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don't wanna break your heart, wanna give your heart a break

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Darcy’s neck-deep in paperwork when the desktop across from her boots itself up and Sam Wilson appears on the screen. She’s absorbed enough not to notice until he clears his throat.

“Jesus!” she yelps, throwing her pen in the air and nearly knocking her chair over.

“Hey there,” Sam Wilson says. He is exactly as pretty as he looks in the tabloids she definitely does not read, but Darcy is a grown-up and knows how to talk to attractive betas without being a creep, okay? Okay.

“Um. Hi?” she tries awkwardly, attempting to claw her way back to actual balance before the chair collapses out from under her. Ian comes up behind her and grabs it, blessed hero and savior that he is. “Thanks. Um, is something horribly wrong, do you need a rainbow bridge? Because we’re kinda low on those around here at the moment, just for the record.”

“Not exactly,” Sam says, grimacing a little. “Dr. Foster’s an alpha, right?”

“. . . nnnnno?” Darcy says, leaning in to squint at him and wondering where he got that idea. Ian has to brace the chair again. “Jane’s a beta. Why, what’s up?”

Sam curses under his breath, then sighs. “We need a noncombatant alpha who’s Initiative-vetted,” he says.

“Uh--Pepper Potts doesn’t count?” Darcy asks, bemused. She cannot even fathom the universe in which Pepper Potts is an option and gets skipped over, personally.

“Long story, apparently,” Sam says, shaking his head. “Potts is a no-go, Betty Ross is MIA, Dr. Cho’s on suppressants, every other alpha in the science division’s too damn terrified, and all the remaining noncombatants we’ve got on record are betas or omegas.”

“Or us,” Ian pipes up helpfully. Sam frowns.

“What?” he asks.

“Us,” Darcy says, pointing at herself. “Ian and me, we’re alphas. Are we not vetted? I thought we were vetted. Thor said we were vetted.”

“Wait--terrified of what?” Ian asks, belatedly alarmed. Which--fair question, actually, Darcy would like the answer to that question as well.

“Also a long story,” Sam replies with a grimace. “Either of you on suppressants?”

“No?” Darcy says with a frown, cocking her head. This conversation is taking a concerning turn. Like, okay, people shopping around for an available alpha, that’s not weird, but the “noncombatant” addendum is, and it’s pretty old-fashioned for a beta to be doing it. Like, who’s he even looking for?

Also, the “terrifying” part. That part, uh. That part’s a little weird.

“Okay, well then,” Sam says with a sigh, rubbing the back of his neck. “What are your feelings on heat-partnering a stranger?”

“Er,” Ian says, wincing visibly. Considering the pace their physical relationship moved at when they were datemates, Darcy can’t help suspecting this one might end up being on her.

“Maybe?” she says warily. “I mean, I’ve done it before. Uh, some stranger strangers than others, generally speaking, but, like, it’s not outside my wheelhouse. But seriously, though, terrified?”

“We . . . may have a super-soldier assassin in heat at the complex,” Sam says, wincing.

“What,” Darcy says blankly. Okay, A: the only super-soldier she knows of is Captain freaking America who she’s ninety-nine percent sure is a beta and is by no stretch of the imagination an assassin anyway, and B: that sounds like the exact opposite of a situation that calls for a noncombatant alpha. That sounds like a situation that explicitly calls for a combatant alpha, actually.

“He’s traumatized from being brainwashed and imprisoned and can’t submit to an alpha with combat training without either having a panic attack or straight up trying to kill them,” Sam says bluntly. “He’s detoxing off illegal suppressants before we can put him on new ones. Dr. Cho was going to cycle off hers for him, but he burned through faster than we expected.”

“So . . . he’s in heat, and there’s nobody around he doesn’t see as a threat?” Darcy summarizes, frowning.

“Long story short, yes,” Sam confirms.

“. . . and long story long?” Darcy asks skeptically, genuinely unable to help herself.

He tells them.

“Jesus Christ!”

“We can get a ride inbound for you in thirty if you’re still willing,” Sam says, snapping his goggles down over his eyes.

“Let us get our toothbrushes,” Darcy says faintly.

“I’ll pack the courting gifts,” Ian says, looking slightly nauseous.

“Oh god, I don’t have anything to give a national hero,” Darcy groans, dropping her face into her paperwork. “Especially not a brunet one! I gave that gold choker to Sif two months ago, I’m boned.”

“The arm’s silver, if it helps,” Sam says, eyeing them a little funny for some reason. Darcy has bigger concerns.

“So much for the bronze armband,” Ian says glumly.

“It wouldn’t have fit him anyway,” Darcy reassures him. “Super-soldiers be jacked.”

“True,” Ian says, and then they abandon Sam and trash the entire lab in search of something presentable to take. Pop-Tarts aren’t gonna cut it, Darcy’s pretty sure. God, what did they even use for courting gifts in the forties, who even knows?

. . . aside from Google, obviously.

One Google search later, the world is mercifully clearer and Darcy is buying sunflowers and daffodils at the tiny florist’s two blocks over and thanking God the latest temporary lab is actually in a civilized area. By the time she gets back, Ian’s back from the jewelry store that’s two blocks the other way with two bracelets, one silver and one pearl. She gives him the daffodils and he gives her the pearls, they both grab their go-bags, and then they spend the remaining four minutes panicking.

“Bucky fucking Barnes!” Darcy hisses, throwing her paperwork in the air. Trying to put it away before they left was a mistake of alien-god proportions.

“James Falsworth’s townhouse is preserved as a historical landmark in London,” Ian says dazedly. “There’s a whole wall in the study with framed letters and drawings from the other Commandos. They’ve got a portrait Steve Rogers drew of Barnes framed with a sketch Barnes did of the Alps right in the middle. It’s really lovely, actually, not as good as the portrait but--I mean, I saw it when I was in secondary school and it just felt so eerie, then.”

“This kind of makes it more eerie,” Darcy can’t help but point out.

“I know,” Ian groans, covering his face with his hands.

“Also, he’s so pretty,” Darcy reminds him. “Way out of our league pretty. Sam Wilson pretty.”

“I know!”

“Glad to hear we’ve all got our priorities in order,” Sam Wilson drawls from the window.

“Agh,” Darcy says, actually falling off the chair this time.

“Well, you are quite pretty,” Ian says awkwardly. “I mean--normal pretty, I mean, not less pretty than--um--well--

“Relax, kid,” Sam says. “You two ready to go?”

“Wait, are you carrying us?” Darcy asks, not sure if she’s hopeful or concerned about that. Probably the wings aren’t meant to carry three people long distances, though, and also the flowers would seriously suffer.

“We literally landed a quinjet on your roof,” Sam says, lifting his goggles to raise an eyebrow at her. “It was pretty loud.”

“. . . I knew that,” Darcy says, throwing her go-bag over her shoulder.

“Did you?” Sam asks. “Did you really?”

“So yeah okay the roof,” Darcy says, and flees in the direction of the stairs. She’s halfway up them before she notices Ian hasn’t followed, but just assumes he tripped over something and will be catching up.

That is not actually what happened, as it turns out. Darcy opens the door to the roof and finds Sam Wilson letting Ian down on the ledge.

“No fair!” she protests indignantly. “Nobody said Air Falcon was an option!”

“He asked,” Sam Wilson replies with an easy shrug, his wings folding up as he heads past her to board the quinjet Darcy makes an incoherent noise of protest and shoots Ian an accusing look. Ian just blushes, the traitor, and they follow Sam up the ramp.

The flight turns out to be a lot shorter than expected--Darcy wonders if they were fueling up or just not at the complex when Sam’d called--but it’s still long enough for further low-level panicking, and also gossip.

“Seriously, the whole arm is metal?” Darcy asks disbelievingly. “How does that even work? How does that not break his spine? How does that not rip his spine out?!”

“How long do you think he’s had it?” Ian wonders. “It can’t have been the same one the whole time, if he lost it falling off the train. Not if it’s still more advanced than StarkTech.”

“I think I’m seeing how you two just kinda rolled with aliens and apocalypses,” Sam says wryly.

“I heard you got hit on by Captain America on your morning jog and he followed you home and stayed for breakfast,” Darcy says. Sam shrugs.

“Not exactly in that order,” he says. “But touché.”

The jet lands so smoothly that Darcy doesn’t even notice until Sam stands up to get off, at which point she and Ian both jump up too quick and nearly trip over each other. They manage not to by virtue of falling into the bulkhead and Sam instead, respectively.

Ian gets all the luck, Darcy thinks morosely as Sam steadies him and she nurses the new bruises-to-be on her knee. Hopefully Barnes is into poor equilibrium, or he won’t be wanting either of them.

Then again, he’s a POW war hero and a world-class assassin who can’t stand being around anyone combat-trained. At this point he probably is into it, if only for the novelty factor.

Darcy spares a moment to straighten her clothes and finger-comb her hair into a semblance of order, then gives Ian a quick go-over too. He returns the favor on what she missed and then together they follow Sam out. Ian heroically does not check out the goods. Darcy is . . . slightly less heroic.

She has impulse control issues, okay?

“You’re back!” a relieved voice blurts, and an anxious-looking alpha in a lab coat hurries up to Sam.

“Doc,” Sam says, inclining his head to her before jerking it back at them. “This is Darcy Lewis and Ian Boothby. They’re Dr. Foster’s interns.”

“Actually I’m Darcy’s intern,” Ian interjects awkwardly.

“We had a weird couple of years,” Darcy says with a shrug.

“. . . riiiight,” Sam says after a moment’s pause. “This is Dr. Helen Cho. She’s Barnes’s designated emergency heat partner. But like I told you . . .”

“Still on suppressants, yeah,” Darcy confirms. She didn’t need the reminder; Dr. Cho smells very distinctly chemical around the pheromones, and she’s betting Barnes didn’t respond any better to that than he did the combat-trained alphas. She can’t imagine the unwilling lab rat who would.

“I’m here to brief you both,” Dr. Cho says. “Sergeant Barnes and I have already negotiated prior to this, before his capacity to consent became compromised.”

“Oh thank fuck,” Darcy says as Ian sighs in relief. She was not prepared to do a cold negotiation with an omega already in heat--especially not one just coming off years of suppressants. She’s done it before, but that really only cemented her desire to never, ever do it again. There’ll be stuff to talk over as they go, if Barnes accepts her as his alpha for his heat, but that’s a different story.

“For starters, we’ll be watching on the security feed,” Dr. Cho says, pointing her pen at the nearest camera.

“. . . what,” Darcy says.

“Ngh,” Ian says.

“Non-negotiable from Sergeant Barnes,” Dr. Cho says.

“In case he has another panic attack and tries to kill us, or in case we’re HYDRA?” Darcy asks.

“Yes,” Dr. Cho says. “Are you armed?”

“No,” Ian says, still looking a little flustered. “I mean, I don’t think so?”

“Yes,” Darcy says. She’s got her taser in her jeans, pepper spray on her keys, and a multitool probably sharp enough to count in her boot. "I mean, like, arguably."

"Yeah, this should be interesting," Sam says.

“Yeah, um, is there maybe like a coat check I could leave all that stuff in?” Darcy asks with a wince. She probably should’ve thought to leave it behind, but in fairness, the amount of times she’s had to randomly tase or pepper spray people in her life is just ridiculous. Not so much stabbing, at least, but yeah.

Real interesting,” Sam says, eyebrows raising. Darcy does not think Sam and Dr. Cho have that much room to talk, okay, they’re the ones who are gonna be watching the whole thing on the security feeds. Like, this situation does not have a “not interesting” option.

She gets the reasoning behind the watching, of course--she’s not, like, into it or anything, but it’s pretty easy to understand. Honestly she would maybe never be alone with a stranger again if she were a desirable HYDRA target.

. . . come to think, maybe she should avoid that in the future.

“Okay, what else?” she asks as they leave the hangar and enter an extremely large and metallic hallway. The Hulk could probably fit without even scraping his head, assuming the Avengers actually know where the Hulk is. Thor has not been especially clear about that fact his last few visits. “Does he have a safe word? Or, like . . . sign or token or something?”

“That was my non-negotiable, actually,” Dr. Cho says. “He picked hand signs. I’ll teach them to you.”

Darcy can’t help noticing Dr. Cho does not give them the option of not bothering with safe words, even though it was her hard limit, not Barnes’s. Bucky’s. Whatever she’s supposed to call him. Sergeant Barnes?

She’s kind of relieved, though. Actually she’s super relieved, honestly, because other alphas being shitty alphas has played out badly with more than one omega she’s known. At least Dr. Cho seems to have been coming from the right place when she and Bucky Barnes were negotiating, or at least this was the chance she’d been coming from the right place.

“How many are there?” Ian asks. “Like, uh, red-yellow-green or just a cold stop?”

“It’s red-yellow-green,” Dr. Cho says. “And it’s for both parties to use, not just you.”

“Uh--why would it’ve been just for us?” Darcy asks, sharing a weird look with an equally-confused Ian. “Is that not how safewords work now?”

“You’d be surprised at some of the assumptions alternative candidates have made,” Dr. Cho says, her voice sour. That’s also a good sign, Darcy figures, although it’s also seriously depressing. What kind of alpha would expect to only have safewords for themself?

They make it to the end of the hall, which opens up into a huge common room. Sam goes to the bar and comes back with a water bottle for both Darcy and Ian, which is kind of polite of him but probably just mandatory health care, Darcy suspects. Passing out from dehydration while trying to satisfy a super-soldier is probably an actual valid concern.

Oh god, it probably is, isn’t it. Jesus.

Dr. Cho teaches them her signs while they both drink, then makes them repeat them about a dozen times and peppers the lesson with invasive questions while she’s at it. Darcy’s game--she understands the reasoning behind it--but some of the questions do kinda push it. Still, considering the situation . . . well, if it were her who couldn’t take care of an omega she’d promised to take care of . . .

Yeah, Darcy is not surprised that some of the questions are pushing it. She’s more surprised Dr. Cho doesn’t want to be in the actual room for things. It’s probably a safe bet she’ll be one of the people on the other end of the security cameras as it is.

Once it’s been twenty minutes straight of questions, though, she does start to wonder how long Bucky Barnes has been waiting to get knotted. She really can’t help feeling it’d be better if they met him before he goes full heat-brain on them. She can’t imagine that one working out for the best.

Dr. Cho seems to be winding up for her second wind, unfortunately, and Sam’s already bringing over fresh water bottles. Darcy gets it, but she’s still trying to figure out how to delicately phrase “Seriously isn’t his brain gonna melt if we don’t hurry this up?”

“Seriously isn’t his brain gonna melt if we don’t hurry this up?” she asks.

“. . . possibly,” Dr. Cho says, looking briefly embarrassed.

“Cliff’s Notes version, Doc?” Sam suggests kindly.

“Wrong him and I’ll waive my reperation rights as his designated alpha and leave you to the mercy of Captain America,” Dr. Cho says, leaning forward to stare a hole through both their heads. Darcy’s never heard that phrase used as a threat before except on Saturday morning cartoons and really out of touch conservative news shows, but the way Dr. Cho says it--well, she definitely sells the implication that Captain America has no mercy in regards to Bucky Barnes, put it that way.

“Um,” Darcy says. Ian makes an alarmed sound, clutching his water bottle anxiously. “Noted. Super noted. Noted and notarized.”

“I’ll go find Cap,” Sam says, getting to his feet again. Darcy’s all prepared to hate to see him go but love to watch him leave in the least creepy fashion possible, but both their efforts are proved moot before he even gets halfway to the door.

“I’m not trying to say anything, you just--you know how you get,” Steve Rogers says as he comes out of the elevator on the landing overhead accompanied by a gorgeous rush of fucking mouthwatering heatscent and wow. Wow. Okay, Bucky Barnes definitely does not look like he looked in Darcy’s high school history book. Or those Saturday morning cartoons. Or even that one WWII-based gangbang porno she saw in--anyway. Omega’s built like a brick house, to the point even all the layers he’s wearing can’t hide, and she’s pretty sure he could pick up Dr. Cho, Ian, and two of her all at once, which is just . . . wow. Wowww.

“I don’t know, actually,” he snaps, which snaps her out of her glazed-over reverie. Ian still has to reach over to semi-discreetly shut her jaw for her, though. “And even if I did, doesn’t mean I wanna shove over some poor scared stiff alpha just so I won’t have a shit time of--”

“Hey, guys,” Sam interjects casually, and they both jerk to a halt halfway down the stairs and look down into the sunken common room.

“What the fuck?” Bucky Barnes says, looking pissed as hell. God he smells good. Darcy wants to stick her face in his face. And also his crotch, while she’s in the pervy-ass privacy of her head. Seriously, she has no idea how any other alphas managed to keep it together enough to be scared of someone this hot, unless it was like in a fear-boner kind of way. But really, he smells like need and sex and cookies, and even his scowl looks more defensive than aggressive.

“Got a couple pinch-hitter contenders for you, Barnes,” Sam says, gesturing towards Darcy and Ian. They both automatically jump up, Darcy internally filing “Barnes” as an acceptable thing to call him, and Barnes stares at them incredulously. The awkward silence is . . . pretty damn awkward, really.

“Hi!” Ian blurts, as forever the worst with awkwardness.

“‘Hi’?” Barnes repeats incredulously, at which point Ian visibly panics and grabs the daffodils off the table to shove into his arms.

Darcy is pretty sure the amount of bemusement on Barnes’s face could power an Einstein-Rosen bridge, or at least an arc reactor. Ian’s had worse ideas, though, so she follows his leave and scoops up the sunflowers too.

“Hi,” she confirms firmly, holding them up to Barnes. It’s probably a ninety-percent chance he only accepts them because he’s in shock, but she’ll take what she can get. He stares at both bouquets with a strange look on his face, then visibly snaps out of it and turns on Steve Rogers with a furious, betrayed expression that startles half the room back a step.

Not Steve Rogers himself, though.

“You got ‘em to bring courting gifts?!” Barnes snarls. “You fucking ass, I told you that in private, not so you could--!”

“Bucky!” Steve Rogers protests, putting his hands up between them. “I didn’t prep anybody, Sam and Helen were just gonna ask around. I don’t even know who they are.”

“Dr. Cho prepped us, though,” Darcy pipes in. Full disclosure and all. “She told us your signs. And about the surveillance. And your frankly alarmingly short list of hard limits, uh, that was . . . that was a little concerning, dude, not gonna lie.” Considering it’d mostly just amounted to “no combat-trained alphas” . . . yyyyeah. “Also, I used to hunt with my nan. Is that gonna be a problem? Like, I’m not remotely combat-trained but I can definitely fire a rifle. And once I tased Thor into unconsciousness. Um.”

Maybe she should stop talking.

“You what?” Steve Rogers and Barnes say in bemused unison. Sam looks impressed; Dr. Cho looks offended. And also curious For Science, because Darcy would have to be blind to not know that look by now.

“In his defense, he was running low on Myew-Myew juice,” she says. “And in my defense, it was the first time we’d ever met and he was screaming ‘where’s my hammer?!’ at the sky, so. Oh, and Ian sort of threw a car at an evil alien once, but that was extenuating circumstances too.”

“What the hell,” Barnes says.

“We are alphas,” Darcy replies with a shrug. Slightly out of shape ones, but still. What else would they have done? “But I would totally not bring a taser anywhere near your den, obviously, that is not a thing I would ever do. Like, if you were worried about that. For the record. Not that you are worried--”

Okay, so she’s not always at her best in awkward situations either. Sue her.

“‘Myew-Myew juice’,” says the world’s most prolific political assassin and longest-serving POW.

Darcy’s pretty sure he’s picking Ian. Assuming he picks either of them, obviously.

“Yeah,” she says anyway. “Gotta be worthy of the power of Thor to wield the power of Thor, you know?”

“It’s a hammer,” Barnes says blankly.

“Long story,” Darcy says.

“It’s a hammer.”

“Okay, really long story, geez.”

“So . . . who were you two again?” Steve Rogers asks nearly politely, hands clasped behind his back. Like, speaking of destructively pretty betas . . .

Darcy’s really gotta stop thinking of Steve Rogers as “Steve Rogers”, but every time she tries to her eighth grade history teacher starts screeching in the back of her head, so yeah, that’s clearly not happening anytime soon.

“They’re with Dr. Foster,” Sam puts in, tilting his own destructively pretty head towards them. “Darcy Lewis and Ian Boothby. They’re grad students from Culver. Lewis works for Foster and Boothby works for Lewis, and they’re both fully vetted. I checked. Twice.”

“You told them to bring fucking courting gifts,” Bucky accuses tersely.

“Hell no, man, that was all them,” Sam says, holding his hands up. “I just told ‘em who you were and how you were alive and around.”

“We did use Google, we weren’t certain about period-appropriate choices,” Ian says apologetically. “That’s, um, a thing we did. Sorry.”

“We also bought it all super-last minute, they just called us and we had, like, nothing appropriate on deck,” Darcy admits with a wince. Not her finest hour as an alpha, that.

“‘All’?” Barnes repeats in bemusement.

“Uh--yeah?” Darcy frowns, a little offended, not her finest hour or not. “We didn’t just bring flowers, we’re not assholes.”

“We really weren’t sure what you’d like, though,” Ian says, still apologetic. “I just, um, I asked the shop clerk for something traditional and not constricting?”

“Also we didn’t bring food, we didn’t know if you were allergic to anything or had any dietary restrictions or whatever,” Darcy puts in. “Although in retrospect ‘does the super-soldier need gluten-free heat snacks’ was probably a stupid question on our part.”

“The fuck, Rogers,” Barnes hisses, turning on Steve Rogers again. This time he just looks mortified, though.

“They’re with Thor,” Steve says immediately, holding his hands up again.

“Also, this explains so many of Thor’s assumptions about humans,” Dr. Cho mutters under her breath.

“Fair,” Darcy admits before digging out the jewelry box tucked into her sweatshirt to show Barnes, Ian immediately following suit. Barnes looks even more mortified, his face red. “Okay, please don’t make that face, these are just interns’ non-salaries’ courting gifts, I’m pretty sure Ian actually had to use Jane’s expense account to pay for them.”

God, she is usually so much better at this. She’s just gonna blame the sweet cinnamon-sugar scent of Barnes’s preheat, honestly, because God damn but that is just not getting any less distracting at all. The guy smells like a damn snickerdoodle, it’s terrible.

Seriously, terrible. Darcy’s never gonna be able to look at her dad’s Christmas cookies the same way again.

They open their respective boxes to show Barnes the bracelets and he gets that flustered, stricken look again for a second before his jaw locks stubbornly. He shifts both bouquets into his right hand and holds out his left towards them with that same lock-jawed look, the inside of his wrist turned up towards the ceiling. Darcy, frankly, is grateful he wants them on the metal wrist; she’s already having enough problems focusing past his scent as it is. Getting a dose of pheromone-pulse heat-scent straight from the source while trying to act like a polite human being would just not have been a winning combination.

She takes the offer, obviously, and carefully fastens the pearl bracelet around Barnes’s wrist while doing her damnedest at her “polite human being” impression. If it were actually his biological wrist, she’s pretty sure she’d have been too busy trying not to lick him to pull it off, so thank fuck for small favors. When she looks back up Barnes looks confused and a little lost, which confuses her too--did she do something weird after all? Because man, she was trying really hard not to do that.

“Erm,” Ian says, and very gingerly puts the silver bracelet on Barnes too. Barnes tilts his wrist and Ian startles, which for some reason seems to settle Barnes. The bracelets click together gently.

“Wow,” Darcy says, staring stupidly. The moving plates are gorgeous and cool as hell, and remind her just that one note too much of New Mexico and the burny fire and doom, except by comparison they are so much prettier and more delicate, especially contrasted against the soft gleam of pearl and sparkle of silver.

. . . honestly, she kinda hopes Barnes just decides he wants them both. For one thing, he’s intimidatingly delicious; for another, he looks like it might take them both. The mere idea of trying to satisfy a super-soldier omega on her own is . . . well, it’s an idea, all right. Like . . . oh man, is it ever.

Also, she’s not gonna lie: it’s way easier to be competent with someone around to be more nervous than her, and Ian is pretty much always more nervous than her.

“Thank you,” Barnes says stiffly as he pulls his wrist in beneath the flowers, voice and gesture both stilted and a little too tight as he hides the bracelets from his own eyes. Darcy completely forgets what she was thinking about in favor of burying the near-irresistible desire to either lick him or bundle him up in the softest blanket ever produced by mankind. Asgardiankind, even.

“It is literally no problem at all,” she swears immediately, Ian nodding nervously beside her. “Do you wanna sit down and, like, talk? Like, is there anything you want to ask us?”

“No,” Barnes says. He’s looking--not at the flowers, really, but still pretty near them. He doesn’t say anything else. It’s . . . not particularly helpful, Darcy’s got to admit. Especially not in deciding between the licking and the bundling.

Well, if he picks both of them, she could always do one and get Ian to do the other.

“Is there, um--is there anything you want to tell us?” Ian hazards. Barnes doesn’t say anything, still looking near the flowers. Darcy is painfully aware that his designated alpha and two Avengers are watching this, even knowing she really shouldn’t care about that. She doesn’t care about it in relation to what Barnes needs, obviously, but that still leaves a lot of room for caring.

“Then is it okay if we ask some stuff?” she says anyway, because what the hell else is she gonna do?

“Fine,” Barnes says, his mouth going tight. Steve Rogers, Sam, and Dr. Cho all tense too. Darcy seriously wonders what kind of awful people these people have been meeting.

“Okay,” she says, glancing at Ian, who glances back at her with an unnerved expression. All right, then, looks like she gets first dibs. “Can we call you ‘Bucky’, is that okay? Or, like, would just ‘Barnes’ be better, or . . . I dunno, I’m not gonna lie, I thought Peggy Carter was like twenty thousand times cooler than the Commandos, I really did not pay as much attention to the stuff about you guys, I’ve got no idea what else to guess here.”

“She had a red dress,” Barnes says, mouth still tight.

“Well, that sounds destructively hot,” Darcy says, resisting the urge to fan herself a little. It must’ve been, to make an impression that’d could come back after seventy years of brainwashing.

“Timothy Dugan called you ‘Jimmy’ sometimes in his memoirs,” Ian suggests awkwardly.

“That ain’t my name,” Barnes snorts. “Goddamn Dum Dum knew I hated that shit.”

“Um . . . what about ‘James’, then?” Ian asks, and receives the dubious look to end all dubious looks. Darcy’s not sure if that means Barnes is relaxing, but god does it look good on him.

“Look, we’re not picky. Like, we will call you ‘Bucky’ or ‘Barnes’ or even freaking ‘Sergeant’ if that’s what you’re into, we are not above that,” she puts in. Including in bed, but she’s gonna avoid saying that part outright. Ian’s face just went pink enough to make the point for her anyway. Barnes smirks humorlessly at both of them.

“Yeah, sure,” he drawls, tipping his head to one side and raising his eyebrows at them in extremely distracting fashion. “Call me ‘Sergeant’ all you want.”

“Ngh,” Ian says, turning even pinker. Darcy deeply regrets everything ever, and also might need a minute.

“Okay, cool,” she says, nearly calmly. “Well. You smell freaking mouthwatering, Sergeant. So, uh, is there anything we can do to help you with that?”

“Fine,” Barnes says, shaking his head. Darcy can smell his cinnamon-sugar pheromones even stronger with the gesture and experiences an embarrassingly strong desire to bite him. He tucks a stray lock of hair behind his ear with the metal hand, and the courting bracelets click together against his wrist.

“Bite” is not a strong enough word for what Darcy wants to do to this omega, in all honesty. His mouth is still pulled a little too tight, though, and he’s keeping his eyes very firmly off Steve Rogers as he talks.

And, like, she does possess some sense of object permanence. She hasn’t forgotten the way they were arguing when they came in.

“Cool. So, in the den or out?” she asks. Barnes blinks, then frowns.

“What?” he says.

“Us,” she says, gesturing between herself and Ian. “If one of us’ll do, do you want us in your den with you or outside?”

“The fuck use would you be outside it?” Barnes laughs. It’s not an amused laugh--just the derisive kind. Under the circumstances, Darcy is gonna cut him a break on social graces. Darcy would probably cut Doctor Doom a break under these circumstances; damn sure she’ll do it for a guy who made a lifestyle out of following Captain America into the jaws of death, or however the cartoon used to put it.

“My old roommate used to do that for her girlfriend,” she says, shrugging loosely. “She never liked anybody in her den for her heats--got too intense for her, she liked riding them out alone better. One of my brothers is like that too. They both told me it was easier to relax with somebody on the door.”

“Instead of inside,” Barnes says, giving her a long, intent look. Darcy pretends it’s not the kind of expression that would normally have her going for her taser, because again: breaks.

“Yeah, that’s what they like,” she confirms with a nod. Barnes frowns. Steve Rogers looks uncomfortable. Darcy keeps her eyes on Barnes, and tries to pretend she hasn’t noticed. Yeah, she heard that “how you get” part too, but if Barnes wants to get that way, hey, he’s got the right to. Not many people can go through heat or rut alone without it taking something out of them, but she know sometimes the alternative would take more, so she’s not pushing it.

Clearly Steve Rogers knows too, if he’s not bringing it up again.

Barnes frowns at her for a moment longer, and then looks at Ian, who straightens up nervously.

You got a taser?” Barnes asks.

“Um--no?” Ian manages, looking even more nervous. Fair, Darcy figures; that question implies needing a taser.

“Give him yours,” Barnes demands shortly, looking back to her. Normally Darcy might ask some follow-up questions on that one, but he’s continuing to smell like cinnamon-sugar sex, so no, not so much right now. She pulls her taser out of her jeans and passes it over to Ian, then after a moment’s thought gets out the pepper spray and multitool too, just in case. Seems reasonable, anyway.

“Um,” Ian says, awkwardly juggling all three and visibly alarmed.

“What are we doing here?” Darcy asks after all, because yeah, of course she can’t keep her mouth shut even for cinnamon-sugar pheromones.

“Boothby, you’re watching the door,” Barnes says to Ian--which is reasonable, Darcy made him say “Myew-Myew” in cold blood--and then turns to her again. “Lewis, you’re inside.”

“. . . you sure you got the right order there?” Darcy asks after a moment spent blinking stupidly.

“He picked up a car, he’ll be fine,” Barnes replies dismissively, shaking his head. That wasn’t exactly Darcy’s concern, but she’s not gonna argue with the hot omega who just shook more heat pheromones all over the room.

“‘Kaaaay,” she says slowly as her brain processes its way through all that sexy, sexy cinnamon-sugar, kind of wishing she had another weapon to hand Ian. He looks like he might want one. But, well--she had hoped Barnes would pick both of them, even if this hadn’t been what she’d had in mind for that either.

So yeah, it’s okay. At least they’ve got a direction to go in now, so that means she knows what to do.

“Sounds good to me,” she says, glancing at Ian, who nods quickly in agreement. “Lead the way, Sergeant.”

Barnes laughs at her, but drops the flowers on the table and turns on his heel to walk out of the room without sparing so much as a word or a glance for Dr. Cho or Sam or even Steve Rogers, although Dr. Cho definitely gives Darcy and Ian both a really pointed look before they follow him. Sam looks more neutral about the situation.

Steve Rogers--yeah, well. Darcy doesn’t really wanna get into how Steve Rogers looks about the situation.

Barnes leads them through a fairly convoluted set of halls that Darcy can’t imagine why there isn’t a shortcut through. She could follow him with her eyes closed right now--his scent is really only getting sweeter and headier as they go. So yeah, she probably would not have stopped to say “bye” either, under the circumstances. Ian fumbles her taser and pepper spray into his pockets and then keeps carrying the multitool semi-helplessly; Darcy just hopes he doesn’t find any interdimensional portals to accidentally dump it into.

At least he’ll still have the taser either way.

There’s an elevator, but Barnes bypasses it for the stairs, to Darcy’s relief. Again: his scent is just getting sweeter, and she’s an alpha, not a goddamn rock. And Ian is also not a rock, and going to be sitting on the door as opposed to inside the den taking care of Barnes, so yeah, definitely the stairs are better.

Barnes might just not like the idea of being trapped in a small space with two unfamiliar alphas, of course.

Understandably.

Two flights of stairs down, Darcy starts wondering if maybe Barnes would benefit from an upstairs bedroom--like, one with a window.

Then he takes them down another hallway and . . . yeah. Yeah, an upstairs bedroom would definitely be better.

“Are these cells?” Ian asks, looking around warily.

“These are definitely cells,” Darcy agrees carefully. What the hell.

“It’s safer,” Barnes says, shoulders drawn up tight.

“Okay,” Darcy says, trying not to stare through the flat glass walls of the bare little rooms they’re passing by. She’s trying to picture the Avengers letting literally any brainwashed ex-POW stay in one of these, much less Captain America’s best friend. It is really, really not happening.

Then again, if Barnes came to her smelling like heat and need and asked, she would let him den down in the damn lab if it made him happy.

And mercifully, when they get to the last cell at the end of the hall, it’s lined with heavy curtains and stacked full of rugs, pillows, and blankets. Barnes puts his metal hand to the lock to open it, and Darcy and Ian share an awkward look--merciful or not, it doesn’t smell like Barnes at all. If Steve Rogers didn’t build this nest, Darcy will eat her boots. Explains why it’s less of a nest and more a pile of nest furnishings, at least.

Barnes doesn’t really seem to care either way; he walks right in and is already mostly stripped before he even gets to the cot against the back wall, which considering the size of the cell is really impressive.

“Ngh,” Ian says.

“Ngh,” Darcy agrees fervently, still half-wishing he was coming in with her. Barnes looks back at them with a frown, in the middle of unzipping his pants. It’s . . . extremely distracting.

“What?” he asks.

“So many things,” Darcy says, gesturing feebly with both hands. “Um--did you want . . . is there anything else you wanted?” Barnes scowls.

“A knot,” he retorts irritably as he kicks his pants off. New knowledge: Howling Commandos apparently go commando. Jesus. “Get in here.”

“I can do that,” Darcy agrees with a dazed expression, following him into the cell.

“Do you want the door shut?” Ian asks, leaning into the doorway just enough to peer around for a latch or handle.

“Yes. No,” Barnes says, scowling harder as he rifles through the pile of pillows in the corner. He’s naked and smells like heat and hunger despite the aura of control, and Darcy’s instincts are super-offended that she isn’t naked too. Then Barnes comes up with a brand-new box of condoms and a fat tube of lube a second later, and Darcy’s instincts have to go and have themselves a lie-down. Darcy herself settles for sitting on the edge of the bed, seeing as there’s literally nowhere else to sit in the cell. It’s surprisingly comfy, judging by how thin those other mattresses looked, so she can only assume Steve Rogers either replaced it or stacked up like six of them.

Jesus. She is literally about to fuck Captain America’s best friend on the Falcon’s request in a nest that Captain America built. On camera, even. That is . . . there’s gotta be a kink for this, Darcy figures, or at least a niche market that’d pay out the ass for the tape, but hell if she can name it.

“Half-shut?” she suggests. Barnes ignores her, so she and Ian exchange glances instead and then Ian carefully pulls the cell door closed just enough to leave an easy avenue of escape that is pretty much exactly Barnes-sized. Or pretty well-eyeballed to that, anyway.

Ian takes up position outside the cell and Barnes drops the lube and condoms on the bed to start rifling through the pillows again, expression tight. Darcy hears the bracelets click a few times, very lightly, and Barnes’s shoulders seem to go a little tighter every time they do. She still doesn’t get why.

She’s got some ideas. They’re not really good ones.

Big shocker, there.

This is pretty much the least sex-friendly vibe she’s ever been invited into an omega’s heat den on, though. Honestly, if it weren’t for the condoms on the bed and Barnes explicitly saying he wanted a knot, Darcy would be assuming he just wanted some convenient alpha pheromones on hand so he could maybe relax a little and sleep through the worst of it. It’d make more sense than the tension in him every time he hears the bracelets clink against each other or his arm.

“You need something?” she asks. He still hasn't stopped digging through the pillows. “One of us can--”

“No,” Barnes cuts her off shortly, shaking his head. He seems to give up on finding whatever he was specifically looking for, though, because then he just picks up the entire pile and dumps the whole huge mess of it on the bed. Darcy nearly gets swept overboard.

“‘kay,” she manages from the bottom of the pile, voice only slightly muffled. It still takes her a minute to surface without spilling any bedding on the floor.

By the time she does, Barnes is on the bed too.

Really close on the bed.

“Jesus!” Darcy blurts, nearly spilling the bedding after all. Barnes scowls and leans back.

“Whatever they told you--” he starts roughly, so obviously wound so tight, and Darcy immediately starts shaking her head.

“You just startled me, dude, you were basically in my lap there,” she says. “Which, all for that, for the record, just maybe a little warning next time?”

“Okay,” Barnes says, staring searchingly at her for a moment. “This is your warning.”

“Oh man,” Darcy manages in the middle of ending up with an immediate lapful of super-soldier. The pillows that are squished between them and preventing them from full-body contact deserve to die, she decides instantly. Die horribly.

Belatedly, it occurs to her that those pillows smell like Steve Rogers.

. . . okay. Maybe they can live.

“Like this?” Barnes asks, watching her with heart-throbbing intensity. His skin is flushed. Was his skin this flushed before?

“Yeah. Can I kiss you?” Darcy asks, pretty sure all her blood just went straight to her clit. For some reason, Barnes looks startled by the question.

“Uh--yeah,” he says after a moment, frowning. “But you don’t have to.”

He is going to kill her, Darcy thinks, and tugs him down for that kiss. Or she’ll maybe kill something for him, combat-trained alpha or not. Barnes makes an uncertain noise and she nearly cuts the kiss off, but he returns it before she can. Naked and beautiful and heat-scented omega straddling her lap in his den and kissing her--yeah, no, she’s not gonna stop if he’s not.

Also, thank fuck she wore her contacts today. This is not a situation she’d want her glasses bumping into everything during.

Barnes’s pheromones smell a little sweeter. Darcy’s not sure if it’s the effect of being so close, but she’d like to hope it’s the kissing. His body is a little softer, at least, muscles not strung so obviously tight, so that’s something. It feels more like a heat den this way.

“Okay?” she asks, putting a careful hand on Barnes’s shoulder. He ducks his head, a brief flash of frustration cutting across his face.

“Fine,” he says, but it’s nearly toneless. Darcy isn’t really sure what to do. With another omega, she’d tease and flirt, but that seems like a potentially shitty thing to do to one as traumatized as Barnes.

Then again, so’d be treating him like glass, probably.

“More pillows?” she suggests, raising her eyebrows at him. There’s pretty much zero room for any, mind, but there are still plenty on the floor.

Also, they all still smell just that little bit like Steve Rogers.

So that’s a thing.

“Not gonna fit,” Barnes says, glancing towards them.

“Come on, dude, I work for a batshit amazing Nobel laureate and you’re a vintage super-soldier,” Darcy scoffs, giving his shoulder a squeeze. “Also I have like nineteen-twentieths of a degree in political science. Between the two of us we can definitely manage it.”

“I don’t--” Barnes leans into her, curls down around her, and hesitates. Darcy bites her stupid fucking tongue and waits.

Well, okay. She tries to wait.

“Look, dude, if you’re not into this--” she starts carefully, and Barnes shakes his head in frustration.

“I--no, I want partnered,” he mutters, not quite looking at her face. “Just. The cameras. S’bothering me more than I--just sick of bein’ watched. Always bein’ . . .”

If it weren’t heat, Darcy’d say they could cover up or shut off the cameras--they were Barnes’s non-negotiable, not hers or Ian’s or Dr. Cho’s. But it is heat, and that means stupid decisions that even super well-adjusted people might regret when their brains turn back on, so she’s not going there.

Still, they’ve got options.

“C’mere,” she says, grabbing the nearest blanket.

“. . . I’m in your lap,” Barnes points out, a flash of dubiousness crossing his face. It is also ridiculously attractive, but at this point he could spit in her drink and she’d probably think that was hot, so yeah.

“Trust me, I did not forget,” Darcy promises, wrapping her arms around him so she can shake the blanket out over his shoulders.

Barnes stiffens for a second, but then helps her pull it around his body so it spills over her too. He looks spine-meltingly sweet doing it, and pretty obviously puts in more effort getting it to lay just so than he did dragging the bedding over to begin with.

“Better?” Darcy asks, taking advantage of the cover to settle a testing hand on his hip.

Barnes melts.

“Oh,” Darcy says in startled exhalation, his sudden weight knocking her right over. Barnes doesn’t even try to catch himself, just falls right over with her and nearly smushes her under all that muscle and metal.

It’s kind of worth it.

“God damn,” she murmurs, skimming a hand up his side and taking a moment to get her breath back. Since Barnes’s face is tucked into her neck and leaving hers in his hair, it doesn’t really help. Like, at all. Pretty much the opposite, in fact.

It’s so worth it.

Barnes lifts his head, his eyes dark and heavy-lidded that easy and own breathing gone raspy, and Darcy kisses the corner of his mouth because it’s right there, why would she not? He kisses back sweeter and hotter than before and she doesn't even mind the fully-body smushing. Well, her boobs do, but whatever, they're weak. There is a warm and needing and heat-scented omega on top of her and her boobs will just have to deal.

God, he’s heavy, though.

Barnes braces an arm against the mattress, body pressing down into the pillows still caught between them, and Darcy flips the blanket over the back of his head and deepens the kiss. He eats it right up, pheromones warming the enclosed air around them, which she shamelessly takes as a good sign.

Darcy breaks off the kiss to nuzzle the corner of Barnes’s jaw and spares a moment to pick out Ian’s scent--low and steady and spreading through the hall, but not quite penetrating the den past the edge of the entrance. A little nervous, like usual, but definitely not stressed. It’s kind of funny, but something about having him on the door is soothing for her, which is not something she’d expected. Maybe because it’s the reassurance of something that’s there to soothe Barnes, or maybe just because it’s Ian.

Barnes makes a very quiet noise against her shoulder at the nuzzling, a soft shudder moving through him, and Darcy’s the one to melt this time.

“This good?” she murmurs as she pushes her hands up his back. “You like it?”

“Mm.” Barnes tucks his face into her neck, letting out a ragged little breath that sends a shiver through her and ignites a warmth in her gut, and she nuzzles him again. “Roll over?”

“If I could I totally would,” Darcy tells him, unable to repress the snicker as she gives his shoulders a pointed little push. Barnes lifts his head enough to give her a confused look before figuring it out and flushing again, immediately shifting back. Darcy follows him, and one extremely distracting tangle later, Barnes is on his back, the blankets are over her back, and the damn pillows that were between them are on the floor.

It feels exactly as fucking amazing as she would’ve expected.

“Ah,” Barnes says dizzily, his head dropping back against the sheets and body rolling up against Darcy’s as his pheromones spike hard.

“Okay, taking it you like it on your back?” she manages breathlessly, not even bothering to tuck the hair falling in her face back before rolling back against him.

“Like somebody on top of me,” he says on another shudder, hands fisting in the blanket and tugging it down tighter. Darcy wants to flip it over them completely and box his heat-sweet scent in, but resists the urge. “Feels good.”

“Am I heavy enough for that?” she asks wryly, smoothing a hand up his chest and earning yet another shudder.

“Don’t gotta be heavy,” Barnes says. “I just like it. Rogers wasn’t heavy when he used to stick that skinny beta cock in me but I liked that fine.”

“Ngh,” Darcy manages. That mental image is just about an instant KO. Barnes shifts underneath her, still sweet-smelling and warm but just barely frowning.

“He thinks I don’t remember,” he murmurs, expression distant. “Or maybe I don’t remember. Maybe I just made it up when I was lonely. But I like how this feels.”

“Then I’m gonna give it to you,” Darcy promises immediately, pressing a quick, fierce kiss to his forehead. She doesn’t have some magic cure for the absolutely terrifying concept of what kind of uncertainty Barnes must deal with every time he tries to figure out who he is and what he wants, but she can definitely handle that. He’s got shit to work through that she can’t do anything about, but this is something she can do.

“Take your pants off,” Barnes says, which isn’t exactly on-topic but is pretty much the only topic at the same time. Darcy does it, either way, and when Barnes tugs restlessly at her sweatshirt that’s next to go. He scowls at her button-down, looking genuinely insulted, and she sniggers.

“Dude, I worked in New Mexico for, like, ever,” she says. “You know how much layering is involved in surviving sweltering days and freezing nights?”

“We ain’t in New Mexico, Lewis,” Barnes retorts in exasperation, already fumbling impatiently with her buttons. She just laughs again and takes pity on him to undo them herself while he shoves up her T-shirt, and laughs harder at the outraged noise he makes upon encountering the cotton camisole. “Christ mother, I thought people wore less these days!”

“Sorry, Sergeant, guess you’re just better at getting naked than me,” Darcy teases, still sniggering as she strips off her T-shirt and camisole. The sullen look Barnes gives her bra is a thing of true beauty. “Oh come on, man, you’re a male omega: like, screw New Mexico weather, you have no idea how inconvenient the girls can be without eight kinds of support. You’re lucky I don’t have a tank top on too. Possibly a corset. Some kind of boning. And I’m not even gonna make a sex joke out of that, because you probably won’t even get it anyway and I’m just a super-thoughtful heat partner that way.”

“You still got your damn briefs on,” Barnes says with a scowl, grabbing the nearest pillow to hit her upside the head.

“Do I?” Darcy asks innocently, making a show of lifting the blankets a little higher as she looks down between them and in the process totally incidentally gets an eyeful of Barnes’s spread thighs and pretty, perky cock. He hits her with the pillow again.

“Shoulda picked the neurotic one,” he mutters under his breath.

“Totally,” Darcy agrees, dropping a kiss to the inside of his knee. He inhales, shoulders tensing for a second before going loose again, and then tugs her back up for another kiss. She goes with absolutely zero regrets, and his pheromones immediately flare up sweeter and stronger.

They stick with the kissing for a while, slow and sweet and super, super terrible for the pillows--seriously, at least half the remaining pillows hit the floor in the first five minutes. Darcy’s gut starts burning and Barnes’s body temperature rises as he gets melty-soft underneath her, like he is literally a cookie fresh out of the oven. Like he is a whole batch of cookies fresh out of the oven and like whole batches of cookies fresh out of the oven are really, really good at heavy petting.

Relatedly, Darcy’s not actually sure when in there she lost her briefs. Definitely it was directly Barnes-related, she knows, because if were her who’d done it she’d have taken off her bra first, but that’s about all she’s got.

The foreplay is totally worth it, mind, even without taking into account Barnes’s greedy hands going anyplace they can get a reaction out of her. Darcy’s are operating on similar theories, and said theories are being well-proven.

“Jesus,” she groans at some point while Barnes is panting raspily into her shoulder, their chests pressed together tight and her clit all stirred up against him where his cock’s a warm little weight against her.

“C’mon, Lewis,” Barnes whines as he wraps his leg higher across the backs of her thighs, the tone the most omega-like sound she’s heard out of him yet. His face is all flushed and his hair’s tangled in it, but the glitter-edged look in his eye still isn’t the mindless lust of full heat yet. The drugs slowing him up, maybe, or maybe super-soldiers just have more self-control.

She pets up the inside of his thigh and he jerks up against her and keens, immediately proving that one wrong. Darcy does not mind in the slightest.

“What’d you do with the condoms?” she asks, glancing around for the box distractedly. Barnes makes an unhappy noise, wrapping his arms around her neck and squirming up again restlessly.

“Lewis, come on,” he pleads, voice beseechingly urgent. “Please, c’mon, just stick it in me, don’t I smell good? Ain’t I pretty?”

Okay, so maybe she just doesn’t know what mindless lust looks like on Barnes, Darcy realizes. Note to self.

“The prettiest, Sarge,” she promises anyway, pressing a kiss into his hair as she glances around for the condoms again and, mercifully, finds them against the wall. Thank God, she really didn’t wanna have to call Ian in to search the pillow pile on the floor while she kept Barnes distracted from the money shot. Barnes hasn’t invited him in, for one, so that’d put a pretty serious crimp in that idea. “Gonna roll over for me?”

“Please,” Barnes answers senselessly, shaking his head with that same too-sharp urgency and tightening his grip on her. The reaction’s a little hard to translate, and the heat lighting up her core and throbbing hard and heavy in her clit isn’t helping her think clearly about it.

“Whatever you want, Sergeant,” she says, and he squeezes his eyes shut and does another insanely distracting full-body squirm against her before suddenly letting go, arms dropping to the mattress and fingers curling against the sheets. The courting bracelets flash briefly in the light before disappearing under a pillow along with the wrist they’re on.

“I want,” Barnes says, voice unsteady and eyes still glitter-edged. “I want, I--please.”

“I am absolutely here for that,” Darcy promises as she tears open the condoms. As soon as she has one rolled down her clit and gets a bit of lube on it he’s got his legs wrapped around her hips, heavy and tight and pretty much perfect. She takes one slow breath that she can taste his pheromones all over, taste just how ripe and ready his body is through, and then guides her clit into him. His head drops back again, she kisses up his throat, and his knees come up to squeeze roughly against her sides.

He’s warm and wet and welcoming inside, softer and slicker than part of her’d expected even being able to smell the low simmer of his heat, and it only takes a few slow rocks of her hips to bring that simmer to a boil. There’s a super-soldier underneath her making soft, helpless noises as she fucks him to the best of her ability in long drawn-out thrusts that make him bite his lip and squeeze his legs tighter around her, and what the hell is her life, exactly, what fucking even.

“Lewis,” Barnes mewls very, very quietly, eyes shut tight and skin broken out in a visible sweat. Darcy kisses his jaw; smells cinnamon and tastes salt. She wants to hold his hand but can’t help thinking he might have a harder time handling that than taking her clit. “Lewis, Lewis, please, do it, gimme--more.”

“I got you,” Darcy promises breathlessly, keeping the metronome-steady pace of her hips. She wishes she had a song to keep the beat to, or enough “more” to give him and know he’d be taken care of.

Barnes keeps up with the litany of her name and keeps his hands screwed tight in the sheets, body moving up into hers to meet every thrust and knees knocked into her ribs. Darcy wants to anchor him down and kiss everything on him that’s ever bruised or bled in his life, but settles for concentrating on keeping the perfect angle to make his voice crack every other thrust.

He sounds really good like that, for the record.

Her knot’s already swelling but Barnes still comes first, a stuttering moan escaping his throat with a dragged-out orgasm and his thighs clamping down so hard Darcy actually can’t move between them. The way his body seizes up around hers is pretty much all she needs to get the rest of the way to her own orgasm, though, and the sight of him coming apart on her clit takes care of the rest.

Darcy comes, and Barnes moans louder for the aftershocks that the pressure of her fully-swollen knot drags out of him than he did coming to begin with, which is just not something any sane and reasonable alpha can handle knowing, she thinks.

Barnes’s thighs are trembling around her.

She flashes him the hand sign asking for his color automatically, her hand trembling a little too, and Green, he signs back at her like it’s just as automatic for him, the courting bracelets sliding down his shining wrist, pearls gleaming and silver glinting.

Darcy puts her hand on his cock and strokes. Barnes jerks underneath her and sobs. He drags the nearest pillow down over his face to muffle the yelping little moans and curses, but his left hand stays on top of it and holds green against it, clearly visible. Permission, maybe, but more like encouragement.

It’s easy to be encouraged by, even though normally with a heated-up omega she’d collapse and curl up with them immediately after blowing her knot. Heat always takes a few rounds, if not a few days, and recovery time is always in short supply.

She really hadn’t even thought about stopping this time, though. Not if Barnes didn’t want her to. Her knot actually hurts from how tight he’s locked her, and he’s visibly struggling not to buck up too hard and throw her off--he nearly does even holding back, even with his legs around her hips and her knot in him. Darcy has to lean all her weight forward and worm her free hand under his back to keep her balance, and while she’s in that close she takes the opportunity to mouth and bite at his neglected chest. She avoids the scar tissue just in case it’s oversensitive. She does not avoid his nipples, which are oversensitive.

So that’s useful information.

“Alpha!” Barnes chokes into the pillow, barely coherent. Darcy rolls the bud of one of his nipples lightly between her teeth, just barely tugging, and everything he says after that is either cursing or pleading; it’s hard to tell for sure. He comes around her again and spills over her hand in wet little spurts, the luscious scent of his slick sweet enough to make her lightheaded for a moment, and she works him through it until he’s mewled and shivered his way past the aftershocks.

Barnes lets the pillow slip, giving her a dazed, dreamy-eyed look, and Darcy ducks her head in and kisses him, letting her hair fall in a curtain to hide that expression from the cameras, just in case. He kisses back clumsily, still just barely shuddering, and she skims her hands soothingly over his scalp and shoulders and then pets down to his chest. Her fingers brush a nipple accidentally, and he whimpers into her mouth. It is very, very hard not to kiss his chest again.

She would, but from that reaction she’s pretty sure it’d be too much. If not for that, she’d gladly go at him like he was all milked up--like he was achingly milked up, pecs ripe and swollen and too full for a tiny little newborn pup to drink all on their own--

Darcy buries her face in Barnes’s neck and breathes out roughly, thanking fuck they’ve got a full box of condoms. Like, maybe next round she’ll double up. Maybe next round she’ll triple up.

Jesus. She’s not even the one on their cycle, for god’s sake.

“Lewis,” Barnes mumbles, voice sweetly slurred. He shifts just enough to tug at their tie and Darcy groans at the hot ache of it, grabbing his hip reflexively. “Lewis.”

“Fuck,” Darcy says, then grinds her hips into his again so her knot presses into the most sensitive places inside him. Barnes’s head hits the mattress and his eyes roll back, pheromones thick and clinging, and Darcy counts breaths to keep herself focused and keep her pace. Her knot’s so sensitive she might cry, but she doesn’t try to use her hand on him again, just braces both against the mattress past his shoulders and lets her knot rub him right.

Yeah, so she wasn’t wrong about how much a heated-up super-soldier would need. She was not wrong at all.

“Lewis, Lewis, alpha,” he stutters in short little whimpers, and Darcy rolls her hips in a little tighter and keeps the long fall of her hair between his face and the cameras the best she can. Barnes whimpers louder, eyes shut tight and thighs squeezing her sides again. She kisses his face because it’s there, because why would she not, and he shudders and shudders and shudders--

She doesn’t think about her knot. She doesn’t think about anything, really, except about how Ian’s keeping an eye out in the hall so they’re okay, how there’s Avengers upstairs so they’re safe--or as safe as anybody gets anymore--and how Barnes sounds under her, how his pheromones fill up the makeshift den that still smells a little like Captain America, that he invited her into, that he chose her to take care of him in.

When he comes again, she almost feels like she does too, even though her knot’s locked just as tight as it ever was. This time he pulls her down, and this time she lets herself collapse and they roll to the side together, clumsy but careful. Darcy drags the blanket over their heads just enough to cover their faces, not bothering to worry about the tangled spill of their hair, and Barnes drops messy kisses all over her mouth as she gasps for breath and digs a heel into the back of her thigh. The position pulls just a little too much at their tie and does nothing to relieve the over-sensitive ache in her knot, but she doesn’t care. She the opposite of cares.

Jesus.

“Good?” she manages, just to make sure his heat’s quelled enough to stop for the moment. She can just barely see him through the light the blanket lets in. Barnes wraps his arms around her shoulders and pushes his mouth into her neck, nodding mutely. She kisses his temple--it’s there, and why wouldn’t she?--and wraps her arms around him in return. He’s warm, but not quite to a fever-simmer, so she relaxes.

It might be easier next round if they do it doggie-style or he rides her instead, she suspects, but honestly she doesn’t even care. If Barnes prefers missionary then she’ll fuck him that way every time and not complain once. Hell, if Barnes prefers missionary she’ll join a goddamn church.

“Hang on,” she says, pulling a couple of the pillows underneath the blankets with them to tuck under Barnes’s head. He lets her, watching her with sleepy, heat-heavy eyes, and she does her damnedest to make sure he’s comfortable, mentally thanking fuck that her knot’s finally going down, even though she can’t quite pull out yet. “Want me to send Ian for anything?”

“Mm.” Barnes turns his face into the pillows for a moment and breathes in slow, then turns back just enough to glance up at her. “Tell him to tell Steve to put those flowers in a vase or somethin’,” he murmurs. “Gonna be dead by the time we’re done down here.”

“Ngh,” Darcy manages, clit twitching inside him entirely without her permission. Barnes’s eyes get a little more heated.

“Scratch that,” he purrs as he winds his arms around her tighter and clenches meaningfully around her clit, his pheromones flickering just a little hotter again.

“You’re gonna kill me,” Darcy says with no small amount of reverence but perhaps some poor phrasing, digging her fingers in on his back. Barnes just shrugs, making the gesture look light.

“You got reinforcements, don’t you?” he asks, tipping his head towards the door. Darcy hears Ian trip. She’s nine thousand percent sure he was sitting down, but he manages it anyway.

“Okay, you’re going to kill us both,” she amends wryly, pressing a kiss to the corner of Barnes’s mouth. He makes a soft little noise, eyes drifting shut for a moment, and then opens them again to lock onto hers intently--gleaming like pearl, shining silver-bright. Darcy swallows hard, wrapping a hand around the braceleted wrist, and Barnes’s shining eyes flick down languidly to follow the gesture, expression just this side of thoughtful. Darcy’s fairly sure she could pull out of him now, if she wanted to.

It’s a very big “if”.

“Jesus, Sergeant,” she huffs, voice rough.

“Kinda like the way you call me that,” Barnes muses, fingers curling testingly. He tugs at her grip on his wrist and she lets go immediately, but before she can pull her hand back he’s covering it with his own. Their fingers don’t interlace, just curl loosely around each other’s, skin and metal settling together gently. Darcy reminds herself to breathe like a normal person and turns their hands just enough to let herself kiss the back of Barnes’s.

He watches her with pearl-and-silver eyes, and when he smiles at her she feels like she could do just about anything. Like she would do just about anything, as long as he was the one asking. It’s a pretty terrifying feeling, actually.

She absolutely loves it.

“Yes, Sergeant,” she rumbles low and adoring as she gives his hand a squeeze, pressed in close and warm under the blanket. Their bodies shift, and the bracelets click together.

Barnes smiles again, and squeezes back.