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The Road to Recovery

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Dusk in Wakanda was beautiful. The brilliant oranges and pinks painted across the sky faded into deep blue as the sun sunk behind the horizon, taking the heat of the day with it. Warm winds blew throughout the tall grasses of the fields. Crickets chirped, animals were stabled, and children were back inside. Darcy thought it was as if the world was letting out a sleepy sigh.

But then night would come. Sure, the night held beauty. The stars were bright in the blue-black of midnight. Lights in the windows of buildings winked off one by one. Even the crickets went to sleep eventually. And the world fell quiet.

The world was quiet, but Darcy's mind was not. When the day ended and there were no more tasks to keep herself busy, no more papers to deal with, no more planning to do, no more people to talk to, or exercise to abhor, or sessions to hold, or sass to dish out, there was nothing left to stop her from thinking. No matter what she started thinking about, it would always spiral around to London. Or, if she was lucky, New Mexico. At least there were a few good memories from Puente Antiguo she could distract herself with. And it was always worse in the dark. It made no sense. Both the attacks she was part of happened in the daytime. The attack on New York was in the day, too. But something about the dark coaxed out fears like no other time could. Something about the dark made her feel small. Something about the dark made her feel alone. Something about the dark made her feel powerless.

The warmth of day was still cooling into night when Darcy pulled on Jane's “borrowed” flannel and stepped outside. She squared her shoulders. Night was nothing. Dark was nothing. She could handle absolutely anything. There was nothing to be afraid of outside anyway. Still, she patted her hip to feel the comforting weight of her taser.

As she walked through the fields, she concentrated on taking deep breaths. Staying calm was important. She would not allow herself to panic about simply being in the dark. Down the hill, nearing the closest huts to the science facility, she spread out the blanket she had tucked under her arm. She laid down and closed her eyes.

“No one is out here,” she whispered. “Just me. Just stars. Stars are cool.” Cracking one eye open, she looked up. Out here away from all the high-tech buildings and their lights, stars shone in the night sky, clear and bright. She traced a finger in the air along the constellations she could pick out. Focusing on the small task made it much easier to let go of the nighttime paranoia.

Darcy opened both eyes and tried to relax. She would train herself not to be terrified at night. 'Immersion therapy,' she thought. 'Just like we'll do with Bucky.' She sighed a bit. Therapy was going well with him so far. They had only had three sessions, but they all seemed productive. The most important thing for now was to build trust. Trust would open so many doors in their professional relationship. She huffed out loud. 'Yes, professional. It doesn't matter that he's fun to talk to, or has Jared Leto/Jesus hair, or has TV vampire blue eyes, or is Thor-muscly all the time.' She nearly rolled her eyes. 'Doesn't matter. Still a client. Don't be attracted to clients.'

She focused again on the stars above her. Stars wouldn't stare into her soul or smile so sadly she had to physically sit on her hands to stop from hugging them. Hugging, though. They did need to work on that. Accepting touch was a part of trauma-

A cough.

Darcy shot up off the blanket like it was on fire. “Who's there? I'll taze you! I swear you'll have so many volts running through you, I could use you as a toaster!” Unfortunately, she fumbled pulling out her taser, which landed on the ground, stealing the thunder from her threat.

Bucky's hands were in the air. “It's, uh. It's just me. Sorry.”

Darcy picked up the taser and blew hair out of her face. Hopefully sometime soon her heart would stop trying to beat out of her chest. “Odin's eyepatch! We should put a bell on you or something.” She squinted, but could barely see him.

“I'm sorry.” He slowly put his hands down. “I was out walking. I heard you talking to yourself.”

Shit. What part had she said out loud? Oh, well. “Don't judge me, Barnes. What are you doing out here at three in the morning anyway?”

Bucky inclined his head. “Don't judge me, Lewis. What are you doing out here?”

“Ya got me.” Darcy smoothed out the blanket once again and sat down. “I was looking at the stars. Can't exactly do that during the day, chief.”

“Right.” He scratched the back of his neck. “I'll leave you to it then.”

“You can join me, if you want. Not gonna lie, the blanket's a little scratchy, but I'm willing to share.” She smiled even though she had no idea whether he could see her or not.

“Uh, okay.” Bucky laid on the farthest edge of the blanket.

Darcy laid back down and pointed at the first constellation she could find. “See that. That's Scorpio. I'm not much for horoscopes, but I like the myths.”

Bucky nodded like he had any clue what in the world a horoscope was. “What is it?”

“So, Osiris was ruler of Egypt, right? But his brother tricked him and killed him so he could take over. And he sent the body down the Nile. Osiris's wife, Isis, searched for his body to give him a proper burial so his soul would be saved, or whatever. But evil brother dude was like nuh-uh and sent monsters after her. Scorpio was one of seven scorpions that protected Isis as she found and buried her husband, who was now in pieces. Then her son led an uprising and killed his evil uncle, Lion King style.”

“Huh.” He didn't know how to begin to process that. He shook it off. “Seems like you know a lot about stars.”

“Kind of.” She turned to look at him and was pleasantly surprised to be able to see him a little better. “Jane's an astrophysicist so, ya know, lots of star stuff. I know most of the constellations and their myths and junk, but the science-y aspects of it are more Jane territory.”

Bucky caught himself staring at her. Her eyes sparkled even in the dark. Quickly he looked up and pointed at a few stars. “What about those?”

Darcy looked up and then back down at him. “Well, that's ironic.”

“What?” He forced himself to keep his gaze on the sky.

“It's Typhon the sea serpent, one of the monsters that was sent after Isis in the Egyptian myth. But, it's more commonly known by its name in Greek mythology.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“It's the constellation Hydra.”

Bucky exhaled in an almost laugh. “Of course it is.”

Darcy shrugged. “I mean, you're the one who pointed at it.”

“Yeah,” Bucky said, scrubbing a hand over his face. “That's my luck. Can't even have one night without 'em.”

She rolled toward him and propped herself up on an elbow. “Rough nights?”

He turned his head toward her, surprised to see her so close. “Yeah,” he said quietly.

“I get it.” She picked at her nails. “It's hard to sleep with all the crappy shit that's happened playing over and over in your head.” Well, she had promised him emotional vulnerability. Here goes nothing. “It happens to me, too. Like, every night.”

“I'm sorry.” His hand itched to reach for hers, like a reflex, but he hadn't touched anyone in comfort in a long time. She wouldn't want comfort from him of all people anyway. Instead, he mirrored the way she was laying. “I, uh. I saw the videos.”

“Glad you read my file,” Darcy smiled a little. “I got through everything fine, at the time. Even joked through it, you know? I'm always joking.” She looked down. “But after,” she continued quietly, “after, it all hit me at once. Both times. It's like I suddenly realized what just happened. And what could have happened.”

Bucky nodded. “After is always worse. The adrenaline is gone and there's too much time to think.”

“Nothing really even happened to me. I was fine. My peeps were all fine. But, it was some scary shit.” She sighed. “I don't know. I feel like I should be over it, but I know that's not how it works.”

“It makes you feel weak.”

“Yeah,” she said softly. “I come out here to force myself not to be afraid. I used to look at the stars with Jane in New Mexico and it always felt peaceful. It doesn't really work for me anymore. But it should. It's stupid. It's not like The Destroyer is going to pop up out of a wheat field, or something.”

“Doesn't always make sense,” Bucky shook his head. “Be easier if it did. Sometimes my heart starts racing when an air conditioner comes on. It's nothing like cryo. But knowing that doesn't stop the panic.”

“Do you get nightmares often, too? I thought they'd go away eventually, or at least happen less, but nope,” she said shaking her head. “All the time. And I know how I'm supposed to deal with them, but...” Darcy sighed. “I like being a badass, you know? But it's dark and I'm alone and sometimes I just can't deal.”

“I- yeah. I know how you feel.” Bucky hadn't thought anyone could relate to the things he was going through, least of all his therapist. But maybe he wasn't so alone. “Maybe we could- never mind.”

Darcy looked at him like she knew exactly what he didn't quite offer. “Would you maybe want to keep each other company sometimes? When the nights get tough? No pressure. You can tell me to buzz off.”

Somehow, they had moved close enough that she could feel the heat radiating off him. She saw the way his lips curved up and tried not to think about them too much.

As Darcy tried not to watch him too closely, she missed how closely he was watching her. He saw her glance at his lips. He wouldn't have to lean in far to brush them over hers.

What was he thinking? In what world would a woman like her want to kiss a man like him? And he could barely stand to be patted on the shoulder. Who was he kidding? Maybe he could try.

Still, she was waiting for an answer. “Yeah,” he said, not being able to help himself. “I'd like that.”

Her smile made him feel it was definitely the right choice. He was sure he could make another. “I could, uh, walk you back to your room, if you want. Might be better than being alone,” he shrugged, trying to downplay his offer.

Darcy smiled at him again. “Promise you can protect me from the wheat field?”

“I'll do my best.” He hopped up and took a deep breath. Then he held out his hand.

She looked up at him in surprise. Her gap-toothed grin made another appearance as she slipped her hand in his.

Bucky couldn't have said what they talked about on the way back, but he knew the exact shape of her hand, how soft it felt, the warmth it pressed into his skin. He was surprised by how easy it was- holding her hand. It felt normal. Felt right. Maybe it wouldn't always be this simple, or maybe it would, but he was grateful to have something come easily for once.

Darcy turned to face him when they got to her suite door. It had been the most relaxing walk in the dark she had since before New Mexico happened. It felt normal to be walking along with him. Felt right. She squeezed his hand once before letting go. “Thanks for walking with me.”

He immediately missed the weight of her hand in his. Strange. Missing touch. Maybe he had been missing it for a long time without ever realizing it. “My pleasure, ma'am,” rolled off his tongue in a reflex.

She didn't even have the heart to fake scold him. “Just Darcy, man.”

“Darcy,” he corrected. “Not a robot or alien in sight.”

“Between my taser and your muscles? They wouldn't dare.” She was happy to see his answering smile reach his eyes.

“Goodnight, Darcy.”

“Goodnight, Bucky,” she replied softly.

Closing the door behind her, she leaned back against it and blew out a breath. She knew she shouldn't think of her night that way, but she couldn't help it: that was the nicest date she'd ever had.