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Birds of Desire

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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-ohMotherfucker. 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.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

Steve has her tire changed not ten minutes later despite the newly added weight of finding his other soulmate on the side of a desert road. The ache of where Bucky’s mark rests over his heart is reminder that just because you find that other piece of your self doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily be pleasant. At least he doesn’t have to search faces wondering who’ll be burdened by him next anymore. Bucky would probably give him a kick to the shin if he spoke it aloud, but he wasn’t here, despite Steve’s attempts.

He and Sam had gone looking like he’d wanted, following every lead that Natasha or even Stark had been kind enough to pass along. It’s a good thing he has a hard head because he’s ran up against so many dead ends he should have brain damage. When a year came and went with nothing more than a ripped and discarded hoodie, a wiped out Hydra base in Moscow, and a mangled car in the south of France, he’d thrown in the towel. (Or so Sam thinks. Natasha knows better.) His ruse of a road trip to clear his head and to just get away from everything was a good enough cover… so far.

“So, I was about to stop at the next little town a few miles out, gas up, eat, bunker down,” Anne’s voice jars him from his thoughts. “Would you want to join me?”

He closes her trunk, dusting his hands off on the thighs of his road-dirty jeans. He has to admit that she’s a beautiful dame, kind of reminds him of the chorus girls from his show days; easy to smile, quick witted, a classic beauty. Bucky would have taken her dancing.

“Sure. We can see about getting you a better tire before you leave,” shrugging, he slides his hands into his pockets.

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that! I’m not in any hurry,” she pushes off the back door and turns to face him as he rounds the trunk.

“It’s the least I can do, really,” he squints out at the sun glinting off of the asphalt before meeting her eyes. They’re beguiling.

“Sold,” she nods as if her word is law and turns, car door squeaking when she opens it. “See you there.”

She throws a smirk over her shoulder and he barely has enough time to tap a finger against the black paint then the engine growls to life and he’s left standing in a cloud of dust. He hears some upbeat music under the noise and a pale arm waves at him from the window before gears catch and change sending her towards the horizon.

 Steve will never admit to the swoop in his stomach at the sight. Bucky used to tell him that he had a way of finding trouble, if it didn’t sniff him out first. Walking back to his bike he pulls his helmet on and coaxes it to start with a promise of miles to eat. As he pulls onto the road he’d like to say Bucky was wrong but he can’t shake the feeling that he is indeed chasing trouble.

 

* * *

 

Darcy makes it to the town forty minutes later and pulls into the lone diner that proclaims to have the world’s best fries. She doubts it. She’d took the opportunity to charge her phone while driving and pondering what she was going to do about Captain America’s rogue (but glorious) ass. It was beyond weird to hear someone call her by her middle name but she’d found peace with the fact that Coulson would be proud. Maybe? Okay, probably more pissed. She’d been on missions before and had to take on entirely new identities and that hadn’t been too hard. So she was going to treat this as a mission.

First things first: become ‘Anne’.

She supposes going for her contacts instead of glasses this morning had been a nudge from above, which, kudos, dudes. Add a little lip gloss and fix her horror head of hair and that’s really all she can do. Oh, other than her backstory. Darcy slumps into the sticky leather of her seat with a sigh. Researcher was out. Politics anything was out. Looks like she was gonna have to fall back on old faithful; in-between jobs actress going to New York for a break. Yep, that would do even though Jane always rolled her eyes when Darcy started talking about Broadway. A girl could dream!

The blare of her phone suddenly ringing startles her so she rams her thigh into the steering wheel.

“MOTHER—what do you want?!” she squalls upon answering not bothering to check the ID.

“Why haven’t you answered your phone in three hours?”

“It died and I had a flat I had to fix,” her sigh comes with an eye roll.

“You… fixed a flat? By yourself?”

She pulls the phone away from her ear as Clint laughs. Loudly.

“I’M HANGING UP,” Darcy declares once he takes a beat to breathe.

“No, no. I’m sorry, I was just trying to picture it,” his voice is full of amusement and she’s hit with a sudden wave of homesickness. “Seriously, you fixed it?”

“Yes, I’m not completely helpless, dumbass,” she closes her eyes, left arm flailing out the window.

“Okay, no need for name calling. Just wanted to check on you.”

“Your concern is unnecessary. And your timing impeccable as usual. I just pulled into a tiny town and I’m hungry,” the rumble of a motorcycle comes down the road and Darcy has a moment of terror.

“What is that noise?” Steve pulls into the parking lot and she watches him aim for her car. “Darce? Are you at a biker bar?!” He slots into place in the spot next to her and she finds herself frozen for a second. Clint’s curiosity isn’t something she wants to deal with.

“Nope, just some guy on a hog. Chill. I’ll catch you later, ‘kay?” Ignoring whatever the archer is saying to that she cuts the call and grins at Steve as he cuts the bike off.

“Anyone ever tell you it’s dangerous to drive like a bat out of Hell, Ma’am?”

The smirk he unveils with his helmet doesn’t reach his eyes yet but Darcy sees the potential.

“I was taught to drive it like I stole it, Sir,” she taunts unfolding from the car, shoving her now on silent phone into the front pocket of her jeans, and draping the strap of her purse over her shoulder.

She thinks Steve laughs, isn’t sure it could be considered that but he does smile at her and offer her his arm. Darcy takes it and lets him lead her into the moderately-cooler-than-outside diner. There’s an honest to Thor jukebox in the corner and The Beach Boys are crooning of a ‘Surfer Girl’ when they walk in. There are precisely six people in the place and Darcy swears she’s in a fucking movie. They all glance at the newcomers then go back to looking like they’d rather be anywhere but there.

Steve seats them in a corner booth, his back to the wall and she would put up a fuss because of the ever present nagging of Clint’s voice telling her to keep her eyes on her surroundings, but… Anne wouldn’t know anything about that. She has to remind herself that she’s with freaking CAPTAIN AMERICA. Easy as pie.

Oh, look, pie!

 The waitress looks bored as she approaches their table. Nina Simone sings ‘Trouble in Mind’ and Darcy orders a burger, some of those world’s best fries, and a piece of apple pie. Maybe she’s watched too much Supernatural but hey, there’s a little Winchester in everyone. Steve gets the same, they smile at each other. She waits until the waitress brings their drinks to speak up.

“Sooo, Grant, do you always stop and help distressed damsels on the highway?”

He chokes a little on his drink and Darcy bites back a snort.

“Ah, no, not … well, actually I suppose I do,” he shrugs and dabs at his mouth with a cardboard-colored napkin.

“Oh? You follow them to diners, too?” She arches a brow over her own cup, the fizz from the soda tickling her nose.

“That, I’m not in the habit of doing,” he waits until she sits her cup down and reaches out capturing her right hand with a question on his brow. She nods albeit a bit hesitantly, her left arm slipping under the table out of view due to habit. He turns her hand palm up and stares at his mark on her skin. His voice is hushed when he speaks and she has to lean forward to hear him over the music. He says, “But you seem to be the exception.”

Darcy’s mouth opens on a quiet gasp when he trails a feather light fingertip over the scratch that underlines the black cursive. His touch, as insignificant as it is, makes goosebumps break out over her skin. It’s an artist’s hands reunited with its masterpiece and… shitfuckinghell what have I gotten myself into? Her inner voice sounds terrified and excited and Darcy—

The waitress chooses that moment to drop their food on the edge of the table breaking the spell. Steve pulls his hand back and she’s pretty sure he gives her an actual genuine smile. Her heart flutters. Uh-Oh…She draws her arm back at the phantom voice of Jane and turns her attention to her food.

Conversation is surprisingly easy with Steve. He gives her a story about being a soldier on a road trip to get reacquainted with the states, and so on. He’s kind of horrible at lying but she listens intently to him spin his tale. When it’s her turn she sticks as close to the truth as she can. (Less to bite her in the ass later she hopes.) They order coffee to go with their small talk then Steve finishes her fries (they were mediocre at best). He excuses himself to visit the bathroom and while he’s gone she checks her phone. There are two messages; one from Clint being a baby because she hung up on him and the other from Jane checking in. She sends Jane a simple ‘I’m alive!’ then shuts her cell off and turns it over. Popping the back off she wrenches the stubborn battery out, her eyes narrowing at the tiny piece of plastic that shouldn’t be there. Using the edge of her nail she pries it out before putting everything back together. Step Two: Ditch the nosey spies that don’t think she can survive on her own? Check. She’s turning her GPS and location services off just as Steve sits back down.

They don’t stay long, both agreeing that it’d be smart to get rooms and settle in before nightfall. Darcy ignores the jittery feeling her gut is making as she follows him out. (He paid, turns out Steve Rogers’ manners are still very proper.) They’ve only just met she reminds herself, it’s not like he’s gonna ravish her or something out of a trashy Harlequin. Maybe later… Barton’s voice sounds smug in her head.

 

The tracking chip stays behind at the diner conveniently thrown out with the trash.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

He wakes slowly, muscles stretching lazily with a yawn as he rolls over. His right eye cracks open when his hip hits something. Someone, a blonde someone, is sitting on the edge of his bed. A deceivingly sleepy smile plays at the corner of his lips.

“Five more minutes?”

“Not even two.”

“Come on, gimme five and I’ll make it worth your while, ten and I’ll make you see stars,” his arm snakes around a trim waist, a python snuggling its prey.

“Appealing offer… Six is the best I can do.”

Clint tightens his grip and in a graceful maneuver he flips Natasha and himself over so that she’s on her back and he’s hovering over her, thighs wedging into the cradle of hers. She gives him an exasperated glare and he just smirks, head dipping down to get his mouth on her throat. His tongue licks a stripe over her pulse and the only response he gets is a slight twitch of the fingers that have found his nape. It’s all he needs.

It only takes four minutes and six seconds for her to see those stars.

Licking his lips and slinging an arm over his head he watches her get dressed with a smug grin and says, “Not that I don’t like the blonde, but why are you wearing that?”

“Thing in Miami,” she adjusts the wig after pulling her shirt back over her head. “Wheels up in twenty so I suggest you shower because you’re flying.”

Clint groans, his happy high dipping below sated towards crap. Nat’s reflection shoots him a pointed look then slides down his sweaty frame. Okay maybe it hasn’t dropped that low. He scratches his stomach then sits up, swinging his legs off the bed and standing. He’s oblivious to his nudity, not a modest bone to be found as he strolls from the bedroom to his kitchen. He’s just draining his first cup of coffee when Natasha emerges.

“Boss coming on this one or just us?”

She shakes her head and he watches her step into some dangerous looking heels. “It’s just some recon. He thought it sounded like a Hydra thing.”

“Did you call Rogers?”

“No,” her brows knit together. “I’m not going to alert him to anything unless it’s without a doubt James.”

He nods, fills his cup back up. She glances up and sends him a smile that’s just for him then turns towards the door. “Oh, by the way,” she says in a seemingly innocent sing-song. “Phil said Lewis’ GPS blinked out yesterday afternoon and hasn’t been back online. She messaged him that she was good but I smell rebellion.” Clint curses, loudly. Nat’s laugh lingers after she’s gone.

 

* * *

 

Darcy laughs for a good ten minutes the next morning upon listening to Barton’s angry voicemail. Coulson’s just sounds resigned. She doesn’t bother to return either call.

And that sets the tone for the next month: Darcy just doesn’t bother.

That morning she finds herself back in the diner watching Steve destroy a huge stack of pancakes, and another plate of breakfast foods. She tries not to stare but she can’t help it. He laughs it off, apologizing and blaming it on a fast metabolism. Yeah, she thinks, a Super-Soldier one. He arches a brow at the cup after cup of coffee she swallows down. She laughs it off, too.

The way in which they’re so comfortable so fast together scares her but there’s nothing to be done.

They get her a new tire and spend most of the day goofing off around the tiny town. She buys Jane a keychain that’ll get pinned to the wall along with the others from past missions and places. Steve tries on trucker hats and shades and she snaps pics with her cell that he begs her to delete. (She doesn’t.)

Steve offers to accompany her on her trip to New York if she ‘wants the company’. Darcy says yes so fast he actually laughs and his eyes sparkle just a little. Progress. They part that evening to get cleaned up and rest a bit before their agreed last dinner at the diner. Darcy sets an alarm on her phone, strips down to her bra, cranks the loud air conditioner under the window, and lies down for a nap. She falls asleep with a smile.

 

* * *

 

Steve grabs the dingy towel off the counter and wipes his face dry, his reflection frowns back at him. He’d trimmed his beard back to slightly less mountain man and as he stares at the semi-hollow person before him, the urge to create a new self, even if just in appearance, is too great to resist. So he takes the razor to his hair, too. The buzz of the machine is loud in the small bathroom as dirty blonde locks fall around him. When he’s satisfied, he takes another look. The harsher lines of the close crop feel somehow more suited to his current state of mind.

His Ma would have whipped his hind end.

Bucky… he’d always promised him it didn’t matter what he looked like.

Shaking off those thoughts, Steve cleans up his mess and changes into his last pair of clean jeans (that will get worn the next day, too), a gray t-shirt, and a green flannel that he rolls up to his elbows. He still has thirty minutes before he’s to meet Anne. Taking a seat on the end of the single bed, he stares at the blank, black screen of the TV. With the curtains drawn tight it’s dark in the room and opens the door for his thoughts to come crawling out.

He doesn’t know if he’s doing the right thing, following this strange woman simply because they share marks. He likes her well enough, it’s just… she isn’t Bucky. He’s a bastard for thinking it, for being a respecter of persons, but it’s the truth. Those bubbly letters on his right thigh have been a mystery since he’d been unthawed, and he’s happy to have solved it, really. The fact is this: over his heart sits the question ‘Pal, you okay?’ and it has roots wrapped around his heart, tangled along his spine, branching up into his mind.

Bucky has always been the planet that Steve stubbornly orbited and to have a new celestial body enter the pull is not exactly wanted.

And he noticed the way the brunette had kept her left arm close to her person, as if she were guarding a secret. Did she have another partner, too? Was she worried that it’d put him off? Because if that were the case he’d be all too happy to let her know how wrong she is. All of these questions he intends to ask. Soon. First he’d start with getting to know her. Maybe Natasha would get off his case if he brought Anne home, if he went back home. Maybe Bucky is already in New York just waiting on him. His stomach flips at the thought.

Hope is a dangerous thing.

 

* * *

 

They roll out the next morning and head east. They aren’t in any hurry. The sun is blinding, her car, his bike loud and a beautiful sight. The miles are long and neither feels the need to stop for too long. They continue to stay in crappy motels, raid diners and tacky souvenir shops. Darcy begins to buy old disposable cameras and fills roll after roll with memories. The grip around Steve’s heart begins to loosen. She makes him laugh. He makes her blush. Darcy forgets to keep in touch with her friends (family). Steve almost never has his phone out around her. She doesn’t question it, instead she begins to leave hers in the car, sometimes forgetting it all together.

Before they know it three weeks have passed.

Neither of them is tired of the other. In fact, it’s the opposite. Steve starts to let his guard down, just a little. And Darcy, she finds herself wishing they weren’t lying to each other. There’s always a vague unspoken agreement that they don’t get too close. But Darcy being Darcy has to go and cross a line.

They’re in a Laundromat somewhere in the middle of Arkansas when it happens.

 

*

“No, that’s the wrong word.”

“It’s the only thing that will fit!”

“Nope,” Anne reaches across the dryer and snatches the pen out of his hand, her mouth working as she writes. “Serendipitous. Say it with me: Ser-en-dip-i-tous,” she sounds out like a kindergarten teacher. “Adjective. Meaning: Occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way. Used in a sentence: Meeting you was a stupendously surprising and serendipitous situation! How’s that for alliteration—” Her voice stalls out when she glances up from the old newspaper crossword puzzle he’d been working at since his clothes went into the washer. Blue meets blue, the tumble of the machine between them a dull rhythm. Their bodies lean as if metal to a magnet and—the buzz of the timer startles them both making them jump and laugh awkwardly.

The moment is lost.

Ten minutes later after they’re finished lugging their clean laundry out to her car to take back to the hotel, she takes Steve’s hand like she’s been doing it for well, ever. He pauses long enough to glance down at where her dainty fingers are threaded through his. He ticks his gaze back up to meet hers and she smiles. He returns it and something loosens in his chest.

He sleeps without his usual nightmares that night.

 

*

They’re in Nashville, Tennessee having lunch across the pond from the Parthenon museum when he kisses her the first time.

Anne unearths a hideously orange blanket from the trunk of her car and pushes it into his arms then crawls back into the backseat. Steve watches her with an amused expression as she backs out shortly after and slings a floral backpack of some sort onto her shoulder. She turns to him, catches him staring, and smiles brightly and reaches out taking his hand without hesitation. She hums the entire time they’re getting situated, her snapping pictures of the Parthenon, the sky, him, and he noses through her bag finding spoils from their last stop at a gas station.

They eat in comfortable silence, enjoying the mild weather, although it’s cloudy and the heavens look a breath away from opening up and pouring down. He’s glad he let her drive and left the bike parked at the hotel. When they’re finished eating, Steve doesn’t think twice when he lays down across the blanket, pillowing his head on her thighs. He wonders if this is what it’s like just to be normal, if he could ever have this…

The mark on his chest throbs and he knows he’s foolish.

He lets his eyes close and soon her fingers find his short hair, nails scratching gently at his scalp and he feels like a big lazy cat. Steve’s tempted to purr. She stops humming and starts singing. Her voice is soft but strong and it’s beautiful. He opens his eyes and watches her as the words sink into his very bones.

Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods?

Where’s the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds?

Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?

Late at night I toss and turn and dream of what I need.’

Steve wishes he wasn’t ‘Grant’ in that moment.

I need a hero. I’m holding out for a hero till the end of the night.

He’s gotta be strong. He’s gotta be fast. And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.

I need a hero. I’m holding out for a hero till the morning light.

He’s gotta be sure. He’s gotta be soon. And he’s gotta be larger than life…’

He doesn’t want to lie to her anymore. He sits up as she takes her next breath but she doesn’t finish the song. She goes utterly still when his lips touch hers, less kiss and more of a brush of flesh. Steve worries he’s made a mistake but before he can retreat Anne reaches up with both hands and cradles his jaw in a way that’s so tender it makes him ache.

She kisses him back this time.

 

* * *

 

Thunder breaks them apart and Darcy looks to the heavens praying Thor isn’t the cause. The first raindrop hits her square in the forehead. Steve grins (it reaches his eyes) and brushes it away with his lips.

“And that’s our cue to get out of here, I think.”

“I thought you wanted to see Athena?”

Darcy shrugs and lets her hands trail down to his chest. “It’s been here since 1897, we’ll come back,” she says with hopeful eyes. Steve nods and leans back.

“Sounds good. We better hurry, though it looks like it’s going to get nasty.”

She nods at this and they begin gathering their things. Her heart is still hammering around in her chest like a trapped hummingbird because ohfuckfuckityfuckfuck! She was in serious trouble here. It’s been a month and a week since Steve found her on the side of the road and despite their false identities they get along swimmingly. She can see why he’s meant for her. She ignores the way there’s still a pang in her gut because she can’t help but feel that she (they’re) missing something (someone). Neither of them ever brings up the elephant of their other partners. It’s safer that way.

By the time they make it back to the hotel it is absolutely pouring and the afternoon is all but smothered in dark clouds. Thunder booms and lightning illuminates the cabin of the car. Darcy cuts the engine off and looks at Steve. He’s gazing out the windshield at his hotel door that’s three down from hers. She wonders what he’s thinking.

“You ready to run for it?” she asks as she makes sure her phone’s zipped up tight in her backpack.

“We’re gonna get drenched.”

“Aw, are you afraid of a little rain?”

Steve’s eyes narrow when he turns his gaze on her and his voice is nothing but dare when he says “Leave your bag in the car.”

Darcy cants her head to the side in a confused gesture. “Why would I do that?”

“Haven’t you ever played in the rain before?” He flashes her a seriously mischievous grin then empties his pockets into the cup holder before he opens the door and jumps out.

Her laugh of disbelief is eaten by a clap of thunder and she mentally says fuck it, sticking her keycard and keys in her pocket before following him out. The rain is shockingly cold and she gasps as her clothes quickly soak through. Steve whistles at her and she pushes hair out of her eyes to see him motioning for her. There’s a small playground by the side of the hotel for children of course, but the swings are big enough for adults.

It’s stupid and reckless but they swing in the pouring rain, hollering like a couple of idiots. Darcy moves to the slide and Steve catches her at the bottom, helping her up where he then wraps his arms around her. He simply holds her for a minute and then his lips are on hers again. She links her arms around his neck and gives as good as she gets. His smile when he pulls back is a blinding thing and it hits Darcy in all of the right places.

She doesn’t want to lie to him anymore. She wants him to know her. And as she opens her mouth to let the truth march forward something catches her eye. Lightning lights up the small lot and for the briefest of seconds she swears there’s a figure standing against the wall of the hotel. She doesn’t realize she’s shivering until Steve wraps his arms back around her obstructing her view and insists they go and get dry. When he pulls away, lacing their fingers together, and tugs her towards her room she looks back but there’s no one there.

Darcy opens the door to her room while Steve grabs their things from the car. She turns and makes a beeline for the towels, kicking her shoes and socks off on the way. Steve steps in and tosses their stuff on the little table by the window and she realizes that he’s never been in her rooms. He’d always stayed to his own end of the hotel. Things seem like they’re on a tipping point and Darcy would be lying if she said she wasn’t a little afraid.

“I… I ah should go and let you get warmed up,” his eyes won’t meet hers and she wonders if he’s scared, too.

“Hey, Grant?” that name is weird on her tongue and she so wishes she could just tell him but she has a gut instinct warning her that now isn’t the right time. He looks up then. Time pauses. The air is muggy, smells like sludgy coffee and nicotine. The yellow light of the bathroom is the only one on and Steve stands in shadow. Darcy’s heart stops for a beat when their eyes finally meet and she knows that those are the details that won’t stand out later. What will is the way his shirt clings to his torso, his bitten-red lips, and the rain on his lashes that makes them darker and sharp. What will stand out is the look in his gaze. It’s a fierce thing; want warring with uncertainty inside a dark pool of desire, the kind that tempts you to its banks like a siren only to drag you under once you’ve waded out too far.

Her stomach trips and someone presses play on the world.

She isn’t sure who moves first but one second they’re across the room and the next they’re knocking into the dresser. Her hands go for his shirt, shoving it up out of her way, wanting to feel skin. His mouth slots perfectly against hers and she wonders if the rest of him tastes as sweet. (She intends to find out.)

Wet clothes are quickly discarded, slapping wetly against whatever surface they’re tossed on. Before she knows it he’s ripped back the ugly comforter and top sheet and tossed her onto the mattress. His body is scorching to the touch and touch she does. Greedy hands knead and stroke bare skin stretched taut over powerful muscles. She sucks a hickey just right of his Adam’s apple while her nimble fingers snake down down down making him curse. He retaliates by leaving a blooming purple bruise above her left breast. She reverently kisses the words that are inked in a deep red over his heart. He goes still at her actions, his eyes closing like he’s in pain. It takes every ounce of control she has for her not to call him ‘Steve’ and tell him it’s okay.

He traces the words on the inside of her left forearm with his warm lips and she shivers. Darcy doesn’t know the why of the thing or particularly want to but she knows without a shadow of a doubt that this night will drastically change their lives. Steve kisses all thoughts from her mind after she has this revelation and they suddenly have no time for foreplay anymore. He sinks into her slowly letting her adjust to him and once she nods and wraps her legs around his hips all she really can do is hang on.

If asked, Darcy would evade and say that it’s really none of your business. But if pressed she might just tell you that Captain America isn’t a shy virgin at all and leave it at that. As it is, she’ll take it to her grave (Jane doesn’t count) that Steve fucks like you’d expect a shining example of all things good and pure, an icon, NOT to. His thrusts are deep and rattle the headboard, his hands grip her hips one moment then are trailing over her body with a maddening intensity. And he stares, like he doesn’t want to miss a millisecond. Darcy is done in by that alone, because that much rapt focus from those eyes is damning. But what sends her flying over the edge is this: He bends down, mouthing at her parted lips while his hands grasp her hips hard enough that she knows she’s gonna have fingerprints for a week, and he rolls his hips into her so that they’re both moving and she’s arching up off the bed. He doesn’t just move his hips, no, it’s this full body thing and Darcy swears she’s only seen that move in some hot-as-hell porn. One, two, three beats and she’s gone with Steve’s gasped approval ringing in her ears. As she’s shaking and clinging to him his frame tenses and there’s a rush of warmth inside her that makes her shake even harder.

They both come down together and he never lets her go. His arms band around her like he’s afraid she’ll disappear if he looks away and she’s okay with it. Darcy collapses against his chest, nosing at his neck with shallow breaths.

“I don’t think you need to get a separate room anymore,” she tries for casual but fails miserably.

His laugh is a bit breathless and he pats the curve of her hip with a heavy palm that he leaves there. “Saving money, right?”

She hears the smile in his voice. “And conserving water.”

 

*

They doze for a few hours content just to snuggle down and be. But before long Steve’s stomach begins to grumble and she shoos him out to get food (and his things from his room) while she showers and cleans up their wet clothes. He takes a quick shower while she flips channels on the TV then he leaves with a lingering kiss pressed to her lips. She wraps the discarded sheet around her and moves to the window, pulling the curtains back to watch him leave. He looks good in her car and she smiles. Darcy turns leaving the curtain cracked and gathers clean, dry clothes and heads to the bathroom. She doesn’t bother closing the door and sings the song from earlier as she showers.

‘I could swear that there’s someone somewhere watching me.

Through the wind, and the chill, and the rain. And the storm, and the raging flood…

Oh, his approach is like a fire in my blood.’

 

* * *

Eyes as troubled as the dark clouds watch keenly with a laser focus. Water drips off the bill of a ball cap but does not disrupt. Nothing shakes this vigil, nothing that is, until the lights behind the curtains flicker to life followed by shadows moving within. He cannot edge any further back into the shadows, he isn’t sure he won’t get trapped by them once more. Twelve minutes and thirty two seconds later the door opens. He presses back against the shadow anyway. His missi—no, man… (still isn’t right) leaves the building and gets into a vehicle. It rattles like a death trap, would take less than sixty seconds to—NO. Metal fingers clench as if they have a say. They do not.

The man (not right) pulls away and the female makes herself vulnerable. She is not armed, she is not a threat, and she is naked… His right hand clenches around nothing and there’s a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach. He scowls at the brunette. She smiles out into the night and gives him her back. He flees.

Steve’ a quiet voice offers him once he’s sequestered himself away in his nondescript Sedan four blocks away behind an abandoned barn. He opens his mouth but nothing comes out. He tries again.

“Steve…”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

A week later Darcy and Steve sit in a color copy diner of the one in Arizona, except this one is just inside of the Kentucky state line. Darcy steals a fry from Steve’s plate before he drenches them in ketchup, flashes him a smile and shoves it into her mouth. Her mom always said there were two kinds of people: those that dipped and those that smothered. She’s more of a dipper where Steve drowns. She thinks it says a lot about their personalities. Steve’s got a hand on the top of her right foot where it rests on the bench next to him and she’s glad he isn’t one of those people that’s freaked by feet. It’s another thing about him.

Darcy’s learned quite a bit about Steve by this point.

After the bone melting sex (that had turned into a three day marathon) he’d opened up. She’d learned about his mom, even though he’d left out important information like say the year, he told her about war (same omission there, too), and he had even fed her tiny, well concealed truths. One of them about Barnes. He’d told her that his best friend had been a POW and losing him had been one of the hardest things to live with. The confession had been quiet and led to a quick subject change. Darcy’s done her homework what working for SHIELD and all, add in Coulson’s hero worship, and she knows the real facts.

It doesn’t make them hurt any less.

Looking at Steve across the table she wonders if maybe one day should anything happen to her if he’d go to such extremes for her. She doubts it. The kind of bond that he and Barnes had, she imagines that it was unlike any other. More than a silly ‘soulmate’. Marks were nothing more than indicators, like numbers: 1 always comes before 2, 2 before 3 and so on. Tab A goes in Slot B. It wasn’t uncommon for bound people to form nothing more than a platonic relationship. There isn’t a doubt in her mind that Steve and James were just platonic. You don’t drown yourself because your friend dies, even if you share a mark. But Steve had.

She tries to not let it eat at her.

“You’re thinking awful hard over there, sweetheart.”

Darcy blinks, gaze refocusing on Steve’s face. “Huh?” He raises a brow at her in question. “Oh, sorry, just spaced out. I could use a nap,” she blushes because she’d only slept for four hours the night before and he’s the reason.

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“I’m not complaining!” she picks at the remains of her BLT, tossing a small piece of bacon at him.

He catches it. In his mouth. Darcy laughs and shakes her head at him. He grins at her and it makes her heart all fluttery. Fuck. She picks up her drink and takes a sip with an ‘ahhhhh’ as the ice cold sweet tea slides down her throat. She has to give it to the South, they know what they’re doing with tea. (She’ll never admit to missing London’s, though. London gives her hives, and nightmares.)

Steve’s phone rings.

They look at each other, wide eyes meeting quickly knitting brows. It’s the first time since they’ve met that she’s actually heard it make a sound. Sure, it vibrated every once in a while, but never made a peep. She’s suddenly queasy and afraid it’s an Avenger thing. If it is, they’ll both be caught red-handed. Steve’s hand slips off her foot as he wipes his mouth with the other. She curiously watches him fish it from his jeans’ pocket, his frown deepening into a scowl that if she didn’t know him, she’d shy from. His thumb hovers over the screen and he raises his eyes to hers.

“It... It’s a friend, sort of work related, really. I better answer. I’ll be right back.”

He doesn’t give her the chance to respond before he’s sliding out of the booth and headed towards the door. She hears him say, “Hello?” before he steps out into the morning sun. Darcy shamelessly surveys him from the window as he walks to his bike across the parking lot. He leans on her car with his back to the diner.

Darcy pushes her plate away suddenly not very hungry anymore.

 

* * *

 

“You’re a hard man to get a hold of, Steve.”

“I’ve been… busy,” he says, his voice sounding like he’s trying to tell only the bare minimum of truths.

“Busy, huh? Did you finally decide to take my advice?”

“Nope,” he actually pops the ‘P’ and Natasha laughs, delighted.

“You sure about that?” she needles just because she can.

“I suspect you called for a reason other than to grill me about my dating habits, Nat.”

“Oh, you’re no fun,” a sly smile graces her face as her fingertip glides over the sensor on her desk and moves the pointer on the screen in front of her. She clicks.

“You have thirty seconds before I hang up,” he sighs and she concedes.

“There’s a Hydra base in West Virginia that Stark sniffed out and it has been active this week. A team was sent in for surveillance but Coulson pulled them yesterday. I figured you’d want this one.”

“Is he there?”

“You know he’s a ghost, Steve, and if he’s had an eye on the news then he knows about the dump. That’s even more reason for him to hide.”

She listens to Steve curse under his breath and exhale through his nostrils. She wishes she had better news for him, knows it can’t be avoided.

“At least we can get rid of another base,” he sounds tired but determined.

“You gonna need backup?”

“No. I can handle it. I’ll call when it’s done,” there’s rustling, muffled voices that she strains to hear but can’t make out more than the timbre of Steve’s voice. It clears and he says, “Thanks for checking up. It was good to hear from you. Talk to you soon,” then he hangs up on her.

“Ouch…” she mutters and taps a few keys, the grid on the screen zooming in. Natasha smirks slyly as two blinking green dots appear side by side. Laying her phone aside she sits back in the desk-chair, nimble fingers tapping out a rhythm against her thigh. She debates telling Clint. She debates warning Coulson. Just in case… But she vetoes both thoughts as soon as they’re formed. The green dots begin to move and she huffs out a quiet laugh.

“Oh, Steve… she’ll eat you alive,” she whispers to no one.

The rush of pride she feels is warm and settles nicely behind her ribcage.

 

* * *

 

He watches them and wonders if he should feel like a creep. He doesn’t, though. Something unnamable twists in his stomach when he sees them together and it isn’t exactly all that unpleasant. He mulls it over as he takes another bite of his sandwich. God, he’d missed food. A drop of sweat rolls down his nape catching on the collar of his sweatshirt. People stared if he didn’t have it on and the metal glinted in the sun, people stared since it was eighty degrees and he’s in long sleeves, people stare too fucking much.

Taking a long pull from his water bottle he rinses his mouth of the food and ignores the sweat. He’d rather be hot than cold any day. It’s ice and stinging jolts of electricity (pain, so much agony) painted in a bloody red that stains his dreams. He doesn’t sleep much. Despite this and the fact that his mind is a many splintered thing, his memories are returning. The good, the bad… but mostly the ugly. He’s been piecing everything together with duct tape and staples for the last year. He has good days where he remembers Steve as Stevie and not Mission. Then there are the ones he’d rather not remember at all.

They share a kiss and the dame gets into that piece O’ shit car and Steve gets on his bike. Bucky starts the car and waits, gives them a head start. Whoever Steve had been talking to had given him an objective, he could see it in the set of the other man’s shoulders. He’s glad that today is a good day otherwise his next self appointed mission would be difficult and uncomfortable for all.

Bucky grabs the papers that are haphazardly stapled together from the passenger seat and flips through them again. It’s the seventh time he’s read the information. He’s memorized everything and he thinks there’s no better time than the present.

Tonight, he’s going to meet Darcy Lewis.

 

* * *

 

Eight hours later…

 

Darcy collapses across the bed with a groan and flips Steve off when he laughs at her. They’d drove all damn day, petal to the metal and ended up in West Virginia. They’d splurged (Steve’s idea) and gone to Apple Bee’s for supper where they had both ate like they were starving. She was so full and exhausted. She squeaks when a weight rocks the mattress and a shadow covers her face. Darcy cracks an eye open and peers up at Steve’s perfect face. He dips his head down and places a light kiss to her lips then does the same to her brow, and the tip of her nose. She smiles warmly and snakes her hands under his shirt, palms smoothing over oh-so warm skin. Steve shivers.

“You should sleep. I’m gonna go shower,” he breathes against her mouth.

“What if I want a shower?”

“You aiming for an invitation?”

“Maaaybe...” she whispers as her nails rake lightly down his back.

She grins at the ceiling when he drops his head and groans against her neck. He retaliates by nuzzling at the skin of her shoulder where her tank top’s left her exposed, and then he sets his teeth on her. Darcy whimpers as the sting that’s just this side of pain shoots straight to her center. She’s definitely a little in love with Captain America. Someone help, she thinks, on second thought, don’t, she thinks better.

Turns out she didn’t have to have an invitation.

Darcy waits until Steve’s brushing his teeth to make sure her pistol is within reach, dresses in panties and one of his flannel shirts that falls nearly to her knees, and then crawls into bed, exhausted and sated. She’s nearly asleep when Steve turns the lights off and gets in, tugging her back against him. He kisses her shoulder and settles in behind her. Darcy smiles sleepily and sinks into dreams almost instantly.

She isn’t sure what wakes her, but Darcy goes from dreaming about drinking tea in a purple cup while sitting with Barton on the ‘A’ of Tony’s tower to alert in a snap of fingers. She notices two things at once: Steve isn’t in bed with her anymore, a wiggle of her toes not finding his leg (she had a tendency to toss and turn and being held was kinda difficult if she wasn’t awake), and someone was watching her. Her eyes slit open enough to see the alarm clock. The red glare tells her that it’s just after two in the morning. Her gaze ticks up to her purse behind the clock; she can see the lump that her pistol makes within. She controls her breathing, waiting for Steve to move to the bathroom, or worse.

Nothing happens.

With her heart beating in her ears Darcy braces herself against the mattress the best she can, glad that she or Steve had pulled the covers up high sometime earlier. She inhales slowly, deeply, and then she springs. Grabbing her gun, she gets one foot on the ground and spins to her left towards the door, weapon raised. She aims for the shadow’s head as her left hand fumbles for the bedside light. The light finally clicks on illuminating the room and she swallows thickly.

“Holy—it’s you…”

He sends her a glare so dark that a knife of terror scrapes down her spine. Her heart is thundering, she has no idea where Steve is, and the fucking WINTER SOLDIER is in her hotel room. And she’s not wearing very much. Great, she’s going to die with bed-head, in an ugly flannel shirt (sorry, Steve), and Coulson will burry her in an unmarked grave because she ditched her spies. And of course the cherry on top of the fuckery sundae is that her soulmate’s other soulmate is going to murder her. It’s really poetic if she thinks about it, but she doesn’t have time to.

Bucky moves so fast she doesn’t have time to blink let alone think. One second she’s posed to shoot and the next her hand is empty, her gun skittering across the mattress and disappearing in the sheets. So Darcy does what she’s been taught because she will be damned if she’s going down without a fight, no matter who her opponent is. A well aimed elbow connects with a scruffy jaw sending him back a mere step and she takes the opportunity to scramble onto the mattress after her gun but wishing for her Taser, which she’d left in the car. A hand wraps around her ankle and Darcy kicks out, but to no avail. He dodges her feet and she has a fraction of a second to think ‘Oh, shit!’ when another hand grasps her other ankle, this one hard and unyielding. With a move that she isn’t quite sure is logical he flips her over and yanks.

“FUCK!”

Darcy finds herself lying on her back, legs caught between two muscled thighs that give Steve’s a run for their money, shirt rucked up to her navel (thank God she’d put underwear on), hair tangled around her neck, and arms pinned down by one very pissed off looking (former?) Soviet assassin. She blows a wayward strand of hair off her mouth and contemplates how much angrier he’d be if she kneed him in the balls. She’s tempted but thinks she’s risked her life enough for one night.

Their eyes lock and the world waits with bated breath. (Or maybe it’s only her.)

His jaw is clenched and his chest rises quickly, nostrils flaring with every inhale. She listens to her pulse thrum furiously, her hands clenching around nothing, his grip on her wrists like iron. Her breaths synch with his and something inside her trips causing warning bells to clang loudly in her head.

“вас есть смелости.”

His voice is like waking up, like taking that first breath that stabs your lungs because you’ve been holding it for too long. Darcy’s eyes widen and her heart stutters. With Steve it had been a more of an ‘Oh.’ moment filled with warmth and a certain knowing. But this… this is searing. It hurts and it’s a knowledge that was asleep and only had to be awoken. It’s a song that resonates in her very bones and she doesn’t know how but she knows every lyric, every syllable of every word, each note of the tune so ingrained inside of her that she doesn’t know how she’s gone this long without it.

Darcy understands with crystal clarity why Steve put that plane down now.

She can’t speak, she can’t move, so she stares. He stares right back and she idly wonders if he felt that. His gaze finally breaks away from hers after another full minute and she lets her lashes fall shut, the fight well and truly drained out of her. She feels his thighs loosen first and opens her eyes as his frame goes utterly still. Darcy chances a glance at his face and finds his eyes glued on her left arm. She can’t contain the laugh that pushes its way from her throat. Of course it’s Russian, because why not? And now that she thinks about it she bets Natasha and fucking Barton and Boss all knew. She was going to kill them all if she ever made it out of this room.

Bucky releases her like she’s a poisonous snake and stands back. Darcy sits up ever so slowly, not making any sudden movements and maintaining eye contact. He still looks pissed but now there’s a flicker of something else in his gaze and she really doesn’t want to push her luck and find out what that is. She saw the footage, she saw Steve’s injuries, and she’s heard stories…

“Get up.”

She gets up. And two minutes later she’s handcuffed to one of the two chairs from the table in the corner. Bucky stands by the window like a sentry, hands in the pockets of his sweatshirt. She huffs wishing she’d at least thought to ask for pants before he’d secured her.

“Sooo… do you know where Steve is? Because I went to sleep with this tall, blonde, Greek God of a guy and woke up and he’s nowhere to be found.”

His gaze flickers to her like a cow’s would an annoying fly. She’s insulted. Really.

“Seriously? You’re just gonna leave me to wonder where my boyfriend is and what? Am I being kidnapped? Held hostage? Helloooooo?”

“You talk too much.”

“He speaks!!!” she proclaims and would clap if her hands weren’t, you know, handcuffed.

Bucky steps away from the window and walks the three feet it takes to get to her. Her heart skips and seriously?!  It really needed to quit that. She eyes him dubiously.

“Say another word,” his breath is warm against her face where he’d leaned down to look her dead in the eye. “And so help me, I will tape that pretty little mouth of yours shut.”

She swears there’s a flash of amusement in his stare and the barest hint of a smirk plays at his mouth. He straightens and instead of returning to his position in front of the window he sits down on the edge of the bed. Darcy has the sudden hysterical urge to laugh. She went to bed with Captain America and woke up with the Winter Soldier. Not only is he Steve’s presumed dead best friend from childhood resurrected and turned assassin, but he’s Steve’s other soulmate. Their other soulmate. She inhales sharply and stares unseeingly at a dark spot on the outdated carpet, the words sloshing around in her stomach making her want to puke.

Her head snaps up when fingers snap like the crack of a bone.

“There she is,” he says like he’d been trying to get her attention for a minute too long. “So, here’s what we’re going to do. Nod if you’re listening.” Darcy nods. “I’m going to answer one question and you’re going to in turn answer all of mine. Nuh-uh,” he chides when she opens her mouth to protest the unfairness then continues. “You wanted to know where Steve was…” she nods and ignores how the way he says ‘Steve’ makes her feel. “He wasn’t here when I came in. In fact, your boyfriend bailed at the stroke of midnight.”

Darcy is confused. Steve left her? Why would he do that? Since they’d met he hadn’t been all that far from her. Abandonment is a bitter pill on her tongue.

“Now, my first question is this,” he angles toward her and his gaze pierces her. “What is a SHIELD agent doing slipping into the sheets with good ole Captain America?”

Darcy’s heart stops.

He smirks and it is a wretchedly wicked thing.

“Darcy, is it?” he waits for her to nod like she’s supposed to but she’s paralyzed. He goes on anyway. “Nice to meet you, doll. Sorry about the handcuffs.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

He watches as a fat tear rolls down the girl’s face. Something in his gut clenches in shame as another part of him, a darker part that he aggressively avoids, it stretches in satisfaction. Bucky takes a deep breath washing that spot away with the tide. He hadn’t had any intentions of confronting this slip of a dame with force, but he also hadn’t accounted for the fact that she would see him as a threat. He sees the error of his ways now.

Bucky swivels back on the bed to fish her pistol from the sheets, he dismantles it, then stands and grabs the other chair tugging it to sit in front of her. Taking a seat, their knees brush and inside he winces at the way she flinches from the touch. Well, he supposes he’s made an irrevocable first impression.

“If I uncuff you are you going to try to run?”

“Like I’d get far,” she huffs out a pitiful sounding laugh.

Instead of responding to her, Bucky rises up and leans over her quickly undoing the handcuffs. He ignores the way she smells like flowers and some fruity cocktail with undertones of something warm and heady. Let him reiterate, he tries to ignore it. He sits back down as she rubs her wrists and sighs tiredly.

Studying her, he takes inventory of the girl that has Steve wrapped around her finger. She isn’t what he had pictured. He wonders what Steve sees in her. Sure, she’s gorgeous and back in their day he’d have fancied her, but Steve never woulda looked twice at her. Would he? Did he really know him at all? Does he even know himself? Not in a manner of speaking, so he supposes these are things he’ll come to learn.

Darcy sniffles and raises her gaze to his.

He’d seen the writing, (he’d lost Steve’s mark to Hydra) he knows what a soulmate is, but none of it makes any sense. Why did she have his mark when he didn’t have hers? He was remade into a different person, his soul so twisted and scarred that it would be like acid were it to mingle with another’s. It would eat away at something so pure, any beauty burnt away a long time ago. So why did this ordinary girl have his mark on one arm and Steve’s on the other? Why were they connected? And why the fuck can’t he come up with any answers on his own?

Fucking Hydra.

“I’m tired of running,” the confession just trips off his tongue and he hates the way his heart pounds in his ribcage. Shouldn’t it be dead? More questions.

“So you decided to assault me and what, let Steve take you in?”

“I didn’t—”

“YES, you did. I don’t give a flying fuck who you are or what you are, you will not touch me again, understand?” Her tone makes his spine straighten, nails of his right hand sting his palm. “And apparently you already know I’m not just some meek little girl aiming to get in Captain America’s pants so you can stop with the intimidation tactics. The only reason you don’t have a bullet between your eyes right now is because Steve would hate me…”

She trails off and breaks the stare, her eyes going to her hands that tug on the bottom of the too big plaid she’s wearing. Bucky feels like the wind has been knocked out of him. His vision goes blurry and he tries to swallow down the rising panic but he can’t. There’s roaring in his ears, his heart beats too fast, it’s going to explode. There’s movement but he doesn’t know whose, and everything goes white.

“James Buchannan Barnes, you march yourself into this kitchen right now!”

Stevie’s baby blues snap up from the picture his teacher gave him to color and looks at Bucky with surprise. Mrs. Barnes almost never yelled, especially when Steve was there. Bucky stares back at him in confusion and there’s dread slowly filling his stomach. His mind races in search of something he’d done wrong. He doesn’t recall being any worse than his usual.

“I will not tell you again!”

“You want me to go with you?” Stevie whispers, his hand reaching out like he wants to touch Bucky.

Bucky swallows hard and shakes his head, whispers back, “Nah, I’ll be right back, Stevie.” He gently slaps his palm to his best friend’s then stands. Turning, he squares his shoulders and strides purposefully out of the living room to the kitchen where his ma is making supper. When he stands just outside with toes nudging the threshold he catches sight of his mother standing with a frown and stirring something fiercely.

“I’m not going to bite you, James.”

“I know, Ma’am.”

“Then quit being skittish and get in here like you were told.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he says and steps into the kitchen. She turns around once he’s near and stops him in his tracks with a stern glare.

“Have you been pestering little Susie Turner again?”

Bucky’s eyes go wide and his little heart beats hard. She sits in front of him in class and she’s got the strangest red hair and freckles, and she whispers when she speaks. Hardly anyone talks to her but Bucky’s been sweet on her since the first day of school. She kinda reminds him of Stevie in that she keeps to herself and hasn’t got any friends.

“I asked you a question,” Mrs. Barnes says quietly, her glare evening out just a little.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Bucky whispers and hangs his head. He hadn’t even thought about getting into trouble for pulling on her pigtails or chasing her around the schoolyard. He hears his momma sigh then she’s kneeling before him, hooking a finger under his chin and meeting his gaze.

“It’s okay that you like her, James, but it isn’t nice to torment her. You don’t treat girls that way,” she waits for him to nod. “What would you do if someone did that to Steve?”

She smiles when his little frame tenses before her and he gets a mean look on his face.

“See, it’s not proper. If you like someone you don’t hurt them. Ever. There are consequences to everything you do. You understand?” He nods quickly. “You are to never raise a hand to a woman. A fella that hits women isn’t worth his weight in gold.”

Bucky nods a third time and means it. His ma is the smartest gal he knows, even smarter than his old teacher and he knows she wouldn’t ever steer him wrong. She draws him into a tight hug before she straightens back up and places her soft hands on his cheeks.

“Good. You’re grounded for a week. Go wash up for supper.”

“Aw, Ma!” he groans and she arches a brow at him. He knows he’s getting off easy. His pa surely woulda tanned his hide if she told him about his actions. With a dramatic sigh he asks in a hushed whisper, “Does Stevie have to go home?”

Something in her gaze makes him squirm and he isn’t sure why, but she shakes her head and drops her hands with sigh. “No, he can stay.” He wiggles out of her hold and turns to run from the room but her voice stops him. “And you will apologize to Susie tomorrow, James.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he says before running down the hall and back to Stevie.

 

* * *

 

Steve grits his teeth at the pain radiating up his leg, the needles of stabbing pain that take his breath with each step. There’s blood staining his shirt in at least six different places, there’s ash in his air, and smoke in his lungs. He wishes he had his shield. He wishes that he had let Natasha send in backup. The lit up hotel sign is like a beacon and his muscles loosen minutely at the sight. Maybe taking on Hydra by himself was a one-trick pony and it was time to retire. The thought is appealing until Bucky’s face flitters through his mind. It drives him. He’ll heal in a couple hours and move on with Anne none the wiser. He hoped.

Explaining where his motorcycle has gone is bound to be the hardest part. Maybe he can say someone stole it… and beat the shit out of him in the process. Yeah, that would work. Anne would think he’s just a normal guy. He curses when he steps wrong putting weight on his fractured ankle. It had looked like an easy job, in and out, but he hadn’t counted on them being prepared. Apparently word that he was out and about was getting around. He’d fought off six guys, been stabbed by a couple, shot at, and that had been before they’d tried to blow the building up with him inside. One idiot had found his bike and drove it right at him leading Steve to twist wrong to grab the guy and dodge the vehicle at the same time and then his bike had gone up into flames with the building. He’d snapped the guy’s neck and fled. He knows when to run away from a fight despite what others have said, thank you very much.

He isn’t sure how many survived, but he did so that’s all he cares about.

There are lights on behind the curtains of their room.

Steve frowns as he limps up the stairs and presses his ear to the door. At first he doesn’t hear anything and he struggles to quiet the pain pushing at his senses so he can hear. That’s when he makes it out. Anne’s voice is speaking quietly. Is she on the phone at this hour? Maybe she didn’t see his note and tried calling him. Shit. His frown deepens when it goes silent before a male voice replaces her. Something in Steve’s chest closes like a fist around his lungs and squeezes. He tugs the gun that’s got a couple shots left in it out of his waistband and slowly turns the knob with the other.

The door swings open and Steve’s heart stops.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Hunkered between the dresser and the end of the bed is Bucky. His hands, a startling contrast to each other, grip his skull as if he were afraid his head was going to shatter. Stringy hair has escaped whatever holds it back in a messy bundle, and he’s folded into himself and repeating “Sorry, I’m so sorry.” over and over. He reminds Steve of a wounded animal. When the door ricochets off the wall with the force Steve put behind it, the other man’s gaze snaps up, a foreign terror behind his eyes. He flinches. Steve lowers the gun then glances at Anne. She’s draped almost protectively around Bucky’s shoulders and when she looks up and meets his gaze her eyes shine with tears.

Steve is so very confused.

His heart restarts and pushes him into action. He has enough mind about him to step fully into the room and shut the door, at least. He keeps the gun in hand and notes the handcuffs and dismantled weapon on the table, the way the sheets of the bed are nearly in the floor. That isn’t how he left things. The note he’d laid on his pillow before he’d snuck out is missing. He takes a minute to process everything, dragging an unsteady and dirty hand down his gritty face. Anne’s perplexed voice jars him from his thoughts.

“Grant… What happened to you?! Are you alright?! Jesus, you’re bleeding?”

He simply nods, his arm falling limply to his side as his gaze settles on his best friend, who has composed himself somewhat and is now frowning at him. Anne eases herself back from Bucky and plops back onto her butt on the ugly green carpet. She lowers her eyes to her lap and reaches up wiping a palm over each cheek. Steve sees it from his peripheral because he isn’t looking away from Bucky.

Bucky meets his gaze.

It isn’t like when he’d rescued him from Zola’s table, or as intense as it had been when he’d ripped the muzzle off of the Winter Soldier. There’s something more in his gaze, it carries more weight somehow and Steve can’t explain it. But he doesn’t have to. Bucky does it for him with a single word.

“Stevie…”

He doesn’t say it like an old friend (although he is). It’s laden with secrets and promises, whiskey flavored kisses stolen in the dark, cigarette smoke that agitated his lungs but he didn’t care because it was Bucky. He says it like a caress and it razes Steve’s spine. His name has been said in many different enunciations but this one is his favorite. Steve doesn’t have to ask if Bucky remembers because it’s there in his name.

Steve sits down hard on the side of the bed.

 

* * *

 

Darcy doesn’t watch. She can’t. Even though the three of them are somehow cosmically tangled by Fate or whatever higher power gets off meddling in human’s lives, she cannot bring herself to watch this reunion. She suddenly feels rather small and insignificant, like an intruder. Now would be a good time to call Clint, she thinks. He’d come to get her and they could all laugh it off. Just call it one big misunderstanding, part ways, and go back to their oblivious lives. Her heart smarts at the mere idea of leaving the room let alone leaving Steve.

And now there’s Bucky.

She’s utterly fucked.

“Well, I guess it’s time to come clean,” Steve’s exasperated words make her glance up at him, her eyes wide. She was wrong. Now she was fucked. Them’s the breaks, kid! Her inner Barton is a snarky fucker.

“You first, why are you bleeding? Where were you?” (She never said she wasn’t fast on her feet.)

“I left a note.”

“This one?” Bucky holds up a badly crumpled piece of hotel stationery between two metal fingers.

Steve’s laugh sounds a bit like its edging towards hysterical. She watches him take a deep breath and pry his eyes away from Bucky to finally look at her head on. Although his mouth frowns, at her appearance she’s guessing, his eyes are brighter than she’s ever seen them. She doesn’t want to feel jealous but that green siren is singing her tune.

“Grant is my middle name,” he starts with an exhale. “I normally go by Steve Rogers. I… well, there’s no easy way to say it but, I’m Captain America.”

“No shit…” she doesn’t think she sounds surprised and she ignores the other gaze boring a hole into her left cheek.

“Yeah,” he huffs out another laugh and Darcy really wishes she didn’t find his awkwardness adorable. “I’ve been on vacation and looking for Bucky. I got tipped off about a Hydra base,” he waves a dismissive hand at Barnes as he shoots to his feet, all tense muscles and a dangerous expression. “I went to clear it out and ran into a little trouble.”

“A little trouble, Steve? Is that really what you’re going with?”

Darcy ticks her gaze up to Bucky, brows nearly meeting her hairline at his tone.

“I was outnumbered and they wrecked my bike.”

It’s like watching a tennis match.

“Where’s your shield?”

“Safe. I wasn’t gonna bring it with me, Buck! It’s a target and without it I’m just some regular guy.”

“You’re a fucking dumbass, you know that, right? Travelling without your weapon is idiotic and some fucking facial hair and a new haircut doesn’t hide your damn face!”

Darcy wonders if they’d notice if she just slipped out the door.

“I HAD TO FIND YOU!” Steve’s raised voice is almost enough to make her do just that.

Bucky’s laugh is an ugly thing and the mechanisms in his left arm whirl as his fingers fold into a fist. She wishes she had her phone and keys so she could leave. Despite how she’d feel she’s pretty sure she’s nothing more than a fly on the wall here now. She’d come back later. Maybe.

“You always were an impatient little shit,” Bucky’s voice is a calm, still pool contrary to the tense set of his frame and the way violence is painted on his skin.

Steve stares up at Bucky like he’s an angel come down to earth and isn’t sure if he’ll smite or bless him.

Darcy’s had enough.

Standing, she ignores the way their gazes snap to her and brushes past Bucky and moves around to her side of the bed. She snatches the first pair of bottoms she touches in her bag (they’re floral shorts) and pulls them on, her shoes following. Collecting her purse from the nightstand she drags the strap over her shoulders and pulls her hair up into a messy ponytail before turning back around to her captivated audience. Steve opens his mouth but she halts him with a hand.

“I need coffee or alcohol, maybe both,” she avoids their eyes until she tugs her keys out of her bag then looks to Steve. “Grant, Steve, it doesn’t matter what your name is. What does matter is that you’ve found him,” she skirts around the bed sliding past the silent soldier again, but turns to Steve instead of leaving just yet. She meets his gaze and sighs. “I’ll be back. Just… if you decide to leave, let me know.” Darcy ignores the way her stomach rolls at the thought but she knows when she’s playing second fiddle, pretty sure she has been this entire time.

Steve stands and catches her hand before she can get the door open.

He slides his other arm around her waist carefully like he might spook her and leans in pressing a feather light kiss to the corner of her mouth. When he pulls back he stares at her like she’s the only one in the room and she just doesn’t fucking understand anything. She needs air. She needs to call Barton. Fuck, she’s gonna cry again.

“Don’t be gone long?” he asks, his palm ghosting up her forearm over Bucky’s mark and she nods.

Darcy tugs free of his hold and walks out without a backward glance.

 

*

 

“Barton,” he doesn’t have his eyes open, she can tell from the sleep-rough timbre of his voice alone. She tries really hard not to miss home. Even if technically home is more a group of people than a stationary place. When she doesn’t answer he starts to get pissed off. “Are there aliens, again? You’d better be fucking bleeding out. You know what time it is?”

“It’s almost four am…” her voice sounds small in the quiet of her car.

“Fuck, Darce?” there’s rustling and she closes her eyes letting her head thump back onto the headrest. “I’m up, what’s the matter, kid? You sound like shit.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” she knows she can trust him with her life but she isn’t ready to delve into the shit-show that the last couple hours have turned her world into.

“Liar,” he knows her too well sometimes. “Have you been crying?”

“No,” she squeaks squeezing her lids tighter to stop them from stinging.

“Shit, you’d fail a polygraph in a heartbeat,” his voice softens as concern laces through it. “Tell me what’s wrong, Darce.”

“I… I think I fucked up, Clint…” she sniffles despite her best efforts.

“You need me to come get you, just tell me where you are. Fuck, Lewis, why’d you ditch your GPS in the first place?”

“I met someone and didn’t need nosey spies watching my every move,” she snaps out harsher than intended.

“You met…” he sighs, his tone edging into reproachful territory. “You know better! Need I remind you about Ian or hell, when we met?”

Darcy winces. Ian hadn’t been a bad guy, per se, he’d just been working for the wrong people. And Barton… you sleep with one jackbooted thug while drunk on tequila and he never lets you live it down. (She regrets it, honestly. Sorta. He looks really hot naked, sue her.)

“That’s what I thought.”

“No need to be so fucking smug, Barton!”

“Well,” he’s still smug, the bastard. “You know the definition of insane, baby.”

“Fuck off.”

“Hey, you’re the one that called me at this God-awful hour! I’m just giving you my opinion like you wanted.”

She sighs in an exponentially dramatic way and opens her eyes to peer out the windshield at the gas station she’s parked in front of. “I know,” she mumbles.

“Seriously, you need me?”

“I can handle it. I just had a moment of weakness.”

 “That’s my girl.”

Darcy smiles at that and says, “Go back to bed, Barton.” She means thank you.

“Don’t call me again unless there’s something I can shoot at,” he replies and hangs up on her. He means I know. I’m here if you need me.

Tossing her phone back into the cup holder she scrubs at her cheeks with the heels of her hands. She doesn’t know why this whole soulmate shit is fucking with her head and has no one to compare it to. Jane and Thor were a fairytale from the start, and yeah, Barton and Natasha were complicated, but she’s pretty sure her situation is slightly more difficult. Steve makes her insides melt with just a smile. He makes her want to be a better version of herself. She’s never felt like this with anyone before.

Then there’s Bucky.

He knows who she really is. Fuck. Steve should hear it from her not Barnes. He came clean with her, so it’s only right that she do too, right? She’s only been gone for a little over half an hour and it’s too soon to go back. Oh dear God, what if she walks in on something? Gritting her teeth she flings her door open and pushes out of the car. She can’t think about that now or she’ll drive herself insane. A strangled laugh leaves her throat. Clint had reminded her that she was the definition of insane, the way she always repeated her mistakes thinking the outcome would change if she just tried. She isn’t sure when ‘one more time’ had become her motto, but she doesn’t like it.

 She pushes into the convenient store, smiling idly at the bored looking chick behind the counter. She just needs some caffeine, that’s all. A big cup of coffee and oh, is that a deli sandwich? She contemplates the date on the package and the risk of death by gas station food. It’s worth it, she’s hungry. (Stress eating is a very bad habit - to break.) Once she’s paid for her coffee, sandwich, and 3 Musketeers candy bar and ignored the odd looks the girl behind the counter gives her outfit, Darcy retreats to her Mustang.

Darcy sits there behind the wheel of her car lost in thought well after the sun comes up.

 

* * *

 

The silence in the small room is deafening. It’s as if that sprite of a woman took all of the air with her when the door shut at her back. Bucky doesn’t know where to look or what to say now. He isn’t sure how much lucid time he has left in his reserves after this much excitement. So he looks up and meets Steve’s eyes.

“That’s one hell of a dame you’ve got there, Stevie.”

“Jesus, Bucky,” Steve whispers and there’s big fat tears rolling down his cheeks, just like they had Darcy’s. He swallows thickly and just stares at Bucky like he isn’t real. (Sometimes he wonders if he is, too.)

He doesn’t say another word. Instead of trying to voice his racing thoughts he takes the four steps that put him toe-to-toe with Steve. He doesn’t reach out, leaves metal hidden in the pocket of his sweatshirt. Bucky knows what he wants, even though wanting is a novel idea in of itself. He knows that for once being this close to another man doesn’t feel like a threat. And that fact alone makes him crave. He feels starved and like he’s finally, really thawing out in the brightness of Steve’s watery (but brilliant) blue hues.

A single tear trails slowly down Bucky’s cheek and there’s a tightness in his chest.

Steve’s breath hitches on a sob and then his arms wrap tightly around Bucky’s rigid frame. He feels the strong thumpthumpthump of Steve’s heart where they’re pressed so close and his jaw clenches to hold the hurricane of his emotions at bay. Any sign of emotions were to be burnt from him, he remembers that all too fucking clear, so he fights them. That is until Steve buries his face in the crook of his neck and shoulder and breathes his name onto the exposed skin there on a wet and shattered exhale.

Bucky slumps against Steve like a marionette whose strings have been severed.

His right arm bands around his best friend, his partner, his everything as scattered memories press against the backs of his eyelids. They don’t sweep him away like the one he’d had with Darcy, instead they flicker like a flip-book. Steve’s rasping breath after a coughing fit, his weak grasp when he was too sick to get out of bed, his dirty face smiling down at Bucky like a saving grace. A stolen kiss in a dark forest with the sound of snores just far enough away to ignore, catching those blue eyes over a campfire knowing that the next day might be their last… Every scene is like a pair of golden scissors snipping away at the ugly black and venomous threads that bind his heart.

Their tears are a soothing balm to his aching soul and for the first time in a fucking long time he can breathe.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Two weeks later…

 

A laugh bursts from Anne and it sounds surprised, almost like she hadn’t meant for it to happen. Steve’s head swivels to the left to glance at her, looking for the cause of the sudden outburst. He watches as she slaps a palm over her mouth and lowers her fork with the other. Steve arches a brow in confusion. Then his gaze is drawn across the table by a muttered curse. Bucky sits in the happy red booth across from him and Anne in all black, his ever present ball cap shadowing his features, and scowls at his plate. The pancakes are confetti and there’s syrup dripping off the side of said plate down onto the table.

“You okay, Buck?”

“He would be if he’d use his other hand!” Anne proclaims as she goes back to eating her soggy mess of hash browns.

Bucky turns his scowl on her, to which she just gives a mocking smirk. There’s chili on her lip. Steve doesn’t know if he wants to laugh or cry. It’s been a reoccurring feeling in the last couple of weeks.

He never thought he’d find Bucky again, let alone have him and their soulmate together. But Steve’s learned in a very short period of time that things he never expected just keep happening to him. But, he digresses.

After the fiasco that had been their reintroduction things had been tense, this was to be expected, though. Anne had returned around seven that morning, much to his relief, and without a word she’d gathered clothes and locked herself in the bathroom. The music she’d turned on once the door separated them (he was used to it by this point) had been angry and littered with sharp guitars, pounding bass, and screeching vocals. He’d figured she was upset rather quickly. Silence had fallen the moment she’d pulled into the parking lot, the rumble of her engine announcing her arrival and Steve would admit to feeling guilty if asked. Once he’d dried his embarrassing tears and released his death grip on Bucky, both of them attempting to brush the show of such raw emotions off, they’d sat down at the table and started to talk.

Bucky had warned him that he’d shut down, that he’d lash out when the nightmares came. Steve had assured him that he, they, could handle it. He had marveled that Bucky didn’t seem very concerned that Anne was their soulmate. In fact he’d shrugged off the topic and changed it with a clear but unspoken warning that it wasn’t up for discussion at that moment. So they’d talked about how he’d been following them, tracking them. Steve tried to be pissed that Bucky had always been one step ahead of him but the sheer exhaustion he felt weighed too heavy on his shoulders. He was afraid to ask about Hydra or how much Bucky remembered, but like old times his best friend could read him like a favored book.

He told him about the scattered remnants that was his memories, some coming gently and others with such force that they knocked down whatever things he’d previously organized. Steve couldn’t sympathize with him but he could be there for him, to help to the best of his abilities, and he’d told him as much. They agreed Bucky would stay near even if that wasn’t good enough for Steve, he wanted him where could see him, touch him, but he’d knew Bucky wasn’t ready for that. He’d seen it in the tense set of his shoulders as he’d sat staring out the crack in the curtains.

Steve would take what he could get even though he wanted to be greedy.

Then Anne had come back and Bucky had retreated to the corner, sat like a statue keeping a vigil, his eyes tracking her but otherwise still until she’d disappeared behind the bathroom door. Steve felt useless so he’d turned the TV on and waited. An hour later she’d emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam and gone straight to her suitcase. He’d watched her (just as sharply as Bucky) as she’d gotten a small first-aid kit out of a side pocket and finally looked at him. She’d ordered him to take his ruined shirt off then proceeded to clean the worst of his injuries. Once she’d made sure he was going to live he had let her usher him into the bathroom for a shower, leaving her with a silent Bucky.

When he’d finished washing off the grime of the night and battle he’d quickly toweled off and gone out to check that they hadn’t had any trouble. Anne was curled up with the covers pulled to her ears, her back to the windows (and Bucky), and sound asleep. Steve had been moderately surprised and a little proud. At least their girl didn’t lack in guts. With nothing more than a nod from the man in the corner Steve had quietly told him he was welcome to whatever clothes or anything Steve had, and then he’d crawled into bed and fallen asleep in record time.

That had been two weeks ago. Two weeks of the same thing. Bucky sat in the corner, sometimes leaving for hours, it didn’t take Steve long to figure out that those days were what he called his bad ones. But what amazed him was despite how much things had seemingly changed, they’d actually stayed the same. He and Anne still gravitated towards each other, if a little strained in the beginning, but they still ate in their diners, still took countless pictures… They just did it with a known audience now.  Steve wanted to feel horrible for each kiss he bestowed on Anne and not on Bucky, and he did to a certain degree, but when he got too near, the other man froze. Steve didn’t want to drive him away after just getting him back, nor did he want to hurt Anne. (Anymore than he already had.)

His phone buzzes in his pocket and he ignores it.

Bucky’s gaze zeros in on him and Steve ignores that, too. He takes a bite of his waffles and avoids the elephant in the room. Since Bucky had joined them the only thing he’d been adamantly vocal about was Steve’s solo missions. He refused to let Steve go alone and so Steve hadn’t gone on anymore. He’d been ignoring the increasing texts from Natasha’s number, ignoring as the voicemail count climbed. Even if Anne seemed fascinated with the Captain America aspects of him, and even approving, he refused to put a target on her back now that he had them both. And he knows it’s a useless intention seeing as how she’s chauffeuring said ‘hero’ and the Winter Soldier around, but he has morals.

So no missions, no guns, no Hydra, just them. It’s all he wants and he finally has it. He thinks he could be happy now.

 

* * *

 

“I need a nap. Someone else drive so I can soak up the sun,” Darcy orders as they leave the diner.

To her surprise Barnes plucks the keys from her fingers and strides past her and Steve. She bets he has a nice ass under those drab jeans. Steve’s fingers thread through hers and she wonders if he’s thinking the same thing. She bets he knows if Bucky’s ass is pretty.

“You wanna stretch out in the back or…?” Steve asks like he isn’t itching to get in the front seat next to Bucky. Honestly she doesn’t hold it against him. Not anymore, that is.

“That sounds perfect,” she smiles up at him as they approach the car. He returns her smile and leans in kissing her soundly on the lips. Steve tastes like coffee and her heart flutters.

“I will leave you both here,” Bucky says evenly through the open driver’s side window.

Steve pulls back with a warm smile that reaches his eyes as the engine roars to life under Bucky’s hands. Darcy feels butterflies in her stomach and returns the smile before climbing into the back seat. She sprawls out across the backseat and her breath catches in her lungs as she notices Bucky turned in his seat watching her. Their eyes meet and the butterflies morph into a herd of spooked cattle. It’d taken a week before Bucky would meet her gaze, and another three days before he’d even speak directly to her. She wanted to hate him for taking Steve away from her, for ruining her fun, for being so damn discerning… But of all the things Darcy knows, the most important one is that Bucky loves Steve.

Steve gets in and the radio gets turned on to something quiet that will be drowned out by the wind soon enough anyway. Bucky breaks the staring contest and Darcy blushes. She thinks he can hear her thoughts sometimes. As the car rolls into motion she closes her eyes and lets her thoughts run rampant.

The night Bucky had shown up had been a hayride through Hell, but she’d survived. When she’d finally gone back to the hotel she had ignored both of them and gone in search of solitude under the shower head. She wasn’t going to let a little bump in the road like an assassin bound to her soulmate, and by default her, ruin things. She was made of tougher stuff, had trained with the Black Widow and fucking Thor after all. She’d vowed to come clean and just let whatever happened happen. But the universe had a funny way about her. Darcy had taken one look at them when she’d come out of her self prescribed isolation and known then and there that she couldn’t come between these two brilliantly stupid men.

Once Steve had gotten into the shower, Darcy had sat on the bed and stared at Bucky. He’d stared back at her and she’d wondered what had happened when she’d left. Both of their faces were pale and tearstained.

“It’s not my place to tell him,” Bucky had broken the uncomfortable silence with and she hadn’t had to ask what he meant.

I’ll tell him,” she’d replied.

His answering glare had made it known that he didn’t believe her. She knows deciding to keep her true identity from Steve after Bucky had told her that was about as dumb as it gets. It’s just that, well, hasn’t Steve had enough to deal with? Why did he have to know she worked for SHIELD, or the part that remained due to Coulson’s sheer determination that is? Why couldn’t she just be Anne for a little while longer? Barnes knew the truth, wasn’t that enough for now? She thought so. And so she remained ‘Anne’ to Steve and nothing to Bucky.

It isn’t that they don’t get along, and she doesn’t think it has to do with her being Steve’s girl—could she even call herself that? Girlfriend wasn’t a heavy enough word. No, Bucky was an entirely different level of  fucked to Darcy. Where Steve made her bones melt slowly with his kisses and sets her heart galloping with his passionate hands, Bucky could undo her with a mere glance. He hasn’t so much as laid a hand on her since that first night but if she’s honest he doesn’t need to. While the majority of his stares are tinted with suspicion, there are a few that make her feel stripped bare.

For example: two days ago they’d checked into another hotel, Steve wanting to get them away from anyone who survived his somewhat failed mission. Darcy had been sweaty, hungry, and irritable from being cooped up in the car all day and had wanted nothing more than a shower. Steve being ever the gentleman offered to go and get supper while she settled in. She hadn’t even given it a second thought before sending him on his way and heading to the bathroom. What she had forgotten though, was that Bucky was having a good day and on those he was subtly wary of letting either her or Steve out of his sight. Darcy had gotten out of the shower and scowled at the empty counter where her clothes should have been waiting. In her haste to get under the cool water and wash off the stench of travel, she’d completely forgotten to grab clean clothes. With a huff she’d wrapped a towel around her, her scowl deepening at the way the material was barely big enough to do so. Cursing the body puberty had hexed her with, she’d wandered out into the room and went straight to her bag. She isn’t sure how she hadn’t felt his gaze immediately, but as she struggled to dig clean clothes out of the depths of her bag a throat had cleared nearly making her jump. Sitting at the table in front of the windows sat Bucky cleaning a gun.

Her heart had skipped as his gaze brazenly assessed her from bare toes to wet head. He hadn’t hidden behind a blank mask when he’d met her wide eyes. Darcy had stood rooted to the spot with color painting her cheeks rosy and waited for him to say something. Or shut down, or leave, anything. But Bucky had just stared, the blue-gray tide of his eyes sucking her into the vast ocean that was him. The real him was a dangerous and irresistible cocktail of agony, violence, and loyalty that swirled like a whirlpool just under his skin. Everything about him in that moment had called to Darcy just like the first time she’d looked into his eyes. Transgressions of the past meant nothing to her, the blood on his hands wouldn’t taint her because the man sitting across the room was every vile and depraved fantasy she’d ever longed for. If Steve was flowers and stolen candy flavored kisses, Bucky was a hand up her skirt at the movies and hot breath panted against her neck.

Darcy loved Steve and she’d come to terms with that, but that evening she’d been forced to face the cold hard truth: She also loved Bucky.

Time wasn’t of importance in the matter of love, she’d found. A day, a week, months, none of it mattered. She knows how her heart works and it beat double time for the two men talking softly in her car. Sighing, Darcy lets herself relax further into the seat with a discarded hoodie as a pillow. She knows that her situation is unusual with the three of them and who they are, but she thinks it could work. She drifts off with hope blooming in her chest.

 

* * *

 

Four hours later Bucky takes Steve’s direction and gets off on an exit for the next rest stop. He glances into the backseat again at Darcy’s sleeping form and ignores the way something in his chest, presumably his heart, stutters. He knows she watches him when she thinks he isn’t looking, but that’s the thing; Bucky is always aware. Since surrendering himself into Steve’s hands he feels safe, sure, but it hasn’t dulled his caution. So he sees the way she watches him, he knows Steve does the same though he’s less covert about it. And it doesn’t set him on edge, not in the way he’d first expected.

And after seeing Darcy practically naked and damp from her shower the other day, and the way she’d stared at him with her gaze brimming with something he couldn’t put a name to just yet… Well, he can feel himself loosening around her, becoming pliant in her care. He isn’t sure how he feels about that.

“I’ll get gas if you want to wake Anne up and see if she needs anything?”

Bucky nods his agreement at Steve as he pulls into a brightly lit gas station. He wants to sigh at what Steve calls Darcy but he refrains. That’s her mess to make and he thinks it's hope that’s heavy in his gut, hope that it doesn’t go bad. Steve smiles at him before getting out and Bucky turns around considering how to go about waking her up. He settles with poking her shoulder with a pale finger. She just mumbles incoherently and frowns a little.

He does sigh this time and gives into whatever thing is in his gut and smoothes fingertips along the apple of her cheek.

“Darcy,” he whispers in case Steve’s eavesdropping. “Time to get up, doll…”

“Nooo,” she whines adorably and Bucky tries hard not to smile.

“Hurry, there’s a blonde flirting with Steve,” he smirks anyway at the way her brows knit. “She’s tall and got killer legs on her, too. You can see ‘em ‘cause of those, what were they called down south? Daisy Dukes, yeah that’s it. Those short shorts and her—”

“I’m up,” she splutters and sits up so fast his hand is knocked away. “I’m awake… Bucky?”

He aims his smirk at her and points out the window at Steve’s back as he messes with the pump. Darcy growls in frustration and shoves his shoulder with a thwack. They both pause and stare at each other because that’s the first time she’s touched him since the night he’d broken in. Bucky swallows and breaks first by turning back around.

“I’m gonna go stretch my legs,” he mutters awkwardly and unfolds from the car. Darcy crawls out after him and brushes past him. He doesn’t tense at the touch of her shoulder. He watches as she moves around to Steve and leans up pecking him on the cheek.

Bucky doesn’t know who he’s more jealous of.

“I’ve gotta pee,” Darcy isn’t shy, Bucky’s learned. “Don’t steal my car or anything.”

Steve rolls his eyes and Bucky leans on the trunk watching her walk to the store to get the key to the bathroom no doubt. They’ve got a routine by now.

“You as hungry as I am?” Steve asks without turning around.

“We ate four in a half hours ago.”

“And your point?”

“Of course I’m fucking hungry, punk,” Bucky replies and flashes a stunned Steve a grin as he rounds the pump and follows Darcy around the side of the building. He feels light, and it’s fucking with his ability to keep a handle on his emotions. Steve and Darcy make him want to scream at the top of his lungs, but unlike the last time he had this would be a shout of victory. He follows no one’s orders but his own (Steve doesn’t count), he’s had more good days in the last two weeks than he’d had in his year alone, and he feels fucking free.

Darcy rolls her eyes at him as he leans against the brick while she unlocks the door.

“I can pee by myself, Barnes,” she snaps and he thinks it sounds… playful.

“Congratulations,” he snarks back although his is tone flat.

She huffs and closes the bathroom door in his face. It startles a laugh out of Bucky and he crosses his arms over his chest, mashing his lips together tightly. It’s a weird feeling, like he can’t control it and he isn’t ready for this shit.

He’s been standing there for five minutes, heard the toilet flush, watched Steve walk across the parking lot and out of view, and figures Darcy’s just fixing her hair or some girly shit. That’s when he hears it. Darcy’s groan of pain straightens his spine and he doesn’t hesitate to go in after her. She’d left the door unlocked, thankfully, and when he enters the tiny, grungy bathroom he finds her kneeling on the nasty floor and retching into the toilet.

“What’s wrong?!”

His question is met with another groan and a hand waved dismissively in his general direction.

“Fuck that,” he spits out and squats down by her, hesitating because the size and position of things in the bathroom leave him on her right and only able to touch her with metal. Tentatively he rests his left hand on her back and just as he does she leans forward and dry heaves. He scowls and rubs an awkward circle between her shoulder blades. His eyes widen a little in shock when she collapses back against him, her head hanging and when she speaks he can hear tears in her voice.

“Really shouldn’t have eaten those hash browns,” she sighs shakily and he unconsciously slides his hand around to cradle her shoulder, drawing her closer.

“I told you, you’d regret those jalapenos,” he says casually.

Darcy laughs with another groan and goes to get up. He helps her to stand slowly and leads her to the sink. Bucky doesn’t even think about it as he grabs paper towels and runs them under cold water, and wrings them out. As Darcy dips down to wash her mouth out he eases the hair from her neck and slides the cool press against her nape. Her reflection gives him a small smile in thanks.

“Plus I kinda get motion sickness sitting in the backseat…” she adds quietly with an apologetic look.

Bucky rolls his eyes and opens his mouth to respond when everything goes to shit.

He’d been so focused on Darcy that he hadn’t given a thought to the world outside. He hears an engine roar and rubber burn, but his stomach bottoms out at the sound of gunfire. He pushes Darcy behind him and has his gun trained on the open door instantly, and not five seconds later the Mustang comes squealing into view. Steve, wild-eyed and chest heaving leans over and throws the passenger door open. Bucky doesn’t have to ask questions. He covers Darcy and gets one shot off at the black SUV that’s closing in on them. As soon as she’s head-first in the backseat Bucky dives into the car and slams the door shut.

“Where the fuck did they come from?!”

“I don’t know. I was getting in and they pulled in on the other side of the lot, took one look at me, and I didn’t wait around to ask!”

Bucky realizes he remembers more creative curses and turns to Darcy with a hand braced against the dash. Although her face is pale and her eyes are scared everything else about her screams calm and controlled. He has a second to appreciate her moxie. Then Steve jerks the wheel to avoid a rain of bullets as they speed down the two-lane road the opposite way they’d came in. This time Steve curses. Bucky rolls down his window.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Barnes?!”

He doesn’t have time to analyze her concern for his well being, nor does he have time to reassure Steve’s angry shout. (Steve knows what he’s about to do.) Twisting to kneel in the seat, he gets his feet beneath him and a hand on the roof and heaves himself out the window to perch on the door, his gun firing with deadly precision before he’s even settled.

One bullet, two bullets, three bullets and the SUV goes up in flames with the driver dead, his own brand of ammunition buried in his skull. Bucky feels a disgusting wave of satisfaction as the vehicle swerves and flips into the ditch. He slides back into the silent car and places his gun on his lap calmly.

Darcy smacks him in the back of the head. “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FUCKING MIND?! YOU COULD HAVE BEEN SHOT, YOU MASSIVE ASSHOLE!”

Steve’s mouth hangs open in alarm, his gaze darting between Bucky’s motionless frame and the rearview mirror. Darcy just crosses her arms over her stomach and slumps back against the leather with a sigh. Bucky takes a deep breath and measures his mind. He feels almost euphoric, adrenaline high, and baffled because someone other than Stevie cared about him. Instead of being reprimanded because he failed, she’d gotten angry because he could have gotten hurt. The revelation makes his lips quirk. He smirks as something inside of him shifts.

Bucky laughs out loud.

Steve stares at him like he’s grown three heads and it just makes him laugh that much harder. Darcy simply smirks at them from the backseat. He laughs until his eyes water and Steve’s grinning at him. They might not be in the clear yet, may never be, but if this is what it’s like to be alive, he thinks he’ll take it.

That night Bucky stretches out on top of the covers on the bed closest to the door and listens to Steve and Darcy snore with a fond smile decorating his features.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Fire rains down from the sky, the wind howls like a demon of vengeance come up from the pits of hell, and there’s no sun, no moon. Lightning stabs the black sky and thunder cracks her eardrums. Somewhere behind her she hears Jane scream. She runs. Embers burn holes in her clothes and flesh, the wind fans the flames and she can’t outrun it. The lightning illuminates her path for a split second, shows her that it’s blocked. A thing with pale skin and eyes as red as the fire that scorches her stands in front of her only exit. Darcy falls to her knees onto the cracked pavement, her cry of despair going unheard among the chaos.

“DARCY!”

Her heart trips over in a last ditch effort to hold onto some hope that she’ll be saved.

“DARCY!!!”

Thor’s booming voice is followed by lightning that blinds her. When her vision focuses she sees that the demon is moving, coming closer. She pleads with God, with Thor, with the demon itself. No one comes to her aid. No one shows her mercy. When the beast reaches out a sinister hand she squeezes her eyes closed and prepares to take her last breath.

“Darcy… Darcy? Hey, come on, doll.”

Darcy’s eyes pop open.

Her hand is wrapped around Bucky’s wrist, his flesh and blood hand gripping her shoulder, and his gaze is filled with concern and a deep understanding. She lets go of him like she’s been tasered and he straightens as she backs up against the headboard, feet kicking at the covers that bind her legs. Gulping in a resetting breath Darcy glances to her left where Steve should be.

“He went to get breakfast instead of waking you,” Bucky says helpfully and leaves her side to go back to his perch on the other bed.

“Oh…” she comments and rubs a hand over her face as a stabbing pain makes itself known in her temple.

“He should be back any time.”

Darcy nods with a sigh and pushes out of bed. She was no stranger to nightmares or migraines but waking up in a strange place was unsettling and seemed to magnify everything. She pads into the bathroom completely uncaring about her state of dress (or lack thereof) and splashes water on her face, Steve’s SHIELD shirt sliding down her shoulder and mocking her. With a huff she sits down to pee.

Five minutes later she emerges from the bathroom with a scowl that would set fire to the flowers. Bucky arches a brow at her as she prowls through her bag and comes up with a bottle of Tylenol. Darcy adds Mother Nature to her growing list of entities that are out to get her. Swallowing down a couple pills, she flops back down onto the bed into a pitiful heap. She doesn’t move until ten minutes later when Steve walks back into the room with bags of food and beautiful smelling coffee. Sitting up she accepts the food he offers her but it’s the coffee she really wants. She holds the warm cup against her temple and sighs as the heat seeps into the aching skin.

Steve gently kisses her cheek and suggests that she try to eat before it gets worse. She’d had one migraine since they’d met and he’d watched her suffer through it, so he knows the struggle. Darcy smiles gratefully at him and does as she’s told. The TV is on Destination America, some paranormal show barely audible and it strikes Darcy how very domestic it all is. Had it really only been the night before that they’d been shot at? Was she still dreaming? The pain in her head and yuckiness in her lower abdomen tells her that no, she is not still asleep.

She picks at her food like a bird and mostly drinks her coffee before setting it all aside. Steve sits at the table across from Bucky and she takes a moment to appreciate their beauty. She feels love swell up in her chest and she knows that this is where she belongs. Not the crappy hotel, but with them, it’s a tapestry woven by chance, the decorated fabric of her soul. Bucky glances over his shoulder and catches her gaze, Steve’s hand pauses with his coffee half-way to his mouth. Darcy smiles at Bucky and it’s a loaded gun. His eyes widen just a fraction but his mouth ticks up on one side in response. Sliding her gaze to Steve she winks at him then lies back down.

 

* * *

 

Bucky isn’t surprised when Steve’s hand cautiously captures his left hand. And the little shit just goes on eating like he isn’t making Bucky’s heart pound against his ribcage. He even gives him a smile around a mouthful of toast and Bucky can’t do anything but laugh. He closes his fingers around Steve’s in acknowledgement and takes a drink of his coffee, opting to stare at the curtains instead of Steve.

He’d nabbed a couple hours of sleep before the sun rose and managed to wake before the nightmares took hold. Unlike Darcy. Steve had only been gone for about twenty minutes before she’d started moving restlessly and mumbling. Bucky had almost been afraid to wake her at first, but she’d began gasping and he’d moved without thought. Her eyes had been terrified and glassy when she’d grabbed his arm and he’d be lying if he said it didn’t sting a little when she’d jerked away from him. He understands, but still. Then she’d trudged out of the bathroom with that pissed-off-at-the-world look and Bucky had been hit with a memory of his sister Becca crying and rubbing her back while their ma went to get her aspirin. Bucky had felt helpless then, too.

Twenty minutes later finds Steve bent over a leather bound book with a pencil in his hand, Darcy still curled up on their bed whimpering when she moves, and Bucky watching whatever trash is on the TV. It’s when she tugs Steve’s pillow over her head that Bucky gives in. He gets up and moves, carefully lowering himself onto Steve’s side of their bed. Reaching for the pillow he tugs it out of her hands and puts it on his lap. Darcy squints at him for a good twenty seconds before scooting over without spoken invitation and settling her head on the pillow with her back to him. He snatches the remote off the nightstand and ignores Steve’s gaze as he turns the TV off. Steve’s eyesight is better than good so if he wants to draw he can still see.

Bucky tucks his left hand under his thigh after replacing the remote and reaches out with hesitant fingers, hovering over Darcy’s crown before ever-so-gently caressing her hair. She makes a small noise and he pauses, waiting until she rocks her shoulder back into his arm. He takes it as permission and buries his fingers in her hair. It’s quiet for a few minutes as she slowly relaxes under his hand, and his voice is hushed when he speaks.

“When me and Stevie moved in together he used to get the worst headaches,” he starts with conversationally. “He blamed the smell of my shoes when I’d kick them off after a hard day of working down at the docks,” Steve snorts in the corner. “It was really just his stubbornness, though. But I’d come home and all the curtains would be drawn tight and he’d be nothing but a lump under the covers we had. I wouldn’t even say hello, just make sure he was breathing then head downstairs. Our landlady Mrs. Shirley was a real short elderly lady who’d lost her husband to cancer before we met her,” he rubs slow circles against Darcy’s scalp and avoids the way he can feel Steve’s attention focused on him.

“She was always losing her glasses and she squinted a lot and bumped into things, so it always took her a minute to get to the door. She’d crack it open and squint up at me until she recognized me, then she’d click her tongue and shut the door right in my face,” Darcy’s breath of a laugh urges him on through the muddy memory that’s getting clearer with every word. “Now, the first time she did it I was confused but I got used to it real quick, ‘cause she’d always come back. She wouldn’t open the door, just crack it enough for her bony arm to stick through. And she’d open her hand and there would be two aspirin. I’d give her my best smile and thank her and she’d tell me to go take care of ‘that skinny boy’,” Bucky smirks to himself and continues. “Anyway, I’d run back upstairs and sneak back in all quiet and get a glass of water and make the punk take ‘em. He’d growl at me like a little kitten, but he always did eventually. Then I’d tune out his protests and climb onto the bed and pull him into my lap just like this,” he trails a single fingertip down Darcy’s temple to her jaw and back up again, his gaze unfocused and far away.

“I’d pet him into submission until he went boneless and fell asleep on me,” his voice drops even lower as if confessing something sacred. “I’d sit there until my legs went numb just holding him and prayin’ to whoever would listen that they’d help him,” Steve’s sniffle from the table tows him back to the present and he glances down at Darcy, his hand resting on her shoulder and he doesn’t know when he’d put it there. She’s sleep-heavy on his lap and the frown of pain is gone from her brow. He leaves his hand there and whispers, “And it still works, apparently.”

“You’ve got the magic touch, Buck,” Steve says with his heart on his sleeve.

Bucky grins and lets his head thump back against the headboard. Closing his eyes he listens to Darcy breathe slow and even and the flip of a page, then the scratch of pencil against paper. He doesn’t mean to fall asleep, but he does.

 

* * *

 

Steve draws them just as they are; Bucky’s hand curled loosely around Anne’s shoulder, his head tipped back exposing the line of his throat, the way his hair falls in loose waves for once not pulled back. It’s intimate in a completely innocent way and Steve falls harder. He isn’t sure how long he sits there, unmoving as he captures the moment, but time passes with their heartbeats.

Bucky wakes first and glares at Steve for letting him sleep. Steve gives him an unapologetic shrug and stands to stretch. His arms fall to his sides as Bucky eases out from under Anne and stalks across the room lazily, like a lion playing with his supper. He suddenly feels like a deer in headlights. There’s something in Bucky’s eyes that dares him to move. Steve couldn’t if he tried. Bucky only hesitates for a breath before his right hand cups the back of Steve’s skull and pulls him in, as if Steve weren’t already falling.

It’s their first kiss in seventy plus years and it’s still as electric as the first time.

Bucky’s lips are warm and slightly chapped and he tastes of coffee and home. Steve inhales sharply through his nostrils and wraps an arm around his best friend’s waist tugging him impossibly closer. The soldier chuckles against his lips before slanting his head and catching Steve’s bottom lip between his teeth, giving it a gentle nip. It shoots heat straight to Steve’s gut and he retaliates by swiping his tongue along the seam of Bucky’s mouth. There’s a second of uncertainty where their eyes meet then a string of tension snaps and their mouths collide.

They kiss for minutes, hours, maybe. Steve loses track of everything, his focus centered on the fight for dominance issued by Bucky’s tongue. He doesn’t notice they’re being studied until Bucky pulls back making Steve chase his mouth. His eyes open, when did I close those? he wonders, and he meets the man’s very amused and smug gaze. He watches as he slowly licks his bitten red lips and clears his throat, cants his head to the side in a subtle gesture drawing Steve’s gaze over his shoulder.

Anne sits in the middle of their bed in his shirt, with tousled hair from Bucky’s fingers, and she’s staring. Her gaze is clear of pain and focused so intently on him and Bucky that Steve wonders why they haven’t burst into flame yet. He mimics Bucky and clears his throat before releasing his hold on him, his face flushing red at being caught.

“No, no,” her voice is thick with sleep. “Please continue. I was rather enjoying the show.”

Bucky laughs and slaps a hand down onto Steve’s shoulder with a grin.

“You sure do know how to pick ‘em, Stevie.”

“What makes you think he picked me, huh?” Anne asks as she untangles herself from the bed covers and stands. “Maybe I chose him. Just maybe I chose you too, Barnes…” she smirks at Bucky’s sudden lack of words and disappears into the bathroom.

Steve laughs loudly this time.

 

* * *

 

After that lazy day of domesticity they fall into a similar pattern. Bucky sleeps more, Steve smiles more, and Darcy falls more. Steve tries to replace the sunglasses she’d left behind at a hotel but she steals his aviators with a smirk. She buys Bucky a new hat even though he’s taken to letting her pull his hair back into a bun. (He refuses to call it a ‘man-bun’ even though she insists.) Steve kisses them both with a smile every morning. She starts taking pictures with Bucky, coaxing him to join their shenanigans in the souvenir shops, and everything falls into place.

It’s two weeks later when it all comes crashing down around them again.

They’ve been in Pennsylvania for going on a week when it happens. After a day of walking around a small town and taking in the sights that weren’t really all that spectacular, they’d gotten pizza and taken it back to their room. Eating on one of the beds they watch ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and Steve won’t shut up about how the Robin chick looks like the former Agent Hill, or as he calls her ‘a woman friend of mine’. Darcy tries really hard not to add her two cents. She keeps her mouth full of greasy pizza and smiles encouragingly at him instead. Bucky remains silent, thank Thor.

Once they’re full she drags them to the farthest bed and snuggles down between them. It’s new, yes, but she’s slightly addicted to their presence. Steve hands her the remote and she finds a random 80s movie on and leaves it. It only takes about thirty minutes before Bucky makes a comment about something on the screen and that opens the floor for Steve to critique the movie as well. Darcy laughs at them and they all bicker back and forth. Somehow they get on the topic of ice cream and she latches onto the thought with her claws. She feels like it’s her duty to introduce them to the different flavors, and when Bucky gives her an incredulous glance at her mention of ‘Moose Tracks’, it’s cemented.

Convincing them to let her run out to the 24-hour Walgreens they’d passed that day is like pulling teeth. But she does it because she’s fucking Darcy Lewis and if she wants ice cream at two in the morning then dammit, she’s gonna have it! So she pulls on Steve’s bomber jacket over her Iron Man shirt (Steve had laughed hard then glared the first time she’d worn it), shoves her phone, at their insistence, into the pocket of her Cookie Monster pajama bottoms, slips on her flip flops, and blows them a kiss.

The drive is only ten minutes across the tiny town and she rolls her window down letting the cool night air wash over her face. The car smells like a weird combination of the three of them and she basks in it. She parks in the mostly empty parking lot and digs out a few bucks from her catch-all cup holder and moves into the store. Finding the ice cream, she grins then goes to the counter. The middle-aged woman behind the register looks half asleep as she checks her out. Darcy gives her a friendly smile and collects her bag, humming as she walks to her car.

She’s reaching for the door handle when a hand with fabric clutched in it covers her mouth and an arm jerks her back roughly against a solid chest. She inhales to scream bloody murder and tries to elbow her attacker but the grip is unforgiving and too tight. Her bag and keys go skittering out of her hands and Darcy has just enough time to think of that stupid joke that goes ‘Does this rag smell like chloroform to you?’ before every thing goes dark.

(The answer is yes, yes it does.)

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The shrill ring of a phone wakes her from formless dreams. Natasha blinks into the dark of Clint’s bedroom, the imposing shadows cowering as she blinks the sleep from her vision. Sliding from between the gray sheets she sits and leans over the frame of the archer, plucking his phone off of the nightstand. Her brows beetle at the number. Pressing the green icon she brings the phone to her ear but says nothing.

“—but leverage, collateral damage, really.”

“Yeah, you’ve said that already,” Darcy says, her tone dripping with sarcasm.

“Such arrogance in this age… It will be a pleasure to see you taken down from your horse.”

“I think you’ve got that quote wrong there, jackass. Besides, you think you are gonna be the one to give me an attitude adjustment?” She barks out a laugh. “I’ve got news for you, it can’t be done! Do you have any idea who my friends are? You touch me and—”

There’s the sound of skin smacking flesh sharply. Darcy inhales raggedly and spits. Rustling.

“It is unimportant who your friends are. Once we have the Asset you will be but a memory along with your precious Avengers,” the man spits the word out with vitriol.

Natasha puts the call on speakerphone as she springs from the bed, Clint’s grumbling at being blinded when the lights come on silencing immediately.

“He isn’t your fucking asset you actual ASSHOLE. HIS NAME IS JAMES AND YOU WILL NEVER LAY A FUCKING HAND ON HIM AGAIN!”

“HE IS WINTER SOLDIER, WEAPON OF DESTRUCTION AND SALVATION CREATED TO USHER IN A NEW AGE, A NEW HYDRA!”

There’s a collective call of ‘Hail Hydra!’ and Natasha watches Clint’s gaze harden. He meets her eyes before jumping out of the bed and snatching the phone out of her hand. She’s already traced the call. They listen while quickly pulling clothes on.

“I didn’t really think villains did that whole monologue thing, but you take the cake. You get like an A for effort, but I’ve—”

Darcy’s mouth is muffled and there’s loud rustling.

“For God’s sake WHAT NOW? …… Keep her—” There’s a grunt, the sound of something scraping across concrete, another groan of pain to join the first, and footsteps moving quickly. A man shouts a forced command through gritted teeth in Russian that makes the hair on the back of Natasha’s neck stand up. It’s ‘SHOOT HER’ and there’s the sound of two shots, a loud crackle and static.

The call goes dead.

“Call Phil and tell him we’re going to Pennsylvania,” the redhead says, strapping a Glock to her thigh.

Clint’s gaze narrows into slits sharp enough to cut and he pauses pulling on his boots. “You’ve known where they were this entire time, haven’t you?”

“Of course.”

“Fuck! And you couldn’t have told me she was with Rogers?”

Natasha, in a rare show of affection cradles his jaw in her palm and says deadly serious, “I trust him.”

“And Barnes?”

“No. Which is why we have to go. Now.”

She leaves no room for argument or further interrogation and slips out of the bedroom with her phone already pressed to her ear and Nick’s number dialed.

 

* * *

 

Darcy wakes up feeling like she’s been on a week long tequila binge. Her head is pounding, she’s nauseous, and her shoulders are aching. She goes to dust annoying strands from her face and realizes she can’t move her arms. Well, that explains why her shoulders hurt like a motherfucker. Shaking her head to get the hair out of her eyes she notices two men standing in front of a door directly in front of her. One is dressed in full-on combat gear with his arms crossed over his chest and a scowl on his face. Okay, so that’s the muscle she thinks. The second man is shorter, slightly tubby, and has his hair slicked back like some greaser. She’s betting him and that honker he’s sporting on his face is the brains. She’d also bet her next paycheck that he likes to ‘oversee’ things while everyone else does the hard lifting.

“Ah, good, you’re awake,” he says except his accent is thick and it sounds like Dracula trying to speak with an American accent.

Definitely the boss, then.

“And you are?” she croaks and clears her throat, wonders how long she’s been down for the count. (Down for the ‘Count’, get it? Yeah, humor is a great defense when you’re terrified.)

“Who I am makes no difference.”

“Okaaay, then what do you want from me?”

“Nothing. You’re a pawn.”

Darcy rolls her eyes. “Is this a ransom thing? Because I can tell you right now, that’s kind of old school.”

There’s a tap on the door behind them and Muscles turns and cracks it open, nods then leans over and whispers something to Dracula. The short man sighs and shoots a glance at Darcy. She resists the urge to look away. His eyes are small and beady. She doesn’t like the look of him.

“Do not budge, I’ll return momentarily.”

“Did you really just use ‘momentarily’ in actual conversation?” The Count gives her a mildly annoyed look. “Alrighty then. So, is there a can in this joint? I have to use the little girl’s room. How long have I been out anyway?”

His expression looks slightly more annoyed but he shocks her by answering.

“No more than five hours,” he says then dismisses her by turning around. Before he disappears through the door he tells Muscles; “One bathroom break. Do not leave her alone.”

“Yes, Sir,” obeys Muscles who then strides to her and hefts her to her feet. Darcy squeezes her eyes shut tightly and staggers into his bulk as the world rights itself.

He actually pauses, his grip tight around her biceps, but pauses all the same. She begins to plot and opens her eyes. He leads her from the room she was being held in and out into the bottom floor of what she’s guessing is a warehouse. She stumbles once more, this time on purpose, her training kicking online as she scopes the place out with a glance. It’s empty, windows too high to climb up and jump, and she sees only one exit where the door is stupidly cracked open letting in a stream of sunlight. Muscles jostles her to the right and into a corridor. Apparently they’d been keeping her in what had once been an office, and she takes in each open door they pass.

She counts six doors on the right and four on the left, one a kitchen/break room, at least six closed or cracked, and the last two are the bathrooms. The one that is open makes her sick to her stomach, the nausea threatening to bend her double. Medical looking equipment sits in random states of disarray, but that isn’t what scares her. Holding court in the middle of the room is a chair, could be a harmless barber or dentist’s chair, but Darcy knows. She knows with a sickening twist what it’s for. She’d read the dumped files, had helped Coulson wade through the muck of the aftermath.

Whether she lives or dies she vows right then that she will use every resource she has to keep these monsters away from Bucky.

“Are you going to be sick?” Muscles asks and Darcy just nods.

“Can you uncuff me so I won’t get vomit in my hair? I’m dirty enough,” she isn’t sure but she hopes she read him right.

“I could get in trouble, lady.”

“You can put them back on when I get out?” She isn’t above pleading at this moment. Her phone is burning a hole in her pocket because the dumb fucks didn’t even search her. Its weight against her thigh is a comfort. Muscles has an American-southern accent and looks like he might have a heart. She can only hope.

He uncuffs her with an order to hurry and not try anything stupid.

Darcy nods and pushes into the bathroom. She turns on the fan so Muscles can’t hear and splashes cold water on her face then locks herself in the biggest stall. Shrugging out of Steve’s jacket she searches the pockets and thanks God when she finds a small pocket knife in the breast pocket. It isn’t much but she’ll have to make do. Opening it she clips it blade-up onto the waistband of her pants at the small of her back. Slipping back into the jacket she fishes her phone out of her pocket. She could text someone, Steve, even, but she doesn’t. Instead she turns off the screen’s sleep timer and cues up Barton’s number and places it in the right pocket of the jacket. All she has to do is get Dracula talking and mash the screen and it’ll dial.

She hopes.

Flushing the toilet, she leaves the stall and takes a deep breath. She can do this, she can. She has to. Flipping the fan off she pulls the door open.

 

* * *

 

Steve slams the man against the dresser and it cracks, the TV tumbling to the floor. He jerks him back up by the throat just as Bucky steps into the room. His eyes aren’t quite ‘Bucky’ as they take in the destruction. The table is splintered into sharp pieces, the chairs were turned over caught in the melee, and there’s blood on the wall. One man lies with his neck at an awkward angle next to the first bed.

Then there’s Captain America. (No longer the Mission.)

His frame is filled with violence, veins standing, coursing with fury. His blue eyes when he turns to look at Bucky are as a raging and volatile sea. His fingers tighten around the man’s neck.

“Steve,” he says and it’s an order, not a question.

He drops the man unconscious into the ruble of the dresser.

“They have Anne in a warehouse and if I want her back I’m supposed to turn you over.”

Though Bucky’s face remains an emotionless mask his insides lurch. Something dark pulses in his brain. He doesn’t realize he’s reached out and grabbed Steve’s wrist with his flesh and blood hand until he feels the pulse thundering under his fingertips. He holds Steve’s gaze like an anchor.

“Then we go.”

“Dammit, Bucky, NO!” Steve shouts.

His fingers squeeze and push against that pulse. “Yes,” he says calmly.

Stubborn gaze meets frighteningly calm, Steve grits out: “I’m not letting them take you.”

“Then don’t,” is Bucky’s instantaneous reply. Steve continues to stare at him like he’s memorizing his features and Bucky allows the edge of his façade to slip, his tongue skating over his dry lips. Some of the worry retreats from Steve’s eyes at the subtle change and he nods.

“Let’s go get our girl.”

 

* * *

 

Darcy tries her damndest not to finch when the knife slips in her sweaty hand and slices her palm. Keeping her gaze trained on the Count she urges him on with another smartass remark. When Muscles had led her out of the hall there’d been a lonesome chair in the middle of the floor to which he’d marched her to. Dracula had paraded back in with a scowl set over his ugly nose. And Darcy did what she was good at: run her mouth. Men dressed like Muscles and some in lab coats came and went, stupidly leaving the door wide open. She watches in amusement as Dracula keeps getting his villain speech interrupted.

As he drones on, picking up where he leaves off, Darcy works on getting herself free. She waits until he declares that she wasn’t even a part of his original plan to make her elbow spasm sharply hopefully calling Barton. Muscles stands to the left of them looking bored out of his mind and Darcy wishes she had her Taser because he is going to be hard to take down. It isn’t until Dracula backhands her, making her see stars and taste blood that she gets Banner levels of enraged. The handcuffs open with a click that has her liking the taste of that blood.

And then the douche has to go and call Bucky ‘Asset’.

Darcy sees red, her voice rising with every beat of her heart. He yells back at her with some bullshit about a ‘new Hydra’ and she shakes the cuff free from one wrist, flipping the knife around and getting a grip on the casing. This idiot didn’t even take Steve’s jacket off her or search her and he wants to start a new revolution? She isn’t psychic but she can see that that is in no way happening. Not today, not on her watch. Darcy rolls her eyes seemingly spent after their shouting match and tells him just what she thinks of his ‘roll-my-handlebar-mustache-while-you-squirm-on-the-train-tracks’ routine. Then Dracula circles around her and claps a hand over her mouth stifling her lovely comment. Rude, she thinks.

It’s about the same time another lackey jogs through the door and interrupts him again and he yells at the man releasing her mouth. He’s standing close enough that she catches the word ‘arrived’. And it’s enough for her. When the Count tells the thug to ‘keep her’ Darcy doesn’t wait to hear the rest, she turns off her brain and fights. She stabs Dracula in the general vicinity of his groin and as he stumbles back in either surprise or pain (she doesn’t care which) she springs to her feet grabbing her chair and swings it up with a swiftness learned from hours of Nat telling her ‘no’ and into the lackey’s head. Her foot connects with his balls at the same time and he drops with a cry.

She runs.

Muscles hesitates and she’ll never ever be more grateful to southern mommas that instill their boys with manners. She knows that the cause will rule out but it’s that second of hesitation that gives her a chance. Dracula’s pained shout follows her out the door into the blinding sun but she doesn’t stop. It happens as if in slow motion as she sees Steve and Bucky, watches Steve, gloriously furious Steve step forward at the sight of her. Her heart stampedes inside her chest and she thinks she just might make it. Then a pain so sharp it takes what breath she has slams into her side simultaneously with a body against her back taking her down.

Darcy eats dirt but still keeps trying to get away. She uses the pain pulsing through her to fuel her fight and gets in one good kick before a heavy boot knocks into her ankle with enough force to make her eyes water. There’s only chaos in her head and she can hear Steve shouting angrily as her face is shoved into the ground forcefully, gravel stabbing and cutting her face as the grip presses.

And then suddenly the weight is gone and all sound has muted. She drags a jagged breath into her lungs almost afraid of what she’ll see if she lifts her head. There’s hands gently rolling her over and Darcy can’t help the wail as wounds protest.

“Shhh, I’ve got you, doll,” his whisper is iron and she couldn’t stop the tears if she tried.

Bucky helps her to her feet, his right hand lifting up and attempting to dust the worst of the gravel from her injured cheek. He’s so gentle and Darcy’s breath hitches on a sob. There’s a warmth at her back and she swallows hard knowing now is not the time for waterworks. Bucky’s finger hooks under her chin and guides her head back to meet his gaze. His eyes are molten fury warring with some emotion that she’d label as love or pride if it wasn’t gone in a flash. His gaze skates away from hers to Steve’s over her head and he nods minutely and Darcy doesn’t think she likes where this unspoken conversation is going. He looks back to her and the barest hint of a smirk flirts with his mouth.

“I’ll be back,” he says quietly like it’s meant only for her and Steve’s ears. And Nope with a capital ‘N’, she doesn’t like this at fucking all. Bucky presses his lips to her forehead then before her eyes he drops away everything that makes him Bucky. Steve moves from behind her as Bucky turns his back to her. He positions himself in front of her standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Bucky and this isn’t parade rest, this is At Attention. Yes, the capitals are needed.

“That was… touching,” Dracula says from where he’s limping from the warehouse, two lackeys flagging him like they’re afraid he’s about to fall over. “However, I am finished with your fun and games,” he sighs. Darcy tries to peek around Steve but his hand presses her back. “Yes, protect your hellion, it does not matter,” Steve shifts the slightest bit but she still can’t see anything. Dracula says something in a harsh tone and she waits for someone to say something, but no one even breathes. Then he repeats it.

The plates in Bucky’s arm shift and everything goes to Hell yet again.

Bucky and Steve turn as a unit but with two vastly different expressions. Steve’s eyes are filled with pain that slices into her heartstrings and she doesn’t understand what’s going on. Then she looks to Bucky and finds her heart in her throat. She was wrong, so very wrong. He hadn’t shed what made him Bucky; he’d only pushed it aside in preparation for battle. But now his gaze was so cold that she didn’t recognize him. This was not the man that had held her hair when she got sick or who told her stories about little ole ladies and touched her with excruciating gentleness.

This was the Winter Soldier.

“Bucky?” she whispers.

He blinks and his gaze wavers for a fraction of a second, his mouth twisting into a grimace. There he is, fighting, always fighting. Steve stands with his hands fisted and a laser focus gaze on their soulmate. Bucky spits two words through clenched jaws before his gaze sharpens, refocuses on her.

Darcy, run.”

Darcy runs.

 

* * *

 

Natasha curses colorfully over the comms and Tony winces. Coulson gives the order. Clint nocks an arrow, inhales and lets fly.

 

* * *

 

When Darcy was little she was afraid of dogs. They were bigger than her, they were loud, and their teeth were sharp. Her mom always warned her to just stand still and whatever she did, don’t run. When she asked her why, because her first thought was to run away from the thing that scares you, her mom gave her an exasperated look and said: “If you run they’ll think you want to play and they’ll chase you.”

One day she might learn to listen to her mother.

But today wasn’t that day. She runs past the vehicles, across the road, and right into the forest that butts up against the country road. She knows that he’s toying with her or she’d already be dead. Because her leg is definitely busted up and she can barely get her limbs to obey her commands to dodge trees and roots. Natasha and Barton once took her out into a forest and played ‘Hide & Go Seek’ with her. With paintball guns. It had been an interesting experience to say the least. It was the exciting kind of fear fueled by knowing that it was a game. Being hunted by them was a thrill, an initiation into the fold if you will. But this? This was not thrilling.

Maybe one day they’d try it again with less blood.

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. Effortlessly Bucky flips her over onto her back, her side screaming in agony, her leg throbbing. The warm fingers of his right hand close around her throat. She chokes out his name to the best of her ability and she watches his features shift and slide, terror against objective, utter vacancy against a burning knowledge.

His fingers twitch and she chokes, drawing in a breath before it’s cut off once more. She thinks she’s losing it as she hears a shout, possibly Steve, from somewhere behind Bucky. Darcy prays to God, to Thor, to fucking Heimdall that someone will stop him before he kills her. It isn’t that she’s afraid to die; it’s that she knows what it will do to him to have her blood on his hands. His fingers twitch again and his arm shakes like he’s fighting himself, a battle to be won inside of his psyche. Tears stream down her temples into her dirty hair. He grits his teeth.

Bucky growls and it doesn’t sound human anymore. Darcy’s afraid of what it means. Her vision begins to blur around the edges, black polka dots dancing in front of her eyes. His eyes hold onto hers and she’s helpless to the pull of darkness. Her right hand lifts up and it’s with trembling fingers she grasps his wrist. Her hand is stained with red and his grip strengthens. There’s a crack of deafening thunder and a bolt of lightning backlights Bucky. Darcy vaguely recalls thinking that Steve had looked at Bucky like an angel come to earth. She can see it.

And that’s the last thing she sees as the black hole of oblivion sucks her down into unconsciousness.

 

* * *

 

Steve fights Stark’s hold, his shouts regaining force when Mjölnir smacks into Bucky’s chest sending him sailing off of a prone Anne (Darcy?) and headlong into a tree, his body crumbling to the ground.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“You knew?” Nat nods and Steve’s frown deepens. “Was she sent to follow me?” he asks.

“Of course not,” she sighs like he isn’t getting the point she’s making. “You meeting Darcy was completely coincidental.”

Steve ghosts a thumb over pale knuckles, Bucky’s fingers spasming in his own. He glances from their hands to his face where under bruised lids eyes are restless. He doesn’t hear Natasha leave.

For six hours he’s sat by Bucky’s side, waiting. After Thor had thrown Mjölnir into him he’d been knocked unconscious and unresponsive. The team had burst onto the scene with their usual ‘bang’ and quickly swept the Hydra base with minimal trouble. To hear Nat tell it Bucky and Darcy (the name sits uneasy in his heart) had caused the most chaos, and casualties. Coulson had taken the director and the others into SHIELD custody and they’d searched the warehouse. Natasha had told him of the chair they found and his stomach had rolled.

He wanted to burn the place.

Thor had scooped Darcy’s limp frame up into his arms protectively, given Steve (and Bucky) a reproachful look, and taken to the air without a word uttered. He’d felt another piece of his heart fracture. Following Nat’s suggestion he’d then lifted Bucky and followed her to the quinjet. Once they’d all boarded, an unusually quiet Tony had brushed past him and paused to clap a hand to his shoulder. Steve had given him a perfunctory nod and returned his gaze to where Bucky was laying on a med-cot.

Twenty minutes into the flight back to Stark’s tower and Nat had come to stand next to him, her shoulder nudging his. “She’s in medical, bullet grazed her side, broken wrist, fractured ankle, and a few other minor scrapes and bruises, but she’ll live.” He’d let go of a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding and nodded at her, not entirely sure he could speak. Natasha had studied him for a moment and must have found whatever she was searching for, then turned away and joined Barton at the controls. Steve had spent the remainder of the flight watching Bucky’s chest rise and fall and wondering when it had all gone wrong. Two days ago he’d been grinning as Anne—Darcy tried to show Bucky how to do some dance to a silly song titled ‘Thriller’, and now they were both out of commission and Steve was left to drift without an anchor.

A groan draws him back to the present and his eyes snap up to Bucky. His eyes flutter open and Steve holds his breath. He doesn’t know if he’ll be presented with the Soldier or his best friend and he prays it’s the latter. Bucky’s head lulls to the right and his arms flex against the restraints.

“Didn’t know you were into bondage, Stevie...” Bucky croaks.

“Bucky?”

“Last time I checked,” his fingers curl weakly around Steve’s.

Without a second thought Steve yanks the restraints from Bucky’s right arm free and wraps his arms around his waist. Bucky groans a laugh as Steve hides his face against his sternum. He isn’t ashamed that he cries like a lost little boy, big gulping sobs muffled against the sterile smelling blanket. Bucky’s fingers bury into his hair that’s grown out and cradle him to his chest, his voice quiet and thick as he shushes him. When Steve finally pulls back and uses the edge of the blanket to wipe his face, Bucky meets his eyes with a small fond smile.

“You okay?”

“Jesus, Bucky, I should be asking you that,” Steve sniffs.

“I feel like I’ve been struck by lightning,” Bucky says deadpan.

Steve laughs as he scoots back off the bed, breathless with relief even though there’s an undercurrent of sadness there.

“Tell me Darcy’s alright?”

“She’s in recovery, nothing too serious,” Steve reassures him but won’t meet his eyes as he settles back into his chair and takes Bucky’s hand again. “Barton’s with her.”

“Steve,” Bucky’s voice is quiet. “Hey,” he squeezes Steve’s hand until he meets his gaze. “Don’t be mad at her.”

“She lied to me,” is his response.

“And I’m sure she had her reasons. I did too, you know?” He shakes his head when Steve opens his mouth to protest. “No, you can’t be like that. I lied to you, too. I knew who she was and told her it was her mess. So if you’re upset with her then you’re upset with me.”

Steve is silent, a thousand yard stare on his face.

“You don’t get to play favorites with us, Stevie. She’s your soulmate as much as I am. We’re in this together, right?”

He looks at Bucky lying in a bed with a machine counting his heartbeats and thinks of Darcy somewhere a few floors up in worse condition, and he thinks no, we aren’t together in this. His heart pounds uncomfortably and he can see the disappointment written on Bucky’s face like he’d said it aloud. There’s a heavy sigh and rustling. He hangs his head.

“If you let her go you’ll regret it for the rest of your life,” Bucky says and there’s a pause as his grip tightens around Steve’s fingers making him look up at him through wet lashes. “And I won’t forgive you.”

 

* * *

 

When Darcy comes to this time it’s like floating to the surface of a lake, slow and languid. She wakes to muffled voices and bright lights pressing against her eyelids. She tries to open them but they’re heavy, her entire body feels like it’s weighted down. She manages to get one eye cracked open, then both. The others haven’t noticed she’s awake. Darcy finds Clint holding a hushed conversation with Thor and Jane to the right and to her left is a silent Natasha watching her. Okay, at least one person knew she was awake. She wonders if she’ll tell her what the hell’s going on.

“Guys,” Natasha says sternly and all eyes snap to her then to Darcy.

“Oh, thank God! Darcy, I was so worried,” Jane moves closer to her side and grips her hand at least she thinks she is, her limbs are sort of numb.

Drugs are awesome.

She tries to smile and thinks she accomplishes it when Jane returns it. Thor steps up then and she inhales sharply at the smell of ozone, her senses suddenly sharpening. And like someone throws a switch, she remembers everything. There’s a frantic beeping and her eyes widen in panic. She tries to sit up but there are hands there to press her back to the sheets and there’s a strangled sound coming from her throat and it aches. A strong hand cups her jaw gently and tilts her head to the left and she’s met with Clint’s intent gaze.

“Hey, hey it’s okay. Breathe, Darce. You’re fine. Breathe with me… That’s it,” the beeping declines a fraction as she drags oxygen past her burning throat and into her lungs.

“There was no intention to upset you, Lady Darcy. I apologize,” Thor says releasing her calf. Natasha pats her thigh and Jane sends her a pitying gaze as she pets her shoulder.

Darcy nods at Clint and he eases her back onto her pillows and straightens. He turns to the table where a pitcher of water sits and she glances back at Thor. She goes to speak but Natasha stops her with a tap to her thigh.

“Don’t try to speak yet, your throat needs to heal,” she says.

Nodding slowly, Darcy looks back at Thor and gives him a thumbs up which Jane translates for her that it’s alright. He beams at her and bends pressing a kiss to her forehead before ushering Jane to the door. Jane leaves with a promise to return in a few hours.

“Here, drink,” Barton holds a straw to her lips. The water is cold and takes the edge off of the sting in her throat. Once she drinks her fill he sets the cup aside and sits in a chair that’s been pulled up to the bedside. She looks between him and the redhead, arching a brow in impatience. They share a look before Natasha speaks.

“We cleaned the base out and took the agents into custody,” Darcy wills her to tell her how Bucky is, if Steve has been to see her. “James is alive but hasn’t woken yet and we don’t know what affects the trigger or Mjölnir had on him. He’s stable otherwise… Steve is with him.”

Darcy wishes she hadn’t told her as something in her heart clenches, the monitor skipping and making Barton scowl. She blinks furiously to keep the tears that threaten at bay. She’s so relieved that Bucky is okay, that he won’t have another life to add to his kill-count, but on the other hand she’s overcome with sadness and doesn’t know why. They’re all alive, it will all be fine. Everything will be okay, right?

No one answers her.

Natasha gives her a list of her injuries and she focuses on the growing dread that she’s gonna be on house arrest instead. Her left wrist is broken, she has twenty six stitches in her left side, a fractured ankle, her face is scratched all to hell, split lip, black eye, bruised to Hell. And the cherry on top is the handprint that rings her neck where Bucky’s hand had choked her. Natasha is clinical and there’s a surprising lilt of sympathy in her voice. She gives her a small smile that says I’m proud of you and squeezes her knee before she slips out the door leaving Darcy to stare at the ceiling in an attempt to control her chaotic emotions.

“You just don’t do anything half-ass do you, kid?”

Darcy snorts, her head moving to look at the archer. She gives him a watery smile and mouths ‘sorry’. He shakes his head and leans forward folding his arms atop her cover and stares at her. She stares back and thinks maybe in another universe where soulmates and marks don’t exist that she might have fallen for him. She wonders if things would have gone better for that Darcy. It’s an idle thought and he smirks at her like he can read her thoughts. He can’t, but he can read her.

The silence is broken when someone pushes into the room.

“Oh, hello. How’s our patient?” the doctor is stick-thin with a head full of white hair and handsome.

Darcy shrugs and Clint translates. “She’s alert.”

“Good, no memory loss?” Darcy shakes her head as he moves to the foot of her bed, his eyes on her chart. “Even better. Okay, you’ll want to take it easy for a while but you should heal nicely. Agent Barton, would you excuse us, I need to check her stitches.”

Darcy fumbles for Clint’s hand and shakes her head. The doctor glances up at the movement and shrugs. Clint pats the cast on her wrist and stands, stepping back to let the doctor close. He adjusts her bed into a chair pose and tugs her cover back. His hands are cold as he instructs her to roll to her right and pulls the side of her gown up. Darcy rolls her eyes at Clint making him snicker. She winces when the doctor presses fingertips to the skin around her flesh but he readjusts her gown and steps back.

“Time for a dose of something to take the edge off of the pain I think?” He and Clint trade places again as Darcy settles back into the now elevated mattress with a nod. She’s starting to feel the ache of her injuries down to her bones. She catches Clint’s gaze and mouths ‘home’ to him.

“When can she go home, Doc?”

“Well, where is home?” he asks as he removes his glove and walks to the sink across the room and washes his hands.

“She’ll be staying with me,” Clint answers shooting her a look that dares her to object.

“In the building then, okay. I’d like to keep you for two days at least. And since you’re staying close you can leave after observation as long as you come in for regular checkups?” He adjusts something on her IV and quirks a brow at her.

Darcy nods for once grateful that she doesn’t have to make any decisions for herself. Clint shakes hands with the doctor then sits back down as he picks up her chart and scribbles in it before turning to the door. She sighs and glances at Clint when the doctor speaks. He’s almost to the door when he angles back towards them with a smile on his face.

“Oh, and congratulations, Miss Lewis.”

Darcy looks up and frowns, shaking her head and raising her brows in confusion. Clint wears the same expression. The doctor fully faces them and slides his hands into his lab coat.

“While you are a healthy young woman, it isn’t uncommon to miscarry in the first trimester especially when faced with physical trauma,” he says like he’s reading from a pamphlet. “But you must have good genes because there was nothing amiss with the fetus. We did an ultrasound when we addressed the gunshot wound, well, scratch really, and everything is normal!”

He keeps talking but all Darcy hears is ‘miscarry’, ‘trimester’… ‘fetus’.

Clint has gone motionless beside her.

She watches the doctor give her one of those professional smiles and excuse himself from the room. She stares at the closed door, her mind grasping for an explanation for the bullshit that just spewed from that vile man’s mouth. She isn’t aware that she isn’t breathing until a steel arm bands around her waist.

“If you keep panicking I’m going to make them knock you out again,” Clint says into her ear and Darcy gulps in air like she’s drowning.

“Pregnant…” she gasps and the word scrapes her sore throat. She wants to pull it back inside because now that she’s said it, it’s real.
“Hey, no talking yet,” Darcy cuts him off and twists despite the pain and uses what strength she has to grip his shirt in her fist. Clint meets her terrified gaze and his softens. “Don’t freak out on me. You can do this. You’re strong, baby. You fought fucking Hydra with a pocket knife and a chair,” she swallows thickly at his words, her vision blurring with tears. “We’ll figure it out, okay? I won’t leave you. Nat won’t either. Coulson will spoil the kid rotten, we all will,” they both laugh but hers comes out strangled. He swipes tears from her cheeks and presses his lips to her hair as she buries her face against his neck.

Clint maneuvers them so he’s on the bed with her, careful of her injuries, with her leaning back against his chest and his arms wrapped around her. Darcy thinks he’s holding her together because she feels like she’s falling apart at the seams. The room is quiet save for the beeping of the machines hooked to her and her sniffling. Her world has shifted again and she wonders if the blows will ever stop coming.

Her thoughts muddy, she falls asleep listening to Clint’s heartbeat and picturing Steve and Bucky standing over a white crib.

 

* * *

 

That’s how Steve finds Darcy an hour later.

Quiet as he can so he won’t disturb her, he cracks the door to her room open and slips in. He comes to an abrupt halt when he sees Darcy curled into Barton’s chest looking small and fragile. There are bandages on her cheek and bruises paint what skin he can see. Barton’s gaze is hard in contrast to the arms that cradle her to his chest. He measures Steve and he almost flinches at the archer’s glare. He’d wondered if the others would blame him for dragging Darcy into his mess, and he guesses this is as good an answer as he’s going to get. He sighs heavily and his shoulders slump.

Clint must take it as a sign because he moves to get up and wakes Darcy in the process. She whines and clutches at him and Steve feels a pang of jealousy. He should be the one holding her, but if it weren’t for him she wouldn’t be in that hospital bed in the first place. So he tamps it down.

“I’ve gotta piss,” Barton says and Darcy grunts. “You’ve got company anyway,” Darcy’s movements still. “I’ll be back in two shakes, okay?”

Darcy’s ‘hurry’ is a rough whisper and Steve feels like an intruder as they have a silent conversation that leaves Darcy wilting like a flower. Barton oh-so-gently pries himself out of her clutching hands and fixes her cover before stepping away. He passes Steve without a word or glance, the door shutting behind him with a quiet snick. Steve clears his throat and lets his feet ferry him to the foot of Darcy’s bed. She watches him with wary eyes but holds her right hand out to him.

He moves and takes it between his own.

“Bucky?” She whispers and the corner of his mouth curves faintly.

“He’s fine, weak and bruised but the doctor said he’d heal in a day or two,” he finally meets her gaze and resists the urge to wince. “I’m sorry for getting you caught up in this.”

She squeezes his hand lightly and shakes her head, her voice barely above a whisper as she rasps, “Not your fault… I’m a big girl.”

Steve shakes his head in disagreement. “No, it is my fault. I didn’t think things through and I nearly lost…” he draws a hand away to wipe at the wetness staining his face, continues. “I nearly lost you both.”

Darcy taps a finger against his wrist and he refocuses his gaze on her. “We’re o—okay.”

Steve lets go of her and before she starts to shift he skirts around the bed to the water on the other side. He holds the glass while she drinks and she gives him a grateful smile. After he sits the empty glass down he turns back to her and allows himself one moment of closeness, something to tide him over for the nights he’s about to spend without her. He tenderly slips a palm along her jaw and bends down pressing a feather light kiss to the corner of her mouth, and then he straightens. Her lashes flutter open and her blue eyes shine with tears and he steels himself against the invisible line tugging him to her.

“You’re both hurt and it’s because of me. I can’t let that happen again… Darcy. I won’t. And I’m sorry I lied to you,” He swallows around the emotions clogging his throat and drops his gaze to the stark white cast on her arm. “Why didn’t you tell me the truth?”

“I don’t know…”

“You and Bucky both kept it from me.”

“I fucked up… I’m sorry, Steve,” she whispers.

He laughs without humor, squaring his shoulders, and takes a deep breath before looking at her again. His expression is an unshakable mask of disappointment that he rarely uses. Underneath it he wants to crumble.

“It doesn’t matter. Like you said, Anne or Darcy, it’s just a name… But I can’t do this. I can’t knowingly put you in danger again,” she stares at him with her heart in her eyes. He’s a coward but he looks away so he won’t break. “I… I need time. You, and Bucky, need to heal and I… Just give me some time, okay? Can you do that?” He glances at her long enough to see her nod slowly, tears streaming freely down her face. “I’ll come see you in a couple days if it’s alright?”

“I love you,” she says on a breath and the words are a sucker punch to his gut.

“Don’t, just don’t, Darcy… I can’t…Fuck,” his demeanor cracks with a hairline fracture that lets his own tears spill over.

Darcy reaches out and clumsily clasps his wrist, tugging him closer to the bed. She’s openly crying and if he touches her he’s going to cave. But he’s saved when there are two quick raps on the door before it opens admitting Barton. Steve looks down at her and their eyes meet. She stares at him uncaring of the audience and he feels her fingers let him go reluctantly. He clears his throat, sniffs, and wipes his face with a hand before throwing caution to the wind and bending back over and brushing his lips over her uninjured cheek. He whispers, “I’m sorry.” and straightens. Turning, he nods at Barton who’s making good on his codename and strides from the room.

He only pauses outside the door to gather his composure but it’s long enough to hear Darcy’s first heart wrenching sob.  

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

When Steve gets back up to Bucky’s room he finds two armed agents talking to Natasha. His sore heart races and he jogs down the corridor to see what the problem is. The agents’ spines straighten and they salute him. He rolls his eyes and nods before completely ignoring them and giving Nat his undivided attention. She dismisses them and turns to him with an arched brow.

“It would appear that James has gone AWOL on us, Rogers,” she says and he swears there’s amusement in her tone.

“I wasn’t gone that long!”

Nat shrugs, looking bored. “I’m sure he’ll turn up.”

Steve stares at her in disbelief.

“Excuse me, Agent Romanova, Captain Rogers?”

Steve actually jumps a little in surprise at the voice. He’d forgotten all about Stark’s AI. Natasha smirks knowingly at him.

“Yes, Jarvis?”

“It would appear that your missing person has just been spotted on the 79th floor.”

“And what’s on the 79th floor?” Nat’s smirk widens at Steve’s question.

“That would be the on-call medical staff’s break rooms, gym, and laundry services, Captain. Apparently Sergeant Barnes acquired someone’s clothing...”

Steve resists the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. “And where is Barnes now?”

“I would imagine that he is en route to Miss Lewis’ room if my data is correct.”

He looks at the assassin and there’s a full blown grin on her face now. Steve curses and turns running back the way he came. This day just could not get any worse.

 

* * *

 

Bucky thanks the agent for his helpfulness (and his clothes) and asks him which floor employees are taken to recover. The wide eyed man tells him ‘two floors up’ and kindly points him in the direction of the staircase. Being called ‘Sergeant Barnes’ had him confused for all of ten seconds before the memory fell into place, but once it had he’d turned on the military charm and bam. No one stepped a foot out of line and if it was because they were all scared shitless that the ‘Winter Soldier’ was actually in view and speaking to them, well, he’s a shit and using it to his advantage.

He doesn’t know what’s changed inside of him but he sees things so much clearer now. He no longer feels smothered by confusing snippets of memories, nor is he having trouble remaining in the present. Bucky knows he wasn’t cured by a fucking magical, mythical hammer, knows without a doubt this is just a clear patch in the fog, but it feels good. Which is why as soon as Steve had left he had decided to go and see their girl. He knows Steve inside and out and as the haze lifts from his psyche, however short it may be he knows that the idiot is going to do something stupid. Steve is also a little shit and never did listen to him when it came to something that was for his own good. Just look at them now in fucking 2015. It’s Steve’s fault for being hardheaded.

And that’s precisely what the idiot will think. He’ll blame himself for everything and retreat into the corner like a snot-nosed brat who’s hungry but won’t eat what’s on his plate because it’s green. Steve knows better, they lived through the Depression after all. Besides, shouldn’t he be the one taking all the blame? He’s the one that turned their world on its head. He thinks if she can forgive him for it that he’ll be able to get around that hurdle. God, he hopes she still wants him… them. As he takes the stairs two at a time he contemplates on just how hard he’s gonna have to be on Steve for him to see sense. He figures it depends on how bad off Darcy is.

Pushing through the double doors he steps out into the hallway on the 81st floor to find a man a couple inches shorter than him leaning against the opposite wall talking into a phone at a rapid fire pace. He has a goatee that could use a trim, hair that looks like it’s been tugged at messily, and he’s dressed in some kind of workout looking gear or something, Bucky doesn’t know what to call it. His eyes snap to Bucky and widen minutely as he lazily pushes away from the wall.

“Yep, Terminator located,” he says to whom ever he’s talking and taps the screen then slides it into his pocket with his hand.

They size each other up and it takes a minute but it comes to Bucky.

“Stark…”

“Barnes… Nice to see you not leaving a trail of bodies behind you.”

He doesn’t have time to be hurt by the comment, so he just smirks at him and turns left continuing his search.

“Okay, that’s creepy. Since you were nice,” Tony skips a step to catch up with him while he talks a mile a minute. “I’m going to escort you, this way, to your, take a left, destination.”

“How hospitable of you.”

“No, not really I just want to watch this show ‘cause I have a feeling that it’s going to be spectacular.”

“You get off on other people’s drama, huh?”

“No, but it makes for great youtube. Okay, you may be right…”

“You talk too much.”

“So I’ve been told. Uh-oh. Capsicle looks pissed,” Bucky arches a brow at the title but doesn’t question it as they approach a door on the right where Steve stands with his arms crossed over his chest trying to look imposing. “Trouble in paradise already?” Tony sing-songs.

“Stark,” Steve says through gritted teeth and Bucky bets watching them butt heads is a beautiful sight.

“Hiya, Stevie.”

The good Captain turns his frown on Bucky and he refrains from rolling his eyes, but it’s a close call.

“You aren’t supposed to be out of bed. Do you want them to strap you down again?”

“They could try.” Stark laughs at that and unsuccessfully tries to conceal it with a cough. Bucky goes on. “Besides, you wouldn’t let them do that again would you, pal? Not when I’m in my right mind and it might set me back or something.” He’s only messing with Steve but there’s a shade of truth to his words.

“No,” he sounds like a kicked puppy. “Sorry, Buck, I just… Can we just go back to your room? She needs to rest and you can see her tomorrow, okay?”

Bucky glares at Steve. The blonde takes a step forward and Tony watches gleefully from a few feet back as Bucky crosses his arms over his chest. He isn’t leaving until he sees his girl.

“I’m not leaving till I see her,” he says as much.

“Bucky… please,” Steve whispers and Bucky wonders just what the hell has got him so scared.

The door to Darcy’s room opens and Steve glances over his shoulder. Tony actually claps his hands as another man steps out into the quickly filling hall. Bucky’s arms fall to his side at the look on the man’s face. He knows a sniper when he sees one and this must be the one they call ‘Hawkeye’ if the scowl he’s sending Steve is an indication. Before anyone can say a word the man steps up to Steve, cocks his fist back and swings. His fist catches the edge of Steve’s jaw hard enough to snap his head around with the momentum.

Stark shouts in either alarm or celebration, he isn’t sure which, and whips his phone out. Bucky shoots him a deadly glare that has him raising his hands in a placating gesture. Bucky moves, shoving Steve behind him and goes after the other man who is like a boxer charging after the bell rings. He gets his arm around him, metal ringing his neck and his other hand grasps the guy’s right hand doubting he’d be able to shoot anything if his hand was broken, in several places. He jerks him back, flush against his front, and the other man’s chest heaves with strain as Bucky gets his mouth near his ear, his voice filled with controlled malice as he speaks.

“No one touches Steve but me. Got it?” The guy nods sharply, taps his loose fingers against metal and Bucky lets go of him just as a redhead strolls into the hall.

She moves to Steve’s side and quirks a brow at him and he swallows. Hard. Bucky stares at her. Something about her plucks a thread in his mind and makes him itchy. It’s when her gaze trips from the archer to him that he remembers he might have tried to kill her. However, he doesn’t have time to dwell on that because the door to Darcy’s room flies open, yet again.

Everyone turns in unison and Bucky’s heart stops.

Darcy stands gripping an IV pole in a hospital gown that’s falling off one shoulder. Her face and neck are a bruised and bandaged mess, there’s a cast on her left forearm and hand, and her left leg and foot are wrapped up tightly. She has a black eye and both of her eyes are puffy and bloodshot from crying it looks like. Okay, so maybe Steve deserved that punch. He glances at the guy that threw it and gives him an apologetic look.
“I have to… pee,” she whispers as she takes in all of them.

Steve, the woman, and archer step forward at once but she shakes her head with a wince and hobbles out into the crowded hall. And right into Bucky. Her arms wrap around his waist, weak as a newborn kitten and he glances at Steve because he wants so bad to wrap her up and hold on but he doesn’t know how badly she’s injured.

“Stitches in her left side and bruised, just don’t squeeze,” says the archer and Bucky throws him a grateful glance as he wraps tentative arms around Darcy.

Her breath hitches against him and he gently rests his jaw against her temple and shushes her with endearments just as he’d done with Steve earlier. She pulls back after a couple minutes and peers up at him with a wet face. He smiles down at her and something settles in his chest.

“Hi.”

She mouths a greeting back and smiles a tiny smile before he remembers they aren’t alone. The two assassins stare at him like he’s a puzzle and Steve’s eyes are damp when he glances at him. Tony still stands observing with a devious grin.

“You aren’t supposed to be awake.”

Darcy frowns at the archer when he speaks then at the fiery haired woman when she steps around the men and offers her hand. She leans back in and presses her uninjured cheek to Bucky’s chest and he drops a kiss on the top of her head then reluctantly loosens his arms. Darcy pivots on one heel, careful not to put any weight on the other, and begrudgingly takes the help. Bucky watches as the woman slides her arm around Darcy’s waist and takes most of her weight and leads her away.

He turns once she disappears inside and meets Steve’s eyes with his own version of his patented ‘I’m-disappointed-in-you-son’ look. Stark laughs and makes himself scarce just as the archer goes back into Darcy’s room leaving him and Steve alone.

“Buck—”

“No,” Bucky cuts him off. “I don’t want to hear it because I know whatever is about to come out of your mouth is bullshit.” He steps closer to the chastised idiot and claps a hand on his shoulder. “It wasn’t your fault, none of it. I said,” he talks over whatever Steve tries to say. “I said it isn’t your fault, so shame on you for hurting our girl for nothing. Now we’re gonna go in there and see if she’ll show your dumbass some mercy, alright?” Steve nods but his shoulders are slumped in defeat.

Bucky squeezes his shoulder and lets him go. He turns to the door but pauses with his hand on the knob. Glancing over his shoulder he waits till Steve looks up from his shoes and meets his eyes.

“And, Steve? I love you, pal, but you’re in the doghouse even if she does forgive you.”

Steve sighs, nods pitifully, and follows him into the room.

 

* * *

 

Darcy bites down on a chip with a delightful crunch as she changes the channel, again. Barton heaves a loud sigh from the other end of the couch. She turns her head slowly to look at him and crunches through another bite much to his distaste. She’s been out of the med floor for a week and a half and she’s pretty sure he’s reevaluating his choices. It’s not that she’s a bad roommate, she’s just… She’s uncomfortable, in more ways than one. Her bruises are fading to ugly greens and yellows, her stitches itch and she can’t wait to get them out in two days. Her arm itches under the now decorated cast, she hates using the stupid crutches the doctor forced her to take, she’s constantly nauseous, and almost always hungry despite that last fact. And don’t even talk to her about the bathroom situation. She’s sick of it all and she’s only 5 1/2 weeks pregnant.

Odin help her if, when it gets worse.

Clint’s phone vibrates across the table and rings with a shrill tune and he hops up snatching it up. Darcy watches him with narrowed eyes and groans when her stern glare is ruined by a yawn. She needs a nap. She’s been sleeping a lot, which the doctor said is a good thing, but it’s starting to wear her out, if that’s even possible. Speaking of doctors, Clint remains the only one that knows she’s pregnant, although she suspects that both Nat and Coulson know, too. Damn spies. The medical staff had been reminded of the doctor-patient confidentiality very politely and Darcy swore Barton to secrecy. She’d tell Steve and Bucky when she was ready. And she wasn’t.

She slumps over into Barton’s vacant seat and pulls her hoodie tighter around her. Steve had broken her heart then Bucky had turned around and stapled it back together. After the spectacle in the hall outside of her room they’d came in as she was being tucked back into bed. Nat and Clint had left at her request and the room had gone quiet. Bucky was the first to apologize. He’d taken her hand and asked her if she could forgive him for attacking her. It hadn’t been hard to say yes because she’d never blamed him to begin with.

Steve had stood at the end of her bed looking lost and no matter how mad she was at him she didn’t like knowing he was hurting. But she’d waited because despite how much her heart ached for him, what he’d done had left her reeling. This was one reason why she hadn’t told him about the baby then. She knew she wouldn’t have been able to watch him walk away from her again. When he’d finally spoken he’d been contrite but honest. She’d accepted his apology but told him she was gonna need some time. He’d stared at her in shock for all of thirty seconds before he’d smiled a sad smile and declared that he deserved that. Bucky had looked between them with a wry twist to his mouth and shook his head. No one had to tell him what happened, she figured he knew Steve better than her anyway and could guess.

So for the past week and a half she’s had quiet visits from her soulmates, Steve always polite with a hangdog expression, and Bucky a little more tense each one. They have him in ‘therapy’ but he tells her it’s just their excuse to poke and prod at him. She worries that there’s more he isn’t telling her, but with her hidden away in Barton’s end of the tower she doesn’t have all of the information she wants. She won’t ask Steve because he’s being punished, which she’s thinking about putting an end to because she misses sleeping next to him. She misses being with them. Barton rolls his eyes at her and tells her no one can change the situation except for her. He usually gets hit in the face with a pillow or whatever she’s eating when he tries to play Dr. Phil.

“Darce, you asleep?”

“Almost!” she loves that she can speak at full volume again.

“Well, get up ‘cause you need to pack a bag,” Clint says and walks back into the living room pulling on his shirt. He’s in his uniform. Darcy sits up with a frown.

“Solo, SHIELD, or Avengers?”

“Avengers. Some thing in Jersey with Doombots, again.” He presses a control on the wall next to the thermostat and a panel slides back revealing his bow and other various weapons.

“Why am I packing a bag then? That shouldn’t take long,” she muses.

“Boss asked me to get you to, and I quote” ‘keep our new resident company and out of trouble’ while we’re gone.”

“Steve’s going, too?”

“He is an Avenger, babe.”

“Why do I smell conspiracy in the air?”

Clint pauses adjusting a strap and glances at her, his eyes just a little too wide with innocence. “Pregnancy brain?”

“Fuck you, Barton.”

“Ask Natasha nicely.”

Darcy huffs out a breath of annoyance, grabs her crutches, and pushes up off the couch, ignoring his grin all the while she moves into the hall with his laugh nipping at her heels.

 

*

 

Fifteen minutes later…

 

Darcy knocks politely on Steve’s door and hefts her overnight bag onto her shoulder, leaning on her damned annoying crutches. Two beats later the door swings open revealing Steve half-in his Cap getup. He doesn’t realize it’s her.

“Wheels up in five, Nat, I know.” He looks up from a closure and blinks at her. She gives him a finger wave. “Darcy… you’re not Nat.”

“No,” she says and smiles just this side of bashful. “I’m not.”

“Sorry! Come in, Nat just called and… wait. Why are you here?”

Darcy shakes her bag and sighs. “I’ve come to keep Bucky company while you’re away.”

“Nat said we’re going to New Jersey…?” he slides an arm into his suit and glances at her with another quizzical look. She shrugs.

“I have a feeling we’re being set up.”

“Who’s being set up?” Bucky asks as he magically appears behind her shoulder from nowhere and makes her jump in alarm. “Sorry,” he says not sorry at all. She’s already threatened him with a cat-bell before. “Hi, doll,” he slides his arms around her waist from behind so he doesn’t disturb her support and smacks a kiss to her crown.

“Um,” Steve blinks at them. “I don’t know,” he replies ever so eloquently.

“Us,” Darcy gestures with a circular motion with the leg of a crutch between them. “I think we’re being set up.”

“Who would do that?”

“Natasha,” Steve and Darcy answer together and he offers her a smile.

“Why would she set us up?” Bucky gives them both a perplexed look.

Darcy makes a face and purses her lips blowing out a breath before supplying him with her theory. “I might have been a bit mopey since I went to Barton’s. Nat keeps staring at me and they whisper.”

Bucky leans down and whispers in her ear even though Steve can surely hear him clear as day, “I know the feeling.”

Steve clears his throat and does up the last clasp on his uniform. “Well, you’re welcome to stay. You always were.”

He turns and walks to a side-table and picks his phone up, glances at it, and puts it in his pocket. They watch him bend down and grab up his shield and slide it into place on his back. And that’s when it hits Darcy like a ton of bricks. She is one of Captain America’s soulmates. She is going to have Steve Rogers’ child…

When Steve faces them with his cowl and gloves in his hands she pats a hand against Bucky’s arm to let her go. When he does she drops her bag to the floor then hobbles over to a surprised looking Steve. She tries to lean up on tiptoe but it’s kind of difficult and she makes a disgruntled noise so Steve will get with the program. It only takes him a second before he leans down to her level and Darcy places a chaste kiss to the corner of his mouth then steps back. He stares intently at her and she offers him a warm smile in return.

“Be careful.”

“I will…” his voice is quiet and he glances over her shoulder.

She follows his lead and Bucky is wearing a knowing smirk. Darcy rolls her eyes and moves past him, managing to whack him in the shin with her crutch when she does. His ‘hey!’ of protest makes her smile as she heads to the kitchen.

That night while they’re curled up on Steve’s massive bed (she’s 99.9% sure Tony Stark picked it out) and watching ‘The Mummy’ (the Brendan Fraser version) Bucky admits to her that he and Steve haven’t spoken much since they arrived. The word ‘doghouse’ is used and Darcy tries really hard and fails not to laugh. That explains why Steve had been looking so lost. They agree that he’s paid the majority of his dues to them and should be ‘invited back inside where it’s warm’.

They’re on ‘The Mummy Returns’ when she asks him how ‘therapy’ is going. He begrudgingly confesses that talking to someone is actually helping some. Recovery won’t be easy by any means but she’s so very proud of him. She takes the opportunity to show him and smiles at him then leans over placing a warm kiss to his jaw. She doesn’t expect him to turn his head, though. Nor does she expect him to raise a hand and trail warm fingertips down the side of her face. His lips are damp like he’d licked them only seconds before and he takes his time, coaxing her lips apart. He teases her with nips that sting and kitten licks that soothe and it sets a fire in her stomach alight.

They make out and miss the end of the movie, the credits rolling as they pull apart breathing the air from each other’s lungs. He grins at her and if Darcy weren’t already a puddle of sap atop the covers, she knows she’d melt like wax. He kisses the tip of her nose making her laugh quietly then suggests they get ready for bed. Darcy doesn’t get nervous or start to panic because she knows nothing will happen, not without Steve. So she agrees and slides off the bed to go take her turn in the bathroom. Once she’s done she goes back to Steve’s room and cues up ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ and climbs under the covers. Everything smells like Steve and she gets busted sniffing the pillow when Bucky walks in. He chuckles and crawls in next to her, the lights already off. She check her phone for any sign of trouble but Jarvis had already assured them that the team had easily taken care of the situation and were doing clean up already. Debriefing would follow and Darcy’s battery has hit the red and she can barely keep her eyes open now.

Bucky spoons up to her back, fitting them together snugly, and Darcy watches half an episode before dropping off into a dreamless sleep.

 

* * *

 

Steve slips into the apartment on silent feet just as the sun’s coming up, props his shield up by the door, and bends to unlace his boots and tug them off. He drops his things onto the side-table and pads on sock encased and tired feet to the kitchen. He stops in the doorway at the sight that greets him. Bucky’s leaning on the counter with a mug in his hand, his sweatpants are slung low on his hips, he’s wearing a shirt that has a half man/half robot person on it and proclaims ‘Hasta La Vista, Baby’, and his hair is in wild disarray. He looks sleep mussed and Steve wants.

Then he flicks his gaze over to where Bucky’s staring with rapt attention.

Darcy stands in front of the stove stirring something in a skillet with her back to him, her left arm with the cast looped around one crutch. She’s wearing an oversized shirt that he’s been missing since someone had dropped their stuff off after arriving, and a pair of pink shorts (underwear?) barely peeks out under the hem. Her hair is in a messy knot on top of her head and she’s humming something out of tune. Steve wants to come home to this after every mission. He was stupid to think he could live without them and in that moment he knows that he’ll do anything to make things right between the three of them.

He doesn’t realize Bucky is staring at him till he clears his throat. Steve looks back at him and there’s a smug smile adorning his mouth behind his mug. He can’t help but to return it.

“You’re home! Hi, mornin’ how’d it go? You hungry?”  

Darcy’s voice makes his smile widen and he shrugs going for nonchalant. “I could eat.”

“Of course you—” Darcy’s lips press together and the color drains from her face. Bucky puts a hand on her arm and frowns down at her.

“Doll, you okay?”

“I think… Yeah, here, take this!” She shoves the spatula into Bucky’s hand with her right and uses her crutch to hop her way past him. She makes it as far as the sink then she’s retching. She raises a shaky hand to turn the faucet on and he and Bucky share a concerned look before moving to her. Bucky rubs her back carefully with his left hand like he’s done this before and Steve is confused now on top of concerned.

“Darcy, sweetheart, tell me what I can do.” She waves him off with her crutch and groans as she dry heaves. “Did she eat something bad last night or something?” he asks Bucky and he shakes his head no.

She leans forward and rinses her mouth out then folds her arm on the edge of the sink and pillows her head on it. Bucky’s frown deepens like he’s trying to figure something out and Steve just stands there with his hands hovering above Darcy, unsure. It’s an awkward couple of minutes before Darcy straightens and they step back. She turns around slowly, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand and avoiding their eyes.

“So, I guess this means we need to talk… Will you let me go brush my teeth while you get rid of those eggs, then we can all sit down?”

Steve glances to Bucky and he answers for them both with a nod. Darcy sighs in what he thinks is relief and slips from the kitchen. Bucky goes about cleaning up the mess and Steve drinks two glasses of water then pours himself a cup of coffee. Bucky refills his own mug and Steve follows him to the living room. He settles into his favorite chair with a sigh as Bucky flops down on the couch, propping his feet up on the table to annoy Steve, and turns the TV on. They watch the news for nearly thirty minutes before Darcy comes limping slowly back into the room sans crutches and sits between them. He watches Bucky stare at her and he sees the moment some metaphorical light bulb goes off behind his eyes. He wants to know what’s going on too, dammit.

“Okay, I’m just going to rip the proverbial band-aid off here,” Darcy says then glances from Bucky who rests a comforting hand on her thigh to Steve who smiles at her tiredly. She takes a deep breath and reaches a hand out to him and he’s helpless but to get up and kneel down in front of her. Darcy pets his stubbly jaw (he’d shaven the day after they’d come home) and threads her fingers through his gritty hair. “I know we haven’t talked about it yet, but you know I love you, right? Both of you?” Steve swallows and nods, reaching up to cover Bucky’s hand on her thigh.

“Of course we do,” Bucky helpfully replies.

Darcy sniffles and gives him the most beautiful smile, and then she proceeds to give him a heart attack.

“I’m pregnant.” 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“You’re what?”

“I believe she said she’s pregnant, punk.”

Steve’s gaze drops to Darcy’s flat stomach as if he stares hard enough he’ll see it. It doesn’t work, but he stares anyway. His thoughts have scattered like cockroaches in the light and he can’t grasp a single one. He knows what Darcy said and what it means but all logical explanations elude him. And apparently his manners have fled as well as he maneuvers his legs, pushing the coffee table out of the way, and sits back on his butt. His hand slides off of his soulmates and falls limply to rest with the other in his lap.

And he stares.

He isn’t sure how long he’s been sitting there when Bucky’s voice stage whispers: “Doll, I think you broke Stevie…”

Darcy’s laughter draws his eyes up from her still impossibly flat stomach to her face. Her eyes are bright although she’s pale, and she’s wearing glasses… had she had those on when he came home? Bucky has an arm around her shoulders now and is watching him with a patient expression, but his eyes are sparkling. Steve swallows around a lump in his throat.

“You… We’re having a baby?” he asks, his voice filled with astonishment.

Darcy just nods at him.

“How far along are you?” Bucky questions and Steve silently thanks him because his brain isn’t quite functioning again yet.

“Five and a half-ish weeks,” Darcy says and threads her bottom lip between her teeth.

Steve takes a second to wade through the swirling mess of his thoughts to five weeks ago. When it comes to him he meets her gaze and there’s a faint blush coloring her cheeks. He remembers.

“Nashville, that storm, and the first…”

She nods again and glances at Bucky. Steve feels a lurch of guilt in his gut because that was before he’d shown up. He looks to his best friend and finds him smirking for some odd reason.

“Don’t,” is all Bucky says.

Steve takes him at his word and slowly shifts up to his knees again. He places hesitant hands on Darcy’s knees till she parts them so he can wedge his bulk between them. Bucky reaches out with metal fingers and cards them through his hair and the touch grounds him.

“We’re really having a baby? I mean, you want to keep it, right?” he babbles.

Darcy lifts her right hand and cradles the other jaw. Steve has an overwhelming sense that this is what all of the malarkey about soulmates is about. He’s warm inside and loved and although he’s terrified, he knows they’ll make any situation work. Together.

“I’m keeping it, and yes, we are having a baby… If that’s alright with both of you?” Her voice wavers a little and Steve folds like a cheap suit.

He wraps his arms around her waist, careful of her stitches, buries his face against her stomach, and cries. It isn’t the same as when he’d held Bucky when he woke, instead they’re tears of relief and absolute awe. He hears Bucky laugh, loud and bright, Darcy, too as their limbs grab onto him and hold.

Steve never got to dance with Peggy, he never had the chance to marry, and he never got around to telling Bucky how much he really loved him. And since he’d been unthawed it’s been one hurdle after another. But as the tears empty him out he knows he’s making room for all of the good coming his way. With Darcy and Bucky holding onto him he can almost hear his ma whispering in his ear, ‘One day you’ll be so happy, Stevie, that your heart will spill over and paint everything gold, and when it all shines you’ll know you’ve made it.’

I’ve made it, ma. I’ve finally made it.

 

* * *

 

Darcy, Steve, and Bucky officially move into their own floor of the tower when Darcy accepts Pepper’s job offer to work for SI. They’d wanted to wait until her first trimester came to an end, just to be on the safe side, to announce the news. They had planned to tell them that Friday at the thing Stark was throwing, but nothing in Darcy’s life ever goes as planned. Steve’s been out with Sam and Maria on some mission and is due back any minute, so Darcy had sweet talked Pepper (hadn’t been hard) into ordering food. It’d been minutes before the others came wandering in following their noses to the brunch spread.

“So? Does that mean you won’t come play with us?”

“Dude, you really should work on your recruitment speech,” Darcy says as she crunches on a piece of bacon.

Tony ignores her and continues to badger Jane about moving from her current facility in Seattle to the tower. He doesn’t know that Darcy’s already talked her into it. And Jane doesn’t know that she wants her close because she’ll be popping out a kid in six-ish months. So Darcy sits back and listens to them argue feeling quite pleased with herself. Bucky stretches an arm out behind her and she unconsciously leans into him. His therapy was going smoothly and he’d even managed to rope Steve into setting up his own sessions. She was so fucking proud of her men and utterly in love with them both. She zones out thinking about the first time they’d all slept together (the word ‘mindblowing’ is an understatement) until someone nudges her foot under the table. Glancing up she meets Natasha’s eyes and the redhead nods towards the doorway.

“Cap, fresh from the battlefield, I see,” Tony declares and Steve rolls his eyes. “No really, were you posing as a lumberjack because you’ve nailed it, really.”

He’s in jeans, a Henley that makes Darcy’s mouth water, and he’s got a beard again. She’s out of her seat before he’s even entered the room. Bucky follows her at a more sedate pace. Steve’s grin is all she can see and she’s never been so happy to be completely healed as she throws her arms around his neck. His laugh makes her heart flip-flop in her chest and he wraps strong arms around her and lifts her feet off the floor. Darcy peppers kisses all over his face and doesn’t even notice the people that push past them with good natured huffs and complaints.

“Missed you, punk,” Bucky’s voice is just for them.

Steve sets her back on the floor and presses a chaste kiss to her lips as he unwinds one arm and hooks it around Bucky’s neck to reel him in. Darcy loves being in a Super Soldier sandwich. When he lets him go Bucky’s cheeks are an adorable shade of red. Without preamble Steve steps back and leans down pressing a smacking kiss to her stomach and whispers hello to the baby. It’s something he and Bucky had both gotten in the habit of doing, but only within the walls of their apartment. Darcy’s eyes go wide as all activity in the room comes to a screeching halt. She watches Steve close his eyes and hide a groan against her belly that has only the tiniest of bumps just yet.

“Oh, my God…” Of course Tony would be the first to say anything.

Barton bursts out laughing. Jane squeals. Steve straightens with a look on his face like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Darcy sighs heavily and rolls her eyes then turns around, nudging Bucky out of the way.

“Soooo, guess now is better than later. We’re pregnant!”

Coulson pauses with a piece of toast half-way to his mouth and stares at Steve like he’s grown another head, then he stands and says “Congratulations, Captain.” And the room erupts into noise and motion. The team descends on them like a bunch of little ole ladies with congratulations. Darcy gets passed around from person to person, some politely asking to poke at her and others (Jane and Barton) groping her with abandonment. Bruce even gives her an awkward one-armed hug. And she’s pretty sure at one point Nick Fury even hugs her and it’s all leather and really good-smelling cologne. They spend the rest of the day lazing in the common room and watching movies. Steve falls asleep stretched out across a couch with his face pressed against her stomach and Bucky’s fingers in his hair.

Darcy doesn’t think she’s ever been this happy.

 

*

 

Darcy’s four months and two weeks pregnant when her bump pops. She goes to bed with a slight roundness and wakes up looking like someone shoved a balloon under her shirt. She cries and Bucky and Steve reassure her that she’s beautiful. She won’t let them touch her, suddenly feeling completely overwhelmed. She knows it’s nothing but a mood swing but she can’t help it. Dressing in a pair of sweats and stealing one of Bucky’s hoodies, she leaves the apartment and goes to the common kitchen. She picks at a biscuit and in the end she grabs a bottle of water and leaves there too. She wanders around the tower for a good hour before she finds herself outside Stark’s workshop.

“No pregnant women in my shop,” Tony says when Jarvis lets her in. “It’s like having a woman on a pirate ship, it’s cursed. You’ll jinx me.”

Darcy ignores him and slumps onto the grungy couch he keeps for naps. It’s quiet, save for the blaring music, for almost twenty minutes. Tony takes off the weird looking glasses he’s wearing and turns to her. He eyes her and she lets him. She’s pregnant and kinda wants to cry and he doesn’t judge her or try to get her to talk. She’d have gone to Barton’s but he’d insist on finding out what’s wrong and just, nope. Stark starts with a joke then proceeds to tell her about what a horrible child he was. He has Darcy laughing in record time.

Steve finds her there three hours later eating pizza right out of the box and curled into Tony’s side as they watch ‘Tommy Boy’ on the screen he’d set up. She knows he wants to ask her questions but she’s surprised when he lowers himself to the floor by her and grabs a slice. Stark arches a brow at the back of his head then at her and Darcy just shrugs. Bucky trails in not twenty minutes later and follows suit.

Tony orders more pizza and restarts the movie.

 

*

 

Steve’s been out on a mission with Natasha and Barton for two weeks. Darcy is pretty sure that in that time she has actually managed to wear Bucky out. She had no idea that her hormones would go nuts like this, but she loves every minute of it. Pepper had taken her shopping for maternity clothes and she wasn’t aware that pregnant was sexy. But it is. That morning she’d left Bucky sweaty and falling back to sleep and had been ten minutes late for work. Pepper had merely given her a perfectly arched brow and pushed a cup of coffee across her desk. (Darcy still wasn’t happy about being forced to cut back to one cup a day. Damn Bucky Barnes and his paranoid Googling.)

But now it’s lunch and she’s stuck in the office while a meeting runs long. She’s hungry, she misses Steve, and she’s horny, again. Maybe Bucky will meet her for a bite (heh, a bite) before she’s set to be in another meeting. She loves Pepper, she really does but she wants to hurt the woman for talking Coulson into letting her work for her since she’s pregnant. She’s an Agent, dammit. She misses her Taser. And her gun. Her thoughts are interrupted by the door to the conference room cracking open. Darcy’s heart stutters when Steve pokes his head in. He glances at the room and grins when he spots her.

“Hi, sorry to interrupt, can I borrow Miss Lewis?”

“It’s no problem, Captain Rogers, and you sure can,” the short little bald guy giving the presentation says and he preens under Steve’s attention. Darcy tries really hard not to roll her eyes as she stands and gathers her things. Pepper gives her a small, entirely too knowing smile, and waves at Steve. Darcy squeezes the blonde’s shoulder in affection as she passes her. Steve holds the door open for her and he waits until it closes and they’re four steps away then backs her up against the wall, his mouth finding hers.

While he was away Darcy and Bucky had given him a play-by-play of their days on Skype every few nights, much to his disappointment because it involved quite a bit of sex. At least he’d had his own room and they could give him a little preview. Needless to say, she thinks it had gotten to him because his mouth is hot and his hands, even hotter. She urges him down the hall and into the office she shares with Pepper, and has enough mind to lock the door before he’s on her. He’s still in the tactical SHIELD version of his suit and it only takes her two snaps and a zipper before she has him in her hand. With a groan he rucks up the hem of her dress and with deft fingers he finds her wet and ready. As she strokes him he tortures her and kisses her senseless, his fingers moving in tandem with her grip. Then he pulls back out of her grasp and takes those lovely fingers away, spinning her around in a dizzying motion, her hands finding purchase on the surface of the desk, and he plunges home. The breath is punched from her lungs and she bites back a moan as he steadies her hips and sets the pace with deep snaps of his hips.

Darcy laughs breathlessly at the picture they must make: Captain America bending a pregnant office worker over a desk like a druggie getting his fix in a back alley. His thumbs find her nipples and she can’t quiet the cry that leaves her throat. He whispers things that Bucky taught him in her ear and her legs tremble. His hands slide down over the fabric of her dress then underneath to cradle her round belly and Darcy loses it. Her body quakes around him and two, three beats later he follows her, spilling into her with hot breath panting against her nape. He holds her close for a moment before slowly pulling away making her whimper. Then he asks her if she thinks she can get off work early so they can get lunch and take it home to Bucky and spend the rest of the day in bed.

This is Darcy’s life now.

 

* * *

 

Bucky curses at the wrench in his hand and has to fight the urge to crush the piece of wood in his left. Stark gives him a disapproving look and holds out a hand. Bucky glares at him and with a huff hands it over. He wonders when his ‘glares of doom’ as Darcy called them, stopped working. They’d agreed to decorate the nursery in neutral colors since they’d also opted not to learn the sex of the baby, and he’d been roped into helping. He felt a little out of place and Darcy wasn’t there to tell him he wasn’t. Dr. Foster, Ms. Potts, and Natalia had stolen her away that morning for a ‘girls’ day’. The men (minus Thor due to Asgard duties) had been ordered to have the nursery finished by the time they brought her back. Steve and Sam were painting while he, Barton, and Stark were supposed to be putting the furniture together. Barton already had his bookshelf together and was loading books onto it in the far corner.

He glares at him too for no good reason.

“Here, come hold this together, Barnes.”

Bucky sighs and does as instructed.

An hour later they all take a step back and observe their work. It’s actually not half-bad, he thinks. The walls are a soft seafoam-green, the furniture white, and there’s a pale yellow carpet in front of the ceiling to floor window where the rocker sits. He can see Darcy sitting there with morning light shining down on her, and Steve standing over the crib with that goofy grin he gets… Bucky blinks rapidly. He’s not crying. Steve slings an arm around his shoulder and he sags gratefully against him as the others filter out of the room giving them a moment of privacy.

“You alright?” Steve asks quietly.

Bucky responds with a finger jabbed at the shelf over the dresser where tiny Avengers action figures are posed. “Those have gotta go.”

“I dunno, I think I like them…”

“Wait!!! I forgot one thing!” Tony calls from the living room and Bucky sighs as Steve turns them so they can watch as he comes bounding back down the hall with a box in his hand that’s wrapped in hideous Iron Man paper. He hands it to Bucky instead of Steve. Bucky frowns at it and glances from the engineer to Steve. Steve shrugs and arches a brow. Tony just smirks and says, “It may not biologically be yours, but it’s still your kid, too, so… Open it!”

Bucky sighs and rips the paper off with some satisfaction as Iron Man’s face is ripped to shreds. Tony gasps in mock hurt and Steve laughs. When he gets the box pried open, he hesitantly reaches into the box and plucks out the object.

He will admit that he cries a little, and even shakes the man’s hand, but the Bucky Bear eventually finds its way into its spot of honor in the crib.

 

*

 

Darcy’s three days over her due date and miserable when her water finally breaks.

It’s 3am, Steve’s sound asleep, and Bucky had been asleep but Darcy kneed him in the thigh and woke him up. Used to it by now, he rolls up and out of bed and holds out a hand without opening his eyes. He still doesn’t understand how her bladder could hold so much when she hasn’t been drinking. But it’s par the course as she clutches his hand and he helps her to her feet. But instead of shuffling past him to the bathroom she tightens her grip. His eyes pop open and meet hers in the dark. Steve mumbles in his sleep due to the empty bed. Darcy opens her mouth to say something but he’ll never know what because their feet are suddenly wet.

“STEVIE!” Bucky barks out as Darcy looks down at the floor with shock on her face.

Steve jumps up so fast he gets tangled in the cover and almost trips. It’s comical, really. When his eyes focus and he takes in the scene on the other side of the bed, he actually flails. Bucky would laugh but they’re about to have a baby.

Everything is a blur after that. Bucky helps Darcy get cleaned up and changed while Steve calls the team. She tells him she’d felt weird all day and her back had been aching, which they know now had been contractions. By the time they get out of the door of their apartment Darcy’s panting and gripping his right hand like a lifeline. He mentally thanks Stark’s freak thoughtfulness that had doctors on call and a room set up and just waiting for this day on the medical floor. (He suspects Ms. Potts to be the cause in truth.) When Jarvis delivers them up to the 70-something floor, Steve with wide eyes and a frantic look about him accosts the first person in a lab coat and scares them to death. He rolls his eyes at the big lug and wrestles him into submission by clamping metal fingers around his wrist.

After they arrive it’s only a few minutes before they’re settled in a room with a nurse checking Darcy’s progress. Her eyebrows shoot up and she looks up at Darcy. Steve and Bucky both go pale thinking something is wrong.

“You’re six centimeters dilated already. It shouldn’t be long.” She assures Darcy then leaves them.

‘Long’ turns out to be an almost eight hour wait. The team pops in randomly, Jane telling Darcy that it’ll be just like that time they got the van stuck in a ditch and had to push it out. Bucky arches a brow at the woman but he lets it slide (he’ll get the story out of Darcy later) since she made their girl laugh. Barton and Natasha only stay (in the room) for a couple minutes, long enough for the archer to kiss Darcy square on the lips and tell her she’s ‘going to be fucking amazing’. Steve glares at him but Bucky thinks he agrees so he doesn’t say anything. Thor sweeps in and presents Darcy with an absolutely gorgeous golden baby blanket from Asgard that makes her tear up and Steve grin. Tony wanders in around 9am and Darcy’s breathing hard from a passing contraction (she’d opted for a drug free birth; he thinks he understands and is proud of her). He claps Steve on the shoulder and hands Darcy a jewelry box, then gives Bucky a smirk and leaves the room. Darcy opens the box and inside nestled in white tissue paper is a silver necklace with a single baby bootie hanging from it. It’s red, white, and blue and very patriotic. Darcy laughs herself into another contraction.

When the nurse comes to check Darcy at 10 she beams at them and asks if they’re ready to have a baby. Bucky feels a thread of fear shoot down his spine. He’d been ready, the most level headed having been around his ma when she was pregnant with his sisters, but now it’s happening. Steve looks even more terrified and if anything it’s Darcy that looks like a warrior. Her hair is pulled up into her usual messy bun, there’s sweat glistening on her face, and her eyes are determined. Bucky has never been in love with her more than in that moment. Steve takes her right hand, Bucky her left, and the doctor takes his position. Although they’ve gone to the classes with her, read the books, watched the movies; nothing prepared them for this moment.

At 10:47am Emerson James Rogers is born.

The doctor’s call of “It’s a boy!!!” makes his knees weak and he meets Steve’s eyes over Darcy’s head and sees his tears reflected in them. The baby, this tiny pink bundle of flesh and ick is laid on Darcy’s stomach and she cries, they all do. His name is a statement from her mouth to God’s ears and they both nod at her, no protest to sound.

Later when the baby’s wrapped up tight in Thor’s gift and cuddled to Steve’s chest making him look like a giant, Darcy tiredly explains that Emerson means ‘Brave; powerful’. Steve laughs quietly and wipes tears out of his eyes. Bucky settles in a chair next to Darcy and presses a kiss to her shoulder. He runs a fingertip over his mark on her arm and looks up meeting her gaze, his voice quiet.

“You are, you know?” She arches a brow in question and he retraces the path of his fingertip. “It says ‘You have courage.’” He smiles at her. She blinks until a tear rolls down her face and he reaches up to track it with his thumb.

“I love you, James Buchannan Barnes,” Darcy’s smile is watery and Steve presses the baby into his arms, leans to press a kiss on Darcy’s brow, and then does the same to him. As he stares down through his own misty eyes at the tiny baby blinking up at him with new eyes, Bucky’s heart settles, because this? This is what home feels like.

 

* * *

 

Two days after Emerson’s second birthday Sarah Jane Barnes is born with her mother’s nose and her daddy’s eyes.

 

fin.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Somewhere in a not so very near alternate dimension…

 

Darcy rolls over and groans as the movement makes her stomach slosh and threaten rebellion. Her head pounds and she drags her pillow over it to keep the light out. From somewhere beyond her cotton prison someone laughs and the bed moves as said person gets up. The sound of a lighter being struck, a deep inhalation, and exhalation is muffled but the smell of cloying smoke reaches her nose. A finger pokes her shoulder, the bed dips again, and there’s damp lips pressing against her bare shoulder where the sheet has slid down. The corner of the pillow is pried from her fingers and she scowls from behind last night’s mascara.

“I had the weirdest fucking dream, ever,” she croaks.

“The ménage à trios one again?”

Darcy laughs despite the ache in her head and shoves her companion back. She sits up holding the sheet to her chest and thanks him when he hands her a glass of water and a couple ibuprofen. Swallowing them down she winces as her insides protest. Damn Barton and his Jägermeister. She knew drinking those shots followed by Nat’s vodka would fuck her up. But does she ever listen? No, the answer is never.

“So, tell me what you dreamed.”

She sits the glass aside and smirks. “Actually it was a damn three-way… with Barnes and Rogers. I popped out a kid or two.”

Darcy yelps as she’s pounced with a playful growl. Her jaw is nipped at and she watches him lean back, take another drag from his cigarette, blow a perfect ring of smoke to the ceiling, and stretch to set it in the ashtray on the nightstand. The lean lines of his frame are decorated with swirling ink in patterns that defy logic, his jaw is scruffy, hair messy from her fingers, and he’s naked as the day he was born. Darcy grins up at him when he settles back over her with a mischievous glint in his eyes.

“You think if I slept with my boss he’d let me off for the day?” she asks.

“He might, but his wife probably wouldn’t like that.”

“But would he?”

“Oh, no doubt and he would give it serious consideration… maybe you should ask him.”

Darcy loops her arms around his neck and leans up, her lips brushing his earlobe as she speaks. “Mr. Stark, care to play hooky with your secretary?” His laugh is warm and melts her insides. Darcy raises her left hand in the air and snaps her fingers, says: “Rock me, J, and make it dirty.” the light glints off of the blood-red garnet ring that rests on her third finger. It matches the ink etched into the skin of her arm down to the tiny skulls that flank the stone.

As A Perfect Circle’s ‘Counting Bodies like Sheep to the Rhythm of The War Drums’ filters through the smoke of Tony’s cigarette, Darcy’s laughter turns into cries of pleasure. Two hours later they break for lunch and she’s happy to report she doesn’t think she’ll be getting fired. By the time The Pretty Reckless’ ‘Going to Hell’ pours through the speakers (the last song on her ‘Dirty Mix Volume 6), they’ve moved to the shower and Darcy sincerely hopes that that other dream her was having as much fun as she was!