Steve is leaning against the glass wall that separates the main lobby of Stark Tower from the private lobby of Stark Tower. He should go up, he really should. But he can't quite seem to leave the quiet of the private lobby for the even quieter quite of the communal living room upstairs. He's people watching, Stark Industries employees mostly, entering the main lobby, chatting with friends, heading up the elevators, milling around in the vast open area in front of him. It's hundreds of people, none of whom know he's there, and somehow, that is both comforting and saddening at the same time.
He watches as a short brunette with her arms full of boxes weaves her way through the crowd. She heads straight to the doors to the private lobby like she knows it's there, and when she reaches the doors, she turns around to lean her hip against the door, pushing it open. Her heels tick confidently across the tile floor until she's standing near the elevators and he watches as she tries to shift the boxes in her arms to get a hand free to press the up button. She then tries an elbow, but can't get the angle quite right. Next she tries to get a foot up, but she wobbles on her heels and he can hear a frustrated sigh come from behind the boxes.
"Hey! Pouty McBrooderson over there! Come press the button for me," she calls to him.
Steve didn't realize she had seen him slouching in the corner, and he's up and heading towards her before he can stop himself. He presses the button and as the elevator slides open, she walks in. He can just see her face over the boxes, and her eyes flash at him from behind her glasses, her red-painted mouth brilliant against pale skin. "You coming in, or what?" she asks.
Steve steps into the elevator and politely asks, "What floor, ma'am."
"Fifty-seven, and don't call me ma'am." Steve presses the button for her as she drops the boxes to the elevator floor.
"Whew! Thanks for the assist. I had to be at a meeting this morning and those fuckers at SHIELD made me wear heels. Seriously curtails my mobility." She's brushing off her clothes with her hands and Steve's eyes follow the motions automatically.
She's wearing a dark pencil skirt and matching blazer, both tight enough to accentuate full hips and a generous bosom. Instead of a blouse though, she's wearing a red t-shirt that says 'Expendable' on it. He doesn't get it, but he likes the look.
"Why are the people at SHIELD fuckers?" he asks slowly, feeling slightly uncomfortable swearing in front of a dame, even if she did say it first.
She snorts and cocks up an eyebrow at him. "Oh! You're serious." At his nod, she grins at him. "You really want to know? 'Cause once I drop this shit on you, you can't un-hear it." He nods again and she shakes her head at him like he doesn't know what he's getting into.
"Okay, let's start with how they're a super secret government agency with probably no oversight, and how historically, that's all sorts of bad. Then, they're shitty to their people, they let probably the only good guy they've got get killed, and they steal people's stuff and don't give it back. And don't get me started on the Avengers." Her hands wave around as she speaks, the words flowing from her mouth with ease.
"You don't like the Avengers?" Steve asks uncertainly, suddenly saddened at the thought.
"No, love the Avengers! Don't love SHIELD trying to control the Avengers. That's like the blind and lame trying to lead the hot and amazing. SHIELD has been shit to them, and I don't even think that they know it."
Steve leans back against the wall of the elevator, narrowing his eyes slightly at her. "Enlighten me."
"Alright. Let's start with Captain America."
"Do," he says, crossing his arms.
"Okay, so the first thing they did to him when he woke up? Lied to him. Tried to make him believe he was still in 1940-whatever. Not a great foundation of trust there. So then, he's out of the ice for like, what? Two weeks before shit goes sideways?" Steve nods slightly at her. "But do you realize that for him, two weeks ago he was crashing a plane in the ice to save New York from a psycho who wanted to destroy it with the tesseract? And then seventy years, but two weeks later for him, SHIELD is shoving him in a stupid spangly costume and asking him to do it all over again! Not even caring that he lost everyone he ever knew and woke up in some weird future he doesn't even understand. They treat him like some giant dancing monkey they can just pull out for photo ops and alien invasions. Seriously. Who does that to a person?"
"Maybe he's not really a person anymore," Steve says quietly, trying to tamp down the flood of memories and emotions her words have triggered.
"Oh that is bullshit, and don't you ever say that again! People are people, no matter what they can do." She angrily brushes a tendril of hair out of her face while giving Steve a glare for his 'not a person' comment.
"Let's talk Iron Man," she continues, obviously enjoying her mini rant. "I know that Stark is a caustic, narcissistic asshole, but he's also a certified genius, and yet SHIELD doesn't want him anywhere near their stuff. Why? Because they know he would find all their dirty little secrets and that freaks the hell out of them. They are so damn lucky that Stark was willing to chase a nuke into space to save New York and that he didn't die, because I would have been flaming pissed if that had happened. And also jobless, but whatever."
"And then there's Banner," she continues without seeming to take a breath. "Sweetest, nicest guy I've ever met, and they treat him like a rabid dog. It's disgusting."
"You sure know a lot about this," Steve interrupts.
"I have friends in high places," she replies loftily. "But let's talk about my favorite way SHIELD is fucking up the Avengers. Hawkeye and Black Widow."
"Aren't they SHIELD agents themselves?" Steve asks carefully.
"Yeah, so you think they'd treat them better. SHIELD treats them like fucking robots! Do this mission, kill this person, assassinate this leader. Oh, did that tear out a piece of your soul? Too damn bad! Do it again!" She shook her head. "Seriously. Barton got mind-raped by Loki and still came back to help save the day. And what did SHIELD do afterwards? Made him plaster on a smile for the camera. The guy needs a long vacation and a daily meeting with a shrink, not a press junket."
Steve swallows hard, realizing that this young woman knows more about his team and their treatment than he does. "What about Thor?"
"Oh, Thor," she responds with a smile. "It's hard to get your claws into a guy who's a prince, a god and from another realm. But they have their claws in Jane, who Thor is head over heels in love with, so they kinda do, actually."
"What would you have the Avengers do, then?" Steve asks, his mind reeling that the best advice he's gotten so far is coming from a stranger in an elevator.
"Take their show on the road. Sever all ties with SHIELD and go save the world without them. It's not like Stark doesn't have the money and technology to help them do it. The Avengers should kick their asshole manager to the curb and do without one. If pop-stars can do it, so can the Avengers."
The elevator dings and the doors open just then. Both of them look around in shock, as if they had forgotten they were even in an elevator.
"I didn't get your name," Steve says.
"Darcy. Darcy Lewis. I'm Dr. Foster's assistant." She extends a hand to him, which he takes and shakes warmly. "And you?"
The look on her face is almost comical. "Oh shit. I am so sorry, I should have realized. Oh, god! I, um... Oh, holy inappropriateness Batman!"
"It's fine Ms. Lewis. No one has been that honest with me in a long time. Seventy years it seems," he says with a genuine smile.
She gathers up her boxes from the floor and steps out, her cheeks bright red. "I'm really sorry about the 'stupid, spangly costume' thing. That was totally over the line."
"Don't worry about it. It kind of is stupid and spangly." He watches her head down the hallway with her boxes, the back of her neck pink with blushes. "Ms. Lewis?" he calls out.
She turns to look back at him.
"Would it be alright if I came by to talk to you sometime? I'd really like to hear more about 'kicking managers to the curb'?"
She seems to be at a loss for words, which -if their conversation in the elevator was any indication- didn't happen often. Finally, she seems to find some. "Only if you call me Darcy."
"Sure thing, Darcy. Call me Steve."
They smile at each other before she turns and walks down the hallway and into Dr. Foster's lab. Steve returns to the elevator and presses the button for the 65th floor. It is only a matter of seconds before the doors open again and he is walking out into the Avengers' common room.
Exiting the elevator, he pauses. "Jarvis? Did you slow the elevator down when Ms. Lewis and I were in it?"
There is an actual pause before the AI responds. "Elevators take as long as they need to to reach their intended destination, Captain Rogers."
"Yeah," Steve agrees thoughtfully. "Just not the destination I was expecting."