“Honey, I’m home!” Darcy called out, hanging her keys on the hook and unwinding her scarf from her neck.
Bucky shuffled in from the kitchen and wrapped himself around Darcy without a word.
“Hey handsome,” she cooed, rubbing circles into his back as they swayed slightly back and forth. He didn’t respond, just held her tighter.
“Quiet day?” she hummed into his neck. He nodded in response.
“Okay.” She gave him another squeeze, and then pulled back slightly. “Let’s make dinner.”
They moved into the kitchen and began their nightly routine. Darcy flitted about the kitchen, gathering ingredients, while she directed Bucky in what to chop and when to add something to the pan. He took direction well, and his therapist encouraged Bucky finding an innocuous use for a knife.
30 minutes later, dinner was on the table. Darcy pressed a kiss to the top of Bucky’s head as she passed behind him to get to her chair. She was rewarded with a smile and they dug in.
First bites enjoyed, Darcy gave Bucky an appraising look. “So, a new pup came into the shelter today.”
Bucky looked at her and nodded.
“They think she’s going to be a tough one to adopt out.”
A crinkle of confusion appeared between Bucky’s eyes.
“She’s had a rough time lately. I was thinking, maybe after she’s had some time at the shelter, gotten checked out, you might want to meet her?”
Bucky’s eyes lit up and after a moment, he nodded with a small smile.
Darcy returned his smile. “Okay. I’ll figure out when a good time would be and we’ll go. Want me to ask Steve to come with us?”
Bucky paused for a moment and shook his head.
“Okay, no Steve. What about Sam?”
Another pause and then a nod.
“It’s a date.”
Darcy met Sam the next morning, coffee in hand.
He took his paper cup with a grateful smile and enjoyed a long sip. “Your coffee is magic, Darcy.”
“Yeah, I can order a latte with the best of them,” she grinned.
“So,” he said, leaning forward on the picnic table, “I read the file. It’s a nice fit, I like it. And I swung by the shelter and met your pup, she’s a sweetheart.”
“Any red flags?”
“Not from my point of view. You think he’s ready?”
Darcy played with the sleeve on her paper cup for a moment, considering. “Yeah,” she said slowly. “Yeah, I think he is.”
“Well alright. Let’s go get you and Barnes a dog.”
A week later, Darcy and Bucky walked up to the shelter, hand in hand. Bucky paused near an alcove near the entrance.
“Buck?” Darcy asked.
“I hid here.”
Dracy peered into the alcove. “Here?”
Bucky nodded. “I followed you from the Tower. There were people staking out the entrance you used every day and I wanted to make sure no one else followed you.”
Darcy nodded. She’d known that he had seen her, sort of, but had never asked for details.
His voice grew quiet. “This was where I was when I decided to come in.”
“I made you cry.”
Darcy stopped in her tracks. “What?”
“You were standing here,” he motioned to the steps where Sam was patiently waiting and pretending not to be listening to their conversation. “You got a call from Steve. When you hung up, you were crying. You asked me to come home. So I found you at the coffee shop the next day.”
“Bucky,” she breathed and pulled him into a hug. He pressed a kiss into her hair and gently lifted her so that her toes were barely touching the ground.
When they separated, Darcy wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled up at him. “Ready to go see if this is our pup?”
He nodded and the joined Sam at the entrance to the shelter and walked inside.
“Darcy, hi!” a soft, but chipper voice called. A tall blonde woman approached them. “And you must be Mr. Barnes.” She didn’t extend a hand until Bucky did, but then she gave it a firm shake. “Darcy has told us so much about you. I’m so happy to finally meet you in person. I’m Laura, I’m the adoption counselor here.” She nodded in acknowledgment of Sam. “Are you all ready to meet her?”
At Darcy’s nod, they were led back into the facility to a series of large cages, each one housing a dog with a wagging tail and happy expression. When they reached the end of the row, Laura motioned for them to stop.
“You should approach one at a time and give her a minute. She’s been through a lot and isn’t too sure about strangers.”
Darcy nodded at Bucky, encouraging him to go first. He slowly approached the cage. Inside a chocolate brown pit bull was curled up in the corner. As Bucky slowly leaned down the way Darcy had showed him, she cautiously stood and approached to sniff him. After a few moments, she shoved her head under Bucky’s hand in a blatant demand for ear scratching.
He smiled. “What’s her name?”
“Becca,” Darcy replied quietly.
“Where’d she come from?”
“She was rescued from a dogfighting bust a few months ago,” Laura replied. “We’ve been working with her ever since.”
Bucky’s hand stilled as he turned to Laura. “She was forced to fight and kill other dogs?”
Laura nodded, sadly.
Sam slowly approached and leaned down for Becca to sniff him. “She’s been approved to begin training as a therapy dog. You could work with her, if you want. She’d be your support dog. Or she could just be your pet. It’s up to you.”
Bucky resumed petting Becca’s head and reached forward with his left hand to stroke her back. “She’d be safe around Darcy?”
Darcy flushed. “I work with her all the time, Bucky.”
“I know. Is she safe?” Becca was licking Bucky’s metal fingers now.
“Yeah,” she replied with a smile.
“Becca,” Bucky whispered. “Want to go home?”
Becca jumped and knocked Bucky over, snuggling into his lap and licking his face in doggy joy.
Sam chuckled. “Guess that’s a yes.”
Darcy surreptitiously wiped at her eyes and knelt down to whisper to Bucky. “Becca’s coming home.”