"Where’s a Hale when you need one?” Darcy panted. She collapsed against the elevator wall and tried to catch her breath.
“I regret everything,” Jane moaned, trapped against the opposite wall by the Dimensional Relay Detection Array. She wiped at the sweat beading on her forehead, breathing hard.
“Isn’t this tower full of superheroes?” Darcy demanded. “The world’s not currently on fire, they can’t be that busy!”
“I don‘t think ‘hauling scientific equipment’ is in their job description.”
“It’s not in mine, either!”
“It most definitely is,” Jane told her.
“Well, I’m having it written out of my Stark employment contract,” Darcy grumbled.
Jane looked like she might argue, but then seemed to remember the trailer full of equipment that still needed to be hauled to her new lab on one of Stark Tower’s upper levels. “Me, too.”
“Thor did this on purpose,” Darcy continued as the elevator doors opened. “He planned to have a meeting this morning, I know he did.”
“I think the Intergalactic Relations meeting takes precedence over moving me into the tower,” Jane said with amusement. She nearly dropped her end of the large, heavy machine on her foot and suddenly changed her mind. “Thor, you bastard.”
Darcy laughed breathlessly and tried not to drop her own end. She stumbled awkwardly under the weight of the DRDA and careened into the lab. They set it down more roughly than usual and Darcy winced at the ominous clink from somewhere inside the temperamental machine.
Jane collapsed on the floor of the lab, sighing in relief when the AC unit whirred to life above her. Darcy dropped down beside the Fae and piled her hair on top of her head. “I hate moving.”
“Dr. Foster? Miss Lewis?”
Darcy and Jane stared at each other from behind the machine, hidden from the door. “Is that Pepper Potts?” Darcy mouthed. Jane nodded, eyes wide. They scrambled to their feet. “Hi!” Darcy said breathlessly to the beautiful CEO. “You’re Pepper Potts.”
“I am,” Pepper said with a polite smile.
“We’re a hot mess,” Darcy informed her apologetically.
“Minus the hot, triple the mess,” Jane finished with a grimace. Darcy nodded.
“You look perfectly fine,” Pepper said, now visibly amused. “I actually came by to inform you that we have movers available to transport your equipment to the lab. I sent someone down to let you know earlier.”
Darcy turned to glare at Jane. “Would it maybe have been the guy you terrified into running away when he accidentally knocked over your suitcase, Jane? ”
“I have breakable things in there!” Jane protested feebly.
“I’ll show you breakable things,” Darcy growled under her breath. Jane rolled her eyes.
“Thank you, uh, Ms. Potts?” Jane scrunched up her face, unsure.
“Pepper is fine,” she assured them. “I’ll direct the team downstairs to your equipment.” Pepper gave them a friendly smile and left, perfectly balanced on her five inch heels.
“We’re on a first name basis with the CEO of Stark Industries,” Darcy said in disbelief. “What the hell is my life?”
“I know . God, how does she walk in those so perfectly?” Jane asked, craning her neck to watch the woman stalk towards the elevators at the end of the hall. “Wait, no, they can’t touch my stuff! Darcy!” Jane darted out of the lab. Darcy sighed heavily but followed, prepared to do damage control. It wouldn’t be in good taste to let Jane traumatize other Stark employees on her first day.
Her own Stark employee contract didn’t mention living space. Which actually worked out pretty well, because Derek and Laura had already set aside the two apartments upstairs from their own for Darcy and Stiles. She’d rather be closer to the pack, anyway.
And Darcy really, truly, honestly adored her apartment. It was bright and open and airy, with large windows and beautiful grey hardwood floors and custom cabinets. Her bedroom was gorgeous, blue and grey and gold with a massive, fluffy bed. Her bathroom was even better- a tub big enough for two or more, a walk-in closet, and a separate shower she could probably fit her couch into.
Her apartment was beautiful and everything she’d ever dreamed of having and more. But it was also empty. The second bedroom remained unused, and the lovely open spaces just echoed back exactly how quiet it really was in the apartment.
She spent a lot of time downstairs at Derek and Laura’s, or breaking into Stiles’s apartment next door and watching TV while he cursed over his grading. “Maybe I’ll get a cat,” Darcy mused, shoving a handful of popcorn into her mouth.
Stiles barely looked up. “You’re barely ever home, Darce, why would you get a cat?”
“Maybe because those dumb werewolves downstairs made me forget what personal space meant,” Darcy grouched. “And now everything is too quiet, all the time.”
“Without ten howling ‘wolves crammed in one house?” Stiles asked, amused.
“Yeah,” Darcy sighed. “The tower is super quiet, too. Well.” She reconsidered. “Except when things are blowing up.”
“Does that happen often?” Stiles asked, slightly concerned. He worried for her health, sometimes, in that well-meaning but infuriating way he had. If he tried to lecture her on eating healthier foods one more time…
“Stark apparently goes on science benders with a lot of booze and no sleep,” Darcy explained. “Things happen.” She glanced at the clock and sighed. “I gotta get going.”
“Text me when you’re on your way home,” Stiles said absently. “So we know when to expect you.”
“Okay, dad!” Darcy yelled on her way out the door. She passed Derek on the stairs. He looked adorably flustered to be seen, which amused Darcy to no end. “Get some, Der,” she called after him. His growl followed her down the staircase, but so did Laura’s laughter.
Smiling, Darcy stepped out onto the streets of New York. More specifically, the streets of Iron Heights, the up and coming neighborhood for supernatural creatures in the city. Which wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
Darcy frowned over at a cluster of werewolves across the street. They broke apart under her gaze and quickly left. More territory disputes, she sighed to herself. Fucking werewolves.
For now, though, she had fucking vampires to deal with. Nate- Julian’s right hand man in whatever the hell it was that the undead businessman actually did- met her with an easy-going grin just down the street.
“’Sup, Lewis?” He greeted, straightening from his casual lean against the wall.
“Nate,” Darcy returned. She couldn’t help but smile back at his friendly, ever-cheerful face.
“The boss sends his apologies,” Nate told her as they walked down the sidewalk. “He’s still out of town.”
“I know, he’s sent me three texts about it already,” Darcy said, rolling her eyes fondly.
“I’m a better fighter, anyway,” Nate said with a cocky grin.
“I’m sure,” Darcy said dryly. “You know where we’re going?”
Nate sobered. “Yeah, just a couple streets over. I think we’ve got a rogue vamp on the loose.”
“That’s what Julian said,” Darcy nodded. She sidestepped a pile of trash on the sidewalk and neatly dodged the outstretched hand of a werewolf passing by. He flashed his eyes at her. Darcy flashed hers right back, irises burning with the vibrant gold of her spark. The werewolf changed his mind and scurried away.
“Couple people in the neighborhood turned up dead, their necks ripped open and blood everywhere,” Nate reported, eyeing the retreating werewolf dangerously. “I’m thinking someone turned a vampire and set them loose. Or maybe they killed whoever made them and ran off. I’ve seen it go both ways.” He shrugged.
“Are they…” Darcy twirled a finger beside her head. She felt her otter tattoo echo the movement under her sleeve.
Nate huffed a laugh. “Crazy isn’t the technical term. Bloodlust would be more accurate. New vamp, first feeding, no master there to keep them under control? That could start a frenzy.”
“Frenzy?” Darcy asked, not liking the implications. For someone who’d known a vampire for years, she certainly didn’t know as much as she probably should. To be fair, a lot of vampire lore was deliberate misdirection on their part. The sunlight thing? She glanced at Nate, basking in the fading afternoon light. Total bullshit.
“The bloodlust goes to their head and they lose any semblance of humanity they had left,” Nate said grimly. “They’ll attack anything and everything in sight.”
“And they could just start chomping on people in the middle of the street?” Darcy hissed, suddenly very concerned.
“Doubtful. Newly turned vampires have some sensitivity to the sun, you know.”
Well, she did now.
Nate continued. “They probably won’t want to be in direct sunlight. At night, though? Yeah, that could go bad.” He turned them down a side street and up to a run-down apartment building.
Darcy followed him through the doorway, blinking at the sudden darkness. Nate paused so suddenly she smacked into him. “Hey, what-”
“Do you smell that?” Nate asked quietly. Darcy froze, shaking her head. “Upstairs.” He tipped his head back and inhaled. “Blood. A lot of it.”
Darcy eyed him closely, spark humming in response when his eyes burned a dark red. “Nate? We gonna have an issue, dude?”
Nate shot her an offended look. “I’m three centuries old, you infant. I can handle a little blood.” Darcy made sure to kick him in the leg on the way up the stairs, scowling when he barely stumbled.
He stopped halfway down the hall on the third floor and tipped his head significantly at a closed door. Darcy nodded and stepped back, motioning for Nate to move away. He obeyed as she quickly warded the hallway to block any noise from slipping down the halls.
Nate was through the door an instant after she blasted it into pieces with her spark.
Darcy cried out in warning when a blurry shape launched itself from the dark corner of the room. Nate barely flinched when fangs sank into his upraised arm. He flung the vampire aside and growled. It snarled right back, blood dripping from its mouth.
Fever-bright eyes caught on Darcy, then, and flared with interest.
Darcy watched the young man warily, noting the bruised eyes and emaciated form. Blood streaked his tattered clothes, likely from the person Darcy could see crumpled in the other room, unmoving.
“You brought a stake, right?” Darcy asked in a low aside.
“Stake? What the hell are you talking about?” Nate asked. “You have to behead them.”
“Nate, what the fuck?!” Darcy yelped. “Why didn’t you say so?” She backed away from the doorway, cringing when the vampire’s creepy red eyes followed her.
“I didn’t know you got all your information from Twilight!”
“Not everything! It’s just hard to tell what’s real and what’s bullshit with all the vampire lore.”
“Darcy, watch out!” Nate lunged for her at the same time the other vampire did. The other vampire got to her first, but she was ready. Darcy dodged the lunge and open mouth, muttered a “whoops” when he crashed face first into the wall, and backed quickly away.
Her foot caught on a nail sticking out of the floor. Darcy tripped, arms pinwheeling, as Nate shouted in alarm. The other vampire whirled around, faster than expected based off of its supposed physical appearance and caught her wrist.
Darcy blasted it with her spark, sending it half a foot deep into the drywall, but not before its fangs scraped her wrist.
Two thin trickles of blood ran down her hand. She didn’t notice, too busy staring in horror at the vampire writhing in pain on the ground.
“Did he bite you?” Nate asked urgently. He grabbed her arm and inhaled sharply when he saw the small wound. Nate turned to watch, tugging her a few steps backwards as the vampire began to seize.
“Oh, my god,” Darcy breathed. “It just barely scratched me, holy shit.”
They watched as the seizures grew more violent and intense until the body started to crumble. Darcy staggered back a few more steps, watching in shock as the figure dissolved into ash.
The pair stood in stunned silence at the brief, violent encounter.
“Well,” Nate said, blowing out a breath. “That’s one way to do it.”
“Do I have rabies now?” Darcy asked, staring at the small bite wounds in disgust.
Nate coughed a laugh. “No, you don’t have rabies. Jesus.” He rolled his eyes when Darcy stared at him in alarm. “And no, invoking the Lord’s name doesn’t work on us, either. Obviously.”
“Lame,” Darcy said, healing the tiny marks. “So, that was fun and all, but I have to go to my other job now. It usually involves less murder, but we’ll see what kind of mood Jane’s in today.”
Nate led the way down the stairs and back onto the crowded sidewalk. “Uh huh. The Seelie Queen’s daughter, right? Remind me to never get on your bad side.” Darcy smiled sweetly at him as they parted and started the fifteen minute walk to the tower.
Darcy was slightly surprised at the lack of Tony Stark in Stark Tower.
He hadn’t appeared once during their move and the past week and a half they’d been working in the upper levels of the building.
Darcy found herself wandering the halls of Stark Tower later that night, waiting on her program to finish coding the data so she could finally go home and catch a couple hours of sleep. Darcy should have guessed that she’d run into him at the common area’s bar, of all places.
“Can’t sleep?” Tony asked, standing behind the bar in the otherwise empty and mostly dark common area.
“Jane does her best work at night,” Darcy said absently as she walked towards the bar, staring at the city lights. “I don’t.” That and she was still wired from the fight earlier.
“Oh, she does, does she?” Tony asked with a leering grin.
“That’s not what I meant and you know it, perv,” Darcy said, amused despite herself. Tony waggled a glass of whiskey at her. Darcy shrugged and accepted it. “It’s awfully quiet for an alleged superhero frat house,” she said, sipping the drink. It went down smoothly, a much higher quality liquor than she was accustomed to.
Tony snorted a laugh. “Pepper also lives here, so that’s hardly accurate.” They were quiet for a while, sipping the whiskey and watching the city skyline.
Darcy figured now was as good a time as any. “I guess you did a background check,” Darcy said, tracing her finger along the smooth, dark wood of the bar. She kept her eyes on her finger.
Tony was quiet for a moment, watching her. “Interesting backstory, Lewis,” he said finally.
She smiled without any amusement. “Interesting is one way of putting it.” Darcy risked a glance up, met his dark, unreadable gaze. “Kinda surprised you let me in here, after reading all that.” To a human- missing more than half of the crucial details of every noteworthy event in her life- the report probably looked like a horror story.
Tony rolled his eyes. “I don’t think anyone in this tower had a happy childhood.” He poured more whiskey into his glass. “Besides, you seem pretty well adjusted, all things considered.”
“To be fair, I had a lot of support,” Darcy said. Her smile this time was fond.
“But they never caught him? Argent?” Tony asked casually. Darcy shook her head but said nothing, smart enough to know even five minutes after meeting him that Tony Stark was not one to do anything casually. “Police report said it was retaliation, a family feud of sorts.”
Darcy scoffed. “Family feud, sure. If that’s what you want to call Kate Argent trying to kill an entire family for no reason.” She saw the quirked eyebrow, the thoughtful expression. He’d want more, she saw it written all over his face. More answers to the events that made no sense in real life, much less on paper. “Kate Argent didn’t live through the night, the Hales took me in, and Gerard extended his hatred to all of us. One of the deputies at the Beacon Hills station apparently agreed. He’s the one that... Well.” Darcy stopped talking and went back to staring at her glass.
She still seemed to see them, wherever she went. The flash of a face in a crowd, a similar gesture, a male voice behind her. Blake and Gerard still remained at large. They could be anywhere, doing anything. Waiting for the right moment, planning their next move, possibly hurting someone else in the meantime.
It was a wonder she still slept at night.
“It’s a wonder you still sleep at night,” Tony said with a shake of his head.
“I’m not the same 17 year old girl they ambushed on the side of the road,” Darcy said with a dark smile. “To be honest, I’m sort of hoping they try again.” She had a score to settle, after all.
Tony studied her intently for a moment, and then crooked a commiserating grin at her. “Revenge is great therapy. I can speak from personal experience,” he said, offering his glass. She touched her own gently against it in a toast to that and downed the rest.
“So, Lewis,” Tony said in a much lighter tone as he poured her another three fingers of the whiskey. “Please explain your degrees. Political science and engineering? What the hell, kid?”
“Poli sci is uh, relevant to my interests,” Darcy said. “And engineering was just for fun.”
“’Just for fun’?” Tony asked with a short laugh of disbelief. “You graduated top of your class, and you apparently have a natural inclination for machines.” He gestured down the hall towards Jane’s lab. “I’ve seen those monstrosities in there. Is that your doing?”
“They’re ugly, but they work,” Darcy said with a shrug. “Jane needs functional, not pretty.”
“See,” Tony said. “You managed to create the Frankenstein’s monsters of equipment for the world‘s leading astrophysicist. Why the master’s degree in political science instead of engineering?”
“Political science is more important,” she responded. “At least to me, right now.”
Tony shook his head. “The audacity...”
Darcy laughed and relaxed in the chair. They argued long into the night, ruining any chance she had of catching any sleep at all, but Darcy found she didn’t mind.
“Interesting backstory, Lewis,” Tony says, as if he doesn’t already have an entire detailed, comprehensive folder of Gerard Argent’s movements over the past twenty five years. As if he hasn’t already started planning an “unfortunate accident” once Jarvis finds the asshole.
This is an interlude of sorts when Tony and Jarvis run the background checks on Darcy & Jane. It's technically happens before chapter 1 and shows what Tony now knows (which is not much- he's got more questions than answers at this point, really).
Tony breezed into his lab, nearly tripping over DUM-E lurking behind a workstation. "Don't touch that, DUM-E, or I'll sell you for scraps." He turned to the table hosting Jarvis's work, scanning the screen and throwing a few documents up to the holo screen.
"Jarvis. Anything on those checks say 'masquerading as a mole for Hammer and/or has devious plans to murder us all in our sleep?'" Tony asked cheerfully. “They get their access cards later this week, so we gotta sort through the rest of this before they get too comfortable in the upper levels.”
"No, sir, neither Dr. Foster nor Miss Lewis were flagged when run through the algorithm."
"Alright, gimme the rundown, then," Tony said, ignoring DUM-E's insistent beeping. Jarvis dutifully pulled up the relevant documents.
"Dr. Foster was raised by her father until his death during her first year of college. She has no other living relatives."
"Absent, sir. No record of her mother."
Tony studied the screens, discovering a newfound solidarity with the tiny astrophysicist. "Huh. We should start a club," he muttered. “A club for genius orphaned scientists.”
Jarvis, used to Tony’s nonsensical mutterings, continued. "There were some... oddities in Miss Lewis's file, however."
Tony raised a brow and swatted DUM-E away. "I don't want your motor oil milkshake, for god's sake! Go away! To the corner! Consider yourself banished."
Jarvis waited patiently while the bot beeped sadly and rolled away, claw hanging dejectedly. "Sir, it seems there was no record of Darcy Lewis until she was twelve years old, when her birth certificate was filed."
"Well, that's interesting," Tony murmured. "Talia Hale filed the certificate? Pull up all info on the Hales, Jarvis."
"Already done, sir."
"So, not even a whisper of Lewis for 12 years, and then a stranger halfway across the country files a birth certificate for her? Where were her parents?"
"Sir, it appears that Anna Lewis, listed as her birth mother on the certificate, was found murdered in Texas. Three weeks later, Talia Hale filed a birth certificate for Miss Lewis. Miss Lewis was seemingly fostered by the Hales after the certificate was filed."
"Shit," Tony said. He flipped through the documents Jarvis found, brow furrowed. "So what the hell happened here? And how did a child make her way from Texas to northern California on her own?"
A terrible thought occurred to him as he skimmed the police report. "Jesus, was she with her mother when this happened?" Troubled, Tony stared at the pages documenting Darcy Lewis's early life. Something else caught his eye. "No father listed on the birth certificate?"
"No, sir. No record of the father anywhere."
He studied the pictures of the two women. “What a pair,” he muttered. “I really am starting a club now.”
“Ah.” If AI’s could clear a nonexistent throat, Jarvis had just managed it.
Tony furrowed his brow and glanced up at the ceiling at his AI’s uncharacteristic hesitation. “What does that mean?”
“Perhaps you have even more in common with Miss Lewis.”
“Do tell,” Tony sighed, already reaching for the booze.
“It seems Miss Lewis was kidnapped approximately one month after graduating high school.”
Tony froze, bottle and glass in hand. “ What ?” Jarvis helpfully pulled up the reports for him to read through.
Tony rubbed at his mouth, tamping down his horror at the photos taken after Darcy had- evidently- escaped. “Jesus, what did they do to her?” Tony asked quietly, unable to tear his eyes away from the long line of stitches along the young girl’s leg, the bruises and the dried blood, her blank, empty stare.
He skimmed through the police report, through Darcy’s statement, which was chillingly short on details. Tony’s eyes caught on the APB put out in response to Darcy’s statement. “Gerard Argent, why does that sound familiar?”
Tony frowned at his AI’s pause. “Jarvis?”
“Gerard Argent is listed as a known associate of Obadiah Stane.”
The hair on Tony’s arms stood on end. “What are the fucking odds of that,” he murmured, unsure what to do with this information. “And no one’s found Argent yet?”
“No, sir, he has remained undetected. However, it is worth mentioning that Katherine Argent, his daughter, was suspected in a number of homicides across the country.”
“A whole family of psychos, of course,” Tony muttered, taking a long swig of his drink.
“Actually, it seems as though Gerard Argent’s son, Christopher, helped raise Miss Lewis. His own daughter is close friends with her as well, based off of their social media interactions and history of phone calls.”
“Okay, so, half a family of psychos, then. Jesus. She was seventeen,” Tony said quietly, back to staring at the police report. “Just a kid.”
“Miss Lewis seems to have a strong support system,” Jarvis informed him. “She deferred her acceptance to Culver for one year and lived in New York with two of her foster siblings. Miss Lewis then finished two bachelor’s and a master’s degree in two years on campus. She spent her final semester with Dr. Foster.”
“A smart kid,” Tony said, impressed. “Especially to manage it after all of this.” He waved the hand not holding the whiskey at the police report photos. “Her family still in New York?“ Jarvis pulled up their profiles. “Derek and Laura Hale,” Tony read. “An artist and a lawyer. Plus a few friends from high school. The rest are still in California?”
“Yes, with the exception of Allison Argent and Lydia Martin, both in Boston. Both have their names on a lease for the same apartment building as the Hales, however, and seem to be planning to move to New York after graduation.”
“Not lacking in friends, is she? And to gain Foster’s respect- from what I've heard, that’s even more impressive than all the rest of it.” Tony rubbed a hand over his eyes and sprawled out on the lab’s couch.
“Alright. Guess they can stay,” he said, half-joking, but he considered the implications of Darcy Lewis’s case file long into the night.
And so the second Avenger is acquired
Darcy barely glanced up when the elevator doors slid back open on the ground floor to admit someone male, tall, and blonde. Cora’s insistent tone overwhelmed everything else in the moment. He nodded politely to her and did an about-face to stare at the closed doors.
She eyed the man’s impossibly broad shoulders, the even more impossible waistline, the sad eyes. Darcy double checked- yep, the only elevator with access to the upper levels- and recalled Thor’s descriptions of his “brother in arms, the noble Captain Rogers.”
Cora growled down the line. Darcy refocused. “No, I will not tell you how to hotwire the car,” Darcy said for the third time in the conversation. Captain America’s eyes widened imperceptibly in the reflection of the elevator.
“I don’t care if it’s a family tradition, Cora, I am so not taking the heat just so you can take Peter’s car out for a joyride.” Darcy rolled her eyes at Cora’s pleading. The corner of Steve’s mouth curled up, ever so slightly. “Uh huh. Yeah. Whatever you say, kid.”
Darcy hung up, caught between a sigh and a grin. All of her conversations with Cora tended to end that way. “Little sisters,” she told Captain America, aka the man with the world’s saddest eyes. “Nothing but mayhem.”
A full smile this time and, wow, okay, Cap’s got game. Darcy offered her hand when he turned those insanely wide shoulders towards her. “Darcy Lewis, professional scientist wrangler.” He accepted the handshake with almost insulting gentleness.
“Scientist wrangler, huh?” He tipped his head towards the Stark logo emblazoned on everything with a flat surface in this stupid tower. “Must be exhausting. They’re quite the handful.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Darcy said with a snort. “At least I’m only responsible for Jane, thank god.”
A light of comprehension in his eyes. “Jane Foster, that’s Thor’s girl?”
“I dare you to call her that to her face,” Darcy said, amused. “But yes, she’s dating Thor. Or rather, Thor’s dating her. An important distinction, here on earth.”
Steve looked a little bemused at that. Darcy decided to change directions before her big mouth got her into trouble. Again.
“Headed back to the common area?” Darcy asked casually. She watched the enthusiasm drain from his eyes at the thought of the giant, empty room. “You know, I didn’t have time for breakfast this morning.”
All thanks to the fucking Fae that tried to stab her on the way to her favorite breakfast cafe at 7 in the fucking morning . But Captain America didn’t need to know the details. “If you aren’t busy, maybe you could eat breakfast with me?”
He squinted at her suspiciously, like she was offering out of pity. And she maybe was, but come on, he had the saddest fucking eyes in the world. Also, breakfast with someone that had an upper body shaped like a dorito and a face that beautiful? Count her in.
Darcy typed a quick response to the group chat- yep, Cora called me, too- and spoke while she skimmed through the responses. Jesus, but the pack’s group chats were out of control.
“Jane’s cranky as fuck before 9 a.m. and I can’t deal with that without my usual coffee and bagel.” She looked up and up and up . What did they feed this guy, seriously? “So? Bagels? Coffee?”
Steve smiled down at her. “I’d like that.”
“Where have you been, it’s almost ten o’clock!” Jane exclaimed when Darcy practically floated through the lab door. “I was about to send out a search party!” Which just meant Thor, probably.
“I just had breakfast with Captain America , Jane,” Darcy sighed. Jane quirked an eyebrow, reluctantly amused with Darcy’s swooning. “Well, with Steve. He prefers Steve.” Once he’d loosened up a little, Steve was funny and gorgeous and actually a little shit, Darcy was very pleased to discover.
“That’s why you skipped out on me this morning?”
“Ugh. No.” Darcy tossed her phone on one of the desks and warded the room. “Your mother sent another fucking minion to try and kill me this morning. I missed my bagel and coffee, Jane.”
Jane grimaced somewhat apologetically. “You’re forgiven.”
“I’d better be, the fucker almost got me,” Darcy grumbled.
Jane looked up at that and squinted over at her. Darcy shook her head. “I’m fine, I knew it was coming.” She’d started wrapping her spark around her like a second skin to shield her on the way to and from Stark Tower. New York City’s supernatural population, combined with human criminals and the occasional supervillain, meant the city was essentially a dumpster fire. Three attempts at murder, six cases of physical assault, an occasional fire, and she’d only been in the city for a month.
“You knew it was coming?” Jane asked.
“Eh, just had a feeling someone was following me.” Darcy shrugged, as if she hadn’t walked three blocks with her heart in her throat, thinking Gerard had found her. Even knowing she was shielded, that he couldn’t touch her, didn’t stop that sinking feeling of dread and fear from returning.
She changed the subject, not wanting to dwell on it any longer. “We still going upstate today?”
“Yes,” Jane said, hopping off the desk. “I can’t get any decent readings in this city, there’s too much interference.”
“Good,” Darcy told her, firing off a quick text. “I’m meeting with a pack upstate to develop wards for their territory. Mind making a quick stop with me? I just have to meet them first and see the place.”
“Sure, if you think they’ll be okay with me tagging along,” Jane said uncertainly.
Darcy bared her teeth in a smile. “It’d be a good reminder that I have very powerful friends,” she informed the Fae. “I usually take someone with me on these trips, anyway. Safety precaution.”
“I’d be happy to drop someone into the Fae realm if they try anything,” Jane said seriously.
Darcy slung an arm over her friend’s shoulders. “You’re the best, Janie.”
Four hours later, Jane and Darcy parked the Pinz in the driveway of a large, Victorian style house with a sprawling yard. The Alpha, a tall and lean man with brown skin and friendly eyes, waited until they stepped out of the car to approach. He gained a few points in Darcy’s book for that, by not making them come to him. Werewolf behaviors were both intricate and infuriating.
“Sentinel Lewis,” the Alpha greeted warmly, extending a hand.
“Alpha Marrero,” Darcy returned, accepting the handshake.
“Please, call me Lucas.” He turned to Jane and bravely offered his hand to the Fae as well, even with Jane’s glamor flicking in and out the way Darcy had quietly asked her to do before arriving. Jane looked pleasantly surprised to be acknowledged. “You must be Dr. Foster.”
“I am. It’s nice to meet you.”
“You as well,” he said. “I wasn’t aware you were coming.”
Darcy glanced up from where she’d been studying the earth, trying to detect the ley lines far beneath the surface. “Is that an issue for you?”
“Not an issue,” Lucas sighed. “But I’m afraid my children will be beside themselves that they missed their chance to meet you.”
“They’re a fan of Jane’s?” Darcy asked, walking the ley lines. Jane looked bewildered to hear this.
“Huge fans, especially after the invasion in London,” Lucas said. He smiled at Jane. “You’ve ignited their interest in school again. My wife and I are eternally grateful.” Jane and Lucas spoke further about his children- three of them, ranging in ages from six to fourteen- and their interests.
Darcy tuned them out as she sat down and focused on the energy thrumming inside of the earth- the life of everything around them, all of it connected and intertwined. She closed her eyes and sent her spark zinging through the tangled power, gritting her teeth when the feedback hit.
Yep, plenty of earth magic available to tie the wards into, Darcy decided as she disconnected from it and opened her eyes. There wasn’t a nemeton nearby, but the earth itself still contained magic and life- all things she could easily use to fuel the wards.
Darcy climbed to her feet, brushing the dirt and grass from her legs. Jane and Lucas looked at her. “I can definitely work with this,” she told Lucas. “What did you have in mind?”
“General wards for incoming threats,” Lucas said, scanning the open spaces of the yard. “More focused on the house, really. Is it possible to prevent someone from entering unless they’ve been invited?”
Darcy cocked her head in thought. “I’ve used a rune to prevent someone from entering a home if they have any harmful intentions for a member of the household. I can even have it account for the stupid shit, like old grudges.”
“Yes, that would be excellent.” Lucas brightened. Darcy studied him for a moment.
“Is there something specific you’re worried about? I can alter or add runes at any time, but it’s best if I know earlier, so I can work them in deep with the first line of wards.”
Lucas shrugged. “We’re a small pack- it's just my family and three of our friends that didn’t want to be omegas. I’d rather be safe, just in case.”
Darcy put her hands on her hips and look around the property. “I can help you with that.”
“That’s wonderful. Thank you, Sentinel Lewis.”
“Ugh, please call me Darcy. The Sentinel title has a lot of history behind it. It can be a little suffocating.”
“I understand. Thank you, Darcy. Should we discuss payment?”
Darcy thought for a moment. “You initially suggested a monetary payment,” she said.
“I didn‘t want to be presumptuous,” Lucas explained.
“So you’d be open to a favor and an alliance in return for the wards?” Darcy asked. Jane raised an eyebrow but said nothing.
“I would,” Lucas said carefully. “With certain restrictions on the return favor.” Darcy smiled. She loved a good negotiation.
“Well,” Jane said hours later as they left with a wave to Lucas and his excitable children, who waved enthusiastically back. “That went better than expected.”
“They don’t always end in violence and attempted kidnappings,” Darcy reminded her. “Scotland was a fluke, I told you.”
“You almost got stabbed on your way to work this morning,” Jane retorted. “Forgive me for having a few misgivings.”
Darcy reached over and patted her friend on the arm. “Thanks for being my super scary bodyguard today. I really appreciate how you let the kids sneak up on me while I was working.”
Jane coughed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“There is dirt in my hair, Jane Foster, and it’s your fault.”
“They just wanted to play,” Jane said defensively. She was also covered in dirt, so Darcy was couldn’t actually be very annoyed.
“You were good with them,” Darcy said a few minutes later. And she was- the Fae had answered approximately three hundred rapid-fire questions, allowed the excited tugging and clinging to her body, and patiently explained her work in kid-friendly terms four times over.
Jane shrugged. “I like kids. They’re smart and want to learn, and they haven’t written off any possibilities just yet.” Jane tilted the GPS towards her. “Turn here, we aren’t far enough out for my readings.” They staggered back to the tower late that night. Thor greeted them both and then whisked Jane off to their apartment. Darcy waved goodbye and walked home, tired from the day’s work. By some miracle, she was not stalled by supernatural shenanigans along the way.
The next morning, Darcy passed Steve in the halls on her way to drag Jane out of bed. She took one look at the quiet tension in his shoulders and dragged him out for breakfast again.
Steve left their impromptu breakfast with his eyes a little brighter, seeming as though the weight on his shoulders had lessened with a little friendly company. He was going to snap one day, Darcy mused as she walked to the lab. No one with that much anger and sorrow could keep it bottled up forever.
“Jane, he’s sad,” Darcy said, following her friend around the lab.
“You can’t drag every sad person you meet into the pack, Darcy,” Jane huffed, stalking back over to the whiteboard.
“I’m inviting him to dinner tonight,” Darcy decided, ignoring Jane.
“Is that a good idea?” Jane asked, alarmed. “You guys aren’t exactly subtle.”
”Pssh.” Darcy waved a hand dismissively. “It’ll be fine. Most of the time people are too distracted by the general everything of the pack to notice occasional growling or other weird quirks.” She glanced up, saw Jane’s dubious expression. “We’ll go to a restaurant instead of eating in, if it makes you feel better. For the most part, the pack behaves better in public.”
“If you say so,” Jane muttered. She’d been out numerous times with the pack now, and “behaving” was most definitely not in their vocabulary.
Darcy sat with Jane and Thor in the common area that night, waiting for Steve, who had been surprised at the invitation to dinner. “Just to be clear,” Darcy had told him, “I’m not hitting on you. You’re not my type-” lie- “and I’m not getting that vibe here.” That was true. Steve had only laughed in response, though he seemed more relaxed about the invitation after that.
Tony paused in the doorway, eyeing the group suspiciously. Before he could say anything, Steve rounded the corner, dressed in slacks and a button down shirt that made his eyes look obnoxiously blue.
“Double date?” Tony asked when Steve offered his arm to Darcy, much to her delight.
“Why? Jealous?” Darcy asked as they headed past him for the elevators. Jane snorted, still half-focused on her notes as Thor guided her along. “We’re going to dinner,” Darcy explained. “Because that’s the sort of things friends do. I tried to ask you, but your lab door was very pointedly locked and you couldn’t hear me over the music. Jarvis said you didn’t want to be disturbed,” she shrugged.
The elevator opened behind them, revealing Pepper. “Oh! Hello, everyone.” She neatly sidestepped the group and looked pointedly at Tony. “Our reservations are in 10 minutes, Tony.”
“See ya, Stark!” Darcy called over her shoulder as Steve politely excused them with Pepper.
“So, Steve, a few things you should know before we get there,” Darcy said as they walked out of the tower and turned towards one of Julian’s restaurants nearby.
“Number one,” Jane interrupted. “They’re insane.”
Darcy tripped her. “Ignore Jane, she’s still adjusting.” Steve looked both amused and wary. Smart man. “Okay, so, they can be a lot,” she admitted. “Lots of loud personalities, they’re very physically affectionate, and nosy as fuck.” She glanced up, noted his raised eyebrows. “Tell them to fuck off if they get on your nerves.”
“I’m not going to-”
“Do it,” Jane advised. “Or they’ll never respect your boundaries.”
“They are very welcoming,” Thor told Steve. “You will be treated as family from the first meeting.” Thor had been accepted with absolute delight by the pack- after they’d teased him relentlessly about Darcy taking him down years ago. Thor took the friendly teasing with good grace and fit in well with the physical nature of the pack. The werewolves were just happy there was someone else to wrestle with that could keep up.
“But family can be a pain in the ass sometimes,” Darcy said. “So it’s fine if you don’t want to answer any questions.” She slid her gaze to Jane, who nodded back. They’d make sure the pack didn’t ask for anything too revealing- Darcy was still pretending she didn’t know Steve Rogers was Captain America. He hadn’t mentioned it, so neither would she.
However, she’d also lived with werewolves for most of her life and therefore knew the signs of someone with superhuman abilities. Steve battling the overwhelming sensory input every time he stepped onto the street? Sign. Wrinkling his nose at the burned trashcan two blocks up and upwind of them? Sign. Steve jerking his head around to assess the whispered argument between a couple across the street? A giant, neon, flashing billboard.
At this rate, the pack would pick up on Steve’s secret faster than he would theirs.
Darcy guided them to the restaurant and dragged Steve inside to the already crowded U-shaped booth where the pack was seated. Jackson sat on the end of the left side, Danny on the inside next to him, then Laura. Derek stood and let Jane slide around to sit beside Laura, followed by Thor. Steve was insistently pushed along to sit beside Thor and Darcy slid in after him after accepting a hug from Derek.
“Guys, this is Steve, he works in the tower. No invasive questions allowed, you nosy assholes.”
Darcy went through the introductions of the pack quickly and efficiently.
Stiles showed up a few minutes into the introductions, looking a little harried and out of breath. He kissed Derek, who’d leapt up at the sight of him, and let himself be shuffled in beside Darcy so that Derek and Jackson could be at the ends of the table. “Overprotective idiots,” Stiles grumbled fondly.
He gave Darcy a significant glance when she raised a brow at his ruffled appearance. “Later,” Stiles said lowly, tugging his sleeve down to cover the sleeping fox curled up on his wrist between the trees tattooed on his forearm. Steve’s sharp gaze caught the motion and he flicked his eyes between the two of them, noting their quiet concern and solemn faces.
“Derek’s an artist, too,” Darcy told Steve, hoping to distract him. She had seen him sketching the previous day, to be fair, and thought he and Derek might have a lot in common.
Steve seemed a little taken aback at first, but he was quickly drawn into the group in the way the pack was so good at doing- with those they liked, anyway. Darcy explained some of the non-supernatural references in a low aside to him, including the many anecdotes from the pack’s history together.
Steve and Derek hit it off, discussing art and Derek’s degree and the art classes he taught for free in the city on the weekends.
Laura and Thor talked diplomacy and expectations. Stiles and Darcy were roped into the conversation, too, everyone careful not to direct hint or mention specifics with Steve there.
Jane, Danny, and Jackson started out discussing the new program Jane and Darcy were trying to design for her data. At some point, though, they took to arguing heatedly over the latest Rangers game. Darcy lost track of the actual point of the argument two minutes in.
Darcy kept a close eye on Steve, happy to see him smile a little brighter, look a little more engaged in his conversations, if a little unsure in the midst of the chaos.
“This isn’t even everybody,” Darcy told him after dinner. The pack had ordered dessert and coffee and now chatted comfortably over and around each other.
“We’re missing about half the group,” Stiles nodded, sprawled back against Derek. He laughed at Steve’s expression.
“You think they’re obnoxious,” Jane said with a nod at the group. “Wait until everyone’s here. That is sheer chaos.”
“You love us, don’t lie,” Laura said, slinging an arm around Jane’s shoulders and planting a smacking kiss to her cheek. Jane looked at Darcy, her eyes very clearly saying ‘You did this to me.’
Darcy beamed back at her, content to have at least part of her pack together.
Darcy and Jane rounded the corner in Stark tower, deep in discussion about the latest printouts of the atmospheric readings in the city. Darcy pointed to a line of code from the error message halfway down the page to prove her point and promptly crashed into someone.
Clint Barton caught her before she fell and set her back upright. He stepped back with a polite smile and then startled badly when he realized who stood in front of him. “It’s you!” Clint cried. Darcy swatted aside the accusing finger pointed in her face. Jane narrowed her eyes dangerously at the archer.
The beautiful redhead at Clint’s side caught Darcy’s attention, mostly because she was watching the interaction with obvious interest. Darcy focused on the woman and then nearly dropped her handful of papers in shock.
Her camouflaged otter tattoo swam up to cling near Darcy’s neck, growing increasingly anxious. Jane stiffened at Darcy’s side, pressing close to the spark in warning. Darcy’s spark curled around her, not reacting in any way to the woman, even though every nerve in Darcy’s body was on end just standing near her.
“Darcy Lewis and Jane Foster,” Clint explained to the women. “This is Natasha, my partner.”
“This is the Darcy Lewis that kept detecting all of your agents in New Mexico?” Natasha asked with a friendly smile.
“Yes,” Clint grumbled. “I threatened to send three agents back to basic training until she caught me, too.”
“Interesting,” Natasha mused, eyes drifting over Jane with an unreadable expression.
Clint looked between the three of them warily. “Is there a reason you three are circling each other like a bunch of pissed off cats? All this tension is freaking me out.” They ignored him.
“Well, it was nice to meet you, but we really gotta get going. Clint, it was nice to see you again, I guess,” Darcy said over her shoulder. Natasha watched them go with curious eyes as Clint sputtered in offense.
“What was that? What was she ?” Darcy hissed to Jane in the safety of the lab.
“I don’t know for certain,” Jane admitted, face pale. “I’ve only heard a suggestion of their existence, and even then it was played off as a joke, but…”
“But what, Jane? You’re freaking me out here,” Darcy said impatiently, on edge from the encounter. She felt agitated about the whole thing, actually, especially because her spark didn’t react at all to the agent, even though she was most definitely something .
“She’s Void,” Jane said quietly, throwing a careful glance over her shoulder.
“She’s what?” Darcy asked.
“Void,” Jane repeated. “No one knows much about them, not where they come from or how they’re made, but the important thing here is that no magic on earth can work on or against someone who’s a Void.”
“That’s not possible,” Darcy said faintly.
“It is, though. Somehow.” Jane sat heavily in a chair.
“Wait, so, no magic,” Darcy said, trying to think. “Does that mean…”
“Glamor won’t work on her,” Jane confirmed, face grim. “And neither would your spark. They absorb all magic inflicted on them, no matter the source.”
“So my camouflage rune-”
“Useless. My glamour, too. She could probably see straight through it all.”
The low-grade anxiety about the Natasha situation was shoved aside for the following afternoon as Darcy waited impatiently outside the airport. Laura waited beside her, propped up against the Camaro.
“Shouldn’t they be here?” Darcy muttered, pacing in front of the werewolf.
“They’re close,” Laura said, eyes closed and her face turned towards the sun. “I can feel them through the pack bonds.” Darcy glanced briefly over at her sister- she still hadn’t asked Laura about the future Hale Alpha’s plans for the pack. Plans that apparently included Darcy and Stiles as official pack members, something the rest of the world just might try to kill them for.
“How close? Like, still in the air close, or- oh! There they are!” Darcy darted through the crowds and was almost instantly tackled by Erica. Familiar with their enthusiasm, Boyd caught them and kept them upright as the two women hugged each other.
Darcy reached up and yanked Boyd down to hug him, too. “I missed you guys so much, I can’t believe you’re here, oh my god!”
“I know, I know!” Erica bounced happily in place. She backed up a step and wiggled her fingers in Darcy’s face.
Darcy gasped. “You finally proposed?” She asked Boyd, throwing her arms around him.
“No,” Boyd grumbled. “She beat me to the proposal by fifteen minutes.”
“Hah!” Darcy turned to face Laura. “That means I won the bet!”
“We’ll discuss semantics later,” Laura said, rolling her eyes. She wrapped Erica, then Boyd, into a tight hug. “Congrats, you two.”
“Thanks,” Erica beamed, tangling her fingers in Boyd’s. He smiled down at her, eyes bright and happy. Darcy wiped at her eyes, thrilled for her best friends.
“C’mon, let’s get out of here before that security guy comes back,” Laura said, nudging them towards the car. Boyd climbed in the front seat, Darcy and Erica allowing it out of respect for his much longer legs.
“You guys are staying with me,” Darcy told them, wiggling around to face Boyd.
“Stiles is next door, right?” Erica asked, turning to face them. “And you two are downstairs still?” She asked Laura.
“Yeah, even though Derek spends more time in Stiles’s apartment than ours now,” Laura smirked.
“God, I’m so glad they sorted their shit out,” Erica sighed. “The pining was driving me insane.”
“Did they ever tell anyone what happened in Maine?” Boyd asked. The others shook their heads. “Typical. Where’s everyone now?”
Darcy listed off on her fingers. “Jackson and Danny are at work, Stiles is in class, and Derek’s hanging out with Steve.”
“Steve?” Erica asked, wrinkling her nose. “Who the hell is Steve?”
“Steve Rogers,” Darcy started to explain.
Laura butted in. “Yeah, the super hot guy we’re all supposed to pretend isn’t genetically enhanced.”
Erica gasped. “Does that mean what I think it means?”
“No! Well, yes, but you can’t even hint that you know, okay? He still hasn’t told me about it. I think he just wants to be treated like a normal guy for a while,” Darcy said.
“So Captain America doesn’t know he’s been making friends with a bunch of werewolves?” Boyd asked, somewhat amused.
“He does not, and he will not find out anytime soon,” Darcy said threateningly.
“Boring,” Erica told her. “How about you tell us all about Stark Tower, huh? Is it as cool as everyone says? Have you met Iron Man? Are you an Avenger by association?”
Darcy rolled her eyes. “Yes, I’ve met Tony Stark. He was actually pretty cool, which I wasn’t expecting. Not sleazy or a complete dick like all the tabloids say. And no, I’m not an Avenger, Erica. The world would fucking implode if a spark joined a team of superheroes.” Erica made a face in response.
She looked over at Boyd. “How long are you guys staying?”
“We left Isaac in charge of the store in Beacon Hills,” Boyd explained.
“Yeah, he seriously loves it,” Erica said. “We pretty much let him run the store now, so we could plan for the New York one.” The Beacon Hill’s store- bakery, books, herbs, soaps, etc- found immediate success, and not just the consulting side. Erica had to hire a second baker for Beacon Hills.
“We’ve got plans to meet realtors for spaces this week,” Boyd told Darcy. “And then we’ll start renovations.”
“I have very specific layouts in mind,” Erica informed the spark.
“So, a couple months at least, to get everything up and running,” Boyd said, getting back to Darcy’s question.
“Fuck yes,” Laura said from the driver’s seat. “Allison and Lydia are supposed to move by the end of the summer, too. We’ll have even more of the pack in one place.”
“What about Scott and Kira?” Darcy asked, wincing as Laura threaded aggressively through traffic.
“Scott’s still in vet school,” Erica reminded her. “He’s working with Deaton, too.”
Boyd calmly gripped the seat when Laura took a turn at thirty miles an hour. “Kira’s working with Peter some. She’s got a gift for tracking down old books with magic, apparently.”
“She wants to be a rare book dealer, too?” Darcy asked, interested. That would certainly be useful for the future.
“Think so,” Boyd shrugged. “Peter’s excited to have a student.”
“I bet,” Darcy said with a smile.
Somehow, they made it back to the apartment in one piece. Darcy excitedly showed off her apartment, grinning at Erica and Boyd’s dutiful “oohs” and “ahhs.” The pack piled into Darcy’s apartment later that night for dinner, filling the place with noise and laughter.
Darcy sat back and watched them all with a smile, thrilled to have her family in her home. Erica wrapped an arm around her waist and rested her head on Darcy’s shoulder. “I’m glad you’re here,” Darcy said softly. Erica squeezed her in response and dragged her back into the group.
Darcy jerked upright in bed, her spark winding threateningly around her body like electrified armor as she triggered Stiles’s own wards across the hall with a thought. She scanned the room and then froze as her gaze drifted past the corner farthest from the door.
Natasha watched her curiously from the shadows.
“I wondered what you were,” she said conversationally after breaking into Darcy’s apartment at 3 in the morning .
“I am never sleeping again,” Darcy said to the dark room, heart pounding. Erica and Boyd skidded into her room moments later, snarling. Darcy heard her front door burst open and seconds later Stiles and Derek appeared, ready for anything. Laura stumbled in minutes later.
Natasha looked unfazed by the roomful of growling werewolves.
Darcy fell backwards to land in the pile of pillows. “You didn’t trigger my wards at all,” Darcy said to her ceiling.
“Is that what those were?” Natasha shrugged. “Nothing’s ever worked on me before. I was curious to see if yours would.”
“What the hell is going on here?” Erica asked, baffled. She looked between Darcy and the master assassin now perched comfortably on Darcy’s desk.
Darcy groaned and rubbed her hands over her face. “Natasha Romanov, meet the pack. Pack, meet Natasha Romanov, part-time Avenger and full-time super spy.”
“An Avenger broke into your apartment?” Boyd asked skeptically.
“Why’s she like that?” Stiles asked, alarmed when his own spark didn’t react. “How are you doing that?”
“She’s Void,” Darcy said. Stiles paled and stepped back into Derek, who wrapped a steadying arm around his waist. “Not the Nogitsune kind of void, that was not even a remotely accurate description of that thing.” She glanced at Natasha, in case she wanted to take over. The woman just stared blandly back at her.
“Voids absorb all magic,” Darcy said. “No magic affects them, including any and all wards, evidently.” Natasha watched Darcy’s otter tattoo sail across her collarbones, then flicked down to the lightning tattoo on her uncovered thigh.
Darcy pulled the sheets back over her leg and looked away.
“What’s your angle, then?” Stiles asked, crossing his arms. Laura looked like she might have fallen asleep standing up behind them.
“Angle?” Natasha cocked her head.
“Yeah, what do you want from us? Obviously Darcy and I can’t use our sparks to defend ourselves against you, and no one just shows up at 3 a.m. wanting to chat. I assume you’re here because you want something.”
“I’m here to speak with Darcy,” Natasha said after a moment of consideration.
“You couldn’t have knocked on the front door like a normal person?” Darcy complained. Natasha glanced pointedly at the otter tattoo moving on the spark’s skin. “Alright, point taken.” She looked at the confused group of werewolves and Stiles. “I’m good, guys. Thanks.”
Derek had to drag Stiles out. Erica and Boyd eyed Natasha for a moment and then said, “We’re right next door, Darce.” Boyd helpfully woke Laura and directed her back downstairs.
Alone, Darcy and Natasha stared at each other. “So...” Darcy hinted. She’d really like to go back to sleep at some point tonight, after all. “Why are you here?”
Natasha was quiet for so long Darcy almost drifted off. Finally, she said, “I don’t know anything about this.”
Darcy jerked back into a sitting position. “What do you mean?”
“I’ve never heard that word before- Void. I didn’t know anything other than something was different about me, and that not everyone can see what I do.” Natasha’s face was deliberately bored.
“How is that possible?” Darcy breathed. “You’ve lived your entire life not knowing about any of the supernatural?”
“Some of it I figured out. Werewolves are not subtle as a general rule, it seems.” She flicked an amused glance over at the splintered bedroom door. “But the rest of it- the magic, the wards, whatever Jane Foster is...” Natasha shrugged elegantly.
Darcy could only stare, unable to imagine what Natasha’s life must have been like. To be Void and not know, to not understand why you could see things no one else seemed to see… It sounded like a nightmare.
She scrambled out of bed, ignoring Natasha’s curious eyes on her back, the tree tattoo shining through the thin tank top Darcy wore to bed. “We’re going to go get coffee,” Darcy informed the assassin from her closet. She snatched a sweater at random and shoved it over her head. “And I’m going to explain everything.” She slid her most comfortable jeans on and piled her hair on her head when she couldn’t locate her brush.
“Guys,” Darcy said at a normal volume from the kitchen, “we’re going out. Text me when you’re up.” Natasha trailed her, looking at the pictures scattered all over the apartment with interest.
Darcy heard a faint sound of confirmation from the second bedroom and fired off a text to Stiles and Laura. Natasha was quiet as they left the apartment building and headed for a small 24-hour diner run by one of the tenants of Darcy’s building.
The quarter-Fae nodded at them when they walked in and gestured to a clean, empty booth in the corner of the diner. Darcy let Natasha take the side facing the door and slid in across from her.
“Thanks, Marissa,” Darcy said when the woman came by with coffee. “I think this is all we’ll need.” Darcy inhaled the steam rising from the mug and looked over at Natasha.
“So, why don’t you tell me what you do know and I can go from there?”
Natasha was silent for a moment. “I know that I can see what Jane Foster actually looks like and that no one else does. I assume you have your tattoos magicked to hide them?” Darcy nodded. “I can see through that as well. I knew there was something up in your apartment when I crossed into it, but it didn’t know I was there. What I don’t know it why.”
“I’m a spark,” Darcy explained. “I have a lot of raw power, magic that I can use to create wards or a shield or even something sort of like a lightning strike. My guess is that since you absorb all magic- or deflect it maybe? I’m not sure which one- anyway, my wards didn’t react to you and warn me.”
“I’ve felt something like it before,” Natasha admitted. “On an assignment.”
“Oh, man,” Darcy said, wide-eyed. “You might have crossed wards before in a supernatural’s home or something.”
“Oh, right. So basically, there’s the human world-” Darcy held her palm over the table and created a thing ring of her magic, glowing brightly in the near-empty diner. The armband tattoo of runes shifted around when she concentrated, disconnecting and rejoining to create a rune to disguise what she was doing. Natasha watched closely. “And the supernatural world within,” Darcy said, creating a smaller circle inside of the first.
Darcy slid her hand over a few inches and created another circle beside the first, just barely touching. “And the Fae realm. I’ll get to that in a second.” She pointed at the supernatural ring. “The human world is completely unaware of the supernatural world living inside of it. There are more types of supernatural creatures than anyone can count, from werewolves to magic users to Fae descendants and so on.”
She sat back and sipped her coffee before continuing. “The structure of the world is pretty tenuous, to be honest.”
“How so?” Natasha asked, looking bright and alert despite the ungodly hour.
“The supernatural world has a statute of secrecy, right? No humans allowed, that sort of thing. There are exceptions, of course- humans born or brought into a pack, humans with just enough Fae blood in them to see through glamor, you get the idea. But the secrecy order can only go so far.” Darcy rubbed her thumb over the otter tattoo resting on her forearm. “Sparks used to be mediators for our world.”
“But?” Natasha asked, reading the grim expression on Darcy’s face.
“But they were killed off,” Darcy said. “Nearly everyone turned on them, because they were afraid of that much power in one person. And the politics before that happened, ugh. Don’t get me started.” Natasha raised a brow. “Basically they forcibly isolated the sparks from the others to keep the power separated as much as possible. Some even tried to force the sparks to serve only them. Then the Fae got involved and everything just snowballed from there.”
She rubbed tiredly at her face, smiling gratefully as Marissa refilled their cups. Natasha waited until she’d walked away to say, “But you’re a spark.”
“One of two currently known and active in the world,” Darcy agreed. Naomi was neither, not anymore. Darcy and Stiles hadn’t told a soul who they’d gone to meet all those years ago. Neither of them wanted to put Naomi at risk.
“And people try to do those things to you?” Natasha asked. She glanced down at the three rings of magic still shining on the tabletop.
“Sometimes, yeah,” Darcy shrugged. “I had kind of an… eventful childhood. People took notice, especially since my adoptive family is one of the most powerful werewolf packs in the world.”
She let Natasha consider that for a moment and then moved on. Darcy tapped the third ring. “The Fae realm is a dimension that sits parallel to our own. There are gates that let them pass, assuming a couple of things- the stability of the gate, the strength of the Fae passing through, who holds it, and so on.”
“Is Jane Fae?”
“Yeah, she is. She’s pretty much top of the food chain, too, so the Fae are mostly scared of her. Her mother is the Seelie Queen, who rules half of the realm.”
“Jane is a princess,” Natasha said, an amused tilt to her lips.
Darcy grinned back. “She is, but she hates being reminded of it. I think that’s why Thor’s parents were so wary of her on Asgard. She has a lot of power, and the potential for some truly scary abilities.”
“So everything I’ve seen is… real.”
Darcy’s heart broke a little at that, but she nodded. “Everything. People are just trying to hide it, which I assume you’d also realized?”
Natasha shrugged. “For the most part. I also wasn’t sure whether it was all one giant hallucination.” She considered Darcy a moment. “On the way here, even in the tower, I’ve noticed a few people react at the sight of you.”
Darcy sighed. “Yeah, that happens. I’m trying to rebuild, or at least be public enough in our world that the other sparks feel safe enough to come out of hiding one day. For now, though, I do a lot of peacekeeping in the city. Hunting the occasional out of control supe, building wards for packs and some individuals, you get the idea.”
“They fear you for your power and for your role in this world,” Natasha surmised.
Darcy nodded and they sat in contemplative silence for a few minutes. Finally, Darcy asked, “Does this make us friends now? Because you’re terrifying and I might have to leave the city if you don’t want to be friends.”
Natasha’s lips quirked. “I guess it’d be nice to have people to share this with,” she said thoughtfully. She slid her eyes to Darcy. “And I’d be keeping an eye on you, anyway.”
“Don’t even joke,” Darcy warned.
Natasha shrugged. “Shield’s interested. Apparently, there’s some footage of you kicking an alien’s ass in London. Who taught you to fight?”
“Did you just turn this into an interrogation for the shady organization you work for?” Darcy demanded. She narrowed her eyes when Natasha smiled innocently at her. “Yeah, no thanks. I’d rather not get disappeared.”
“Hmm.” Natasha sat back, letting it go for now.
Darcy checked her phone for the time and sighed. “I’m going to have to tell Jane about all this.” She slid her hand over the table, vanishing the rings. “She’ll be glad to know you aren’t going to try and kill us. Oh! Also, I would not recommend breaking into Jane’s apartment. She just might toss your ass into the Fae realm and lock you in there.”
Natasha just smiled. Darcy made a mental note to warn Jane and returned to her coffee.
“I’ll see you later,” Natasha said eventually, standing. “I have things to do.”
“People to kill? Regimes to destroy?” Darcy squinted up at her suspiciously.
“Wouldn’t you like to know.”
“Yes, I would,” Darcy said. “That’s why I asked.”
“Maybe one day, solnishka,” Natasha said and sauntered away.
“I don’t know what you just called me, and neither does google translate, but you’d better take that back!” Darcy called after her. She shook her head, exasperated, when Natasha just winked back at her. Assassins. They were just as bad as werewolves.
Darcy slumped over the table and wondered how her life had gotten to this point.
Darcy & Jane: “Oh no, what is she goiNG TO DO???”
Natasha: “I want to be friends and I’m just going to keep showing up until you accept the inevitable.”
Solnishka: little sun (because Nat can see Darcy’s spark and it’s hella bright)
Or at least that's what google translate says- if that's wrong, please let me know!
I really, really enjoyed writing this chapter, so I'm posting it early!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“A toast!” Glasses were lifted in response. Maya and Sophia were beaming at each other in the center of the table, looking sickeningly in love. “To the newlyweds!”
Darcy pressed a hand to her chest, smiling from ear to ear as she lifted her own glass of champagne. Beside her, Erica wiped ineffectively at her tears. Boyd handed his fiancé another tissue, looking a little misty-eyed himself.
Her phone buzzed against her skin, strapped securely to her thigh with a garter belt. Darcy excused herself from the group and stepped to the outside of the pavilion. Maya and Sophia’s wedding had been a gorgeous affair; Darcy had soaked in the bright, warm atmosphere all day. That and the champagne had her smiling in contentment as she tugged her dress up to get to her phone.
Steve’s text had the smile dropping away. “‘Going dark, stay safe’? What the hell, Steve?”
Her friend had been in Washington for months now. They’d called and texted frequently, but he had been suspiciously quiet the past few days. Darcy had been so caught up with the wedding, she hadn’t had a chance to check in with him.
A mistake on her part, apparently.
“Everything okay?” Stiles asked as he joined her, flushed from dancing with Derek.
“I’m not sure,” Darcy said, chewing her lip in thought. She slipped her phone back into place and resolved to sort it out tomorrow, when she was less tipsy. She’d have a lot of explaining to do to SHIELD when she tracked down Captain America and yelled at him for worrying her, but Steve had a habit of being a shit-stirrer. Someone had to keep him in line.
She shook herself and focused on Stiles. “Got too hot in there,” he explained, leaning back against the rail. Darcy tipped into his side and sipped her champagne. Stiles slid an arm over her shoulders and stole her drink. “Wards okay?” He asked after a comfortable silence.
“Holding just fine,” Darcy reported. The two of them went through great pains to ensure the security of the wedding and reception. With the Ito Pack, Hale Pack, both Argents, and other scattered supernaturals all present, they’d wanted to be prepared in case someone decided to try their luck.
“Mine, too,” Stiles said. He watched Derek through the open doors, twirling Cora around on the dance floor. “You know, I never thought I’d ever get to have this.”
“This?” Darcy asked.
Stiles gestured at Derek, the bright laughter from the pack inside. “I thought it’d always just be me, my dad, and Scott. And now…”
“We have so much more,” Darcy finished for him. She leaned into him. “I would’ve been all alone if it weren’t for the Hales.”
“Another isolated spark, easy to pick off or worse.” Stiles sighed. “We got lucky, Darce.”
“Nah.” She elbowed him gently in the ribs and tapped the flickering spark tattoo on her wrist. “We made our own luck.”
Stiles smiled at her. “Yeah, I guess we did.”
“C’mon, loser,” Darcy said fondly. “They’ll start looking for us soon.”
Darcy danced until her feet hurt, then kicked her heels off and danced some more. Allison found her hours later, sprawled across a chair at the table with all the cakes. She handed Darcy a glass of champagne, looking positively ethereal in her rose gold dress.
“Alli,” Darcy greeted. She’d barely seen her sort-of-sister over the past few days, too busy helping with the wedding. “How’s Harvard?” If Darcy recalled correctly, Allison was scheduled to graduate this semester with a degree in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Psychology.
“Exhausting,” Allison said, dropping into the chair next to Darcy. “I’ll be glad to be finished.”
“And then New York?” Darcy asked hopefully.
Allison smiled at her. “And then New York. Lydia wants to come work with Jane, now that she’s finished with her PhDs.”
“So they can take over the world together? I don’t think so,” Darcy said, shuddering. She was a little relieved Jane was off-world with Thor right now.
Allison laughed. “The world isn’t ready for that duo.” Across the room, Lydia bullied Derek into dancing with her while Stiles laughed at his boyfriend. Scott, Isaac, and Kira sat together at another table, laughing together.
Darcy watched Boyd twirl a grinning Erica around, Maya and Sophia swaying together next to them. She saw Peter and Chris dancing in the crowd, Talia and Andrew nearby. A pang of loneliness hit her just then, like a hand reached inside her chest and squeezed her heart. Darcy took a long draw from the glass of champagne until she got her face back under control.
Allison tugged a flower from the center piece, playing absently with the petals. “This is all so beautiful,” she sighed, gesturing at the pavilion.
Darcy nodded. “I know. Kinda makes you want it, too, huh?”
Allison watched Lydia for a quiet moment. “Yeah. It really does.” She didn’t say anything more. Darcy didn’t push. They sat in comfortable silence until Allison eventually looked over at Darcy, eyes serious.
“We haven’t really talked about this, but I wanted to let you know that I haven’t stopped looking for him.” Darcy swallowed. Allison continued, “I haven’t given up, Darcy. And I won’t, not after what he did to you. We’ll find him, and we’ll make him pay.”
It said a lot about her life that she could casually switch from discussing wedding plans to murder over petit fours and champagne, Darcy thought. “I honestly don’t know what I’ll do when I come across him again.”
“You won’t be alone,” Allison promised. “Not this time.”
“I wasn’t last time, either,” Darcy said, reaching over to squeeze Allison’s hand with a grateful smile. Allison dimpled at her and squeezed back.
“I hope you two aren’t planning anything stupid,” Lydia said, arms crossed as she stared down at them.
“Aren’t we always?” Darcy asked.
“Not without me, you’re not. But we can discuss that later,” Lydia told her. She looked at Allison. “Let’s dance.” Allison released Darcy and stood, trailing her fingers down Lydia’s arm to tangle their fingers together.
Darcy grinned at them. “New York is not ready for you,” she told Lydia. The banshee gave a pleased smile and tossed her hair over her shoulder as Allison dragged her onto the dance floor.
Darcy thought back to the text from Steve, concern spiking again. She considered going back outside and trying to call him, but Peter appeared in front of her just then, grabbing her hands and twirling her over to the pack. Darcy put it out of her mind for the rest of the night.
“I can’t believe I actually missed you losers!” Darcy shouted. She stood back up, glaring after a shifted Scott, who’d accidentally knocked her down while chasing Erica out the door. Scott yipped in apology over his shoulder but didn’t stop.
Isaac knocked into her as he rushed past, sending her staggering again. Fucking werewolves. She heard more footsteps on the stairs behind her and threw up a shield that stretched across the hallway. Jackson skidded to a stop barely an inch away from the shield, eyes wide. Cora crashed into him and they both slammed into the wall of magic with a yelp.
“Don’t be fucking rude!” Darcy yelled. “Or I’ll hang you all upside down by your toes.”
“Tyrant,” Laura muttered from behind Jackson. Darcy narrowed her eyes at the Alpha-to-be. Laura looked appropriately sheepish.
“Do not push the non-werewolves down,” Darcy lectured. “Got it?”
“Got it,” they chorused. Darcy dropped her shield and stepped aside to let them pass by her very carefully in the hall. Chris watched in amusement from the bathroom doorway, toothbrush in hand.
“I’m going to walk the wards,” Darcy told him. “And maybe kick some werewolves around.”
“Have fun, honey.”
Stiles met her on the porch, coffees in hand. “Just like old times,” he said, passing hers over.
“God, I hope not,” Darcy said with a shudder. Stiles laughed, falling into step with her. Darcy could hear the werewolves crashing through the forest, playing the most violent game of tag ever created.
The nemeton brushed against them both, seemingly happy to have them back within its reach. Darcy acknowledged the ancient magic but very carefully did not engage. It hadn’t wanted to let go of her the last time and she really didn’t want a repeat.
They walked through the (relatively) peaceful woods, double checking the wards around Hale territory. “These are the first wards I ever made,” Darcy told Stiles, brushing a hand over the runes engraved into the tree trunk.
“Me, too,” Stiles said. “After my house, anyway.”
“And your dad’s car, and his clothes, and the sheriff’s station,” Darcy reminded him.
“I wanted to be thorough,” Stiles protested. “And Beacon Hills isn’t exactly a breeze.”
“That’s the truth,” Darcy muttered. “At least it’s mostly under control.”
“Yeah, but now we’re in New York, which is even worse.”
“You ever think that maybe the trouble follows us?” Darcy asked.
Stiles snorted a laugh. “All the time. Derek says we’re both natural trouble magnets, anyway. The spark thing is just icing on the cake.”
“Derek needs to shut his stupid mouth,” Darcy grumbled, right as Derek conveniently crashed through the underbrush and into her legs. Darcy yelped in surprise and barely managed to stay upright, her half-finished tipping dangerously. “Asshole!” She yelled after him.
Stiles laughed, staying carefully out of range of the ‘wolves that darted after Derek. “It’s a full moon tonight,” he reminded Darcy. The pack had stayed in Beacon Hills an extra night to be together for it. Since Jane was in Asgard playing nice with Thor’s parents, Darcy took the week off for the wedding and the full moon.
She never thought it possible, but Beacon Hills was practically a vacation compared to New York. Fewer supernaturals in Beacon Hills, she mused later that night as the pack prepared to go on their ritual full moon run through the preserve. Less forced cohabitation- plus, Beacon Hills belonged to the Hales, all the way down to the dirt and the roots of the trees.
Darcy watched in amusement as Cora bounced through the gathered pack, shifted into a lanky wolf with grey fur just a few shades lighter than Laura’s coat. Allison and Lydia sat nearby, curled up together in one of the deck chairs.
Her attention caught on Stiles, who was squirming uncomfortably from his position on the deck stairs as he watched the ‘wolves in the yard. Darcy narrowed her eyes when he reached awkwardly back to rub at his spine, thumb barely brushing the place where the full moon tattoo glowed silver-white.
Derek, snapping his jaws playfully at Laura across the yard, didn’t seem to notice. Darcy cocked her head when Stiles’s fox tattoo trotted quickly up his arm and disappeared underneath his shirt. Stiles stiffened a second later.
Darcy stood and moved towards him, concern spiking. “Stiles?” She asked lowly, crouching beside him.
“Feel weird,” Stiles gritted out.
“Weird how?” Darcy saw Peter glance up from where he stood pressed against Chris. He frowned and started moving their way.
“Like my skin is crawling,” Stiles said, shuddering. Derek’s head whipped around at the discomfort in Stiles’s voice. He wove through the pack, eyes focused on Stiles.
Stiles stood, unbalanced, and barely managed to grab the deck railing before he tumbled down the steps. Darcy caught the surge of energy just then, the other spark’s magic breaking free of some unknown restraint. Darcy shouted in surprise when Stiles’s body seemed to waver in her vision, blurring and distorting.
The pack whirled towards them. Stiles staggered to the side. Darcy reached for him, only to find herself grasping empty air. She looked around, panicked. A noise at her feet caught her attention and Darcy looked down.
A red fox sat where Stiles stood only seconds ago, blinking up at her in confusion. It sat in a puddle of clothing, the neck of Stiles’s white t-shirt caught around its body.
Darcy stared, open-mouthed. The pack froze in shock. Allison clapped a hand over her mouth as Lydia stepped over to stand beside Darcy.
“Stiles?” Darcy asked hesitantly. The fox yipped at her. Darcy clamped down on a bubble of hysterical laughter. “So. I guess you found out what your special gift is.”
The fox- Stiles- grumbled at her and tried unsuccessfully to dislodge himself from the clothes. Darcy crouched down to help him, squawking when he licked her in the face. “Quit it!”
Derek inched over, eyes wide. He wagged his tail uncertainly at Stiles, lowering himself to the ground to appear less threatening. Stiles leaped at the wolf and nipped him playfully on the nose, unconcerned that he was a fraction of Derek’s size. Derek tucked his nose underneath the fox’s belly and sent him sprawling in retaliation.
Darcy laughed and backed away as the pack circled curiously around Stiles, who bounced excitedly from wolf to wolf.
“He always did want to run with them,” Lydia said, amused. “Is this a spark thing? Are you going to turn into an otter anytime soon?” Darcy laughed.
“No,” she reassured her friend. “Spark magic can manifest in weird ways sometimes- it's a lot of excess power. Remember how I got away from the McAllisters?” Lydia nodded, mouth tightening at the reminder of Darcy’s abduction. “We think that’s how mine manifested. But Stiles’s spark...”
“He’s always been a late bloomer,” Lydia said affectionately as they watched him adjust to his new body. Allison joined them, laughing when Stiles bounded up the deck stairs to press his front paws against Darcy’s thigh. She ruffled his ears and grinned when he darted back to where Derek waited. Scott barked impatiently at his friend by the tree line, dancing in place in excitement.
“Let’s go inside,” Lydia said after the pack had disappeared into the trees. “It’s too hot to sit out here any longer.” They moved to the kitchen, the counters piled with food for the pack’s return. Danny pulled up to the house a few minutes later and joined them.
“How was dinner?” Lydia asked Danny after he’d hugged them all in greeting.
“The usual.” Danny shrugged. “Tutu doesn’t like to make a big deal out of her birthday. It was basically a normal family dinner, just with her there.”
“She’s visiting from Hawaii?” Allison asked, reaching for the wine bottles set aside for all the non-werewolves present at the pack dinners. She poured a glass for Lydia and then passed the bottle to Darcy before settling in beside the banshee.
Danny nodded. “Jackson was going to come, but he was on edge all day. I didn’t want to have the werewolf talk over my grandmother’s birthday dinner so I told him to come here.” Allison snorted a laugh.
“They ran through the preserve for five hours this morning,” Darcy reported. “And then ate twenty pounds of meat and ran right back out again.”
“Full moons,” Allison said, shaking her head.
“At least we get to have Team Mostly-Human nights,” Darcy said, nudging Lydia.
“A few hours of peace,” Lydia agreed. “No growling over food, or shifting in the middle of the dinner table, or howling inside the house.”
“Speaking of Team Mostly-Human,” Danny said, looking around. “Where’s Stiles?”
Lydia let out an uncharacteristic bark of laughter. Darcy grinned at Danny’s confused expression. “Boy Wonder shifted into a fox thirty minutes ago. He’s running with the pack now.”
“It’s a spark thing,” Lydia said with a wave of her hand. Danny nodded and didn’t ask any more questions, long since having given up on understanding magic- or Stiles, for that matter.
“Darce, is this your phone?” Allison asked, unearthing it from the plates of food scattered over the kitchen island.
“Oh, yeah, thanks.” Darcy took it from her and plugged the kitchen charger into it. “It died this morning when Stiles and I were checking the wards. I forgot to plug it in when we got back.” She set it aside and turned to Lydia.
“So, I hear you have people falling over themselves to give you a job,” Darcy said.
Lydia smiled. “Just a few dozen or so.”
“They’re desperate to have her.” Allison rolled her eyes. “But you’re leaning towards NASA, right?”
“They have a branch in New York, affiliated with Columbia,” Lydia nodded. “I want more experience before Dr. Foster and I begin collaborating.” She had a dangerous gleam in her eye.
“With PhDs in mathematical physics and astrophysics? I think Jane would happily start working with you now.” Darcy glanced over when her phone buzzed, finally charged enough to turn back on. Two new messages popped up on the screen.
Darcy frowned and moved away from the discussion to open the messages- one from Steve, and another from the contact with no listed name, only a spider emoji. She had no idea when Natasha had gotten a hold of her phone, but she’d learned to stop being surprised by stuff like this.
“Oh my god.” Darcy stared the message, barely breathing.
“Darcy?” Allison set her glass of wine down and moved to Darcy’s side. She read the message and sucked in a shocked breath.
SHIELD is Hydra. - Steve
Darcy looked up and met Danny’s concerned gaze. “Get your laptop.” Danny didn’t ask questions, too accustomed to pack emergencies to waste time.
Lydia tilted the screen towards her and blinked in surprise. “Hydra? As in…”
“Yeah, that Hydra.” Darcy opened Natasha’s message, absently accepting her own laptop as Danny returned with it.
Trust no one. Be ready. - N
“She sent you this?” Allison asked. “I thought she didn’t trust anyone.”
“She’s likely figured out that Darcy is too engrossed in supernatural politics to pay much attention to superhero or even human conflicts,” Lydia said, watching over Danny’s shoulder as he pulled up news feeds. “Darcy is a safe bet, and probably the only person Natasha can be sure of.”
Darcy scrolled through the news feeds on her own computer, Allison hovering silently beside her. “I’ve been so distracted by the wedding and the full moon,” Darcy whispered, anxiety rising as she read news reports over the past couple days. “I barely looked at anything online.”
“Tutu doesn’t like it when we’re distracted by electronics,” Danny muttered. “I missed all of this, too.”
“Oh, god, arrested? Steve…” If SHIELD really was Hydra, then they could have already- No. No, she wouldn’t think like that. Natasha was with him, she’d watch his back.
“Where would they hold him?” Allison asked, already reaching for her own phone. Chris, off with Peter, would return in minutes. “Do you think he’s still in DC? If we took-”
“Oh, he’s in DC, alright,” Danny said grimly. They looked at him. Danny turned his computer around to show them live footage of enormous helicarriers falling from the sky.
“Holy fuck,” Darcy breathed. She looked to her own computer and reared back in surprise. “Danny, are you seeing this?”
“What?” Allison asked. “Seeing what?”
“It’s... It’s SHIELD,” Darcy said in disbelief.
Lydia tapped her nails on the table, thinking hard. “Someone just dumped all of SHIELD’s data onto the internet?” She flicked a considering glance at Darcy’s phone.
“It’s all here,” Danny told her, typing furiously. “I’m collecting what I can, but this is terabytes of data.”
“Just get everything you can,” Darcy instructed. “Add it to the new database.”
“The security on it’s not finished yet,” Danny protested, still focused on his work.
Darcy shook her head. “I’m doing it now, don’t worry. Just get what you can and we can sort through it all later.” Darcy spent the next hour focused on tightening the firewall to the database Danny had built for them- originally intended for a new, much more cohesive and detailed supernatural database. Darcy had to prioritize, knowing the importance of the data now flooding into the internet.
“If SHIELD- Hydra, whatever- was doing experiments or had written knowledge of the supernatural-” Allison said tightly, face pale.
Darcy chewed at her lip nervously. “I know.” The four of them exchanged heavy looks.
Lydia disappeared, then returned with Stiles’s laptop. She handed Peter’s laptop to Allison, who sat next to Darcy. Darcy glanced over at Allison’s gentle nudge and typed in Peter’s password for her.
“You two start going through what’s in the database,” Darcy said to the two women. “I’ve just given you access. Find anything that suggests or outright states knowledge of the supernatural.”
“Can we delete anything?” Lydia asked, nails clicking rapidly against the keys.
Danny and Darcy shared a glance. “Doubtful,” Danny said. “Who knows how many other people are doing the same thing we are right now.”
Something occurred to Darcy just then. “Oh, shit,” Darcy said. “I’ll be right back.”
She stepped outside, pacing anxiously along the deck as the phone rang. “Tony!” She said in relief when he answered with a terse “Stark.”
“Lewis? Are you okay?” She heard him speaking to Jarvis before he returned to the call. “Where are you?”
“I’m still in California, with my family. I just saw the news, Tony, what-”
“I know, I saw it, too.” More discussion with Jarvis.
“The data, are you-”
“Yeah, it’s... fuck.” Tony blew out a breath. “SHIELD’s gone. Hell, it looks like it was never really SHIELD in the first place.”
“I’m pulling what data I can,” Darcy admitted. “But I didn’t know what was going on, or why this happened. Natasha texted me a warning, but-”
“The Black Widow likes you enough to text you a heads up before she tears SHIELD to the ground?” Tony asked, sounding contemplative. “And why is she so certain you aren’t Hydra?”
“Fuck you, Stark, I’m not a fucking Nazi.”
Tony barked a laugh. “Sorry, kid. I just- there are people I’ve known my entire life that have apparently been Hydra all along.”
“You’re not the only one with trust issues, dick,” Darcy muttered.
“Okay, okay, I said I was sorry.” Tony was silent for a moment. “Cap took the helicarriers down.”
“I saw,” Darcy wrapped her free arm around herself.
“Lewis,” Tony started. Darcy bit her lip hard enough to bleed. “He fell into the Potomac. No one can confirm-”
“No.” Darcy said flatly.
“No. Tony, come on. He’s not dead.” Darcy pressed a hand over her eyes. “He’s not.”
Tony was silent for a moment. “Okay.” He took a deep breath. “Okay, kid. I gotta go deal with some of my board members. Stay in touch, and tell me when you’re heading back. I’ll send a jet.”
“Why would you-”
“Darcy.” Tony’s no-nonsense tone caught her by surprise, enough that she stopped her protests. “You were in the data dump, too. Everyone now knows you were at first contact with Thor, and that you’ve worked with Dr. Foster for years.”
“But I don’t know how to work the bridge!”
“They don’t know that, or they won’t care. Hydra would love to get their hands on someone who potentially has access to other worlds. I’m sending a jet, don’t argue with me.”
Darcy scowled out at the preserve. “Fine. But only because Nazis may be trying to kidnap me.”
Tony huffed a reluctant laugh. “When you know-”
“I’ll call,” Darcy promised. “Be safe, Stark.”
“You, too, kid.” The call disconnected.
The group glanced up when Darcy re-entered the house. “Did you just call Tony Stark?” Danny asked, a little wide-eyed.
“He’s collecting all this too,” Darcy said, waving her hand at the computers. She looked at Lydia and Allison. “Anything?”
Allison shook her head. “Nothing explicit. I can see what may be code words throughout, so if Hydra did know about the supernatural, not all of them were in on it.”
“I’m seeing a similar pattern,” Lydia mentioned. “The higher ups, and their so-called scientists, they only suggest certain elements in their reports. If I didn’t know what I know, I’d write it off as more supremacy talk.”
“But they didn’t want just anyone knowing what they were experimenting on,” Darcy said grimly.
“Subhuman,” Allison said quietly. “They’ve referenced subhuman more a few times.”
“So their supremacist ideologies didn’t just extend to Jews and brown people,” Danny said. “They’ve also been experimenting on and murdering supernaturals, too.” He shook his head, disgusted. “They’re fucking monsters.”
“Then we’ll get everything we can on Hydra,” Allison said after a moment of silence.
“And see if we can’t take care of a few of these problems ourselves,” Lydia finished, sliding her eyes over to Darcy.
Darcy nodded in agreement, pushing thoughts of Steve to the back of her mind. She couldn’t do anything to help him right now- except this. Darcy turned back to her computer and got to work.
TWS plotline starts now and will carry over into the next chapter a little bit. Don't worry, Bucky will show up soon!!
This one's a little shorter, so I'll probably post the next one on Sunday! Hopefully I'll finish the next few chapters this weekend.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“You fucking idiot.”
Sam Wilson paused in the doorway to Steve’s hospital room and looked around uncertainly, wondering how the hell this woman had managed to slip past the two armed guards at the door and the third down the hall- guards personally vetted by Tony Stark, apparently.
Darcy ignored Sam for the moment, too concerned with projecting every ounce of her ire at a somewhat sheepish Captain America. Arms crossed, hips cocked, eyes narrowed, Darcy copied Talia’s “you’d better run” glare.
“I thought you were dead, you dick,” Darcy hissed, leaning forward to angrily stab a finger in his face. Sam twitched, like he’d considered interfering. Darcy shot him a look and he abruptly decided not to get involved- Mama Wilson didn’t raise no fool, and this was a woman on a warpath.
Besides, Steve could use a little lecturing. Sam leaned against the door frame and sipped his coffee, wariness turning to amusement the longer the rant went on.
“- don’t even get me started on the text! And then I find out you were on the helicarrier you blew up? Steven Grant Rogers, you took ten years off my life! I’m so mad I could hit you, but I can’t, because you’re laid up in a hospital bed looking all sad and pathetic.”
Steve straightened, indignant. “Hey!” Sam coughed to cover up his laugh; Steve shot him a dark look.
Darcy stopped, took a breath, and glared at Steve for another moment. She turned to Sam and held out a hand. “The accomplice, I presume?”
Sam quirked a grin as he shook her hand. “The very one.”
“Props to you for keeping up with this guy,” Darcy said, tipping her head towards Steve. Steve rolled his eyes behind her. “I’m Darcy Lewis.”
“Oh, the scientist, right?”
“Scientist babysitter, actually, but-” she waved a hand dismissively. “Semantics.”
Sam laughed. “Sam Wilson, nice to meet you.” He glanced over at Steve, who really did look a bit pathetic laid up in the hospital bed, and back to Darcy- who clearly had some more things to say to Steve. “I’ll let you two catch up.”
Darcy looked between the two of them with interest at Steve’s instant protest.
“I’ll be back later,” Sam told him. “I need to check in with work and my parents, anyway.”
“Good, I’ll babysit him until you get back,” Darcy said brightly.
“Babysit?” Steve asked, annoyed.
“Idiots that jump off of helicarriers don’t get to argue,” she said firmly. Sam chuckled and left them to it. Darcy watched him walk down the hallway. “You scared me,” she said after a few minutes of silence.
Steve didn’t look up from his hands. “It was Bucky.”
Darcy whirled. “What?”
Steve looked up at her then, eyes bright. “The soldier, the one I was fighting.” Darcy nodded- she'd seen the footage. “It was Bucky, Darce.”
“How is that possible?” Darcy whispered. She stared at him, stunned.
“I don’t know.” Steve said lowly. “I don’t know how, but it was him.” He looked up, met her shocked gaze. “He didn’t know who I was.”
Darcy stumbled over to his bed and grabbed his hand. “I don’t know what they did to him.” Tears welled in Steve’s eyes. “He was so lost, Darcy.” Darcy gave up on any sense of pretense and climbed into the bed next to him. Steve leaned into her and heaved uneven, gasping breaths as he cried.
Darcy warded the room so no one would see or hear anything unusual. She wrapped her arms around Steve and cried with him, for the friend he’d lost and miraculously found, only to lose him again.
“So,” Steve rasped after they were all cried out, Darcy curled into his side. “Am I still pretending I don’t know you’re magic?” Darcy choked on air. Steve’s shoulders shook with laughter, and Darcy was relieved to see his eyes look a little brighter, too.
“You knew the whole time?” Darcy complained, collapsing back onto the pillows.
Steve grinned over at her. “Pretty much.”
“How?” She whined. “I tried to be careful, and I lectured the pack for an hour on behaving appropriately!”
“Ma had a little Fae blood,” Steve explained. “Not much, not enough to give her any magic, but enough that I was passed a little, too. It’s probably what kept me alive all those years in Brooklyn. Well. That and...”
“Bucky,” Darcy finished for him. She rested her head on his shoulder. He seemed to get lost in his head then, so Darcy continued. “Is that why the serum worked so well for you?” From the little she’d managed to read of the SHIELD/Hydra data, no one had managed to recreate the success Dr. Erskine had with Steve.
But oh, how they’d tried.
Steve shrugged the shoulder Darcy wasn’t lying on. “Probably. I think Erskine was something- maybe magic, or part Fae, too- so that could have played a part in its success.”
“And the pack? How did you know?”
“Ma always told stories,” he said, laying back with a sigh. “Stories with a little too much detail to be anything but true. I think it was her way of preparing me, in case I ever came across another supernatural. And once I had the serum, certain things started to stand out to me.” He glanced down at her. “You know, it wasn’t only humans fighting in the war.”
“Really?” Darcy asked, fascinated. She’d never considered that, the role of supernaturals in a war started and fought by humans. With their identities a total secret from the humans, it had to have been incredibly difficult.
“We saw some things,” Steve said carefully. “Put the pieces together pretty quickly. Most of the Howlies had a good idea of the non-human aspects after a while. We even fought alongside one guy, Logan. I think he was a werewolf, before... Well.”
“Let me guess,” Darcy sighed. “Experimented on?”
“Never asked,” Steve admitted. “Not sure I wanted to know, or if he would even tell me. But he was a good guy. Saved a lot of lives.”
Darcy hesitated a moment, and then asked, “Was Bucky a supernatural? It could explain how he survived.”
“No.” Steve stared numbly at the ceiling. “No, he was- is human.”
“So what now?” Darcy asked.
“Now I’m going to find him,” Steve told her, determined. “And I’m going to bring him home.”
“He’s going to kill himself,” Darcy muttered. Jane glanced up from her desk to see Darcy watching Steve and Sam stride down the hall towards Tony’s lab, back from their latest trip to god knows where looking for Bucky. “Six months and he’s got nothing.”
“He’s closer than before,” Jane shrugged.
“Yeah, but all he’s established is that Bucky’s in the wind, maybe blowing up Hydra safe houses in the meantime,” Darcy argued. “And he and Sam are running themselves ragged, trying to catch up to him.”
“They’re also blowing up Hydra safe houses in the meantime,” Jane pointed out.
“A plus to this entire situation,” Darcy conceded. She chewed at her lip, watching the empty hall with worry. “At least he’s got Sam with him.”
“If it were me,” Jane said, setting her notes aside, “Wouldn’t you do the same?”
Darcy flicked a glance at her friend, eyes flashing gold at the thought. “You know I would.”
“I do.” Jane smiled. “And I’d do worse, if it were you missing.”
“Worse than blowing up an average of four safe houses a week?” Darcy asked, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. She inhaled sharply as Jane’s power surged, a vast, bright-hot flash through the lab- only a hint of the explosive power contained tightly within the Fae’s deceptively small form. Darcy’s wards throughout the room hummed in response.
“Worse than that,” Jane promised.
Darcy eyed the Fae for a moment. “You’re terrifying.” Jane ducked her head to hide a pleased smile.
“That’s not even considering what Thor would do,” Jane said a few moments later. Darcy must have looked skeptical. “He calls you little sister,” Jane reminded her. “That may seem like joking around down here, but it’s taken seriously on Asgard.”
Darcy nearly dropped her phone. “Wait, what?”
Jane shrugged. “Odin made Thor explain the events on Midgard in front of an assembled court. And later he mentioned what you did in London- the Seelie Queen, you remember-”
“Of course I remember,” Darcy grumbled. She still had nightmares about the Seelie Queen reaching for the veil with a manic grin.
“Pretty sure there’s a couple songs about you,” Jane said thoughtfully. “There’s definitely one about you taking Thor down.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, I’m serious.”
Darcy scrunched up her face in thought. “Jane, I am not emotionally stable enough to consider that right now.” Jane huffed a laugh and went back to her notes.
“Have you heard from Natasha?” Darcy asked a few minutes later.
Jane shook her head. “She’s still looking for Clint.” Darcy tamped down the flare of worry at that- Clint had been somewhere in Europe, deep undercover when Natasha released Shield’s secrets. No one had heard from him since.
Darcy’s phone pinged with an email alert from Danny. Before she could open it, her phone rang. “Allison, hey, I-”
“I think I found him.”
Darcy froze. Jane looked up sharply, concerned. “What?”
“I’ve been tracking rumors of Gerard’s movements,” Allison explained. “Through known associates, other hunting families, that sort of thing.”
“Right.” Darcy knew that- she'd asked Danny to look even further into it, tracking Gerard’s funds that mysteriously continued to grow.
“And then I compared it to what Danny found,” the hunter went on. “There were a few hunting families that paid Gerard for god knows what- Danny traced it back to who, Lydia and I worked out where, and I now have a short history of his recent movements.”
Darcy ran a hand through her hair. “I don’t... Where is he?”
“Romania,” Allison said. “We think he’s in Romania.” She hesitated for a moment and then- “Lydia already bought us plane tickets. I mean, if you...”
“I’m going,” Darcy decided. “When?”
“Two days. We’re flying to you tonight. Darcy, the rest of the pack-”
“No, I know. They can’t be involved.” If Gerard got wind of their arrival, the werewolves would be especially susceptible to European hunters. Werewolf hunters knew how to spot a ‘wolf in ten seconds flat, and were even more talented at killing them.
As for Stiles... Well. If this went sideways, the world needed at least one spark alive and well.
Darcy thought for a moment. “You two get a hotel by the airport. I’ll tell them I’m leaving to get data for Jane.” It was a useful excuse, after all, one that she utilized often for the humans in Stark tower that wondered why Darcy was always disappearing. “Call me when you land.”
“Okay,” Allison said, taking a deep breath. “We’ll see you soon.”
Jane was staring intently at Darcy when she turned around. “Was that what I think it was?” Darcy nodded, staring at the floor as her mind raced. She’d told Jane about her abduction months ago, after her friend cautiously asked about the scar on Darcy’s leg. “You’re not going alone.”
“No,” Darcy agreed. “Allison and Lydia are coming with me.”
“No, Jane.” Darcy met the Fae’s stubborn expression with her own. “For a number of reasons.”
“The reasons being?” Jane asked, crossing her arms with a scowl.
“You’re in the middle of a project that cannot be interrupted, Gerard and Hydra would love to get their hands on you, I need for you to cover for me here and possibly help Stiles if shit really hits the fan,” Darcy listed on her fingers. “Just to name a few.”
Jane scowled for another minute and then dropped her arms. “I don’t like it.”
“I’ll have a hunter and a banshee with me,” Darcy reminded her.
“You’ll check in every night,” Jane ordered. “A phone call, not a text.”
“Okay,” Darcy agreed. “That’s fair.”
“Don’t do anything stupid.” Jane stomped over to Darcy and poked her in the chest. “I mean it, Darcy. Don’t risk your life for this, not for him.”
“I won’t, Jane. I promise.”
Jane scowled at her for another minute and finally stepped forward to hug the spark tightly. “Be careful.”
Darcy hugged her back, holding just as tight. “I will.” She stepped back. “I have to go pack now, while everyone’s out for the day. I’ll call you when we land, okay?” Jane nodded, mouth tight and arms crossed again, almost defensively now as she watched Darcy leave.
Darcy crossed the lobby of Stark tower, pale but determined. She glanced back only once, just in time to lock eyes with Steve across the lobby. His brow furrowed at whatever he saw on her face and he stepped forward, opening his mouth to call out to her. Darcy smiled at Steve, and Sam beside him, but didn’t stop. She slipped through the tower’s front doors and disappeared into the crowded New York streets.
Bucky will finally appear in chapter 7!!
Next chapter will be up later this week!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Darcy studied the spread of papers on the hotel bed. She glanced at her laptop screen, showing Danny’s latest email, and frowned thoughtfully.
The door opened and Allison slipped through, locking it firmly behind her. She slid back the hood of her jacket, damp from the rain outside. The hunter glanced around the empty room and raised an eyebrow in question.
“She’s in the shower,” Darcy explained. “Everything go okay?”
“Yeah,” Allison sighed. “I checked out the shop they want to meet at.”
“And?” Darcy set aside her work to give Allison her full attention.
Allison stripped off the rain jacket and reached down to unlace her black combat boots. “It’s a popular coffee shop, multiple exits, mountain ash embedded in the doorways, and at least two of the family members working there.”
“Owning and operating a coffee shop as a front for hunting?” Darcy mused. “Kind of weird.”
“I know.” Allison sighed and went boneless in the chair. “I think I should go alone tomorrow.”
“Absolutely not,” Darcy said immediately. “You’re not meeting with the head of a major European hunting family on your own.”
“I don’t think you two should be put at risk,” Allison argued. “We don’t know these people, we don’t know if they follow the Code.” Lydia exited the bathroom then in a cloud of steam, wrapped in a towel with her hair twisted up in a second one.
Lydia looked between them and raised a brow. “She wants to go alone tomorrow,” Darcy said.
“I just think we should keep an ace or two up our sleeve,” Allison said.
“They have to know there are three of us in town,” Lydia pointed out. “Surely they aren’t stupid enough to forego surveillance.”
“But they won’t know who you are, or what you’re capable of.” Allison sat forward, intent on proving her point. “Better to keep you two out of their sight. Darcy can ward me, if you’re that worried.”
“I’m that worried,” Darcy said flatly.
Lydia tossed her hair towel aside and slid a shirt over her head. Darcy and Allison looked to the banshee, waiting for her input. “It’s better to have any advantage we can get,” she said finally. “And it makes more sense for the Argent matriarch to be tracking a rogue hunter down.” She frowned at Allison. “But I don’t like you going alone, either.”
“You two can be nearby,” Allison relented.
Darcy reached for a pen and a blank sheet of paper. “You don’t step foot outside until I’ve finished the wards.” Allison nodded in agreement and went to shower.
The room was silent for a moment, until Lydia spoke from the other bed. “You’re going to shield her, right?”
Darcy scoffed. “Shield her? Hell, I’ll make her disappear completely if they so much as sneeze in her direction.” The tension in Lydia’s shoulders lessened. Darcy glanced at her. “Heard from the pack?”
“Yes,” Lydia sighed. “So far, they believe we’re just helping you on a regular hunt.”
Lydia shrugged. “Allison says he and Peter are checking a few leads of their own in South America. Gerard’s been very thorough covering his tracks.”
“And laying false trails,” Darcy said. “But there’s more potential allies on this continent.”
“So it’s more likely we’re following the correct one, especially since Danny is feeding us information.” Lydia said in agreement. “But Chris and Peter know we’re with you.”
“Did you get a check-in schedule, too?” Darcy asked. Jane had not been kidding around- a phone call by 9 p.m. each day or she and Thor would come tearing through Europe to find her.
“Allison did.” Lydia watched her sketch for a few moments. “What are we going to do when we catch up to Gerard?”
Darcy kept her eyes on the paper. “I don’t know.” And she didn’t. Darcy wasn’t sure she could just outright kill him- she wasn’t sure she ever wanted to be that person, not even for revenge.
“I don’t know if Allison does, either.” Lydia looked at Darcy with hard eyes. “But I don’t plan on letting him go free. I can’t have him hanging over our heads any longer.” Darcy stared at the banshee, considered what she was offering.
“This isn’t your fight,” Darcy said eventually. “That shouldn’t fall to you.”
“Like hell it’s not,” Lydia snapped. “You’re my family, too, and I’m not letting Gerard get away with what he did to you.”
Touched, Darcy looked down at her paper and smiled. Lydia fell silent, looking slightly embarrassed at her admission. “You know, you just offered to kill someone for me without any hesitation,” Darcy pointed out a few seconds later.
Lydia’s lips twitched. “I’m a harbinger of death,” she reminded Darcy. “That’s nothing to me.”
“You're a lot more than just that.” Darcy smiled at her friend, grateful for her presence. ‘We’ll figure out a plan for Gerard later,” she said after a few minutes. “Right now, I need to figure out how to make Allison visually invisible in case shit hits the fan tomorrow.”
“Runes? I can help.” Lydia climbed gracefully over to Darcy’s bed and settled in to help.
“I feel like we should have earpieces,” Darcy said anxiously.
“This isn’t Mission: Impossible, Darcy,” Lydia said with a roll of her eyes. She looked perfectly composed, save for the fingernail tapping erratically on the table.
Darcy scowled. “I just want to hear what they’re saying.”
“She’s wrapping things up now,” Lydia reported, eyes trained on her girlfriend across the street. She looked over the rim of her sunglasses as the meeting broke up, Allison shaking the hand of the older woman in a sharp suit.
Darcy, her back to the coffee shop in order to monitor the opposite side of the street, took a measured breath and waited for Lydia’s nod. “She’s clear.”
Allison stepped out of the shop, away from the tenuous wards in place that the women didn’t want to alert unless absolutely necessary. Darcy felt the moment Allison stepped clear; she activated the rune drawn carefully on the hunter’s right shoulder blade.
Lydia relaxed a little when Allison’s skin glinted oddly in the sunlight, the shield wrapping firmly around Allison’s skin. Darcy and Lydia watched as Allison climbed into the small rented car parked on the edge of the street and drove away.
“You still have her?” Lydia asked, sipping her drink.
Darcy nodded but didn’t speak, too focused on maintaining the shield around Allison. They waited another hour, Allison winding through the streets nearby, before slipping into the mildly crowded street to find her.
“That went better than expected,” Darcy commented as she climbed into the backseat. “No shootouts, no explosions, no fires.”
“You’re such an optimist,” Allison teased. Lydia slid gracefully into the passenger seat. Allison pulled out of the Bucharest city limits and headed south.
“So?” Lydia asked. Darcy, wedged in the back with all of their bags, squirmed uncomfortably. She twisted around to check the empty road behind them.
“They have two possible routes Gerard took from this city,” Allison said.
“Two?” Darcy asked, frustration rising. “Why two?”
Allison sighed and glanced at the side mirror before answering. “Some of their own hunters apparently agree with Gerard’s version of the Code. A few of them may have helped him. They can’t be sure.”
“And they gave you both destinations?” Lydia asked, somewhat skeptical.
“Their matriarch doesn’t want him here,” Allison explained. “He’s drawing the wrong kind of attention, and giving some of her own hunters the wrong idea of what this job means.”
“How do we know she isn’t helping him, too?” Darcy fished her staff out from behind her back and sighed in relief. No wonder she’d been uncomfortable.
“Because she killed the hunters that helped him,” Allison said grimly.
Darcy blinked in surprise. “Well. Okay, yeah, that makes me believe her a little more.”
Lydia frowned. “Which direction are we going to follow, then?”
“I don’t know,” Allison sighed. “Both ways are equally possible.”
They rode in silence for a few minutes before Darcy reached her decision. “We split up.” Allison scowled at her in the rearview mirror, already knowing what Darcy was suggesting. “We didn’t come all this way just to lose Gerard like this,” she said firmly. “I’m not taking the chance that we choose the wrong path to follow.”
“It’s dangerous,” Lydia said. She shook her head. “But it’s the only way to be sure.”
“You’re going alone?” Allison asked unhappily.
Darcy nodded. “A human hunter and a banshee? You can handle pretty much anything between the two of you. I’m the safer bet to go alone.”
“And if he catches you by surprise?” Lydia asked archly.
“He won’t,” Darcy said quietly. “Not again.”
“I don’t like it,” Allison muttered.
Lydia rested a hand on Allison’s arm. “We’ll set up a check-in schedule for us, too.” She glanced back at Darcy, who nodded in agreement.
“Fine.” Allison gestured towards the dash, where a folded map of Romania sat. Lydia grabbed it. “They think he’s either headed to Brașov or Focșani.”
“Bucharest to either of those is a couple hours,” Lydia said, studying the map. “We can split up at Ploiești- Allison and I can head west, towards Brașov.”
“Then I’ll go east,” Darcy said, leaning forward to peer at the map. “To Focșani.”
“It’s a small town, much smaller than Brașov.”
“I don’t know if that will be better or worse,” Darcy admitted.
“Focșani is not exactly a tourist destination. Newcomers will stand out, especially Americans,” Lydia pointed out.
“Better for tracking Gerard, worse since they likely won’t want to talk to you.” Allison turned off towards Ploiești.
Darcy studied the map as they neared the city. “We should use Ploiești as a fallback point, in case we lose contact.”
“24 hours without contact, we head back here,” Allison said in agreement. “The rest of it we’ll have to figure out on the move, since we aren’t sure where Gerard’s going.”
Lydia pointed to a hotel as they entered the city. “Stop here. Allison and I will get a room for the night. Darcy, you take this car. I have one waiting for us to pick up tomorrow morning.”
Darcy checked the time. “It’s still early. I think I’ll leave now, get a head start.”
Allison and Lydia pulled their bags from the backseat, leaving Darcy’s bag and staff behind. They stood beside the idling car for a long, solemn moment. “Be safe,” Allison said eventually. “Check in twice a day, a text in the morning and a phone call at night.”
“Using Stiles’s codes,” Darcy nodded.
“But we agree to never tell him that he was right,” Lydia finished.
They grinned at each other. Darcy stepped forward and hugged them both tightly. “I’ll check in tonight.” She climbed into the car and waved once more before pulling back onto the road, turning east towards Focșani.
Danny called her an hour into the drive. “Darce, I heard you guys split up.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “It was necessary.”
“I know, Lydia called me.” Danny was silent for a moment. “Just be careful, okay?” Darcy frowned at the uncharacteristic nerves in his tone.
“What is it?”
Danny hesitated again. “I was looking into Gerard’s known associates, to see if he had an allies nearby that he might go to.”
“Darcy... I found a Stane safe house outside of Focșani.” Darcy sucked in a breath. “It’s... it’s active, too.”
Darcy’s knuckles turned white with the force of her grip on the wheel. “You think he’d go to them?”
“I do, yeah. They’re allies he can be sure of.”
“Even if he wasn’t, though-”
“I understand. That’s why I called.” Because Danny knew she wouldn’t leave the safe house untouched, not after seeing firsthand what they did to people inside of it. “I emailed you everything I found.”
“Anytime, Darce. Just be safe, okay?”
“I will. And hey-”
“Keep this quiet, I know.” Danny didn’t sound thrilled about it, but Darcy knew he’d keep the secret unless she needed help. Darcy hung up and pulled briefly to the side of the road. She read through the email, nerves rising, and adjusted her GPS.
The afternoon sun was high overhead when Darcy turned off onto a small sideroad a few miles before the safe house’s location. She parked the car far enough off the main road that no one would see it and stop.
She re-laced her boots and fished around in her bag for the fitted leather jacket Maya had bought her last year. It had all sorts of clever pockets that Darcy tucked a few knives and her phone into, zipping it up over her chest. If she slipped and dropped her shield, the Kevlar armor built into it would protect her. Darcy warded her bag and the car to remain unseen and untouchable. She grabbed her staff, reassessed her position, and started the long walk to the safe house.
An hour later, Darcy was fervently grateful for Chris and Maya’s training. So far, she’d disabled three cameras, discovered two trip wires, and narrowly avoided setting off a motion sensor. Now she crawled forward on her belly, hidden in the tall grass behind the safe house.
It looked empty.
She’d nearly gathered her courage to stand and approach when a car engine rumbled closer. Darcy watched, remaining as still as possible, as a small car pulled into view. She squinted past the glare of the sun on the windows as the driver stopped in front of the safe house and climbed out of the driver’s seat, a phone pressed to his ear. Darcy nearly gasped aloud in shock.
William Blake slammed the car door shut and glanced around, standing only thirty feet away from her.
“Yes, sir,” Blake said into the phone. He turned towards the door. “Mr. Argent, I’m checking on them now. Yes, sir. I’ll call you once I’m finished.” Blake stepped into the safe house.
Righteous fury had Darcy standing, shaking, and stalking across the yard. Her staff felt like it was vibrating in her hand, and she knew her eyes burned gold. Her spark settled like a second skin over her body, anchored to the tree tattoo glowing warmly on her back.
Before she reached the door, Blake stumbled back out, face drained of all color. He nearly fell out the door; Darcy reacted immediately and cracked him across the head with her staff, sweeping the opposite end around to take his legs out from under him.
Blake hit the ground hard enough to push the air from his lungs. He looked up at her, wide-eyed and fearful as he fought for breath. Darcy’s otter tattoo darted over her skin, a flash of ink that briefly caught Blake’s attention.
“Been a while,” Darcy said casually, as if she weren’t shaking with fury and something else- something like fear, something that she hated.
“Did you do that?” He asked hoarsely.
Darcy barely glanced at the safe house door, swinging wide open to reveal an empty room. “Do what?”
“They’re all dead.” Blake stared at her with terror in his eyes. “Everyone in there.”
She frowned. “I didn’t kill anyone.”
“And why should I believe you?” Blake asked, inching backwards.
“Because not everyone is like you, Blake,” Darcy said with disgust. He flinched at the reminder of what he’d done, of who he’d handed her over to, even knowing exactly what would happen to her.
“I was just following orders,” Blake said pleadingly. “That’s all.”
Darcy scoffed. “You know what you sound like, right?”
Blake glanced back at the safe house. “Them? We’re just- I just needed a little help, that’s all. Gerard, he told me to do what they said, to-”
“I know you’re working with the Stane hunters,” Darcy said, rolling her eyes.
“Not just Stane.”
Darcy felt her heart skip a beat as a thought occurred to her. “What do you mean, not just Stane?” She’d better not be right, Darcy thought silently. Please, let her be wrong.
“It’s all about connections, you see,” Blake said nervously. “The Stanes are our allies, so their allies become ours, too. We didn’t seek them out, it just-”
“Hydra,” he blurted. Darcy stared at him in disbelief. “They’d worked with the Stanes in the past,” Blake rambled. “And Gerard reached out, he liked their deal, you see-”
“What deal?” Darcy interrupted. She pressed her staff into his chest and let her spark crackle dangerously down the length of it. “What deal, Blake?”
“Hydra wants soldiers,” Blake gasped.
Darcy felt sick. “They’re handing over supernaturals to Hydra.” She looked at his pale face, the trembling hands. Blake had lost weight- he looked thin, unhealthy, with sunken eyes and hollowed cheeks. “And you’re helping them.”
“I have orders.” Blake couldn’t meet her eyes. “We’re a hunting family, we can’t be fucking werewolves and Fae and still expect to be taken seriously.”
“You aren’t an Argent,” Darcy said.
Blake flinched. “Gerard-”
“He’s a rogue hunter,” she interrupted. “Disowned by the Argent matriarch for breaking the Code. Gerard can’t make you an Argent, because he isn’t one, either.” Darcy stared at him for a moment. “Where is he?”
He shook his head. Darcy expected as much- he'd only ever shown loyalty to Gerard. Blake wouldn’t give him up. She considered her options. Darcy dismissed torture- it wasn’t always effective, and she hardly had the stomach for it.
“He’s near enough,” she figured. “Because he wouldn’t be concerned about this safe house losing contact with him otherwise.” Blake denied it vehemently. She ignored him, thinking hard. “I’ll bet that there’s a number saved in your phone for him,” she mused. Blake reached for his pocket. She roughly swatted his hand back with her staff.
“So you’re going to kill me too?” He challenged, though she could see the rapid pulse in the vein of his neck.
“You deserve it,” Darcy told him. She stared at him, the moment stretching thin. Finally, she stepped back. “But no. You’re not worth it,” she decided, turning away in disgust.
A flash of movement in the corner of her vision- Blake, reaching for the gun at his hip. Darcy turned back, unconcerned, as he pointed the gun at her, her shield firmly in place over her skin.
A shot rang out.
Blake slumped over lifelessly, the gun falling away. Darcy stared for a moment, confused, adrenaline rushing through her veins. She looked at the bullet hole in his head and whirled around.
The Winter Soldier stepped out of the waist-high grass, rifle in hand.
Darcy swallowed back the riot of emotions at the sight of him. Steve was on the wrong side of the continent right now, searching for this man. For his friend.
The friend that didn’t remember him, Darcy reminded herself. She kept her shield up. “That wasn’t necessary,” she called. “But thanks.”
He- Bucky, the actual James Buchanan Barnes, stood only a few feet away from her, Darcy thought wildly- flicked a pointed glance at the gun lying beside Blake’s hand. “I guess you beat me to the rest?” She asked when he said nothing. Darcy tipped her head back towards the safe house.
“This is a Hydra safe house.” His voice was gravelly, like it hadn’t been used in some time.
“That’s not all it is.”
He kept his eyes steady on her own, wordlessly demanding an explanation. She watched him right back. “You’ve been inside?” She asked. He jerked his chin in an affirmative.
Darcy turned her back on him and walked into the safe house, stepping deliberately around Blake’s body. She could practically feel Bucky’s shock at her total lack of concern for the rifle in his hands, or the fact that he had literally just killed the man at her feet- not to mention the men likely dead inside, too.
“Why’d you wait around?” Darcy called over her shoulder. He hesitated, then followed her into the safe house.
“I was leaving,” he said shortly. “But you tripped one of the sensors.” He gestured to the tv screens inside the first room. “I saw you coming.” Darcy swore under her breath. She’d missed a camera, apparently.
“Creepy,” she told him. He scowled.
Darcy stepped through the building, carefully not looking at the bodies on the ground. She stopped at a door near the back of the safe house. Bucky made a noise low in his throat when she moved to open it. Darcy glanced back at him.
“They were already dead,” he told her. “You… you probably don’t want to see it.”
“I don’t,” she agreed. Darcy opened the door and tried not to gag at the smell rising from the dark stairs. “But I have to know what they’re doing.”
He followed her down the stairs, a silent, lurking shadow. Darcy reached the bottom of the stairs and staggered to a halt. She pressed her hand against her mouth and tried not to vomit. Three people- all dead- strapped down to metal tables.
Darcy walked numbly to the closest one, a young man just barely out of his teens. She glanced down the row to the woman and the other man. A werewolf, at the end, the claws extended like he’d died trying to fight back.
She couldn’t tell what the woman had been, but the young man… He’d been a magic user. What kind- druid, witch, spark- she didn’t know. Darcy blinked back the rising tears and stepped away. She cleared her throat. “Do you have everything you need from this place?”
Bucky eyed her for a moment. “Yes.”
“Then let’s go.” Darcy led the way again, a suspicious Bucky following behind. She didn’t stop until she reached the yard, nearly running by the time the door appeared.
Darcy turned to stare at the safe house for a moment, weighed down by a sense of failure. Three lives, and who knew how many more, gone because of this Stane-Hydra alliance. “You’re going to want to stand back,” she rasped. His rifle raised a few inches in the corner of her vision. She ignored him.
Darcy took a deep breath, double checked her own shield was holding strong, and reached for the ley lines running underneath the earth. She nearly gasped when they clutched at her, dragging her power down. The earth magic felt darker than it should, sick, even.
Her spark shot through the ley lines, burning out the sickness. Darcy gathered her strength, her focus, her will. The air grew heavy, the pressure shifting like the seconds before a thunderstorm. Bucky stepped back, eyes sharp on her back. Darcy sucked in a deep breath and slammed the end of her staff into the ground.
The earth trembled, like the echo of an earthquake.
Bucky braced himself, raising his rifle uncertainly at the sound of a low roar. Darcy remained still, watching closely as the building’s foundations began to crumble. She felt the earth close around the basement first, separating the supernatural victims from the rest.
The building collapsed with a loud rumble. Darcy didn’t move for a few minutes, staring at the remains of the safe house with a troubled expression. Finally, she glanced back at Bucky, who watched her warily in return.
“Why are you here?”
Silence. Darcy waited. “I was tracking Hydra,” he said eventually.
“Apparently, I was, too.” Darcy sighed heavily and reached down to take the phone out of Blake’s jacket pocket. She straightened, staring at the phone. “If he’s handing over supernaturals for experimentation in return for protection, I don’t think I’ll get close enough.”
Darcy almost dropped the phone in shock. “Oh, shit.” She looked at Bucky’s expressionless face. “You didn’t know, did you? Fucking hell, that’s just typical.” Hell, she hadn’t considered the memory loss before literally tearing down a building in front of him. It’s a wonder he hadn’t tried to shoot her out of sheer panic.
“I... remember some things.” He frowned. “Stories.” Fear and pain flashed across his face, almost too quickly for Darcy to notice. “A man.”
Steve, she didn’t say. He hadn’t introduced himself yet, didn’t seem comfortable sharing his identity. Darcy stepped carefully towards him. “The stories you remember, they were probably true. My name is Darcy Lewis.” She didn’t offer her hand to shake, knowing he’d probably refuse. “I’m a spark- a magic user.”
“Like the one down there?” Bucky asked. He flicked his eyes at the crumbled building.
Darcy’s mouth twisted. “Maybe. I don’t know what kind of magic he had.” She made a quick decision. “I’m trying to find someone who’s evidently in league with Hydra. He’s responsible for bringing those people here.”
She tried not to be offended by the somewhat incredulous tone. Darcy looked pointedly at the building and then back to him. He still didn’t lose the skeptical face. “I can take care of myself,” she told Bucky, crossing her arms and glaring at him indignantly.
There was the faintest twitch to his mouth as he stared down at her. It smoothed away almost before it was fully there, though, and he was back to watching her closely. “So you’re tracking Hydra now?”
“I guess so.” Darcy shrugged.
“So am I.”
Darcy waited, wondering where he was going with this. He seemed to struggle with himself. She sighed. Gerard likely got further and further away with every passing second. “Well, nice to... whatever this was, but I gotta get going.”
“You’re going after Hydra. Alone.”
“So are you, apparently.”
“It’s not safe.”
“Again, I can take care of myself.” And she loved Steve, she did, so she would call him the second she left to tell him where Bucky was. But she didn’t exactly have time to waste, here.
“You don’t know what they’re capable of.” His mouth was tight, eyes dark. Darcy swallowed. She did know, actually. She’d found his files deep within the SHIELD data release. Its contents had made her throw up everything in her stomach and then some.
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to let them get away with this.” She gestured towards the safe house. Bucky said nothing. Darcy stepped back, ready to leave.
“We have the same goal,” he said.
Darcy stopped and met his gaze. “You’d trust me to watch your back?” She asked skeptically. Bucky glanced back at the building, then down at Blake’s body.
“Yes. You’d trust me to watch yours?”
She huffed a humorless laugh and gestured to Blake. “You already have.” She would have been fine with her shield up, but Bucky hadn’t known that when he took the shot.
Darcy weighed her options. “Okay,” she said finally. “Okay, fine. I’m not stupid enough to turn down help.” Especially of the master assassin kind. “You have a deal, uh...”
“James,” he said hoarsely. “You can call me James.”
Darcy held out a hand, somewhat surprised when he actually shook it. “Then we have a deal, James.”
And Bucky finally arrives! It's about time, I know
Bucky: slowly reaching the horrifying realization that he's come across Steve 2.0
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Darcy eyed the Winter Soldier from the passenger seat of the car.
“You’re mad.” Bucky- James- only flicked his eyes towards her in response. “I don’t get why, I’m totally fine.” Darcy wisely didn’t mention all the cuts and bruises she’d healed on the way.
His temper flared. “You-” He cut himself off, took a deep, measured breath like she was the one being unreasonable. “You were bleeding.”
“It looked way worse than it was, trust me.” A shallow knife wound to the arm, healed seconds after she’d taken the guard out. The guard she’d had to take out ahead of schedule, because he’d wandered around the corner of the Hydra safe house and run smack into her.
“And you were not where I told you to be when the bomb went off,” he said tightly.
“I told you, I ran into a problem,” Darcy hissed. The problem being three Stane hunters who’d not only caught her but also recognized her on her way out.
They’d left her with a black eye and a few other cuts she’d healed almost instantly. Darcy had left them unconscious inside the building.
“You’re supposed to communicate,” he snapped. “So I know not to blow the fucking place up while you’re still inside of it.”
It had been a pretty close call, she would admit. To herself, not to him, anyway. “I know you’re still a little uncertain about the magic thing,” she started. “But I have a shield-”
“And if you’d been unconscious?” Bucky glared at her. “What good is your magic if you’re not awake to use it, huh?”
“Stop lecturing me,” Darcy said, annoyed.
“I will if you stop throwing yourself into impossible fights!”
“Impossible?!” Darcy squawked in outrage. “I won that fight, with three to one odds, thank you!”
“Three to one odds? You jumped into a fight with three to one odds? I thought it was just one guy!”
“One guy?! What kind of-”
Darcy cut short when her phone rang, interrupting their argument. They glared at each other for another moment until Darcy broke the eye contact to reach crankily for her phone. She resolved to inform Steve that his precious best friend was a dick. After they’d found Gerard, of course.
“I cross referenced Stane properties and ties with Hydra safe houses in the SHIELD files like you asked,” Danny said. “I sent more locations to your email.”
“You’re still okay? Allison and Lydia are making their way to you. They should catch up in a couple days, assuming they don’t run into any more problems.”
“I’m fine, no need to worry. I’ll check out these other places and get back to you, okay?”
“Uh huh. I’m seeing a lot of chatter about safe houses blowing up, Darcy.”
“Yeah, Hydra safe houses, so who cares? I gotta go, thanks, Danny!” She hung up before he could ask any more well-informed questions.
“Your friend is good with computers.”
Darcy answered even though it wasn’t exactly a question. “I am good with computers. Danny is great with computers.”
“He knows you aren’t working alone?”
“Uh, no.” Darcy scrolled through the email Danny had sent her. “I haven’t told him anything about you. Figured you were more the I-work-from-the-shadows type.” She completed the effect with a spooky tone and wiggling fingers.
“Do you take anything seriously?” Bucky demanded.
Darcy pursed her lips in consideration. “Food. Books.” She thought for a second. “My family, most of the time. And... oh, yeah, homicidal Nazis trying to commit genocide on multiple societal levels!” Bucky scoffed and didn’t look away from the road.
Darcy’s phone rang again. “Jesus, who else?” Bucky muttered. She glared at him while she answered.
“Hey, Dad,” Darcy said, quickly warding away the sound of Bucky’s heartbeat and quiet breathing. The last thing she wanted was Peter figuring out who she was traveling with.
“Ah, so she can answer her phone,” Peter said loudly. “Darling, how are you? Well, I presume? I wouldn’t know, since you never call.”
Darcy rolled her eyes. “I called you three days ago.”
“Which would be acceptable, except Chris just received a call from an old hunting friend of his in Europe. Would you care to take a guess as to what he had to say?” His calm, silky tone was a warning.
Shit. “Good things, I hope,” she said cheerfully.
“Oh, yes, he was very impressed with the Argent matriarch, hunting down her rogue grandfather all by herself on another continent,” Peter said dangerously. Bucky glanced at her in confusion.
“Ah.” Darcy fought the urge to squirm guiltily.
“And then I thought, well, how convenient that Darcy is on a hunt on that very same continent. What was it you were tracking, again?” Peter asked pleasantly. Darcy mumbled something unintelligible. “That’s what I thought.”
Peter’s voice sharpened. “What I would like to know is why on earth you two thought it acceptable to track down one of the most dangerous hunters in the world with essentially no backup.” Darcy ignored Bucky’s raised eyebrows and focused on soothing the edge in her foster father’s voice.
“You and Chris were following legitimate information in Chile,” Darcy said. “We couldn’t risk distracting you from that, and we couldn’t bring any of the pack with us. You know how dangerous it is for ‘wolves entering other territories.”
“I also know what happens to sparks who travel alone,” Peter said furiously. “And for that matter, so do you.” He took an uneven breath. “Darcy. Please tell me you didn’t split up from Allison.”
“I’m...” Darcy glanced at Bucky. He politely pretended he couldn’t hear the entire conversation. Darcy chewed her lower lip. She didn’t want to lie to Peter, but it was safer for everyone involved if no one knew who she was with. “I’m not alone, okay? That’s all I can say.”
“With Lydia, following another trail,” Darcy said quietly. “I talked to her last night, we’re keeping in touch. Peter- Dad. We’re close to catching him. So, so close. I can feel it.”
“He is not worth risking your life over, not like this,” Peter argued.
Darcy shook her head, even though he couldn’t see her. “Gerard’s handing over supernaturals to Hydra,” she said, tucking her free arm around her waist. Peter sucked in a breath. “I’ve already found proof of it. It’s bad. So, so bad.”
“Darcy.” Peter sounded exhausted. He was silent for a long moment, long enough that Darcy stared out the window to watch the small town grow closer and closer. “Just tell me you’re safe.”
She glanced over again, unable to help it, and eyed the Winter Soldier- legendary assassin, former Howling Commando, Steve’s best friend. Darcy resisted the urge to laugh. “I’m not alone,” she reassured Peter. “He’s kept me safe so far.”
Bucky scowled, likely recalling their argument not thirty minutes ago.
“He?” Peter asked. Bucky turned towards the tiny motel on the outskirts of town. Darcy wrinkled her nose at the sight of it but didn’t object.
“Uh huh. Dad, I have to go now.”
“You call, twice a day,” Peter ordered.
Darcy groaned. “At this rate, I’ll never get anything done with all the check in calls I have to make!”
“Darcy,” Peter said in warning.
“Fine.” She sighed. She climbed out of the car after Bucky and reached into the backseat for her stuff. “I really do have to go now. I’ll call tomorrow, okay?”
“Be careful. I love you.”
She leaned against the car and sighed deeply. “I know, Dad. I love you, too.” They hung up. Darcy didn’t move for a long moment, until Bucky pointedly slammed the car door shut. She glared over the top of the car at him.
Bucky ignored her and disappeared into the motel. Darcy waited outside, not wanting to carry her staff through the lobby and potentially traumatize some clueless humans. He returned with two rusty keys and jerked his head towards the nearby rooms.
She followed him along the outer walkway and opened the room next to his. “Adjoining rooms?” She raised her voice slightly to be heard through the thin walls separating them.
“Evidently, it’s more dangerous for you to be alone than you’d led me to believe,” Bucky said neutrally from the other side. He nudged the flimsy lock open and watched her swing the door open from her side.
Darcy peered up at him. “Eavesdropping is rude, you know.”
“So is lying.” Bucky tugged the door gently out of her grip and eased it closed. “Go to bed,” he said from his room. Darcy stared at the closed door, unsure if she should feel offended or not.
“I didn’t lie!” She called through the door. “You just never asked.” Darcy huffed in annoyance when Bucky didn’t respond. Typical.
Darcy had taken one look underneath the disgusting comforter and decided against sleeping on the bed. She eyed the lopsided armchair in the corner of the room and deemed it clean enough to touch.
It would have to do.
“It’s just one night,” she told herself under her breath. Darcy fished her blanket out from her bag- it took up half the space, sure, but she could wrap her entire body within its fuzzy length. She did just that, teetering dangerously in her cocoon beside the chair.
Darcy flopped sideways into the chair and tucked her legs up until she was curled in a ball. It wasn’t the most comfortable position, but it would keep her feet away from the floor- she'd counted three unidentifiable bugs crawling along the floor already.
“You really know how to show a girl a good time,” Darcy grumbled in the direction of Bucky’s room. No answer. She wasn’t surprised.
She left the very dim lamp on across the room, wanting a little light in the unfamiliar place. Darcy dozed fitfully, crammed into the chair.
Later, she wouldn’t be able to remember what woke her. As it was, Darcy blinked awake sometime in the middle of the night, blood chilled despite the fact that her body was warm and damp with sweat. She peeled her eyes open slowly, squinting as they adjusted to the low light in the room.
She relaxed back into the chair. A dark shadow on the ceiling caught her attention. Darcy held her breath, heart thumping, when it slithered over to hover above the bed. It paused.
Darcy reached out very, very slowly with her spark to nudge against Bucky in the other room. She heard a faint Russian oath through the wall.
The shadow pooled in place like liquid on the ceiling of the room. Darcy risked a glance at her staff, resting within arm’s reach of her chair. She started to unwind the blanket from her body as the shadow dripped down from the ceiling.
It fell like drops of water out of a faucet, landing somewhere on the other side of the bed. Darcy bit her lip as it reformed and rose above the bed, peering down at the pillows shoved underneath the rumpled comforter.
The thing- now vaguely human shaped- seemed to realize the bed was empty the same second Darcy’s arms were free from the blanket. Its head snapped up, eyes finding her across the room with unnerving speed.
It lunged. Darcy dove out of the chair and rolled to the side. Her legs tangled in the blanket, sending her to the floor with a loud thump. The creature crashed into the chair and tumbled over it with a loud crash.
The adjoining door burst open behind her, followed by a firm arm wrapped around Darcy’s waist that lifted her to her feet. Darcy sent a quick burst of power across the room as Bucky hauled her back, away from the creature. It struck the intruder in the torso and sent it tumbling back again.
“What is that?” Bucky asked, his voice low in her ear.
“I don’t know.” Darcy wriggled out of his grasp and stepped to the side, away from the gun in Bucky’s outstretched arm. Metal gleamed in the low light, the first time she’d personally seen Bucky’s prosthetic arm. He’d kept it entirely covered since they’d met. The mechanic in her couldn’t help but appreciate the craftsmanship of the arm.
The thing crept back towards them with a low growl. Darcy shivered at the sound, which caused the eerie sense of nails dragging down her spine. Before it could lunge, metal flashed. The monster screamed, in fury, pinned to the wall with a long knife.
Before it could liquidize itself again, Darcy wrapped her spark around its form and tightened her hold on it. “Ugh.” She grimaced at the sensation of the thing’s magic brushing against her own. “You’re Fae?”
Bucky drew another knife, the gun still in his grip. Darcy stepped carefully closer to the Fae. “I’ve never felt anything like you.” She reached for her staff, wanting the comfort of its familiar smooth wood.
Darcy suppressed a gasp of surprise when the black, formless head peeled apart. Large, uneven fangs jutted out of a too-large mouth, taking up the lower half of the Fae’s face. Darcy couldn’t locate its eyes, if it had any.
“Haven’t you?” The horrible mouth asked. Darcy tightened her spark around the Fae as a reflex. It felt like grasping a handful of oil, slick and dark against her magic- toxic, even.
“You’re from the Unseelie Court,” Darcy guessed, heart pounding.
A wide, terrifying grin. “There’s worse yet to come,” it hissed gleefully. Darcy studied the manic, rabid Fae. “Soon you’ll know.”
“Know what?” Darcy asked, nerves showing as she anxiously flexed her fingers on her staff. She was distantly aware of Bucky stepping closer to bump gently against her side in reassurance.
“There’s no hope now,” the Fae told them. It lisped around the mouthful of fangs, its own black blood dripping from the jagged, razor-sharp teeth.
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s already begun.” It surged against her hold, the slippery feel of its magic sickening against her own. “You cannot stop it now.”
Another surge of magic, this time pressing insistently against the spark restraining it. Darcy sucked in a breath when the Fae grew more slippery in her hold. She doubled down, focused intently on maintaining the constraints.
The Unseelie Court assassin grinned and pushed back. Darcy gritted her teeth and stepped closer, eyes glowing gold. She knew her tattoos were glowing too, burning brightly against her skin. Bucky’s next breath was louder, but he stepped with Darcy when she approached.
The magics clashed, a battle of wills playing out in a creepy motel room in the middle of rural Romania. Darcy had never fought an Unseelie Court Fae, and was surprised at its strength. She released a little more of her tight control of her spark, ignoring Bucky’s surprised hiss when the room started to glow a warm gold.
The Fae growled again, but couldn’t withstand the onslaught of raw power. Darcy watched as the gold threads of her spark spread across and within the Fae’s ink black form. The threads solidified, growing larger and larger until they became cracks in the body.
Bucky and Darcy watched the Fae burn from within. They were left staring at ashes on the ground moments later, the Fae dissolving after one last vicious snarl.
The room was quiet.
Darcy stared blankly at the remains, shaken. Bucky shifted slightly beside her, tucking the knife away. He stepped forward to tug the other knife from the wall. “What the hell was that thing?” He asked finally, after checking the rest of the dark corners in her room.
“A Fae,” Darcy said faintly. “From the Unseelie Court.”
“Oh, thanks, that clears it all up,” he muttered.
Darcy tore her gaze away from the remains to roll her eyes at him. “They’re from another realm,” she explained. “All Fae are. So far, I’ve just dealt with the Seelie Court. They were bad enough.”
“So what does this mean?” Bucky asked, gesturing at the ashes.
“It means,” Darcy said, back to staring at the ashes, “that I might have bigger problems than Gerard Argent.”
Don't worry, Gerard will get what's coming to him soon!
A/n: I’ve had a few complaints (mostly through tumblr) that these chapters are too short.. but I'd like to point out that I’m able to update way more frequently when I can keep it shorter. I’ve been updating basically every MWF, which gives an average of 6,000-7,000 words a week.
I also work a full time job and have a busy life outside of this, so I’m really doing the best I can to find time to write.
That said, here’s a (longer) chapter in which a certain character finally gets what’s coming to him. Thank you guys for all of your support & comments… It’s helped keep my frustration manageable :)
Darcy kicked at a piece of rubble in frustration. “We’re too late. Again.” She ran a hand roughly through her hair, hissing when it caught in the tangles.
Bucky stood from his crouch, wiping his gloved hands off on his pants. “We’re closer, though. A day behind him at most.” He glanced at the building she’d just ripped down, then back at her. “Why do you want to find this guy so badly, anyway?”
“Because he’s selling supernaturals to a Nazi organization?” Darcy asked, snatching up her staff. Bucky was silent, watching her steadily. She looked away from that patient gaze and rubbed a hand over her face. “He kidnapped me when I was seventeen and handed me over to a group of extremist hunters.”
“Like those guys?” He asked, tipping his head towards the collapsed building full of dead Hydra agents.
“They didn’t experiment- well. Not on me, anyway.” She sighed. “They just wanted me dead.”
“You got out?”
“Yeah. My sister, she was trying to get information on the hunting groups that stopped following the Code. Allison got me what I needed to escape.”
“She’s the one also in Romania?” Bucky asked as they walked back to where they’d hidden the car.
“Yeah.” Darcy checked her phone and frowned when it showed no messages. “She’s supposed to be meeting me soon, since it looks like we’re on Gerard’s trail.”
“You have a lot of people calling you,” he commented.
“I was adopted by a pack of werewolves when I was twelve,” Darcy told him. She grinned at Bucky’s baffled expression. “It’s a big pack. We’re close.”
“What about your family?” Bucky scanned the area before approaching the car, always on alert.
Darcy sobered. She didn’t answer until they were back in the car and Bucky had pulled back onto the main road. “My mom was killed not long before the Hales took me in. And I never knew my dad.” Bucky said nothing, just glanced briefly at her carefully neutral expression.
She changed the subject, not wanting to linger on the topic of parents. “So, how far are we to the next safe house?”
“Thirty minutes,” Bucky informed her. “It’s more of a stopover point than a safe house, according to what you pulled off of the servers. It shouldn’t be manually protected.”
He was right.
The “safe house” was a small office within a nondescript building at the end of a strip mall. Bucky made her stay back while he checked the room for traps, finding a few doors rigged with explosives.
“Okay.” Bucky nodded for her to enter after dismantling the fourth tripwire. Darcy stepped gingerly through the room and settled in at the main computer.
She glanced at Bucky after assessing the firewalls. “This might take me a while,” she warned. He gave a sharp nod and slipped silently out the door to check the perimeter. Darcy turned her attention to the computer and focused on hacking into it.
Two hours later, Darcy sat back with a heavy sigh. Bucky appeared in the doorway, quiet as a ghost. “Find anything?” He asked quietly.
“Yeah.” Darcy rubbed her hands over her face, troubled.
Bucky approached, studying her expression. “What?”
“I think Gerard figured out how we were tracking him,” she sighed. She leaned back in the chair, blinking in surprise when Bucky rested a hand on the back of it and leaned over her. She kept her eyes on the computer monitor, resisting the urge to press closer to the warmth of him.
“He’s distanced himself from Hydra,” Bucky surmised.
Darcy nodded. “But we’re close. There’s a former McAllister safe house not far from here that Danny found early on. It’s old, and should be abandoned, so he might feel safe enough to go there.”
“McAllister?” Bucky asked.
“They were the extremist group,” she said quietly. Bucky stepped closer to the chair but said nothing. Darcy turned back to the email correspondence that was causing her uneasiness. “There’s something else.”
Darcy was quiet for a moment. Finally, she pulled up the messages and nodded her head towards the screen. “Hydra chatter says there are high ranking agents meeting today.”
“Can you find out where?” Bucky asked intently. Darcy pointed it out on the map she’d pulled up, directly opposite the way Gerard was heading.
“These names...” Bucky said softly. He scrolled through the messages.
“You know them?” Darcy asked carefully. She tipped her head back to peer up at him, eyes level with his jawline. She trailed her eyes over the stubble on his cheeks, down the length of his neck, ending at the small hollow at the base of his neck.
“Rumlow, Rollins,” Bucky read aloud, startling her. Darcy snapped her gaze back to the monitor, cheeks warming when he looked down at her. Bucky continued, “Yeah, I know these guys. If they’re all in one place...” Then it wasn’t an opportunity he could pass up.
Darcy chewed anxiously at her lower lip. “I guess this is it then.”
Bucky stood, crossing his arms. “I guess so."
They each had their priorities, and those would now lead them in different directions. Darcy swiveled the chair around the stare up at him, unable to identify all the emotions making her chest tight. “Do you...” She gathered her courage. “Do you want me to tell Steve that I saw you?”
Bucky reared back like she’d hit him. “You know who I am?”
“Not many James’s running around blowing up Hydra bases,” Darcy pointed out gently. He swallowed hard, face twisting into a grimace.
“I...” Darcy waited patiently while he seemed to struggle for words. “You can,” he said eventually. Darcy studied the tight line of his mouth, the tension in his shoulders, the mild panic in his eyes.
Bucky noticed the doubt on her face. “You can tell him.”
“Steve’s going to try to find you,” she reminded him. “And when he does, I don’t think he’ll let you out of his sight ever again. Are you ready for that?” Darcy watched nervously as Bucky considered that- she'd noticed how carefully he’d avoided mention of Steve, the pained and sometimes fearful expressions that crossed his face when Steve did come up.
Darcy wondered what Hydra had done to him, to make Bucky afraid to remember his friend. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know the details.
“I’ll be fine. See you, Lewis,” Bucky said finally. “Be careful.”
“I mean it,” he said, shifting back into the insufferable, overbearing soldier she’d dealt with for weeks now. Darcy rolled her eyes at him just to see him scowl. “Don’t throw yourself into any more fights with bad odds.”
“Your version of bad odds is different than mine,” she reminded him. “Your version is just insulting.”
“We’re not getting into this again,” Bucky muttered.
Darcy grinned at him. “I’ll be fine. Be safe, okay?” She tamped down the urge to stand and hug him. Bucky lingered awkwardly for a moment. Finally, he nodded sharply at her and left. Darcy sat in the silent room for a few minutes, readjusting to solitude.
“Okay, Gerard,” she eventually muttered. “You’re about to be in a world of hurt.” Darcy double checked the virus she’d installed to ruin every scrap of data on the server and then slipped out the door. Bucky had left her the car. He’d probably stolen another one, she told herself. He was the Winter Soldier. He’d be fine on his own.
Darcy tried calling Naomi again as she turned the car north. No answer- the same as when she’d tried last night, after the Unseelie Court assassin had attacked her. Darcy tried not to worry too much. Maybe Naomi was with the naiads. She’d hear Darcy’s message eventually and would get back to her.
She put it out of her mind for now and called Allison. The hunter didn’t answer. Darcy tried Lydia, with the same result. She bit back the surge of worry and left them both voicemails explaining what she’d found.
Darcy felt an uncomfortable sense of deja-vu as she approached the safe house on foot. She’d hidden the car a few miles back and made the rest of the trip on foot through the thin woods. Her spark settled comfortably over her body, shielding her from whatever nasty surprise was likely waiting ahead.
The van idling outside the safe house made her pause, as did the growling from inside it. Darcy crept over to the van, noting the empty front seat. She cautiously tugged the back open and stared in shock.
Two werewolves stared back at her in surprise. They were chained to the walls of the van, the metal cuffs tight around their wrists. Darcy smelled the sickly sweet scent of wolfsbane and noted the skin around their cuffs was a violent red.
“Are you okay?” Darcy asked, reaching into one of the pockets of her leather jacket. She pulled out the lockpick set and set her staff beside her, checking over her shoulder for anyone approaching.
“My daughter-” the woman said around her extended fangs. “He took her inside.”
Darcy’s blood chilled. She whirled towards the building, shoving the lock picks into the ‘wolf’s hands. Darcy snatched her staff up and strode forward, heart pounding.
She skidded to a stop when Gerard stepped out of the building. He held the girl in front of him, using her as a shield. Darcy’s heart twisted at the girl’s terrified expression. Gerard pressed the muzzle of his gun against her head. “Let her go,” Darcy said furiously. “Let her go, you bastard. She’s just a kid.”
Darcy met the little girl’s gaze. Tears welled in the young werewolf’s eyes, spilling over to run down her face. “So, you finally caught up to me,” Gerard said casually. His fingers dug into the girl’s shoulder, keeping her firmly in place. Darcy very carefully started winding her spark around the girl’s calves, working her way up to create a shield around her body.
The girl’s eyes widened fearfully. Darcy kept her own gaze steady, reassuring, until she settled again. Her mother snarled from the van, yanking uselessly at the chains.
“I wondered when you’d finally-”
“I’m really not interested in your monologue, Gerard,” Darcy interrupted.
“You’re here for revenge, I suppose?” He asked. “I thought so. Tell me, how did you kill Blake?” Darcy said nothing. “Ah. You didn’t, did you? Your partner did.”
She tried not to let her surprise show. Gerard gave her a nasty smile. “I heard rumors that you were working with Hydra’s most wanted.” Darcy was taken aback. How the fuck would Gerard know that?
“Hydra has eyes everywhere. It’s very useful,” Gerard commented. “But I don’t see him with you now.” The shield was up to the girl’s waist now, miraculously unnoticed by the hunter.
“I don’t see how that’s relevant,” Darcy said. She really didn’t like his smug grin.
Gerard’s smile widened. “He left to see to his own affairs, didn’t he? The Hydra base, miles in the other direction. You two were quite the team. Hydra’s certainly taken an interest in you now.” Gerard yanked the girl back when she leaned desperately towards her mother. “But they needed to deal with their soldier first.”
“He’s walking into a trap,” Darcy breathed in horrified realization.
“All alone,” Gerard agreed. “Hydra will get him back under control, and then they’ll send him after you. How do you think you’ll fare against the Winter Soldier?”
Fuck. She had to get to Bucky.
Darcy took a deep breath and shifted the runes around on her armband, hidden underneath her jacket. She felt the runes split apart and drift back together, reforming into a rune that she’d never used before- one she had only a brief, sickening memory of.
The shield crept up to the girl’s neck, humming dangerously when Gerard tightened his grip. Darcy completed the shield around the hostage and didn’t waste a second. Before he could react, she activated the rune designed to choke the air from Gerard’s lungs. Darcy watched impassively as his eyes widened in shock. He released the girl to scratch at his throat, beginning to panic.
“You didn’t think I was capable, did you?” Darcy asked. “To be honest, neither did I.” She glanced at the girl, who had scrambled over to her mother. “But you have a habit of hurting innocents, and it’s occurred to me that you’ll never stop.”
Darcy was a Sentinel, a peacekeeper. It was her duty to stop men like Gerard, men who sought power and would stop at nothing to achieve it.
Gerard stumbled back. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small remote. Darcy’s eyes widened in realization, and she threw every bit of her spark into a shield around the werewolves in the van.
The van exploded.
Darcy and Gerard were both thrown back, landing heavily in the dirt. Darcy coughed, ears ringing, and dragged herself to her knees. She stared helplessly at the van as the smoke cleared. Darcy nearly sobbed in relief when three figures slowly began to move, wrapped securely in her spark.
She glanced back at Gerard and sucked in a surprised breath to see him already standing, gun pointed at her head. Darcy felt the rune on her arm grow warm again. Gerard didn’t panic this time. He fired, shot after shot.
Darcy moved backwards, an instinctive flinch she couldn’t prevent. Her own shield stopped the bullets, but she felt a little lightheaded from the explosion. It took all of her focus to keep herself shielded.
Gerard tossed the gun aside, clip empty. Desperate now, almost out of air, he drew a knife and approached.
Darcy reached for her staff as Gerard raised the knife above her. Her hands closed over the smooth wood. She looked up, squinting when her vision wavered.
An arrowhead burst through Gerard’s throat.
The sheer violence of it had Darcy gaping in shock. Gerard staggered, the knife falling from his grip. One hand raised slowly to his throat, eyes wide in disbelief. He fell, and Darcy watched as Gerard Argent took his last breath.
Darcy looked up to see Allison across the yard, another arrow already drawn and aimed. Lydia stood beside her, shivering as she felt Gerard die. Darcy had never been so happy to see anyone in her life.
She staggered to her feet. Allison reached her shortly after, pale and eyes wide in shock. She stared at Gerard for a few heartbeats and then hugged Darcy fiercely. “You’re okay?” Allison asked.
Darcy nodded, rubbing at her head. Lydia approached the werewolves with a gentle manner Darcy had rarely seen from her friend. Allison went to help, but Darcy grabbed her arm. ”Wait. Alli. I need your help,” she said urgently.
Allison straightened, expression serious as she listened to Darcy. “I ran across someone while I was tracking Gerard, weeks ago.”
“Dad said you weren’t alone,” Allison said quietly. “But he didn’t say who.”
“I- it was...” Darcy took a shaky breath. “It was the Winter Soldier.” Allison, who’d been through the same files Darcy had, sucked in a breath. “He shot Blake, Alli, and he helped me track down Gerard.”
They’d helped each other, really, tracking down the people that had hurt them. Doing it together, as a team. He got on her nerves, sometimes, sure, but Darcy couldn’t leave him to Hydra. Not knowing what she knew.
“What do you need?” Allison asked.
“He went after Hydra agents,” Darcy explained. “But it’s a trap. They know he’s coming. Please, we have to go help him.”
Allison nodded sharply. “You know where to go?” Darcy nodded. Allison took the keys from Darcy’s hand and passed them to the werewolves. “Darce, get your stuff out of the car. Lydia and I parked nearby.” She turned to the woman, who was clutching her daughter tightly. “Can you find your way home?”
“Yes,” she said. “Thank you.” The werewolf grabbed Darcy’s arm when the spark turned to go. “Thank you.”
Darcy squeezed the ‘wolf’s hand back. “You’re welcome.” She smiled gently at the trembling girl. Darcy turned to Allison. “Let’s go, we have to hurry.”
He should have seen it coming.
Every day, Bucky’s head was a never-ending, dizzying swirl of memories. Things he faintly remembered from before, always followed by a surge of fear- those memories were punished severely by the commanders, a white-hot brand of pain lacing through his mind that was just an echo of the real thing.
Sometimes he could fight through it. Other times he went near-catatonic with the pain, even just the memory of the fire searing through his head.
The man on the bridge-
- but I knew him-
Things he’d done, things he’d seen, things he’d been forced to do.
Soldat. He was a soldier, nothing more. And soldiers followed the orders they were given.
They knew which words to use- the triggers, branded into his mind day after day. He’d worked through the immediate response, that instant obedience that followed one of those words. But it still slowed him down, took him by surprise during those first few seconds. Resisting took effort, and effort took precious time.
Now he thrashed in the chair as the metal restraints closed around his body. Bucky felt only raw panic now, as the STRIKE agents- Hydra all along, they’d tried to kill the man on the bridge, tried to kill Steve- tried to force him into the head restraint.
Two scientists lay dead at his feet, having stepped within the reach of his metal arm. Four soldiers lay outside the large room, killed when he tried to fight his way back out.
Bucky snarled and thrashed some more, the metal creaking ominously. A gun slammed into his temple. He blinked away the dizziness and fought harder.
A commotion outside caught the attention of the room. Soldiers and scientists alike glanced at the door. Bucky didn’t bother. He strained desperately against the chair, sweating and trembling with the effort.
A familiar warmth washed over him and Bucky froze in shock. Surely not, surely she wasn’t stupid enough to-
The door burst open.
Bucky’s breath was taken away by the crackle of energy that arched through the air like lightning. It struck the soldiers closest to him- Rollins and another STRIKE agent, who both collapsed instantly.
The gold power he’d become cautiously familiar with wrapped securely around him as Darcy stepped into the room. “You idiot,” Bucky growled. His heart was pounding as the soldiers raised their weapons at her. Darcy just grinned at them and stepped to the side.
A petite redhead smiled dangerously in the doorway, the same golden glow of Darcy’s magic around her. Bucky nearly dismissed the woman, instead watching as Darcy’s eyes burn a bright gold.
And then the woman opened her mouth and screamed.
Men fell, clutching desperately at their ears. Bucky watched in astonishment, protected within Darcy’s shield. Arrows flew through the air, fired by the calm young woman standing behind the redhead.
Hydra agents were falling all around him, some clawing at their throats, others struck by that deadly lightning. He watched three slump lifelessly to the ground, blood still pouring from their ears.
Darcy stepped up beside the chair, studying it carefully. "Are you okay?" She asked, keeping half an eye on the other two women's progress.
"Yes," Bucky gritted out. "Just-" He broke off, unable to voice the plea.
Darcy touched his arm- the metal one, to his surprise- in a comforting gesture. "One sec, okay? I've almost got this worked out." She studied the screen, the wires, and her face grew dark.
"Well," the redhead said, studying the room full of dead Hydra agents. "That went better than expected." The dark headed woman- Allison, Bucky's mind supplied- peeled wax buds from her ears despite her own gold armor.
"Darce, you can drop the shields," Allison said. She examined the room carefully, watching for any signs of movement.
Darcy shook her head. "Not until we're out of here." Bucky felt the one around him flex against his skin. Darcy pressed a few keys, yanked on a wire, and the metal restraints sprang open. Bucky tried not to lunge out of the chair, not wanting reveal his desperation.
Darcy caught his arm when he wavered. She stayed close to his side as they left the base, Bucky leaning heavily on Darcy. He’d taken a bullet early on, a through and through just below his ribs. It had mostly clotted, until his trip back out of the base.
They paused in the doorway of the base to let Allison and Lydia clear the way. Bucky heard only one arrow released with deadly aim. He had to respect the accuracy and range of the girl’s shots, though he still found the bow a stupid weapon to take into a fight.
Darcy let him lean against the car, both of them breathing a little hard. She frowned when the hand supporting his side came away wet with his blood. “Bucky, are you hit?” She patted urgently at his torso, searching for the wound.
He batted ineffectively at her hands, exhausted. “Quit it,” he growled.
“You’re hurt!” Darcy smacked his own hands away. There was a brief and incredibly undignified slap fight. Allison struggled not to laugh behind Darcy while Lydia rolled her eyes to the sky.
“Just let her help,” Allison advised. “She’s not gonna quit.”
“I’ll heal,” Bucky said, brows furrowing in annoyance.
“You bet your ass you will,” Darcy muttered. Bucky blinked down at her, wondering where in the hell she’d found a marker. Darcy drew one of her strange symbols on his flesh and bone arm, bitching at him the whole time under her breath.
Bucky grunted when the rune warmed on his skin, glowing brightly. He twitched uncomfortably when his side itched in response, the wound healing over. Darcy studied the rune, then pressed her fingers to the former bullet wound. “That should take care of anything internal, too.” She stepped back, pocketing the marker.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Bucky asked, unreasonably pissed.
Darcy immediately scowled at him. “Riding to the fucking rescue, dude.”
“Don’t call me dude.”
“A thank you would be nice,” Darcy snapped, crossing her arms as she glared at him.
“Thank you? You could’ve been killed!”
“They were about to do way worse to you!” Darcy protested. “I couldn’t just leave you there!”
God save him from reckless, righteous idiots. Bucky rubbed a hand wearily over his face. “You shouldn’t have bothered,” he muttered.
“Fuck off,” she said. “I couldn’t leave you behind. Don’t be a dick about it.” She studied him for a moment. “Would you have left me?”
Bucky looked away, knowing she was right.
Darcy hesitated, glancing at Allison and Lydia and then back to him. “James. Bucky.” He looked at her, eyes shuttered. ”I’m going home,” she told him. “Back to New York.”
Back to Steve, her expression said. “Come with me.”
Allison’s eyes widened behind Darcy but she remained quiet. Lydia just looked bored.
“Bucky,” Darcy said softly. She stepped closer, staring earnestly up at him. “Come home.” Bucky swallowed hard, blood racing at the thought. He stared back at her bright blue eyes, her full mouth, the gentle expression.
Bucky looked at the woman who’d just saved his life- who’d saved him from something far worse than death. She offered her hand, so small compared to his own. Bucky took a deep breath and made his decision.