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“Man, I knew it!” Okay so this is probably going to cause some major delays with the whole “get Jane funding” thing, Darcy thinks as she watches the news, but still. It’s probably kind of late in London but she texts Jane anyway. So idk if you saw but SHIELD is HYDRA.

I knew they were no good! I knew it! Jane replies. Darcy grins.

So does this mean I can say that nazis stole my ipod?

Just. Let the ipod go already. Coulson’s dead ffs and he probably was actually a good guy.

Darcy sighs. Jane just doesn’t get it. So I figure the whole funding thing’s gonna get delayed so … you want me back in London?

Let’s wait and see, says Jane. No need to rush.

---

You’d think there’d be, like, a space race, what with Chitauri in New York and Dark Elves in London, but for some reason, no one seems to want to give Jane money to build a portal of her own. Can Darcy blame that on HYDRA? She can probably blame that on HYDRA. So maybe this funding hearing will be more successful … once it’s finally rescheduled. As it is, Darcy has an unspecified amount of free time in Washington. The city is kind of chaos but by now Darcy is kind of an expert at chaos.

She visits the Captain America exhibit, just for kicks. Most everyone else in the city has the same idea—because the guy just took down a vast government conspiracy almost single-handedly and wasn’t sticking around for interviews—but if you timed it right the crowds were manageable. There were rumors going around online that the uniform Cap had been wearing was actually the one from the museum and sure enough, they had mannequins for all the other Howling Commandos but not for Cap himself. No naked dummy though—but it’s not like the mannequins are all that lifelike so, no real loss.

There’s this guy just staring at the display text. Kinda creepy. “You know, I’m sure there’s way more information on Wikipedia,” Darcy says. He doesn’t respond, which, rude. “You know, I know the Avengers,” she says. Still no response. “Okay, only one of them. And not Captain America. Oh! But I know the guy who assembled the Avengers! That counts, right? I mean he was SHIELD, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t HYDRA …” The creepy guy clearly isn’t paying attention to a word she’s saying. Which is probably for the best but … eh, his loss.

She hangs out at the museum a bit longer and then takes the metro back to her hotel, except she has to get off one stop early because of a security thing (there are security things like, every day, but somehow she never manages to plan for them). And then there’s a box near the escalator that other people are pointedly ignoring, and the box says “free kittens” but there’s only one kitten in the box, which is probably why it’s just sitting there abandoned, and it’s supposed to be like, really hard to take pets across international borders, isn’t it? But Darcy has connections, at least she probably still has connections, and hey if all else fails she can probably ask Thor for a Bifrostian detour, and the lone kitten is huddled in the corner of the box trying to make itself as small as possible, and yup. Darcy has a kitten now.

All the extra security means that she’s not carrying her taser (now there’s a contradiction) and trying to hold on to a scared kitten keeps her more distracted than usual, so she’s totally unprepared when someone grabs her and pulls her into a dark alley. Shit shit shit.

“You have uncompromised contacts within SHIELD?”

What? It’s the creepy dude from the museum. “I—” The kitten squirms and jumps out of her arms. Instinctively she tries to move after it and man this guy is strong. “That’s my cat! I’ll tell you everything you want to know after I get my cat back!” Abruptly he lets her go and fades back into the shadows and Darcy grabs her phone for a light. This is stupid, she doesn’t even know this cat and she should just take the opportunity to get away but. Kitten.

“I have your cat,” the man says. “Tell me what you know.”

Great, now the kitten is a hostage. How does Darcy end up in these situations? And for that matter how had this guy found—and caught—the kitten in the dark? “Look,” Darcy says. “I was kind of, um, bragging? The only SHIELD guy I know is dead now. I don’t actually have any contacts.”

He doesn’t hand her the kitten. “The Avenger?”

“Thor,” she says. “He’s not even on Earth now and he’s probably the least help if you’re on the run from HYDRA. Um. Are you on the run from HYDRA?” He was looking for secure contacts within SHIELD so that seems like the logical conclusion.

“HYDRA won’t find me,” the man says. “I need information.”

He steps into the light as he finally hands the kitten back to her and— “Holy crap, you’re Bucky Barnes.” She wouldn’t have recognized him if she hadn’t just seen pictures at the exhibit. The exhibit where he was— “Wait. You need information about yourself?” He doesn’t respond. “Look, do you want to come back to my hotel? I’ll do what I can to help you work out … whatever your deal is.” This is probably even more stupid than adopting a random kitten but on the other hand taking strange and dangerous men home worked out pretty well for Jane.

“No ties to SHIELD?” he asks, again. She shakes her head. “Good,” he says. “That’s safe.”

Darcy takes that for a yes.

---

Darcy may not have access to classified information but she does follow a lot of newsblogs, so when creepydude Bucky Barnes takes off his hoodie and she sees his metal arm, she’s pretty sure what that means. “Holy crap, you’re the Winter Soldier,” she says. Then, “How is Bucky Barnes the Winter Soldier?” And he just looks at her and the look is less creepy, more sad, and she realizes he doesn’t know. And she’s thinking I let the Winter Soldier into my hotel room, and I let the Winter Soldier hold my cat, which, to be fair, wasn’t so much a matter of letting, but she’s not dead yet so … “You were with HYDRA,” she says.

“I was HYDRA’s weapon,” he says.

“But you’re not HYDRA now.”

“I … they told me to kill him. But I knew him.”

That’s messed up, Darcy thinks. She’s still not sure exactly what’s going on here, but whatever it is, it’s messed up. It’s also not exactly an answer. “Captain America,” says Darcy. “Steve. You’re on his side?”

“Till the end of the line,” says Bucky, and then he looks like he’s confused about what he just said, but whatever. That’s enough for Darcy.

“Okay,” she says. “You can crash here as long as you need to and I’ll do what I can to help you get your information.” Stealing data from SHIELD, that’d be some pretty sweet payback. “Before we do anything else though, we better see to the hostage here.” She’d set the kitten down when they got inside her room but it hadn’t gone into hiding, unless you counted crouching behind Bucky’s legs as hiding. He reaches down and picks the kitten up.

“He’s fragile,” Bucky says, and Darcy cringes—he’s holding the kitten with his metal hand. But the kitten’s fine, in fact, the kitten’s purring. “Why do you have a cat?”

“I dunno, man, he was there, he was cute, he needed help … oh wait, that’s why you’re here.” He gives her that blank look again. “Are you asking why people have cats in general?” If he was, that was really sad. Aaand still that blank look. “Look, I don’t know, cats are … they’re cats, okay?”

“He’s hungry,” Bucky says, and Darcy smiles, because if he can figure out cats, he can probably figure out the rest.