One day she might look back on this day and see the humor. She might even laugh without an edge of hysteria. She might tell her kid the story of how mommy and daddy met… the PG-13 version. These are things that she focuses on instead of the pain shooting up her leg, the blood seeping down her side, the pounding of footsteps getting closer. If she makes it out alive, if they make it out, she might just try and see the bright side of this. She laughs too loud at the sudden blaring of her phone, surprised it’s still working.
‘Things are going great, and they’re only getting better…’
Her leg finally gives out and the ground rushes up to meet her.
‘The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.’
She scrambles for purchase with a cry, her left wrist taking her weight with an audible snap when a body slams her into the ground. She doesn’t think her future’s looking all that bright. Good thing she’d lost her shades a hundred miles back.
* * *
Three months, six days, nine hours, and twenty seven minutes earlier.
Darcy curses the fluffy clouds, the happy blue sky, and her bad luck. Take a vacation, they said. No, take a road trip! Jane said. It’ll be good for you, Clint swore. So far the only good it had done her was give her a new appreciation for waitresses and a new unwanted tan. Windblown was not a good look for her, or so her rearview mirror told her. Sighing she glares at the blown out tire on her Mustang. That’s what she gets for not stopping at that last gas station.
Slumping back behind the wheel she searches through the empty wrappers that have become her passenger seat, and makes a triumphant sound when she finds her phone. It’s no use, though. It’s dead. Growling her annoyance she folds forward to thump her head against the steering wheel. She will not cry. She can handle this.
She sniffs and tosses her useless cell back into the trash before getting back out.
Changing a flat isn’t hard, just sweaty, and Lord knows she’s plenty sweaty already. Arizona, (at least she thinks she’s still in Arizona) is hot. But she lived in New Mexico, she can take the heat. Maybe it’s just that no one’s around to hear her complain about it. Yeah, that’s it. Yelping when the trunk flies open too fast and scratches her arm, she huffs getting more irritated, if that’s possible. (It’s entirely possible.)
It takes her thirty minutes just to get the car jacked up and the flat tire off. By then she’s added greasy to her growing list of things that make her yucky. She takes a minute to pull her hair back into a messy bun and wipe the sweat from her neck.
That’s the moment she hears the rumble of an engine. Darcy looks from left to right and wonders if she has time to grab the pistol Coulson had given her upon her departure. He’d taken no refusal and urged her to keep her phone charged in case anything went amiss. She’d been a little scatterbrained before she’d left and thought he was just doing his overprotective boss act. Whoopsie. He was going to be so pissed if she got herself murdered.
Like a mirage the motorcycle appears from out of a bend in the heat. She wonders if her Taser is still under her seat, it’d be easier to get to. Her hands fall to her sides and spine straightens as the lone biker slows while pulling in behind the Mustang. It’s a man alright. She has to school her features into what Jane called her ‘Agent’ face and it’s harder than it should be. The silence after he cuts the engine is loud and Darcy watches with narrowed eyes as he dismounts with a weird sort of grace. His shoulders are broad, his boots are black, and his gloved hands look like they could easily span her waist.
A spark of something skates down her spine.
Darcy watches like it’s in slow motion as he takes off his helmet, revealing his face an inch at a time. His jaw is dark with stubble well on its way to being a beard, pouty lips, ooooh, that’s a mustache. Strong nose, pretty cheekbones, and—uh-oh… Motherfucker. She knew that face and if he thought he was fooling anyone with the facial hair he had another thing coming.
Her face shows no signs of recognition.
He smiles politely at her and speaks first with an all American, “You look like you could use a hand.” She tries really hard not to roll her eyes. And then her gaze widens instead anyway.
“I already have two, thanks,” she tries for breezy as a cover-up.
It’s his turn to stare at her, his mouth dropping open in what she assumes is some of the same shock that’s currently gripping her chest.
“Well… of all the days to take a ride and find a pretty girl stranded.”
“Yeah, the universe is kinda funny like that,” she offers him a small smile.
Steve steps towards her and holds out his hand with a handsome smile and she takes it. His eyes flick down to the angry red scratch on her arm that seems to underline his words that spill across her skin in cursive. Darcy had gone the biggest part of her life without any words and been teased mercilessly for not having a soulmate. Her mom had always wiped her tears and told her to be patient. Then when she was twenty four she woke up one morning in July with a new tattoo. She’d never bothered looking for her soulmate, figuring he’d find her.
Then she’d woken up from an Everclear hangover last year to find angry looking symbols she couldn’t translate scrawled down her other forearm. She didn’t like talking about either of them and chose to wear long sleeves any day ending in ‘y’. Coulson only knew that she had them, but not what they said, because of her job with the new SHIELD, and that’s how she preferred it.
Looks like half of the mystery was solved at least.
She shakes Steve’s hand and sizes him up. He doesn’t look like the clean-cut and wholesome hero that Coulson and Barton had praised once upon a mission. He looks haggard and tired, and if she had to put a name on it she’d say he looks haunted. His smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes.
“It’s nice to meet you…” he hesitates she thinks because she didn’t offer him her name. And when he continues she knows she was smart not to. “I’m Grant.”
Well, fuck. Captain America does lie.
Darcy’s smile doesn’t reach her eyes either. “You too, I’m Anne.”
It’s okay, because so does she.