Actions

Work Header

The Extraordinary Friendship of Darcy Lewis and James Buchanan Barnes

Work Text:

            So, Darcy gets bored.

            It’s not that she doesn’t like the Tower. She gets to live in a gigantic Tower rent free with The Avengers. It’s pretty crazy.

            But at the same time, she’s here because Jane is here to do work with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, and Jane refused to come unless Darcy could come, and Darcy came because she’s a broke ass former college student who saw an opportunity and took it.

            She doesn’t actually have anything to do here. And everyone’s really polite to the point where it’s a little concerning, but it doesn’t change the fact that she’s kind of aimlessly hanging out with people she doesn’t really know plus Thor and Jane. And Thor and Jane are amazing and the best friends she’s got, but Thor’s often off Avenging and Jane’s off scienceing and yeah.

            Darcy gets bored.

            Which is what she’s going to use as her defense when someone eventually catches her peeping at people through the windows in her Tower apartment.

            Also that if she wasn’t supposed to people watch all the weird residents of New York City that mill about the sidewalk on a regular basis, then someone shouldn’t have left high powered binoculars hanging around where she could find them. That’s just common sense.

            For about a week now, she’s been watching one particular guy. He arrives at ten every morning and leaves at five-thirty every night. Sometimes he stands for a little while, quietly milling about. Most of the time he sits on the bench near the Tower. He wears jeans and a rumpled gray sweatshirt. He’s always got a baseball cap yanked down low on his face, but there’s long strands of brown hair that poke out and whenever he glances up at the Tower there’s this sort of deep misery and longing etched into his face.

            She watches him for a week, spending roughly three days of that week debating with herself until she decides that if she’s going to do this, doing it in front of a building with a ton of superheroes is the best way to go.

            The morning after she reaches that decision, Darcy heads into the kitchen and grabs one of the travel mugs in the way way back of the cabinet, figuring it won’t be missed. She also grabs her standard travel mug in the shape of Mjolnir that Thor got for her before it was released in stores because Thor is awesome. She fills the normal blue one with black coffee and hers with cream and sugared coffee, goes down the elevator, and stands on the sidewalk, waiting.

            When he shows up, she yells through the crowds regularly thronging through the New York streets “Hey!” and he doesn’t turn around which really isn’t that surprising. If everyone in New York turned around when someone said the word “hey” the city would be in a constant state of pirouetting.

            “Sad Baseball Cap Dude!” she tries again. No response. She fishes around in her pocket until she finds a crumpled up receipt and chucks it at the dude. He catches it without turning his head and looks at her.

            “Neat trick,” she says. He stares at her. She walks up to him and holds out the black coffee mug to him. He looks down at it and then back at her.

            “It’s coffee. You drink it. It’s black.”

            He doesn’t take it. She shrugs and sits on his bench. He gazes at her warily, as though unsure exactly what’s happening.

            “I’m gonna sit here and drink mine, dude. You probably want to drink yours before it gets cold.”

            He slowly sits down next to her. She holds out the coffee without looking at him and after a few moments she feels it lifted from her hand. She hears him sniffing.

            “Not poisoned,” she says. “If I wanted to poison it, I’d have put cream and sugar in it to disguise it.”

            Which, okay, maybe not the best thing to say, but Darcy Lewis never won any awards for tact.

            He hesitantly sips at the coffee. He doesn’t seem disdainful of it so Darcy is pretty pleased that her black coffee prediction was correct.

            They sit in silence, drinking their beverages, for about three minutes until Darcy speaks.

            “Have you got a name?” He’s quiet so she shrugs. “You don’t have to tell me, I was just curious.”

            “Buchanan,” he finally mutters.

            “First or last?”

            He shrugs and she rolls with it. “Okay. I’m Darcy.”

            They finish their coffee without speaking. When he’s done she stands up and she nimbly plucks the mug from his hands. “You wanna come inside?”

He shakes his head violently.

“Okay. See you.” She walks back into the Tower, feeling his eyes on her as she goes.

 

            They continue like this for four days, drinking coffee together in peaceful quiet, until Buchanan starts talking occasionally.

            “I don’t want to be anyone’s project,” he grates out. “I’m not a charity case.”

            “Damn right you’re not. For one thing, you could probably rip my limbs off.” Darcy’d caught a glimpse of the metal arm from underneath Buchanan’s sweatshirt a couple days previously.

            Buchanan ignores her. “I’m not something that can be fixed or put back together.”

            “Easy, Eliza Doolittle.”

            Buchanan looks at her blankly.

            “My Fair Lady? Audrey Hepburn? The rain in Spain- look, it’s not important. Point is, I’m not trying to mold you into something you’re not or spruce you up or anything.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “You looked like you might need someone to hang around with while you do whatever angsty thing you seem keen on doing while you’re hanging around here.”

            The silence is slightly less suspicious as they finish their coffee.

 

            “How did you know about the coffee?” Buchanan asks the next day.

            “How’d I know what?”

            “I like my coffee black.” There’s still a slight air of wariness about Buchanan, like he suspects she’s out to kill him. “How did you know?”

            “My dad liked it black. Said it was how he had it when he was deployed. Ran on a hunch that you’d like it the same way.”

            “Deployed?”

            “You’re a vet, right?”

            He looks at her for a long moment. “Yes,” he finally answers. “How did you know?”

            “Dad carried himself in the same way sometimes.” She stretches her legs out and crosses her ankles. “Wasn’t a hard guess.”

            “Hm.” Buchanan looks down at his coffee. He drinks it a little less slowly these days, like he’s a little more certain that Darcy’s not taking her time poisoning him.

 

            “Are you eating regularly?” she asks. He narrows his eyes at her.

            “What?”

            “You don’t look totally awesome, dude.”

            It’s true. His face is sallow and he looks exhausted all the time.

            “I eat.”

            Darcy frowns. “You’re not like dumpster diving, are you? Cause there’s a reason people throw food away.”

            “I’m fine.”

            The next day, Darcy spends half an hour trying to understand the kitchen before she finally finds the bread, peanut butter, and jelly. She sticks it in a Ziploc and takes it out with the coffee. She shoves it at Buchanan.

            “Eat it now, eat it later,” she tells him with a shrug. “I don’t care, but make sure you eat it.”

            He frowns down at the sandwich. “Why are you doing this?”

            “You need to eat, dude.”

            “I mean why are you being kind to me?”

            “I told you. You looked like you could use a friend.”

            Buchanan shakes his head. “I don’t need friends.”

            “Everybody needs friends.” Darcy sighs. “Look, if you don’t want to be buddies, that’s fine. Just make sure you eat the sandwich.”

            The next day he returns the Ziploc bag. Darcy doesn’t tell him how adorable that is cause she feels like he wouldn’t appreciate it.

 

            “Are the Avengers your friends?” Buchanan asks. Darcy hesitates.

            “Not really? I mean, I kind of don’t want to bother them. Like, they’ve kinda got their own thing going on, and they’re like in their own little club, and I don’t wanna mess with them or be a bother, y’know? I mean, Thor’s my friend, but for the most part we just kind of stay in our separate corners.”

            Buchanan nods slowly. “Did you come to talk to me because you needed a friend?”

            “You don’t want friends, dude. It’s okay. I kind of just like sitting with you.” Darcy swirls her coffee in her Mjolnir mug. “You have friends before?”

            Buchanan hesitates. “I think so,” he says tentatively. “They were kind.” His lips twitch. “Crazy.”

            Darcy nods sagely. “The best kind of friends.”

 

            Darcy’s in the kitchen getting a bag of Smartfood when she sees a file strewn on the counter. The Avengers were having some kind of meeting discussion whatever and they apparently forgot to clean everything up. She looks over at it. She’s always been nosy, okay, she can’t help it. When she sees the picture, she freezes.

            He’s clean shaven and in military garb. He’s smirking, a twinkle in his eye. He looks radically different but it’s unmistakably Buchanan. Her eyes stray to the name on the file.

            It reads Winter Soldier.

            Darcy grabs the Smartfood, bolts to her room, and hyperventilates.

 

            Darcy doesn’t go down to the bench for three days.

            She spends a lot of it in her room. Jane’s worried about her but she just says she’s got a cold and “dude, you seriously don’t want to catch this, you will vomit all over your tech, think of the tech” and “I am violent when I’m sick seriously I don’t want you in here” and it works. She curls up in her blankets and spends a lot of time thinking.

            She knows who the Winter Soldier is. Technically, everyone in the world knows who the Winter Soldier is. But she knows who the Winter Soldier is. Darcy Lewis is good at keeping her ear to the ground, and she knows that the Winter Soldier is Bucky Barnes. Historical figure Bucky Barnes. Captain America’s best friend Bucky Barnes. Brainwashed assassin war hero Bucky Barnes.

            Basically she’s been having coffee and PBJ every morning with one of the deadliest people on the planet.

            She’s allowed to take a few days to think things over.

            Darcy spends a lot of time weighing pros and cons. There are, admittedly, a lot of cons. He could kill her with a spoon probably, for one. He was also old as balls, and probably was that way by knowing how to kill lots of things. A lot of the cons involve his ability to kill things.

            There aren’t a lot of pros. But they’re pretty big pros.

            The first is that he was brainwashed, so he wasn’t in control of his actions.

            The second is the way he’s slowly starting to unfold, gruffness wrapping up hesitancy. Silence and pain and faux emotionlessness are unwrapping to reveal someone who wants to feel like a person again.

            The second one is the largest.

            After the third day, Darcy fills her mug and Buchanan’s mug, takes two Ziplocked sandwiches, and heads for the bench.

            Buchanan is there, slightly hunched over.  When he looks up at Darcy’s approach, his face is so hopeful that it erases any doubts she might have had.

            “I thought maybe you weren’t coming back,” he tells her as she sits down. She hands him his coffee.

            “Didn’t feel too hot for a few days, big guy.” She takes a sip of hers. “Just had to work it out of my system.”

 

            “Let’s go to a restaurant,” Darcy tells Buchanan one day. Buchanan frowns.

            “I don’t have any money.”

            Darcy holds up her wallet. “I have this Stark card that I am supposed to use for whatever I want whenever I want and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t actually have a limit. Let’s go get into food comas.”

            They go into a diner and Buchanan’s eyes widen at the menu.

            “What’s wrong?” Darcy asks, wondering if super soldier assassins can get food allergies.

            “The prices are much higher than I’ve been accustomed to,” Buchanan mutters.

            “Inflation happens.” Darcy peruses the menu. “I’m feeling milkshakes. What about you?”

            Buchanan gets two orders of hash browns, two plates of French toast, and a chocolate milkshake. Darcy’s pretty pleased.

            “Next time we’ll go to a Thai place,” she tells him. “You’ll dig it.”

 

            Twice a week, Darcy and Buchanan go to a different restaurant. Buchanan slowly warms, telling her little personal details. He likes apples because they were a treat when he was a kid. He doesn’t like cherries because he doesn’t like spitting out the pits. He likes the Andrews Sisters. In return, Darcy tells him about the time her dad built a small working catapult with her, when she accidentally dyed her hair orange when she meant to do pink, and that time when she was in college that she was dared to scale the flagpole and totally did it.

            It looks like Buchanan is starting to try and groom himself a little more. His beard is trimmed haphazardly and his hair isn’t washed still, but it looks like a comb has been attempted to run through it. Darcy likes that he’s trying to take care of himself a little more. She starts wearing nicer shirts and even a skirt occasionally to try and encourage him.

            One day, as she’s putting on her earrings (they’re the Avengers symbol and they’re awesome), Jane quietly sidles in and sits on Darcy’s bed. She’s got the “I’m concerned about you and don’t know how to say it cause I suck at girl talk” furrow in her brow.

            “What’s up, Jane?” Darcy asks. Jane bites her lip.

            “Do you have a secret boyfriend you haven’t told me about?” She blurts out. Darcy stabs herself in the ear with her earring.

            “Ow. What? No.” She turns around from the mirror. “Why would you think I have a boyfriend?”

            “You’re just out of the Tower every day and you don’t really talk about it and lately you’ve been dressing nice and. I don’t know.” Jane twists the sheets in her hands. “I know I haven’t been around a lot lately, cause of lab stuff, but you know you can tell me anything, right? And that you mean a lot to me?”

            Darcy sits across from Jane. “I’m not dating anyone,” she tells her sincerely. “I made a friend a couple months ago, and we’ve been hanging out a lot lately. You’re busy cause of science, I understand that. But you’re still my best friend in the world, and you mean a lot to me too. If I ever acquire a boyfriend, I’ll tell you.”

            Jane nods. “Okay.”

            “I know you don’t really do the hug thing so much, but I feel like this situation calls for it.”

            Jane grins. “That’s fair.”

            They hug briefly. Darcy releases Jane fairly quickly, because she knows that Jane would continue the hug as long as she thought Darcy would like it but feel fairly uncomfortable.

            “All right, enough with the touchy feely. I have to go grab some fried cheese with my new bro.”

 

            Four months into their alliance or whatever (Buchanan doesn’t seem to like the word friendship) he’s standing by the bench, looking unusually solemn.

            “What’s up, big guy?” Darcy asks, dreading the worst.

            “There’s a traveling exhibit at the museum,” he says quietly. “I thought you could come with me.”

            Darcy can guess the exhibit that they’re going to. “Okay,” she says.

            Buchanan doesn’t like the subway so they take a cab.

            The Captain America exhibit isn’t particularly crowded. Museums aren’t exceptionally crowded at ten in the morning on a Wednesday. Buchanan walks past all of the stuff about Captain America and stops at the Bucky Barnes section. He stares at the picture of himself, clean and serious. Darcy looks at his face and then at the picture.

            “I’m guessing you see the resemblance.” His voice sounds grittier somehow, like it’s been dragged across a cheese grater.

            “I do,” Darcy answers cautiously.

            Buchanan looks at her. “It’s not a resemblance,” he says softly.

            Darcy takes a deep breath. “I know.”

            Buchanan’s eyes widen. “You know?”

            “About a month after we started hanging out. They forgot to put your file away after a meeting. I saw the picture. You look more like a sad hobo, but it was still totally you.”

            Buchanan’s staring at her. “Then why are you still spending time with me?”

            “You’re not your past anymore, dude. You’re your future.” Darcy shrugs awkwardly. She hates heart to hearts. “I like who you are. I like hanging out with you. So unless you don’t want to anymore, I’d like to keep doing it.”

            Buchanan does something she’s never seen before. He smiles, slow but sure. She smiles back. “Yes. I’d like to keep hanging out with you.”

            “Cool. Hey, uh, do you want me to keep calling you Buchanan? I can call you whatever you want, I just don’t want to call you something you don’t like.”

            “No. I like Buchanan.”

            “Okay.” Darcy bumps his shoulder with hers. “This is just going to bum you out. Let’s go hit up a smoothie shack.”

           

            “This is a StarkPhone,” Darcy informs Buchanan, handing it to him. “It’s a new model. It has my number programmed into it. My ringtone is Karen O’s cover of Immigrant Song because it is just as badass as I am. It’s yours now.”

            “I don’t know if I like you buying me expensive things.”

            “We should be able to keep in touch in case of emergencies, dude.”

            Buchanan takes the phone and frowns at it. “I don’t understand touchscreens very well,” he mutters.

            “It’s cause you’re old as fuck.”

            Buchanan scowls at her. She just laughs.

 

            “I want to get a job,” Buchanan tells Darcy over cheeseburgers. “I don’t know how.”

            “Job’s a good idea.” She swallows her bite. “We gotta clean you up and get you someplace to live. People don’t like hiring scary murdery looking hobos.”

            Buchanan considers it. “That seems reasonable.”

            “You wanna move into the Tower?”

            “No,” Buchanan says immediately and Darcy drops it. She doesn’t push the Steve thing. Buchanan’ll figure that out when he gets there.

            “Okay, well, you still need a place to live besides whatever dumpster you refuse to talk about.” Buchanan won’t tell her where he’s sleeping. It’s probably for the best, but still. “I can put you up in a hotel room.”

            “Someday I’ll pay you back for all of this.”

            “I mean, it’s not even my cash.” Darcy slings an arm around the back of the booth. “It’s Stark’s. And apparently he stepped on Jane’s phone on purpose because it was an iPhone and not a StarkPhone and he disagreed with her about one of her theories the other day, so really he deserves it.”

            Buchanan smiles. He’s doing more of that lately. “Then I suppose we’d better get started.”

            “Awesome.” Darcy throws the money required on the table. “Get in, loser. We’re going shopping.”

            “We don’t have anything to get into.”

           

            They hit the salon first because “you are covered in dirt, Buchanan, it’s fucking ridiculous, management won’t even let you set foot in a store”. They barely let him set foot in the salon- he has to use the shower in the back first. Darcy absolutely refuses to go into that with him (“I am not looking at your super serum junk, thanks”) but she sits by his salon chair with him because being in the mall seems to make him twitchy. He gets a shave and his hair washed. He gets it trimmed and a couple layers thrown in, but he keeps it long.

            “I’ll be damned,” Darcy says when they leave the salon. “There’s an actual human being under the Neanderthal appearance.”

            “Shut up, Lewis.”

            They go into multiple clothing stores. They come out with several suits, many jeans, some plaid button up shirts, and plenty of tee shirts. There’s also shampoo, conditioner, body wash, shaving cream, disposable razors, ponytail holders, and several brightly colored and glittery scrunchies. Darcy thinks Buchanan could really work them.

            They check into a nice hotel, but not too nice. Buchanan doesn’t like opulence. Darcy sets the shopping bags down.

            “Use your phone to find job listings,” she tells him. “Remember that you got this shit. Call me if you need me.”

            Buchanan nods solemnly.

 

            Six months into their friendship, Darcy walks into the kitchen to see the Avengers all gathered in the living area, staring seriously at her.

            “Thaaaaat’s not creepy,” Darcy says uncertainly, wondering if she broke some protocol she didn’t know about.

            “Sit down, Darcy,” Bruce says calmly. “We want to talk to you.”

            Darcy sits next to Thor. Thor’s not freaking her out as much so he seems like the only option.

            “We wished to address something we were concerned about, Darcy,” Thor says gently. “We want to know about-“

            “Are you being blackmailed?” Tony cuts in. Everyone glares at him. “What? Cuts right to the chase.”

            Darcy is so confused. “No? Why?”

            “You’ve just been charging a lot of things to the StarkCard,” Bruce tells her. Darcy’s getting the vibe that Thor and Bruce have been elected spokespeople for this and everyone else is just kind of there for backup. “A long running hotel room, a StarkPhone, clothes, haircuts. We just want to make sure nobody’s forcing you to do anything you don’t want to do.”

            They think Buchanan’s blackmailing her. Holy shit.

            “And if they are,” Steve adds, kindly but firmly. “You should know that we’ll help in any way you can.”

            “By that he means we’ll go beat the snot out of them and make them say they’re sorry,” Clint says. Everyone focuses the glare they gave Tony on Clint, except for Tony who high-fives him. “Well, it’s what we’ll do.”

            “Um.” Darcy thinks she deserves so much fucking credit for not bursting into laughter. “I’m not being blackmailed.”

            “Are you sure?” Thor asks. Tony rolls his eyes.

            “I’m pretty sure she can tell whether or not she’s being blackmailed.”

            “I made a friend a while ago. He’s been homeless for a while. He’s working towards getting a job, but till then I’m helping him get on his feet. It’s all okay.”

            “Oh.” Steve blinks and looks at her a little embarrassed.

            “If you ever are being treated as such, you must tell us,” Thor tells Darcy gravely. Darcy nods.

            “Pinky promise.” She holds out her pinky, which Thor takes with his. Thor and Darcy are all about the pinky promise. “I have to run now because my friend and I are meeting for hot chocolate.”

            Bruce frowns. “It’s summer.”

            “Starbucks has air conditioning.”

 

            Buchanan’s smiling when she meets him at the Starbucks, a light in his eyes Darcy’s not sure she’s ever seen.

            “I got a job,” he tells her shyly and Darcy grins.

            “Dude, that’s awesome! Where?”

            “I’m working as a bouncer at a club. They pay me really well and they don’t care what I wear so I can keep wearing the long sleeved shirts and the gloves.”

            “I’m not surprised; you’re built like a Jeep.” Darcy beams at her. “I’m really happy for you, B.”

            Buchanan raises his eyebrows. “B?”

            “I’m trying out some nicknames.”

            “Keep trying.”

 

            “Can I go see you work?” Darcy asks. Buchanan frowns.

            “You want to see me turn people away from a club for a night?”

            “I want to see if you’re good at it.”

            Buchanan sighs. “Fine.”

            Darcy tells Jane she’s going out that night to a club and then admits that her friend got a job there because “you hate clubs, is someone forcing you, are you under surveillance right now, do I need to go hurt someone?”. She dresses in her London Calling tee shirt, a pair of comfy jeans, and a sweater in case she gets cold. She also comes with two water bottles, a Tupperware of the alfredo they had for dinner last night, and a bag with Kit Kats in them.

            Buchanan’s standing in front of the club entrance, looking surprisingly menacing for a guy Darcy’s seen put sprinkles on his whipped cream mustache. He’s wearing a long sleeved black shirt and black gloves and a stony face. There’s a cluster of girls at the back of the line looking at him and whispering. Darcy walks right past the line and up to Buchanan.

            “You have Dorito crumbs in your beard,” she informs him. He dusts it off.

            “Stay within my sight line,” he tells her sternly. “I don’t want anyone trying anything with you.”

            “Fortunately there’s this convenient bench right across from this place. Wacky, huh?”

            Buchanan rolls his eyes but lets her go. The cluster of girls glares at her as she sits on the bench and sips from the water bottle.

            For the night Darcy sits on her bench with her legs crossed and watches Buchanan. He’s kind to the girls who try and come in with fake IDs. He even gently explains the negative effects of some of the drugs that he knows are being used in the club to a few of them which, yeah, she has to cover her mouth to hide the laughter because what a puppy dog, god damn. He’s a pretty neat bouncer.

            And yeah, one guy does try to come up to Darcy and grab her boob but that’s what the Taser’s for.

            Buchanan’s shift starts at eleven and ends at four in the morning. When he’s done, he comes and sits next to Darcy on the bench, and they split the alfredo and Kit Kat bags.

            “Satisfied that no one’s being mean to me?” he asks her.

            “I don’t know what you’re talking about. Why on Earth would I spend all night making sure you were being treated properly at work?”

            “You’re kind of crazy would be my best bet.”

            “You have alfredo sauce in your beard.”

 

            When Darcy wanders into the main room to find where she put her phone down, Tony and Clint are having an argument while the other Avengers watch in amusement.

            “Are you stupid?” Clint demands of Tony. “I’m starting to think that you’re stupid.”

            “I’m stupid? How can you possibly think that Terminator is more important to show him than Alien? It’s only the first Terminator! It’s not even Judgment Day! If it were Judgment Day, maybe and I mean maybe then, but-“

            “Fuck off, Stark, it’s absolutely Terminator!”

            “You’re both wrong.”

            Everyone looks at her in shock. Which, she can’t blame them. Darcy doesn’t really talk to the Avengers. But they are so egregiously incorrect that something needs to be done.

            “I’m sorry?” Tony asks.

            “You’re both wrong. You’re having your weekly weekend fight about what movies to show Steve, right?”

            “Thor tells Jane, Jane tells me. Point is, you’ve both overlooked something major.” She points at Steve, who’s kind of regarding the situation with what Darcy considers an appropriate amount of wariness. “You are looking at the one man on the face of planet Earth who does not know one of the world’s biggest spoilers in one of the most famous trilogies. Well,” she amends. “Born of planet Earth. I don’t think Thor knows it either.”

            Thor and Steve share confused looks. Everyone else stares in awe. Well, Natasha’s got an eyebrow raised, and she’s pretty sure that’s the same thing as awe for her.

            “Holy shit,” Tony whispers.

            “You’re right,” Clint says. “We’re idiots.”

            “You can’t speak for me, Barton.”

            Clint’s so excited he doesn’t even respond to Tony’s jab. “This is amazing. How haven’t we thought of this before?”

            “I don’t know what’s going on,” Steve says wearily.

            “It is a common condition when it comes to Tony and Clint,” Thor agrees.

            “I’m downloading it to the TV right now,” Tony announces. “JARVIS, I want 29 pizzas, standard order, sent here.”

            “Of course, sir. Who am I to stand in the way of your impending heart attack?”

            “Don’t be a dick, J.”

            Darcy watches the flurry of activity that is the Avengers trying to claim real estate in front of Tony’s massive TV, and figures her work here is done. She picks up her phone and starts to slink away quietly back to her room, maybe text Buchanan dad jokes until he threatens to dismember her, which is always fun.

            “Darcy.”

            She jumps at the sound of her name, and turns around to see Bruce watching her with a gentle smile.

            “Would you like to come watch the movies with us?” he asks. “I must warn you, Tony and Clint are talkers.”

            Darcy hesitates. There’s no pity in Bruce’s face, no “let’s include her for the sake of being nice” in his tone. “Okay.” She sits down in between Thor and Clint.

            “All the pretty ladies circle around to Clint in the end,” Clint says smugly.

            “Most of them try to kill you in the end,” Natasha points out dryly.

            “Ah, Darcy won’t do that, Darcy is nice. Right?” Clint pats her on the head.

            “Pat me on the head again and I’ll tase you,” Darcy brightly tells him.

            “She will,” Thor confirms. “I met her mighty weapon not long after I arrived on this planet.”

            “You tased a Thunder God?” Clint yelps. “Holy shit. Tony, don’t start the movie yet, we gotta hear this story.”

 

            The Avengers are kind of awesome.

            Which, Darcy knew objectively. But after the Star Wars Original Trilogy Marathon and Only Original Trilogy Cause Fuck You Prequels (Tony refuses to change it to a shorter name), they start inviting her to stuff. Tony starts showing her how to tinker in the lab. Bruce shows her the sciencey stuff he does in his corner of the lab and explains it all to her “in case she needs to know how to use it someday”. Clint teaches her how to win at darts (“being me helps, but obviously you don’t have that luxury”). She and Thor hang out even more these days, watching B movies and laughing at the terrible effects, or Thor telling her that yes, on Asgard these things exist, yes, he has fought on, yes, I will tell you how it happened. Natasha doesn’t really ask her to hang out, but she does end up conveniently on the couch next to Darcy a lot when Darcy’s watching Pawn Stars.

            And yeah, maybe she didn’t really need them to think she was cool or want to hang out or whatever, but, well. It’s nice.

            “I think Tony’s a little relieved,” Bruce tells her over Indian food while they’re taking a break from work, which is essentially Darcy pointing at stuff and going “what does that do” and Bruce telling her. “He thought you didn’t like us.”

            “What?”

            “Mmm-hmm. He had a PowerPoint. There was a team meeting. Tony doesn’t like it when people don’t like him.”

            “I just thought you guys wouldn’t want to hang out with me. I thought you had kind of your own thing going on.”

            “We like people, Darcy. We just don’t know how to talk to them.”

            Darcy nods thoughtfully. “Well, I like you guys.”

            Bruce’s lips quirk. “That’s nice to know.”

            Huh.

            More you know.

 

            Buchanan calls at noon one day while Darcy’s playing soda pong with Clint, which is exactly like beer pong but causes less property damage.

            “I’m trying to school Hawkeye right now,” she informs Buchanan. “What’s up?”

            “I have a surprise for you.”

            “Is it a good surprise or is it one of those ‘I regret that I know you’ surprises?”

            She can hear the smile in his voice. “One of the former, I hope.”

            “Okay, let me wrap this up and then I’ll be all set. Where we meeting?”

            “I’ll text you the address.”

            “K. See you soon.”

            “See you.”

            Darcy hangs up and Clint waggles his eyebrows. “Got a secret boyfriend, Lewis?”

            “Why? Jealous?”

            “Yeah, I want to date an angry fuckin Hobbit with a taser.”

            Darcy throws one of her balls at Clint and hits him squarely in the forehead. It pretty much dissolves into chaos from there.

            When Darcy goes to the address Buchanan’s texted, it’s a large apartment building in a quiet corner of the city. Buchanan’s standing in front of it, beaming.

            “So what’s up, Butch?” she asks.

            “No,” he tells her. “And I have an apartment now.”

            Darcy squeals and hugs him. Buchanan’s good at hugs. He’s moved on from “awkward pats on the back” to “I am going to give you the biggest bear hug ever”. It’s pretty awesome.

            “Show me, show me, show me.”

            The apartment is small, but not cramped. It’s very cute and very cozy looking. There’s no furniture.

            “I can’t really afford both furniture and food,” he tells her.

            “Dude, let’s rent a truck and browse around the city for people who just put their furniture out on the sidewalk for free. I mean, we’ll probably have to disinfect it, but still.”

            Buchanan grins and then his smile turns into something a little more hesitant. “I’d like to cook for you, if that’s okay.”

            “That’s awesome.”

            They do end up renting a truck to pick up random furniture. Some of it does have to be chucked back out on the sidewalk. One chair might have actually been made entirely of cockroaches on the inside. Darcy would like to say that it was hilarious watching a deadly part-time Russian assassin run around his apartment screaming and flailing while trying to figure out what to do with the chair, but she was doing the exact same thing, so glass houses.

 

            Buchanan and Darcy go shopping for essentials and food for Buchanan to cook for her. It’s going to be a surprise apparently, so she’s not allowed to know what are essentials and what’s for their dinner.

            “I don’t know why fruit has to be this big now,” he says, inspecting a rather large cantaloupe. “When I was a kid-“

            “Grass was greener? Skies were bluer? Gave the pictures a quarter and they’d give you seventy five cents back?” Darcy asks innocently. Buchanan’s memories can still be pretty fluid and he still doesn’t have all of them, but they’re solid enough that Darcy feels totally comfortable giving him shit about how old he is.

            Buchanan, to his credit, does it as well. “It was much better in the days back before talkies,” he tells her solemnly. “Talking pictures just ruined the whole theater going experience.”

            Darcy throws her head back and laughs as she turns a corner, which is probably why she doesn’t see Jane and walks right into her.

            “Shit,” she curses, and then freezes. “Jane!”

            “Hey!” Jane smiles at her in that slightly vague way that she does when her mind’s still in the lab. Then it sharpens when she realizes its Darcy and she does the awkward guilty shuffle. “Oh. Hey.”

            Darcy immediately looks at Jane’s basket to see coffee, energy drinks, and an insane amount of chocolate bars with caffeine in them.

            “Hey!” Darcy glares. “Those are forbidden unless there is an emergency. You are not allowed to have caffeine! You get crazy enough in the lab.”

            “My emergency stash needed replenishing!” Jane defends.

            “Uh-huh. Sure it does.”

            Jane seems to notice Buchanan, awkwardly hovering behind Darcy. Darcy’s surprised she didn’t notice him earlier. It’s hard not to notice a man built like a California redwood wearing his hair in a glittery blue scrunchie.

            (He’s finally started wearing the scrunchies. She’s so pleased)

            “Oh. Hi.”

            Darcy motions for Buchanan to come forwards and stand next to her, which he does tentatively. “Jane, this is Buchanan. Buchanan, this is Dr. Jane Foster.”

            Jane holds out a hand which Buchanan hesitantly shakes with his gloved one.

            “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Foster,” he says softly. “I’ve heard a lot about you from Darcy.”

            “Thank you!” Jane smiles brightly. Then her eyes do the narrow-y thingie they do when she’s figuring something out and god damn it, Darcy’s fucked. She looks up at Buchanan whose eyes have widened with clear panic.

            “Hey Buchanan,” she says casually. “Why don’t you go inspect those strawberries over there, tell me if any are edible? And I don’t mean Depression era ‘we can eat them even if they’re absolutely covered in mold’ edible. Edible edible.”

            Buchanan looks between Darcy and Jane. “Are you sure?” he whispers.

            “Yep.” She then nails him with her most serious look. “Don’t skip out on me or anything.”

            He nods slowly and then goes off to find strawberries.

            Darcy returns her attention to Jane who has that silent “I’m a bottle of Coke that’s just been shaken” look on her face.

            “That better not be,” she says in a low voice. “Who I think it is.”

            “That depends.”

            “On what?”

            “Who you think it is, if you’re right or not, and how willing I am to lie to you right now.”

            “Darcy.”

            “Yes, fine, that’s who you think it is.”

            “That is the Winter Soldier,” Jane hisses.

            “No. He used to be the Winter Soldier. Now he’s just a guy who’s a little broken who likes Lorde and doesn’t understand emojis.”

            “Darcy-“

            “Don’t Darcy me. You’re the one who ran off to an ‘asteroid crash site’ guarded by the government with a giant guy you knew nothing about. You have no stones to throw.”

            “That was different.

            “How?

            “Because with the Winter Soldier we know for sure that he killed people!”

            “He’s not the Winter Soldier anymore. His name is Buchanan. You know who he was before all this, don’t you?” Jane hesitates and Darcy drives home her advantage. “Jane, he’s a good person. He’s kind and he’s thoughtful. He’s quiet and he’s honest. He means well and he regrets everything in his past. He is a good man and he’s one of my best friends and please don’t turn us in.”

            “Why hasn’t he gone to the Avengers? To Steve?”

            “Because he’s scared. He won’t tell me that but I see it in his face every time the subject is approached. He’s scared that Steve will hate him and that he won’t forgive him and it’s just this whole mess.”

            Jane sighs. “You read people well,” she says warily. “And I normally trust your judgment. But this is huge.”

            Darcy rubs her forehead. “Look, if you really want to see for yourself, we’re going for lunch after this. You can come with us. Make sure he’s not a homicidal maniac.”

            Jane fidgets. “Fine,” she says after a few moments.

            “Cool. Come on.”

            Darcy and Jane rejoin Buchanan, who is holding a thing of strawberries and looks like he heard their entire conversation. Which, Darcy doesn’t know how super serum hearing works, he might have.

            “Okay,” Darcy says briskly. “Is it safe to assume that you heard all that?”

            Buchanan nods.

            “Cool with her tagging along?”

            Another nod.

            “Cool.” Darcy adjusts her shopping basket slightly. “We got everything we need, Buckaroo Bonzai?”

            Buchanan’s forehead creases. “Buckaroo Bonzai?”

            “It’s from a movie. I think I like that one. Buckaroo I think for sure has to stay.”

            Buchanan shakes his head but looks a little lighter. “What should we do about the food that needs to be refrigerated?”

            “We’ll just take it back to your place and go to the diner on the corner.” Darcy turns to Jane. “Buchanan likes diners. It’s cause of the Early Bird Special.”

            “They wouldn’t give me the Early Bird Special,” Buchanan says. “I look too young.”

            “Just go on that rant about how much cheaper things used to be, they’ll believe you.”

            Jane’s watching them curiously, as though she’s not quite sure what’s going on. Darcy hefts her basket. “Come on, Buckaroo. Let’s go pay up.”

            “Okay, Darce.”

            Darcy blinks. “Darce?”

            If she’s not mistaken, Buchanan goes a little red. “You were trying out nicknames on me so I thought I’d try one out for you. Is that okay?”

            “Yeah, no, all good.” Darcy grins.

 

            Darcy sits next to Buchanan and Jane sits across from them in the booth. Darcy passes them all menus. “I know you always get French toast with chocolate chips and home fries,” she tells Buchanan. “But it doesn’t hurt to look.”

            Buchanan obligingly takes the menu. Darcy flips through hers.

            They sit in silence until the waitress takes their orders. When she leaves, Jane speaks hesitantly.

            “So, Buchanan,” she says. “What do you do?”

            Buchanan tenses slightly. He still does that with new people sometimes, and Darcy knows he’s a little freaked that Jane’ll turn him into the Avengers. “I work as a bouncer at a club,” he says softly. “I just got my own apartment.”

            “That sounds nice.”

            “The job’s okay.” He smiles tentatively. “I like the apartment. Darcy and I are going to paint the living room this week.”

            “I persuaded him that peeling wallpaper isn’t a good look,” Darcy explains.

            “I didn’t mind.”

            “It’s a home, Buckaroo, not a hideout.”

            Buchanan rolls his eyes slightly.

            “So, how are you feeling these days?” Jane asks. “Are you murdery?”

            “Jane,” Darcy hisses.

            “It’s all right, Darcy. She has the right to ask. She’s worried about you.” Buchanan meets Jane’s eyes for the first time. “I struggled for the first month after coming back to New York with flashbacks and anger. It’s calming down now as I become more comfortable with myself again.”

            “You didn’t tell me about the flashbacks,” Darcy says quietly. Buchanan shrugs.

            “I didn’t want to worry you.”

            Darcy decides to let it slide for now. She’ll talk to him about it later if she has to. “Buchanan’s gotten addicted to Candy Crush,” she tells Jane. “He’s on a ridiculously high level, now that’s he’s not hovering forlornly outside the Tower.”

            “I wasn’t hovering forlornly,” he mutters.

            “It was forlorn. There was some hovering. It was very sad.”

            Jane is watching them thoughtfully. The food comes then, and they are silent as they eat. Buchanan gets up to go to the bathroom, leaving Jane and Darcy alone.

            “So?” Darcy asks. “You gonna turn us in?”

            “No.” Jane’s looking in the direction Buchanan left in. “He doesn’t seem like he’s playing a long game. He seems… nice. Quiet and trepidatious. But nice.”

            “He is.”

            “I’m still a little wary. But I suppose I’m okay with it.”

            Darcy smiles. “Thanks, Jane.”

            “Whatever. It’s not like I like you or anything.”

            Darcy laughs as Buchanan comes back.

            When Jane parts ways with them with a smile and a wave, Buchanan turns to Darcy.

            “Is she going to tell the Avengers?”

            “No. She told me that she wouldn’t, and I believe her. She’s still a little worried, but I think she likes you.”

            Buchanan sighs softly. “Good.”

 

            Buchanan has her over for dinner the very next night. When he opens the door, he’s wearing a light pink apron.

            “I like the apron,” Darcy tells him.

            “I like pink,” he says, a touch defensively.

            “I wasn’t kidding.” She steps into the apartment. “It smells good.”

            Buchanan grins. “I tried.”

            Dinner is chicken with mashed potatoes. It tastes absolutely amazing, and when Darcy tells him he smiles shyly. “My ma used to make it for us,” he says. “She couldn’t make it often because it was expensive to make and hard to come by the ingredients, but when she did it was real good.”

            Buchanan doesn’t talk about his family often. Darcy suspects it’s because it still feels too raw and painful. When he does share something about them, Darcy always feels privileged. She smiles and pokes his leg with her foot. “It’s a good recipe.”

            “I’ll teach you someday.”

            After dinner, Buchanan clears the plates and says “Don’t go yet.” When he comes back out, he’s balancing a plate with two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and two mugs with coffee. He puts them down on the table.

            “That’s the first food we ever shared,” Darcy observes with a small lump in her food.

            “I thought it would be fitting.”

            “It is.” Darcy grins up at him, vision a little blurry. “It’s really fitting.”

            Buchanan grins back.

 

            “Who’s the boyfriend?” Tony says apropos of nothing when Darcy’s sitting on the couch watching Dog Cops.

            “Sorry?” Darcy asks.

            “Boyfriend. Name. IP address. Whatever. Who?”

            “I don’t have a boyfriend.”

            “You are out of the Tower all the time, you frequently eat meals out with someone, sometimes you dress up for something which, never thought I’d see that, your natural garments are unwashed sweatpants-“

            “Don’t be an asshole.”

            “So all evidence points to boyfriend. Or girlfriend. Whatever, no problem. So what’s his name so I can find out everything about him and make sure he’s not cheating you.”

            Darcy’s actually touched. “I’m not seeing anybody,” she reassures Tony. “I’m just hanging out with one of my best friends a lot. But I appreciate the concern. Thanks.”

            Tony harrumphs. “I’m onto you, Lewis,” he says. “Secret possible asshole boyfriends cannot be hidden for long.”

            It’s kind of adorable.

           

            Darcy’s phone blares Mr. Roboto at two in the morning and she gropes for it.

            “You’re lucky I like you,” she mumbles.

            “There’s a cat in my apartment.” Buchanan sounds panicked.

            “Congratulations?”

            “There’s a cat in my apartment and I don’t know what to do.”

            Darcy sighs and starts pulling on pants. “This isn’t really an emergency, you know.”

            “Darcy.” He sounds surprisingly agitated. She sighs again.

            “I’m on my way.”

            When she leaves in an oversized Fall Out Boy shirt and her comfiest grey sweatpants Jane is drinking tea and looks up at her arrival.

            “You shouldn’t be up,” Darcy mutters.

            “Late lab work. Why are you up?”

            “Buchanan got a cat and is now flipping out for no apparent reason. I may be sleeping over.”

            “Oh, okay.” Jane comes to lunch with Darcy and Buchanan once a week now. She refers to him as “the sane one” which Buchanan protests but secretly pleases him. “Have a good night.”

            “You too. Make sure to sleep.”

            When she arrives at Buchanan’s apartment, he opens the door with slightly frightened eyes. He’s wearing his American flag boxers (Darcy bought them for him cause she thought it was hilarious) and his large “Captain America Is My Broski” (another hilarious purchase by Darcy) shirt.

            “I’m freaking out a little,” he tells her.

            “No shit.”

            She walks in to see a three legged cat drinking out of a small bowl of milk. He has black fur spotted with white.

            “He is adorable,” Darcy says.

            “He just showed up,” Buchanan says frantically. “I don’t know what to do.”

            “Does he have an owner?”

            “No. I’ve seen him around before. He’s a stray.”

            “Do you want to keep him?”

            Buchanan shuffles.

            “You don’t have to. I can drop him off at a shelter.”

            “I’m scared,” he blurts out. “I’m scared I’ll go crazy and hurt him.”

            Darcy rests her arm against Buchanan’s. “You won’t,” she says gently. “If it makes you feel better, I’ll take the cat in if you can’t handle it. But you can. I have complete faith in you.”

            “I don’t know why,” Buchanan mutters.

            “You haven’t hurt me, have you?”

            “I worry about that every day.”

            Oh, Buchanan.

            She guides him over to the couch and sits cross legged across from him on it.

            “I believe in you,” she says gently. “You have never once hurt me. You have never been anything but kind and wonderful.” She takes both of his hands in hers. “You are a good man, James Buchanan Barnes, and I am privileged to know you.”

            He purses his lips and she sees that he’s starting to cry. “I don’t want to be who I was,” he whispers.

            “You’re not. And you never will be. You are who you are now, Buchanan. You might change, but you’ll always be a good person.” She presses her forehead against his, now also crying. “I promise.”

            Very slowly, he nods. “Someday I’ll believe you,” he tells her softly.

            “I know you will.”

            They’re quiet for a few moments.

            “I’m keeping the cat.”

            A laugh bubbles past the tears. “Good decision.”

            They end up falling asleep on the couch practically on top of each other, even though Darcy has her own tiny room in the apartment. Buchanan names the cat Mishka, and he sleeps on top of Darcy during the night.

            It’s even worth waking up to his claws tangled in her hair.

 

            Three weeks after Buchanan adopts Mishka and Darcy’s lounging in his armchair, Buchanan says nervously but firmly “I want to go to the Tower.”

            Darcy looks up from her Sudoku puzzle. “Like, hover outside it again, or inside it?”

            “Inside it.”

            Darcy nods slowly. “Okay.”

            “Will you keep an eye on the apartment for me?”

            “Sure thing. You taking Mishka with you?”

            “If they let me.”

            “They’ll let you have a cat. Do you want to do it now?”        

            Buchanan nods. “Before I change my mind.”

            “Want me to go with you?”

“No. I need to do it on my own.”

Darcy stands up. “All right. Let’s go pick out your clothes.”

            “My clothes?”

            “Good first impression.”

            They end up going with jeans, his Johnny Cash tee shirt, and a leather jacket. They pack a small suitcase full of his clothes and a few books. He scoops Mishka up in the crook of his arm.

            “I’ll look after the apartment until you come back,” she says, straightening the collar of his jacket. “If you decide to live in the Tower, we’ll put it on the market.”

            “If they decide to let me back.”

            “They will. Cause if they don’t, I’m jailbreaking you.” His lips twist into a small smile and she stands on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek. “Knock ‘em dead, Buckaroo.”

            “I’ll see you around, Darce.”

            He leaves and she stands for a moment, sighs, and goes to get a coffee because she deserves one and maybe it’ll make her worry less.

 

            They won’t let her and Jane anywhere near him.

            Steve sits them down and gently explains to them that while Bucky may seem okay right now, he’s gone through some major trauma and he could be volatile, and he’d love for them to meet him someday but for now it’s best that they keep their distance to be safe. Jane and Darcy nod calmly because Steve has his “I’m earnest and America” face on, and then when he leaves Darcy starts laughing because the idea of Buchanan hurting her is hilarious.

            Darcy would probably be more annoyed for the first week if they didn’t have cell phones.

            “They treating you okay?” she asks while eating a bag of Smartfood.

            “Yeah,” Buchanan’s voice floats back. “They gave me my own room and everything. They just want to keep me in the Tower to make sure I don’t snap.”

            “How’s Mishka?”

            “He’s good. I think he misses you though.”

            “Why wouldn’t he? I’m awesome.”

            Buchanan laughs. Darcy hears Tony yell in the background “HOLY SHIT SOMEONE ON THE PHONE JUST MADE BARNES LAUGH STOP THE PRESSES”

            “Tell Tony that he’s a dick and I’m coming for him.”

            Buchanan laughs again.

            “SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS COME AND SEE THIS HOLY CRAP BARNES DO YOU HAVE A SECRET GIRLFRIEND WHAT THE HELL THERE ARE TOO MANY SECRET PARTNERS GOING ON AROUND HERE”

            “I have to go because a maniac’s yelling at me,” Buchanan informs her.

            “We’ve all been there,” Darcy agrees.

           

            So yeah, the first week goes okay but by the third week she’s pissed. Jane gets tired of listening to her rant, so Darcy finally decides to do something about it.

            The Avengers go out for a routine skirmish somewhere in upstate New York and Darcy seizes her opportunity. The second they leave she immediately goes into the main area where Buchanan is on the couch watching Say Yes to the Dress, Mishka curled up in his lap.

            “I can’t believe you’re watching it without me,” she tells him. “I’m offended.”

            Buchanan gives her a tranquil smile. “I don’t think you’re supposed to be here.”

            “Rules are dumb.” She goes into the kitchen, grabs a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a bag of Fritos, and heads back to the couch. “How much longer to this episode?”

            “Not long. But it’s a marathon.”

            “Sweeeeet.”

            An hour later, the Avengers return while Darcy’s getting more snacks. Mishka ambles up to them to say hello.

            “Darcy,” Steve splutters. “What are you doing here, this could be-“

            “Hush, Captain Freedom. I want to see what dress she picks.” She heads over to the couch where she flops down, hands Buchanan the bag of sour cream and onion chips, and plops her feet down in his lap, lying down on the couch. Buchanan rolls his eyes but allows her feet to stay where they are. The Avengers stare at Darcy, lounging comfortably with him, and Buchanan, his hair in a loose braid with a pink sparkly scrunchie from when Darcy got bored.

            “Buckaroo thinks she’s gonna go the first one,” Darcy continues. “But I think the corset’s too detailed for her. I think she’s going to go with the mermaid style.”

            “I’m missing something,” Clint says.

            “We’ll tell you some time. Right now our show’s on.”

            She does pick the mermaid style. Buchanan curses and Darcy laughs while the Avengers look on in vague bewilderment and yeah.

            This is gonna work out just fine.