Darcy isn't sure what wakes her, but something does, and she rolls over in the night to find the left side of the bed empty. That's highly unusual. She squints into the dark, trying to work out what woke her, and suddenly realizes that it's the sound of someone singing.
The voice, which issues from somewhere near the green light on the night table, is incredibly soft, more gentle than she's ever heard it before, and a little rusty and kind of questionable over some of the notes, but she knows the song well, and tears spring to her eyes as she listens.
Hush, little baby
don't say a word
Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird.
And if that mockingbird don't sing,
Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring.
She slides out of bed, pulling on the t-shirt that is laying nearby in the floor. It smells like him and she takes a deep breath of his soap and cologne and summer sweat before making her way up the hall, soundlessly on bare feet.
She can hear him still singing, and she feels her heart clench as she approaches the open doorway.
And if that diamond ring turns brass,
Papa's gonna buy you a looking glass.
And if that looking glass gets broke,
Papa's gonna buy you a billy goat.
She leans against the doorway, smiling. He's standing in front of the crib in only a pair of sweatpants, cradling her newborn daughter against his chest. His bionic hand firmly supports the baby's diapered bottom while his human hand strokes the baby's bare back. His body sways, just a tiny bit, with the rhythm of his song. The baby herself is almost asleep in his arms, her little fist between her lips, her eyes closed, her breathing even.
His lips brush against the nearly-black fuzz on her head as he whispers the last two lines.
And if that billy runs away,
Papa's gonna buy you another someday.
He presses a soft kiss to the baby's head, and in the glow of the caterpillar nightlight, Darcy can see the tears rolling down his face, dampening the baby's soft hair. She comes to his side, reaching up to wipe them away with her thumbs. “What's this?” she murmurs. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” he manages, after clearing his throat a couple of times. “I couldn't sleep, and I heard her, sounded like she was starting to fuss, so I came in to make sure she was okay.”
“She just wanted her Papa, huh?”
He closes his eyes, more tears spilling out, and he leans down to press his lips against the tiny head again. Darcy leans in to press her own lips against his right shoulder. “Hey,” she murmurs. “It's okay.”
“I know,” he manages. “I just... Darce... you don't know. After everything... this? After Zola and HYDRA and the Red Room and Department X and fucking SHIELD and the Soldier... after all of that... I never, never imagined.” He takes a deep breath, flavored with the smell of baby powder and peace. “And then there was Steve, and then you, and you saved me, Darce, the two of you. You saved me. And that was enough, you know? It was enough. I was content - no.” He shakes his head.
“No. I was happy. I was. Just to be close to him again, to have him around, to know. To be part of something bigger than myself, something good. And when we... when you said you wanted to try, the three of us, together...” He reaches out, cupping her neck with his right hand, his thumb tracing the line of her jaw as he stares into her eyes. “I was so scared. Because if it didn't work out...” He huffed a soft laugh. “Break-ups are bad enough when it's just two people. All three of us, and you two bein' who you are to me? I was fuckin' terrified.”
She smiled softly. “I will admit, we were a little worried, too. We waffled a lot before we finally made the decision, because you're right: it could've been awful, if it hadn't worked out.”
He leaned over, pressing his forehead to hers for just a moment. “But Darce,” he whispered, his breath brushing across her face. “This.”
She smiled, reaching out to run her fingers down the baby's tiny back. “I know, right? I never imagined.”
“Darcy,” he said suddenly. “You have to know. I won't ever, ever let anything happen to her. I'll... I'll do anything, anything, whatever it takes to keep her safe and happy. You have to know. I won't ever hurt her.”
“Hey, hey, hey, shh.” She rested her fingertips against his lips, stilling his frantic babbling. “I know, baby. I know.” She smiled at him, lifting her lips to his for a warm, gentle moment. “You're going to be the best Papa ever. And you'll sing her lullabies and carry her on your shoulders and call her your princess, and you'll come and see her school plays and when her first boyfriend comes to pick her up for her first date, you'll stand in a shadowy corner and flex your scary arm at him and he'll be afraid to touch her.”
He sighed softly, his eyes fluttering closed, and she continued. “And when she gets her heart broken for the first time, she'll come and cry in your lap, and you'll plot his death and tell her how boys are awful and she ought to stay away from them forever. And when she goes to prom, you'll sit up half the night until she gets home and you'll listen to her talk about how amazing it was, and you'll pretend you didn't get a little misty eyed about how pretty she looked in her dress, even though it was way too short and way too tight.”
He huffed a soft laugh against her ear and she grinned. “And then she'll graduate and go off to college and you'll probably skulk around the campus to watch out for her until she catches you - I give it a week - and then she'll call me and I'll make you come home. And she'll meet some boy, and you'll flex your scary arm, but it won't scare him off, and he'll shake your hand and call you Mr. Barnes, and he'll probably ask if he can talk to you, man to man. And not long after that, you'll walk her down the aisle and come and sit by me and the three of us will sit there and bawl because our baby's all grown up.”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Darce,” he muttered. “You tryin' to give me a heart attack here?”
She laughed softly, her hand cupping his cheek. “My point, Bucky, is that I know. I know you're going to be the best father she could ever ask for.”
He swallowed hard. “I'm by God gonna try.”
“That's all we can ask for,” she said. “Any of us. And Bucky, you have to know. When you put your mind to things, you never go half-measures.”
He grinned, pressing a kiss to her temple. “That's a fact,” he agreed.
Darcy glanced down at the baby in his hands. “She's asleep,” she said. “Come back to bed.”
He nodded. “You go ahead,” he said. “I'll be there in a minute.”
“Okay.” She tiptoed to kiss him, warm and wet, and then she slipped from the room. She climbed back into bed, scooting over to the middle, and Steve rolled over to wrap his arm around her, spooning up against her back. She lay there, waiting for Bucky to come back, but he didn't. Instead, after a moment, she heard him begin to sing again, his voice choked with emotion.
Good night, my angel
Time to close your eyes
And save those questions for another day
I think I know what you've been asking me
I think you know what I've been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away...
Darcy smiled softly at the sound of Bucky Barnes singing his love to his newborn daughter, and her eyes slipped closed, his gentle voice lulling her back to slumber.