Growing up Bucky Barnes didn’t have a soulmark, and that suited him just fine. His best friend was blank too, but while Steve lamented not having someone out there waiting for him, someone to love poor, skinny, sickly Steve Rogers, Bucky took his blank status as a sign that he was free to live his life however he damn well wanted to, free from Fate’s designs. The US Army, however, had other ideas.
Seventy odd years later it was Fate’s turn to meddle in his life, its influence curling around his ribs in black feminine script. The words were strange, angry… and really fucking strange. Bucky did his best to push them from his mind and focused on keeping under the radar while he got his head screwed on straight. He wasn’t sure how he felt about suddenly having a soulmate, other than he was certain he didn’t deserve one, but that didn’t stop him from keeping an ear out for new alien sightings.
** *** **
‘The Trial of the Century’ had finally concluded with one resounding verdict; Bucky Barnes was a free man. And whilst Darcy would joke that she had a crucial role in securing that outcome, in truth, apart from helping #FreeBucky continue trending, she spent most of the trial bouncing between Stark Industries PR department (which also handled any Avengers related issues) and the offices of Barnes’ legal team (paid for by Stark Industries) ferrying documents and helping out wherever she could.
When the verdict was announced Darcy had been watching via a live news feed with the rest of the PR department back at Stark Tower. When the cheering died down Darcy and her fellow office drones were given the rest of the day off and they promptly left en masse and headed straight for the nearest bar. Darcy had planned on drinking well into the night until her numerous drunk texts to Jane had the scientist sending her burly boyfriend on a retrieval mission. Darcy’s plan went to hell the moment some drunk idiot said her words. Again.
Darcy had hated her soulmark from the moment she understood what the words meant. After the first time she heard it, having begrudgingly accepted that she was going to hear it a lot before she got a match, Darcy swore she was going to punch the idiot that gave her a clichéd pick up line for a soulmark.
That night of Bucky’s verdict she heard her words for the 17th time (the 2nd time she’d heard it in that exact location) and when her reply of “You know what hurts? Getting tazed in the balls” didn’t elicit the reaction she was hoping for (it got a reaction, sure, but not THE reaction) Darcy, her good mood ruined, decided to call it a night.
** *** **
Bucky couldn’t remember being happier. The Wakandan med team had gotten the triggers out of his head and built him a shiny new arm, and with Steve around to bounce his old personality off of he was feeling more and more like himself every day. And now, almost a year after coming out of a cryo tube in Wakanda, he was free.
He’d been driven straight from the courthouse to Stark Tower, where he and Steve had apartments waiting for them, and then the celebrations got started. It was a lowkey affair, just the Avengers inner circle, which Bucky preferred, as it was put together at the last minute - no one wanted to jinx the verdict by preparing in advance. That, and winning was never a sure bet, no matter what Steve tried to tell him.
“So?” Clint pestered, handing Bucky another beer. “What’s the first thing you’re going to do with your new found freedom?”
“I don’t know,” Bucky lied, his hand moving to scratch the words on his side. He spotted Thor across the room and made a mental note to talk to him at some point in the night. Until then Bucky would try and think of a way to ask if he had any winged friends without sounding like a crazy person.
“Become a personal trainer,” Tony suggested as he took up a seat on the couch next to Clint. “There’s thousands of people who would pay to have you hand them their asses. You’d make a killing, monetarily speaking.”
Of all Bucky’s newest associates, the past year had been particularly hard on Tony, but time and a glass of good scotch helped heal all wounds. Bucky pretended to consider his suggestion as his eyes moved to the elevator, tracking a brunette woman as she entered the room. He scolded the instinct in what was supposed to be a safe space, trying to return his focus to the conversation.
“Actually, I’ve got a better idea,” Tony smirked as he watched the same brunette wave at Thor and, through a random series of hand gestures (that were not remotely ASL going by the confused expression Clint was wearing), got the location of a third person. Annoyed at their apparent absence the brunette pulled out her phone and started texting as she made her way to the bar. “You should get laid.”
“You think so, huh?” Bucky played along, sipping his beer.
“Oh, absolutely. Well known fact that freed prisoners crave exactly three things; decent food, a hot shower, and sex. Not necessarily in that order,” Tony happily informed him. “Now, I’m sure you got plenty of the first two at T’Challa’s shiny embassy. What about the third?” he teased. "Any of T'Challa's terrifyingly attractive bodyguards give you the royal treatment?"
“You know, you should go ask Darcy out,” Clint smirked into his beer.
“Right?” Tony concurred, the pair conspiring together with just their eyebrows as though Bucky couldn’t tell when he was being played.
“Who’s Darcy?” Bucky asked for the sake of asking.
Tony pointed to the bar where the brunette was nursing a drink while she tapped away at her phone.
“She’s kind of a roustabout,” Clint explained. “She was working as a lab assistant slash team mom for the science department for a while, but she’s actually got a degree in political science so when your trial started Pepper got her transferred to the PR department.”
“Come on, Barnes. She’s cute, she’s perky, she’s been vetted a thousand times over. Ask her out,” Tony pushed.
Bucky took a moment to look her over, giving his audience a show as he turned back and rotated his metal shoulder anxiously.
“What makes you think she’d say yes?”
“Use a pick up line,” Clint suggested, barely holding it together.
“Oh, yeah, Lewis loves classic pick-up lines.”
The moment Bucky’s brain instinctively thought up a pick-up line (one he dare say he had used a few times in the past so it was definitely a classic) he realised what was going to happen if he used it on Darcy and was surprised to find that he wasn’t scared of the prospect. Bucky downed the rest of his beer and headed for the bar, Tony and Clint egging him on. He sidled up beside her, waiting for her to look up from her phone before giving her his best smile.
“Did it hurt… when you fell from heaven?”
Darcy’s expression flickered from surprised – Holy shit! Bucky Barnes is talking to me?! – to irritated – You’ve got to be kidding me! Not a fucking-again! – in the blink of an eye.
“Of course it fucking hurt!” she snapped. “What? Do you think having your wings burn up in the atmosphere tickles? That splatting on the pavement was fun?” she continued, her voice shaking with anger. “And then, after all that pain, I’m stuck on this pathetic little planet getting hit on my assholes like you,” Darcy finished with a piercing glare. Bucky, having finally heard his words from her dusky pink lips, couldn’t stop smiling. Darcy ignored the riotous laughter coming from the couches, her now curious gaze fixed on the man – the myth, the legend – still standing in front of her. “You know, most guys would have run back to their friends with their tail between their legs by now.”
“Well, I’m guessing most guys don’t have your words on ‘em,” Bucky drawled, lifting his shirt up just high enough for Darcy to see the end of her sentence etched on his skin.
“Oh my god…” Darcy gasped, a hand reaching out to touch them. She aborted the movement at the last minute in favour wrapping Bucky in a tight hug. “I promised myself I was going to punch you for saddling me with a fucking pick up line,” Darcy laughed tearfully.
“I’m real sorry, angel,” Bucky smiled, bringing her hand up to his lips.
“It’s Darcy, actually.”
“Nah, I think ‘angel’ suits you better,” Bucky winked.
“Well then I’m calling you ‘James’.” Bucky crinkled his nose in distaste. “Hey, if you think I’m calling a grown man, my soulmate, ‘Bucky’ you’ve got another thing coming.”
“Come on, angel,” Bucky pleaded. “‘James’ just sounds so stuffy.”
“Oh, yeah?” Darcy queried, a mischievous smile playing on her lips as she leant forward to whisper in his ear. “James,” she gasped, the hitch in her voice causing his pants to feel two sizes too small. “Harder… Please, James…” Darcy pulled back, grinning victoriously at the hungry look in Bucky’s eyes.
“You… are dangerous,” Bucky growled. Darcy bit her lip in response.
“You know, before you came over here I was just going to finish my drink and go to bed. Did you want to join me?” she asked, her expression switching from confident to bashful as Bucky studied her.
“Lead the way.”
He hadn’t gotten very far when a voice stopped him in his tracks.
Bucky spun on his heel and grinned sheepishly at Steve who had just returned to the party with Sam Wilson, his own surprise modern day soulmate, their arms laden with pizza boxes.
“I gotta go…” he replied awkwardly, gesturing over his shoulder at Darcy.
“James?” Darcy called seductively.
“James?” Steve repeated dully.
Bucky groaned at the sound of Darcy’s voice and offered Steve an apologetic shrug before practically skipping after her.
“What the hell was that?” Steve demanded, dumping the pizza’s on the coffee table.
“They’re soulmates,” Clint advised as he reached for a slice. “What? You can’t read lips?” he said with a mouthful of pizza.
“Son of a bitch,” Tony muttered. “Well, that backfired spectacularly.”
** *** **
A few hours later as they lay on Darcy’s bed, listening to Darcy’s “Finally Found You” playlist, Bucky gazed adoringly at the woman in his arms and shook his head in wonderment.
“I can’t believe how right Fate got it.”
“Hmm?” Darcy hummed.
“You really are my soulmate. I feel it right here,” he explained, tapping a metal finger against his chest. “You’re the missing piece I’ve been waiting seventy damn years to find. Having your words on me, knowing that I was a man with a soul not just their machine… Your words, crazy as they are, kept me from losing myself completely, even on days when I couldn’t remember my own damn name,” he laughed bitterly. “I can’t help but love you for that,” he all but whispered.
The second he uttered the L word he felt Darcy tense up. Bucky didn’t react apart from circling his thumb over the words on her shoulder. He watched patiently as Darcy’s mind raced behind her sky blue eyes until she came to a conclusion with a shaky sigh.
“Shit… I’m going to fall in love with you so fucking fast, aren’t I?”
Bucky smiled and reassured her with a kiss, “Don’t worry, angel. I’ll catch you.”