The Babes of the Night.
Darcy Lewis woke up, groaning and holding her head. "Where am I?" She blinked, looking around her room. It had to be her room in her apartment in Queens. How had she gotten here? She had been somewhere weird, but she didn't remember where. She blinked at the hand holding a glass of water, taking it to sip. "What happened?"
"That's what we want to know," Tony Stark said, staring down at her. "You went missing for three days."
She shook her head slowly. "I was somewhere. It was weird. I don't...." She sat up, gulping the water fast enough to choke. "That jackass!"
"What jackass?" Tony demanded. "We found you alone in an abandoned house, Lewis. You're not usually that risky. And while we're at it, how long have you been hiding the baby?"
"What baby?" she demanded, looking at her stomach. "That's new." Tony snorted. "I swear, I was not like this when I went out to get a beer with a college friend who just moved up here." She pushed back her hair again. "I know I should remember. Why can't I remember?" She looked at her stomach again. "That's definitely not something I've wanted or needed or had." She frowned. "I wish I remembered." Someone knocked on the door to the apartment. "That's fantastic," she said. "Who the hell is it?" she called, trying to get up.
Tony pushed her back down and went to answer it. "Do we know you?" he demanded.
"Well, I certainly know your ass, Stark," he said dryly. "Though you probably haven't seen me in two years, since that battle in Pasadena." Stark gaped, staring at him. "I was invoked?" he asked dryly. He walked around the stunned man. "Ah! You're the reason I was invoked from Canada."
"Canada? I was in Canada?" she demanded.
"No, I'm the head watcher in Canada, dear. There's been rumors about you." He sat on the foot of the bed. "I'm Xander. I'm the trainer for most of the slayers and the head guy in Canada. What do you remember of the last five days?"
"One of my college friends just got a job up here. We went out for beers and wings." She frowned, thinking back. "There was a d-bag in the bar who wouldn't leave us alone. We broke up and I got a cab ...I... What rumors?"
He grinned. "First, was the d-bag really pale?"
"You think it was a vampire?" she demanded. Watchers meant demons, usually vampires.
"No, actually I know. The rumors going around are stupidly rampant. The d-bag's name is Joseph. He's a fairly young dickhead of a specific type of vampire." He pointed at her stomach. "They can do that at will. Then they demand the mothers get turned. The kids are never born alive thanks to the turning but that's how they make supposed mates. They wanted you hard." She glared at him. He shrugged. "They can compel you with a long enough touch to your arm to get your mental signature. One almost got a slayer until I blew his head off."
"I..." She blinked hard. "I remember something about an execution day. That's what they called my coming over day. I'm not turned."
"You're not." Xander smiled. "Which is why the rumors are going so hard about you. You made him leave you. We don't know how but he did abandon you, something they never do. Otherwise you would've woken up dead this morning after they removed the fetus." She shuddered. "The good news is that the baby's not going to be some half-breed. It's not going to come out with fangs or anything. And they can't touch the baby after so long after the birth because it'll be its own person instead of part of you. Because until then, the rules of sympathy and contagion work. They can get you back with the baby and start the turning, but not the full thing, by doing it to the baby."
"How do we stop that?" Stark demanded quietly.
"There's a few ways. The only three things the baby will inherit from the demonic virus is that you're due tomorrow or the next day, it's some sort of weird speed healing thing."
"Will that keep going?"
"So nothing like Bella's little spawn?"
"Nope." He grinned. "Which is always a good thing. If you're going to be a novel heroine there's better ones." She nodded that was true. "Second and third thing, the baby will be a bit better than human normal in some areas like strength. Also, they're going to have a funny diet. Half the ones that have survived have been vegan because if they even smell blood they get sick. The other half seem to crave it from the nipple. Not sure why that happens. I can also tell you it'll be a boy. Every case has been a boy."
"Like the father?" she snorted.
"Even in the one lesbian couple we know about, the baby was a boy. We have no idea how she impregnated her but she was alone and didn't have help." Darcy shuddered. "How clear-headed are you?"
"Not at all. It's like a blanket of cotton balls."
"That's the compelling still working. Which means he's around here somewhere." He looked around the apartment then at her. "Important question, do you want to have the kid here?"
"I... do I want to have the kid," she said.
"I can't make that choice but Willow thinks babies like this could end up killing you if you miscarry. She's not sure why. It's something she skimmed past in a book on magical pregnancies she was looking up for a slayer who wanted to do that instead of finding a doc with a turkey baster." She smiled. "No clue. The book was probably written mid-eighteen hundreds based on how she described the incubation of the baby as it was written. We can try."
She considered it but she didn't want to die right now. "I'd rather not and adopt it out," she said.
"Okay, we can do that." He patted her on the foot. "I'm here to protect you and to protect him when he comes out. Then I get to go back to my exciting life with my own spawn."
"You have a kid?" she asked. He nodded. "Being babysat?"
"Yup, he is." He grinned. "I can teach you how to diaper too if you want." She shook her head with a grimace. "Okay." He looked at Stark, who shrugged. "I can hang protections anywhere." He looked at her. "Up to you."
"I... Jane's going to be really pissed off."
"Too late," Stark quipped. "That's how we knew you were missing." She winced. "Want to come back to the tower? I won't say someone won't say something but we can tell them what's happened."
"I..." She looked back and forth between them.
"Up to you," Xander said. "I can hang up protections anywhere."
She nodded. "Then it's probably safer and we'll have someone to help if he shows up."
"Oh, he'll try," Xander said with a grin. "Like all vamps they're full of ego and think they're hot shit. That's the type that usually get picked, it's not from the demon that turns them." He stood up. "Put on clothes. You'll probably expand at least another two or three inches in the waist by the end." He helped her up and into the bathroom then went to grab his backpack. "Do we have an infirmary or should I find the stuff to help her with the birth?" he asked quietly.
"We have a full infirmary with docs and Bruce."
"Cool." He helped her when she came out, steadying her when she stepped into her shoes and wobbled. "Stark, did you drive? I cabbed."
"I did." He led them down to the stylish sedan, calling home first. "Pepper, it's me. Found Lewis...yes, I know I told you. I have a Watchers Council person with Lewis. We're going to the infirmary. I'll tell everyone what they need to know as soon as she's settled and he's done protections. Thanks." He hung up and drove off into traffic. "At least it's been quiet," Tony quipped. "No attacks or rebuilding recently."
"That is nice," Darcy agreed, looking at Xander. "I remember waking up and beating him when he told me congratulations."
"Yeah, like most young women you probably demanded he use a condom and he didn't. He had to focus specifically on the spell to knock you up. So the compelling had to be pretty strong and probably by him and a few of his buddies."
"Did the rumors say how he got me?"
"Just that he picked you up in the bar."
She shook her head. "We weren't in a bar-bar. We were in a sports bar."
Xander shrugged. "No idea." She nodded, slumping down. "At least it's only two more days," he said quietly. "Not another six months." She nodded. "We'll figure it out and it'll be okay."
"I'm never going to hear the end of this."
Xander made her look at him. "If they yell at you for him doing the psychic version of rophy's, I'll yell back." She smiled. "If they're that uptight you can make them change diapers." She laughed. They pulled into the parking garage and Tony escorted them up to the infirmary. He nodded at the docs. "I'm Xander Harris, I'm the senior field watcher in Canada. She got psychically rophied by a vampire." The docs in there nodded, taking her to a private room to check her over. Xander put up the wards while they did that. He wiggled a finger in his ear when the air pressure made it pop. "Wow, that's cute." He hung up the last one and stood in the doorway. "Darcy, you want to see anyone?" he asked.
"Jane if she runs in."
"Okay." He let the doctors go out. "Two days at the most," he told them. "It's magically caused." They nodded. "Should be standard beyond that."
"The accelerated growth does continue?" one asked.
"That's fine then." They left the duo alone.
Xander stood guard, glancing back at her. "Try to rest. It'll make the back cramps better." She nodded, shifting onto her side to do that. He closed the room door and sat in front of it, staring at the people moving around the infirmary. He nodded at a woman who rushed in. "Hold up." He stood up. "You're Jane?" She nodded. "Darcy's fine. The specific species of neck sucking fiends magiced her and it." He stared at her. "She's a bit upset." He let her into the room then sat back down.
"Oh my god, you're pregnant!" Jane shouted.
"Again, magiced," Xander called through the door. She opened the door to stare at him. "That species uses a compel link to do things like this then a fairly easy spell during compelled sexual intercourse." He stared at her. "She woke up that way then too, but doesn't remember much of it thanks to the mind whammy."
"Oh, fuck," Jane said, going back to hug Darcy. "We'll figure it out in the next few months."
"Two days," Darcy said. "It's growing really fast. The dad may try to come claim it to get me but that'll only last a few days. Is there a way to guard against that, Xander?"
He looked in there. "From a younger one that's less powerful, yup. From a group, like the rumors stated got you, or a stronger, older one, no. Not really. You can learn how to shield your mind but it's not going to fully keep it out. Make it weaker, yes. Fully gone, no."
She nodded. "Okay." She squeezed Jane's hand. "I went out to have wings with Stacey, who was in my major with me."
"I remember that part."
"There was a slimebag that kept hitting on us at the sports bar."
"Probably him then." She sat beside her, squeezing her hand. "Now what?"
"I don't think I want this kid." She stared at her. "I have no idea. I woke up pregnant. I have almost no memories of the last few days. My head's still full of cotton balls." Jane gave her hand a squeeze. "Now in two days or so I'll have this kid thing to think about."
"We'll handle it." Darcy nodded and relaxed. "Rest. You need to sleep. Maybe it'll bring up more memories. We'll make sure you're not bothered." Darcy smiled. She got up. "Let me go calm Thor down. He's a tiny bit pissed off and he's probably already knocked some holes in the walls up there." She left, going up there.
"So now what?" Steve Rogers said as she walked into the common area. "Is she retiring to be a mother?"
"No," Jane said. "Women can work and have a child. Your mother did, didn't she?" Steve's face went stony. "Not like Darcy asked to have her mind tampered with." She stared at him. "No one asks for that." He sighed and sat down. "Beyond that, Darcy's not sure what she's doing. She woke up this morning without memories and found out she was pregnant. She's really freaked out and her head's not fully right at the moment. So let's cut her some slack for the mind rape. Okay?" she said with a glare for him.
"Sorry," Steve said. "I didn't understand."
"I still don't understand," Tony said. "Thankfully someone sent that watcher guy." Steve stared at him. "Head guy in Canada."
Thor stared at him. "How can we help?" he asked.
"Xander thinks he might try to come back to claim her. Somehow she made him drop her. Otherwise they would've probably turned her last night." Everyone grimaced at that. "So for now, we need to guard her and the sprout when it comes in two days."
"That's fast," Bruce said.
"He said it was part of the magical bullshit stuff," Tony told him.
"I'll see if he knows more," Bruce said, getting up to go talk to him. He had a small booklet on it to answer questions. Apparently it happened infrequently but wasn't exactly rare.
Darcy slept for a bit longer until Xander got her up to eat something. She needed food.
*** (sent to list to here)
Darcy woke up at the feeling of movement around her, glaring around. "Who's there?"
Xander walked in and hit something, making it yelp and let go of the hank of hair charm it held. "Why, hi, baby daddy wannabe."
Darcy got up to hit him until the vampire gave up. "I'm pretty sure even in that state I told you to use a condom!"
"So?" he demanded. "We don't need one! We did just fine! You'll make a great joiner." She hit him a few more times before Xander gently pulled her off him to beat the living crap back into him. "It's not fair! You're not supposed to be here! We'll get your kid just like we did the mother!" Xander broke his jaw for that taunt.
"I doubt that. Especially since she was killed by a war band of Taraka aligned demons," he sneered at the vampire. "Anything else you want to admit to? Since you mind fucked her, she doesn't have the memories. Though thankfully she'll never have to remember touching *you*." The vampire got up and vamped out to attack again. Xander went back to beating him.
Thor stomped in. "Let me," he growled, taking the demon from him. "How dare you show your foul visage here, demon." He stomped off.
"JARVIS, make sure Thor gets to bring him up to the others," Darcy ordered. "That way the creepo vampire can't mind whammy him too." She went to the bathroom.
"I've already made sure of that by emitting a slightly annoying tone that should interfere with his attempts at mental coercion," the AI said.
"Thanks," Xander told the ceiling with a little wave and a grin. "You're really helpful. We need someone like you to nag the slayers."
"That's Stark's AI," Darcy said, coming out of the bathroom drying her hands off. "This is really weird."
"I'm sure it is," he agreed with a smile. "Want to get up and walk around?"
"Am I allowed?" Xander leaned out to look at the doctor on charge, who nodded. He nodded at her. She slid into her slippers and walked off with him following. They went upstairs. "Can I finish him off by throwing him off the balcony?" she asked as they walked into the common area.
"No, Stark beheaded him," Clint Barton said, staring at her. "You good?"
"No but I'll deal. I'm not the first woman in history that got drugged and pregnant." Xander patted her on the arm. She smiled at him. Then at Clint. "This is Xander. He's in charge of the slayers in Canada."
Clint stared at him. "Mr. Harris."
"Hey, archer guy." He grinned at Darcy. "We were after the same target one time. I was there to stop them from summoning the huge thing by sacrificing the whole compound. He came to take out the head guy. Then we got to fight the huge demon together." He smiled at Clint. "I'm doing good protecting her."
"Not much can get in here," Clint said. "How was the one that was following you around?"
"The one that you thought was twelve?" Clint nodded. "She was nineteen."
"So you said."
"About six weeks after that battle I woke up to her climbing in beside me." Clint moaned. "She did some sort of magical marriage thing between us. She...died about a year and a half later but she also wanted a son to carry on her line. He's a bit weird. Hiking across parts of Africa with him in a backpack was weird." Clint nodded a bit.
Darcy looked at him. "You did?"
"She did it to herself. I just had to go along with it since you can't break that sort of bond without killing the one who started it."
She sighed. "That's tragic."
"It happens. Her mother was going to kill her for being a slayer instead of being a proper woman. It got her mom off her back and the hit squad of her uncles back home before I had to shoot another one." He shrugged. "It happens sometimes in the wacky world of demon hunters. Giles just sighed when I made her tell him what she had done."
"You let her?" Clint asked.
"I had nothing to do with it. She knocked my ass out and did it. What did you want me to do? Kill her for it?"
"No," he admitted. "That's weird."
"It's a cultural thing in her case. Real women, even hunters and slayers, had to be married to be a real woman. Otherwise they were just seen as girls who needed to be at home under her father's thumb."
"I guess I can see that." He looked at Darcy. "Want to sit?"
"Bathroom," she said with a grimace, heading for one.
"That'll keep happening," Xander quipped. She grinned at him. "Let me know if another of their group of huge idiots climbs in through the ventilation ducts. That was probably his backup vampire mind fucker." She nodded as she shut the door.
Tony walked out off the balcony. "Darcy?" Xander pointed at the bathroom. "That's fine then. How is she?"
"Quiet," Clint said. "But she'll be okay." He looked at Xander. "Who's got yours?"
"He's being babysat by my second-in-command, who has a broken foot. He's probably taunting her to get up and chase him. He likes to do that to her. That and he likes to try to call the bears who live a few miles away down to play with him. He managed it once while I was grocery shopping. Freaked her out majorly."
Stark shook his head with a sigh. "That's so weird."
Xander nodded. "Often." Darcy came out with a sigh. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty okay." She sat down, staring at Tony then at Clint. "Who else is here and pissed?"
"Cap thought single mothers stayed home," Clint said. "Then Jane reminded him of his mom."
"No, I'm going to be working. I'm not going on the state check." She grimaced, looking at her kid. "If he's not adopted out. Can I do that?" she asked Xander. He nodded. "Will someone take him?"
"Yeah. There's some goth couples who'd love him."
"We're sure it's a him?" Clint asked.
"Every other case of this happening, including with a lesbian couple somehow, came out male." Clint nodded. "So unless it's a specially blessed case, probably."
"So unless it's a slayer," Darcy said with a smile for him.
"If so, we'll introduce her to the two pre-called ones here in town. They're little hell beasts but they won't hurt her or anything. One's five and a half or nearly six. The other's three. She started to growl like the hellhound she had met in the park. Her mother had us come check for a possession." Darcy laughed. "She was pretending but her mom was worried." He looked at the being that got free of Thor and rushed inside. He shot him. "Didn't I say no?" he demanded quietly. The vampire stared at him. "Don't recognize me? I'm sad," he sneered. The demon got up and ran back outside to try to jump off the balcony. "Bye, have a nice trip," Xander called with a wave, putting up his gun. "Not the baby daddy. They can't get that far from the baby until it's turned." He looked at Darcy. "So he was pretending."
"The guy I remember had dark hair but it was pushed back. Maybe a ponytail."
Xander nodded. "Dark haired people outnumber light haired people in the world so you see more of them as vamps too." She nodded once then sighed. Her yelp a minute later brought Jane and Thor both jogging in. "Probably kicked," Xander said. Darcy grabbed Jane's hand to put on her stomach. They shared a look.
Jane grinned. "I can gather evidence for when I decide to have my own kid." Darcy laughed then winced and bent over some. "It's okay, kiddo. We like you."
"Probably a boy," Xander said quietly. She nodded, settling in beside Darcy to comfort her. Steve Rogers walked in and stared then got them some water.
"Thank you," Darcy said.
"Not a problem. Are you okay?"
"The baby's kicking," Jane said with a grin.
Xander looked around then at the ceiling. "Baby daddy may be near then." A vampire came in off the stairwell. Xander moved between them. "She said no."
"So?" he demanded. "I can get visitation."
"I'll have the baby blessed before you get near it," Xander sneered back.
"I can make you move, mortal."
"That's Knight," he sneered. "As in the White Knight of Sunnydale." The vampire snorted. Xander smirked. "Try me, bitch. C'mon." The vampire backed off. Then he lunged. Xander staked him through the eye. It didn't kill him. "Pity you're a beheader. I left my sword downstairs. I guess I can improvise though." He pulled the stake out, making the vampire cry and fall to his knees. "She said no. You should've learned to respect that years ago."
"She'd be the best at hunting for the clan," he said, staring up at him. "We'd never go hungry with her there." Xander stared down at him. "We'll still win. The baby will want blood."
"Not all do. Half turn vegan." He smirked. "Want me to find a sharp and pointy thing?" The vampire got up and tried to stomp off. Clint's arrow lodged in the vampire's back, pinning him to the wall. Xander grinned at him for it. "Not very sporting. I was going to track him back to his group."
"We'll use the next one that shows up for that," Clint said. "Too much risk to Darcy and the baby."
Xander nodded and got handed a larger than average knife from Thor. Xander beheaded him and then looked on as the body turned to ash slowly. Xander cleaned off the knife and handed it back. "Dustbuster?" he asked Tony.
"Closet," he said with a point. "I think."
"The closet's the next door," Darcy said. Xander found it. "I thought them going to dust was a myth."
"Most of the vampires species will go to dust, usually faster than that one did," Xander said. He cleaned up the tiny mess. "The freaky ones are two that won't go to dust even with beheading and one that'll just turn back into a corpse but you have to behead and stake it to kill it." He looked at her as he put up the vacuum. "We keep good track of those for the girls because they're annoying but pretty silent about their group." He sat back down near Darcy. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. Bit of an upset stomach. He's kicking hard again." He reached over to rub her stomach, making her relax. "How do you do that?"
"I've seen nineteen pregnant slayers over the last ten years. My outpost is the most safe so the girls get sent to me for protection." She smiled. He grinned back. "Okay, now what, people? Supposedly the others have left the city and they'd be stupid to try what their cohorts failed. Only a few stayed to try to get her back."
"Do they have an older vampire as head?" Natasha asked.
"Nope. A slayer dusted him a little over a year ago. He held them in some control but now that's gone so they're thinking on their own. At least they put out they were only going to make one new one a year."
"Why would they tell others?" Jane asked.
"Because lesser blood sucking fiends are lesser next to them," Xander said. "These have more powers and therefore more status. Supposedly, well, they'd expect the lesser ones to get out of their way on whoever they chose."
"One new vampire a year isn't a rapid growth and if they went after Darcy because she could flirt her way into food sources then that makes sense," Stark agreed. Xander nodded. "What would they do with the kid?"
"It wouldn't have survived the turning."
"Oh. Never mind." He walked off.
"Though, with the way she was when she was turned, if they were careful removing it, they could've done a different version of the same spell to her again. With her body being locked in whatever state it was when it died...she'd probably have wanted it a whole lot. That one would've been born and raised a vampire, which would've meant a lot stronger of one to take over." Everyone grimaced at that. "There's a few of those around. They tend to respect the humans' right to exist more, but they're a lot stronger vampires."
"I don't really feel flirty right now," Darcy complained. "That wouldn't help them any."
"Second trimester," Jane said. "Even I've heard stories about how horny you get during it." Xander nodded. "Which would've been yesterday?"
"Probably sometime late last night by how far along she is now. So they would've mistimed it some but that's the general idea." Darcy moaned, grimacing and shifting. Xander smiled at her. "It could be a lot worse. There's a clan of these same vampires that takes the pack approach and whoever wins as the baby daddy is the new higher up." She shook her head quickly. "At least these ones were American boys with American ideals about things."
"That's true and probably a good thing." She got up and went to the bathroom again. "I don't like this part of it."
"You need to eat something when you come out too," Xander said. "It's taking a lot from you."
"Yes, dear," she snarked back. Xander just grinned. She came back out to yelling.
"Why didn't you tell us you knocked up one of the slayers?" the redheaded woman demanded.
"Because I didn't. She did it all by herself after magically binding us, Willow," he defended. "And Giles knows. So step off! I'm here guarding someone. They don't need to hear you going off." He stared down at her.
"It's still wrong!"
"Then revive her and tell her that since I was unconscious when she did it, woman!" She huffed. "Go. Away. Not wanted right now."
"It's still wrong."
"Make me smack the living shit out of you," he offered. She flinched back, shaking her head. "You yelling at me about her *magicing* us together in a binding way is really cute. Go away." He pointed. "Now." She huffed but disappeared. "Sorry, that was Rosenburg." He called Giles. "I take it you told Willow finally? I just nearly ripped her head off for her judgmental bullshit, Giles." He listened. "Yeah, they can send him to me. I'm guarding someone from the vampire baby daddy issue. Yes, that one that the rumors are going about. Thanks." He hung up. A few minutes later, a pretty young girl carrying a little boy and wearing a whole leg cast showed up. "Willow?"
"Buffy. Now I know why you didn't tell them."
"I did tell them. They're judgmental bitches." His son laughed and ran over to hug him. "Hey. Daddy's guarding someone. Want to help?" He nodded, staring at him with his big green eyes. Xander smiled. "We've got to do something about your hair. It's getting too long again."
"So?" he demanded. "Like, Daddy." He grinned and waved at the slayer. "Happy times."
"You too, Darrien." She smiled at the others. "He's not much trouble. He's been trying to figure out how to color my cast for the last two hours." She rubbed something around her throat and left.
Xander looked at him. "Markers."
"I know. I put them up on you because she woke up with drawings of kitties on her back the other day." The kid smirked at him. "Guys, this is my son Darrien. I've worked with some of these guys in the past, Darrien. Be a good boy?"
"Yes, Daddy." He looked around, staring at Thor. "Like Buffy?" he asked his father with a point. He was clinging to his shirt in case he was right.
"Well, he's a blond but your Aunt dyes her hair that way, kiddo. Though he is strong like your Aunt Buffy, yeah. That's Thor."
Darrien blinked. "Thor like on altar stones?"
"Yes, like the Thor we saw on the altar stones the last time we went to visit Kierran."
"Oh. That's cool." The baby grinned and waved at him. "Hi."
The boy giggled and looked. "Ooh, baby," he said, staring at Darcy.
"It sure is." He grinned and hugged her stomach, humming to it. "Thanks, kiddo."
He grinned. "It sad." He looked at his dad. "Me?"
"No, it'll be years before you get to be a dad of your own kid."
"We're not having a baby, dear."
"You have, me have." He grinned at her. "Me be good boy."
"I'm sure you're a very good boy," she agreed with a smile. She petted over his head. "I'll think about flirting with your dad after the baby's born." He giggled and ran back to pounce his dad. "He's cute."
"Some days," Xander said dryly. "Others..... There's days I think Willow accidentally vowed him to a chaos god with hers." The boy grinned. "Did she bring your homework?"
"Oops." He grinned hopefully up at him.
"Get a magazine and read it." He looked and got up to get one, staying far away from the redheaded woman. "She won't hurt you. She's not like Willow. All redheads aren't evil, Darrien," he sighed.
"Bullshit," he said. "Krissy mean too."
"Swearing," Xander warned, staring at him. "And Krissy was drunk, that's why she got to spend the night in the barn."
"Was happy. Goats liked her." He grinned and ran back to sit beside Darcy and read to her. She'd like that and he was really smart. Xander mouthed 'sorry' to Darcy, who smiled back and helped him with a big word. He got up. "What do you want to eat?"
"Something I won't have to pee out later?" Xander smirked but headed to the kitchen to make her food. She looked at the baby. "You're really nice."
"Thank you. Slayers mean I have manners."
"Now if you would use them most of the time," Xander called.
The baby grinned at her. "So boring." She laughed, giving him a hug. They went back to reading. He liked to read. Tony handed him something with math so he read that to her instead. It didn't flow as well but he liked math okay enough. Xander brought Darcy out something to eat, making her moan at the taste. Darrien looked then at his dad. "Mine?"
"You're going to be lucky if I remember to get you veggies tonight, kiddo."
"Cool! I like those!"
"I know you do." Darcy was giggling but the more solid dip with veggies and beans was good with the pita chips he had found in the cabinet. She even shared one with the baby, who hugged her for it. They got Darcy resettled in the infirmary when she wanted to nap and he ordered them dinner. The kiddo would love pizza. He usually did.
Xander was humming while sharpening a knife when Darcy woke up with a gasp. "Practice contraction," he said without looking.
"Damn!" she complained.
He grinned up at her. "Basically. Real ones hurt more and last longer."
"Good to know." She got up to go to the bathroom, smiling at the little kid that had fallen asleep on the toilet. "Awww."
"Yeah, I'm letting him nap it out for a few minutes. That way he's less grumpy." He got up to get the kid cleaned up and into a chair to nap. Darcy patted him on the arm before going in to use it herself. Xander went back to sharpening the knife. One of the doctors came in to check her over when she came out and told her she had probably about another four hours before the real labor started. She grimaced but nodded. Xander looked up at her. "At least this isn't like Alien. It won't eat its way out."
"No, it won't," she agreed. "Thankfully." She laid on her side, watching them. Darrien was curled up in a position only kids and cats got into. Xander was making sure all his weapons were good. "Will they try to attack?"
"A few may. It takes five days for the baby to be its own person instead of part of you." He looked at her. "Then it's up to you."
She nodded. "I still don't know."
"I know. It's a tough decision for anyone. Especially when you're in a weird spot." She nodded, relaxing and burping again. He handed her the basket of fries he had beside him, making her grin at them. She nibbled to cure the heartburn and for something to eat. She noticed she had lost a tiny bit of weight. "They can put you on a nutritional drip if you want," he said quietly.
"I hate needles."
"I get that. I really do too."
"What happened with the eye?" she asked with a point of a fry at the eye patch he wore.
"Minion's thumb nail." He looked at her. "He said I'm the one who sees too much." She grimaced. "We stopped him before he got the other." He shrugged. "It made the link so I get visions too. Really not happy making but it happens. It could've been a lot worse."
"Fighting demons is like fighting aliens. They're bigger, often stronger, and they create a hell of a mess when they want to." He looked up at her. "It's also not a job where you expect to retire."
"I really wanted out of Africa. I so wanted out of Africa. I was burnt out. He was almost two. I was ready to light fires to part of the continents. We had just taken down a temple to a hell god, who nicely was taking young people as slaves and priests to use and abuse. I just had a moment of 'I can't do that anymore' and asked to be reassigned after the battle. I almost got put in London. I made it to the airport and started to have a panic attack from all the people. Giles put me in Canada's second largest house, which was outside Vancouver. I took over on the watcher there and we created our own slayer camp and training area. We have a nice self-sufficient farm. We have room for the girls who come up to train or because they need protected. The one earlier was my second-in-command, Eira. Darrien thinks she's his older sister. They're cousins but he doesn't quite get how that works yet."
"How did she get hurt?"
"My former in-laws tried to snatch Darrien. I won't let them see him because of how they treated their daughter like a prize cow to be bred to. They showed up with all the uncles in the family plus guns they somehow snuck in to kidnap him. They recognized her and told her it was good she had taken over her cousin's husband to keep me in the family. I had been out handling an issue on Prince Edward Island. I came back and stomped them so hard their ancestors felt it when they joined them. She managed to keep Darrien hidden for the two days they had them hostage. They ignored the other six girls there for training. Just locked them in the house. That's how I found out. One of the slayers tripped the alarm system trying to get into my weapons closet." He shrugged.
"We held honoring funeral fires for their lives before they became stupid. Eira insisted. The Canadian government stepped in during that part, but wouldn't earlier because it could be demonic and they did not want to know, so we got the ashes sent home. I'm told his great-grandmother was the one the shipping company presented them to with the letter I sent. I wasn't nice and I told her why they had died and why their faulty viewpoints led to him becoming a real thing. She's probably still complaining but oh well." She smiled at him. He grinned back. "I'm not nice to the ones who screw with me. Especially not that way. Eira wanted me to go back to stomp on the rest of them but she was in traction then."
"I can see that point, even without the traction. I'm glad I wasn't born to one of those cultures. I'd hate to be a wife like they are."
"So do most of their women." He grinned. "If I ever get around to finding someone I actually like, they'd have to understand all the wacky that is my life and help me with the girls. Which is why I don't have one."
"I can see that. Dating for regular people is hard enough."
"I'm fully regular but I have a weird job," he said.
"Maybe but most regular people wouldn't be so casual about demon hunting."
"We are our experiences. The same as you're really casual about superheros."
She smiled. "True. I have been since I tazed Thor."
"That's something I haven't done. I stabbed the immortal embodiment of Janus a few times. Once I put a sexual curse on him and sent him to a whorehouse he couldn't use to cure it." He grinned. "The guy bugs the ever living fuck out of me."
"Is he a chaos mage?"
"No. He's a non-magic using priest. Him using a mage would mean they could gather more of his power than he'd want. We'd have a mad god issue. That could kill Janus or any others who do it so they won't." She nodded, yawning some. "Take a nap, Darcy. He'll wake you up when it's time." She nodded, drifting off. This was hard on her body. He went back to checking what he had brought with him.
Clint Barton walked in with two cups of coffee, handing Xander one. "We can watch if you want to rest."
"I'm okay. I've had longer than this during apocalypse time. But thanks." He sipped his coffee, moaning at the flavor. "Beats campfire or fireplace coffee." Clint grinned, settling on the other chair. "She'll be okay."
"We know. Darcy's a strong girl."
Xander nodded. "She is."
"Has she decided if she's keeping it or not? We're holding off on doing baby things until she's sure."
"She might not be sure for a few more days."
"I get that." He sipped his coffee, looking at the sleeping kid. "He looks like he's spent time in a hospital waiting."
"We've visited a few slayers in the hospital. He developed bored now so napping strategies when he was younger and I was hiking part-way across Africa with him in a covered backpack." He looked at his son then at Clint. "He's really good at it too."
"I bet. No driving?"
"One of the bigger things blew up the truck. We hiked back to the nearest slayer house to get another one and more weapons." He grinned. "They weren't happy when we showed back up."
"That means you're effective." Xander nodded, letting Clint stare at Darcy. "Is she going to be okay?"
"Yeah. The baby's taking a lot from her but she'll be fine with a few days of resting and feeding up."
"That's good. What about the baby?"
"Babies are designed to take what they need, even if it does wear down the mom too much. We could probably induce it a bit early. They think she'll be ready to pop in four hours. She's had some practice contractions."
"If she wants to adopt the baby out, I know a few couples who'd probably love the baby. All kinda goth so the origins wouldn't be more than amusing for them." He nodded. "If not, there's a few higher watchers who are getting ancient but have no heirs. They might. That's a case of 'someone has to carry on the name and title'. Two of them have talked young trophy wives into bed with fat wallets but only one's had a daughter. One may have an illegitimate son somewhere that hates him but who knows. It's something you have to consider when you have things like tittles to pass on."
"That's something I don't have to worry about." Xander grinned. "You?"
"I've got a will to name where he goes. The redhead from yesterday is not on the list. I don't know why she hadn't heard about all that earlier. He's four." Clint grinned. "That was apparently her outraged woman moment of the year. I've been told by the head guy he showed her exactly how Darrien came to be, and how I was unconscious during it, so she has to calm down. If not, we don't really talk anymore because she's judgmental."
"There's an article in the New York Times claiming you raped your slayer."
"Other way around," Xander said dryly. "I'll answer that tomorrow."
"They may not print it."
Xander smiled. "I have other methods." He pulled out his phone. "Mary, Xander. Yeah, I head she's jumped the rope bridge. As you were there can you please put out the truth? I know you're somewhere in a news company. Thanks. I'm a bit busy guarding someone for the next six days." He hung up. "Mary's known to be a slayer by her people. She's somewhere in CNN." He grinned.
Clint shivered. "That might be bad."
"Bad is her family attacked the slayer compound trying to get the kid because I wouldn't let them see him."
"Did you like her?"
"I considered her like a little sister. I didn't *hate* her for doing that. It was the only way to save her life from her uncles, who had been trying to kill her. I got that. I really did. I didn't like it. There for a long time I hated her like hell and resented her using me instead of someone else. I finally justified it so I don't hate the kid. Now I hate that people might use him as a target to get me."
Clint nodded. "I can see that. Sometimes you have to take responsibility for another's actions."
Xander nodded. "Which he is. She did all the mom things while she was alive. Didn't want to let me see him because she knew I'd resent them both. Then she died and I had to step up. We worked it out." Clint nodded again. Xander sipped his coffee, looking up as the doctor came to the doorway. "What's up?"
"We're inducing her early," he said quietly. "Once the baby's strong enough to thrive."
"You'd have to do an ultrasound for that," Xander said. The doctor nodded, coming in with the machine to do it. Darcy moaned as they moved her. "Darcy, it's the docs. They're scanning the kid to see if it's able to come out sooner."
"Okay," she moaned, pushing her hair back. Xander got up to help her.
The doctors found the baby to scan, looking it over. "Little boy as expected. Heart's fully good. Lungs look good. Is the skin a bit thin?"
"A bit translucent usually. It'll get firmer as it gets fed." They nodded. They looked over the scans then came back with an IV. "We're inducing?" They nodded. "Okay." He stashed the baby under the bed. "Stay," he said when his son blinked at him. He nodded and took the book Xander had in his pack to read. Xander moved his stuff out of the way and came over to help her through this. Clint told the others and Jane came down to help her through it. Clint didn't want to see Darcy giving birth.
Xander walked off the elevator with the baby in his hands, his son walking with him. They walked out onto the porch area under the stars. He put the baby on a table, chanting quietly over it as he marked it with a vial of oil. Darrien held the baby's hand so he stayed calm and less wiggly. The baby burst out crying then Xander smiled and picked him up. "Welcome to humanity," he said quietly. The baby snuffled. "I know. It's loud and it's colder and it's smelly." He carried him inside.
"I was almost worried you'd do something mean," Stark said quietly, staring at him.
"I didn't when my own had colic so badly it summoned things," he said dryly, shooting him a look. They went back down to the infirmary. Darcy was eating a full meal thanks to Jane nagging. He settled with the baby in his lap. Darcy looked over at him. "He's been properly welcomed and Stark thought I might throw him off the balcony. I told him I didn't when Darrien had colic so badly he summoned things." She ate another bite, staring at him. "Up to you," he reminded her. "I can't make that decision for you."
"Are these a new phenomenon?" Jane asked.
"No, before nuns would catch them and kill them because they had to be the product of demons," he said.
"Oh. That makes sense." He nodded. "How did the mothers get away?"
"They usually escaped. Ran for holy ground to protect them as they had been taught would protect them from demons. A lot of them ended up being talked into taking orders to protect them from the demons coming back because they'd never be safe. It'd endanger everyone if they didn't."
"At least he looks more human now," Jane said. "Unlike those older body models that had the full body in a clear plastic human frame." Xander grinned at her. "He did."
"Yeah, he did." He took the bottle from the doctor, sticking it into the tiny mouth. It wiggled some but ate. "Sure, you inhale that. It's good for you." He looked at Darcy, who wasn't staring at them. "I can start a calling chain."
She nodded. "Please. I don't think I could... If it was just a one-night stand thing that got me knocked up maybe but not... Not with all that."
"Sure." Xander pulled out his phone to send in a report after taking a picture of the baby. "For our records. That way we can keep track of him." He sent out a text message to about ten people. Within an hour he got two turn downs and the others would talk about it. "We'll probably hear tomorrow." She nodded, relaxing and resting again. She was tired. Xander put the baby in the bassinet in the other private area. Clint and the others would guard him for Darcy's well being. Only one older vampire would try for the baby to claim Darcy but Thor dealt with him.
Darcy met the new parents three days later, smiling at them and shaking their hands. "Thank you for taking him in."
"It's no problem, sweetie. Our other son is from the same sort of incident," the mother said. Xander walked in with the baby. "Aww. Someone dressed him in lambs."
"Jane, my boss." Darcy took him to kiss on the head. "You be good for them." He wiggled, not real comfortable with her. She handed him over. "We left his name blank on the birth certificate," she said quietly. Xander rubbed her shoulder. "It's not that hard of a decision. He'll be loved for who he'll become. I don't think I could do that." She signed the paperwork and then left them alone.
Xander settled in a chair, staring at the baby then at them. "He's fully healthy. The infirmary at Stark Tower will release his records as soon as your pediatrician calls for them," he said. They nodded and smiled. "His baby daddy is dead. Most of the troupe scattered. His five day limit is tomorrow."
"We talked our daughter into coming with us. Sarabeth will protect him, Xander."
He grinned. "Good. I like that she has sense sometimes." The parents stared at him. "You didn't hear she volunteered for a battle in the Caribbean so she could have some beach time?"
"No," the mother huffed. "I'll nag about that later, Xander." He smiled. "Did anyone else on your list answer?"
"Sven. He still needs an heir." They nodded. "I'd suggest what she did to me but he'd hate the biracial nature of the baby. Thankfully Elizabetta's got the same sort of family title issue so I suggested her. Yet again."
"That may help them both," the father agreed. "Thank you."
"Welcome. Let me go grab Darrien so we can go to a museum. I promised him we would before we left." He stood up. "Have a happy life, little guy. Oh, he hates enfamil. Liked goat milk though." He smiled and left.
The parents smiled at the baby, taking the paperwork with them to their lawyer's office to have it notarized. Then they could take their new son home. Their daughter, who was a mid-level slayer, cooed over him the whole flight home.
Xander and Darrien were out at a museum when a reporter found him. He stared at her. "Not near the kid," he said.
"I'm not taking pictures of him, sir. Is what that one slayer said true?"
"Mary? Yeah. She was there. She got evacuated to my training team because her parents were trying to kill her for being called to duty." He shifted, glancing around then at her. "Mary saw it all and witnessed the rite I was unconscious for. She's the one who told me about it when I woke up." He looked at his son then at her again. "I resented her for it, but it ended up saving her because her uncles couldn't kill her after she was married."
She grimaced. "Like an honor killing?"
"No, like girls who weren't married were girls. You didn't reach womanhood until you were married. Girls were under their father's thumb. Or in her case her mother and uncles. They had already tried to kill her once and I had to stitch closed a bullet hole in her arm." She winced. "She did it to save herself and I wasn't against that part, I just wanted her to use someone other than me."
"So you took custody of the baby?"
"She barely let me see him when he was born. She was all 'I made the baby on purpose and I'll take care of it'. Then she got killed by the Order of Taraka's assassins."
"Are they like an assassin's guild?"
"Both demon and humans."
"Oh." She nodded. "So you're a widowed father."
"I have been for over two years." He smirked a tiny bit. "He drives me nuts but he's my kid so I'll take care of him." He looked down. "Right?" Darrien grinned and nodded. "Apparently Willow hadn't read that report and didn't bother to read most of it. She went on a swearing fit while I was up here guarding someone. Usually I'm the head watcher in Canada."
"That's chilly up there," Darrien told her.
"I'm sure it is," she agreed with a smile. "She's tried to apologize."
"To you," he said dryly. "Not to me or him." He shrugged. "She's been like that forever. You just deal with her bs and move on."
She nodded. "I can see why. Now what? Are you dating?"
He shook his head. "Most people can't live in our lives. That's why way too many of the slayers are single." He shrugged. "If I find one, great. If I don't find one, I have dates. The slayers love to babysit him because it means no other chores around the compound." He smirked as they walked off. "Thank you for asking instead of assuming."
"Thank you for answering questions and not shooting at the reporters this time, Mr. Harris." She ran off to post that. Her editor was pleased he had answered her as well.
Xander looked at his son and shrugged. "Sometimes you have to let the reporters do their jobs. It's easier than me repeating the same thing over and over." His son hugged his leg. "C'mon, we'll go look at art. Then you can write a report on it for Uncle Rupert."
"Yay," he said flatly. "Can't we just enjoy the art?"
"Sure, we can enjoy the art but you know he'll ask."
"Point." They walked off together, talking about the artwork. The modern art that was all splotches became a game of 'what is that' but the other people in the museum just smiled at them being cute.
Darcy came out of the infirmary after a week, flopping down beside Jane on the couch. "I'm better and not hungry."
"That's good." She looked at her. "You okay otherwise?"
"Yeah. I've been talking to Bruce about the compelled stuff. I know it wasn't my fault."
"Good. Do we need to find a counselor for you?"
"No. Xander left me a few names if I wanted them." Jane nodded. "I don't know. Stacey, I checked on her and she's fine. Didn't even realize I had been snatched from the sports bar." She leaned on Jane's arm. "I'm okay though."
"Good." She patted her on the hand. "Want to watch some tv?"
"I've been mainlining netflix while eating." They grinned at each other. "Lab time?"
"Sure. Lab time." They got up and went down to the lab to get to work. Jane had stayed out of the lab so she could visit Darcy all the time. It was good to get them back to normal.
Stark stepped in a few hours later, handing Darcy something. "Emergency switch. You should've had one already and we didn't realize you didn't."
She looked at it then at him. "It needs a cover. That way it doesn't go off in my pocket."
"Point," he agreed with a smile. "You can put it inside whatever you want." She hugged him. "You better?"
"For once I'm not really hungry." He laughed but let the ladies deal with things. Darcy found a way to put it into an older pepper spray holder she used for her keys. That worked and she put it back into her bag. Right on top with her keys. Jane handed her stuff to correlate for her so that was handy too. She could get back to closer to normal. Even when she wanted to go out to a restaurant for dinner the first time, someone decided to go with her. Clint was sweet about it too.
It took six months for something huge to happen in New York. Thankfully Darcy was safely in a room at the tower with Jane. They had it on tv, but they were safe. The superhero squad wasn't safe. Then the slayers showed up with Xander in charge and it was nasty on a whole new level. Other slayers popped in and Buffy took control of the slayers but Xander still gave field orders. They glared at each other once but he pointed and the slayers went to follow his orders instead of hers. Which worked easier anyway. Finally the stupid robots and the stupid kinda alien things were dead, or at least down and begging to be dead. Xander checked his girls over, sending most of them home and a few to the ER. Two pouted but oh well. Buffy and the other one had to go get it treated. Then he looked at the guys and shook his head before hiking off with a wave. Darcy looked at Jane. "He's like Thor light."
"Without the hammer but with a battle axe," Jane agreed. "And no godly aura."
"Or cape," Darcy said. Jane laughed, hitting her on the shoulder. They saw something appear behind Xander and lunge for him. Stark yelled, firing on it as it tried to hit Xander with the knife. Xander turned and it hit him on the shoulder but he still took a swing with his axe. They fought and it was nasty. Xander got a lot more cut up. Clint's arrow only injured the demon. Apparently it died specifically some other way. Stark shot it a few times. Nope, didn't kill it. Hulk didn't kill it when he hit it. Xander called out something and his axe glowed then he beheaded it. He panted, leaning on the handle. "I'm guessing he blessed it?"
"Or someone did," Jane agreed. "They don't look pleased." She called Stark. "What happened?" She listened. "He called out for a chaos god and Loki."
"Well, he was a chaos god," Darcy agreed. "Who's that guy that just appeared?"
She listened. "The immortal embodiment of Janus. Stark said he's joking that some day Xander will be on his side." They saw Xander blow a kiss to him then disappear thanks to a witch. Jane hung up. "The guy who's a walking version of Janus said that Loki's immortal embodiment is presently penned up because all the others of them were mad about the invasion but Xander's axe was originally blessed to him."
"Awww. That's freaky."
"Yeah, it is." They shared a look then the AI let them out. "Thanks, JARVIS. Any damage?"
"Not much beyond a few cracked windows this time," the AI told them. "Though I do see some Council people still at the battle site to clean things up and one being huffy."
"Is she a redhead?" Darcy quipped.
"Indeed," he said dryly. "Now I can see why his son was scared of redheads." The girls laughed, going up to fix food for the heros. They'd need to eat.
Stark landed first and let the machines take off his suit, coming down the stairs from the porch area. "At least he didn't really want Loki, just his power," he complained.
"If you're looking for a chaos god, he's a great one," Darcy quipped.
"Yeah, his mind was full of chaos." He took the water Jane handed him to gulp then another bottle. "Thanks, ladies." He walked off. "Steve's huffy."
"Great," Jane agreed. They watched as the others walked in. Steve Rogers was still huffy. Jane handed him water too. "If it was blessed to his name originally wouldn't that matter?"
"I guess," he complained. "I still don't like that. And why is one walking around?"
"Because Loki himself can't," Thor said. "A mortal embodiment is a way for those with power to gain extra. That one does rites in their names to send extra energy their way. Though it can harm them to take the living embodiment out." He accepted his bottles of water from Darcy. "Thank you, Lady Darcy."
"Welcome, Thor." She looked at Steve. "It's like being sworn to Thor. If you're sworn to Thor, you call on Thor for strength during battles instead of one of the others like Tyr."
"I didn't think about that. Then what about the guy to Janus?" he asked.
"He probably likes him," Jane said. "It looked like he was flirting."
"Yes it did," Stark said as he came back up. "And he does. I emailed Harris at his known address and that's what he said. The axe was originally blessed for use by a guy who was the physical embodiment of another chaos god. He said the one to Janus considers him great fun because of the run-ins he's had with Janus' people in the past. And yeah, if he's asking for it to be a blessed weapon he has to start with the one it was originally blessed to. Who is gone. So Loki was the next up."
"That makes sense," Clint agreed.
"Still sucks," Steve said. "They're chaos gods."
"Yeah, but sucks is that chaos gods really like Xander," Darcy said. "They've helped him a few other times too from what's on his publically known profile." Steve grimaced. "Some guys, like you, bring order. Some guys like Xander bring more chaosy order to the world."
"The girls could use some battle training from someone who knew strategy," Steve said.
"I think they know plenty," Darcy said.
Thor nodded. "That's not an unheard of strategy and sometimes you can't really be orderly in a battle. What they were doing worked, even if that blonde slayer didn't think so."
"That's Buffy, the senior slayer," Darcy said. "I did a poli sci paper on her at Culver, and I looked up more information after Xander helped me."
Steve nodded. "Still seems a bit wild."
"Then again, he's not military," Clint reminded him. "He's the trainer for a lot of young women who have skills they aren't sure they want."
"Point." He walked of sipping his water.
Darcy knew it was her fault. Everything had changed around the tower after she had gotten compelled by that stupid vampire. She went back to cooking, smiling when Jane joined her. They guys would need more than the snacks they had put out.
Stark spotted Steve rooting in the refrigerator later on. "They did up the leftovers."
"I'm not hungry for that. Just wanted a sandwich."
Stark slammed the fridge door shut, staring at him. "It's really shitty that you're blaming her for being attacked," he said quietly. "And yeah, she's noticed."
"Got. Attacked. Was raped in fact since they had the spell over her whole mind. You forgave Clint for taking out a good portion of the helicarrier while he was under the same sort of control and yet your double standard states that she's supposed to be stronger?" He stared at him. "It's shitty and it's wrong."
"She went out with a friend. The same as you've done a number of times I'm sure."
"I can protect myself."
"Really? From someone touching you?" Steve glared. "That's all they had to do. I asked him for the books on that species and they gave me copies of them if you'd like to read them. Even if one of us had been there, it still could've happened. That sports bar has a whole bunch of officers who work there as a second job and a lot more that hang out there. I'd like to see what you do under that sort of compulsion." He walked off.
Steve glared at his back. "I don't think she asked for it, Stark," he complained.
"You sure don't show it, Rogers, and I'm pretty sure that everyone hates that about you." He went back to his lab. He checked the security camera feed to Darcy's off-tower apartment. She was safely in front of the tv right now. Though she didn't look happy. Maybe he could help her get a bit better. She hadn't hardly done anything but work and home since then. Not that he blamed her. The one time she had went out to dinner, Clint had went with her. Maybe he should try the same thing. It could make her happier at least.
Stark walked into Jane's lab the next day, patting Darcy on the arm. "I'm going out to dinner tonight on orders of Pepper because there's been rumors I was really hurt in the last battle and I'm hiding them so people don't panic. Would you ladies like to come with me?"
Darcy looked at him. "Is this like 'let me go to dinner with you'?" she asked quietly.
"Nope. I wanted to talk fascinating things with Jane and you bring your own version of that. Plus it means that Pepper can't complain because no one thinks I'm stepping out on Pepper. If it was just me and Jane, they'd assume and piss her off." Darcy and Jane both smirked at him. He smiled back. "Beyond that, I need to go somewhere less high class. I'm tired of filet mignon. Let's get burgers and fries."
"I can do that," Jane agreed. "Are we bringing Thor?"
"I'm pretty rich but I don't think I could afford Thor drinking the whole bar dry," he said dryly. She laughed. "So, let's say we go out together. Bruce could come."
"You three will spend all night talking science," Darcy said. "And with Bruce you won't need a third."
"Nah, Bruce doesn't talk science with Jane or me. He said our fields are too different." Jane nodded. "Please? You can be the designated driver if you want."
She snorted. "That should probably be Bruce."
"Yeah, maybe," he agreed. "He's a tea totaler now. He said the Big Guy really likes Heineken though."
"I'll remember that the next time he's trying to calm down," Darcy quipped. "You don't need me."
"Bullshit, I want you there." He smirked. "Who else is going to remind us there's limits to the universe."
"Uh-huh." She stared at him. "It's sweet but I'm good, Stark. Thanks."
"Nope, not taking no for an answer." He grinned. "You could still use some feeding up. You still look underweight." She rolled her eyes as she walked off. "Hey, I'm a guy, I look, and while looking I noticed those jeans used to be tighter on your firm ass." She stared at him. He grinned. "No one ever said I didn't look. Pepper lets me look all I want as long as I don't want one. Though, I learned my lesson there. The last one of those was Natasha."
"She'll try to poison my drink. I'm pretty sure she still blames me for something I haven't done yet." He put his hands on his hips. "C'mon, you know you want to go get a beer."
"Maybe but talking science all night isn't my thing. Remember, I'm the intern, not the geek."
"Uh-huh. Yapping is all I hear. Get pretty. We'll go out to Hooters or something."
She snorted. "Hooters, with Bruce? I think he'd complain," Darcy shot back.
He grinned. "Bruce likes breasts. Look at Betty." He walked off. "Six."
"Fine," Jane sighed, looking at Darcy. "You could probably duck out early."
"Maybe," she agreed with a sigh at the end. She went back to filing things for Jane.
Jane watched her then got back to work. Darcy was still missing some of the life in her life. She wasn't as peppy anymore, which she fully understood but maybe it'd help her heal a bit more.
Stark looked around the bar then at the ladies. "At least they serve food here." Bruce walked in and sighed at the crowded bar. "C'mon, Brucie, it'll be okay. Like back in college only these people have jobs instead of tests." They found a table in the back and ordered food and beers. Darcy got an outside seat, with her back to the room, but Bruce had the other outside seat because he was still paranoid. Darcy smiled when the waitress brought their beers and burgers, then left. She dug in, eating while the others talked science. She stared at them. "What about the laser stuff, guys? Can't we find a way to use one in the field yet?" she asked to make them change the subject since Jane sounded unhappy.
"We have some that'll do light things but not like a laser pistol. Which was a boyhood idea I really wanted to have happen," Tony said. "I really wanted Han Solo's laser pistol." They all grinned at him. "I haven't worked on that idea in a few years though. Lasers have come a long way since the last time I tinkered with them." He looked at Bruce.
"Laser applications never really got me but they seem neat in the movies. Can we make one that's like that?"
"Some are realistic," Darcy said. "They run out of charge at the wrong moment." She felt someone staring at her neck and glanced around. No one she could see. She looked at them again. Bruce was staring at someone so they bugged off. She patted him on the hand. "Thanks."
"Welcome." He looked at Tony. "If you could, Clint might kiss you for it."
"That could be fun," Tony quipped. Jane snorted some of her beer up her nose since she had been taking a drink. "What about you, Jane? Lasers?" he asked once she had quit choking.
"I was always into the pretty theoretical stuff, Tony. Nothing that practical caught my attention."
"Radiation was my first love," Bruce agreed.
"I thought that was Betty," Tony teased.
Bruce swatted him on the arm. "No, I loved radiation before I ever met Betty." They got down to talking about practical science fiction from movies. That was more inclusive and they all had ones they sneered at and some that were so bad they were amusing.
"Country music killing martians," Darcy put in.
"Well, it kills me too," Bruce admitted, cracking the others up. "Not sure if it was the pitch of the notes or what. Maybe it was the depressing parts that did them in. I haven't seen Mars Attacks in quite a while."
"That should be our next movie night then," Stark said. "I'm sure Thor would like the ideas about Martians."
"I'd rather have them be six-foot something studly mice with motorcycles like on that cartoon," Jane said. Darcy burst out giggling. "What? It was on when I got up for a class." Tony looked that up on his phone then burst out laughing. "Exactly. Though country music might've killed them too. They were more heavy metal."
"I can see that." Stark put his phone up. He looked toward the door. "Is that our missing teammates I spy, Bruce?"
He looked and nodded. "At least Natasha and Steve. No sign of Clint." They shared a look and waved them back.
Natasha smiled, making sure she didn't block anyone's escape route. "We did not expect you here."
"We came out so Tony could prove he wasn't injured and so they could talk science," Darcy quipped. "I'm just here for the window dressing."
Steve shook his head. "You know a lot of stuff, Darcy. Or else you wouldn't be able to keep up with Jane in the lab." He was almost blocking her easy exit but was half out of the way. It looked unintentional with the way Natasha was squarely in the middle of the table. "Were you guys going anywhere from here? We just stopped in for a burger on the way to a check in for a mission."
"Not at the moment," Stark said. "No plans of it." They nodded and left to make orders and leave again. He looked at Darcy. "If he creeps you out, let us know," he said quietly, staring at her.
"He doesn't. He hasn't let himself be in the same room I'm in if I'm the only one in there since then." She sipped her beer.
"That's wrong of him," Jane said.
"I'm guessing it's the old fashioned thing," Darcy said. "Or he thinks I'm a liability or something." She shrugged. "I can't change his mind and really, he didn't like me that much before then. He almost avoided me because I'm not some quiet person and I talk a lot."
Jane hugged her. "The rest of us adore you." Darcy punched her on the arm. "Fine. Be that way then."
Darcy grinned. "Yes I am." Bruce got up. "I can go pick up the next round, Bruce."
"No you can't. Stark's glass weighs a ton." He gathered them up and took them up to the bar to get.
"I'm not that fragile anymore," she told Tony quietly.
"I know. We all know. You managed to come back to work. That was when you quit thinking you were fragile." He stared at her. "All guys do this stuff. Someone missed sending the uptight brigade the memo but most guys are like this. Pepper got mugged and I didn't let her go anywhere by herself for six months, and we weren't dating then. She was barely my PA, back when she barely put up with me." He grinned. "Thor was all for finding a warrior who'd follow you around to protect you."
"I talked him out of it because it'd make you paranoid," Jane agreed.
Darcy hugged her then leaned across the table to hug Tony. "Thanks, guys." They nodded. Bruce came back. "And thank you for being a nagging friend too, Bruce."
"You're welcome. Don't hug me. I'm sweaty. Stark's like a heat source tonight."
Stark checked his forehead then shrugged. "No fever so maybe you're just reacting to how sexy I am, Bruce. That does mean I'm hot." He took his beer with a grin to sip.
"Bad pun," the girls said together. He just smirked at them and they got back to movie science BS. They were down to B movies within a few minutes but Swamp Thing and the Toxic Avenger movies were a topic unto themselves when Darcy added them. Someone came up to flirt with Bruce but he politely brushed them off. The woman gave Darcy a stare before walking off.
"That was weird," Jane said.
"I didn't recognize her," Darcy said, looking back at her then at the others and shrugging. They finally left and the guys walked out first, talking about Tony's next car purchase. She and Jane were behind the guys. Darcy felt someone following them and glanced back then got out of the way.
The pretty woman smiled. "What's wrong? Not ashamed to be seen with my sort of vampire, Mother?"
"I'm not turned and I'm not a mother," Darcy said. The vampire looked so confused. Stark shot her and turned her to dust. "Great," she said, looking at the guys. "Any idea?"
"No clue. We can write Xander to see if he's heard," Bruce said, taking her arm to walk off with her beside him. Stark was guarding Jane. Clint walked past them and grabbed Darcy, walking her back there. "Um, Barton?" Bruce asked, turning to follow them.
"The rest of the clan's back there and we can use them staring at Darcy to find out what the fuck is going on since Nat said a troupe of vampires just attacked her and Steve."
"Technically they're called a basement of vampires according to an online listing of collective nouns," Bruce said as they followed them. "Though I've always heard clans used in popular literature."
Tony looked at him. "Really?"
"The same graphic said a group of geniuses is called a quiver." He grinned. "It's a cackle of mad scientists and an industry of villains."
"The shit you find online," Darcy mumbled. Clint laughed and nodded. "Since it's a quiver of geniuses, do you have a spare one to stuff them in? Or would that make you the genius wrangler."
He smirked at her. "I think that's your job, not mine, and my quiver's not that big. No matter which woman tells you otherwise." She laughed. They came back to the bar and a few vampires watched them. "Darcy, just one drink?"
"I guess. Not like it'll hurt me."
"Here, Mother, let me get the door," one said, not looking at her chest or her face.
"How do you know who I am?" she asked.
"Um, everyone knows they were going to bring you over to be their new huntress. That you managed to have a live baby instead."
Darcy stared at him. "The baby daddy is dead and the baby's been adopted."
He shrugged. "They'll be fine. I'm sure the Knight made sure of it."
"You know about Xander?" Tony asked casually.
"Many of us know about the Knight. We respect the crazy white guy thing he has going on. He's the only one I know of who brought a sword to a fight that took bombs." He smiled. "We all like to watch him." He looked at Darcy. "We mean no disrespect."
"I'm still really freaked out by that stuff. I mean, totes freaked."
The vampires nodded. "At least they didn't turn you. Though you would have made a fantastic huntress for any clan," another said, moving closer to sniff her. "You still would. If you ever want to be turned...." He smiled and they walked off before Tony could grab them. Clint captured one. "We're good," that one said from farther up the block.
"One of you came after the Black Widow," Clint said with a smirk. "Why?"
"She'd make a fantastic huntress too and the other one has faster healing so he'd be a great feeder." He nodded quickly then turned and ran.
Clint looked at that vampire. "Let's go talk." He burst out crying. "I'm not going to torture you. If you need to be tortured, that's Natasha's job." He walked him off.
Tony casually took Darcy's arm and walked her off. "Let's leave him with the messy work. You okay?"
He nodded. "If all they were looking for was someone alluring to draw in prey you probably could do that." She looked at him. "I know but most people don't look past the boobs to see the brains, Lewis."
"I know. It sucks sometimes but I know." She looked at Jane. "You okay?"
"I'm fine. Bruce?"
"Bit freaked out but fine." They went back to the tower and found Natasha there calling someone. "Barton captured one of that clan or whatever."
"I've heard. I've pointed out I'm flattered but I do not wish to be any more mystical than I already am." She looked at Darcy. "Are you well?"
"They kept calling me Mother and were really respectful." She flopped down on the couch. "They wanted me to bring in prey. You too and Steve would make a great feeder because of his healing gifts."
Natasha nodded then sighed and shook her head. "He would, yes. That's very tactical of them but I doubt they could eventually turn him." She walked off. "I'm making coffee."
"I'm full," Stark said. "It was a good burger and beers." He sat down in his usual chair, rolling his head around. "JARVIS, upload that file for Pepper please?"
"I've already done so, sir."
"Your phone?" Jane guessed, sitting beside Darcy.
"Yup. Just in case any of them showed up."
"I'm pretty sure the guy I caught staring at her might've been but I scared him off," Bruce said, leaning on the back of the couch. "He was pale and looked stupid."
Jane patted him on the arm. "Not all vampires are stupid. Them wanting Natasha and Darcy proves they have some tactical thought."
"Must not be minions," Darcy said. "Xander said minions were the stupid ones."
"They are in science too," Tony quipped. "Though I hate that analogy now that I've made it."
"You guys do suck the knowledge from things," Darcy joked with a grin for him.
"Yeah, but I don't see myself as a knowledge vampire. That'd bite."
"Especially in theoretical physics," Jane agreed with a smile. "Nothing to bite on. We have to make up our own food as we go along."
"You guys do treat the weak scientist wannabes like candy when you chew them up and spit them out," Darcy said.
Bruce nodded. "They're chewy but filling." Tony laughed.
"You guys are weird," Steve complained, getting up and walking off. He went to his room and laid down on his couch to consider things for a bit. He hadn't fought vampires before. He needed to know about what they could do. He sent an email to Xander Harris to see if he could get him what he needed to know. It didn't take long before he got an official list by species of their strengths and weaknesses plus rating against a normal person's speed/strength. He was going over when he heard the others go to their rooms. Jane's room was up from his and he heard the girls walking past his door talking about lab stuff.
He was reading up on the different species on the links Xander or whoever had sent him when he heard someone crying. He listened, staring toward Jane's room. Definitely in there. He got up and went to the door, looking up the hall. No one in it. He casually strolled up the hallway. The crying was coming from there. Then a scream and the sound of someone falling off something. He knocked. Darcy padded out looking like a sweaty mess. "Everyone all right? I heard the scream," he said quietly, staring at her.
"Just a nightmare. Thanks, Steve." She closed the door and went back to the couch. Jane came out to cuddle with her. "Thank you," she said quietly.
"Finally getting memories?"
"Just some flashes and probably stuff my mind's making up to fill in the blanks." She rested against Jane's shoulder. "I'll be okay."
"Not the point." She looked at her. "Have you talked to anyone?"
"No. I don't want to hear about vampires and all that from a therapist."
"Didn't Xander give you names that could work with you?"
"Yeah but I don't...it's not my thing."
"Okay. Just let me know when you want to talk." Darcy nodded, yawning and drifting off again. Jane stayed with her because it'd mean fewer nightmares. They should've kept Darcy here at the tower instead of letting her go home by herself. She'd talk to her about it in the morning.
Darcy had managed to duck out of the big talk about her moving by not being there in the morning. She had went out for coffee and found others in the tower were already out. Clint grunted at her as she slid past him at the closest coffee shop. She looked up at him. "Up all night?" He nodded, moving up to take his cup of coffee then he grunted again before leaving. She heard Bruce's name called and looked, finding him waiting on his tea. She smiled at him as she grabbed her own order and headed back out to the lab. She had things she had to get done.
Natasha scowled at her when they crossed paths in the lobby. "You had to go out for coffee?"
"If I want to be awake enough to make more, yes." She sipped. "I ran into Clint and Bruce. They both grunted."
"That explains why Clint looked like he was in a foul mood, he was up all night." The assassin sighed a tiny little sigh. "I'll deal with him later, after he drifts off on the archery range." She put in her ear phones and headed out for a run.
Darcy went up to the lab to get to work. Jane was still probably asleep. She had time to get things straightened up and make breakfast for her. Tony strolled in, taking her coffee to sip. "Hey! I don't want to share mouth germs with you!" She took her coffee back. "You should know better than to steal coffee."
"I couldn't use the pot in the communal kitchen. Rogers is hogging it."
She snorted, shaking her head. "He doesn't drink coffee."
"He was up most of the night."
"Him and Clint."
"Oh, great. So of course today something's going to attack," he complained. "Don't you guys have your own coffee pot?" He looked around. "Where's your microwave and fridge?"
"That's in your lab, not in our lab."
He looked at her. "Bullshit! Bruce has it in his too!"
"Bruce may've imported his own. Jane just brought the stuff she cobbled together." She pointed at it. He didn't look. She smiled. "Scared of it?" She finished her coffee and tossed out the cup.
"All the duct tape blinds me," he shot back sarcastically. "Let me talk to Jane about upping all this so it's at least functional and getting you guys the basics in here." He walked off to do that. Jane was barely stumbling toward the kitchen. "Rogers made coffee."
"Crap," she muttered.
He stared at her. "Why didn't you buy a coffee maker for your lab?"
She scowled. "I had more important things to buy, and Darcy to finally pay."
Tony shook his head. "Would you like some help updating stuff, Jane?"
"Don't mock me."
"I'm not. I'm making it so you can have your own little microwave and coffee maker and fridge like Bruce does."
"I have pop tarts."
"Thor stole the last of the pop tarts before he had to go home. JARVIS, do we have pop tarts?"
"They're on backorder with the grocery we use. They're due in later today, sir," the AI said.
Jane scowled at the ceiling. "Why?"
"The warehouse they ship out of had a fire," the AI said. "It had to come in from farther away."
"Oh. I guess that makes sense," she complained, staring at Tony. "That's not in the contract."
"Reasonable use of materials is and we all live on coffee, Jane. Part of your yearly grant budget is for coffee. And pop tarts if you want to splurge."
"What yearly grant?" she demanded. "That wasn't in the contract either."
"Yes it was. J, pull up a virtual screen with her contract and find out where her yearly grant payment is." A virtual screen popped up with a picture of an envelope on a table and the contract. He pointed. "See, reasonable accommodations for scientific necessity and investigation. IE, coffee budget." He stared at her. "Let's go find that check and then we'll let you and Darcy go buy stuff for your lab."
"She needs to move. She had a nightmare," she said quietly.
"I heard. We all heard. Though it probably wasn't why they were up all night." She grimaced. "If she wants to move into the tower all she has to do is ask."
"No, she doesn't," Darcy said. "I'm not an Avenger or girlfriend of an Avenger and this is Avenger tower. All the other lab grunts live elsewhere too." She stared at Tony. "You're sweet. Thank you anyway." She smiled.
"Fine. Take your yearly grant payment and go buy yourself a coffee maker." She nodded, walking Jane off. "Get the poor woman some pop tarts too."
"Of course. Who do you think introduced Thor to them," she quipped with a smirk back at Tony. "Jane basically proclaimed it the food of the gods and indulged his wanting a taste." She got them onto the elevator and down to the front lobby. "Bank?"
"Bank," Jane agreed. "Coffee. Rogers makes terrible coffee."
"Yes he does." She took Jane up to the coffee shop, letting Jane pay for it. Her card declined so Darcy paid for it. "You can pay me back later," she quipped. "After we go straighten out the bank. With your luck, someone stole your identity and was kidnaped for your work," she said with a cheery smile.
Jane sipped her coffee. "If so, I get to laugh." They went to the bank, where someone had closed out her account on her. They went to Darcy's bank, who was more than happy to set Jane up with a new account and let Darcy take some of her savings out to pay for things Jane would pay her back for. Mostly a coffee maker, some coffee supplies, and pop tarts. Plus a toaster. Jane did like them warm sometimes. Then they went back to the lab to make a little coffee corner for the poor, soon to be overused machine. The lab was a mess but that was about usual. The papers and machines could make way for a coffee making friend.
Darcy leaned into Stark's lab. "Got ten?"
"Hopefully. Unless the world ends in a few minutes." He turned to look at her. "What's happened? I saw where that was deposited."
She brought in the forms the bank had given Jane. "I made a joke at the coffee shop about someone stealing her identity and then getting kidnaped for her research."
"Are you psychic?" he teased with a smirk.
"I hope not. It sounds like it sucks."
He took the papers to read, frowning at it. "That's weird."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Especially since I don't think Jane's ever been to Ecuador. So how is her passport down there with someone who looks like they worked for SHIELD since I saw him New Mexico?"
"How is he using a female's passport," he said. "Huh. Have you told anyone else?"
"Nope," she said. "Figured I'd start with you."
"Sure. Let me tell others. Thanks, Lewis."
"Thank you for letting us buy a coffee maker. Jane's really happy." She left so he could call in the others.
Tony was smirking when the team assembled. "Lewis made a joke earlier about someone stealing Jane's identity and then getting kidnaped to get her research. Instead it looks like someone who may have been SHIELD did it." He let them see it. "She said she recognized him from New Mexico?"
"Yeah, he was one of the backup agents," Clint said, staring at the forms. "How is he using a female passport?"
"The better question is why is he in Ecuador," Natasha said. "There's no former SHIELD facilities down there. Can we track where he's been?"
"Panama and Germany," Tony said. "JARVIS looked it up while you guys were assembling." He looked at them. "So....."
"That's really a weird spot. There's nothing there," Clint said. "Nat, can you pull up the old files?" She nodded, getting into the files from SHIELD's former database. Nothing in that area of Ecuador. "Any idea?"
"Any other agencies or groups that could have one?" Steve asked. "Why would they want to kidnap Dr. Foster?"
"Because she's working on getting the Bifrost back open," Tony said. "Which, ya know, led to the invasion and that stuff." He stared at him. "If they can do that, then they can invade Asgard or bring someone like Loki here again."
"Someone with Jane's skills would be wanted to work on other theoretical applications as well," Natasha said. "It may not be her area of expertise but she has the skills to take over high particle physics research and other areas. We've had tabs on her loosely since college, and more tightly since Thor landed in front of their van. There's a host of people who could use her even if it's not her area."
"The same reason they'd want me," Tony said. "Not for physics but for engineering things." Natasha nodded. "Which is why I'm happy she's safely here now."
Clint grimaced. "If it's safe here."
"Should be," Tony said, looking at Natasha. "Anything on the area? Or you, JARVIS?"
"Two things, sir," the AI said. "One, there's a classified file from the local version of the FBI down there. That links back to a file reported on for the Watchers Council. Their system is full of holes and it's very easy to hack."
"Which means no one wants to take out one of the slayers," Clint said. "I asked."
"I guess that makes sense. The government doesn't need to take a bigger approach to bothering them, they can already see all their files," Tony said. "I'd hate it."
"Me too," Natasha agreed. "What was it? Why would it relate to Dr. Foster's work?"
"There's apparently a temple with a gateway of some sort," the AI said. He pulled up that report. They read it and Steve was grimacing. "I'm not sure if her area of expertise would relate to that."
"Yeah it would," Bruce said. "Can you get Jane and Darcy? Is someone using Darcy's passport, JARVIS?"
"No, hers has a special lock on it by Agent Coulson."
"From New Mexico?" Clint asked.
"No, his name was signed to it but it was within the last six months."
"Impossible," Stark said.
Darcy and Jane walked in. "Did we figure it out?" Darcy asked.
"Why did Agent Coulson lock your passport? Is it a non-use one, JARVIS?"
"No, it's a monitored one, sir, and it was done approximately two months ago. The ISP of the digital order was from a mobile command center."
Clint stared at the screen. "That's got to be a really good forgery. That's his signature."
"Where is said mobile command plane now?" Natasha asked calmly.
"Canada. It's landed and it looks like it's grounded at the moment. In storage."
Darcy cleared her throat. "I got told that they put a watch on it because they thought someone might take it. Whoever Grant Ward is thought I wasn't the best at protecting my own data."
"I know that dick," Clint said. "He was a level seven agent." He looked at Natasha. "The flirty one."
"I remember him," she said with a grimace. "Not worthy of his level." She looked him up. "Assigned to a special mobile response team. Agent May.... Fuck," she finished in Russian, pulling up that file. Stark stared then at her. She looked at Darcy. "When did you last see Agent Coulson, Miss Lewis?"
"About five months ago? He showed up to check on us and Thor, mostly to handle the guy that tried to invade the labs to get Jane's work." She looked at Jane.
Jane nodded. "I remember him. I remember seeing Agent Ward and feeling slimy. He seemed a bit too...."
"Goody-goody," Darcy said. "Like he's a bit oily but not slimy nasty sort?" she said, looking at Clint.
"He is a goody-goody and hiding something because that's got to be a mask. He would've washed out of SHIELD years ago if he was that much a boy scout." He and Natasha shared a look. "Five months?" he asked the ladies. They both nodded. "Any idea who that guy was?"
"Some douchebag from Ottowa's college," Jane said. "He wanted my research so he could claim it. He was barely a master's candidate. Ward got pushy and demanded we start encrypting things. When I pointed out we hand-wrote it and it wasn't on a computer he almost had a fit. Like he expected it to be stolen anyway but no one can steal hand written stuff online."
Darcy nodded. "I got that feeling too. That's why I talked to Coulson when he showed up with the uber-robot chick and the hyper, like tweaker at times hyper, hacker."
"May," Clint said. Natasha nodded, looking at the rest of the team. "No last name...." He stared at that. "Why?"
"I have no idea," Jane said. "So why is my passport in Ecuador?" she asked with a point at the other stuff on virtual screens.
"That's what we'd like to know since that leads to a Council event with a gateway," Bruce said with a smile for her.
She stared back. "You think my research could open it?"
"Maybe, or they might," Stark said. "The guy was an agent." Clint nodded, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Is that part of the HYDRA nastiness?" Darcy asked. She looked at Steve.
"They were partially into the occult and partially into science," Steve admitted. "What would that gateway get them?"
"We can call," Tony said. "JARVIS?"
"Already ringing, sir." He projected it.
"Yuppers," a female voice said.
"It's Tony Stark, I need to speak to Xander," he said.
The voice giggled. "Sure you are, dude. How did you get this number?"
"It's Darcy Lewis and Tony Stark. We *really* need to talk to Xander. He was guarding me a few months back."
"You're the pretty one Darrien talked about for weeks. Hold on. Xander!" she bellowed, slightly away from the phone. "Major nerd conference call."
"If it's Buffy she can pick out her own shoes," he called back. Most of the Avengers and Jane all rolled their eyes. Darcy snorted with Clint.
"It's the pretty one Darrien talked about and the guy who said he's Tony Stark."
"What's up?" he said.
"Slight issue not related to that mess," Darcy said. "Someone took Dr. Foster's passport to a temple in Ecuador."
"Which one is Dr. Foster? We keep track of a few people's works that could land them in the sights of someone crazy with magic."
"She's rebuilding the Bifrost," Tony said.
"Fuck, I was hoping it was someone else. Temple in Ecuador? About three years ago?"
"That was the only mention we could find about that area, and yes," Tony said. He sighed. "How bad?"
"It's a temporal gateway, Mr. Stark. To a totally other realm. Somehow the two portals got layered so you can go to that other realm but only if you want to go back in time for a bit."
"How far?" Darcy asked.
"The girls were fighting two dinosaurs," he said cheerfully. "I'll have someone go check the stupid thing."
"It might be related to the HYDRA stuff," Stark said. "And do you know anything about an Agent Coulson?"
"Phil? Yeah. He's in hiding. His team's got fractured by the douche of HYDRA. I knew one of the geeks on his team so they called up and asked for sanctuary. They're in the local temple up here working on things. Why? I can go talk to him if you need me to. Though he'd probably hate going to that other world during...probably the renaissance."
"Why so recent if the last one was dinosaurs?" Steve asked.
"Willow did some sort of math thing that if you plug in the date today it'll pop up when you go back then. She presented it at some mystical mojo conference full of assholes who think they have magic a few years ago." He sighed. "Most of them are on our shitlist but ya know how that goes I guess," Xander said.
"Can you work it backwards to see when they would've been in World War 2?" Steve asked.
"I'm not that good at math. I hate math. Math hates me. I can email Stark the formula."
"Please," Stark agreed. A few seconds later his email beeped. "Willow's messy with her math. It's cringe worthy."
"She was one of our school's geniuses, Stark. And don't tell her that, she'll get huffy and yell at me for no reason."
"Sorry, kid. Doesn't change that fact.... Let's see. Working it backwards... looks like tomorrow or the next day they get to '43, and the day after that is 1212 BC."
"At least the warriors would be easier to take down than dinosaurs," Darcy quipped.
"Yeah but bronze and silver age weapons hurt like a bitch," Xander told her. "And they often leave infections because they never burned those clean. Don't ask. Just...don't. Please?"
"Gladly. Sounds grody," Darcy agreed, smiling at the project. "So...got a map?"
"I'm sending that whole file over to you. We're not totally stupid and the reports that are hackable are the bare bones. The rest is off-line. Mostly because Giles thinks computers are signs that evil's already winning. Even his toaster is a sign evil is winning because it's programable. Willow bought it for him as a present." The fax machine in there started to go off. "Might be it. About sixty pages, including maps and pictures."
"Thank you," Tony said. "Have a better night, kid, and don't tell Coulson we talked. We're apparently supposed to think he died."
Xander cleared his throat. "Yeah, but I'm pretty sure the goddess they went to about that decided not to. Fury *thought* it was the alien serum but he didn't notice the ritual tattoos on the body or anything. It was blessed to something higher and that higher something helped a lot."
"Great," Stark said. "Thanks. We'll call if we need help."
"I'm writing Mandy's number on the back. That's her area. If it's bigger than she can handle then call. I won't tell him you know." He hung up.
Stark got up to gather the forms. "Thanks for diverting it to this fax, JARVIS."
"Welcome, sir." They got everything and Jane figured out how the gateway worked fairly easily. On the last page was a video capture from the temple.
Clint pointed. "Agent May. The hacker chick. Two SHIELD geeks."
"Fitz and Simmons," Natasha said quietly, staring at the picture. "The new one...something happened in LA and Centipede did something to him."
"Do I want to know why bugs are changing people?" Stark asked.
"They're like HYDRA light only they want to make their own super powered people," Natasha said.
"Charming. We'll deal with them later." They all nodded and figured out how to do things. Steve didn't want to do more than alert the local slayer. They could handle it. They left, heading down there.
Darcy and Jane went back to rearranging the lab so nothing harmful got near the precious coffee. They had already almost killed it with an experiment going explosive unexpectedly.
A cute kid for mother's day.