Sometimes Darcy Lewis wished that soul marks appeared when your soulmate is born rather than just being there from birth. She had a secret fear that her two represented a child and an older woman with their mixture of abrupt manners and classic romance literature. It didn’t help that the Old Woman and the Babe had given her two fairly obnoxious marks - the one so long that she had to get a specially sized sleeve to cover it rather than the normal thin nude colored syntha-skin patches most people could use and the other so short and basic that it did her absolutely no good as she heard it approximately five bajillion times a day (or so her very scientific calculations told her). In the end she had all but decided that the marks were sure to be platonic because she harbored such a deep level of annoyance for the Old Woman and Babe. How could she be fated to be with one person who was so boring and one person who was so stuck in the past.
Her father thought it was hilarious when he was willing to think about the fact that there were people out there designated to go with his precious daughter, his brightest invention as he called her when she was a child. After all the two marks had helped him name her when he was just a scared 19 year old dealing with a one night stand who didn’t want the child and the need to hide her from the entire world. Some parents try to avoid fate by not naming their children according to their marks is the words include a name but not Tony Stark - no he looked at the two marks and knew exactly what his little girl would be named and how she would keep her identity secret. His Aunt Peggy had agreed although she had looked strangely distant and sad upon seeing the Babe’s handwriting before the small newborn size syntha-skin covers had been slipped on the babies arm and thigh.
The one thing that Darcy was grateful to her soulmates for was her love of reading. When she offhandedly asked her father to explain her name at age 10 he explained that it came from her marks and handed her the book that Old Woman’s mark came from. While initially frustrated at the size of the book and the small font she wasn’t a Stark for nothing and quickly worked her way through the thick book asking the families elderly butler (who was in truth not allowed to work anymore due to his old age and the fact that Darcy and Tony viewed him as a father/grandfather) to help explain some of the tougher words to her. She couldn’t understand why her soulmate would choose those words to say to her (which is in part why she decided that Old Woman had to be an old woman and platonic) but she fell in love with the adventure that reading that book took her on versus the experience she had had with children’s books up to that point. She quickly devoured every classic romance novel she could get her hands on working through the Bronte sisters, all of Austen before getting closer to modern times with Georgette Heyer.
Once she was in high school she discovered trashy romance novels and particularly loved the books set in the regency period, with a secret stack of particularly steamy ones under her bed. While the books were nothing on the antics the press was constantly attributing to her father she still didn’t want to deal with the teasing she was sure to follow if he was to find them. In this way Pepper served as her older sister and eventually mother figure passing particularly interesting books to the young girl while doing her best to keep her away from the most inappropriate. She was fairly certain that even though the book was so popular that the likelihood of anyone other than Old Woman actually saying it to her was slim to none so she had nothing planned to say in response to prevent a false positive. One side effect of reading so many romance novels (and if she was being honest terrible Harry Potter erotica) from a young age was an inability to say the proper names for genitalia. Instead she delighted in using the horrid words she found used in sex scenes, frequently checking lists of the worst euphamisms on the internet to update her vocabulary.
With the Babe though Darcy knew she wanted to be sure. When you have only two words from one of your soulmates and they are as common as her words from the Babe were you just had to take matters into your own hands. Or at least that was how Darcy saw it. So she made sure that anytime someone said her mark she responded with the most ridiculous thing she could think of. She memorized lists of random fact such as celebrity and presidential pets or the name and artist of every current top forty song. The year she was 24 she had Thor teach her the names of different animals he had hunted across the realms and would loudly describe them whenever someone greeted her. While it earned her some strange looks it also led to a couple of very nice but very confused xeno-biologists from Shield coming to her for advice. She helped them as she could and then secretly recruited them to Stark industries through Pepper. Anyone who was willing to approach a seemingly crazy intern to learn more about science was someone she wanted working in Jane’s lab.
Now that she was older (and in her mind far, far wiser) Darcy didn’t do anything quite that planned out. Her responses now tended to be quotes from whatever she had seen on tumblr or on one of the dozens of Avenger themed fan boards she frequented as part of her job. Not that any of her jobs was official. Her dad had offered her a number of positions around the company but for now she was choosing to continue working with the scientists three ensuring they didn’t blow anything up, monitoring the personal social media accounts of the Avengers members (even those she hadn’t actually met yet) and doing her own side research in robotics and intergalactic relations.
After moving into the tower with Jane and letting the rest of the Avenger’s “family” in residence - Natasha, Clint, and Thor - know that Tony was her father and Pepper her adoptive mother, Darcy and Pepper quickly began a weekly book group. Jane had discovered Darcy’s collection of naughty novels not long after the pair had begun work in New Mexico and was easily convinced during her long Thor dry spells that she should read them as well. Pepper brought along a reluctant Maria Hill, saying she needed to better socialized with the Avengers social group and break out of her hard outer shell a bit
Natasha just showed up one day bringing the book that the group was reading and a list of suggestions for further reading. She and Pepper had bonded over a mutual love of the romance genre when Natasha was undercover as Natalie Rushman. After Ultron Natasha poked open the ceiling vent above the group of women revealing a sheepish Clint who admitted he stole romance novels from Laura all the time. The group served as an outlet for the women (and Clint) to vent about dealing with the Alpha male personalities on the team and just unwind with a glass of their preferred beverage.
There were two members of the extended Avengers family who were not living in the tower. Darcy was completely fine with that. She had never met Steve Rogers until after the Ultron incident and the first words she had heard him saying had led her to do everything in her power to not fully meet him. She had been showing the still deep in mourning Wanda around her new quarters at the tower when they had come around the corner and nearly run straight into Natasha and three men who Darcy only recognized from pictures.
Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers she had been expecting to see at the tower soon but not Bucky Barnes, the man who had killed her grandparents before she ever had a chance to know them and had led to the massive data leak that had taken away her Natasha and Clint cuddle times for month while they went dark to build new identities once all of their secret information was made public. Needless to say she held a slight grudge against the man who had been the Winter Soldier. She mentally understood that he wasn’t truly to blame for those incidents but emotionally that was hard to accept.
Stopping Wanda silently Darcy caught Natasha’s eye, who subtly motioned for the two young women to wait where they were while she and the men, who were standing with their backs to the pair, finished up.
“I’m just saying Natasha it’s become clear that we can’t trust Tony! You heard him on the plane muttering about how now that his son was dead he needed to get back to his daughter. You know he meant Jarvis as his son which means that there’s another technological monstrosity somewhere in this building that Tony is returning to! I don’t fully trust this Vision creature and another Jarvis just means we are still at a risk of another Ultron attack.” Steve spat through gritted teeth.
Natasha started to say something in response but was cut off by a clearly frustrated Sam.
“Steve, you don’t know that’s what Tony meant. For all the time you’ve spent actually speaking with the man you wouldn’t know if he had a daughter or not. You are the one who told me you haven’t spent much time with the rest of the Avengers. You’ve been busy looking for Bucky and before that all of your time was spent with Shield.”
“Do you really think a Stark would have a child and not be totally flashy about it? I remember things now Sam, I remember going to the Stark expo and I remember Steve working with Howard. If the son is anything like the father than there is no way that the third generation of Stark wouldn’t be plastered all over the tabloids - Starks are incapable of being private. If Steve thinks that Tony is doing something dangerous than he probably is and I’m not sure I’m comfortable living in his tower...”
It was at this point that Darcy stepped forward, much to the visible annoyance on Natasha’s face. “Natasha, can you please tell your guests that they are no longer welcome in Avengers Tower unless invited for an Avengers work related meeting, a medical appointment, or an appointment in the labs? I will change their security clearances with Friday as well. Anyone who is not comfortable with my father’s security is not someone who I am comfortable having in the building.”
An angry Steve stepped forward and acted as though he was going to grab her arm “Miss Lewis!”
Darcy laughed a little at the thought that this loudmouth could be the Babe as Natasha grabbed him by his jacket collar and started to explain the situation to the three men. Darcy turned and looking at the nearest camera in the ceiling recited “Friday enact tower wide protocol - Two of the Silliest Girls in the County. Subjects: Captain Steve Rogers and Sergeant James Bucky Barnes. Code Lydia and Kitty. Restrictions: not permitted to go to Brighton.” Smiling she turned to the scene behind her “Mr. Wilson, I must admit I’ve been looking forward to using that protocol for months. You are welcome to use the facilities in Avengers tower as you wish and your living quarters are still available. I must warn you that your friends who mock the death of my brother and my father’s sanity will not be permitted to overstay their welcome in the building. I will have Friday send you the family dinner schedule and if you could let her know of any food restrictions it would be greatly appreciated.”
Then looping her arm through Wanda’s the two turned and walked away.
For the next several month Darcy had done everything in her power to stay away from the two men whenever they were in the tower. They had appealed to Tony and Pepper to allow them back in the building but both had responded that they trusted Darcy’s judgment fully and that it was up to her to lift the ban.
Steve tried frequently to apologize, but in all honesty he was worse than Tony was. At least Tony tried and would send gifts. Steve would just come and stand in her lab and stammeringly try to rationalize his behavior or worse, just stand there looking terribly constipated until one of the other Avengers would come and take him away for whatever business he was in the Tower for in the first place.
From Barnes she heard nothing, but small thoughtful packages began showing up for her weekly. A replacement for a torn cardigan, her favorite lipstick which had been discontinued, a gift card for her and Jane’s go-to girl’s night spot, and books. Oh the books, there were copies of books she had never read but which appealed to her sensibilities, there were collectors editions of her favorite books, there were books by authors she had tried once and put down but that in this book she truly enjoyed and in each book there would be a small typed note that said “I though you would enjoy this”.
In February the book group always celebrated Galentines Day - in part because due to the requirements of dating a superhero Valentine’s Day was always spent alone, in part because they all adored Parks and Rec (Pepper splurged one year and had the female cast come to their Galentines brunch after meeting Amy Pohler at a gala), but mostly because this group had grown extremely close and loved having the opportunity to celebrate each other.
On Galentines the rules for book group were a little different - instead of all reading the same book, they all brought books for the other members (funded by Tony so no one had to worry about buying that many books out of pocket) that they thought would make them smile. Jane was known for gifting books of essays about living life that she thought reflected where her friends were at this point in their lives. Pepper gave collections of short stories from up and coming writers whose careers she was fostering. Clint gave the trashiest bodice rippers which he collected while on operations around the world, buying them solely based on their cover images. Maria surprisingly gave poetry and Natasha gave translations of foreign works. No one knew what Wanda would give as she had only joined the group short months before.
Darcy though, well Darcy gave the most unique of gifts. She would spend all year going through fanfiction archives saving the best written and most interesting of stories written about the other members of the groups - as well as those with the least physically possible sex scenes. She would have them bound and the covers decorated with copies of fanart, making donations to the various writers and artists, and give those to the other women.
This year was no different. Natasha eagerly grabbed her present from Darcy and tearing it open skimmed the sex scenes.
“Damn, still nothing original.” she said with slight smirk and shake of the head before setting it down and picking up her mimosa.
Wanda was just getting ready to hand out her gifts when a slight commotion in the hallway had all of them turning to look at the doorway, Clint, Natasha, and Maria reaching for their weapons while Pepper and Wanda both started to glow slightly.
“Friday what’s going on out there?” Pepper asked calmly.
“Lydia and Kitty are trying to go to Brighton” replied the feminine voice.
Darcy and Natasha started snickering.
“What do they want?” asked Wanda.
Darcy sighed and said “I don’t know. Friday go ahead and let them in.”
As the door slid aside Steve could be heard yelling “Friday! I don’t care about the damn protocols just let me in so I can speak to her!”
At this point Bucky tapped him on the shoulder and pointed at the open doorway and the group of people staring at them expectantly. The two men took a second to take in the festive decorations, the presents and discarded wrapping paper, and the pitchers of mimosas and brunch food which covered the low coffee tables.
“Ummm, are we interrupting?” said Steve in a much lower voice “I just wanted to speak with Miss Lewi...Stark.”
Darcy looked at the others before getting up and joining the men in the hallway. Standing there silently she just looked at them waiting for them to begin.
“I know we got off on the wrong foot but I was hoping that maybe if...well that is...could we take you out for dinner tomorrow? I mean we were just thinking that if we took you out and showed you a good time that err well I mean...” at this point Steve seemed to realize that he was stumbling through his words and stopped with an audible choking noise.
Bucky acted as if he was going to speak to try and fix Steve’s misstep but Darcy cut him off before he could even begin with a single finger held up in his direction.
“Am I to take it that you thought that taking me out and showing me a ‘good time would make me forget the terrible things you said? The things which you still haven’t actually made up for and as far as I can tell you haven’t changed your mind about? Well I’m sorry, the answer is no. You are crazy if you think this will make me let your stick of miracles, Man-carrot, DNA Rifle, Sushi love roll, spam porpoise, or Throbbing meat truncheon anywhere near my Puddin’ Cup! Or that such interaction would have worked in the first places!”
At this point Steve’s mouth was hanging open and Bucky had a look of shock on his face before he started laughing uncontrollably, pointing a finger at Steve. This was enough to make him the target of Darcy’s continued ire.
“And you! You are just as guilty as he is but you haven’t tried even once to get your privileges back. You’ve just sent this idiot over here to try and trip his way into my pants to get back in the tower without helping him out? I thought the two of you were supposed to be gentlemen!” She turned to go back in to the room with the rest of the book group who were at this point high-fiving one another for the, in their minds, well executed put down of the two men when a voice behind her stopped her.
“You are mistaken, Ms Darcy, if you suppose that the mode of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you behaved in a more ladylike manner.”
She turned back around slowly before croaking out “Old Woman and the Babe” pointing angry fingers at them in succession.
Bucky chuckled and said “I loved Pride and Prejudice when I was younger and while that might have not been the most situationally appropriate response to your screaming I have been waiting to use a line from that book on you ever since you snootily put those damn protocols into effect.”
Darcy and Steve were still speechless, her staring at the two men she had spent the last several months angry with who were apparently her soulmates, and Steve looking at the angry brunette who has been haunting his and his partner’s dreams for months, the one who he thought could be the replacement for the third soulmate he was sure had died long ago.
Stutteringly Darcy whispered “Did I say your words?” barely noticing the footsteps behind her as the entire book group moved as one to stand in the doorway. Steve nodded before pulling up his shirt, turning around and peeling off a large syntha-skin patch from his right shoulder. There in cramped handwriting was Darcy’s entire rant. Turning towards Bucky, he was also pulling a patch off the area of his chest immediately beneath where the skin and metal met revealing yet another rant.
“Do you know that his mother thought his soulmate would be possessed by the devil because of that soulmark?” Bucky asked nodding towards Steve.
Darcy blushed as she responded “Well at least you didn’t grow up knowing that you were named not by your parents but by your soulmarks.”
“Can we please take you out to dinner? I would like to make amends for the things I said that day. I’ve spoken to your father about them and he’s forgiven me. Can we please try again?” Steve asked with a sad voice.
Darcy was getting ready to say no when she was gently pushed from behind. Looking over her shoulder she saw Wanda waving at her, fingers still glowing pink.
“Why don’t we go get coffee now? Explain everything and maybe we can get dinner tomorrow.”
The next day they got dinner.
The next month they got her to agree to an official date.
On the night of the first date they were given full tower privileges again.
By the next Galentines day they were living in the tower.
And just like every good book they all got their happily ever afters.