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The Best Kind of Trouble

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Darcy is 99% sure James Buchanan Barnes hates her. She is loud, brash, pushy, and knows she can be obnoxious. She can own that. And after everything he's been through, it seems like Barnes likes things quiet and mellow. AKA, very not Darcy. And really, she can't blame him. But still, it kinda sucks.

Which is why she feels awful when he's the one with her on the run. They're at some scientific summit, presenting some of Jane's findings, when all hell breaks loose. Gunmen burst into the hall and Darcy is too far away from Jane to do anything. Thor, perfect angel that he is, sweeps Jane out of the hall and hopefully far away. Which is good, great, but that also leaves Darcy in the conference hall with a bunch of scrambling, screaming scientists. She knows she isn't a brilliant astrophysicist, but she's pretty sure that if the bad guys looking for Jane can't find her, they'll settle for Darcy.

She's hiding behind a stack of chairs, trying not to be noticeable, then suddenly Barnes is there in front of her. She stares at him in shock for all of two seconds before hauling her ass into gear, taking his hand and letting him pull her to her feet. He keeps her behind him, running the perimeter of the room, occasionally firing back at the masked goons, until they're at a locked door.

The door leads backstage, Darcy knows because an hour ago, that's where she and Jane had been. The lock means jack shit to Barnes, who slams his metal shoulder into it, the faux wood breaking easily under the force. They run through the backstage area, darting around extra tables and chairs and god, Darcy has never been happier to be wearing Converse instead of the heels Tony had tried to send with her.

Darcy knows that at some point, she's going to have an epic freak out about this, but right now she's focused on following Barnes' lead, stopping when he stops, quiet when he's quiet, her mind solely on getting through this moment alive. It's only a few minutes between when the gunfire erupts and when she and Barnes burst through the back door of the convention center, but it feels like hours.

Darcy doesn't know if the car he leads her to is his or if they're stealing it, but she really doesn't care, especially not when she can see masked gunmen coming out the same back door as they drive away. Barnes tells her to turn her phone off so they can't be tracked, which sucks but makes sense.

Darcy doesn't speak for at least ten minutes, not until they're done weaving in and out of traffic, Barnes checking their mirrors to make sure they aren't followed. They're out of the city center, entering a more suburban area when she finally finds her voice.

"Jane?" she asks. It feels wrong to speak in the quiet of the car, and she realizes he hasn't said a word to her yet.

"Thor has her," Barnes says. "They're going to a safe house."

"Good," Darcy says, nodding way too many times. "Good good good good good." Barnes looks over at her, but she can't read his face. Nothing new there. "Are we meeting them?"

"No, we're going to a different safe house. We need to get out of the open as soon as possible and they're too far away," he says.

It makes sense, though she doesn't like it. But then again, Barnes is the expert on staying alive, so she's more than fine listening to him. The silence is getting oppressive though, and even though she's a few steps away from a meltdown, she can't deal with the quiet.

"Who were those guys?" she asks. "I didn't see any emblems."

"The working theory is AIM. There'd been some chatter about them and the conference," he says.

"And no one told us?" Darcy asks, voice getting a bit shrill. "They just let us go without warning us?"

Barnes just shrugs. "Not my call. Decision was made further up."

She's no expert, but she thinks that he sounds like he disapproves. Possibly. Hopefully.

"So you're here to take down AIM," Darcy says, mostly to herself, nodding. "Makes sense. I don't enjoy playing the unwitting and unwilling bait, but makes sense. Probably didn't expect them to open fire in a crowded hall, but ya know."

Barnes glances at her, an odd look on his face. "I came to keep you and Dr. Foster safe," he says.

"Really?" Darcy asks, taken aback. "How'd you get stuck on bodyguard duty?"

"I volunteered," Barnes says.

Darcy...doesn't know what to say to that. She wants to pull on that thread, distract herself from the impending panic attack, but this already the most Barnes has spoken to her at once and she'd hate for him to get annoyed and have to kill her right after he saved her (she knows he wouldn't actually, but still). So she keeps quiet, picking at the skin around her nails. She only stops when the stinging becomes too much and they start to bleed.

Barnes drives for almost an hour, doubling back and retracing steps to make sure they aren't followed, until they pull into the driveway of a very boring, suburban house. It's white, has a little picket fence, and a one-car garage. Barnes has Darcy stay in the car, seat leaned back so she's out of sight while he goes in to make sure everything is still secure. She jumps when he opens her door a few minutes later, but she thinks she's warranted that after the day she's had.

The inside of the safe house makes it obvious it's built for functionality, not comfort. The living room has an old sofa; a hard, wooden chair; a rickety, dusty coffee table; and a blue, threadbare blanket. The kitchen overlooks the living room and while Darcy collapses onto the hard couch, Barnes checks through the cupboards, pulling out protein bars and trail mix. He sets them on the coffee table before sitting on the hard chair

"Basic rules," Barnes says, picking up a protein bar and opening it. Darcy follows suit. "No phones, internet, nothing that can be used to track us."

Darcy nods. Her phone's already off and her laptop is in her bag back at the convention center anyway, for all the good that'll do her now.

"The bedroom is down the hall to the left, next to the bathroom. Across the hall is a panic room. If I tell you to run and lock yourself in the panic room, you do it without argument, understood?" Barnes says.

"Understood," Darcy says. "Do you think that'll happen?"

"No, but it pays to be prepared," he says. "We're waiting to hear from Clint or Natasha about a safe route back to New York. Could be an hour, could be a week. We have enough non-perishables for a month, so we should be fine there."

Darcy realizes that Barnes is trying to reassure her. He's trying to give her as much information as he can to keep her from freaking out. If anything, that freaks her out more. Everything she's been pushing down for the last few hours hits her at once.

Dr. Okamoto, the woman who'd sat with Darcy and discussed the political implications of Jane's work, had been gunned down in front of her. The last she'd seen, her eyes had been open and glazed, blood dripping out of the corner of her mouth. The shitty graduate students that had been staring at her tits had been on the ground, clutching at their bloody legs and stomachs. Jane...she'd seen the back of Jane's head as Thor had picked her up and sprinted out of the room, but it could have easily been her lying on the floor, staring lifelessly back at Darcy.

"Oh god," Darcy says, the long awaited panic attacking making its appearance. She groans, leaning over, her face in her hands, elbows on her knees. "Oh, fuck me. God damn it."

She sees Barnes move out of the corner of her eye, and is a little surprised that it's to settle on the couch next to her, not run away from the crying girl. He pats her back awkwardly and that makes her laugh a bit hysterically, choking on the sob threatening to burst free. To his credit, Barnes doesn't pull away, just rubs his large hand over her back in soothing circles, like he's just remembering how.

"Sorry," Darcy eventually says when her breathing has returned to semi-normal, turning her head to look at him. His brows are furrowed in concern. "Hell of a day, you know?"

"I'm going to keep you safe," Barnes promises.

"I know that," Darcy says. "Believe me, there's no one in this whole world I'd rather have watching my back, except maybe Thor and that's because he can literally fry people with his fists of fury."

Barnes looks surprised at that. "You're not...upset to be stuck with me?"

"I should be asking you that. It's not like you're my biggest fan," Darcy says.

Barnes frowns a bit at that, though he looks more confused than angry.

"You think I don't like you? Why?" he asks.

"Well, yeah," Darcy says. "You always glare when I talk too much, you don't answer when I say something to you, and you actually look pretty constipated whenever I'm around."

Barnes is shaking his head though. "I don't dislike you," he says. "I'm not so great with words anymore. And I don't...know what to do with you."

"What do you mean?" Darcy asks, frowning.

"People...are hard. It's easier if I put them into categories. Ally, asset, threat, et cetera. You're hard to categorize," Barnes says. "You're not afraid of me, and that usually means 'threat', but you're not capable of injuring me. You're not an ally I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with in battle but you're not a civilian because you put yourself in harm's way with us. You're not a friend because we never talk or spend time together. You're not an enemy, or a combatant, or a mission. And I don't always know what to do with that."

"So you don't hate me," Darcy says, mind turning all this over. The most words she's heard from him in ever. "Just to clarify."

"I wouldn't have volunteered to come if I hated you," Barnes says.

"Well Barnes, you've seen me cry and saved my life today. I think that qualifies us as friends," she says, smiling slightly. He returns the smile.

"Bucky," he says softly. "My friends call me Bucky."

"Bucky, then," Darcy repeats, reaching out and squeezing his hand.

A bit later, Bucky heats up a couple cans of ravioli for dinner and even though she's still definitely freaking out once in a while, watching him raise his eyebrows at Chef Boyardee is taking some of the hysterical edge out of her panicking. They eat dinner on the lumpy sofa, Darcy sitting criss-cross on her cushion facing him so they can talk.

"Do you like this? The whole avenging, fight the good fight, blood spraying and teeth flying thing?" Darcy asks.

"It's what I'm good at," Bucky says with a shrug. He's already finished his ravioli, eating quickly as if he didn't want it taken away. She aches for him so much sometimes. "Don't know what else I'd do."

Darcy hums, setting her empty bowl on the coffee table before leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees, hands propping her chin up. "That's not what I asked. I asked if you like it."

Bucky seems to actually be contemplating her words, picking his answer carefully. She hopes it's not because he's worried what she'll think of him, though she's sure that's a concern that'll be hard to break him of.

"There are these instincts I can't turn off," Bucky says slowly. "I can't stop looking for threats, analyzing all the ways these terrible things can happen. Hyperawareness, the doc says. If I'm doing that anyway, I might as well be useful while doing it."

Darcy wants to frown, but doesn't, not wanting him to think she's upset with him. She reaches out slowly, telegraphing her movements, and rests her hand on his. "What do you want to do?" she asks quietly.

Bucky's hand twitches under hers and she thinks he's going to yank it back. Instead, he turns it over, lacing their fingers together. He's quiet for long enough that she doesn't think he's going to answer. That's fine, they really only declared friendship tonight, it's not like he owes her anything, but he seems to actually be thinking about it so she's happy.

"I want to learn to cook," Bucky says softly, like he's waiting for her to laugh. She doesn't think it's funny at all.

"Really?" Darcy says, smiling. "So do I. I think you'd be good at it."

He looks perplexed, like he wasn't expecting that answer at all. She doesn't know if he expects to be yelled at, or mocked, or whatever those Hydra fucks did to him, but apparently a big grin isn't what he was expecting.

"Yeah, we didn't...we didn't have lot of money, you know? At least from what I remember, so food wasn't great," Bucky says. "Then there was Army food and man, that's a memory I wish were gone." Darcy snorts a laugh at that, which makes him grin. "There are options now. I want to learn."

"Well, you're already miles ahead of most of my friends from college," Darcy says. She takes her hand back so she can stand, grabbing their empty bowls and taking them into the kitchen. "When we're done with this whole safe house thing, I'll look for a class for you if you want."

"And you," Bucky says and she swears there's a blush there. "If you wanted to take it, too."

Darcy grins, turning around the run their bowls under the water so he doesn't see her blush. "Yeah," she calls over her shoulder, only turning around when she feels less red. "Yeah, that'd be fun."

Bucky finds a deck of cards in one of the closets while she's washing the dishes (he'd told her she didn't have to, but he cooked so she would wash the damn dishes) so they spend a few hours playing poker. She knows how, but she has a terrible poker face. He tries to teach her but she's pretty sure she fails spectacularly.

Darcy is about to just chuck her cards at him when Bucky straightens. The change is startling, his body going from relaxed and open to tense, back ramrod straight, his head tilted toward the door. The change had been so gradual that she hadn't really noticed how relaxed he'd become until he tensed. The easy smile he'd fallen into in the last few hours is gone, replaced by the intensity she'd seen earlier.

Bucky puts his finger to his lips and grabs her by the wrist, forcing her into a crouch with his other hand on her back, hustling her down the hallway. He opens the thick metal door to the panic room and nudges her in. He pulls out a small gun from god knows where and holds it up.

"Do you know how to use this?" he asks.

"Yeah," Darcy says, heart racing. Her family is very country, she's known for years at least the basics of gun safety, though her accuracy is shit. God, that's not what she wants to be focused on right now.

"Use it if anyone opens that door but me," Bucky says.

Before she can say anything, Bucky leans in, looking more worried than she's seen him, and kisses her forehead. When he pulls back, his face is blank, emotionless, the mask she sees him wear when he leaves for missions. He closes the thick metal door behind him, the sound of thick bolts sliding into place to lock it. Darcy backs into the corner of the room, no bigger than a walk-in closet, gun clutched in her hands. Cold fear is coursing through her, making her legs shake. She sinks to the ground, wedged into the corner of the room between an old end table and the mini-fridge. She points the gun at the door, not thrilled with how her hands are shaking.

She has no idea what's on the other side of that door. She has no idea if it's AIM mercenaries that somehow managed to follow them, or if Bucky's overreacting, but she can't shake the fear that whoever tries to open that door won't be him. Or worse, no one comes, that she's left alone here until she has to venture out on her own and finds Bucky dead.

Darcy tries to count the minutes she's in here, but she loses track after six and a half, stumbling over the numbers in her head. It's not that she'd forgotten what had happened earlier, there's not a chance in hell she'd forget the dead eyes of her colleagues staring up at her from the floor, but Bucky had made it easier to pretend. With Bucky, one of the safest people to be with, talking with him and playing cards and eating stupid ravioli had made it easier to forget that they're being chased by psychopaths. Well, she's remembering now.

Whoever made this a panic room really did their job of making sure the walls are thick, because Darcy can't hear jack. She sits in silence, only hearing her own rapid breath, until there's a sound against the door. She gasps and raises the gun, listening to the beeps of the unlock code being entered. The door opens barely an inch and Darcy takes a deep breath, ready to fire at any face that isn't Bucky's.

"It's me, Darcy." That's Bucky's voice.

Darcy groans in relief, making sure the safety is on before pushing the gun as far away from her as she can. She draws her legs up to her chest, resting her forehead on her knees and trying to breathe as deeply as she can all folded up. She knows the only reason she can hear his light footsteps as he approaches is he wants her to. The footsteps stop in front of her, followed by a light rustling of fabric, then he's lightly touching her face, turning her head to look up at him. She raises her head to see him kneeling in front of her, frowning in concern.

"Are you okay?" he asks, thumbs brushing across her cheeks.

"Yeah," she says, clearing her throat when it comes out rougher than it was intended. "Yeah, fine. What was it?"

Bucky clearly doesn't believe her. She knows he sees the trembling in her hands, the way her eyes are wide and her voice wavering. She's not sure if he's going to call her on it or not, but he just sighs and says, "Clint," rolling his eyes. She stares at him. He smiles slightly at her disbelief, pulling his hands from her face to rest on her knees. "Apparently the radio isn't working so he came to make sure we're here."

"Lucky us," Darcy says. She lets her head thunk back against the cement wall, making her groan. The adrenaline crash in hitting, her hands shaking more than before.

"Come on, he brought a Quinjet," Bucky says. He takes her hands and tugs her to her feet, steady her before reaching down for the gun she'd tossed aside. "We need to set up a code word for next time."

"I don't want there to be a next time!" Darcy says.

"Neither do I, but it's better to be prepared."

"Yes, fine, pick a code word, okay," Darcy says, walking out of the tiny panic room. Clint's at the counter, munching on one of the protein bars. He waves at her sheepishly. "I swear Barton, you just took about ten years off my life."

"Sorry," he says. "Couldn't get a hold of you guys, wanted to make sure you were good."

"Is Jane okay?" Darcy asks.

"Yeah, Thor managed to fly her somewhere safe," Clint says.

"Bet she loved that," Darcy says.

"She was okay with being safe, even in the face of cold wind," Clint says. "How are you? Barnes drive you up the wall yet?"

"Cute," Bucky says, kicking Clint as he walks by.

"Nope, Bucky and I are friends now, but I really kinda hate it here and am about a stiff breeze away from a panic attack, so can we go?" Darcy says.

Bucky's concerned face is back and she almost wishes she hadn't said that, but then he's hustling her out, following Clint behind the house to the field where, yep, the Quinjet really is parked. (Is is parked if it's a plane? Or is that a car word? She doesn't know.)

It's not exactly the most comfortable seat in the world, but Darcy is just glad to be on the move instead of sitting in a safe house for god knows how long. She expects Bucky to stay up front as Clint's co-pilot, but he pulls a blanket from a locker and wraps it around her shoulders before sitting down next to her.

Darcy's tired, she's stressed, and she gives no fucks. She leans her head on his shoulder, sighing as she closes her eyes. The jet isn't bumpy, so it's easy for her to doze. They hit turbulence once, almost jolting her from her seat, but Bucky easily catches her before she slips too far, tugging her back up. He keeps his arm around her for the rest of the flight back to the tower.

Tony is waiting for them on the roof and if Darcy didn't know better, she'd say he looks worried. Apparently she doesn't know shit, because he's hugging her as soon as she's in reach. She looks over her shoulder at Clint and Bucky in bewilderment, but both of them just shrug.

"I'm glad you're okay, kid," Tony says when he pulls back.

"Uh, yeah, me too. Thanks," Darcy says.

"So the main attackers are in custody, but because we know there are more out there, it isn't totally safe. Barnes'll be sticking to you like glue until it is," Tony says. "Consider it an extended sleepover. Making breakfast, going to work, going shopping, I don't care, he's there."

"Oookay," Darcy says, glancing at Bucky. "Isn't he a little overqualified for bodyguard duty?"

"Look, he is the best of the best. He is uniquely qualified to keep you alive and I really like you alive. So please just play ball on this, as much as I know it goes against your inner drive to make everything difficult," Tony says, which, pot calling the kettle black over there.

"Yeah, I get that, but why is he stuck on my couch? Isn't this the safest tower in the world?" Darcy asks.

"Also the easiest targeted tower in the world," Tony says. "It's either this or a long term safe house."

Darcy kind of wants to argue just for the sake of arguing, she's a lot like Tony in that regard, but in all honesty, she doesn't hate the sound of it. She's feeling particularly vulnerable and exposed, and it's not a feeling she likes. So she just shrugs in acceptance, letting Tony's chatting wash over her, only really speaking up when he tells her a new laptop is waiting for her since hers became collateral damage in the assault.

Tony apparently is serious about not wanting her left alone because they take a detour to Bucky's floor so he can pack a bag, Tony and Darcy waiting in his living room. She'd kind of been worried it would be utilitarian and cold, like he didn't know he was allowed to have fun things, but she's pleased to have been wrong. There are colorful works of art hanging on the walls, a few framed sketches that she recognizes as Steve's work, and a collection of Brooklyn Dodgers memorabilia. She sees a few books with dogeared pages and a well-loved record player, and it absolutely doesn't make her teary-eyed, nope. She doesn't at all feel like the Grinch with his heart growing three sizes, not at all.

Tony eventually leaves them at Darcy's apartment, probably retreating back to his dungeon (lab) to actually do work. Darcy's a lot messier than Bucky's. Books and blankets and pillows everywhere, a stack of shoes next to the door, a ratty old quilt over the back of the couch...Yeah, she can't even find it in herself to be embarrassed. This is her.

"It's not that I don't want you here, I just don't get why it's necessary," Darcy says, not wanting Bucky to think she was pissed earlier. "And dude, my shitty couch is not good for sleeping."

"I've slept on worse," Bucky says, setting his bag down next to the couch.

"Okay, I believe that, but you shouldn't have to," Darcy says. "I told Tony I didn't need a two-bedroom and now I feel like a dick."

"Darcy, really, it's fine," Bucky says. "I volunteered."

"Oh," she says. "Well...thank you."

She does feel better that night when she goes to sleep, and she feels a bit guilty about that. Bucky's lying on her squashy couch, ready to take out anything that comes through that front door without permission. He'd said he doesn't think it's likely to happen, but he'd rather be prepared.

She falls asleep quickly, but staying asleep is a different matter. She wakes up at midnight from a nightmare, Dr. Okamoto's dead eyes staring at her. She wakes up again at 2:00, seeing the AIM thugs busting through her front door. At 4:00, she calls sleep a loss when she wakes up with a scream on her tongue, having dreamed of the conference again, but this time Thor hadn't been able to get Jane out in time.

Darcy groans and rolls out of bed, pulling her bathrobe on over her flannel pajama pants and sleep shirt, and shuffles out of her room. She walks as quietly as she can, not wanting to wake Bucky, not when he had as long of a day as she'd had. She's just planning on getting a glass of water before going back to her room and reading but when she turns around from grabbing a glass from the cupboard, Bucky's standing by the refrigerator. Darcy shrieks in surprise, coming alarmingly close to dropping the glass in her hands. She puts a hand over her heart, feeling it race with her adrenaline. Bucky looks apologetic, but Darcy waves him off.

"Sorry, just startled," she says. "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you up."

Bucky shrugs. He's wearing dark sweats and a Henley, hair rumpled from sleep and lord, he looks soft and adorable.

"I don't sleep much," he says. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yep, totally fine, peachy keen, a-okay over here," Darcy says.

"Right, that's why you're up at 4:00 a.m. after screaming yourself awake," Bucky says.

"Hey, it was just a little scream!" Darcy says. Bucky just looks at her and she sighs, slumping back against the counter. "You've read my pilfered SHIELD file, yeah?"

"Yes," Bucky says, though he seems apologetic.

"Not offended, just asking for context," she says. "I had nightmares for a while after the whole New Mexico thing, then after the London shit show. They pop up on occasion after long days or armed assaults." She says it with a shrug, like it doesn't matter. It really shouldn't, especially to Bucky, who has seventy years of crap to have nightmares about rolling around inside his noggin.

"You don't have to be ashamed of that. Or so my therapist tells me," Bucky says with a wry grin.

"I mean, no offense, but you have more of a reason than I do. It feels stupid to be complaining when you've had it so much worse," Darcy says.

Bucky looks at her for a moment, face serious, before he asks, "Do you know what my nightmares were tonight?" he asks. She shakes her head. She doesn't even want to guess. "The conference."

"What?" she asks, thrown. She's pretty sure the last day and a half rank low on his worst memories days.

"I dreamed that I hadn't gotten to you in time. That I brought home your body instead of you," Bucky says.

"Oh," Darcy says softly.

"Yeah, oh," Bucky says.

They stand there awkwardly for a moment, neither of them knowing quite what to say, before Darcy thinks fuck it. "I'm not going to get back to sleep. Wanna watch nature documentaries?"

Bucky smiles and nods. He doesn't let her sit on the floor when she tries, not wanting to invade what amounts to his bed. He tugs her up by the arm until she's sitting next to him, shaking his head.

"Did you really think I was going to let you sit on the floor?" he asks.

"My rug is soft!" she says, but doesn't fight him on it.

Darcy pulls up an episode of Planet Earth and sinks back into the couch. The music and beauty always calm her down, giving her something to focus on that doesn't require a lot of brain power to pay attention to. Bucky actually seems intrigued, writing down something every once in a while to look up later.

They're partway through the great plains episode when her eyelids start to get heavy. She lists a bit to the side, Bucky shifting to accommodate her. He lifts his arm, letting her snuggle into his side. She's tired and cozy and she doesn't have enough energy to feel awkward about it, not when he doesn't seem to mind, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. She dozes off to David Attenborough's voice,

Bucky's already up when Darcy wakes up, wrapped in his blanket and lying on the couch. She groans against the light streaming in from the windows, burying her face in the quilt.

"Not a morning person?" comes Bucky's amused voice.

"A+ observational skills there, sarge," she grumbles, the words muffled from the blanket. She takes a deep breath and sits up, squinting at him where he's walking in with a mug of coffee. "Sorry for falling asleep on you. I didn't drool, did I?"

"No drool," Bucky says, sitting on the other end of the couch. "You do talk in your sleep, though."

"Shut up, I do not," Darcy says. "My exes would have told me."

Bucky just shrugs, but there's a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Well, can't speak for them, but you talk in your sleep," he says. "Nonsense stuff. Like 'the watermelon has my pajamas'."

"I honestly can't tell if you're fucking with me or not," Darcy says.

Bucky just shrugs and takes a sip of his coffee. Bastard.

"Okay, I'm up," Darcy says, lurching to her feet. "Shower, clothes, good to go in like forty minutes?"

"Go where?" Bucky asks.

"Just down to the lab. You know, my job?" Darcy says.

"Most people would take a break after a kidnapping attempt," Bucky says.

Darcy shrugs. "I like to keep busy. And I need to make sure Jane is watered, fed, and has enough sunlight," she says.

"Did you know I genuinely thought Jane was a plant for the first few months?" Bucky says.

"You...what?" Darcy says.

"I read your files, I knew Jane was a person, but I thought you must have a plant you named Jane because of the feeding and watering and sunlight comments," Bucky says.

Darcy stares for a moment, then bursts out laughing. "Oh my god, I should get a plant and name it Jane. Excellent idea, Buckster. It's happening."

Darcy is ready forty-five minutes later, Bucky already set, and they head down to the lab. She hasn't actually talked to Jane yet, too tired to do anything but fall asleep last night, but she'd bet cash money that Jane's in the lab already. Bucky refuses to take that bet.

Darcy's right and as soon as she sees her, Jane's darting her way, throwing her arms around Darcy and speaking very, very quickly. Darcy hugs her back, only hearing every few words but getting the gist of it, that she was worried and she's glad Darcy's okay. It takes her a second to realize Jane's crying and god damn, Darcy's a sympathetic crier, okay, she's going to start the waterworks any second now.

"Are you okay?" Jane asks when she pulls back, looking Darcy up and down like she'll see a bullet wound materialize.

"Tony said Darcy is uninjured," Thor says, and wow she hadn't even noticed he was here, which is a feat, he has quite the presence. Thor hugs her too, lifting her up off her feet. Thor hugs are really the best fucking hugs. When he puts her down, his face is somber, far more somber than usual. "I owe you an apology, my friend."

"For what?" Darcy asks.

"I should have made sure you got to safety. I was so focused on getting Jane out that I neglected you, and I owe you an apology for that," Thor says.

"It's fine, big guy, really. I know Jane is priority numero uno," Darcy says. Thor frowns at that. "Besides, Bucky got me out just fine."

"Sergeant Barnes is a great warrior, one that I count myself lucky to know," Thor says. "But I don't want you to ever believe you aren't a priority. My head was clouded in adrenaline and I didn't think in my haste. I apologize."

"I still say you have nothing to apologize for, but I accept if that helps," Darcy says.

Thor smiles at her and lord, he really is just sunshine sometimes.

"Will you be here for a while? I want to check on the floor's security," Bucky says.

Thor nods. "I will be here until the threat to Jane and Darcy subsides," Thor says. Bucky nods like he'd expected that and turns to leave, squeezing Darcy's shoulder in reassurance on the way out. "I'll be back," he promises, and she doesn't want to look too closely into why that makes her feel better.

Jane's a lot like Darcy. In the face of panic and death threats, work until you can't think about it anymore. As soon as she's sure Darcy's okay, she goes back to her work, though she does look over at her more often. Darcy isn't offended, she knows Jane cares and this is her way to work through shit. Thor is still watching her though, a pensive look on his face.

"Sergeant Barnes is a good man. There are few I would trust with your life, and he is among them," Thor says.

"Yeah, I told him other than you, he would be my number one choice for life saving activities," Darcy says. Thor still has a strange look on his face and it makes her narrow her eyes. "What?"

"I find it more and more rare to see a good man and a great warrior in one person," Thor says. "Someone with fire in their soul like you deserves someone like him in their life."

"Are...are you trying to hook me up with Bucky?" she asks, voice a little bit higher than she'd intended.

"I have lived many lifetimes and known many people, and I can say that souls like yours and our sergeant's are rare," Thor says. "Humans and those of Asgard are not so different that I can't see souls' compatibility."

It takes Darcy a second to realize what he means and hey, flattered as hell that she's unique and fiery, awesome, but also, what?

"I honestly can't tell if you mean that literally or not," Darcy says. Thor just smiles enigmatically, the asshole. She takes back all her sunshine comments. "Oookay, well, thanks?"

"It's just something to think on," Thor says.

Before Darcy can say anything else, the lab's door is sliding open, Bucky back from doing his sweep of the floor. Thor winks at her and drifts back over to Jane. Darcy is sure she has a dumb look on her face, especially with how Bucky is looking at her oddly. Crap. Now that Thor's said it, she is thinking on it.

She shakes her head and smiles at Bucky. "Find anything fun?"

"If you find stashing weapons in hidden places fun, sure," Bucky says. "I restricted access to the floor to the four of us for the time being."

"Oh I can't wait for Tony to find out about that," Darcy says, grinning. Bucky looks a bit smug at the thought, too.

While Darcy is the person who likes to be busy when she's stressed, she's never been the workhorse Jane is. She convinces Bucky around 10:30 to go to Starbucks with her. She'd pushed for the small, hole in the wall coffee shop a few blocks away, but he'd look pained at that, so she'd compromised with the Starbucks two buildings down.

At 12:30, the Thai food she'd ordered for them all arrives and Bucky spends ten minutes making sure there isn't a bomb or poison or something in it. Darcy glances at Jane, thinking it's a bit overkill, but Thor looks approving so Darcy just shrugs.

Darcy has some paperwork to run to other departments in the afternoon, and Bucky's constipated face is back, at least until they step off the elevator and his expression goes blank, back into badass mode. He scares the shit out of Jacob, a tech guy a floor down. Jacob goes to grab Darcy by the arm, something he tries occasionally when he thinks enough time has passed that he can ask her out again. One look at the murderous expression on Bucky's face and Jacob's wheeling around, scurrying back to his office.

"It's truly impressive how well you convey your complete willingness to break someone's arms without uttering a single word," Darcy says conversationally as they continue down the hall.

Bucky stares daggers at Jacob's closed office door as they walk by, making sure to stay at her side. "It's not his arms I'd aim for," Bucky says.

"I'm pretty sure Jane has a video of me kneeing him in the balls if you're interested," Darcy says.

"Why did you knee him in the balls?"

"I mean, do I need more of a reason?" she asks, gesturing back to the closed office door. Bucky shrugs, conceding a point. "He didn't seem to get that no, I didn't want to go out with him, no, I didn't want him touching me, and no, I didn't want another damn drink."

Bucky stops, turning back to look at Jacob's door like he's seriously considering breaking it down. Darcy gently touches his arm to get his attention, gratified when it doesn't make him jump. She raises an eyebrow at him.

"Do I need to deal with him?" he asks seriously. Ah, that chivalry.

"No," Darcy says with a shrug. "Talked to HR. They gave him a nice little warning and went on with their lives. They said since I kneed him in the balls, it's also my fault and they can't fire him because he could sue and say someone assaulted him."

Bucky...actually looks kinda livid. His muscles tense under her touch, his jaw clenched. "What'd Tony say?" Bucky asks. His voice is calm and honestly that's kinda freaky.

"I doubt he knows? I don't think HR is gonna send him a daily report of shitty employees," she says. "Look, Bucky, I hit puberty early and having tits at a young age wasn't fun. I've been dealing with gross dudes for years. It's water off the duck's back or whatever at this point."

Bucky's already shaking his head. "Dealing with it for years doesn't make it okay," he says.

Darcy doesn't answer, dropping the files in her arms onto the desk of one of the R&D assistants. Bucky lets it go for now, but she's well aware just how stubborn he is and she's sure she hasn't heard the last about it.

Darcy drags him back to the lab where they work for another few hours before Bucky tells them they're done for the night.

"No, I'm not," Jane says, not even looking up from her laptop. "I have another six hours at least, and - "

"And it's 9:00 p.m.," he says.

"I'll be fine," she says dismissively.

"But will Darcy?" Bucky asks. Jane does look up at that, a bit startled. Darcy doesn't even pretend she isn't half asleep at her desk. "Thor and I are supposed to protect you both. We can't do that on no sleep."

And that, Darcy knows, is total bullshit. Bucky with his whole super soldier-ness isn't even close to slowing down, and she knows for a fact that Thor has gone three days without sleep and was aokay because 'Your earth days are so tiny, it was no trouble'. He earnestly nods though, agreeing with what Bucky's saying. She's also 100% certain they're not above physically hauling them out of the lab and locking it behind them.

Jane still looks conflicted so Darcy sighs loudly, letting her forehead thunk onto the table in front of her. "Boss lady, this'll be here tomorrow. Go home, let your hot, alien boyfriend fuck you into the mattress, and we'll come back with fresh eyes tomorrow, yeah?" she says.

Jane doesn't even bat an eye at that, too used to how Darcy speaks. Ah, to go back to the simpler times when Darcy could make Jane blush without even trying. She does sigh though, and Darcy knows Bucky's victorious.

"Fine, you're right," Jane says.

"Can I get you to record yourself saying that? I want it playing on a loop at my funeral when I die," Darcy says.

Jane rolls her eyes while Bucky sighs, exasperated.

"My entire job is to keep you alive, so let's plan your funeral in a few years instead of now," Bucky says, ushering her from the lab. Thor does the same with Jane, taking the laptop she tries to take and setting it back on the desk.

"Spoilsport," Darcy says. "It's fine though. I already know how I want my funeral to go."

Bucky raises his eyebrows at that before checking that the lab is locked behind them. "And?" he asks. "Does it involve a polka dot coffin?"

"Cute idea, I like your style, mister," Darcy says. She pushes the up button for the elevator, waiting for JARVIS to accept her as one of the authorized few on this floor. "It involves my ashes being mixed with glitter and shot out of a canon, preferably on the anti-choice politician of your choosing."

Bucky stares at her for a beat, then turns to Jane as if confirming Darcy's story. Jane just shrugs. "I told her if I go first, I want to be launched into outer space," she says. "The least I can do is shoot her out of a canon."

"I offered her a warrior's burial on Asgard, fitting for someone who bested me in combat," Thor says. Darcy just rolls her eyes. "She insists that it doesn't count. I'm attempting to persuade her otherwise."

Bucky looks like he's seriously reevaluating his opinion of all of their sanity. It's not the first time they've gotten that look and Darcy is sure it won't be the last.

Darcy's floor is before Jane and Thor's, so she waves goodbye before she and Bucky head down the hall to her apartment. Usually after a long day, she kicks her shoes off by the door and faceplants into the couch. Since that's Bucky's temporary bed, she kicks her shoes off and lies down on the floor next to the coffee table. It's all good, her rug is soft.

"Uh," Bucky says, looking down at her.

"It's all good," Darcy says, waving a hand in his general direction. "Just step over me if you need anything."

"This honestly isn't what I expected when they said you might be difficult to protect," Bucky says.

"That ain't my fault buddy," Darcy says, then sits up, indignant. "What do you mean, difficult to protect? Who said that?"

"Tony," Bucky says. He doesn't look guilty in the least at ratting him out.

"What'd he say? Do I need to plan my revenge?" she asks. "Is this worthy of itching powder or do I need to go bigger?"

"He didn't say anything bad," Bucky says. "He said you sometimes worry about others too much and forget to worry about yourself."

"See, that is blatantly untrue. I worry about myself a lot, ask my anxiety, I am never not worrying about myself," Darcy says. She realizes she's looking a little ridiculous, sitting on the floor in the middle of her living room, looking up at Bucky while arguing with him about her emotional maturity. "Look, I want me just as alive as the next guy, provided the next guy is you or Tony and not the AIM groupies that came after us."

"Good," Bucky says. "He wasn't insulting you, he just wanted to make sure you didn't run out on your own."

"I have a very healthy fear of kidnapping, thank you very much," Darcy says.

Bucky sighs and squats down so they're closer to eye level. "So does he. Only his is based on those he cares about being taken," Bucky says. "And personally, I find that more terrifying."

Darcy groans rubbing at her temples. "Fine, no revenge on Tony," she says.

"At least not for this," Bucky agrees. He stands and makes his way to her kitchen, leaving her in the middle of the floor.

"You're entirely too reasonable of a man, Mr. Barnes!" she calls after him.

"That's Sergeant Reasonable Barnes!" he calls back.

Darcy just shakes her head. She can't believe she used to think this nerd was unapproachable.

Bucky makes a light dinner because he needs to eat more than the average person and he refuses to let her sleep having "only eaten crap all day". She should introduce him to her mother, she's sure they would get along fabulously.

"Okay," Darcy says, around a bite of chicken. "I feel bad that you've been stuck following me around and doing what I want. What do you want to do tomorrow? I can bring a book and read at the gym while you run or lift weights or whatever it is you do."

"Or you could actually work out?" Bucky suggests.

"Bite your tongue," she says.

"How about you let me teach you to do some more damage than a knee in the balls?" Bucky says.

"Not gonna let that go, huh?"

"Not a chance."

Darcy sighs dramatically, though she's sure he can tell she's not actually that put out. "Fine. But only if it's just us there. I don't need to embarrass myself in front of anyone else," she says.

Bucky knows when to take the win and just smiles, satisfied. She gets why Steve calls him a punk.

Darcy goes to bed a bit after 11:00 and by 2:00 a.m. she's up again, flashes of blood and dead eyes making her gasp awake. She shuffles out of her room and down the hall, trying to make as little noise as possible. It doesn't work because she hears Bucky shift and a moment later, he's following her into the kitchen.

She doesn't want him to see the tear tracks on her face, doesn't like that kind of vulnerability, but she knows his eyes are better than most and even with the only light source being the light over her oven and the moonlight from the kitchen window, she's in full view for him. He doesn't say anything, doesn't look at her with pity or disgust (not that she'd really expected him to), just reaches for her slowly, making sure she knows he isn't a threat. She knows.

Bucky pulls her into his arms, holding her tightly against his chest. She sags against him, letting out a shuddering breath. She tries to fight back the tears. She's fine, she's safe in her apartment in one of the safest buildings in the world. The tears don't seem to give a fuck about that, though.

He doesn't shush her, which is a huge pet peeve of hers so she's grateful. He just lets her cry, one hand coming up to cradle the back of her head. She's embarrassed, embarrassed to be crying in the first place, embarrassed that she's shaking, embarrassed that he sees her like this when no one but Jane has since she was a child.

"Stupid," she mutters when she thinks her voice won't crack. There's a wet spot on his shirt under her cheek. Ugh.

"It's not," he says, tightening his hold on her.

When she doesn't say anything, he pulls back just enough to look down at her. She doesn't want to look up, not when her eyes are red and swollen and her skin is blotchy. She's not a pretty crier and she knows this. Even if she were, she's clinging to the childish belief that if she doesn't look, she can't be seen.

She finally meets his eyes when it becomes clear he can wait her out. She looks up, wiping angrily at the tear tracks under her eyes. He looks serious and concerned, which she expected, but he looks like he's hurting for her and that...she hadn't. It almost makes her start crying all over again.

"It's not. You're not stupid," Bucky says emphatically. "Okay?"

He waits for her answer, apparently not being rhetorical. "Okay," she says quietly.

"You went through something that was terrible," he says. "There's no shame in being affected by it."

He sounds like he's quoting, and she wonder if it's Steve or someone else that keeps telling him that. She hopes he believes it.

"Okay," she says again, because she doesn't know what else to say.

Bucky luckily isn't expecting anymore words from her. He looks satisfied and she has no shame about how much she wants another hug.

"Did you want to sit up with me?" he asks.


Darcy shrugs. "I don't want to keep you up," she says.

"I won't be sleeping for a while," Bucky says.

Her resolve isn't strong and they both know it, so when Bucky steers her toward the living room, she goes easily. She snags her favorite afghan off the back of the armchair as she walks by, wrapping herself in it as she sits on the couch. Bucky sits next to her, remote in hand, and surprises her by queuing up Bob's Burgers.

"I started it a few weeks ago so I could understand what the hell you and Barton talk about," Bucky says.

That startles a laugh out of her. There are days where her and Clint speak almost exclusively in Bob's Burgers references and quotes. Bucky wasn't the only one that looked confused when Darcy and Clint had been watching a movie and Darcy had sighed, looking at the man on the screen, and said, "I just want to to slap his hideous, beautiful face." Clint had cracked up. When a not subtle SHIELD agent was pointing at them, Clint had loudly said, "He's fingering right at us!" Darcy had laughed, Natasha had smirked, but no one else seemed to know what was going on. A few days later, Clint and Darcy had been loudly playing Little Big Planet when Sam had thrown up his hands and asked if they knew how to be quiet.

"Quiet dignity? Have you met us?" Darcy'd said.

"That's not what I all, but ain't that the truth," Sam had said and given up. Darcy was surprised it had taken him that long.

"I didn't know you were paying attention to that," Darcy says. Bucky's in season three, one of the best in her opinion.

Bucky shrugs and selects the Topsy episode. "I wanted to know the context of what was making me laugh," he says.

Darcy loves watching TV with others. She likes seeing what lines make them laugh, which parts stick out to them. She laughs more when she isn't alone because someone else laughing sets her off and it's just a spiral. Bucky doesn't laugh too loudly, but it's there. Sometimes little puffs of amusement, sometimes a short laugh, but she hears it.

Darcy can feel her body trying to fall asleep in the second episode, but she fights it. She's not ready. She's comfortable pressed against Bucky's side and has no desire to relocate. When her head starts drooping another twenty minutes in, he shifts and raises his arm, letting her lean against his side again. He drapes his arm around her and she relaxes against him. This is fine.

Bob's Burgers voices weave through her mind as she dozes, but they're not really dreams, and her nightmares don't come back. She wakes up at 6:00 a.m., lying on the couch, half sprawled on Bucky. She gets up just long enough to call Jane and say she's not coming in today before crawling back on the couch and Bucky. He sleepily wraps his arms back around her and she falls asleep minutes later, his hand curled in her hair.

When she wakes up for good a few hours later it's to the smell of bacon. She's still on the couch but minus Bucky, wrapped in her blanket. Bucky walks in a moment later with pancakes and bacon. Her stomach growls, making him smirk. He nudges at her leg with his knee until she sits up, giving him room to sit next to her. He puts the plates down on the coffee table, handing her a fork.

"I'm gonna get spoiled," Darcy says, taking a bite. "I usually have coffee and the weight of my college regrets for breakfast."

Bucky snorts. "This is more nutritious," he says.

They don't talk much while they eat, which is good because Darcy is basically inhaling her food at this point. She usually needs an hour or so to be coherent in the mornings anyway. Bucky takes her plate when she's finished, waving off her protests that she can do the dishes.

"Just change into your gym clothes," he says.

"My what now?" she asks.

"You owe me some gym time if I recall," Bucky says.

"You were serious about that?" Darcy asks. Bucky just smirks. Dick.

Darcy drags her feet but eventually does get changed into yoga pants, a Nike shirt, and the most magical sports bra she's ever found. Bucky's already in his workout gear when she gets out of the bathroom, dark sweats and a navy t-shirt. It's not nearly as tight as some of the shirts she's seen Steve wear, but it still takes her a good five seconds to tear her eyes away from the sight of his impressive abs visible even through the shirt and the way the material clings to his biceps. She's so fucked.

Bucky approves of the basics she's learned from a brief training with Clint (how to fall, how to position your hand when you punch so you don't break it, which sensitive spots to aim for), but he's intent on making her a bit more lethal. She's not sure how she feels about that at first, but then she remembers how vulnerable and exposed she felt when Bucky was saving her ass. She remembers how terrifying it can be walking down the street with drunk men following and catcalling her. Only so much a taser can do.

"Is this anything like Gracie Lou Freebush's SING?" Darcy asks while Bucky sets up a mat.

"Who?" Bucky asks.

"We are so watching Miss Congeniality later," she says.

Darcy thinks that maybe Bucky will go easy on her because she's not a spy or secret agent or whatever, but she is so tragically wrong. He doesn't hurt her, very careful of that, but he doesn't let her slack off.

"Again," he says until the punches she's aiming at the padded training glove on his hand hit their mark every time.

"Again," he says when she lands on her back for the second time in as many minutes.

"Again," he says when she nearly manages to flip him over her shoulder (she knows he's letting her, but still, Joe Schmo wouldn't be as tough as him).

"Again," he says as he lifts weights next to her, correcting her stance every once in a while. She knows her arms are going to feel like jelly tomorrow and usually she doesn't mind that, likes the soreness that comes with knowing she did a good workout, but she seriously wonders if she'll be able to even hold up a pen tomorrow.

She hadn't actually expected to them to have the gym to themselves when she'd demanded it the night before, there are way too many people on these few floors with weird schedules for it to ever really be empty, but no one comes in for the two and a half hours they're there, which she finds suspicious. When she mentions it to him, Bucky just raises his eyebrows and shrugs, the picture of innocence. Sure.

Bucky has her practice pulling out her taser, something something she's actually pretty good at. She's used to walking when she's out with one hand in her pocket on the handle or her fingers resting on it in her purse. He actually looks impressed at how fast she draws it and aims at the punching bag when he tells her to.

When he says, "That's enough for today," after she's been kicking his raised hands for ten minutes, she collapses back on the mat, closing her eyes and groaning. "You did well today," he says and he sounds almost proud? Darcy squints open an eye to check and yep, that's a proud-looking man. Go figure. She raises her fist in appreciation, too sore and sweaty to do much else.

"Sorry to waste your time. I'm sure this wasn't much of a workout for you at all," she says.

Bucky shrugs. "Don't forget to stretch," he says. "And it's fine, I'll do something more intensive when we come tomorrow."

"Tomorrow?" Darcy says. "We're doing what now tomorrow?"

"You thought you were only working out once?" Bucky asks, lips twisting in a smirk.

"Yes!" Darcy says. Bucky motions with his hands and she rolls her eyes, pulling her arms above her head into the stretch. "I made no such long term contract, James Buchanan Barnes!"

Look, she hasn't been this sweaty since the most athletic sex of her life in her non-air conditioned college dorm room with her boyfriend at the time. And seeing Bucky with the light sheen of sweat, looking sexy as fuck is doing things to her that she doesn't want to think about when there's a puddle of sweat on the mat beneath her.

"Ooh, full named, yikes." Darcy leans her head back, seeing Tony walk in all upside down, a tablet in one hand. "Are we not playing well with each other?

"He made me RUN," Darcy says.

"Sacrilegious," Tony says. "Anyway, I won't be long then you can get back to running."

"Traitor," Darcy grumbles, but pulls herself up into a sitting position and turns to face him.

"First things first. Jacob Hawthorne of R&D has been let go and escorted from the building as of ten minutes ago," Tony says, glancing down at his tablet. "And I must say, excellent knee work on your part."

"I, what?" Darcy asks.

Tony turns the tablet, showing security footage of last year's Christmas party where Darcy, looking damn good in that red slinky dress, if she does say so herself, is holding a glass of champagne in one hand while grabbing Jacob's shoulder with the other and kneeing him in the balls. Bucky looks approving and viciously satisfied, and Tony doesn't exactly look angry that Darcy assaulted one of his employees.

"Great form, I really appreciate the follow through," Tony says as if commentating on a baseball game. "Quick question though. Why didn't you tell me you were being harassed?"

"I told HR and they basically said too bad," Darcy says. "I figure you have more on your plate than fielding HR shit."

"Okay, and after you got the brush off from Sherry in HR, who has had a talking to, by the way, why didn't you come to me?" Tony asks. "I thought we were friends, kiddo. Why'd I have to find out from Barnes?"

Darcy glances at Bucky, but his face isn't giving anything away. He does take her hand when she reaches for him though, helping her to her feet. She feels like this is probably a conversation she shouldn't have sitting on the ground. "Because HR said nothing can be done? Because they said he'd sue? Because you have bigger things going on?" she says.

"Darcy, I don't care if he sues. Do you have any idea how many times this year I've been sued? A lot," Tony says.

"I mean, that doesn't make you sound so good."

"People are always suing," Tony says dismissively. "There's always someone who wants money. My legal team is good at what they do. I want you to feel safe and happy here, and if you don't, I want to know about it." He punctuates his words by putting his free hand on her shoulder and looking at her seriously and she's struck again by how different it is having Tony as a friend.

"Okay," she says. "Next time, I'll let you know."

"Perfect," Tony says, stepping back and going back to his tablet. "I'm having HR schedule sexual harassment trainings for next week. Anything else I should know about?"

"Uh, Kevin and Brian from security like to look down women's shirts on the security cameras, but I think they might have stopped when Jane melted their shoes."

"People in this company, I swear," Tony grumbles, glaring when Bucky snorts. "What?"

"It's not exactly like you're innocent here," Bucky says.

"Hey! I get flirty with my friends who have established they're okay with it!" Tony says. "And they know they can tell me to fuck off."

And that's actually true. Go figure.

"Anyway, that's all I had," Tony says. "Have fun, don't break anything, make wise choices."

"Okay, Mom," Darcy says, watching a bit incredulously as he flips her off over his shoulder, walking out of the gym. She turns to look at Bucky, who's actually looking a bit apprehensive, like he's expecting her to snap at him. "I'm not mad, if that's what you're worried about," Darcy says. "I mean, I'd definitely appreciate a heads up in the future, but I'm not mad."

"Okay," Bucky says, tension easing from his shoulders. "Are you ready for lunch then?"

"Oh god, yes."

Darcy takes a very quick shower in the locker room before pulling on clean clothes and meeting Bucky, who's standing outside the locker room door, glaring at anyone who gets too close. His face clears when he sees her and ugh, she needs the butterflies in her stomach to knock it the fuck off. She was almost, almost able to ignore her crush when he was training her, because despite what romance novels tell you, being covered in sweat is not actually a sexy feeling, but Bucky is still hot as the sun so...yeah.

Darcy orders teriyaki to be delivered because she doesn't feel like cooking at all and she is pretty sure Bucky liked it last time Steve ordered it. He does his meticulous search to make sure their food wasn't tampered with before allowing her to eat. As much as she appreciates the caution, she appreciates her gyoza a lot more.

True to her word, she puts on Miss Congeniality while they eat side by side on the couch. She's very gratified at the way Bucky laughs throughout the movie. When that's done, she and Bucky head down to the lab, despite having told Jane she wasn't coming in today. Maybe she just needs to learn to chill because she just felt the need to check on how things are going, even though she's sure they're fine.

Of course, that means she gets sucked into helping Jane for a few hours until Bucky steers her from the room, reminding her she has to eat dinner. Okay, she's not as bad as Jane, but sometimes she gets sucked into the work vortex, too. Once in a while, she's the one that needs to be coaxed to eat.

Between Bucky kicking her ass at the gym and poring over Jane's research, Darcy is pooped. She crawls into bed at 9:30 expecting to sleep hard and dreamless.

She's wrong.

2:00 a.m. finds her choking as she wakes up, taking a big gasp of air. Bucky had gotten to her in time in her nightmare, only to be gunned down in front of her. She rolls out of bed, trying to push the image of Bucky's dead eyes from her mind. She stops in the bathroom, splashing cold water on her face, ignoring the way the blood from his chest lingers behind her eyes.

Darcy doesn't bother going to the kitchen, heading straight past it and into the living room. Just like last night, Bucky's already awake, but she can't feel bad about waking him, not when she so desperately needs to see that he's alive. Bucky doesn't even have to ask this time, just lifts the corner of his blanket for her. She accepts gratefully, lying down mostly on top of him.

In the morning, she might be embarrassed about how she buries her face in his chest, how she shudders as his arms wrap around her, hand running soothing circles on her back. She'll probably be embarrassed about the hitching breath and how it takes her a good five minutes before she can speak, but she doesn't care about that right now.

"You're alive, right?" she asks. Her voice is muffled against his shirt, but he still hears her. The hand on her back pauses for just a minute before resuming its calming circles.

"Last time I checked," he says, voice soft.

"This isn't an elaborate fever dream? Or AIM-induced hallucination?"

"No," Bucky says.

"You're not lying dead on the conference room floor?" she asks, voice tiny.

The hand on her back stops, like she's surprised him with that. He tightens his arms around her, dropping a kiss to the crown of her head. He doesn't pull away far, his chin resting against her hair.

"I'm right here," he murmurs, steady voice washing over her. "I'm right here with you and I'm not going anywhere."

She nods but doesn't move from where she's clinging to him, face pressed to his chest. She doesn't like needing people. Never has. She learned at a young age that the people who are supposed to love and take care of you don't always come through. She's used to dealing with her problems alone, and that's how she likes it. Leaning on people isn't her style.

Right now, that's out the window. In the morning, she'll take a deep breath, stiffen her upper lip, straighten her spine and go through life with the whirlwind attitude she's had so far. But tonight she needs this. She's leaning hard on him and has no room for shame about it.

The great thing is, Bucky isn't the kind of person who would shame her for it. Sure, some of that might be the breathtaking amount of time he's spent with therapists, but she thinks part of it is just who he is; a gentle soul that was thrust into war and violence and pain, and still managed to come out caring for others. The hands, one metal and one flesh, capable of such violence, hold her carefully and closely, like she's something to be cherished. The world needs more men like Bucky Barnes.

"What do you need?" he asks, voice rumbling through her.

A memory transplant. A time machine. Probably a lot of therapy.

"This?" she says.

Bucky tugs the blanket up a little higher around her shoulders before wrapping his arms back around her, pressing his lips to the top of her head.

"Okay," he says.

The thing about Bucky is that he's safe. She doesn't just mean in the sense that he'd throw his body on hers to do the whole life saving thing, though she's sure he would. He's also safe, which is why she ends up falling back to sleep despite not wanting to. She wishes that just being near him kept the dreams away, but that isn't how it works.

He whispers her name softly to wake her up when she's stuck in a nightmare, hums softly to her under his breath, helps her match her breathing to his when she can't think past the panic. Eventually the restlessness ebbs and finally she can sleep soundly, though it takes hours.

Darcy's groggy when she wakes up the next morning. Like the last two mornings, Bucky's already awake, but unlike before, he's not up yet, still sprawled on the couch. Darcy's mostly on top of him still, wedged between him and the back of the couch, his body curled around her as best it can. He has the arm around her buried in her hair, gentling running his fingers through it. His other hand is holding his phone up as he reads something from it, frowning slightly.

If she takes a moment to luxuriate in waking up like this before breaking the silence, well, that's her own business.

"Did your mom ever tell you if you make that face too much it'll stay that way?" Darcy asks, voice rough with sleep.

Bucky's expression clears as he looks down at her, smiling slightly. "Yes, actually," he says. "But it was when I stuck my tongue out at my sister."

"I didn't know you have a sister," Darcy says.

"I did," Bucky says quietly. "She died a year before I got out from under Hydra."

"Oh," Darcy says, voice as quiet as his. "I'm sorry."

Bucky shrugs a shoulder, making her shift a bit at the movement. "She lived a full life from what I read," he says. He's aiming for nonchalant and missing by a mile, especially with how his face twists when he says, "I don't even know where she's buried."

"I can probably find out if you want," she says. "We could bring her flowers."

Darcy wants to kick herself immediately. Who invites themselves to someone's dead sister's grave? She'd thought he might want company, but he has Steve for that. Before she can work herself up though, he's nodding.

"When the threat to you is gone," Bucky says. "I'd rather you not get killed because we went to visit someone who's already dead."

She smiles slightly. "Sounds good to me," she says.

"Don't go back to sleep," Bucky says, tugging gently on her hair when she closes her eyes. "We have to leave for the FBI field office in an hour."

And that certainly makes Darcy's eyes fly open. "What have to do what in the when now?" she asks, sitting up abruptly, almost topping onto the floor. Bucky steadies her and holds up his phone, showing the email Tony had sent.

"They want you and Jane to give statements about the attack and look at pictures of suspects," Bucky says.

"And why do we have to go to them?" she asks. "Does the FBI not make house calls?"

"Apparently they're hesitant about sensitive information leaving their building," Bucky says, rolling his eyes. "Though my money is on a mix of them not trusting Tony and wanting to show off their legal power over the Avengers."

"Awesome," Darcy says, climbing carefully over Bucky's legs until she's standing. Her cat pajamas are a bit more embarrassing in the light of day. Ah well. "Wait, are they going to put me in an interrogation room?"

"Do you really think I'd let them put you in an interrogation room?" Bucky asks, raising an eyebrow. His hair is sticking up on the side from the pillow and god, she's weak.

"Are they going to put you in an interrogation room?" she asks.

"Not if they value their arms being unbroken," Bucky says. "Everything will be fine. Go, get ready."

Everything will be fine, he says. Sure, everything will be fine. The last time she had a sit-down with a government agency with its own acronym, SHIELD had been threatening to ruin her and Jane's lives and making it very clear they could disappear her if they wanted to. Only the Thor card had saved them and she really doesn't want a repeat of that.

Her first instinct says to dress nicely, but fuck that. If the FBI wants to summon her out of the safety of the tower and to their shitty field office, they can deal with her leggings and oversized Black Widow sweater. Maybe she'll name drop Natasha if they start getting smarmy, that should be fun.

The FBI had offered a protection detail from the tower to their field office, but Bucky and Tony had both vetoed that, not trusting their agents. A Stark security team (without Kevin and Brian) escorts them from the lobby to an armored car driven by Happy, then follows behind them to the field office. She's sure the FBI isn't thrilled, but she doesn't particularly care. The security team even manages to mostly hide how pants-shittingly afraid they are of Bucky. Color her impressed.

Bucky's eyes are scanning wildly the whole drive, looking for any threat. He had told her Thor had brought Jane earlier with no incident, but that makes him more tense, saying it may mean AIM had noticed and might be waiting for Darcy now. Darcy isn't gonna complain about hypervigilance, not when she's the one it's keeping alive.

The walk from the SUV to the field office is uneventful, not counting Darcy's nerves. It's like when your heart beats fast when you pass a traffic cop, even though you're not actually doing anything wrong. Only a thousand times worse because it's the FBI.

They're greeted professionally by a man in a suit who introduces himself as Agent Hoffman. She'd be more impressed if she hadn't met Agent Coulson and known what a true badass looks like. Hoffman escorts them to a conference room where Ms. White, Tony's attorney, is already seated. The conference room is a far cry for the interrogation room Darcy had been worried about, though Bucky still makes sure to sit between her and the door, even in a building full of federal agents.

Hoffman and another agent, a small, sweaty man name Agent James, sit across the table from them, notepads and tape recorder out. They start with basic questions, asking where she was when it all started, how she made it out, if she noticed anything suspicious. Then they bring out a file of mug shots and surveillance photos, asking her which, if any, she recognizes. Agent James doesn't look thrilled that she only can point out a few, but hello, they were masked gunmen. They move onto Bucky, asking similar questions, faces pinched when he gives them short and concise answers.

Then...they circle around to Darcy again. They ask her the same questions they already had, changing up the wording just enough, like they're trying to trick her into contradicting herself or Bucky. Ms. White interrupts every so often, telling them she won't answer a question that isn't relevant (What was she wearing the night before? Seriously?), then steps in completely when they ask what she knows about Jane's research.

"Enough," Ms. White says. "It's none of your concern."

Bucky is openly glaring now, which Hoffman and James are doing their best to ignore. Their best isn't very good.

"We're done," he says to Darcy, standing.

"Hold on a minute, Mr. Barnes. We need to establish a timeline of where she was - "

"We've done that," Ms. White says. "She's answered that question three times, now either say what you're trying to insinuate or get out of my way."

It takes Darcy a second to get what she means, then -

"Oh my god! You think I was in on it?"

"We're exploring the possibility that someone with inside knowledge of Dr. Foster's research may have been part of the attack," Agent James says, looking irritated. "You and Mr. Barnes - "

"Sergeant Barnes," Darcy corrects coldly.

"You and Sergeant Barnes were conveniently out of the way when the gunfire started," Agent James says.

"We've answered your questions and now we're leaving," Ms. White says, snapping her briefcase closed and standing. Darcy follows suit, letting Bucky tug her slightly behind him.

"Hold on just one minute," Agent Hoffman says, standing as well. "We let them interview together as a courtesy, and now you - "

"Are leaving with my clients," Ms. White says. "Unless you're charging them with anything?"

"No," Agent James says after a pause.

"Then we're leaving now," she says.

Ms. White deserves every penny that Tony pays her, holy shit. If Darcy swung that way, she'd be so turned on right now. And if she weren't pissed as hell. She's walking quickly, keeping pace with Ms. White and just wanting to get the hell out of here. Bucky is close, a hand on her lower back, glaring at anyone who looks at them too hard or long. They say a brief farewell and thank Ms. White when they separate at the lobby, heading to the garage.

Goddamn feds, Jesus Christ. What the hell kind of research did they do that showed she's the mastermind of an attack of evil scientists? She doesn't even understand half of what Jane does! She doubts Jane got the same treatment, not with Thor at her side, and she shudders thinking about how much worse it would have been if Tony hadn't sent his lawyer with her.

They're in the field office parking garage walking to their armored car, and Darcy honestly isn't really paying attention. She's grumbling in her head, actually thinking about asking Bucky to take her to the gym so she can hit something, when he tenses beside her, the fingers resting on her lower back digging into her skin. She doesn't even have time to turn her head before he's yanking her to the side, dragging her between two parked cars. Bullets slam into the pavement where they'd been moments before. He'd never even broken his stride.

There are shouts, then the Stark security team that had been forced to wait in their car is firing back, followed by the FBI agents that had escorted them down. Bullets shatter the car window above them, sending glass falling over them. Bucky rolls her under him, covering her body with his, one arm encircling her head. In his other hand is his gun, his eyes cold and calculating as he takes in the scene around them.

"Keep your head down!" he says in her ear, tucking her further beneath him.

"Duh!" she shouts back, voice barely audible above the gunfire around them. "Fucking hell!"

She can't see what's happening, just Bucky's arm and a glimpse of the glass glittering on the concrete ground. She jerks when he shoots his gun twice, shouts and curses following. She's scared, beyond scared, because there are bullets flying at her! But she focuses on Bucky, does what he says, stays low. He's her best chance here.

"Shit," Bucky hisses. A car honks somewhere and really? Is now the time?! "Close your eyes, doll."

Darcy does as he says, closing her eyes tightly as Bucky throws something. An explosion rocks through the garage a second later, the heat of it hitting her even from far away. Bucky doesn't wait, tugs her to her feet and pushes her behind him as he backs up. Darcy looks behind them to see their armored SUV waiting in a row behind them, Happy frantically waving them over. Of course Happy honks his horn during a firefight, she thinks hysterically. They hop over the concrete barrier and into the back of the SUV, Happy taking off wildly as soon as they're inside.

Even though the SUV is armored, Bucky isn't taking any chances, crouching next to her on the floor mats, heads down, his body covering hers. Her breath hitches when she sees blood on his side and a tear in his shirt from a bullet. Happy's driving, which can be wild in standard traffic, is out of control.

She's sure the FBI isn't too thrilled about them tearing out of their secure parking garage that they just set off a grenade in, but he doesn't seem concerned in the slightest about that, their car whipping around corners and bouncing over curbs. She's pretty sure he hits a couple cars on his way out, but fuck these people anyway. She's 100% sure he crashes through the little gate at the garage entrance, but again, what the fuck ever.

Bucky doesn't let her up until Happy's been driving for twenty minutes, Bucky sticking his head up occasionally to check their surroundings. He has her sit in the middle to be less visible, even though no one can see through the dark tinted windows. He still has his gun in one hand, the other he rests on her hands in her lap. It's only then that she notices they're shaking. She turns her hands over, wrapping her fingers around his.

"What about the security team?" she asks, finally finding her voice.

"They're trained for this," Bucky says. "They're good at their jobs."

Darcy nods, not really knowing what to say to that. They drive for another ten minutes, Bucky occasionally telling Happy to cut down certain streets, to double back. Darcy doesn't know why, any bad guys will assume she's going back to the tower, but she supposes they don't want to make it easy for them.

When they pull into the garage at the tower, Happy immediately has the gates closed behind them, making sure no one can follow them in. He and Bucky hustle her inside, no one breathing a sigh of relief until they're in the secure elevator. Darcy winces taking them in. Bucky's side is still bleeding sluggishly and there's a nasty looking cut above Happy's eye.

"Happy, you deserve a medal. And a knighthood," Darcy says. "I'm totally making you one."

"As long as it's not pewter. It looks horrible with my skin tone," he says, sagging against the elevator wall.

"Medical has been alerted to expect you," JARVIS's voice says.

"Good," Bucky says. "I want them to get a look at your hands."

"My hands? You were shot!" Darcy says. "My hands are fine."

Bucky raises an eyebrow and gentle takes her hands in his, rotating them until they're palms-up, and oh. Her palms are bleeding, scraped from when she hit the ground, small bits of dirt in the blood. Now that she notices them, the pain hits her (adrenaline is a hell of a thing). She turns her arms to see scrapes up her forearms too from when she dropped. Cool.

"Okay, you were still shot," she says. "Bullet takes priority."

Bucky just shrugs, like being shot isn't a big deal. She looks to Happy for support but he shrugs too. Men, honestly.

Darcy loudly says that Bucky was shot the second they enter medical, making sure he's seen first. He rolls his eyes at her, which is fair considering the Stark medical floor is well-staffed and all three of them can be seen at once. Bucky's just a thin curtain away having his side looked at. She's a dirty eavesdropper so she hears them say it went in and out, that all he needs is stitches and with his super solider healing, he should be fine in a day or so.

Happy, on the other side of her, gets a small bandage for the cut on his forehead that honestly looked a lot worse than it is. Darcy's glad neither of them see her wincing while the nurse cleans her scrapes. She's a wimp, okay, and it feels really weird. When she was a kid, she didn't mind when she fell and scraped her knee because her mom always put hydrogen peroxide on it and she liked watching the way it bubbled. She's less thrilled about it now.

Bucky pulls the curtain aside while he hands are being wrapped and takes a seat next to her bed. He's in a clean white shirt, though there's still some blood on his pants. He watches the nurse's movements carefully, categorizing if she jerks in pain. She has a fancy pain gel on the worse of the wounds, but it takes a bit to start working.

Darcy's sitting on the edge of the bed, she and Bucky waiting for the doctor to come and give them the all clear when the doors burst open, Jane flying through with Thor on her heels. Before Darcy can say anything, Jane is yanking her into a hug, careful of the bandages on her arms. She's babbling quickly about how worried she was, how sorry she is, tears in the corners of her eyes. And damn it, Darcy has managed not to cry up until now, she really doesn't want to start.

When Jane pulls away, she surprises all of them by hugging Bucky, too, thanking him for getting her out of there, before running around the curtain to where Happy is waiting, giving him the same treatment. Thor strides forward, face thunderous as he hugs her tightly, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

"I'm glad you're safe, little one. They will pay for what they've done," he says, and she doesn't think she's imaging the electricity tingling across her skin. Before she can say anything, he's turning to Bucky, clasping him on the shoulder. "I thank you, Sergeant Barnes. I don't know what I would have done if she'd been hurt worse."

Bucky, who looks so unused to gratitude, nods and says, "It's my pleasure."

Before they can have more gooey moments, Tony strides in, looking as serious as she's ever seen him. He has his tablet again and glances down at it as he speaks.

"Situation is contained at the FBI field office. Suspects are in custody and are feeling pretty chatty," Tony says. "It was a desperate move on their part. Very sloppy. The survivors in custody gave up their leader easily. They're moving to make an arrest now."

"Casualties?" Bucky asks.

"Two FBI agents, one Stark security team member, and three baddies. And various injuries," Tony says. Darcy winces. Tony notices, because he's much more perceptive than anyone gives him credit for. "That's not on you, kiddo."

Darcy just nods. She's selfishly glad Bucky didn't let her look when they were in the garage. She doesn't need to add the dead security man's body to her list of nightmares. Which she knows is awful of her. He died trying to protect her and she's grateful she didn't have to look at him? She doesn't know what's wrong with her.

"So what now?" she asks.

"Same as we've been doing. Once they're all successfully behind bars, you're free of a bodyguard. But until then, I want you safe," Tony says. He glances at Bucky, like he's making sure he agrees. Bucky nods.

Tony puts the tablet down on the bed and sighs before striding forward, wrapping his arms around Darcy. She hugs him back, still trying not to cry.

"I promised Happy a medal and knighthood," Darcy says into Tony's shoulder. "So I may need your help making a badge or crown or something."

Tony laughs, patting her on the back. "We can make that happen," he says.

"No pewter!" Happy calls.

Tony lets go of her, patting her on the shoulder before walking around the curtain to check on Happy. It's just her and Bucky now, Jane having been shooed away by medical staff, promising the doctors know what they're doing and they just need to go over some things in private. As much as she loves Jane, she's glad. She's freaked out enough without having to add Jane's freaked out-ness to hers.

It feels a bit surreal? An hour ago she was being shot at, and now she's told it's almost over. That doesn't feel real, like there should be more to do, more bridges to cross, but she's never had hitmen after her before, so who knows.

The doctor who comes to release them gives them both antibiotic ointments to avoid infection along with instructions on changing bandages. She very gently suggests speaking with a therapist, which Darcy doesn't think is a half bad idea. She wonders if Bucky's lady is taking on new clients or if that would be weird.

It's odd to her that it's still the afternoon. All she wants to do is curl up and go to bed, but it's 1:30. Bucky solves her indecision by having her help him make a late lunch, which is a bit hard with messed up hands, but it gives her something to distract herself with and that's good.

They're in one of the common area kitchens on the Avengers' floor because neither of them really feel like being cooped up in her apartment. People keep making their way through the kitchen, thankfully not making a big deal about what happened. Natasha just hands her a box of her fancy French chocolate that she hoards away from the rest of them and briefly hugs her before walking out of the room. From Natasha, that's basically a declaration of love.

Clint pops in a few times for ice cream and to try to snatch a sandwich, which Bucky easily defends against. He casually offers to sneak his dog into the building if she wants, which makes her laugh imagining him in a long trench coat with a Lucky-shaped bulge wiggling around. Steve, running between missions and meetings, stops through for a drive by hug and well wishes from Bruce who's in DC.

"So, you saved my life again," Darcy says, taking a bite of her egg salad sandwich when they're once again alone. "I think I should get like a punch card. Like a coffee shop loyalty system."

"What would you be working up to?" Bucky asks.

"You get to ten rescues and I owe you dinner of your choice? I don't know, you like a smoothies, right? A reward blender? Pull-up bar?"

Bucky shakes his head, smiling slightly. "Let's avoid you needing to be rescued again and call it even," he says.

Clint and Natasha reappear when Bucky is doing dishes, Darcy sitting on the counter next to him since she can't get the bandages wet. Clint tosses a deck of Uno on the table and says, "We're here to get vicious."

"I will demolish you," Darcy says, hopping off the counter. "Don't cry to Natasha when I whoop you."

The Lewises are incredibly competitive people by nature and Darcy is no exception. She takes two of three games, making all of them look at her in surprise.

"How is it you have no poker face at any time unless you're playing Uno?" Natasha asks when Darcy takes another game.

"I will take my secrets to the grave," she says cheerily, handing the cards to Bucky for his turn to shuffle.

It's a good way to distract her and it's one she's grateful for. Thor and Jane come in close to the end of their seventh game, Thor eager to learn another Earth game. Jane, who seriously lacks patience, is terrible and ends up with half the deck in her hand, though some of that may come from Thor constantly playing draw twos on her.

This is good, she can do this. If it was her alone, she would absolutely be curled up under a blanket, probably staring out the window like a bad '90s music video. This though, she can handle this.

When they get tired of Uno, Jane whips out Scattergories, which opens up a whole new world with Thor and Bucky playing. Jane calls bullshit on Thor's use of 'glingespiel' for an animal that starts with the letter g ("It's an animal of Asgard!" "Bullshit, it is!") and on a word Darcy can't even pronounce that is supposed to be a holiday.

They break when Clint uses Fern Gully for a movie beginning with f and everyone but Darcy and Jane look at him blankly.

"Nope, unacceptable, we are watching it right now," Clint says, throwing down his pencil. "Yep, right now, come on."

They migrate to Tony's absolutely unnecessary theater room. Darcy sits next to Bucky on one of the ridiculous couches that has light-up cup holders and a reclining option. Absolutely over the top, but it's comfy as hell so she doesn't mind.

As usual, she and Jane sing along to Hexxus' Toxic Love song, surprisingly joined by Clint. Thor, who turned out to be a huge fan of animation, is loving it. Natasha doesn't look happy, but she doesn't look bored either, so that's probably good. As far as distractions go, it's not bad.

They move into Treasure Planet next, because introducing Thor to new movies is always fun. About halfway through, Darcy rolls her head to the side, cracking her neck. She's a little sore from hitting the pavement earlier and it's needed to pop for hours. Bucky glances over and frowns, but before she can tell him she's fine, he reaches behind her, warm hand resting on the back of her neck. Then his thumb is digging into her sore muscle and hooooly shit, she's found Bucky Barnes' calling.

The movie manages to hide the embarrassing noise she lets out, but she's sure Bucky can hear it, and she definitely sees Natasha's knowing smirk. Fuckin' spies, seriously. Fuck it, she's going all in. She slides off the couch and onto the floor, scooching over until she's sitting cross legged in front of Bucky, her back to the couch between his legs. She looks over her shoulder to see him looking down at her with raised eyebrows. She points to her shoulders and mouths chop chop.

Bucky snorts but does as she asks, his hands moving to her shoulders. This must be what heaven is like. She doubts the Army or Hydra taught him how to massage, so this is probably all original Bucky Barnes, ladies man extraordinaire. You will never hear her complain. They were lucky gals.

She feels like putty in his hands, muscles going lax at his touch. He doesn't push too hard like some of the massage therapists she's gone to (she bruises like a peach, okay?) but doesn't go too light the point she doesn't feel anything. He slows down toward the end of the movie, his hands resting on her shoulders, thumbs brushing over her neck and she sits with her head lolling against his knee. The day is really catching up with her and she's having a hard time keeping her eyes open.

She's dozing through the end of the movie, only waking up completely when the credits start rolling. A glance at her phone tells her it's almost 9:00 p.m., a perfectly respectable time to go to bed after a traumatic event. She looks over her shoulder at Bucky to see him already looking at her, a soft expression on his face.

"I'm gonna fall asleep on the floor if I stay here much longer," she says.

"I believe you," Bucky says. He nudges her a bit with his knee, getting her to move over so he can stand. He reaches down to her hands and easily tugs her to her feet.

Clint and Natasha are already wandering off, Thor asking Jane to put on another movie. Darcy salutes them lazily, calling goodnight before heading on, Bucky following. They're quiet on the walk to her apartment, but that's fine with her. She's too tired to be good conversation right now anyway.

Darcy pauses when she walks in her front door, looking at the couch with its folded blankets and pillow where Bucky's been sleeping. Darcy tugs him by the wrist when he turns to go to the living room. He raises an eyebrow, but follows her when she walks down the hall to her bedroom.

"You might as well sleep in here tonight. We both know I'd be out there with you sooner rather than later. At least this way you get a real mattress and can straighten your legs," Darcy says matter-of-factly. "You can brush your teeth first, I have to change the sheets."

Bucky just looks at her for a moment before turning and heading for the bathroom. He doesn't argue with her, which makes him a very smart man. She switches out her sheets for a clean set because it's rude to make others sleep in ones she's been in for almost a week, no matter how clean she is. And if she happens to look great against the magenta, that's her own damn business.

She's already changed into her flannel pajama pants and a baggy Rolling Stones t-shirt (which is comically large on her since it was subjected to Thor's wide shoulders) when Bucky comes back from the bathroom, hair pulled back from his face in a bun, wearing his dark sweats and t-shirt.

"Do you have a side of the bed?" she asks.

"Between you and the door," he says.

She hates the way that sends a flutter through her. Sometimes it's years before she gets a crush on someone, and sometimes it slams into her like this ridiculous thing she has for Bucky.

"Lucky I sleep on the right side then," she says, turning on her heel to go to the bathroom.

Okay, so it's possible she didn't think this through. Very possible. She's kind of the queen of flying by the seat of her pants and had just figured sure, might as well start where they're going to end up, save herself a trip to the living room. Ugh, she's a mess. She wipes toothpaste from her lips and sighs. This is fine.

Bucky's already in bed when she walks in and damn it, he looks pretty on her magenta sheets, too. He looks relaxed, lying on his back with his arm behind his head, and that of all things helps calm her down. She can do this, Bucky's chill, this is fine. She turns off the light, leaving the room in shadows, illuminated by the New York city lights outside through her drapes. She carefully maneuvers through her room, managing not to trip over the shoes she'd kicked off early, and crawls into bed.

She hesitates for a moment when she lies down. They'd basically cuddled on her couch because lack of space necessitated it, and let's be real, she's a heat-seeking missile in her sleep and will probably end up plastered to him anyway, but is it presumptuous to just snuggle up now? What the hell is the social protocol here? Before she can work herself up too much, Bucky shifts beside her, lifting his arm and looking at her calmly in question.

"Thank fuck," Darcy says, scooting closer and lying against his side, her head resting on his shoulder. He lowers his arm now that she's settled, wrapping it around her. "I had no idea how to break the cuddle barrier."

Bucky snorts, shifting a bit until he's comfortable. "You're welcome to break it any time," he says.

"Excellent," she says. "This isn't hurting you, right?"

"No," Bucky says, tugging up his shirt to show the bandaged bullet wound on the other side than where she's lying. "Don't hit me here and I'm fine."

"I'll do my best to resist," she says, settling in, hand resting on his chest. If the FBI really is arresting the baddie behind her and Jane's attacks, the reason for her and Bucky to spend time together will be ending pretty soon. "You know, we can hang out and stuff when we don't have life-threatening stuff going on, too. You don't have to disappear when this is over just because your body guarding duty is done."

"I don't plan on it," Bucky says, tightening his arm around her. "Afraid you're stuck with me until you tell me to kick rocks."

"Good," she says, closing her eyes, smiling slightly as his thumb brushes over her shoulder.

She was expecting to be up all night, sleep out of reach, maybe run over everything that happened today, but it's all the exhaustion from the day wins out. Bucky's warm and safe, and she's out like a light.

Just like the last few nights, Darcy wakes up a few hours later, but it's not her nightmares this time. She's sprawled across Bucky, his chest heaving under her with his harsh breaths. She sits up slowly, rubbing sleep from her eyes, his arm dropping from her waist to the bed. Bucky's eyes are moving very fast under his lids, his hands twitching, his breath coming fast and shallow.

She...honestly has no idea what to do. Her uncle had PTSD from his time in the Marines when he was still alive and whenever he would stay with them, her mom always told her not to wake him up when he was having a nightmare. She's assuming the same deal applies here, but it feels wrong to just let him suffer. She bites her lip, debating with herself, but doesn't have to make a choice because he gasps himself awake, shooting up into a sitting position. His breath is ragged, eyes wide and frantic when they rest on her.

"Bucky," she says softly, reaching for him, unsure how he feels about touch right now. He falls against her, frightened eyes searching her face.

"You're alive," he murmurs, hands reaching up to cradle her face. He's looking at her like she's the last safe haven left for him.

"Yeah," she says, wrapping her hands around his wrists. "Yeah, I'm here, I'm fine."

"Fuck, thank god you're alive," he says, voice ragged.

Then he's kissing her, hard and desperate. His right hand trails down to rest on the side of her throat, the other tangling in her hair. Darcy is so on board, kissing him back immediately, wrapping her arm around his shoulders, holding him closely. His lips are soft against hers, but insistent, like he's been waiting for this as much as she has. She hasn't ever been kissed like this before, and wow, she isn't even standing but this is what people must mean by being weak in the knees.

Bucky breaks the kiss with a harsh breath, resting his forehead against hers. Neither of them move away, her hold on him still tight, his hands drifting down to cradle her throat, thumbs brushing over her jaw. It would be nothing for him to snap her neck, but she's never felt less vulnerable, knowing without a doubt that he'd never do anything to hurt her.

"I shouldn't have done that," Bucky murmurs, but he doesn't move away.

"I seriously disagree," Darcy says, tightening her hold on him

"Not because I didn't want to," Bucky says quickly, like it's imperative that she knows that. "I didn't want to kiss you for the first time when you're still coming down from a day like today. You deserve better than that."

Darcy smiles slightly, closing the distance between them to kiss him softly. He kisses her back and it's easy as breathing, like they've been doing this for years, none of the awkward fumbling that tends to accompany the first few kisses. It's like he can't stop touching her, careful fingers brushing over her cheeks, her throat, her tangled hair. She's just the same, tangling fingers in his hair the way he had in hers, hands skating over his back in gentle circles, drifting down his arms, not shying away from the metal one for a second.

"You're a good man," she says against his lips.

"No, I'm not," he says, shaking his head, but she's hearing none of that shit.

"You're a good man," she repeats, steel in her voice, eyes narrowing. "And I'm glad you didn't wait another second."

Bucky brushes his thumb over her lower lip, looking at her seriously. "I don't...There are a thousand things about you that are incredible," he says. "And I don't know if I'm the best thing for you. But I promise I'm going to keep you safe, I can promise you that."

"I know," she says. "I trust you, okay? I trust you." Bucky takes in a shaky breath, and she wonders who else besides Steve has told him that recently. She makes a note to tell him that as often as she can.

They lie back down, Darcy's back to Bucky's chest, his arm around her waist, their fingers tangled together. She falls back to sleep still tingling with happiness, his body curled around hers, his breath soft against her hair.

Darcy wakes the next morning to a video call from Tony. She's groggy as she answers, grumbling out, "Hello?"

"Good morning, sunshine!"

She squints her eyes open to see Tony on her phone screen, fiddling with what looks like a blowtorch. Awesome.

"Why the fuck are you perky at 6:30 a.m.?" Darcy asks. "Oh god, you're still awake from last night, aren't you? How much caffeine have you had?"

"Let's not get bogged down with details, all right? It's - " There's a pause, then, "Is that our dear Sergeant Barnes I see? Darcy Karen Lewis, are you corrupting the elderly?"

Darcy glances over her shoulder at where Bucky's lying, hair rumpled, one eye squinted open. She can't fight the grin, nor the blush that follows at the soft look he gives her. She tries to wrangle her face into something more fitting for talking to Tony before turning back to her phone.

"I have very limited morning patience, if you recall," she says.

"Fine, fine, but don't for a second think we're done with this," Tony says, motioning between them. "Because seriously, if you two are gonna start bumping ug - "

"I dare you to finish that sentence," Darcy growls.

"You are no fun, have I ever told you that?" Tony says, sighing. "Anyway, just calling to say the FBI made their arrests."

"You couldn't have led with that?" Bucky asks, voice deep with sleep. He props himself up on his elbow behind her so he can see the screen, other hand resting on her lower back, fingers tracing over the soft skin where her shirt's ridden up, and hellooooo, that's a bit distracting in the best kind of way.

"Because - you - ! God, never mind," Tony says. "The guy who was after Jane's research was a fringe member of AIM. Like, the quackiest of their quacks, so pretty much all of his following was at the FBI field office. We still gotta look into it to make sure, obviously, but you guys should be safe once we make sure they're all wrapped up."

Darcy stares for a moment before glancing at Bucky. "As in no more murderous scientists after Jane and Darcy?" she asks.


Darcy sighs in relief, leaning back in Bucky's touch. "Thanks, Tony," she says quietly.

"You're welcome, kiddo," Tony says, voice soft. "Okay, so now let's chat about you and Bucky."

"Bye, Tony," she says, ending the call and dropping her phone to the bed. She flops onto her back, looking up at Bucky. He smiles down at her, all soft and rumpled, early morning light making him glow. God, she's such a sap. "So," she says, reaching up to toy with a loose strand of his hair, then poking him in the cheek. "You're free of that pesky assignment soon."

"So I am," he says, turning his head to nip at the finger still poking him. She laughs, yanking her hand back. "You're almost free of your annoying bodyguard."

"Yeah, look at that," she says, tugging Bucky closer. He goes easily, rolling until he's lying over her, strong thighs on either side of hers, upper body braced on an elbow next to her pillow. She wraps her arms around him, nudging her nose against his. "Got any plans for when you're done?"

"Mm, I can think of a few things," he says, pressing a soft kiss to her lips. "Though I'd like to start by taking you out."

"Oh, the old fashioned, Bucky Barnes charm, huh?" she says, grinning up at him. "I gotta warn you, the Darcy Lewis charm probably isn't as smooth."

"Oh no?" he asks, twirling a curl of her hair around his finger.

"I once tried to ask out a guy and ended up tripping him into a hot dog cart and setting his shoes on fire," she says.

Bucky throws his head back when he laughs, skin around his eyes crinkling with his smile. It makes him look lighter, years of tension lifted and she's going to do every damn thing she can to get that look back.

"You're going to be trouble," he says, still grinning.

"Only the best kind," she says.

"Mm," he hums, stroking his fingers down her cheek. "Can't wait."