Characters/Pairings: Darcy Lewis/Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, Nick Fury, Natasha Romanoff
Word Count: 2729
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me.
Summary: Bruce falls in love with Darcy in bits and pieces.
Bruce falls in love with Darcy in bits and pieces.
It happens in a word overheard in the hallway, a glimpse of the swinging edge of a skirt as she rounds a corner, the white flash of her smile from across the room.
He falls in love with her, and he never expected it to happen, but it does and it's awful.
It takes less than two days at SHIELD headquarters in New York for Bruce to know about her. The surprising part is that it took that long. She's SHIELD's darling, a petite spitfire with four inch heels and a tongue that cuts like one of Natasha's tempered steel knives. The higher ups dote on her, the junior agents are little more than her minions, the 'special' agents take her out drinking and teach her new ways to curse. The overall impression Bruce gets is that it's impossible to work for SHIELD and not be completely enamored with Darcy Lewis.
By the time he walks into Director Fury's office and actually sees her for the first time, sitting on his desk with her long legs crossed neatly at the knee and her already short skirt riding up almost indecently high, he's already heard a dozen stories that ring more hollow than true.
Then Fury tells her to get the fuck out, and she grins, says, “Sure thing, Big Daddy,” and blows him a kiss as she sashays out of the room, and Fury just rolls his eyes and doesn't quite manage to bite back a smirk.
Bruce suddenly finds every last one of the rumors easier to believe.
There are a lot of 'facts' about Darcy that everyone in the break room nearest Bruce's lab seem to know.
The first thing Darcy did after meeting Tony was convince him to take her up for a spin, and after they landed she'd grinned and declared the suit to be 'bitching'. Tony confirms that one and follows it up with the clarification that he'd misunderstood when she asked him to take her for the ride of her life, and after he'd agreed it seemed rude to back out. Not that being rude has ever stopped Tony before, but there you have it.
Darcy's wardrobe is mostly cobbled together from old costumes she has leftover from when she used to pose as a pinup model. Bruce does a google search on that one. He clicks on one link, blushes bright red, and immediately clicks out of it. Half an hour later, he goes back long enough to bookmark the page and spends the rest of the night disgusted with himself as he fists his cock a little tighter than usual like a punishment.
The scorch mark on the wall in the big conference room is Darcy's fault and involved hairspray, a burrito, and a chinchilla. The few people who appear to know the whole story always look a little haunted when Bruce tries to bring it up, and eventually he stops asking.
Darcy is slated to succeed Coulson in his position as the Avenger's handler, even though she's not an agent or even remotely qualified on paper. If there's any record of that, it's buried so deeply that Bruce would have to go on an excavation to bring it to light.
Darcy is probably sleeping with Coulson. Or Fury. Or Tony. Or Clint. Possibly it's all four at the same time. Bruce's stomach twists whenever he hears that one, and he starts feeling a little green in too many ways for it to be safe, so he doesn't even touch that rumor.
Bruce refuses to believe in love at first sight. It's a bad idea in general, and a worse one for him in particular. He can't afford to love someone immediately, not when it's so likely that first glimpse will be the only one.
He doesn't believe in it, so he doesn't fall in love with Darcy the first time he sees her.
He dreams of her that night though, of the bright red painted purse of her lips and the warm glow of unadulterated happiness in her eyes. Dreams don't equal love, though, and thank fuck for that.
She's afraid of him.
It takes him a long time to realize that, longer than he'd like to admit. It's nothing he hasn't seen on countless faces before. He's immune to the sting that comes with the fear, or at least that's what he tells himself, but then he finally notices the uneasy way her eyes skitter away from his. How she always seems flushed and jittery with nervous energy if they're in the same space for more than a few moments. How her normally fluid, never ending words turn stuttering and dried up the couple of times he actually tries to speak to her.
He notices, and it feels like something hot and festering bursts open in his chest, shame oozing out like puss.
After that, he starts spending more time at Stark Tower, telecommuting when he can, doing his best to avoid her favorite parts of the building when he's forced to go in.
He tells himself it's for the best, that it's stupid to be in love with someone he's never even managed to have a proper conversation with, and that this will make things easier.
It's not, it is, and it doesn't.
He fucks her the night of Tony's Christmas party.
It's a phenomenally bad idea, and he knows it. He does it anyway.
Most of the night is a blur of alcohol, music, food, and laughter, with just a few flashes of clarity. Natasha getting a little too much rum in her and pulling gymnastic tricks in towering stilettos that would make an Olympian weep bitter tears of envy. Fury and Clint sitting in a corner, looking far too amused for anyone's comfort. Tony performing 'Star Spangled Man With a Plan' in a convincing falsetto, complete with choreography that Steve confirms is pretty damn close to accurate.
Then there's Darcy, in a curve hugging red sweater, a short skirt, and candy cane striped thigh highs that Bruce wants to peel off of her with his teeth.
He remembers that she lets him.
Bruce wakes up before her the next morning, his head pounding, but not unbearable, and he spends a long time carefully not moving while she drools on his chest before she jerks awake with a snort that he wishes he didn't find endearing. Her entire face scrunches up, eyes screwed tightly shut, and the first words out of her mouth are, “Fucking Tony.”
Then she looks up at him and blanches.
Bruce tries not to take it personally when she sprints into the bathroom and throws up. He focuses instead on gathering her clothes together. The shiny fabric of her skirt is slippery, almost slick, and the soft cashmere of her sweater snags a little on the callouses on his hands. He finds one of her stockings, but not the other, and stands on the bed to get her bra off of the light fixture.
She doesn't look at him when she comes back out, which is pretty much par for the course at this point, just zeroes in on the small pile of clothes sitting on top of his dresser. A flush starts at the top of her bare breasts, slowly spreading up like ivy to cover her throat and cheeks and ears. She dresses with her back turned to him. Bruce stares at the vulnerable line of her spine, watches as all of that pale, smooth skin is secreted away inch by devastating inch, and curls his fingers into his thighs to keep from reaching out to lay her bare again.
“Um,” Darcy says once she's more or less decent . Her eyes are cut to the side, focused on a reproduction tribal mask he'd picked up in a flea market Steve had dragged him to like it's the most fascinating thing in the world. “This was, well. What I mean is--”
“It's fine,” Bruce cuts in, feeling too tired and bruised to listen to her excuses, too old and pathetic to try anything as trite as 'Please stay'. “We can just pretend it didn't happen. I'm sure that happens a lot after one of Tony's parties.”
Darcy's face does something complicated, her lashes dipping down to shield her usually expressive eyes, and even her hands are quiet where they hang at her sides.
“Right,” she says eventually. “Well.” She looks around, takes in everything that isn't him, then nods once, and Bruce thinks it's probably more to herself than anything. “Right,” she says again, and turns on her heel and stumbles out of the room.
The next time Bruce sees her, it's when Clint drags him down to the firing range to make certain he won't 'fucking embarrass anyone with a functioning trigger finger if the occasion calls for it.' Everyone at SHIELD is required to take bi-annual proficiency tests, even if all they do is push papers. Darcy doesn't quite fall into that category, but it still hits him with a jolt to see her with a gun in her hand.
She looks completely at ease, high heeled feet braced firmly on the floor, body strong without giving in to tension, eyes narrowed and focused. She squeezes the trigger, shot after cracking shot, until the magazine is empty, and when she calls the paper target in, Bruce is somehow unsurprised to see the cluster of neat holes ripping through the red heart of it.
Clint whistles lowly, says something that Bruce doesn't pay attention to.
He's hard, the line of his cock probably distorting the front of his pants into something obscene, and for once it's easy to be grateful that Darcy won't look at him, because that means maybe she won't notice.
“There are few things hotter than an attractive woman holding a gun,” Clint says loudly as he claps Bruce on the shoulder and winks at Darcy.
Bruce clears his throat and looks away, and Darcy makes her excuses before Clint can invite her to join them.
“She's a nice girl,” Natasha tells him late one night when they're the only ones still awake after a Godfather marathon. “Maybe you should try being less of an asshole to her.”
“Shut up,” Bruce tells her, because he's too tired of this entire mess to even care that she could most likely kill him before the Other Guy could save him. Natasha is so much more deadly than a bullet, he thinks; it's better than thinking about other things.
Tony finds a poster somewhere of Darcy from her pinup modeling days. Honestly, Bruce wouldn't put it past him to have had one made.
He hangs it in the lab, and Bruce spends most of a week with his face burning and his gut churning, doing everything he can to keep from staring at the narrow strip of skin between her tied up blouse and high waisted short shorts, before he rips it down and shoves it in the trash.
Tony looks at him, too knowing and sly, and Bruce bows his head over his laptop and pretends not to see the slow smirk that spreads across his face.
He goes into the kitchen one morning and Darcy's sitting there at the table, sleep mussed and completely out of place. She's wearing one of Tony's shirts and there's a purpling bite mark on the pale skin where the collar has slipped down to reveal the points of her clavicle. Bruce asks her to pass the milk and doesn't say, 'I'm so fucking in love with you,” as she hands him the carton while being careful not to let their fingers touch at all.
Bruce goes down to the lab and punches Tony in the face, because there are ways to make a point and that isn't fucking one of them.
Tony at least has the good grace to not pretend he doesn't know what it's for.
“Why don't you just ask her out,” he asks later while Bruce is begrudgingly digging for something that is a) frozen and b) not a bio hazard in the mini fridge to put on Tony's blackened eye.
“Because I'm not a fan of asking stupid, pointless questions.” Bruce tosses a bag of buffalo chicken wings at Tony's head.
“Harsh,” Tony says, and Bruce pours them both a drink from Tony's stash of emergency booze.
There's a thick coil of rope in the corner of the training room that can be hooked into a ring hanging from the ceiling; Clint and Natasha both occasionally shimmy up and down it in ways that don't look entirely human.
The first time Darcy meets the Other Guy it's because Natasha drags her down there for hand to hand combat training. She somehow manages to charm him and Thor into each of them holding an end and swinging it in a loop so that she can skip rope.
Bruce comes back to himself a couple hours later, and he has to swallow against the rise of bile in his throat. He's been operating under the assumption that it's the Other Guy that Darcy finds so objectionable. It had seemed obvious, but now he has to reapproach this from a new direction, because she clearly has no problem with him. That means that whatever her problem is, it has to be something that's wholly Bruce.
It's like being in high school all over again, when Mindy Sutters had taken one look at him, scoffed, and spent the next four years making out with various jocks.
He sleeps with her again at Tony's it's-a-Friday-and-we're-still-not-dead party.
This time he drinks less and remembers more.
This time it's not so much of an accident.
It's supposed to be his letting go moment, the last indulgence before he cuts his losses and reclaims the pieces of him that she's unknowingly taken. It's nothing like that at all.
Darcy's all hot, generous curves under his hands, velvet soft flesh that he can sink his fingers in to. She shakes apart in his arms, sweat sticking her hair to her forehead, and mouth pressed wetly to the hollow of his throat. He moves in her, over her, and she gasps words that he thinks he's probably not meant to hear, hidden as they are between sharp 'fuck' and 'harder ' and 'more' s.
He does hear them though, can't help but greedily snatch each one up to remember later, and his strokes gentle and slow until Darcy's writhing and wordlessly sobbing beneath him. Bruce smooths her hair back, presses kiss after kiss to the line of her jaw, the apples of her cheeks, the point of her chin, and holds on for as long as he can.
Afterward, she rolls out of his grasp before the afterglow's even had a chance to properly sink in.
“I know,” she says as she steps into her underwear. “I get it, you don't need to tell me.” Her hands tremble as she fumbles at the catch of her bra. She tosses what's probably supposed to be a careless smile over her shoulder in his general direction, but it falls short. “This never happened, right?”
And Bruce stares at her, eyes wide, because he remembers the words she whispered like they're etched under his skin, integrated into his very DNA, and his heart thumps with a painful thud, because there's the chance that he's misread this.
He slowly inhales, and figures that it's only his heart; he's been less careful with things that mattered more. Instead of agreeing, giving both of them that out, he hesitantly reaches out to touch a bit of skin right above her waistband that's already starting to darken in the shape of his fingertips. Darcy's head snaps toward him, her eyes finally connecting with his, and Bruce is a fucking idiot.
“Stay,” he says. He tries to keep his voice even, but he think it probably comes out sounding more like a plea. “You could stay.”
Darcy's eyes are huge, her lips parted slightly in surprise, but her shirt slips from between her fingers and she's nodding as she slides back into place beside him.
Bruce falls in love with Darcy in bits and pieces, but that doesn't stop him from staying in love with her completely.
Companion fic can be found here.
Title taken from this quote from Louise Erdrich's The Painted Drum: Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.