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Hopeless Kingdom

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Chapter One.

Darcy had faced the Destroyer, and survived. Eight months after that she had faced Dark Elves, and survived. Both of those had taken great courage from the young woman, but she hadn’t been in the front of the battle; oh no, Darcy Lewis was never in the front line. She ran and rescued animals while Puente Antiguo went up in flames, and then she yelled and ran around in London while Thor squared up against the bad aliens— one might say she was useful then, during that particular battle, but that’s not how she sees it.

Darcy Lewis is a runner, and has been so her entire life. She was good at running away from things. From her responsibilities, from her family, from the good and the bad in her life. After London, however, she decided she was fucking tired of running. So she moved to back to her college campus to finally finish her degree, found herself a small apartment and took up self-defense classes.

It wasn’t easy, however. Her face-offs with aliens left deep, open wounds in her chest. She had nightmares every night, and the cars outside her window always looked suspicious, and after a few months Darcy couldn’t set a foot out the door without panic attacks. Despite needing just a handful of credit to graduate she flunked her final year, and her health started to deteriorate from the sleepless nights and bottomless vodka bottles.

One night, the woman found herself pacing around her tiny apartment with Pietr, her month old cat sleeping soundly on her couch. Darcy was hopeless; she had nothing to fight for anymore, nothing to look forward to in her future— She had survived the London attack, but still somehow had lost her entire life in the battleground.

There was a small sound on her window, a little scratch that, in the dark of the night, sounded ten times louder than it actually had been; she jumped out of her skin for a moment, panicking before ducking to the ground, grabbing her old trusted taser gun and positioned herself behind the couch, waiting. Darcy waited for forty minutes, and nothing happened; not another sound, but it had been enough to keep her in high alert for the rest of the night.

The next morning, tired and broken, Darcy dragged herself out of her apartment for the first time in three weeks. Her fridge was completely empty, and although she had been ordering in food for over a month, the amount of money she had been spending weighted on her conscience like a loaded truck. It was a quick trip to the local grocery store, just seven minutes away. She could do it, she told herself. She knew how to throw a punch and she knew how to untangle herself from an attacker. She knew to scream and to stick her thumb into eye sockets if needed. She was a strong, independent woman and she could buy some groceries, goddamn it.

Despite her constant vigilance for the past year, Darcy doesn’t notice the black van trailing after her. She barely notices the man in full tactic gear until he has a hand over her mouth, the other grabbing her mid-section as the van stops next to her, side door opening wide as the jack booted thug tries to shove her inside of it. White hot panic bursts through her body, and in the moment Darcy needed her training the most, she can’t remember anything. So she flails, and screams and by pure luck manages to hit the back of her head against her kidnapper’s nose hard enough that he drops her, the brunette running for her life the moment her body hits the floor. She’s not fast enough, but Darcy is a smart woman, pushing herself inside a coffee shop before the men on her trail can grab her. In her hand there’s a chunk of bright blond hair from the man that attacked her, and Darcy feels ridiculously proud of herself once she manages to stop crying.

The mysterious men chasing her make Darcy more paranoid than ever. She runs home without her food, and immediately calls Jane. Jane Foster had been her boss for a whole year, and between science benders and slaying intergalactic elves the two had become incredibly good friends; Darcy hadn’t called her in months, though, isolating herself from the outside world and not picking up her phone when Jane, or Selvig, or even her mother called. Now, with her nearly being kidnapped, Darce couldn’t handle being alone. She needed a friend that could understand her fears, and there was no one better for that than Jane.

“Janey, thank god.” Darcy sighed with relief once the other picks up the call, her eyes watering and her jaw shaking all over again. “Something… Christ, something horrible just happened and I—”

“I’m sorry, Doctor Foster is unavailable right now.” The voice is incredibly familiar, but it’s definitely not the one she’d like to hear. Not in that moment, most likely not ever.

“Ian? What the fuck are you doing? Where's Jane?"

"Like I said, ma'am, Doctor Foster is unavailable right no—"

"Ian! Cut the bullshit and put Jane on the fucking phone!" Darcy's voice raised an octave, the tears falling down her cheeks as she furiously wipes them away.

"For fuck's sake, Lewis, she's unavailable." There's something about the way Ian, Janes' new assistant, said the final word that made her stop. Jane was unavailable, alright. Unavailable to people on Earth, probably in her Asgardian honeymoon with her prince of a boyfriend.

"Tell her to call me when she's back." With that, Darcy ends the call.

It’s around two pm, and the sun is shining bright outside. Even so, Darcy’s small apartment looks darker and emptier than ever before. She runs around, packing a backpack hastily and although Darce has always been the kind of person to preach about how she didn’t need a soulmate, thank you very much, she can’t help but stare at the words on her arm, hoping for once in her life that she had found them, that she had her soulmate in her corner.

///

They failed. They had underestimated the girl, and in the process of capturing her, exposed themselves. Alexander Pierce was furious, red in the face as he screamed off of the top of his lungs, pointing fingers at the three men he had sent to take Darcy Lewis.

“Useless! Useless pieces of shit!” He paced back and forth inside his office. It was a large, spacious place that didn’t come close to looking as good as his office at SHIELD’s headquarter did, but the abandoned bank was better than nothing. Better than holing up in a bunker somewhere in Russia like many of other HYDRA operatives had been doing for the past fifty years.

“Sir, with all due respect— none of us expected her to fight back.” The blond man standing across from him answered; his nose had been patched up, and although he had meticulously brushed his hair back, the bald spot from where Darcy had yanked his hair was still visible under the fluorescent lights.

“She’s just a girl! A chubby little girl that should never have been able to escape!” Alexander yelled, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. It was unusual for him to raise his voice, the amount of control he had over himself and others being something Pierce was incredibly proud of. “Rumlow, get the asset ready.”

The soldier immediately nodded from his position at the door, turning around and leaving the room. Alexander doesn’t see the smug smirk on the man’s lips, but he knows it’s there. He waits for a second, listening to Brock Rumlow’s heavy feet thumping away before opening the drawer of his cabinet, pulling out a shiny silver gun. “You’re an idiot, Jack, and I don’t handle that very well.” The gun goes off. One, twice, thrice.

///

Darcy can’t stand being inside her apartment. It makes feel claustrophobic, and unsafe. They ( whoever they were ) had almost successfully kidnapped her in the middle of a busy street, one that she hadn’t been at in over a month. How could they possibly know she’d be there, at that specific time? It had to mean someone was watching her, and it definitely meant they might try to take her again. Her home isn’t safe enough, though Darcy doesn’t think any place in the world would be safe enough for her.

So, logically, Darcy runs away. It’s what she’s good at, after all. The problem with running away so many times is that you run out of places to hide, and inside her car driving fast through the highway, she doesn’t know where to go. She had simply thrown a bunch of clothes inside a bag in blind panic, shoved Pietr into a pet travel box and hit the road. She didn’t have a lot of money, she didn’t have a place to go, she didn’t have anyone to call.

Darcy drives aimlessly for over ten hours. She hits an interstate and goes for it, no real destination as she follows the traffic until she’s running out of gas, at which point, exhausted and scared and in so much emotional pain she can barely breathe, Darcy does something she had never done before: She gives up. Pulling up in an empty parking lot, Darce turns off her car, opens up her door and waits with Pietr on her lap. They’re going to catch up at some point, the men trying to take her. And when they do, she tells herself she won’t fight them— Whatever the evil men want from her can’t be as horrible as her current life.

It takes two hours after Darcy Lewis’ Official Breaking Point for him to find her. She’s dozing off on the front seat of her old car when she sees him through half-shut eyes, the tall and broad man walking towards her with purpose. He has long brown hair, and a metal arm— at the end of said arm is a handgun, sleek and black and Darcy doesn’t recognize it but it looks deadly. Everything about the man looks deadly: The size of his arms, the way he walks, the coldness on his deep blue eyes. It makes her jaw drop, Pietr meowing and pawing at her chest as if he can sense the danger.

Everything inside Darcy tells her to protect herself— get inside the car before he gets to her, speed away and keep driving until they can’t find her anymore. Instead, Darce swallows thickly, sets Pietr on the floor and gets out of the car. She moves slowly, scared he might shoot even though she almost wants him to do so, keeping her chin high and her eyes dry. It’s a miracle that she isn’t shaking and crying, but Darcy has been doing so for the past month and she’s tired of it. Tired of the hurt and the desperation and if surrendering herself to the scariest man she’s ever seen in her life is going to stop that, then she’ll do it with her dignity intact.

“I’ve been waiting for you.” She said, voice loud and clear and so unlike how she feels inside. “Before you kill me, i just need to know: Who do you work for?”

He’s close enough for her to notice that the mask covering the bottom half of his face looks remarkably like a muzzle and Darcy can see why he wears it. Everything about the man reminds her of a dangerous dog, the kind she always argued didn’t exist. Even if she can’t see half of his face, his eyes betray his thoughts. He’s frowning at her, head cocking to the side ever so slightly. Confusion, Darcy realizes. Something has made him confused.

Hesitantly, as if he’s unsure of how to do it, the man in front of her reaches his free arm up, pulling the muzzle off. Darcy hates herself for noticing how beautiful he is, but she doesn’t dwell on it too long because he’s talking, then, and it changes everything. “ чародейка.”

The soft skin of the inside of her left bicep explodes in pain, burning and irradiating through her body like hellfire. A gasp escapes her lips, Darcy cursing under her breath as she grabs her arm; it takes her a long moment to understand what is happening, to realize that it’s her soulmark hurting, that it is burning up as the sacred bond she grew up hearing about forms between them. The man — her motherfucking soulmate — stands still, pale as paper as he stares her down with his impressive eyes; apart from the color of his cheeks, there is nothing about his body language that tells her he’s in pain, or that he even understand what just happened between them.

“How are you not in pain?” She asked, chest heaving from the pain; it’s nearly unbearable, though Darcy had been taught to prepare for it. With the Bond being so recent, so fresh, she was feeling both hers and his pain. It would happen a lot, them sharing emotions until the Bond was strong enough to be controlled— Darcy wasn’t sure she’d still be alive by then.

The stranger doesn’t answer. Instead, he takes four steps forward, presses two fingers against the soft spot under her earlobe hard and Darcy sees the world spin and fade to black faster than she can think about what’s going to happen to Pietr once she’s gone.

///

They all had tried to take it out of him. Arnin Zola had been the first one, using his chair to try and burn the words out of him. And then once he was sold like cattle to the Red Room they had tried cutting the words out of his chest, and once he was back at the hands of HYDRA, Alexander Pierce had tried to turn his Soulmark into trigger words. None of it had worked. The only one who got close to success was Zola, who managed to completely erase Barnes’ knowledge of soulmates from his brain.

It explained why the Asset felt so utterly confused in front of his target. Her words are like sorcery, making his left pectoral burn with a level of pain he doesn’t remember ever feeling ( He’s had much, much worse. The experiences have all been removed from his brain, however. ) and it takes all of his concentration to not show it. His Handler wasn’t happy with the Asset when he showed any signs of weaknesses, and it was a priority to meet the Handler’s expectations.

He wonders if the woman in front of him is a witch. No one had ever been able to hurt him with words alone, though her spell seem to be defective. The brunette is twisting in pain in front of him, clutching to her arm and it makes the Asset confused. Why would she inflict pain upon herself? Maybe it was a consequence of the pain she made him feel, having to bear the same pain she wanted him to feel.

Once she’s unconscious, however, things feel a little bit better. He holds her in his arms before she hits the ground, the kind of chivalry he doesn’t even realize he’s done until it had already happened. Despite of the confusion and the pain he feels it is his mission to take the witch back to his Handler, and the Asset never leaves a mission incomplete. The tiny black cat that he shoves in his pocket before dragging the witch back to his car is the first secret the Winter Soldier has had since his relationship with the Black Widow, fifty years in the past.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two.

When Darcy finally comes to, her mouth is dry and her entire body feels sore, as if she had ran a marathon the day before. Her surroundings are unknown to her, a small empty square, walls and floor made of concrete with no window, just one large door that looks more like a vault door than anything else. The room is well lit, at least, the white fluorescent like burning her eyes once she manages to open them.

Darcy is laying on a mattress on the floor, tucked into one corner of the room, her arms and legs bound by thick chains.The entire room feels cold, the thing mattress doing nothing to protect her from it; the chillness seems to have crept into her bones, her entire body rattling even if she’s sweating like a pig. Darcy is terrified, so scared she’s having trouble breathing, and she knows she has only herself to blame. She gave up. She stopped fighting, stopped running. And now she was cold, thirsty and locked inside a room with no idea what would be done to her.

She has no idea how long she’s alone, sitting on the crusty mattress absolutely terrified before anyone shows up. She doesn’t recognize the man that walks in, but he’s tall and broad ( not as tall or broad as her soulmate ) and he had a black duffel-bag in hands that seem heavy. Above that, his dark eyes have an evil glint that make her stomach drop.

“Morning, sunshine.” He said, sounding completely calm and almost nonchalant as another grunt walks inside her cell, a wooden chair and a gallon of water with him. The first man drops the bag on the floor, and the sound it makes is enough to make Darcy jump. “I’m Brock, this right here is Dmitri, we’ll be getting to know you for today. How did you sleep?”

///

His Handler doesn’t wipe him. He doesn’t put him the fridge either, and the list of things confusing the Asset keeps piling up. Instead, one of the soldiers guides him to a room, locking the heavy metal door once the Asset is inside. The kitten in his pocket is starting to stir, crying and making a lot more noise than expected, so he places it on the bed of the strange room he finds himself in, waiting.

The Asset is in the room for twelve hours. He doesn’t know what’s happening, and he doesn’t know what his Handler wants from him, so he sits on the bed, staring at the blank wall as he waits for his next command. The only time he moves is to take off his jacket, folding it into a makeshift nest and shoving it under the bed with the cat— if his Handler found out about the animal, he would certainly make the Asset dispose of it.

On the thirteenth hour, his Handler comes for him. The Asset offers him his hand gun ( it was required of him, you see, to arm his Handler so he could dispose of the Asset at will, if needed. ) and then sits back on the back, in silence as he waits.

“You did well today, Soldier.” Alexander states, taking a seat on the small table away from the bed, the handgun offered placed on the table, nuzzle pointed at Bucky. “This is where you’ll be staying for the time being. We may need you again soon, to deal with the girl.” The Asset isn’t sure who his Handler mean, but he can assume he means the witch that he had retrieved earlier.

He nods, knowing better than to speak, and Alexander stares at him, clearly analyzing his prized possession. “Alright, I’ll have someone bring you food soon.” Pierce said, standing up and walking towards the door.

The Handler is almost closing the door when the pain starts. The Asset feels like he’s drowning, gurgling and falling to his knees, his lungs burning. He claws at his neck, knowing he’s not supposed to show weakness and that doing so will have consequences, but the burning on his lungs and nose is stronger than his will to stand still.

The Asset lays on the floor, legs sprawled in front of him, body contorting as his face goes blue. Medics rush into the room, Alexander standing in the corner watching with wide eyes as his killing machine malfunctions, choking on air.

“What is wrong with him?” Pierce barked, still maintaining his distance as the medics fuss over his Soldier, the body on the floor limp for a moment before he’s gasping like a newborn, finally breathing in the air he seemed incapable of just seconds prior.

“We… We’ll need further examination but— Sir, there’s… There’s nothing wrong with him.” Stuttered the young doctor, eyes wide as saucers as he checks the Soldier’s vitals. “This sort of phantom pain…”

“Yes, Doctor? This sort of phantom pain what?”

The medic doesn’t respond, however. He just frowns, in silence until Alexander calls for his attention again. “I’ll need to scan his lungs. His heart is racing, but— Well, more than usual I mean but apart from that… He seems fine. This usually only happens when— Uh, when it’s not him that is being physically hurt.”

Alexander Pierce isn’t a man of many words on a good day. The stunned look on his face before he twists and bolts out of the room in complete, however, makes it clear he has never been thrown off of his game this hard before.

///

Darcy has no idea how long she’s been locked inside of her little cell— it felt like a cage, almost, the walls closing in on her. Brock had spent just half an hour with her before Alexander requested his presence elsewhere, but to the woman it had felt like days. She still didn’t know who he was working for, but something told her SHIELD wasn’t involved; he wanted information on Jane’s discoveries on the Einstein–Rosen bridge, and although Darce had worked with the woman for over a year, she had nothing she could give him. Darcy wasn’t a genius. She wasn’t even mildly okay at math. She was just a lab monkey, feeding Jane and Erik at the right time and writing down notes that she had no idea what they meant.

Darcy not knowing, however, had not been an acceptable answer. With Jane off of the planet and Erik being too insane to cooperate, Darcy needed to give him answers. It was imperative that she did so, Brock had told her, before covering her face with a cloth and poured water down her throat. He left the room sooner than expected, the goon that had helped holding her down as she drowned winking at her before walking out behind the other man.

Alone, cold and wet inside her cell gives Darcy time to think— And panic. She knows she has no way out of this mess, and no matter how much she tries, her mind keeps going back to the stranger with the metal arm. Her soulmate. Her kidnapper. Was it even kidnapping if she had surrendered herself so willingly? Was he watching her, waiting to come in and torture her like his friend had done?

Hunger starts to seep in, and Darcy wonders how much worse can things get for her. She can hear her own bones rattling from how hard she’s shaking, her face wet and puffy. She hasn’t cried yet, though, and Darce considers that a big win; she still has a little bit of her dignity, and that’s more than she can hope for. The brunette knows she’s utterly and completely fucked. She doesn’t have the answers her kidnappers want, and once they realize she isn’t withholding information Darcy ended up dead inside of a ditch seemed like the good case scenario.

Turns out, she doesn’t think she actually wants to die. Funny how the human brains worked; she was ready for death when she wasn’t actually facing it— Now that she was in actual danger, every fiber of her body screamed at her to find a way of staying alive.

Darcy doesn’t know for how long she stays by herself before another grunt walks inside her cell ( it looks so much like a hollowed out bank vault, it makes her wonder if that’s on purpose ). It’s a woman this time, one she hasn’t seen before, with long blond hair and a horrible scowl.

“Your soulmark. Where is it?”

“Why?” Darcy asked, even if she knew exactly why the woman was asking. Apparently Metal Arm had blabbed to whoever was running things that they were soulmates; it was surely a wrench in the plans of her kidnappers, but Darcy couldn’t tell if it was good or bad for her.

“If you don’t show it to me willingly someone will hold you down while I strip you naked.”

The brunette relents at that, turning her arm to show the Russian word scrawled on the inside of her left bicep. The sole word written in a tar black color, small enough that nobody ever noticed unless she showed them on purpose; the mark was red and a little bit swollen, looking irritated and perhaps even inflamed now that Darcy really looked at it. She wasn’t sure if that was normal, but it didn’t feel like a good omen.

The blonde woman gave her a short nod once before turning on her heels and leaving the room again, the big round steel door shutting close after her— This time, however, Darcy had managed to see a little bit of the room outside of her cell in those few seconds; it looked like an antechamber, much like a highly secured vault would have. With a little bit of home, she turned her head to the ceiling, searching for anything that might help her. There was a vent on the top of the wall opposite to her (probably the only thing keeping her from suffocating to death) but it was too small and too high for her to crawl through; there were no cameras, though, which she guessed was a good thing.

Suddenly, it comes to her mind that Darcy doesn’t have a bathroom in her tiny vault cell. That can only mean two things: Either they are going to let her out to go to the restroom, or they’ll give her a bucket once she mentions it. The thought of it brings dread to her stomach, her plan of maintaining a little bit of dignity before dying seeming more fleeting than she once thought. If they decide to let her out to use a real bathroom, however, it could be her only chance to identify where she is and, just maybe, escape. She decided, then, to gamble and ask to go to the bathroom to the next person who paid her a visit; worst case scenario, she’d outright refuse to use the bucket for as long as she could.

It only takes another four hours for someone else to walk back inside the vault, but for Darcy it feels like four days. She’s about to start naming the string of ants crawling up the wall when the sound of the lock of the vault door opening up calls her attention. She’s hoping it’s someone bringing her food— Now that she’s dry once again and the burning in her lungs has given a bit, Darcy finds herself absolutely starving.

It’s him, who walks in. Her soulmate. The deadly man with the metal arm, with a silver tray in his hands and a guarded look on his eyes. He barks an order in a foreign language to someone she can’t see, and the vault door shuts behind him. The tall man walks slowly towards her, and Darcy finds herself pushing her body against the wall, further away from him as she can.

“Eat.” He tells her, the tray clacking onto the floor. Darcy doesn’t know what to do. Should she eat the food, use it to gather some strength? Should she deny it, in case it was poisoned? The brunette stares at the plate for a moment — it’s a freaking BigMac, with a big glass of water. If it’s poisoned, Darcy doesn’t really give a damn. The man notices her hesitation, and even before she can attack her food, he’s talking again. “Eat.” It’s much more forceful this time, and he sounds almost like a caveman as the woman shuffles on her ratty mattress, grabbing the burger and taking a bite.

“What’s your name?” She asked between bites; it’s more than she spoke to any of the other goons, but considering he’s supposed to be the other half of her soul, Darcy thinks she’s allowed a question or two. Plus she’s already half through her burger and he still hasn’t left so it makes her wonder if he wants to be around her a little bit. “Mine’s Darcy.” The brunette says once he doesn’t show any sign of answering; in fact, he has that confused frown on his face again and Darce can’t really figure out why.

“солдат.” He finally said, and Darcy opens her mouth to say that no, she doesn’t speak whatever language he’s speaking when he adds. “They call me Soldier.”

“That’s a rank, not a name.”

“It is what I’m called.”

Darcy chews slowly, and then takes a sip of her water. She doesn’t know what to make of his answer, but her best guess is that she was kidnapped by some foreign government and is being held on some sort of military compound— Soldier is the only one with an accent out of all the people she’s spoken to, however, so the people holding her hostage might be more American than she thinks.

“I need to pee.” Darcy said once she’s through with her food, chin high as she stares him down. He nods, once, before standing up and walking to the entrance. His knuckles tap against it twice, then one more time, and the door finally opens up; she hasn’t seen any of the other grunts having to be let out of the vault like that, and it makes Darcy realize that Soldier was the only goon that had been actually locked inside of the cell with her.

“Come.” Her soulmate says, hand outstretched to her. She gives a condescending look to the chains bounding her legs together, but they seem to stretch enough between them to give some room to walk without having to fully hop around.

Darcy wobbles her way to him, the bounds on her wrists and ankles a lot heavier than expected; Soldier grabs her by the elbow once she’s close enough to touch, dragging her out of the vault but also giving enough support to keep Darcy from face planting on her way out. His hand is cold against her skin, and it makes the place he’s touched tingle in a way that is not pleasant, but not completely unpleasant either.

There are five goons outside of her cell— They are all ridiculously buff, dressed in all black tactical gear and big guns strapped to their bodies; if anything, they seem like an expensive ass security team to Darcy’s eyes, but she still knows it’s more likely that they are highly skilled soldiers, much like the ones she had encountered in Puente Antiguo, when SHIELD had paid Jane’s lab a visit.

Darcy is so busy looking wide-eyed to the things around them ( it’s definitely a bank vault, if the golden rail and expensive-looking flooring tell her anything ) that she doesn’t notice the Soldier staring down at her, mirth in his eyes as he recognizes the surveillance she’s doing. The girl is smart, smarter than she looks, and he has a fleeting thought that she just might survive. He’s startled by his own thoughts, but the notion that, maybe, he wanted her to survive.

The Asset doesn’t know what to do with such information. He doesn’t remember ever wanting anything before in his existence, but it’s such a natural feeling, to root for the tiny girl with the wild hair, and he doesn’t know how to make himself not feel such way. So, instead of making any sort of decision on the matter, he shoves her inside of the small bathroom, pushing his body inside as well before she can try to shut the door on his face.

“Go.” He tells her. She looks flabbergasted, staring at him with eyes wide and mouth agape for a moment.

“Not with you in here!” The brunette screeched, sounding horribly offended and the look on her face is almost funny.

“Fine, then we go back and you pee on the floor of your cell.” The asset responded, turning around to open the door.

“Urgh, fine. Look away.”

He gives her the small bit of privacy, turning his back to her but staying highly alert to all of her movements, wondering if she was stupid enough to attack him when he so clearly would have the upper hand, even with her back to her. Hell, she was so small and soft, he could probably tame her with his eyes closed and one hand behind his back.

///

Her trip to the bathroom had been mostly unsuccessful, with the Soldier glued to her like a guard dog the entire time, but it wasn’t completely useless. They were definitely in a place that looked like a very fancy, very expensive bank, and considering the lack of windows on her way to and from the restroom, Darcy was pretty certain they were underground.

She still didn’t know who she was up against, but she did manage to see a bright red star on the metal arm of the Soldier, and a red round crest on the tactic vest of the people guarding her door, even if she was unable to tell what it was. Alone again inside her vault, Darcy had nothing to do but think— She hadn’t been able to see any sort of exit from her place of captivity. Darcy didn’t have to pee in a bucket, though, so it was better than nothing. Silver lining, really, and probably the brightest of them all.

And just when Darcy started feeling a little safer in her horrible situation, when she started to feel like she was making any sort of progress into rescuing herself from her kidnappers, Brock Rumlow decided to pay her another visit.

///

They don’t put him in cryo anymore. It’s been about two weeks since Darcy was brought into the compound, and they still haven’t put him in cryo, nor have they put him in the chair. Some nights, the Soldier almost wishes that they did. His room is nowhere near the vault where the girl is being kept, but he can hear her screams and feel her pain as if they are the same person.

It makes sense, that this is how they’d punish him. Whatever spell the brunette has put him under has clearly affected them deeply, connecting the Soldier to her in a way he never knew it to be possible; he feels the wounds Rumlow inflicts on her as if they were done to his own flesh, and sometimes, when the pain is too extreme, he can hear the other man’s taunts ringing in his ears as if he was inside her room.

They scream in tandem, the soldier alone with the kitten he’s trying to care for, the woman trapped in a cell with a stone cold mercenary. He can feel her breaking, little by little he can feel the warmth of her presence being chipped away. He visits her every day; he’s the one responsible for bringing her food and taking her to her restroom visits, and despite her pain — despite the swollen face and bruised flesh — she always talks to him, treats him in a more humane manner than anyone else he has encountered before.

And then, one morning, she doesn’t. Darcy doesn’t speak a word when he brings her breakfast, looking utterly and completely broken during his short visit, and that is the day he decides he needs to get her the fuck out of the compound, and fast.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three.

Alexander Pierce is not the kind of man to be thrown off his balance very often; and even when that does end up happening, his years of experience mean he can bounce back from anything life throws his way, and it’s nearly unprecedented that he would find himself at a loss of plans, sitting in his SHIELD office, staring out the window wondering how could things have gone so awry.

Soulmates were a curse in his point of view, and the situation between the Asset and the lab monkey only made that clearer to him. He needed to find a way of turning it into a good thing, something lucrative that could enrich Hydra in any way. And if that meant asking an old friend for advice, well, Pierce was downright desperate enough for that.

“What if Captain America finds his soulmate?” He asked the man sitting across from him; a friendly conversation, even if Alexander would die before lowering his guard in front of a paranoid motherfucker like Nick Fury. He needed to be careful with everything— his words, his tone, the look in his eyes as he asked one thing, wanting to know another. “The Captain won’t be loyal to SHIELD anymore, will he? Someone will come above the organization. He might even betray us to favor them.”

Nicholas stared at him in silence for a moment, leaning back on his chair and shrugging. “Then we recruit them first.”

It made sense, recruiting Darcy Lewis. He just needed a reason for her to stay— A reason to keep her loyalty bound to Hydra, something she would give her life for. Something she could convince the Soldier to give his life for. They could try to replicate the serum running through the Asset’s veins, subject her already fragile psyche to the same brainwashing the Asset had gone through, and turn her into a loyal killing machine just like her Soulmate. It was a plan that would take years to perfect, with high failure rates; it could kill her in the process, and leave his most prized Asset a drooling pile of nothing when the snap of the bond between the two of them tore him from the inside out.

She was a woman, however, and in Alexander’s mind there was only one thing that would make her into the loyal puppet he needed: A child.

///

Darcy has lost all sense of time and space. Some days, when she wakes up, it takes her a long moment to realize she’s real. It’s a surreal experience, to feel her soul slamming back into her body when her brain would catch up to her current situation. She has no idea how long she’s been in captivity; at first she tried to keep track by how many times the Soldier came by (they were feeding her twice a day, he told her one time.), but at some point she lost count.

A complete lack of hope was something Darcy had thought she had experienced before, but it was something else entirely to have her freedom taken away, submitted to the brutal hands of Rumlow; she had begged him to kill her, had begged the Soldier to kill her— Darcy had cried and screamed, nearly delusional once she realized no one would come to save her. When she realized she wasn’t strong enough to save herself.

And then, one morning, Rumlow didn’t show. She never saw his face that day, never heard his horrible voice. Darcy spent most of the day wondering what had happened, at one point even believing he had been there and their torture session for that day had just melted with all of the others inside of her mangled brain.

That atypical morning marked exactly three weeks and two days since her kidnapping, not that the woman was aware of that. The Soldier didn’t bring her food either, her meal instead being brought by Hans, a young doctor that had stitched up a nasty cut to her leg when Rumlow got a little carried away a few days prior.

She ate in silence under the scrutinizing eye of the doctor, who had the decency of offering her an apologetic smile as he plucked a needle into her arm as soon as Darcy was done with her food. “They’re relocating you.” It was all the explanation she got before plummeting into  cold, medical darkness.

///

The Soldier was finally starting to adapt to his new reality. He wasn’t placed in the fridge anymore, and he hadn’t seen the chair since the last time they had put him on ice; most of the time he was left alone, with strict orders from his Handler to stay in shape; so he would train most of the day, be that in hand to hand combat or weaponry, going back to his quarters and hiding there for night— he even managed to slip out of the compound one day, breaking into the nearest apartment and stealing what he called ‘cat equipment’, which consisted of one litter box, some cans of cat food and as many bags of litter that he could fit into the duffel bag.

The Soldier had knowledge of many things he assumed where part of his training — he didn’t know how he knew how to speak German, for example —, but it made him wonder why he would’ve been taught how to properly take care of the cat he’d stolen from the witch. There’s something nagging in the back of his brain when he thinks about that. The word ‘scrappy’ comes to mind, but he can’t figure out why. Like with many things that don’t make logical sense in his life, the Soldier simply ignores it.

The fact that he’s been able to hide the cat (Dragunov, he named it.) for nearly an entire month from his superiors feels like the biggest win he’s ever had; Dragunov is something that belongs to him, a big sign of his rebellion and a symbol that his Handlers didn’t own him as much as they thought— Humans had pets. The Soldier had a pet. It almost made him feel a little human, especially when laying in bed at night with Dragunov curled on top of his stomach.

It’s three pm when they burst into his quarters; the Soldier is sitting by the table, cleaning a pistol when his Handler, a doctor and a group of soldiers walk into the room; it is quite the commotion, and the Soldier’s first thought is that they found out about Dragunov. They’ll make the Soldier kill it, before wiping him free of the conditioning flaws that the cat represent. Instead, they don’t even notice as Dragunov scatters away at the noise, hiding inside the closet.

Darcy is there, unconscious. She’s ceremonially dropped into the Soldier’s bed, the springs yelping at the sudden weight; he’s confused, as it usually is when it comes to the brunette, but standing still awaiting for instructions. The doctor checks her vitals quickly before scurrying out of the room with his head held down: He’s a tiny, vile man and the Soldier wishes he could kill him; one of the soldiers — Rumlow —, scowls at him, chin high in arrogance, and the Soldier wishes he could kill him as well.

“Out. All of you. ” Alexander Pierce said. They all obey the Soldier’s handler immediately, leaving the room in silence. Once they’re alone, the Soldier takes the clean pistol from the table, offering it to his handler. It was rule number one: Whenever the Soldier was in the presence of his handler, he must be armed in case the Soldier needed to be put down. “Are you ready to comply?”

“Yes, sir.” The words fall mechanically out of the Soldier’s mouth, his jaw muscles working even before his brain can register the question.

“This woman belongs to you. A gift, for so many years of impeccable work for Hydra.” Alexander said, and his words make an unpleasant shiver crawl up the Soldier’s spine. The old man turned around, halfway out of the room already before he turns around to look the Soldier in the eye. “I cannot wait to see what incredible things your children will be capable of.”

It takes a moment for the Soldier to truly register the in-between lines of what had just happened, blinking owlishly at the closed door of his room before turning to look at the sleeping woman in his bed. Alexander hadn’t used any specific words, but the Soldier’s programming was sharp enough to pick up the order that was left in the air, and as his blue eyes stared down at Darcy, a small part of him couldn’t help but wonder what their kids could look like.