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Darcy Lewis meets her soulmate while sitting at a table with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner while Jane mathed her way into their collective nerdy hearts.

It kind of starts when she’s 18, looking down at her soulmark with squinted eyes at a picture of a paper airplane. It takes her a few minutes to double check that no, she hadn't gotten so drunk last night that she’d forgotten getting a tattoo on her outer-wrist last night. It hadn’t surprised her exactly, because it felt right on her skin, but was admittedly a little bewildering considering everyone else had words ranging from ‘Hello, beautiful I’ve been waiting my whole life to see you’, to ‘So how ‘bout them mets?’ scarred into their skin.

She entered the online world of confusing soulmarks which tell her- no, soul-marks don’t have to be words per say; Marks take the form of the first communication between soul-mates, where one person has the intent of a message, and the other understands that it means something.

It’s why people have soulmarks in languages they don’t speak or read- but understand as a form of communication, and why people who are deaf can have the second, or even third words ever spoken to them by their soulmate on their innerwrists when their soulmates realize that talking at a turned back doesn't always count as communication.

It takes two hours to find out that soulmarks don’t have to be on a wrist, although they typically form on the inner-wrist of the non-dominant hand, due to some psychological babble about men keeping of hand on their soulmate, and one hand on a sword, before finding something actually worth reading.

She looks at pictures of ballerinas with their words curling down their legs, programmers with their words weaving in and out of their fingers and life-guards with semaphore flags under their eyes, before she understands that it has less to do with swords and misogyny and more to do with how your meeting connects you best.

She slaps on a wrist watch before class and thinks ‘dude, my soulmate is going to be awesome.’

It kind of starts with a paper airplane, except it really starts like this;

Three days after alien elves attack Greenwich, Jane Foster gets an invitation to Stark Tower.

The invitation sits in Jane’s email, signed from a woman in Stark Industries Human resources department, and forms a promise of too many good things to be true. The email is everything they have ever needed; funding, lab space and a pick of all the science minions in the world, along with a salary that makes Darcy want to whistle in appreciation like an old black and white movie. She combs over the offer, and places everything into lists, writing down information like the critically analytic data miner that formed 90% of her overly paranoid life.

This is how Jane finds her; tacking post-it notes into orders of most to least suspicious, with an expression that is not at all happy.

“What’s wrong with it?” Jane peers over her shoulder curiously, after her excitement dies down, “It’s Stark Industries.”

“They’re offering everything from dental to podiatry to new age crystal meditation massage,” Darcy frowns, “It’s desperate.”

“Is that why you’re looking at Stark Industries financial statements?” Jane’s face scrunches, “I don’t think you’re going to find anything interesting in there.”

“It’s smart. I’m looking for red flags,” Darcy protests, “And I found them. Did you know that Stark Industries literally has no astrophysics department? Or funds any astrophysists?  At all. Anywhere. Ever. They’re not offering you a job in a department, they’re offering you a lab. I bet you twenty bucks that they’ll sick you in a basement somewhere with no sunlight for bragging rights.”

Funding, Darcy.”

“Is not worth your soul, Jane.”

Jane’s face crinkled.

“Give me an hour,” Darcy swears, glowering at the financial statements, “I’ll have them singing like a canary and begging my forgiveness for being deceitful liars who lie.”

“Have you considered that they might want me because of my work,” Jane responds plainly, “…Greenwich?”

“I think Tony Stark himself is having science boners over you,” Darcy rolls her sleeves up, “I just want to know what they want to do with you afterwards.”

Darcy Lewis is many things, but a fool she is not. Armed with her copy of Consumer Survival: American Consumer Rights and Protections that came notated from the thrift store she found it in, she punches in the contact number attached to the email into the lab phone and waits less than three seconds before ‘Ms. Maria Hill’ answers.

“Maria Hill, Human Resource Office. Your call is being monitored and recorded for training purposes, but your information will be kept confidential.”

“Darcy Lewis, I work for Dr. Jane Foster as her person,” She tries for a professional voice, “We have a few concerns about the offer Stark Industries made, in funding Dr. Fosters research. Namely, what are your intentions towards my scientist?”

“I beg your pardon?” The woman replies, with no trace of surprise in her words. Darcy can emphasize with the tone of an overworked, under motivated office lackey, but not when they have committed the sin of messing with her politically and legally under-informed scientist.

“That offer is one of the most grossly-overcompensated job offers I have ever seen,” She flatly retorts, “It’s literally the worst honey-trap I have ever seen. I suppose you want our financial information, our bank details, our social security numbers? - is there a dethroned Nigerian prince that we should be sending money to?”

“Stark Industries already has such information, but feel free to send money to any deposed regimes you see fit.”

“Like SHIELD for example?” Darcy retorted, “I never got my iPod back, y’know? You think I’m going to hand over Jane to a company that has SHIELD imbedded into its DNA? Next thing I know, I’ll be waking up in a hotel room without Jane and without a kidney.”

“Funny,” Maria drawled, “I don’t expect you called my office to comment on your opinions on SHIELD.”

“Like hell I did,” Darcy frowned, “This contract is literally the single most sycophantic piece of paper I have ever come across and I have been forced to look at Tony Stark’s selfies covering every newspaper in the country. I just want to know why Stark Industries has suddenly cast off all ideals of capitalism and are offering my astrophysicist literally the most beautiful worker-friendly offer I have ever seen. Captain America himself would cry with pride over the socialist empathy in these words.”

“Stark industries prides itself on offering the best for our employees, both current and potential, considering the nature of our research and development, and the high quality necessary to be considered for an employment opportunity.”

Darcy’s nostrils flared, “You are not selling me on this, lady. This makes me more suspicious, what does Stark Industries really want my astrophysicist for?”

“Stark Industries is interested in the work Dr. Foster is pioneering. Considering the recent activities around Einstein-Rossen bridges, of which our former CEO came up close and personal with. Dr. Fosters work is becoming highly relevant and of great interest to Stark Industries.”

“Tony Stark is hiring us because he flew a nuke at an alien mothership,” A crawling feeling down her back made her sigh, as the truth dawned on her, “Paranoid rich men do not make for solid employment opportunities.”

“On the contrary, the CEO of Stark Industries is Ms. Pepper Potts,” Maria reminded her, “You will be under the employment of the Research and Development Department, which is monitored directly by our CEO.”

“Tony Stark runs the R&D Department like his own personal toyshop and you know it,” Darcy retorted, “This is some weird super-secret science sleepover, and while we are totally cool with that, we’d like to know so we can hide our Iron Man pajamas. And we want a 30 day trial period. Paid trial period. And we can opt out at any time, without repercussions. And for this to be credited to us for future references for resumes. And we are not building Tony Stark portal guns.”

Acceptable terms. We’ll email Dr. Foster an updated contract, and all necessary information within the hour for Dr. Foster’s consideration. Will that be all?”

“One last thing- does the basement you’re sticking us in have windows?”

As it turns out, Dr. Foster did consider the offer, and two weeks later they finally discover that the basement is actually a wing of the one of the numerous R&D floors with fancy lab equipment and new carpet and a whole wall made of windows from which the city was spread out like anthills. The lab kitchen was stocked with the exact brand of coffee that Darcy always brought, and the exact type of poptarts that Jane liked to eat while Sciencing.

“Am I the only one getting the heeby-jeebies here?” Darcy frowned, inspecting the fridge and its suspicious contents of the exact kind of soda she liked and the expensive pesto she’d been craving for weeks.

“Darcy, you told me last week that ‘privacy is an illusion and big business knows more about your life than you do’,” Jane retorted, inspecting the new lab equipment.

“They know what kind of pesto I wanted,” Darcy hissed back, “I tried it once. At a party. I have literally never brought this because it costs a mortgage. This is black magic. Witchcraft.”

“Shoo. You also have your own office,” Jane noted, gesturing wildly, “Somewhere. Leave me here to set my equipment up- we can finish unpacking later. Go find your office and let me know if you have your office supplies.”

“They better not have rescinded on the office supplies,” Darcy grumbles, saluting Dr. Foster before turning on her heels and marching out the door. Her office is not hard to find; but she glowers at the plaque on the door that reads ‘Darcy Lewis; person for Dr. Foster’.

Fortunately, Stark Industries did not rescind on the office supplies, and she busies herself with organizing her highlighters and pens and hole-punchers neatly into her desk draw, which will never again see such neatness. She hanged up her motivational posters, pinned her kitten calendar to her wall and found a nice new home for formerly-lab-plant Carlos-the-cactus on top of her filing cabinet, before she kicked off her shoes and relaxed into the comfiest looking chair that any college-graduate would ever have the privilege to look at, let alone sit in.

If she hadn’t been given the ‘no photography allowed in the tower’ confidentiality speech, she’d be tempted to take a photo of the chair to send to her mom.

Never before had she ever thought she’d be given such a nice chair.

“Ugh,” She sighed, hand already moving towards her paperclip stash to build necklaces, in lieu of unpacking the boxes of science paper into manageable files. Her fingers barely scrape the edge of the container before the phone on her desk rings, and her face falls with the thought of what exactly someone needed the official ‘person for Dr. Foster’ for.

In troubling times like this, she always knew to fall back on her new life philosophy-

What would Pepper Potts do?

“Hello?” She greets, before quickly adding, “Darcy Lewis’ office.”

Her façade of professional, cool and suave business woman lasted about the length of time it took for the person on the other end to start talking.

“New minion,” The familiar voice of Tony Stark greeted her cheerfully, “I require both you and Doctor Foster in my own personal toyshop for a super-secret science sleepover. Bring your Iron Man Pajamas. We’re building a portal gun.”

“We negotiated for hazard pay, right?”

“Funny,” Stark cheerfully responded, “Seriously though, we need Foster to consult on a little project that Banner and I have running. No alien mother ships, we swear, and you can even keep your kidney.”

“You are the single-most nosey paranoid person I have ever met,” She retorted, “I’d say you’re close to tin-foil hat territory but well, your Iron Man suit…”

Stark snorted.

“We’ll be there in ten minutes.” She answers back in tone that would make Pepper Potts proud before hanging up. She barely has time to poke her toes around under her desk to find her shoes before she grudgingly acknowledges that obviously she needs to update her life philosophy, because What would Pepper Potts do? Clearly wasn’t a viable philosophy if the answer was Tony Stark.

This is how she ends up sitting at a table with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner while Jane mathed her way into their collective nerdy hearts. There was no mistake that the science had so far progressed so far out of her understanding that she was mostly there as a cheerleader rather than any useful addition, but she kept her attention focused on Jane, purely out of intern-erly affection, rather than interest. It’s why she only covertly toyed with her shiny new wristwatch instead of doodling onto her notepad to alleviate the boredom that crushed her innards.

This boredom is fundamentally the reason why she notices the actual-Avenger Hawkeye crouched down in the air vent like an absolute creep out of the corner of her eye. Whatever he’s up to, she doubts he’s interested in air vent maintenance, or Jane’s riveting astrophysics labor of love.

Jane is still talking though, and interrupting Jane when she looks so excited is an absolute sin.

The latch on the air vent popped open with a noise so faint, she knows she wouldn't have caught if she hadn't been listening for the first sign of his movements.

The thing is, she’s not naïve by any measure, so she casually leans over towards Banner and whispers in his ear, “There’s a weirdo guy in the vents. Should we be concerned?”

“That’s just Clint,” Banner whispers back, understanding the sanctity of Jane-time, “He’s an Avenger. Don’t mind him. He’s mostly harmless.”

Casually as she can, she casually moves her wrist and watches as the reflection from her watch hits the man right in the eyes. The man blinked furiously and ducked out of the way, but just as quickly she moved her wrist again, and watched him scowl and duck behind the wall of the vent.

Stark snorts and gives her a quick grin.

Her eyes narrow dangerously.

Jane is still talking.

She waits and waits; watching the vent as intently as she could without interrupting Jane, who was now onto three dimensional whatsits and multi-phasic thingamabobs. The hands on her watch tick and tick, and Banner shoots her odd looks, as she stares down a vent from the corner of her eyes.

She waits and waits until something hits her on the back of her skull and Tony Stark breaks down into goddamn giggles.

Air vents.

“Sloppy work,” Stark coo’s, “What happened to always hitting your target?”

“I had a goddamn grudge to avenge; She knows what she did,” The short blond man glowers at Stark before flicking a paper airplane at his head, “My point was made.”

Darcy Lewis inhaled deeply, swiped the paper from the collar of her shirt, and mustered all of her natural Lewis charm to glower at the so-called Avenger, while flicking her wrist once more to hit his eyes with reflected light before her brain catches up and she’s left holding a paper airplane.

The man blinked, automatically covering his eyes with his arms, and showing off the iridescent sheen covering his eyes under the lights.

Everything clicks into place and she can't do anything but laugh.

“Oh my god I made you glittery,” She cackled, “Your soul-mark is glitter. Your face is shiny.”

Iridescent sheen!” Vent-boy has the gall to look wholly unimpressed as he snapped back; dangling hallway out of the wall with a paper airplane in his fingers with Tony Stark’s name literally written all over it, and an expression in his eyes that seemed far more interested than he appeared, “Do you know how hard it is to be an Avenger when your face says ‘male model’?”

“I do,” Stark called, while Jane looks on in bewildered amusement, “I know exactly what that’s like.”

Without breaking eye contact, he tossed the plane to hit Stark right between his eyes.

 “Dude,” She grinned while Stark spluttered and stole her note-pad for retaliation material, “We are going to have so much fun.”