Wanna be my date?" Darcy asked, looking up at the icon with an impish grin. "I could think of a couple of costumes that might suit you."
"Only as friends though, right? You know I couldn't do that to Bucky, Darce," he replied cheekily as Sam rolled his eyes, tired of the game they were playing.
"You ain't fooling nobody," the Falcon said as the two spies laughed and Steve dropped his gaze, a small smile on his lips.
"I don't know what you're talking 'bout," he jabbed, grinning down at Darcy. "She's very obviously Buck's girl, Sam."
"You're just grumpy cause they all made it past your bet," Clint poked the man in the side and laughed as Sam jumped a foot in the air.
A hidden speaker chimed and then the soft, British voice of JARVIS broke the group out of their laughter. "This is a Tower-wide message. Miss Potts is calling for all those with level four clearance and above to make their way to conference room C27 for a meeting which will begin in twenty minutes."
Steve held out a hand and helped Darcy up, keeping her small palm wrapped in his and as she toppled slightly on her feet, he placed his hands on her hips and gave them a gentle squeeze.
"God, he must be blind," Sam sighed, throwing up his hands in frustration and he led the group off of the terrace and back into the large common area in the penthouse.
Laura, Clint and Natasha weren't the only ones open to more modern ideas of relationships. The Tower was a safe space for all and Darcy knew that there was a man in the mailroom who was legally married to a street lamp off of the fifteenth avenue but she couldn't deny that was a little far.
Pepper and Tony were as solid as any two people she had ever known. The large rock on Pepper's left hand was mirrored by the tattooed band around the billionaire's ring finger and the wedding had been the social event of the decade. They still talked about something or other that had happened at the event most days in the common room.
Jane had Thor and now that he was no longer being charged with inter-galactic quests by his father, he was around more often than not and slowly getting accustomed to Midgardian life and culture. After several mistimed proposals or Asgardian fertility ceremonies, he had settled down, content to go at Jane's pace.
A pretty scientist named Betty Ross occasionally dropped by the Tower after conventions that had been held in New York three or four times a year and she would spend the night in Bruce and Dr Helen Cho's apartment but no one really said anything about that. One could rip you limb from limb if he wanted to and the other was the only reason most of those in the Tower were alive and breathing.
Sam had been on a few 'patrols' with Johnny Storm and even Fury and Maria Hill had quietly released their marriage certificate into JARVIS' databases. Neither of these occurrences was big news. Everyone kinda knew about Hill and Fury (or at least used it to tease the newbies who couldn't even fathom either displaying a positive human emotion) and Sam was in such denial about his attraction to the Human Torch that the less said, the better.
That left Captain America and the former Winter Soldier. And Darcy. But the longer they kept that all under wraps, the bigger the win Peter Parker would make in the betting pool and Darcy would be damned if she refused the teenager anything.
They just had to wait out Bruce's bet which stood at 364 days (Peter's was 365 days) before they could reveal themselves to Tony and despite having his AI on board (thank you, Darcy), it was starting to become too much. The thirty-first of October would mark 364 days since Clint had walked in on the trio in the gym and the beginning of the bet. Tony seemed to be popping up whenever the trio was alone and if she could prove it, Darcy would give Natasha a piece of her mind but the spy never left a trace.
As the group entered the elevator car, Steve's fingers slipped under Darcy's loose shirt and pressed into the dimples at the base of her spine. She leaned back into his chest and allowed herself to relax when the car stopped and Tony walked in. He looked like crap, with dark circles under his eyes and his usually immaculate hair sticking up in every direction.
Darcy sprung away from Steve and the Captain gently elbowed the snickering Sam in the ribs. She instantly began to miss the warmth of his fingertips.
"I thought I told you to go to bed," Darcy said, pointing at Tony with narrowed eyes, using her infamous stern voice which made the billionaire hunch his shoulders. "The lab floor is on complete lockdown so don't even try it, mister."
Tony pouted and held up his extra-large mug of bitter, black coffee. "Got lonely. Care to escort me back and join me, short stack?" he teased although the effect was ruined by a gigantic yawn.
Darcy rolled her eyes, more than used to Tony's flirty nature. He spoke flirt just like she spoke sass, without a second thought. Now that she looked at him, Darcy realised he was dressed in dark silk pyjama pants and a white vest top. Pepper's monogrammed dressing gown hung loosely at his sides.
"There was a system-wide call for a conference," Tony said. "I was about to get into bed but JARVIS slammed on the lights and somehow DUM-E was in our bedroom" he explained, rolling his shoulders under the stare of those in the elevator as they realised what he was wearing.
"I apologise, Sir, but Miss Potts demanded it of me," JARVIS said politely.
"Nice slippers," Clint grinned as the car started to move down again.
Collectively they all looked at Tony's fluffy grey slippers, complete with two small plush bunnies on the toes. He wiggled them and the ears swayed under the movement.
"They're mine!" Darcy cried suddenly. "How the hell did you have them? I've been looking for them for weeks."
Tony looked into her eyes with a calculating look. "The Terminator was wearing them in the lab a few weeks ago when he came for an upgrade. He left them there."
Darcy swore under her breath as Steve chuckled. Of course, James had swiped them and then promptly left them somewhere that wasn't either of their apartments.
"You're telling me the Winter Soldier's been wearing Boob's slippers around the labs," Clint snickered and Steve pinched him in the fleshy juncture between his shoulder and his neck for the nickname.
The elevator stopped and JARVIS announced that they were on the correct floor for the meeting. They all ambled out and joined the slow stream of those with higher-level clearances as they made their way to the large, lecture-theatre style conference room.
"Good point Legolas. Why has Robocop got your slippers Boobs?" Tony asked and Darcy huffed, shooting her best glare at the archer who slunk off with Natasha to find a seat at the back of the room at the top of the stairs as soon as the elevator doors opened.
"Stop calling her 'Boobs', Tony," was all Sam said as Steve made ever-increasing facial expressions at him behind the billionaire's back. Sam winced as Steve threw his hands up. He'd obviously not caught onto whatever Steve was having a mild seizure about. "Sorry, pal. I seem to have forgotten how to speak dumbass," he quipped.
"Boys play nice," Darcy chided before turning away from all three of them, searching the crowd for someone sane she could talk to for the duration of the meeting.
Already sat down in one of the higher rows, Darcy spotted Helen with some poor idiot with a bandage wrapped around their head by her side. The doctor was holding an IV bag aloft and looking for somewhere to hang it from.
"Helen!" Darcy all but shouted in relief as she ran up the stairs to her friend. The doctor looked up and grinned as she watched Darcy slip out of both Tony and Steve's grips. The doctor quickly shooed away some man from security who was about to sit to her right.
"Darcy, long time no see," Helen greeted her with a smile. "Can't see someone who could help with this IV can you? I'm already losing feeling in my fingers and Liam here can't lift his arms about his head so he's moot," she explained, nodding back to the bandaged man who sighed and inclined his head in greeting.
Darcy slid into the reserved seat and looked about. Peter was sat a few rows behind them and she smiled when he waved shyly at her. Bucky was sat to his left and he simply winked at her as Steve joined them on their row.
"Couldn't shoot a web for us could you Pete?" Darcy asked, pointing between him and the IV bag in Helen's hand.
"Sure," Peter replied with a laugh and he sent web into the rafters, ignoring someone's shout of protest as Tony pushed Rhodey over one and took the other seat beside the teenager. "Still on for movie night?"
Helen carefully stuck the web to the IV bag and rechecked the needle in the arm of the guy next to her as Darcy grinned and the bag swung gently above them. "Of course! Might even bring Grandpa over to get him up to date with the genius that is the Cornetto Trilogy and Edgar Wright," she smirked, sending her own wink back at Bucky.
There were no rules in the bet that said that she couldn't flirt with her own boyfriends. Just that Tony couldn't know that they were her boyfriends. She'd checked with Pepper. Repeatedly.
"Grandpa's got a hot date, doll. Gonna have to take a raincheck," Bucky drawled, making sure that Tony and Steve could hear him. Steve's cheeks reddened and he shrunk a little in his chair as Tony frowned.
"What the hell?" the man muttered to Rhodey who just rolled his eyes and clapped his best friend on the shoulder with a grin.
"Guess it's just me and my hand when the kid leaves then, Sarge," Darcy said, turning just in time to watch Pepper walk onto the small stage-like platform and call for attention as Bucky's row spluttered into poorly muffled laughter. Darcy could hear Clint's maniacal giggle somewhere but could not see him for the life of her. She wished she had taken a photo of their reactions as Pepper began explained the plans for the Halloween party.
Tony had choked on his coffee and Peter looked as though he was about to bite through his tongue to stop himself from laughing. Steve was hunched so far over in his chair that his broad shoulders were digging into Bucky and Sam's ribs as the pair silently laughed, their bodies shaking the flimsy theatre chairs and attached desks.
"If the men on row forty-one could get a grip," Pepper's voice broke their laughter. "Tony. Steven. James. Peter. Samuel. Rhodes. Darcy."
The rest of the attendees all turned to look at those who had been named and shamed and Darcy felt her face heat up as the heads swivelled. Steve apologised and Pepper nodded, one perfect eyebrow raised into a threatening arch. The rest of the meeting passed with little incident until a piece of paper folded up into a tight triangle landed in Darcy's lap after it slid over the smooth surface of the desk in front of her.
Finish the films by 10 or else we're kicking the kid to the curb.
Slanted, neat handwriting and little else but Darcy grinned into her hand, already warming at the thought. The sooner Halloween rolled around, the better. Actually, she thought, the sooner this meeting was over the better. There was a supply closet at the back of Jane's lab that perfectly fit three.
One week later
The labs were chaos. Smoke was billowing out of a battered machine that had suddenly decided to up and die and one of the interns on loan from research and development, Mulligan, was hysterically fanning it, trying to blow the smoke away from himself.
"Stop it, you utter moron!" Darcy cried, still wrestling with Jane as she tried to bodily tackle the young man. All he was succeeding in doing was fanning the fire and soon flames were licking up the sides of the rusty metal.
"JARV, code fire!" Darcy yelled. "Someone grab DUM-E! Fuck, where's Bruce?" A red light flickered on the ceiling and Darcy could hear an alarm blaring out in the corridors.
The small robot was whizzing across the lab, a fire extinguisher in his claw and his little lights that Darcy always thought of as his eyes were flashing excitedly.
"Mulligan! STOP!" someone cried, jerking the intern away as two scientists stood before DUM-E but he used his arm to push them aside and began making a high-pitched beeping sound that sounded as though he was chirping.
"JARV said something about a code fire?" came the jovial voice of Peter. He had been working in his own private lab at the other end of the floor. "Can I help?"
"Stop DUM-E," someone said and the teen nodded and easily picked the clunky robot up.
"And the fire?" he questioned.
"My spectrometer!" Jane cried, nearly managing to elbow Darcy in the face. "Someone put the damn fire out! That's over five years old! Darcy, we'll never find some of those parts again!"
"Good," was all Darcy said as she struggled against Jane's sharp elbows.
The doors to the lab opened and Tony strolled in, or at least an Iron Man suit did. Darcy wasn't sure if it was empty or not. The suit held open its arms as though it were about to take a deep bow.
"Fear not mortals, I am here," the distorted voice of Tony was slightly louder than usual considering the pandemonium and his dramatics went largely unnoticed by the scientists who were more than used to his alter-ego showing up. Code Fire wasn't that uncommon. "Where is this so-called fire?"
Just as Darcy was about to point out the obvious fire to Tony, which admittedly was smaller and more of a smouldering mess than a raging inferno and would soon extinguish itself, Steve and Bucky charged into the lab, both looking as though they were about to step into battle.
Steve had his shield strapped to his arm and his cowl on, the undone strap swingling wildly, whilst Bucky was wearing his mask, glaring around the laboratory with harsh, kohl-rimmed eyes. They looked ridiculous considering that they were both in sweats and t-shirts. Darcy giggled to herself, imagining Bucky hurridly applying the protective grease around his eyes in the elevator as Steve tried to do his cowl up.
Steve snatched the fire extinguisher out of DUM-E's claw and was spraying the foam wildly, not really caring what he hit. Bucky had taken the defensive in the attack and bee-lined for Darcy. In the space of a second, he'd wrapped his flesh arm around her middle and hoisted her over his shoulder whilst he held his bionic arm out as if expecting a spray of bullets. He'd also managed to push Jane down under the desk with little effort.
"The fire seems to be out, Captain," JARVIS said, breaking the strange atmosphere. "I have cancelled the code and called for the cleanup team. Following protective protocol, Miss Potts has been notified."
"JARVIS, save this entire code and send me the footage," Darcy gasped through her laughter as she looked around, twisting on Bucky's shoulder.
The machine that had caused all the trouble was buried in thick foam and everything in a three-foot radius had also been hit. Several scientists, Jane's entire desk, the right half of Tony's suit and DUM-E were covered in the white substance. Peter had managed to drop the incompetent robot and somehow jump and adhere to the ceiling to escape the spray. Darcy began to giggle again when she caught sight of Jane crawling underneath the desks to the machine's side.
"What. The. Actual. Fuck."
Those in the lab turned to see Doctor Banner stood at the door in his rumpled lab coat and a travel flask in one hand whilst the other rubbed at his tired eyes. "Darcy?" he asked as she caught her breath. "None of my research was over there was it?"
"Hang on, forget the research, what are you doing in the arm of the One-Armed Wonder? Why the hell are you and Captain Dumbass charging in as though this were Doctor Doom? Who even gave you access to code fire?" Tony asked, the faceplate of the suit sliding up to reveal his confused expression.
Steve and Bucky shared a look which somehow conveyed everything.
"Natasha said that if I took code fire she'd take the next Code Thor," Steve shrugged, dropping the empty extinguisher with a clang onto the nearest desk.
Jane managed to tear herself away from the broken machine with an embarrassing squeak. Code Thor was usually triggered whenever Thor made an unexpected trip back and it meant seeing more of the scientist and her godly boyfriend than anyone was comfortable with and Steve was usually summoned to either move them or help Darcy herd the rest of the scientists out of the labs so that they could close it off whilst the two lovers got reacquainted with each other, usually on one of the laboratory desks.
"And Grease Lightning?" Tony asked, looking unimpressed at the way Bucky was still holding Darcy aloft.
"She's my girl," he said stoically. "She's making apple pie tonight," he added and Tony clicked his tongue in annoyance.
"Let me down you caveman," Darcy huffed. "I've got a job to do."
He did so, taking advantage of being able to manhandle her and Bucky squeezed and patted her more than was appropriate as he returned her to the ground with a growl.
"Jane, you're banned from the lab until you've eaten lunch. Mulligan, you're going to shadow the cleaning crew as punishment for being a total moron. Someone take DUM-E off of this floor before I take him apart with a mallet or push him off of the roof, I haven't decided which one will do more damage. Tony, clean and return the suit. Bruce, stay with me. The rest of you, it is lunchtime and the labs will be closed for three hours for the cleaning crew. Get lost!" she said, pointing and ordering the scientists around with ease.
A few groans and Jane's own protests were ignored and quickly shut off when Darcy reached into her pocket for the small key fob she carried around in threat. It was her failsafe way of getting everyone out of the labs and following orders. All she had to do was press the button and simultaneously, the electricity would cut out for all of the labs and the sprinkler system would go off. She'd only had to use it twice before the threat got through to the stubborn scientists. There were only so many times research and equipment could be ruined by water before they stopped calling her bluff.
"Party pooper," Tony pouted, clunking away in the soggy suit, dragging DUM-E behind him. "You're no fun short stack."
Darcy rolled her eyes and physically manoeuvred Jane into Steve's arms. "Take her to lunch. Make sure she eats an actual meal. That means vegetables. Call Natasha if you have to," she told him as Bruce slid through the crowd to her side.
"I am right here," Jane mumbled, still looking forlornly at her machine.
"Three hours, Janey," was all Darcy said in reply. "Bruce, okay, let's gather your research and relocate to Peter's lab. I just have one more firewall until I'm into the WHO's database."
"Hacking? I thought this was a boring, easy job," James teased, placing his hand on her waist. He watched as Steve growled in annoyance. The only problem about Tony kinda knowing about her and James was that Bucky loved to take advantage of it and tease both her and Steve in public, knowing neither could do anything about it.
"Who said anything about hacking international committees being hard?" she grinned back. "You thought any more about your costume?" she asked as the labs emptied around them.
Bucky smirked and a dimple in his cheek popped. He waited until Tony had boarded the elevator before he spoke again. "What about Luke, Han and Leia?"
Darcy let out a laugh as she helped Bruce collect some of his papers and small machines. "Oh, yeah, sure, I'll be in the gold bikini no doubt. Johnny Storm's gonna love that. Who's gonna be my brother then?"
"Fine. No gold bikini and no incestuous threesomes," he replied easily, tightening his grip on her hip bone. "How about Harry, Hermione and Ron?"
Darcy gave him a levelled stare. "You just want to see me dressed as a schoolgirl."
"Who said anything about you being Hermione? Maybe I want to be the one in the skirt, doll," he said with a crooked grin. "I think I've got the best legs in this relationship, don't you?"
Bruce cleared his throat and Darcy realised how close she was to Bucky. They were practically chest to chest and he made an appreciative hum in the back of his throat as he looked down her top.
"Get lost. Tell Steve to think of an idea. I'll see you later?" she asked and Bucky nodded, pressing a soft kiss to her lips.
"I think he's already got a winner but will do, doll."
"Good boy," she whispered.
"Don't start, doll," he hissed darkly as Bruce tugged Darcy away.
"Are you sure this isn't too much?" Darcy asked nervously, picking at the hem of the full, gingham skirt.
Laura slapped her hands away and smoothed the material down once more. "Stop picking at my work of art."
"This is Tony and Pepper's party. A cheap costume from the party store will not get you past security, let alone in any of the photos," Helen laughed, sipping on her water.
Darcy had invited all of her girlfriends over for a night of drinking, gossiping and general fun. It was rare for them all to be free and available so they were gathered in the apartment she hadn't actually lived in for a few months.
Jane and Helen lay on Darcy's sofa whilst she stood on the coffee table, letting Laura add the final touches to the Dorothy dress she had been making for her. Natasha was rooting through her fridge for another cider as Scott Lang scrolled through his phone on one of the beanbags. Clint was picking up the Thai food from the restaurant around the corner from the Tower.
"How long have you been making it?" Scott asked, looking up from his cell to the dress. He had a photo of Judy Garland in the original movie on the screen and was tilting his head and squinting his eyes, trying to compare the two.
Laura shrugged. "A week or so, I guess," she said through a mouthful of pins. "Did the boy's costumes too. And Nat's. And Clint's. And Bruce's," she added and Scott whistled in appreciation.
Between lecturing, studying and being a general badass (in Darcy's opinion), Laura had agreed to handmake several costumes for the attendees of the party. She had been charging those who worked for SI but when Darcy had asked if she could make three Wizard of Oz themed costumes, Laura had jumped at the chance.
"What are your boy's going as Darce?" Jane asked, happily accepting another low-alcohol beer from Natasha as she passed. "I have no idea if Thor will even arrive on time so I might have to live vicariously through you. Or steal one of them to be my date, I'm not sure yet."
"James is the Tin Man and Steve is the Cowardly Lion," Darcy told them. "Go with Scott."
Scott held up his hands. "I'm bringing Hope and Cassie. I mean, you are welcome to join team Ant," he said quickly, trying to lessen the blow. "We're dressing up as Scooby-Doo characters. You could always be Shaggy or Velma."
The door to Darcy's apartment opened and Clint wandered in with bags of takeout boxes. His arrival was met by cheers.
"Take off the dress before you get drunken noodles down your chest," Laura ordered Darcy. "I have no hesitations about killing you for ruining my masterpiece before you even debut it."
"Alright," Darcy laughed, accepting the hand from Clint as she stepped down from the coffee table. "What are you three going as?"
Natasha smiled felinely as she dug through the takeout bags for her pad thai. "Its a secret."
"Stupid spies," Jane pouted, accepting a plate from Helen. "You're worse than scientists."
"We're going as our favourite threesome," Clint grinned and avoided the slap Laura was aiming for his shoulder. "That's all you're getting."
Darcy rolled her eyes and slipped away to change into her sweats and an old t-shirt of Steve's.
When she returned, Helen handed her a loaded plate of noodles and they settled down to watch several episodes of the Great British Bakeoff. After two episodes and one very misjudged Star Baker award that had Darcy and Scott booing Paul Hollywood, JARVIS chimed to announce his presence.
"The Captain is on his way over, Miss Lewis," JARVIS said and Natasha stood up, rolling her neck until it clicked. "Mr Barnes will be heading your way in an hours time after his workout."
"That's our cue to leave then," Laura yawned, accepting Natasha's waiting hand. Clint pressed a kiss to the crown of Darcy's head.
"See you at the party boobs," he grinned, following his two loves out of her front door.
Darcy rolled her eyes. "Take Helen with you!" she called out, looking at the two doctors who had fallen asleep around each other but the door had already closed. Scott wrestled clumsily with the beanbag, eventually ending up just rolling out of it.
"I'll get them home," he said slowly, and his mouth opened and his face contorted into a silent, ill-hidden yawn.
Darcy softened. "No, it's alright. The couch is plenty big enough for them. I'll just grab them some blankets," she decided aloud. "I've made up the spare room for you as well. There are some of James' sweats in the dresser and the en-suit has spare toothbrushes and stuff," she told him, knowing that returning to one of the guest suits on the lower floors was just depressing.
Scott beamed and silently thanked her by cleaning away the empty bottles and dirty plates as Darcy hunted around her apartment for blankets and spare pyjamas for the two sleeping women, still half-heartedly listening to the TV.
JARVIS opened her front door and Steve entered, greeting Scott with a hand on the back that made the shorter man wince slightly.
"The girls need movin'?" he asked Darcy as she returned to the living area with an armful of blankets.
"Nah, they'll be fine there," she replied softly, leaning upon her tiptoes to press a gentle kiss to the corner of his mouth. "Did you see Laura on your way here?"
Steve nodded as he took the blankets and shook them out over the doctors. "Yeah. She said Buck and I could pop round tomorrow whenever after three and she'll do the final fitting."
"G'night, Darce, Cap," Scott interrupted their quiet conversation. "Thanks for letting me crash."
Darcy smiled brightly. She loved hosting and looking after people, it was hardwired into her DNA to make sure those around her were looked after and cared for. "It's really no problem, Scott. Goodnight," she chirped happily, waving as he left for her spare room.
Steve smiled and pulled Darcy close, resting his chin on the top of her head with practised ease. They stood in each other's arms for a few quiet minutes, just feeling the other breath. Helen rolled over and slowly blinked.
"Sorry," she mumbled, refusing to open her eyes but sensing that someone was standing by. "Give me a moment and I'll be off."
Steve squeezed Darcy's hips and made his way into the kitchen, flicking on the kettle as he passed it to make himself a cup of herbal tea before bed. Darcy leant over the couch and picked up one of the sets of spare pyjamas she had found for her friends.
"No need. JARV's already let Bruce know and I've found you some PJs," Darcy said softly to the scientist. "Steve and I are going to head to bed. James will be home in about half an hour but I doubt you'll hear him," she told her as Helen shrugged out of her thick sweater and into the soft t-shirt. Jane mumbled something unintelligible but continued to sleep.
"Thanks, Darce," Helen mumbled, already settling back into the couch cushions and mass of blankets.
Steve padded to her side and handed her a mug. "Come on," he whispered, leading her to the bedroom.
"I'm in the middle tonight," was all she said as she clambered across the mattress and slid under the covers with a cheeky grin. "I seem to remember something being said about a back massage over breakfast this morning," she added, running a fingertip over Steve's chest as soon as he was close enough to do so.
The Captain smiled, setting down their mugs on his bedside table. He knelt on the mattress and kissed her soundly. "What about our friends? You don't want to be waking them up, sweetheart, do you?" he asked, all innocent and coy but his fingers were inching into the collar of her t-shirt and rubbing across her sternum.
Darcy licked her lips. "Soundproof, remember. James and I have tested it enough times with you and your super-hearing," she replied a little breathlessly as her shirt came off and his warm hands cupped and toyed with her.
Steve made a grumbling sound at the back of his throat that would have made Darcy's knees buckle if she wasn't already laying down. "That's not nice, baby. I don't think a good girl would talk like that, teasing her fella."
Darcy was about to whine when the door to their bedroom opened and Bucky, in all his post-workout sweaty glory appeared, leaning against the frame with a wolfish grin.
"What's this I hear about our girl misbehaving, huh, Stevie?"
"Think she's forgotten her manner's Buck," Steve replied, getting up off of the bed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Bucky at the foot of it.
Bucky tutted as he closed and locked the bedroom door before stopping at Steve's side. Both had their arms folded and were looking at her with hungry eyes.
"Someone needs to be taught a lesson then, don'tcha think," Bucky said, his Brooklyn accent becoming thicker and more drawled as Steve nodded.
Darcy scrambled to rest on her knees. Thank god for Tony Stark and his stupid, expensive design choices which included perfectly soundproof rooms. And California King beds but that was another train of thought.
"Come 'ere, doll," Bucky ordered but before she could move, Steve had one of her ankles in his hand and was pulling her to the foot of the large bed.
She was in for a long, sweaty night, Darcy thought gleefully as her two boys began to kiss their way across her skin. She should send Tony a fruit basket or something she decided before Bucky's fingers and Steve's tongue hit something that made her brain short circuit.
October 31st - 3pm
"Anything now?" Jane asked again for what felt like to Darcy the millionth time in ten minutes.
The pair were on the roof, both wrapped up in scarves and jackets as the mild fall weather had snapped dramatically into biting winter winds. It had only just stopped raining sheets of horizontally falling hailstones and Jane had dragged Darcy and all of her portable equipment to the roof as soon as JARVIS had notified them of the change in the weather.
"Damn." There was a pause as Jane slammed her fist down onto something that Darcy thought could have previously been the missing toaster oven from the mailroom staff kitchen but now that it seemed to be glowing blue and vibrating, she wasn't one hundred per cent sure. "Now?"
"No-," Darcy said automatically but a blip on the screen made her jump and grab Jane's arm. "Wait! Do that again!"
"What?" Jane had already moved to fiddle with a long, swaying antenna.
"Don't let go of the antenna! Move it back to where it was!" Darcy ordered, eyes glued to the screen as everything became a little clearer with Jane's hands on it.
"Ooh, fuck! Okay."
"JARV, get someone up here stat. Don't care who, just someone who can follow orders," Darcy demanded, leaning back to hit another oddly assembled machine with a soft mallet, not looking up from the screen.
"Certainly, Miss Lewis. Mr Barton is in the penthouse watching you both. He is coming now," the AI said.
"Already here J-Man," the archer said brightly. "Fuck its cold. What are you two doing?" he asked, looking from one woman to the other. Jane looked as though she was playing twister with some invisible people in the way she had contorted her body to be able to hold both the antenna and punch some data into an ancient laptop that was hooked up to what seemed to be a blender. Darcy, on the other hand, was tapping on the screen and kicking at a wheezing machine.
It didn't help that both women were dressed in Halloween costumes, like everyone else in the building today. Darcy seemed to be dressed as some sort of pirate or possibly Fury underneath her big, thick coat whilst Jane looked like she'd tried to dress as a cat but the long cloak-like garment she was wearing meant that Clint could only see the facepaint and headband.
"Hit that toaster-oven thing when I say and then twist the dial on that radio-looking whatsit straight after," Darcy said.
"No-one gonna comment on my costume?" Clint asked, going over to stand in front of the machines Darcy had pointed at.
"No," both women said simultaneously without looking his way.
"What!" the archer whined. "I worked so hard on it! It's especially for you, Darce!"
"Yeah, well I worked so hard on dragging these pieces of crap up from the labs whilst wearing an eyepatch," Darcy grumbled, the eyepatch resting on her forehead. "And we're on the fucking roof at the end of October."
"Who even are you?" Jane asked, reaching out and slapping at a machine's flashing light until it stopped blinking.
Clint pointed to his fake white goatee and dyed white hair. Besides that, he was dressed in jeans and a simple pale button-up shirt that was straining against his arms. "I'm Paul Hollywood, obviously!"
Darcy and Jane both looked him up and down.
"Ooooh," Jane said as though the secrets to the universe had been explained to her.
"I thought you were old Tony Stark," Darcy laughed. "Fuck, hit the thing, Clint! Now!"
He did so, muttering under his breath and then twiddled with the dial just like Darcy had asked.
"Anything?" Jane asked.
They were trying to find out where Thor's Bifrost had opened. JARVIS's software had picked up on a bridge being opened but he hadn't managed to plot the location before it had closed again. Not only did they want to check out who or what had appeared from the portal, but they were also (and mainly) looking for Thor as he had assured the girls that he would make it to the Halloween party in a 'spectacular' costume and there were only four hours until the party began.
"Yeah, it opened on Liberty Island," Darcy told her with a crinkled brow. "What is Thor going as again?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," the astrophysicist replied, finally standing up and dropping the antenna. "Sure it was him?"
"Had Mew-Mew, so yeah," Darcy said and she began unplugging the equipment before turning to Clint. "Oh my god, I totally forgot to mention, I was on my way down to the museum, someone said Mary freakin' Berry was being given a VIP tour!" she squealed. "How fucking cool is that! I was about to get J to find you but then the hail stopped and I was dragging this shit up here."
"Darcy," Clint began. "I'm Paul Hollywood."
"Uh, okay, yeah, I get that now. I mean what a coincidence right!" she babbled excitedly, placing machines into the archer's arms. "Woah, how cool would a photo of Hawkeye dressed as Paul Hollywood posing with Marry Berry in the Avengers' and SI Museum be!"
"Darce, guess who Nat dressed up as," Clint cut her off, easily picking up several more machines.
The Black Widow's costumes were legendary. She'd been Maria Hill last year and it took over twelve hours and her standing next to the actual Maria Hill in the middle of weapons for anyone to realise it was Natasha and not, in fact, a clone. Even Fury had supposedly not seen the difference right away, although that rumour was never said within his presence.
"If I'm Paul Hollywood..." Clint said slowly as if he was talking to a child.
Darcy frowned. "It's not the real Mary Berry being given a tour is it?" she guessed as they made their way off of the roof and back into the warmth of the penthouse. Jane disappeared as soon as she put down the machine in her arms, off to collect Thor from Liberty Island.
"Bingo! Got it in one!" Clint laughed.
"Damnnit! Fine, I still want a photo to put up on Twitter!" she demanded, pouting. "And one with Tony. We'll do an Insta poll or something. 'Paul Hollywood or Old Tony Stark?'" she said dramatically.
Darcy added a final swipe of ruby red lipstick to her lips, pressing them together and kissing her reflection. The record player was on, a custom vinyl Tony had made for her of Halloween themed songs which was playing throughout the apartment. Somewhere, James was finishing getting ready as Steve sat on the couch, sketching what he could see of Darcy through the open bathroom door.
"Gorgeous," he murmured appreciativly as she emerged from the bathroom with a coy smile. Her dark hair was curled and styled into two pigtails, both tied with fabric that matched her blue gingham skirt. It flowed out over her hips and swayed as she walked to stand in front of Steve. Little white socks, a high necked, white blouse with puffy sleeves and the iconic twinkling red shoes completed the authentic look.
"Look better than Judy did, sweetheart," Steve told her as he set the sketchbook down and ran a hand up the back of her calf, drinking in the sight of her as she stood in front of him. "Absolutely gorgeous."
"Getting a bit handsy, Mr Lion," Darcy joked, sitting herself neatly onto his lap so that she could look at the sketches he had drawn.
Laura had made Steve's costume out of soft brown fur and whilst it had swamped the actor in the original movie, Steve's broad shoulders filled it out and his small waist and thick thighs were defined in the costume. Laura had also made a headpiece that acted as his mane and it lay across the arm of the couch for now.
"I dunno, feeling quite brave around you, Miss Dorothy," Steve replied as she flipped through the pages.
Bucky scoffed from somewhere behind them. His vibranium arm matched the faux sleeve on his right and he was dressed in some sort of silver material that looked solid but moved with him as he left their bedroom and pulled Darcy up from Steve's lap. His face had a subtle silver sheen and all of his hair had been tucked back into a bun at the nape of his neck so that the funnel hat could sit undisturbed.
"Please tell me that that is not a real axe," Steve groaned, catching sight of the large weapon in Bucky's grip. "Not the one from under the bed. Come on, Buck. Please."
A cheeky grin was the only answer. Steve just rolled his eyes, rubbing his fingers along his eyelids until Darcy grabbed his hand.
"You won't get past security with that," Darcy said in a sing-song, teasing voice.
"Why waste money on a fake one when I've got a perfectly good one under our bed?" Bucky replied, pinching Steve's side as the pair gathered their final props.
"We live in a biometrically protected apartment seventy stories high with some of the world's most badass people," Darcy said to herself although nothing got past the boys' incredible hearing.
"Never seems to stop birdbrain walking in on us unannounced though, does it, doll."
Darcy remained silent. The axe was very effective in getting rid of Clint when he appeared at very bad times.
"You're an enabler," Steve told her as they left the apartment and headed for the elevator.
Darcy scoffed. "Me?" she asked, incredulously. "Who let him put the axe under the bed in the first place?" Bucky laughed softly to himself as he watched Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion argue about his axe.
The noise of the parties, both the private, high-security one and the one in the lower ballroom was easy to hear whilst in the elevator. The higher they travelled, the more Bucky could make out. Someone was singing along to the Michael Jackson song he was sure he would hear a dozen more times before the night was through.
"Welcome to the party, gentlemen, Miss Lewis. Have a good night," JARVIS said as the car stopped and the doors slid open to reveal Happy and several other security team members waiting to check them into the penthouse party.
The penthouse, with its large, expansive glass windows and modern, sleek decor had been completely transformed. It was covered in faux spiderwebs and dripping candelabras. A headless Iron Man suit had been painted silver and was serving ruby red cocktails like a headless suit of armour. Bats and pumpkins were scattered around and in the centre of the mezzanine, a swing band was playing covers of haunting songs, dressed as zombies.
"Oh my god!" Darcy squealed. "Look at Bruce! He said he wasn't going to dress up!"
The two men followed her excited pointing and saw the scientist talking to Helen and Jane. He was wearing his usual tattered lab coat but his skin was a dull green and he had two bolts extruding from his neck.
"Frankenstein's monster," Steve explained. "Is that who Helen is? Dr Frankenstien?"
Happy was patting Darcy down with a hand-held metal detector. He had smartly decided to ignore the axe and forgo scanning the two supersoldiers. Bucky left to get them all some drinks from the bar Rhodey was manning.
"No, she's Mary Shelley," Darcy replied. "Go say hello," she giggled, noticing the way Steve was rocking on her heels, eager to talk to the scientist about her costume. "Why haven't you dressed up Happy?"
The security guard looked at her with a levelled stare as Steve pressed a kiss to her temple and joined the crowd. "I have. I came as Head of Security." He pointed to his ID badge.
"Boo," Darcy groaned. "You have a terrible nickname. Is Peter here yet?"
Happy snorted, rolling his eyes. "PETE!"
"Yeah?" came the sudden voice, making Darcy jump as the teenager appeared behind Happy's shoulder. "Oh, hey Darcy! I love your costume!"
"Thanks," she beamed, gesturing over her shoulder at where she'd last seen Bucky and Steve. "The boys are the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion."
"Huh, swore I just saw the Captain talking to Pepper but he wasn't dressed up," the boy said.
"I like your costume," Darcy said, slightly confused about another Steve but she couldn't ignore the effort Peter had gone to.
Peter looked down at his clothes. He was wearing a pinstripe suit and had Tony's signature goatee facial hair glued on. He'd somehow managed to get Tony's glasses but knowing him, Darcy had guessed that the billionaire had just given them to the kid.
"Thanks. I'm Tony," he blushed, smoothing down the material.
Darcy laughed as they made their way further into the room. "You look amazing! I bet Tony cried."
"Pepper got JARVIS to record the entire reveal. I can send it to you if you want," he offered. The band suddenly started up again and Peter's face lit up. "Is this the Time Warp? Wanna dance?"
Darcy cocked an eyebrow and then nodded excitedly. "Sure. Then you're going to point out this guy dressed up like Steve."
"Wanna swing up to the mezzanine?" Peter asked.
"Tony Stark offering me a lift? God, stop the press," she replied. "Make sure no-one sees up my skirt."
"Bucky would have my head so I promise," he told her, making a crossing motion over his heart which made her giggle.
James set the axe down onto the marble countertop of the bar, scaring a couple dressed as skeletons into moving away.
"Wassup Tin Man," Rhodey smirked.
"Who the hell have you come as?"
Rhodey grabbed three glass from the shelf behind him. "Dude, I'm Jack Sparrow, duh," he said, pointing to the deadlocks and the pirate hat on his head as if that explained everything. At James' blank look he sighed. "Tell Darcy to add the Pirates of the Caribbean movies to your list."
"Clint arrived yet?" James asked, scanning the crowd with keen eyes. Despite the amount of fussing the pair made if they were left alone with each other, they were solid friends.
"Yeah," Rhodey snorted, pouring a glass of cocktail punch out for each of them. "Him, Nat and Laura have outdone themselves this year."
James nodded. "Is that so?"
"Let's just say the Mary Berry thing this morning was a trial run. Woah, fuck, was that Darcy?"
James had been watching her talk to the spider kid out of the corner of his eye and he smirked in proud amusement as the pair went sailing over the heads of those mingling below, landing gracefully on the mezzanine next to the band. She was laughing loudly and smiling brightly, making James' chest burn. If it had been anyone else Darcy had had her legs wrapped around, the axe would probably have been launched across the room but he liked Peter. The kid was good.
"She's Dorothy," James said watching her begin dancing for a few moments, obviously singing along to whatever the song was.
"I gathered that," Rhodey replied. "Here man," he pushed the three glasses across the countertop. "I'll give you a hundred bucks if you go show Tony your costume right now and let him say whatever he wants."
James tore his eyes away from Darcy and looked at the man with a scoff. "Easy."
"Right now. Go!" James levelled the man with a glare and Rhodey held up his hands up. "Hundred and fifty?"
"The cabin in Vermont for a week. No interruptions. No calls to assemble. No one knows," James said and Rhodey's face fell before he rolled his eyes.
"Don't wanna know how you knew about a cabin thats off-grid and not on the books. I was sure not even Natasha knew about it," Rhodey said with a slight frown. "But fine."
"All of the conditions?"
"Dude. I am not in charge of assemble calls."
James turned his head, watching Steve laugh along with something Scott said, both of them turned to face Darcy who was still dancing with Peter.
"I can avoid Stark all night. He will never see this costume. No photographs, no video evidence. Nothing. Just word of mouth," James added, almost conversationally, as though Rhodey hadn't even spoken. "Looks like I'm stood over by the window not in costume anyway."
Rhodey groaned. "Fuck Nat and Clint. Honestly. Fine, sure, all the conditions. No interruptions, no assemble call. Completely off the record. Now can you please go show Tony your costume and then help me beat the living shit out of those two idiots."
James grinned wolfishly as he downed his drink and carefully picked up Steve and Darcy's. Even he had to commend Natasha and Clint's dedication to their costume this year. If he wasn't himself and knew full well that Steve had come dressed like an overgrown lion he would have mistaken them for himself for a few moments.
He left the bar and saddled up to Steve, handing him a glass of punch wordlessly. Scott raised his own glass in greeting.
"Seen Nat, Laura and Clint yet?" the man asked.
"My ass looks better in tac pants than Barton's," was all he said and Steve snorted.
"How Nat managed to grow a foot and put on a hundred and fifty pounds is beyond me. She is terrifying," Steve joked, looking at the version of himself across the room. "She's got my hair down to a tee though, don't you think."
"Holy shit! Tinman!" Tony gaped from behind them. "What the actual fuck. We were just talking... Fuck. Pepper, remind me to cut down on Nat's budget for recon missions."
"Tony." Pepper looked gorgeous dressed as Morticia Addams but Tony seemed to have forgone a costume in favour of his usual black suit and smoother hair. His Gomez was definitely a little bit more relaxed. "You both look amazing. I haven't seen your daughter yet Scott. Who has she come as?" Pepper inquired politely as Scott looked around their little group.
"Oh, she's Scooby-Doo. She was with Thor last time I saw her, telling him all about the important work the Mystery Inc get up to. Steve and I were just watching Darcy dance with the band," he explained, gesturing up to the girl in the blue dress who had managed to drag one of the SI investors into a waltzy-looking dance as Peter used an accosted tambourine.
Pepper nodded and then ran her finger over the fur of Steve's costume. "This is Laura's handiwork is it not?"
Steve grinned and picked up Pepper's hand, kissing the back gently before passing her to Bucky who mirrored the action, making the CEO smile into her champagne flute.
"It is, although her best work is dancing circles around the band with your husband," Steve smirked, eyes flicking up to where Darcy was still jumping around with the teenager.
Pepper's coy smile blossomed into a beaming grin, as did Tony's. "The kid doesn't know how lucky he is, dancing with one of the prettiest women here. Shame the most beautiful is on my arm," Tony said, wrapping an arm around Pepper's waist and pressing a kiss to her shoulder as she settled a hand on his.
Tony raised one eyebrow. "No growling like a feral dog, Tinman? Didn't realise the Golden Boy was immune to your overprotectiveness. A comment like that from anyone else gets a murder glare and a slight stab wound, usually."
"Tony, commenting on Darcy's breasts, albeit in a joking manner is sexual harassment, as I have told you many times. Steve doesn't do that. Only you and every other boneheaded man in this building," Pepper smirked.
"I dunno, Miss Potts. Stevie and I grew up sharin' everythin'. Guess the habit just hasn't left me," Bucky grinned as Tony's eyebrows shot up.
"Pep. Wanna drink? Food? To go make out in the kitchens?" Tony almost pleaded. "Just get me away from this before I say something."
Pepper looked at him as though he had grown a second head. "Tony Stark? Are you thinking about your actions beforehand? Is this behaviour management I am witnessing?"
"Daddy!" a shout caused attention to swerve and Tony took advantage of it, pulling Pepper away as Cassie came barrelling through the crowd and launched herself into Scott's arms. "Captain America said I look amazing!"
Steve and Scott shared a look as Hope followed the child, dressed as Daphne. The 'Captain America' in question was following her and now that they were closer, Steve and Bucky could see that Natasha hadn't managed to gain all the extra height and still only came to Steve's nose. Scott slipped away with Hope and Cassie, leaving them alone.
"This is another level, Nat," Steve said, looking her up and down. "How long has this been in the planning stages?"
Nat fiddled with something behind her ear and Steve's face melted away to be replaced by Natasha's. "About a year. Mentioned it to someone in R and D last November. This is the only prototype and I have all of the data regarding all three costumes. They will be destroyed before tomorrow, don't worry," she added, halting Bucky's question before he could say anything.
Bucky nodded and watched as Clint dressed as himself joined the group. He too disabled the lifelike mask and he stood there, grinning at the supersoldiers. Even the faux Vibranium arm looked almost realistic and Bucky was impressed.
"See. We came as our favourite threesome," he grinned, pleased with himself.
"So where's your Darcy?" Steve looked around. All he could see was his own Darcy leading Peter towards Jane and Thor, talking to the teen with an animated expression.
"Captain. Sargent," the voice was accompanied by a tap on the shoulder for both men and they turned to see Darcy. Bucky grabbed her by the shoulders and spun her gently, taking in every inch of her. He lifted her hair and swept his hands gently over her cheeks and forehead whilst Steve looked closely into her eyes and at her smile.
"The irises are the wrong shade of blue but you're the right height unlike some," Steve commented as Nat rolled her eyes behind him.
"I'm sorry you're freakishly tall," she muttered under her breath, making Clint chuckle.
"You're holdin' yourself wrong. She holds her chin higher, chest out, shoulders back. Darcy's got good posture," Bucky added as he found the masking device and Darcy's face was replaced by Laura's.
"But isn't it so cool! Some investor and his wife gave me the key to their suit on the guest floors and told me to meet them after the party. I've never been hit on like that and the wife was dripping in diamonds and cause I was Darcy I could flirt back! I felt so sexy cause Darcy says all that stuff. How cool is tonight!" Laura grinned as the four enhanced people all frowned at her.
"Baby, not a good thing," Clint began as Natasha grabbed her hand and pulled her between them. "What did you say?"
"Just went along with it. I was pretending I was someone else," Laura said slowly, realising the conversation was taking a dangerous turn as all four stood up straighter with shrewd eyes.
"Wearing Darcy's face," Natasha explained.
"Who is very much ours," Steve said darkly.
"Some asshole hit on Darcy," Bucky grumbled, scanning the crowd for a couple who matched the description. "Stevie?"
"Found them. Intercepted Darcy and Peter on the eastern stairs. Looks to be the mid to late sixties. Faux sword with the costume. Clint?" Steve turned, nodding towards the older couple.
The archer began reading their lips, translating the conversation aloud as Natasha slipped her mask back on, glaring with practised ease at the couple. Laura slipped her hand into Clint's and apologised to Steve and Bucky who both just nodded once, tightly with perfect synchronicity.
"You changed, my dear?" the man said in surprise, his hand touching Darcy's pigtail softly.
"I'm sorry, I think I may have had one or two glasses since whenever we last met," Darcy replied politely.
"Gonna bounce, Darce," Peter told her and she nodded, waving him away with a confused frown.
"We were thinking of leaving soon. In the next ten minutes, if we can find Miss Potts and Mr Stark and say goodbye, that is," the wife told her, trailing a hand on Darcy's that was resting on the bannister and she started playing with her fingers.
Peter was suddenly by their sides. "I don't wanna panic anyone but I think Darcy is being picked up by that couple. They seem to think tha... Woah, holy shit, that's such a cool costume," he babbled off, finally realising that he was talking to two Steve Rogers, two Bucky Barnes and another Darcy Lewis. "Woah, Miss Natasha, you look so badass."
Nat looked at Peter. "How did you know it was me?" She even sounded like Steve when the mask was in place.
Peter shrugged. "I dunno. My Spidey senses didn't go off and you kinda still give off your own vibe, if that makes sense."
"Kid," Bucky interrupted before Natasha could reply. "You're distracting."
Clint was still watching the silent conversation as Peter mimed zipping his lips.
"Come back with us now, my darling."
Darcy climbed up several steps to put distance between herself and the couple.
"Look, I'm totally flattered but there's been a big misunderstanding that's probably only going to get worse. I'm in a very committed relati-"
"I don't see them anywhere? This boyfriend of yours could always tag along. Couldn't he, Malcolm?" The woman interrupted. "I love having people watch. The more the merrier," she seemed to purr as she stroked Darcy's side.
Those watching saw Darcy snort and her nose wrinkle as she shook her head. "Listen. My boyfriends are a little more... I don't know how to put this without saying it simply. I don't think the Winter Soldier and Captain America are going to appreciate my being dragged off by some couple who are probably older than my boyfriends combined. Yep. Boyfriends. Plural."
The man grabbed her wrist but before anything could happen, Steve was shouting out her name and pushing his way through the crowd.
"Get your motherfucking hands off my girl!"
Bucky rolled his eyes at Steve's outburst but he couldn't falter his guy. He wanted to say the exact same but it would have probably come out in Russian, the language he seemed to prefer to use when he wanted to intimidate. Bucky followed, staying close behind and then overtaking Steve, clambering up the frame of the staircase and hopping over the bannister to press himself into Darcy's back and Steve came to a stop below the couple, blocking their escape.
The investor and his wife looked at the two supersoldiers in shock. Darcy took advantage and bent the man's fingers backwards, releasing her wrist from his grip and twisting away from the wife's wandering hands and into Bucky's side.
"What the actual fuck is going on? Malcolm? Lydia?" Tony said loudly from the middle of the crowded floor.
The band had stopped playing at Steve's outburst and they realised every eye was on them.
The man, Malcolm, coughed and gathered his red-faced wife in his arms. "I think there has been a misunderstanding, Mr Stark, that is all."
"Holy shit. Where the hell have you been if you didn't realise that Darcy was with Bucky and Steve," Sam laughed, breaking the tension in the air.
"Oh, shit. Sorry. It's practically midnight though. The bet doesn't count anymore does it?" Sam apologised, holding his arms up as a grumble went through the crowd.
"What the hell is going on?" Tony cried, looking up at the trio on the stairs. "Darce? Explain. Now."
She looked down at Tony and realised that he not only looked lost and confused but hurt and left out. Darcy sighed and lent back into the chests of the men behind her.
"I have been dating the pair of them for a while. It all kinda just happened and we weren't going to tell anyone but then a few people found out and we told a few others and then it was just sort of..." she trailed off, looking at her boys for help.
"If you knew then you knew but you didn't tell anyone," Clint said from his space still on the dancefloor.
"And you didn't tell me?" Tony asked, sounding older and more heartbroken than Darcy thought he would. "What about this bet?"
Pepper clapped her hands and brought attention to herself. "Those with Alpha Ten clearance are to make their way down to the elevator. Everyone else, please enjoy the rest of your evening. I apologise for this disruption. Darcy, Steve, James. Tony."
Slowly, the Avengers made their way to the elevator. Squished in tightly, Darcy sighed into Bucky's chest as Tony and Pepper stood in front of them all. Behind them, Wanda and Vision were talking quietly as Laura wrapped herself around Nat and Clint, glueing the pair to her side. Bruce stood with Peter in the corner, looking between Tony and Darcy with sad eyes as Thor and Jane had a conversation with silent, over the top facial expressions and looks. Scott, Sam and Rhodey stood next to Fury and Hill who were statuesque.
Darcy would have laughed as everyone was dressed up in their costumes but she just felt sad and deflated.
The bet hadn't been her idea. She didn't necessarily want to tell people, she knew the risks and how Laura was targetted by those who thought of her as a link to get to her partners, but she hadn't wanted to keep it a secret. Those in the elevator were her family. She wanted to share in her love and joy but it had snowballed from a few people to over a thousand-dollar prize if they kept it from Tony for a year and despite practically being Tony's son, Peter needed the money for college.
JARVIS opened the doors and the group spilt out into the gym. Pepper swept past the running machines and the ring and sat herself on the cross trainer as though it were a throne. Tony stood by her side, shifting his weight from one foot to the other, bubbling with nervous energy.
Darcy remained standing, bracketed between the two supersoldiers as the rest found seats and places to perch. She bit her lip and glanced at everyone's faces, waiting for someone to speak.
That someone was Bucky surprisingly. "She never wanted to hide it from you," he began, his voice gruff. Darcy felt Steve settled his hand on the small of her back and she sniffed.
"But you did Lewis. I don't care about you fucking Barnes and Rogers. It's not against any laws or contracts. If you're happy then whoop-de-doo. You've lied to my face for the past- How long has this been going on?" the billionaire asked, his eyes crinkled as he frowned.
"About fourteen months. Clint walked in on us a year ago and... we decided that it was safer for me if we kept it under wraps," she said quietly. "I only ever explicitly told Jane. Everyone else found out somehow but they were never supposed to know."
"And me? When was I going to find out, Lewis?"
Darcy looked up at him and saw how hurt he felt. His shoulders sagged and Pepper had placed her hand in his, silently supporting him.
Steve shifted on the balls of his feet but Natasha was quicker. She stepped out of Clint and Laura's shadows and looked between the two parties.
"It became a running joke, see how long it takes for Tony to notice that his best intern was being snuck out from under his nose by the Winter Soldier and Captain America. The signs were all there and it was just a matter of time. Someone put a few dollars into a pot and then it spiralled into a betting pool with a prize fund of just shy of one and half thousand dollars which it looked like Peter was going to win," she explained as though it were a mission briefing.
"What signs?" Tony demanded.
"Remember that mission in Dubrovnik where Cap got shot and Barnes got electrocuted," Clint began. "Remember how Darcy was on the helipad before Cho was and then didn't leave the med wing until both were discharged?"
"Darcy moved into their apartment like six months ago."
"Bucky got that rookie in accounting fired for sending a memo about her rack."
"Steve may or may not have been seen being dragged into a supply cupboard down on fifth and then when we went to check it out we may or may not have found a pair of ripped tights and buttons of the floor. But its all hearsay and cannot be proved," Sam added with a grin in Steve's direction.
Tony remained silent and stone-faced.
"Oh, what about Steve's birthday!" Wanda said excitedly. "When his shield went missing and someone had to wipe the security footage in the training gym, that was amazing!"
"Wanda," Darcy hissed. Not only had it been one hell of mission for her to lift the shield from Steve's apartment and ensure that the gym had been closed to everyone but Steve and Bucky. She'd forgotten about the security cameras until after she had gotten naked and hidden herself behind the shield but in her defence, neither had Steve or Bucky when they had walked in.
"How long have you been wiping security footage?" Pepper asked although it seemed to be for more of Tony's benefit than her own. Nothing happened in the Tower without her knowing about it somehow.
"Haven't done it since before summer. Just left everything," Steve said.
"So you've been sneaking around the Tower, fucking in closets and public spaces and just waiting for the shoe to drop and me to find out all so that the kid wins a bet?" Tony emphasised himself with a pointed finger, wagging it in their direction. "Huh."
She couldn't tell what the man was thinking. His face hadn't changed but something had in his posture, or maybe Darcy was just wishfully thinking so. "I'm sorry for keeping it from you. I was going to tell you about it myself tomorrow, promise," she said. "I never meant to keep it from anyone but..."
"It was for your safety. We all agreed, keep it quiet until you've got a few more months of training under your belt," Steve gently spoke over her, the hand on her hip applying gentle, soothing pressure.
Bucky's warm flesh fingers were resting on the back of her neck, silently grounding her. It had been an argument the trio had been having since Clint had walked in on them. Darcy did not like the secrecy but neither Steve nor Bucky could face the fact that being publically linked to them would place a target on her back.
Darcy sniffed again, willing the sudden urge to cry away. Tony was as good as family to her and she hated hurting him.
"Tony, I want to introduce you to my boyfriends. This is Steve Rogers and this is is James Barnes but he is known as Bucky. We have been together for just over a year and I am very happy," she said, slipping her hands into theirs as she said their names.
No one said anything.
"It's just after midnight," Bruce informed the quiet, still room.
Tony sighed. "Okay." His shoulders sagged and he turned on his heel to face the trio. "I'm not happy about being kept in the dark but there isn't a man on this earth worthy of you, Lewis so if you've decided to slum it with those two then so be it. I give you my blessings, gentlemen," he grinned. "Can't give you old man a hug for lying to him, could you short stack?"
Darcy laughed although it was slightly hysterical and not at all calm but she crossed the gym and threw herself into Tony's open arms.
Steve was looking around with a frown. "His blessing as in marriage? Did I blackout and miss something there?" Wanda and Laura laughed as Clint gave Bucky a fist bump although it was only reluctantly returned.
"Tony, you're getting ahead of yourself," Pepper smiled. "If anyone wanted to ask for Darcy's hand they would have to ask Thor first."
"They would Lady Pepper. You will have to answer to me, Captain, Sargent." Thor stood up and the two super soldiers shared a look, both gearing up for a speech "My sister's happiness is more important than anything besides my own lady Jane's and possibly the safe existence of Asgard and Midgard but she is important to me," the god told them with a beaming grin with petered off into a strained smile as he thought about something harming Jane and/or Earth and Asgard.
Jane rolled her eyes and gently pushed Thor aside so that she could wink at Darcy who had extracted herself from Tony.
"So, anything else I should know about. We aren't leaving this room until everyone confesses to one secret," said Tony as he fiddled with a hologram on his watch. Those with excellent hearing heard the locks turn over in the doors.
"Maybe thats not the best idea..." Rhodey said slowly.
"Go on then Rhodey-bear. You start," Tony prompted, throwing himself onto a yoga ball as though it were an expensive sofa. He bounced on the ball, looking expectedly at the Colonel.
Vision held up his hand. "I have a secret to confess to the team and I have been wanting to for some time," he began.
"Vis," Wanda said under her breath, trying to pull him back to his seat on a cross-trainer as everyone in the room looked at the pair. "Now is so not the time."
Clint's grin looked maniacal. "Come on! This is the perfect time to tell us all about your feelings."
"Can he even have feelings?" Darcy whispered to Bucky who just shrugged and slung his arm over her shoulder, happy to watch their friends unravel.
"I have been courting Wanda for a month and I would like to ask her to cohabitate with me," Vision said.
"It was us in Coulson's office!" Wanda said at the exact same time.
"What?" she muttered, turning to Vision with wide, stunned eyes.
"What!" cried several others, all thinking back to how Coulson had been swearing that someone had broken into his office and 'fornicated' on his desk. The rumour circulating was that it had been Natasha and Clint but Coulson hadn't been able to prove anything and neither spy would admit to it.
Tony clapped happily as Vision and Wanda spoke to each other in hushed whispers. "Who's next? Capsicle?"
Steve's mouth twitched. "Wasn't my secret that fact that I am in a relationship with Darcy and Bucky? Is that not good enough for you?"
Sam was grinning from ear to ear being nudged by Scott in the ribs. "Who's better in bed?" he called out.
Darcy and Bucky both looked expectantly at Steve as he glared at his friend. Tony seemed to be recording the whole exchange on his phone.
Steve swore under his breath and then shrugged. "Buck does this thing with his tongue but Darcy..." he whistled and looked down at her hungrily. "She does this thing with her whole damn body."
Whistles and laughter broke when Darcy's face erupted into flames. "Fuck you, Sam. What's your secret then?" she demanded, turning on the man.
"I brought Johnny Storm as my date tonight," the Falcon replied easily. "Was heading back to my suit before being dragged here instead."
"I've got a really heightened sense of smell," Peter confessed suddenly. "Like, super heightened."
Tony pouted and looked at the teenager. "That's not really a secret, Pete. That's like the first page in your file."
"I knew it," Natasha murmured to herself more than anyone else. "There was no way you would have known."
The apples of Peter's cheeks were rosy and his ears were undoubtedly red as he nodded along to Natasha's ramblings. "Yeah. Like, I know who walks out of the elevator just from the smell alone and sometimes, I can..." he trailed off, wrinkling his nose as he thought over the wording.
"You can what? Smell things on people?" Bruce prodded and Peter clicked his fingers and nodded.
"Yeah. Exactly that. I can smell people on other people. Its how I found out about Darcy, Cap and Bucky. And about Ms Hill and Fury. And about the affair going on between Lousie Wren in Weapons and Susanna Copeland in the Museum," he babbled excitedly until he looked up at the wide-eyed faces in the room.
"I'm sorry," Darcy began, her hands outstretched. "You mean you've been able to smell when I've had sex all this time and you never thought to broach the subject?"
"In my defence, it's embarrassing."
Darcy groaned. "Oh my god. You mean I've been walking around for the past year smelling like two supersoldiers and you knew! All those times at lunch and then I was in your lab!" she cried out. Suddenly Darcy whipped around, pointing accusatory fingers at her boys. "You can smell it can't you," she hissed.
The two men shared a dark, dirty look before they turned back to her.
"Yeah, doll, we can," Bucky drawled.
Pepper had her hands on Tony's watch, fiddling with the holographic as her fiance stared at the trio as though they were the most entertaining thing in the world. She overrode his coding easily and the locks to the floor undid themselves.
"Okay, circle time over. Let's get back to the party and-" Pepper faulted as she looked at Peter. "I really don't know what to say about that other than thank you for never acting strangely," she added as she led Tony back towards the elevators.
Peter's cheeks were so red he looked as though he could pass out at any moment. "No problem."
"Let's never mention it again shall we," Natasha prompted the group as they got ready to leave. "But, the little spider can say more about Wren and Copeland and their affairs."
Clint nodded as Laura rolled her eyes and left the gym with Jane, Helen, Bruce and Thor, all heading back to the party. "Of course he can. I mean, he should. For the greater good of the team and of the building."
Sam and Scott were still elbowing each other like school children. "Have fun, don't forget to apply sunscreen," Scott joked as Sam ducked out of the gym. "Maybe we could go down and check on the other party. Its also good to keep an eye on targets whilst gathering the relevant information," Scott suggested.
"You just want to spy and gossip," Peter grinned but he accepted Clint's arm around his neck as they walked him out of the gym.
Wanda and Vision had also disappeared and all that was left were the trio, all stood facing each other in some sort of silent, sexually tense standoff.
"You can smell Bucky on me?" Darcy asked, poking Steve in the abdomen with every word.
Steve nodded and caught her hand easily, sliding it further down until it rested on the waistband of his trousers. He dropped his hands back to his sides and left her own idling on the fabric.
She turned to Bucky, a finger running up his vibranium arm and into the collar of his shirt. "And you could smell Steve on me and vice versa?"
A sharp nod as he flexed his fingers and then fisted them. "Yeah, doll. S'how I knew he'd pulled you away at lunch or you'd jumped him in a supply closet. Nothing better."
Darcy's lip quirked as she catalogued their blown-out pupils and heavy breaths. "It gets you off smelling me on him?"
"Its gets me off smelling you on him and him in you, sweetheart. Does for the pair of us," Steve answered swiftly. "We going back to the party?"
Darcy's belly was coiled in anticipation and she didn't think she could spend another second that wasn't in their apartment without ruining Laura's costumes.
"Like hell. Take me to bed Captain, Sargent. Then we will talk a bit more about how you've been letting me walk around smelling like a-"
Darcy didn't get to finish her sentence as Bucky had her over her shoulder and Steve's mouth was on hers. In tandem and without breaking the kiss, the pair had her in the elevator and on the way to their floor before she could register Bucky's wandering hands.
November 1st - 11 am
"This is a Tower wide message. Tony Stark would like it to be known that any and all bets regarding the personal lives of those working for SHEILD and for Stark Industries must be run by and include him. A link to an online document has been sent to all handheld devices. Sir hopes that everyone had an enjoyable Halloween and suggests that anyone visiting the laboratories or anywhere frequented by Spiderman make use of the showers on floors fourteen, twenty-one and thirty before entering from now on. Thank you," JARVIS said quietly, the hidden speaker in their bedroom hardly making a sound.
Darcy grinned and hid her face in Steve's neck as Bucky grumbled something unintelligible about something or other from his side of the bed before turning and wrapping himself around her naked body, causing Steve to utter something in his sleep and squeeze them tightly together in his embrace.
Thank the Norse gods for Tony Stark, she thought happily, and for that little secluded cabin in Vermont Bucky was dragging them to.