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How could I miss you if never met you
If that road turned some other way and never looked back?
“Motion Sickness” - Hands Like Houses


Darcy plugged her left ear with her finger, trying to drown out the alarm going off in the lab. All around her, people were throwing equipment into crates and rushing out the door. She glanced down at her list and sighed.

“This is a mistake,” she muttered.

“Please be careful with that!” Jane yelled after one of the long-suffering techs.

“They’re professionals, Janey. They’ve got this,” Darcy reminded her.

“Our data is incomplete - if any of this equipment is damaged, we won’t be able to continue our observations once we get to the new site.”

“All the more reason not to leave,” Darcy reminded, her voice lilting into a bit of a sing-song tone.

“I’m not having this argument again, Darcy.” Jane pulled a pen from her ponytail and crossed off a few things on Darcy’s list. “We’re leaving.”

“Where else are we going to have a better setup?”

“Nope. Not doing it.” Jane moved away, double checking the tape on a few boxes that were about to be loaded onto the trolley to be taken to the truck.

“Seriously - we’re in Wakanda. We have access to the best tech in the world. We have more funding than we know what to do with. We are right smack underneath the damn anomaly.”

“And there’s an enemy army headed straight for us!”

“Exactly!” Darcy yelled. “On the road, anything could happen. We’d be in the open, exposed, with no backup, no rescue. Anything could happen!”

“It wouldn’t be the first time we didn’t have any backup! We survived London just fine without SHIELD.”

“THOR SHOWED UP AND SMASHED SHIT!”

Jane winced at Thor’s name - and probably Darcy’s volume - but Darcy couldn’t bring herself to care. Much.

She took deep breath and lowered her voice. “Jane...What we’re doing is important. But there’s a fight coming. Our friends are either already here or on the way. We should be here with them.”

“To do what?”

She slammed her clipboard on the desk. “We can help them!”

“How? We’re civilians, Darcy. The most we can do is stun someone and we don’t even know if our weapons will work against what’s coming. We’re sitting ducks here. If we leave, that’s one less thing our friends will have to worry about.”

“If we stay, our friends will know if we’re alive or dead and then it really will be one less thing for them to worry about.”

***

Sergeant James Barnes shifted uncomfortably in the elevator. The new arm Shuri had designed for him was significantly lighter than the one HYDRA had forced on him, but he’d been living and working without a prosthetic for long enough now that it was going to take some getting used to. Nevermind the fact that he’d never wanted a new arm. He could manage just fine with the one, thank you very much. He’d only agreed because he knew the fight that was coming. He would have to put his skills to use. Again.

He was only a little bitter about it. Slightly. Maybe something like 42% bitter. That wasn't even a high enough percentage to make a decent dark chocolate.

He glanced up at the floor level indicator and swallowed his sigh. Almost to the roof. Time to put those thoughts away and focus.

At least this arm didn’t itch.

The doors opened and shouting could be heard from one of the labs in the hall as he, Ayo, and the rest of his escort exited.

“I can’t run away with my tail between my legs while our friends are laying down their lives to protect the universe!” a female voice yelled.

Ain’t that the truth, sweetheart.

“Why would you squander their sacrifice? If they die, it’s so that the rest of us can live.”

“Don’t throw that Steve Rogers bullshit at me!”

He paused just outside the lab at the mention of Steve’s name and peered inside. Two women didn’t appear to notice him amidst their argument.

“Ladies, we have to go,” one of the lab techs pled.

“NOT YET!” the women yelled in unison.

He grinned a little at their fire and felt himself drawn into the lab.

“Sergeant Barnes,” Ayo warned, “the jet is on approach. We should get to the roof.”

He startled and stepped back, nodding absently and following his escort. He glanced back at the two women as they continued to argue, their voices growing fainter as he continued down the hall.

***

The van was silent as they they exited the tunnel, the wide open sky and Wakandan horizon exploding into view in front of them. Darcy seethed, too frustrated at running away to hook up any music. She stared out the window and watched the city grow smaller and smaller in the side mirror as Jane drove on.

They’d been on the road for an hour when they felt the first jolt. Jane glanced in the rearview mirror and gasped. Darcy spun around in her seat and tried to swallow down the lump in her throat as she watched explosions ricochet off the force field shielding the city. It was holding. For now.

When the shield fell a half hour later, Darcy couldn’t blink back the tears that streamed down her face. Jane kept glancing in the rearview mirror, her face reflecting her horror.

“This is why we couldn’t stay, Darcy.”

“This is why we shouldn’t have left, Jane.”

***

Another hour of silence on the road had passed. Darcy refused to turn back around and face forward, watching the battle for as long as she could. There wasn’t much to see now - once the shield over the city had fallen, most of the fighting had likely moved to the ground.

The sky darkened and clouds swirled overhead.

“Jane…”

Jane quickly pulled the car to the side of the road and hopped out, Darcy quickly following. An explosion of thunder deafened them as lightning lit up the sky.

“Is that…”

“I thought you said you watched Asgard be destroyed,” Darcy whispered. “Is there another BiFrost somewhere?”

“Thor…” Jane breathed. She blinked and the wonder on her face turned to resolve. “Get back in the van.”

“Janey-”

“We have to go back.”

Now you want to go back?” Darcy yelled.

“If Thor is on Earth, then that means at least some of his people survived. If I can get them our observations-”

“Jane, look at what’s happening!” Darcy held out her arms, gesturing all around them. “Wakanda has fallen. Okay? That lovely road we’ve been traveling? That tunnel we drove out of? Probably rubble at this point. There’s nowhere to go back to.”

A tear slipped down Jane’s face and she nodded. “You’re right,” she whispered. “You’ve been right. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Darce.”

Darcy sighed and walked over to her friend, reaching out to pull her into a hug.

And watched in horror as her hand began to crumble.

Darcy’s eyes flicked to Jane’s. They stared at each other in horror, silently watching as the other collapsed into dust.