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Offered Fallacy

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“Until I know this sure uncertainty,

I'll entertain the offered fallacy.”

― William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors


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“Okay, which tie do you like better?” Steve asks, holding up a tie in each hand.  One’s a deep brown color, with tiny little polka-dots in navy and white on there, while the other’s a satiny dark blue with fine silver pinstripes cutting through it on the diagonal.

 

“Wear the blue; it’ll bring out your eyes,” Johnny replies as he leans back against the fluffy pillows lining the headboard, eyes trained on his phone as he types out something rapid fire on the screen.

 

Steve nods, and tosses the brown tie onto the dresser to be put away later.  Neither one of his partners is all that bothered by clothing cluttering up the bedroom, because Johnny’s just as bad as he is when it comes to stripping out of clothes and letting them litter up the floor, and Darcy flat out refuses to clean up after them.  “Pick up your own shit,” she’s reprimanded them more than once, even though she often needs to be reminded herself.

 

And speaking of… Darcy makes her way out of the bathroom, detouring to run a hand through Steve’s hair and give him a quick kiss before flopping down on the bed next to Johnny, burying her face in his bare chest as she pulls the oversized bathrobe tighter around herself.  

 

Wait a second, Steve thinks, turning away from the mirror and looking at the pair on the bed.  “Isn’t that my bathrobe?” he says.

 

“It smells like you,” Darcy mumbles, grinning, and pulling up the collar of the robe just a bit so she can bury her nose in it.  

 

Johnny snorts gracelessly and looks down at her.  “Yeah, because he steals my cologne because he’s always forgetting to pick up more of his own.”

 

“What can I say, you smell so good I want to bring it with me all the time,” Steve says dryly, draping the blue silk around his neck and starting on the knot.

 

“My point is that if Darcy hadn’t seen you wearing the bathrobe last night she wouldn’t be able to tell if it smelled like you or me,” Johnny fires back.

 

“The spirit of romance, you are,” Darcy sighs, headbutting Johnny in his stomach none too gently.

 

Steve tugs at the knot of the tie, getting it to lay perfectly smooth against the crisp white shirt.  “We could always test it out,” Steve suggests with an arched eyebrow that Johnny echoes.

 

Darcy glances warily between the two, tensing up just slightly.  “Do I want to know?” she asks.

 

Johnny shrugs, casually, like he’s not at all bothered.  “Well, we could always blindfold you, then tie your hands so you can’t use your sense of touch, then I can rub off all over Steve, and then we’ll see if you can tell which one of us smells more distinctive.”

 

Darcy pauses, eyes going fuzzy and vague for a moment as her tongue flicks out to wet her lips.

 

“I think we broke her.”

 

Darcy snaps out of her daze and shoots a glare in the general direction of the two men, whipping her eyes back and forth between them as she’s not exactly sure who had said that.  “You couldn’t break me if you tried,” she says with an indignant sniff.  “Don’t you have a gala you’re supposed to be getting ready for anyway?”

 

Steve just groans, tugging at his tie once more.

 

**********

 

“So where are your two extra appendages?” Darcy’s friend, Nita, says as she waves a spare knitting needle in her face.  The other knitting needle is holding her dyed red hair into a twist, and the heap of grey yarn that she’s been working on for what seems like years is draped over her lap.

 

Darcy bats it away, lips twisted into a grimace, and she drops herself down in one of the overstuffed and brocade-upholstered chairs surrounding the low table that’s already littered with a variety of coffee cups.  “Saturday nights have been and always will be girls’ night out, so put a sock in it about my boys,” she says, stealing a sip of espresso from the nearest cup.

 

“Hey,” the black woman sitting opposite Nita says, putting her tablet down in her lap and reaching over to yank the coffee cup out of Darcy’s hands.  “No stealing my coffee.  Get your own.”  Amber gives Darcy a dark glare over the purple plastic frame of her glasses, and slowly, deliberately, drinks down the rest of the cup.

 

“You’re evil,” Darcy says with a pout.

 

Amber just shrugs, putting the cup back on the table and giving Darcy a lip twitching smirk.

 

They’re a bit of a motley crew, Darcy and Nita and Amber, but somehow they’d found their way to each other in the madhouse that’s New York City.  She sure hadn’t thought that the random people she’d sat next to in that self promotion and email marketing course that she’d taken when she’d first landed in the city would become such great friends, but when they spent more time talking with each other than listening to the instructor?  Well, it was a sign.

 

That’s how the Saturday night tradition had started - if they were all in town they would meet up at their favorite coffee shop in Park Slope, drink their collective weights in coffee, bitch about everything and nothing, and end up sitting on a bench somewhere right outside Prospect Park cackling until the wee hours of the morning.  And if any significant others that they were with at the time couldn’t respect that, well, they didn’t stay significant for long.

 

So while Darcy was out with her girls, Johnny and Steve had their date nights on Saturday.  To be honest, though, most of her boys’ dates usually consisted of multiple pizzas and whatever sport they’d managed to DVR from the week before.  As that so wasn’t Darcy’s thing she was more than happy to leave them to it, and all was right with the world.  This Saturday night is an aberration, however.

 

“Besides, Steve got suckered into going to some charity gala thing in order to pretty much baby-sit Tony Stark, so you can’t call him up and giggle in his face,” Darcy comments, sending a pointed look in Nita’s direction.  “And it’s the International Car Show this weekend, and I know Johnny’s going to be putting in an appearance at that after party.”

 

Amber just shakes her head in that quiet way of hers.  She’s one of the most soft-spoken people Darcy’s ever met, despite her outward appearance of an expansive crown of natural curls, a filigreed gold septum piercing that all but shines against her dark brown skin, and the purple glasses.  She’s also evil with a capital E, as both Darcy and Nita have learned the hard way. “Has it ever occurred to you just how freakin’ weird your life is?” Amber asks.

 

“Constantly,” Darcy nods.  “Now move it along and let’s talk about something other than my boys.”

 

“All right,” Nita says, holding up her bundle of knitting so that it more resembles clothing instead of a tribble.  “Do these sleeves look like they’re the same length?”

 

Darcy grimaces, and leans forward to take a better look.  “I kinda thought they were leggings at first.”

 

“God fucking dammit.”

 

**********

 

Two lattes and a healthy slice of pie later and Darcy’s feeling nice and relaxed, the tension of the week seeping out of her and allowing her to unfurl her limbs, stretch out and drape her legs over the side of her armchair, and to just breathe.  It could possibly be the atmosphere of the coffee shop itself, an Instagram-ready sort of a place with brick walls on one side and distressed white painted tin ceiling panels on the other, slightly mismatched wooden tables, and an assortment of oversized chairs perfect for curling up in.  But it’s more likely because of the friends, Darcy knows, as she looks over at Nita.

 

“And then I said, ‘well to hell with you if you think that’s a good idea,’ or something like that at least.  Literally two seconds later she plows her bike right into a double parked car – with the driver still in it, mind you, and then yells at the car for being in her way,” Nita says with a wave of her arms, the little bit of coffee left in her mug sloshing over the side and down her hand.

 

“They say you can’t choose your relatives,” Darcy points out, as Amber shakes her head in resigned disbelief.

 

“And that there’s one in every family,” Amber chimes in.

 

“Yeah, well, I’ve got a whole flock of them.  You want to take one?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Not a chance in hell.”

 

Darcy’s phone goes off on the table, a jangling tune full of clangy guitars and bright mariachi horns announcing the video call coming through.  Amber’s eyes drop down to the phone, and then dart up to give Darcy a hard glare.  “You’re kidding me,” she says dryly.

 

Darcy just smirks widely, and grabs the phone, silencing the ringer before Johnny Cash’s gravelly voice could ring out from it.  “Hey, babe,” she says when when the slightly pixelated face pops up on the screen.

 

“Ooh.”  Nita hops out of her chair and runs behind Darcy’s, propping her chin on the back of it and waving at Johnny through the small screen.

 

“Hello, Giggles, what’s shakin’?” Johnny says, his patented shit-eating grin visible even on the tiny screen.

 

“Sowing chaos wherever I go,” Nita responds, one of those same giggles slipping out at the end of her words.  “How about you, hot pants?”

 

“Saving lives and breaking hearts, as always.”

 

“All right, Casanova,” Darcy cuts him off, resisting the urge to roll her eyes.  She loves the hell out of Johnny, undoubtedly, but that didn’t mean he didn’t get on her nerves sometimes.  “What do you want?”

 

Johnny arches an eyebrow, his face looking all too innocent and open, and that alone is a suspicious sign.  “What, I can’t call my girl just to say hi?”

 

“See, when you say it like that I get even more nervous.  What’s up?”

 

He laughs quickly, shaking his head.  Darcy can see the street behind him, Manhattan, she thinks.  Right by that bistro they love that looks all too affected from the outside but has some of the best burgers they’ve ever tasted in the entire city.  “Just giving you fair warning that I may need your help with an escape route later.  You remember that reporter from the X-Games last year?”

 

“Oh, god,” Darcy groans.

 

“Yeah, well, he’s supposed to be there tonight and Sue said I’m not supposed to punch him, no matter how badly he pisses me off.  Soooo…”  Johnny stops speaking, his head whipping around to look somewhere off screen.  “Hang on a sec,” he says.  The phone drops down, most likely clutched in his hand.  She can see concrete bobbing in front of her, full of the typical alleyway grime of dirty wrappers, crushed cigarette butts, and whatever other decaying schmutz has been pushed up against the base of the brick buildings.  

 

Then the picture goes black, even though the sound’s still coming through loud and clear.  “Hey, what’s going - “ they hear Johnny call out, right before his voice is cut off and there’s a sudden scuffling noise coming through the speakers.  Darcy’s pretty sure her breath has stopped somewhere between her lungs and her mouth, but she can feel Nita’s fingers digging into her shoulder all too clearly, and the sharpness helps ground her in reality just a little bit.  Amber’s leaned forward too, trying to hear what’s going on.

 

The scuffling gives way to a creak and a slam - a door, maybe - followed by the loud rumble of an engine starting up which drowns out everything else.  Darcy forces herself to suck in some air, to kick-start her body into moving, but she’s frozen in her seat, brain spinning with horror over what she’s just heard over the phone.

 

She can’t have heard what she thinks she heard...can she?

 

Amber’s hand carefully wrapping around hers, clutching the phone that’s still broadcasting the growling sounds of the engine, brings Darcy back into focus, at least a little bit.  Amber takes the phone out of Darcy’s hand and places it on the table, making sure to keep the connection going to Johnny’s phone, and gives her own phone to Darcy instead.

 

“Call Steve,” she says, sounding a lot stronger than Darcy feels right then.

 

**********

 

The sudden buzz of Steve’s phone in the inner pocket of his suit jacket is a blessed relief, and he nods once at the Senator that had managed to corner and engage him in conversation.  “Excuse me,” he says, reaching into his pocket to pull his phone out.  He frowns at the screen - the number isn’t one that he recognizes, even though the area code is one for a New York City based cellphone.

 

Steve is not at all above using a spam call to get out of a conversation with a dull as dust bureaucrat.

 

“Hello, who is this?” he asks, slipping behind a towering potted palm tree to provide a little bit of cover.

 

“Steve, it’s me, and I think Johnny’s been kidnapped.”  Darcy’s words are rushed and breathless, and he can hear the slightest edge of burgeoning tears in her voice.  “I was on the phone with him, and then the screen cut out, but we could still hear him, and I think someone must have knocked him out somehow and tossed him in a van and I don’t know what happened!”

 

“Honey, slow down.”  Steve leans out from behind the palm tree, his eyes scanning the floor of the ballroom until he spots Tony Stark only a short distance away.  Tony’s chatting with someone of importance, putting on all of his social graces and and charm to try and smooth over whatever the possible ramifications were from the Avengers’ last adventure in saving the planet.  That was the whole point of their attendance at the gala tonight, to make nice with the bigwigs and reassure them that the Avengers knew what they were doing and that they had a legitimate and necessary place in this world.

 

However, there are some things that take priority, Steve knows, and this is one of them.

 

Tony turns away to scan the ballroom, just for a moment, but it’s more than enough time for Steve to catch his eye and motion him over.  “What’s up, Cap?” Tony says in a low voice when he makes his way behind the tree.

 

“Something happened to Johnny,” Steve says, swallowing back the nerves and putting on his mission face instead.  “Darcy, I’ve got Tony here too, and I’m going to put you on speakerphone so you can tell us what happened.”

 

Darcy quickly runs through the events again for both of them, and it’s a fight for Steve to keep still and listen instead of running immediately out to try and get Johnny back.

 

“Okay, you said you still have him on the call on your phone?” Tony asks, pulling his own phone out and beginning to pound away at the translucent screen.  

 

“Yeah,” Darcy says.  “The signal’s still going.  Whatever or whoever’s got him hasn’t noticed that his phone is still on.”

 

Tony nods once, fingers flying rapidly over the small keyboard.  “He’s still got the Starkphone I tweaked up for him too, yeah?”

 

“Yes,” Steve says.  “He practically sleeps with the damn thing.”

 

“That must be one crowded bed you’ve got,” Tony mutters.  “Okay, the good news is, if he’s got the Starkphone and a signal, I can send some code to you so that you can latch onto his GPS signal and track it.”

 

“Will we have to hang up on him though?  And if we do call him back with the tracker, what if the kidnappers hear his phone ring?  They could destroy the phone, or something worse!” Darcy bursts out, and Steve can just make out the hitches in her voice that tells him she’s barely holding it together.

 

“It doesn’t work like that,” Tony says, sounding a lot more soothing and reassuring than Steve’s ever heard him before.  “We don’t need to call him to talk to his phone’s OS.  I’ll run the same program on my side too, and then we’ll muster up the usual suspects and get your bedwarmer back."  He taps a few more times, finishing up with a low bleep and a flash of blue-green light from the screen.  “All right, check your email.  As soon as you’ve got it downloaded, put in his phone number and let the program do the rest.”  

 

Tony looks up at Steve and shrugs.  “Not it when it comes to telling Sue and Reed about this one,” he says.

 

**********

 

The small screen on Darcy’s phone comes to life with a map readout, topographical lines spreading out from the center in full detail.  “All right, it’s working over here,” she says, eyes tracking the little orangey yellow flame that’s blinked to life in the center of the map.

 

“Same,” Tony says, sounding a bit tinny and distant on Amber’s phone.  “And now it’s time to suit up.  We’ll have Johnny back before you know it.”

 

Steve’s voice comes on next.  “I promise, Darcy, we’re going to get him back.”

 

“I know,” she mumbles.  “Go bring him home.”

 

“We will.”

 

“Okay.  Love you, Steve, and stay safe.”

 

“I love you too, and I will.  We’ll see you soon.”  He hangs up the phone, and Darcy exhales explosively, slouching back in her chair.  

 

“What the actual fuck?” she asks, even though she’s not expecting an answer.

 

Amber reaches over and takes Darcy’s hands in hers, squeezing them tightly.  “Come on, the best team in the world is on the case, and they’re going to find Johnny.  So how about let’s get a pie to go and hole up at your place until they come home?”

 

Darcy nods slowly.  “Yeah, probably should.”  She pushes herself to her feet unsteadily, weaving slightly from adrenaline and possible shock.  Amber helps her gather up her sweater and bags, while Nita holds onto Darcy’s phone carefully, watching the blinking and winking screen.

 

“I’ve got a car with me tonight,” Nita says, shoving her knitting back into her tote bag with her free hand.  “If there’s any night to suck it up and pay for parking instead of the subway, it’s this one.”

 

“Could we maybe go to your place instead, Neets?” Darcy asks, wrapping her arms around herself like she’s got a chill.  “I don’t know if I can be alone in my place right now.”

 

“Of course.”

 

When they get out to where Nita had parked the car a few blocks over, Amber pauses in her steps, staring into the backseat warily.  “How the hell am I supposed to fit back there with all that crap?” she says, looking over at the flat pack boxes and bags piled up.

 

Nita shrugs, clicking the unlock button and handing the phone tracking Johnny’s signal over to Amber.  “I borrowed the car so I could go to Ikea.  Just shove it over to one side, your skinny ass’ll fit.”

 

Amber grumbles, but manages to get herself into the car, wedged in next to a carrier bag full of throw pillows.

 

Darcy just shakes her head and closes her eyes as she gets into the front passenger seat, letting the familiar banter wash over her and reassuring her, making at least one little part of herself feel better even though everything else is going wrong.

 

**********

 

They’re almost back to Nita’s place in Bay Ridge when Amber sits up straight in the backseat, gripping the tracker phone tightly.  “Hey, guys, it looks like the signal’s stopped in one place, and it’s not moving anymore.”

 

“What?”

 

“Gimme!”

 

Darcy takes the phone and zooms in on the map, the little flame flickering on the edge of a road.  “Fresh Kills?” she mutters.  “Where the hell is that?”  The name alone sounds ominous, and the growing ball of nerves in her stomach gets even bigger.

 

Nita jerks the car sharply to the side of the street, double parking it amidst horns being honked by disgruntled drivers behind them.  “Let me see that,” she says, snatching the phone out of Darcy’s hand.  She zooms the map outwards, then lets out a loud, braying laugh.  “Oh my god, can they be any more cliche?”

 

Amber pokes her head between the seats.  “What’s cliche?” she asks.

 

Nita holds up the phone so that both Amber and Darcy can see the screen.  “Okay, see here.  Fresh Kills is a part of Staten Island.  According to the map, it’s Greenbelt: a nature preserve, public park sort of a place.  However, for the, oh, sixty odd years before that it was a goddamn landfill that you supposedly could see from low-earth orbit.  And none of the locals, including yours truly, are going to forget that smell any time soon.”

 

“So the kidnappers are stashing Johnny basically on the edge of a landfill?  To dispose of him, maybe?” Darcy says, the nerves sneaking out in the sarcastic edge her voice has taken on.  But then she stills, a sudden calm coming over her.  She pulls her taser out of her bag and checks the charge and the leads, making sure everything is ready to go.  “How fast do you think we can get there?”

 

“Oh, hell no,” Amber fires back, curls bobbing about as she shakes her head rapidly.  “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are on the case and are going to bring Johnny back; there is no reason whatsoever for us to go out to Staten Island.”

 

“Traffic’s light this time of night,” Nita says, shrugging and glancing over at the screen again.  “Maybe 20 minutes.  Fifteen if we push it.”

 

“Dammit, don’t encourage her, Neets!”

 

“I’m not saying we’re going to go in and storm the castle,” Darcy says, her head flicking back and forth between her two friends.  “But every good escape plan needs a distraction.”  She looks over at Amber, eyeglasses shining yellow-gold in the streetlights.  “You in or out?”

 

Amber shakes her head resignedly, even though there’s a small grin crawling across her lips.  “You two idiots need someone to call the cops or the heroes when you get in over your head.  Of course I’m coming.”

 

“All right.  Let’s do this thing.”

 

**********

 

“No, Mrs. Richards, we’re not...yes, I understand that.  Yes, you and your team are more than welcome to join us in the retrieval.  The tracking algorithm is currently running, and we should know where he is shortly.”  Steve scrubs a hand over his face, blinking tiredly.  “We’ll be in touch.”  He clicks his phone off and looks over to where Tony’s just walked on to the Tower’s launchpad.  “Please tell me we have something.”

 

Tony waves a tablet in the air as robot arms begin to place bottom half of the Iron Man suit on his legs.  “The signal stopped ten minutes ago, and it hasn’t moved since.”

 

Steve grips the straps on his shield convulsively, then swings it back onto the harness on his back.  “Is he close?” he asks.

 

“You could say that.  Technically, he’s still in New York City, though I’m pretty sure no one actually considers that patch of dirt to be a real part of the city.”

 

“Then what are we waiting for?”  Steve pulls out his phone again, fingers hovering over the redial button.  “I’ll give the Four the coordinates if you fire up the jet.”

 

“You got it, Cap,” Tony says, voice suddenly a bit more electrified as the faceplate locks into place.  “Put them on speaker though; I wanna hear Ben’s reaction when we tell them exactly where Johnny’s at.”

 

**********

 

“I don’t know why he’s not awake yet.”

 

Johnny feels the none-too-gentle prod of a steel-toed boot kicking at his shoes, but he keeps himself still, breathing deep and even.  It gives him time to take stock of some of his physical surroundings though, the hard concrete that he’s sitting on, the damp, swampy smell in the air that’s combined with a hint of some sort of mechanical oil scent.  It’s possible he can hear some cars off in the distance, but they’re so far away that they’re more of an ambient hum more than actual engines.

 

“He should be awake by now.”

 

Well, technically, he woke up about twenty minutes previously, when his kidnappers were manhandling him into the heavy duty shackles around his wrists and ankles.  He still feels a bit groggy, like he’s been hit in the head with the sleepy-time stick, so a little more of a nap wouldn’t be a bad thing.  But the longer they think he’s asleep, the more of an advantage he’s got, Johnny knows.  A little more information from these guys and he should have enough to form a plan of escape.

 

All right, the plan would most likely be to flame on and fly out of there at top speed, which isn’t the most original idea.  The man with a plan he’s not - he’ll leave that to Steve - but Johnny knows what works for him.

 

“How much of a dose did you give him?” he hears the first man say.  There’s a shuffling, scuffling sort of a noise, and the kidnappers move out of hearing distance.  Then he hears the clatter of a small glass item, and it brings to mind the sharp prick he’d felt in the back of his neck in the alley, then the cold flood of whatever drug they’d pumped into his system.  Don’t react, Johnny thinks, even as an uncontrollable shudder runs through his limbs.  Something still feels off with his powers, that strange coldness inside of him where flame usually lives.  It’s fading, the warmth slowly coming back, but it’s not quite there, not yet.

 

He hears the footsteps walk back over to him, and feels another kick at the sole of his foot.  “I guess Captain America isn’t as strong as we thought he was,” the second man says.

 

Oh.

 

Oh, now that makes a big difference, Johnny thinks, fighting back the grin that’s threatening to burst over his face.

 

Flame on, indeed.

 

**********

 

“So I’ve gotta ask,” Amber says as Nita guides the car down a road that’s seen better days, asphalt pitted with age and the weeds lining the curbs spilling out into the street, with only the occasional lamppost to light their way.  “What ringtone do you have set for me?”

 

“‘Boys Wanna Be Her,’” Darcy says, not taking her eyes off of the tracker phone in front of her.

 

“I don’t know it.”

 

“I’ll play it for you when this is all over.  I think you’ll approve.”

 

There’s a loud, harsh whooshing noise above them, and the girls look up to see the vapor trail from a small jet hanging in the night sky, and the flickering lights decorating the jet’s body as it circles around the rolling, grassy hills just ahead of them.

 

“I think we’re in the right place,” Nita says.

 

Lower down in the field, at the base of one of the hills, there’s a orange-yellow-red glow that catches Darcy’s eyes, and she leans forward in her seat to get a better look.  “Stop the car,” she says, pulling her taser out of her bag once more.  

 

“What is it?” Nita asks, guiding the car to a stuttering stop at the side of the road.

 

“I’m not sure, but it looks like our pretty, pretty princess is making a break for it.”  She throws open the car door, because if Johnny’s fighting back and Steve and his team are arriving on the scene, then they’ve got more than a fighting chance.

 

**********

 

“We can’t camp out here forever,” one of the kidnappers says.  “Someone’s going to notice; this ain’t private property.  And you know your brother’s got half the cops on the island on the lookout for you after the whole robbery thing.”

 

“He doesn’t know that it was me that took the shit from the hospital.”

 

The first man scoffs, sounding surprisingly immature for someone who’s supposedly smart enough to pull off kidnapping a superhero.  “They have you on camera, you moron.  Your brother, the cop, is gonna get on the stand to testify against you, and don’t think he won’t.”

 

‘These guys are getting dumber and dumber,’ Johnny thinks with a mental eyeroll.  He’s slowly, steadily raising his body temperature, attempting to soften up the metal shackles.  But his fires still aren’t functioning right, and whatever the shackles are made of are a lot stronger than he’d first thought.  

 

“Hey, if it nets us Captain America, it’ll be worth it.  You know they’ll pay us the big bucks to get him back.”

 

“Yeah, if he doesn’t kill us when he wakes up.”

 

The second man, the hospital thief, snorts and then spits something out on the ground.  “That’s what the super strength handcuffs are for.  Not even the Hulk could get out of them.”

 

“Says who?”

 

“I know a guy, who knows a guy.”

 

“We’re fucked.”

 

Johnny hears footsteps come closer to him, and then another kick at his leg that’s hard enough to make him twitch convulsively.  The movement is enough to spur the hospital thief into action, unfortunately.  “Wakey-wakey, Captain,” he spits out, reaching down to twist a hand into the neck of Johnny’s shirt and lift him up off of the wall, stretching his limbs uncomfortably.  

 

Johnny blinks his eyes open, the harsh fluorescent lights in the storage shed making his eyes sting.  They focus on the hospital thief who’s now only a scant few inches away, and the sneer on his face is not a pleasant one.  Add to that the fact that the guy’s pretty much built like a brick wall and Johnny’s not feeling comfortable at all.

 

‘Come on, flamebrain, get it together,’ he tells himself, willing the fire to well up inside of him.

 

“I got a bone to pick with you, Cap,” the thief says, hand twisting in Johnny’s collar until it’s almost choking him.  The sharp shock of pain is enough to kick in the adrenaline, and he feels his fire building up inside of him, ready to burst.  Johnny grins, wide and bright and just this side of unholy, and he knows that the fire is starting to show in his eyes.

 

When the fire bursts out of him, it’s enough to soften the shackles to the point where his limbs slide right out, and has the bonus effect of burning almost all of his clothes off - except the fireproof boxer briefs that he never leaves home without.  But the flames don’t last long; his equilibrium is still out of whack.  As soon as Johnny’s limbs are free, the fire sputters out, and he crashes back to the floor in an undignified heap.

 

The other kidnapper, slimmer and shorter and younger and apparently altogether smarter than his buddy, groans loud enough to almost echo around the thin walls of the storage shed.  “You grabbed the wrong one, you dumb fuck!”  This second man looks up at the sky, hearing a loud noise coming from above them, and Johnny can see his face blanch even from a distance.  He starts inching towards the door, like he’s ready to run for it and leave his buddy swinging in the wind.

 

“I can work with the human Bic lighter,” the thief grits out, not noticing the noise outside or the mutiny happening behind him, and he grabs Johnny around the upper arm with a grip that hurts a lot more than he’d like to admit.

 

“Not a chance in hell,” Johnny shoots back.  “Flame on!”

 

His fire still isn’t quite where it needs to be, and only one of his legs actually lights up, but the force behind it is enough to pretty much propel Johnny and the thief into the air, across the room and into the flimsy wooden door.  The door all but shatters with their combined weight, bouncing them out into the dirty road.  Another spurt of flame comes from Johnny’s leg, and the two of them are sent further into the field, bouncing in the dirt and grasses until they come to a stop.   The kidnapper lands directly on top of Johnny, knocking the breath out of his lungs with a harsh rasp.

 

He scrambles off of Johnny, pushing him down even harder into the grasses in the process and making him work to actually get a full breath in his lungs.  But Johnny’s nothing if not a fighter, and he pushes himself to his knees, ready to kick this guy’s ass any way he can - even if the guy is twice the size of him.

 

Then, two things happen nearly at once.  The first is that a certain shield comes zinging by, catching the thief in the heels of his boots and knocking him flat on his back.  The second is, right after the thief’s ass hits the ground, the dual prongs of a taser nail him right in the crotch and go off, sending a healthy jolt of electricity through his body and leaving him a gibbering wreck on the ground.

 

Johnny looks between his boyfriend and his girlfriend, surprised to see both of them there and yet entirely unsurprised that they showed up.  Steve’s ready for a fight, Johnny can clearly see, retrieving his shield before coming around to help haul Johnny back to his feet.  Darcy drops the taser on the ground without any regard or remorse for the damage done to a very sensitive part of his kidnapper’s anatomy.  She runs over to prop up Johnny’s other side, her arm going around his back to provide him with as much support as possible.

 

“I thought you were heading home?” Steve asks Darcy.

 

Darcy shrugs, leaning into Johnny’s side.  “Figured you guys could use a hand.”

 

Johnny just shakes his head and sags against his lovers, feeling the tension bleed out of him and the usual warmth start up again, making him feel like the world’s settling back where it should be once more.  “Thanks,” he simply says, and it’s more than enough.

 

**********

 

The aftermath is surprisingly easy.  The hapless kidnappers are no match at all for the combined forces of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and Darcy’s taser, and they’re summarily apprehended and brought in for questioning.  Actually, the first stop is the hospital, because the thief is still insensate and Sue won’t let Johnny breathe, let alone actually get some rest, until she’s satisfied that he’s in as good a condition as possible.

 

But the medical exams eventually pass for Johnny, and they’ve all given their statements to various law enforcement officials, and then once that’s done they’re finally cleared to go home, to rest and recover.  By the time the sun’s rising over the Manhattan skyline, spilling into the windows of the apartment, Johnny’s in that big bed, cleaned and in fresh boxer briefs, practically sinking into the pillows.

 

God, does it feel good to stretch out.  

 

Steve’s on the bed to the left of him, equally as undressed and relaxed, and he keeps stroking a hand up and down Johnny’s arm idly, lightly.  “I’m not going anywhere, I swear,” Johnny says, rolling his head and pressing a soft kiss against Steve’s mouth.  “Especially with kidnappers as inept as that crew.”

 

“I know.  I just worry sometimes.”

 

“No, you?  Never,” Johnny scoffs, and Steve digs a knuckle into his ribs in retaliation.  “Hey, watch the bruises!”

 

“Please, you’re fine,” Steve says, mouth muffled by the sleek skin of Johnny’s shoulder.  “Doctor said so.”  

 

The other side of the bed dips down, and Darcy slides in next to them, her bare skin cool and slightly damp from the shower.  Johnny and Steve watch as her eyes flutter sleepily, lashes a dark smudge against pale skin.  

 

Yeah, if they don’t move from this bed for the next couple of days that would be perfect.

 

“So how does it feel to be mistaken for Captain America in the bad sort of a way?” Darcy mumbles, curling into him and wrapping an arm around Johnny’s waist, letting her fingers land on Steve’s hip.

 

They can feel more than hear Steve’s soft laughter through their skin.  Johnny just shrugs, sending a smirk up at the ceiling.  “You know what they say: ‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them’.  Greatness has been thrust upon me, and I think I handled it pretty damn well.”

 

Darcy picks her head up to give Johnny a suspicious look, even though she softens it with a kiss against his shoulder before she speaks.  “You do realize that Shakespeare was making a dick joke when he said that, right?”

 

“My dick is no joke at all,” Johnny fires back.

 

“I know, baby,” Darcy says, patting at Johnny’s stomach dismissively.  “I know.”

 

“I can’t vouch for the nonagenarian over here though,” he continues, rolling his head to send an evil sort of a smirk in Steve’s direction.  “If he wants to prove otherwise he’s more than welcome to try.”

 

It’s easier for Johnny to hide the need for comfort inside of a joke, always has been.  Clowning around has served him well throughout the years, even after he started saving the world from the likes of Doctor Doom and whatever rogue’s gallery of baddies have decided to cause trouble.  Johnny Storm’s the popular, good looking superhero.  Nothing ever bothers him...right?

 

Steve, however, can see right through him all too easily.  They’re cut from the same cloth in that way also, in that desire to not let anyone else see their suffering, to not bleed on other people when there’s work to be done.  But where Johnny covers it up with jokes, Steve prefers the stiff upper lip stoicism method instead.  And Darcy?  She’s the one who wears their hearts on her sleeve for them, unafraid to show that emotion to the world when they can’t.  

 

Right now, Steve’s the one giving him that look, the one that says ‘Yes, I know.  It’s still in your head, and while we can’t make the memories go away, we can distract you, at least for a little while.’

 

“I’ve never been one to turn down a challenge,” Steve murmurs, kissing the stubble on Johnny’s jawline and flicking his tongue out against it after.  Johnny chases after his mouth when he pulls back, meeting his lips and flicking his tongue out to encourage them to part.  It’s a messy, rough kiss, with finesse being tossed aside for that closeness instead.  

 

Johnny can feel Darcy’s leg slip over his, her body sliding upwards until her breasts are pressed firmly against his chest.  She nibbles at the junction between his shoulder and his neck, which is enough to get him whimpering and squirming on the bed.  Darcy pulls away, wet mouth red and smiling, and trades a look with Steve.  “He’s had a rough day.  We should probably pamper him a little bit,” she says.

 

“I think that sounds like a good, solid plan,” Steve nods.  He levers himself up so that he can run a hand through Darcy’s hair and give it a tug, tilting her head back and allowing him to suck a florid mark on her décolleté.  

 

Johnny can feel her shudder through his own body, and it just ramps him up even further.  “No complaints from me,” he says, even though it sounds more like a moan to his ears.  His lovers look down at him with soft, bright eyes and open faces, and he can feel some more of that lingering tension inside of him bleed away to be replaced by something far more intimate and comfortable.

 

Things become blurry and soft after that, but Johnny’s convinced that’s exactly what Steve and Darcy are aiming for, to take him apart slowly and softly, piece by piece until he’s done.  Eventually he’s not even certain who’s doing what to him, though he can guess.  While Steve’s pecs are impressive, they’re nowhere near as soft as Darcy’s are, and the heavy warmth that drags over his chest comes entirely from her.  The finger that circles around his hole, however, broad and strong with just the right amount of pressure, is all Steve.  

 

The finger makes its way inside, squirming around until it finds that spot and presses down.  “Ohhhh, fuck,” he moans, pushing back to chase that feeling and make it happen again.  He hears Steve laugh, low and scratchy, and another finger joins the first one to fill him up.

 

Then there are hands absolutely everywhere, and Johnny just falls into a mess of sensations.  There’s the fingers that are still thrusting inside of him, twisting every so often and making him writhe.   Another hand goes around the back of his neck so someone - it’s totally Darcy, because unlike Steve she definitely doesn’t have stubble - can sip tiny, little flickering kisses from his lips.  There’s a hand that scratches blunt nails against his stomach muscles, but by that time he’s too far gone to be able to tell who it belongs to.  And then, finally, lithe, strong fingers wrap around his dick, stroking upwards with a bit of a twist around the head.

 

After that, Johnny is pretty much done, gasping for air as his body convulses, his back arches, his toes dig into the mattress, and he’s coming in hot pulses onto his stomach.  He collapses back into the rumpled sheets, heart racing but every other part of him feeling lax and loose and about ready to drift off on a cloud.  Nothing and no one’s stopping him, so Johnny just nods once as his head falls to the side, already mostly asleep.

 

The last thing he hears before he drifts off is Darcy’s soft laughter, and a comforting hand stroking along his side.  “Good boy,” she says.

 

**********

 

Johnny wakes up hours later buried beneath blankets and comforters, still feeling a bit worked over, but not entirely terrible.  The kidnapping’s still there in his head, like a sore spot just waiting to be worried at.  Right now, however, it’s distant, kept at bay by the fact that he’s not waking up alone in bed.  Steve’s right next to him, propped up against the headboard with a blanket around his shoulders and his eyes trained on the television.  Darcy’s down a little further on the bed, her legs draped over Steve’s, a giant fluffy bolster behind her back keeping her vaguely upright, and a bag of potato chips in her blanket-covered lap that she’s digging into with gusto.

 

Yeah, love’s a mild word for what he’s feeling for these two.

 

They’re close enough to touch, and so Johnny wiggles around awkwardly until he manages to prop his head on Darcy’s hip, pushing the potato chips out of the way so he can see the TV screen.  Actually, on second thought...he reaches out and brings the chips closer, shoving one into his mouth and chewing loudly.  “Mmmm.  Jalapeno,” he mumbles around a mouthful of chips.  

 

Darcy looks down at him with that smile of hers, and wraps a hand around his shoulder, trying to get him to curl even closer into the puppy pile.  Steve’s hand lands on his calf, stroking the coarse hairs there, and leaving warm trails behind that mingle with the fire inside of him that’s burning bright and strong once more.

 

**********

 

The next Saturday night, Darcy is the last one to arrive at the coffee shop.  Admittedly, it was hard to drag herself away from her boys, but this is tradition, and they all understand that.  

 

Darcy drops her bags to the floor with an unceremonious thud, followed by flopping herself bodily in the nearest padded chair.  Amber gives her a look, eyebrows raised high over the frame of her glasses.  “Hard to drag yourself out of bed today?” she asks, voice thick with suggestion.

 

“It’s 7:30 at night,” Darcy says with a look of her own.  “Are you implying that I spent all day in bed?”

 

“I’m not implying anything, I’m flat out saying you spent the day in bed with your identical boyfriends there.”

 

Darcy shrugs, neither confirming nor denying anything, because sometimes it is far more fun to watch her friends squirm than provide them with actual answers.  That’s true friendship right there, she knows.  “They’re not entirely identical.  There are enough differences between Steve and Johnny that make them fully unique people.”

 

“Uh huh,” Amber says dryly.  “Kidnapping aside, how many times has one of them been mistaken for the other?”

 

“Eyh, usually it was Steve getting mistaken for Johnny by one of his ex-girlfriends.  Those were never fun,” Darcy replies, slightly distracted by the description of a limited edition pie on the chalkboard, something with honeycomb and caramel that sounds entirely decadent and utterly satisfying.

 

She’d worked up an appetite earlier, anyway.  The extra calories would only help to replenish her energy.

 

“Darcy!  You’re here!” Nita calls out, coming around the chair to give Darcy a warm kiss on the cheek before sitting in the armchair next to her, a half full cup of coffee in her hands.  “Everyone doing all right?”

 

“I’m pretty sure that Johnny and Steve are currently competing to see which one of them can shove the most pizza into his mouth without getting sick, so I think they’re doing okay.”  Darcy scrambles around in her bag for her wallet, because there’s a slice of pie that’s calling her name.

 

Nita’s face goes soft, giving Darcy a fond smile.  “And how are you doing?  Stuff like this isn’t easy for the loved ones either.”

 

She’s not wrong, Darcy knows.  There hasn’t been a night this week where one of them hasn’t woken up from a bad dream about what could have gone wrong.  And it’ll take a while for Johnny to stop flinching when he smells something that’s even remotely swamplike.  But they’re strong, and stubborn on top of that.  They’re all survivors, and they’ll make it through this.  “We’re getting better all the time,” Darcy says, smiling at her friends.  “All right, enough about me!” she continues, clapping her hands together and pushing herself to her feet.  “I’m getting a coffee and some pie.  When I get back, Amber, you better be prepared to tell me all about what happened to you at work yesterday, because that text message made no sense, and I need details.”

 

“Seconded,” Nita nods, raising her coffee cup at Amber in a mocking toast.  

 

Amber just groans, rubbing at her temples like she can make her friends shut up by sheer willpower.  “I don’t know why I tell you two trolls anything.”


“Love you too, sweetie!”