“Come on,” Darcy muttered over the rapid-fire clicking of the keys. “Come on, baby. Almost there--”
“I didn't even know you could hack that registry.”
“FUCK!” She whipped around. “Barton! How many times have I told you not to sneak up on me?!”
Clint kept sucking on his popsicle—the kind in the plastic tube that reminded Darcy of pineapples and hot as hell summer days—and lifted a brow at her. “You don't have your taser,” he pointed out.
Like that was a perfectly good reason to ignore a request. “I'm going to start carrying it around just for you,” she warned.
He reached into his back pocket and held up a purple popsicle. “Would this help?”
“No it—you know what? Yeah. It probably would.” She held out her hand, and the ice cold slap on her palm felt pretty good. She didn't care if it was barely April; sometimes you just had to crunch on something. Neon colored barely flavored ice seemed like a good way to release some of the tension in her jaw. “I need scissors.”
He pulled out a knife the size of her forearm. She didn't even want to know where he'd been hiding that. Okay, yeah, she did, but she wasn't going to ask, because answers. Really weird answers. Darcy didn't have enough faith in herself to chance that kind of emotional scarring.
“So what's up with the hacking?” He asked, snipping off the top of the tube delicately. Turned out some knives had a scissors option.
Totally confirmed that not asking was the right move. She sighed and sank back in the Awesome Office Chair of Rolls and Good Times. “I was trying to find someone for Steve,” she admitted. God, she was tired. She knew she was decent at hacking and hey, all the state of the art equipment a girl could dream about, but when it came to actually finding something?
Talk about a letdown, and that was saying something considering the state of America at the moment.
It was like the second Steve and Bucky hit the road things went to shit. All the ugly parts of people were showing their ass every chance they got. Friggin' Nazis were showing up in Charlottsville, for fuck's sake. How were they supposed to worry about Hydra when they had home grown white supremacists out in the open, waving their flags and their hands in that fucking salute?
Darcy bit down on the popsicle with a little too much intensity. Sometimes—and this was awful—she was glad that Great Nana was dead and didn't have to witness the rise of this shit all over again.
See? That's what the world was coming to: being glad certain relatives didn't have to deal.
She reached behind her and pet the rock. It was only a semi-conscious gesture.
Clint propped himself on a table. “Not going well.” Wasn't a question.
“No.” And she wished that it was.
Steve and Bucky being gone didn't just make Darcy lonely. It also made her aware just how much the world had put on his shoulders. On both of them. They were the survivors of the Greatest Generation. They were the ones that came out swinging and emerged the victors on the other side. It was like...it was like Captain America and Bucky Barnes (when he wasn't being vilified for the whole Winter Soldier thing) were the only hope that people had to look to. That without him, there wasn't anything to aspire to.
She saw it everywhere. Every headline. Every article that had something else ugly to publish and spin into either one way or the other. They wondered where Captain America had gone. Most of the time they didn't even bother hiding what they really thought—that they'd been abandoned.
And that wasn't fucking fair. Steve had asked to get into the Army, but he didn't ask to become the sole Symbol of Freedom and Democracy TM. People totally ignored the man underneath the suit.
A man that sounded close to breaking every time she read one of his letters.
Darcy had never realized you could get your heart shattered just by pen on paper.
He sounded lost. Alone. Even with Bucky at his side.
Bucky. Darcy wanted to sink into the chair and sigh until the end of time. How was he holding up? What was going on in his head?
She'd wanted to just—give them something. Anything. Show that there was something to see and live for in the here and now, even if it was information about Steve's old neighbor, Mrs. O'Hare. But actual paper records were a bitch. Bureaucracy was a bitch. The whole world was a stupid bitch.
Darcy crunched another piece of ice, frustrated.
Steve's letters had slowed down to a trickle. She wondered if it was because he was reading the news. Did it feel like he'd fought for nothing? Lost everything for nothing?
“Did you go to the march yesterday?” Clint suddenly asked.
Darcy frowned, jerked out of her thoughts. “What march?”
“The march,” he repeated. “The Fight for the Future March? Even Natasha wanted to go.”
Natasha in a very big space with lots and lots of people? Oh boy. Darcy knew that Black Widows were kickass and awesome and a ton of other amazing adjectives, but jesus, that sounded like a recipe for disaster.
PTSD was no damn joke.
Wait. “I missed it?” What? But that—She turned to the computer and checked the date. Dammit! She slumped even further into the chair. She'd been working so hard on the hacking...
Clint rustled around in his vest—okay seriously, what the hell—and pulled out a folded newspaper. “Saw this and thought about you.”
She tilted her head at him. “Is it about boobs?” It was definitely about boobs.
He didn't snicker. That was the first clue this was serious, and yet his eyes were twinkling when he dropped the paper on the desk. In some kind of movie-inspired coincidence, it landed face up, picture dramatically laid out for her viewing.
It wasn't New York, that much she could tell, but it was definitely that of a protest. Lots of people with signs and shirts and oh my god, babies holding signs and shirts. Darcy sat forward, feeling the first uptick in her soul all day. She fucking loved pictures of little kids protesting with their parents. That was quality content right there. The only thing better was the ones with the elderly--
“See anything familiar?” Clint cut in smugly, bending over, still sucking on that popsicle.
She raised a brow. “D.C?” What was she supposed to be looking for?
“Take another gander.”
“Not everybody has a cool nickname about eyesight, Barton.”
He rolled his eyes and pointed. Didn't even look where his finger was going, the jackass. Just stuck the digit right on somebody's face.
She flicked it out of the way and tried to get a closer-- “Holy. Shit,” she breathed.
It was Bucky. Bucky Barnes. The Metal Armed Wonder himself, but it was with his back to the camera. Her gaze shot to Barton's.
“I know that ass,” was all he said.
There were many, many questions to unpack there, but Darcy didn't care. She really didn't care.
It was Bucky.
And now that he'd been pointed out, non-metal arm over his head with a protest sign, it was easy to see the man next to him. Somebody wearing a baseball cap and with a beard.
She didn't think there was anything to cry about, but there she was, tearing up.
Oh hell, who was she kidding? There was plenty to cry about. “They're protesting,” she murmured out loud. Like if she heard it coming out of her own mouth it would seem more real. “Protesting.”
“Thought you'd like to see it.”
It was just—she just—what was she supposed to say? That she was so proud of them? That she was happy, and amazed. How were they doing? Did they handle the crowds alright? Did anybody recognize them? How did they feel? Where did they go next?
Her head was spinning.
She laughed. There wasn't much else to do, was there?
Steve and Bucky were out there fighting a fight that they'd fought before, in a way they'd never done before.
She laughed again. And then she cried. And got back to work.
Maybe Steve Rogers wasn't the Symbol of Freedom and America TM, but he was the person that gave her hope. And if Bucky Barnes could drag his traumatized ass out into the world for a cause, Darcy wasn't going to sit around for it.
“Going to finish that popsicle?” Clint asked over the clicking of the keys.
“Yep.” She stuck it between her teeth. She didn't trust him as far as she could throw him.
He leaned over her shoulder. “That's not the same database,” he observed casually.
“Oh, that's good.”
The next morning three flagging websites had been magically fixed, the non profit organizations flabbergasted by the sudden support that poured in. Someone had brought their sites to national attention. There were sizable donations waiting, money that would keep them going for months.
When Tony Stark got the report, he didn't even blink. He just gave it to Pepper. “You might want to get a look at this. Just saying.”
She opened the file and did a quick read through, her brow climbing higher with every word. “We might have something here.” The wheels in her brain were already turning.
“Yeah, well, you better jump on it before somebody gets the idea to strike out on her own,” he told her over a couple of wrenches and a pot of very cold coffee. He hated cold coffee, but caffeine was the only thing that kept him going after twenty three hours. “Seems like the kind of girl you'd want on your team.”
She gave him an amused look over the edge of the file. “You're not wrong.”
“Genius,” was all he said.
That's how Darcy Lewis became the head of a very fledgling project. The mission? Train a diverse group of underprivileged and under-served young people in computer science. The objective: giving them a skill that would take them farther than some could ever dream. It was Darcy's job to find the trainers, find the kids, and to bring the right people together to design the program. If that worked out, she could set up another location. And then another. And then another.
It was awesome. And scary. And thrilling. It was a lot of things, but it was just the start.
She framed the newspaper and made sure it went right next to Great Nana's rock.
They might have been the Greatest Generation, but they weren't the last. She wasn't going to let them be. She was going to put her professional support team-like skills to a wider use.
And when they came home—because they would, someday, when they were ready and willing—she'd be waiting to show them just that.
In her shoebox at home, where all the letters Steve had sent were stored like precious little tidbits, she added another card to the pile she intended to give him one day.
You give me hope.