Chapter 1: Expectations vs Reality
Darcy couldn't breath, couldn't even force air into her lungs. James, her James, was standing there in the Tower's living room. Steve was excitedly talking, touching his arm. Oh, James was...James is Bucky. Her stomach clenched even more when she saw the look in Natasha eyes, the familiarity in her stance as she leaned on the armrest of the couch. Her arms felt heavy, the bags of Chinese food suddenly dead weight. The Black widow, and Captain America. She felt like crying, or laughing, hell possibly even both. She must have made a noise because suddenly they were all looking at her. “Darcy!” Steve said happily standing up. “This is-”
She cut him off quickly. “Just a minute, Cap!” she said, forcing a smile on to her face. “I've gotta go set this stuff down, and get it sorted.” She kept her eyes trained on the kitchen as she walked across the living room. She'd be damned if they'd see her break. Setting the food down on the counter she laid both palms flat on either side, forcing herself to take a few deep breaths. Finally feeling in control again she began to separate out the food.
In the time it took her to do her job, something that suddenly didn't seem as satisfying as it had an hour ago, Coulson had shown up. For the few seconds that she had ducked her head out of the kitchen she had seen the man practically jizzing himself for the opportunity to listen in on Cap and Ja...Bucky trading war stories. There are a lot of moments where it might be appropriate to realize that you had been played, while plating up egg rolls isn't one of them.
After everything was in place she asked JARVIS to let everyone know that lunch was ready before sneaking out towards the roof access. She'd quite smoking a total of eight times since she started smoking at age fifteen, the longest stretch being the past year and three quarters she'd spent with James. Still, she always kept a pack tucked away at the bottom of her bag, like a security blanket. She planned on smoking all of them before dinner.
She'd only managed to get through two when she'd received a text from JARVIS telling her everyone refused to eat till she arrived. She snorted, taking another long drag. Apparently she mattered a little bit, after all it had only taken them twenty minutes to realize she wasn't there.
Stepping into the kitchen she felt eyes on her, though she couldn't bring herself to look to see who it was. Pulling her folder out of her bag she took her usual seat at the island. “We saved you a seat.” Looking up from her paperwork she saw Clint standing in front of her, an expression on his face that she hoped wasn't pity. Instead she just plastered on a smile and picked up her paperwork with a 'thanks!'
Sitting at the table had never really been something she'd done before, not with the entire group there. She'd had tea with Banner, poptarts with Thor, coffee and shots with Clint, but never once in the almost year that she had been liaison had she sat at the table with all of them and had a meal. Taking a long drink of water she picked at her food. “Want some?” Turning she saw that Tony was holding out a container of pork fried rice.
Opening her mouth she was cut off by another voice. “She doesn't eat pork.” Turning she saw that James was look at her, his eyes a little detached. The room was divided, half of were staring at her, the other half him. Everything suddenly felt much too close.
Coughing she stood in a hurry. “I'm sorry, I just remembered I have some phone calls that really can't wait.” She'd just made it out the door when a hand closed around her elbow. Spinning around she was a little surprised to see him standing there. Pulling her arm away from him she straightened her suite jacket. “I'm sorry. I don't believe we've been properly introduced.” Sticking out her hand she forced her best PR smile on to her face. “Agent Darcy Lewis, and you are?” He just looked at her hand for a moment before turning and walking back into the kitchen without uttering so much as a noise. Wrapping her arms around herself Darcy took a shaky breath. She always knew secrets would be the end of them, she just didn't think it would be this soon.
After that she found every reason she could to avoid the others, but eventually they seemed to catch on, so she went with plan B. Whiskey bottle in hand and gun on hip she walked into the range, stopping just for a minute to take a swig from the bottle. “You know, you're not supposed to drink and handle firearms.” a voice called from behind her before she could even load a clip. Turning sharply she didn't see anything till a whistle drew her eyes upward. Smirking she walked over to the ladder.
“Permission to enter the nest?” she asked, one foot on the bottom rung. She shook the bottle for good measure. “I have two more in my bag.”
Leaning his head between the railing Clint made an elaborate hand gesture. “Permission granted, milady.” Smiling for real for the first time in hours Darcy kicked off her heels and started climbing. As soon as she got to the top she handed off the bottle, taking a seat as he took a long drink. Screwing the cap back on he handed it over. “You didn't know.” It wasn't a question, or really much of a statement at all but Darcy knew what he meant.
“No.” she answered, taking a long drink for herself. “We never lied to each other, or at least that's what I thought. Just skirted the truth slightly, when we wanted to keep the other safe or it was just too painful to talk about.” Giving a bitter little laugh she took another drink. “Good to know I was at least the place holder for somebody really great. Well, somebodies.”
“Nat used talked about him. Sometimes when she was drunk and feeling sorry for herself.” Clint said after a minute. “She called him Alexi, though.” Darcy just nodded, pulling out her phone. “What are you doing?”
“Texting Stark and Banner.” she answered, hitting send. “Stark has the good booze, and Banner always keeps a bag of the good stuff stashed in his desk drawer.” Pulling out her cigarettes she took one before offering him the pack. She didn't normally like smoking weed, too many bad experiences in her teen years she guessed, but right now she felt like falling off the wagon. Her problems were still going to be there, but part of her felt like being immature and pretending that she could make everything go away with a few bad decisions.
“I always knew it was more then the whole 'I'm always angry' thing.” He took the offered lighter. Exhaling slowly he closed his eyes. “I haven't smoked since I joined SHIELD.”
Darcy's phone gave a beep before she could reply. Typing back a response she grabbed the bottle from his hand, taking a long drink. They sat there playing pass the bottle for a good fifteen minutes before they heard the door open. Both of them stayed still till they heard Stark's voice ring out, “I brought booze! And Banner. But more importantly booze!”
Sticking her head between the railing Darcy whistled. “Ladder.” she called, pointing off to the side once she had their attention. They'd barely gotten to the top when she held out her hand like an expectant toddler. “Gimme.” Tony just handed off one of the bottles.
“Didn't take you for the 'drown your sorrows' type, Lewis.” he remarked as he took a seat beside her, snagging a cigarette from the pack she held up.
Taking a large sip she held up a finger. “One, not drowning, wading.” she replied before pointing a finger at Bruce. “Two, roll us an epic one.”
Bruce just shook his head as he pulled the bag out of his pocket. “It worries me that you quote Buffy: The Vampire Slayer in defense of your actions.” Darcy just flipped him off before offering him the bottle. He shook his head and held up a hand. “Alcohol makes the Other Guy twitchy.” Shrugging she just took another drink before offering it to Tony.
Darcy was only mildly surprised at the speed with which Bruce could roll a joint, but also grateful. She wanted to not feel anything for at least the next three hours, she could deal with her issues then. “Does SHIELD do random drug tests?” she asked Clint as she passed the joint off to him.
He raised an eyebrow as he took a hit. “If they did, there would be a lot of unemployed agents.” Exhaling he leaned back against the wall. “Between alcoholism, recreational drug use and sex addiction you've just covered eighty-five percent of SHIELD. You don't do this job for very long before you start finding anyway to numb all the bad shit. Only difference is that most of them are the most functional people you are ever going to meet.” Darcy nodded, passing off to Tony as she took another drink.
“So,” Tony started, turning to look at Darcy. “How exactly have you been dating the Bucky Barnes for the past however long with out any of us knowing?”
Giving a snort of laughter Darcy leaned back against the wall with Clint. “I didn't know I was dating 'the Bucky Barnes' till a few hours ago.” Pulling her legs up against her chest she looked out over the range, her voice growing softer. “However, I have been dating James Barnes for the last twenty months.”
Tony gave a whistle. “Damn, that sucks.” he said, passing off the bottle to Clint.
“As much as finding out that your boyfriend of seven months really wanted another guy the entire time?” Clint asked pointedly, handing back the bottle. Tony didn't answer, just taking a long drink.
“Or that the first woman you've trusted in years was only using you as a filler?” Bruce asked, a self deprecating smile on his face. Leaning across Tony, Darcy pulled Bruce into a hug, patting his hair drunkenly. Pulling gave he gave a long suffering sigh. “What can you expect?”
“How the fuck did we all end up here?” Clint asked, a slightly glazed look crossing his face. Taking a long drink he held it out to Darcy. “The Chitauri.”
Grabbing the bottle Darcy followed suite. “God damn Halloween.”
Tony didn't wait for her to offer the bottle, grabbing it out of her hand. “Fucking truth or dare.”
Bruce surprised everyone by taking the bottle out of Tony's hand, taking a long drink of the scotch like it was water. “Doombots.”
Tony turned to Darcy a few moments later, looking at her expectantly. “So let's hear it?”
“Hear what?” she asked, cracking open one eye to look at him.
“I already know JARVIS showed you the video of me and Steve.” he said, looking a little smug at her mumbled 'yea, that was hot'. “Well then, quid pro quo, Lewis. Story time.”
When she didn't say anything he poked her hard in the side. “Hey!” she screeched, batting at him. Turning the puppy eyes up to eleven, he just stared at her. “Ok, ok! Fine! I'll tell the fucking story!” Grabbing the bottle out of his hand she took a drink before taking a deep breath. “Ok, so it was Halloween, 2011. I'd been Coulson's secretary for about a year by then. Really, it's not that exciting of a story. I split my coffee on him..."
Chapter 2: Halloween, 2011
Darcy tells the story of how she started dating James Barnes.
I wasn't expecting to post this tonight, but I just kept typing and before I knew it I was finished. Anyway, enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Darcy had a habit of running late, ask anybody who had known her for longer then a few hours and they would all say the same thing. Still, there were times she could be motivated to be on time. Like the morning of Halloween. She'd been up and out of bed earlier then she had in years all because she wanted to get out of the office in time to go to the party that night. Not just any party though, a Tony Stark party. She'd had to beg and plead with Jane for three weeks to get herself and invitation, especially since her former boss hated using her position as a SHIELD consultant for personal gain. Darcy had scoffed at the mere thought of it. Still, she'd snagged her invite, and she would be damned if she'd been made to stay late filling paperwork when she could be smoozing with celebrities.
So having more then enough time before she actually had to be at her desk she'd stopped in at the coffee shop on the corner from the office. She'd waited in line, ordered her quad shot latte and had just wrapped her hands around that warm, life giving cup, only to turn and bump into somebody, coffee going everywhere. “Oh my god! Hold still let me get some napkins!” she shouted, looking around frantically for some.
“It's ok, it'll dry.” he chuckled, looking down at his shirt. Darcy looked at the slowly cooling splotch of brown that spread across the front of his white t-shirt. The white t-shirt that now clung of his ridiculously well defined chest. Don't look at his chest, don't look at his chest. She scolded herself.
“Still, let me buy you a cup of coffee to make up for it.” she begged, eyes still darting around for napkins, hands fluttering about. Great, first attractive guy, from what she could see, that she'd met in the entire year she'd lived in New York and she gives him second degree burns and ruins his shirt.
“Really, it's fine, I don't need-” he finally looks at her, smile on his lips. He stopped short, his smile morphing into the start of of flirtatious smirk. “Well hello, beautiful.”
Darcy felt herself blush. She hadn't blushed since her father caught her with her hand up Whitney Albertson's blouse in eighth grade. “Uh, hi, right back at you.” way to be cool, she chastised herself. She internally grimaced at her inability to function like an adult that morning, but he didn't seem to notice as he smiled down at her.
“Well, now that I think about it there is something you could do to make it up to me.” he said, hands stuffed in his back pockets as the flirtatious smirk came to fruition.
Great, a pervert. Scowling Darcy crossed her arms, brow forwarding slightly in the beginning of a glare. “I'm not giving you a BJ in the alley out back just because I spilled my coffee on you.” she said, more then ready to taze him in her favorite coffee shop if she had to. This was New York, after all, there were twenty more in a six block radius.
Instead he sputtered, eyes wide, hands flailing. “No, no! Not that!” he said, shaking his head vigorously. Letting her stance loosen a bit she nodded, offering a small smile. He swallowed heavily and looked almost shy as he ran his hand through his hair.. “I was wondering if you had plans for tonight.”
Wrinkling her nose she decided to play coy. Just because she hadn't been on a date since before New Mexico, didn't mean she had to look desperate. “I usually don't go out with men till I at least know their first name.”
Smiling, he held out his hand. “James Barnes at your service, ma'am.”
Oh, boy there was that blush again. “Darcy Lewis.” she said, holding out her own. She's going to be honest, she was expecting a firm handshake, not for him to grab her hand and turn it over, placing a small kiss on her wrist. Ok, so he was either laying it on a little thick or he was genuinely that type of guy. Then he looked up at her, slate blue eyes twinkling with a bit of mirth, like he knew he was laying it on thick. Wow, there went her stomach. “A friend of a friend is throwing a party.” she blurted out before he'd even raised his head again. “It's plus one.” she added a second later, trying to keep her voice from sounding too prepubescent.
Straightening up he was doing the smile again, the one that Darcy was fairly sure had become her kryptonite in the span of a seven minute conversation. “Time and place, and I'll pick you up.”
Ok, that was a little old fashioned for her taste, not to mention it was against her contract to have just anyone know where she lived. “You could meet me at Grand Central Station and we could walk.” she offered, smiling. “Say about seven?”
“Seven it is.” Grasping her hand again he laid a quick kiss across the knuckles before giving one last smile and heading out the door. God if she didn't have sex with him tonight she'd be breaking her record.
Standing in line for another cup of coffee she was a little surprised when she heard her name called. Picking up the cup, a quad shot latte like before, she glanced at the red marker written on the side. Since you never asked: 555-9278. James. How the hell he did that she'd never know, but by the knowing smirk on the barista's face she was pretty sure he had an in. Grinning like an idiot she began the walk to work. She had a date, and nothing was going to burst her bubble.
Something always had to burst her bubble. In this case it was some up start super villain’s idea of a Halloween prank. Seriously, robot zombies? Scowling at her tv she kicked her feet up on the coffee table. She was still wearing her costume, because up in till twenty minutes ago she'd been ready to walk out her front door. That is till she'd gotten the text from Jane, Channel 12, party canceled. So she'd texted James and let him now that the plans were off. She still hadn't gotten a text in reply. Feeling sorry for her self she grabbed her phone and hit speed dial eight. “You better still be in your costume. I'll be there in fifteen minutes.” Grabbing her purse she was out the door.
Jane had been reluctant to leave her apartment, especially since Thor hadn't gotten in contact with her yet. Darcy had just given her a look and pushed her into the cab. Somehow they ended up at Coney Island, though Darcy is still a little unclear on how that happened. All she knew was that a fifty dollar cab fare was as close to a mugging as she'd gotten in New York.
They found a park bench about not that far from where the cab dropped them off, one with a good view of the Ferris wheel. Jane just sat there, biting her cuticle while checking her phone every few seconds. Darcy dealt with it for a full five minutes before she grabbed the phone out of Jane's hand. “Relax. He's a god.” No sooner had the words left her mouth then the phone rang, Jane almost tackling her to get it back.
“Yes, hello. This is Dr. Jane Foster speaking.” she talked for a few minutes, mostly confirming or denying whatever the person of the other end was saying. “Yes, I see the car. Thank you.” Turning back to Darcy she hung up. “That's my ride to the Tower. You want a lift?”
Darcy just shook her head. “Nay. I'll stay here for a bit longer then catch a cab back home.” She didn't want to tell Jane she really didn't have the money to get back to Harlem, but she figured she could work something out before the last train ran. Jane just nodded, and waved goodnight as she made a bee line for the car.
Sighing, Darcy pulled out her phone, and snapped a picture of the Ferris wheel. On a whim she opened up her contact list and sent it to James. If nothing else maybe they could be friends. She sat there for half an hour before standing up and walking towards where she thought she saw a bus stop. Rubbing her arms she was really regretting not bringing a coat, but then again, she never remembered to bring one so she really shouldn't be surprised.
“Darcy!” Crinkling her brow Darcy turned around to see who could possibly be yelling at her, and stopped mid turn. There, walking towards her waving was James, his face only partially lit by the street lights. Turning all the way around she looked him up and down. She wasn't sure where he'd got it but he was dressed in a World War two era army uniform, like the kind she had seen her Pops wear in old photos, complete with hat.
Feeling a smile work it's way across her face she put her hands on her hips. “You're late, soldier!” she called back, laughter keeping any real reprimand from her voice. He stopped a foot or so away, smiling at her.
“Well, in my defense, a certain dame told me our date was canceled.” he replied, a bit of a Brooklyn accent tinting his words.
Giving him a look she tried to keep from laughing. “A dame, huh? Been called a lot of things, but I think that is a first.” Giving a bark of laughter he held out his arm.
“What can I say? I'm an old fashioned kind of guy.” his words were punctuated by a swift lift of his brow, and a flirty smirk. Laughing Darcy went to take his arm, only for him to stop her, pulling off the pea coat he was wearing and placing it on her shoulders. “You came out here with out bringing a jacket?”
Darcy just shrugged. “I was a bit sullen after having to cancel a certain date.” she countered. “How'd you figure out I was here anyway?”
He just hooked their arms together and started walking. “I've lived in Brooklyn a good portion of my life. Kinda hard not to know what that Ferris wheel looks like.” he explained. Nodding Darcy just smiled, enjoying the feel of his arm pulling her close. “Have to say I feel a little over dressed. I thought you'd invited me to a costume party.”
“It was a costume party.” she explained. He gave her a look, causing Darcy to huff. “Dude, I'm totally wearing a costume!” Stopping she pulled away, making sure there was a street lamp near by she opened the coat she showed off her dress. He looked her up and down but eventually gave a confused little shrug. “I'm the Hulk!”
Of all the reactions she was expecting she hadn't thought he'd tilt his head back and give a full body laugh. Pouting Darcy shuffled her feet slightly. She thought it would be a fun costume, not that he would openly laugh at her about it. Shaking his head he reached out and pulled her close. “I have to say, I think a lot of New Yorkers would have looked at the property damage a lot differently if the Hulk looked more like you.”
Feeling slightly less put out she smiled up at him. “And how do I look?” she teased, finally feeling comfortable enough to do so. Not very many guys would track down a girl they'd met less then twenty-four hours before hand with nothing to go off of except a camera pic. That had to mean something. Right?
Her breath stuttered a bit as he reached out a gloved hand to push her hair behind her ear. “Beautiful.” he said softly, leaning in just slightly.
“Aw, fuck it.” she whispered under her breath before quickly wrapping her arms around his neck, pulling him in for a kiss. He seemed to stiffen just for a second before his arms curled around her waist, drawing her closer. Neither of them really deepened the kiss, leaving it as a simple press of lips against lips, moving till they found just the right angle for them both. After a few seconds, or minutes she really wasn't paying attention to the time, he gently swept his tongue across her top lip, almost like he was asking permission. How could she say no when he asked so nicely?
It's the first time she could ever remember smiling while kissing, but it felt good. At some point, she's pretty sure when she gave his bottom lip a cheeky little nip, his hands worked their way under the coat, one settling on her hip while the other migrated north to settle between her shoulder blades. After what seemed like the longest kiss of her life he pulled back slightly to look at her, smiling. Feeling suddenly nervous she pulled her arms from around his neck, sliding her arm through his as she began to pull him down the boardwalk.
“Well, seeing as you were late, I think you owe me something to make up for it.” she said, her voice more steady and authoritative then she felt.
“Oh, really. What might that be?” he countered, his smile clear in his voice.
“I'm thinking...a hotdog!” she chirped happily.
James just laughed again, shaking his head. “I think everything's pretty much closed up for the night.”
“That is a problem.” Frowning slightly, she scrunched up her face like she was really concentrating. “I guess you're just going to have to take me on a second date then.” Her heart stopped for a moment as he pulled his arm out of her's, only to start again when she felt his hand settle on her left hip, drawing him closer to his side.
He pursed his lips for a moment, almost like he was concentrating. “That sounds fair.” he said, and Darcy could see a smile curling on his lips again. “How soon are you supposed to wait for a second date?” he asked stopping to stare down at her. Before she could open her mouth to respond he barreled on. “'Cause I know this twenty-four hour place down near Soho. I think they might have hotdogs on the menu, but I can't really guarantee.”
She frowned a little bit. “Well, I don't know..” she started, watching the light dim a little in his eyes. Not wanting that she reached up to straighten his tie. “I mean, if you can't guarantee hotdogs, what can you guarantee?” The light was back just as quickly, a smirk working it's way across his face.
“I don't know. The best company in New York money can't buy?” he offered with a shrug.
Sigh dramatically Darcy shook her head. “Well, it's not hotdogs...but it sounds like an even trade.” Linking their arms again he laughed pulling them off towards the street to hail a cab.
“Wow.” Tony said, handing her the bottle. “You should call Nicholas Sparks. He'd saw off his own arm for a story like that.” Snorting as she took a drink Darcy coughed a bit, handing the bottle off to Clint while she waited for them to subside.
“You asked. I told.” she replied. “And how do you know who Nicholas Sparks is?” He didn't answer, instead focusing in on his tablet. Glancing at it quickly Darcy saw a set of schematics labeled time machine. She wasn't sure if he was being serious or just drunkenly tinkering with something. Either way, she's kind of glad he was with them and not tearing a whole in the space time continuum. “Anyway, I told my story, it's somebodyelse's turn.” Looking at the two older men in their group she pointed at Bruce. “Your turn Banner.”
Shaking his head Bruce just held up his hands. “Oh, no I'm not getting caught up in this.” he said, looking like there wasn't anything he'd rather talk about less.
“Come on, I just spilled out my story.” Darcy pressed, pushing her legs out in front of her.
“Well, lets just say my story's a bit more x-rated then that.” he said, obviously regretting his words when he saw the looks on the others faces.
“Oh, now you have to share.” Tony said, leaning into Bruce's side slightly. “I mean, I think Lewis' story just gave me a cavity.” He ignored her indignant 'hey!', instead turning his pleading eyes to Bruce. “Come on. Please?”
Sighing, Bruce started to roll another joint. “Alright, but this story doesn't get retold.” He waited till they all nodded before giving his own nod. “Alright, it started the night we first went up against Doctor Doom...”
So next is the story of how Bruce and Natasha happened. Warning, there will be a graphic sex scene, a first for me as a writer, at least when it comes to hetero. Because of this, I'll probably take a few days to post, sometimes sex scenes just need a little extra work so they don't seem too awkward. Thanks for reading though, and I hope you enjoyed it!
Chapter 3: The road paved with good intentions
Bruce tells the story of how he and Natasha began.
Warning! Explicit sex in this chapter! If you aren't old enough, or don't want to read, it's probably safer just to skip this chapter. Also, it's more kinky then I planed on it being, not sure how I feel about that. Anyway, please enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It never should have happened, that first quiet moment in his lab. The others were all either in medical or had gone to their rooms for the night. Bruce hadn't felt like sleeping, he never did after the Other Guy came out for any length of time. So instead he sat in his lab, going over paperwork, looking at cultures that really didn't amount to much in the end. He hadn't heard her come in, which really isn't that surprising, it wasn't the first time it had happened after all. “Dr. Banner.” she called softly from the other side of the room. Looking up from his microscope he took in her stained and ripped uniform, instantly getting off of his stool. “I need your assistance.”
“I can see that.” he remarked, gently guiding her to a stool near the sink. He kept a well stocked first aide kit under there, and by looking at her he was pretty sure he was going to need most of it. “You should be in medical.”
She just stared at him, giving a little lift of her left shoulder. “It's not that serious. I just have difficulty tying the bandages one handed.” she explained. Bruce just sighed, and began pulling out what he would need.
“I need to take off your uniform.” he said, only realizing a second later that his voice didn't sound as clinical as he had intended it to. Coughing slightly he turned his eyes away, grabbing a bottle of alcohol. Natasha didn't seem fazed, just moving slowly as she removed her gauntlets before pulling her arms out of the sleeves, letting her uniform fall at her hips. Bruce would be lying if he said he'd never stopped to think about what she wore under the skin tight jumpsuit. He swallowed thickly as his eyes caught the black and cream lace that covered her breasts. Taking a deep breath he instead focused on the long cut on her upper arm.
He felt his hands shake just slightly as he wiped the alcohol soaked cotton ball over the cut, looking closely for any particulates that may have entered the would. It had been a very long time since Betty, well, since any woman really, and Agent Romanov was nothing if not beautiful. Focusing in his gaze he tried hard not to notice. She was injured, he shouldn't be thinking about her in a sexual manner.
Once her arm was cleaned and bandaged he started looking over the cuts on her face and neck. Nothing seemed too severe, but he checked her pupils just to be certain she didn't have a concision. Turning he slightly in the chair he started to work on her hands. “You are very good at playing doctor.” Bruce kept his eyes down, gently cleaning the blood from between her knuckles, ignoring the stab of arousal that statement caused. He really was a dirty old man.
“Thank you.” he said after a moment, an almost smile on his lips. “With all the hurt I cause I figured I might as well figure out how to heal. It doesn't make up for it, but,” he paused, tossing the soiled cotton into the trash. “Well, nothing's really going to make up for, now is it?” He tried to give a small laugh, hoping to ease the truth of the words, but it sounded bitter, even to his own ears. Shifting awkwardly when she didn't say anything, he pulled his hands away, suddenly trembling again though for a different reason this time.
He hadn't expected for her slim fingers to snake around his wrist, pulling it down to lay on her thigh before placing her own over top of it. “You are a good man.” she said, her fingers lightly tracing over the worn skin of his knuckles.
“Do you remember what I said to you when we first met?” he asked, his voice hardening. She simply looked up at him, her eyes clear and vacant of any telling emotion. “I don't like being lied to. So don't.”
Natasha gave a small 'hmm', turning her eyes back to their hands. “Alright.” she replied, gaze intent as she traced over old scares. “You have the potential to do horrific things.” Her words caused him to flinch just slightly. They were true, he knew that, told himself the same thing every day even. It was just hearing them out loud, in a voice that wasn't his. It didn't make them any more or less true, it just made them seem a little bit more real. If Natasha noticed his flinch there wasn't any tell on her face, though he supposed there wouldn't be. She hadn't gotten to this point in her career without being able to hide well behind the shroud of indifference. “Still, you chose to try to do things for the good of others.” Finally she looked up at him, a trace of something shinning at him in her eyes. “I don't think I've met a man before you that chose that over their own selfishness.” Pulling herself up she stood in front of him, the top of her uniform still dangling at her waist, though she didn't seem fazed at all by her state of undress.
He expected that to be it, for her to dress and silently walk out of his lab, disappearing like she had never been there at all. He hadn't expected her sudden lurch forward, or the feeling of soft lips crashing into his. It wasn't gentle by any means, first lips, then tongues and teeth. His hands worked up her back of their own accord, her's snaking up to cradle the back of his neck, keeping him in place. Her hands felt soft, which he found slightly disconcerting, especially since she could snap his neck in less time then it would take him to look surprised.
She shifted her hips, just slightly, before grinding against him in a slow, deliberate way. Groaning deeply, he pulled her closer, suddenly wanting to rip of his own clothes, to fell her soft skin pressed bare against his own.
She pulled back suddenly, Bruce's head instinctively lurching forward to reclaim her lips, but she evaded him. Wordlessly she pulled herself out of his arms. He took in her kiss bruised lips, the hair in disarray. He didn't have to look down further to know she had been as aroused as he was, he'd felt the hardness of her nipples through not only the fabric of her bra, but also his dress shirt. Turning towards the counter she slipped her arms back into her sleeves before carefully encircling her wrists with the gauntlets. Turning back around she looked at him, poised and collected, not at all like someone who had heatedly been kissing him moments before. “Thank you, for the bandage.” she said, her voice it's normal, even alto. Before he could move she'd already side stepped him, heading out the door. He stood there staring at the now empty lab before giving a long suffering sigh.
Walking to the bathroom attached to the back of the lab he turned on the faucet to cold before sticking his head under the water. He stayed there till he felt his heart rate slow, the Other guy settling back down from where he'd just started to stir. Pulling back he looked at himself in the mirror, running a weary hand over his face. “Dirty old man.” he sneered at his own reflection. He didn't sleep that night, but he didn't think anyone would have begrudged him.
After that it was like nothing had happened. He wasn't sure if he was grateful or if his pride was hurt, but he didn't have to think about it long. Not three days later he'd gotten a tip on where he might be able to find a cure for his infliction. Packing up his bags he'd gone to Malaysia, fully expecting his problems to be left in New York. A month later he'd returned, no closer to a cure then when he left.
In his absence life had moved on in New York. The team seemed to be more of a cohesive group, now under the watchful eye of Ms. Darcy Lewis. The woman was young, barely looking old enough to buy alcohol, let alone handle everything that happened in a given week at the Tower. She seemed to have the respect of his teammates though, and after a few days he could see why. She was competent, funny, sarcastic, and as close to fearless he'd ever seen with out being stupidly reckless. Or a superhero. It didn't take long for her to receive his respect as well, not very many people would look the Hulk in the eye and tell him he was being rude.
The weeks slipped by, and he'd finally put the whole kissing incident out of his mind. That is, till the next time the Avengers were called out to stop New York from turning into a barren wasteland. Once the dust had settled and he'd managed to calm his blood again, he'd headed off to his lab. He doesn't know what surprises him more, that she was standing there in his door, moments after he had entered, or the slight limp that she had. He didn't say anything, just walked over and pulled out the first aide kit, gesturing towards the stool she'd occupied the last time this had happened. “I'm going to have to remember to stock up more often.” he attempted to joke, but at her passive look he fell quiet.
He pointedly ignored the cut on her upper lip for a moment, instead focusing on the gash on her forehead that was still bleeding. She did seem to have a habit of leaving a conflict with head wounds, though he'd never seen anyone before her wear them so delicately, like the latest fall accessory for assassins. Biting the inside of his lip to keep himself from laughing at his own jokes, he quickly placed a few butterfly closures to it before moving along. “Where is your leg hurt?” he asked after cleaning the few nicks and scraps she had on her neck and arms.
“I believe I might have a piece of debris lodged in a cut.” she answered, stretching out her leg so that she could unzip her boot. The sound of it hitting the floor was deafening to Bruce. Carefully he reached out, rolling up the cloth so that it was out of the way. She didn't so much a flinch as the fabric dragged across the open wound.
Reaching for the alcohol he focused in on the blood, the possible infection, not how soft the skin of her calf felt under his hand. Working methodically he slowly wiped away the blood, looking for anything that might be stuck in the wound. Finding nothing the first time he did two more sweeps before deciding it was safe to begin bandaging. He probably took longer then strictly needed to apply the the gauze and tape, but the feel of her skin, soft and pale, under his finger tips had a way of distracting him. Finally done he cleared his throat, gently letting go of her leg to it could drop back down onto the table top, still stretched out in front of her.
Wiping his suddenly sweaty palms on his pant legs he pointed towards her lip. “Does that feel alright or would you like a closure on it?”
He went completely hard in the next second, watching the tip of her pink tongue dart out to give a tentative poke at the wound before licking her lips. Time must have slowed down, he had no other explanation for how slow that tongue moved over her reddened lips before disappearing back into her mouth. “No.” she said a second later, startling him slightly. He almost opened his mouth to ask for clarification when she continued speaking. “It appears to be fine. If not I can take care of it later.”
Bruce simply nodded, keeping his hands busy by picking up the scraps of soiled cotton and paper that lay on top of the table. He was turning around from the trash can when he felt her fingers wrap around his wrist, pulling him in close till he stood between her legs. Reaching up she grabbed his collar pulling him to her lips. He staggered forward a bit, not having anywhere to brace his hands for a moment till his palms landed on the edge of the stool, fingers curling to hold on tight.
He couldn't suppress a moan as he felt her leg, still bare from the knee down, slowly work it's way up his calf and then the back of his thigh till it was firmly hooked around his hips, drawing them in close to her pelvis. This time he was the one to deepen the kiss, forcefully running his tongue over the seam of her lips till she opened them. Grinding his hips down against her he was surprised to hear a sudden intake of breath. That was the most response she had displayed during their two impromptu make out sessions.
Just like the time before she was the one to pull back, her leg slipping down till her foot landed on the floor. Swallowing thickly Bruce backed away till he felt the cool steel of the table under his hands. Natasha didn't look at him, simply plucked her boot from the floor and putting it back on. Standing she gave him her standard bland, but pleasant, look nodding her head towards him. “Thank you once again, Doctor Banner.” Without another word she walked out of his lab.
After the second time it sort of became a, well, a thing. Every time she was injured in the field, as long as it wasn't too serious, she would show up in his lab. Then he would patch her up and they would end up 'making out', as juvenile as that sounds, till she decided to leave.
Then the day came he'd been dreading since he joined the Avengers. It was an accident, he knew that but as soon as he came down from the emotional high that always accompanied the Other Guy all he could keep a hold of was a series of clear images. Natasha, beautiful and deadly, his...the Other Guy's hand connecting with her, tossing her into a nearby building. Then the noise, deafening noise. The last thing he remembered before it all blurred into feelings and unfocused images was Natasha, red seeping into her uniform, as she lay motionless in a large green palm.
He locked himself in his lab once they got back to the Tower, politely asking JARVIS to keep everyone out. That worked for three days. Three days were he didn't sleep, barely ate, just worked. Every theory, every possible lead. He exhausted each and everyone to the point of nausea. All he could think of was that last image, Natasha bleeding in his hand because of him. He had to fix this. He couldn't hurt another woman who had dared to get close to him.
He was slightly surprised when he heard the click of the lock. No one had tried to get in since he'd disappeared, though he supposed it made sense that someone would eventually. Looking up from his computer, however, he felt his breath catch for just a moment. “Doctor Banner.” she said, coming to a stop just shy of the table. She looked, not good, but better then he had expected for someone who was bleeding out seventy-two hours before hand.
“Agent Romanov.” he said, finding his legs too unsteady to stand. “You look...well.” He wanted to stuff the words back in his mouth as soon as they came out. She didn't look nearly as bad as he thought she would, but she still looked warn, a bit rough around the edges. It was the most undone he'd ever seen her, except for those few fleeting moments on the Helicarrier, right before the Other Guy took control.
She didn't say anything, but her lips softened, almost as though she was trying to hide a smile. Bruce really didn't see what was so funny. Leaning her hip against the side of the table she crossed her arms. “My injuries were not as extensive as first believed.” He swallowed thickly before nodding and turning back towards his computer. “However,” she began, brushing her hand against his just lightly. “I was wondering if you could help me.” Turning around she lifted up the back of her blouse. His eyes slide down her spin, finally coming to rest on the large wide, white bandage there. Glancing over her shoulder, red hair framing her face she looked him in the eye. “I can't reach very well.”
His hand was up off the table and stretched out before he even realized he'd moved. Coughing, he pulled back his hand, standing quickly. “I'll...I'll get the first aide kit.” He almost dropped the kit when he turned back around. Natasha had taken off her blouse, carelessly draping it over the back of the chair he'd vacated. Her back was to him, her hair flipped over one shoulder, palms laid on the table top, back arched just so. Taking a calming breath he walked forward, setting his supplies beside her hand. Flexing his fingers he tried to stop the slight shakes that had settled there.
Peeling away the bandage was a slow process, being careful that the gauze hadn't stuck to her skin. Once it was it was off he gently cleaned the wound, washing away the dry blood that flaked her pale skin. He worked faster on bandaging the wound. The sooner this was all done with, the better. He really didn't know what Natasha was trying to accomplish with this, but he really wasn't in the mood for games. “Done.” he announced a moment later, grabbing the excess supplies from the table and turning around to the cabinets.
The moments ticked by, Bruce keeping his back turned even after he accomplished his task. A hand clasping his shoulder drew his eyes up, turning slightly to look at Natasha. She hadn't put her blouse back on, instead standing there boldly in just her bra and jeans. She gave his shoulder a little push, forcing him to turn around to fully face her. He wasn't expecting the soft hand that cupped his cheek, running a finger gently along his jaw. He barely had time to think before she surged forward, her lips claiming his in a forceful motion.
He didn't struggle, or move to reciprocate, instead choosing to stand still and let her take what she wanted. That's what he'd always done, anyway, wasn't it? Her hands moved around to cup the back of his head, fingers carding their way through his hair, pulling him even closer. His hands landed on her hips, more so to ground himself then anything else, his body slowly relaxing.
Her tongue wormed its way between his lips as she arched her back, pressing her breasts against his chest. Clenching his eyes tight, his fingers dug into her hips, pulling her flush against him. When he felt her teeth sink into his bottom lip, just enough to hurt, but not to draw blood, something in him snapped. In an instant he wrapped his arms around her waist, spinning them so that her back was pressed up against the cabinets. Mewling Natasha arched her back, wrapping her legs around his waist, pulling him tightly against her before rolling her hips just right. Bruce groaned into her mouth, returning the favor with a pelvic jerk of his own.
His hands had just found their way to her breasts, his thumb circling her right nipple, when she pulled back, breathing heavily. Dropping his hands, Bruce took a step back, waiting for her to collect herself. He knew what came next, the bland pleasantries and the inevitable departure. Her feet connected with the floor, heels clicking just slightly as she shifted to steady herself. Taking another step back he took in the sight of her, cheeks flushed, lips bruised, hair a wild mane of red flowing behind her. She looked at him for a moment, eyes calculating, but not as cold as he remembered them being. Then she dropped to her knees.
He's being honest when he says he can't remember anything from watching her slowly kneel to the exact second her tongue flicked across the head of his cock for the first time. Eyes wide he stared down at her, heart pounding. Large blue eyes stared back up at him as she slowly worked her mouth over him. She hit a spot, just on the underside, then sent his head snapping backwards, his hands threading themselves through her hair. She worked him over till he was mewling, and thrashing and begging for her not to stop.
Pulling her head back she released him, her eyes leaving his for the first time since she started as she slowly stood, legs just a bit wobbly. Once she was standing fully she reached behind her, unhooking her bra and letting it fall to the floor. Staring at him she lifted a brow, what he could only assume was an invitation. Not having to be told twice he step forward, wrapping his arm around her as he kissed and teased his way along the column of her neck, down her collarbone, finally coming to a stop right above her left nipple. He might not have had a lot of experience with women, but he did have a more then rudimentary knowledge of anatomy. Looking up at her he smirked before pursing his lips and blowing gently against the skin.
This time it was her hands in his hair, her voice begging him not to tease. Running his hands lightly under her breast, just grazing her ribs he watched with interest as she shuddered and gasp, arching into his touch. He finally gave in, his tongue gently moving over her nipples, first the left, then the right before moving back to the left.
He looked up at her when she gently tugged his hair. Pulling away from her breasts he allowed himself to be pulled down into another heated kiss. Somehow they managed to discard the rest of their clothing with out breaking the kiss, sliding together till they found just the right angle. Bruce pulled away, burring his head in her shoulder as he slowly sunk in to her, palming her hips to bring her closer.
Neither of them uttered a word as they moved together. They didn't need to. They could spell everything out with hands, and lips. With the rolls of her hips, or the nip of his teeth. Reaching down between them he brought her off first, swiftly following with a shattering gasp.
They stayed there for a few long minutes, just breathing each other in as they clenched and shuddered their way through the after math. Finally he lifted his head to look at her face. Of all the things he was expecting a look of true calm wasn't even on the list. Tilting her head she brought them together for a long, slow kiss before unwrapping her legs from around his waist.
Looking down at herself then at him a soft look crossed her face before she kicked her jeans off from where they still clung to her right foot. Not saying a word she grabbed his hand, pulling him towards the small room he kept at the back of the lab. He didn't protest, especially not as she laid him down on the cot, and straddled his hips.
He must have fallen asleep after round number three, or was it four, because he found himself being gently pulled from a light slumber by a body shifting on the bed next to him. Opening an eye he watched as Natasha slowly sat up in bed, stretching her back before standing. “Finally got your fill then?” he heard himself asking, voice hoarse and a little odd sounding even in his own ears.
Looking at him over her shoulder, she smiled, the first real smile Bruce had ever seen on her face. When she shook her head her hair flew around her, making her look younger then she already did. “Not hardly.” she whispered back. “However, I would prefer for the tower gossip to revolve around something other then who I chose to take to my bed.” Leaning across the bed she kissed him gently before pulling the cover up. He really couldn't fault her for that, he'd already seen the wild speculation revolving around Tony and Captain Rogers. “Go to sleep, дорогая.” Giving him one more kiss, she rose and headed out the door.
Bruce stopped, taking in the wide eyed and slightly slake jawed looks of the other three. “I feel like I just listened to a 'dear penthouse' letter.” Tony quipped, the other two just nodding along.
He just shrugged, picking at the label of one of the now empty bottles of alcohol. “You asked. I told.”
Rummaging through her bag Darcy pulled out yet another bottle, breaking the seal. “Ok, who's next?” she asked, taking a much more dainty sip then she'd been taking in the past.
“Not fare!” Tony exclaimed, leaning sloppily against the wall. “I'm the only one left!”
“No you're not.” Darcy said, her voice taking on a sing-song note. Clint glared at her, shoulders hunching forward in an attempt to look indimidating.
“Shut up, Lewis.” he growled, causing her to laugh.
Taking a long drink Tony waived a hand between them. “Hold up, wait a minute. Are you,” he said pointing at Darcy. “Saying that you,” This time the finger was pointed in Clint's direction. “Are in a relationship? And you didn't tell me?”
Grabbing the bottle out of Tony's hand Darcy took another drink. “He's status classification m.” she supplied happily.
Crinkling his brow Tony looked at her like she'd gone crazy. “What the hell does that mean?”
Giving a long suffering shy, Clint dug a chain out from under his shirt. Tony and Bruce stared at it for a moment before the collective realization came. It was a ring. “It means I'm married, dumbass.” he said, scowling.
“Oh, boy. I've gotta hear this one!” Tony exclaimed before pointing a finger at Bruce. “Roll another one, Kermit!” Bruce rolled his eyes, but there was a fond little smile on his lips.
Clint glared at him, crossing his arms. “I can't tell it! It's classified!” he shouted. At his words Darcy's face lit up. Reaching for her bag she began to dig through it, finally pulling out two sheets of paper and two pens. “You've got to be kidding me!”
“Sign these.” she ordered, handing one to both Tony and Bruce.
“What is it?” Bruce asked, looking over the sheet.
Darcy shrugged. “Standard confidentiality agreement for pieces of information classified as a level 2 to level 5 security clearance, so long as the signer is at a level four general security clearance or higher. Both of you are level fives, so sign.” she explained, giving Clint a smug little look. Tony and Bruce exchanged a look before shrugging and signing on the dotted line. Paperwork back in hand she turned to Clint. “Now you may proceed.”
Snorting Clint leaned his back against the railing, legs spread out in front of him, taking in his attentive audience. “Kay, but that paper work hand better be legally binding.” When Darcy gave him a look, clearly meant to say 'don't tell me how to do my job' he continued. “Ok, so it started right after the Chituari invasion...”
So no Darcy/Bucky this chapter, or the next couple, but don't worry, the latter half of this fic is devoted mostly to them, when I'm not tying up loose ends.
Chapter 4: What happens in Reno...
What happens in Reno is sometimes only legal in New York.
Ok, so there's going to be a major mash up of canon here, but that's mostly because there is no back story for Clint in the movies. That being said, a little bit of a fix-it, but not really. Over all, kinda short, but it's been a crazy week for me, and this chapter was just really hard. Anyway, enjoy.
There are a lot of points that could be considered the start of Clint and Phil's relationship, the moment that they met for instance. A seedy little Midwestern bar, a marine on leave, a g-man in a suite. The kind of set up found in romances. Or porn. It wasn't some clandestine meeting though, it was a job interview, one that changed the course of Clint's life. He'd almost said no to the offer. Then he'd looked Phil in the eyes, and saw a man who honestly believed in what he did. Who could say no to that?
The attraction was there from the beginning on Clint's part. Not that it had amounted to anything. Phil was still Coulson in those days, the neutral faced agent who's voice he heard in his ear piece. Clint never trusted anybody easily, but with Coulson he had to fight the trust. It happened naturally. Then Clint brought in Natasha Romanov on a gut instinct. Coulson had just looked at him before nodding. Clint didn't know how to deal with the fact that Coulson trusted him, so he didn't. Instead he did his job, worked hard, and tried to pretend that he had ever thought of his handler as anything but that. Life had hit an even keel, and honestly Clint couldn't ask for more. He'd come to SHIELD three days after his twenty-first birthday, he was compromised for the first time when he thirty three.
After Natasha had beat some sense into him, after they'd defeated Loki, after the Shawarma, Nat had taken his aside and told him. He hated himself, wanted to die more days then not. The orders were to lay low, so that's what they did. Back roads and cheap hotel rooms. Natasha made sure he ate and slept, that he didn't choke to death on his own vomit, or take the entire bottle of hydrocodone. He finally figured it out around South Dakota, head resting against the side of the bathtub. He'd been in love with him all along. He flushed the pills. When he'd walked out of the bathroom Natasha had just nodded and started packing. They arrived back in New York three months after the Chitauri. Then all hell broke loose.
Most people would be happy to find out the man they love had returned from the dead. Clint Barton isn't most people. Instead he'd held his head high, said “Good to have you back, sir.” in his most even and passive voice, and promptly signed on for any foreign op they would give an “Avenger”. That had lasted six weeks. Till he'd gotten the call as he was leaving Tel Aviv. He was requested in Reno, and no wasn't going to be an option, Phil Coulson had asked for him personally.
Reno was one of those defining moments in his life, like Budapest, though for very different reasons. The op should have been cut and dry, basically a babysitting job for a promotional evaluation. Then not only the package but the handler had been compromised. By compromised Clint of course meant drugged and trussed up in the trunk of their own car by a gun toting, sword welding sociopath that moonlighted as a merc. To this day he has no idea who dropped the ball when it came to Deadpool. Wade Wilson had been on SHIELD's watch list since Clint had become an agent so he was pretty sure it was somebody's job to pay attention to any rumor about where he might pop up. “Barton.” Coulson's voice rang in his ear.
“Yea, yea. I know.” he said, trying to get off a clear shot to take out the tires.
“Do not engage. Am I clear, agent? Do not engage.” Clint hesitated for a moment before pulling back the arrow.
“I have the shot, sir.” he said calmly, fingers twitching to release. He had the shot, one motion and he could take out the tires, slow then down enough that the other agents could intercept.
“Stand down, Baton.” Coulson responded. Clint cursed and lowered the bow. He knew that voice, it wasn't one that anyone questioned not even him.
“Orders, sir?” he asked as he watched the car skid around the corner and disappear from sight. He really didn't know what Coulson was playing at with this. The Wolverine would be fine, barring a decapitation anyway. It was the girl that was in real danger, especially if Wilson decided her usefulness wasn't worth the hassle.
“Barton,” was all he heard before a sharp pain exploded in the back of his head. He staggered for a moment, trying to keep upright. A second blow hit, propelling him forward. The third blow must have hit just right because his vision blurred before everything went black.
When the world finally bled back into reality Clint took stoke of where he was. Flexing his fingers he tested the restraints that were holding his hands above his head. The cutting feel of plastic let him know that who ever was behind this wasn't an amateur. Zip ties were hard as hell to get out of, especially with his hands tied above his head. The cool concrete of the windowless room let him know he was in a basement somewhere, probably still with in the city limits since he didn't think he'd been out that long.
He heard footsteps just outside the door. Closing his eyes he forced his breath to even out, feigning unconsciousness. The lock clicked, the door opened and all Clint could do was focus on his breathing, knowing he would only get a chance if he kept the element of surprise.
His eyes involuntarily shot upon when a foot connected with his stomach. Gritting his teeth he kept his head lowered, he still had the element of surprise and he wasn't going to give that up easily. “I know you're awake.” The voice was male, and obviously mocking him, but there was something else. Raking his brain Clint tried to figure out why that voice sounded slightly familiar. “Come on, Clint. I thought you were made of better stuff then this.” Clint's breath left him as his muddled mind finally connected the dots.
“Barney.” he gasped out, his lungs hurting. He hadn't heard that voice since he'd left the circus, since everything had gone wrong back then. That fight the night Clint had decided he needed something different, that the army was going to take him and give him a new life. Barney had been the one pressuring them to leave, to start over somewhere just their own, especially after the mess with the Swordsman. Apparently Barney had only wanted change on his own terms because when Clint had gone to him with his orders Barney had yelled, telling Clint he was ruining everything.
Gloved fingers squeezed his jaw, pushing his head up till Clint was looking at him. “Glad to see you still know me, little bro.” Barney smirked as he talked, his eyes cold and calculating. Letting go of Clint he took a step backwards. “I spent a lot of time looking for you, you know.” Walking over to a table in the corner he picked up a sharp knife. “See, a lot happened after you took off.” Crossing the room again he looked at the blade of the knife. “Nothing good. No, good shit never happened to me, did it, baby bro? That was always you.” The knife sliced across his abdomen before Clint could register the movement. Clint could hold in the grunt of pain, but not the wince that accompanied it. Barney looked at the blood that slid down the blade. “Now, lets see what you can tell me about those new friends of yours.”
Clint lost track of time after that. Barney would periodically stop and leave the room, only to come back a bit later. His forth entrance made Clint's skin crawl, there was something manic in Barney's eyes that wasn't there before. “Well, since you haven't been very talkative, I found somebody new.” Waving his hand two thugs pulled an unconscious body through the door, hanging them by the hands just like he was. At first all Clint could make out was the dark suite, the persons facial features blurred in the shadows. Barney picked up a bucket of water, dumping the contents over the other prisoners head. The bottom dropped out of Clint's stomach when the other person sputtered and coughed their way to the land of the living. Fuck, he had Phil. Trying to keep his breathing even all Clint could do was watch as Barney picked up another knife.
“You know, I thought Deadpool was a little over priced.” Barney began, cutting Phil's tie from around his throat. “But when he practically gift wraps not only baby bro over there, but you? Well, that just makes it worth every penny.” Phil remained silent, just looking at him as each button was popped on his shirt. “See, I've been following your little dog and pony show for a while know, and you wanna know what I found out?” This time the knife grazed skin, red welts raising in it's path. “You see, Clint over there won't cave to torture, he's been trained to well. No, to get 'im to talk you have to hit bellow the belt.” He'd started to press the blade harder, blood welling to the surface.
“Barney! Stop!” Clint heard himself cry out, tugging on his restraints. He kept pulling even when he felt blood trickle between his fingers.
Barney glanced over his shoulder at Clint, smirking before returning his attention to the other man. “See?” He didn't wait for Phil to respond, instead undoing Phil's belt buckle. “Let's see how long it takes him to spill, huh?” The belt hitting the ground was deafening to Clint. There was nothing he could do, and he didn't know if Barney was bluffing or not. Either way it couldn't bode well for either of them. “You know, there's a reason why he'd spill to save you.”
Clint's blood ran cold. Barney was going to emotionally blackmail him. Spill and I'll keep your secret. Spill or I'll take something of his that you've dreamed he'd give to you. “Barney!” He doubled his efforts, feeling a slight satisfaction as the plastic began to warp just slightly under the strain. Barney just threw his head back and laughed.
“Maybe he wants to know, Clint, ever think of that?” Barney taunted before turning back to Phil. “See, baby bro over there is in love with you. Has been for years from what I dug up. Isn't that just so sweet? Pinning away quietly all this time for somebody he ain't ever gonna get.” This time the sadistic smile that moved across his lips was paired with a look of detached satisfaction in his eyes.
“That's all well and good.” Phil said, straightening to his full height. “But you forgot something very important.”
“Oh?” Barney held the blade up to Phil's cheek, drawing a bit of blood. “And what was that?” In the next instant Barney was on the ground cradling a broken nose as Phil used the knife to cut his restraints.
“You forgot to tie my legs.” he answered, knocking Barney in the back of the head. Walking over to Clint he cut his restraints before checking over his wrists to see the extent of the damage. “Extraction will be here in seven.” Not looking at Clint he quickly bound Barney's feet and hands. “We suspected Deadpool was working for someone. By the time we'd figured it out you'd already been taken. I let myself be taken so that there was a way to get a GPS to your location.” Clint just nodded along, eyes trained on Barney's back. So they were going to ignore the whole 'in love with you' thing. Good, Clint could handle feigned ignorance.
As soon as Barney was loaded onto a SHIELD transport bound for whatever facility was closest, Clint began to feel uncomfortable in his skin. Medical had looked them both over and neither needed more then a few stitches, which Clint was no end of grateful for. Still, standing there next to Phil, watching the helicopter fly off, he couldn't help feeling like the other shoe was about to drop.
“What he said. Is it true?” Phil asked, not even looking at him.
Running a hand through his hair Clint sighed. “He said a lot of things.” Phil frowned just slightly at that before turning to look a Clint. Swallowing hard Clint kept his face forward. Then he felt the barest graze of fingers against the back of his hand. Clint's breath left him as he turned to look at the other man, who's fingers had apparently worked up the courage to entwine with his.
“Are you in love with me?” Phil asked, his voice calm and collected.
Clint thought about denying it, blaming the entire thing on his crazy, estranged brother, but looking down at Phil he couldn't bring himself to saw it. “Yes, sir.” was all he said before turning his eyes back towards the main road. Phil's hand pulled away and Clint was sure this was it, the end of their both private and professional relationship. Then he felt cold metal slide over his finger. Opening eyes he hadn't even realized he'd closed Clint stared at the gleaming piece of silver now adorning his left ring finger.
“Think of it as a place holder.” Phil said, face it's normal expression. Acting on impulse Clint grabbed him by the back of the head, pulling him in for a kiss. It was both everything and nothing like Clint had imagined it would be. It was messy, and a bit awkward in places while they tried to figure out the rhythm of each other, but as soon as they did it felt inherently right.
Pulling back Phil pulled out his cell phone, hitting in a speed dial number. “Ms. Lewis.” he said, voice just slightly unsteady. “I have one more task for you to complete before you return to New York. If you could bring along Logan as well, that would be most appreciated. I'll text you the address.” Ending the call he quickly typed out a text message before turning to Clint. “We have fifteen minutes to get across town.” Not arguing Clint climbed into the nondescript black car after Phil.
The Little Love Chapel was like all of the sleazy little wedding chapels Clint had seen on tv and in movies, but it was cheap, and the only one outside of Vegas that recognized civil union ceremonies. “We'll do this legally when we return to New York.” Phil promised as he slid the ring onto Clint's finger. Clint would hold him to that. The entire wedding is kind of a blur, but Clint does remember seeing Phil's secretary cry on the Wolverine's shoulder as they exchanged vows.
Afterward in the tourist trap hotel they'd found for the night, Clint slowly coxed the story of the sudden engagement out of Phil. That he'd been hiding his attraction for Clint for years, had honestly thought the man wasn't interested in the same sex at all. Clint had just laughed, whispering 'I love you's against his skin for hours. He'd never seen Phil so happy, and that was a look he wanted to keep on his face as long as he was alive.
Phil kept his promise. When they got back to New York they were legally married, this time in Nick Fury's office by the man himself. He'd grumbled a bit but in the end singed the clearance forms needed to keep the entire thing a secret. It wasn't long after that, that Clint moved into the Avengers tower, fighting crime on a permanent basis. He still managed to sneak out every Thursday night for dinner with his husband though. Well, Natasha called it sneaking, Clint just thought of it as keeping his BAMPH skills from getting rusty. Phil would just sigh and pull him in for a kiss.
Looking back on it, yea, Clint can admit that it wasn't how he'd thought or hoped everything would work out between them. In a lot of ways it was better, so much better it didn't even compare. Still, in the end Clint got his man and that's all he really cared about.
Chapter 5: Two sides of every coin
Life is about choices. He made his a long time ago, now it's time he admitted it.
Just a heads up with is pretty much the prologue from James' PoV, with some other bits thrown in. That being said the last half of this will basically be steam rolling the plot and tying up any loose ends. I have the rest of the chapter mapped out, and baring any life issues, like what happened this week, I will have everything done and posted by Monday at the latest. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoy the remainder of the story.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The Red Room officially stopped operations in 1989. Too bad no one bothered to tell them that. The last sanctioned mission James could remember was in the spring of 1995. After that it was nothing but the ice for another decade. He'd woken up disoriented and with out any orders in the winter of 2005, nothing to help him survive in this new world then the skills he'd learned as the Winter Soldier. He'd thought, briefly, about finding Natasha, but she would have been a grown woman by then, even with the chemicals the Red Room had shoved her full of. So he'd become a free agent of sorts, taking jobs where they came up and making a name for himself as someone who got the job done.
Aleksander Lukin had been a general before the collapse, afterward he'd made his money from underhanded dealings on the black market. In 2006 he'd contacted James with a seemingly easy mission. SHIELD, a still relatively new world power, had gotten their hands on an artifact not seen since the end of World War II. James hadn't known what to expect, or why he'd been brought on to bring the object back to Lukin, he was an assassin after all, not a spy.
He'd managed to infiltrate the base where they were holding it, a surprising lack of security surrounding something that was supposedly so powerful. He realized half a second too late that it was a set up, right before his bare hand came in contact with the cube. Over sixty years of memories shoved back into his brain in a matter of seconds. He'd be lying if he said it didn't hurt, it was like every single memory was playing all at once in his head.
He woke up in isolation three weeks later, a stern faced man with an eye patch looking down at him. “James Buchanan Barnes. You've been missing for a long time, soldier.” he said, tossing a folder onto the bed side table. “I have a job offer for you.”
“Gonna offer me a way to 'redeem my soul', chief?” he'd asked, laughing bitterly. The other man just shook his head.
“Nothing is ever going to make up for what you did.” he responded. Some of the fight left James after that. He knew it was true, he had a lot of blood on his hands and no amount of good deeds was ever going to make that disappear. “But I can give you a chance to live with it.” Sinking down in to the sheets James nodded. It was the best offer he'd heard in years.
When Fury had offered the job James assumed it would be similar to his previous profession, instead it involved a lot more paper work. His official title was 'Asset Consultant', which was bureaucratic talk for recruiting agent if James had ever heard it. He spent more time abroad over the next few years then he did in New York, not that he really minded all that much, there wasn't anything waiting for him except for a stack of paperwork and an empty apartment in Brooklyn. Then he'd met her.
Darcy wasn't what he was expecting that morning when he stopped off to grab a cup of coffee. He'd only been back state side for a few hours and had no other plans for the day then to finish his paperwork early and head home for some well deserved rest. Instead she'd thrown a wrench into the carefully maintained clock work that had been his life since he joined SHIELD. She made him think about the future, and the past. Which was why he was standing outside Agent Coulson's office that morning. Mustering up his courage he knocked.
“How can I help you, Agent Barnes?” Coulson asked, not looking up from his paperwork. James had been in the business longer then he'd ever hope to be out of it and even he was sometimes put off by how observant the other agent was.
“Sir,” he started, walking into the office. “Sir, I was wondering if I might have a word with you.” Coulson made a gesture towards the chair opposite him, which James took gladly, his legs suddenly not feeling as steady as they should. “I would like to arrange a meeting with Captain Rogers and Agent Romanov, sir.”
Finally setting aside his paperwork, Coulson gave him a look before nodding. “I believe that can be arranged.” he said before leaning across to his intercom. “Ms. Ditmoore, could you please clear my afternoon schedule?” When a polite, 'yes, sir' rang through the office Coulson stood. “We should get going, with traffic we should arrive just before lunch. Today is Chinese.” Without another word he lead James out of the office.
James wasn't sure what to expect once he'd stepped out of the elevator at the Avengers Tower, but it wasn't for three pairs of eyes to suddenly zone in on his face. “Bucky?” Steve was up off of the couch and halfway to him before James had time to blink. No one called him Bucky anymore, and it felt good, if a little weird to hear it now.
Forcing a smile on his face he waved. He couldn't bring himself to say anything, his throat dry all of a sudden. Steve just pulled him into a tight hug before pulling back to look at him. “How?” Clearing his throat James gestured towards the couch. There was a lot of explaining to do and he really didn't feel like standing during it. Natasha looked him up and down once before nodding. That was really all of the approval he needed from her. Taking a deep breath he started from the beginning.
They'd been talking for a good hour when James heard the elevator open. Steve didn't seem to notice, instead continuing to poke at his arm like he was trying to figure out how exactly it worked. A soft gasp drew all of their eyes up to the elevator. For a second James couldn't breath at all. Standing there in the same office attire he'd seen her put on that morning was Darcy, his Darcy. Before he could even move a muscle Steve was standing. “Darcy! This is-”
She cut him off with a slightly aborted wave of her hand, her arms weighted down with bags. “Just a minute, Cap! I've gotta go set this stuff down, and get it sorted.” Without another word she walked briskly into the kitchen. Steve frowned slightly before retaking his seat.
“That's Darcy.” Steve said, as though it explained everything. It did, though Steve would never guess how James knew that. Instead he nodded along. “She's our sec-administrator. She hates being called,” Steve looked around before lowering his voice. “a secretary.”
Natasha gave a breathy laugh from beside him. “That probably has a great deal to do with the fact that secretaries sit behind a desk all day. I can't remember the last time a secretary shot someone while at work.” James couldn't bring himself to force out a laugh at that. His Darcy shot someone, more then once if Natasha's tone was anything to go by. He'd spent so much time trying to keep her safe that he never once realized she was already placing herself in danger all on her own. “Not that she can't take care of herself, of course.” Natasha said, oblivious to the fact that he had completely blocked out their conversation. James just nodded, his mind still reeling.
“Excuse me, Captain Rogers.” a cultured voice drifted out of thin air. Natasha's hand on his arm kept him steady as Steve glanced up at the ceiling. “Miss Lewis would like me to inform you and your...guest that lunch is ready.”
“Thanks JARVIS.” Steve answered, pulling himself up off the couch. The others slowly drifted into the kitchen but James didn't see Darcy anywhere. While some of the team loaded up their plates one, James thought his name was Clint, just sat there with his arms crossed.
“Not eating till Darcy gets here.” was all he said when Natasha sent him a look. James would have felt jealous if it weren't for Coulson's elbow gently resting against the other man's armrest, all the tell he needed to know there was nothing going on between Clint and Darcy. The others nodded, Stark asking someone, JARVIS he guessed, to tell Darcy they were waiting on her. A few minutes later she sauntered into the kitchen, the feint smell of tobacco smoke following her all the way to her seat at the island. James narrowed his gaze as he stared at her. She'd promised she gave up smoking months ago, but apparently her job wasn't the only thing she'd been keeping secrets about. He only half paid attention to the exchange between Darcy and Clint before she took a seat at the table, playing nervously with her food.
The silence surrounded them for a few minutes everyone seemingly content to ignore the heavy feeling in the air. “Want some?” Stark asked, breaking the silence as he held out a container towards Darcy.
James couldn't help his gut reaction when he saw her faltering, caught between wanting to be nice and wanting to decline. “She doesn't eat pork.” Every pair of eyes around the table turned to look at him before swiveling to stare openly at Darcy.
Tossing her napkin onto her plate she stood in a hurry. “I'm sorry, I just remembered I have some phone calls that really can't wait.” James was on his feet a moment later, following her out. As his hand wrapped loosely around her elbow he was surprised a the force she used to pull it away, pivoting sharply to look at him. Straightening herself she held out a hand towards him. Blinking he couldn't bring himself to do more then stare at her. “I'm sorry. I don't believe we've been properly introduced. Agent Darcy Lewis, and you are?” He recognized the flash of anger in her eyes, something he had never once had directed at him. Not knowing what else to do he turned and walked back into the kitchen.
“Bucky?” Steve asked standing up from his own seat. “Is everything alright?” The others just openly stared at him as he retook his seat.
“No.” he finally answered, pushing his plate of food away. “No, I don't think it is.” The others just stared at him. He looked up when he felt Steve's hand on his shoulder, his eyes concerned. “We'll talk about it after lunch.” Steve nodded, though he didn't seem convinced. Not that James could blame him, he couldn't even convince himself, what hope did he have to convince anybody else.
After the plates were cleared and the leftovers put into the fridge James found himself sitting on the same couch he'd vacated a little under an hour before hand. “I told you I've been seeing someone.” he opened with, taking a sip of the scotch Steve had handed to him. Steve nodded, looking concerned. “Well, there are a few things I might have left out.” Downing the rest of the glass he started from the beginning.
It took hours to finish the story, Steve and Natasha interjecting with the odd question or comment, but finally it was over. Sitting on the couch, Steve to his right, Natasha to his left, he realized this was exactly what he needed. Smiling he stretched before pulling himself up and off the couch. “I should go find Darcy. She gets a headache when she doesn't remember to eat.”
Steve nodded, standing up so that he could pull James into a hug. “You really love her, don't you?” he asked as he pulled back. Running a hand through his hair, James nodded. He caught the look Natasha sent him, pained but not devastated. He could understand the sentiment, there was a time when he would have done anything to be able to love Natasha, but that was a long time ago. Just like with Steve. “I should go find Tony. He's probably locked himself in his work shop again.” If the smile he was sporting was any indication, Steve had finally met his match as well. Standing there in silence for a moment it was almost as though something had finally been settled. It was time for all of them to officially move on, and James knew just how he was going to do that.
Taking a long swig from the bottle Clint gave a mock salute. “The end.” he said, passing off the bottle to Darcy.
“So you've known this entire time that Clint and Coulson were married?” Bruce asked, taking a long hit off the joint he had in his hand.
“Yup.” she answered popping her p for good measure. Taking a long drink she pointed to Tony with her other hand, lit cigarette dangling from between her finger tips. “Last man standing.”
Holding up his hands he shook his head. “Oh, no. You've seen the video, you know what happened.” Darcy just glared at him. “What? It's the truth.”
“We've all seen the video.” Clint said, his words as crisp and collected, which Darcy thought was unfair after he'd had even more then she had. “I think what she means is, we all want to know how you convinced Rogers to actually date your ass.”
“I asked him. That's it.” The laughter left Darcy when she noticed the tension in his shoulders.
“Hey, I was just joking.” she offered, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “You don't have to talk if you don't want to.
Shaking his head, Tony took a long drink from the bottle. “No, I'll talk. Somebody might as well know what a fuck up I am.” Taking a deep breath he leaned back against the wall, putting down his tablet. “Steve... Steve...”
“Steve what?” All four pairs of eyes shot over to the top of the ladder, not believing what they were seeing. Steve stood there, dressed in work out cloths, arms crossed over his chest. “Go on, Tony. I what?” There was a hard edge to his voice. Tony just stared at him open mouthed for a second. Then all hell broke loose.
“You don't fucking want me!” Tony yelled, standing up on slightly wobbly legs. “Ok, there, it's out in the open for our friends to know. You don't fucking want me!” Some of the fire left his eyes, being replaced by a cold resignation. “There. Now everybody knows. You can just move on from the biggest mistake of your life.”
Steve sighed, letting his arms drop to his sides. “You're drunk, Tony.” he said calmly, his eyes softening.
“Well I wasn't drunk when I heard that.” he countered, holding himself up against the railing. “So there. Now you don't have to worry about my feelings anymore.”
“That isn't what I meant, Tony.” Steve said, some of the fire coming back. “You only heard half-”
Tony cut him off, pointing a finger at him. “You know, I never took you for a liar. Guess everybody learned something new today.” Steve's eyes hardened as he stepped forward. Darcy didn't know what to expect but it wasn't for Steve to suddenly put him in a fireman's carry and head for the ladder. “Hey! Let me down you bastard!” Not saying anything else Steve gave them a nod and headed down the ladder.
Clint just plucked the bottle from Darcy's suddenly limp fingers. “Well that's something you don't see everyday.” he remarked, taking a drink. Darcy just stared at him before shaking her head and lighting another cigarette. Well, he wasn't wrong.
Ok, next chapter is just going to be about Steve and Tony working out their issues, after that there's a little bit of Natasha/Bruce, and I'm going to finish it all off with a heavy dose of Darcy/James(Bucky).
Chapter 6: Say it plainly
Tony and Steve finally deal with issues that have been looming in the back ground of their relationship.
Ok, I haven't really been happy with the past few chapters I've put up on here, so there is a possibility there will be a rewrite in the future, though probably not till after the rest of the series is posted. So not till early September. If anything, chapter five will be getting the brunt of the revisions. It sucks, I can say that as the person who wrote it. Anyway, hopefully the rest of this will go much more to my liking, and yours.
None of Tony's anger had ebbed by the time Steve keyed into his room. Which is preciously why the moment Steve dumped him on the bed he was back up on his feet, glaring openly at the super soldier. “Who the fuck gave you the right to manhandle me like that?” he asked, hands going to his hips. When Steve just shook his head and turned to head to the bathroom Tony pushed his shoulder, forcing him to face him again. “I asked you a fucking question!” This time he was full on screaming, but he didn't care, he'd officially left rational two exits back. Jabbing his finger at Steve's chest he glared up at him, their close proximity not giving him a chance to do anything else.“What the fuck gives you the right?”
After the second jab Steve's hand wrapped tightly around his wrist. “Stop. Poking. Me.” he ground out from between clenched teeth. Letting go of Tony's wrist he went to turn again, only for Tony to give one more hard jab. Turning back around Steve openly glared at him, arms crossing over his chest for good measure. “Why do you always have to act like this?”
Tony just shrugged, giving him a condescending little smirk. “I don't know what your talking about. I'm the poster child of good behavior.” There was so much sarcasm dripping off of his words it would be hard for even Steve to miss it.
Sighing, Steve rubbed his forehead. “This. This is exactly what I'm talking about. When ever I want to have a conversation you throw a tantrum like a child!” The split second of utter pain that crossed Tony's face let Steve know he should have worded it differently, but it was already too late to shove the words back in his mouth.
“Oh?” How Tony could manage to ask a question and goad a person without actually uttering a word was beyond Steve but he some how managed. Lifting an eyebrow Tony tilted his head. “I'm a child, huh?”
Dropping his arms Steve bit back the sigh that threatened to escape. “That isn't what I meant and you know it, Tony.”
“Really?” he countered, tilting his head just slightly. “Just like I knew we were in a stable, caring relationship?” That felt like a punch right to Steve's gut.
“You only know half the story.” Steve said, desperation working it's way into his voice.
The bitter laugh that escaped Tony's lips chilled him to the bone. “Go on then.” he said, waving a hand. “Tell me the other half of being the biggest mistake of your life.” Steve just stood there for a moment, swallowing thickly as he tried to piece together his thoughts. “Just like I thought.” Tony was halfway to the door before Steve gently grabbed his wrist.
“Please.” he almost begged, gently tugging Tony back towards the bed. Some of the tension left Tony's body as he sat down next to Steve, though Steve could still see the alertness in his eyes. He'd make a run for it the first chance he got. Steve moved his hand till their fingers were entwined, the simple touch of skin just enough to settle some of his own nerves. “Being with you isn't a mistake.”
Tony scoffed, trying to pull his hand away but Steve held on just a little bit tighter. Looking over at him Steve reached out to cup his cheek, drawing Tony's eyes to his own. “You have never been a mistake. The only mistake between us is me not letting you know just how much you mean to me.” Leaning in he placed a gentle kiss on his lips. Pulling back he looked Tony straight in the eye, gently running a thumb along his chin. “I love you, Tony. This isn't some faze. I'm not going to leave you for Bucky. This is it for me, the two of us, for as long as we can hold on to it.”
Shaking his head Tony pulled out of his grasp, pacing in front of Steve. “Well, you shouldn't love me!” he yelled, angrily running his hands though his hair, half aborted sobs tearing out of him. “I spend too much time locked up in my workshop. I forget to eat and sleep. Hell, sometimes I even forget other people exist when I'm working!” He paused, running his hand over his face before looking at Steve. "I'm fucked up. I have daddy issues that no amount of therapy is going to cure, believe me I've tried! On top of that I'm a piss poor recovering alcoholic, with a mild sex addiction! I always say the wrong thing especially at the wrong time. I forget things, usually important things! Like board meetings, or anniversaries, or... or ...strawberries!” By this point he was ranting, his eyes a little mad, red rimmed from tears he'd never let fall. “Good shit doesn't happen to me, Steve! You're good shit!”
Standing Steve cupped both sides of his head, kissing him gently on the forehead. “That's just what makes you Tony.” he said, a small smile on his full lips.
The tears finally started to leak out as Tony gave a token protest. Not paying attention to it Steve gently pulled him into his arms. “Don't you dare romanticize this, Cap.” he breathed out, his mouth a fine line of determination. “You'll just get hurt in the end. It'd kill me to see you cry.”
Pulling back Steve gently wiped away the tears from his cheeks. “I'm not saying I love your faults. I really, really don't a lot of the time.” Tony tried to pull back but Steve just held a little tighter. “I don't love you in spite of them either. It's the whole package I want, the good and the bad.” Leaning down Steve pressed their foreheads together, waiting till the shakes raking through Tony's body stopped. “Just tell me you love me too.”
Pulling back Tony smiled up at him. “Like you ever gave me a say about that.” Chuckling slightly Steve lowered his head, bringing their lips together. Smirking in to the kiss Steve moved swiftly, pulling Tony off the ground and into his arms without ever breaking the kiss. They broke apart, dissolving into a fit of laughter as they fell back onto the bed. Cradling his head against Steve's chest Tony relaxed into the gentle rhythm of Steve's fingers tracing the arc reactor. “Hey, Cap?” The other man just gave a 'hmm' in response. “I do. Love you, that is.” He felt a hand cup the back of his head, pulling him up into another kiss. Yea, Tony was going to marry that man some day. But first things first. "So how much stuff do you own? Cause I think I've got an extra couple of drawers. You know, if you want them." Laughing Steve kissed him, and really that was all the answer either of them needed.
“What's that noise?” Darcy asked groggily from her spot leaning against Bruce.
Clint gave a groan, looking at her from underneath his arm. “Sounds like a phone.” he offered before letting his arm fall back down to cover his eyes.
Scrambling over to her discarded phone Darcy looked at the screen, 1 new message, flashed back at her. Frowning she opened the message. “Well, two of us got their happy for now.” she quipped, holding up the phone to show off the picture. The set of entwined fingers could have belonged to anyone, except for the tell tale glow of the arc reactor. Smiling a little she saved the picture to her album.
“Agent Barton.” an authoritative voice boomed from down below. Snapping up into a sitting position Clint hand went to his forehead in an automatic salute. Just as quickly he dropped the stance, sticking his head through the bars to glare at someone down below.
“Not fucking funny, Phil!” he yelled before retreating back into his nest to sulk. The ladder gave a slight rattle as Coulson made his way up. Taking in the discarded liquor bottles and cigarette butts he shook his head. Bruce just looked awkwardly between the agent and the half rolled joint in his hand before stuffing it in his pants pocket like a teenager.
Crossing over to Clint, Coulson crouched down. “I am retiring for the evening.” he said before leaning forward to give Clint a chaste kiss on the lips. Scrunching up his nose just slightly he pulled back. “Please remember to brush your teeth before you come to bed. You taste like a bar.” With a quick nod to Bruce and Darcy he was down the ladder and heading towards the door. “Ah, Agent Barnes. If you are looking for Ms. Lewis she is in the nest.” Silence echoed for a moment before booted footsteps sounded.
All three a bit curious they stuck their heads through the railing. Sure enough, James was standing in the middle of the range arms crossed. The three of them all trying to stumble down the ladder at once must have been a bit hilarious, but Darcy was just grateful when they all got to the floor in one piece. Bruce and Clint were out the door in a matter of seconds, leaving her alone. Crossing her arms she looked at him, seeing a calmness in his stance that wasn't there before. Oh boy, this wasn't going to be fun. “So,” she started, taking a step closer. “What's up?”
He kept his face neutral, eyes staring straight into her's. “Can we talk?” he asked, his voice sounding more like he was ordering his morning coffee as opposed to uttering the dreaded relationship killer.
Swallowing thickly Darcy nodded, suddenly more sober then she'd like to be for this encounter. “Sure. Lets talk.” With a deep breath she'd dived off the deep end. No going back now.
Chapter 7: Tell me your secrets, I'll tell you all mine
Finally Darcy and James sit down to have a bit of a talk.
They stood there in silence for what felt like ages to Darcy. Finally not able to take it anymore she gave an exasperated huff. “This,” she began, waving her hand between them. “Is not talking. So if you're just going to stand there staring I guess I'll go first.” Pushing her hair out of her eyes she tapped her foot. “Let's just cut through the bull shit, go with what we know.” Shaking out her shoulders she tried to relax, but nothing was working.
“One,” she began, holding up a pointer finger. “We both apparently work for the same shady government agency. Color me surprised about that one, of all the movies I ever thought my life would emulate 'Mr & Mrs. Smith' doesn't make the top ten.” Probably because of the whole married thing, now that she thought about it. She'd never really figured James for the 'love 'em and leave 'em' type but she never really thought of him as the sticking around forever type either. Pulling her mind back from it's sudden derailment she held up a second finger. “Two. Apparently I'm better at lying then I ever gave myself credit for because you looked honestly surprised to see me here today.”
“Darcy,” he started, taking a half aborted step towards her. Holding up her other hand she gave him a shushing motion. Maybe she was a bit more drunk then she'd given herself credit for a few minutes ago, because there are some things that are a bad idea. Telling the obviously government trained guy, who may or may not still be your boyfriend, to basically shut up definitely qualified as a bad idea. James for his part just sighed before gently grabbing her wrist and pulling her over to a bench near the back of the range.
“Hey!” she protested, trying to dig in her heels only to remember belatedly that she wasn't wearing any shoes and the floor was tile. After helping her regain her balance James forced her to sit down. “I was talking!” Shaking his head he disappeared for a minute only to return with a bottle of water. Handing it to her he stared till she unscrewed the cap and took a long drink. “Happy now?”
“No.” he answered, voice terse. Glaring up at him she proceeded to drink the rest of the bottle, holding it up for him to see. “Better.” Crouching down in front of her he examined her knee, which Darcy was surprised to see was bleeding. When did that happen? “You said you quite smoking.”
She glared at the top of his head. “I fell of the wagon, sue me. I had a bad day.” she snarled back. When he looked up at her, she felt a little bit of her anger receding. She could never stay mad at him when he looked at her with those big blue, gray eyes. “So were you working for SHIELD before you got into my pants or was it your entrance exam?” She knew she was hitting below the belt but Darcy really couldn't bring herself to care. She was emotionally raw, heading towards hung over, and wanted nothing more then to curl into her bed and pretend for a little while longer that her entire world hadn't fallen apart today.
“2006.” he said, eyes back to examining her knee.
“What?” she heard herself asking. What did two thousand six have to do with anything? Looking up at her again he reached out to touch her hand. Pulling her hand back she regretted it when he looked at her like she'd just kicked his puppy. Crinkling her brow she couldn't figure out why he looked devastated because she didn't want to hold his hand right now. Then she actually looked at the hand he had reached out with. The prosthetic was still half reached towards her. Before she could move to grab his hand, to prove that wasn't what the problem was he was standing again.
“2006, was the year I began working for SHIELD.” he said, backing up slightly to put distance between them. “So no, getting in your pants had nothing to do with my employment at SHEILD.” Darcy couldn't flinch at those words, not when they were deserved. “I guess you already know who Steve is to me?” When Darcy nodded he sighed. “Natasha?”
“Clint says she talks about you sometimes, when she's drunk or really out of it. She calls you Alexi.” Darcy whispered, picking at imaginary threads on her skirt.
“No.” he said, voice sounding thick. Looking up at him Darcy saw him running a hand over his eyes. It was a tell she'd gotten used to, when he heard something he didn't really want to talk about. “Alexi was her first husband. An arrangement through our handlers. I was her lover for a time before the marriage. From what I've gleaned over the years he treated her kind, if nothing else.” Darcy felt herself nodding, her eyes suddenly becoming unfocused.
“So if you've been with SHIELD this entire time, why didn't you find him sooner?” she asked, not looking up at him. It was a valid question. Steve had been out of the ice for almost a year and a quarter now. If James had been a SHIELD agent since before they'd even found Cap he had all the connections and opportunities to reunite with him.
“I've known where Steve was since they found him.” he said, confirming her own thoughts. Turning his back towards her he stared off in to space for a moment before pulling himself back. Once his focus was on her again he continued. “I just wasn't ready to see him yet. I'm not the man he remembers, a lot has happened since we last saw each other. I didn't want him to be disappointed.” That hurt for some reason. That the man he was today was good enough to warm Darcy's bed but not to tell his first love that he was alive.
“You're the Winter Soldier.” she said after a minute, all the dots finally connecting in her head. “I read about you, when I first joined SHIELD.” It was the truth, too. She'd poured over more then one file on the seemingly immortal assassin. His last known activity had been in the mid nineties, after that he just seemed to drop off the radar.
“I have a history.” he said after a moment, though Darcy noticed he didn't attempt to deny her statement. “I didn't want you to find out about it. I wanted you safe.” The conviction in his voice made her heart jump a little. He cared about her, that hadn't been a lie. Love though, love was something she wouldn't press for. He may have said it before, but that didn't mean she should expect to hear it now. “I've made a lot of enemies over the years, a good chunk more since I joined SHIELD. None of them would have hesitated to use you to get to me.”
“I wanted the same thing for you.” she whispered. She'd been so worried when she'd first taken the liaison job, that somehow something would come after her and settle for him instead. “I know things that people would kill for.” Shaking her head she looked up at him, trying to pour everything she was feeling in a single glance. “Fuck confidentiality agreements, I would have told you if you'd come straight out and asked, I just wanted to keep you out of firing range.” Feeling suddenly nervous at her out burst she slumped a little bit. There was still so much they had left to talk about, and she wasn't really sure where to start. So instead she got lost in her own head for a few minutes, only coming out when he gave a discreet cough. Clearing her throat she looked any where but his face. “So should I call you Bucky...or...?”
“No.” he cut her off. Stepping closer he grabbed her hand. This time when she didn't pull away some of the tension left his shoulders. Kneeling down so that they were at eye level, he gently ran his thumb over the back of her hand. “I like it when you call me James. Bucky...that's the kid from Brooklyn that used to look out for Steve Rogers. That's not who I am anymore.” Sighing he leaned forward, pressing their foreheads together. That simple gesture grounded her more then any words ever could. When they were like this, foreheads touching, eyes locked, they were just Darcy and James, the rest of the world some distant land they didn't have to be a part of. Pulling back he tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear, smiling softly. “You know, I had this whole thing planed out. I was going to cook dinner, then tell you everything. Then if you didn't run screaming I was going to drag you off to bed for at least a week.” Standing up he held out his hand. “Come on.”
“What?” she asked, staring at his offered hand for a moment. How had so much happened in the course of just a few hours, she'd never know. Still, with everything to take in it was understandable if she was a little slow right now.
Wiggling his fingers he waited for her to grasp his hand. When she did he pulled her gently to her feet. “I wanna take you somewhere.” he explained, pulling her close.
“Okay.” she said breathlessly. She owed him that much, one more chance. His eyes lit up as he pulled her towards the door. Taking a deep breath she steadied herself. What ever happened next, she'd face it straight ahead, eyes clear. It was a brave new world.
Chapter 8: Break it Clean
Bruce finally comes to a decision.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
By the time Bruce made it back to his room the THC and alcohol had already burnt through his system, leaving him feeling raw and the Other Guy growing restless. Keying into his room he headed straight for the closet, pulling out the well worn duffel bag he kept there. Walking over to the dresser he emptied the drawers on his bed, digging through till he found what he was looking for. “Going somewhere?” a voice asked from the doorway.
Not looking up Bruce counted his breaths. The Other Guy was just as angry and hurt as he was, but unlike his alter ego he wasn't likely to take out his frustration physically. “Need a change of scenery.” he said after a moment, turning his attention towards the closet.
“Aw.” was all Natasha said as she fully entered the room. He could see her out of the corner of his eye as she perched on the corner of his desk. “When can we expect you back?” The question was voiced so passively that Bruce couldn't take it anymore.
Turning he looked at her. “At the moment I'm thinking an indefinite leave of absence would be beneficial.” He punctuated his statement by slinging the duffel strap over his shoulder.
“You're just going to leave?” There was the faintest note of waver in her voice as she spoke. Looking at her closely Bruce couldn't detect any emotion flickering in her eyes.
“I don't have a reason to stay.” he countered. He took some twisted pleasure in the barely noticeable flinch his words created. “After all. Love is for children, right?” He knew she wouldn't rise to the bait, not right away anyway. If there was one thing Natasha hated it was having her words tossed back at her.
“What about your work? Your friends? Being an Avenger?” She was slipping just slightly, he could tell. Some part of him wanted to see her falter, to come apart completely, for him to push her so hard she just snapped. Instead he just shrugged.
“It'll all be here waiting for me when I get back.” he explained, taking another step towards the door. “I just don't have anything keeping me here right this minute.” He let out a bitter little laugh as he came to a stop right beside her. “You know, I risked a lot, starting this...what ever this is with you.”
“And?” she asked, tilting her head slightly. Bruce knew that expression very well, had seen it directed at teammates and enemies alike. It was the look given when something hit a little too close to home, right next to the nerve.
“No and.” he said, his voice devoid of any of the pain currently tearing through him. He thought by this point he would be better at compartmentalizing things, but apparently not. He'd fallen in love, she'd fallen asleep. They weren't the first two in history it had happened to, and he highly doubted they would be the last. “I didn't expect you to give anything up for me, Natasha. Everything I risked was because I wanted to, not because I thought you wanted me to. Think about that.”
Natasha turned her head away from him too quickly for him to be sure, but he almost thought he saw moister in her eyes. “I can't love someone. I'm not built that way.” she answered, her arms wrapping around her waist. Bruce almost stopped, almost decided to stay, but then he remembered who he was talking to. Natasha Romanov could out bluff the God of lies, what hope did Bruce have against that?
Instead of forcing himself to leave like he should have he instead found himself asking the question that had been burning in the back of his mind since they'd started their thing. “Have you ever tried?” The long pause of silence that followed was all the answer he needed. “Right. Barnes.” Clapping his hands together he gave a little shrug. “Well, there you go.” Natasha turned to look at him but this time he turned away, gesturing out the open door. “Life practically gift wrapped him for you. I hope he loves you just as much.” Turning he took one step out the door before turning back, one finger held up. “Just one more thing before I go.” Making sure he had her full attention he let a fraction of the emotions he was feeling slip through, tinting his eyes green. “I don't care that this didn't work out, but by God you had better be gentle when you tell Ms. Lewis. She didn't do a damn thing to deserve this happening to her.” Not uttering another word he pivoted and walked out of the room.
If he had been slower, or maybe just a touch hesitant he would have heard the soft sob that filled the air seconds later. Arms curled tightly around her Natasha rocked forward just slightly, tears streaming freely from her wide eyes, soft sobs clawing their way out of her throat. “Wait.” she whispered harshly, “Please, wait.” Instead, soft footsteps echoed in the hallway.
“Natasha?” Looking up through a tangled mess of red hair Natasha saw Darcy standing in the doorway. Crinkling her brow in confusion Darcy took a step into the room. “What's wrong?”
In a moment of pure weakness that she would deny the rest of her life Natasha let out a sob before tossing herself into Darcy's arms. “On ostavil menya, sestrenka. Ublyudok ostavil menya.”
Darcy looked over her own shoulder staring helplessly at James. “Any idea what that was? All the Russian I know is from your dirty talk.” James just nodded, stepping forward to lay a hand on Natasha's shoulder. Looking up at him her eyes went wild for just a second before he crouched down to eye level.
“Vse khorosho, moi drug. Ya vam ne povreZHU. Vy dolzhny uspokoit'sya.” he whispered, slowly stroking her hair. “Some times, because of the conditioning, sudden emotional shocks can cause regression.” Darcy nodded, slowly rubbing circles on Natasha's back. Slowly the sobbing lessened before stopping completely. When Natasha finally lifted her head her eyes were almost dry. “Better?”
She gave a stiff nod before rising. “If you'll excuse me, I have an appointment.” With out so much as a backwards glance she walked out of the room.
“She isn't going to end up on the ten o'clock news, is she?” Darcy asked, staring openly after the spy. James just shrugged. Giving him a look Darcy gave a stinted pantomime of his motion. "Really?"
He started to shrug again only to stop mid way through the motion and sigh. “I'd say it's about a seventy, thirty sort of thing.” he answered, straightening to his full height.
Cursing under her breath Darcy grabbed out her phone. “That place you wanted to take me to? Definitely gonna have to wait.” Holding the phone up to her ear she waited. “Coulson? Hey, sorry to interrupt the sexy cuddle time, but we may have a situation here. On a scale of one to Tony? I don't know, like two and a half Tony's?” Pulling back from the phone she winced. “Hey, don't yell at me! I'm not the one who just dumped an ex KGB spy! Fine, fine. Goodnight.” Hitting end she turned back to James. “Ok, so are we taking the train or the cab?”
“A cab would be more expensive, but less time consuming.” Holding out an arm he waited for her to take it.
“Cab it is. The sooner this night is over the better.” James just nodded along, though his arm tightened around her's just a little bit. Swallowing hard Darcy forced her eyes straight ahead. One obstacle at a time, and if she got blindsided, well she'd deal with that then.
On ostavil menya , sestrenka . Ublyudok ostavil menya.
He left me, little sister. The bastard left me.
Vse khorosho, moĭ drug. Ya vam ne povreZHU . Vy dolzhny uspokoitʹsya.
Everything is fine, my friend. I won't hurt you. You have to calm down.
Thanks to Lieni for correcting my Russian!
Chapter 9: To mend it through
Natasha Romanov isn't the romantic comedy type. There are no 'running through the train station' scenes for her. No, she got what she wanted with a gun, and enough elephant tranquilizers to actually kill an elephant.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The last thing Bruce remembered was climbing out of a cab half a block from Grand Central station. With the gnawing bundle of emotions that had settled into his stomach hours before, he half expected to wake up naked in some corn field. Instead he came to in a dimly lit room. Tied to a chair. Taking a few deep breaths he looked around, trying to get his bearings. The room seemed to contain nothing but the chair he was tied to, a bed and a chest of drawers, all of which appeared to have seen better days. If he had to hazard a guess, it looked like it belonged in one of the pay by the hour hotels you could still find scattered throughout the city.
He heard footsteps in the hallway a few seconds before the tell tale noise of a key entering the lock. Closing his eyes, he slumped forward, evening his breathing. If he seemed to be unconscious then he might have an opportunity to get out of this mess without having to let the Other Guy out. The door hinges creaked loudly as the person entered the room. Bruce heard the distinctive sound of keys hitting wood, followed by a soft thud before the door creaked again, clicking shut. A soft rustling came from the direction of the dresser. He tried not to tense up as he felt a shift in the air, followed by softened footsteps.
He was expecting a lot of things but the sudden feeling of water pouring down over his head sent him sputtering. Looking up he tried to blink the water out of his eyes he finally saw his captor. Natasha, poised and confident as ever, was leaning against the dresser, a half filled water bottle in hand. “What the fuck?” he heard himself growl out, trying his best to get wet strands of hair out of his eyes without use of his hands.
“We need to talk.” she said, putting down the bottle and crossing her arms. She'd changed cloths since he'd last seen her, which either meant she'd pulled off the quickest outfit change in the history of the world, or he had been out longer then he'd first thought. The yoga pants and tee shirt had been replaced by a simple white blouse and dark jeans that looked tight enough to be a second skin. His breath hitched just slightly when he recognized the outfit. She'd been wearing the same thing, or something very similar, the first time they'd...had sex. Shaking himself out of the momentary lapse he focused back in on the situation, and the anger slowly boiling within him.
“About what?” he said, his voice a mixture of exasperation and confusion. He'd thought that they had cleared the air pretty well before he left the Tower. She didn't return his feelings, so he was leaving to get some perspective. That seemed pretty settled to him. Staring at her he felt a haziness to his thoughts he hadn't noticed when he first woke up. “Did you drug me?”
His indignation seemed lost on her. Instead she gave a stilted shrug. “It seemed appropriate.”
“It seemed..” he stuttered out, feeling confused anger well up in him. The Other Guy didn't stir, which made Bruce wonder exactly what she had drugged him with. “It seemed appropriate?” She just continued to stare, his raised voice doing nothing to faze her. “When is it ever appropriate to drug your ex-fuck buddy?”
She didn't say anything for a long moment, her eyes trained at some indeterminable spot behind him. “Is that what we were?” she asked, her voice calm and smooth. Bruce faltered for a moment, not really sure how he was supposed to respond to that. He could say yes, and hurt her feelings, maybe. Or he could say no, and feel like he cheapened his own feelings. He opened his mouth to say something, anything, when her eyes snapped back to his face. “Fuck buddies?” she said the word, almost like she was testing out the syllables on her tongue. It sounded harsher, somehow, when she said it. Maybe because she'd never once put a label on what they were doing. They'd never talked about it, not once. “We did more then simply fuck.” He wanted to pretend that she meant their teamwork as Avengers, or both participating in movie night, or fuck, even the communal dinners the team shared almost nightly.
No, she meant the late night tea, and quiet conversation. The weekends that they would sneak away from the Tower for hours on end, exploring different hidden gems tucked away in New York. The fact that on one trip abroad he'd returned with a tin of cookies, her favorite from a childhood stolen too soon. No, they hadn't simply been fucking, but they hadn't been dating either. That became evident every time she ignored him when the others were around. All the times he would roll over in bed, reaching out for her only to find cold sheets next to him. Licking his lips he nodded. “Friends with benefits then.”
Tapping her fingers against her elbow, her eyes once again migrated to somewhere other then his face. “I do not like that word either.” she said after a moment.
“Sorry?” He really didn't know what else to say to her. They were what they were, and neither of them had spared five seconds to name it while they'd actually been doing it, so he really didn't see the need for it now.
Unfolding her arms she turned towards him again, her eyes softening just slightly. “I dislike most applicable terms.” she said, her stance relaxing, morphing more into the Natasha he saw behind closed doors instead of the face she put on for everyone else. She crossed the distance between them in the span of a blink, Bruce's breath catching as she placed a knee next to his leg, rearranging herself till she was straddling his hips. Reaching out she gently brushed his still damp hair out of his eyes, running her finger tips gently down the side of his face till they came to his chin. Grasping it tightly between her finger tips she slowly leaned in.
“Natasha, what are you doing?” he asked, eyes trained in on her reddened lips. He clenched his fists when she ran the tip of her tongue over them, a motion he could never label habit or intention.
Letting go of his chin suddenly she sighed, pulling back till she was as out of his personal space as she could be while still sitting in his lap. “Words do not fit, actions are not enough.” she said, her hands falling to her thighs. Her eyes seemed vulnerable as she sat there, her shoulders slumping just slightly. “I do not understand what you want. I have tried, but it was not enough.” Reaching up she cupped his face, looking at him imploringly. “What is it that you want, dorogoy?”
Bruce opened his mouth to tell her all of the things he'd kept bottled up for months, only for it to take on a course of it's own. “What does dorogoy mean?” he heard himself asking. He wanted to know since the first night they spent together, when she whispered it before leaving. It was the only word she used both in privet and around the other Avengers.
Smiling just slightly she moved her hands till her fingertip could thread through his hair. “Precious.” she whispered, placing a kiss on his suddenly lax lips. “It means precious.” Bruce couldn't do anything but stare at her openly. This entire time, she had been trying to tell him something, he just hadn't been looking hard enough. Natasha's smile faltered at his silence, till it finally disappeared entirely.
She was off his lap in an instant, cutting the ropes that held his wrists. Sliding the knife back in it's sheath she turned her back to him, suddenly preoccupied with the brown paper bags that he hadn't noticed to this very minute.
Flexing his finger he griped the armrests tightly, pushing himself to his feet. The room spun for a moment before settling, but it took more effort to move his legs then he thought it would. “Natasha.” he began, his hand reached out, almost touching.
“You may go.” she cut in, her voice colder then he'd ever heard it before. That was all that he needed to push forward, his hand circling her upper arm. He spun her around, and pulled her into a kiss in a move he was sure looked equal parts amazing and awkward, if his perspective was anything to go on. She stood there stiffly for a moment before her eyes slowly slide closed, her arms working their way up his shoulders till they finally found there usual resting place at the base of his neck.
They stayed like that for what seemed like hours to him, lips and hands exploring skin they already had memorized. Some how they managed to make it out of their shirts and half into the bed without breaking the kiss. “Ya lyublyu tebya.” she whispered against his skin, her hands making quick work of his belt. “Ya lyublyu tebya.” Locking her knees around his hips she flipped them over, sliding out of her jeans. Raising up onto his elbows he reached out, pulling her into another kiss as naked skin met naked skin.
After that it was frenzied in a way they had never been before, hand and mouths conquering the others body. Finally, as she sunk slowly down on to him the world slowed, bleeding away completely. Laying her hand over his heart she looked down at him, face flushed as she panted. “Ya lyublyu tebya.” Reaching up he pulled her down to him, lips meeting in a soft, slow way.
They rocked together, finding a rhythm that was uniquely theirs. Bruce savored the slow burn, the sight of her, head tossed back, breasts bouncing as she reached her climax. As she shuddered her way through the after shocks he tightened his hands of her hips, rolling them till he looked down at her. Snaking an arm around his neck she pulled him to her, foreheads touching as he followed after her.
The room was quiet, the faint sounds of traffic worming their way through the open window as they laid there, her back pressed to his chest, fingers entwined. He nuzzled her bare shoulder gently before placing a kiss there. “I love you, Natasha.” he whispered, closing his eyes as he felt her fingers work through his hair.
“I know, dorogoy.” she whispered back, leaning further into him. “I love you as well.” Clutching his eyes, he tightened his arms around her. Nothing else mattered to him, or to her, in that moment but each other.
Later, after they'd slept, Bruce would mention the bags. “Supplies.” she said, pulling things from them clad in nothing but a small smile. Walking up behind her Bruce wrapped his arms around her. Looking over his shoulder he looked over the bottle water, and canned food she was pulling out.
“Supplies?” he asked, leaning his chin against her shoulder. “Why do we need supplies?”
“Because,” she began, turning in his arms to give him a kiss. “That key, only works to let us in. We have to wait till Monday before we'll be let out.”
Pulling back slightly, his brow crinkled in confusion. “So we're stuck in here till Monday.”
“Yes.” she answer, grabbing his hands. “Unless of course Clint forgets about our existence, in which case it could be longer.” Bruce could tell by the slight lift of her eyebrow that she was joking, though that didn't exactly ease his worry.
“So we're locked in here for...four days, with nothing but each other for company?” he asked, a slow grin working it's way across his face.
Giving a gentle tug, Natasha pulled him towards the bed. “That would be the general consensus, yes.”
Smirking Bruce leaned down, capturing her lips in a quick kiss. “Four days. Whatever will we do?”
Wrapping her arms around his neck Natasha looked up at him, head slightly tilted, smile on her lips. “I'm sure you'll manage to think of something, Doctor Banner.”
He gave a small 'hmm' as his hands slid down to her hips. “I believe I can, though I might require your assistance, Agent Romanov.” Leaning closely, he dropped his voice low. “That is, if you are willing to help?”
Pursing her lips she looked thoughtful for a moment. “I'm sure I could. For a good cause that is.”
Taking a step forward, he pushed the back of her legs against the edge of the bed. “Oh, I assure you, it's a very good cause.”
“Well, then, in that case.” was the last thing she uttered before giving him a sharp tug, both of them falling back onto the bed.
Four days later
“You open it.” Phil Coulson gave a long suffering sigh as he looked at his husband.
“It's a door, not a bomb, Clint.” he reprimanded. Clint just glared at him, hand still poised halfway to the door.
“You open it then.” he countered. Trying not to roll his eyes, Phil grabbed the keys. Quickly inserting the right one, the lock clicked.
“See, not that hard.” he said, pushing open the door. They had discussed a variety of outcomes when Natasha had requested the use of this specific safe house, though none of them quite measured up to the reality.
The sheets had been stripped from the bed, empty cans and bottles littered the floor, and Phil was almost certain that was a bra hanging from the ceiling fan. The most peculiar part, however, was that the room, and the adjacent bathroom were both completely empty. “What'd they do, eat each other?” Clint asked, looking sceptically at a stain on the wall that could either be blood or dried chocolate sauce, Phil couldn't really guess which right now. Walking over to the dresser Phil picked up a piece of paper that lay there.
Got restless, picked lock. Will be back by week's end.
Stared back at him in familiar script. Shaking his head, Phil pocketed the note before heading for the door. “Where'd they go?”
Ushering his husband out, Phil locked the door again. “I honestly have no idea. With any luck somewhere that doesn't have two for one cocktails and all night drive through wedding chapels.” he deadpanned, heading for the elevator. “The last thing I need is TMZ getting hold of those kind of pictures.”
“So we're just going to wait?” Clint asked, pressing the down button. Phil just held up a finger. A few seconds later a very familiar ring tone began to play.
“Yes, Ms. Lewis.” he answered, entering the elevator. “Yes I am very much aware of the situation.” He stopped short, turning quickly to pull Clint into the elevator. “I'm sorry, you'll have to repeat that for me. For some reason I thought you just used a sentence containing the words Sherpa, llama, restraining order, and annulment all at the same time.” Running a hand over his eyes, Phil Coulson knew one thing for sure, retirement couldn't happen fast enough.
One more chapter! After that, probably two or three days while I work out the next part, and actually get started on it.
Chapter 10: Full Circle
Nothing in life is ever really wrapped up, but away like a keepsake. No, the end of one thing is always just the beginning of another, and Darcy was going to hold his hand tight the entire way.
And done!!! Well, this part anyway, there's a three part fic I'm working the kinks out of that will probably be posted by the end of the week, probably sooner. After that, well, after that I'm probably going to need a week or so to write what's next. Everything thing in the story has been leading up to something, and there will be a big finale to the series. So, I hope everyone enjoyed reading this, and check back later for the next installment.
She didn't let go of his hand. Couldn't bring herself to really. Even as they climbed into the cab, James rattling off a street address to the driver, she kept his hand firmly in her's. She remembers when she saw his prosthetic for the first time.
It was their third date. They'd both been busy during that first month together, but he'd called her up one afternoon, asking if she had that Thursday free. She'd cleared her schedule, even dragged Jane out so she could by a new coat. She missed Jane sometimes, but she also realized she had a career that kept her from New York, more often then not, and long distance relationships worked better when one of the people in it could fly around the world in an instant. That had been their last girl's day together.
Pushing aside the sad memories she focused on the happier ones. She'd ended up buying a red corduroy pea-coat, something she was grateful for when he'd tugged her down the long blocks of Mid town, all the way to Rockefeller Center. She'd seen the tree on tv, who hadn't, put standing there, hands clasped, looking up at it she'd had trouble breathing. Not because of the tree itself, no it was the way James' eyes had practically sparkled that night. It was also the night she realized she shared her mother's habit of selecting men based more on their eyes then anything else.
They were huddled together on a park bench, coffee in hand, laughing as they watched the skaters circle the rink. She saw the glint of silver earlier that night, his coat sleeve bunching up slightly as he handed over money for their coffee. At first she'd thought it was a watch, but after seeing it again she wasn't so sure. She didn't want to pry, they hadn't even had the 'are we dating?' conversation yet, and she didn't want to accidentally stumble onto some emotional landmine without meaning to. Instead she'd run her thumb over the back of the gloved hand she was holding. “You always wear gloves.”
He gave an almost shrug, turning to give her a smile. “Cold hands.” he remarked.
“Warm heart.” she countered with a smile, bumping their shoulders together. He laughed openly, shaking his head. Reaching out he tucked her hair behind her ear, a content smile settling on his lips. Not giving herself time to over think it she reached up, cupping his hand to the side of her face. He tilted his head slightly as he looked down at her, almost like he was going to kiss her. Leaning in, she let her hand slide down to his wrist, then under his coat sleeve, fingers connecting with lukewarm metal. He froze for a minute, his hand twitching like he wanted to pull away. Leaning forward Darcy pressed their foreheads together. “I'm not asking you to spill everything about yourself, but I plan on seeing you naked eventually, so there are some things you're not going to be able to hide.”
He didn't move at first, but slowly his eyes closed, his hand moving from her cheek to the back of her neck. Placing a small kiss to her forehead, he pulled back, nodding once. She didn't know what she was expecting, but a metal hand wasn't what she was anticipating when he was slowly removing his glove. “It's the entire arm. I lost it while I was stationed overseas. They outfitted a prosthetic, one that would let me do my job.” A twisted little smile formed on his lips when he said that. “By product of having a very specific skill set I guess.”
Darcy didn't say anything, her eyes transfixed on what she was seeing. Slowly, almost like she was afraid of breaking him she let her hands roam over the prosthetic. “That is...” she trailed off, her mind preoccupied with what she was seeing. Looking up a minute later a grin broke out on her face. “So cool!” He stared at her before shaking his head slightly, laughter working it's way from between his lips. Standing up suddenly Darcy held out her hand, wiggling her fingers at him. “Come on.” Crinkling his brow slightly he gave her a confused look. Sighing dramatically she reached out, taking his prosthetic hand in her own. “As fun as it is setting here soaking up the Christmas spirit, I have an idea that involves us, a little homemade wassail, and a whole lot less clothing.” He just laughed as she pulled him all the way to the train platform. Darcy smiled fondly at the memory. They'd had the wassail, but the other half of the evening was usurped by a claymation Christmas movie marathon on tv, and cuddling. That was fine, they'd finally fulfilled the other half a few weeks later, and she can honestly say there was never been and will never be a better spent December twenty-eighth then that one.
She was pulled out of her thoughts as the cab came to a stop. James slide a fifty through the window before opening the door. She'd always thought his dislike of banks was just one of those quirky things, it certainly wasn't the weirdest one any of her boyfriends had had. Now though, now she realized that living through the Great Depression was one of those things you never really shook. She tried not to dwell on the fact that she now knew two people that had lived through things that happened almost eighty years ago.
Stepping out of the cab she could smell the ocean, crisp and salty in the twilight air. She almost asked where they were till her eyes caught the flash of lights not that far from here. “Coney Island!” she exclaimed, her voice a little louder then absolutely necessary. James shot her a smile she thought looked fond over his shoulder, tightening his grip as he started to walk. The sound of her heels clicking on the worn boards of the boardwalk took her mind back to another night, similar to this one. Her smile faltered slightly. That night represented beginnings in her mind, and right now she had this sinking feeling in her stomach that literary symmetry said it was the place of endings too. Instead she ignored it, pressing forward with a smile. “God I haven't been here in years. Not since-”
“Our first date.” James cut in, smiling down at her as they stopped near the railing. “You wearing that dress.” His voice was equal parts reminiscent and disbelieving. As though after almost two years he still couldn't believe she'd ever donned the thing to begin with. She wasn't going to knock the dress though, it had been a major player in two turning points of her life.
Instead she reached up, smoothing down the collar of his coat. “You looking dapper in your dress greens.” she volleyed back, smiling turning into a grin. “I never did ask how you got a hold of them.”
“They were mine.” he confessed, eyes looking out over the waves. When he turned back he smiled down at her, eyes crinkling just slightly. “I dug them out of SHIELD storage just for that night.” She supposed that she shouldn't be surprised that they were authentic, after all he'd actually been in the military during World War two, but still part of her mind still boggled at the idea. Another part focused in on what he was after, dark voices cropping up, asking how much of that had been playacting. He'd been an assassin not a spy, but she knew enough about those things now to know lines were never really that clear cut. Had he wanted to be with her, or had she presented a convenient cover.
“Why did SHIELD have your stuff?” she asked instead of voicing all of the insecurities. Darcy has never once hated who she is in her entire life, in fact she thought she had pretty realistic self image. She was the average looking girl, who from the very start of life had somehow always managed to land on her feet, usually as she plummeted towards rock bottom. Yea, she had a cool job, and she liked to think she could be a BAMPH when pressed, but that was just through a very specific set of circumstances and working really hard. She was pretty sure there was a universe out there somewhere in the universe where she'd decided to change her name and run off to wait tables when she turned eighteen instead of going to Culver.
“No family.” he said, drawing her back into the conversation. “My mom died when I was young, my dad when I was in my early teens. My sister and I went to go life with a great aunt, but,” He swallowed thickly. “She died right before I joined up. Rebecca, my sister... I still don't know what happened. She ran away while I was in Europe. I got one last letter, but it just said she was safe, and that she'd moved west.” He quieted for a moment, eyes drifting back out over the ocean. Reaching out Darcy ran her fingers over the back of his neck, trying to ease the tension that settled there. He gently moved her hand to his mouth, dropping a lingering kiss to her wrist before entwining their fingers, settling their hands on the railing. “After everything Howard got mine and Steve's stuff together, set it in the archives. Just collected dust after that.”
She nodded, laying her head against his shoulder as she looked out over the ocean with him. She'd just learned more about the man next to her with one question then she'd learned in seventeen months of conversation. Darcy couldn't blame him though, there were things she'd kept locked up too, not just about her job either. She shared the funny stories, well some of them, but there were some parts of her past that she just wasn't ready to share with anyone yet.
Maybe someday she'd tell him how and why her parents had adopted her, or the way her mom looked when she'd gotten the call that Gramps was dead. Maybe she'd talk about how her first boyfriend overdosed twice before he'd left her, seventeen years old, broke, and stranded at a road side hotel in Montana. Maybe she'd talk about that summer her Nana had a stroke, or the secret only she and Clem knew. What ever she decided to share, it was hinging on this night, of whether or not they could both still live with each others secrets now that some of them had been thrust into the harsh light of day.
She was pulled out of her internal monologue by something draping over her shoulders. Looking up, James smiled down at her, adjusting his coat till it fell evenly around her. She hadn't realized till the warm wool encased her that she had been shivering. Whether it was from the cold or the memories she didn't know, but having his coat around her made her feel safe, protected, loved. It was silly, she knew it was just a coat but what could she say? She'd always been kind of a closet romantic. “You always forget a jacket.” he reprimanded, buttoning up the front as she slid her hands through the sleeves.
She knew she must looked ridiculous. Even in her heels she was only pushing five eight, a whole three inches shorter then him, not to mention her curves were nothing compared to the broad expanse of his shoulders. “Shut up. It's why you love me.” she shot back at him, grinning up at him.
The wold seemed to slow at her words. She'd meant it as a joke, but deep inside she wanted it to be truce. That he loved her for all of her little idiosyncrasies. She started to breath normally again when he smiled down at her, cupping her cheek. “Yea, it is.” he whispered, closing the gap between them. Closet romanticism aside Darcy had never been the 'I saw fireworks' type, but as their lips pressed together, tongues gliding with well practiced ease she though this was as close as she would ever come. This perfect moment, his hands in her hair, sea breeze blowing in with the distant sounds of a carnival. When he pulled away to was only marginally, pressing their foreheads together as those both caught there breaths. She'd admit it in her old age, more then likely, but she enjoyed that simple press of skin on skin almost as much, and sometimes more then she enjoyed sex. Sex she could have with anyone off the street, but this had only ever been theirs.
She opened her eyes when he pulled back further, gently running his hands up and down her arms. Whether it was to keep her warm or just to have the knowledge that she was real, and there with him she wasn't going to ask right now. There was a later now. They had all the time in the world. “Want coffee?” he asked a moment later. Also, no one had understood her caffeine addiction like he had.
Smiling she nodded. “I think you still owe me one.” she joked.
“I seem to remember repaying you for that particular cup of coffee.” he countered, laughter lighting up his eyes.
“Excuses.” she said, waving a hand dismissively. She gave a short bark of laughter as his hand found that spot on her side. Pulling away she put her hands on her hips. “Go get us both a cup to warm up.” He nodded, pressing a kiss to her lips. “Just don't leave me out here!” There was a smile on her lips but Darcy was only been half joking.
He seemed to realize that, staring her straight in the eyes as he whispered, “Never.” Pressing one one kiss to her lips he pulled back with a smile. “Besides, you've got my coat. I love that coat.”
“It is a pretty great coat.” she admitted. “Maybe I'll keep it.” He shook his head pulling away with a little smile. “What? I'm serious. I think it looks better on me anyway.” He gave a 'hmm' in response, which totally meant he agreed with her. “What? It's true!” He just waved a hand, stuffing his hands in his pockets before making his way down the boardwalk. Insecurities would just have to wait for tomorrow, tonight she was going to relish that they'd made it through one more hurtle in their relationship.
Grinning to herself she turned towards the ocean again. Rubbing her hands together she tried to get them warm, the temperature dropping as the night settled in. Glancing down the boardwalk she saw James waiting in line, sighing slightly she pouted. That meant no elixir of the gods or hot boyfriend to cuddle up to right now. Stuffing her hands into the pockets her right hand grazed something deep in the pocket. Crinkling her brow her fingers wrapped around something cube shaped. Pulling it out she noticed the weight of it first, not too much, but what ever it was wasn't something like a dots box, she knew that. Bringing it out in front of her she took in the charcoal gray fabric, her breath hitching just slightly. There was no way this was what she though it was.
She glanced nervously at where she had last seen James, finding him still waiting in line she turned her eyes back to the box. With trembling fingers she flipped open the top. Inside, nestled safely in satin cover foam was a ring. It was simple in design, a silver band, with a single sapphire nestled between two polished pieces of mother of pearl. It wasn't a traditional engagement ring, but it was a familiar one. She'd seen it on her Gran's hand for as long as she could remember. Moving the ring just slightly she looked at the inside of the band, two words slightly worn but still there. Eternally yours. If she wasn't holding her Gran's actual ring, it was a very good replica. Hearing foot steps sounding on the boards she snapped the lid closed stuffing her hands back into the pockets.
James held out one of the paper cups towards her, which she gladly took, if only to hide her surprised smile behind taking a drink. Swallowing down a few gulps of the hot liquid, she turned back towards the ocean, watching the lights as they bounded off the water. She sighed as James wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her close. Leaning her head against his shoulder she smiled up at him, which he returned. “I love you, James.”
Pressing a kiss to her forehead he pulled her even closer. “I love you too, Darcy.” he whispered back. Glancing out into the darkness, the sound of crashing waves and the smell of salt washing over them she felt centered for possibly the first time in her life. She'd say yes. That wasn't a question, there is no way her answer could be anything other then yes. Now, all he had to do was ask.