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Darcy Lewis had always had a fascination with soulmarks and the effects that they had on their owners. A soulmark was the first words that a person’s soulmate would say to them and were located on bodies from birth. Sometimes they would give a glimpse into the first impression that their soulmate would have of them, or the situation that they would find their soulmate in.

When Darcy was young one of her best friends had worn the color pink almost constantly because her soulmark said Pink really suits you. In high school, after having heard some combination of those words too many times to count, she decided to stop wearing pink at all so when she did finally meet her soulmate the comment would stand out.

She’d also heard of those that did the opposite, of course. There were people who had soulmarks that said A gin and tonic, please. or A vanilla hazelnut latte, hold the whip. and applied for jobs as bartenders or baristas as soon as they legally could. That was far from uncommon. She’d also heard of soulmarks that said the unfortunate Hi. or Excuse me. or any other combination of boring phrases that could be heard every day. When she thought of that possibility Darcy was glad that her soulmark stuck out a little more. She was eager to meet her soulmate, of course. However, she wasn’t sure that she wanted to know what, exactly, causes the first thing her soulmate says to her to be You’ll be alright, I’m just going to put pressure on the wound.

The effect it had on Darcy, however, was undeniable. Darcy was the only one in her seventh grade health class who took the CPR and First Aid section seriously. She passed the certifications with flying colors and kept reading more, studying health and human anatomy. Finding the knowledge empowering and wanting to know more, Darcy signed up to become a certified EMT. Working in the field for a few months, however, showed her that an EMT wasn’t the profession for her; although she felt confident in her knowledge and better for it, it wasn’t what she wanted to do full time. Political science, on the other hand…

--

Bucky Barnes grew up down the street from Steven Grant Rogers. The first time he met the smaller boy was when Bucky stepped in and saved him from a bully. Bucky knew that they would be together for life; although their soulmarks didn’t match, there was no way that someone this fundamentally good (and this good at finding trouble) couldn’t be in his life. At the time he helped little Stevie back to his home where his mother, Sarah Rogers, patched her son up. She had an exasperated air, as if it the occurrence had already happened many times. Given that they were both barely seven reinforced Bucky’s decision.

As the years passed and the two grew closer and closer, Bucky wondered if Steve would be the reason that he met his soulmate. His soulmark rested on his right bicep in a star pattern and was composed of large, swirling handwriting. It also implied that his soulmate would know who he was.

Bucky often caught himself wondering about how he would meet his soulmate. Maybe they’d heard about him saving Steve from a fight, or maybe they were a friend of someone he knew. He later wondered if one of the girls that he’d take dancing would be his soulmate, or maybe one of those girl’s friends. His soulmark also showed that he would probably be the one to start the conversation, as it showed that his soulmate knew they were fated. 

But still, Bucky Barnes wasn’t famous. He was just an ordinary man working the docks to support himself and to help his best friend when he got sick. He was an ordinary guy who had some luck with the dames, just looking for a good time until he found his soulmate. He was an ordinary guy.

The army, after all, didn’t care who you were when your name came up for the draft.

--

Laying on a metal experimentation table in a prison camp in Azzano, Bucky let his mind wander. He had been strapped to the table for hours, maybe days, shot full of who knows what. At the beginning they had asked some questions, but Bucky knew not to say anything. Instead, he kept repeating his full name and his service number. He still had his dog tags on, so he knew that all the information was right there in plain sight, but it seemed better to say something than nothing at all.

Bucky lost his concentration and saw the pug faced doctor come back in. He quickly shut his eyes and began repeating his service number again, hoping to drift off before the doctor did anything.

He wondered about his soulmate. For the first time in his life Bucky wondered if the tone behind his soulmark wasn’t as bubbly and nice as he had always assumed it would be. He hope that he wouldn’t meet them here, but he wasn’t sure how much more he could take.

--

Waking up later to Steve’s face was definitely a surprise. Noticing the body attached to the face was even more so.  Later, after they fought a crazy man that pulled off his skin to reveal a red skull, found the rest of the 107 th  and the rest of the prisoners besides, and returned to the US Army base in Italy, Steve told him the story about Dr. Erskine and the super soldier serum. Bucky had to keep himself from throttling the punk.

Two nights later, sitting at a bar and drinking what tasted like alcohol but didn’t seem to have any of the effects, Bucky almost gave into that temptation. Steve had come up to him and asked if he would follow Captain America.

“Hell no,” Bucky immediately said. “That little guy from Brooklyn, who was too dumb to run away from a fight? I’m following him.” He’d been following Stevie his whole life. As if he’d have another choice now.

--

For the next two years following Steve was exactly what Bucky did. Whether it was directly on Steve’s six, on his left in a spot that had become known as his, or high in the sky as the groups sniper, Bucky always had Steve’s back. A good thing he did, too. The punk had even less common sense now than before; Steve seemed to think that the accelerated rate at which he healed meant that it was okay if he got hurt in the first place and kept taking unnecessary risks. Bucky, of course, disagreed. Besides, it wasn’t as if Steve actually healed much faster than Bucky did, anyway.

In those two years Steve became famous; even more so than he already was, that is. The super soldier had stared in about a dozen films during the USO tour. After he became a real soldier and the higher ups realized that the war was going on longer than they had originally thought it would, he began to star in them again. This time, however, the films were different; this time, they were real. Camera’s around the Howling Commandos began to lose their novelty due to how often they were present. A couple even managed to sneak their way into mission planning sessions, on the strict instructions that the film couldn’t be seen by anyone until after the attack happened and on the condition that it went well. Of course, the Howling Commandos were the chosen strike team for a reason. Almost all of their missions went to plan, if not for some minor wounds.

Bucky was even in some of the films and a couple of interviews as more than just a background soldier. Steve would insist, as Bucky was his second in command, and Captain America always got his way. Because of this, Bucky met plenty of people who knew about him beforehand. Every time he was introduced to someone new Bucky made a point of talking first but no one ever replied with the words on his soulmark. As the war continued, Bucky wasn’t sure if he ever would hear the fated words. Well hi there, soulmate. I wasn’t expecting you.

--

In early January of 1945 the SSR finally received a tip that may end the war; they knew where Dr. Zola, the scientist who had experimented on Bucky and who was the right hand man of Johann Schmidt, was going to be in just a few days. Rumors of a large scale attack had been heard lately with more and more frequency. Schmidt had been untraceable but Zola should know the plans. At the very least Zola would know where the main Hydra base was located.

The Howling Commandos left the following morning for the Alps. They had a train to catch.

--

Fuckin punk, Bucky thought, looking at a small zip line that led over the cliff’s ledge and down a large drop, ending up over train tracks that looked impossibly small from such a great height.

“Remember when I made you ride the Cyclone at Coney Island?” Bucky asked Steve, eyes locked on the tracks.

“Yeah, and I threw up?” Steve replied. He was trying to act cocky but Bucky could see his nerves right through it.

“This isn’t payback, is it?”

“Now why would I do that?” Steve smirked.

Jones piped up by the radio. Apparently they had confirmation that Zola was on board the incoming train. Steve snapped a pair of handles to the line and walked to the edge, then gave another quick summary of the mission. Bucky nodded then stepped up behind him with Jones bringing up the rear. The mission was a go.

Time passed quickly, as it always did when fighting. Bucky’s senses sharped so much farther than they had before the war, letting him run, jump, and duck much more easily than he ever could have dreamed.

Too bad that he was paying more attention to making sure that Steve was okay after taking a blast than to the Hydra fighter with the crazy gun.

As he fell from the train, one of the last things that Bucky thought was that he must have already met his soulmate and not known.

After all, hearing your words was one of life’s guarantees, and Bucky’s life was about to end.

--

The day that Darcy met her soulmate started out horribly and really only seemed to go downhill from there. Jane both lived and worked in Stark Tower and, though the offer had been extended to Darcy as both Jane’s intern and Thor’s shield-sister, she had declined, deciding to make her own way in the mean streets of New York.

She hadn’t realized how literal that statement was until she actually moved to New York.

So Darcy lived in an apartment that was smaller than the office of the old car dealership/ their base of operations back in Puento Antiguo that she had been using as her bedroom. Which was fine. She didn’t need a lot of space.

What she did need, however, was coffee, and the line that went outside of the Starbucks was massive. Having only one coffee shop on the block sucks, Darcy thought as she joined her place in line. She stared at the remains of what used to another coffee shop three doors down. Just days before the Avengers had been fighting Doombots. The news had reported that the bots had been defeated without too much of a fuss, but not before Hulk had been thrown into the shop.

Shaking off thoughts of the battle, Darcy reached into her bag and popped her iPod earphones in. She selected a favorite playlist because really, music helped everything, including her mood.

A couple of songs and an iced mocha later Darcy was heading for the Tower.  God but it was a hot day. Her tiny apartment’s air conditioner had broken down once again in the middle of the night and the humidity was making her hair puff out to before unknown levels. She’d put in a maintenance request with her super but the man was always slow to fix things. Giving that it was currently Tuesday, Darcy estimated it would be done by Friday. Of next week. Maybe. Ugh.

Darcy cursed the heat once again as she got close enough to the Tower to see two guys lingering outside the front doors. She soon realized that they were Steve Rogers aka Captain America (hot) and Bucky Barnes aka The Assassin Formerly Known As The Winter Soldier (double hot). Bucky had come in from the cold (figuratively) over a month ago. She’d heard through the grape vine (usually Steve, Thor, Jane, Darcy but sometimes Natasha, Clint, Darcy) that the super soldier had fought the brainwashing that he had endured at Hydra’s hands for months before he’d even let Steve get close. It took another month of the two meeting before he’d moved into the Tower. Now that he was there, though, he’d apparently seemed pretty normal, if a little on the serious side. He’d even joined the Avengers in the last two fights.

Still, Darcy thought that he was (double) hot. Bucky’d always been her favorite Howling Commando; when her friends had fought over Captain America, she’d always quickly snap up Bucky. His loyalty to his friend was amazing and nothing to scoff at, as was his bravery and his skills as a soldier.

Darcy wanted to get a good look at the two super soldiers on her way in but they’d apparently chosen to take the conversation they were having inside, beating her to the building. She hadn’t had a chance to meet Bucky, yet; she didn’t really hang out with the Avengers too often, not really having an opportunity to without Jane and Jane could rarely be persuaded to leave her lab. Darcy’d barely even talked to Steve and they’d first met months before. She decided that today could be the day that that changed, though, so she tried to pat her hair down as much as she could while simultaneously stuffing her iPod and its earphones in her purse and trying not to drop her coffee.

She entered the Tower quickly and tried to discretely look around for the super soldiers, but when she saw them she froze. Their hands were up and they were talking to a guy who was angrily waving around a machine gun. His finger was on the trigger and Darcy heard the gun begin to fire. She felt a strong pinch in her stomach before Captain America tackled the guy and wresting the gun from his hands. Darcy looked down at her midriff.

She dropped her mostly melted, half-finished mocha.

She felt it splash on her legs distantly before the roaring pain in her stomach took over. Her legs gave out and Darcy fell down on her back, hands absently picking uselessly at her shirt and the large blood stain that was rapidly spreading out from the bullet wound.

Bullet wound.

She’d been shot.

Darcy’s hands were already shaking but she knew that she had to try to put pressure on the wound. However, when she tried to push down Darcy couldn’t hold back the cry of agony, her hands automatically loosening in an effort to stop the pain. She gasped in breaths that were as deep as she could, hoping it would help her calm down, but all that was happening as a result was pain.

Darcy tried to keep calm but her EMT training had left her. The only thing she could remember was to put pressure on the wound, something she knew by heart because of her soulmark, but she couldn’t manage to do that by herself. Shouldn’t there be other paramedics here by now to help? Stark Tower had so many security people. It had Avengers, even!

Someone was kneeling over her. She was pretty sure it was a guy but her eyes were taking a while to focus. “You’ll be alright, I’m just going to put pressure on the wound,” the man said before he gently pulled her hands away from her stomach and replaced them with his. Something about what he had said… The man pushed much harder than she had and Darcy gasped at the pain. The completely unyielding and cold touch felt like he was using something made of metal.

Darcy forced her eyes to focus and she looked. It was metal, specifically a metal hand. She followed the hand up a metal arm and saw the one and only Bucky Barnes looking back at her. He looked serious, but calm, like he had the situation under control.

Darcy tried to muster up a smirk, but she wasn’t sure how well it had turned out. Between panting breaths she pushed out, “Well… hi there, soulmate…. I wasn’t expecting you.

The calm expression on Bucky’s face completely shattered. He whipped his head around and yelled, “Steve! Help!” He then quickly turned back to Darcy and pasted another calm expression on his face, though this one looked more strained. “Hey, doll. Hi. I’m Bucky. What’s your name?”

“Darcy,” she coughed out. Darcy was pretty sure that her lip felt wet when it hadn’t a moment ago. She wondered if she was coughing up blood and knew that it wasn’t at all good if she was. Her eyes started to slide shut.

“No, doll, Darcy, keep your eyes open. God you have beautiful eyes, keep them on me, doll.” Bucky’s hand clamped even tighter and Darcy once again gasped in pain. He quickly let up but only a small amount, resulting in a grip that was only a little tighter than before. This time he didn’t look away from Darcy as he bellowed, “Steve! I need you. NOW!”

Then his voice dropped, once again between just the two of them. Darcy couldn’t help but think that he was so handsome. “Darcy, hun, where does it hurt? Just your stomach?”

Darcy tried to nod but quickly found that any movement hurt. She opened her mouth, coughed, and felt more wetness on her lips than before. She also noticed that her mouth tasted of copper. Her eyes were barely open, but they were locked on his face. Talking was difficult but she knew she had to try. “Yeah. It’s starting to hurt less, though. That’s bad, right?”

The last remains of his calm expression completely shattered. “You hold on, Darcy, sweetheart. Help is on the way. Darcy is a beautiful name, I love it. My sister loved that book, she—Darcy? Darcy! STEVE!”

Darcy’s world turned to black.

--

When Darcy woke up the first thing she felt was surprise. Well, actually, pain. But the surprise was a close second.

The pain was, of course, coming from her stomach. It didn’t hurt as much as she last remembered, something that she was incredibly grateful for. In fact, it was rather distant, almost not worth thinking about. So Darcy didn’t.

Instead, Darcy decided to focus on the surprise. The first part of the surprise was because she wasn’t really sure how she was alive, given the hit she had taken to the stomach. Darcy figured that she could find out how that had happened when she opened her eyes, something that she didn’t want to do just yet because of the second part of the surprise.

There was a hand holding hers.

She tried not to react and made her hand stay limp, but she was pretty sure the hand holding hers wasn’t Jane’s. It was larger, for one, than the petite scientists’ would be. It also was much rougher, covered in calluses.

The mystery was too much for Darcy, someone who had always hated suspense. She slowly opened her eyes, making sure not to rush so the bright hospital lights wouldn’t blind her. She turned to look at the man on her left. When she saw that it was Bucky Barnes her eyebrows went up in surprise before remembering that Oh, yeah, that man is my soulmate. That thought was quickly followed up by HOLY SHIT, I found my soulmate. My soulmate, who is Bucky Barnes of the Howling Commandos, sergeant in World War II, ex-assassin, current Avenger, and hot as hell man hunk is my soulmate.

She tried to play it cool but was pretty sure that something of her smug thought process must have played off of her face because his serious expression cracked for a second, a genuine smile appearing in its place, before quickly changing back. She squeezed his hand and shot him a smile of her own before also making her expression serious. “So,” she said, looking right at him, “tell it to me straight. Am I going to live?”

He looked a little shocked and about ready to jump into an explanation of what had happened but Darcy quickly said, “Really. Yes or no question. Am I going to live?”

His mouth snapped shut, then opened, then shut. He opened it one more time and said, “Yes.”

“Thank god.” Darcy lost the serious expression immediately. She gripped the man’s hand as tight as she could but it wasn’t much; she was feeling better since she woke up but she was still pretty weak, probably because of the blood loss. “It would have really sucked to lose your soulmate right after meeting her. Me. Because I am your soulmate. Right?”

“Right,” Bucky said, still seeming confused, but at least a little bit amused now, too. She smiled and nodded back at him.

“Okay, so last I remember, Steve tackled some asshat with a gun right after the dude shot me, then I met you, we chatted for a bit, then I passed out. What else happened? Also,” Darcy paused and looked around the hospital room she was in. It didn’t feel quite right, though she wasn’t sure why. “Where am I?”

“We’re at Stark Tower, up on the Avengers medical floor. After you passed out, Steve finally came to help. He recognized you, of course. Apparently Jarvis had called the docs up here and they came and got you. You, uh, needed surgery. Obviously. They got the bullets out. ‘Course, they’ve had a lot of practice with that. Um.” The stuttering man in front of her was nothing like the smooth talking ladies’ man she had read so much about. Darcy wondered if it was something that the history books hadn’t gotten right, something that was a result of his time spent with Hydra, or if it was due to her being his soulmate. She was betting on it being mostly the last two, but she wouldn’t know for sure until she got to know him better.

“Okay, so questions. First and foremost: do you like ‘Bucky’ or should I call you ‘James?’ Names are very important.” He smiled a little more and repeated the first. “Okay then, Bucky. Hello again. Second, you said bullets. How many?” He held up 2 of the fingers on his metal hand. Darcy realized that they were still holding hands so she gave his another little squeeze and nodded. She then brought her unoccupied hand to her stomach where she rested it, very gently. There was hardly a twinge. I must be on the good drugs, she thought, though she wondered why she didn’t feel any mentally different. She decided to ignore that for now and instead gently pressed on her stomach once more. There were multiple layers of cloth between her hand and her skin but it seemed reassuring, anyway. “Last for now, I suppose, is how long have I been out?”

“Not long,” he replied quickly.

“Dude, that response put up so many red flags. Again, how long? I didn’t pull a Capsicle, did I? Maybe this time only a few years instead of 70?”

He looked nervous. “Um, no, really. Not long. Um.” He looked down to their clasped hands and squeezed it, gently. He seemed so tentative of himself around her. He took a deep breath before continuing. “Obviously, getting shot is really bad. The bullets hit a lot of things that they shouldn’t and… Darcy, doll, you were going to die.”

Darcy was too confused to be in shock. “But you said I’m not going to die.”

“Well, uh, yeah. You aren’t. Any more, anyway.” He took a deep breath. “You know how I was brought in not too long ago? The doctors did all sorts of tests on me, tryin’a see if Hydra’d left any surprises, then tryin’a see how far the super soldier serum that I got’ll go compared to Steve’s. Turns out it’s not quite as different as I’d thought, but different enough.

“Anyway, um, you know that last battle with the Doombots a few days ago? The battle wasn’t so bad except for one thing; Hawkeye got hurt. Really badly hurt. One of the Doombots apparently crushed his arm real bad, doll. The docs didn’t think it would ever heal right and Hawkeye figured that he wouldn’t be able to shoot anymore so we tried something. We weren’t really sure it would help, but it was kinda a ‘why the hell not?’ type of gesture, you know? So they gave him some of my blood.

“And Darce, it was amazing. His arm was completely healed by the next day, no side effects, no nothing. By the next day everything was healed, right down to the cuts and bruises. They monitored him throughout the procedure, of course, and found out that although my blood was healing him, it wasn’t leaving any of the serum behind. As soon as he healed up he was completely back to being a regular guy.

“So, we figured that it should do the same for you.”

Bucky’s thumb had started to sweep over the back of her hand. Now he looked down at it. “There really wasn’t time to run tests or anything, doll. And, uh, it didn’t work quite like we thought it would. The docs aren’t exactly sure why not, though Dr. Banner has a theory that, because we’re soulmates… Anyway, Darcy, doll, the serum in my blood really took to you. Um. The serum seems to have changed you. To be like me.” He still wouldn’t look her in the eye. “Of course, we don’t know for sure if you’ll be super strong or anything besides the healing until we test it more, but you needed to be awake for that. So, basically, what we know is that they finished surgery a little more than an hour and a half ago, Darcy, and you’re almost completely healed.”

So that explains why my stomach doesn’t hurt, Darcy thought, stunned. She shook her head a little to focus and then squeezed his hand. He immediately returned the grip, tighter. He then brought his metal hand and gently put it on top of the two, encircling her smaller one, like he was trying to protect her. He still wouldn’t look at her, instead staring at their joined hands.

In fact, he looked like he felt guilty. Darcy couldn’t have that expression be on the face of the man who was responsible for her being alive. She gently reached over and put her free hand on his cheek, making his head tilt so that he was looking at her. She made her voice be quite but sincere when she straightforwardly asked, “Bucky, am I dying?”

His head shook against her hand, eyes locked on hers.

“Then I want you to listen carefully, soldier. You just told me I’m not dying. After taking two bullets to the stomach and having perforated who knows what, Bucky, I am not dying . And you know what? You are the reason for that. You have saved me, Bucky Barnes. I am grateful for that. You have allowed us to have a chance at a life together, a chance that I wasn’t sure I’d ever have with my soulmark saying what it does. So Bucky, honestly? Thank you.

Darcy studied at the man across from her. The guilt from before had vanished while she talked. Now a tentative grin was beginning to curve up the corners of Bucky’s mouth, apparently without him noticing. She took another deep breath and continued, “And Bucky? I will not waste a single second of that second chance.” She brought their clasped hands up to her face and kissed first his flesh, then his metal hands while maintaining eye contact with the super soldier. His eyes widened at the display and her smile widened, to match. Bucky let out a breath that he seemed to have been holding.

God but this woman , Bucky thought, a happy smile taking over his face. Knowing just what to say and I don’t even know her yet. But I will. God yes, I will.