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ah, but it's cold outside

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Snow is falling thick and heavy in the fading daylight and Darcy presses closer to the glass to watch through the small patch not covered in a thick lacework of ice. She scrapes her nails on the ice, and shivers at the cold seeping into her fingertips. Lightning flashes in the distance, and a large silver and white line snakes across the sky. A sigh escapes her lips and the fear wrapped around her heart eases.

Darcy’s hand is deep in the pocket of her thick grey and blue knit cardigan, the pads of her fingers caress the smooth plastic of her taser; her other hand cradles her cell phone against her ear. The taser may not be much use against anything larger than a small truck, but it makes her feel better nonetheless. Her mind drags up the image of the teddy bear she used to drag around as a child to ward of the boogeyman.

“Please, baby girl, I just want you home safe.”

“Don’t worry, Jessie. It’s just a little bit of snow. I’m perfectly safe,” Darcy says, glad that she isn’t on a video call with the way the lies are falling from her lips as thick and fast as the snow.

“I don’t like it.”

Mom, it’s fine.” She mostly means it. It is safe inside The Tower. Outside, however, is a different story.

“You know I don’t like you calling me that. Makes me feel old.”

“I know. Look, I gotta go. My computer needs me,” Darcy says, glancing from the window to the computer interface before her. She mutters under her breath as she shoves files aside to find the feed she wants.

“God, you’re just like him.”

“Jessie, can we save this for Christmas Day like the rest of the world? Gotta go, Mom, love you,” Darcy says, ending the call. She shoves the phone into the pocket of her cardigan and pulls up one of the files on the digital interface. This is what she has always excelled at: diving deep into whatever technology was at hand and putting bits of data together like puzzle pieces. It was something her mother never could wrap her brain around. Not that Jessie ever really tried. “What’s going on out there JARVIS?”

“Sir and Prince Thor have distracted the entity away from The Tower. They appear to be playing a game and are leading it away from the city, Miss Lewis. The thread is minimal to Sir and there are no reports of injuries or destruction beyond minor damage to the balcony of the penthouse. I can pull up the video from the balcony if you wish,” JARVIS says.

Darcy shudders at the thought. “No, thats fine, JARVIS. Anything else?”

“Captain Rogers has returned to The Tower.” Darcy tamps down on the sudden flutter of butterflies in her belly. There is no time for ridiculous crushes. “Sir is also not happy that you are not on the jet as he advised.”

“Yeah, well, you can tell Sir to bite me,” Darcy mutters, pulling up another video feed showing Iron Man as a tiny flash of movement in the upper right corner of the screen. She pushes the video aside and pulls up another security camera farther from the tower. Thor’s cape flutters into view, hammer held high as a bolt of lightning strikes it. There is no way she is leaving. Not now. Not until everyone is back safe in the tower.

“I shall inform Sir of your wish to stay within the safety of--,” JARVIS says, words cut off in a high pitched whine. The lights and interface flicker off and on, before giving up the ghost altogether.

“JARVIS?” she calls out, but there is no reply. “Just great.” Darcy tugs her hat lower down on her ears, and holds her cardigan closer to her chest. Perhaps she should have taken the cab to the airport after all.

The power is out and the temperature in the room, already low to begin with, plummets lower. Darcy grabs a blanket that had been haphazardly draped across an elegant and sturdy looking chair. Ten minutes later, fed up of freezing and rethinking her life’s choices, Darcy eyes the fireplace installed specifically for the Christmas season.

Stacked with pristine logs and decorated with stockings for each of the Avengers, the brain trust, Darcy and JARVIS too, it looks far too good to be true. Sending up a little prayer that the thing that had been coiled around the tower doesn’t return, Darcy scrambles to find a gilt box filled with matches, in amongst the gaudy decorations grouped around the hearth.

Pulling the stack of wood apart, she rearranges the logs in the fireplace, adding balls of crumpled newspaper and pages from a discarded supermarket romance novel that she’s pretty sure she saw Barton reading earlier in the week. She stacks the wood back in a little tower, thankful for the first time in her life that her mom let her go on school camping trips.

Hands trembling, Darcy strikes one of the long tapered matches and sends a little prayer up to Thor that this time it stays lit long enough to start the fire. The pinprick flame nearly splutters out as she holds it in amongst the wood and balled paper. The paper catches fire, small flames licking at the kindling. She takes careful breaths, nudging more kindling into the flames until the fire is glowing brightly. Darcy throws her arms up in the air, swiveling her hips in a circle.

“Darcy,” rumbles a voice behind her.

Darcy jumps, whirling around, clawing at her pocket. “Jesus, Steve.”

“What are you doing up here? They evacuated the tower hours ago,” he frowns. There’s a line of worry between his brows. A line that she tries very hard not to put meaning behind. He’s Captain America after all; it’s practically his job to worry about everyone.

“Selling Girl Scout cookies, what does it look like,” she says tugging the blanket up higher on her shoulders and hoping the bright orange of the flames masks the embarrassed flush staining her cheeks. “What’s going on with Falkor?”

“Falkor?”

“Luck Dragon, from the movie the Neverending Story. You know the thing that turned the tower into the White Witch’s palace,” Darcy says holding her hands out to the tiny fire and hoping it catches the rest of the wood within the massive fireplace. Her gaze travels to the Christmas tree standing menacingly on display; Darcy does a quick mental calculation of how long the stack of wood will last before she has to ask Captain America to chop the tree up into pieces. She’s ninety-three percent certain Tony will get the tower powered up again before there’s any real danger of being frozen to death, but it’s good to have a backup plan.

“I can’t fly and the dragon wanted to play fetch with Thor and Mjölnir,” Steve’s words are punctuated by the distant rumble of thunder and they both glance out the window. “The White Witch’s palace huh? Shame there isn’t any Turkish Delight.”

“Ew, gross. Nobody wants that,” Darcy says wrinkling her nose in disgust. Steve’s mouth stretches into a wide in a grin that makes her heart beat faster. He steps closer to the fire and into her little bubble of personal space.

Steve’s hair is plastered to his forehead, face paler than she ever remembers seeing it in the months she and Jane have been living in the tower. He’s dressed in sweats with a navy blue fleece hoodie zipped up tight to his throat. “I, uh, really wasn’t needed,” he says. There is something low and rough in his voice that weighs the words down.

It’s a puzzle, and part of her wants to solve it, to pull apart the pieces and see what lies at the heart of it. But they aren’t close; they’ve hardly spoken in the months Darcy has been living in the tower. She has no right to pry. “Tell me the truth, you just didn’t want the ice dragonet to use your shiny shield as a chew toy.”

“Didn’t want to scratch the paint,” Steve says dryly and Darcy snorts. She steps sideways letting Steve move closer to the fire. He mutters something low under his breath and stretches his fingers out towards the flames. “Does Tony know you’re up here?”

Ah, there it is.

That bit of awkwardness that has been between them for months since about ten minutes after they met in the lobby and awkwardly flirted.

Ten whole minutes of possibility, shy smiles and butterflies swirling before Tony rained all over Darcy’s parade.

Again.

“Not exactly,” Darcy hedges and Steve turns to face her one eyebrow quirked high. “Well, dad knew I was here. I should have gone to Mom’s but we got into a bit of a fight because, and I quote, ‘You’re just like him’. Which be tee dubs is patently untrue. I mean I don’t even have any facial hair.” Darcy picks at the peeling red nail polish from her fingers. “Dad ordered me to take a car to the airport. I don’t do orders well. JARVIS knows I’m still here.”

“No power, no JARVIS,” Steve says flicking his gaze around the darkened room.

“Oops,” she says with a shrug. There is no way Tony isn’t going to be angry that she didn’t follow his orders. Really he should know better by now. Darcy never was very good with authority though she was far better at sharing her toys than her dad ever was. The best she could do was hope Tony would get distracted by something shiny.

Steve helps her push one of the couches closer to the fire and they take turns adding logs to the cheery flames and poking the fire with the obnoxious iron poker with a replica of the Iron Man face plate on the handle. It feels like days but in reality is only about an hour forty-eight minutes, before the power flickers on with an electric hum. The red and gold lights on the tree twinkle merrily, and the TV behind them bursts into life with ‘Putting the keys in my left pocket. Hmm hmm hmm hmm hmm. Gun in the right-hand side.’

“Yes,” Darcy says flashing a grin at Steve and elbowing him in the side. There is color in his face now, two rosy patches on his cheeks and the smile he gives her makes her belly give a mutinous flip. But then the power fails again plunging the room into darkness but for the dancing orange flames. “Let down,” she sighs reaching for the poker again. Her fingers brush Steve’s and a jolt of electricity travels from her fingertips all the way up her arm and down her spine. Her eyes dart up to his face and their eyes meet.

“Yeah,” Steve says not releasing the poker to her, and Darcy searches for something to say, anything to say. Gah, what are words when Steve Rogers is almost holding your hand?

Her phone starts vibrating in her pocket and Darcy jumps up, fishing it out and pressing the answer button. “Hey dad,” she says.

“Pep says you're not on the plane.”

“Because I’m not on the plane.”

“Where the hell are you, Dee?”

“I’m safe in the tower, away from menacing Luck Dragons, and my mother’s guilt trips, and I’m contemplating burning your tacky ass Christmas tree,” Darcy says rolling her eyes.

“One, my tree isn’t tacky, two, I told you to get out of the damn tower when they evacuated, and three, no fire.”

“Take a chill pill, dad. Captain America is here to make sure I don’t burn down the tower.“

“Let me talk to Capsicle.”

“Why, so you can have him toss me over his shoulder and carry me to the airport? Yeah so not going to do that, dad,” Darcy says, ignoring the inventive stream of curses Tony mutters. “The power’s out in the tower but everything is fine. What the hell is going on out there? Cap says Thor is playing fetch with Falkor and Mew-Mew.”

“Mjölnir,” Steve says low. Darcy sticks her tongue out at him.

“Thor opened the bridge and took his new pet back to show mommy and daddy.”

“Thank God. Are you on your way back? Can you please fix JARVIS? It’s freezing and I’m going through tech withdrawal,” Darcy whines.

“We’re having words later, Dee.”

“Love you too, dad,” she says ending the call and tossing her phone aside. After a moment she tosses her taser beside it and ignores Steve’s raised eyebrow at the weapon.

“He’s worried about you. It wasn’t safe,” Steve says.

“Dude, don’t you start too. I can take care of myself. Plus, you know, Captain America is on duty now,” she says leaning back into the couch and shoving her hands through her hair. The movement dislodges her hat, but it’s warm enough between the blankets, the fire, and Steve beside her.

She leans against Steve’s side and there is an awkward moment before he carefully wraps his arm around her. It’s just sharing body heat, Darcy tells herself as she sinks a little deeper into him. Her eyes drift closed to the smell of fire, pine, sunshine fabric softener on Steve’s shirt, and the faint cinnamon of his skin. Maybe for half a minute she pretends that they aren’t practically strangers that once flirted. Just half a minute of pretending Steve didn’t always look the other way whenever she walked into a room. “Do you ever wonder what it would be like if we were just two people?”

“I’m pretty sure we are two people,” Steve says shifting his focus from the flames to Darcy.

“No, I mean,” Darcy says wincing at the uncertainty in her own voice and wondering how her tongue got away from her again. “If I wasn’t Tony Stark’s bastard daughter and you weren’t his teammate, do you think we’d be friends?” or more than friends, she doesn’t say.

For weeks after the first time they met she kept hoping he would look at her again the way he had for those few minutes. The smile that lit up his face, the way his eyes raked over her when he thought she wasn’t looking, and the startled laugh she’d managed to pull from him.

God, she was an idiot.

“Forget I said anything.”

Steve’s arm loosens around her shoulders and before she can pull away ,the calloused pads of his fingers are beneath her chin, tilting her face up to look at him. His eyes search her face, flick down to her mouth and Darcy wets her lips reflexively. Her mind supplies her with movie quotes, and words laced with sarcasm sit heavy in her mouth. Her heart clenches tight when Steve leans in, breath fanning over her lips, and kisses her.

His lips are warm and dry as they move over hers. It’s gentle and sweet and everything she imagined a kiss would be with the captain, up until he sucks her bottom lip into his mouth, nips the flesh with his perfect white teeth. Darcy gasps and Steve licks into her mouth, his tongue curling along hers. He tastes like peppermint and dark chocolate and she wants to kiss him forever. Steve’s arms wrap around her and his hands tangle in the ends of her hair. He kisses her until her lungs scream for oxygen, and she pulls back to take in a gasping breath.

“Hell,” Steve curses low, panting for breath. He drops his head to her shoulder, and Darcy threads her fingers through his short cropped hair, scratching her nails over his scalp. Steve shivers and nuzzles her neck, and she squirms, a bubble of laughter escaping her lips.

"Sorry, ticklish," Darcy says when he lifts his head to stare at her in the dim light. A smile breaks out across his face, eyes crinkling and he’s kissing her again, pressing her back into the soft cushions of the couch. Her back is cold but Steve is a warm weight on top of her. Their legs tangle together and warmth pools between her legs as they kiss.

"Darce, we need to slow down," Steve says pushing up on his elbows to look down at her. The movement rubs his erection against her hip. Steve groans and Darcy gasps, clutching at his shoulder and the back of his neck.

"Steve," she whispers, afraid that if she speaks any louder it will shatter the moment. It doesn't matter anyway. Steve lowers his mouth, lips brushing hers and she traces the seam of his lips with her tongue. Steve deepens the kiss, chasing her tongue back into her mouth.

His tongue strokes hers and she arches up into him, curling her leg over his hip. Darcy rolls her hips and Steve whines, pulling his mouth from hers to bury his face in her neck."Steve? You okay?" Darcy combs her fingers through his hair, and takes a steadying breath. Her heart is beating fast, body thrumming with arousal.

"Yeah, just..." Steve says cutting himself off to map the curve of her neck with his lips and tongue. Darcy moans tugging on his hair, and Steve's hips jerk. "Darcy this is..."

"Awesome," Darcy says.

Steve huffs out a laugh that turns into a groan when she rolls her hips again. He tangles his hand in her hair, thumb rubbing back and forth on her cheek bone. "It's probably a little late to say I've been carryin' a torch for you," he rumbles.

"I dunno, I think I could stand to hear about that," Darcy says. Steve laughs, his shoulders moving beneath her hands. Darcy wets her lips, thinks about the things she should do and the things she wants to do. Steve rolls his hips slow, and heat burns through her body. "Or we could just make out some more."

Steve smiles down at her, and she feels the warmth of it down to her toes despite the slow rock of his hips against her, the heavy weight of his body pressing her down into the soft cushions. He trails wet, sucking kisses down the column of her neck, his hand skating up under layers of fabric to curl over the curve of Darcy’s waist and higher still to cup her breast through the lace of her bra. Darcy arches into his hand, grasping tightly to the back of his shirt. She wants to pull him closer, lose herself in the taste of his mouth, the smell of his skin.

Steve’s thumb rubs over the peak of her nipple and she moans, “We should probably...”

“Probably,” Darcy echoes rolling her hips so the length of him rubs right there.

“Darce, just....” Steve says raggedly. His nose brushes the side of her neck, breath tickling the sensitive skin there. Darcy wiggles and Steve bites back half a curse. “I need a minute,” he says lifting himself up to put space between them. His eyes are dark, pupils blown, neck and face flushed pink, hair standing on end, lips red and kiss-swollen.

“Just a minute,” Darcy asks arching her brows up and carding her fingers through his hair.

“Yeah,” Steve says. He dips his head down to kiss her soft and sweet. It’s innocent, or would be if they hadn’t just been making out like teenagers, and she’s so turned on, she aches.

Darcy kisses Steve’s cheek and whispers in his ear, “Do you have any idea how wet I am right now?”

“Christ, Darcy,” Steve mutters dropping his head to her shoulder. Laughter bubbles up in her chest and she can’t keep it in. Her shoulders shake and Steve gives out an indignant huff.

The Christmas tree catches her eye and the laughter dies in her throat. The strands of lights are softly glowing. She sucks in a sharp breath, Steve tenses above her and follows her line of sight.
No other lights are on in the room.

“JARVIS,” Darcy says sharply and Steve winces above her.

“Yes, Miss Lewis,” JARVIS replies is his crisp artificial English accent.

“How long have you been online,” Darcy asks pressing her fingers to Steve’s mouth before he can say anything.

“I was never offline, Miss Lewis.”

“Oh,” she replies meeting Steve’s eyes. Jaw rhythmically clenching and unclenching, Steve rolls off of Darcy and gets to his feet. She feels cold again, watching with wide eyes as Steve runs a hand through his hair, staring at the cheerful glow of the Christmas tree and kicking aside the blanket wrapped around his feet.

Steve reaches down to adjust himself in his sweats and her mind flicks over to not two minutes ago when he pressed her down into the couch, rubbing his thumb over her nipple and rocking his hips against hers. Heat sparks low in her belly, nipples harden, and she presses her thighs tightly together to ease the ache between them. God she needs to focus.

“Why the ruse of being powered down if you weren’t,” Steve asks, pulling Darcy’s thoughts out of the gutter.

“Part of my function within the tower is to monitor its inhabitants,” JARVIS says.

Steve looks at her questioningly but Darcy shakes her head, “What the hell is that supposed to mean, Jar Jar.”

“I would prefer you not call me by that appellation,” JARVIS says primly.

“Snob,” Darcy says.

“Answer the question please,” Steve says.

“I monitor the heart rates of those within the tower,” JARVIS answers crisply.

“So...,” Darcy says as she fits the pieces together.

“You set us up to be alone together,” Steve says. It isn’t a question, though it leaves Darcy in a tailspin of thoughts. It’s more than a little creepifying to think that her father’s AI just set her up with Captain America.

Darcy fists her hands in the sleeves of her cardigan and glances up at Steve through the fall of her lashes. The muscle in his jaw twitches, shoulders tense, eyes focused on the Christmas tree as he rocks on the balls of his feet. His thoughts are so loud she can almost hear them. He regrets it, she thinks, her heart clenches at the loss of something she never really had. Darcy smooths her hands through the wild tumble of her hair and gets to her feet. The nest of blankets falls to the floor forgotten. “We can—”

“No. Whatever it is you were about to say, don’t,” Steve says reaching out to touch her arm. His hand glides down to curl over her balled fist, his gaze locked to hers. She wants to squirm under the intensity of it. Wants to run and hide, and burrow deep into his chest. Find a space to curl up under the steady beat of his heart. Want, want, want.

Steve’s eyes flick down to her mouth, and the space between them melts away. He kisses her, hot and hard, tongue pressing between her lips, hands exploring the curve of her hips, pulling her in as close and closer still. They kiss until her head spins and her lungs burn.

“Sir would like me to inform you that he is on his way,” JARVIS says.

“He would be,” Darcy groans letting her head fall to Steve’s shoulder. Steve fingers tighten on her hips and he presses a kiss into her hair. Darcy blows out a slow breath and straightens up. “God I must look a mess.”

Steve’s eyes flick over her critically, “You’re beautiful.” He smoothes her blouse and cardigan down over her sides, lips quirking when her breath catches and he can’t miss the shiver that crawls down her spine. “Hair’s a mess though,” Steve smirks bending down to snatch her hat from the floor.

“Har har,” Darcy says pulling the hat down over her hair and hoping for the best. “Well?”

“Still stuck on you,” he nods and pushes a loose strand of hair underneath her knit cap. The pads of Steve’s fingers trail over her cheek and jaw to tilt her head up. He ducks down to press a quick kiss to her lips. It’s slow and sweet. Darcy sighs and Steve’s mouth curves against her lips.

“JARVIS? Do we have any marshmallows,” Darcy asks. Steve arches a brow and takes up the fire poker and jabs it into the heart of the flames. Embers spark and fly. Steve hums a tune low under his breath and Darcy can’t keep the smile from her lips.

“Yes, Miss Lewis, in the cupboard above the toaster,” JARVIS says.

“Awesome,” Darcy says spinning on her heel and purposely heading into the kitchen. She can feel Steve’s eyes on her with every step she takes.

The elevator pings in the hall.

“You know I’ve been busy fighting dragons all day and you’re up here setting fires to my tower,” Tony says, heels clicking on the floor.

“One dragon.”

Dragon being the operative word.”

“Hey dad, wanna toast marshmallows with us?” Darcy asks waving the package in her hands. As covers go toasting marshmallows probably isn’t the best, but she is not remotely ready to figure out what she is going to do about Steve, but she has to do something to stop thinking about her lips still tingling from his kisses.

“I said no fires. Why is there an us? There is no us,” Tony says with as close an approximation of a stern look on his face as she’s ever seen.

“By definition ‘us’ as used by a speaker to refer to himself or herself and one or more other people,” Darcy says. She jerks her thumb over her shoulder. “So, you know, me and the soldier in the living room with the fire poker.” Rocking up on her toes Darcy plasters an innocent smile across her lips.

Tony’s left eye twitches.

“Or Steve and I can play--,”

Tony cuts off her words with a wave of his hand, “JARVIS do we have graham crackers and chocolate?”