I'm a stitch away from making it
and a scar away from falling apart, apart
Blood cells pixelate and eyes dilate
and the full moon pills got me out on the street at night…
HYDRA had infiltrated one of their labs and was holding everybody hostage, and had been for just under a week now. They were trying to steal some technology they thought was there, but it had gone haywire. The situation was critical, at this stage. Steve knew that they’d make good on their threats to start killing hostages, and they had to get them out as soon as possible.
The laboratory was supposed to be in a secret location. It had high fences and gates, it was off a single-lane road about twenty miles from the nearest town in the backend of New Hampshire. It was a tricky place to get to. It should have been secure.
Steve had rounded up the best team he could for such a sensitive circumstance. Natasha and Clint were there, as was Thor and Tony, but Bruce was not. Bruce and Steve had both agreed that the situation was far too dangerous for the Hulk to make an appearance. In Banner’s own words, he might kill the hostages, too. They couldn’t be certain. So he made himself scarce.
Bucky and Sam had turned up at the last minute, making haste from a situation they’d been handling in New York. Jessica and Carol were otherwise occupied, but they had a few others, some ‘friends’ that Natasha had rounded up as a tactical response unit. They would help to take care of the HYDRA agents.
They gathered to go over what they were going to do, and Steve began asking about numbers. “Exactly how many hostages are there? Do we know?”
“Twelve,” replied Natasha, picking up an employee list off the table to pass to him. “We got this from the security system. One or two might have managed to get out but it’s not likely, if we haven’t found them by now.”
Steve’s eyes skimmed the list, checking the designations. There were no omegas, which was lucky. An omega would just throw a spanner in the works in a hostage situation. “Anybody with disabilities, powers, anything like that?”
Natasha shook her head, but Thor spoke up instead.
“A friend of mine is inside. Jane worries for her,” he said, keeping his voice low. “She could be in trouble.”
“Probably,” said Clint sarcastically, but Thor shook his head.
“Darcy has a quick temper and a sharp tongue. I worry that she might have stirred even more trouble for herself.”
Steve nodded. He knew of Darcy, even if they'd never officially be introduced. “If it all goes well we’ll get her and the others out in no time. Clint will take out the guys on the roof and at the front gate, which should draw a few more out. Bucky, Natasha, you deal with them, make your way through the lab and take out any hostiles with Nat’s team. Sam, Tony, you take perimeter watch, take down anyone who reveals themselves or tries to make a run for it. Use the ICERS where possible, we want to take as many in as we can. Stark, get JARVIS to run faces to see if we can identify any of them. Thor and I will go in the fire exit round the back, try to take out whoever is inside and get the hostages out.”
They checked their lines and intercoms before moving out, keeping quiet and moving through the darkness into position. Steve thought that Clint was going to find a high spot, but given the lack of buildings, trees, and cranes, he was grounded. Not that it mattered, Clint could still hit a guy from wherever he stood. He told the captain on the intercom he’d climb the gate once he’d taken out the sniper, and they’d be fine.
When Steve and Thor were finally in place, Steve said softly, “Alright. Stark and Falcon, wait for Clint’s signal, then get into position.”
Clint notched an arrow into his bow, and began.
Darcy’s hand slipped into her pocket. Her fingers pressed against the empty spaces where there had been pills, and she counted them again.
It had been six days since they were infiltrated and taken hostage. Yesterday, on the fifth day, she had taken her last suppressant. She had been keeping her eyes on the clock on the wall, and she knew it had been almost twenty hours since the last pill.
She didn’t want to think about what might happen. But she did anyway, and her chest grew tight with fear and her stomach felt empty and awful and churned like she was about to be sick.
She thought it was just nerves, but it turned out she was actually nauseous. She threw up not long after, reaching for the bin and emptying her stomach, though it was mostly bile. It burned her throat and made her eyes water. The HYDRA agents watching them flinched when she moved, hands moving to the triggers of their guns – but when they realised why she moved, all three took a step back, and one of them made a noise of disgust.
Darcy sat back against the wall and pulled her knees to her chest. She rubbed at her eyes beneath her glasses and sighed. She felt cold now, but she knew soon that she would be heating up and her eyes would glaze over.
She stayed like that for another few hours. A few of the other hostages drifted to sleep, too exhausted to do anything else. Darcy chewed on the drawstring of her hoodie and tried to focus on anything other than the way her body felt. She counted sheep, recited lyrics, did times tables. But her body was warming up, her mind going hazy, and she could feel her insides turning over.
What would happen when she went into heat? She inevitably would, her body was blatantly disobeying everything she told it to do and she wouldn’t be able to mask her scent for much longer. What would the other alphas do? She liked everyone she worked with but she wouldn’t ever want to test an alpha’s resolve, because she knew she would lose. And the guards, they had no loyalty to her or respect for her. What would they do?
Darcy was about to give up hope when one of the other scientists shifted beside her. Her hand crept over to Darcy’s, and Darcy glanced up, surprised. The scientist was young, with light brown hair and dark brown eyes. What was her name? Darcy struggled to remember.
She remembered when she saw the other one lean forward. Two of them. Fitzsimmons. No, that wasn’t right – Fitz and Simmons. They were two betas, rarely seen apart from each other, always finishing each other’s sentences – but they weren’t mated. They were just best friends. Darcy’s eyes shifted from his to hers and then Jemma smiled softly, a reassuring smile that made Darcy relax.
“Can we help?” asked Simmons, voice so low and careful it almost wasn’t there at all. Darcy realised that they must be able to smell it now.
She gripped Jemma’s hand a little tighter before she nodded. “Please.”
Without alerting the guards, Jemma moved to Darcy’s other side silently and Leo moved closer on the other, trying to cover their scent as much as they could with their own. He watched as Jemma took Darcy’s hand and softly pressed her mouth to the inside of her wrist. It was the gentlest thing Darcy had ever seen and she’d never been marked by anybody with such care and precision. Jemma’s lips touched right to Darcy’s pulse, and a few moments later Leo nodded. “It worked,” he whispered.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and then curled into Jemma’s side as the little scientist held her gently. Darcy reached out to Fitz and took his hand, linking her fingers with his. He squeezed her hand and told her that she’d be okay, and as Darcy relaxed for the first time in days she realised how tired she really was.
Hopefully it would last long enough, and hopefully they would be out of here sooner rather than later.
Steve and Thor had only just made it to the fire exit when there was an explosion. Steve quickly said, “Stark, tell me that was you.”
“Not me. They’re trying to take the lab down with them.”
Steve gritted his teeth. “Change of plan. Nat and Bucky, storm the front doors. The building will collapse so our number one priority is helping hostages. Don’t try to capture the HYDRA agents, just put them down. Stark, I need you to do whatever you can to keep this building together. Sam, keep an eye on perimeter, stay alert, we might need you yet. Clint, keep taking down any hostiles you see.”
Thor kicked open the fire door easily, and they moved quickly inside. They had to take out a few HYDRA agents here and there but they were mostly concentrated at the front, distracted by Nat and Bucky.
When they found the hostages, Steve had to throw his shield up to stop the bullets that came directly for them. There were three hostiles in here, but Thor took two out with Mjolnir and Steve put the last one down when he ran out of ammunition.
They wasted no time getting the hostages out. Steve could feel the building shaking and crumbling around him, and they were almost clear –
“Evacuation order. Place is gonna flatten,” said Stark on the intercom. “It’s structurally fucked.”
“Is that the technical term?” muttered Steve, but whatever Tony’s smart remark was lost when half of the roof caved in. Steve put his shield up over his head, and pulled one of the scientists in to him to protect her from the collapse.
Wide eyed, she glanced back to where she had been and began to panic. “Fitz!” she screamed, making as if to move back into the room, but Steve gripped her tight and took her out to where Thor was waiting with the others.
“How many?” asked Steve.
“Only ten,” replied Thor, looking worried. “And Darcy is not here.”
“Fitz and Darcy are inside,” said the small scientist, who Steve had pulled out. She was frightened.
Steve nodded. “Thor, keep these guys safe, lead them to the fence and head for cover. I’ll get the other two out.”
Thor began to herd the hostages towards the perimeter while Steve ran back inside. The dust had risen from the collapse and he had to squint to see, but there was a distinctive shape not far from where he had been standing before. A body shifted, and Steve moved quickly to pull the rubble away from where the man was curled up on the floor.
It was cleared quickly, and Steve found the man with his body hunched over someone else. He had thrown himself over her to protect her. It looked like he had a few scratches, but he wasn’t badly hurt. The worst of the collapse had been further back. When Steve pulled the man to his feet, he coughed and spoke, but had trouble getting the words out. “J-Jemma –”
“You’re Fitz?” asked Steve, and the guy nodded as he coughed the dust from his lungs. “Jemma is safe. Can you walk?”
Fitz swayed before he nodded again. The building was still shifting, and Steve knew it was going to bury them completely if they didn’t move. He crouched to check the girl. She was unconscious. She wasn’t bleeding, but she might have hit her head on the way down.
It was Darcy. He’d seen her in passing a few times but never got the chance to say hello. Steve was pretty annoyed that their first real meeting was in such a bad circumstance. She was pretty.
Hoping she had no spinal injuries, Steve slipped his arms under her limp body and picked her up. “Out the back,” he said, and Fitz went first, limping slightly as they made their way out. They had only been outside for about ten seconds when the building groaned and collapsed entirely.
Fitz’s eyes went wide in shock and dismay as he watched the lab crumble, but Steve told him to keep moving. And they did.
It was only when they were clear of the dust and in the open air that Steve caught the scent. He glanced down at Darcy, where she lay limp in his arms, and could see her lips parted as she breathed raggedly. There was the faintest touch of a beta’s mark on her but it was fading fast. She smelled like cinnamon and sugar and it was making his mouth water –
She was an omega, and she was going into heat. This was not good.
Darcy began to come to. She shifted slightly, her head moving as she tried to open her eyes, and Steve said quietly, “Easy now. Don’t hurt yourself.”
From the way he was carrying her, her head was propped against his shoulder, her nose close to his neck. She was regaining a little consciousness but not any self-control. His scent hit her nostrils, the smell of a healthy, unmated alpha, and she edged closer to press her nose against his skin, breathing him in. She whined and shifted in his arms again, and her scent became stronger.
He was bonded to Bucky, but an alpha’s scent would naturally call to any omega if they weren’t bonded to another omega. It was a stupid complexity that Steve had always hated, but right now, in this moment, he hated it even more. Because her scent was calling out to him, too, and it was making him want to carry her back to his apartment, to leave the site and take her home, bury his nose in her hair and her neck and kiss and bite every part of her skin until she was begging for him to –
Steve tried to clear his head. This was hardly ideal, but he couldn’t ask Fitz to carry her, not when he was limping like that, and Darcy wasn’t able to walk like this. It wasn’t far, he told himself. Another hundred yards. He counted them as he made his way towards the vans not far off the property, where the hostages were gathered and being checked off. He watched as Jemma threw herself at Fitz before apologising, checking him for injuries, making sure he was alright.
Steve moved quickly to their van. “Nat,” he said, on the intercom. “I need a medic.” Darcy was still nudging him, her lips brushing against his skin, and it took all of Steve’s self-control to keep from taking her somewhere a little more private and doing what his instincts were telling him to do.
Nat appeared thirty seconds later with a medic in tow as Steve lay the girl down in the back of their van, and she whined again as he pulled back from her. Natasha frowned, glancing from one to the other before she said, “There weren’t supposed to be any omegas.”
Steve’s jaw clenched. “I know.”
Thor appeared a second later. “Lady Darcy, are you hurt?” but Steve slapped a hand to his chest and pushed him back.
Thor frowned, and it was scary. He didn’t always like being told what, especially when it was his friend in trouble. “What’s happening?”
Steve said quietly, “She’s going into heat.”
The medic, who had already figured as much, was quickly injecting Darcy with an emergency suppressant, to initiate the reversal. Steve knew it was going to hurt, for her body to wind back and force stop the heat, but they had no choice. It was a matter of survival.
Thor was speechless, for a moment. “Darcy told me she was a beta. We know each other well. How –”
Nat pulled the empty pill packet from Darcy’s jacket pocket. “She’s on some heavy suppressants,” she said, showing them. “Nobody would have known.”
Steve glanced back down at the girl. He could still smell her and his heart rate was quickening. Natasha must have noticed, because a moment later she stood and said, “You’d better clear out, Cap.”
Steve nodded numbly. Thor was bonded to an omega, to Jane, so he wouldn’t do anything. But no matter how good Steve wanted to be, he couldn’t stay near an omega smelling that sweet and trust himself to do the right thing. He was a danger to Darcy.
He stepped back, and let Nat and the medic take care of her.