Fourth of July is a Wednesday this year, so Darcy doesn't have the time or energy to go home for the holiday. On the plus side, nobody in New York knows it's her birthday (well, Jane knew at one point, but it's probably been pushed aside by all the sex she and Thor are having when she's not doing science things with Tony and Bruce, and maybe Coulson knows, since he hired her, but he's not talking), so she avoids getting serenaded with "Yankee Doodle Dandy" for three weeks beforehand. Some people might think it's cool to share their birthday with America, but Darcy's never been one of them.
On the downside, everybody she knows has plans, so nobody wants to go out and do shots when they could be at home watching the Stark Industries fireworks show, so she's probably going to have to spend it alone.
"Alone?" Jane says. "No way. You're coming to the barbecue."
"I can't just crash the Avengers' barbecue," Darcy says, though she really, really wants to now that Jane's brought it up. It's the most amazing way she can think of to spend her birthday (especially if nobody knows it but her), and that includes the time she spent it at Disney World.
"Sure you can," Jane says. "I'm telling Jarvis to add you to the guest list."
Darcy wears her favorite cut-offs and a star-spangled halter top that would be embarrassing any other day, but she figures if Captain America's going to be there, she won't even stand out.
Jane meets her at the entrance to Stark Tower, so she doesn't have to go it alone, but she's still a little startled when the elevator doors open and the first thing she sees is a big "HAPPY BIRTHDAY" sign draped over the bar.
"Uh," she says, stopping short. She has to force herself not to get right back on the elevator and go home.
"Oh," Jane says, running right into her. "I forgot to tell you, it's Steve's birthday."
"Oh," Darcy says, sucking in a relieved breath. "Right. I should've known that."
Jane herds her out onto the deck, which is amazing. Up this high, there's a steady breeze to blow away the humidity and make the heat pleasant instead of sticky and unbearable.
Jane abandons her for a conversation with Bruce about the Higgs boson particle (Tony keeps yelling his own observations about it from where he's fighting Clint for control of the grill), but Thor takes pity on her and steers her around, reintroducing her to the others as, "Jane's dear friend, Darcy, she of the mighty taser."
When they get to Steve, she sticks out her hand for him to shake. "Happy birthday. I'm sorry I didn't get you a gift."
"Wow," he says, still holding her hand. "Thanks. You look--"
"I was going to say gorgeous, but maybe that's a little forward of me."
Darcy grins and tosses her hair. "The judges will allow it."
"Do you want a drink?" Steve still hasn't let go of her hand, and after a quick glance at Thor, who grins and shrugs, she lets him lead her over to the cooler. He has to let her go to open it up, though, and she kind of misses it, so before she can think too much and stop herself, she switches the beer to her right hand takes Steve's hand again in her left. He looks startled at first, and then pleased. Their palms are both a little damp from condensation, but they fit together pretty well. He gives her a shy smile and settles down next to her on a wooden picnic bench to watch the shenanigans playing out around them.
"Just because you're good at setting shit on fire doesn't mean you're capable of being the grill master," Clint is saying, holding the tongs up as high as he can. He's not actually taller than Tony, though, so it looks like it's going to devolve even further before Pepper comes out with a drink in her hand.
"Tony, remember what happened at Rhodey's birthday party two years ago?"
"Everybody drank a lot and we had a great time?"
"You nearly set the house on fire and we had to order out for pizza." Pepper hands him the drink and then reels him in by his belt loops for a quick kiss. "You're setting off a ton of fireworks tonight. Let Clint cook so we can all enjoy the party."
"Fine," Tony says, kissing her again and then taking a long sip of his drink. "But if my burger isn't perfectly pink and juicy, I know who to blame."
It's a needless threat--the burgers are perfectly pink and juicy and probably the best Darcy's ever tasted. Or maybe that's because of the company. She sits with Steve while they eat, and they talk a little bit about her job at SHIELD and his volunteer work at various soup kitchens and senior centers around the city.
"I also coach a girls' soccer team in my neighborhood," he says. "I don't know anything about soccer, but the guy who was running it has colon cancer, and they needed someone to step in, or the team was going to have to be disbanded."
"Go Petunias," she says, pumping her fist theatrically, but he just looks bemused. "Never mind."
"They're actually called the Stars," he says apologetically. "You should come see them play sometime."
Darcy remembers her own childhood soccer team--the Mustangs--and the smell of fresh cut grass and the thrill of running up and down the field and the sweet, juicy taste of oranges at halftime. "I'd like that," she says with a smile, and she actually means it.
It's shading towards twilight when Pepper brings out the cake, shining with sparklers instead of candles, just like every birthday cake Darcy had growing up. She feels a little pang at singing to someone else on her birthday, but Steve looks so ridiculously adorable that she gets over it pretty quickly.
Of course, she and Tony are the only ones who singsong, "Are you one? Are you two? Are you three?" while Steve takes the sparklers off the cake. She grins up at him and he just shakes his head.
Even though there are no candles to blow out, Clint still asks, "What'd you wish for?"
Steve shakes his head and laughs. "If I tell it won't come true."
"Wait," Jane says. "We need to sing to Darcy, too."
"It's Darcy's birthday, too."
Darcy's torn between wanting to kill Jane and wanting to kiss Steve breathless for the surprised and pleased look he's giving her. "Really?"
She ducks her head and nods. "Yeah."
He hands her a sparkler. "Then I guess we have to sing again."
They do, just as raucously as they did before, and Darcy's cheeks start to ache from smiling so much.
Steve cuts the cake first--it's a giant strawberry shortcake frosted with real whipped cream that's starting to wilt in the heat--and then hands the knife to Darcy.
"Is this where they smash cake in each other's faces? Because I always thought that looked kinda fun," Tony says, and Pepper shushes him.
"That's weddings, Tony," Natasha says.
"Let's not be hasty," Steve says.
Darcy elbows him. "Hey. A guy could do a lot worse than me."
"Believe me, I know." He smiles at her, and it's like they're the only two people on the roof. She licks her lips and his gaze drops to her mouth. She feels herself swaying towards him, and she swears he's going to kiss her, right there in front of Thor and Tony Stark and everyone, but of course, Tony interrupts.
"And if, like Pepper, you're allergic to strawberries, we've got a nice cheesecake inside."
"I think that's my cue," Bruce says. "I'm going to head on in for cheesecake and some nice calming tea before the fireworks start. Happy birthday, Steve, Darcy."
The cake is delicious, even if Darcy's so full she can't finish a whole piece. She swipes one of Steve's strawberries and he lets her.
"You have--" He brushes the corner of her mouth with his thumb and she feels like someone's hit her with a taser, every nerve in her body coming alive. She doesn't make any noise, and she doesn't think she moves, but Steve freezes, his thumb warm against her skin. So she does what anyone would, and licks the whipped cream off the pad of his thumb. It's his turn to jolt like he's been tased.
"Come on," she says, putting her plate down and taking his hand again. There isn't really anywhere to go but inside, so she leads him into the weird sunken in living room and then stops. She takes his other hand and looks up at him, for once unsure how to proceed. Most of her hookups come after a night at the bar, and they don't involve Captain America.
"I'd really like to kiss you now," he says. "I might have wished for that when I wasn't blowing out the candles."
"Really?" she says, tipping her face up to meet his. "What a coincidence! I wished the same thing."
His lips are warm as they brush against hers, setting off waves of heat in her veins. She licks her way into his mouth and then sighs when he lets go of her hands so he can pull her close, cradling the back of her head with one hand and squeezing her hip with the other before he pushes it up underneath the loose hemline of her halter top to splay against the small of her back.
The kiss is soft and sweet and it makes her want to push him down on the couch and kiss him until they're both drunk with it, until her lips are swollen and tingly and every breath she takes tastes like him.
They're startled apart by the boom of the first fireworks exploding, red and gold over the East River.
"Funny," she says, her lips against Steve's jaw, "I thought the show had already started."
He laughs into her mouth and they kiss some more, the fireworks behind her eyelids just as showy as the ones going on outside.
"Happy birthday, Steve," she whispers the next time they come up for air.
"Happy birthday, Darcy."