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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.”

Chapter Text

The soul mark system is completely and utterly perfect.

That’s the theory anyway.

The idea is nice at first, when she is eight years old with a mass of words over her heart that she can’t read yet. Her earliest memory is standing in front of a mirror and frowning at the mass of raised flesh, and trying to stretch her skin to read the words that won’t be legible until she is fully grown and her skin settles into place.

Her mother giggles when she finds her and tells her- “Virginia, be patient.” The sweeping gesture makes her smile, because her mother curls her hands around her name with so much love and so much patience already.

She can’t remember the words across her mother’s chest, but she can remember the mark that looked so very different from the ones she sees on television and in magazines. She can remember her mother gently telling her that the words were just a little off because they were expressed in sign rather than by spoken words, written in the same letters that curl down the spines of books but with a structure that was different from the way spoken words were.

It makes sense to her, even when she is younger, but difficult for her friends to understand that ASL is its own language – not a replacement for a ‘defect’. But it is hard when she only has her hands, and her friends are too young to understand morphology and syntax the way she does.

But it makes sense to her, because she knows that this knowledge is just as hereditary as the genes that that people are so quick to call a malfunction, a defect, a flaw.

Virginia Potts also knows that she is no flaw.

There are no epic love stories, or puppy-love to share with her giggling friends when they talk about their parents own marks, but she is content in the quiet smiles her parents share. In the quiet knowledge of soul marks bound by sign language, in the hurried movement of hands and the way that her father moves his hands into positions to express all the things she’s ever wanted to learn, and the way her mother teaches her practicality in subtitles and how to be the very best that she could be, because ‘by hell Virginia, you’ll have to be twice as good to get half as far.’

When she’s fourteen she still can’t read her words, but can already tell that the words are both ostentatious and messy, but take up such little space. Her friends laugh and display wrists with long-winded poetic words, and compliments that take up so much space and yet express so little. She meets people with words covering their entire backs, with people with words in Turkish, in Hebrew, in Spanish and French; in pictures and words and textures that stretch across miles and miles of skin.

On her sixteenth birthday she wakes up with her soulmark as clear as day. For exactly one second her world slows down while her heart wants to leap out of her chest in joy, before she frowns at the words over her heart, “Frankly, I’m not entirely interested.”

Her world ends.

After this, she is patient no more.

Virginia Potts covers her words, and throws herself into school, then into university. Why do something tomorrow when you can do it today? She has always known that people seem to think that deaf means ignorant, that since she cannot hear their words that she cannot read their lips when they craft cruel and patronizing comments, but they don’t know she has worse words to expect from her own soulmate, and they don’t know that she gave up patience a long time ago.

Her mother is right and she has to work twice as hard, and people will always know her as the ‘deaf girl overcoming her disability so inspirationally!’ but by hell they’ll remember that she’s the deaf girl named Virginia goddamn Potts.

It’s almost enough.

She graduates with a degree in Business Administration, and makes it into the secretarial pool of Stark Industries. She thrives on it, living deep in the heart of business, surrounded by the beating heart of a major corporation, with her hands wrist deep in the arteries and guts of the organisation spread across every continent on earth.

It’s a whole decade since she first woke up to see her words across her chest like a death sentence, when she’s watching TV with the few of her fellow secretaries that don’t treat her like a child, or a burden, going over the reports and figures of Tony Stark’s own numbers and wondering how to correct the math of a billionaire genius engineer without getting fired, when someone snatches the remote off her table and changes the channel.

Tony Stark is on an interview while the rest of the room place bets on just how much the PR department is going to completely go ballistic when the bright bubbly blonde interviewer asks him the one question that always makes it into interviews;

“So Mr Stark, you’ve been tight-lipped on the content of your soulmark, but can you tell us exactly what you think of your future soulmate in general?”

Frankly, I’m not entirely interested.”

The world doesn’t end. Not this time.

Besides, she’s pretty sure her soulmark on him will be ‘Your math is wrong’ and something about that just brightens up her day.

Somehow her patience slowly comes back.

Chapter Text

Darcy considered her notepad, then frowned at the mass of information that didn’t want to fit neatly into sentences and paragraphs. A few months ago, writing her final essay on ‘Captain America’s soulmark and how he influenced contemporary American attitudes towards soulmark registration legislature’ sounded like a brilliant idea.

A brilliant idea combining her love of history, politics and good ol’ fashion pop culture. A perfect way to spend her time watching trashy Captain America Conspiracy theorists on YouTube while snacking on movie foods while never leaving the comfort of her electric blanket and fluffy quilt. It was a perfect plan, to be honest. A perfect plan based around one major, vital thing.

The thing about Captain America, was that literally no one knew what his soulmark was.

Despite the last 70 years of the frenzied fangirls digging through everything from childhood photos to flippant journal entries, no one seemed to know even the slightest thing about what or where his soulmark could possibly be. Despite the fierce battle between Historians who swore Peggy Carter as his soulmate, those who swore it was Bucky Barnes or those who pointed fingers at everyone from Howard Stark to Walt Disney, no one could reliably decide what his soulmark was, or who it applied to.

It was easy enough to trace, at least on her notebook.

For her essay she’d start with the beginning of American soulmark legislature in the pre-war era; covering the beginning of registration in the aftermath of World War 1, when too many broken soulbonds had become a national issue. Secondly, insert a spiel about Captain America’s factual yet unknown soulmark information; drawing links between Cap’s Irish roots, the traditional Irish viewpoint of soulmarks as inherently personal and intimate and Cap’s unwillingness to discuss his mark.

Next, cover changing attitudes across the past 70 years and draw direct links between the shift in American attitudes towards soulmark privacy, and the historical emergence of different forms of soulmark covers from World War Two as a form of public mourning and their eventually change into an act of protest in the 60’s. Incorporate post-war rejection of governmental registration, championed by Native American, African-American, Jewish,  Disabled and Queer groups in America, give a nod towards declining American social capital and public trust in the American Government, and a few figures about the 20% soulmark registration in the contemporary era, with the 57% registration in the 1940’s (compare it to the high rates of public trust in the government in 1940 and the record-breaking bottomless pit of distrust of 2014 America.)

Then re-link everything back to Cap’s unknown mark sparking a national shift in emulation and attitude changes, throw in a few quotations from her textbook and hey presto.

Accept fancy paper that cost 4 years and half a million of university moneys.

But now, holed up in Jane’s fancy new Stark lab for the sole purpose of stealing Stark’s Wi-Fi, the idea was less entertaining. When Captain America popped back up, looking like he had the world’s greatest anti-wrinkle cream and a killer chiropractor, the media had metaphorically eaten each other in the haste to don patriotic gear and cover Cap’s miraculous reappearance.

At first it had been funny to see the enthusiastic internet population excitedly overlay photos of his ‘Dorito shaped body’ with Doritos, or the way his ‘perfection’ was analysed with the Fibonacci sequence leading to “One point five fucking six” turning into a weird Tumblr thing. But there was just something about writing an academic paper about a man who was often two floors above, watching Cartoon Network and eating Kashi GoLean that irked her.

The fact that it irked her, irked her more than anything else. Last month she’d written an essay around Thor’s very existence and the socio-political impacts on Modern and Reconstructionist Norse Paganism while a few weeks before her shining pièce de résistance was an epic sprawling essay on the perception of Tony Stark as the 21st century ideal of masculinity in the face of the media.

It clearly wasn’t that she was incapable of writing essays on the amazingly brilliant people around her, because she’d technically never actually spoken to Rogers for any substantial amount of time. Besides quick hello’s, casual 30 second conversation when they passed each other in the elevator, or mutual shared nods, their worlds were separate to the point where they weren’t even on a first name basis. 

It was something else that pressed into the base of her skull, and made her reorder her mind, as she tried to figure out why this topic was something that her conscience was currently opposed to.

Maybe it was how she noticed that Steve tensed up whenever someone asked him about his mark. Maybe it was how Steve tended to clam up whenever anyone mentioned how he’d impacted the last century. Maybe it was how while she’d written about Thor and Tony and even Captain America who placed themselves in the limelight knowingly, there was something different about writing about the very private Steve Rogers; who wore hoarded watercolours and pencils in old biscuit tins, and melted together his old crayon nubs to waste nothing. Maybe there was something about Steve Rogers who had lost everything in the flash of an eye, being reminded of what Historians generally agreed was either Peggy Carter or Bucky Barnes.

Maybe it was the fact that in some way, she envied the privacy that he had; ever since high school the internet had collectively known that “Make me a sandwich” was curling into the crook of her arm like a beacon to all the weird sexist dudes in the world to make kitchen jokes.

“Ugh,” Darcy groaned, collapsing into her arms, and wincing as her head smacked into the desk, “Ugghhhshg.”

“If you’re finished having another existential crisis, would you mind fetching me a coffee when you’re done?”

Ugh,” Darcy said again, lifting her head to peak out from underneath her sliding knitted cap, “I can’t even words today Jane. Is there anything sciency you want done so I can feel like an accomplished smart person who understands the maths and the science?”

“I do, in fact,” Jane beamed, “A chemistry experiment involving H20, C12H22O11 and C8H10N4O2. I call it ‘please go and make me some coffee’.”

“Don’t we have an intern for this? I’m pretty sure I’m now a fully initiated science minion, not some fledgling greenhorn. Both the tedious and the labour is now the responsibility of the intern! I know my union rights!”

“You don’t have a union,” Jane responded, as she dug her hands through her stereotypically white lab coat with a considering expression, “Take my lunch card; the cafeteria is free upstairs for all employees and I’m pretty sure they’re serving sushi today. Bring me back a sandwich.”

“Free food? And this is the first that I’m hearing about this?” Darcy perked up, “Momma’s gonna get herself some sweet sweet free groceries from the cafeteria.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to do that.”

“Oh poor rich dude, being fleeced of a few extra cartons of sushi- how ever will he afford his fancy faux-Iron designer suits now?” Darcy mock gasped, as her hand flew towards her heart, “Stark can afford it. Besides, I’m a poor broke college student being slowly crushed by this capitalist hellhole of a world, and if I steal some bread or something, maybe I’ll get sent to Australia.”

“Which is longer an actual penal colony.”

Hmm, I can taste the free healthcare now.”

“I’m sure Stark has minions who fetch him coffee without throwing theatrical performances,” Jane pointed out, pushing her lunch card along the bench, “Make sure you specify you want it on Kosher bread, and can you check to see if they’re making dumplings for the night shift?”

“Sure, sure,” Darcy slid the card towards her and slid it into her front pockets, “I’ve got this boss. The acquisition of free food is basically in my blood- remind you to tell you about the years I spent freegan-ing with my cousins back in high school- I’ve got this in the bag. I’m a college student.”

-

Jane was certainly correct about one thing; the cafeteria food smelt more delicious and inviting than any corporate eatery had ever cared to be. The hipster-glassed Barista produced Jane’s order within seconds in a large paper travel mug that screamed ‘made for caffeine-addicted scientists’, while the sushi came ready in a cute little bamboo container that she automatically decided was going in her bedroom to hold all her rings and bracelets. The salad bar, typically the most pathetic loose limp leafed collection of lettuce that capitalism ever decided was a fulfilling lunch, proudly covered a corner with all forms of fruits and vegetables that that Darcy was sure had never seen the inside of a can.

Whether it was Pepper’s constantly optimistic attention to Corporate Social Responsibility, and care towards the many minions of Stark Industries, or Stark’s selfish tastebuds that shrieked when confronted with budget foods, something had funnelled down sufficiently enough to have sushi chefs on hand. It was worlds away from the era of arduous corporate scrooging and wolfing-a-sandwich-at-your-desk deadlines.

Even the variety of healthy (and chef-approved Kosher) breads smelled freshly baked, and had a slight crunch as she carefully cut open the rye bread, and started layering levels of deliciousness.

After high school she’d taken a few culinary courses in the hopes that her soulmark actually meant something more ‘I respect you to do your job’ rather than ‘Get back in the kitchen, babe’.  The hectic stress of authoritarian kitchen rule mixed her inability to not snap back with sarcasm and the way she crumpled into a hailstorm of undirected anger when placed in stressful situations quickly crushed that dream.

The few weeks she’d managed to survive meant that she could make a total of eighteen pieces of culinary genius that could potentially one day be the method by which she won the hearts of the Avengers and then brutally murdered them all; leaving her true career path as ‘unchallenged benevolent dictator of the Solar System’ unopposed.

Less importantly, culinary school had taught her the ancient and noble art of making the most delicious sandwiches. For Jane; a base of apple horseradish on one side of the rye, hummus on the other. Cucumbers atop the horseradish, with a clump of coleslaw, then a layer of cheese, followed by Falafel. The perfect mass of pure tastiness and half-hearted attempts towards healthy eating.

“That looks delicious.”

The voice was distinct; Steve glanced over the sandwich with curiosity, before casting his eye over the wide variety available and piling up a stack of pita bread (plural) with a variety of the oddest things the salad bar had to offer.

“Still on your culinary adventure?” Darcy asked, sliding over to rifle through the dressings; thoughtfully alphabetised.

“Yes Ma’am,” Steve mock-saluted; the effect destroyed by the napkin crumbled in his hand, “I’m up to pickled daikon today, but Bruce suggested that I try amba.”

“I’m going to be completely honest with you; I have no idea what those are.”

“Neither did I,” Steve beamed, “Daikon is a winter radish, and Bruce described Amba like a kind of mango pickle? He told me to try it with eggplant, boiled eggs and boiled potatoes.”

“Throw some hummus on there too,” Darcy suggested, brandishing a bottle of Dijon Mustard and lathering Jane’s sandwich with the delicious deliciousness, “Everything can be improved with a little hummus.”

Steve nodded as he lathered hummus onto his first pita, offering her a smile that made her smile back subconsciously. She watched him out of the corner of her eye as he made a variety of wraps in record time, hiding her stares as she collected napkins to wrap Jane’s sandwich in.

“So, can I ask what you’re working on today?”

“I’m mostly just stealing the Wi-Fi,” She shrugged, “I’m supposed to be working on my final essay for college, but I’m pretty sure I’d have more success if I tried to become an elite ballerina.”

“Maybe you need to take a break?”

“I am; I’m fetching Lunch for Jane, and then I’m going to ride the elevator for hours of fun, and wear my earbuds and pretend like I’m in a really sad movie. There will be lots of posing and dramatic hair flips, and maybe even some sighing,” Darcy paused, “That was a joke. A cynical joke, but a joke nevertheless.”

“You need a break,” Steve gathered his wraps into one arm, “I’ll walk you down to Doctor Foster’s lab, and we can drop off her lunch; then you should come and eat lunch with Natasha, Bruce, Sam and I out on the terrace. Fresh air works miracles when you need to think.”

“Sure,” Darcy nodded solemnly, gathering up the coffee in one hand, sandwich in another and sushi box pinned between her elbow and hip, “Intel gathering. When I’m undisputed Queen of the Universe, I’ll need to know all your weaknesses.”

“If that’s what you’re stuck on, then maybe we shouldn’t let you think,” Steve responded wryly, “On the other hand, I hear Natasha is fond of lox.”

“Your allegiance will be handsomely rewarded when Darcytopia is established,” Darcy swore dramatically, “You will be rewarded with all the fancy hipster foods that you can carry in your muscly arms.”

Steve snorted.

Darcy beamed.

“You can’t make fun of Captain America!” Steve mock-gasped, “I’m pretty sure that’s un-American.”

“Stark has been filling your head with pretty little lies again, bubble-baby?” Darcy tutted, “This is like a ‘No man born from a woman will ever defeat you’ kind of thing, right? Because I’m a dual-citizen baby; my dad was from Iceland. I’m basically a Viking.”

“If I saw you on the battlefield, I would probably be afraid,” Steve offered, “Have you planned your evil supervillain Queen costume yet?”

Thank you Steve,” Darcy paused as they arrived at the elevator, “I haven’t. I’m thinking about asking Tony if I can borrow one of his tailors. If I’m going to go all out, I want to look like I’m simultaneously going to crush the skulls of men and like I have an excellent and responsible fiscal policy. Who said anything about evil anyway? I am a benevolent and kind ruler; I’m a super neutral.”

“Funny,” Steve retorted, “Want me to wait here..?”

Darcy blinked as the elevator came to a halt.

“Super hearing,” Steve helpfully added, “I’ll wait.”

Darcy shimmied out as soon as the doors opened; within 30 seconds she was back with a half-filled bottle of mineral water and her sushi in her arms. As soon as she was in Steve punched the button for the Terrace and met her suspicious gaze with a smile.

“I thought about this; if you can hear the sound of the elevator, do you just go around all day listening to the weird sounds coming from strangers bowels?”

Steve’s eyebrows rose, “I prefer listening to the radio, ma’am. What you do in your own time is your own business.”

Darcy cackled.

“Can I ask what kind of essay you’re working on?” He changed tracks quickly, “I can’t promise I’ll be much help, but I often hear that two heads are better than one.”

“Well,” Darcy shifted, “I’m not going to lie. It’s kinda about you.”

“Well,” Steve paused, “What a coincidence; as it so happens, I am an expert on that particular topic.”

“Funny,” Darcy snorted, “Well that isn’t the direction I expected this conversation to go. More precisely, it’s about your soulmark. Even more precisely, how literally no one even knows what your soulmark is because you were super private, and how that kinda impacted a lot of American values. I think that’s why I’m having trouble writing it; because I feel like I’m breeching a topic that I shouldn’t.”

Steve went quiet, then stared down at the floor. A dawning horror overtook her as she frantically backtracked-

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable,” Darcy shot an alarmed look his way, “It was either this or talk about how Rick Genest is basically desecrating soulmarks with his tattoo addiction and that basically gave me a rage headache just thinking about it and- wait.”

Just when Darcy half expected for all the American flags to simultaneously catch fire, and acid rain to fall from the heavens, she caught sight of the slight curl to his lips and the sound of a stifled laugh before Steve fell backwards onto the elevator railing and giggled; snorting loudly when he frantically tried to breathe around his sheer joy. The sight of Captain America, clutching pita wraps to his chest while silently laughing was enough to short circuit her brain.

“What?”

Steve’s grin was so wide that it was clear that the pools of tears at the corners of his eyes were being held up by his cheekbones alone.

“Sorry, Sorry, Sorry,” Steve breathed out, before choking back a snort and rubbing at his eyes half-heartedly, “It’s just- I don’t even know how to tell anyone, and well, it’s kind of funny?”

Darcy, who had been watching in complete and utter confusion, adopted a puzzled expression.

“Funny?”

Steve struggled to force down a snicker.

“This conversation will not leave the sacred walls of the elevator shaft,” Darcy swore, “I swear upon the future capital city of Darcytopia and my own royal reclining chair-throne.”

 “There may have been a little miscommunication,” Steve warned, looking sheepish, “I’m not actually really private about my mark; I mean it’s not something I usually bring up in conversation but I’m not embarrassed by it or anything. Okay, maybe just a little.”

“Can’t be much worse than ‘make me a sandwich’.”

“Ouch,” Steve sympathetically added, “It’s ugh, more to do with the position of my mark. Isn’t exactly in an area of public purview. At least it should never be.”

Darcy grinned and snickered through her teeth.

“Are we talking about the Florida to your America? Because let me just say that this is better than any of the theories that public school ever prepared me for,” Darcy grinned wider, “At least you’ll know that they’re happy to see you?”

Steve flushed, “Not quite; my soulmark is closer to my- forgive my Yiddish- tokhes. I didn’t even notice I had one until I was 12 and Bucky was laughing at me so hard that he tripped and lost his last baby tooth.”

“….Can I see it?”

“Miss Lewis, are you asking me to take my pants off?” Steve blinked back wide innocent eyes filled with LIES, “I’m not entirely sure that’s appropriate. Despite what Tony professes.”

“Fair enough,” Darcy shrugged, “Can I know what it says?”

Steve paused, “It doesn’t exactly SAY anything. It’s more of a symbol.”

“My mind is going so many places with this,” Darcy frowned, “Some really awful places.”

“No!” Steve inhaled, “No, it’s nothing like that; it’s just a colon and a parenthesis.”

“You have a freaking emoticon on your ass?” Darcy brightened, “Really? Oh my god that is brilliant. I honestly can’t wait until you meet the person who has the gall to send you that- wait is it in handwriting or a type font?”

“Helvetica size 12,” Steve promptly responded, “It could be a wrong number? I don’t exactly know how to convince them to tell me who they are, if it does turn out that way.”

“Oh sweet Jesus Steve,” Darcy shifted her lunch in her arms until she could push her glasses up her nose and shoot him a thumbs up, “You’ll be fine; let the universe prevail in its pre-ordained weird matchmaking game. Besides, you have time to plan your suavest most charmingly patriotic response.”

 “I keep thinking of those kind of responses,” Steve admitted, “But I’m almost certain that my mouth will end up overriding me and my soulmate will have ‘um, oh, you could maybe possibly be my soulmate is that okay’. There was a reason why I was given lines during Captain America’s press tour. Any why I always prepare a speech before a press conference.”

“You gonna make soulmate cue cards?”

“Think it would help?”

Steve grinned at her as the elevator opened to the terrace and sunlight flooded the elevator.  From so high up, the world seemed so much more peaceful than the world far below. The quiet conversation that hummed from the outdoor lounges overlooking the city felt as warm as the soft tones of the sunlight.

“Lunch is served,” Steve called, striding towards the group with legs longer than her patience. She quickened her pace to keep up with him, scowling at wide grin he sent her way. Bruce and Natasha sat side by side, with cups of herbal tea between them, while the other man- Sam- if she remembered Steve’s quick invitation, was spread out on a lounge, with his eyes shut.

At Steve’s gesture, she walked in front of him, keen to claim the one free arm chair, when Sam’s arm jolted sideways, hitting her shin just hard enough to make her yelp and jump out of surprise.

“Make me a sandwich-” At the sound of her yelp, Sam’s eyes flickered open, and narrowed on her face in confusion, “…You’re not Steve.”

“No, she’s not,” Steve responded first, glancing at her face, “I brought company. I expected more of a friendly conversation rather than a street fight though.”

“I’m so, sorry Ma’am, I thought you were Rogers,” Sam’s wide eyes glanced at her, “Are you okay? Did I hurt you?

“Well, I thought you were a sexist bastard,” She responded quickly, before freezing at his visible jolt, “I’m Darcy by the way and I’m totally better than fine; I mean, if you think that a little poke is going to take down the Lady who was the David to Thor’s adorably kind Goliath, then buddy, you have a problem that even I can’t solve…”

“Darcy, you have no idea how much my mother chewed my ear off when my mark came in,” Sam- Sam scrambled to sit and look at her with an expression of utter excitement, “I thought she was going to kill me.”

The thing about Captain America, was that literally no one knew what his soulmark was, or what it meant.

And the thing was, that issue could wait until another time, for another day, because right now more important things were suddenly in her life, more important people spread out on a couch looking more knightly and gallant than her mark had ever seemed to promise.

(And she totally aced that essay.)

Chapter Text

His soul mate’s file crosses his desk on Saturday morning, at 4:37am and he freezes in his chair until his coffee has gone lukewarm. He knocks the foul blend back like another man would a shot glass, and takes in the rumpled appearance of the dirty blond hair and dull blue eyes less than he does the bleeding grazed knuckles, broken bandaged nose and stitches that stand bright red in his photo.

This is why the file has crossed his desk. This is why the potential asset folder #4295393 has worked its way into his meticulous desk via the hands of an equally sleep addled courier, and why he cannot seem to look away from the very clear human disaster that is Clint Francis Barton.

And there is no damned way that the spectacular oddity that is Hawkeye isn’t his soulmate. That certainty is why he has spent the better part of a year chasing down the man- the assassin-for-hire- who has never left a dog unpatted, or pizza uneaten.

Hawkeye is a legend amongst the assets recruitment and acquisition staff; a ghost that leaves behind spectacular and awe-inspiring stories that can never be confirmed. The remains of Hawkeyes activities could be found in arrow shards lodged in stone, bloody knuckle prints, dented cars and smashed windows and notably a single security recording of a man obliviously eating cereal on a fire escape while a building slowly burned behind him.

Hawkeye needed a damned haircut. And a shower, and a goddamn clue judging from the too-casual way that he wore his nose splint as a casual accessory, and the way the dark bruises under his eyes looked like they had always belonged on his face.

The file contains only the most basic information: height – 6”3, weight - 230 lbs, hair colour and eye colour, model details on his hearing aides, long details on his archery technique and forms, and transcripts of a tentative interview with a SHIELD recruiter apparently undertaken at arrow-point. There is only a single damned personal note on the impressive array – “I have a pet dog,” Clint Goddamn Barton had offered 13 minutes and 45 seconds into the interview, “Her name is Lucky.”

“Goddamn it Barton,” Phil Coulson swears, lowly enough to be little more than a mutter, somehow already knowing that this will be a phrase that he will mutter with more force, and more exasperation than he can muster up at 4:43am on a Saturday morning. He sits back in his chair and considers the thin file, and stares up at the standard governmental grey-tile ceiling as if the imperfect stains will divine his future and fix the beautiful mess that is on his desk. The unbelievable disaster of a person, who carries with him the airs of someone who has many times earnestly Not Intended For All This To Happen, Honest.

Rather than ponder life’s many mysteries, namely how the hell has Barton survived thus far in the past (what appears to be but who the hell knows) two and a half decades of his life, Coulson attends to his empty coffee mug in preparation of a prolonged morning of soul mate paperwork on a broody, scratched up arrow-wielding assassin who apparently owns a mutt named Lucky.  His soul mark burns in the crook of his arm, as he fills his mug back up with foul filter coffee and wonders how the hell his life ever got so damned weird.

Four hours later, Clint Barton grins around an extra sugary Pumpkin Spiced latte and reads the familiar words in double-spaced Times New Roman size 12 usually found on his ‘upper’ inner thigh -  “YOUR APPLICATION FOR HANDLER #2685766 PHILLIP J COULSON HAS BEEN ACCEPTED – REPORT PREPARED AND SUBMITTED BY PHILLIP J COULSON” and nearly chokes on foam when he leaps to his feet and darts to the bathroom while he skims through SHIELDS attached fraternization policy. Clint finds the promised contact information for his suddenly bright career change as he jerks down his pants with one hand, takes a photo of his soul mark for clarification and proceeds to drop the rest of his very hot latte down the front of his pants and smash his hearing aid against the stall wall in one fell swoop.

‘Give me a minute to go get Lucky, Mr Boss-Man Handler Coulson Sir –Hawkeye :)’

Coulson emails back fraternization policy on sexting, very promptly, three minutes later.

Chapter Text

Natasha Romanova comes into the world without a soul mark; with perfectly unblemished skin and wispy red hair that dances across her pale skin like fireworks. Her birth certificate is filled out perfectly, and her un-marked skin is recorded as a formality while her parents curiously glance at their small child and wonder when her soulmate will be born and gift their child with a sign.

Her soulmark never comes, and her parent’s questions are never answered.

She is too young for her mind to recall memories when she is left at an orphanage to the less than watchful eyes of a building lacking in everything but empty stomachs. But she grows and grows until she is old enough to stand, when the Red Room comes for test subjects and walks away with twenty-seven of the smallest children and trains them into monsters. For the first few days she misses the old wooden floors and cheap lead painted walls, even the too-thin threadbare blankets that smelled of too many people before her. She misses until she forgets about the floors and walls and blankets, and forgets about the orphanage and forgets about missing and forgets about the world outside the drive to be perfect rather than dead.

Despite the hype surrounding soulmates, and the nightmarish concept that people could be born without soul marks, Natasha knows that there is no such thing. There are stories, of course, told deep within the bowels of the Red Room in hushed whispers and sharp chatters of teeth. Everyone has a soulmark somewhere within them, whether barred freely across skin, or hidden much deeper under sinew and bone. It is those who are hidden, of course, that are of the most importance. The hidden marks are the most valuable, and the easiest to use as a canvas for elaborately perfect fake marks to ensnare targets and ensure glorious victory.

When the doctors of the Red Room see her ‘unmarked’ categorisation on her forms, they smile widely until she thinks their cheeks must hurt, and they promise to find it for her.

She is under no illusions that this is a kindness.

They never find it.

She watches as they carve apart Zia until they find a tiny ‘This organ can be salvaged for transplant’ in Greek hidden on her left kidney and they cut it from her body while brimming with delight. She watches as they find a tiny ‘Your eyes are beautiful!’ in Chechen across capillaries when Toma is placed through a basic eye inspection, and watches again when Toma returns the next day with a new cybernetic implant. Lubov has a mess of thin silver scars across her heart that match Mila’s silvery scars across her hand, and she watches as they are paired and forced to fight to the death when those scars burst open and flow with angerless, tragic blood.

Still the doctors search.

They find Agnia’s name on Tasya’s back molars, and Tasya’s across Agnia’s larynx and they remove one and replace the other. Fenya awakens one day to a line of the American Pledge of Allegiance across her lips and everyone can hear her scream when her Handler comes to take her away, and later that day Ksenia is placed under an MRI and filled with dye to reveal the twists of her veins form the prose of The Fountain of Bakhchisarai.

Natasha waits and waits for her soulmark to appear as Inessa’s ear-drum bears the words ‘TARGET ACQUIRED’ in ugly ugly English, and the Doctor’s preen when the underside of Nadenka’s eyelids bear words that prove her undying loyalty to the Program. Panya dies when she suffers a seizure during a training session, and Belka is dispatched to cull the weakest of their group, but Natasha hears as the Doctor’s excitedly talk about the signature of a famous dissenter across her temporal lobe that caused her to shake and be eliminated.

Natasha is cut apart and inspected, cut and cut, not always while she sleeps, and sometimes they ask her where she is hiding her soulmark, where does she hide her answers.

They place Belka under an X-Ray and she hears whispers that the Doctors have found a line of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture carved into her left femur, and Natasha dreams of cannon fire.

Still the doctor’s search and search, until not a single muscle fiber, a single eyelash or skin flake are left, and they search again and again until even she wonders whether there is not a single person in the entire world that she is destined to meet. She is destroyed, and remade, remade and destroyed until she doubts that mercy and kindness are concepts even possible.

She is left to wonder whether her place as the most promising and perfect of the Program has crafted her into a true monster, the perfect agent and canvas for missions, the first of her kind. She wonders whether she is the first markless monstrosity to walk this earth; in a world where marks can be people either singular or plural, platonic, romantic, professional, even concepts and ideas, she wonders whether she is the first freely drifting spectre of death to ravage the fools and ungrateful of the world.

For a beautiful second, she can hear the voices beyond the room talk about her as if she is a gift from the god they do not believe in. Their low vicious voices compare her to the Soldier; the shining metallic symbol of perfection that resides somewhere far away from their training facility. They speak of his devotion to the mission, his unyielding hand and perfection as easily as they talk about his lack of a mark. She has heard of him before, the legend of the Red Room, in wordless stories told in lieu of fairytales and bedtime stories. She listens to their unfamiliar praise and informed faith, and steels her backbone and face as fiercely cold as the Russian Winter when they speak of her as his true successor.

They break her apart and pop her bones and slice her veins and she cannot even dare to plead for the mercy of a soulmark.

Then they find “Mama!” across Vladlena’s uterus, and a colder hush falls across the Red Room as each of their pretty half-monsters are lined up and led into surgical rooms to ceremoniously graduate them into a whole new world. Each spends their recovery with hushed voices, but without dangerous vulnerability, muttering stories of stories of girls with marks in much more vulnerable places with much more dangerous words. Then silence as more and more beds in the dorm become vacant before the world explodes in colour and noise when she decides if she shall be a monster, she will be a monster uncaged.

Natasha Romanova is old, oh so very old, and shaped into a deadly phantom of beauty and decay when she glances up at the phantom even older and remorseless than her. She narrows her eyes and raises her gun at a soldier in perpetual winter and watches at the emotionless conscious less monster, gilded in silver and stamped with a star coloured with the red of her own blood. Still he takes more, and an explosion cuts through her hip that splatters the ground with deep red, leaving nothing but silence in his wake. His hair is long, his clothes are filthy and despite the Kevlar, she can tell that this is the man without a mark on his skin, the man who is caged while she is free.

She barely has time to place pressure on the wound and scatter off into the hills beside her, scrapping her knees against the rocks and burning her hands on the hot shards of bullet tearing apart her flesh. She hides, because she cannot possibly outrun Winter, and is filled with an utter sense of dread at the glimpse of the Winter Soldier in the corner of her eyes. He stands silently, watching her with hollowness devoid of even the smallest of detectable emotion, stands like he too would rather be perfect than dead, like he too has forgotten what it is like to remember.

 “Soldier,” She whispers, and she swears that he has heard her foolish sound as the world goes silent for one impossible second.

He is motionless, fully weaponised and able to end her very existence, but he stands in perfect silence before turning away and is gone before she can even blink. There are words, even in his silence, impossible words of mercy that the Soldier cannot possibly give.

Natasha runs, and she heals.

And learns that there is mercy in a lack of a soul mark, after all.

Chapter Text

He is born with an elaborate set of blueprints upon his skin; detailing mathematics and engineering grace far beyond the understanding of anyone who would gaze upon his skin.

Spirals of equations and chemical formula juxtaposed with sleek lines of a proposed machine, a proposed mastery over the natural order of the universe.

Lines upon lines marked his skin from the tips of his toes to the nape of his neck, curling around muscles, ghosting over his lips and into the soft tissues of his tongue and cheek, stained onto teeth and marring the whites of his eyes with the darkest inky black. The inky blueprints permeate his tiny fingernails, twist into his ears and disappear up individual strands of hair.

He is marked by the mathematics of equal creation and destruction, by six singularities forged into concentrated ingots by the very birth of the universe through Death, Entropy, Infinity and Eternity.

He is born marked by a power that could mow down entire civilizations like wheat in a field, born with the shape of gauntlet that could show him how to pass judgement upon a billion worlds.

He is born a tribute to a gauntlet, a dual curse and temptation, a right and wound. He is born an ancient temple tender, a vestal child giving praise and glory to a relic forged before time. He is born a devotee of old gods, and an unintended weaponsmith. He is born into duality of love and betrayal, into narcissism and self-flagellation.

He is born and his father traces the patterns on his skin while his mother turns away; the markings are beyond their understanding but even the most foolhardy can recognise the sharp lines of destruction and what is made into the world cannot be unmade.

He is born with devastation, with chaos and treachery on his skin, a temptation so sweet that they cast him out into the dying world outside to die.

He is both born without purpose, and born cursed by terrible terrible purpose.

He screams and screams but quiets as the heat from his tiny body is sucked away into the night as fate weaves her tapestry and urges Odin Borson closer and closer.

Loki Laufreyson dies-

Loki Odinson is born anew.

Black ink stained jötunn skin is replaced with markless pink, but the thrum of destruction, and the allure of infinity burns with every beat of his heart.

Chapter Text

Darcy and Sam were snuggled together on a chaise lounge so tightly that they appeared to be one being when Steve came stumbling in with a terrified look to his eyes and a dopy grin covering his face. The Sam portion of the entangled mass of limbs and wayward hair craned his head to look as all 220 pounds of super soldier came stumbling into Sam’s living room, reverbing the walls with the pounding force.

“Man, This better be good Rogers,” Sam groaned beneath a maple syrup stained The Falcon™ blanket and thick brown hair, “We just finished pancakes, we need our post-breakfast nap.”

“We’re preparing for a morning run,” Darcy yawned, in the direction of Sam’s underarm.

“Aww Babe, it’s so cute that you think that,” Sam boop’d her nose, “Maybe run to the fridge later, cupcake. Maybe.”

“Jerk,” Darcy happily replied, “I can totally run. I might even run to the cafeteria today. Slow-roasted Brisket and Peanut Satay, dude. I’ll Usain Bolt it for peanut satay and brisket.”

“Darcy,” Steve looked magnificently dignified as he thrust his phone in front of her face, and instantly bruised Sam’s hip through pure air velocity, “The smiley face.”

Darcy’s knee jerked, taking out Sam’s stomach and pride in less than a second, as she went from snuggled to launching herself upright to claw at Steve’s phone.

“What the fuck you have a pinterest

“It’s THEM,” Steve insisted, “I know it.”

Fuck fuck fuck, okay.” Darcy twisted herself, eyes wide as her soulmate fell to the floor with a groan and a thump, “What the hell oh my god, Stevie you got your soulmate through Pinterest you mommy-blog loving art nerd.”

“Who are they? How do I find them?” Steve inched closer and craned his whole being over Darcy’s crossed legged frame, “How do I send a message back, what do I say, how do I ever begin to- This is my soulmate.”

“Yeah okay,” Sam picked himself up from the living room rug, draped The Falcon ™ blanket around Darcy’s shoulders and kissed her on the temple, “I’m going to make a saucepan of hot chocolate and break out the fancy marshmallows, “Steve, sit down before you faint.”

“Babe you’re the best,” Darcy called at Sam’s retreating back, “’Kay Stevie, let’s find you the knitting, yoga-doing, juice-cleansing surburban single mother of three you’ve been waiting for.”

I’ve always wanted kids,” Steve grinned dopily and fell back into an armchair, “What do I say?”

“Hang on cowboy,” Darcy trilled, “You’ll be darning socks, mending coats and planning pottery weekend getaways together soon. Okay, cool looks like you’re soulmate is using the screen-name ‘Canary’ – that’s cute. And they’re following you, so we can totally send a message.”

“I like Canaries,” Steve’s grin grew wider and his eyes drooped at the corners, setting a picture of blissful peace even as he wrang his hands nervously “What do I say back?”

“First, thank you,” Sam appeared with a tray in his hands, swooping down with hot chocolate drooping with sprinkles, whipped cream and marshmallows in huge mugs, with gingerbread men on the side, “You look like you could use a pick-me-up, buddy.”

Steve glanced up reverently at Sam and inhaled deeply.

“Trade ya babe,” Darcy rolled off the lounge, winking and sending finger guns Sam’s way, “Doctor Darcy M.D Esquire et cetera is prescribing smores. Emotional eating is just the final stage of processing joy.”

“Not actually a real thing!” Sam called at her retreating back, as he slunk down into her spot, “So soulmate?”

“I have an emoticon on my, uh, backside,” Steve paused, “A smiley face: Colon, left facing parentheses. Helvetica size 12.”

“Huh,” Sam replied, taking a sip from his mug, “Nice.”

Steve grinned and bit into a gingerbread man.

“So what are you going to say?” Sam replied curiously, “I mean, a happy smiley face has gotta be auspicious but take a word of advice from me and maybe consider something charming and be thought.”

Steve picked up his mug and stared down at the melting cream in wonder, sucking the warmth of the ceramic into his hands like a life-line. In lieu of speaking, he took a long drag of the sickly-sweet drink and made a face at the taste.

“What the hell am I supposed to say?” Steve responded, pausing to lick at the cloying cream, and dunk his cookie into the steamy chocolate “Hi, my name is Steve and I’m a super soldier from the 1940’s made by the American government to destroy Nazi’s, but I also dabble in destroying aliens and evil artificial intelligence?”

“Who doesn’t love anti-Nazi alien robot punchers?” Sam responded brightly, “I’d maybe suggest starting with ‘Hi, I’m Steve and I’m an old man who knits clothing for the neonatal ward of The Brooklyn Hospital Center using the fancy soft yarn, and also I walk all the dogs from all the non-profit pet rescues in Brooklyn so now non-Captain America volunteers have to make appointments to walk said dogs.’

From the kitchen, Darcy swore, huge clanks and the sound of sizzling sugar made Sam frown and lean back in his chair to see past the diving wall. Steve took another gingerbread man and tore through it in quick succession, making it through another four before Sam hummed and turned back to face him.

“One second,” Sam excused himself and rose to leave, but didn’t make it one second before Darcy called back soothing reproaches and he settled down again, staring at the place where six gingerbread men had once been.

“But then again,” Sam continued, “It might be more honest to put down ‘Hi I’m Steve and I am a terrible thief who steals all his best friend Sam’s favourite vegan gingerbread cookies from Erin McKenna's Bakery – I went all the way down to Lower East Side Manhattan for those- drinks his best friend Sam’s milk right from the carton, leaves towels on his best friend Sam’s bathroom floor instead of putting it in the laundry basket – were you raised by wolves Rogers?- and ALSO I interrupt my best buddy right in his post-breakfast nap with his very lovely soulmate who apparently has very intimate knowledge about Steve Roger’s backside.’

“Um,” Steve took a long drag from his mug and shrugged cheekily, “I’ll drop by and pick you up more cookies today?”

“It’s really not about the cookies, man,” Sam fired back, “- but I certainly won’t stop you from buying more. Darcy plows through those so much that I’m going to have to start budgeting in for her sweet tooth and dentist visits. She ate fifteen gingerbread men last night. She named them, gave them backstories and then recreated a fanfiction of the Hobbit. She was Smaug.”

“Don’t mind Sam- he’s just jealous that I’m the fun one, and that he didn’t hear about your ass before I did,” Darcy gloated, returning with a plate of gooey smores, and settling besides Sam; wrapping her arm around his waist snugly, “Sucks babe; bro’s before Falco’s.”

“That is terrible,” Sam licked his finger to wipe chocolate from the corner of her mouth fondly, “You are terrible.”

Steve swiped a smore as he watched the two bicker good-naturedly; he had drained the last of his hot chocolate and decimated the smores before the buzzing of his phone cut through the air and stole his breath from his lungs. For one horrible and surreal second, he wondered if the serum had failed and asthma was again a constant companion before he forced himself to inhale once, and then once again.

“Okay,” Steve nodded sharply, “Thanks for being such great friends. And for the hot chocolate and smores. I just needed to figure some stuff out and I hope that I didn’t impose too much.”

“Nah,” Darcy licked at her chocolate stained fingers, “It’s my day off. Sam is free til like 7 too so feel free to come back if you need to freak out or something.”

“Maybe text or call us first?” Sam amended.

“Eh,” Darcy wiggled her eyebrows, “Steve knows to knock first right?”

“Ma’am,” Steve deadpanned, “Do I need to remind you of my super-hearing? My very capable, very sensitive ears?”

“Ah yes,” Darcy continued as Sam buried his face in his hands, “How could I forgot that you enjoy the sounds of gurgling bowels and blood pulsing through veins. Can you hear the sound of your own arthritis popping and locking? I can make you a ringtone because we are friends now and I support your lifestyle choices.”

“Okay, that’s it, I’m done,” Sam called, tapping the lounge with his fingers, “Tapping out, you two; Darcy didn’t vandalise our microwave with smore remains only for you two to destroy my desire to eat smores. Darcy, sweetheart, I love you but I know that when I look inside that microwave I’m going to need professional cleaners.”

“I actually used the panini press,” Darcy admitted.

“Even worse,” Sam clutched his hand to his heart, “Steve, your first words should be ‘How do you feel about ruining kitchen appliances by trying to lifehack them’ and tell them that Darcy killed a dish washer trying to cook fish. We have two ovens, a microwave, a toaster oven, a grill, a slow cooker and a kitchen blow torch and she chose the dishwasher.”

“Babe, it worked and it was delicious.” Darcy defended, “You were one of today's lucky 10,000. College cuisine is my jam. Steve tell Sam that he needs a more Randall Munroe approach to life, and tell your soulmate that Sam once turned the slow cooker on, put it on the hotplate and then turned the hotplate on.”

“I actually just decided to tell my soulmate ‘Hello, it’s wonderful to meet you; I love your knitted sock board- do you have a favourite pattern?’” Steve dryly responded.

Holy fuck.”

Bullshit.”

“It’s true,” Steve held out his phone to dual stares of disbelief, “I have a good feeling about this.”

“Let us know when they respond.” Sam smiled back comfortingly and Darcy flailed her arms in delight as Steve rose and made his way towards the door with a blissful smile.

“I promise, thanks Sam. Thanks Darcy,” Steve ducked his head and was out the door quickly, phone clutched in his hand like a precious jewel.

Darcy and Sam were snuggled together in bed late at night, less entangled but equally as close, munching through fresh gingerbread men when Sam’s phone buzzed loudly, and Sam craned his head away from Darcy’s thick hair.

“: ) !!!”

Chapter Text

The meeting with her soulmate goes less well than she expected.

It’s Carl’s fault of course; fucking Carl.

It’s still fucking magical.

The story goes like this; a very happy Darcy Lewis, filled to the brim with chocolate lunch pudding was napping in Jane’s super cool science lab on the worst IKEA sofa ever (because Tony Stark was the world’s worst sugar daddy) when actual avenger Hawkeye woke her up by prodding her with his dirty fingers.

“We’ve gotta save Carl,” Actual Avenger Hawkeye tells her when she jumps and flails awake to the beat of her exploding heart, “Lewis you owe me.”

“Fuck,” Darcy says, because FUCK and also because he’s right; she does owe his smug bruised face, “Okay fine. Who the hell is Carl?”

Carl,” Actual Worst Human Ever Hawkeye responds slowly, “Owns that little Mexican food truck on Arthur Avenue. They have the Hulkrito, the biggest greenest burrito in America?”

“Oh Carl,” Darcy replies because she totally remembers the Hulkrito, “Who the fuck is messing with Carl? Drunk College Students? Soccer Mom? Italian Mafia?”

“Fucking Deadpool,” Clint replies with narrowed eyes.

“Okay who the hell is Deadpool?” Darcy replies because she totally does not remember a Deadpool, “New supervillain?”

“He’s a super nuisance that’s what he is,” Clint grumbled, “The merc with a mouth. He’s a Mexican-food stealing, dog-napping, asshole that’s what he is. Steel yourself Darcy because if you show him one shred of kindness, one iota of human decency you will wake up at 4am to that bastard eating all your cereal. All of it Darcy! He’ll grab a damn casserole dish and he’ll use it to eat your Honey Nut Cheerios, your Frosted Flakes, your Cinnamon Toast Crunch, your Lucky Charms, your damned mini wheats and all your damned chocolate milk in one monstrosity and then cover it in easy cheese. You’ll wake up to blood everywhere, no damned cereal and a shitty ass-mercenary petting your dog.”

“So like, shitty taste in food, bad personal space, blood and chronic dog-petting,” Darcy squinted, “How exactly is he different from you?”

“I don’t fuck with Carl.” Clint poked her again, “Darcy, we gotta save Carl.”

“Ugh,” Darcy thumped her head against the arm of the chair, “Fine. Let me get a bra and some pants and we’ll go to the damn Bronx. We can get some sweet little Italy food right?”

“Yeah, absolutely,” Clint brightened, “Bring your wallet.”

They find Deadpool two hours later, by public transport, because Tony Stark is the world’s shittest sugar daddy and Supposed Avenger Hawkeye has absolutely no concept of direction. Or maps. Or street signs.

It’d pretty hard NOT to notice Deadpool. Clad in matte leather spandex, with so many pouches, twin katana’s and a long flowy cape duct-taped and chained around his shoulders that swishes and jerks frantically around his shoulders. Quite frankly he looks like he’s overdone it on the costume department, and could take more than a few tips from a costume designer.

Darcy squints at the twin katana’s the guy has held to the old grey-haired man’s throat; the blades dripping what looks like cheese curds and gravy.

“Calm the fuck down Naruto,” She calls, because Actual Avenger Hawkeye has already drawn his bow and arrow and he won’t let her die by anime-fanboy because of all the damned paperwork he’d have to do, “How are you gonna become the next Hokage if you’re picking arrow shards from your ass for the next decade.”

The man craned his head back at her, twitched his head to the side and squinted. He rolled his mask up over his mouth to reveal his pitted and scarred lips and jaw, almost slicing his own thigh in the process.

“Huh, I wasn’t expecting that,” Deadpool’s head turned further, “You’re not my soulmate. I figured with a gig like this, the brunette with the boobs who very clearly said she’s never heard of me would be my soulmate but- no?”

Darcy shook her head, “Sorry brah. Haven’t met mine yet, but uh, good luck? Maybe you’ll find your own head-to-toe covered super-esque person to be your BDSM buddy or whatever.”

“Could be Vanessa?” Deadpool hummed, “I haven’t actually talked to her, but also does she even exist in this fanfic version of the MCU? My soul-mark here is pretty fucked up. Could be Hydra Bob. Or a random civilian. I fucking hope it’s not Cable. Fuck that guy. Whatever, wanna come back to my place and do the frickle-frack Shakira? The millennial foxtrot? The vegan meat boning? ”

“I’ll pass dude.”

“The Pants-off dance-off? The Blitzkrieg mit dem fleischgewehr? The ol’ Battering of the Corndog?” Deadpool giggled, “Huh, Butt-ering. It’s funny because I said Butt.”

“Darcy,” Clint tersely interjected, “Don’t let him infect you with his crazy. Ignore him. I know the Deadpool protocols. I have this covered, but as soon as we spring Carl you gotta save him- take him and run, kay?”

“Ooh! Do you have a teenaged trainee Avenger! I just had a super-trainee in my own movie with the coolest name ever and her guardian was okay too I guess- I mean the studio couldn’t afford another X-men but they were the best money we ever spent on creative licensing,” Deadpool rocked on her heels, “$783.1 million at the box-office, where’s your movie Hawkguy? So super-intern? What’s your name? I’m a fantastic test audience, I know more than one thing about getting overwhelmingly positive response from fans vis-à-vis superhero names. Deadpool is a clear 10/10. So who are you? Kitty Pryde? Rouge? You’re not Kate Bishop, the studio executives are totally casting Aubrey Plaza. Or Arden Cho. Or another blonde Chris.”

“Darcy Lewis.” Darcy waved, “Not a teenager, not a superhero, not even an intern anymore and not happy to be wearing a bra on a Sunday at 6pm at night. Leave Carl alone please?”

“Fuck Darce, what did I tell you?” Clint huffed, “He’ll steal your damned toaster waffles and your credit card and probably your favorite shoes!”

“I do love a good pair of heels,” Deadpool cheerily replied, “They make my ass look great. What size are you, Lewis? We can share.”

“I don’t mean to tell you how to live your life, but you currently have only one foot,” Darcy responded, holding her hand to block out the stump, “So yeah, what the fuck dude?”

“Carl and I were just having a little chat about that!” Deadpool brightened, “Thanks not-a-teenager Darcy, oh boy, the MCU is really shaping up to be a sweet-ass place to be, terrible arachnid-boy version aside, I mean how am I supposed to inappropriately hit on Spiderman if he’s like 12? That’s gross and weird and what exactly am I supposed to do here now hmm? Check and mate.”

“Deadpool just leave Carl the fuck alone.” Clint threatened, tensing his bow, “And Spider-man. I’ll bury you in concrete and throw you into space if you or one of your voices even so much as think of Spidey.”

“So he calls himself Carl huh?” Deadpool narrowed his eyes, “You’re not fooling me Stan Lee! I know you’re God and I demand a less prepubescent more manly Spider-man so we can have wacky fan-fiction hijinks! So we can cause crackfic shenanigans! You think I can’t take you on? I killed Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza last week, I killed my own creators and I’m coming for you, CARL.”

“Leave me alone you jackass!” The old man fired back, “Dinner rush is starting soon and I have to get back in the kitchen to prepare genuine Mexican cuisine. It’s chimichanga night!”

Deadpool stilled, “The lord tests me this day, CARL. You can’t tempt me with chimichangas! I have demands!”

“The first 20 chimichanga’s on chimichanga night are free!” the old man continued in growing rage, “I haven’t even started on the meal prep!”.

“I demand 20 free chimichangas!” Deadpool thumped his fists against the side of the food truck; the force caused the window shutters to swing open violently, pushing Deadpool to the ground. Deadpool’s cape swung out of the way and folded over his head until Deadpool beat it away.

“Then you leave me and my food truck alone?” Carl clarified suspiciously.

Clint stepped closer, “Oh no no no no NO! You can’t bargain with Deadpool! First you say, ‘Okay Deadpool you can use mu shower’ and next you’re in a fiddle playing contest with the devil, Carl buddy, don’t throw your sanity away for 20 chimichangas! Deadpool!”

Carl scuttled into the food truck; Deadpool watching closely until he nodded sharply.

“Well, I can’t say I’m super jazzed about the situation either,” Deadpool jazzed handed and dragged himself back to his foot, “Murdock isn’t that bad really. Besides, just load up a YouTube video or something of the world’s best fiddle- not like he could tell the difference much, even if he wasn’t micromanaging the shit out of 55,000 square miles. Is no one going to ask why I only have one foot? Where is the humanity! The kindness!”

“Why do you have only one foot?” Clint responded in a flat tone that said he really really didn’t want to know.

“Well,” Deadpool stroked his chin thoughtfully, “I don’t really know. I’m STUMPED! Get it!?”

“Hilarious,” Clint deadpanned.

“Being TOE-tally hilarious is my SOLE purpose in life,” Deadpool continued, glancing into Carl’s food truck, “Buddy, my man, my dude, how much longer?”

“It’s because you’ve got one foot in the grave,” Clint glowered, “Don’t talk to Carl. Don’t look at Carl. Don’t even breathe near Carl.”

Carl reappeared in the window, tossing out a paper bag, “Here! Take them and go!”

Deadpool let out a high pitched squeal of excitement, ripping into the bag and pulling out a chimichanga. He hitched up his mask higher over the bridge of his nose and tore into the chimichanga with unbridled glee. Carl behind him swung his shutters close; Clint could hear the latch shut tight.

“Fuck dude, you need to exfoliate.” Darcy stared at his pitted, oozing red skin, “Like shit you look like the poster-boy for MRSA.”

“I have a cheese-grater fetish,” Deadpool confessed, “It sure gets lonely at night. Just me, the cheese grater and my Bea Arthur poster. I sure am tasty though.”

Darcy stared, “What the fuck.”

“Asspool here has a super-soldier healing factor,” Clint frowned, “He’s functionally immortal, and he regenerates. That’s the only reason why he can sit here talking to us; because no matter how many times someone does the world a service and cuts his tongue out, it grows back.”

Dude,” Darcy scrunched her face up, “You eat yourself? What the fuck.”

“Renewable resource! And I was a zombie once. Good ol’ Headpool.” Deadpool grinned, then stopped and frowned, “That’s it! Fucking CARL! I remember why I came here you Stan Lee cameo-ing asshole! He’s been using me as a goddamn cash-cow! Carve a little Deadpool off here and serve it in the Bronx, who would notice a lil Deadpool in their chimichangas after all.”

“What the fuck, are you eating yourself right now?” Clint startled and looked sick, “Darcy, call Steve. And Coulson. Fuck call everyone.”

Darcy nodded, stepped back with her cell phone, looking more than a little sick.

“All I wanted was a little compensation! A couple of pennies for my trouble,” Deadpool paused to bite another chunk from his chimichanga, “Wow, the author really let this slide from cutemeet to body horror, sheesh, talk about no warning. It’s totally fine to eat yourself though, I consent and confess to being a delicious slice of man-meat!”

“Deadpool-“ Clint relaxed his bow, looking horrified but trying to adopt a friendly face, “Do you want to, ugh, talk about it? How about we go back to my place, you can ugh, eat cereal and pet Lucky and we can watch Dog Cops? Buddy-“

“Aww, you want your old pal Deadpool to play video games with you! Sure! I’ll keep you company friend! Just as soon as I unalive Carl here; If I take out a Stan Lee cameo, if I kill God himself, I will become the God, Godpool! As least, that’s what videogames, Young Adult fiction, google and that one cult tells me anyway. ULTIMATE POWAH!”

“Clint,” Darcy slid back besides Hawkeye, “I called everyone. Uh, Spiderman is close by so he’ll be here in five to give us a hand until the team gets here. To deal with human meat harvesting. Fuck dude, you owe me Hawkeye.”

“Uh, no,” Deadpool huffed, “They can keep my super-cancer-y meat products. I just want my moneys. I came to get those green dollar bills honey, I ain’t leaving without my money. I’m here as a debt collector, and I will collect on my $56.83. Plus tax. Plus tips. In this economy I need all the moneys I can get, and someone won’t let me sell my blood because of a little super-cancer.”

“You’re uninvited from my apartment,” Clint crossed his arms, “Don’t talk to me or my dog-son ever again.”

“I’ll take you to court for split custody!” Deadpool flailed, “Pizza dog loves me the most! I feed him pizza and take him for walks!”

“You kidnapped my dog!” Clint tensed his bow again, “You left him wandering around Hell’s Kitchen.”

“Well duh,” Deadpool rolled his eyes, “We were looking for mole people in the tunnels under New York? Where else were we going to find mole people, in an ancient Mayan temple in Texas?, pfft, amateur. You’re not very genre-savvy are you now bud?”

Darcy sighed loudly, “Oh look, is it a bird, is it a plane?”

Deadpool jolted, “What the Hugh Jackman, this isn’t a fucking crossover is it? God, I’ve always wanted to meet Superman but a girl needs time to dizzy herself up! I’m a mess! I need time to find Mama’s pearls. Oh! I’m telling Mr. illegal immigrant Superman some WORDS. Doesn’t he know he’s taking good jobs away from hardworking Americans.”

“You’re Canadian,” Clint replied tersely, “Also illegally in this country.”

“Is any human being illegal? Tear down all borders, man; power to the people.”

From the left, a thump hit the ground, startling Deadpool, and Clint while Darcy waved shortly.

“Oh, uh, I got your text Darce!” Spiderman waved his phone and bounced from foot to foot, scanning around and looking at Deadpool, “Um, is this the victim of the human meat harvesting- um, it’s just that he doesn’t LOOK like he’s y’know, dead?”

“Oh my GOD! You can’t just ask people why they’re not dead!” Deadpool responded in a high pitched voice, squealing and bouncing, “Aha! I found my soulmate first, suck it Hawkass.”

“Nope, nope nope,” Clint froze, “He is 15, walk away, leave him alone, don’t talk to him.”

“I’m Peter!” Spiderman waved, “Gosh it’s nice to finally meet you!”

“Hi, my name is Wade and I’m-“

“NOT TALKING TO HIM,” Clint strode towards Spiderman, “Wilson, I swear to whatever god you believe in that I will kick your ass.”

“Fine!” Deadpool dramatically threw his chimichangas to the ground, “I’ll be back in a few years my love, probably. I’m going to be honest, you look like less fun than Andrew Garfield Spiderman, but more fun than Tobey Maguire Spiderman, with the exception of that scene from Spiderman 3 with the Jazz Club. That will live in my spank bank forever, buggie-boo.”

“Um,” Spiderman replies, looking lost and afraid, relaxing as Darcy steps in front of him, “What happened to your foot? It kinda looks like a baby foot?”

“It’s growing back,” Deadpool shrugged, to the sound of Darcy dry-retching, “Oh really E-cup? For someone about to meet their soulmate, you’re not preparing very well either.”

“Ex-fricking-cuse me?” Darcy demanded, covering Spider-man’s ears with her hands, “The frick are you on about?”

“He’s 15! He probably knows worse words than frickle!” Deadpool huffed, “Captain America threw a bridge at him; Like, child endangerment much? If he can handle a bridge he can handle a little profanity!”

“What do you know about my soulmate!”

“It’s the very first line of the fanfic, dearest,” Deadpool huffed, “’The meeting with her soulmate goes less well than she expected. It’s Carl’s fault of course; fucking Carl.’ And of course it’s fucking Carl’s fault because fucking Carl is a debtor and I am a fucking loan shark and I am abso-fucking-lutely going to go Jaws on that asshole, go full Sharknado until I get my $56.83. Plus Tax! Plus Tip!”

“What the fudge are you even talking about!” Darcy exclaimed loudly, “Dude, you’re not making any sense.”

“Darcy,” Clint soothed, “It’s Deadpool. This is how he is. The Worst.”

Deadpool made an affronted noise.

“I just wanted to nap,” Darcy complained, “No pants. No bra. Full of delicious chocolate pudding. At this point my life couldn’t get any worse.”

“Challenge accepted.” Deadpool responded mildly, “Did you happen to know that Carl is a wizard?”

What the fuuccccckkk,” Spiderman quietly added, as Deadpool cackled, “Oh wow, who said that. What kind of wizard? Like Gandalf the Grey? Sabrina? Loki, former-Prince of Asgard, um, as in dungeons and dragons or like, ren faire? I can deal with ren faire. Not that, I, uh, go to ren faire or anything. Um.”

“Aww. He’s a total dork. Spiderman is gonna ruin my street cred!” Deadpool muttered to himself and pounded hard against his cape as it tried to escape his body, “YOU STOP THAT!”

“What’s with the cape?” Clint asked.

“The cape isn’t normal?” Darcy replied.

“We’re having a little domestic spat,” Deadpool hissed at the cape and picked up his katana, shoving it right through his body and impaling the cape to his body, “NOW STAY THERE!”

“Oh my god!” Spiderman flailed back then recovered, launching forwards as if to stem the blood pouring down Deadpool’s front, “Call an ambulance!”

Clint caught him, shaking his head.

“Wizards as in, Masters of the Mystic Arts formed by Aga-what’s his face, to protect the earth against magic something from other dimensions. Something something Dormammu ruler of the Dark Dimension,” Deadpool continued as if he hadn’t impaled himself with no warning, miming a complex arm movement, “He’s a shit wizard though. His wizard friends aren’t gonna be happy that he’s up to evil deeds and shit, especially since that hot bald chick died.”

“Fucking wizards,” Clint swore, and then swore again until he exhausted his mental list of non-English curse words, “Why does it always have to be some magical shit? Why, for once, can’t we just have good old fashion villains? A couple of mobsters, spies, even a double agent or two.”

“Uh, ‘Old Man Yells At Cloud’ much’,” Deadpool snarked, “’Back in my day we didn’t have to deal with magic, just mobsters and spies and double agents’ Booorrriiinngggg. If magic is a thing I wanna kill a dragon and fuck an elf. Or is it the other way round? Anyway, fucking magic I’m psyched! I’m gonna find a lake, goad it into lobbing a sword at me and BAM! Kingpool!”

“Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government,” Spiderman called from behind Darcy.

“Oh, I like you,” Deadpool preened, “I’ll like you even more when you’re, say, 21. Are you a Gwen Stacy or a Mary Jane Watson Spiderman by any chance?”

“I don’t know anyone called Mary Jane Watson, or Gwen Stacy?” Spiderman hesitantly responded.

Weeeiirrrddddd.”

“Uh, You still have a sword in your liver.” Spiderman pointed out, “And I’m the weird one? Is no one worried? Concerned? No? Okay. It’s not like you need your liver or anything. Even if you can grow them back you can’t grow your liver back while a sword is still actively in your liver. But whatever, what do I know!”

“I could use a hello kitty Band-Aid but I can’t afford to spend $5.50 on hello kitty Band-Aids because fucking Carl stiffed me on my own man-meat,” Deadpool sighed, pulled out the sword and then jammed it back, just a little lower, “Better now? Happy? Now it’s in my pancreas and no one needs one of those spiderbabe.”

How is that any better?!” Spiderman cried, throwing his hands up and stalking off, “You know what! I’m going for a walk!”

“If you could impale yourself a little lower I could at least get a laugh out of it,” Clint helpfully added.

Deadpool gasped horrifically.

“Before you bleed out, do you mind telling me what you think you know about my soulmate?” Darcy interjected hopefully.

Well,” Deadpool paused, finger crooked on his chin, “He’ll probably be here soon with his dumb butter-nut pumpkin-snatch face. I borrowed his dumb cape so I could soar into the clouds like a majestic Tolkien eagle. Or housing inflation. Or my penis.”

“What even-“

“And, because Taxi’s won’t take me to get kebabs anymore. Apparently, blood is ‘unhygienic’ and ‘disgusting’ and a ‘human biohazard,” Deadpool huffed, “It’s perfectly natural; I bet if I was a breastfeeding MILF taxi drivers would be begging me to get up inside their gross backseats.”

“No,” Clint replied seriously, “They wouldn’t.”

“Depends on what kind of backseat we’re talking about,” Darcy muttered.

“Oh babycakes, I like you,” Deadpool grinned; “It’s a total bummer that you’re stuck with Bandersnatch Cummerbund. He’s no fun at all.”

Clint stared, “You cannot possibly know who Darcy’s soulmate is. Not even you Wilson.”

Deus ex machina!” Deadpool flapped his arm, “You think I’d come to you, on the eve of my daughter’s wedding, lying about my arch-nemesis, Bulbasaur Countryside?”

“Um,” Spiderman popped up, “Okay I feel a little better now, I’m really sorry, but um, Carl’s gone?”

Fucking Carl.” Clint and Deadpool growled at the same time, with wildly different tones.

“Jinx!” Deadpool cried, “You owe me a coke!”

“I’m not buying you a coke…”

“Are you breaking the ancient most sacred rule of jin-“Deadpool stopped, and then shuddered, “Oh, this is why I wore my red suit today.”

The chains around Deadpool’s cape exploded in a hailstorm of metal shards, the duct tape ripped, and the cape surged out from Deadpool, thumping his face until the mercenary de-impaled himself and allowed the cape to flee several feet.

“What the fuck.”

Fucking wizards.”

“That,” a new voice announced, in a solemn grave tone, “would belong to me.”

“Beetlejuice Snugglesnatch,” Deadpool gravely intoned, “I’m like, super soz. I just really really needed a napkin and Red Lobster was all out.”

The cape surged, wrapping itself around the new comer, a very tall man with a refined face and a sense of boredom around him. The cape quivered and settled around his shoulders fondly, and Darcy had a distinct impression that it was whispering into his ear about all the terrible things it had seen and felt with Deadpool. The man eyed them all, sizing them up and dismissing them as not being a threat; Clint bristled, Peter nervously shifted and Darcy blanched.

“Holy fuck it’s Harry Potter,” Darcy grumbled, “First it was fucking Carl, then it was fucking Deadpool and fucking auto-cannibalism and human meat chimichangas and now Harry fucking Potter.”

The man raised his eyebrows at her incredulously.

Darcy paused, “And You’re my soulmate aren’t you? Shit fuck. Fucking Carl.”

Clearly, I am,” Her soulmate replies, and yep, “You associate with such interesting individuals?”

Fucking Carl. Of course, she meets her soulmate when she’s hanging with Deadpool, Spiderman and Hawkeye in a human meat trafficking wizard network in Little Italy. Still, Clint and Peter are fucking GREAT thank you very much and her soulmate wizard is a total judge-y dick. Those fucking words are scrawled across her ass and she had hoped at least that it would mean something cool, like holy fuck, you chill with Norse Gods and Superheros so cool.

“You are literally wearing a cape dude,” Darcy replies sharply, “Don’t get sucked into the turbine of a plane or whatever. Darwinism in action.”

Her soulmate gapes back, but that’s okay.

Everything is totally going to be fine, because Deadpool is immortal and clearly knows her soulmate’s home address. Even if she blows this, she can still ding-dong dash his dumb-ass for a couple of decades.

“Let’s start over; I’m Doctor Stephen Strange,” Her soulmate cocks a smirk towards her, “Are you doing anything tonight Miss-?”

“Darcy Lewis,” She responds, “Do you know any fun magic tricks?”

“Pick a card, any card,” He replies, and she grins because yeah, she can totally work with this.

So, the meeting with her soulmate goes less well than she expected.

It’s still Carl’s fault of course; fucking Carl.

But yeah, still fucking magical.

Chapter Text

His grandmother’s soulmark is an ugly painful thing. She covers it with a black cloth and lives her life in perpetual mourning. She doesn’t speak of it, doesn’t even glance at her wrist, but Pietro is smart enough to know that he has no grandfather. He wants to ask, to know why she covers the name, why she never speaks of her soulmate, but he is afraid to ask.

His grandmother is so very old, and so very loved when she sits him down on the eve of Rosh Hashanah and sets a plate of apples dipped in honey in front of him. She is looking much frailer and older than she had only days before, and his parents have been looking at each other in that sad expectant way. His heart constricts, and he wishes that Wanda was here beside him, for whatever words he will hear.

“You are going to be 13 next week,” His Bubbe speaks, folding her hands into her lap, “You must listen to me now Pietro, you must always remember these words.”

Pietro dumbly nods, then gasps as his bubbe’s hand draws closer to her black cloth.

“When I was a child, we lived in Poland, and when the war came, and the Germans took everything, we lived in the city of Łódź, in a terrible terrible ghetto,” Bubbe pauses and her face twists in sadness, “I was thirteen. They started first with the yellow stars, then the Gestapo came and tore apart my father’s store. Then they told us all, we must move to Bałuty, and we would not be allowed to leave. They put up fences, and in the first week, my brother walked near those fences and he was shot, and he died.”

Pietro freezes in his seat, because stories of the shoah, the porajmos, are stories that are rarely shared. There is pain in his bubbe’s face, sorrow and suffering marring her beauty, but there is also a clench to her jaw that speaks to her strength and survival.

“There was little food, little medicine. My mother Ruta, my father Moshe, my brothers Gersz, Izaak, Henryk. They were all gone within the month. They were taken to work camps, taken to death. They sent me to work at a factory, sewing clothing for the German army. I have never seen my family again.”

Pietro Maximoff reaches out a hand, a trembling pale hand to provide comfort. His Bubbe takes his hand in her own and strokes his fingers with the softest smile.

“Your grandfather was a good man. His name was Jakob, and he had been friends with my brother Izaak, I did not know him long. We married when I was sixteen without a proper ketubah. The Nazi’s had vanquished the rabbinate and the Judenälteste was a monstrous man. I was sixteen, and I had fallen ill. There was not enough food, not enough sleep. I awoke one day, and they told me I was to go with Jakob. They took us to Chelmno, the death camp. I was never so lucky to live, when the Red Army came and set us all free,” Bubbe peeled back the edges of the black cloth, and without the slightest hesitation showed him her mark, “At the camp, they gave us numbers yes, but they also took their ink to ruin the marks g-d had given us.”

Her wrist was a mess of raised scar tissue, with ugly black ink scrawled across her skin. Pietro could not see her words, could not read them under the mass of pain and desecration. It was a tribute to sacrilege, to evil in its most pure form, and he found himself clutching his own unmarked arm closer to his chest.

“But we lived, moj myszko. We lived together to see the end of the shoah, but our childhood homes had been given to the Polish, so we planned to move, to start over somewhere without the stench of death. Your grandfather lived long enough to give me your father Erich, and your aunt Ruta. We have always been blessed with twins.”

Bubbe moved her hand, to stroke the base of his neck with her papery thin fingers, and he relaxed into her hands even as his mind whirled with the sight of her mark.

“The world is cruel to us, moj rybenko, they hated us because we were Jews, and when your father came to me with your mother, a cyganie, I cried, and I cried. They hated me because I was a Jew, but they will hate you because you are a Jew, and a Rom,” Bubbe stopped stroking his hair, “I am telling you this, because I have known death, and I can feel it coming again. When the world goes bad once more, you must be ready to fight, to run, to survive. You must learn from me, so when the badness comes again, you may not be alone as I was. You have no mark yet, but when it comes, when the other half of your soul is born into this world, you must never let go.”

Pietro listens and falls so silent he can't bare to breathe.

"I am telling you this," Bebbe Edie says in a measured tone, "Because I see those pamphlets of revolution under your mattress. Those same ideas were the ideas my brothers had, and the ideas my brothers died for."

A week later, Pietro Maximoff is trapped under the rubble of his house, and for three days he clings to his sister as they stare straight into the unexploded bomb bearing the name STARK across its side. They rage and rage until they climb out of the rubble of their house, Wanda with a broken wrist and thick cuts down her thighs and back, but with a soulmark in binary code across her lips.

There is only rage and death, and they are torn apart and put back together again until they both walk into a Nazi laboratory too full of suffering and vengeance to dare to think about Bebbe Edie. This is their heritage, and history is a circle that revolves around. Once again Jewish and Romani bodies are used, and experimented upon, they are lied to and eventually liberated through their own choices.

Pietro Maximoff sees the bullets as they glide through the air, and he is so very tired, and he can only think that Bebbe Edie, Edzia Maximoff, chose the wrong Maximoff to tell her story. She should have chosen Wanda, she should have known that Wanda was always the one to live. What is the use of a story which is lost and forgotten.

There are no second chances, no unexpected save, no Red Army liberating him. There is only the impact of bullets, and the dark. There is only a message, a soul screaming into the void, a revolutionary dying for the greater good. Dying for the world and the promise of a better future. His death is captured on video, and the death of an Avenger hits every major station before Tony Stark can call on his lawyers. It is not an adequate apology, not even close, but Wanda Maximoff is born again from sacrifice and blood, and history grinds to a halt.

There is only a message unspoken, one that lights up the hearts of dozens of revolutionaries across Europe, across the Americas, across Australia, across Asia, across Africa, across thousands of islands buried in the sea.

They will come for you. They will kill you. Will you be ready?

The message is understood.

Chapter Text

He can 100% never ever never ever tell ANYONE how he meets his soulmate.

There is just absolutely NO POSSIBLE WAY to even begin to describe the whole situation without losing the little street cred that he has. It’s so uncool, it’s loser-nerd, not cool-nerd, and he can hear the Avengers laughing at him already. (Except for Captain America, maybe. He’s so wholesome.)

It starts off with flyers posted around school for a national youth science forum held in Silicon Valley. It’s a whole week of science galore with teenagers converging from all over America. It’s like the most awesome summer camp ever, except it isn’t during the summer, it’s during the actual school year and it also costs $1,500 for the whole accommodation, food, flights, tickets package. So because in the real world, Peter Parker has $50 to his name, and Aunt May is still struggling with bills, he dismisses it out of hand. It’s too soon to find ANOTHER job to pay for the science camp, not when his still has his ‘Stark Internship’ to work on. He doesn’t give the flyer another thought, until his Physics teacher asks him to stay behind after class.

“Peter, you’re a bright boy,” Mr Harris starts, as Peter’s heart sinks and anxiousness claws at his insides, “Have you seen the National Youth Science Forum flyers around school? I hung them up myself.”

“Um, yeah.” Peter shifts his feet and clutches the straps of his backpack, “I have, I guess?”

“Have you considered attending?” Mr Harris speaks grandfatherly, in a way that only super old guys can pull off without being creepy, “I can give you credit for this course and exempt you from the weekly popquiz if you attend.”

“I mean, it does sound awfully fun but it’s like a whole thousand and a half dollars, and that’s like SO MUCH money,” Peter ducks his head, “I’d have to sell a kidney or something to be able to go, and I’m really attached to my kidneys, Mr sir.”

Mr Harris brightens, and pulled a card out from his pocket, flicking it out to Peter in a suave movie-esque maneuver.

“I’ve already thought about that Peter, and I think I know a way to get you there,” Mr Harris’s smile grows even wider as Peter reads the card, “If you can spare a Friday night, and if you can prepare yourself beforehand, I think we can come to an arrangement.”

This is how, at the tender age of fifteen, Peter Parker ends up spending his Friday Night at a Rotary Club meeting. Spending his wild teenaged years in a room full of 90-year-old businessmen is not exactly the image he wants to spread of himself, so he doesn’t tell Aunt May where he’ll be. He is welcomed into the room with the friendly smiles of Rotarians, who tell him all about their community service projects, and their growing arthritis in equal measure. He’s wearing his best suit, the one from his foiled prom date but he still feels like an awkward teen in his dad’s clothing.

They apparently do dinners together, because the most expensive looking leg of meat something, in a puree of pumpkin is set down in front of him, decorated with microherbs and vegetables and he stares at it in appreciation of free food, before inhaling it with the speed of a growing teenaged boy. They stuff him full of bread, a massive slice of German chocolate cake with cocoa-dusted whipped cream, and two glasses of the good Mexican coke before they get their official club business underway.

Mr Harris, a Rotarian who seems to be a member of this club, takes to the microphone to give a glowing recommendation of Peter, and advocate for his attendance at the camp. He’s honored, and touched, but also spends a little too much time scribbling last-minute notes into the margins of his hastily prepared speech.

“Um,” He first says, when he is introduced and led to the microphone, “I’m here to, uh, formally ask for support for my attendance at the National Youth Science Forum. I’d like to tell you more about myself…”

He talks and he talks, and really, he’s not sure if it’s the orphan card, the struggling genius thing, or his unprecedented involvement with Stark Industries as the youngest intern ever that really gets him going, but they ask him questions and he responds with a quiver in his voice and sooner than he’d thought, the president of the club is leading everyone in a round of applause for the bright young man they’re sponsoring to go party with teenaged genius nerds in silicon valley.

“Oh my god,” Peter exclaims as soon as he’s out of the room and on his way home. He calls up Ned and just babbles and babbles and he can’t help but repeat over and over, “They just GAVE me money Ned. They just met me tonight and they were like, yeah you’re a good young man, go and have fun with the other science nerd teenagers.”

“Oh my god,” Ned replies back, “Peter, you’re going to Silicon Valley. All expenses paid. Oh my GOD. You’re the luckiest guy I’ve ever met”

“I gotta call MJ,” Peter suddenly realizes, and he’s dialing MJ’s number the second after he hangs up on Ned.

“You are aware that there’s a catch right?” MJ finally tells him after he’s ranted and raved about their generosity and kindness, and the German mudcake, “So my grandpa’s a Rotarian, he’s with like, a different club. Anyway, they’ve been trying to start an Interact club at Midtown- that’s like, the young people’s version of Rotary, for years now. You’re the trojan horse, nerdboy.”

“MJ, they’re paying $1,500 for me to go to California,” He tells her seriously, “If they want me to paint them a giant mural, I can pick up the paint tomorrow.”

“Whatever,” MJ says, and he can feel her shrug over the phone, “I’ll join your club or whatever.”

“There is no club,” Peter stressed, “They haven’t asked me. I don’t even know what a Rotary club is, so I absolutely don’t even know what an Interact club is. I just wanna go to the science thing and do fun science experiments for a week, MJ.”

“I call dibs on Vice President,” MJ responds, “You know how much I love power, right?”

He goes to the conference and it’s FRICKING AWESOME, and they do fun experiments and mess around with the newest and latest technology and Peter leaves with a hundred new Facebook friends, a dozen new messages on his phone and slightly singed eyebrows. He’s back in New York and he’s googling Rotary and Rotaract, and Interact and their idea of ‘service above self’ and it resonates with him you know? It feels like the motto that all vigilante superheroes abide by. He googles the diseases cured by Rotary, the mass education and healthcare programs, and he can stand behind that. He’s back in New York for a day before he turns up at a Rotary meeting with wide eyes and a hopeful expression.

He tells them all about his week, all the friends, all the professional career networks, all the experiments and fun and learning. MJ is sitting on a table with her grandfather, who still seems a little shocked by her physical presence, but he seems to understand when Peter takes a deep breath in and ends his speech.

“I wanna start an Interact Club.”

That’s how he meets his soulmate. He, MJ and Ned plaster the school in flyers, even though it just means that they’re bigger losers than ever, but by heck, they’re earnest losers. They’re sitting in Mr Harris’s lab at lunchtime, with half a dozen other nerds and social outcats hoping that even a few more people will come, when Peter’s soulmate knocks on the door.

“Hi,” The much too cool-looking teenager voices, as he sticks his head through the doorway, “I’m looking for Mr Harris? I need to get my phone back.”

“You should stay and join our club instead,” Peter blurts out, “We um, volunteer, and do community stuff and, um, we’re volunteering at a soup kitchen on the weekend?”

The teen blinks, blinks again, then closes the door behind him as he steps through.

“Hey, I’m Miles, Miles Morales,” He’s holding a skateboard under his arm with the coolest handdrawn art on the board, “And you?”

“Peter!” He squeaks, before the room suddenly GETS why he’s turned the brightest red ever seen on a human. MJ is cheering and Ned is gaping but Peter is still reeling from the realization that his soulmate is so much cooler than he is, but he also may be the single most attractive person Peter’s ever seen.

So, if you ask MJ, he meets his super cool artsy soulmate because a room full of old white men give him money to hang out with nerds in California. It’s totally not the coolest thing to meet your soulmate while trying to start a volunteering and community service club at your High school. When he tells his future spider children, he’s ABSOLUTELY going to add more lasers, more explosions and complicated heist plots. Or lie and claim they met on tinder.

MJ meets her Gwen Stacy while at a protest against deportation of migrant children, and they meet because Gwen Stacy pours milk over her eyes when tear gas is thrown. They’re got “Got Milk?” and “I wasn’t aware I was in the presence of royalty, meme lord” across their arms and DAMN. THAT’S a cool story.

Ned meets his soulmate because she’s duct taped homemade rockets to her rollerskates, and she ends up both knocking into him on his way home, and melting the sides of his second-favorite pair of shoes. That’s a cool story.

Peter’s cool story doesn’t come until much later, when Miles meets him on the rooftop of his Uncles Apartment, and Miles walks down the side of the building.

“Holy moses,” Peter goes, at the same time that Miles goes “A spider bit me. A weird one.”

But that’s a whole different story.