Darcy ran her highlighter down the checklist, making sure every item was accounted for. If they forgot what box anything was packed in, or didn’t know what truck they had loaded it on, or - Frigga forbid - left anything behind, Darcy would know.
Jane tapped on the back hatch of the last truck. “Good to go!” she called, then turned to Darcy. “Let’s get out of here!”
“Just need to grab my jacket and we’re all set,” Darcy said. She hurried back to the lab, only to find security sealing the door.
“Hey! Hold up just a sec - I need my jacket out there.”
“Decontamination protocol has already started,” the security tech replied in a bored tone and continued sealing the door.
“Uh, dude? My jacket is going to break your damn protocol.”
The tech blinked a few times, seemingly realizing the conversation he was having. “Oh.”
Darcy rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Oh.” She motioned to the door. “Halt decon and open the door. I have a plane to catch and it’s snowing like crazy outside.”
There was a brief flash of flame inside the lab.
The tech cringed. “Sorry, Ms. Lewis. I hope you weren’t too attached to the jacket.”
Darcy ground her teeth and glared at the tech. “You just incinerated my jacket?”
He shrunk before her eyes and nodded with a barely audible whimper.
Darcy threw up her hands with a frustrated growl and stalked away. Whatever. It wasn’t like she’d be outside all that long anyway. Darcy bolted outside and into the truck as quickly as she could.
“Where’s the jacket?” Jane asked as Darcy slammed her door closed.
“Ugh. Idiots from security incinerated it.”
Darcy rolled her eyes. “They were apparently super anxious to get the lab scrubbed and ready for whatever is moving in there next.”
Bob climbed into the driver’s seat and buckled in. “Ready to go?”
“Let’s boogie, Bob. Crank the heat, would you?” Darcy said, leaning her head back against the seat and closing her eyes.
Darcy dosed a little as they made the drive, zoning out entirely until the truck jolted suddenly to one side. Her eyes flew open as the truck slowed to a stop.
“Stay inside, please,” Bob ordered and climbed out of the truck.
Darcy watched him circle the truck, examining the vehicle for damage. Suddenly, he approached her door and pulled it open.
“Step outside, please,” Bob said, and stepped aside so Jane and Darcy could climb out. Bob moved to the back of the vehicle and crouched next to the source of their trouble. Darcy’s teeth chattered as she and Jane huddled by the side of the road while Bob examined their flat tire.
“Looks like we ran over something,” Bob commented to James Barnes, who glared at the flat as he approached from the truck that had been trailing theirs. “I think I can see it - looks like a nail. Probably innocuous.”
Barnes grunted then glanced at Jane and Darcy. Bob followed his gaze.
“Sorry, ladies. Ride will be here in an hour or two.”
Darcy’s groan stuttered as she shivered. Jane wrapped an arm around her. “Sorry your jacket got destroyed in decon, Darce.”
Barnes’ brow furrowed, then he looked back to examine the tire.
Darcy jumped up and down a few times, trying to get her blood flowing and warm up at least a little. “Can I at least sit in the cab and get out of the wind?”
Bob glanced at Barnes. “I’m afraid not, Ms. Lewis. If this isn’t just a flat tire, if it’s...something else...we need to be ready to move.”
“I’m not going to be able to move if I’m dead from hypothermia,” Darcy grumbled, but there wasn’t much heat behind it. One, because she didn’t have any heat to spare, and two because she understood security protocol. Even if it was stupid.
She jumped a little at the touch of a hand to her shoulder. “Dammit Barnes. I need to put a bell on you.”
He didn’t reply, just shrugged out of his own jacket held it out to her.
She eyed it warily. “You hate the cold.”
“I’m not taking that from you. You can freeze just as easily as I can. Maybe easier, since you’ve had practice at it.” The words slipped from Darcy’s lips without her permission and if she could feel her fingers, she would probably clap them over her traitorous mouth. She felt her face flush. At least her cheeks wouldn’t freeze anytime soon. She idly wondered if she could pass off her embarrassment as hypothermia. What were the symptoms of a severe case again? Paradoxical undressing?
Huh. There was a thought.
Barnes just rolled his eyes and pulled her to stand in front of him as he wrapped the jacket around her shoulders. Once the jacket was secure, he gave her a nod.
The jacket was still warm from his body and Darcy felt herself begin to thaw out instantly with a relieved sigh as she burrowed further into its welcoming warmth.
“That first born of mine? Totally yours, Buckaroo. You’ve got dibs.”
Half a smirk appeared on Barnes’ face before he gave her another nod and turned to resume his patrol of the perimeter.
“Hey,” she called, reaching for him, fingertips brushing his arm. He turned back to her, face serious again. “Thank you. Let me know if you want it back. We can share, until the new truck gets here.”
His eyes went soft and the smirk reappeared, a little wider this time, then he turned away again to resume his patrol.
“THIS IS NOT COOL JANEY!” Darcy yelled against the wind as another sheet of paper smacked her in the face. She shook her head to clear it away, but only proceeded to cause more of her hair to unravel from her bun and fly into her eyes.
Jane yelled something back, but her words were lost in the wind. Darcy grumbled to herself as she held the long stick-thingy with one hand and tried to keep her skirt from flipping over her head again with the other.
It would figure that the first time she wore a skirt to work in years and it would not only be A. the wind storm of the century and 2. the best time to run outside and collect readings for Jane’s latest theory.
Grievances. Darcy had them.
Suddenly, Darcy registered a warm weight at her back.
“You enjoyin’ puttin’ on a show, Lewis?” a deep voice said in her ear. Darcy turned her head toward the voice.
“Unless you’ve got something helpful to contribute Barnes, fuck off.”
“I might have somethin’ to make your night a little less miserable,” he replied as he pushed a soft bundle into her hand. “Run to the truck, I’ve got this for the moment.”
Darcy looked down at the bundle he’d given her. Gym shorts. Bless him.
“Stop starin’ and go change before I have to get back to patrol,” he ordered.
“Barnes, I could kiss you,” she replied before running for the truck. She slammed the door behind her and took a moment to enjoy the silence. Inside the truck, she couldn’t hear the screaming of the wind or the worrisome groans of the equipment rattling around her. She took a deep breath, then pulled the borrowed shorts over her skirt and adjusted the ties to fit her waist. Skirt now secure, she pulled down the visor mirror and choked back a laugh. Her hair was an absolute birds nest. She dug through the bag she’d left on the floor of the cab earlier for her hairbrush and a few pins that were hopefully up to the task of keeping her hair out of her face in this wind. Task managed, she took a deep breath to steel herself, then opened the truck door.
The wind flug the door open, ripping the handle out of her hands. Darcy scrambled to get out of the truck and shut the door, then hurried back over to where Barnes was valiantly still holding the stick-thingy in place.
“You know, Barnes,” she shouted, as close to his ear as she could manage at her height, “if I’d known getting into your pants was this easy, I’d have tried it a long time ago.”
Barnes nearly dropped the stick-thingy as he spun to look at her. She took it from him and smirked at his stunned expression. She liked it. Maybe a little too much.
“Thanks for the assist, Barnes. I’ll take it from here.”
Darcy carefully balanced the tray of coffees on her arm as she swiped her badge and wrestled the door to the labs open. The tray wobbled, but Darcy compensated. The tray righted itself without spilling a drop of precious caffeine.
“Ha! Suck it, gravity.”
“DARCY, GET DOWN!”
“Huh?” Darcy looked up just in time to get hit in the face with a wave of green slime. She closed her eyes and mouth just in time and she sneezed repeatedly, trying to clear the slime from her nose.
“Darcy, are you okay?”
“Groooooooosssss,” Darcy moaned, trying to speak but opening her mouth as little as possible. She blinked a few times, grateful that her glasses had prevented any of the slime from reaching her eyes, but still unable to see with the green goo coating the lenses.
A towel was pushed into Darcy’s hand and she immediately went to work clearing her glasses and the worst of the slime from her face. Mentally she grumbled. These were new shoes, her makeup had looked awesome, and now her precious, precious coffee was all over the floor.
Today was so not her day.
She pushed her glasses back onto her face and looked up. Both Jane and Bucky were staring at her with concern.
“What the hell?” Darcy snapped.
Jane looked sheepish. “Sorry Darce. Accidentally portaled some sentient slime from the sewer to the lab.”
Darcy stared at her. “Why are we portaling anything from the sewer?” she asked flatly.
“Testing the new beam. Better the sewer than outer space, right?” Jane offered with a tentative and apologetic grin.
Darcy just glared at her. “And why did the sentient slime explode?”
Bucky cleared his throat, drawing her attention. “I shot it,” he mumbled.
Darcy turned her glare to him. “Of course you did.” She used the towel to wipe as much of the slime off her as she could with the towel, but there was not really much to be done to save her dress. She tossed the towel into the biohazard bin with a sigh.
“I’m off to decon!” she called.
Bucky followed her. “Here,” he said, holding out a hoodie, just as she was about to enter the decon stall. She noticed that he kept his eyes averted, just to her left. That wasn’t like him.
She glanced down at her dress.
Her formerly pale blue - now almost see-through and very, very clingy - dress.
Well, never let it be said Darcy let an opportunity to flirt with Bucky pass her by.
“I got something you haven’t seen before, Buckster?” she asked, pulling a crooked smile that she’d noticed him noticing more than once.
“Please just take the sweater,” he replied, his voice strained.
“This might be more fun, actually,” she teased. “Since it is your fault I’m in this mess in the first place.”
“I’m not going to apologize for doing my job and protecting you from harm,” he replied sharply. “I’m sorry that you got slimed in the process, but my primary concern is always your safety.”
Darcy sighed. “Dude. Seriously. You’re really not going to flirt with me, are you?”
Darcy scrunched her nose. “Is it because you can see my bra through my dress?
“If we’re gonna do this, I’d prefer we be on equal footing.”
Darcy gently took the hoodie from his hand. “You’re far too much of a gentleman for your own good, Barnes.” She turned and continued to decon, cursing his overprotectiveness and her own irritation.
“Barnes?” he asked, confusion lacing his tone. “What happened to Bucky?”
“You tell me, Barnes. You tell me.”
Darcy couldn’t suppress the shiver that ran through her as she tried to catch a few minutes sleep on the floor. The couch cushion she’d won in a round of Rock, Paper, Scissors with Barnes wasn’t of much help, either as insulation from the cold ground or a pillow, but she was trying her best to make do with what they had. It was probably going to be awhile before the emergency evac team could get to them and she wanted to try to be as alert and helpful as she could come morning.
She knew that Barnes had rigged the game to give her the pillow. She also knew that he definitely wouldn’t allow himself any rest until they were safely tucked away back at Avengers HQ. As though it was his fault Loki was a bastard who’d betrayed them again and gotten them stuck in the middle of nowhere.
What she couldn’t figure out was why. Not Loki, she got that part, and honestly, shame on them for trusting him. It was Barnes that confused her. He’d opened up a bit, shown her a tiny glimpse of the man inside the icy murder-glare he put on for the rest of the world. She’d been hoping that the few moments of flirtation might lead to something more - even if it was just becoming someone he could relax with. A friend or at the very least a colleague. But he’d shut down and shut her out after the incident with the slime.
Okay. If she was being fair, she hadn’t been all that nice to him in the immediate aftermath of that incident. She’d had been irritated and took it out on him, throwing his discomfort in his face. She’d tried to apologize later, but he’d waved her off and they’d barely spoken since.
Always one step forward and twelve steps back with that guy.
Maybe rigging the game so she got the cushion was his way of making peace with her. Maybe he thought that by ensuring she had a tiny bit of comfort so she could sleep, things between them would go back to the way they were.
Only that was ridiculous, because what good was he in this situation if he was dead on his feet? Did he really expect her to be able to defend them if shit went even more sideways than it already had? She was scrappy. She wasn’t that scrappy.
Darcy’s thoughts were interrupted as she was suddenly enveloped in a heavenly warmth and she opened her eyes, blinking until her vision cleared.
“Buck?” she slurred.
“You’re thinkin’ really loud, Darce,” Bucky murmured, smoothing his jacket over her. “‘S not that complicated.” There was a bush of skin against her temple as he leaned over her - holy shit, did he just leave kisses in her hair? Darcy’s heart raced at the thought.
“Get some sleep. I’ll be here in the morning.”
He ran his palm over her hair a few times until she closed her eyes again, then she felt the warmth of him disappear as he left to continue his watch.
Darcy curled into the jacket, breathing in deeply. As she finally drifted to sleep, her only thought was how this jacket smelled so much like home.
Darcy dug through her desk drawer. She had a scarf in here somewhere she just -
Darcy grasped the soft fabric amongst the papers she’d - ahem - “filed” in her bottom drawer and pulled.
Then realized that it wasn’t her scarf. It was better.
She’d completely forgotten she’d stashed Bucky’s hoodie in the desk after she’d gotten all of the slime cleaned out of it (seltzer water works wonders for all kinds of things). And how serendipitous - the air conditioning was on the fritz and it was only slightly warmer than the North Pole in her office. She pulled the hoodie on and happily shrugged into it, relishing it’s warmth and taking a surruptious sniff. Yep, still smelled like Bucky.
“Hey Darcy, have they given you an estimate for when -” Bucky stopped short and stared at her.
She looked up at him with a smile. “Maintenance says the air won’t be fixed until Monday.”
He didn’t reply, just kept staring. She looked down and realized what he was starting at and flushed a little. “Sorry. Your hoodie has been kicking around in my desk for awhile. I cleaned it up and then kinda forgot to give it back.”
“Keep it,” he breathed. “I’ll see if I can get maintenance to fix the air before Monday.”
“This isn’t what I would picture you doing on your day off,” Bucky said, glancing around at the crowd warily.
“Why’s that?” Darcy asked, piling more jalapenos on her nachos.
Bucky shrugged. “Never took you as a sports fan, is all. Figured you’d look for a museum or concert or something. Maybe you’d spend the day in a used bookstore or with a book in the park.”
“All good and viable options, Buckster,” she replied as she motioned forward, carefully balancing her tray of nachos while handing him his beer. “But today, the sun is shining, the Mets aren’t terrible, and my favorite bodyguard was willing to indulge me for the day.”
Bucky gave her a half-hearted glare as they approached their section and made their way down the steps to their seats. She managed to find two tickets together in the last row of the section, so there was a cement wall at their backs, and she’d jumped at the chance to get Bucky out to a game. Their seats were all the way on the inside of the row, so that Darcy had cement on two sides. Not exactly her first choice of seats, but worth it when she saw a tiny bit of the tension leech out of Bucky’s shoulders.
“Interesting choice of seats, Darce,” he remarked dryly.
“Best spot in the stadium,” she lied.
He wasn’t buying it. “Uh huh.”
“Shut up and eat some nachos.” She practically shoved the tray into his hands as she set her own beer in her cupholder and tugged her scorecard and pencil out of her jacket pocket.
“You keep score?” Bucky asked.
“I’m not a heathen, Bucky.”
Bucky snorted, then looked towards the field, squinting as the sun came out from behind a cloud.
The squint didn’t fade at all through the first two innings. Not that Darcy was watching more of Bucky’s face than the game from behind her sunglasses. Nope. That wasn’t a thing that was happening at all.
And if anyone questioned her scoresheet, she scribbled “NACHOS” down the entire lineup. She had priorities after all.
Bucky’s squint intensified in the third inning, as the sun moved with the afternoon, and Darcy had seen enough. She pulled her Brooklyn Dodgers hat off her head and tugged it onto Bucky’s, pulling the brim down to shield his eyes from the sun.
He looked at her in surprise and opened his mouth to say something, but she cut him off.
“Shush,” she said, and snuggled into his side, resting her head on his shoulder.
After a moment, Bucky shifted and hesitantly put his arm around her. She grinned, although she wasn’t sure he could see it.
“Now you’re getting it,” she murmured.
She felt more than heard his chuckle. “Gimme a break, it’s been awhile.”
“What I’m hearing is a lot of excuses,” she teased.
“I’ll work on it.”
“You do that.”
“It’s really not fair that you can fit into my sweatpants.”
He looked down at the pants he wore. The waist was low on his hips and the legs were hiked up to his knees. “You call this fitting?”
She swiped at the drawstrings, her fingers catching on the knot he’d tied in them, and she tugged him a little closer. “They’re sweatpants. They made it over your hips. They fit.”
“Whatever you say, Darcy.”
“Keep that attitude and you and I are going to get along just fine.”
He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her to his chest, and nudged her nose with his. “And here I thought we were already getting along.”
“I could use another round or twelve. Just to make sure.”
He leaned in and softly kissed her. “That can be arranged,” he murmured, before kissing her again. “Damn, I love the way you look in my shirt.”
Darcy glanced down at the oversized t-shirt that came to her knees, then back up at him with a mischievous grin. “I look better out of it.”
Bucky made a disapproving noise. “I don’t know, gorgeous. It would be pretty tough to beat how good you look to me right now.”
“And how good do I look to you?” she smirked.
Bucky closed his eyes and nudged her nose again before touching his forehead to hers. “Like every dream I’ve ever had,” he murmured.
Darcy’s breath caught in her chest at the honesty in his voice. Then she grinned. “You sap.”
Bucky’s answering grin could have powered the sun. “Only for you, dollface.”
“Did you steal my shirt again?” Bucky asked, leaning against the doorframe at the entrance to their bedroom.
“Baby puked on mine,” Darcy grumbled. “Your son is a menace. Besides,” she looked down at her clothes. “I make this look good.”
Her husband grinned at her. “You make everything look good. But our son gets his troublemaking genes from you.”
“Slander and lies, Bucky-Bear.” She glanced in the mirror and touched the corner of her eye with her pinky, giving her smoked out eyeliner one final smudge. Then she looked to the chair at the costume jacket and sighed. “Who promised our son he could have a pirate-themed birthday party again?”
“Barton,” Bucky replied immediately. “Well, Barton gave him the idea. Sam said-”
“Whatever Stevie wants, Stevie gets,” Darcy supplied. “Ugh. Remind me to stick Sam with the dishes.” She shrugged into the jacket and buttoned it, smoothing it as best she could.
Bucky snagged her pirate hat off her head and placed it on his own, adjusting it so it gave him a gorgeously dangerous air - well, more of one than he had normally.
Darcy blinked, stunned the sight. “Nope,” she declared and knocked the hat off his head. “I’m in no condition to fight off every human with a functioning sex drive in a thirty mile radius.”
Bucky laughed, the corners of his eyes crinkling with joy. “What makes you think I’d be interested in anyone else, when I’ve got you?”
“You cannot charm the pants off me, Bucky. Not today. Or at least, not right now.”
Bucky just grinned at her.
“Come on,” she whined. “I already gave you the firstborn I promised in exchange for your jacket!”
“Two years ago,” Bucky teased. “What about all the clothes you’ve stolen since then?”
“Is this you telling me you want to have another kid?” she laughed.
Bucky’s expression froze briefly, before he chewed on his lip. “Maybe,” he mumbled.
He shrugged. “We’re not terrible at this parenting thing. And you and me - we’re solid, right? Having Stevie didn’t change anything? I still love you more than anything, and you and Stevie are my entire world and-”
“Bucky, having Steve changed everything,” Darcy laughed. “But you’re right - you and me are rock solid,” she reassured, reaching for him and tugging him close. “Let’s talk more after the party, okay?”
He nodded and leaned in to kiss her softly. “And then we can practice?”
“Oh. My. God.”
“I can put the hat back on-”
Darcy shut him up with a kiss. “Menace.”
Darcy grinned at him, then picked the hat up off the floor and set it on her head. “What do you think my chances are of charming Nick Fury out of the eyepatch?”
“No no no no, the only person you’re allowed to share clothes with is me.”
Darcy shrugged and made her way out of the bedroom and into the hall with a smirk. “Get an eyepatch then.”
He rolled his eyes. “So demanding.”
She laughed as he gently grasped her arm and turned her around.
“I love you, Darcy Barnes.”
“I love you back, Bucky Barnes.” She kissed him greedily. “Now. Find me an eyepatch, ya scallywag.”
“Arrrrrrrrr,” Bucky growled, pinning her against the wall and making them very, very late for their son’s birthday party.