The lab wing was...not Bucky’s favorite place in the universe. But given that he only really ventured through the wing when it was absolutely unavoidable, he’d deal with it.
Anything was better than that damn chair.
The wing was a little busier than usual this afternoon, and Bucky was glad Steve had been available to accompany him through the labs. Too many people all at once was still a little bit of a challenge. He was working on it, but right now he was grateful for the company.
They’re almost to the elevator when he sees Steve stiffen slightly and pick up his pace. Bucky slowed just a fraction in response and surreptitiously looked around.
Nothing in front of them but the elevator bank.
Nothing to their left but a wall.
On the right, there was a large glass window into one of the labs. He recognized Thor, who was speaking with two women. The first he recognized from a file photo he’d come across at one point or another - Doctor Jane Foster, Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist. The way she was leaning into Thor shook loose a vague memory of someone mentioning that she was also Thor’s on-again-off-again paramour.
The other woman was facing away from him, but what he could see caused a fierce ache in his chest. Memories long buried threatened to resurface and Bucky thrust his fist into his diaphragm to force himself to keep breathing.
The wave of this woman’s hair was exactly the same as his...Bucky choked, not even able to think the name.
Thor said something Bucky couldn’t hear through the glass, causing the woman to throw back her head and laugh.
Goddammit, she was so similar it burned. She was even wearing a similar dress as the day they met - the day he considered the best of his life.
Steve noticed that Bucky had completely stopped moving and tried to pull him towards the elevator, but it was as though someone had bolted his feet to the floor.
The woman turned around.
Bucky’s vision went white. It wasn’t possible.
His D...she should be an old woman far from here by now, if she wasn’t already dea-gone. If she wasn’t already gone.
“What is this?” he muttered angrily.
“What is wh -” Steve followed Bucky’s gaze with trepidation and realized what - who - he was looking at. “Buck -”
“WHAT IS THIS?” Bucky roared, loudly enough that the trio heard him on the other side of the supposedly sound-proof glass. All three turned to see the source of the comotion.
Thor nodded in wary acknowledgement of Steve, recognizing that Bucky probably wasn’t in the best state of mind. He stepped to the side, and put himself between the two women and Bucky.
“It’s not her, Buck,” Steve muttered quietly, trying again in vain to pull his friend towards the elevator and away from the lab.
Bucky’s eyes went wild and he grabbed Steve’s shoulders and shoved him backwards, sending him careening into the wall and leaving an impressive dent. “I know it’s her. I can tell it’s her. I will ALWAYS be able to tell.”
Steve raised his hands in a placating gesture, partially to reassure his friend, but mostly to avoid an unexpected appearance by the Winter Soldier. “You’re right. It could be her, but Bucky - she’s got no idea who we are. The first time I met her, she didn’t know me. I don’t know how but she is not your Darcy.”
Bucky stilled for a moment, then turned to look over his shoulder. In the silence, Darcy peered out from around Thor and his heart shattered. His memory might be no better than scrambled eggs some days, but he knew her. He couldn’t forget the best thing that had ever happened to him. He couldn’t forget her. There was concern in Darcy’s eyes, but no recognition. She may as well have just stabbed him in the chest and been done with it.
After everything he’d been through, this was his actual hell.
A high-pitched whine pierced the silence from the lab, reaching Steve and Bucky on the other side of the glass. A moment later and the klaxons were going off, activating safety protocols and locking down the labs.
Bucky rushed towards the lab door but before he could cross the threshold the whine reached a fever pitch and the world exploded.
When Bucky finally came to, his head was throbbing. He blinked a few times, the ceiling tiles swimming across his vision. His bedroom didn’t have such an ugly ceiling. What was he doing on the floor somewhere…
As the lab and the explosion came flooding back to his memory, Bucky rolled over and started hauling himself along the floor back to the lab entrance. He’d been blown backwards by the blast and there was an impressive dent in the cement block wall where he’d hit. Everything hurt, he was bloody and dusty and probably needed to shake a bunch of glass out of his hair but none of it mattered until he knew Darcy was alright.
Bucky used the crushed remains of a desk to haul himself to his knees so he could take better stock of the room.
The emergency lights were flickering to life as all but one of the overheads had completely shattered in the blast. The remaining fixture swung precariously from it’s wires. The blast had come from the corner directly behind where Darcy had been standing - she’d been closest. A strangled sound escaped his throat as he dragged himself completely upright to better search for her.
Thor had pulled Jane under him, using his bulk to shield her from the worst of the debris. The two had been thrown across the lab into the opposite corner. Darcy had been close enough to them, she should be nearby.
She should be.
Bucky couldn’t breathe.
Thor looked around and seemed to come to the same conclusion Bucky did. “Sergeant Barnes,” he warned evenly.
Steve finally pulled himself into the lab and looked around at the scorch marks across the walls and ceiling, the blast pattern across the room, Thor and Jane huddled in a corner with Darcy nowhere in sight.
Darcy was gone.
No, I don’t live in an alternate universe where today is Friday. I’m posting early because...I wanted to. :-)
“Owwww,” Darcy moaned. Seriously, she was going to have so many words with Jane. She heard footsteps rushing toward her and she cracked open her eyes.
“You alright, doll?” asked an unfamiliar voice.
“Whasit?” she slurred.
“That would be a no. Come on, let’s get you up and maybe you can tell me what a dish like you is doin’ lyin’ in an alley.” He reached to help her up, setting her on her feet and not letting go until she was steady enough to stand on her own. Why the hell was she in an alley? Had the explosion blown out the wall and flung her outside? What the hell was Jane working with these days?
She stared at her feet for a moment trying to get her thoughts and her nausea under control, before finally looking up and meeting the good samaritan's eyes. Holy shit, she knew that face. She’d drawn cartoon hearts around that face in her history books.
That face had been staring back at her just before the explosion.
Her expression must have given her panic away and he chuckled. “That bad?”
She shook her head dumbly and licked her lips, trying not to wince at the lab dust that clung to them.
Okay, Darcy, let’s evaluate. 1. You’re currently outside, when you were most definitely inside when the explosion happened. 2. A decidedly dreamy and less murder-hobo-y James Barnes just picked you up out of a pile of your own drool. 3. He is also wearing different clothes than 60 seconds ago. Like a uniform.
Like his army uniform from the 1940s.
“Thanks,” she finally forced out.
“James Barnes,” he said, holding out a hand. “My friends call me Bucky,” he added with a wink.
Ohhhh that should be illegal in so many realms. Like all the realms. Frigga help me.
“Darcy,” she replied with a brittle smile, shaking his proffered hand.
“Nice to meet you, Darcy. Are you feeling alright? You took quite the tumble.”
“Oh, I’m good,” she lied. She was most definitely not good, but it’s not like she could tell him that. The confused crinkle in his brow reminded Darcy that “I’m good” probably wasn’t a local colloquialism in 1942. “Fine, I mean. I’m fine. Just a little dizzy.”
“I should walk you home, make sure you get there alright.”
Panic rose in her chest. “No need to put yourself out for me - I’m sure it would be out of your way.” Like way, way out of your way. 76 years out of your way. Holy fucking shit I am in so much trouble.
“I’m afraid I can’t let you go,” he said with a shrug and an easy smile. “My ma would have my hide if she knew I’d let you run off after a fall like that.”
THINK LEWIS. “I’m sure you have somewhere you need to be. Meeting up with a friend maybe?” Darcy glanced around, desperately. She spotted a pretty brunette crossing the street and wondered abscently if her arrival prevented Bucky from meeting the girl he was supposed to take on a date tonight. She’d seen both the Jensen Ackles and the Channing Tatum movies, had read all the books, and eventually heard the true story enough times from Steve - Bucky would meet a girl, ask her on a date, and a disastrous double with Steve would ensue. She tried to control her breathing as every bad movie she’d ever seen about the Butterfly Effect flashed through her brain.
“Well…” Bucky wavered.
Darcy took advantage. “No sense in keeping them waiting, I’m fine!”
He hesitated, but finally nodded. “Tell you what - tonight’s my last night in town. I’m, uh, well I’m leaving for England in the morning. I was going to check out the Stark Expo tonight. Maybe you’d like to join me?”
Darcy’s heart sank. She was 100% positive there was no version of this story she knew that cast someone named “Darcy” as Bucky’s date. And she sure as hell didn’t have a friend for Steve.
“It’ll set my heart at ease, knowin’ you’re alright before I leave town,” Bucky urged with a heart-stopping grin.
“Sure,” her heart replied before her head could think about it any further.
Plans for the evening made, Darcy was left with a few hours to panic.
It’s 1942. She did as the all the time-travel movies told her and confirmed it with a newspaper and everything.
She has no way to contact anyone from her time and let them know where she is.
She’s pretty sure she’s already fucked with the timeline - at the very least, Bucky Barnes wasn’t getting laid his last night in New York. Which, really, was a crime in itself.
To be fair, under different circumstances, she’d climb James Barnes like a tree. He’d starred in enough of her fantasies over the years to be given title billing. Hell, she’d been having very explicit thoughts about it when he walked through the lab a few minutes ago, 76 years from now. (Time travel, man. It wreaks havoc on your temporal awareness.) But she’d never been a love ‘em and leave ‘em type, and given her current problems and his future problems, a one-night stand in 1942 before he ships off to war probably wasn’t the best course of action. Her libido might argue, but even she wasn’t going to wade into that madness.
Besides, the fantasy had kept her happily warm at night plenty of times before. Actually meeting the man in his 1940s flirtatious glory wasn’t going to change that anytime soon. In fact, it would probably exacerbate the condition.
But her primary concern at the moment was that she was hungry, tired, covered in lab dust, and had no money to fix any of these problems. She was grateful she’d worn one of her dresses to work that morning - a green, vaguely vintage shirtdress with a buttons down the front and a belt. It was supposed to be a slow day, so she’d esqueued her usual jeans and sweaters for something a little more fun. She marginally blended in. The lack of stockings could become a problem, but not one at the top of her priority list. She thanked her lucky stars she had been wearing her glasses today and not her contacts like she’d originally intended.
She twisted her grandmother’s ring on her right hand in a nervous habit. What the hell was she going to do?
She noticed a pawn shop on the corner and looked down at the ring on her hand.
She glanced up, looking for a street sign. If she was where she thought she was…
The universe was officially fucking with her. She was standing outside the very pawn shop her grandfather would enter to buy her grandmother’s engagement ring.
Three years from now.
Darcy groaned. Time travel was the worst.
Decision made, she headed inside.
If you're looking for an emotional aesthetic for this chapter, might I suggest "Skyline" by LOYALS?
Pawn shop money in hand, Darcy had acquired a bed for the foreseeable future, food, and a few other essentials for her hopefully temporary field trip into the past. Now, she was standing outside the Stark Expo, nervously chewing on her thumbnail and wondering what the hell she was doing.
Funnily enough, standing up Bucky Barnes never crossed her mind.
At 7 o’clock on the dot, Bucky arrived at the entrance to the Stark Expo to meet Darcy, a much shorter than she was used to Steve Rogers in tow.
Punctuality should not be this sexy. Get a grip on yourself, Lewis.
“She lives!” Bucky exclaimed with a grin upon spotting her.
“I told you I was fine,” she protested with a matching smile.
“That you did,” he replied. He turned to Steve. “This is my pal, Steve Rogers. Steve meet Darcy.”
Darcy drank in the sight of him. In the few months she’d been around the Avengers facility, Steve Rogers had sought out her company, and they’d become fast friends. She knew about his past of course, had seen the photos of a much smaller Steve, but seeing it in the flesh was something else entirely. Still, even so different, her friend was a sight for sore eyes.
“Nice to meet you,” she said extending her hand with a genuine smile.
He briefly shook her hand and nodded in response.
Bucky had puffed up with pride, although she wasn’t entirely sure why - were girls not normally nice to Steve? He’d mentioned that Bucky had always been the ladykiller, but never said anything about girls being downright rude. Darcy was hit with a violent wave of schadenfreude. Those girls must have kicked themselves from Brooklyn to Delaware and back once the Captain America show hit the road.
“So, Bucky. This is your party. What do you want to see first?” she asked.
He grinned a little sheepishly and held out a flyer. She glanced at it. “Modern Marvels of Tomorrow it is.” She looked up at him through her eyelashes, unable to keep herself from flirting, just a little. He was gorgeous. So sue her. “Lead the way, Sarge.”
Steve huffed out a soft laugh and Bucky looked like he’d be knocked over by the next stiff breeze. Good to know that trick worked in any decade then.
They made their way through the mass of people, Bucky slipping his hand into hers so she couldn’t get separated in the crowd. Just as they found an open spot, the music started and Howard Stark held court over an appallingly cheesy demonstration.
Bucky didn’t seem to notice the cheese though - he was enraptured. Darcy could have sworn she’d heard him mutter at least one “Holy cow.” So Bucky Barnes was a science nerd. Who knew?
She squeezed his hand. “10 cents says he blows a gasket and that car comes crashing down on the stage.”
That was probably pushing her luck just a bit too far, but the stunned look on Bucky’s face when the car actually did come crashing down onto the stage was absolutely worth it. She smirked at him and gave an innocent shrug of one shoulder.
When Steve’s soft laugh reached her ears, she turned to him. “What’s so funny, Chuckles?”
He shook his head at her. “I think you broke him.”
She turned back to Bucky and his stunned expression, then back to Steve with a shrug. “Someone had to.”
Her sass was rewarded with a full-out, face splitting grin.
Eventually, after a long stroll through the exhibits, Steve wandered off. She knew that he was headed for the recruitment center, on his way to history, so she pretended not to notice. She did gently try to point Bucky in that direction though. Those two were on a collision course with fate, and it broke her heart to think about what was waiting for them.
When Bucky finally entered the office to say goodbye to Steve, she hung back, letting the two friends have this last moment of peace. Steve gave her a small wave and she gave him her biggest, most encouraging smile while she drank in her last sight of him.
When Bucky returned to her, he seemed a little off balance, but was trying to put a good face on it.
She grabbed his hand and tried to give him a winning smile. “It’s still your party, Sarge. Anything else you’d like to see?”
He tilted his head towards her. “I could take you dancing.”
Darcy laughed. “I’d only disappoint you. And probably break your foot.”
He led them towards the exit of the Expo and out to the sidewalk. “You and Stevie are made for each other then.”
“Nah,” she said, thinking of the Steve she knew in her time. “I’m pretty sure the only thing I’d do to his big heart is break it.”
He stared at her, his gaze turning intense. “Guess you’re stuck with me then.”
She squeezed his hand and smiled again. “I could be amenable to that.” Oh boy could I. I’m in so much trouble.
“Amenable, huh?” his grin was back in full force and she was reveling in it.
“So, where are you taking me now? I could continue to ramble on about how none of those exhibits back there are actually going to work,” she teased. Sure, she was telling the truth about all of them, but he thought she was joking and it wasn’t like she was handing over detailed schematics - that won’t break the universe, right?
“I don’t know where you get your ideas,” he grinned, “but I love them.”
“It’s a gift.”
“Well,” he began, a mischievous smirk sliding across his face as they slowed their pace to a stop underneath a streetlamp so he could face her, “you claim this is my party.”
“That I do.”
“But you won’t dance with me.”
“Not won’t. Can’t,” she corrected.
“I don’t know, doll, I think you’re holdin’ out on me.”
“Nope. It’s a fact. I cannot dance.” Darcy didn’t mention that she had zero idea what Bucky Barnes would even consider dancing. She doubted the random dance parties she and Jane threw in the lab would count. And was the Lindy Hop even a thing or had Barton been trolling her?
Time travel sucks.
“I could teach you,” he offered, holding out one hand.
She hesitated. “You try to charm all the girls this way?”
“Does it ever work?”
Bucky had the good grace to look a little abashed at that. “Sometimes,” he muttered.
“And here I thought I was special,” she teased, taking his hand and stepping forward.
He began to lead them in some type of organized movement that Darcy would never be able to replicate or identify. “Now you’re just lookin’ for a compliment.”
She laughed. “I’ll take any compliment you want to give me. But maybe I just want to hear something true.”
Bucky’s movements slowed until they were only just swaying in the light of the streetlamp. “You fallin’ out of the sky was the best thing that could’ve happened to me today,” he replied seriously.
Darcy swallowed hard. This morning, Bucky Barnes had been a face in her history book. Bucky Barnes was only ever supposed to be a face in her history book. She wasn’t meant to ever meet him like this. Flirting was all well and good but actually falling for someone when you knew their fate was astronomically stupid.
But Bucky Barnes seemed determined to win her affection and her heart had always ruled her head. “You picking me up when I fell was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.”
“Yeah?” he asked, a little wistful.
They’d stopped moving entirely now and Bucky pulled her just a fraction closer. “Did you have to show up the night before I ship out? Couldn’t have been wanderin’ around the neighborhood a few years ago?”
She let out a shaky laugh. “Sorry, I’m new in town.”
Understatement of the century, Lewis.
Her weak joke broke the spell they were under and Bucky released her. “Well, I guess I’ll just have to show you all the sights tonight then.”
They walk for hours.
Every time the conversation slowed, or she thought of how damn bad her feet hurt in the stupid shoes she was wearing, she would launch right back in with an absurd observation or joke or anything to make him smile. Anything to stop thinking about where he’s going in the morning and what happens then. He can give as good as he gets and she’s not sure she’s ever laughed so much in her entire life.
He can’t stop touching her. Sometimes it’s a steady hand gently placed at the small of her back or other times their hands are joined and slightly swinging, fingers intertwined and his thumb carefully tracing a line across the back of her hand. She’s his anchor to this night as much as he’s hers and she cursed every moment that brought them closer to the end of it.
All too soon the sun has come up and they’re standing outside the women’s apartments where she’d found a room the previous afternoon.
Bucky bounced on his feet, looking a little nervous as he pulls a slip of paper from his pocket.
“Don’t think you could be persuaded to write to me at all, do you? When you have the time?”
He held it out to her and she pretended she didn’t see it tremble. She took it from him, covering his fingers with hers.
“I could write. Once or twice,” she teased with a smile.
“It would sure be a nice surprise to hear my name called when the mail comes and it be a letter from you,” he replied seriously, not taking her bait.
Jane could show up with a rescue at any moment, but she’d kidnap Odin’s damn ravens herself to get him a letter if she had to. She’d steal a TARDIS or whatever the hell SHIELD was cooking up in the labs they pretended not to have anymore and get him a goddamn letter. If she thought she could save him without breaking the universe, in this moment, she’d do it.
She might even break the universe. If she had to.
“Then I hope you like surprises,” was her only reply.
“Okay then.” He pulled back his hand and quickly stuffed it into his pocket. He held her gaze for a long moment. “It’s not goodbye,” he smiled as he turned to go, “it’s see you soon.”
Darcy felt panic rise in her chest. This was it - she knew what was coming for him and she couldn’t do a damn thing about it. The universe was not fair.
Fuck the universe.
He spun around towards her just in time to catch her as she threw herself into his arms and covered his mouth with hers. He responded with immediate enthusiasm as she threaded her fingers through his hair and Darcy was sure she’d never had a better kiss in her life.
When they finally pulled apart, Bucky stared at her with a dazed expression. “Now I have every incentive to go win this war as quickly as possible,” he whispered as he set her back on her feet.
She laughed, trying to hold back tears, but one slipped down her cheek anyway. “I’ll see you soon,” she whispered.
He cupped her face with one hand, pulled her against his chest with the other, and gave her one long, hard kiss, followed by one more soft, lingering kiss. Then he released her, grabbed his hat from where it had fallen on the ground, and was gone.
“WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED?”
“Sergeant Barnes, if you cannot hold your temper-”
“He’s right,” Jane interrupted, annoyance flattening her tone. “This shouldn’t have happened. There’s no reason why the particle accelerator would go off like this - we weren’t even running anything today.”
“You have checked the machine?” Thor asked.
Jane nodded grimly. “It’s like it pointed itself at the nearest anomaly and turned itself on.”
Thor looked thoughtful for a moment, but didn’t say anything further.
It took all of Bucky’s willpower - and maybe a bit of Steve’s steadying hand on his shoulder - to keep from ripping what was left of the lab apart in frustration.
Tony Stark strolled into the remains of the lab. “What the hell did I say about blowing up my stuff, Doc?” He sobered and handed her a tablet. “Readings are off the charts,” he continued. “Any thoughts?”
“Shit,” she muttered, her eyes flying over the results Tony handed her. “It’s a temporal rift.”
Tony hung his head while Thor took one step back to give Jane an appraising look.
“Temporal rift? Like a…” Steve prompted.
“Time travel. Basically, a temporal rift is a doorway to another time. It’s theoretically impossible, but that doesn’t seem to matter much these days.” Jane still hadn’t looked up from the results.
Bucky leaned forward against the table to bring himself eye level with Jane. “Is she alive?” he asked evenly.
Jane met his eyes and nodded. “I think so.”
Bucky released the breath he’d been holding and felt a tiny bit of the pressure in his chest release.
“So, we just have to figure out...when...she ended up,” Steve surmised.
“Yeah, because all of history is a much smaller haystack than all of the multiverse,” Tony replied, his sarcasm covering his concern.
“Darcy’s smart, she’ll find a way to let us know,” Bucky argued.
“And if she’s in the future? What then?” Tony replied.
“Darcy will find a way,” Bucky said firmly.
“How do you even know Darcy?” Jane asked in confusion and Bucky tried not to wince at the pain her words caused.
“Guys,” Steve interrupted. “We know where she is.” Everyone turned to look at him in confusion. He nodded at Bucky. “You told me you first met Darcy when she ‘fell out of the sky.’ Did you mean literally?” Steve asked.
Bucky nodded. “One minute nothing, the next a loud bang, and there she was.”
Steve looked at Jane. “We knew her. In 1942.”
Bucky inhaled sharply as comprehension dawned.
Jane’s jaw dropped as she stared at Steve. “And in all the time you two have been hanging out - you never said anything to her?”
Steve shrugged. “She didn’t seem to remember me. I’d tell her stories, thinking maybe something would jog her memory, but.” He shook his head. “Now I guess I know why. She hadn’t lived it yet.”
Bucky almost sagged to the ground in relief. Darcy was alive. They knew where she was and she was alive.
And he hadn’t been wrong - he had known her. It was his Darcy standing in this very lab. It had just been before she’d actually been his Darcy.
He closed his eyes and allowed himself to think back on those days for the first time in years. Her inadvertent trip to the past explained so much. Why things had happened the way they had. She’d known what was coming and she loved him anyway, assuming there could be no happy ending.
He lost her once and barely survived. Nothing was going to stop him from going to get his girl this time. And if she’d let him, he’d never let her go.
Bucky opened his eyes and found Tony staring at him while Steve and Jane were hunched over a computer and while Jane furiously typed into it.
“I need a date.”
“Darcy showed up the day before Bucky shipped out, so you’ll need to pull up the charts for 1942-”
“No,” Bucky interrupted.
“What?” Steve and Jane said in unison.
“She wasn’t just there one day. I have memories of her through the end of 1943.”
“Shit,” Steve muttered. “He’s right.”
Jane looked at them, appalled. “We can’t just leave her there,” she said incredulously.
Bucky rounded the table and towered over her briefly, trying to control his breathing to get his temper in check, but his scowl was screaming murderous intent before Steve pushed him back and put himself between Bucky and Jane.
“Sergeant Barnes is right,” Thor said. “If he has memories of Darcy, we cannot remove her from the timeline. The damage to the realms could be incalculable.”
“I will not leave her alone, decades in the past, for MONTHS!” Jane was furious now.
“Funny thing,” Tony said, cutting through the tension and making a gesture with his hand to move whatever was on the screen in front of him to the large screen looking over the lab. “I don’t think she was on her own.”
Steve skimmed through the file on display and chuckled. “Did you know about this?” he asked Bucky.
“I didn’t know the details,” Bucky muttered as he skimmed through the file himself.
“Damn. Smart girl,” Tony said, his keen eyes sizing up Bucky.
Jane sighed in resignation. “Okay. So she’s not just in your memory, she’s splashed herself all over,” Jane gestured towards the screen, “this.”
“She sent up a flare so we’d know when to look for her,” Steve mused.
“When was the last time either of you saw her?” Jane pulled up a new star chart and began to scribble down new calculations.
Bucky stood frozen, his chest constricting with the pain of remembering the last time he saw Darcy.
Steve clearly remembered as well. He closed his eyes and hung his head, before rattling off the date to Jane.
“London,” Bucky whispered, frozen in place.
Steve met his friend’s eyes. “London,” he repeated quietly.
Jane’s eyes flicked between the two men, but didn’t say anything further.
It was going to be a long night.
Darcy paced her tiny room, considering her options. No one had shown up to bring her back to 2018 yet, so there were a few things to consider.
- Jane may have no idea what happened to her. Sure, she’d met up with Steve and Bucky here in 1942, and they were both in the lab when it went all explode-y, but had they connected the dots with Jane? She might need to do a bit more to send up the proverbial flare identifying just when she landed - and that she was alive at all.
- The money she’d gotten from pawning her ring wasn’t going to last forever. If she was truly going to be stuck here for awhile, she was going to need a job. What skills did she have that would translate to 1940s professions? Netflix and texting weren’t going to cut it.
- It was entirely possible that she was the only one to survive the explosion, and no help is coming.
Best not to think about door number 3.
She picked up the newspaper she’d snagged that morning. She skimmed the headlines, skipping everything about Europe and battlefields and US troop involvement. When she made her way down the page to the write up on the Stark Expo, inspiration struck. A job with Howard Stark would get her name in Tony’s system - JARVIS would pick up on that, right? And in the meantime, she’d keep a roof over her head. And Howard Stark was a smart man - she may need him before this fun excursion was over.
Decision made, Darcy grabbed the first letter she’d written for Bucky headed out the door to go search for a post box and a crazy scientist. Brilliant futurist. Unabashed womanizer.
Whichever one got her the job.
“Coffee?” she smiled sweetly at the absolute hamster of a man at the conference table.
“Thanks sweetheart,” he replied, speaking to her chest instead of her face.
It was only the thought of potentially needing a favor from Howard Stark in the near future that prevented her from dumping the entire pot of scalding hot coffee over Stark’s chief financial advisor’s head.
She moved on to the next rodent-faced sycophant and on down the table, all the while mentally cursing the 1940s and whatever the hell was taking Jane so long to get her out of here.
A few weeks later and Darcy trudged home after a long day of biting her tongue at the casual misogyny thrown around her office as she delivered coffee to the asshats surrounding Stark. She was pleasantly surprised to find that Stark himself wasn’t actually that bad - for as often as she saw him. He was in England more often than not, but Darcy was determined to make herself useful to him in case she needed his help later.
If this little field trip of hers lasted.
Ugh. Seriously, Jane, where are you?
She opened the door to her room and dropped her handbag onto the chair as she made her way over to the little record player she’d splurged on. She set the needle and the first chords of “If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)” softly wound through the room. The jazz standard was growing on her and had become a frequent listen when she was at home.
Oh what she would do for her iPod.
Darcy turned to grab a change of clothes when she noticed a letter that had been slipped under her door.
With a War Office mark.
She snatched the letter off the floor and only just stopped herself from shredding the already mangled envelope in her haste to get to the contents.
Darcy forced herself to stop and take a deep breath, admiring all of the postmarks and redirects stamped all over the envelope. Only when she’d gotten her breathing under control did she carefully pick open the envelope and unfold the delicate paper to reveal Bucky’s handwriting.
First mail call since I arrived and I have a letter from my favorite girl? You have made me very unpopular with all the boys here waiting on word from home.
We’re set up alright out here. The coffee is always decent and the food is usually hot. Beyond that, the only thing I have to complain about is the lack of your company, so your letter is a very welcome surprise.
You did promise me a surprise, after all. Guess I’m just happy you followed through.
Forget what I just wrote. I don’t want you to think I’m thinking badly of you or that I expected anything. You leave me speechless and stuttering, that’s all. Forgive me?
It took a month for your letter to get into my hands but I’ve barely thought of anything except you in that time. Is it too much to hope that you’ll allow this lonely soldier to daydream about the kiss you might give him when he comes home to you?
If that’s asking too much, you tell me and I’ll stow it away. Tell me I’m an ass, burn this letter, and we’ll never speak of it again. Don’t tell me anything you don’t feel just because I’m away. Let me go quietly. But I’ll be honest here, Darcy. Our one night wandering the city was the best night of my life. Maybe that’s just me being romantic, but that’s the way I feel. I’m hoping you do too.
I hope this letter finds you well. And maybe, with a little time to spare sometime soon to write me again.
Darcy read through the letter three times before the tears spilled out of her eyes. That damn charmer. She couldn’t promise him anything - Jane could come up with a way to get her home any minute.
And she knew that Bucky wasn’t actually ever coming home. Not the way he expected anyway.
Not the way she was beginning to want him to.
Best get over that feeling quick. Darcy reminded herself that she was going back to 2018 sooner rather than later and the Bucky Barnes in 2018 didn’t know her.
Right? Goddamn time travel.
Darcy groaned and tried to get her thoughts under control. It took an hour but she finally had calmed down enough to put pen to paper and write her reply.
I’m your favorite girl, huh? I’ll take that title. Not entirely sure I’ve earned it just yet, but I’m not opposed to wearing it until I do. I’m not sorry I’ve made you unpopular with the boys. In fact, I’m tempted to write you far more often, if only to needle the others whenever your name is called for the mail.
I’ll try to write as often as I can, although if it took a month for my letter to reach you, I’m not sure we have any hope of sustaining much of an actual conversation. Good thing I’ve always had a talent for carrying on a conversation alone. And my mother always told me my chatty nature was a bad thing.
I’ll warn you - I’m not all that accustomed to letter writing and I might be a bit overeager. I received your letter an hour ago and this response will be in the post by morning. Promise me you’ll let me know when you get tired of me?
Feel free to daydream about anything you like - I promise you, the feeling is mutual. The daydreams will be, too.
Be safe. I’ll see you soon.
Jane pushed her hair back out of her face and sighed. Her latest calculations were running and she didn’t have much to do until the computer returned the information she needed.
Normally, this is when Darcy would call for a random dance party. She blast crazy music and they’d hop around the lab for a few minutes to get their blood flowing again. If it looked like the computer was going to take awhile, Darcy would declare a snack break and make sure everyone ate something and got out of the lab for at least 15 minutes. (“Sunshine and fresh air are very important for every little scientist, Jane!”)
It wasn’t just the mothering that Jane missed. Darcy brought a lightness to the lab. Back in the days when her peers dismissed Jane’s ideas as crackpot theories, Darcy helped make science fun again. Her constant support and faith in Jane were just as big contributors to her scientific success as Thor dropping out of the sky.
Jane missed her friend.
A knock on the doorframe startled her out of her reverie. “Hey Doc.”
“Captain,” Jane replied, shuffling a few papers around the table trying to clear a space for him to sit down.
“Then you best start calling me Jane,” she replied with a smile.
“Jane.” Steve smiled and pulled up a chair. “How are you doing?”
“Well, the latest calculation -”
“No. How are you doing? Darcy is your friend, right? This can’t be easy.”
She pursed her lips and looked away. “I miss her,” she muttered. “There’s so much going on and I just don’t have the mental capacity to process it all. I’m upset at what happened and I’m surprised as hell about whatever she and Bucky have going on across, you know, decades. But there’s so much data to parse through and I have a million ideas and it only takes one to go wrong for all of this to blow up in our faces. And…” she trailed off for a moment, gathering her thoughts. “And what if we can’t get her back?”
“You don’t know that.”
“I know we won’t stop.”
Jane sighed and looked at him. “You mean Bucky won’t stop.”
“All of us.”
Jane hesitated a moment. “You really knew her? Back then?” she asked quietly.
“I did. Not well - we met a few times. I played third wheel on her date with Bucky - probably the night she got there,” he replied with a fond smile. “She was nice to me when not very many girls were.”
Jane smiled at that. “This is crazy. My best friend and your best friend had an epic love affair over 70 years ago because one of them was accidentally thrown back in time.”
Steve sat back in his chair, he grin growing. “Is it crazier than anything else that’s happened over the last few years?”
“Kind of.” They both laughed as the computer beeped with it’s completed calculations. Bucky strolled in, bags of food in hand.
“Eat,” he said to Jane. “You should probably stretch your legs for a few minutes, too. You’ve been in here for almost six hours without a break. Everyone needs fresh air.”
She raised her eyebrows at him, then glanced at Steve before looking back at Bucky and nodding. “Thanks,” she said.
Bucky nodded at her, then left the lab, more bags of food in hand, presumably for Tony or himself.
“Huh,” Jane said, staring at the door Bucky just exited.
“What?” Steve asked.
“That was a very Darcy-like thing to do.”
“What, the food?”
“The mother-hen act.”
Steve chuckled. “He’s always been that way. Did it for his sisters, does it for me, looks like you’ve been added to the list now, too.”
Jane smiled at him and offered him a baby carrot from her bag.
He took one and considered it. “She wrote to me, you know.” Steve admitted. “A few times during the war. Only time my name was ever called for the mail. I always wondered how she knew where to find me. Guess now I know,” he smiled sadly, then crunched down on the carrot.
“She’s good like that.”
“She’s good people,” Steve agreed. “And that’s why we’re going to get her back.” He smiled and motioned towards the computer. “I’ll let you get back to it. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” She nodded and Steve turned to leave.
“Hey Steve,” Jane called. He stopped in the doorway, turned back to her, and raised an eyebrow in response.
“If we can’t get Darcy back-”
“We will. I already asked Tony to check - Darcy Lewis disappears from 1943 and is never heard from again...until she’s born 1988.”
“Okay, yes, but if the worst happens. If we’re wrong. I’m going to lose it entirely, I already know that.” She drew in a deep breath. “Will your friend be okay?”
Steve stared at her for a long moment and then sighed. “I don’t know.”
Write as many letters as you damn well please. I will never get tired of you.
Finally heard from my sister this week - did I mention I have three sisters? I’m the oldest of all us kids, but Rebecca’s next, then Mary, and Katie’s the baby. Rebecca looks after all of us though - she even taught me to sew, so I wouldn’t have to tolerate any holes or worn patches in my shirts.
She also taught me this great trick - if you fold over the fabric just right, you can stitch up a handy hidden pocket just inside the seam. It’s a perfect spot to carry things you’d like to keep close.
I’ve got one in every shirt now. That’s where I’ve been keeping your letters.
Your sister sounds pretty amazing. When you get home you’ll have to introduce us.
Would it be terrible to admit I’m a little envious of your sisters? I don’t have any family. Well, there was my grandmother, but she’s gone now. I’m on my own.
You’re not on your own.
And until I can get home to you, maybe you could look out for Steve? I haven’t heard from him and I’m starting to get a little worried. Trouble doesn’t find him - he goes looking for it, I swear.
I haven’t seen him - but there is this new fella on the scene who looks a lot like him. They’re calling him Captain America. Maybe they finally found a way to contain all that righteous fight Steve’s got burning inside.
I feel like I need to come clean about something. I lied to you. Technically, I lied to Steve, but you were there and so I lied to you, too.
I didn’t enlist. I was drafted. Steve’s got this idea in his head that the only way to help in the fight is to come over here and get himself killed. Like the only worthwhile use of his life is to exchange it for someone else’s.
I never wanted to be here. I know the fight is important, that we’re doing the right thing. But I don’t want to hurt anybody. Somehow I ended up in the very last place I ever wanted anyway.
I don’t know where you get your ideas, but I sure do love them. They give me hope.
You give me hope, Darcy.
Have I mentioned recently that you’re my hero? You’re doing what’s right, even though it scares you. Even though it’s the exact opposite of what you want. Your secret is safe with me, Sarge. Every bit of you is always safe with me.
And don’t you forget - I’ve got your New Years kiss waiting for you. So get home to me soon, okay?
If it were up to me, I’d be there with you tomorrow. I’d be there today, right this very minute.
The only thing that I might like a little bit better here is how many stars you can see at night. I’ve never seen a sky like this in the city.
Maybe one day, when the world has regained its senses, you and me can come back here and I can show you.
You want to go stargazing through Europe with me? Sold. Sign me up. I volunteer.
Until then, I’ve included a drawing of something to look for when you’re looking up at the sky. It’s the constellation Cassiopeia - it should be visible to both you and I for the next few weeks at least.
And when you look for it - know that I’m looking for it, too.
Cassiopeia is my new favorite constellation.
I would say it’s my favorite sight these days, but in your last letter you also happened to enclose a photo of yourself. There’s no competing with that.
At least until I can see you in person again.
Honestly, your photo is the last thing I look at before I go to sleep and the first thing I look for in the morning.
Would it be too bold to say I’m practicing for the day it won’t be just a photo of you that I’m looking at?
Have I mentioned I got a job working for Howard Stark? My official title is “personal assistant” but that’s just a fancy way of saying I fetch the coffee for him and some of the other big-wigs. I also might have clued him in to a scheme his chief financial officer was running to sell Stark’s inventions to his competitors while also embezzling a percentage of Stark’s profits.
He keeps telling me he’s going to promote me, but I’m sure he’s full of it.
To answer your question - no, it’s not too bold to say you’re practicing. I’ve told you before, daydream about anything you like. I promise you, the feeling is mutual.
You’re working for Howard Stark and you’re tossing his board members out on their asses? They never knew what hit them, did they?
I can’t say any of this surprises me though. My girl is going to change the world and I can’t wait to be there to see what she makes of it.
(Also, I promise this is the last time I will mention how much I love your photo.)
You’re too good for a guy like me.
You really are too good to be true.
You really are too good to me.
~*1943, New York City*~
Weeks of letters back and forth, and every single one wedged Bucky a little more firmly into Darcy’s heart. Pages and pages of letters in his elegant handwriting, charm oozing through the paper, fear coloring the spaces between the lines. She reread his latest letter with a sigh.
My dearest Darcy,
With everything going on in the world, it’s good to be reminded you exist. Every letter you send is proof that something good still exists outside my own head. Even if some of the guys love to give me shit for it. Apparently, I look like a bit of a sap when your letters arrive. I won’t bore you with the details there - I’m still trying to impress you, after all. I maintain that they’re just jealous. But still, it is nice, at the end of the day, to know what I’m doing this all for - the promise of you. We’re in this together, yeah? You and me. If I’m being honest, “you” and “I” changed to “us” and “we” in my head a long time ago. I hope that’s okay by you.
I was doing okay, you know, before you dropped into my life. Now every spare waking moment is consumed by thoughts of you. I may not be able to write you every day, but I do think of you every hour. You’ve broken through my every defense and now I mark down the days, trying to imagine when your next letter might arrive.
Think you might be up for a promotion? Say from favorite girl to best girl? Who knows, maybe one day, you’ll even make sweetheart. You have my ear, you may as well take my heart, too.
You call me your hero in your letters, when really you should know that you are mine. You save me from the madness that I see out here. You remind me that I’m not alone. So in return, every day I’m trying to be the man you already seem to think I am. I hope, one day, when we’re together again, it’ll be enough.
He had been different in his most recent letters - a little more desperate, a smidge more emotive. In this latest letter he was talking about a future - their future. Was he just tired and scared now? Or was he longing to be near her the way she longed to be near him? She wanted the latter but knew it was a fool's errand - there was nothing but pain down the road she was already traveling.
She decided the reason didn’t matter as she freshened her lipstick slightly before finishing her letter with her signature and leaving a kiss next to her name, as she’d done with every letter since New Years Eve. She’d racked her brain for every scrap of history Steve had ever told her, but she was petrified of writing any of it down for her own reference. If someone saw it? She’d be locked up in a padded room with her very own straight jacket for starters. And if someone actually figured out what it was? The consequences were too terrible to imagine. She knew HYDRA was already in New York - and for all she knew they could be the least of her problems if anyone figured out who she really was and where she really came from.
So, she had to rely on her memory. If her history was correct, they were getting seriously close to when Bucky’s unit would be captured in Azzano by HYDRA and she never knew which letter would be the last he’d receive. Her soul had been poured into every single one, just in case.
I’ll take that promotion. I’ll take that promotion any damn day of the week and twice on Sunday.
I will also accept any variation on “we” and “us” you can muster because you’re right - you and me are in this together. You’re not alone in how you’re spending your time - my thoughts are always, always, always with you. Even though I can’t be.
I’ve already promised that every bit of you is safe with me. That goes double for your heart. I’ll even give you mine in return, because I know you’ll keep it safe.
And please know - you, Bucky Barnes, are always enough.
Come home to me, handsome. I love you.
It was monumentally stupid, falling for him. She knew that. There was zero chance of a happy ending for either of them. And when she got back to 2018, the chances of him remembering her were approximately zero. If he had remembered her - shouldn’t he have come to find her the moment he showed up at the Tower? Sure, she would have been confused as hell and probably made a mess of it but why else would the first time she ever see him in person be when he was randomly wandering through the lab? No. The only thing she was doing was facilitating her own heartbreak.
Her fingers ghosted over her own words again. Love is not a choice.
She sealed up the letter and tucked it into her bag. She could drop it in the box on her way to work.
~*1943, somewhere in the Austrian Alps*~
Bucky closed his eyes and tried desperately to sleep, but conditions in the cell weren’t exactly conducive to rest. He was freezing, laying halfway on the floor and halfway on top of three other people, who were coughing, shivering, sweating, or some combination thereof. Their captors would probably only give them about two hours rest this time, and he knew that with the fever he was pretty sure he was running, he wasn’t going to last much longer.
Of everything he’d imagined, he never thought he’d go out like this.
He put a hand over the hidden pocket Rebecca had shown him how to sew into his shirts. It was the perfect size to carry a few letters from Darcy he could not bear to part with and he sent a silent prayer that Rebecca knew how much he appreciated everything she’d ever done for him. He was her big brother but she’d always been the one to take care of him.
And Darcy. He whispered a second prayer in his mind that she knew how desperately he adored her. That she somehow knew how the thought of her was the only thing keeping him going. And that when he was gone, his only regret would be that he wouldn’t be there to make good on all the plans they’d made, but he would never ever leave her again. He’d watch over her through the end of her days.
And if whatever higher power existed saw fit to reunite them after that, mores the better.
A single tear dropped from his eye and trailed down his cheek before he swallowed hard and tried to pull himself together. He knew he was already dehydrated - tears were a waste at this point.
He focused on thoughts of Darcy. The thought of her teasing smile brought a sort of peace to his heart and he felt himself drift a little further towards sleep. Maybe he could eek out 90 minutes and hold death at bay for one more day.
Someone coughed and he was fully awake again.
“Hey Jones,” he muttered to the man next to him.
He pulled the small roll of letters from his pocket. These were the only things he had of her that survived. Any letter he couldn’t carry he had burned, to keep the details of her life that she chose to share and their conversations between the two of them alone. He pulled her photo from the roll and gazed at it for a long moment, wishing for things to be different. He then put the bundle back together, and held it close one more time before handing it to the other man. “Hang onto these for me, huh? Maybe...get them to my girl. Let her know…”
“I can do that, Barnes. No problem.”
Bucky’s eyes fluttered closed again and he desperately hoped he would dream of Darcy.
Steve’s leg bounced with nervous energy and Bucky was about ready to rip it off and beat him with it.
They sat on the roof of the Tower, waiting for Jane to yell out the next batch of instructions that involved moving heavy equipment. Any other directions she gave weren’t directed at them. Bucky watched Jane intently, as though he could absorb all the science going on around them by osmosis.
“So we’re building a time machine,” Steve said flatly.
“Uh huh.” Bucky replied distractedly.
“You ever think this would be our life?”
Bucky looked at his friend, who studiously stared out over the city. “Probably not. But I stopped asking myself that question around the time you put yourself in an Easy Bake Oven and grew a foot taller.” It was a joke, sort of, and a poor one, and his flat delivery proved he knew it.
Steve ignored him. “What if,” he stopped and paused and Bucky patiently waited him out. He knew what it was like to not be able to get the words out.
“What if,” Steve started more assuredly, “we get this thing working, and we go back.”
“I thought that was the point - go back, grab Darcy, and-”
“No, Buck,” Steve interrupted softly. “Just - what if we go back.”
Bucky was silent for a minute. “You want to go back to 1943 and stay there?”
“I think I might want a chance at the life I would have had.”
“You’re thinkin’ ‘bout Agent Carter?”
Steve sighed. “It’s not just her, but. Yeah.”
Bucky was silent. He thought about his sisters, how Rebecca had to look after everyone after he was gone. How he’d never gotten to see what they’d done with their lives. Sure, he could read the file, but it wasn’t the same as being there. He thought about the plans he’d had for himself - or lack thereof. He’d always thought he had time, that he could live in the moment and figure it all out later. The only concrete thing he had ever imagined for himself was after he’d met Darcy - and then it was the whole shebang. Wife, house, kids, block parties, and vacations at the shore. The only problem they would have ever had would remembering whose turn it was to wash the dishes. (Always his, no matter how much she argued.) His chest burned with how bad he had wanted it - how much he still wanted it.
He thought about how much simpler everything was then, with no alien gods or giant green rage monsters or robots powered by magic stones.
Yeah, going back for good sounded really nice.
But Darcy didn’t belong in the 1940s and he didn’t want any time, any where that didn’t include her.
“No. I wouldn’t go back.”
“You could ask Darcy to stay. She fit in 1943, no one ever suspected-”
“That she traveled back in time from 2018? Not everyone lives in the insane world we do.” Bucky grinned wryly and shook his head. “Darcy belongs in the 21st century. And I belong to Darcy. I’m bringing her home.”
“Okay Buck. Okay.” He was silent for a long time. “After London, you...you weren’t in the best place,” Steve said slowly, choosing his words carefully. “It was...it was really bad, Buck.”
“I was there.”
“We could pick a different date. We could try to save you some of that pain.”
“London has to happen,” he replied simply. “I remember it, you remember it, so Thor and the Doc agree that we have to let it happen. No matter what.”
“Yeah, but,” Steve shrugged, “there are other days, Buck. We could shoot for the next morning, or a week later - anytime after that night, really. Anything so that it wouldn’t just be-”
“We’d have no idea how to find her,” Bucky interrupted. “I looked for her, remember? Tried to prove to myself that it wasn’t -“ he stopped, unable to even say it out loud. Unable to think it. He took a deep breath and started again. “We know where she’s going to be the last night we saw her. After that, she could be anywhere and we’d have no way to know.” He shook his head. “We only get one shot at this. I’m not going to take the chance that we try and change things and miss, leaving her stranded. Or worse. No.” He shook his head again. “No, I can take it.”
“That’s leaving a pretty thin margin of error, Buck. After the pub-”
“I can do it.”
“It wasn’t just-”
“I won’t risk it,” he replied, with finality.
Steve nodded. They were quiet again for a while after that, until Steve clapped a hand on Bucky’s shoulder. “I have something for you.”
Bucky followed Steve back inside to Steve’s apartment, where he dug a thick Manila envelope out of his desk and handed it over.
“Gabe’s grandson gave these to me when I first came out of the ice. Guess his family had been holding on to them for awhile.”
Bucky swallowed hard and looked inside the envelope, already knowing what he’d find. Tied up in a small bundle, were his letters from Darcy.
He pulled out the bundle and let the envelope fall to the floor. He opened the first letter in the stack and took a deep breath.
Even after 70 years, it still smelled like her perfume.
~*1943, New York City*~
When times were stressful, Darcy cleaned. She didn’t have much to scrub these days, but every inch of her room was currently spotless.
After a few weeks of no word from Bucky, the only conclusion Darcy could draw was that the first of the moments she had been dreading had finally come to pass. Between this realization and wondering if anyone had been left alive in 2018 to send a rescue, it was a miracle she hadn’t scrubbed completely through the floor and into the apartment below.
An incessant pounding on her door put a temporary halt on Darcy’s only partially irrational hatred of the Alps and her assault on the dust bunnies under her bed while she went to answer the door.
She threw it open to find a petite brunette with very familiar eyes and a nervous expression.
“I’m lookin’ for a Miss Darcy Lewis.”
Darcy swallowed hard. “That’s me.”
The girl ran her eyes over Darcy. “Oh wow. Jimmy didn’t say you were so fancy.”
Darcy blinked. “I’m sorry, what?”
Tears filled the girl’s eyes. “He asked me, a long time ago. If somethin’ happened to him, if I could come see you.” She held up a telegram as the first tear spilled. “Somethin’....”
Darcy’s breath stuttered. “Come in, come in.” She ushered the girl inside. “Want some tea?” she asked as she settled the girl into a chair. She nodded and Darcy busied herself at the hot plate.
“I’m sorry,” the girl muttered. “You’re bein’ so nice and I ain’t even introduced myself. I’m Jimmy’s sister, Rebecca.”
Darcy smiled at her. “Nice to meet you. Bucky’s told me a lot about you.”
“Yeah?” Rebecca smiled.
“That bit with the pocket for his shirts was genius.”
Rebecca preens slightly under the praise. “He said you were nice. Never mentioned how fancy you are though.” She looked around nervously.
Darcy raised an eyebrow. She’d been called many things, but fancy had never been one of them and this girl had done it twice in less than five minutes.
“Nice place like this, pretty clothes, fancy job. What’re you doin’ with a guy like Jimmy anyway?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Darcy handed Rebecca her cup of tea and sat across from her.
Rebecca shrugged and stared into her tea. “Girls always want somethin’ from Jimmy. He’s a flirt, sure, but he’s always taken care of us and girls want to take advantage. ‘Slike they know he’s a good guy and they all want a piece of him. They know he’s dependable, and he’s not gonna spend the rent money on cards or booze, and he’s not gonna knock ‘em around, so they go for him. Even when they don’t like him that much. He always plays along but.” She shrugged. “It’s sad to watch.” She shook her head. “He’s different about you though. ‘Slike...all that other stuff never happened. You the real deal?” She picked up the telegram and held it out to Darcy. “Because he asked me to come find you if somethin’ ever happened. So he seems to think you’re somethin’ special.”
Darcy swallowed hard, a lump forming in her throat. “I think he’s pretty special, too,” she replied softly. She took the telegram and pretended that her hands weren’t shaking.
“He taught me to punch, you know. He’s a three-time welterweight champ, and I ain’t afraid to punch Howard Stark’s assistant if she’s just stringing my big brother along.”
Darcy grinned. She kind of loved Rebecca Barnes already. “Let me show you something.” She reached around and grabbed her handbag from the end table. She reached inside and pulled out a thick bundle she’d tied together with a bit of ribbon.
“Every letter he’s ever written me.”
Rebecca gaped. “You carry it all? All the time?”
“All the time,” Darcy replied. “I love him.”
“But you’ve only met him once! Everything else is letters and long distance. You sure this ain’t just some notion you cooked up? It’s all romantic because it’s a war and havin’ a sweetheart overseas gets attention.”
“He could come home tomorrow and nothing would change.” Darcy replied honestly, as she ran her fingers over the telegram on the table. “In fact, I’d probably prefer it.”
“Even if somethin’ terrible has happened? If he comes back...different? They say a lot of boys come back different. And if...if somethin’...” her voice trailed off as she brushed her fingers over the telegram on the table.
“I choose him. I want him - any way I can get him.”
Rebecca stared at her for a moment and then broke into a grin. “You just might be good enough for Jimmy.”
Darcy smiled. “I try.”
Darcy turned over in bed for the fifth time in as many minutes before turning the light back on. She reached for her handbag and pulled out the bundle of letters from Bucky.
She ran her fingers over the first letter in the stack and blinked back tears. She had taken to keeping them with her at all times so that when Jane finally arranged a ride back to 2018, she could take them with her.
If she couldn’t keep Bucky, she could at least keep this.
Darcy cursed her luck and wondered how this had become her life. She knew that there were millions of people just like her out there, worrying about their sweethearts as they rode off to war. She also knew that there were millions of people who had to watch loved ones deal with all kinds of trauma. Still, she felt unbearably alone.
It was one thing to know the horrific things that had happened to Bucky. It was quite another to be aware of them before they happened and be completely unable to do anything about it. Even if she could wrap her head around all the ramifications to the timeline, what would she have done - storm the tent of the commanding officer of the 107th and demand they not go to Italy?
She could have. She’d probably have gotten herself locked up, but she could have at least tried.
She pulled the first letter from the bundle and opened it. She traced his words with her finger, careful not to smudge any of the writing.
Our one night wandering the city was the best night of my life.
Tears fell from her eyes and she adjusted her posture so none of them would fall onto the letter. She desperately tried not to think about Bucky’s current predicament. Knowing was so much worse than not knowing.
Tears continued to fall without her permission and she stuffed the letters under her pillow to protect them from her emotional deluge.
“I can’t do this. Janey, where the hell are you?”
Heads up - this story now has a playlist...even for chapters that haven’t posted yet! (Spoiler alert...)
Just in case anyone is interested. ;-)
~*1943, New York City*~
Darcy wobbled a little on her heels as she climbed the steps to the Barnes’ apartment. She mentally cursed 1940s dress codes, gender roles, and whatever slimy slumlord was the superintendent of this building because she is 100% certain that steps shouldn’t collapse like that.
After shaking off the malise of the previous evening, Darcy had been filled with a new determination. If she couldn’t help Bucky, maybe she could at least commiserate with his sisters. They had to be missing him just as much as she was - sure, it wasn’t exactly the same, but maybe they could all ease each other’s burdens together. If only a little. Darcy shook her head to clear it of errant thoughts and settle her nerves. She took a deep breath, rapped three clear knocks on the door, and crossed her fingers they wouldn’t slam the door in her face.
A girl of 16 or 17 answered the door. “Hello?” she asked, a little suspiciously.
“Hi!” Darcy was going for bright and friendly but probably leaning more towards manic.
“Miss Lewis?” came a voice from inside. Rebecca Barnes appeared at the door, and opened it wider, shooing the younger girl away.
“Darcy, please.” She smiled and hefted the bag of groceries so Rebecca could see them. “I was hoping we could trade - I buy groceries and you teach me to cook.”
“You want - you bought all that? Today?” Rebecca was a little incredulous.
Oops. “And this is why I need your help. I’ll never be of any use to your brother.” She went for a winning smile as her inner feminist cringed and shouted obscenities, while her inner realist berated Darcy’s pitifully inadequate knowledge of what was normal in the 1940s. The Howling Commandos Netflix series had left her woefully unprepared for a stop in this decade. If the universe still existed in 2018 after all of Darcy’s blundering through the past, it would be a miracle.
Oh shit, maybe that’s why Jane hasn’t shown up yet. Darcy said the wrong thing to the wrong person and destroyed the universe.
She mentally shook off that thought and focused back on Rebecca.
“That’s...What are you going to do with all that?” Rebecca asked.
Darcy shrugged. “You can keep whatever we don’t need.”
Panic flashed across Rebecca’s face. “Oh we couldn’t possibly-“
“Mr. Stark provides lunch and dinner most days at the office and I have nowhere to keep all this. It’ll just go to waste if you don’t keep it. Besides,” Darcy aimed for a casual shrug, “I don’t usually use all of my Ration Stamps. I figured I could share.”
And sinker. Rebecca pursed her lips and nodded, fully opening the door and allowing Darcy inside.
Darcy mentally berated herself again for her heavy-handed tactic as she looked around the small apartment, but she was desperate for any excuse to see the Barnes sisters. She had really enjoyed her visit with Rebecca, and spending time with Bucky’s sister helped ease the ache in her heart at Bucky’s current predicament. But if at the end of today, Rebecca still seemed uneasy, Darcy would stay away.
She hoped she helped ease Rebecca’s mind - if nothing else a full pantry couldn’t hurt, right? She knew Bucky was sending home his pay, and the girls didn’t look like they wanted for much, but still. Darcy banished those thoughts and tried to stay in the here and now as Rebecca took the bag from her and paused, staring at Darcy.
“You know,” Rebecca started slowly, “you could have just stopped by.” She smiled with a shrug. “It’s nice...someone else worrying about him, too.”
Darcy released the breath she was holding and let out a short burst of laughter.
“I’m really glad he has you, you know.” Rebecca grinned. “But enough about my mess of a brother. Let’s see what you brought,” she said and led Darcy into the kitchen.
~*1943, Austria-Italy border*~
Bucky blinked rapidly and shifted the gun in his hands. They were about 20 miles into their march back to a Allied camp, and he was sure that he should be more tired than this. He’d been sick - he’d been dying - when HYDRA had pulled him from the cell. They hooked him up to IV bags and machines - there was no way they’d actually given him medicine, right? No one had ever come back when those bastards took someone from a cell and dragged them into a lab. He racked his brain but only had a hazy memory of something being strapped to his head followed by an all-encompassing pain. Now, his arms were stiff and his legs felt foreign but nothing was actually wrong.
Maybe this was all just a fever dream. Maybe he was still in that cell, and he was imagining all this as he was about to die.
It would certainly explain why Steve was suddenly so much taller. And the guy with...the red face...that was weird.
If this was all real - if Howard Stark had actually found a way to change Steve’s exterior to fit all the heart and fight he’d had inside, and then Steve had actually come and saved them all - then he was going to need to sort himself out pronto. He had no idea what those HYDRA bastards had done to him, no way to know that he wasn’t a slowly ticking time-bomb that would go off and hurt everyone he cared about.
He stumbled slightly, earning a sharp glance from Steve, but Bucky shook his head and they continued marching in silence. Oh god, what if he was a trap? If he was the trap that would lead those insane assholes straight to their door, then it wasn’t safe for him to go back.
But if it wasn’t safe for him to go back, then it certainly wasn’t safe for him to go home either.
And if he couldn’t go home, then there was absolutely no future for him. No future, no Darcy. Dammit all to hell, Steve should have just left him strapped to that table if that was the case. It would have been kinder to let him die when the building came down than to force him to face a future without Darcy. Even if he could go home, if there was ever any possibility that he could hurt her, then it was out of the question. He wouldn’t risk it. Besides, Darcy deserved better than some broken old soldier who couldn’t even keep himself from getting captured and experimented on.
Oh god, they had experimented on him. Bucky felt panic in his chest and bile rise in his throat and tried to push it all away, but all he managed to do was bring tears to his eyes.
He shook his head to try to clear it and calm down. If HYDRA had done something terrible, had experimented on him and made him some sort of monster, Steve would help him. Steve wouldn’t stop. Hell, he was currently marching 30 miles through the Alps because Steve wouldn’t give up on him.
He had to have faith Darcy wouldn’t give up on him either. Just like he couldn’t give up on her.
He shifted the weight of the gun again. For now, he would get back to base, get his head on straight, and do whatever he needed to do to wipe HYDRA off the map. Only then could he get home and be the man Darcy needed - the man Darcy deserved.
His best revenge - the only revenge - against HYDRA would be a life well lived, and he was going to do everything in his power to do just that.
Guys. We've hit over 500 subscriptions! Who are all of you lovely people??
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
~*1943, New York City*~
The day after news of the 107th’s rescue - by none other than Captain America himself - circulated around Stark’s office, Darcy planted herself in his private office until he finally showed up.
“Your calculations are wrong,” is out of her mouth before he’s even finished opening the door.
Howard Stark, to his credit, barely blinks. “Oh yeah? How so?”
She points to a set of numbers pinned to the wall. “You transposed these,” then moved to point to a technical drawing. “And you haven’t accounted for the change in pressure when centripetal force is applied. All you’ve got here is a drawing of an unreliable bomb that’s more likely to explode in transport than if it hits what it’s pointed at.”
Thanks again, past-future-me for spending a week organizing the Stark Archives.
“Huh.” Howard shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at the drawing she was referring to. “Guess I owe you another one, kid.”
“You’re taking me to London.”
“Thought you’d ask eventually. This anything to do with your sweetheart in the 107th?”
“I’ll get you set up. Captain Rogers brought back a few things they’d like me to look at, and if you can spot errors like this in a schematic you’ve seen once, then I’d like my new senior technical advisor to be there.”
Darcy blinked. That...was much easier than she’d anticipated.
Howard looked sad and a little guilty. “Besides, that outfit I work with - the SSR. They ordered the 107th to Azzano. I owe you a lot more than one, really.”
Steve never mentioned that. She wondered if he’d ever even known that the organization that ordered the 107th to their doom also abandoned them to it.
“I’m not due back over there for another week,” he continued.
“Name the time and I’ll be ready.”
He nodded. “Don’t suppose I could interest you in-“
“Don’t push your luck, Mr. Stark,” she smiled as she left his office.
“Wouldn’t dream of it, Miss Lewis.”
10 days later and it’s all Darcy can do to not fangirl like crazy when Stark introduced her to Peggy Carter. The woman was legendary and here she was, in the flesh, helping Darcy with paperwork. Goodness gracious, none of the movies or books or museum exhibits had even come close to capturing Peggy Carter’s awesomeness. Not even the fabulous movie Helena Bonham Carter won an Oscar for (that Darcy could practically recite word for word) quite captured the woman in all her glory.
Darcy barely reads half of what she signs, knowing the more places her signature shows up, the higher chance of Jane finding her one of these days. She paused on one though, re-reading it twice.
“What's this one?” she asked, waiving the sheet at Peggy.
Peggy glanced at it. “London is still under rather frequent bombardment. We require emergency information from all our civilian colleagues so we can take appropriate action should anything happen.”
“Oh,” Darcy paused. “Hmm.” Darcy hesitated for a moment, then picked up her pen and began filling in all the information.
Once all of the paperwork was sorted out and Darcy was settled in, Peggy gives her a tour of Stark’s lab.
“Captain Rogers brought it back from the HYDRA production facility in Austria. He claims it’s the most powerful explosive known to man.” Peggy tells her as they stop in front of a table holding a small, strange box.
Darcy peered at the device, eyes widening as soon as she recognized it from the Stark Archives and Steve’s stories float through her head.
“What? What is it?” Peggy asked upon noticing her expression.
Darcy turned to her. “Agent Carter…” Darcy trailed off, unsure what to say. What she even could say. “Promise me. If you ever find the thing that gives these devices their power, bury it. Drop it to the bottom of the ocean and leave it there.”
Peggy’s eyes widened. “Why?”
Darcy thinks of the Chitauri and of all the people who were killed in New York. “Earth isn’t ready.”
After the lab, Peggy suggests they go find whatever pub Steve and Bucky are darkening the door of, and Darcy is ready to pledge her firstborn to the woman.
“We just received vital information that Captain Rogers will need for tomorrow morning,” Peggy told Darcy.
Darcy wasn’t fooled. “And the knockout dress?”
Peggy flushed slightly. “I’m dressed for the occasion and the location.”
“And it’s absolutely vital that Captain Rogers sees you. Hey, I get it - you’re just letting him know what he’s missing. But trust me - he’s already very aware.” Darcy smirked. “And very, very interested in your vital information.”
Next chapter: THE REUNION.