December 4, 2016
Her palms were sweating. Ten minutes away from the White House and Darcy was a nervous wreck in the plush backseat of a Stark Industries town car. Which was beyond mortifying – and that only made her sweat more. A meeting with President Ellis, lame-duck or no, was not a good time to have damp hands. A meeting with President Ellis, Tony Stark, and Captain America all in the same room was certainly cause for stress-induced sweat – all the sweat, really, but it wasn’t terribly convenient. Darcy needed to chill the fuck out.
“Friday?” she called out softly. “Would you bring up some Dorothy for me?”
“The ROCKISDEAD album, Ms. Lewis?”
Darcy let out a heavy breath into the confines of the car, grateful for the privacy screen She did not need some anonymous SI driver seeing her freak. “You read my mind. Like two peas in a pod. Sisters separated at birth. Soulmates. The statistically impossible but blessed by the gods random assignment of a dorm roommate that both showers daily and does not play the accordion. We’re simpatico, Friday.”
“I believe there are several inaccuracies with your statements, Ms. Lewis. But I am able to appreciate the sentiment.”
It wasn’t like Darcy had never met Ellis. She had. Of course her first meeting had been a bit of a surprise for her since she had been scheduled to talk with his Chief of Staff – under the guise of speaking with the Director of the First Lady’s charitable fund. There hadn’t been time to be nervous over the sudden change in attendees. And that had worked out fine. Better than fine. It turned out Ellis felt trapped by the Accords and was looking to get a little revenge on General Ross – whom Ellis believed was using the situation and Ellis himself to gain enough political clout for a future run for office.
Darcy hadn’t voted for the guy or anything, but she had to respect his ability to admit his mistakes – at least privately – and to work towards a solution. That Ross would end up with egg on his face and hopefully a pink slip were just icing on the cake as far as Darcy was concerned. Ellis didn’t seem to mind that the President-elect, from the opposing party, was going to look a little foolish as well when Ellis stole her thunder.
She glanced at her tablet one more time to review the documents she already had memorized. A full pardon for Captain Steven Rogers, Staff Sergeant Samuel Wilson, Clinton Barton, Wanda Maximoff, and Scott Lang – for his part in the Accords, not for his previous felony. Wanda too, was being granted expedited citizenship. A separate, nearly two-hundred page document detailed exactly how Sergeant James Barnes would be relieved of legal responsibility both for his actions against the Accords and any actions taken while a POW. Darcy had spent countless hours drafting and redrafting it; meeting Bucky in Ottowa had only solidified her determination to make certain every demand she made for him was taken seriously and acquiesced to.
The car pulled up to the front gate, and Friday thoughtfully lowered the volume while Darcy showed her ID. By the time they reached the entrance, she could hear a helicopter powering down. Darcy closed her eyes and held back a groan. She had asked Tony to keep things low key. She specifically told him in no uncertain terms that only Marine Force One was allowed to land on the White House lawn and being Iron Man did not give him special dispensation.
Her door swung open, and no guns were pointed at her, so she took that as a sign that either Tony had already talked his way out of arrest, or – more likely – Pepper had worked her magic and actually received permission for the helicopter stunt. A wide, lightly calloused hand reached in for her, and Darcy slid her tablet away to take it. She then congratulated herself on hiding her surprise at finding Steve Rogers, in his full military uniform, holding her hand and offering his arm.
“Ma’am,” he offered with a tight smile. The uniform had been her idea – better to really drive home the message of who the Accords had fucked with – and it did great things for his shoulders. Not that they needed the help.
“Captain.” From the corner of her eye she could see the Marines at attention. Their faces were impressively impassive, despite having Captain America – a genuine WWII vet – on their doorstep. Steve, on the other hand, looked a little nervous under his practiced smile. His free hand brushed against the crease in his slacks before he straightened to his full height and offered to carry her bag.
“Thank you, but I’m pretty sure I’d be setting back feminism a good fifty years if I couldn’t carry my own damn tablet.” As she had hoped, he blinked hard at her profanity and seemed to get a bit more color. “And security is going to have to look through it and pat me down anyhow – so it seems like kind of a waste.” He looked a little offended at the idea she would be patted down, and his shoulders had relaxed at least another inch, so Darcy started toward the staffer waiting to escort them and kept up her running dialogue.
“Plus, there has to be at least one photographer with a long-range lens out there, and even if no one else does, I imagine Jiminy Cricket will recognize you in this getup. And then you’ll have to listen to him bitch about your manners – which I would pay good money to hear. Well, Tony’s money. Which is, well, not good, I guess, but better? Better than paying mine, anyhow. Graduate school is expensive. How is Jim, by the way? Enjoying lounging by the pool? If so, could you describe it. In salacious detail. Please, do go on.” She handed over her bag to a Secret Service agent who looked less than impressed with her commentary, and then stepped to the side so a female agent could grope her in a professional capacity. The woman flicked a few glances over at Steve – who was not patted down, which was just insulting, since he was the fugitive and Darcy looked the opposite of dangerous – but the agent said nothing.
“We bonded you know. It’s okay, you don’t need to feel jealous. I’m sure you’re still his ‘best’ friend,” she made air quotes. “But be aware that once I get him in proximity, there will be bribery. I have the numbers of all the best delivery places on speed dial and a company credit card. I am not afraid to buy friendship with food. So you better step it up a notch, Captain. Because you will feel totally left out when we are mainlining television and inside jokes without you. You’ll be sad and bereft and melancholy and woebegone. And no one likes a woebegone super hero. It makes all of the rest of us normals feel guilty about staring at your muscles.”
The male agent, after she passed through the metal detector, handed back her bag with a stone-wall face and a softly muttered, “Nice.” Darcy grinned.
“Have you ever found a word you didn’t want to use?”
Darcy paused, seeing Tony at the other end of the hall in his sunglasses admiring a painting. She took the question much more seriously than she knew Steve had probably intended. “Corpusculant. Although, I’m sure it has its place – just not one that I ever want to know about.”
He choked on a laugh, finally looking like he was ready for the meeting. Job well done, she congratulated herself. Tony saw their approach and met them halfway, with another White House staffer in tow.
“Apparently the Speaker and the Attorney General are sitting in. This is going to run long, isn’t it? Lewis, I have a hard and fast itinerary today, I simply can’t let this meeting upset my schedule.”
“Actually,” he smoothed down his tie as they were lead towards the Oval Office, “I do. Your tiny science overlord has demanded use of some deep space receivers. You know how I live to accommodate, Lewis.” He tipped his glasses down to look at her over the lenses. Darcy snorted.
“Is that,” Steve’s voice was considerably lower and more measured, in deference to their location and the dozens of federal employees who were either staring as they passed by, or trying desperately to look like they weren’t. “You’re talking about Dr. Foster?”
“Jane is not my overlord, Stark,” Darcy answered. “She’s my benevolent queen, just as soon as Thor gets back and he promotes me to official Asgardian cup bearer slash protector of delicate electronics. So you better play nice, or you’ll be lucky if she just bans you from her future realm – instead of throwing the rainbow whammy on you and sending you someplace not nearly as swank as your Tower.”
“I was thinking a black hole. But sure, there too.” Another agent outside the office touched his ear and spoke softly, drawing Steve’s attention. Darcy wondered if he could hear what the man was saying. Or what was being said on the other end.
“President Ellis will see you now.” The Chief of Staff took over their escort and opened the door.
“Is Wisconsin still an option?” Steve muttered as a room full of politicians was revealed to be standing and waiting for them.
Tony laughed so hard he snorted.
“Well,” Darcy said three hours later, then stopped. She wasn’t quite sure what to say after that. “I hope the pictures turned out nice.”
“They shook my hand, Lewis.” Tony still sounded disgusted, holding his right hand slightly away from his body as if it might infect the rest of him.
“I thought it – it went pretty well.” Steve looked a little stunned. As well he should, Darcy thought with satisfaction. She hadn’t shared all the details of the agreements with either him or Tony. Steve – so that it wouldn’t be too disappointed if she wasn’t successful. Tony – well, Tony just didn’t want to hear about details that didn’t involve magnetic couplings or isolinear circuits.
“Pretty well? Pretty well?” Tony rounded on Steve in the odd little parlor where they had been asked to wait while the car was brought around and the helicopter warmed up. “Do you have any idea how much polyester was in that room! Those were natural-synthetic blends, Rogers. Blends! Probably off the rack – oh, I think I’m going to break out in hives. Lewis,” he barked, “come look at my neck. Do I have hives?”
“Hm.” Darcy obediently leaned close to his neck. Eau de Smaug wafted to her, comforting and familiar after months working closely to establish the Yinsen Foundation and tear down the Accords. And now it is done. Tony had done excellent work, not just throwing around his money and influence, but in admitting where he had been wrong and in trying to rebuild something with Steve. She was willing to give him some slack for that. “Maybe a few spots, Tony. Do you have cortisone on the helicopter?”
“No. No, no, no. I’m taking the jet. I think I need a shower. And to burn this suit. It has been contaminated. And I’m updating my policy on the number of currently serving politicians that can be in the same room with me at the same time. The number is no more than one. And only if Pepper is there too.”
“Does that preclude Congressional hearings?” Darcy asked, at the same time Steve said,
“I’ll need different transport back to Ottawa, if you need your plane.”
“You can have the helicopter.” Tony waved off Steve. “And of course it doesn’t, Lewis. That’s what lawyers are for.”
“I was supposed to use the helicopter,” Darcy reminded Tony as a new staffer arrived to let them know their rides were ready. “Remember? I need to meet Jane and Thor before we fly to Sweden?”
Tony sighed as if nothing could be done without him. In this one instance, she was willing to allow he was right. It was his plane and his helicopter, after all. “You,” he pointed at Steve, “drop her off at the upstate facility on your way. You,” he pointed at Darcy, pulling out his phone as they walked, “what color do you prefer for Yinsen air transport? Black is a classic, but we can go with something a little flashier of course. Red? It’s not like you will need to be covert. Maybe something with a racing stripe. Friday,” he hit the speaker function, “start the order process for a helicopter for Lewis. Go ahead and keep the basic Iron Man features, but let’s add in a…”
Darcy waved off Steve, mouthing that she would catch up with him, and shooed away the wide-eyed staffer to give them some privacy.
“Yes, Ms. Lewis?” At least the AI responded to her.
“I do not need a helicopter.”
Tony grunted. “Of course you do. Transportation is a key…something. It’s a commonly provided benefit of…places. Look. You’re getting a helicopter, Lewis, so stop being such a baby about it and pick a color already so I can get started. I don’t have all day to spend on your issues, you know.” He finally looked up long enough that she could catch his gaze. Using only her eyes, she tried to convey how utterly unimpressed she was. When, in actuality, the idea of her own helicopter was pretty badass. He continued,
“All right, be that way. How about a car? Something sporty but classy. Do we need to go American? Because I think a-”
“Tony.” Darcy lowered her voice and turned so her body blocked anyone who might decide to stick their head around the security detail at either end of the hall. “What’s going on?”
“You did it.” His whole body sort of deflated, and Darcy went from touching his arm out of concern to gripping it in case he fell. “You fixed it.”
“I wasn’t the only one, Tony.” He needed to do something – something to show how important this was for him. If Darcy had learned one thing about Tony Stark, it was that presents were his way of apologizing, showing gratitude, expressing love, avoiding emotions, and pretty much every other psychological coping mechanism. She smiled and winked. “But if you want to give me all the credit, maybe we could go with something smaller than a car?”
She laughed. “I was thinking more along the lines of my new apartment. Maybe, if Friday is willing, she could take over a few functions there?”
“It would be my pleasure, Ms. Lewis.”
Tony rolled his eyes at his phone. “Done. But you haven’t seen the end of this, Lewis. What you’ve done, what you’re doing…” His voice dropped another level until he was barely making any sound and Darcy had to lean forward to hear him. “I couldn’t have fucking done this without you. I needed someone to call me out, and like a goddamned irritating slap in the head from the devil himself, you did that. I…need you to keep doing that, Lewis.”
“Keep being a hellacious bitch with no compunction about calling you on your shit?”
He let out a little half-sigh, half-laugh. “That’s you, Lewis. That’s you.” He straightened abruptly and turned to leave by way of the front door and private car. “Friday, get my tunes going. And call up NASA, I am not going to land at the public airport. Ridiculous when they have a perfectly good runway they aren’t even using.”
Darcy shook her head, still smiling, and went the opposite direction towards the wide lawn and Tony’s helicopter. She had brokered Avengers peace and a total of fourteen service medals. All she had left to do that day was make housing and travel arrangements for those still in Canada and shove Jane out the door to get her Nobel prize. Plus, she had a couple of hours of sitting next to tall, ripped, and morally upright to help her commute pass quicker.
All in all, a good day’s work.