It was dark again. It seemed off schedule but, to be fair, she really wasn't sure just what the schedule was anymore, so there was that.
She figured that was the point. Throw her off, make sure she didn't know which way she was coming or going, totally and completely screw with her mind. They never asked her anything past the first day, rarely spoke to her even except to remind her that she was theirs and nothing more.
The problem was that she wasn't chattel to be sold. No, they didn't want anything as simple as a ransom. That would mean making demands, making contact of some sort, and contact could be traced. That was if anyone even cared to do so - they might have given up by now, if they had even started in the first place.
Time was a rough and fleeting thing that wasn't even told by waking periods so much as intervals in which her captors deemed her worthy of light. Twice a day, in what she assumed was roughly breakfast and dinner timelines, she was tossed a Lunchable and a bottle of water. As in physically tossed. If she could reach it while fighting her tether, it was hers. If she couldn't, it lay there and mocked her the next time the lights flipped on. Once a day, she was tossed a bottle of some pre-made protein drink as apparently whoever had that particular watch felt the need to balance out the Lunchable on some random scale of fail.
There was a small drainage hole to be used for her waste and she meant that in every sense of the word, a thin mattress, and her ever-present tether, and pretty much nothing else. The room was made of cement and was freezing at what she assumed was night and stuffy during the day. At one point the mattress had a thin sheet atop it, but she had used that to bandage first a large scrape along her thigh and then the raw skin of her wrist where the metal cuff constantly rubbed.
At last count, she had consumed fifteen Lunchables. In her mind, that equated to just shy of eight days since a blast rocked her world in the worst of ways and sent her headfirst into her current hellhole. Maybe. She'd worry about her sodium intake but was more concerned about the lack of hygiene and the fact she was held in a literal cement box for over a week with pretty much no human contact save for a random pair of hands and the occasional, "Do you think she can catch this one?" She had tied back her hair with a spare scrap of sheet when she tended to her leg, but doubted it was enough to keep the knots and snarls at bay.
Not that she could see it. Not that she could see anything, really. When they decided to flip the lights, there was nothing save for the faintest of outlines around the door. There was a small opening from which they would throw her the meals, but it was usually sealed shut and blended in with the solid black. It was less about her eyes adjusting to find the mattress and the hole and more about having tripped and fallen enough to have the tiny layout memorized. Even when they turned on the bright halogen bulb above her, it took several long minutes before she saw anything but white and, by then, they were nearly ready to send her back to the black again.
This time was different though. They had just tossed her the shake, a horrible facsimile of vanilla, and her eyes had adjusted enough to find it and peel it open before everything was cut again. Usually they let her drink it first, or most of it, before they sealed her away again. She had the feeling it amused them to watch her so desperately slug the sucker down. They could have been poisoning her for all she knew, and she still would have gone for it. A grown ass woman could not survive on a snack made for kids and be comfortably full.
She fumbled with her drink anyway, not willing to let it go to waste. If they were changing the routine, it was possible they had new and undoubtedly sucky plans, and she was going to take what little fortitude she could while she still could.
There was noise this time, not much more than a vibration against the concrete, but it was striking after the silence that had lasted for so long. The tiny panel on the door slammed open and a silhouette of a head appeared for all of about a second. She blinked, trying to look out towards freedom for even a moment, but it was a rectangle of white soon enough.
"I know," a voice said. It might have been familiar, but she couldn't be sure. The voices tended to blend together after a while, sound like one big amalgam of mocking and nothing more. "He can't get a reading down here for some reason though, and we're not blowing this place until we're sure there's no surprises."
There was a grunt, maybe in agreement, she couldn't be sure. She honestly wasn't sure of anything anymore because she could have sworn she recognized the expressionless face that moved by her little window into the world without a single glance.
"James?" she whispered, her voice harsh to her own ears. It was a trick. It had to be. Change of routine to screw with her just like she originally thought. Maybe being taken wasn't happenstance after all but part of a bigger plan to drive her against... No, she wasn't that important and she knew it. Not to them. Not now. Hell, they hadn't ever even asked her name.
A name that was now uttered by the very hallucination she was trying to convince herself she didn't see.
The dark head whipped around and she swore she could feel his eyes lock in on her exact position even though he really shouldn't be able to see her at all when he repeated, "Darcy?"
"Buck, man, I'm sorry, but you know she's gone," the first voice said, not unkindly. Sam. The man's name was Sam. She knew him. Pretty damn well, actually. "I peeked in there and there was nothing but dark and rank, man. Not even a... Wait. There's a heat signature. Kind of. It's bouncing all over the place from whatever this crap is made out of."
"James?" she tried again, but her voice was barely above a whisper. She didn't let go of her shake, not wanting to lose it if this was all some elaborate setup, but held it tight when she took a hesitant step towards the door, the chain of her tether rattling with the movement.
"Oh, shit," Sam said, and that was all the warning she received before the door was ripped straight off of its hinges, the light from the hallway spilling in and damn near blinding her completely.
"Say it's you," James demanded. He was a shadow against the light and she couldn't make out a single detail but he was still damned beautiful. He stayed just out of reach and she knew he had at least one weapon trained on her, but she didn't care. She could smell him, even over the stench that was her cell and herself. She could damn near feel the heat that radiated off of his body. She could feel his voice in her very soul and knew, simply knew, that Hydra or whoever the hell had held her couldn't pull this off, couldn't get things so very right.
"James! It's me, James. It's Darcy! Holy shit, you actually found me!" she exclaimed as loud as she could manage, which wasn't very loud at all. Her legs gave away and the shake fell from her hands around the time she found that the only word she was able to create was his name, repeated over and over again in a mantra and a prayer, her knees connecting with the stuff that apparently wasn't actually concrete before he could catch her, before he could hold her, before he could wrap himself around her and try to meld into her and form one cohesive being.
"Darce," he said, lips moving against her matted and oily hair. He was everywhere and everything and still too far away. "I thought I lost you. The explosion... We found no survivors but scraps of your bag and tracker..." There were more words, she was sure of it, but she didn't hear a damn thing over her own sobs. She held out her arm as much as she could, her torn shirt stuck to her skin over the small incision and was met with a great deal of profanity, similar to her own reaction when she noticed what had been done to her. No medical treatment had been offered, not for that or for any of the other wounds from the blast. Well, unless you counted the bucket of water and semi-clean rag she had been offered four Lunchables prior.
Someone made the mistake of trying to move James to get a look at her arm, and she was fairly certain it was Sam. "Whoa, down boy!" he chided, hands up and with a deliberate step back. "I need to know where else she's injured. We can have a med evac ready and waiting for her when we get back up to the surface." A flashlight shone over her and she buried her face against the familiar Kevlar and leather to stop the worst of the burning in her eyes. "Yeah, I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that's a yes on more than the arm."
The light and its holder blissfully disappeared, but apparently didn't go far. She heard him request the evac as well as toss in a few other words that might have made sense had she tried to follow them.
James shifted and she could tell he was getting ready to carry her and she really didn't have the mindset to complain especially considering she also didn't know if she had the mindset to make her legs work in any conceivable fashion. There was one thing she needed to warn him about though, so she pulled back just enough to say, "Chain. There's a chain to the wall."
There was a growl and she was let go of for a long and agonizing moment, set atop the rather ice cold ground, before said chain was ripped directly out of the wall. It now hung heavy from her abraded wrist, tethering her to nothing but air and wow did her mind go spiraling at that. "Like a god damned animal," she heard before she was safely ensconced in his warmth again, his very presence grounding her before she get too far.
"Yeah, so Sarge is totally out of commission right now," Sam offered to whoever was listening. She would have smiled if she remembered how to. There was a pause as he listened to something on the other side of the comm before he added, "Well, you see, that's what happens when his girl comes back from the dead. Now get your ass down here to provide cover before we run into some other far less welcomed surprises."
He turned back to the both of them and ushered the way towards the door as if they could have gotten lost over such a short distance. In the harsh full light of the hallway, she buried her face against the familiar black leather again and received an understanding, "Yeah, that's going to take some time to adjust to, sorry about that. Big 'n Broody can take you back up and then we can blow this place to hell and gone and get you on your way to closure with bonus painkillers for that gash in your thigh."
James stopped at that and she felt more than saw him shake his head. "Every door needs to be checked, every single damn cell," he ordered, because that's really what it was. "If she was down here, there's no telling who else is."
She shook at that even though she tried really hard not to. They had known enough to remove her tracker, but left her alone for the most part. It hadn't even crossed her mind that she wasn't the only one they might have taken. That she was the one of less importance than some prime catch they were spending the majority of their time and efforts with. She had been selfish and self-obsessed and never even thought of the others, so she did so now and didn't know if it made the whole experience better or worse, only that she felt like utter crap for not doing so before.
"Michele from accounting was there. Brad from programming. Sally was there too, all excited because she had just been promoted to one of Ms. Pott's personal assistants," she rattled off, voice rough but gaining momentum, barely lifting her head from the comfort of the chest she rested against. She had no idea if they were down there just as she had no idea if they had survived. She just remembered seeing them in line with her or already at one of the small tables after picking up their drinks right before the entire cafe blew and the ceiling came down on her.
That reminded her of the near constant headache she had ever since she first woke up in this horrible place. It ebbed and cycled and definitely got worse with the light, but her rag had already been used to mop up everything else and so she assumed she had nothing more than a minor scratch above her left eye that simply felt like more because her life currently sucked. She reached for it, only a partially conscious decision, but Sam grabbed her hand and gently lowered it back down to rest against the gathered chain. "You don't want to be messing with that right now," he warned, which hinted at it being worse than she first suspected. "We'll get you fixed up, don't you worry about it."
There was the sound of footsteps and James somehow managed to still cradle her and hold a weapon on whoever was dumb enough to approach. She almost reached to hold on to him to give him more freedom of movement, but figured she'd just nail him with the chain if she tried.
She did manage to raise her head, though she wasn't sure if it was to warn a friend or watch the demise of a foe. It turned out to be Clint because she could recognize those biceps anywhere and he was far from unarmed but she knew James appreciated that fact even more. He held his bow in one hand and lowered it to a slightly less threatening position, eyes wide when he commented, "So not a two person mass hallucination thing then?" He stepped closer and gave her a once over, his face betraying nothing of what he found though there was the slightest glint of something dark in his eyes when she dared to meet them. "Welcome back to the land of the living, Little D," he greeted her.
"There may be more, or it could just be death behind those doors; we're the ones lucky enough to check," Sam told him.
The bow was back in position again, an arrow already nocked though she had barely registered the movement. "Possible hostages and possible traps? Awesome. Let's do this." He smiled in a way that could only be described as feral, and she had the feeling he wanted it to be the option he could shoot at repeatedly.
"Be careful?" she tried, and was in no way surprised when she was met with identical looks of disbelief. Yes, her life had been a living hell for a week, but that didn't mean she didn't care for the friends that found her.
"Cap's on his way down," Clint announced as though she hadn't said something quite so ridiculous. "Wants to escort you up so you don't take out the rest of the base and bring it down on us while we look for survivors."
"I would never risk Darcy that way," James said, clearly affronted.
Clint just shrugged. "That's what I told him. I think he might just want to check for himself in case the three of us have been compromised by an imposter."
"Or I could just want to cover him so he can concentrate on his girl," the man in question announced as he appeared at the end of the long hallway. It was a sight Darcy wasn't used to because, well, Captain America should never be armed with anything other than his iconic shield.
"It's like he doesn't trust us or something," Clint said with mock disappointment.
"That hurts, man, deeply. Right here," Sam chimed in, hand atop the harness that held his wings on, roughly where his heart would be.
Steve rolled his eyes and smoothed a strand of her knotted hair away from her face, careful of the area that probably had a massive and undoubtedly gross cut. "You have no idea how good it is to see you again," he told her even though she knew she looked like the wrong end of a drainage pipe. "This idiot? Let's just say it wasn't a good time, even if we've dug up more Hydra bases in a week than we have in a year."
"Sorry?" she tried. She really didn't want her eyes to fill with tears but there they went anyway.
"Never be sorry about this, doll. Never," James told her. He kissed her forehead as if she wasn't covered in filth and adjusted his hold in a way that managed to take some of the strain off of the massive row of bruises she sported along her side.
"Ready?" Sam asked,many she had no idea if he was talking to them or to Clint. James started walking anyway, away from the calls of "clear" and "black tag" that she didn't want to think too deeply about just yet.
At the bottom of a set of steps that she doubted she would have been able to manage on her own, James paused and let Steve slide into place at the ready. "You got my back, punk?" he asked, though it wasn't really a question.
"Always," came the immediate response accentuated with the click of a weapon. "Let's get your girl home."