Inlaws v. Outlaws: Bounty
November 4, 2016
“I apologize for being late.”
Darcy lowered her menu to take in the last member of their lunch party. Evelyn Vivas, Pepper’s new doctor, slid into her chair between Pepper and Darcy. It was an extreme effort for Darcy to not sigh out loud, sandwiched as she was between to thin beauties. This is unfair. She took a long sip of iced tea to cover mild irritation. It wasn’t that Darcy thought she was ugly or fat – far from it. But she had flaws like everyone else and didn’t particularly enjoy knowing she was compared to whomever was standing next to her and found lacking. Societal expectations were a real bitch.
Jane was her best friend, and although she attracted gorgeous blonde hunks like sorority sisters to a ½ price design-your-own-t-shirt sale, her big-eyed pixie beauty was balanced by wearing ten-year old sweaters and jeans purchased from the youth boys department. Natasha was a real-world ninja princess, but Darcy didn’t have so much low self-esteem around her as she did the glee of the high school AV Club at Comic Con. Wanda – what Darcy had seen of her on tv, was the scariest, most ethereal Titiana ever. Pepper was an elfin goddess, and anyone would feel intimidated by those classic looks and elegance, but she was Pepper Potts. So. Point made. Darcy had come to terms with the fact that despite generous assets, nice skin, and fucking unparalleled skills with eyeliner, her best day equated Natasha with a head cold.
But this was going too far. One more woman added to the elite Avengers in-the-know, which was long over due and spoke volumes to the inherit misogyny in the system, and Darcy had to forcibly remind herself how awesome she was. Dr. Vivas, emphasis on the doctor, was a goddamn cover model. Five eight or nine, thick blonde hair, skin that probably bronzed beautifully in the summer and was kissed golden even as winter was approaching. She had legs out to there and an ass that Darcy couldn’t have replicated with daily, hour-long squat sessions. Not that she was ever going to do that. Vanity was one thing, waking up early was another. And Vivas had great shoes. Metallic blue heels with an open toe and blackened-steel spike. Darcy would have overbalanced and fallen onto her tits in those shoes.
Pixie, ninja princess, dreamy wraith witch, elfin goddess, and now an amazon. It’s official, I’m in a fantasy RPG. She smirked at the thought. All hail the skald.
“My transmission gave out. I had to take the bus from my meeting.” Vivas flipped open her own menu and glanced down.
Darcy reconsidered. Anyone who had to deal with car trouble could be forgiven glutes of steel. Plus, she was helping Pepper – and that gave her like, a zillion points in Darcy’s book.
“It’s no problem,” Pepper smiled. “We only got our drinks a few minutes ago. But let me introduce my friend, Darcy Lewis. She knows everything about me,” Pepper nodded pointedly. “And she works with Tony. Darcy, Evelyn Vivas.”
“Please – don’t hold that against me.” Darcy held out her hand.
“I won’t.” The doctor took her hand in a firm shake and lifted one eyebrow and said with a straight face. “But I’m sure Tony would like to.” Pepper inhaled her water and had to cough into a napkin. Darcy’s mouth fell open. “And please, call me Evie.”
“Oh. OH. I think we’re going to be friends.” Darcy nodded, seeing the potential stretching before her. Tony would be surrounded by women who could alternately kick his ass and verbally put him in his place. In some cases, both. It would be glorious. “Bestest friends. Are you cool with that? Doesn’t matter, I’ll win you over. I have oodles of charm. Charm and administrator access to Tony’s calendar. And his snack fridge. Please tell me he needs a new diet. Something with more fish oil. And, and, um,” Darcy snapped her fingers, “raw hot peppers. Yeah. This is amazing. How do you feel about Mexican?”
Pepper snorted again. Vivas blinked. “The food, or the ethnic group?”
“The food. Well, I mean, the ethnic group too, I guess. But that is ethnicity in America, right? Food and swear words you can say in public and crazy festivals with alcohol. Personally, I’m mostly Jewish – which does have charoset and matzah and gribenes – and basic British melting pot – talk about frying and boiling. Like – everything. But Hebrew swears are great, and nobody does gin like the Brits. So it could be worse. My friend Eric is Swedish. Have you ever had ludefisk? Don’t. Just don’t.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Ms. Lewis.”
The waitress arrived and refilled drinks while she waited for their order. The day was looking up. There was nothing that could beat ladies with a sense of humor and eating on SI’s dime. Darcy picked up her menu again.
“It’s just Darcy. Awesome. FYI, I’m getting dessert. And I am not going to the gym later. No shaming.”
“Darcy-” Pepper began, a wide smile on her mouth.
Darcy leveled a finger at the CEO. “Shut. It. Those who ignore the laws of calories and cellulite do not get to chime in here.” She eyed Evie closely. “You in?”
“I take it our future epic friendship is contingent upon this?”
Evie turned to the waitress. “Then I’d like the hot mocha caramel souffle and the avocado mango fish tacos. Extra pico please.”
“Damn. You play to win. I like it.” Darcy grinned. Yeah, she was constantly surrounded by beautiful, intelligent women who made her subconsciously worry about love handles and humanities degrees. But she was also surrounded by funny, loyal, kick ass women who made her feel like the future was going to be amazing.
Once the waitress had disappeared, Pepper asked after Evie’s work and Darcy was fascinated by the discussion of research agreements and medical regulations. Apparently, Evie’s former employer was seriously headhunting her – despite several very firm ‘no thank you’s’ and assurances that she was committed to Stark Industries.
“So they just keep soliciting you? With that same lame offer?”
“Yes, although they have gotten desperate enough to tell me the name of the proprietary project they want me on, Scion, but even if I was willing to sign their ridiculous contract, I already have an NDA and limited non-compete with SI.” Evie waved her hand away, frowning deeply. “To be honest, after their legal counsel for HR showed up at the hospital while I was on shift, I’ve been so irritated I wouldn’t resign even if I didn’t have any prospects.”
“We’d be happy to provide you with references now, Evie. If that would be helpful. Should you decide to leave SI, I wouldn’t want you to have to deal with Root again.” Pepper paused as the server brought their food. “In fact,” she began again once they were alone, only to be interrupted by the beeping of her phone. Darcy’s vibrated with an incoming text immediately after.
Space Ace isn’t answering my calls.
There was another buzz before Darcy could put it back in her purse.
Does she have a phone?
Does she use it?
She doesn’t use it.
She’s not picking up.
I’ll just go there.
The messages were coming so quickly her phone was a constant quiver. Pepper was thumbing through her own phone and muttering to herself.
Does she have any radio array access?
Just checked, nothing on file.
What about connections at the Deep Space Network?
Someone who owes a favor?
“Pepper?” Darcy looked up, and met the older woman’s long-suffering gaze.
“I’ve got this. You had that conference call with him yesterday. You deserve a break.” Luckily, their table was in a secluded alcove of the restaurant. Pepper stood and turned away to be polite, but no one else would be able to hear her conversation. Darcy was more than willing to accept Pepper’s offer to tag team; Tony was a riot and a genius, but there was only so much she could take before she snapped and flash-welded him into his own suit. Why Tony thought it was funny to insist on a conference call with the Captain’s group in LA, then immediately fly her to that same city to meet with potential financial backers, was a mystery to Darcy. But some things weren’t worth discussing. Like why Fig Newtons had a suggested serving size of two. It was weird and dumb, but not that important.
“Is everything alright?” Evie questioned. Darcy rolled her eyes and savagely cut into her club sandwich.
“Who knows? It could be that Tony needs help picking out a tie clip – or he could be booby trapping his secret moon base.” At Evie’s raised eyebrows, she clarified, “Probably not. He’s been looking for someone and exhausted all the usual options. Social media, traffic cameras, satellite imagery, drones. Himalayan mountain guides. I think he’s decided space is- goddammit,” she swore as she lifted the toast on her lunch. “I specifically asked for no mayo. Yuck. God, who the hell eats this stuff? It’s a crime against both humanity and eggs. Disgusting.”
“I’m sure the waitress-”
“No. Eugh. Thanks, but don’t bother. Seeing it there, all white and gloopy, infecting perfectly good bread and cheese with its vinegar based hell has turned me off food.”
“What about dessert?”
Darcy sent a concerned look over her glasses. “Evie. Sweetie. That’s not food. That’s mana from heaven.” She carefully covered her sandwich with a napkin so she wouldn’t have to look at it and pulled up her calendar app on her phone. “Okay, so you wanted to see Tony how many times? Is there anyway you can come to New York? Frankly, I can only trick him so often before he gets wise and has Jarvis lock me out of his private floors.”