Title: Heroes Don’t Look Like They Used To
Author: marcicat

Rating: T
Word Count: 5300

Fandom: MCU (Avengers, Captain America: TWS, Amazing Spiderman)
Characters: Gwen Stacey, Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, Jane Foster, Darcy Lewis, JARVIS, Tony Stark

Author’s Note: Title is from the song ‘Nothing More,’ by The Alternate Routes. Story ignores everything about TASM2 except for Gwen’s offer to go to London.

Summary: Gwen Stacey got on the plane.



She saw the message and kept going.

Because she loved Peter, that was never a question, and she was actually okay with the fact that she wouldn’t ever be first for him, because he needed to be Spiderman as much as the city needed Spiderman to be theirs… But that meant she had to do it herself, so she tapped out I love you too and sent it, and then she took a deep breath before adding I’m still going to London and sending that too.

It was to Flash she texted I’m sorry, because he would understand. His reply of <3 made her smile, and she pushed the phone to the bottom of her bag so she wouldn’t be tempted to change her mind.

***

They met her at the gate in London with an enormous sign declaring WELCOME GWEN in glitter. Dr. Foster looked shorter in person, and it was an effort not to say that out loud, because she’d been awake for way too many hours despite all her good intentions of sleeping on the flight.

Luckily, the woman holding the sign jumped in first. “Intern!” she said, and Dr. Foster elbowed her in the ribs. “Gwen, I mean. You made it!”

They didn’t really need introductions, but they all shook hands and exchanged names anyway, and Dr. Foster said to call her Jane, and she was still a little unclear on who Darcy was, exactly, but it didn’t seem polite to pry. “I used to have an intern,” Darcy confided, as they wended their way through the airport. “But Ian abandoned us to go build spaceships with Erik.”

Dr. Foster frowned. “Darcy, that’s not really —“

But Darcy waved her hands. “It’s a vehicle that can travel in space. Spaceship.”

They’d been slowly working their way towards what she’d hoped was the baggage claim, but turned out to be a small sitting area next to a fountain. “I have luggage,” she said, and then wanted to wince at the inanity of the statement. Way to impress the boss, there. Bosses?

“I know,” Dr. Foster said, and then, “This is sort of awkward.”

Oh god. Were they firing her from her internship before she’d even started?

Darcy leaned forward. “Jane, you’re freaking her out. Here’s the deal — we were in London for a science thing, and staying at Jane’s mom’s place, which is small, and when you add in Th— Jane’s boyfriend, it’s like, tiny.” She held her hands a few inches apart, like a visual aid for ‘tiny’ would make the whole explanation more comprehensible. “Jane wants to know how much you had your heart set on doing your internship in London.”

She looked back and forth between them. They stared back at her. “Did I do something wrong?” she asked finally. She’d had three internship interviews go south when they realized she was talking about that Dr. Connors, but Dr. Foster had assured her it wasn’t a problem.

“No, no, of course not.” Dr. Foster shook her head, and exchanged a look with Darcy. “We were planning to be in London longer, but something came up. We’re flying to New York tonight.”

“New York. Where I just came from.”

Darcy at least looked apologetic. “Yeah. Sorry about that. There is actually more of an explanation, we just can’t tell you until you’ve signed the non-disclosure agreements.”

And she didn’t want to just keep repeating everything they said, so she stood up instead. “I need a minute.”

They directed her to the nearest restroom, and she pretended they weren’t talking about her while she was gone. Deep breaths, she reminded herself. It wasn’t what she’d planned for, but they weren’t asking her opinion. The decision had already been made. She wanted the internship; the internship was still hers. It just no longer had the bonus of being on a different continent than all her problems.

She washed her hands. She stared at her reflection in the mirror while she breathed some more. Then she walked back to where Dr. Foster and Darcy were sitting, and said, “Okay. When do we leave?”

“Oh, thank goodness,” Dr. Foster said. “Right now, actually.”

Darcy amended, “After we get your luggage. It’s a private plane; they’ll wait for us.”

Which was how she found herself headed back to New York less than 24 hours after she’d left. On a private Stark Industries jet. The comfort level was certainly higher than the first trip, but she thought the confusion might be making up for it. The non-disclosure agreements had looked pretty standard to her; the information she’d gotten after signing them, not so much.

“So your super secret spy organization imploded, and all their super secret files wound up on the internet?”

“We’re not with SHIELD,” Dr. Foster said quickly.

“They’re also not that secret,” Darcy added, giving her a skeptical look. “Huge building in Washington DC; said SHIELD at the front door? You haven’t been following the news much, I guess.”

And then they were both looking at her. She tried to look like someone who was so devoted to her studies that she’d missed the evening news for the past year or so. “I’ve been busy. I heard something about it, I just —“ She trailed off, because she couldn’t exactly say ‘had more immediate problems to worry about,’ but she thought saying ‘didn’t think it affected me’ would be worse.

Luckily, they didn’t push, and Dr. Foster yawned. “We should all get some rest,” she said.

Darcy waved her off. “Jane, you go sleep. Gwen can stay awake for the two minute summary, so she can be deciding if she’s getting off the crazy train when we get back to New York.”

She was pretty sure she twitched at that, but Darcy didn’t mention it, so maybe not. “Two minute summary?” she asked.

“Right, here goes. Couple years back, Thor showed up in New Mexico — we were there, SHIELD was there, Jane and Thor struck up an intergalactic romance for the ages. We all wound up on spook radar, more or less with our knowledge and consent. Fast forward through the Battle of New York, etcetera; SHIELD blows itself up spectacularly in the public eye while dumping thousands of gigs of data online, including data that has our names in it.”

She paused, so Gwen nodded, but Darcy’s attention was on the tablet in front of her. “There’s really no good way to say this. In DC, there was this guy.” She flipped the tablet around to show a grim-looking man staring at something off screen.

“That’s the Winter Soldier,” Darcy explained. “First he tried to kill Captain America, then he saved his life. Then he disappeared. It’s possible he’s A) been brainwashed by Hydra; B) has amnesia; C) is Captain America’s best friend from childhood Bucky Barnes; or D) planning to kill us all one by one. Maybe some combination of those. Hopefully not D.”

Honestly, it didn’t sound much more implausible than ‘my last internship ended when my boss transformed himself into a giant lizard and went crazy.’ “Okay,” she said.

Darcy gave her an assessing look. “You’re taking this surprisingly well.”

“My dad was a police officer.” And then, since Darcy was still looking at her, she added, “And my last internship ended when my boss transformed himself into a giant lizard and went crazy.”

“Yeah, that’d do it.” To her relief, Darcy nodded, like that was a perfectly rational explanation. “As far as anyone will tell us, the chances of an actual threat are small — the last security camera footage they shared showed this guy at the Smithsonian.” She flipped the tablet and showed a new picture. “I mean, I get that he’s a super-spy-killer and everything, but to me that looks a lot more ‘sad hobo’ than ‘clear and present danger.’ But Jane’s mom wanted her apartment back anyway, and this way we get rent free living space in New York.”

Gwen raised her eyebrows, and Darcy said, “Stark Tower — safest building in the city, if you ignore the fact that it’s also a giant magnet for crazy.”

Even after all that, she managed to sleep most of the way back to New York. Of course, nothing actually resolved itself while she was sleeping. She woke up to 87 text messages — one from her mom, 86 from Flash. None from Peter. There was no time to get in touch with any of them at the airport, as they were hustled from plane to car with a speed that cast some doubt over Darcy’s assessment of the risk level.

She texted her mom from the car, just a basic ‘everything’s fine here, back safe in New York, more later.’ Flash’s texts she resolutely ignored, and let herself be distracted by Darcy’s quizzing of their driver.

It wasn’t until they reached the Tower itself that she was able to excuse herself to the bathroom and skim through the messages. Most of them seemed to be variations of ‘!!!’ and ‘?!?!@‘ She crossed her fingers and dialed.

“We’re both fine,” Flash said, as soon as the call connected. “You?”

“Back in the city,” she answered. “Flash. What happened?”

“Someone saved his ass out there, is what happened. And then I practically had to sit on him to get him to rest afterwards — is he always like this?”

Even without knowing what, exactly, Flash was referring to, the answer was easy. “Yes.”

“You deserve a medal.” She could hear him sigh over the phone. “Seriously, though, are you sure you want to dive back into this? Just because you’re back in the city doesn’t mean you can’t still take a break.”

It was a nice thing to say. It didn’t feel exactly true, to her, but it was still — nice to hear. She shook her head, even though he couldn’t see it. “I would have called you from London if I was there. I happen to be in a restroom in Stark Tower instead; either way I’d want to know how you were doing. Both of you.”

“Okay, I get it. We really are fine, though. It was a robot. Pete got his bell rung pretty good, scared the crap out of me. Last second, something hit it that brought it down. Police swarmed in, the whole deal. No injuries.”

That was good. She took a deep breath. “Any ideas about the ‘something’?”

“Not yet. None of the kids have firepower like that, though. I’ll ask around.”

“Be careful, Flash.” She wanted to say more, but there was a limit to how long she could stay in the bathroom before they sent someone in looking for her.

“You too,” he said.

She tucked the phone into her pocket just as Darcy rounded the corner. “Oh good, there you are,” Darcy said, and she actually sounded relieved, as if she hadn’t been sure what she’d find. “Jane, I found her!” she yelled.

Either she’d seriously overestimated the amount of time that would be considered acceptable, or her new bosses were a little paranoid. “Worried you were going to have to walk another intern through all that paperwork?” she joked.

“You were the only applicant,” Darcy told her. “So no, not really, but it’s cool. That’s how I got the job too, although it turns out a poli-sci background is actually a lot more useful than I would have thought.”

It took her a second to work through that. “Wait, really?”

“Well, you were the only one we considered. It’s pretty easy to weed out the Avengers groupies and the wannabe alien abductees once you meet a few.” Darcy shrugged. “So, tour time?”

***

It was a short tour. (“This is your ID badge, this is your apartment, this is Jane’s main lab. Stay here, read these notes.”) She did. Then she read them through a second time, because there were probably cameras in the lab, so even though it felt like she was totally alone and should poke around, the chances of that being a good idea were low.

She heard the door open and looked up quickly, expecting Darcy, or Dr. Foster. Instead, there was a kid standing there. “Hi,” she said.

He didn’t move from the doorway. “Who are you?” he asked.

“Who are you?” she countered. She was pretty sure he was somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be; he looked just like her brothers when they got caught.

“I asked first.”

She pointed at her badge. “I have an ID badge.”

He hesitated, and then his eyes went wide and innocent. “I love science?”

“Uh-huh. I’ve heard that before.” He looked like he was considering making a run for it down the hallway, and she had no idea whether it would be better to let him go or encourage him to stay. “I’m Gwen,” she said, figuring that was neutral enough.

He stepped all the way into the room and headed for the table she’d claimed. “Harley,” he said. “What are you working on?”

She gave him the notes Darcy had left her, because there was nothing in there you couldn’t find on the internet, even though it was a switch to see it laid out like fact, instead of on a conspiracy theorist website. He was only a couple pages in when the door opened again.

Darcy didn’t look surprised to see the kid. “Hey, you must be Harley, right? I heard you were here. I’m Darcy.” She held her hand out, and Harley stood up on the rungs of his stool to reach over the table and shake it.

“Mailing list Darcy?” he asked.

“That’s me.”

They stared at each for a few seconds, and then Harley said, “Cool.” And that was that, apparently. She felt like she was missing some crucial pieces of information, but Darcy just nodded.

There was a chime, and then a man’s voice — speakers? Intercom? “Hey, kid, have you got something against your ID badge?”

Harley didn’t look at all surprised. “No?” he said, and the way he was trying to look innocent made her even more convinced that there were cameras around.

“Then why am I looking at it and not you?”

Harley rolled his eyes at that. “Come on, it’s not like I need it. JARVIS knows me. He can track my biometrics all over the building a lot easier than some card.”

She caught Darcy’s eyes and mouthed ‘JARVIS?’ Darcy waved a hand in a gesture that hopefully meant ‘I’ll explain everything later.’

“Of course he can. But I’m told some people are uncomfortable with the idea of omnipresent tracking, despite its clear security advantages. Hence the badges. Also, they’re totally cool.”

Harley said, “So, it’s kind of like you’re spying on people without them knowing. Don’t you think that’s deceptive?”

There were a few seconds of silence, and then, “Well, it sounds bad when you say it like that. And it’s totally not why I was calling. You should come upstairs — compiler’s finishing now, and you’re going to want to see this.”

Harley handed her papers back and high-fived Darcy on his way out the door. Darcy conspicuously failed to explain JARVIS, and Dr. Foster conspicuously failed to appear at all. Instead, Gwen got two more days worth of reading assignments while Darcy assured her they were “still unpacking.”

On the third day — a Thursday — they kicked her out of the lab at noon with instructions to be somewhere else for the rest of the day, and she tried very hard not to draw comparisons to Dr. Connors.

***

“It’s weird, though, right?” She pushed her remaining fries towards the middle of the table so that Peter and Flash would finish them. “This is not how internships normally work.”

Peter shrugged. They were eating at a restaurant not too far from the Tower. So far he’d eaten all of his own lunch and half of hers. Flash had all but wrapped an arm around the remains of his sandwich to protect it. “I don’t know if any of us are really experts on normal.”

She made a face at him, and he ducked his head, utterly failing to hide his smile. “Maybe it’s a test,” Flash said.

“Of what?” They had literally given her nothing to do except read. It was testing her patience, a little, but not much else.

Flash looked uncertain, but said, “Supervillainy? Secret identity? Hydra ties? It’s what I’d be checking for, if I was them.”

“Did you investigate me?” Peter asked, looking intrigued.

Flash rolled his eyes. “I’ve known you since you were six, Parker.” They both laughed when Peter replied by throwing a napkin at his head. “I’m just saying, they told you that you were the only applicant who wasn’t automatically disqualified, right? Maybe they think they might have missed something.”

That — made a worrying amount of sense, actually. Of course, it was also possible they just had more important things to spend their time on than one summer intern.

“Suggestions?” she said.

Peter went with the obvious. “Wait them out?” She was still trying to figure out the best way to point out that he consistently recommended the safest, most conservative options for her and Flash, and yet never seemed to consider them for himself.

“Or you could give them something to find,” Flash offered. Peter startled, and Flash threw the napkin back at him. “Not that, obviously. Secret boyfriend is a classic, though. But Dr. Foster’s supposed to be dating an alien prince, so I don’t know.”

“Seriously? How do you even know these things?” Peter looked like he was torn between being confused and impressed. (Flash looked decidedly unimpressed.)

“The rest of us don’t cease to exist when you’re not around, you know. While you’re out doing your thing, we catch up.”

It was a discussion they’d had before. Many times. “Hey, any news about the mysterious good samaritan?” she asked, trying to divert the topic.

Flash shook his head. “Ava thought someone must have cleared a path for her last night, but it could have been a coincidence. It’s been quiet, though. Like, weird quiet.”

They finished the meal on less shaky conversational ground, and walked back towards the Tower together. Flash’s shift didn’t start till three, and Peter’s schedule was flexible. It was a hot day, but they lingered on the sidewalk. At least, they did until Darcy walked by and did a double-take, and then there were awkward introductions and Darcy inviting them all into the lobby so they could get some water.

She had warned them about the biometrics conversation. “We have to go, actually,” Peter said, probably only slightly more twitchy than usual. “Thank you, though.” Flash stayed quiet, but they both hugged her before they left, and she pretended not to notice Darcy’s speculative gaze when she waved after them.

***

The next day, after they kicked her out for the afternoon again, she detoured home first — hugged her mom, assured her brothers that no, she hadn’t seen any of the Avengers yet, and yes, she would tell them as soon as she did. It was both more and less awkward than she’d expected.

She packed another bag — there were a few things she had figured she could live without for a few months if it meant not having to pack them up and fly overseas with them, but really wouldn’t mind having close by if it was going to be as convenient as a taxi ride to get them. And then she was at loose ends. She wasn’t used to having significant amounts of free time on her hands.

She wound up at the park, and jumped a little when Darcy sat down next to her on the bench. “Are you following me?” she asked.

“Nope. I’m on a snack run.” Darcy’s eyes were on her phone. “But Natasha’s following you. And Clint’s following me, so we get to sit here and make small talk for a few minutes while they have a super secret spy conversation. Or something.”

She ran over the words a few times in her head, and they still didn’t change. “What?”

Something in her tone was enough to make Darcy look up, startled. “What?”

“I’m being followed?” She definitely didn’t remember agreeing to that.

“Um, yeah? They haven’t managed to track down the potentially amnesiac, potentially murderous best friend, so —“ She waved her hand. “Security. You are officially not going to get mugged. Or, you know, sniped by a Soviet assassin.”

She tried to figure out how she would feel if she wasn’t trying to protect her boyfriend’s secret identity as a masked vigilante, and settled on ’still pretty uncomfortable.’ “Was this in the paperwork I signed?”

“It’s a recent development,” Darcy said, which probably meant no. “Honestly, we’re just getting second and third-hand rumors in the science labs, but word is he may have been spotted in the city.”

“Really?” It seemed like a safe enough thing to say. Anyone would be interested in potential amnesiac assassins in their city, right?

“I guess. The way I hear it, the team isn’t having much luck finding him. Don’t worry, though; Jane and I pinky-swore that if we got another intern, we wouldn’t get them involved in all the crazy.”

“Is that why you won’t let me do anything?” she asked, without thinking about it.

Darcy actually looked confused for a few seconds, then shook her head. “No, of course not. We figured you wouldn’t mind the downtime, but I get that sight-seeing in London is a little different than all this.” She took a breath, then quickly added, “Also, we made a list, of things to tell our next intern right at the start — which is you — but it sort of got lost during the move, and — we keep hoping we’ll find it? But we haven’t yet.”

“Darcy.” She waited until Darcy met her eyes, and said slowly, “I would really, really like to do some work.”

Darcy grinned. “In that case, I am happy to say there is an entire stack of data sets waiting to be charted back at the lab. But first —“ She held up a hand. “Snacks.”

They headed out of the park together, and the idea of charting data sets shouldn’t be exciting, and yet it was, somehow, because she was finally going to be doing something. She dropped back when her phone rang, and she frowned down at it even as she waved for Darcy to keep going. It was Flash’s ring tone, but he never called during the day. Almost never. “Hello?” she said.

“Gwen? It’s Peter. Are you okay?”

“Am I — yes, of course I’m okay. Are you? Why are you calling me on Flash’s phone?”

“I grabbed it by accident when I bailed out last night, and he let his neighbor play games on mine all day in revenge. It’s still charging.”

“What’s going on?”

“I can’t just call you to say you’re amazing and wonderful and that I miss you?”

“You could, but you already do that every night, and it’s the middle of the afternoon, so…”

“Oh, wow, would you look at that? It is.”

She couldn’t help smiling. “Peter.”

“Yes, okay, there was another thing. Flash finally heard from someone who saw the mysterious samaritan face to face. Mask to mask. You know what I mean. You are not going to believe this. He thinks it’s the guy, the one that got your internship moved back to New York.”

Her brain shorted out for a second. “The — really?” She was suddenly acutely aware that she was being watched, apparently by a member of the Avengers, who was looking for the exact person she was talking about.

“Uh, yeah, I guess. The guy from DC. He helped them out when they were outnumbered, and he seemed kind of messed up, is what Flash said.”

“Wait — from the fight, or in general?”

“No, the fight was fine. More of a general messed up, like he was on drugs. Or, you know, he was a brainwashed World War II veteran.”

“Do you want me to tell anyone?” As in, did they want her to tell the Avengers? They were right there, after all. And probably the best equipped to handle… whatever was going on with this guy.

“Well, Flash thinks you phone is probably bugged, so there’s that. Otherwise, I don’t know. What would we say? ‘Someone told us they think they saw the guy you’re looking for, but we don’t know for sure or anything about where he is now.’ Not exactly breaking news.”

"They've already heard he's in the city."  She wasn't touching the phone bug issue.  She respected Flash's paranoia, but she didn't always agree with it.

”I’m thinking the chances that we lay eyes on this guy before the Avengers, who are actively looking for him?  Not great.”

She wasn't touching that one either.  (Seriously, Peter was going to talk about long odds?)  But he did have a good point; they didn't have any information the Avengers didn't already have.  "Be safe out there," she said.  "Don't forget to give Flash's phone back."

There was a noise in the background, and Peter said, ”He’s here now.  Are we still on for dinner?”

“Yeah. See you at 8?” They would all meet and have dinner with Aunt May, then Peter and Flash would “walk her back” to the Tower. If Spiderman made an appearance at some point along the way, well, that’s what texting was for.

“You’re the best, Gwen. Flash says you’re his favorite now.”

She laughed. “I’ll see you both tonight. Try and stay out of trouble until then, okay?”

***

Trouble found them halfway back to the Tower (after dinner, so technically, they did meet the goal). All the usual signals — sirens, flashes of light, social media going nuts — and all far enough away that it didn’t make sense for all of them to get involved. Peter took off for the rooftops. Flash shouldered his bag without question, and they kept moving. Just another night in the city of heroes. She wasn’t sure whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, but it was starting to feel routine.

She hadn’t realized that the Tower would be such a popular destination, though. The lower levels were a designated emergency shelter (presumably for emergencies that didn’t involve the Tower itself being a target), but it was the lobby where a crowd had gathered to watch the action on large screens.

“Gwen!” Darcy waved them over to the closest wall. “JARVIS said you were back in the building, I figured I’d come down and make sure you got through all this okay.” She frowned at Flash. “Am I supposed to know your name?”

Flash held out his hand. “It’s Flash,” he said.

“He’s with me,” Gwen offered, just in case Darcy had been thinking of leaving him in the lobby.

Darcy didn’t even pause. “Sure. Why not? This way.”

She’d been in the residents’ elevator before, even though she generally used one of the regular staff ones. What she hadn’t done before was run into Tony Stark outside any of the elevators. He turned to look at them when the doors opened, and frowned.

“Hey boss,” Darcy said, waving.

The frown got more pronounced. “Okay, one, I’m not your boss. Two, why do I recognize both of these people?”

Even Darcy looked a little startled at that, and she hadn’t been sure anything could startle Darcy. “I work here,” Gwen offered.

“Right, that makes sense. Intern. We’ve met? You met Harley, that tracks.” He focused on Flash. “You don’t work here. JARVIS?”

There was a slight pause, and then JARVIS said, “Perhaps a chance encounter, sir?”

Flash looked completely unsurprised by the AI’s voice. Then again, it was hard to tell with him sometimes.

“JARVIS. Do I ever remember people from chance encounters? What does that even mean, anyway, beyond making me sound like a drug dealer?”

There was another pause that would have been a sigh, if JARVIS did things like sighing. “If you insist. Mr. Eugene ‘Flash’ Thompson, notable for purchasing an unusually large quantity of Iron Man wrist bracer toys.”

Everyone turned to look at Flash. “They were on sale,” he said.

She was still trying to adapt to the fact that Tony Stark was talking to them, and that the topic was apparently children’s toys. Iron Man toys? Stark said, “Oh, that. You didn’t keep them.” Which — what?

Flash shrugged, but she recognized his ‘who, me?’ expression from a hundred confrontations. “Kids like Iron Man.”

Stark’s eyes narrowed. “You know what they do.”

“The kids do.”

Darcy raised her hand. “I don’t what what does. What are we talking about?”

And that made Flash look surprised. “They don’t know?”

“It’s not a secret. Exactly. I mean, obviously, it’s not. You figured it out.”

Darcy tried again. “Seriously, someone’s going to explain this, right?”

Everyone looked at Stark, who was looking at his phone. He waved a hand at them, or maybe just at Flash, since he said, “You explain, I’m busy.”

Flash shrugged again, like it was no big deal. “The Iron Man toy wrist bracers link to an AI in emergencies. The kids feel safer when they can call for help if they need it.”

“Wait, back up. An AI — you mean JARVIS?” Darcy said. “Those plastic toy bracelets at the dollar stores include a link to JARVIS?”

“Essentially, yes.”

Which she was pretty sure meant ‘no, not really; let’s stop talking about it’ in JARVIS-speak. She hadn’t interacted with him much in the lab, but when she heard him with Jane there seemed to be a lot of loaded silences and heavily implied judging. “Speaking of emergencies,” she said, and let it trail off, looking at Stark.

He ignored them, but JARVIS jumped on the diversion. “Captain Rogers believes the current alert may draw out Sergeant Barnes; the Avengers versed in subterfuge are tracking the situation. Iron Man was deemed a non-subtle team member, and was therefore selected to remain here.”

Stark finally looked up from his phone. “Yes, thank you JARVIS, for that reminder. Make a note — stealth mode. Move it up the list, will you?”

“Of course, sir.”

Darcy rolled her eyes. “Come on, we can watch all the footage in the lounge. Jane’s there already.”

Stark called after them as they headed towards the labs. “Tell JARVIS if he’s staying overnight, so the security system doesn’t tag him as a hostile. That would be bad. I should probably fix that, actually.”

“Are you staying overnight?” Darcy asked. “Inquiring minds want to know.”

Flash shrugged. “I have work.”

“Darcy!” Jane yelled from somewhere further down the hall. “If that’s you, I have snacks! If it’s Thor, go get your own!”

***

Her phone buzzed with a text less than an hour later. Home safe. Love you.

She snapped a picture of Flash, asleep on the sofa, and sent it back with the message, Us too, talk later, before shaking Flash awake. “Hey,” she said quietly. “You wanted a wake-up call?”

“Yeah, thanks. Everyone okay?”

She waved the phone at him. “All good.”

He nodded, but it was interrupted by a yawn. “Good. Wanna walk down together? You can badge me out, or whatever.”

They walked side by side back down the hallway. “I’m pretty sure the badges are superfluous, actually. Maybe we can test it next time.”

He didn’t even try to act like he didn’t know what she was saying. “Next time? You sure?”

She smiled. “Next time. I’ll be here.”

.

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