He insisted on making dinner for their first official post-breakup date after the therapy session. He would make anything she wanted, he said. Begged, really. He’d been doing that: at work, via email, on the phone, after he detached himself from her post-cooking class. He was visibly self-flagellating for the whole sex with other women thing. Jane and Sharon kept texting her funny memes about groveling. There were lots of cats and a few of Chuck Norris, apparently. Darcy--troll side still intact--had contemplated asking Brock for Pop Tarts and Cheese Puffs when he first asked to cook, but ultimately told him she wouldn’t mind some pappardelle and alfredo sauce. “You sure that’s all you want, baby?” he said, on the way home from the therapist’s office. “I’ve got everything, but I could do more food?”
“No, I like pappardelle,” Darcy said.
“Okay,” he said.”But I really could--”
“I wonder what I’d be doing for you if I’d had sex with Everett Ross?” Darcy mused. He sucked in a breath and swerved the car for a second before correcting.
“Shit,” he muttered.
“You okay?” she asked. “Sorry.”
“No, no, I just got a--a feeling that was upsetting,” he said, using the language in their recommended therapy workbooks. “When you said that, I felt gutted. I am so sorry--what if we go to a jewelry store now?”
“What?” Darcy said.
“I want to buy you things. Do all the, uh, love languages?” he said. “I’ve been reading.” He ticked them off. “There’s five of ‘em. Gifts, acts of service, compliments, quality time, and uh, physical affection? I thought we could do all of them. You can tell me which thing you like best?”
“Oh,” Darcy said, as he pulled into a shopping center.
“What are you thinking?” he asked, parking the car. Darcy wrinkled her nose thoughtfully.
“I think I’d still like sex best,” she said. He looked at her and blinked slowly. She grinned at him. He smiled back at her, one of his ambiguous half-smiles. There was a fractional pause before Darcy launched herself at him.
A passing shopper stared at them when Darcy’s elbow wedged itself against the car horn, but Darcy was too busy sucking on Brock’s bottom lip to care. “We gotta--we gotta stop,” he said. He groaned.
“I want you,” she said. “Not gifts.”
“Huhhnn,” he said. After a few minutes, he pulled away, breathing heavily. “You--you’re wrecking me. I’m gonna need you to do something crazy, just so I can think?”
“Something crazy?” she said curiously.
“Not crazy. That’s the wrong word. I don’t want to sound judgmental. One of your little bits or jokes,” he said.
“My comedy bits?” she teased. “That woman is still staring at us. She looks appalled.”
“Yeah,” he said, as they got out of the car.
“You really like my jokes?” Darcy said.
“Yes. And I have to buy you a present,” he said seriously.
“Honey,” Darcy said, “I’ve got a gift idea?”
“Yeah?” he said, as they walked into the mall.
“An orgasm can be a gift,” she said. “Couldn’t it?” A man walking by did a double-take and walked into a clothing rack.
“Darcy,” Brock said in a low voice, “not here, we’ll end up half-naked in a dressing room.” Darcy grinned at him and laughed.
“Sex toys?” she whispered.
“You’re bad,” he said, realization dawning. “Real you is naughty.”
“Uh-huh,” she said, nodding, as the laughter bubbled up in her chest.
“Oh God,” he muttered.
“What?” she said.
“I’m going to end up so whipped,” he said, swallowing.
“I should probably buy you the jewelry,” Darcy teased. “How would you feel about a little pair of handcuffs to go with your Versace scarf?”
“I like that scarf,” he said.
“Sure, sure,” Darcy said.
“No, I do,” he said. “It goes with my tactical black. Let’s go get you some jewelry,” he said, steering her into a store. Darcy refused to let him buy her any absurdly expensive diamonds, even when he pressed her. Instead, she dragged him to a bath shop and bought bath oils and massage oils. “What are you doing with that?” he asked.
”Oh, I’m not, your act of service is going to be working on the knot under my left shoulder,” Darcy said. “I don’t want jewelry, I want back rubs.” He nodded.
They ate pappardelle alfredo on his couch. Or Darcy ate and had naughty thoughts about the way his arms moved when he brought the fork to his mouth; Brock ate and gazed at her happily. Teddy Albeart was sitting in the living room. “He looks happy,” Darcy said.
“If there’s ever an emergency, he’s holding a Glock 19 and a SIG-Sauer P226 for me,” Brock told her. “Left side seam has a safe inside. Code is 2-5-7-4-2. Alpha.”
“Are those guns?” Darcy said.
“Yeah,” he told her. “The SIG’s the best, it’s my custom one. Do you--you don’t know how to shoot?” he said.
“Nope,” she said. “Just always used my taser.”
“I need to take you to the range,” he said seriously.
“All righty,” she said.
“You’d go with me?” he said, looking pleased.
“Sure. You know what else I’d like?” she said, turning one of the fat noodles around her fork.
“What?” he said.
“I want to learn about pasta shapes. Do you think Whole Foods has a class?” she asked. He beamed at her. “What?” Darcy said.
“You’re adorable,” he said.
“I think it’s reasonable to be curious about what sauce goes with the little bow-tie ones,” Darcy said thoughtfully. “When do I get my first back rub?”
“Now, if you want,” he said, alert.
“Finish your food, Whipped Italian,” she told him, biting her lip. “I can’t play with you if you’re starving.”
“That right?” he said. He looked at her in a smoldering way. His resolve to resist her was crumbling. “You want another glass of wine?”
“Sure,” Darcy said. He got up. When he returned, Darcy was laughing at an ad for a reality television show. The couple on-screen were arguing about the husband’s infidelity.
“Oh God,” Brock said, looking horrified.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
“I’m that asshole.” He sighed. “The guy who can’t keep his penis in our household ,” he said, paraphrasing the reality tv wife.
“You really feel genuinely guilty, don’t you?” Darcy said, smothering her laugh. He looked like a sad puppy.
“Uh, yeah,” he said, rubbing his jaw.
“Hmmm,” Darcy said.
“What are you thinking?” he said.
“I’m not used to sincerity from men, it confuses me,” Darcy admitted. “I mean, the only really sincere man I know is Steve. And sometimes Bruce Banner, but you know, I think there’s a whole ocean of stuff Bruce isn’t telling us--”
“Darcy,” Brock said suddenly, “I’m crazy about you. If I had a time machine and one thing I could undo, I’d go back and fix things so I never slept with those women--”
“What?” Darcy said.
“You gotta believe me,” he said, eyes boring into hers.
“Well, that is just stupid,” Darcy said.
“What?” Brock said.
“Obviously, if you have one thing to undo, you go back and get out of Triskelion before it falls down , instead of trying to get first crack at Alexander Pierce, you dope. You had burns over eighty percent of your body, if Helen Cho hadn’t invented the Cradle, you’d still be dealing with skin grafts--” Darcy said.
“You know about that?” he said.
“Jack told me,” she said.
“Oh,” he said. “Yeah, I was pretty badly burned.”
“I saw the newspapers, too,” Darcy said, nodding.
“Oh?” he said.
“I still would,” she said.
“I’d still want to have sex with you before the Cradle, in case you’re worried about that,” Darcy mused.
“Baby, nobody wanted to have sex with me then,” he said.
“Please, scarred men are hot, don’t be ridiculous,” she said. “Do you still have that suit? From when you were a fake mercenary and stole back the Chitauri stuff?” She grinned.
“Are you saying you’re turned on by my Crossbones gear?” he said, astounded.
“Uh-huh,” she said.
“Really?” he said.
“Jane says I have a bad boy problem,” she said. “She staged an intervention when I started a secret Frank Castle Pinterest board a few years ago, made me delete it."
“Huh?” He rubbed his jaw, looking stunned. “Frank? You think Frank is attractive?”
“And he likes dogs,” Darcy said, nodding. “That’s like five points on the hotness scale.”
“Well, you’re not allowed to tell him that,” Brock said.
“When would I tell him?” Darcy said, baffled. “Isn’t he in hiding and maybe dead?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah. He’s in hiding. Probably dead. Nobody knows where he is. You’ll never meet him,” Brock said quickly. There was no reason for Darcy to know that Frank had received a pardon and a clean record via the same SHIELD route as Brock and all the other HYDRA triple agents and was now living in Brooklyn and calling himself Pete Castiglione. He’d just need to keep her away from the pit bull playdates that he knew Frank frequented with his dog. Brock suppressed a groan. He could almost see Frank using his damn cute dog to flirt with Darcy. Frank was a shit stirrer and weirdly attractive to women for someone who alternated his grumpy mumbling with stabbing Russian assailants; he’d probably chase Darcy around the dog park and give her a cute nickname like “Taser Girl,” and she’d end up on the run with him. It was far too plausible a disaster scenario for Brock. He was keeping his girl this time.
“Are you okay?” Darcy asked. Funny things were happening with Brock’s face.
“Yeah, yeah. You, uh, want that massage now?” he said.
“Yes,” Darcy said happily. “Can I undress to my comfort level? Isn’t that what they say?”
“Naughty,” he said. “Very naughty.”
She ended up stripped down to her panties on his couch. He ran his hands between her shoulder blades, sighing. “What?” Darcy said, turning her head to look at him as he pressed on her back. She was resting her face on her forearms.
“You’re beautiful,” he said.
“And yet, you refuse to sleep with me, you schmuckdoodle,” she said. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Shut up, I’m, trying to have a scruple,” he grumbled, pressing down with his thumbs at the bottom v of her left shoulder blade.
“Ahhhhh, that feels incredible,” Darcy said. She arched her lower back in his direction. “I get a knot there all the time and I have issues with my neck, too.”
“It’s your traps baby,” he said.
“Trapezius muscles, they run on either side of your neck and then in a triangle shape,” he said, tracing her muscles with his hands. He worked down towards her lower back, kneading her skin with the flats of his palms, using careful amounts of strength. She seemed to enjoy it, if the sounds she made were any indication. “You smell good,” he told her. She laughed.
“I bought that to annoy you. I was going to drench myself Britney Spears’ Fantasy and watch you be horrified that I smelled like fruit punch,” she said. “Now it’s grown on me.”
“Jokes on you, I like fruit punch,” he said, sliding his hands around her ribcage.
“You do not,” she said. “Mmmm.”
“I like sangria, it's just fruit punch with more fun side effects,” he said. She shifted to look at him.
"Truth," she said.
“Real you is much less repressed that fake you,” he said dryly, when she rolled over to face him, body totally exposed.
“Uh-huh,” she said, nodding. “It was a struggle not to jump your bones all the time.” She reached up and traced his collarbone with her hand and Brock felt a stronger jolt of lust.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Why fight it?” she said.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I forgot.” He grinned slowly and rose.
“Whatcha doing?” Darcy said.
“Taking you to bed,” he said, picking her up. “My bed.”
“Goody,” she said.
“We’re still doing llama trek this weekend, though,” he told her, once he’d lain her down gently. She laughed, delighted, and started unbuckling his pants. She was just as soft underneath him as he’d imagined. He’d imagined a lot, actually. Mostly in the shower. And his bed. At work. The six-month rule had been fuel for his imagination. But it hadn’t captured exactly how it would feel when he pushed inside her and she made a soft, stuttering sound.
“I’m crazy about you,” she told him, as he moved his hips slowly. “Maybe not the crazy the way you thought, but pretty crazy--”
“Uh-huh,” he said, smiling. “I know. Me, too. You wanna move Milkshake in?”
“You want to move in toge--uhhhhh, baby,” she said, when he snapped his hips more playfully.
“I think I need to keep an eye on you, that might require overnight supervision,” he said throatily. "Full time, permanent position."
“Uh-huh,” she said, catching his mouth with hers. "Do I get benefits?"
“Yeah?” he said. "You like benefits? I can give you some."
“Yeah,” she said.
“Make that noise for me again,” he said, kissing her neck.
"Yes, sir," she said. "Commander."
"You're gonna kill me, sweetheart."
“How was your weekend, mate?” Jack asked him on a Monday. They were walking into a staff meeting.
“Good, good,” Brock said. “Got all Darcy’s stuff to my place.”
“You moved in together?” Jack said.
“You?” Jack said.
“It’s--soon?” Jack said. Brock shrugged. The movement attracted the attention of the commander of STRIKE Foxtrot, Salinas.
“Nice scarf, Rumlow,” he said.
“Thanks,” Brock said. “Gift from the girlfriend.”
“You think I could get one of those?” Salinas asked.
“A scarf or a girlfriend, Commander Salinas?” Natasha Romanoff said, entering the room.
“A scarf, I’m married,” Salinas said, looking flustered. “I’ve been married for fifteen years, Agent Romanoff."
“You could probably get a scarf,” Maria Hill said, entering the room. She was giving a presentation and turned on the A/V equipment at the front of the room. She began explaining a complicated series of assessment data and Brock turned his attention to her at the podium, briefly glancing at her presentation slides. He was taking notes when there was a sound in the room.
“Mate,” Jack said, elbowing Brock. “Look. Darcy.” Brock looked up on the screen. Hill’s third slide was a photo of Brock getting lightly kissed on the cheek by a very large, very fuzzy white llama.
“Commander Rumlow?” Hill said. “What is that?”
“A llama? She gave kisses. Her name was Snowball,” Brock said calmly.The agents all looked at each other. Salinas was openly laughing. Hill cleared her throat.
“Moving on--” she said swiftly. Natasha smirked behind her hand.
When the meeting ended, Hill was going to call Rumlow over and demand he rein in these stunts with Darcy, whatever they were. Weird foreplay, Maria thought. She’d finished, was packing her tablet, and was answering a question from one of the STRIKE agents when a glimmer of movement in the door’s window caught her eye.
Darcy Lewis was standing in the hallway, holding a large sock monkey. She waved at Brock and he stood up to open the door. Her voice drifted into the room. “Babe, look, I got Teddy and Milkshake a friend--” she was saying.
“Who are Teddy and Milkshake?” Hill asked. She’d accidentally wondered it out loud. Jack shrugged.
“No bloody idea,” he said. “Something mad.”
“I believe they are stuffed animals,” Natasha said. In his seat further from the door, Salinas leaned to the side to see.
“Are they, uh, um?” he said.
“Sticking their tongues down each others’ throats in a federal workplace? Yes,” Hill said, sighing. “This place,” she muttered.