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I Sing a Secret Song

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Darcy

 

The first of Darcy's senses that seemed to come back was her sense of hearing. Followed by intense vertigo.

She was so very ready to turn her hearing back off around the third time she heard the plaintive call, “Mr. Stark?”

Darcy opened her eyes, slowly. Dizziness overwhelmed her, so she sat.

The voice rang out again, “Mr. Stark? Are you there?”

“Hello?” Darcy called out. As she did, she opened her eyes and her other senses flared to life. The air was thick, humid, hot. The whole world was strangely orange, with an eerie mist. It was flat and empty, other than the orange haze. And it was quiet, in an unearthly way, with the exception of the kid, and his calls for Mr. Stark that echoed through the expanse.

“The afterlife...sucks,” Darcy muttered as a hysterical giggle rolled out of her.

“It's not the afterlife,” A strong feminine voice reverberated in her head. “I'll explain soon.”

“Mysterious voice in my head....feels like I'm hungover... and there's an annoying kid who can't find his daddy? This is definitely hell,” she mumbled and then let out yet another hysterical laugh as she realized that she was sitting in a strange liquid, but she wasn't wet.

The boy's voice called out a response to Darcy's laugh which had echoed in the empty void, “Hello?”

Darcy tried to stand, but nausea hit again, so she sat back down, hard. “Over here.” She closed her eyes against the waves of nausea and when she opened them again, the boy's face hovered over her.

“Hey puppy,” she murmured, because, let's face it, the kid in front of her looked like a picture of a sad little beagle puppy.

“It's Peter, actually.”

“Or Spiderman?” She asked, glancing down at his suit.

“Yeah. But Peter is fine, really ma'am.”

“Nope. Nope nope nope. I'm too young to be a ma'am. It's Darcy,” she scolded, as she took his offered hand to pull her to her feet.

“It's nice to meet you, Darcy. I mean, apart from our not-so-good circumstances. And um, this is is gonna sound weird, but... Did you see the little green girl, too?”

“No...Did you hit your head when we...?? Shit. I don't know how we got here. Or where is here.”

The dizziness hit her again and she swayed back a bit. Peter reached to grab her, but strong hands caught her from behind and her back was supported by what could only be a man's body.

“Whoa there, gorgeous. You okay?” Darcy glanced up at the man smiling down at her. His skin was flawless chocolate and his eyes had a twinkle. His easy smile was punctuated by a gap between his front teeth, which Darcy thought was the mark of all really awesome smiles. But she wasn't biased or anything.

“You're Sam Wilson.”

“You heard of me?” he smirked.

“Hi. Hi again, Mr. Falcon, sir.” Peter sputtered. “About the um...last time we met...at the airport... super sorry about that.”

“No worries, kid. I don't hold grudges in alternate planes of existence.”

“About that...” Darcy asked, turning to Sam, and immediately regretting her decision to leave the warmth of Sam's supportive grasp, “Where? And what? The hell?”

“Long story short?” Sam asked.

Darcy nodded an affirmative.

“We lost.”

“Too short. Lengthen the story, please. Thanks.”

“You see the space ship over New York?” Sam asked.

“Yeah. Jane and I were watching it on the news.”

“I was on it.” Peter volunteered, raising his hand. “I was on that space ship. Then on another planet. Now...another... planet...maybe?”

“You're inside the Soul Stone,” the feminine voice that Darcy heard earlier answered. But she wasn't in her head this time. She was approaching them through the mist. And as God was Darcy's witness: she was green.

“It's the little girl!” Peter nudged Darcy in the ribs.

“That is no little girl...” Sam eyed the woman appreciatively.

“Well not now.... but she was...”

“My name is Gamora.”

Peter nudged Darcy again, with great excitement, at her name.

“Puppy! You have got to stop that!”

“Sorry. You weren't there. And neither were you. But... your friends.” Peter reached out toward Gamora like he was offering something tangible. “They're looking for you. Or they were.”

“I know, Peter. Thank you. I'm trying to find them. I'm gathering the souls of the people that can be of use. We're going to be here. In this facet of the soul stone. I'll be bringing us all together. Please. Just be patient.”

As she turned to walk away, Sam asked, “Why do you have this power?”

Over her shoulder, she replied, “Thanos sacrificed my life to obtain the stone. The stone is repaying me for that sacrifice.”

“You gonna make him pay?” Sam called out.

“Oh yes. He will pay.” Her response sent a shiver down Darcy's spine. Gamora had gone from a reassuring wise-woman to a 'holy crap badass' in the space of a few seconds.

“Glad she's on our side,” Darcy muttered under her breath.

“Wait!” Peter called out, “Were you a little girl, earlier?”

“That was Thanos's idea of who I am. He doesn't control that anymore.”

Darcy blinked a few times, trying to decipher the information that was just given to her. “Did she say we were living inside a stone?”

 

Bucky

 

“Sergeant Barnes? My friend, you are frightening me. Are you all right?”

Bucky's voice came out somewhere between a whisper and a growl, “No.”

T'Challa didn't seem to hear him, as he surveyed the area around them. Bucky had started to look around when they arrived, seeing very little because of the visibility issues created by the fog. But then, Bucky had noticed his hands. And the shock of what he was seeing made him feel dizzy. So he sat before he fell. Sat right on the orange ground. He was so shocked by his hands that he barely even registered that the ground was, in fact, orange, and a strange liquid that didn't actually make him wet.

He was vaguely aware of T'Challa's hand on his shoulder. “Sergeant Barnes.”

“What happened to me? Was I asleep?”

“James? Do you remember anything? Think.”

Bucky wanted to follow his command but he couldn't think. All he could do was stare at his left hand. Human. Whole.

“Sergeant Barnes! Think!” T'Challa commanded again.

“Barnes? T'Challa? That you?” the voice came cutting through the mist. It was familiar, friendly. Bucky remembered that voice...

“Sam Wilson? We are over here!” T'Challa called back. “Our friend is here, James. We won't be alone for much longer.

Darcy

 

Darcy held Sam's arm as they walked through the heavy mist. Peter held onto the hem of Darcy's cardigan. It was the only way to be sure they didn't get separated as they headed toward the voices.

“Gamora needs to work on climate control in this joint,” Darcy muttered, eliciting a chuckle from Sam. As the figures began to take shape through the haze, Darcy said, much louder, “Holy shit! I think that's the king of Wakanda.” She unlooped her arm from Sam's and smacked him on the shoulder. “You didn't tell me you knew the King of Wakanda!”

“You and I just met like three minutes ago!”

“No excuse. If I knew the King of Wakanda, I'd be like, 'Hey there, I'm Sam Wilson, I know the King of Wakanda. And I know Captain America and …. that's Bucky Barnes.”

“No, it's not...oh my God.” Sam surged ahead, leaving Peter and Darcy to catch up. When they did they could see Sam kneeling in front of Bucky, talking to him quietly and calmly, “It's ok man. You think you can stand?”

“Yeah. I think so. Sam? What happened to me?”

Darcy couldn't help but stare. She knew about the Winter Soldier. About Washington and Belarus. She knew he was framed for the attack on the UN. But this wasn't the Winter Soldier that Sam was talking to, each of them reaching out with one hand on the shoulder of the other. This man was straight from her history textbook; Bucky Barnes: Howling Commando. His hair was short but tousled on top. He had a touch of five o'clock shadow, but not the scruff she had seen from his images on the news. He was thinner, wirier. And there was no metal arm. He was even dressed in the clothes he was wearing in his picture at the Smithsonian.

“I don't know what happened.” Sam told his friend, “We were in Wakanda. Now we're here. And it's orange. And there's a really hot green chick...”

“Excuse me, did you say green?” T'Challa asked.

“Like the Wicked Witch of the West?” Bucky scoffed quietly, still wobbling on his feet.

“The Wicked Witch is the good guy now.” Peter offered, drawing the three men's attention. “It's a Broadway musical. She's the good guy. Hi. I'm Spiderman.”

“I remember,” Bucky said, with a hint of a smile, that quite frankly, knocked Darcy's socks off. “You got a real name, kid?”

“Peter.”

“I'm Bucky. This is T'Challa.”

Then Bucky cast his steel blue eyes Darcy's way, and she legitimately felt a little dizzy again. Then he stuck out his right hand to shake hers, like a god damned actual gentleman and she blurted out, “Darcy Lewis. I know Thor.”

Chapter Text

Darcy

“Puppy. I swear to God if you don't stop doing that....”

“I swear it works. If you close one eye and then the other and shake your head back and forth...”

Darcy scolded, “Peter Parker if you don't knock that off, I'm going to tell Quill that you keep trying to make his girlfriend look like a little girl. Or worse... I'll tell Gamora herself.”

“Okay, okay.” Peter came away from the window of the sciences lab. And muttered, “works on Barnes too.”

“Wait, what?” Jane Foster piped up, dropping her dry erase pen and jetting toward the window. “You can make him all long-haired and sexy 'soldiery'? Show me again, Pete.”

“Seriously?” Hope VanDyne asked, joining Jane and Peter at the window. Even Janet VanDyne started towards the window.

“Et tu, Mama VanDyne?” Darcy accused.

“Darcy, honey, we have been stuck in this lab, staring at nothing but equations, for God knows how long. It's nice to check out the scenery every now and then.”

Honestly, the fact that they were actually IN a lab was amazing. Somehow, over the space of several days, Gamora had conjured a full-blown town where there had only been a vast orange emptiness. Then again, it may have been over the space of minutes, or years, or eons. Even Gamora had no idea how much time had passed outside of their facet of the Soul Stone.

“Darcy just doesn't want anyone else ogling her man,” Jane teased as she, and Jemma Simmons, tried Peter's trick.

“He's not my man. He's not my anything. I haven't even spoken to him since the first day....”

“And that was really embarrassing,” Peter offered. Darcy shot him a look. “Sorry.”

“Mmm,” Jemma sighed, “Look at them go.”

Darcy knew that “them” referred to Bucky and Sam, who went for a run at this time every day. Not that she kept track of their schedules.

“Look at who go?”

“Hey, sweetheart!” Janet smiled, skipping over to the doorway and reaching for the sandwiches and drinks that Hank Pym had brought them all. “We were just watching T'Challa and Gamora spar. Quite impressive.”

“Really? Here I thought you were checking out Wilson's ass.”

“No, Dad. Of course not. We were checking out Bucky's.”

“How shameful, ladies. You know how that upsets Darcy.”

“I. Hate. You. All.”

 

Bucky

“I hate you, Barnes, you aren't even winded,” Sam complained, while bent over with his hands on his knees

“Would you rather I ran as fast as I could...?”

“No. I have heard enough of super soldiers yelling 'on your left' to last me a lifetime.”

“I wouldn't do that to you, Sam.” Bucky grinned, “I'd knock your ass down.”

Sam shot Barnes a dirty look.

“By the way,” Bucky said, with a quick look toward the science lab, “they're doing it again.”

“What, the brainy ladies are checking me out again?”

“Mmmhmm.”

“Your girl in the window too?”

“She's not my girl.”

“Mmmhmm,” Sam parroted back.

“She won't even talk to me. Last time we were in a room together, she literally squeaked, and ran away.”

“You've got a crush, Bucky-Bear.”

“I don't have crushes, Birdbrain.”

“Are we talking about James's crush on Darcy Lewis?” T'Challa approached, wiping the sweat from his face.

“I don't...”

“You can argue if you want, James. But I've seen you freeze when you try to talk to her.” T'Challa teased as he eased himself to sit on the ground.

“You okay there?” Sam asked.

“That woman...” he pointed to Gamora, who was entering the science lab, “is insane.” Then, in a very undignified, unkingly manner, he flopped onto his back. “She's trying to kill me.”

“Next time,” Bucky offered a hand to pull T'Challa back to his feet, “I'll spar with Gamora, and you can run with Sam.”

“You are a brave man, James Barnes.”

“Not for much longer,” Sam coughed.

Bucky turned to see what Sam was referring to...It was her. And she was coming this way. Bucky felt his mouth become dry and his face began to flush. The horror of the day they met replayed in his mind: She had introduced herself right at the time that everything began to really hit him. The aliens, a talking raccoon, Thanos, disappearing from one plane of existence and appearing on another, his appearance; it all became overwhelming, and when she told her joke, hysterical laughter bubbled up out of him. And he was sure that the lovely Darcy Lewis had thought she was laughing at her and not with her. He still felt the nausea of embarrassment at the thought.

“Hey, Darce,” Sam casually said to her, as if she wasn't the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. Bucky hated him a little. “Gamora cracking the whip in there?”

“Yep, the science types are trying to explain why we are still trapped in Soul World. And I'm super glad I'm not them right now.”

“I should join them,” T'Challa nodded a polite goodbye and went into the lab.

“At least he has something to offer,” Darcy lamented, “I'm not really the science-y type. Honestly, I still don't know why Gamora brought me here.”

It killed Bucky to see her doubt her importance. Didn't she know? She was the one who designed their whole community. Sure, Gamora made it, but Darcy was the one who told her how many living spaces and workspaces she thought they needed. Darcy had made the plans for the community areas, and meals, and music, and everything that made them all feel human. Darcy enforced the time outs for rest and recreation. Darcy even reminded Gamora to make the sun rise and set and the ground feel like the ground. Without her, this would be an orange hell. Bucky opened his mouth to tell her that. And then closed it again.

“You been to see Wanda, today?” Sam asked.

“I'll head over there soon. I think Stephen is sitting with her right now.”

Bucky smiled at that. Only Darcy was bold enough to refer to Dr. Strange by his first name. Even Gamora referred to him as Doctor.

“Good.” Sam nodded. “She seems better when you're around. Or with Mantis.” Wanda was nearly catatonic when Gamora brought her into their Soul World. The trauma of losing Vision, not once, but twice, had been too much for her fragile psyche. Darcy had directed every aspect of her care: from the room where she stayed to which members of the group would be with her. At first, Mantis had to keep Wanda asleep. But bit by bit she was improving. Strange, Sam, and oddly, Groot, seemed to be the best at bringing Wanda out of her melancholy. But only Darcy had made her smile.

“She likes seeing you too, Sam,” Darcy said.

“Yeah. You know what?” Sam clamped his hand down on Bucky's shoulder, “I'm gonna head over there. See you kids, later”

Bucky narrowed his eyes at Sam, knowing full well that usually he would have added a “want to come with me?” to Darcy. Instead, he left Bucky there alone with her. To suffer untold humiliation. He was going to have to pay.

“So...”

“Listen, I...”

Great. They hadn't spoken in three days and now they were tripping over each other. Bucky closed his eyes with annoyance at himself.

Darcy let out a little laugh, which caused the butterflies in Bucky's stomach to start fluttering. “So, did I mention that I know Thor?”

She was smiling at him, her big blue eyes sparkling, and God help him, those butterflies went into overdrive.

Chapter Text

Bucky

“Does it feel weird? Your arm?”

“No..it's kind of... it's weird that it's not weird.”

Bucky and Darcy had been walking so long that they reached the edge of their settlement. They were both playing with the liquid ground, watching it refuse to splash, no matter how hard they tapped their feet on it. Darcy had, at one point, even jumped up and down like a child in a puddle, making Bucky laugh.

Once they had gotten over the initial awkwardness, Bucky found her easy to talk to. She was funny as hell. Smart. Kind. Insightful.

“I just kind of wonder...why? Why am I whole again?”

“Well, you were never, ever less than whole, Bucky. You were just different. Although, Jane is mourning the loss of your long hair. She had a thing for it.”

“Really? Interesting,” He drew out the word and gave Darcy a sly smile and a wink.

“You really think you're bad ass enough to go after Thor's ex?”

“Do you think he'd be the jealous type? I mean, you do know him, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, you're buckets of funny, my dude.” She kicked at the liquid ground again. “What exactly do you mean? That it's weird that it's not weird?”

Bucky shrugged.

“Nope. Not gonna fly, mister. You're not going strong and silent on me again. We've. Made. Progress.”

“Okay.” He shrugged again, unable to stop himself, and admitted, “I'm not unhappy.”

“Interesting....” Darcy drew out the word too, signaling that she required more explanation.

“Everyone is working hard to get us out of here, out of Soul World. Wanda is practically catatonic with despair. T'Challa is always talking about getting back to his sister, his kingdom, his girl. Gamora is...”

“...fucking intense,” Darcy finished.

“But I'm... content.” He shrugged a third time in as many minutes. “This is who I am now and that's...I don't know if that explains anything when it comes to this...” he held out his formerly robotic arm. “But...I feel guilty that I'm not unhappy.”

“You know Gamora said that Thanos had no control over who she was here. Like she was in charge of it now. Maybe that's the you that you've created for you.” Darcy wrinkled her nose a little at her statement. “You know?”

He nodded but felt skeptical. “Maybe.”

“And you aren't the only one who isn't going ape shit trying to get out of here. Hank and Janet, Drax... they're pretty content too. Jane is digging it here, all the physics of it and all. And Stephen is so chill about the whole thing that it's pissing Gamora off. He says that everything will work itself out.”

“What do you think?”

“I think that we aren't going to be able to science or punch our way out of this. So we might as well be...content.”

“Are you?” Bucky asked, with a tilt of the head.

Darcy opened her mouth to reply and then closed it and thought about it. “I think... I am. I have my best friend here. And new friends who happen to be super awesome. So...yes. I'm content.”

“Hmmm... Why don't I believe you?”

“It's just... There are guys like you, Daisy, T'Challa... if we have to somehow fight our way out, that's why you're here. Wanda and Stephen can handle the mystical shit. Then there are the big brains, like Jane and Jemma. But I'm not sure what I have to offer? I feel kind of useless.”

Bucky just shook his head.

“It's true! What do I have to offer?”

“The world. You gave us a world, Darcy.”

“Gamora...”

“She had the power to create it, sure. But she'd have us in that...” he pointed to the vast emptiness. “You reminded her to give us all of the things that made us feel like people. Sunrises and sunsets. Food. Music. Community. Routine. You did all of that. That's why Gamora plucked your soul out of the masses and brought you here.”

Darcy's eyes were wet, tears threatening to fall, but she laughed it off, “Well, I always did like a good routine.” She wiped away the lone tear that escaped, and abruptly changed the subject, “We should get back. Don't want to miss dinner and karaoke.”

“No...we can't miss karaoke.”

“You gonna sing, Bucky Bear?”

“Darling, no one but Quill ever gets to sing. And I'm gonna kill Sam for teaching you that nickname.”

“Would you prefer Bucky Boo Boo? Bucky Badger? Bad Bad Bucky Brown? Baddest man in our whole darned town!”

“In a town of twenty-five, that's quite the distinction.”

Darcy wrapped her arms around his neck and sang a song that Bucky didn't recognize, “Baddest man and the whole darned town.”

Bucky felt like time had slowed down. He was holding the most incredible dame he had ever met in his arms, and she was leaning closer. Those full red lips were tantalizingly close. All he had to do was lean forward and....

“Barnes!”

Darcy dropped her arms from his shoulders and backed away a step. And for the first time since their arrival in Soul World, Bucky found himself scowling. “What the hell do you want Quill?”

“Hey have you seen... Darcy! Just the master of ceremonies that I was looking for!”

Behind Quill, Sam mouthed, “Shit, I'm sorry!” to Bucky.

“Darcy, my dear, Sammy and I seem to be having a disagreement. You see, he seems to think that Marvin Gaye's music is strictly in his purview. Whereas, I feel that I can bring a certain je ne sais quoi to 'What's Going On.' What do you think?”

“I think... tonight we're playing charades. No karaoke.”

“But I....”

“The Master of Ceremonies has spoken! Go away!”

Another voice started calling out Darcy's name, “Darcy! You won't believe it!”

Running toward them, slightly breathless and aflutter, was Mantis. She ran right at Darcy and grabbed her into a bouncing, dancing embrace. “Wanda is talking! And she wants to see you!”

Mantis turned her attention briefly toward Bucky. “You are very annoyed.”

“Doesn't take an empath to figure that out,” Sam muttered. “It's kind of your default setting.”

Bucky sighed, “I was actually kind of content.”

As Mantis dragged Darcy away, she added, “You weren't content, you were aroused.”

Bucky found himself pinching the bridge of his nose as he muttered, “Oh God, I'm in hell.”

Chapter Text

 

  

Darcy

 

“Okay THAT” Darcy drew a little circle in the air, “Is freaking me out!”

 Gamora crossed her arms, “I don't know what you're talking about.”

 “You are SMILING!”

 “I smile...sometimes.” Gamora had originally approached Darcy for help in landscaping the community square, but clearly, she had more nefariously gossipy motives in mind, “I've noticed that you've been spending a lot of times with Barnes.”

 “Not a lot of time. We just go for a walk together. Every day. And we talk. For hours. Shut up.” Once again, Darcy motioned to Gamora's smile. “Stop freaking me out.”

“I just think it's nice. That's all. Everyone is kind of invested in how it turns out for you guys.”

 “Wait, everyone? Even Wanda?”

 “Oh yeah. It makes her smile when we tell her about you two and your little walks.” Gamora put air quotes around the last word.

 “Drax?”

 “He's actually quite the romantic.”

 “Stephen Strange?” Darcy challenged.

 “Okay, you think you have me there, but you don't. Who do you think told everyone how you and Bucky were walking arm and arm yesterday?”

“Bucky was just being polite. He doesn't see me like that. I don't think. I don't know.”

Darcy shook her head in disbelief. “Quill says it's like watching Samantha Baker and Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles.”

“We really need to update his pop culture references.”

“We might all need to. We may have been here hundreds of years or five minutes.” Gamora sighed and quietly admitted, “Darcy, I don't know how to get us out. I don't know what I'm doing...”

Darcy put her arm around Gamora's shoulder for a side-hug. “Well, that's why you brought us here. So we can figure it all out. Right?”

“Right.”

Darcy looked at this fierce, intelligent, warrior woman and saw a vulnerability that she didn't realize existed. Darcy hated to question her at this moment, but a question had been burning at her for weeks (or however long they had really been here) and this may be the only opportunity she would have to ask, “Why am I here? I'm not like Jane or Hank with the smarts, or super strong or powered.”

“Let me explain. Out there... in the rest of the stone... the souls aren't like us. They're formless, mist-like, and they glow. I was looking for Jane when I came across you. I saw this gorgeous soul, glowing brighter than all the others, and they orbited that bright soul like the sun. And wound around that soul was another, like a divine helix.”

“Janey is the bright soul, and I'm the one wrapped around her?”

“No, you idiot. You're the bright soul. And the soul that was entwined with yours is your soulmate. And I brought you both here.”

“And it's not Jane? Because, she's super cute and all, but I'm kind of hoping my soul mate is a dude. Because that's kind of how I roll.”

“Not Jane.” Gamora took Darcy's shoulder and turned her toward an approaching figure, “I think your standing engagement has arrived.”

Darcy felt a warmth in her belly that spread throughout her body, settling on her cheeks as Bucky approached.

“There's one more thing...” Gamora said. “Here, in this facet of the stone, I'm not the one controlling my appearance. You see me as my soulmate sees me. As Peter sees me. So let me ask you; when you think of Bucky Barnes, how do you picture him?”

Darcy knew exactly what Gamora was implying. She always thought of Bucky Barnes as the WW2 hero, not the Winter Soldier.

“Just like that,” she admitted. “I picture him just like that.”

Darcy

 

They were sitting together, hip to hip, thigh to thigh, at the edge of the settlement. Darcy had her head on Bucky's shoulder and they had been enjoying the companionable silence.

“I was just thinking...”

“Yeah? What about?”

“When we get back, if we get back, do you think we will remember?”

“Remember being here? Or remember each other?” Bucky used his free hand to tilt Darcy's chin up to look him in the eye. “Are you worried that I will forget you?”

“A little.”

“Will you forget me?” He asked, quietly.

“Never. You're the reason I'm alive. Literally. You and Captain America, during the war, you saved my grandfather. He never forgot you. He talked about you all of the time. Not Captain America, but you. I've kind of always had a hero worship thing for you, kind of by proxy.”

“He was a veteran?”

“No. He was in a concentration camp.”

“Oh, Darce.” Bucky tipped his forehead to touch hers.

“He was just a little boy. And he says that you carried him all over, trying to find my great grandma. They were separated in the liberation of the camp. He said you held him for hours until you found her.”

“His name was Noah.”

“You remember?”

“Yeah. I remember. He had big blue eyes. Guess I know where you got them from.”

“Can I ask...? And this is way personal, but, do you remember everything? Like from when...?”

“When I was the Winter Soldier?” He sighed and leaned back away from her slightly.

“Never mind. That's way too personal. I'm sorry.”

“It's okay.”

“No. No. I was way out of line...”

“Darcy, it's really okay. I'm okay talking about that.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. Something about being here. It's given me some perspective.” Bucky put his arm around her shoulders and Darcy snuggled up against his chest. “I remember the missions. But it's like watching a movie. I don't feel guilty about it anymore like I did back there. I know it wasn't me. That I didn't intend to hurt anyone.”

“You weren't responsible.”

“I stopped being Bucky Barnes when I fell off that train. And I started again when I pulled Steve out of the Potomac. The time in between... I wasn't anyone at all.”

“If we ever get home, I'm personally burning HYDRA down to the ground.”

“Just you? All by your lonesome?”

Darcy nodded emphatically. “Yup.” She looked over at him smiling at her and then added, “Ok. You can come too. But only if it doesn't give you the heebie-jeebies.”

“Sounds like fun, Sassy.”

She laughed at the nickname. But asked gently, “Are you really doing ok?”

“I promise, this place has been... healing. What with Gamora, pulling me out of the ether, counting on me to be a hero. T'Challa calling me a friend. Sam, and everyone else treating me like a man and not a monster. And you... looking at me the way you do.”

“Yeah? How do I look at you?”

“Like you're thinkin' about kissin' me.”

“Well, I'm afraid you're wrong. Because I'm thinking about you kissing me.” She chuckled while she traced his jawline with her fingers.

“Well...I wouldn't want to disappoint a lady,” he whispered against her lips.

 

Bucky

“Is it absurd to be this happy? When we're like, dead and stuff.?” Darcy asked, swinging her and Bucky's clasped hands between them as they walked back toward the settlement.

“I don't think we're dead...we're just trapped.”

“You must have been one of the first ones to go, babe. Because I saw Jane turn to freaking ash. We're totally dead.”

“Maybe this is Heaven,” he murmured into her hair, placing a kiss just above her ear.

“Very smooth. Very very smooth.”

They stopped their teasing as soon as they saw Sam standing there, his eyes wide. “Strange said...they fixed it. They changed the timeline...we're going...” And then, in a swirling, ebb of light, Sam was gone.

Bucky felt panic rise in his throat. He turned to Darcy who looked at him with wide eyes.

“I don't want to go back, Bucky,” Darcy whispered. “I want to stay here with you.”

“No matter what. No matter WHAT. I will find you. I'll find you, I swear.”

And then, they were both swept away into an old world and a new timeline.

 

 

Chapter Text

The flight from the Compound to the Tower was quiet. And not just because they got the Assemble order at an ungodly hour. Most of the people on the jet were morning people by default. Hell, he was the only one who wasn't a morning person. He was seriously caffeine deprived at the moment. And he had been awakened from the strangest dream. All he could remember about it was lots of orange.

Bucky debated making a pot of coffee. He could drink it straight from the carafe like Barton did. In fact, Barton was the reason the quinjets had coffee makers.

God bless Hawkeye.

At the back of the jet, Sam Wilson, the Falcon, paced. It was annoying as hell. Bucky would have told him to knock it off, but it wouldn't have helped, and he was too tired to form a cohesive sentence, so he didn't bother.

Wanda and Vision talked in hushed tones to only each other. Which wasn't entirely unusual. But Daisy Johnson wasn't usually quite this focused on piloting the Quinjet. She usually was trading barbs with the team. Her intense concentration meant one thing; one of their own was in jeopardy.

Bucky met the eyes of Daisy's partner, Kate Bishop aka Hawkeye. (Not that Hawkeye, the other Hawkeye, she usually quipped). Her lips were pressed into a thin line. Worry etched on her face. Even though Daisy was the only one who had any briefing this morning, Kate read the mood and knew, like the rest of them, that something was wrong. She gave Bucky a half grin and asked, “You need some coffee, Buck?”

“Nah...”

“You're just a craptastic liar. I'll make you some coffee.”

Yep. God bless Hawkeye.

Fortunately, the mood was a bit lighter on the landing pad on the roof of Avengers Tower. Bucky did a quick survey of his comrades. Melinda May and Maria Hill looked professional but not overly tense.

Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff strode onto the ramp of their jet with an easy confidence.

Whatever the situation, it appeared that it was something that everyone believed would be easily handled so Bucky relaxed a bit. So did Sam and Kate. The group approached the jet that Barton and Romanoff had just entered.

Agent May aborted their attempt at boarding, “Nope, all six of you. Conference Room.”

Sam took a peek inside the quinjet. Accompanying the two master spies were Hope Van Dyne and Scott Lang, the Wasp and Ant-Man. “Kind of light on the firepower there,” Sam commented.

From behind them, Tony Stark jabbed, “Excuse me? I'm offended. Are you offended Rhodey?”

“Very offended.”

“We've got it handled, get thee to the conference room.”

Hill assured the group that had come in from the compound, “Cap will explain.”

As they headed inside, the Parker kid, jetted by them from the stairwell, still in his lab coat, “I got the assemble message, Mr. Stark,” he said eagerly.

“No! No Avenging on a school night! We've been over this!”

“But...”

“Don't make me call Aunt May! Get back to the lab and help Mackenzie.”

Sam nudged Bucky, “I love that kid.”

“I love how irritated he makes Stark,” Bucky responded with a grin.

“That's what I meant, man. That's what I meant.”

“Does he remind you a bit of a puppy?”

Sam contemplated this as the headed down the stairwell. “Like a little beagle puppy? Damn. Can't believe I never noticed that before.”

“Pick up the pace, boys,” Daisy scolded from a half a flight down. “Cap's waiting.”

Steve Rogers waited until everyone had been seated in the conference room before beginning the briefing, but he didn't wait one second longer than that. Without preamble he announced, “Dr. Jemma Simmons has been kidnapped.”

A wave of anxiety gripped Bucky, and before Steve could continue he demanded, “Friday? Location of Leopold Fitz?”

The AI's voice was like a balm, “Relax, Agent Barnes, Dr. Fitz is safely ensconced in his lab on the 21st floor and the Boss said to tell you, and I quote...” The voice switched to Stark's, “we all know how you feel about Fitz, Mama Bear, but get your head in the game.”

Irritated, Steve gave Bucky and impatient look that could only be interpreted as “May I?”

In response, Bucky gave a “by all means” gesture. On his left, Kate Bishop reached out and patted his left hand; the hand that Leo Fitz had managed to make look, and feel, completely normal. It was a gift that he could never repay, so if he went 'mama bear' when Fitz was threatened, so be it.

Before Steve could actually continue his briefing a blur of grey and silver zipped into the room and took the empty chair next to Wanda.

“You're late,” Steve scolded.

“Did I miss anything important?” Pietro Maximoff asked with a casual charm that very few people could pull off.

Wanda leaned over and told her brother, “Dr. Simmons has been abducted.”

Steve continued, annoyed to the very core, “We suspect she was taken by this group. IGH, One of the Defenders came across them a few years ago. We thought they were defunct, but intelligence from one of our sources shows that we were wrong. They were trying to recreate the super soldier serum.”

Bruce mumbled, “That won't end well.”

“It already hasn't.” Cap projected crime scene photos onto the holoprojector in the center of the conference table. “Alisa Jones, Will Simpson. They tried to use IGH's enhancements.”

Sam shook his head at the pictures of the deceased, “You're right Bruce. Didn't end well.”

“Which is why we sent a very specific team to rescue our biochemist.”

Daisy nodded in understanding, “No one with enhancements.”

“Right. The last thing we want to do is give them more toys to experiment on. This is not a well-organized group, by any means. But, we have to consider the possibility that they may be after more members of our science team.”

Sam snorted, “We're on babysitting duty.”

Cap nodded his head, “We're on babysitting duty. Bruce, you are leaving for the compound immediately with Wanda and Vision. Keep him safe, you two. YoYo, Pietro and I will be overseeing tower evacuation and will guard any high-level scientists until we can get them to the compound.” Pointedly, but with a bit of a smile, he said to YoYo, “All of the high-level scientists, not just engineers named Fitz or Mackenzie.”

“Shuri?”

“In Wakanda, Buck, but yeah. She may be a target.” Cap sighed and continued, “Bucky, I need you, Sam, Kate, and Daisy to pick up our astrophysicists. They're at a conference in Portland. We'll meet you at the compound. I'll contact Murdock. Let him know we are leaving the city entirely in the hands of the Defenders. And Daisy? Can you call Jessica Jones and see if she can tell you anything? Alisa Jones was her mother, so be tactful...”

YoYo quipped, “I don't think Daisy does tactful...”

“I'll call Jess,” Bucky said.

Daisy shrugged, “Its fine. I can...”

Bucky interrupted her with a growl, “I'll. Call. Jess.”

She put up her hands in concession, “Okay fine. But I can call Murdock, Cap. We grew up together at St. Agnes.”

Steve nodded, “We good here?”

Daisy nodded back “We're good. Go, take care of my friends for me.”

Rogers smiled back at her, “You take care of mine. Keep them out of trouble,” he gestured toward Bucky and Sam.

Sam protested, “I'm sitting right here.”

“He was talking about me, Birdbrain.”

“Oh, I doubt that. He worries about me.”

“I'm his best friend.”

“See you're his oldest friend. I'm his best friend. There's a difference.”

 “Hey, fanboys,” Daisy laughed, “Can we go? We have scientists to wrangle.”

 

Chapter Text

Bucky tried to keep the conversation with Jessica as private as possible, which was not easy in the quinjet. “Thanks for the intel, Jess.” He paused before he asked, “You ok?”

Her response was a tight, “I’m fine.”

“Jess...”

She exploded, “Damn it, Barnes, I’m fucking fine.” and then deflated, “Fuck. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. I owe you a beer.”

“You owe me a bottle of Jack, Barnes.” And she disconnected.

Bucky sighed and scratched his hand across the shorter hairs on his neck. Jess had provided some valuable information about IGH and Karl Malus, but she insisted the man was dead, killed in an explosion. That made things more difficult. They didn't know who they were really dealing with or who had Fitz's wife.

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Sam watching him, “What?”

“It’s cute. When I met you your only friend was Steve. Now, look at ya. You practically have your own fan club.”

“Jess & I have been through the same shit. We understand each other. It's hardly a mutual admiration society.”

“And Shuri, and Fitz?”

“They're my doctors.”

“Mmmhmm. Underneath the growl-y demeanor, you're a nice guy, Barnes. Way, way underneath.”

“Lay off, Birdbrain. Gimme the files.” Sam handed Bucky the Starkpad.

Daisy called back to the group, “Natasha has reported in. Dr. Simmons has been recovered, completely unharmed.”

“They capture anyone for interrogation?” Kate asked.

“Unfortunately, no. Looks like the kidnappers abandoned Jemma and cut bait when the jet landed. They're still out there.”

Bucky poured over the files. Erik Selvig & Jane Foster looked familiar, they'd been at the Avengers upstate facility a few times. He drew his finger across the touchscreen to look at the third file. Bucky swore he felt a tickle in his brain like he knew her somehow. He didn't realize he was staring so hard at her picture until Sam piped up, “You know 'em?”

“Nah. I don't think so. Something familiar about her though.”

“Maybe the Winter Soldier was sent after her at some point?”

“Nah. If the Winter Soldier had been after her, she'd be dead.” Then he gave Sam an evil looking glare.

“Now see THAT is the kind of shit that makes no one want to work with you, Barnes!” Bucky grinned, back at Sam, all the while knowing the truth. Sam worked with Bucky because, no matter how well Bucky was doing, there was always a chance that he'd have a really bad day. And Sam, well Sam knew what to do with those bad days. Steve was too soft on Bucky during those bad days. Others were too wary. Daisy had been a victim of mind control and empathized. And Kate? Bucky just liked the kid. The four of them were a good team.

“She's an astrophysicist?” Bucky turned the Starkpad around to show Sam a picture of a woman who looked like she should have been painted on the side of a Bomber during the War.

Kate laughed, “Are you kidding me? That's Darcy.”

Sam drew out her name as if that would help Bucky remember her. “Darcy Lewis...”

From the pilot's seat, Daisy turned around, “Is he serious? You've never met Darcy?”

Kate looked dumbstruck at him. “He cannot be serious. Are you serious?”

Bucky pinched the bridge of his nose. “Would you, please, stop asking me if I know who she is...when clearly I DONT?”

“Remember that sweet little lady who pinched your cheeks at the diner the other day?” Sam asked.

“Yeah... kind of hurt.”

“You can thank Darcy for that. “

Kate added, “And for the Bucky Barnes action figures, and the re-release of the Bucky Bear, and for the fact that your ass is the object of every teenage girl's fantasy.”

From Daisy, “Literally, your ass. It's pretty spectacular.”

“Bite me, Quake.”

“Oh... I wish.”

“Darcy is the head of PR for the Avengers Initiative. She's the reason you are a beloved Avenger, instead of the Winter Bogeyman,” Sam explained.

Kate chimed in, “And she's the reason the Accords were amended. And the reason SHIELD was integrated into the Avengers Initiative.”

“The reason I'm not in a laboratory or prison!” Daisy called out.

“Ok, ok. I get it. I owe the dame.”

“Damn straight you owe the dame. Especially considering she managed to get your ass 70 years of back pay from the US government.”

“That's where that money came from...?” Sam just shook his head at Bucky. He let all the information sink in before he asked for a little more, “Why exactly does our head of PR need to personally accompany a pair of scientists to a physics conference?”

“Because Selvig once stripped naked and terrorized tourists at Stonehenge,” Sam casually offered. “Darcy's the only one who can keep those two out of trouble...”

“Is she powered?” Bucky started searching the file again.

Sam said, with a bit of menace in his voice, “She took Thor out, once.”

“Thor?”

Sam chuckled, “Relax man, I'm messing with you. She's not powered. But she did take him out.”

Daisy offered, “With a taser.”

“God I wish I could have seen that.”

“We all do. Sadly, there is no visual evidence. Coulson does have a great video of Thor getting a shot of sedative right in the gluteus maximus, though.” Daisy stopped and jokingly warned the team, “But no one is supposed to know that.”

The group descended into companionable silence while Bucky continued to peruse the file on Darcy Lewis. She had a Master's in political science. Had been working for Jane Foster when Thor landed (quite literally) in New Mexico. She was still working for Dr. Foster when the London attacks happened. Then she was hired by Tony Stark to work PR for the Avengers Initiative, right around the same time Jane Foster joined the science division.

Kate handed Bucky her cellphone. A video was already pulled up. She was hesitant when she offered it to Bucky, “Here: You should see this.”

“Is it Thor getting hit with a taser? Cause I've got to see that.”

“Read the room, Sam,” Kate scolded, “This was on one of the networks that was the roughest on you.

The video was of Miss Lewis. She had on horned rimmed glasses and her hair was tied up in a messy bun. The words 'sexy librarian' ran through his mind. She was already mid-speech when Bucky pushed play.

“Seventy years as a POW. Can you imagine? That's practically a lifetime of physical and mental torture. It took twenty years before Hydra even had him under their control. That's how long he fought back. And once they did, Sergeant James Barnes, one of the Howling Commandos, one of the greatest men of the greatest generation, was not allowed to even know his own NAME. In fact, anytime he remembered his name, or anything else related to his own life, he was tortured, and his memories were stolen again. Any time he questioned an order, he was tortured, and his mind erased. Over and over, until there was almost nothing left of the man he was.”

The anchor next to Darcy looked poised to interrupt. His co-anchor was dabbing at her eyes. But Darcy Lewis plowed ahead: “Do you know what the first decision he made for himself was? The very first decision that Hydra didn't force him to do? He saved Captain America's life. After 70 years of brainwashing. Knowing that it could lead to untold torture if HYDRA recaptured him; he still Saved. Captain. America's. Life. How can anyone believe that Agent Barnes would be capable of working with Hydra of his own free will? How can any American believe that?”

Bucky pressed stop on the video and handed it back to Kate. “Jesus.” He blinked a few times and hoped that his eyes weren't rimmed with red like they always looked when he was about to cry.

“She rendered that talking head completely speechless. And his blonde bimbette of a co-anchor, who I legit thought was an android, was actually crying.”

“...and she made the public accept me after just that one interview?”

“No man.” Sam scoffed, “She went on every news network and talk show in just about every damned country touting your 'miraculous recovery' after decades of torture at the hands of a foreign power.”

“What's with the air quotes, Wilson?” Daisy teased, trying to lighten the mood, which Bucky appreciated.

“Well... he's still a miraculous pain in my ass.”

“So there are more interviews? About me?” he asked Kate, reaching for her phone.

“Yeah, but....you may not want to watch most of them.”

“Why? What does she say about me?”

“Nothing bad. Ever. But she wasn't shy about detailing some of the things Hydra did to you. Hydra recorded everything and some of it...It's not easy to watch, especially for those of us who love you.”

“You've seen....?”

“Some. Yeah. Remember, she was trying to get the public on your side...”

“No its...I get it. You're right. I don't want to see that. Not sure how I feel about her trying to convince the world to feel sorry for me.”

“Sympathy isn't the same as pity, Bucky.”

He felt a surge of affection for his team. Sam was right, at first Steve was the only one who he could even stand to be in the room with. But now, he had Steve and Natasha. He had his team. And he had a group of scientists who had made the monster look like a man. Bucky knew for sure that his eyes were red-rimmed now, damn it.

Daisy must have interpreted Bucky's feelings of sentiment for discomfort. “Here, watch this instead.”

In the center of the quinjet's passenger compartment, a holo image of the Avengers Tower common room appeared. Various members of the team were gathered around, holding beers or other drinks. And Darcy Lewis, in an oversized sweatshirt and leggings with big bulky socks on, was singing loudly and poorly into a microphone.

'I'm too sexy for my shield too sexy for my shield, it's a shield I've got to wield...(with this Darcy moved her hips in a little circle.)
I'm too sexy for my cowl, too sexy for my cowl, it makes all the girls just yowl
I'm a damsel, you know what I mean. And I love to watch the man named The Cap walk
Yes, the Cap walk, woo, the Cap walk, ya look at that tush and watch the Cap walk.'

Steve was clearly enjoying her serenade, considering that he was laughing so hard that he had tears rolling down his cheeks.

Barton jumped up next to her and sang (again, poorly) into the microphone, “I'm too sexy for my quiver, too sexy for my quiver...” Darcy finished the lyric, “you smell like cabbage and liver!” And then she shoved him away and admonished, “Get the hell off my stage, Barton!” She then finished the song with a flourish, “I'm too sexy for this song.”

“That's the same dame?”

“Yeah,” Sam chuckled, “She's something.”

“Which you would know if you came to the Tower every once and a while.”

“Well, Daisy, my dumb ass partner likes to have room to fly around like a birdie.”

“Bull.” Sam challenged, “You like being at the compound because you don't like crowds.”

“And when you do come to the Tower, it's just Fitz's lab and your quarters, which are uber spartan, by the way,” Kate complained.

“I... socialize.”

“Tell you what, Bucky Bear,” Daisy challenged, “If you can name which Avenger serenaded T'Challa when he was in town for Karaoke night, we will leave you alone about your anti-social behavior.”

Bucky remembered that week. He had a quiet lunch with Shuri, T'Challa, Fitz, and Simmons before retiring to his (admittedly) spartan quarters in the tower. The answer to the quiz could have been literally any of the Avengers, except for Thor. So, he took a shot in the dark.

“Um...Sam?”

“A swing and a miss from Agent Barnes!” Darcy cackled as she pulled up the video.

“Pussycat, pussycat, I've got flowers
And lots of hours to spend time with you
So go and powder your cute little pussycat nose
Pussycat, pussycat, I love you yes I do
You and your pussycat nose”

Bucky had to admit, Wanda Maximoff actually had a nice voice. Her three backup singers: Shuri, Dr. Foster, and Kate were more interested in yelling their parts. Of course, all three were clearly buzzing from the alcohol.

When the trio into a chorus of 'whoa, whoa, whoa' a dam of laughter broke, both on the recording and in the jet.

“Sister you are going to break the glass in this tower!” T'Challa joked on the holo-recording.

“He was not wrong,” Daisy said from the pilot's seat. “Katie Kate, you cannot sing!”

“I have better performances! Pull up something else! Clint & I did 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' last week, that was good.”

“No. It wasn't.” Daisy laughed

“Pull up one of mine!” Sam then told Bucky, “I'm very talented.”

“Mmm hmm. Did you sing Sexual Healing?” Bucky asked with a smirk.

“How'd you...?”

“He only sings Marvin Gaye songs,” Daisy laughed, “And he's super serious about it, too.”

“He sings it when we run. Drives me nuts.”

Sam folded his arms across his chest. “All right, all right. Next karaoke night, you have my word, I will not sing Marvin Gaye.”

“No Motown of any kind!” laughed Kate.

He pointed at her, “No Pat Benatar.”

“And Bucky has to come!”

He opened his mouth to protest but Kate begged, “You don't have to sing. Just come.”

He shook his head but he couldn't ignore the pleading in her eyes. And the fact that Kate had her hands held under her chin like a little kid asking for dessert did him in. “All right. But only for you, Katie-Kate.”

“Yes! Steve & Sam each owe me fifty bucks!”

Sam pointed at Kate. “He ain't showed up yet, kid.”

“Ah! But the bet was 'I had to get Bucky to agree to come to karaoke night'. He agreed. I win the bet. I'm awesome and y'all are losers for not reading the fine print. Pay up.”

Bucky couldn't help but laugh. “You heard her, Birdbrain. Pay up.”

“Did you two plan this?” Sam accused.

“I swear we didn't. Give me my money.”

The next “singer” on the holo-recording was a solo Shuri, who broke into a song about the future being bright and needing to wear shades. She was truly awful. And she seemed to absolutely love the fact that she was truly, truly awful. Bucky smiled wistfully at the image of his friend dancing around and tunelessly yelling the lyrics to the song.

Sam asked, “Why don't you call and check on her. You know you want to.”

“Huh?”

“Shuri. Call her and make sure she's not leaving Wakanda. Do the overprotective big brother thing.”

“You know, she already has an overprotective big brother, right?”

“Not gonna stop you though, is it?”

“Probably not. You gonna make fun of me for calling her?”

“You have my word, as your friend that if there is a reason to make fun of you,” Sam grinned widely, “I will always find it, and exploit it.”

Bucky snorted in response.

“And ask T'Challa if he got the catnip mice I sent him.”

“I'm not gonna ask that.”

“I dare you.”

Bucky tapped on his Kimoyo beads and an image of Shuri appeared in his palm. Without preamble, she stated, “Sergeant Bucky, I promise I have not left my lab.”

“Just making sure, Doc.”

Shuri's forehead was furrowed with concern when she asked, “Have they found Dr. Simmons yet?”

“Yes. She's safe and unharmed.”

“That's good to hear. And the arm? How does it fare?”

Bucky held out his left arm and unnecessarily moved his shoulder in circles. “It's perfect.”

“ Dr. Fitz did a fairly good job of integrating Dr. Cho's technology with his own ideas. Still..” Shuri shook her finger at him. “Underneath, it's all me. Do not forget that.”

With a little tap of his finger to the side of his head, “Underneath this thick skull is your doing too. I still owe you.”

“You owe me nothing, my sweet brother. Except perhaps a hug. Will you be visiting soon? I'm sure I can upgrade...”

“I don't need an upgrade. I told you, it's perfect. May visit though, just to see you. Ok?”

“I would like that. As would my brother.” Shuri gave him a sly grin and a little wiggle of her eyebrows as she asked, “Would you be bringing Mr. Wilson as well?”

“He's too old for you, girl,” Bucky growled

“You cannot stop our love!” the eavesdropper yelled.

“We just like to tease you, brother,” Shuri said with a laugh.

“Mmm hmm. Don't mess with me, girl. I feel a little protective of you, you know.”

Daisy announced from the cockpit. “We're about to begin the descent, Sarge.”

“I gotta go, Princess. Promise me...”

“I will not leave Wakanda. You have my word.”

Shuri's image blinked away. Bucky strapped himself into his seat for the descent and he mentally prepared himself to meet the infamous Darcy Lewis.

Chapter Text

Darcy found that the filthy alley she was standing in was a perfect metaphor for the crap coming from the news personality (she refused to call her a journalist) that she was yelling at.

“Listen up, Tabloid Barbie, you don't want to mess with me, ok? There's a difference between freedom of speech and just being a bitch! It's the 21st century, get over the homophobic bullshit.”

Darcy was acutely aware that Agent Barnes was striding towards her purposefully, but she was busy dealing with the she-devil on the phone. It was a shame, too. Because, a man that good-looking really did deserve her undivided attention. Even through the shrieking on the other end of the line, Darcy could hear him growl into his communicator, “Found her, Quake.”

Darcy acknowledged Agent Barnes with a raised finger, but continued with her 'conversation' with the hateful woman.

“Because if you run with that piece of crap smear campaign, I will release the pictures I've obtained of your little rendezvous with your very married co-anchor, and his very married boyfriend. And since you and your ilk are very anti-anything other than missionary style between an XX and an XY, I don't think it would go over well with your fan base.”

“Are you threatening me, Miss Lewis?” The woman on the other end of the phone asked while simultaneously, Agent Barnes gestured toward the street. “Ma'am we need to go...”

“Yes I AM threatening you. Glad the excess bleach hasn't bled through to your brain.” Darcy pushed the touchscreen to hang up. Times like this she missed the flip phones that she could have slammed shut with a satisfying snap. “She'll call back, unfortunately.”

“Ma'am”

Despite the fact that her heart was racing, both from the screaming match with the nut job on the phone, and the fact that she'd been harboring a crush on the man standing in front of her since grade school, Darcy maintained her signature flippant speaking tone. “Chill out, my dude. No one is interested in kidnapping me. I'm not one of the big brains. Only reason I'm remotely special is that I know Thor.”

Barnes actually took a step back at that statement.

“What? What did I say?”

“Nothing.” He shook his head, “Deja vu. We really have to go.”

Darcy tilted her head to the side and assessed the man in front of her, “Are you all right?”

“I'm not gonna snap or anything. You're not in danger from me.”

“Oh my god, that's not what I asked.” She asked each of the next words pointedly, “Are. You. Okay?”

Barnes cast his eyes downward, toward the ground before looking back up at her through his eyelashes. “Yes ma'am.” Honestly, history books did not do this man justice.

“Good. Now, stop calling me ma'am.”

Under his breath, he replied, “How about Sassy? That work for you?”

Darcy smiled widely and poked him in the chest, “I like it!”

They were standing close enough at this point that she could hear the faint voice of Sam Wilson over the communicator, “Barnes!. You have incoming.”

Barnes took her by the elbow and started to direct her down the alley. “ETA?”

“Two to five minutes, tops.”

“Hold up...” He stopped in front of a heavy, metal door, whipped out a lock pick kit and picked the lock ridiculously easily. The 1940's gentleman in him held the door open and gestured to her that she could enter. And darned if that wasn't adorable, Darcy thought.

Once inside, Darcy pressed her ear against the door. This earned her a half-grin from Bucky, which was also rather adorable.

Darcy could hear two men outside. One was talking and the other was making a lot of noise: pulling on doors and rummaging through dumpsters.

“No, sir, we do not have the target acquired. No we have not located the jet. We are still canvassing for him, sir.”

When the door pulling guy yanked on their door, he was met with what probably felt like normal resistance, but it was in fact, just Bucky holding the door shut, oh so casually.

Darcy waited for the very noisy men to move far away before questioning the fact that the target was a 'he'. “They're after Erik? I thought this group was more into bio-engineering. What do they want with an astrophysicist?”

“I don't know.” Bucky pressed on the communicator in his ear. “Quake, get Selvig out of here. We'll meet you at rendezvous B at 1800.”

“So...” Darcy couldn't help but bounce on her toes a bit in anticipation, “are you going to take those guys out?”

“No. I'm gonna wait em out. Not putting a civilian at risk”

“Eighteen hundred is 6 o'clock, right?”

“Yep.”

“And it's four o'clock now.”

He actually grunted in an affirmative, and much to Darcy's surprise, she found that adorable too.

“How far away is rendezvous B?”

“Forty minutes, give or take.”

Darcy sat down on the hard concrete steps. “So we're just gonna sit in this stairwell for an hour, give or take.”

“Mmmhmm.”

“Exciting.”

Darcy's phone suddenly rang out. It was jarringly loud in the stairwell. Barnes nonchalantly grabbed it out of her hand and crushed it into pieces.

“Nooo... My Preciousss.”

He at least had the decency to look somewhat apologetic when he advised, “Grab the smart card thing. We can put it in a new phone on the jet.”

“But an hour... without Candy Crush.”

At this he looked more sincerely sorry. With a sigh, he sat down on her right, held out his right arm across his body and activated the Kimoyo beads he was wearing. In the palm of his hand, he held the one puzzle game that was truly Darcy's nemesis.

“Here.. just turn the pieces with your fingers.”

“You have Tetris... on your Kimoyo beads... nice.... won't your arm get tired?” She was already engaged in dropping the pieces to make perfect lines.

“I'm a super soldier.”

Darcy shrugged, “Good point.”

She didn't need to be looking at him to notice him fidgeting next to her. “Listen, I um.... I saw an interview you did, about me... I um... I appreciate everything you said. So thanks.”

Darcy made it a point to keep her attention on the falling puzzle pieces, she didn't want to cause him embarrassment. She did not, however, intend the rambling monologue that ensued. “Dude, I was just doing my job.. No thanks necessary. Seriously. Happy to. You ought to thank Daisy, though. Her appearance on Nightline, talking about how shitty mind control is...it was epic.. And the haircut helped too. I mean if anyone could pull off hobo chic, it's you, but the haircut makes you more approachable. So thanks.”

“My hair was in my eyes, so...”

“And Kate gave you a lecture on the evil of hipster man-buns?”

“Um.”

“A shave wouldn't kill you though. But at least its a well manicured beard. Wait? Is it manicured? Is that the right word? Well trimmed? Well maintained? Anyway, it hides that cute chin dimple, so I'm against the beard on that basis alone.” And... her game was over. The game screen disappeared from his hand as she lost. “Oh I hate the straight lines, EVIL.”

Bucky smiled and put his finger up to his mouth to shush her.

“Sorry. I guess this means no tunes, either.”

Darcy barely noticed what he said next, “I crushed your phone. So, no tunes. Sorry.” She was rather mesmerized by his left hand, that had gone from shushing her to absently stroking his beard.

“Hunh...” Darcy almost didn't even realize what she had done. She had taken Bucky's left elbow in her hands and she was studiously bending it. Then she started gently turning it (pronating and supinating is what they called it in her college A&P class).

“What are you....?”

“Fitz is a freaking genius...” She dragged her finger up his arm, moving the tiny hairs the wrong way. “Ha. You have goose bumps...”

Then she took his hand and examined, “Look at your fingerprints....”

“Yeah... I've seen them.”

Holding has palm against her cheek she commented, “Warm.”

“Yes. I guess so...”

“And underneath... ?” Darcy dropped his hand and began gently massaging the muscles in his forearm and then his bicep.

“Um, vibranium, mostly. Fitz and Shuri integrated Wakandan tech with Dr. Cho's tissue technology and created...

“...a fully cybernetic limb. Wow.” It was this point that Darcy realized exactly what she had been doing. It also faintly registered that Bucky's voice had become progressively more husky during each phase of her impromptu examination. She pulled her hands away in horror. “And WOW, I'm totally manhandling you. I am so sorry.”

“It's ok.”

“It's really not. The science nerds have negatively impacted my ability to behave like a normal person.”

Darcy was saved from actual groveling for forgiveness by the sound of someone entering the stairwell from a few floors up. Bucky's finger went up to his lips again to shush her, unnecessarily, this time.

Darcy nodded and the two silently exited back to the alley and waited outside the door. When the first man got close enough to the door, Bucky reached in and hauled him out, tossing the man into the alley. He then used the door to smash the second man in the face twice as the man tried to rush him. He grabbed him by the shirt and tossed him into the alley as well. He unholstered his ICER to shoot the two men.

But Darcy already had hers out of her purse and with two quick and accurate shots, the men were unconscious. Barnes raised an eyebrow at her. She shrugged, “So we're not waiting any more?”

“Guess not.” Bucky tapped on his communicator in his ear. “Sam, change of plans. Need you to pick up two goons, in the alley behind 14th street.” There was a pause while Sam said something back that Darcy couldn't hear. “Yes, I realize that Daisy will yell at me for engaging in combat while guarding a civilian, but she's the one that shot them.”

“Yes. I. Did.” Darcy grinned.

“We will meet you at rendezvous B in 30, provided my transportation hasn't been compromised.”

Darcy prayed to every God on Earth and Asgard that her hands weren't sweaty. Because Bucky freaking Barnes was holding her hand as he led her down alleys and side streets towards their get away vehicle.

Bucky stopped her about a half a block away from a black SUV.

“Shit,” Darcy muttered, “It's been compromised.”

“Nope.”

“The black SUV? It's clearly crawling with bad guys.”

“That's because it's their SUV. We've gotten a little bit better at remaining undercover.”

“So what are we driving? Please don't say a motorcycle, please don't say a motorcycle...”

“The motorcycle is in the next alley over. Sorry, Sassy.”

“Ugh. They're scary.” She tried very hard not to stamp her foot, but she failed.

Bucky gave her an ornery grin and took her hand again, leading her toward the alley in question. Darcy was so focused on willing her hand not to sweat that she was surprised when after a short walk the motorcycle was right in front of them. She tried, and failed again, not to gasp when Barnes picked her up and deposited her on the back of the motorcycle. Before she knew what was happening he was putting a helmet on her head and adjusting the chin strap.

“Where's your helmet?”

“You're wearing it. There's a communications array inside.”

His voice came through loud and clear through the speaker in the helmet. “Whoa. You're totally in my head.”

“Good,” he said with a little smirk.

Darcy felt her cheeks flush. Was he flirting with her?

Normally, Darcy would have retorted with something witty. But she was denied that opportunity because Sam Wilson's voice came in over the speaker in the helmet, “Hey Barnes, your bad guys are dead.”

“No.” Bucky argued as he mounted the bike, “She used an ICER.”

“Cyanide, man. They had damned cyanide capsules.”

“So they're inept but fanatical. Great. That never ends badly.” Bucky then turned his attention back to Darcy. She was trying not to be forward, so instead of wrapping her arms around him she held on to fistfuls of his jacket. “You're going to have to hold on tighter than that, ma'am.”

When the engine came to life and the bike surged forward Darcy wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed her thighs tight around his.

“I told you not to call me ma'am!” Darcy yelled over the roar of the engine. Bucky didn't respond but she could feel his laugh as she held tight to him.

It was a heady mix of speed and body heat, and Darcy was beginning to think she had been all wrong about motorcycles. That is until Sam's voice came in over the speakers in her helmet with a warning. “You've got a tail Barnes... evasive maneuvers advised, man.”

Darcy heard a loud crack. She felt a push against her back and felt like her heart had slammed forward against her chest. The back wheel of the motorcycle lifted up off of the road and twisted the back of the bike. Chunks of concrete flew up around them. A normal man would have wiped out for sure. She reminded herself that she wasn't in the hands of a normal man as he straightened the bike and sped up.

She was, however, perfectly normal, so she screeched in terror against Bucky's jacket.

“And now they're firing,” Sam announced.

“Ya think?” Bucky yelled back. “What the hell was that? Wasn't a bullet.”

“Don't know, man. Seemed like some kind of concussive blast.”

Darcy felt something warm and wet run over her hand.

Bucky was bleeding.

Chapter Text

“Oh my god, you're bleeding!” Darcy yelled as Bucky swerved the motorcycle to avoid another blast from their pursuers.

“M'fine.”

“You're not fine. You're bleeding.”

“Just a little ricochet from the pavement. I'm fine.”

Bucky swerved again and Darcy held on tighter, letting out a little screech.

“You're gonna have to go faster, Buck,” Sam, their eye in the sky, advised over the communicator.

“I don't think my passenger can handle that.” He swerved again, and Darcy screeched again.

“Nope. Nope. Cannot handle that.”

“They're catching up....” Sam argued.

Bucky swerved and then announced, “We're gonna make a shortcut.”

“Did you say 'take' a shortcut?” Darcy yelled, “Or 'make' a shortcut?”

“Can you catch her, Sam?” he asked, ignoring her desperate query.

“I'm a bit busy keeping you from getting shot, Barnes.” Behind them, Sam was dropping smoke bombs in an attempt to obscure the target.

“Wait.” Darcy screamed, “Catch me? What the hell are you planning?”

“There is a cliff up ahead, just above the beach where we landed the jet.”

The realization of what he was planning did not go over Darcy's head. “We're going over a cliff? No!”

“Just let go of me when I say, and Sam will catch you.”

What about you?” She argued.

“I'll be fine. Sam will catch you, and I'll meet you at the jet.”

“Sam is busy!” Sam reminded them, with a bit of annoyance.

It really didn't sound to Darcy like Sam had any intention of catching her if she went over a cliff. So why the hell wasn't Bucky slowing down? She was about the yell that question when the calming voice of Kate Bishop came over the communicator. “We've got your location, boys. Give us a second to match velocity. Barnes, go ahead and ditch in 5..4..3..2..1.”

Darcy was too shocked to even scream when they went over the cliff. She just held on as tight as she could to Bucky. The free fall only lasted a few seconds before she felt their descent slow. Darcy kept her chest pressed against Bucky's solid back and was surprised that she was still sitting on the motorcycle. Bucky didn't ditch it, but instead held onto it so securely that Darcy didn't even come up out of the seat. She opened her eyes enough to see that Daisy was standing on the loading deck of the quinjet, using her powers to guide them into the ascendant jet.

It looked like they were going to be able to land softly on the deck and drive right into the jet, until a burst of force hit them from behind.

Three things happened: Daisy yelled out in pain, the motorcycle (and it's passengers) dropped precipitously, and Sam grabbed Darcy by the shoulders in an attempt to pull her up and off the bike.

If Darcy had been thinking rationally, she would have realized that Sam was trying to keep her from being crushed under the weight of a falling motorcycle. But she wasn't being rational. All her primal brain knew was that Bucky meant safety and she clung onto him with every ounce of strength she possessed.

The bike hit the deck with a thud and tipped precariously to the left. Bucky put his arm out to catch them, keeping both his and Darcy's legs from being crushed. Sam flew in behind them and helped right the bike.

“Miss Lewis, are you all right...? Darcy...? Sassy...?”

“I'm fine,” She replied automatically.

“You can let go now.”

“Okay.”

“You gonna?” Bucky asked.

Sam laughed at this, which drew Darcy out of her daze. She struggled to unfasten the chin strap on her helmet, and Sam graciously assisted her, and then helped her off the bike.

“Bucky's hurt!” She remembered.

But Bucky was already off the bike and holding on to Daisy's arm. When the concussive blast hit against Daisy's quake power it shattered the gauntlet on her arm that protected her bones.

Bucky snaked his arm around Daisy's waist, leading her into the body of the jet. “Let's get you on the bio-bed, now. We need to look at that arm.”

“You're the one bleeding, Barnes. You first.”

“Don't argue, Daze.”

“You do realize that I'm technically in charge... all right, all right. Don't glare at me like that.”

Darcy watched them go, surprising herself with the empty pit of jealousy in her stomach.

“Darcy! Oh my GOD!” Jane Foster came barreling into Darcy's arms. “Are you ok? I was so worried!”

“I'm fine, Janey.”

“She was in good hands with Barnes,” Sam assured her.

“Really? He drove her off a cliff.”

“I'm fine, Janey. Wasn't even scared.” Jane looked at her with unabashed skepticism. “Okay, that was a lie. But I was less scared than I was with the Destroyer or the Dark Elves.”

“Sorry we couldn't send Thor in to escort you folks back to the Compound.”

“Thor can kiss my ass!” Jane's eyes widened in horror at what she had said, “Sorry. I had a few mimosas at brunch.”

“Why all the hostility, Janie? You dumped him remember?” Darcy laughed.

“Damn straight I dumped him. Jerk can't even stay on the same planet for more than five minutes.”

“Well, he did have a kingdom to... never mind.” Darcy leaned forward and in a great show of solidarity insisted, “It's not as important as your relationship.”

“Damn right! And now he's on tour with Captain Marvel and the Guardians of the Galaxy.”

“Once again, they're not a band, Jane. They're superheroes trying to stop Galactus from doing evil shit.”

“What the hell kind of name is Galactus, anyway?”

To Sam, Darcy explained, “She's still kind of totally not over Thor. Makes her grumpy.”

“I am too over Thor.”

“Tell me, Janey, how exactly does someone get over Thor? He's Thor!”

“Well, he's not the only superhero around, right Sam?” Jane gave Sam a stunning smile and a wink.

“Jesus, Janey! How many mimosas did you have?”

Sam actually was blushing as he backed away... “I'm gonna go...check on the team... so....”

“You chased him away, you minx,” Darcy laughed.

“Mmm... but look at him go.”

“You gonna ogle Barnes too?” Darcy asked with a giggle.

“Nah. Now that he's cut his hair and he's not all sexy super soldiery any more, he's lost his appeal. Besides, I would never ogle your man.”

“He's not my man. He's not my anythi...”

“Darcy, what is it?”

“Nothing. Deja vu.”

Chapter Text

As soon as Darcy and Jane entered the main compartment of the quinjet, Erik gestured for them to join him. The jet was small, though, so Darcy could hear and see pretty much everything going on.

Her eyes immediately sought Bucky. Apparently so did Jane's. “Holy Moly.”

Bucky had his shirt off as Kate tended to the wound on his side. “You're right Jane, without the long-hair he's not sexy at all.”

Darcy intended that comment to be just between her and Jane, but in an enclosed space and with his damned super soldier hearing, he definitely heard her. A blush bloomed across his cheeks and his ears turned red. He licked his lips and cast his eyes down, and Darcy was pretty sure he was hiding a grin.

Meanwhile, Sam stood over the bio-bed, awaiting the scan of Daisy's arm. “All right Friday what's the damage?”

“Green stick fracture of the radius and ulna. Recommend splinting until we are at the facility.”

“See Buck? It's nothing.” Daisy said.

“See Daze? It's broken,” He countered.

Kate called out, “Hey Darcy, can you hand me the betadine?”

Darcy glanced over briefly at Jane and Erik, who were already engaged in a conversation about something at the conference.

“Sure.”

Darcy fished through the assorted bottles and supplies until she found the antiseptic. Kate offered a thanks when Darcy handed it to her.

Darcy meanwhile pretended to be unaffected by being this close to Bucky in a state of partial undress. And she pretended that she wasn't a little squeamish over the fact that Kate was currently suturing his flesh. “Are you gonna be okay?”

“I told you, just a little ricochet. Probably would heal up by tomorrow even without sutures.”

“Well you're getting sutures anyway,” Kate insisted, “Otherwise Steve will give me the eyebrows of disappointment.”

“Is that trademarked?” Bucky asked with a grin.

The AI interrupted at that moment, “There's a flock of geese ahead, Agent Bishop. I recommend a course correction.”

“I can finish up myself, Katie.”

“Don't be a dumb ass, Buck.”

Friday offered, “I can make the course correction for you, Agent Bishop.”

“Nah, that's ok. Darcy, can you? He's stitched up, just needs a 4x4 and tape.” Behind Bucky's back, Kate gave Darcy a little wink.

“Sure. Of course.” Darcy covered the wound with the gauze and began to tape the edges, ignoring the blush rising on her cheeks.

The blush intensified when Bucky offered a quiet, “Thanks.”

“You're welcome,” she replied with equal softness.

“I've known you about an hour and I can already tell you are being uncharacteristically quiet. What is it?

“Okay. I have a really, really, really inappropriate question.”

“Three reallys?” he smiled with raised eyebrows.

Darcy made a broad gesture indicating Bucky's chest. “Hair.”

“That's not a question.”

“I've seen some pictures... from the HYDRA files...never mind.”

Bucky looked down at his chest and then back up to Darcy. “Ah...the electrical current. Made the hair fall out.”

“Ohhhh... that's horrible. Here I thought they were just shaving your chest.”

“Why on earth would they...?”

“The little sticky electrode things.. they hurt when you pull them off... and I now realize that HYDRA didn't really care about hurting you and that was an incredibly stupid thought.”

“You work in PR?” He teased, grabbing a tee shirt from the medical cabinet.

“Shuddup. You drove me off a cliff.”

Bucky pulled his shirt back on over his head, barely wincing as he stretched against the sutures.

Daisy Johnson, now in a splint, stopped and adjusted the tail of his shirt so he wouldn't have to twist. "How long has it been since you slept?”

“I slept last night.”

“So... that's a lie.”

“Shit.” Bucky rubbed his beard. “I was with you last night.”

Darcy felt a little sick from the envy she was experiencing. It was ridiculous, she told herself. She started glancing around, looking for a graceful way to exit.

Meanwhile, Daisy and Bucky continued, “Terrible liar, Buck. Just terrible. Why don't you sleep now?”

“Not here. I'll sleep when we get back.”

“Here. Antibiotic.” She pressed a hypospray against his shoulder, “Oh... wait. There's another hypospray here. Oops.”

“What oops?”

“Katie?” Daisy asked, “Did you pull two meds from the dispensary?”

“Yeah. A sedative and an antibiotic. But Mr. Macho Super Soldier wouldn't use the sedative.”

“Oops.”

“Dammit, Daisy. You did it on purpose.”

“I didn't, I swear. But you might as well take a nap, you pain.”

“Learn to read labels, Quake.” He gave Daisy a glare and then Darcy a half-smile as he stalked over to sit by Kate in the co-pilot's seat.

“Did you do it on purpose?” Darcy asked.

“I really didn't. I swear. Are you doing okay, Darcy? No injuries?”

“No. He kept me safe.”

“He's pretty good at that.” Daisy put her hand on Darcy's shoulder and advised, “There are coffee and tea over there. Blankets and pillows in that bin. And if you need anything at all; just ask. Okay?”

“Thanks, Daisy.”

Darcy was feeling a little too jittery for coffee, so she made three cups of herbal tea. One for Jane, one for Erik and one for herself. Jane smiled at Darcy as she handed her the mug and joked, “Are we there yet?”

Darcy joked back, “You know if we were flying commercial, it would take 6 and a half hours. So stop bitching.”

Kate, who could hear everything in the small jet, even from the pilot's seat offered, “Maybe we should have a second team out in California. Like East Coast Avengers and West Coast Avengers.”

Bucky, whose eyes were closed but was still trying to fight off the sedative's effect, grumbled, “That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.”

“California though, so much nicer in the winter time.”

Bucky's chin dropped to his chest as he drifted off but then he jerked it back up. “Whaddidyasay?”

“Oh my god,” Kate laughed. “Go to sleep, you mule.”

Daisy agreed, “Take a nap, honey”

“I can't believe you drugged me,” he slurred.

“We love you, Bucky Bear,” Daisy laughed.

Soon after, Bucky settled into soft, rhythmic breathing. Erik was already softly snoring. Sam was puttering around the med area, putting things away. Jane settled her head on Darcy's shoulder. And Kate started humming.

The adrenaline rush of the afternoon melted away and Darcy closed her eyes.

It felt like she had been asleep forever when her eyes snapped back open. Her first thought was that the sky out the window should be orange, not blue. Her second thought was that someone had called her name.

No. They were calling for Daisy.

Kate was calling for Daisy.

“Daisy? I need you up here.”

Kate tried to keep the conversation private, but it wasn't possible in such a small space. But Darcy was the only non-member of the team that was awake and she tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.

“I think he's having a nightmare. Should I wake him?” Kate looked slightly panicked.

Bucky murmured, “I don't want to do that. Please don't make me...”

Daisy shook her head and instructed, “Try to redirect him first. He doesn't get enough sleep.”

“Bucky? It's Kate. We're on the quinjet. You're safe, but you're having a bad dream.”

“Kate. Shouldn't be here. S'not safe.”

“I'm not there, Buck. Neither are you. You're on the quinjet. You're with me and Daisy and...

“Daisy...?” he sounded hopeful at this and Darcy's face flushed with jealousy.

Daisy took over. She knelt next to him and rubbed his arm. Her voice was like warm honey, “Hey there Bucky Bear. Wanna take control of that dream you're having? Get some rest for a change? Hmm?”

“Cold.”

“It's not cold, honey. It's nice and warm here.” Daisy took one of his hands and rubbed it. “Sam, blanket.”

“You good, Daze?” he asked.

“Yeah. I'll take care of him.” Daisy took the offered blanket and wrapped it around him, tucking it under his chin. “Nice and warm, honey. You won't ever be cold again, I promise.”

His breath began to even out again.

“That's it. That's good. Get some rest.” She kissed his cheek. “I can take over, Kate.”

“You sure? Even with the sling?”

“We'll be on autopilot for a bit. Go ahead and stretch your legs.”

Kate met Darcy's eyes and shrugged. She sank down next to Darcy and across from Sam. “Sorry Sam, I still suck at it.”

“It's okay, Katie-Kate. You did fine.”

“Sometimes I just want to shake him awake and tell him to stop reliving that shit.”

“I know, I get it. But if we wake him, he ain't gonna sleep for days. Daisy is right. It's better to redirect.”

Darcy quietly asked, “Who talks him down when he's alone?”

Kate stiffened, “You don't have to worry. He hasn't reverted into the Winter Soldier since Shuri removed the triggers from his head. You aren't in danger.”

“That's not what I meant. Why do people keep thinking that I'm afraid he'll snap?” She sighed, “Who helps him? Who makes him feel safe like Daisy just did?”

“Um. Friday monitors his vitals and talks to him if she senses a nightmare. She'll send one of us in if she needs to. I'm still working on it.”

“An AI comforts him? Kate, I gotta tell you, that sucks.”

“I don't disagree. Especially since touch seems to help him the most.”

“You'd think that he'd flinch away... after everything.”

Sam explained, “He knows he's safe with us. Physical comfort was not exactly on Hydra's agenda. A touch calms him down. Makes his subconscious realize that he isn't with them anymore.”

Kate added, “He's like an old alley cat who finds a home. At first, he was all twitchy about being touched. But now, he just leans into it. It can be a little overwhelming.”

… “and you don't feel comfortable...”

“It's more that I don't feel like I have the right, you know? Like I'm taking advantage somehow. Which is buckets of stupid, I realize.”

“I get it,” Darcy nodded.

“And hey, don't mention the nightmare to Bucky. He gets embarrassed and....”

“No. I wouldn't. I won't.”

“And don't tell him I compared him to a kitty-cat either. You want some coffee? I'm needing coffee.”

“No, I'm good.”

Kate popped up out of her seat. Darcy wasn't sure that the archer needed any more caffeine.

Meanwhile, Sam gave Darcy an appraising look and moved into the seat that Kate had vacated. “You know, it's too bad Bucky doesn't have a sweet and understanding girlfriend to make him feel safe at night....”

“Aren't he and Daisy...? I mean....”

“Nah.”

“They were together last night, though.”

“Mario Kart. Hell. Neither of them sleeps worth a damn.” Then, much more quietly he added, “Besides, Daisy has vowed to never date a member of the team. She lost someone on a mission. It was a 'love of her life' kind of deal.”

“Oh.” Darcy looked long and hard at Sam, “Oooooh.”

“No,” he laughed. “Remember? Love of her life? No one will ever be able to compete with Lincoln.” Sam shrugged, and then clearly attempted to change the subject. “We woke you up with our drama. Sorry about that. You wanna try and catch some more zzz's?”

“No. I'm good. Weird dream though.”

“Wanna talk about it?”

“I don't remember much. Lot's of orange. And you were there, I think.” Darcy let out a chuckle, “Weird, right?”

Sam looked lost in thought. “Yeah. Weird.”

Chapter Text

 

 

Agent Maria Hill met the team on the tarmac. To Bucky, that meant there was something unpleasant that needed to be dealt with. He wondered if Agents May and Hill knew the teams had all figured that out. If Hill met them for a debrief, something was amiss. And if May met them, everything was hunky dory.

“Agent Barnes, a moment?”

He stopped and let the rest of the passengers pass and head toward the main building of the compound. He felt Sam pat him on the shoulder as he walked by. But it was Darcy Lewis that threw him for a loop. She turned back and smiled at him as she passed. Her blue eyes twinkled as she gave him a stunning smile and a, “See you later, Agent Barnes.”

“Um. Bye.”

He knew he was blushing. Hell, he could feel the top of his ears turn red. He just prayed Hill didn't comment.

“Agent Barnes, I'm afraid I have some news.” The lightness he was feeling evaporated instantly. Right. Hill meant bad news.

“There's something you need to see.” As she started punching the touchscreen on the Starkpad she explained, “Of course May and I will be going through the surveillance from your teams' body cameras and those from the team that rescued Dr. Simmons in greater detail. But... does this guy look like he's been an explosion to you?”

“Damn. That's Karl Malus.”

“I thought you might want to call Jessica Jones and let her know.”

“I should tell her in person.”

“I don't think going into the city right now is prudent, Agent Barnes.”

“This guy experimented on her and gave her powers she didn't ask for. She should hear he's alive in person.”

“I'll arrange for her transport to the compound.”

“Thanks, Hill.”

“Oh. And did you really drive off a cliff with Ms. Lewis?”

“Am I in trouble?”

“No. But, Dr. Foster might murder you in your sleep.”

“She's a little terrifying.”

“Right? Scarier than Natasha!” Hill laughed. “Get some rest, Barnes. I'm pretty sure this place is going to get a little wild tonight.”

She wasn't wrong. After a well-needed shower and change of clothes, Bucky headed toward the common area.

Jemma Simmons squealed when she saw him and launched herself into his arms. “James! Are you all right? I heard you were injured. And you drove over a cliff!”

“Already all healed up, Doc. But I wasn't the one that was kidnapped.”

“Oh, it was exhilarating! I got to fly with Mr. Stark. He's so strong!”

A Scottish lilt came from Dr. Fitz, who had approached Bucky behind her, at a much more reasonable pace. “Perhaps we should arrange for you to be kidnapped more often, my dear.”

“Oh, Fitz. Don't be jealous.” She mouthed silently to Bucky, “So strong.”

“I'm sure I could build something much better than that silly suit, anyway.”

“I'm sure you could, Fitz.” Jemma giggled, “But you don't need a silly suit.”

She rose on her tiptoes and kissed Bucky on the cheek. “I'm glad you're safe, James. I worry.”

“Me too. That arm of yours is my masterpiece. Don't want anything to happen to it.”

“Or,” Jemma completed, “ to our dear friend attached to it.”

Bucky shook his head at them. Those kind of declarations still made him uncomfortable. “I'm grabbing a beer. You want one, Jemma? Fitz isn't' old enough.”

“Funny.”

“Actually,” she sighed. “I have to go over the surveillance footage of my abduction and rescue with May. With a fine tooth comb, is what she said.”

Fitz continued, “Looks like we will be missing the party.”

And it did look like a party was forming. It was pretty rare that all of the Avengers were in one place. The room was already starting to get uncomfortably crowded. He almost left.

But then he saw Darcy Lewis, smiling at Pietro and Wanda Maximoff. Chatting with Vision. Hugging Steve. He settled into a couch in the corner and kept watching Darcy Lewis.

Honestly, if Sam hadn't shoved a bottle of beer in Bucky's face, he may not have even noticed his teammate sit down next to him.

Once Bucky had become aware of Sam, he became very hard to ignore. Especially the way Sam kept looking back and forth between Bucky and Darcy. “Oh, it's about damned time.”

Bucky was also trying to ignore the fact that Pietro Maximoff was standing just a little too close to their head of PR.

“Shut up Wilson,” Bucky grumbled, taking a swig out of the beer bottle.

“I'm glad someone has finally caught your eye. ... I was beginning to think you were a eunuch.”

“I'm not a eunuch!”

Sam put his hands up. “Hey, nothing wrong with that. But even Grey Worm gets some action once and a while.”

Another swig. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“We need to catch you up on Game of Thrones, my man.”

Jessica Jones emerged from the back conference room and was glancing around the common area. Bucky raised his hand in greeting and she made her way to him, grabbing three beers from the cooler as she went.

“What are we talking about?” Jessica asked, dropping into the couch cushions like the weight of the world was on her slim shoulders.

Simultaneously, Bucky said, “Game of Thrones” And Sam declared, “Barnes has a crush.”

“I don't!”

“Seriously?” Jessica regarded her friend, “I thought you were gay.”

Sam nodded knowingly, “Because of the epic Stucky bromance?”

“Are you even speaking English?” Bucky asked with a shake of his head.

Jess explained why, “Because you've never hit on me. Granted, I'm a goddamned disaster.”

“You aren't a disaster You're in a committed relationship It's called respect.”

“You never hit on Kate,” Sam offered.

“The kid? Pfft. Besides, I already spend enough of my free time with Barton.”

“Or Daisy.”

Bucky took two swigs of his beer. “Daisy has issues.”

“Natasha.”

Jessica laughed, “Dude, see above re all three. Who is this chick, anyway?”

Sam pointed out Darcy, who was laughing at something Pietro said.

“Seriously nice rack,” Jessica said. She smacked Bucky on the chest with the back of her hand. “You should hit that.”

“You are both terrible people. And this is coming from an assassin.”

“Ex-assassin” Sam corrected

“You wanna test that theory, pal?” Bucky asked just before he finished off his first beer.

“What is she doing?” Jessica asked.

Darcy was directing Pietro, Clint, and Steve in placing large speakers, a microphone and a monitor around the front of the common area.

“Karaoke night!” Sam announced.

“Oh fuck that, I'm fucking leaving,” Jessica snorted.

“It's a Thursday night Tower tradition,” Sam explained.

“We ain't at the Tower, Birdbrain.”

Bucky was really trying not to watch Pietro flirt with Darcy. He really was. He wasn't even sure that she knew he was in the room. Granted, Bucky tended to stay in the corners, but he was a little jealous that she hadn't even acknowledged him. He grabbed the second beer that Jessica had brought over to him.

He watched as Darcy pulled her phone out of her pocket, looked at it and then looked up at him. So she did know he was there. That felt a little...awesome.

She held up her phone and mouthed, “That BITCH.” and then strode over purposefully towards them. He found himself straightening up a bit in his seat.

She handed Bucky the phone, “She released the damn editorial.”

“It says it was written by some guy named Benedict Ryan.”

“Same network. She wrote it. Just passed it off.”

Sam read the title of the article over Bucky's shoulder, “The Sexuality of Captain America: Role model or Harbinger of Sin?”

Jess scoffed, “Harbinger of Sin? Who comes up with this crap?”

“The Wolf Network, apparently.” Bucky let Sam snatch the phone from his hand to read the entire article. To Darcy, he asked, “So you gonna release the photos?”

“I was never gonna release the photos. It's too mean. Too sordid. Too...blech. Hell, I don't even know who put them on my desk. But they've been analyzed. They aren't photoshopped.”

“What photos?” Jess asked, after taking a sip of beer.

“Sexcapades. All three participants botoxed, bleached and waxed within an inch of their lives. All three married. None to each other. Honestly, I don't give a hoot what consenting adults do behind closed doors but I feel sorry for their spouses. I'm tempted to tell them.”

Jess shrugged. “I can take care of that for you.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. Any friend of Barnes....” she extended her hand to shake, “Jessica.”

“Darcy.”

Sam laughed a bit under his breath, “Well this article is crap. If Cap was gonna have a boyfriend it would be me, not him.” he pointed to Bucky.

Bucky took a sip of beer. “Please. Epic Stucky Bromance. Your words. Not mine. Plus... you're like fragile and stuff.”

Sam bounced up off the couch with Darcy's phone, “I have to show this to Cap. He's gonna love this.”

Darcy hung her head and moaned, “Kill me now.”

This elicited a chuckle from Bucky.

She raised her head and smiled at him. He immediately bit his lip and let his eyes fall away.

He heard her tell Jessica, “I'll send the pictures to Agent Barnes? He can get them to you, okay?”

She had walked away. Bucky wanted to kick himself. Why did he look away from her? What was wrong with him?

“Barnes, I know I give you shit, but I've actually seen interviews with her. She's all right. And it wouldn't kill you to chase some actual goddamned happiness.”

“That was inspirational, Jess.”

“Oh, and I know you aren't gay. You may be respectful and shit, but I've caught you checking out my ass on at least a half a dozen occasions.”

“More like a dozen.” He raised his beer to his lips again. “Despite those truly terrible jeans.”

“I'm not taking fashion advice from a fossil.”

From across the room, Natasha's voice rang out. “I told you we should have released a sex tape!” She gave Steve a playful swat on the butt.

Jessica put her empty bottle down on the coffee table. “And on that note... I'm out of here before any singing happens. See ya, Barnes.”

He raised his beer in salute. As she started to walk away, he called out to her. “Hey, Jess. How did Darcy get those photos?”

“You mean the photos of three asshole 'journalists' who have decided to make your life, and mine, a living hell? No idea.”

He watched her go and then turned back to the action at the front of the common room. Darcy was laughing at something Pietro said and Sam was standing at the microphone.

“Well, Barnes has forbidden me from singing Marvin.”

This elicited mocking cheers from the group. A few people turned to acknowledge him with a raised glass, including Darcy. Barnes found himself biting his lip again but managed to not look down. Instead, he raised his bottle in return.

“Y'all are heathens,” Sam complained, “Anyway...this one's for Cap.”

Steve stood and acknowledged the serenade with a little bow. He sat back down and Nat settled into his lap, placing a sweet kiss on his cheek. Bucky felt a little envious at their obvious adoration of each other. He wanted what they had. He wasn't sure if he deserved it, but he wanted it.

The lyrics to Sam's song were starting to make the group roar with laughter, or maybe it was Sam's melodramatic rendering, complete with falling to his knees.

I'm not trying to make you feel uncomfortable
I'm not trying to make you anything at all
But this feeling doesn't come along every day
And you shouldn't blow the chance
When you've got the chance to say

I love you
I honestly love you

 

Pietro Maximoff leaned over and said something to Darcy that made her laugh even harder.

Bucky made a decision then and there. He wasn't going to hide in the corner tonight.

He meandered over and plopped down next to Steve. His best friend looked at him with amused surprise.

“Shuddup, punk. You owe Kate fifty bucks.”

“If you sing, I owe her 250. She's been eyeballing this pair of boots.”

“Two hundred dollar boots? That's insane.”

Natasha sighed from her spot on Steve's lap, “Men.”

“All right,” Scott Lang announced from the karaoke stage after Sam had taken a bow. “My friend and partner has decided to keep up the theme of 70's songs that should fade into obscurity. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present: Hope Van Dyne.”

The assembled Avengers cheered and whooped as the song started. Hope began to sing, terribly:

Well the South side of Chicago
Is the baddest part of town
And if you go down there
You better just beware
Of a man named Leroy Brown

Once again, Bucky felt the deja vu that had plagued him of late.

“Buck? What is it?” Steve asked, his eyebrows knitted in concern.

“Nothing. Song is familiar is all.”

Bucky's gaze drifted to Darcy Lewis's face. She looked a little pale.

Was she feeling it too?

Chapter Text

There were three types of people at the morning briefing.

Those that were hungover and trying to hide it, like Sam & Natasha. Those who were so hungover that they couldn’t hide it, like Barton, Tony, Daisy, and Kate. And those who weren’t hungover at all and were finding everyone else's discomfort mildly to moderately amusing. Bucky & Steve fell into that camp.

The conference room was built for eight people, but the Avengers Initiative now numbered over twenty when you included the heads of the science teams. So they were gathered in the common room. When Bucky arrived there was a seat next to Steve, right in the middle of the group. Bucky reminded himself that he was not going to hide in the corner anymore, so he took that seat. Natasha was settled on the floor, leaning against Steve's legs. Across the coffee table from Nat, also on the floor, Barton looked like death warmed over.

Clint almost threw a fit when Nat refused to let him drink coffee directly from the carafe. "You can't Bogart an entire pot, Barton," she had said. So he found the largest cup available, downed the coffee and then would snap his fingers, “Piet. Caffeine.”

Pietro would blur over and refill Clint’s cup while Clint moaned, “Hurry man, hurry..”

Darcy fell in the first camp of people. She was hiding her hangover and the associated discomfort pretty well until Pietro plopped the last cup of the fourth pot down in front of Clint just as Darcy rose to get herself a second cup.“Barton if you drink my coffee I will gut you like a fish.” She took the cup away from Clint, purposefully poured it into her own mug and sat down next to Bucky, glaring at Clint the whole time.

Half the room gasped at her threat, the other half laughed and Natasha did a full on spit take. “Oops, I made a messy mess.” Scratch that. Natasha wasn’t hiding a hangover, she was still drunk.

Clint stared at the drops of coffee that Nat had spit onto the table. He opened his mouth, stuck out his tongue, leaned forward, and the room erupted again, “Barton no!”

“My God, Clint!”

“That's sick, dude!”

“Don't you dare!”

“But I need it!” he moaned. Pietro had blurred through the process to make a fresh pot but then had to patiently wait for the coffee to brew. “Dude hurry up. I thought you were fast.”

“I can’t make it brew faster. I’m not a magician, old man.”

“I need a magician.” Barton looked up as if he were speaking to God, “Strange. If you can hear me; Coffee me!”

“How are you not hungover?” Darcy asked Pietro. “You drank three times as much as everyone else.”

“It’s possible I may have a fast metabolism.”

“I hate you. So much.” Darcy twisted a bit in her seat and collapsed against Bucky with a dramatic sigh. Her forehead was pressed against his shoulder, her nose was smashed against his bicep and her breath tickled his arm as she muttered, “Ugh. I’m dying.” She probably looked ridiculous to everyone else, but Bucky was utterly charmed.

“What happened after I went to bed?” he asked.

“Much chaos. And booze. Natasha started mixing drinks... it was badness.”

Bucky glanced over at Steve, expecting to see the eyebrows of disappointment (which really should be trademarked). Instead, Steve had a shit-eating grin on his face. “I love these people,” Steve confessed with a laugh.

Once the pot had finished brewing Pietro poured Clint another cup and handed Bucky a mug of coffee as well. “Thanks”

“You're welcome.” He then looked meaningfully at Darcy, then back at Bucky and then smiled widely.

The little shit had been trying to make him jealous last night? But how did he...? Bucky looked over to Kate and Daisy. Daisy was examining something nonexistent on the ceiling and Kate was fixedly staring into her coffee. Without looking at each other at all, they gave a little fist bump.

His mind went back to the simple course correction that Kate could have handed off to Friday. Instead she had asked Darcy to tend to his wound. And while Daisy was usually pretty liberal with the nicknames, she was unusually effusive with the 'honeys' and 'sweeties' on the flight, probably trying to make Darcy jealous of her.

Those manipulative brats.

He owed them each a beer.

Darcy shifted a bit, so her cheek was resting against his arm. “Next time I'm gonna get you to sing.”

“I danced though,” he reminded her softly.

Darcy smiled and blushed prettily. “Yes, you did.”

She had been dancing around the common room, along with Jane and Kate singing a song about doing a little dance and getting down tonight. When she got near Bucky, he took her hand, spun her around a few times and dipped her, much to the delight of the entire group. He even took a little bow at their whoops and hollers.

He had to admit. The night had some highlights. Wanda sang a song about loving someone because they were beautiful. It had these high pitched whistle tones at the end which she absolutely nailed. Tony dedicated a song to himself about being vain, saying that someone was going to be trite enough to do it anyway, so he might as well. Rhodey then complained for ten minutes that Tony had stolen his song. Steve and Natasha did a duet about not breaking each others' hearts. Yoyo sang a nonsensical song about the rumba. (Bucky was fluent in Spanish but was pretty sure that half of what she was singing weren't real words.) And Sam completely violated his 'no Marvin Gaye' rule, singing a song called 'I Want You.'

“I think there are some people you aren't gonna get to sing, Sassy. Like them...”

Hill and May had entered the common room, Starkpads in hand, ready to start the briefing.

“We sang,” May said.

Hill added, “Fly Robin Fly.”

“Silver Convention, 1975.”

Hill deadpanned, “It was glorious.”

May finished, “Next time, don't be such an old man, Barnes.”

Darcy looked up at Bucky and whispered, “In case you are wondering, the lyrics are Fly Robin Fly, over and over. It was not glorious.”

Hill looked over at Tony and Rhodey, “Speaking of old men.”

Both of them were leaning back in chairs, arms crossed over their chests, heads leaning back and sunglasses shading them from the light.

Jane asked, “Are they dead?

Banner, who was sitting next to Tony poked him in the arm, “Tony? You dead?”

Tony startled awake, leaned back further, overcorrected and fell to the floor. “Chair is defective!”

“Can we start now?” May asked. “This is Rina Kozlov. We identified her from the surveillance cameras that recorded Dr. Simmons abduction. Her husband was Miklos Kozlov, deceased. He worked with Karl Malus and Leslie Hansen at IGH, a bio-engineering group that we thought was defunct. Karl Malus, whom we also thought was deceased, is, in fact, alive and well and was at the site.”

A sequence of still photos were holo-projected in the center of the room. Rina Kozlov, a building in flames, and then the still of Malus that Bucky had seen the day before.

“He doesn't look well to me,” Sam commented. “How do you even survive an explosion like that?”

“Super soldier serum,” Steve said quietly.

“We think he was experimenting on himself,” May agreed. “But this is where things get interesting. Dr. Simmons and I both have identified this man as Ethan Dormer.”

Daisy squinted at the image. “He was an associate of Ian Quinn's. The Centipede project?”

Hill elaborated, “Centipede was another attempt at recreating the super soldier program. It looks like the two groups are working together now.”

May continued, “We haven't identified any of the others from Portland or from Dr. Simmons abduction.”

Still photos went by, one by one.

“Stop,” Bucky said. “I know him.”

Bucky flashed back to being pushed into the chair, to the mouth guard, the straps going across his arms and body....to the searing pain...

“Bucky?” Darcy asked softly. “Are you okay?”

To his right, Steve asked, “Buck?”

Bucky's focus returned. Around the room, all the eyes were on him. All of their faces held concern and affection. Bucky felt Darcy slide her hand into his. Steve's hand went onto his shoulder. Natasha even slid her hand around his shin. He gathered his strength and borrowed some from the people in the room.

“He performed my mind wipes in DC. He's HYDRA.”

Chapter Text

Darcy found Bucky sitting on the edge of the main building's roof. He'd been MIA all day, running the perimeter of the property or hiding in his room. Once an hour, he checked in with Steve, just to report that he was fine, and pretty much wanted to be left alone.

“Hey,” she asked casually, “Can I sit?”

He didn't look at her when he asked, “You gonna ask if I want to talk about it?”

“Nope.”

“Then you can sit,” he gestured to a spot next to him.

But she didn't sit there. They were four stories up and he was sitting on the edge of the building, dangling his feet over the side. Darcy wasn't necessarily terrified of heights, but that was pushing it. Instead, she sat on the extra wide lounge chairs that had been placed on the roof for stargazing. They were near enough to the edge that you could see the ground, but not so close that it would give the average human the willies.

He glanced over his shoulder at her, sighed, and got up. “Afraid of heights?” He asked, settling into a chair.

“Only since some guy drove me over a cliff.”

“You aren't gonna let that go, are you?”

“Not anytime soon, dude.”

Down below, the team was starting to gather. Blankets were being spread on the ground. Wine was being poured.

“Did you plan a nighttime picnic or something...?”

“There's a meteor shower tonight,” Darcy explained.

“Wow. Karaoke is one thing, but arranging a meteor shower is really impressive.”

“Yes. I totally planned it. Lots of chances to make wishes on falling stars. We're turning off all the exterior lights pretty soon. Thought you'd appreciate a heads up so it doesn't startle you. Don't want you thinking we're being attacked or something. I also thought you might want a blanket.” She held up the corner of the flannel blanket that was currently wrapped around her shoulders.

“Just the one blanket?” he asked, with a raised eyebrow.

“Yep. We will have to share, I'm afraid.” He scooted over in his chair and gestured for her to join him. She settled in, shoulder to shoulder with him and draped the blanket over them both. “Is this okay?”

“Hmm.” Bucky put his arm around her and drew her in closer, snuggled against his side, “This is better. Much warmer.”

“Very smooth Barnes.”

He chuckled and then sighed in contentment and Darcy was pretty sure that he kissed the top of her head.

“I have a confession to make,” she said quietly.

“Yeah? You gonna tell me you don't have power over meteors?” he teased, “Because that would be disappointing.”

“I've kind of had a crush on you forever. Like since I was 8 years old, forever. I hope that's not too weird.”

“Considering the fact that I'm a hundred years old... Weird is pretty much a given.”

“Anyway,” she continued, giving him a playful smack on the arm, “My grandpa met you in the war. And he talked about you a lot. So I kind of had a hero worship thing for you. He was in a concentration camp that the Howling Commandos liberated when he was just a little boy...”

Bucky's teasing tone was gone when he said, “His name was Noah.”

“Whoa.” She twisted a bit in Bucky's arms so she could look up at his face. “Yeah. How'd you...?”

Bucky shook his head, “I guess your Grandpa was memorable.”

Darcy settled back into his arms again. He started tracing the contours of her hand with his fingertips and Darcy almost didn't say what came out of her mouth next, “Can I tell you something weird?”

“More weird than that?”

“I feel like... it doesn't feel like we just met. Which is crazy, right?”

“Dunno.” His fingers stopped gliding over her hand for a beat and then started up again. “It's not that crazy.”

“You feel it too,” she asserted, looking at him again.

“Yeah. I feel it too.”

Darcy found herself reaching up to touch his cheek. She inched herself even closer until their foreheads were almost touching and she could feel his breath on her lips. She just needed to lean closer and...

“Hey, Buck!” Rogers called out as the roof access door swung open. “Sam and I were wondering....”

Steve took one look at the tableau and turned beet red, “Hey Darcy. How are you?”

Behind Steve, Sam made an exaggerated apologetic face and mouthed. “Shit. I'm so sorry.”

“I'm fine, Cap. Thanks.”

“It's a nice night to watch the meteor shower. Glad Jane told us about it.”

“Yes. It's a lovely evening.”

“Kind of a good thing that we aren't in the city. We'd miss this, with all of the light pollution and stuff.”

“Mmm hmm. Good point.”

“So, do you guys need anything before the lights go out, or...?”

Bucky put his hand over his face and growled, “Oh my God, Punk! Go AWAY!”

“I sensed that I should have gone away.” Steve backed away toward the stairs, “But then I didn't. Then I started talking... and I couldn't stop...So so so sorry.”

Sam, meanwhile, had been holding back his laughter and released it with one loud hoot. “Oh, Jesus. That was priceless.”

“I hate you both,” Bucky yelled as the door slammed shut behind Sam.

“We love you too,” Steve yelled back, his voice muffled by the door.

“All this time, I thought your baggage was related to HYDRA. It's actually those two idiots,” Darcy laughed.

“Can you handle that?”

“I don't know. That's a lot to handle. Add in Daisy and Kate... its a lot. Can you handle my baggage?”

“Which is...? Other than your sassy mouth, that is.”

“Jane.”

“I don't know. Even Maria Hill is terrified of her.”

The stairwell door came flying open again.

“Speak of the devil,” Bucky muttered.

“Hey Darce, did you remember to set the timer on the lights so that they'd turn off at ten? Because we may want to bump that to ten-fifteen or so. Apparently, Stark is working on some upgrade on one of his suits and may need the lights to stay on a bit longer. And that should be okay. I mean, Vega isn't even rising until ten and visibility isn't going to peak until about four am, so really what difference does fifteen minutes make? I tried to explain to everyone that we're starting the viewing way too early. But then the Lyrids are super unpredictable. You never know when the surges will happen, so, I may be wrong.”

Darcy pulled her smart phone out of her bag, that had been resting next to the chair. Tapped on the screen a few times and then informed Jane, “Done. Ten-fifteen.”

“Thanks, Darce. I asked security to fix it but they were, of course, completely clueless. They said to ask Stark and he said that he turned that over to you tonight. You coming down? Pepper packed these insane picnic lunches for everyone. I could bring one up if you'd rather not come down.”

“Nope. We're good.”

“Okay. Good night, Agent Barnes.”

He raised his hand to say goodbye to the whirlwind that was Jane Foster, but she was long gone.

“So, is your job public relations, security, or party planning?” he asked, wrapping his arms around her and settling his chin onto her shoulder.

“You forgot IT and scientist wrangling. None of it was part of my great plan that's for sure.” She settled back against his chest as she explained, “Of course the plan went to hell after I watched Thor fall out of the sky. Jane was brought in by the Avengers Initiative to head the astrophysics department. Then one day Pepper and Tony came up to Jane's lab. I was working on my Master's Thesis and working as her lab assistant. Tony heard me in the midst of a rant and made some smart ass comment to Pepper about hiring me to work PR. Pretty sure he expected her to say no. But she told him that he deserved whatever torment I could dish out. So...I started working on social media, then did a few interviews, then a few more....and here I am. And can I be honest? I have no idea what I'm doing.”

“I think you're doing great. You certainly have conned the rest of the world into thinking I'm some kind of hero.”

“Not a con. You are a hero.”

“Thanks…” he placed a soft kiss on her neck.

Darcy started to turn towards him again, to pick up where they left off before Steve and Sam interrupted them.

They both jumped when Jane Foster's voice blared out over the loudspeaker. “So, hi everyone. Tonight we are going to be observing the Lyrid meteor shower. As I've explained, many times, we should be concentrating our observation during the darkest hours of the night, just before dawn. But apparently there is also a social aspect to this event, so... here we are. We can expect to see approximately 10 meteors an hour. But, interestingly, the Lyrids are known for unpredictable surges where 100 meteors an hour can be observed. Now, obviously, we will be seeing the shower within the constellation Lyra. That would be in the northeast, in case you don't have a basic knowledge of celestial objects. Now, most of us have settled on the grounds, but actually, Darcy and Agent Barnes have the right idea. They're up on the roof, so they don't have as much interference from the treeline. So if everyone could just pack up their belongings and head up to the main building's rooftop....”

“No!” Steve yelled from the grounds. “We're fine here! We're all fine down here!”

“Why?” joked Clint, “What's going on up there?”

Darcy felt a burst of wind go by her and a picnic basket, complete with another blanket appeared at their feet.

“Thanks, Piet!” Darcy called out.

Meanwhile, Jane continued to argue with Steve via loudspeaker. “But that stand of trees is impeding the view. It makes much more sense to....”

“No!” he yelled from the ground below them.

“There's plenty of room.”

“Nobody goes onto the roof! That's an order!”

Bucky yelled down, “You tell her, Stevie!”

Darcy poured them each a glass of wine and laughed, “I think we both have some serious baggage.”

“I think we do.” Bucky tucked a loose strand of Darcy's hair behind her ear and confessed, “I'm also thinking about kissing you.”

“Yeah? That's good. Because I'm thinking about kissing you, too.”

Darcy leaned forward and captured his bottom lip between hers. Soft, sweet kisses blurred her thoughts until only one thought remained: this felt right.

Chapter Text

Bucky had spent the last 70 years surrounded by things that were cold, sharp and hard.

Tonight, with Darcy, the world was warm, soft and delightfully blurry.

For two hours they snuggled on the rooftop lounge chair sharing slow, soft kisses and gentle caresses between stargazing and laughter.

“Did you make a wish?” She asked him after one spectacular falling star shot through the sky.

“Nope. Just a prayer.”

“What did you pray for?”

“I can't tell you, or it won't come true.”

“That's only the rule for wishes, not prayers,” she whispered, before teasing his earlobe with her lips.

He didn't tell her, but he prayed that this was real. That it wasn't some elaborate scheme of HYDRA's. That he was really there, with her. That the laughter of the team that echoed across the grounds wasn't a figment of his imagination. He prayed that there would never be another drop of innocent blood on his hands. He prayed that Darcy would always look at him the way she did tonight. And he hoped that that wasn't too many prayers for one falling star.

He shivered when her mouth trailed kisses down his neck and her hand slipped under the hem of his shirt to tease his skin with her fingertips.

“Do you need another blanket? I know you don't like to be cold.”

“Nope. You're keeping me plenty warm, Sassy.”

The unspoken knowledge hung in the air. She had seen him have a nightmare on the flight back. He didn't remember the dream, but the blanket tucked under his chin had told the tale. And after a few more languid kisses he had to know, “How bad was I? When I had the nightmare on the plane?”

“Not bad. Jane and Erik didn't even know.”

“And did Kate compare me to a hibernating bear, a Galapagos tortoise or stinky cheese?”

“Alley cat,” she chuckled against his shoulder.

“That's new.”

“Stinky cheese?” she asked, looking up at him. Even in the pitch darkness, he could see that her eyes were alight with amusement.

“The mind of Hawkeye is a mystery no one can solve,” he deadpanned.

She giggled at the statement and then offered. “I wish I could give you my dreams, Bucky. There's one I keep having where the whole sky is colored like a sunset, no matter what time it is. That's all I remember about it, but it's a good dream.” She kissed his forehead, then each cheek before settling her lips against his, “I'd take away your nightmares, if I could,” she murmured.

“I know you would, Darce. I’m sorry you had to see me like that.”

She pulled away from him and scolded, “You don’t need to apologize for something you have no control over. I’ve been screaming that from the rooftops on your behalf. Do I have to scream it at you, too? What happened when you were with HYDRA wasn't your fault, Bucky. It wasn't. It wasn't you.” By the end of her rant, she had climbed completely on top of him in an all-consuming hug, knees on each side of his hips, arms around his chest, her face buried in his neck. It was the most overwhelming embrace he had ever experienced.

And maybe it was the darkness, or the feeling of safety, or warmth but he opened his mouth and said everything that he had never wanted to admit.

“Some of it was me. Deep down. Deep inside, the part of you that is still there is screaming. But then they beat you, and electrocute you, and rip your flesh from your bones until you're afraid to scream. So you whimper. Until they hurt you some more. And eventually, all that's left is a whisper of who you used to be. And they knew. That the whisper was still there. So they spoke to it. Told me that I was saving the world. But I knew. I knew it was wrong, and I did what they wanted anyway because I was afraid of the pain. And that whisper has never gone away. It tells me every day that I should have fought harder. And I didn’t. When I dream about my time with Hydra now, I say all the things I should’ve said then. I say no. Because in my dreams, I’m strong enough.”

He vaguely noticed the moisture where Darcy's cheek was pressed against his neck but it wasn't until she let out a sob that he realized what he had done, “Shit. I'm sorry. Don't cry, Darcy.”

“You're sorry? You can't say you're sorry after that.” she poked her finger into his chest, punctuating each word. “You aren't allowed to say sorry, ever again. You don't have to be sorry for anything. Ever. God. I swear to you, if I get the chance, I am burning HYDRA to the ground.”

“I believe you. You're formidable enough to take them down.”

“Damn straight,” she sniffled. “I'll take Jane with me.”

“Then they're doomed.”

Bucky kissed away the tears on her cheeks. “I hate that I made you cry,” he whispered.

“I'm glad you told me,” she whispered back.

And this time, when she kissed him, it wasn't slow, or soft, or sweet. It was desperate and deep.

For most of the evening, it had been possible to keep his desire for her under some semblance of control. But now, their kisses were so intense and she was wrapped around him, rocking her hips with every kiss...he wanted her. Desperately.

Down below, raucous laughter erupted reminding them both that they could be interrupted at any moment.

“Should we take this somewhere more private?” Darcy asked, breathlessly.

“Yes.”

“My room?”

“Yes. No. Sorry. My room. My cottage. It’s privater I mean more more private. Jesus.” When did he lose the ability to talk?

“Is it far?” She asked, rising to her feet and extending her hand.

“Right over there.” He pointed in the vicinity of his cottage. It suddenly seemed really far away. Perhaps a shortcut would be in order. “So...ready to jump off the roof?

“With you? Hell yes.” She leaned into him and pulled his face down for more hungry kisses. He pulled her in tighter. They really weren't making the necessary progress toward a bed. Any bed would be good.

“Your room is...?”

“One flight down.”

He started to lead her to the stairwell, which was difficult enough in the all-consuming darkness. But add in the fact that she absolutely refused to relinquish his mouth long enough to walk toward the door...

Bucky decided it would be easier to just carry her down the stairs. He hauled her up into his arms and she wrapped her legs around his waist. To hell with privacy, Bucky thought. Right now he didn't care if the whole team heard Darcy screaming his name. He almost carried her back to the lounge chairs, but he'd hate himself if he didn't at least take her to a bedroom. “God...” he breathed.

He didn't get to finish his thought because of the ringing phone in his pocket. He considered crushing the damned thing into oblivion.

“Ignore it,” Darcy demanded, sliding her hand into his hair and nibbling along his neck.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“We discussed the ma’am thing already,” she reminded him while nipping along his jawline.

“Yes, ma'am.”

He stood there holding her in his arms as she drew his earlobe into her mouth and sucked on it. “Bedroom,” she reminded him with a whisper.

The phone rang out again. Darcy lowered her legs and slid out of his arms. “No, it’s ringing again.”

“Damn. It’s Jess,” he told her. Darcy started to back away a bit, but Bucky tucked her back under his arm and against his chest while he dealt with the phone. “Hey,” he answered.

A small voice that was decidedly not Jessica Jones, asked, “Mr. Barnes?

“Vito? Is everything ok?” Jessica's boyfriend was Vito's father. Bucky had met the little boy several times. He was fascinated with Jessica's superhero friends. He liked the kid.

“Jessica is acting funny. Like she’s really scared of something. She said that if anything ever happened that I should call you. She put your number in my phone and everything.”

“Where are you?”

“Her apartment.”

“Are you alone? Where's Oscar, I mean, your dad?”

“He's in Chicago. He has an art exhibit. Malcolm is here. But he can't get Jessica to come out of the bathroom. Can you come?”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can. Did she put any other numbers in your phone?”

“Um... 'Matt M'?”

“Good. Vito, call him too. I'm on my way.” Bucky sighed as he ended the call. “I'm sorry, Sassy. I think Jessica is having a panic attack. I have to go.”

“You can't...the facility is on lockdown.”

Bucky knitted his brows. “When did that happen?”

“At the briefing. As soon as you identified that guy as HYDRA. Hill and May told us we were on lockdown. No leaving the facility unless on a sanctioned mission.”

“I must have tuned that out.”

“You may have been a little stressed, babe.”

“Well. I'm going anyway.”

“Great. Let's go,” she untucked herself from under his arm and grabbed her bag from the ground.

“You aren’t coming with me,” he said with a shake of his head.

“The fuck I'm not.”

“You’ve got quite the mouth on you,” he told her with just a hint of disapproval.

“Am I offending your delicate sensibilities?”

“Nope just making an observation. And you aren't coming. The people that kidnapped Jemma are still out there. I’m not putting you at risk.”

“Pretty sure they have no interest in me. I’m not a scientist and I’m not enhanced. You’re the one that needs back up.” She pointed at his nose and he grabbed her hand and kissed the tip of her finger.

“No.”

“Ok. How are you gonna get the jet out of the hanger without alerting Tony? I assume you aren't planning on driving down to the city.”

She paused while he thought about it. But after a beat, she announced, “Bzzt! Times up. How are you gonna land the jet at the Tower without all hell breaking loose?” She gave him even less time to answer, “Bzzzt! Times up. You need me.” She held up her own cell phone, reminding him that she literally held the compound's security in the palm of her hand.

“Fine.” He kissed her forehead. “But if anything happens to you...”

“You won't let anything happen to me. Because if you did, you'd have to answer to Jane. Plus, I think you kind of like me.”

“Kind of,” he admitted.

“So... let's steal a plane, babe!”

Chapter Text

“I'm just saying, it's a little disappointing. I mean we already stole a quinjet. What's the big?” Darcy asked as she climbed off the back of the motorcycle.

“I wasn't gonna steal Tony's Ferrari when Steve's bike was right there in the garage”

“Bucky-babe, it's a Ferrari!” she argued as they approached Jessica's apartment building.

“You're slightly crazy, you know that?”

“I am aware,” she countered. She had to be. She broke into the hanger at the compound for him. And she overrode the security protocols at the Tower when they landed the quinjet there. “Not as crazy as the dude who turns down a joyride in a Ferrari though.”

He opened the door to the apartment building for her and after a cursory assessment of the hallway, he gestured that she should enter. A quick elevator ride later and they were in front of the locked door for Alias Investigations, Jessica's office/apartment.

Bucky knocked, “Jess. It's me... Vito?”

Darcy listened for the sound of shuffling feet or the sight of a shadow, anything to indicate that someone was coming to the door.

“Malcolm?” He knocked harder.

When no one answered this time, Bucky got out his lock pick. Darcy began to shuffle nervously. This didn't feel right. She reached into her bag and put her hand around her ICER. When the elevator door opened they both turned. Two women were at the end of the hall, and one of them had a gun out.

Darcy jumped between Bucky and the woman with the gun and pointed her ICER at them. Bucky calmly reached over to Darcy's weapon and lowered it with his hand. He nodded at the two women.

“The kid call you guys?” Bucky asked.

“He called Matt. But, he's not available,” the younger woman explained.

“He got thrown in a dumpster again,” the other one snorted, “Claire's putting the finishing touches on his sutures. She called us.”

“Darce, say hi to Misty Knight & Colleen Wing.”

The older woman, Misty, a woman with swagger, gave her an appraising look and a smile, “You’re Darcy Lewis.”

“Yep.” She sheepishly had put her ICER back in her bag. “Hi.”

“Sassy, we need to talk about you putting yourself between powered people,” he grumbled.

“I'm not technically powered,” Misty explained to Darcy, “but she is,” Misty gestured toward the woman at her side.

“Hi. I'm Colleen. I'm an admirer of yours.” Colleen had a less obvious, more subdued kind of confidence than her companion.

“Wow. Um, thanks.”

“Either of you have a key?” Bucky asked, still concentrating on the door.

“Claire does,” Colleen said. “She's on her way.”

After a shrug, Bucky went back to work with the lock. It took him a little longer than the lock in the alley a few days ago, but he still had it open pretty quickly. He drew his ICER but frowned at Misty when she started to unholster her gun. “Vito's in there.”

With a glance at her gun and back at Barnes, she eased it back into the holster.

To Darcy, he complained, “I'd tell you to stay back, but you won't listen, will you?”

“Probably not,” she answered.

Colleen asked, “Are you expecting trouble?”

Bucky gave a half shrug. “Jess didn't answer the door, and Vito said she was scared of somethin'. Probably a panic attack, but better to be safe than sorry. Darce, can Misty borrow your ICER?” Darcy nodded and handed the woman her weapon. Bucky placed a soft kiss on Darcy's forehead. “Please, babe, stay with Colleen. If anything does happen, do what she says. She'll keep you safe.”

“Okay.”

As Bucky and Misty entered, Darcy pulled her taser out of her bag.

Colleen snorted out a laugh. “I was just thinking, 'no way would I give up my weapon that easily'.”

“This baby you'll have to pry out of my cold dead hands. I took Thor out with this bad boy.”

“By the way, it wasn't lip service. I really am so impressed by you. You did an interview on Meet The Press about the Sokovia Accords that was... you're really... impressive. Which I said already. You're articulate. And persuasive. You should be really proud of the work you are doing.”

“Thanks,” Darcy bit her lip and glanced down. She wasn't sure what else to say.

“You're not sure you deserve praise?”

“No...I... I'm just not used to it. I'm surrounded by super people all the time. It's sometimes easy to feel less than super.”

“We all have our strengths.”

“What's yours? Mind reading? Super empathy powers?”

“I'm the Immortal Iron Fist.”

Darcy blinked a few times. “Okay. Cool.”

Misty peeked her head out of the door, “All clear. They're all in the bathroom.”

“Sure. Of course. Why wouldn't there be a party in the bathroom?” Darcy snarked.

“How's Jessica?” Colleen asked.

“Better than Malcolm. Boy is not doing well.”

“How not well?” Colleen asked.

“Like 'let's hope Claire brings some sedatives', not well.”

The three women entered the apartment and Darcy realized why no one answered the door. The sound of running water coming from the bathroom was almost deafening. The shower and the sink must have been up full blast.

As Darcy came around the corner she could see a man mumbling and trying to turn the water up higher. “If you can't hear him, he can't control you. So we need to turn this up. Turn it up.”

“You're scaring the kid, Ducasse,” Bucky gently scolded, turning the faucets back off behind the man.

The boy, Vito, was on the floor next to Jessica. “It's okay, Mr. Barnes. I'm fine. So anyway, Eduardo starts to sing the song and it goes, Remember Me... Though I have to say goodbye...Remember me...Don't let it make you cry....”

“Hey, Vito,” Colleen sing-songed.

“Aunt Colleen!” The little boy jumped up and hugged her.

“This is Darcy.”

The little boy waved at her and said, “You're pretty.” Then Vito took Colleen's hand, dragging her into the living area to show her 'his moves'.

From the bathroom floor, leaning against the tub, Jessica joked, “Kid's moving in on your territory, Barnes.”

“How you doing, Jess?” he asked, turning off the shower while Malcolm turned the sink back on.

“I could use a drink,” she smirked. Then over to Darcy, she said, “You probably think I'm bat shit crazy, Lewis.”

“Crazy is relative.” Darcy shrugged. “But your ass has to be asleep by now. You wanna get up off the floor?”

This earned a snort from Misty and an actual smile from Jessica. “Help me up,” she extended her hand to Bucky and he hauled her to her feet. “Can you handle him, Barnes?” She indicated her former associate who was still turning on faucets and mumbling.

“Who better to deal with a victim of mind control? You sure you're ok?”

“Will be.”

A voice called out from the hallway, “Hello? It's Claire.”

“The gang's all here. Except Murdock.” Jess looked around. “Where is Murdock?”

“Dumpster,” Misty said simply.

“Again?”

Misty ushered Jessica and Darcy into the living area. Meanwhile, a third woman that Darcy hadn't met peeked her head in the bathroom. “Oh wow. He's not good.”

“That's Claire,” Colleen explained to Darcy. Claire had the kindest eyes that Darcy had ever seen, and she was kind of glad that she was going to be helping Bucky calm down Malcolm.

Vito didn't have a lot of energy left to show off to Colleen, who was apparently his martial arts instructor and had tucked himself into Jessica's side. Jess was softly stroking his hair.

“You ready to talk about it?” Colleen asked.

“You'll think I'm crazy.”

“Too late,” Misty deadpanned.

“Ha, freaking ha.”

“Freaking?” Darcy asked.

“There's a kid here.”

“You guys...” Colleen rebuked.

Jess responded to Colleen's request to tell them what happened. “I thought I saw...him. Kilgrave. I freaked out. Completely panicked. Scared the crap out of Vito.”

“I wasn't scared,” he mumbled sleepily.

“Yeah. You're not sleepy either, right?”

Bucky came into the living room, rubbing his eyes and then dragging his hand across his beard. He was clearly feeling overwhelmed.

“You okay, babe?” Darcy asked.

“Yeah. He's rational now. Just embarrassed. Claire's talking him through it.” Bucky looked over at Vito, who was trying to fight off sleep. “C'mon buddy. Let's find you a pillow, huh?”

Bucky scooped up the half-asleep child into his arms. Vito nestled his head on Bucky's shoulder and closed his eyes as Bucky carried him into Jessica's bedroom.

Darcy watched him go. Sighing at the sweetness of the man she was falling hard for. Apparently, she wasn't the only one who appreciated the view. Misty let out a soft, “Mmm mmm mmm.”

“Watch out Knight. I think Lewis has laid claim,” Jessica said with a slight eye roll.

“Pretty sure I can take her,” Misty joked.

“Yeah, I'm gonna need my ICER back,” Darcy responded with a smile. She snapped her fingers, realizing she could be of some help. “And a laptop. Let's see if I can get some help hacking into surveillance footage. The best way to see if this is actually this Kilgrave guy is to get a picture.”

Jess gestured to her desk. “Be my guest.”

Darcy sat at the desk and pulled out her phone. She wasn't some kind of hacker, just someone who was more than competent with software. But she knew exactly who to call.

The person she called, however, was not the person who answered the phone, “Yup?”

“Sam?”

“Darcy?”

“I called Daisy.”

“Shit. This is not my phone....”

“Wait...whatcha guys doing?” she teased.

“Still stargazing. No point in going to bed when Jane keeps getting on her loudspeaker to give impromptu lectures. Once, the crazy loon had us staring due north at nothing. She kept insisting that something 'magical' was gonna happen. Nothing magical happened, Darcy.”

“Yeahh... she was distracting you guys while Bucky & I borrowed a quinjet.”

“Wait, where are you? I thought you guys were making out on the roof.”

“Sadly, not any longer. Can you grab Daisy for me? I need her help.”

“Hey Darcy,” Daisy came on the line. “You gonna do something about your crazy ass friend with the loudspeaker? It's one in the morning. I want to go to bed.”

“Oh, babe. You have no idea how bad I was wanting to get into a bed...”

“Oh, yeah?” Darcy could almost hear Daisy's eyebrows wiggling over the phone.

“Instead, I am enlisting your help in hacking some security cameras.”

“Where are you?”

“Just hanging out with Defenders.” At this Misty, Colleen and Jessica turned to look at her. “Yes. I know who you guys are. I'm not dense.” Back to Daisy, “Can you help with the cameras?”

But Darcy didn't hear the answer. Instead, she heard a loud thudding sound and shattering glass. She felt her heart thud against her chest and a sharp pain in her head. Something warm and wet dripped down her face. She could hear Daisy on the phone calling out her name. Then... nothing.

Chapter Text

Bucky's instincts kicked in before his thoughts did.

As soon as the floor started to shake he pulled Vito back up into his arms, pulled the mattress over them both and hit the floor.

Then his thoughts started to race. Darcy... the familiar concussive blast from the day he met...Darcy... Jess, Misty, and Colleen were in the living room with...Darcy....if Hydra took him, who would protect Darcy? She was in every thought. He even swore he heard Daisy's voice calling Darcy's name.

No.

That was real. She must have been on the phone with her. The team knew they were in danger. That was good. They'd be on the way.

The blast had broken the windows. But he and Vito both appeared unharmed. Just in case, he asked, “You okay, Buddy?”

“Yes, sir. I'm fine. Is Jessica okay?”

“I'm gonna check on her now. But I need you to go into the bathroom and climb into the tub. Can you do that?”

Bucky dragged the mattress behind him. When he entered the bathroom he made eye contact with Malcolm Ducasse and Claire Temple. “Are you both okay?”

They both nodded in affirmative. “Okay Vito, into the tub. I'm gonna put the mattress on top, ok?”

“Okay.”

“I'll be back for you, I promise.”

Claire and Malcolm left the room as Bucky eased the mattress over the bathtub, leaving some light for Vito.

Back in the living room, Malcolm was holding both of Jessica's hands. Misty and Colleen were supporting each other as they tried to make their way through the broken objects and fallen drywall to the door. And Claire was hovering over...

“Darcy!” Bucky was at her side in a flash, a feeling of panic starting to roll through his body, clouding his thoughts.

Claire was calm. “Hold this cloth here, on her forehead, okay Bucky? Gentle pressure, but constant. Don't pull it off to check on the bleeding for ten minutes, okay? Say it back to me, Bucky,” she demanded as she tucked a pillow under Darcy's calves.

“Ten minutes of pressure. I've got it.”

Bucky was trying very hard not to panic as he looked down at his girl, pale and unconscious. A firm hand grasped his shoulder.

Malcolm was steady and confident when he instructed, “Barnes. You need to go with Misty, Jess and Colleen. They'll need your help. I'll take care of your friend.”

He opened his mouth to argue and knitted his brows into a scowl. He couldn't leave Darcy.

“She won't be safe if the people that did this are still out there. Our best chance is for you to help Jessica, outside.”

Claire looked up at Bucky and nodded. “He's right. I'm pretty sure she's gonna be fine, Barnes. We've got this.”

He nodded curtly, not liking the idea of leaving her, but grasping the logic.

“Don't forget about Vito,” he growled.

Then Bucky tuned out everything but cold fury and the mission. He would make whoever hurt Darcy pay.

He walked out into the street just as Colleen smashed a glowing fist into the pavement. A group of men in tactical gear flew backward. Bucky glanced back up to Jessica's apartment, making sure that there was no further damage that could risk the occupants. But Colleen's control was precise. She only knocked down their opponents and caused no damage.

Still, they were outnumbered. Four of them, versus about fifteen men.

The three women and Bucky stood in a tight circle, ready to defend themselves, their friends, and anyone else against the threat.

Bucky glanced down at Misty's gun and then up to her face. “Knight. HYDRA doesn't take me. You understand?”

She nodded.

“What are you talking about, Bucky?” Colleen hissed. “She's not going to kill you.”

“I will if I have to,” Misty promised.

“Thanks.”

“You really gonna do that to your girl, Barnes?” Jessica asked, dumbfounded.

Bucky knew exactly what would happen if HYDRA took him again. They'd restore his programming somehow. They'd turn him back into a killer. And Darcy, Steve, Sam, Daisy... they'd look for him. “She won't ever be safe if they take me.”

“Then let's kick some ass so they don't have a chance, huh?” With that, Jessica advanced on a group of men, picked up one of their SUV's and tossed it at them.

Misty fired off several rounds into knee caps and shoulders, incapacitating but not killing.

Colleen took out a group of men with an impressive flurry of punches and kicks. All the while her fist was glowing.

Bucky had pulled two ICERS and was firing with precision.

Two groups of men abandoned their assault, got into SUVs and attempted to drive away. Only one was successful. The other was stopped by a thick spider's web.

“Hey, guys. Don't tell Mr. Stark, okay?”

“Hey Spiderkid,” Jess greeted while knocking a man over the head with a mailbox that she had pulled out of the ground.

“It's Spiderman.”

“I'm not calling you that.”

Despite the numbers being in their favor, the men who attacked the apartment were seriously outgunned. Most of them were unskilled. None of them were powered. Those who hadn't fled were either unconscious or writhing on the ground.

Bucky almost breathed a sigh of relief. That is until he felt the barrel of a gun press against the back of his head and voice say, “Freeze.”

He turned slowly, dropping his ICERS. He recognized the face behind the gun. The man that had been pointing a gun at him when they were repairing his cybernetic arm in DC. The man that stood there watching as Pierce told the HYDRA scientists to wipe him. The man that stood there while he screamed past the mouth guard that he had passively accepted.

“You. I know you. Rollins,” Bucky spit out the name with disgust.

Even if he hadn't been there during Bucky's torture, he'd still hate the man that stood next to Rumlow every day. A man that had put a gun to Steve's head. A traitor to SHIELD and a HYDRA spy.

“Barnes.”

Misty, Colleen, and Jessica were still, not willing to risk Rollins pulling the trigger if they advanced. Peter made a move to a closer light pole and it was just enough distraction. Bucky pulled his third weapon from his boot. “I’m gonna kill you,” he promised Jack Rollins.

“Your brain must still be scrambled, Soldat. That’s an ICER.”

“Yeah?” a very annoyed feminine voice announced, “Well this isn’t.”

Rollins jerked as an electrical current went through his body. As he collapsed he revealed Darcy standing there. She held her taser in her hand and had a determined expression on her face. She looked sickeningly pale. A few butterfly bandages kept the cut on her forehead closed and her hair was clotted with blood.

She was a goddess.

Bucky stepped over Rollins still twitching body, took Darcy's face in both of his hands and kissed her deeply.

He didn't even notice the explosion and the second SUV rolling across the pavement in the distance or the quinjet approaching.

“Aww,” Peter murmured. “Cute.”

“Damn, Barnes,” Jessica said with approval.

Above them, a quinjet hovered and Sam's voice echoed out over the loudspeaker. “That's what I'm talking about!”

Chapter Text

Darcy could feel herself getting pulled out of her dream, back into reality. She fought it.

“If we ever get home, I'm personally burning HYDRA down to the ground.”

“Just you? All by your lonesome?”

“Yup.”

That wasn't right...

That wasn't how it happened.

They were laying down, not sitting. It was pitch dark, not sunset. She had been crying, not smiling. She had said she was gonna take Jane with her... it was wrong... but familiar...

“Sassy, it's time to wake up.” Bucky's fingers were massaging her scalp and his touch pulled her completely from her dream.

Her head was throbbing and she didn't want to lift her head up from its place on Bucky's thigh. With a hint of panic in his voice he said, “Daisy, she won't wake up.”

“I'm up,” she argued as she sat. Her hand went to the source of her headache, the gash on her forehead. Her lower back ached a bit, laying on the bench in the quinjet. “Ouch.”

Everything felt fuzzy, and not in the good way it had been earlier in the evening when she and Bucky had been kissing on the rooftop at the Avengers compound.

This was a fuzziness fueled by exhaustion, adrenaline and a wicked blow to the head. It sucked.

Bucky's hands went around her face and his eyes probed every inch of it. Settling his gaze on her eyes, he asked, “You with me?”

“Yep. With you.”

“You had me worried.”

“You? Worried? Never,” she teased.

“You okay, Darcy?” Daisy called out from the pilot's seat of the quinjet.

Darcy responded with a thumbs up.

Jessica was sitting behind Daisy, with a sleeping Vito curled up in the seat opposite of her.

The other half of the team was cleaning up their mess. Currently, Kate was piloting the other quinjet (the one that Bucky and Darcy had abandoned at the Tower earlier that evening) along with Sam (who had ridden Steve's motorcycle back to the Tower).

Colleen, Misty, Claire, and even Malcolm had refused protection and went back to their respective homes. Jessica probably would have too, if Vito hadn't been with her.

In reports that Sam made to Daisy over the communicators, Darcy sussed out the rest of their activities.
Sam and Kate had gone to the occupants of Jessica's building checking for any casualties or apartments that were unlivable. Fortunately, the damage seemed to be confined to Jessica's residence. They had also called in Stark industries to repair the damage to the street and buildings.

Peter Parker had skedaddled soon after he had confessed to Bucky that Malcolm had called him after the explosion. Apparently, Peter was moonlighting as a photographer for Jessica's PI business. Darcy had demanded to know if he had taken pictures of the menage a trois that had appeared on her desk one day. He pleaded ignorance. She believed him.

Because for a superhero with a secret identity, he was a terrible, terrible liar.

Darcy looked across the plane at their other passenger. Jack Rollins was bound with handcuffs that could hold Steve if need be. He was slumped over, unconscious, not from the taser that Darcy had used, but from a tranquilizer dart that Kate had shot at him when, as she put it, “he just wouldn't shut the hell up.” The rest of the bad guys had been taken by the NYPD.

Darcy must have been shooting daggers at the man because Bucky turned her face slightly to direct her gaze back to him. “You all right, Sassy?”

“I. Hate. Him.”

“Didn't know you'd met.”

Darcy would have normally rolled her eyes. But it would hurt. So she didn't. “I hate him for what he did to you. What he let them do to you. I wish Kate would have let me taze him again.”

“Shhh,” Bucky whispered against Darcy's lips. “Don't go hating on my account.”

Darcy captured his lips with her own. As she let his lip slide from between hers, she whispered back, “I think I'd do anything for you.”

“Whore,” Rollins mumbled as he started to regain consciousness.

“Here we go again,” Daisy complained from the pilot's seat.

“He's a monster, not a man. A thing. You're kissing a thing.”

“That's it!” Darcy pushed Bucky's hands from her face and reached for her bag. “Where's my damned taser?”

As she was looking down through her bag she heard the sound of flesh and bone meeting flesh and bone. She looked up to see that Jessica had punched Rollins out.

“Listen fucker,” Jessica yelled at the unconscious man, “You don't go calling women whores in front of my boy. You got that, asshole?”

Darcy beamed at Jessica, “I'm very attracted to you right now.”

“After seeing you with that taser, I'm tempted. But I'm also exhausted. You should probably go back to sucking face with Barnes.”

Vito remained blissfully asleep and unaware but Daisy cackled with amusement from the pilot's seat.

“Let's put the face sucking on hold and get our seatbelts on, kids. We're landing.”

“Do we have a welcoming party?” Bucky asked as the quinjet hovered and then descended.

“Yep. Stark, Cap, and Natasha.”

The jet touched down and the cargo door opened. Daisy got off first, followed by Jess holding Vito.

Darcy threaded her arm through Bucky's and asked, “Are we in trouble? Because it kind of seems like we're in trouble.”

“It's fine,” he assured her.

Steve opened his mouth to scold his best friend but before the words came out, Bucky said, “Yeah, yeah, incredibly reckless to steal a plane in order to help a friend in trouble. You'd never do something like that, right Stevie?”

Steve was clearly trying not to grin, “Touche.”

“Did you have to take Lewis with you? She's a civilian,” Tony asked.

“At least I'm not a teenager. And it's not like we crossed an ocean,” Darcy pointed out.

Tony argued, “Peter has powers.”

“Peter had homework,” she answered back.

Bucky looked at Natasha, who was holding back laughter, “Anything you want to add, Nat?”

“Nope. Just came along to watch you guys put these two idiots in their place.” Natasha came over to Darcy and put her arm around her back. “Come on. Dr. Palmer is waiting to take a look at you. You feel okay?”

“Little headache-y and tired. Not bad.”

“Probably a concussion. Let's get you fixed up.”

“I've got her,” Bucky offered, clearly not wanting to relinquish Darcy's care to anyone, not even Natasha.

“Don't be a Neanderthal, Barnes. Besides, I heard you brought a present for Steve.”

“Steve's gonna love his present,” Darcy laughed. “But personally, I'd prefer a snow globe.”

“Darcy!” Jane's voice pierced the grounds.

“Incoming,” Tony warned.

Jane launched herself into Darcy's arms and then pulled back to examine her face. “You're hurt. Honey, you're hurt. Who did this?” She looked over Darcy's shoulder and her eyes narrowed. “Did you do this?”

At first, Darcy was worried that Jane was eyeballing Bucky, but Jane strode right past him and went up to Rollins, whom Steve was escorting from the jet.

Jane pulled her fist back and with more force than a tiny thing like her should have, she punched Rollins in the jaw.

“Nobody hurts Darcy!”

Rollins dropped like a sack of potatoes.

Steve sighed. “You couldn't wait until I got him in the car?” He gestured to the club car they had driven to the tarmac.

“He called Darcy a whore,” Bucky growled.

“Damn,” Jane sighed, “I should have hit him with the CAR. Now my fist hurts.”

Natasha tucked Jane under her other arm. “Let's get you to medical, slugger.”

“Look,” Darcy pointed out, “A falling star.”

“Meteor,” Jane corrected.

“Whatever, make a wish.”

“I wish Dr. Foster had hit Rollins with the car,” Steve said under his breath.

“Well now it won't come true, Capsicle,” Tony said.

“I wish I was in bed,” Darcy sighed tiredly.

“That's gonna come true, Sassy,” Bucky promised as he picked her up in a bridal carry and placed her in the front seat of the car. “Nat, get these ladies to medical, and then come back for us.”

“Sounds like a plan, Barnes.”

“Can I drive?” Jane asked enthusiastically.

A chorus of NO!s echoed throughout the grounds. Steve took a few steps away from Rollins, just in case. Natasha turned over the wheel.

Darcy turned to Jane, who had climbed into the back seat, resigned. “I was having the nicest dream on the plane. It was sunset... it was nice.” Darcy let exhaustion overcome her and she closed her eyes as Natasha drove her to medical.

Chapter Text

Bucky fought the sleep that was overtaking him. He was curled around Darcy, warm and comfortable. He had his hand on her abdomen, both watching and feeling the rise and fall of her breathing. His eyes drowsily surveyed her face. The ugly cut that had gone down her forehead was gone, courtesy of Dr. Cho's tissue re-generator, but he swore he could see where it had been. Her color was back, she was no longer sickly pale and instead glowed like a pearl. Her full lips were kiss-ably pink. She looked so peaceful.

Last night, Dr. Palmer had diagnosed Darcy with a mild concussion. Jane fretted over Darcy's level of drowsiness until she was reminded, by Darcy herself, that it was 4 in the morning. She was sent to bed by the doctor, with the caveat that someone stays with her at all times, watching for a severe headache or vomiting. Bucky thought that he would have to battle Jane Foster for the right to watch over Darcy, but Jane had acquiesced the job without argument. She even recommended that Bucky take her to his bungalow, where it was quieter than their rooms in the main building.

So he carried a half-asleep Darcy to his place, where she woke long enough to steal one of his tee shirts to sleep in and climbed under his covers. This was not what either of them had planned earlier in the night when they were discussing sharing this bed.

Bucky sighed and allowed his eyes to drift closed, wrapped around his girl, reminding himself that Dr. Palmer had said he could sleep too, just to stay nearby.

He drifted into sleep, and then into a dream.

How do I look at you?” Darcy asked, cuddled up against his chest and looking up at him with those sparkling blue eyes.

Like you're thinkin' about kissin' me,” Bucky murmured, tilting his head slightly to the side.

Well, I'm afraid you're wrong. Because I'm thinking about you kissing me.” Her fingers teased along his jawline, beckoning him closer.

Well...I wouldn't want to disappoint a lady,” he murmured, his lips grazing hers while he spoke.

The way she kissed....sucking on his bottom lip...sliding her tongue against his...humming little noises of approval... Bucky had never been kissed like that.

He wasn't a blushing virgin like Steve had been. But most of the girls he had kissed, and the two he had made love to, held back a bit. Like they were a little frightened. Not of him, but of the consequences to their reputations. Like they weren't supposed to enjoy themselves. Times had unquestionably changed.

For the better, he decided, as Darcy straddled his hips and pulled at the hem of his shirt. “Off,” she instructed.

He leaned back a bit and Darcy yanked his shirt over his head and discarded it. She ran her fingernails gently down his chest with a hungry look in her eyes.

He shifted a bit, so she wouldn't be embarrassed by his growing arousal pressing against her, and she shifted right back, grinding herself against him.

With a groan, he decided, things were quite definitely changed for the better.

His hands wrapped around her waist, fingers just barely brushing the skin there. With no further encouragement needed, Darcy had her own shirt up and off.

Black lace,” he murmured in appreciation at the fabric covering her breasts.

Ah, so this thing is your fault,” she laughed.

Hmmm?” he asked, tentatively touching the sides and then the top of her breasts with his fingers.

The black lace. I was wearing a perfectly comfortable cotton polka dot bra when I got here.”

I don't understand,” he told her, daring to press kisses against the lace.

We might have some effect on each other's appearances. Hence, the sexy WW2 era hair cut instead of the hobo chic long-haired thing you had going.”

Wait...” he blinked, tearing his eyes away to her lace covered breasts and up to her eyes, “what are you saying?”

Never mind.” she cupped his face in her hands and kissed him again, “Not important right now.”

Darcy,” Bucky scolded. “Tell me.”

She sat back with a sigh. “So...Gamora has this theory... that our appearances, here in the soul stone, are reflections of how our soul mates see us.”

And you see me the way I looked in your textbooks?”

And apparently, you have a thing for black lace,” she put her hands over her breasts and gave them a little squeeze. Bucky groaned at the sight.

You're just so fair, I thought you'd look....” He took a breath to register what she had said. “What happens if we get back? I won't look like this. Will you still...?”

Want you? Of course, I will!” Her hands had returned to his face. “And I have to say I'm kind of happy you aren't freaking out about the soulmate revelation.”

Are you sure? I'm scarred. I'm broken.”

Darcy kissed him. Sweetly, gently, but thoroughly. “I will always want you. What matters to me is here.” She kissed his forehead. “And here,” she put his hand over his heart. “And this freckle,” she teased, pointing to a freckle about a hands width below his left nipple.

Freckle?” he chuckled.

It's a very important freckle. Frankly, I'm surprised history books didn't mention this freckle. I could write a dissertation on this freckle.” As she spoke, she pressed his shoulder, guiding him to the ground. She flicked her tongue against that freckle and Bucky hissed. “Although this one is a good freckle too.” Another lick. “And this one...”

Bucky closed his eyes in bliss and then snapped them open in horror. “This one,” Karpov told him, “Is a threat to HYDRA. His family must be eliminated as well.”

The dream had shifted.

No.”

Soldat? You refuse?”

I won't. I won't kill anyone.”

You will follow orders!”

No.”

He waited patiently for Sam or Steve or Daisy to guide him away from this place. They'd be there soon. Talking to him... touching his arm... or his shoulder...grounding him.

Until then... “I refuse.”

“Bucky babe,” soft kisses rained down on his face. “You're having a bad dream. You're safe with me.”

“Darcy,” he breathed. He registered the feel of her against his body, her hand against his neck, her breath on his face. And then he settled into a restful, dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

Bucky was awakened by the sound of someone beating on his front door and Darcy's hand gently smacking him on the chest, “Babe, someone is at the door.”

A voice carried inside from the front porch, “Wakey, wakey!”

Bucky pulled his pillow out from under his head and put it over his face. “It's Stark. You get it.”

“It's your door,” Darcy argued back groggily.

“Let me find my gun,” Bucky sighed as he rolled over towards his nightstand.

Darcy rolled out of the bed at this and padded out of the bedroom, “I'll get it.”

He took a beat to admire how she looked in his old t-shirt and then got out of bed, leaning against his bedroom door frame to watch her walk the rest of the way to the front door.

She opened the door to Stark, who was holding one of those cardboard drink trays with two cups that smelled very much like coffee in them. Stark looked Darcy over, “Ouch. Lewis. I expected you to look more debauched and less....”

“Concussed?” she shot back. Bucky didn't need to see her face to know that she had raised her left eyebrow at Stark when she said that.

“Been texting. No one has been answering.”

“Been sleeping,” she responded snarkily.

“Well like I said, wakey wakey. Time to go to work.” He looked deeper into the cottage at Bucky, “You too, Murderbot.

“Don't call him that,” Darcy chastised.

“Sorry. Dost thou prefer Loverboy?”

Darcy turned back to Bucky, “Babe. Get your gun.”

“Not kidding about the work, Juliet. You have a press conference in an hour at the Tower. Hey, that rhymes.”

“No,” Bucky growled.

“He speaks!”

“She's had four hours of sleep and was in an explosion.”

“She has a job to do, Romeo. And so do you. May wants to debrief in 30. Caffeine for fuel.” He handed the coffee to Darcy as he said, “Skim mocha with a double shot of espresso and extra whipped cream for Lewis. And plain coffee for Barnes. Not even flavored. The Depression is over soldier, learn to live a little. Chop chop. Hope's gonna fly you to the city.” He took a few steps off the porch and then came back, kissed Darcy on the cheek and said, “Didn't say it last night, glad you aren't dead. Wheels up in twenty!”

Darcy turned to Bucky and he reached out his hand for her. She put her hand in his and he pulled her in close. “I wouldn't try and kiss me if I were you,” she warned. “Morning breath.”

“I don't care.” He kissed her thoroughly, spreading his hands over her back, caressing her skin through the thin fabric of his stolen t-shirt.

“Babe. I gotta go.”

“M'kay,” he murmured, moving his lips over the soft skin of her neck and sliding his hands down to cup her ample bottom through the even thinner fabric of her cotton panties.

“Arrgh,” she mumbled as she pressed her hands against his chest. “Nope nope nope. No time. And I absolutely am not going to have a quickie for our first time.” She took several steps back away from his grasp. “Believe me, I want plenty of time to enjoy all of that.” She made a circle with her hand, encompassing his whole body in the gesture.

“So... I'm gonna go get some pants on. I'm gonna go to my room. I'm gonna try to make myself presentable. And you are gonna stop standing there looking so ridiculously yummy.”

“How about I make you some breakfast?” He offered, watching her retreat back to the bedroom.

“No time,” she called out, “I don't think you understand how much work it takes to get this girl presentable.”

“You're beautiful.”

“And you're horny, sleepy and under-caffeinated,” she argued back.

She emerged from the room with her hair yanked back into a ponytail, her blood-stained pants and his shirt on. “I'm stealing this,” she informed him.

“It's yours,” he agreed.

She grabbed the coffee that Stark had left her. Then she slipped her tennis shoes on, not even taking the time to put them on properly; leaving them laced and smashing the backs down under her heel. With one last swift kiss, she asked, “Dinner tonight?”

“Yes,” he agreed to the whirlwind that was Darcy Lewis. She smiled and then was out his door before he could say anything else.

He was in less of a hurry. Thirty minutes was plenty of time to drink his coffee and clean up before walking up to the main building.

Jessica, Steve, and Tony were already in the briefing room when he arrived. So was Agent May, standing at the door, handing Starkpads to each person as they entered the room. Kate, Sam, and Daisy filtered in eventually, each looking as sleep deprived as the others.

As he sat down between Steve and Jess, she leaned over and commented, “Nice toys. We don't even have sharpened pencils half the time.”

What Bucky didn't understand was why Agent May was also carrying a small pile of papers, rolled up in her hand.

“Agent Johnson was able to access the security cameras around Ms. Jones' building.” She began without preamble. Each of their Starkpads displayed a surveillance image of a slender man in a purple suit with dark hair.

“Facial recognition shows a 72% match to Kilgrave. Ms. Jones?”

Jess shook her head. “It's not him. Well, I feel fucking stupid. I was bait.”

May's expression softened, “Don't feel stupid. We're only human. Most of us, anyway.”

The rest of the debrief was pretty standard, they reviewed everything that had happened from the moment that Jess thought she saw Kilgrave and ending at the moment they put Jack Rollins into the jet.

“Captain?” May asked, “Do you want to discuss your interrogation of Jack Rollins?”

“He wasn't very forthcoming, but Nat got him to let something slip.”

Steve played a video clip.

“HYDRA is the past. We aim for the future.”

“I don't believe him,” Bucky argued. “Once HYDRA, always HYDRA.”

“What does that even mean?” Daisy asked, “We aim for the future?”

“And can we talk about the fact that Agent Barnes was targeted in two of the three confrontations?” Kate asked.

“We need to talk about a lot of things,” May agreed.

The debated the motives of the kidnapping of Jemma Simmons, the pursuit of Darcy and Bucky and the implications of the fake Kilgrave being used to lure Barnes and the Defenders to Jessica's apartment.

By the end of the briefing, Bucky was convinced that HYDRA was trying to recapture him.

Tony disagreed, “HYDRA had no way of knowing that we'd dispatch you to Portland, Tin Man.”

“Or,” Bucky offered back, “They had teams waiting at every dispatch site and only attacked our team because they're after me.”

“Buck...” Steve tried to reassure him.

“It's fine. Steve. Just stating the obvious.”

Jessica was looking at him knowingly. He wasn't fine about any of this and he was pretty sure she was going to call him on it.

Before they were dismissed May scolded Bucky, “Next time you want to take a quinjet into the city, you come to me, and ask. Okay, Barnes?"

“Didn't want to take the chance you'd say no.”

“I understand.” Then she took that roll of paper that she had been holding the entire debriefing and smacked him on the back of the head with it. “That's for being an idiot.”

Kate, Sam, and Daisy earned three smacks in a row. “And that's for doing the same damn thing as your idiot teammate.”

Bucky expected the roar of laughter from Tony. But Steve snorted a laugh out as well.

“You find this funny Stevie?”

"When I stole a plane I had a face off with Red Skull in a burning building. You stole a plane and got whacked with a rolled up newspaper. So... yeah. Funny.”

“You idiots are dismissed,” May said. “Barnes. We've got your back. Okay?”

As they all filed out, Jess took Bucky by the elbow. She whispered, “Are we gonna talk about it here, Barnes? Or somewhere private?”

“Talk about what?” Kate asked.

“Jesus!” Jess said, “Are you a bat or something?”

The whole group had stopped and now looked at Jessica and Bucky expectantly.

“You gonna tell them, Barnes? Or am I?”

Bucky shook his head. He couldn't look at them as he explained, “If HYDRA takes me, there is a chance you will have to put me down. I asked Misty Knight to do that if they took me last night.”

There was a shocked silence for several beats. Bucky still couldn't bring himself to look up. He didn't see the slap coming.

“You son of a bitch,” Kate cried out. “Ow. That hurt. You hurt my hand you ass!”

“Katie,” he reached for her.

“No,” she backed away from him, “It's Agent Bishop. That's all you get from now on.” Kate then turned on her heel and ran away.

Steve said very quietly, hurt obvious in his eyes, “How could you think that we'd be okay with that?”

“I don't want to see you get hurt, Steve.”

Agent May said softly, “Losing you would hurt, you idiot. What were you thinking?”

Bucky turned to someone he thought might understand, “Sam...?”

“No man. Just no.”

He looked at Jessica, “Don't look at me, Barnes. I'm with them. That was fucked up.”

Bucky shook his head, “Doesn't change anything. I can't. I can't be captured by HYDRA.”

Sam put his hand on Bucky's shoulder, “Man. Listen. I get that. But you have to trust us to keep that from happening. We're your team.”

Daisy said quietly, “We're your family.”

“And if they do take you, we'll get your grumpy ass back.”

“NO!” Bucky yelled at Sam.

“Buck...” Steve began.

Bucky let the tears fill his eyes. “Those nights where I would wake up screaming? Where you couldn't get me to stop? It wasn't because I was dreaming of the things they made me do. It's because I have nightmares about all of you. Dead at my hands because you were stupid enough to try to save a monster. And I don't even care that I killed you. I don't care about anything. Because I'm theirs again.”

No one would meet Bucky's eyes except the one person who had said nothing so far, “Stark. You understand.”

“I do. You have my word, Barnes. They'll never take you.”

Steve opened his mouth to protest.

“They won't take him, Cap. Period.”

“Suicide is not an option,” Steve argued.

“I don't want to die, Steve. I'm not suicidal. But I'm willing to die if it means protecting all of you.”

Once again it was Stark who was willing to meet Bucky's eyes. “I'll work on a better solution than a bullet. Until then, you are benched, Barnes. No leaving the compound for any reason.”

Stark turned to May and she nodded in acknowledgment.

“Thanks, Stark.”

Steve dropped a firm hand onto Bucky's shoulder. “I should go relieve Nat from Rollins duty. You need anything, Buck?”

Bucky shook his head. Steve then pulled him into a firm hug. “Epic Stucky bromance,” Bucky chuckled.

“There's our Bucky Bear,” Daisy teased, ruffling his hair.

“I should talk to Kate.”

It was Sam who said, “I'd leave Kate alone for a while. Unless you want an arrow shot right into your ass.”

Daisy offered one last warning, “I love you, Buck, but if you do to Darcy what Lincoln did to me, I will never forgive you.”

Bucky sighed. Daisy was right.

And maybe the best way to keep him from hurting Darcy was to let her go.

Chapter Text

Darcy stood behind the podium in the press room at the Avengers Tower fielding questions. She knew she looked confident, professional and self-assured, even though she had dressed and primped on the quinjet and had only had a few hours of sleep.

She had finished her opening statement about the incident in Jessica's neighborhood and had opened the floor to questions.

She first pointed to Karen Page from the Bulletin. “You've stated that the Avengers have captured known HYDRA operative Jack Rollins but you neglected to tell us which Avenger actually took him down.”

Karen smirked at her. She probably knew exactly who had knocked out Rollins.

“Actually...I did. With the assistance of Agent Barnes and the Defenders of course.”

Christine Everhart interrupted, “And the Defenders...?”

“Prefer to remain anonymous. You know that.” Darcy went to point to another reporter when Everhart interrupted again.

“The Sokovia Accords frown on vigilante anonymity.”

“The Sokovia Accords have been dissolved. Which you also know. They have a right to their privacy. And in this case, their actions did not cross into vigilantism as they were attacked first...” Darcy was getting annoyed.

Everhart apparently didn't care, continuing, “...at the home of PI Jessica Jones. She has been linked to the Defenders activities in the past.”

“And if I was a spokesperson for the Defenders, I might comment on that. But I'm not. Mr. Amos? Your question?” Darcy said, preempting Everhart from hogging Darcy's time.

“Is it true that Jessica Jones is staying at the Avengers facility upstate?”

“To protect the safety of Ms. Jones, I am going to decline to answer that.”

Everhart jumped in again, “Did Agent Barnes have any flashbacks or issues relating to his time as an operative for HYDRA?”

Darcy was no longer annoyed. Darcy was pissed off. She tried to keep her voice as even as possible. “Agent Barnes has had no flashbacks of his time as a captive of HYDRA since Princess Shuri of Wakanda removed their programming. And as I have explained, multiple times, Agent Barnes was never an “operative” for HYDRA. He was a victim of HYDRA.”

Karen jumped in, “After the incidents in Portland and Miami and now this incident, is HYDRA becoming a threat again?”

“I'm afraid that HYDRA is always a threat.” Darcy gave Karen a little nod of thanks for stopping Everhart from saying something else horrible about Bucky. “Thank you all for your time.”

Darcy stepped away from the podium while Everhart called out, “Is Agent Barnes a liability due to his time with HYDRA? Are you afraid he may be unstable?”

Darcy turned around and pointed to her, “Agent Barnes protected the life of a small child last night. I'd trust him with my own life any day. Good day, everyone.”

Darcy stepped into the elevator with a sigh. She knew she shouldn't have let Everhart get to her. The woman had it out for Bucky, she always had. Before, Darcy defended him because it was the right thing to do and because she had a little crush. Now... it was personal.

The text alert went off on her phone. She was a little disappointed that it wasn't him. He was probably still being debriefed.

“Brunch?” The text asked.

“Absofreakinglutely.” she texted back, “I'm starved.”

Darcy shut the elevator door when it opened on the floor to her office and pressed the button for Pepper and Tony's floor instead. She didn't even need to announce her presence. Pepper was handing her a coffee as soon as she stepped off the elevator.

“I texted Karen and Hope too. How's your head, sweetie?”

Darcy reached up and touched the place on her forehead where the cut should be. “I'm okay. Just tired.”

“From the concussion?” Pepper asked with concern.

“Probably from the four hours of sleep. Plus Bucky had a nightmare. I ended up watching him sleep for a while.”

“Really? You spent the night with Agent Barnes?”

“I had a concussion, Pepper. It was a medically necessary sleepover.”

“Mmm hmm,” she replied knowingly.

“So judgy,” Darcy laughed, not really meaning it. “If you don't mind, I have to get these evil shoes off, so I'm gonna crash on your couch until the girls get here.”

“I don't mind at all. Will you eat chicken and waffles?”

“Are you serious? Pep, I could inhale chicken and waffles.”

Darcy chugged the first cappuccino and was sipping on her second by the time Karen and Hope had arrived and settled in. Darcy had also slipped off her heels and shrugged off her blazer and was curled up on the world's most comfortable couch.

“You sure you don't want a mimosa?” Pepper Potts asked while she poured herself a second. Pepper was frying up chicken and waffles in her personal kitchen. Which, in Darcy's opinion, was way nicer than any restaurant.

“Nope. Caffeine is better. Caffeine is good.”

Pepper sipped her mimosa and disagreed, “The three of you aren't gonna be able to sleep tonight.”

“Caffeine doesn't affect me. Besides, I'm driving.” Hope Van Dyne said with a shrug.

“I don't sleep anyway,” Karen admitted.

“Waiting for Matt to call you from a dumpster?” Darcy teased.

“Sadly,” Karen admitted, “Sorry he couldn't help you guys last night. Are you really okay?”

“Yeah. Mild concussion. I don't even have a headache now. And thanks to Dr. Cho, I won't even have a scar. Just tired today.”

Pepper asked Karen, “I heard a rumor that you're leaving the Bulletin.”

“Yep. We're reopening Murdock and Nelson.”

With a tiny bit of disapproval, Hope asked, “You're abandoning your career to work for those two guys?”

“Actually, I'm going to be working 'with' not 'for' those guys. I got my PI license today. They'll be the lawyers and I'm the investigator.”

Hope smiled, “That actually sounds like fun.”

“I think it will be good. It's more a lateral career move than upward, but I'll be helping people.”

“That's what's important,” Darcy agreed. “But I'll miss your friendly face at press conferences.”

“If you need a lawyer when you kill Everhart, I know a couple of good ones.”

“Man,” Hope said, shaking her head, “She has really got it in for Barnes. Did he sleep with her and not call or something?”

“No. That was Tony,” Pepper admitted while setting the plates of food down at the table. “Come eat, ladies.”

“Are you going back to the compound right after lunch?” Karen asked. She took a bite of the waffle and then moaned, “Jesus this is good.”

“I'm going to stick around for the day. I have work to catch up on. That okay with you, Hope?”

“I'm in no rush to get back, but we should check with Hill or May, just in case.”

“If they want us back ASAP I'll just gather some stuff out of my office and my suite. I was expecting to be back here after the astrophysics conference. Instead, I drove off a cliff and got blown up. Never a dull moment.”

“You have a lot you need to get done?” Hope asked.

“A bit. I mean, I expected to get behind when I went to Portland with Jane. The important things are the requests from Children's hospitals and Make-A-Wish. Interview requests can be put off. My assistant put a few interesting requests in front of my face before the press conference. Shriner's would like Bucky to make an appearance, maybe even do a few fund-raising commercials for them. Hopefully, we can get this HYDRA situation dealt with because I think it would be an awesome thing for him to do. And the NRDC would like you and Scott to go to the Paris convention to discuss the destruction of pollinator insects.”

“If I miss the opportunity to go to Paris because of our stupid lockdown, I'm blowing up every HYDRA base I can find, personally.”

“Well, I've already made that promise, so I'm joining you.”

“Sounds like a fun girls trip,” Pepper laughed.

“What do you think, Karen?” Hope asked, “Wanna take down an evil organization?”

“I would. But I'm pretty sure I'd just end up getting kidnapped. Best to stick with babysitting misbehaving vigilantes.”

Darcy let out a huge yawn. “Tummy's full. Need more caffeine. Otherwise, I'm not going to get anything done today.”

“Promise me you'll get to bed early tonight,” Karen said sincerely.

“Pretty sure that is Bucky's plan,” Hope said with mock innocence.

The three women then started laughing at Darcy's expense. “I. Hate. You. All.”

Darcy blinked at the feeling of deja vu. She could almost see Hope laughing at Darcy saying the exact same thing. But it was wrong. Different. Jane was there. And Jemma. Darcy blinked a few times and then laughed it off.

Chapter Text

Darcy had intended to change out of her work clothes and into something both more comfortable and cuter when she, Pepper and Hope had landed back at the compound. But less than a minute after the plane landed, she got a text from Tony.

'Get thee to Barnes. He's having a bad day. Needs hug.'

So instead of taking her things to her room, she hauled her garment bag and her laptop bag over her shoulder, kicked off her uncomfortable heels, and made her way barefoot through the grass to Bucky's bungalow.

He opened the door to her right away, but he stood behind it like he was putting a barrier between them.

“I heard you were having a really bad day.”

He gave a quick curt nod. “How'd you know?”

She held up her phone, revealing Tony's text and asked, “You want to talk about it?”

“No. No, I don't.”

Darcy wasn't one to back down from a fight. Especially not a fight with a moody super soldier whom she had fallen head over heels for. So she walked right into the bungalow, dropped her bags and beamed a smile at him.

“So, dinner first or a hug?”

“Dinner?” he asked, rubbing his hand across his face with obvious exhaustion. His eyes were red-rimmed and had dark circles under them. Tony had been right. He'd had a bad day.

“We talked about dinner this morning. You aren't going to stand a girl up are you, Sarge?”

“I'm not really hungry.”

“Then a hug it is.”

Darcy wrapped her arms around his chest, pressing her cheek over his heart.

His arms didn't go around her right away, so she counted the heartbeats.

One... two... three... four...

His arms went around her finally and he let out a deep sigh. “I can’t...” his voice cracked.

“You can’t what, babe?”

“Let you go.”

“Who said you had to?”

“Walk away from me. Please.” he dropped to his knees in front of her and rested the side of his face against her belly, all the while holding tight to her. Darcy had to put her hands in his hair to maintain her balance. “I’m no good for you...you’re so bright and beautiful and I’m...”

“Don’t you dare,” she warned, lifting his chin to look up at her. “No one talks shit about my man.”

“I am.” He buried his face back into her belly. “I'm yours. I was the second you told me that you weren't special. I knew right then that you were.”

“Please get back up here and kiss me,” she begged.

He let out an exhale that may have been the beginnings of a laugh and stood back up. Bucky's hands went to her face and he looked at her with adoring intensity. The magnitude of the look brought tears to Darcy's eyes. She was so far gone when it came to this man.

She was pretty sure her she was going to melt away completely when his lips met hers with a soft, slow, sensual kiss. Her lips were captured between his until Darcy pulled back slightly, letting them slip away. He let out a sigh of protest until she nipped gently at his perfectly pouted lower lip.

Darcy felt a warm heat bloom in her belly that intensified as Bucky continued his sensual exploration of her lips and mouth with his own.

Darcy ran her hands up his muscled chest, across his shoulders, and into his hair. She rose up to her tiptoes, seeking more contact with his body, and he deepened his kiss with a moan. Leaning down, he wrapped one arm tightly around her waist while the other supported her bottom as he lifted her up.

She was very glad that she didn't change out of her dress. The thin cotton of her panties was too much fabric, and she was thankful that she didn't have more layers to deal with. She wrapped her legs around his hips.

“Bedroom, Bucky. Please.”

“Are you sure?” he huskily asked.

“I'm very sure.”

“I don't want to rush you.”

She rocked her hips against him and demanded, “Jesus, Bucky, take me to bed!”

He drew her earlobe into his mouth and then chuckled softly into her ear, “Yes ma'am.”

She placed a playful slap on his shoulder blade and scolded, “You're a shit.”

He let a grumbling laugh escape his lips as they were pressed against Darcy's neck, and my God, that felt amazing. He shifted her in his arms slightly and walked to the bedroom, all the while holding onto her as if she weighed nothing at all.

He started to loosen his grip on her and lower her to the bed but she instructed, “Turn. Sit.”

Bucky sat on the edge of the bed with her still in his arms. Darcy shifted her legs so they were no longer wrapped around his back, but instead her thighs were grasping his hips. She slid her hands under his shirt and then lifted it off.

She wanted to explore every muscle with her fingertips as if he was a marble statue. He certainly was as perfect as one. Her palms slid up the planes of his chest. Then she dragged her fingers down across his nipples, through the smattering of hair at his sternum and then up again. Her fingers traced the scars on his left shoulder. They were less horrific than they had been, thanks to Fitz, but they were still noticeable.

He watched her with unabashed desire as she moved her right hand down to his belly button and began to trace the line of hair that disappeared into his waistband.

With a growl he pulled her hips flush to his and turned them both, pressing Darcy into the mattress with his delicious weight. She pulled his mouth down to hers and he kissed her insistently. She responded by teasing his tongue with her own.

Darcy had a leg hitched up over his hip and she couldn't stop the rocking of her hips if she wanted to. She felt rather like a minx, especially considering the man in bed with her was being a little too respectful. He had kept his hands on her waist or her hips. His lips were on hers or on her neck. This wouldn't do.

She considered using her voice, but her mouth was occupied. So she put her hand over his and guided it under her dress to her thigh, caressing the skin there with both his fingers and her own. His hand started drifting higher. She repeated the instruction with their other hands, taking his and guiding it up. She squeezed gently, trapping his hand between her hand and her breast.

That squeeze was all it took.

He moaned into her mouth and his fingers began working the buttons of her dress with desperation, revealing the black lace of her bra.

“Black looks good on you,” he murmured.

“I had a feeling you'd like black lace.”

“Mmm. Your skin is so fair.”

His mouth closed over her nipple causing almost painful friction from the lace. Darcy pushed him up and off just enough to shrug out of the top of her dress and unclasp her bra, tossing it to the ground. She wiggled her hips a bit to slide out of the rest of her dress and tossed it away as well.

She lay there, on the bed, nearly naked, panting in arousal and she wondered if she looked as wanton as she felt.

Bucky just looked at her, mouth slightly agape. His chest was heaving as he breathed out, “God. You're beautiful.”

His hand was shaking as he reached out tentatively towards her, stopping just short of touching the side of her breast. He took several more breaths before she lost her patience. “That's not gonna fly, mister. We've. Made. Progress,” she reminded him with a laugh and placed his hand over her breast. “You can touch me. Yours. Remember?”

He swallowed hard. “I remember.”

Darcy tickled the hairs on the back of his neck and guided his head down until he took the initiative again. His mouth closed over her nipple again, this time unencumbered by the hateful fabric of her bra.

She let out a soft, “Yes.” And finally, something broke loose in him. His mouth moved to the other nipple and his left hand covered the one that he had abandoned. His right hand drifted up her thigh, over her panties and tugged gently on the waistband.

“Yes. Off,” Darcy instructed. She raised her hips and he eased them down her legs. Then he stroked his hands back up each of them worshipfully. He feathered kisses across each leg and then her belly.

“Darcy? Can I...?”

“Yes.” Honestly, she wasn't even sure what the question was. “Yours,” she exhaled the reminder.

Bucky drew his fingers down from her belly and let one finger slide down between her nether lips, just brushing the swollen bud there. She gasped and arched her back and he quickly pulled his hand away. “No babe, that was good. Go back.”

He kissed her belly again and looked up at her through his lashes, “Tell me what you like?”

And so she did. She guided him through the right touches with little commands, “There... Yes... Harder..” And when he got bold and decided to use his mouth she let out a string of curse words that would make a sailor blush, punctuating each with an enthusiastic “yes” as well.

The heat built and built until Darcy let out a keening wail. Bucky was holding her face in his hands in an instant. “Did I hurt you? Darcy?”

She wished she could reassure him more eloquently but she could only manage a lazy smile and an “M'good babe.”

“Oh,” he breathed and then kissed each of her still closed eyelids. “Wow.”

He placed tender kisses on each cheek, then on her forehead, before placing a soft kiss on her lips. His lips mapped her neck, her collarbone and back down to her breasts.

Darcy began rocking against him again. She dragged his mouth away from her breast and back up to her mouth. She rocked her hips up and pressed herself into his hard length and complained, “We have to get those jeans off of you.”

He looked down at her and grinned, his eyes sparkling. “Yes, ma'am.”

Her hands went to the button and zipper on his jeans, helping him shed his pants and boxers. “The ma'am thing is starting to grow on me, babe.”

And then Darcy was rendered speechless. Because he was bare. And beautiful. “Mine,” she whispered reaching out for his hard length.

“Yours,” he reminded her, but he took her reaching hand and kissed her palm. He settled his weight on her, positioned between her thighs.

Her earlier desire to explore him completely was put on hold. She just wanted him to fill her. His breathing hitched as she guided him into her body. He closed his eyes for a few heartbeats as they adjusted to the sensation of being joined. Darcy moved first, rolling her hips up, taking more of him in. His eyes fluttered open and he looked at her reverently. He kissed away the tear that she didn't realize was rolling down her cheek.

“Bucky,” she whispered, over and over between desperate kisses.

Rocking together, they were carried away by coiling desire and breathless gasps. And when he climaxed within her, he breathed, “This is heaven.”

Chapter Text

The target was on the ground. Bleeding but not dead. The soldier still had not completed his mission.

Around the target were collateral damage.

From the files, he recalled their names. Sam Wilson. Daisy Johnson. Tony Stark. Kate Bishop.

“Bucky, no,” the target cried. “Don't do this. Please. Come back to me.”

The soldier shook his head. He couldn't kill this target. He would be punished. But he... he couldn't.

He lowered his weapon. “Darcy,” the soldier choked. “Darcy.”

The soldier started to feel very warm. Very safe. The collateral damage disappeared. He hadn't killed them after all. Her voice seemed to come from another place, “Come back to me, babe. You're having a nightmare.”

Bucky awakened enough to register Darcy kissing his cheek. “Better?” she asked. He took a deep breath and then another and drifted back to sleep.

“Bucky no!” Darcy dived under the comforter on their bed. The pad of paper she had been writing on was abandoned on the floor.

“Darlin' what are you doing?” he asked with a laugh, leaning against the door frame of their bedroom.

“You can't see me today!” she exclaimed, her voice muffled by the blanket.

“I already saw you today.” Then, because he couldn't resist teasing her, “You were naked.”

Darcy let out a little, “Eep.”

He continued, “You did unspeakable things to me.”

Darcy let out a proud little laugh, “Yeah I did.” After a beat, she raised her finger like she always did when she was trying to make a point, not that he could see her finger, just the blanket pop out. “But its bad luck. You can't see the bride the day before the wedding.”

Bucky sat on the edge of the bed, “Okay, first the tradition is the day of the wedding, not the day before so you can take the blanket off your head.” she pulled it down slowly, unsure if he was telling the truth, “And second how much more bad luck are you expecting? You think we're dead.”

“Big pile of dust babe.”

He kissed her softly and asked, “You still want to marry a big pile of dust tomorrow? On the off chance, you are wrong?”

She wrapped her arms around his neck, “I think I will. For a pile of dust, you're smoking hot.”

“Whatcha working on?” he asked, nodding at the pad of paper on the floor.

She reached down and flipped it over, so he couldn't make out the writing. “Nope. Can't see that. Just putting finishing touches on my vows. You finished with yours?”

“Eh. I think I'll do the repeat after me thing. You know, love, honor, obey.” He put a little emphasis on the obey, seeing if he could get a rise out of her.

“So you're going with 'I am Groot, I am Groot, I am Groot ' for our wedding vows?”

“You're the one who wanted him to perform the ceremony.”

“He asked so nicely.”

“He said, I am Groot.”

With a laugh, she pulled him into a kiss, “So...unspeakable things...? I love that you think any position outside of missionary is super exotic.”

“What did you call it again....?”

Bucky felt like an addict. He couldn't get enough of the woman in his bed. In less than one night he was already hooked on her taste, the way she felt, the ways she moved, the sounds she made, her smile. He was even a little in love with the stinging pain from her fingernails digging into his biceps after their fourth round of lovemaking.

“I thought Farnsworth was just kidding about that....” he panted, trying to catch his breath.

Darcy stretched languorously, “About what, babe?”

“Dames screaming out his name when he was makin' love to 'em.”

“I didn't scream,” she protested.

“You did,” he argued, pulling her into his arms to rest her head on his chest.

“I know what I do in the bedroom. And I don't scream.”

“You screamed,” and he gave her bottom a little slap. Darcy gave him a scowl and raised herself up out of his arms. He began to protest until she climbed onto him. She straddled his hips and looked down at him with mock indignation.

“I. Would. Never. I don't scream like a second rate porn star.”

“Well I wouldn't know about the second rate porn star part,” he smirked, “but you screamed.”

“I may have squealed. Possibly screeched. But I didn't scream.” She crossed her arms under her chest and pouted.

Bucky was suddenly very distracted by the way that pose highlighted her breasts. He reached up to touch...

She snatched his hand away and kissed his palm, but protested, “My God, you're insatiable. Have you always been like this?”

“I wouldn't know,” he laughed.

“Wait...did I deflower you?”

“No,” he admitted. “But I'm not really what you would call experienced either, especially for this century's standards.”

“Oh goodie. Time to have 'the talk',” Darcy bounced a little and his mind went blank. “I mean, we probably should have had it earlier tonight. But we work for the same people, and I know how thorough their health screening is, and I know I'm on the pill, but still, my bad.”

“What?” He wasn't sure how she expected him to think, let alone form coherent sentences when she was rubbing against him and her breasts were bouncing like that.

Darcy looked down at him and laughed. He must have looked like an idiot, with his mouth gaping open and his eyes glazed over. He blinked a few times. “Sorry, Sassy. You were saying?”

“Babe,” she leaned over him to kiss him. “You're really adorable. I was talking about sexual history. My magic number is four. High school boyfriend, college boyfriend, other college boyfriend, and Jane's intern's intern.”

“Weren't you Jane's intern?”

“Um yeah.”

“So he was your intern?”

“I don't want to talk about him. He broke up with me by text. By text! Who does that?”

“Not me,” he said with mock sincerity before letting out a chuckle.

“Okay, Mr. Gentleman from the Greatest Generation, what's your number?”

“An angel named Sofia the night before the battle at Azzano, and one of our nurses, Annie, the night before... the train. Got to third base with a sweet dame named Connie the night before I shipped out,” he added with a shrug.

“You only got one night with each of them?”

“Does that make me a cad?”

“Oh my God, babe! No! You sweet, sweet wonderful man. Pretty sure that getting shipped off to war, captured and presumed dead gets you off the hook for not calling the next day.” She pressed kisses all over his face and feathered soft touches up and down his arms with her fingertips until she noticed, “Oh my God, I scratched you!”

“Yeah,” he chuckled, “It was great.”

This earned him a playful nip of his skin. “Sicko.”

He hummed in pleasure at that small bite.

The nips became licks and kisses. And he gasped as she sucked the skin over his collarbone, leaving a little bruise. “Damn. Those poor girls. I bet they'd have loved to have had a second or third helping of you,” she murmured into his neck.

He knew she could feel him twitching against her. She started rolling her hips in little circles, driving him mad with desire. “Again?” she sat up and asked with a hint of disbelief.

“Please,” he growled, bucking his hips up. And by God, if she didn't oblige, guiding him back into her body. She threw her head back as she rolled her hips back and forth, up and down, and in circles. He tried once to reach up and pull her close. She pushed his shoulders back down onto the bed.

“Stay,” she demanded.

He was going to tease her with a 'yes ma'am' but the words died on his tongue when he saw her reach down between her folds to touch herself. Even though he'd never seen anything like that before, and he would definitely remember, it was also achingly familiar.

As she pushed him toward climax he could almost hear her...

“It's called the cowgirl,” he heard her say.

“You're making that up,” he argued back.

“We're living inside a mystical jewel, but what's unbelievable to you is the name of a sexual position?”

Darcy collapsed onto his chest when they climaxed together, feeling each other shudder with bliss.

Bucky felt her climb off of him, but he pulled her back into his arms, tucking her up against his side. He rested his chin against the top of her head and let sleep overtake him again.

Chapter Text

Gamora and Darcy walked through the park in the middle of their settlement, “Dr. Strange and I are going out to bring more souls here. There’s one that’s been really elusive. I think she’s been trying to escape the stone on her own.”

“Any of them powered?”

“One. But the rest are strong. Any one of them may be our key to making our escape.” Gamora stopped when she noticed that Darcy wasn't walking beside her anymore. “Darcy?”

“I’m a horrible person,” Darcy said, looking at her feet.

“Because you want to stay?” Gamora said knowingly.

Darcy nodded.

“Because of Barnes.”

“I haven't even kissed him and I'm... we talk... and there's snuggling...I don't even know if he feels the same way I do...”

“He does,” a deep masculine voice came from behind them.

“Hello Stephen,” Gamora acknowledged.

“Miss Lewis,” Dr. Strange took both of Darcy's hands. “Everything will work out as it was meant to. One of those things is you and James Barnes. I know this.”

Darcy quietly admitted, “I don’t want to lose him.”

“You won’t.”

Gamora agreed, “Darcy, I've told you, he's your soulmate.”

“If that's really the case, why won't he give it up? It's been like two months, I want smoochies.”

“I cannot believe that this is a conversation that I'm having,” Strange muttered.

 

Darcy woke slowly, letting the drowsy, floaty feeling linger. Bucky was curled up behind her, warm and cozy. His fingers were tracing her hairline from her forehead to the back of her neck, over her shoulder and down to her elbow, then back up, over and over in a lazy rhythm.

“You awake?” he asked.

“Mmm. Hmm.”

He placed kisses where his fingers had just been, across her forehead, and down the side of her face. She gave up on sleep and turned enough to let him place a kiss on her lips.

“You good, babe?” she asked.

“I'm good. I’ve never been more...”

“Content?” She didn't know why she chose that word.

“Nah. I’m fucking happy.” he laughed.

Darcy turned over and propped her head up on her elbow, facing him. “You ready to talk about your no good very bad day?”

He knitted his brow and admitted, “I don't want you to be disappointed in me. Or worse, angry.”

“Seriously?” Darcy sat up and slid one leg across his hips. She looked down at him with a teasing smile, “Supersoldier is afraid of little old me?”

Bucky groaned, “You have got to stop climbing on me like that.”

That little insecure voice inside her head panicked a bit, “You don't like...?”

“I like it too much. You're damned distracting.” He ran his hands up her ribs and cupped her breasts.

“Nope.” Darcy took his hands and pinned them over his head. She placed a kiss on the tip of his nose. “You aren't getting out of this discussion.”

Bucky sighed and Darcy tugged on his hands, drawing him into a sitting position. “Come here, babe. Talk to me.”

Their forehead touched and their eyes were level with each other. She had him trapped in her gaze. And he still managed to look away from her, casting his eyes down. “Last night, when we were surrounded by HYDRA forces, I told Misty not to let them take me.”

“That's not unreasonable.”

“By any means necessary,” he glanced up at her through his thick eyelashes.

Darcy took a beat to process. Then, “Oh.” She took a deep breath, “You do know that if they took you, we'd come after you... right?”

“That's what I was worried about. If something happened to you, or Steve, or one of my team, I don't know if I could live with that.”

Darcy played with the fine, soft hairs on the back of his neck as she reasoned, “The team runs that risk every time they go out on a mission, Bucky. Hell, you could have died getting me out of Portland. We drove off a cliff!”

“Dying on a mission is one thing. It would hurt like hell to lose a teammate like that. But.. if HYDRA takes me...”

“You're worried that they'll use you as the weapon to kill the people you love.”

Bucky knitted raised his eyebrows and frowned, making little lines appear between his eyes. He looked at her with a mixture of worry and hope, that she would understand. She smoothed the worry lines with a kiss before she said, “Let's break this down logically. Okay?” She got a nod out of him, so she started, “Accept or reject: When HYDRA took you back then, no one knew you were alive so there was no hope of rescue.”

“Accept,” he said quietly.

“Accept or reject: Even though you believed you would never be rescued you still fought back for 20 years.”

“Accept.”

“Accept or reject: Even after 70 years of brainwashing, you still couldn’t kill Steve when you were ordered to.”

The pause was longer, but he nodded and admitted, “Accept.”

“Ok then. How long do you think it would take for us to mount a rescue attempt?”

A shrug, “Dunno A few days?”

“Do you think that HYDRA can overcome Shuri’s counter-programming quickly enough to make you a weapon again in just a few days?”

“Probably not. No.”

“And if you knew that about two dozen superheroes would be out to rescue you, could you fight their attempts at programming you for a few days?”

“I would try.”

“You'd do better than try. Because if they take you from me...? There will be serious hell to pay.” Darcy took his face and her hands and very firmly said, “No matter what. No matter WHAT. I will find you. I'll find you, I swear. Okay?”

His response was quiet but sure. “Okay.”

“Good. Because Bucky Barnes, Badass Extraordinaire is tougher than anything HYDRA can throw at him.”

This earned her a smile, “How'd you get to be so smart?”

“I have a god damned Master's degree, Barnes.”

He rolled his hips a bit, “Smart is very sexy, Sassy.”

“Nope, babe,” she climbed off him quickly and flopped down onto the mattress, “I have to turn you down...too sore.”

A little bit of guilt flashed across his face as he leaned over her, “I'm sorry.”

“You should be!” she gave his shoulder a playful shove, “Normal humans don’t have sex seven times in one night! Well...maybe if only lady parts are involved. Maybe. But normal dudes can’t do that.”

He smirked at her, “I’m a super soldier babe.”

“Oh how quickly your adorable concern has turned to male ego.”

His hand started drifting down her abdomen, “What can I do to make you feel better?”

“Not that!” She gently smacked his hand, “Ouchies, remember?”

“Do you need an ice pack?” he chuckled.

“No, but you do! Or a cold shower!” She sighed. “I'd love a shower but I don’t think I can walk.”

“I could just carry you everywhere,” he offered.

“Good idea!” And in a few beats, he was on his feet and she was slung over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. “To the shower! I’m guessing you’ve never had shower sex, it’s awesome.”

“You just said...”

“I know what I said.. and I meant it. No touchies of me. But shower sex will be had.”

“How are you planning on managing that, Sassy?”

“Oh boy, I have so much to teach you ”

“I'm not as naive as you think, I was in the army.”

“All talk. No action until last night. I'm going to have so much fun corrupting you, Barnes..”

After a hot shower, Darcy felt a little more human, a little less sore, and still very much like a sex goddess. Especially since Bucky was currently half-passed out, face down on the bed, worn out from what she had done to him (or for him) in the shower.

She was quite pleased that he had bacon and eggs in his refrigerator, less pleased that the only coffee he had was unflavored, and lukewarm about the fact that she was dressed again. At least she had her own clothes this time since she had come straight to his cottage after she got back from the Tower, with everything she needed, including her laptop. Darcy had a sneaking suspicion that he would drag her back to his bed the second she tried to go to her room in the main building.

She was checking her email between frying up the bacon and eggs when a text popped up from Stark.

'About to have company. Tell BB to put his pants on.'

“How does he know?” she mumbled. “Babe! Put your pants on, we're gonna have company.”

“Don't wanna,” he called back.

“You really want Stark to see you naked? Besides, there's bacon.”

“Bacon?”

He emerged from the bedroom, hair still wet, wearing jeans and nothing else. “Jesus, you're pretty,” Darcy breathed.

“All yours, babe.” He grabbed a piece of bacon but kissed her before he took a bite.

“Kissing me before you wolf down the bacon? That's affection, babe.”

“Yeah. I'm kind of fond of you.”

The expected knock on the door came just then. “That's Stark.”

Darcy watched with fondness as he licked his fingers and then wiped the bacon grease off on his jeans. It was such a guy thing to do.

Bucky opened the door, but it wasn't Stark standing there.

“Really?” Kate gestured to Bucky's bare chest. “Good god. I keep getting into platonic relationships with Greek gods. And Norse gods. And super soldiers. I mean, you could grate cheese on those abs.”

“Hey, Katie. I mean Agent Bishop. Kate. I’m so sorry about yesterday.”

Kate had her hand over her eyes. “Acceptance of your apology is contingent upon you putting on a shirt. I can’t think straight. Hey Darcy”

“What did he do?” Darcy laughed.

“Not important, let’s just assume that your boyfriend was an incredible dumb ass.”

Darcy shrugged, since she had a feeling she knew exactly why Kate was angry with him, “Assumption accepted.”

“Hey,” Bucky protested.

Kate pointed at him and narrowed her eyes. With each word, she poked his chest. “Incredible. Dumb. Ass.”

Darcy giggled, “Poking the bear.” Darcy filled her plate up and sat on his couch, gingerly lowering herself down to the cushions. She then giggled a little more. “Sorry. Sleep deprived.”

“Me too,” Kate laughed, “But for much less fun reasons.”

Bucky was actually blushing and looked relieved when Kate dismissed him with, “You. Shirt. Now.”

Darcy noted the bag Kate was carrying, “What did you bring?”

“Something for the dumb ass. I was up with Tony working on it for like 24 straight hours.”

“Something to keep HYDRA from kidnapping him?”

“He tell you?”

“Yep.”

“You kick his ass?”

“Nah. I went the mature talking route. Besides, that ass is too fine to damage.”

“Seriously?” Bucky scowled at Darcy as he came back in the room, tugging a tee shirt on. “I thought you'd be above objectification, Darce.”

“You thought wrong, Buck.”

Bucky strode purposefully towards Kate and pulled her into a hug. “I am really, truly sorry.”

“I know. Me too. I shouldn't have slapped you. It was shitty.”

“Kind of deserved it, kid.”

“Brought you a present.”

“Yeah?”

Kate sat on the couch and pulled out a small round disk, about an inch in diameter. It was attached to a chain. “Put it on.”

Bucky sat on the coffee table opposite her and with complete trust, he complied, slipping the chain over his neck.

“I’ll have you know that I had to spend hours with Tony Stark, of all people, to make this for you.”

“What's it do?”

“Press the disk,” she instructed. “Darcy, you might want to step back.”

Darcy stuffed the rest of the bacon into her mouth and went back to the kitchen and stood behind the counter.

“Oh, this is gonna suck for me,” Kate muttered. She steeled herself, reached out and grabbed Bucky's arm. A red wave of energy shot out from the disk, knocking Kate back so hard that the couch went slamming backwards into the kitchen.

Kate started laughing. “Woah... that was kind of awesome.”

“What was that?” Darcy asked, shocked.

“Modified repulsing beam. There are 50 pulses in that disk. You have to press it every time. We tried to fix it so you didn't have to reset but...” Kate shrugged.

“This is amazing. Thank you, Katie.”

“There's another thing.” She pulled out a contraption about the size of an old fashioned telephone.
“When I tell you, press that button. Darcy, come over by me.” Kate rose off the couch and stood near the door. Once Darcy was next to her, she instructed, “Okay Bucky Bear, give it a push.”

Kate held her arm out, keeping Darcy back.

As soon as Bucky pushed the button, a thick foam started rushing out of the device. It was hot pink and slightly glittery and smelled strongly of cotton candy.

“What the hell?” Bucky muttered. He tried to move but the foam had hardened around him and he was immobilized from the waist down. “Kate!”

She very calmly explained, “The foam will dissolve in a couple of hours. In the meantime, you think about what you did.”

“Or you could think of all the things you did to me last night,” Darcy offered, giving him a sunny smile. “See you later, babe.”

“Darcy! Are you really leaving me like this? Darcy!”

Outside, Kate threaded her arm through Darcy's. “Pepper is making crepes with orange crème filling for the girls. Sound good?”

“He really gonna be okay in there?”

“Oh yeah, with his strength, he can probably break out in a half an hour or so.”

“He's gonna kill you, Kate.”

“Wasn't my plan, I was just the method of delivery.”

Everywhere on the grounds, Friday announced in her artificial voice, “One, two three, four, Mr. Stark declares a prank war.”

Chapter Text

Darcy took in the décor of the dining area of the compound. Granite counter tops, concrete pillars, cafeteria style tables. The view was nice, but the whole place was too 'Tony'. The Tower had much more of a 'Pepper' vibe. And she preferred it. There were other parts of Tower living that she truly loved, like the hustle and bustle of the city outside, the ability to have food delivered at all times of the night, and decent take-out coffee.

Honestly, she hadn't spent more than an hour at the upstate facility before, and she wasn't sure she understood the appeal. The whole place seemed too small for the group, even with the additional cottages, like Bucky's, that were built for the Avengers who preferred to remain at the compound full time.

“Mmm hmm,” Natasha hummed knowingly, as Darcy eased herself down at one of the circular dining tables. “I know that feeling.”

Kate sat down next to Darcy and chuckled.

“What feeling?” Wanda, who was sitting across from Darcy, asked.

“She can barely walk, and her abdominal muscles are killing her, but at the same time, she has a great big goofy ass grin on her face. Darcy's been super-soldiered.”

“Oh my God,” Darcy leaned over to Nat. “Is Steve like that? Because...ow.”

“He hurt you?” Wanda asked with a mixture of concern and disbelief.

“No! Well....yes. But it was unintentional. I'm just a little...”

“Hella sore,” Nat finished. “How many times?”

“Seven! That's not normal!”

Hope, who was sitting at a table behind Nat, turned towards their conversation. She swallowed hard, “Did you say seven? Like... you had seven...?”

“Nope. Seven complete rounds of nookie. I lost count of how many times I...” Darcy looked at Wanda, who sat wide-eyed across from her, “I feel like I am corrupting a minor.”

“I'm not a virgin, Darcy,” She gave Darcy a wink and a smile. Wanda rose from the table to get more of Pepper's sinful crepes.

“But does it count if your boyfriend is a robot?” Elena 'YoYo' Rodriguez pondered as she stole Wanda's chair.

Hope was still stuck on “Seven?” She turned her chair and wedged it between Nat's and Darcy's.

“Eight for him. There was shower naughtiness. But I wouldn't let him anywhere near...” Darcy made an expansive gesture that encompassed her midsection.

Kate, who had taken the seat next to Darcy asked Natasha, “Seriously? Is Steve like that?”

“Only if we've been apart for a while, or there was a scary close call on a mission. But that first night... he was pretty relentless. Years of built up sexual tension all being expressed in about 96 hours of nearly nonstop, soul-searing, mind-blowing....” Nat looked around and noticed that every woman in the room was listening to her, even Jemma and Jane who had been deep in discussion about some scientific breakthrough.

“And... everyone is looking at me...” If it had been possible for Nat to blush, Darcy thinks she would have. “Anyway. Stop by my room later, I can put together a 'surviving supersoldier sex ' care package for you.”

“It's about damned time the two of you got together,” Daisy laughed.

Elena looked at Daisy and said, “About time? They've known each other three days.”

Half the room looked at Elena like she was crazy. Some even looked a little hostile. Darcy found herself counting the days over and over in her head. That couldn't be right? Could it?

Daisy voiced the thought, “That doesn't sound right....”

“Daisy, you were there the day they met,” Elena argued back.

Kate offered, “It's weird, but it doesn't feel like they just met. It's like they're supposed to be together.”

Then Jane said to Darcy, “Like you have been together forever.”

“Like they're...” Jemma trailed off.

And Wanda completed, “Soulmates.”

Jessica Jones broke the weird reverie with, “I did not drag my happy ass out of bed, to gossip about men like a bunch of biddies. I need something to do, other than watching Coco with Vito again.”

Maria Hill nodded and gestured to the empty conference room. They all filed in, and as the door shut, Hill announced, “Ladies. We are at war.”

The room rocked with whoops and laughter.

“Are we sure this is a good idea, right now?” Jemma asked, all the while with a smile on her face in anticipation. “With the lockdown?”

Hill shrugged, “That's exactly why we need it.”

“Wait, Where's Melinda?” Daisy asked, glancing around the room.

“Agent May is bringing in a few assets.”

“Are we really doing boys against girls?” Nat complained, “Really? I got caught in the crossfire last time.”

“You shouldn't have shared a shower with Steve,” Hope laughed.

“How was I supposed to know that you were gonna up the time table by four hours?”

Darcy remembered that particular prank, “Your skin was green for two days,” she chuckled. “But...um...point of clarification,” Darcy shifted the subject back upon seeing Natasha's glare, “Why boys versus girls? Tony is the one who fired the first shot, against Bucky.”

Pepper spoke up, “Not exactly. Friday, display Mr. Stark's lab.”

Tony Stark was stuck from waist down in a big swirled pile of pink, lavender and blue foam. Unlike Bucky, Tony's arms were free and he was gesticulating wildly. Even without audio, it was clear that Tony was yelling commands at everyone in the vicinity.

Mack and Scott were poking at the unyielding foam and shrugging. Sam and Clint, meanwhile, were laughing and pointing.

“I call it unicorn poop,” Hope said proudly.

“When did you come up with this?” Darcy laughed.

It was Pepper who explained, “After brunch, while you were working.”

Hope said with mock innocence, “Tony left the lab in the tower all empty... all those toys... so lonely. I had to do something...”

“And Hope gave the prototype to me, for our Bucky bear,” Kate said.

To Hope, Darcy asked, “What did Bucky do to you?”

“Scott bet me that Bucky would dance disco before he would ever sing karaoke. I lost 50 dollars and my pride. All over a few little turns and a dip.”

Wanda looked perplexed, “But Friday made the announcement that Mr. Stark was the one declaring war.”

The AI explained, “Ms. Potts very kindly asked me to point the finger at Mr. Stark.”

Elena watched as her boyfriend took out a crowbar and started working on the foam. Every time he chipped off a piece, it expanded to fill the gap, “That stuff is diabolical.”

Steve, Bruce, and Fitz had entered the lab. Bruce and Fitz appeared to be analyzing the molecular structure of the foam. The others were gathered around Tony.

Natasha laughed, “Look at them plotting and planning...How many devices are there?”

“One in each of the guy's rooms, unless they are sharing with a girlfriend. One in the weight room, I thought I might catch Steve in there. Two in the men's locker areas. And five in the labs.”

Vision came into the lab and tried to phase through the foam to release Stark. Pietro tried to make the foam vibrate off.

Hill asked the room, “What should we do, ladies?”

And it was Wanda who gave the command, “Release the poop.”

Darcy thoroughly enjoyed watching the shimmery pastel foam fill the lab, trapping nearly all the men within it. Clint managed to scamper onto a cabinet and avoided the foam in its entirety, much to Natasha's annoyance.

Unfortunately, Darcy didn't really get to enjoy it, because her phone started to ring. Checking the display she answered the call from her assistant with, “I'm supposed to be on vacation!”

“I just had a few issues I needed help with,” her assistant begged.

Darcy sighed and retreated to find an empty office. As she left, Natasha reminded her, “Hey. Find me later?”

There were very few things that were more frustrating than trying to work in an unfamiliar office. A few issues her assistant couldn't handle had turned into nearly an entire day of work. And the last thing she wanted to deal with was Brad, from legal.

“We don't need to initiate legal action against a little old lady selling hand made needle felted Hulk dolls at craft sales, Brad!”

Darcy pinched the bridge of her nose in utter frustration. She was supposed to be at the astrophysics conference in Portland for another three days, followed by sightseeing with Jane in Portland and Seattle. Instead, she'd already been dragged into work once, been in a car chase, been driven off a cliff, and been an explosion. (She'd also had the most mind-blowing sex of her life, but that was beside the point).

“We have licensing for a reason,” Brad tried to man-splain.

“Yes. To keep mass-produced Avengers merchandise out of the market so it doesn't compete against ours, thereby taking money away from the children's' charities our merchandise supports. But suing Grandma Rose from Des Moines over her handcrafted Hulk dolls, that she maybe sells four a year of, would be a PR nightmare. So please. Give. Me. A Break. Okay?”

Darcy hung up the phone and banged her head against the desk, “I'm on vacation,” she muttered to herself.

She almost threw her phone across the room when she got a text alert. But then she saw it was from Natasha.

'Steve and I are leaving in 30 to assist May with extraction. Come and get your SSSSK.'

The message was followed by a happy face emoji.

Darcy took a few beats to suss out the acronym. To herself, she chuckled, “Super Soldier Sex Survival Kit. I should have legal patent that.”

She probably should have texted something in response before she headed that way. But she couldn't stand to look at the plain walls of that office for another second. If she had just texted, she probably wouldn't have found herself eavesdropping at their partially open door.

“I'm telling you, Steve, it was bizarre.”

“Maybe Daisy and Kate thought that they had met before...Bucky's team goes to the Tower for social events all the time, it would be logical to assume that he and Darcy already knew each other,” Steve reasoned.

“But Bucky doesn't ever go. He stays here. They hadn't met, yet, Steve. Darcy even admitted it.”

“So it's happening a little fast. I've literally never seen Bucky this happy, not even before...Not everyone's relationship has to move as glacially slow as ours did.”

“It's not that. I agree with you. They're good together. What bothers me is that half the room looked like I had grown a second head when Elena mentioned that they had only known each other three days. And, Steve... Guess. Which. Half.”

Darcy was feeling very uncomfortable all of a sudden.

“All of them were....?” Steve's voice trailed off.

“Yep.”

Darcy didn't want to eavesdrop any longer. The sick feeling in her stomach and the heat on her face weren't going to go away if she stood there, listening. So she cleared her throat and knocked.

“Nat?”

Natasha gave her a wide smile, not showing in her face at all that she had just been talking about her. Steve was easier to read, a flush creeping across his neck.

Nat proudly held out a plain brown shopping bag. “Just some things I've found handy,” she explained. “Ibuprofen... a warm pack for your belly...”

“Sounds more like a menstrual cramps survival kit.”

“Super industrial lube! Developed by Stark tech. This stuff is fantastic.” Natasha held up a large bottle with glee and Steve literally turned red from the top of his ears down to his collar.

“Oh my god,” he muttered.

“And the piece de resistance,” Nat pulled out a squirt gun and began shooting Steve in the face. “Just in case he doesn't get the hint. Here. Take a few shots, get some practice.”

“You want me to shoot Steve?”

“Nope. Behind you.”

Darcy didn't get a chance to shoot, because Bucky was on her in an instant, slinging her over his shoulder like a caveman. She laughed gleefully. “Hey babe, you just now get out of the foam?”

“Nope. Been out for hours, had Friday tell me when you left the office.” With a nod, he acknowledged, “Hey punk, Nat.”

“You got foamed too?” Steve asked.

“Man, I got foamed first. Still have shimmery stuff on me. Now, someone is gonna pay.”

Darcy laughed again, “Wait, am I being dragged away for sex or for revenge?”

“Little bit of both.”

Chapter Text

Darcy closed her eyes and let the rest of her senses run wild.

The taste of sweet red wine was dissipating from her tongue.

Billie Holiday's earnest vocals echoed through the room.

The smell of pot roast drifted from the kitchen but was overshadowed by the smell of lavender bath water.

But all of the rest of her senses were dwarfed by the touches of Bucky's fingertips sliding up and down her arm, the warmth of his chest against her back, his thighs pressed on the outside of hers, and the tickle of the bubbles in the bath water.

“Babe,” she sighed, “You have a very strange definition of revenge.”

“Are you complaining?” he asked huskily.

“Nope,” she reached over the edge of the tub for her wine glass and took another sip.

“Just out of curiosity, did Kate tell you how to get the shimmery stuff off my skin. Didn't stick to the fabrics, but it's all over my hands.”

“Noticed some on your tummy too. It's kind of adorable.”

Bucky let out a little growl. “Shirt must've ridden up.”

“Kate didn't make the foam anyway. It was Hope. Don't ask me how. I'm no scientist. If you want to discuss the geopolitical ramifications of the Sokovia Accords, I'm your gal.”

“Your Master's thesis.”

“Yeah. How'd you know that?”

Darcy could feel Bucky's shrug against her back, “Must have been in your file.”

“Hmm.” She turned her head to offer a kiss, which he gently accepted. After a hum of approval, Darcy informed him, “I'm afraid you're gonna have to stay shimmery babe.

“And if you knew how to get it off, would you tell me?”

“Nope.”

“Even after I ran you a bath, made you dinner and plied you with wine?”

“What can I say? The prank war is sacred among us Tower folk.”

“When the lockdown is over, you heading right back there?”

“I'm not going anywhere until I've had some of that roast, it smells amazing.” Darcy knew Bucky wasn't stupid. She had dodged the question. He knew it. She knew that he knew it. So...she decided to jump off another cliff. “Can I ask you something...? Is this is a fling? Because I kind of need to know. And you don't have to lie to me. Because I swear if it is just a fling, I won't be upset.”

She felt him tense up a bit behind her but she had continued rambling, “That's a fucking lie. I'd be upset. Because you're so amazing that I really want to keep you. But I wouldn't be angry with you. I'd get it. We've been through some pretty intense shit in the last few days. Totally natural that we'd end up in bed together. And I totally understand that.”

“Sassy,” he turned her chin up to look at his face, “this isn't a fling. Not for me.”

“Good. Okay.”

“You have something else on your mind,” it wasn't a question.

“Do you think we're moving too fast? Just to clarify, I don't. This feels completely right. Totally natural. But today I got the impression that some of the others think we're completely insane. Then again some people think that the people who think that we're insane are insane.”

“Oh my god, woman, hush! …” He pressed his lips against hers, much more sweetly than she expected from a scolding.

Darcy purred, “I like it when you shut me up with kisses.”

“I'm glad. I plan on doing it quite a lot. …especially since you ramble when you're nervous.” He was smiling against her lips as he said that, something Darcy decided she liked very much. One kiss turned to several, and just as they became desperate, he sighed, leaned back and reached for his wine.

“Why do you care about what anyone else thinks, anyway?”

“Kind of my job, babe.”

“No. Your job is to care about what the world outside thinks about the Avengers Initiative. You and me? Nobody's business but ours.”

Darcy took another sip of her wine.

“I can hear your wheels spinning, Darlin'.”

She smiled at the new nickname and confessed, “Something Daisy said today. That it was about damned time that we got together. And it didn't seem weird at all. Like, sh'yeah it's about damned time!”

“Maybe it's because you've been harboring a crush on me since, what? Middle school?”

“You're gloating.”

He chuckled then.

“I love your laugh,” Darcy admitted.

“Yeah. I love some of the noises I've heard you make, too.” His hand started to drift down her hip, her thigh and then towards her center.

“You did promise me revenge and sex,” she reminded him, sliding her hand on top of his.

“Probably shouldn't. Used you up last night.”

She guided his hand down further and then back up, teasing her folds open. “I'm recharged, babe,” she whispered. “Please.”

Darcy leaned back, nestling her head against Bucky's shoulder, placing soft kisses against his neck. “Please,” she whispered again.

His breath rasped against her cheek. The water lapped with the same lazy rhythm of his hand. His fingers were dancing against the sensitive nub at her core. Back and forth, then in little circles, pressing and then drifting away. Darcy began to move her hips, chasing the rhythm that he refused to give her. The water lapped harder against the tub, splashing over the side. Bucky's other arm was wrapped around her breast and he dragged his thumb across one nipple over and over. Heat built slowly and bloomed as the muscles in her thighs and belly tightened. She wasn't cognizant that she had been whimpering until he whispered in her ear, “I love that sound.”

She arched her back and rolled her hips more quickly, seeking satisfaction.

Another whisper, this one exhaled against her lips. “Yes. That's my girl.”

“Bucky... god...” she exhaled as a wave of warmth and throbbing release swept over her. But it wasn't enough. It only stoked the fire low in her belly.

She turned in the tub, straddling Bucky between her knees. He stopped her hand as it was guiding his length inside. “You're hurt.”

She pushed his hand away, “M'fine. Want you.”

She sank down, taking him into her and sighed. “Mmmm. Babe. This is good.”

Darcy buried her face in his neck, pressed her chest against his, wrapped her arms around his neck, and it still wasn't enough. She wanted to melt into him completely. They moved slowly but steadily together until Bucky's breath began to hitch in his throat.

“Look at me,” he whispered.

She dragged her lips away from his neck and opened her eyes. He took her face in his hands, and they reached the peak together, looking deep into each other's eyes.

Chapter Text

“He can cook too?” Darcy laughed, pulling her shirt over her head as she left the bathroom. Her fingers were still pruned from the extended time in the water.

Bucky was pulling the roast out of the oven. “No. Can't cook. I can make spaghetti, roast, and porridge.”

“What the hell is porridge, anyway?” she asked, reaching for one of the carrots in the pan.

He snatched her hand away, “Nope. Too hot.”

She placed a kiss on his bare shoulder and commented, “Not the only thing in the kitchen that's hot.”

“Do I need to get out that squirt gun Natasha gave you?”

With a little wiggle of her eyebrows Darcy admitted, “You might. You're so delicious I could eat you right up.”

It was a perfect night. The roast was amazing, even though Bucky used sliced up carrots instead of the little ones that Darcy liked. She liked that they made her feel like a giant. He thought they were 'an abomination'.

They talked for hours, made love again, and fell asleep. And when Darcy drifted off she fell into the most wonderful dream.

Bucky sat next to her with his arm slung over her shoulder. He used the other hand to wipe away the tears that ran down his face. His whole body shook.

“Jesus, Darlin'. This is hysterical.”

Darcy agreed. She was pretty glad that she had caved to Quill and allowed karaoke to continue as scheduled, despite the fact that they had interrupted what was probably going to be a spectacular first kiss with Bucky.

Sam and Quill had decided to do a 'Marvin Gaye battle' as it were, and were trading verses, becoming more and more dramatic and ridiculous as the songs progressed.

Across the room, Groot kept growing flowers and giving them to Wanda. She had about a dozen woven through her hair at this point, and the adolescent tree kept giving more to her. It was good to see her out with the others. She did look a million times better than she had just that morning. Darcy didn't know what the cause was for the miraculous turnaround, just that Stephen Strange had said something to her which brought her out of her funk.

Darcy leaned over to Bucky and whispered, “I think Groot has a crush.”

Bucky looked over at her and smiled. He took her hand in his, and whispered back, “He's not the only one.” Then he placed a soft kiss on her cheek. Bucky then shocked the hell out of her by rising to take the floor for the next song.

“Holy shit! Barnes is going to sing!”

Honestly, Darcy didn't know what was more shocking; the fact that Bucky was indeed going to sing, or the fact that T'Challa had just yelled that.

“Just one verse, then I'm bringing in a ringer. But I do have other talents...”

Darcy's heart was beating out of her chest and her stomach had butterflies. He looked so adorably nervous, and she felt the nerves as well.

The music began and Bucky started singing:

Heaven, I'm in heaven,
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing, cheek to cheek
Heaven, I'm in heaven,
And the cares that hang around me through the week
Seem to vanish like a gambler's lucky streak
When we're out together dancing, cheek to cheek

Janet VanDyne took over the song from there and Bucky reached out his hand to Darcy, “May I have this dance?”

She giggled and took his hand. He pulled her in and guided her in a simple foxtrot. “Gonna spin you out. Ready?”

One quick spin and she was back in his arms. There was enthusiastic applause from the group and Darcy blushed, and looked at her feet with a giggle.

“Don't look at your feet, look at me. Okay?”

“I'll step on your toes.”

“No you won't. Just let me lead you.”

Other couples, both romantic and otherwise, joined them. Quill and Gamora, Hope and her dad, Sam and Daisy, T'Challa and Jane, and even Groot and Wanda. Groot picked up his feet and stomped a little as he danced. Hank and Hope could cut a rug pretty well, the others mostly just swayed.

None of them moved with Bucky's easy confidence. Darcy was completely charmed. “You're so good at this.”

“I have a good partner.”

“Good at dancing. Terrible at lying. Just terrible.”

He smiled widely but ignored the insult. “Ready to try a lift?”

He didn't wait for her response, he just picked her up by the waist and spun around while she squealed. They were both laughing as he lowered her back down. Smiling, with their eyes locked, Bucky bent to kiss her softly.

Raucous responses erupted around them. Parker said something about them being cute. Groot said...well, what he always said. And Sam yelled out, “That's what I'm talking about!”

Darcy didn't break the kiss, but gave them all the middle finger. And all the while, Janet sang...

I'm in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

As Darcy started to awaken the song changed.

I'm a man without conviction
I'm a man who doesn't know
How to sale a contradiction?
You come and go, you come and go

Darcy reached for her phone as the song suddenly stopped with a single, “Karma...”

“What the...? That's not my ringtone.”

“Ignore it,” Bucky mumbled. “Come back here.”

She snuggled up against him for an hour but was unable to sleep. That stupid song was stuck in her head now. At nine am it happened again.

Young man, there's a place you can go
I said, young man, when you're short on your dough
You can stay there, and I'm sure you will find
Many ways to have a good time
It's fun to stay at the...

 

“What the actual hell?” Darcy yelled, tossing the phone off the nightstand and onto the floor.

“What is wrong with your phone?” Bucky asked.

“Oh shit,” Darcy muttered as it dawned on her. “Stark. He's set ear worms on us.”

“What's an ear worm?”

“Those songs that you can't get out of your head.”

“Don't know that song,” Bucky shrugged.

“Well it's a nightmare.” Darcy climbed out of bed to get her phone. “One way to get them out is to listen to the song in its entirety....” She opened her browser and went to every music site she could think of. Every time she tried to play the song she received a great big jpeg announcing that Stark Industries could not open the page. “He blocked access to the songs. No. Nonononono.”

“Sassy you look a little... frazzled.”

She flopped back on the bed. “Distract me.”

“I think I can do that,” he said seductively.

After twenty minutes of quite effective distraction, and twenty-five minutes of making and eating breakfast, it happened again.

Am I your fire?
Your one desire
Yes I know it's too late
But I want it that way

Tell me...

“Break the phone,” Darcy demanded, handing it to Bucky. “Crush it. Like you did before.”

He handed it back to her, “Sorry darlin'. I've been told that the prank war is sacred.”


 

 

Chapter Text

“This may be the cruelest prank in the history of the prank war,” Darcy admitted.

“After that earworm thing? They deserve it,” Hope popped a blueberry in her mouth.

It had been four days since the earworm incident. Every hour on the hour, one of those songs, the ones that always got stuck in your head, played over every woman's phone or were piped into their lab or office. In the middle of the hook, the song would cut off. We Will Rock You. Who Let the Dogs Out. The Andy Griffith Theme. The opening notes to The Final Countdown, The freaking Macarena. And the last song of the night? Never Gonna Give You Up. Stark wouldn't let anyone access that song on the internet for a full forty-eight hours.

Some of the women almost broke. Jane was begging for the women to surrender. Daisy was desperately trying to out-hack Tony. Jemma was openly offering kinky sexual favors to Fitz if he would just build her a CD player. (Why she had a Rick Astley CD in her room was beyond Darcy.) But Hope held firm and came up with a diabolical way to torture the men.

“Tony's not doing well,” Pepper admitted. “He's looking around every corner. Checking every little thing. The paranoia is real. It's hilarious.”

“Turns out, not retaliating is the best kind of retaliation,” Daisy said, before shoving a big bite of blueberry pancake into her mouth. “And to think,” she said with her mouth full, “we came up with this without the queen of psychological torture here to guide us,”

“Has anyone heard from them?” Hope asked about Steve, Natasha, and May.

“Steve has checked in with Bucky every day,” Darcy said. “No details just, a lot of 'punks' and 'jerks'. Haven't heard anything from Nat specifically. That reminds me, I need to ask Tony for more of that supersoldier sex lube that Nat gave me.”

Daisy choked on her pancake.

“What? Four or five times a night appears to be Bucky's norm. And I don't want a repeat of the first morning. Because... Ow.”

“I will never be able to look Buck in the eye again,” Daisy snorted.

Pepper took Darcy's hands and begged, “Can I please, please be there when you tell Tony that Natasha is marketing the lubricant he developed for Dum-E as 'supersoldier sex lube'?”

“Oh, I wanna be there too,” Daisy laughed.

“When do you sleep?” Hope asked Darcy.

“I don't,” she laughed. “Totally worth it. Breakfast was awesome as usual, Pep, but Daisy and I gotta get to work. Love you guys.”

 

*****

“You can't shoot for shit, Buckster,” Kate teased.

“Bow isn't my weapon,” he grumbled back.

Kate aimed her ICER towards the sky. It was currently loaded with what Fitz called, 'snowballs', rounds that lit up when they hit their target but didn't do much of anything else except sting. “Gun isn't my weapon. And yet...”

“Ow! Dammit!” Sam yelled out from above.

“Nice shot, Katie Kate,” Clint Barton complimented. “She's got skills, Barnes. You don't.”

“The odds of her needing to use an ICER are much higher than the odds of me needing to use a bow.”

“Don't be a grumpy pants about it, Buck. I'm better than you. Accept. Move on.”

Bucky drew back the bow and fired.

“Summbitch!”

“You were saying, Agent Bishop?”

“Why am I the target?”

“Don't be a baby, Sam,” Daisy scolded as she arrived.

“You're late, Daze,” Bucky told her, without looking away from his moving target in the sky. Sam slowed and waved to Daisy. Bucky released an arrow with a snowball tip that hit Sam in the thigh.

Kate fired off three quick shots. All three hit their target. “You got distracted, Sam.”

“Daisy was with me,” an unexpected voice announced.

“Darcy? What are you doing out here?” Bucky dropped the bow and went to her, pulling her close as if they hadn't seen each other mere hours before.

“Came to get you. You guys ready?”

“Ready for what?” Bucky asked suspiciously.

“Come on,” she tugged on his arm, “Stark and Fitzsimmons are waiting at the jet.”

 

*****
“Every week?” Bucky asked with disbelief as he watched Kate coach an archery class on the roof of the tower.

“Every week,” Darcy smiled. “We have STEM classes that are specifically for girls. Therapy sessions for trauma victims, sexual assault survivors... Did you know that there are after-school activities every day? We have a basketball league, dance classes, computer classes...most of them are run by other Initiative employees, but most of the Avengers have a pet activity they help with.”

“That's why my team comes up here so often.”

“Daisy teaches a computer class. Sam helps with the therapy sessions and the basketball team. Kate helps Nat teach dance and....well...” Darcy stopped and bit her lip.

“It's okay, Darce. I know about what happened to Katie.”

“Okay. Wasn't my place to tell you. She's pretty inspirational to those women. Talk about taking back your power. But... you aren't here for this stuff. You're here for something special. Someone special. Head up to Fitzsimmons' lab. I'll find you later.”

*****

Bucky was familiar with Jemma and Leo's shared lab. It was one of the few places at the Tower where he had spent an abundance of time. He liked spending time with them, loved the way they finished each other's sentences, the way they moved around the lab like they were performing a dance, the way they communicated without words. He had been hoping against hope, and thinking he would never have something like what they had. Now, maybe he did.

When he got off the elevator and stepped into the foyer, he was expected to be greeted by Fitz, instead, he came face to face with an unexpected guest.

He couldn't help the panicked sound to his voice when he saw her, “What the hell are you doing here? You promised you’d stay in Wakanda.”

She was, by contrast, completely lackadaisical, “And I did... for an entire week.”

“Shuri...” Bucky growled.

“You worry too much, Sargeant Bucky.” She gestured back at the two people accompanying her, “I’ve been with my brother this whole time. And with Okoye.”

“Except for when you went to Starbucks,” Okoye reminded her.

“Yes, except for then.”

Bucky closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, “I’m going to have a stroke. You could have been kidnapped.”

“Why would anyone...?”

“Why would anyone kidnap the sister of the sovereign of the most technologically advanced nation on the planet who by the way happens to be the smartest human in the world? Gee. I don’t know!”

Okoye leaned over to T'Challa and muttered, “I think he actually might have a stroke.”

Tchalla responded with, “I think that’s the most words I’ve ever heard him speak at once.”

Shuri ignored them both, “I’m perfectly safe. Brother, tell him.”

T'Challa's hands went up in a defensive position, “Oh no. I am not getting involved in this.”

Just then, Sam Wilson stepped off the other elevator, arms wide open and joked, “Where’s my pretty princess at?”

Okoye's eyes widened and she said under her breath, “Oh shit.”

Bucky spun on Sam raised his pointed finger and hissed, “Wilson, I swear to God!”

Sam repeated Okoye's sentiment, with equally wide eyes, “Oh shit.”

“Language!” Tony Stark scolded as he poked his head out of the lab door. “Barnes, get your ass in here and meet Emma.”

As Bucky walked into the lab, Stark leaned into his shoulder and said quietly, “Osteosarcoma of the humerus. Found it on x-ray when she was in a car accident that killed her parents. Bitch of a thing. She's been adopted by her uncle and his husband. Nice guys.”

A little girl, about 8 years old was sitting across from Fitz. Her robotic prosthetic arm was resting on an exam table and Fitz was using a tiny screwdriver on it. The little girl was kicking her feet, but otherwise holding still, while chatting away with a smiling Fitz.

Next to the window, two thirty-something gentlemen were indulging Peter Parker as he showed them gadget after gadget. If only they knew that the effusive teen was, in fact, a superhero.

He moved his gaze back to the little girl who had stopped chatting with Fitz and was regarding him with huge eyes. For a minute, Bucky thought that the child was frightened. But the girl, Emma, he reminded himself, started wiggling in her chair and squealed, “Fitz, Fitz, Fitz, he's HERE!”

Fitz stopped working on her arm, releasing her, “I told you I'd bring him to see you, go get him.”

Bucky barely had time to register that this child was racing towards him with her arms open wide. Instinctively he knelt so he was at her level and she flew into him with an all-consuming hug, “You're my favorite superhero!”

No matter what anyone said later, Bucky denied that he had teared up.

Chapter Text

Emma and her dads stayed for about an hour. Once Fitz had fixed the broken mechanism in her robotic prosthesis she dragged Bucky around the lab, telling him story after story of how Fitz had used this piece of equipment or that, to make her arm.

“Princess Shuri is making a pink inlay for my new arm!” She told him before she left. “You'd look good with a pink arm too, but I know that you need to stay 'inkodneedo' because you're a superhero.”

“I don't know,” Bucky pretended to ponder, “I think if this arm ever gets damaged, I might have to go with pink.”

Before she left, Bucky promised to visit with her again, the next time she came in. And then Fitz told Bucky about a few more kids that also identified Bucky as 'their favorite' because of their common conditions. He promised to visit with them too.

The group descended into animated chatter and Bucky found himself drifting away, to stare out the window of the tower. He was joined by someone he didn't expect.

“Chocolate covered espresso bean?” Stark asked, holding out a bag.

“Pepper know you're eating those?”

“Hell no. She'd kill me. Want?”

Bucky shook his head and stared back out the window a little more.

“I know what you're thinking, Barnes.”

“Yeah? What am I thinking?”

“That our boy Parker has a mad crush on the Princess. I wouldn't worry. He's a good kid.”

“Wasn't what I was thinking. But good to know.” He took an espresso bean in spite of himself and bit down. The bitter grainy coffee bean mixed with the sweet smooth chocolate, and it was surprisingly good. “Why didn't I know all of this was going on? These kids. All you guys do...?”

“You weren't ready yet. No offense, Barnes, but you were a little fucked up. Now, you're slightly less fucked up.” Tony tossed about six chocolates into his mouth and chewed. With his mouth full he added, “Seriously, though, most of this is pretty new. A lot of it is Darcy's baby.”

“Good PR.”

“Nope. None of this hits the papers. Sometimes a parent posts on social media, but not enough to make a ripple. This is just Darcy. Making sure we give back, even when the world isn't in danger.”

“I didn't know.”

“You know what's important.” Tony tapped his chest, over his heart. “You know what's in here.”

On his left side, he felt his arm lift and go over a set of slim shoulders. He looked up to see Shuri smiling up at him. “You're being less than social, brother. Come and join us.” To Tony, she added with a smile, “You can stay here.”

“You wound me, Princess. Espresso bean?”

Shuri snagged the entire bag out of his hand, took Bucky with the other and dragged him over to the group. Daisy and Darcy were yet to arrive, but it was decided among the group that they shouldn't stay at the Tower tonight. The Compound was still more secure.

Tony did suggest that security was tight enough that they could all stay until after dinner. Plus, Hill and May's personal attaches were at the Tower, both well-trained former SHIELD agents.

In fact, Agent Piper was in the lab now. She had quite a bit of history with Daisy and Fitzsimmons. She was wiry and no-nonsense, but she had a quick wit and an honest smile. Bucky liked her immensely within a few minutes.

He decided that he did not like Agent Davis, as he entered the lab laughing with Darcy. He was showing her something on his phone and Darcy touched his arm a few too many times. He smiled at her too widely. He stood too close. Bucky found himself feeling a fit of burning jealousy in the pit of his stomach. He gritted his teeth and set his mouth in a line. Next, to him, he noticed Shuri nudge her brother as if to say, 'do something.'

With regal grace, T'Challa rose and extended his hand to Darcy. “Ms. Lewis. I have not had the pleasure.”

Darcy beamed up at him, and glanced behind him to Sam. “You didn't tell me you knew the King of Wakanda, Sam.”

Shuri was less formal, embracing Darcy in a hug, “I feel like I already know you, Darcy Lewis. It seems you have captured the heart of my brother.”

Darcy looked briefly confused before she realized that Shuri was talking about him. “I'd pretty much jump off a cliff for him,” Darcy turned and smiled at Bucky, “Oh wait, I already did that.”

She gave Bucky a little wink but then took Davis by the arm again. “Jemma, have you seen Davis's new baby? So cute. Show her the pictures.”

Bucky suddenly felt a little bit ashamed. At the same time, he let that feeling of feral possessiveness linger. He had every intention of using it up the second he was alone with his girl. And he made sure she knew it, too.

During dinner he kept his hand under the table, on her knee, her thigh, sometimes drifting even higher until Darcy would clear her throat and give him a disbelieving look. He'd respond with a smirk, a dark look or a not so innocent lick of his lips.

When Tony brought out dessert, Darcy announced she was way too full for dessert and dragged Bucky away to 'see her office'. Bucky attacked her mouth with his own in the elevator, pinning her against the wall. “You're a shit,” she scolded between kisses, “feeling me up at dinner.”

“M'not sorry.”

He assumed it was Darcy's apartment door that they tumbled through and not her office since there was a kitchen and a couch. Not that he cared. He slammed the door shut and pushed her up against it.

Bucky shoved her shirt up and dragged one of the cups of her bra down. He lifted her up against the door so I could clamp onto a nipple with his mouth. But her nipple wasn't the swollen bud that he wanted to suckle, so he turned and deposited her on the couch. She bounced as she hit the cushions and lifted her shirt up and off with a seductive smile.

He pulled her leggings and panties off, and spread her legs wide, hitching one over his shoulder. He feasted on every piece of glistening flesh with his mouth and tongue and pushed two fingers up inside her and pressed upward. The action pushed her closer to his mouth while his fingers found that perfect spot that made her scream. Bucky sucked on her sensitive pearl, relentlessly, until Darcy screamed out an incoherent jumble of syllables and she spasmed around his fingers.

He freed himself from his pants and pushed himself in all the way with a possessive snarl. Darcy arched her back and cried out. He wrapped his right arm around her lower back, just above her perfect round bottom and used his arm to help drive her down onto him.

His left hand took hers, twining their fingers together, and he squeezed her hand to the same primal rhythm that they were dancing to.

Darcy was moaning and panting, tossing her head from side to side. She had her bottom lip caught between her teeth and her eyes clenched shut. With a loud, desperate wail, she bucked up hard against him, her thighs quivering.

She squeezed and tightened around him pushing him toward his own release.

He collapsed on top of her and after a few heaving breaths, he worried, “Did I hurt you?”

“Don't be stupid, babe. That was nifty.”

He looked around, finally. “Nice place. I hope it's yours.”

“Nah. It's Steve's. You just defiled his couch.” She snorted out a laugh, “You should see your face. So gullible.”

Chapter Text

“He check in today?” Darcy asked as Bucky checked his phone for the fifth time.

“Not yet. Probably checked in with Hill though.”

“So...call up to command and check.”

Bucky grunted, slumped into the couch and tossed the phone on the coffee table. “M'sure the punk is fine.”

It had been four days since the trip to the Tower, and three days since Bucky had heard from Steve. Darcy could tell he was more concerned than he was letting on. She was hoping the home cooked meal, wine, and jazz would ease some of his worries.

Darcy reached over the back of the couch and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “You want me to call up there?”

“You think Hill is gonna tell you about an op?”

“Sure. I'll just tell her that my Bucky Bear is worried about his best bud.”

This earned her a chuckle.

“Besides, she owes me.”

“Yeah? Why's that?” he asked as he took her hand and guided her to sit in his lap.

“Because I'm the one that put the bouncy house in the middle of Stark's lab.”

“How long do these prank wars go on, anyway?”

“Used to go on until someone conceded. But things might have gotten a little out of hand. There was an incident with glitter...Now it's three hits each. And you guys really whiffed with that 'mayonnaise in the doughnuts' thing. Way lame.”

“Not my idea.”

“Clearly not Sam's either since the poor bastard took a bite of one.”

Bucky chuckled, “Yeah. I should've warned him.”

Darcy was beyond happy to see that beautiful smile of his. She rubbed her thumb down his jaw and leaned in for soft, lazy kisses.

They were interrupted by the 'ding' of the oven timer. “You never did tell me what we're havin' for dessert, Sassy.”

She rose reluctantly out of his lap. “I'm considering letting it burn. You can have me for dessert.”

“Temptress.”

Darcy purposefully exaggerated her hips swaying as she walked to the kitchen, “You know it.”

She set the dessert down on the counter to cool, poured herself another glass of wine, and went back to the couch, fully intending to snuggle with Bucky.

He had other ideas.

“I know this song...” Bucky mused. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald had just started crooning 'Cheek to Cheek'.

“Really? I think it came out after your time,” she tucked her knees under her as she sat down on the couch.

“This version maybe. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced to it in a movie. I like this though,” Bucky said. He took her wine out of her hand and set it on the table. Then he stood and held his hand out to her. “May I?”

“Oh, I am no Ginger Rogers.”

“Trust me. Come on.” She gave him her hand and let him lead her to her feet.

Bucky put one arm around her waist and took her hand with the other. He guided her through simple steps until she was a giggling mess. “Gonna spin you out. Ready?”

After the spin, she felt a little off balance, so she peeked down at her feet.

“Don't look at your feet, look at me. Okay?” His blue eyes twinkled with amusement.

“I'm gonna step on your toes,” she protested.

“No, you won't. Trust me. Let me lead.”

A few steps later and she had relaxed enough to let him lead her through another few spins. “You're so good at this.”

“I have a good partner.”

“Such a liar,” she laughed.

He smiled widely but ignored the insult. “Ready to try a lift?”

Darcy giggled crazily as he lifted her by her waist. She expected him to spin around a little. But he lowered her down, and his eyes were no longer alight. They narrowed suspiciously. His face looked hard.

“Bucky?”

“We've done this before.”

“Dancing? A couple of silly spins at karaoke night, but not like this.”

“We have,” he snapped. “To this song. The same steps. The same conversation.”

Darcy could feel her heart racing. He was right. So many things had been...familiar. She felt sick.

“Someone has been messing with my memories,” she could feel the anxiety rolling off of him. His voice sounded angry, but his eyes were pure fear.

“Bucky,” she reached out for him, to ground him with her touch.

He pushed her hand away and backed up, “Don't. Who are you?”

Tears were accumulating in her eyes, clouding her vision, “You know who I am.”

“No. I didn't know you until a couple of weeks ago. But somehow you convinced everyone else that they have known you forever. I know that every strange feeling of deja vu I've had revolves around you. Someone is playing with my head and I'm thinking you know who it is. ”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Darcy hissed. She was feeling a nauseating mix of fear and grief.

“You managed to take down Rollins pretty easily for someone who claims that they're a civilian. Are you a HYDRA spy? Is that why you were so eager to get into my bed?”

Darcy exploded in disbelief and rage. Tears poured out of her eyes, unbidden as she screamed, “Oh. Fuck you. You think I'm a HYDRA whore? How fucking dare you? Fuck you, Bucky Barnes. I’m leaving!”

An expression of regret crossed his face. He was quiet when he agreed, “Right. You should stay in your room tonight.”

Darcy wished she could calm herself. But the fury kept mounting as she grabbed her purse, stuffing some random belongings into it. She yanked her laptop from its power source, threw her phone in her purse and yelled, “Fuck my room. I’m fucking leaving this goddamn compound.”

“We’re on lockdown.”

She could barely hear him say that, he was so quiet. And her pulse was pounding in her ears like a drum. “I’m not. The Avengers and the science division are on lockdown. But since I'm just a civilian who apparently didn't exist until you met me, I can go wherever I damned well please.”

She reached for the doorknob and his hand came around hers. “Darcy, wait.”

She slapped it away. “No. Don't touch me.”

She slammed the door behind her as she walked away. Tears were rolling down her face but she refused to lose any further control. She stalked across the compound grounds to the parking garage. There was a fleet of Initiative vehicles and she was taking one. She had to get away from this place. Back to the Tower. To her family's home in Connecticut. To a hotel a few miles down the road. She had to be anywhere but here.

She made it to the compound's security gates without incident, grateful that her security codes allowed her to leave. But she only made it another mile before she was stopped by Iron Man, descending onto the road in front of her.

“Lewis, you have got to stop stealing vehicles,” Stark's voice came echoed in the quiet evening, “Where you going, kid?”

"I'm leaving. "

Tony reminded her, “No can do, kiddo. We're on lockdown.”

Darcy rolled down the window and yelled out, “No one gives a shit about me, Tony. Just let me go.”

“Nope.”

Once again, Darcy let her anger win over reason. She got out of the car, slammed the door and yelled, “Than I quit. I'm no longer employed by the Avengers Initiative. You can't keep me here. You can't make me stay.”

She must have looked like a lunatic, tears streaming down her face as she was screaming at Iron Man, right in the middle of the road.

His face mask came down, “Jesus kid, what happened?”

When she saw his face, instead of the metal one, she started to sob. Painful, hitching, hysterical sobs that wracked her whole body. She didn't see Stark turn off the nanotech that turned him from Iron Man into a regular man, but he must have, because it was her flesh and blood friend that wrapped her up in his arms, “Okay. Hey. It's gonna be okay sweetheart. Whatever it is, it will be okay.”

She had no idea how long he let her cry, sitting in the middle of the road, illuminated by the car's headlights. And she only had a vague impression of Tony driving her back to the main building, of him telling her that Pepper was in Los Angeles. She remembered that he said, “I'm calling Foster for you, kid. Gonna have her bring you some wine and ice cream. You need anything else? Stuff for manicures or something? No?”

She was beginning to think she'd never stop crying when Jane, Jemma, and Hope arrived at her room with hugs and words of comfort.

But she did stop, eventually. And she was able to tell her friends what had happened.

“He seriously accused you of being HYDRA?” Jane was livid.

“I don't think he meant it,” Darcy paused and shook her head. “I know he didn't mean it.”

“I don't care if he meant it or not! He accused you of sleeping with him because you're a HYDRA agent. That's the most absurd...” Jane took a breath. “I'm gonna kill him.”

“He was scared,” she took a breath and admitted, “I'm scared. I keep getting these feelings like I've done something before. And I think... I know... he is too. The idea of someone messing with his memory...after everything that HYDRA did to him...I can't imagine...”

Hope looked concerned. “Darcy, what do you mean?”

“It's like we have these memories of each other. Of things that never happened. Like tonight. The song. I remember dancing to it with him before. But it was like a dream.”

“Was my mom singing?” Hope asked, just barely loud enough to hear.

Darcy thought her heart was going to stop. She hadn't recalled it before, but... “You danced with your dad.”

Jane stopped her pacing and sat down hard next to Darcy. “That was just a dream It wasn't real.”

Jemma looked stricken, “In your dream, were you dancing with T'Challa?”

Jane was resolute, “I've never met T'Challa.”

“Janie,” Darcy breathed out her friend's name.

Jane sat down hard. “The song was about dancing cheek to cheek.”

Jemma exhaled the question they were all asking, “What's happening to us?”

Chapter Text

The pounding on Bucky's door was almost as insistent as the pounding in his head.


Ignoring the door, he held the chilled bottle of vodka against his forehead like an ice pack. Unlike Steve, he could at least get drunk. It took a hell of a lot of alcohol, but he could do it. And he thoroughly intended to.

He couldn't get the look on Darcy's face out of his head. The hurt, the disbelief... all his fault. He was hoping the alcohol would obliterate the memory.

It certainly had dulled his senses enough that he didn't hear the sound of a lock being picked, or even the person enter his home.


“Dumbass.”

Kate Bishop was standing in front of him with her hands on her hips and the world's most annoyed expression on her face.

“Katie. What are you doing?”

“Hope called me.” Kate took the bottle of vodka out of Bucky's hand. “She's with Darcy, who apparently is crying her eyes out. And Jane and Jemma, who are planning your murder. Please tell me you didn't accuse her of being HYDRA.” As she talked, Kate made her way into the kitchen. She put the bottle away and pulled out a tray of ice cubes.

With Bucky's silence at her question, she knew, “Oh god. You did. You incredible dumbass. Wanna tell me about it now, or wait for Sam and Daisy?”

“You called them?” he asked as she filled a glass up with ice water.

“We're your team, aren't we? Would have called Jessica, too. But she's back in the city with Vito and Oscar. Oh my god, is this bread pudding? I love this shit.”

“Darcy made it.”

Kate grabbed two bowls and dished out two servings. “Isn't it your favorite?”

“Yes,” he admitted.

“Aw. How sweet. She made your favorite.”

“You're not helping, Kate,” he grumbled.

As she handed him the glass of water and one of the bowls, she said, “Sorry.”

“I never told her it was my favorite,” he took one bite and set the bowl on the coffee table. It was perfect. He didn't deserve it.

“Then how'd she know?”

Bucky threw his hands up in the air, “I don't know! How does she know that I think baby carrots are an abomination? How did I know the title of her Master's thesis? I checked, Katie. It wasn't in the extraction file.”

Kate was sitting in front of him on his coffee table. “Buck. What happened?”

She took both of his hands in each of hers and he stared down at them, wondering if Kate would ever forgive what he had done to Darcy.

“We were dancing, and I thought...I thought that someone had been erasing my memories. It was so much stronger than deja vu, Kate. I knew we had lived that memory before. I knew it.”

“And you thought that because Darcy was in your memory, that she was HYDRA? Oh, honey.”

“I accused her of seducing me, for HYDRA.” Bucky rubbed his hand over his face, “Jesus, Katie, what did I do?”

“Well, Bucky Bear, you done fucked up.” She said it softly without anger or malice. Kate moved to sit next to him on the couch and pulled him into a hug. “You're such a dumbass.”

Daisy and Sam walked in right then, not bothering to knock.

“What did I miss?” Sam asked.

“Well, Barnes is having some super intense, deja vu, he accused his girlfriend of being a HYDRA spy, he likes bread pudding, and he hates baby carrots,” Kate answered, keeping her hand on Bucky's even after releasing him from the hug.

“Oh Buck, you didn't.” Daisy closed her eyes with exasperation.

“And bread pudding is not a real dessert, man.”

“You've got to try it, Sam. It's freaking awesome.” Kate gave Bucky's hand a reassuring squeeze.

“Okay,” Daisy sighed, sinking into the couch on Bucky's other side. “We've got to figure out how Barnes is going to fix things with his girl, and we need to figure out what the hell is up with his memory, and we have to get to the bottom of Buck's apparent disdain of baby carrots. We have a lot to do. Grab me a beer, Sam.”

Sam was already in the kitchen, scooping out a couple of more bowls of bread pudding, for him and Daisy.

“Don't have beer. There's vodka...”

Sam must have counted the bottles in the trash bin because the next thing he said was, “Did you drink three bottles of vodka already?”

“Supersoldier. That's how many it took...”

“How many it took to do what? Destroy your liver?”

“To forget.”

Bucky leaned his head back against the couch cushions. He swore he only closed his eyes for a second.

“Forget it, man.”

“Sam,” Bucky clapped his hand down on his friend's shoulder. “Does it bother you that Parker is more of a ladies man than you?”

Bucky nodded over to the park bench where Peter Parker was animatedly chatting with Shuri.

Next to him, Kate Bishop snickered. She was one of the four souls that Gamora had most recently brought in to the settlement, along with Shuri. Her smart mouth had endeared her right away to Bucky and Sam.

“Katie Kate?” Bucky asked, “How long did it take you to realize that Sam had it bad for Daisy?”

“Well, let's see. I've been here about 2 weeks... so 13 days, 23 hours?”

Sam pointed at her, “You know, I could tell Gamora to send your happy ass back into the ether, Bishop.”

At Bucky's snicker, he added, “You too, Barnes.”

“Don't you dare,” Darcy scolded, as she approached the small group, tucking herself under Bucky's arm. “He's mine.”

“Ugh. Stop being adorable.”

“Sam's changing his code name to The Chicken, Darce.”

“Chicken,” Bucky mumbled.

“What's that?” Sam asked.

Bucky looked around his living room. “Nothing. Just...drifted off, I guess.”

“Yeah, three bottles of vodka will do that to a 'super soldier',” Sam said, using air quotes.

“What are you doing, Daze?” Bucky glanced to his right, where Daisy was watching footage on her laptop.

“Analyzing some of the Greenwich footage of Darcy. Just looking for any sign that the footage has been tampered with. Basically, grasping at straws. Background checks, credit scores, every bit of her virtual presence checks out. Buck, I don't see anything that makes me think Darcy is anything other than exactly who we know her to be.”

Bucky sighed. “I know. God, what did I do?”

“Done fucked up,” Kate reminded him.

“Thanks.”

“Okay,” Sam said, “let's break this down. Buck, when you had that weird feeling that your memory had been messed with, what were you doing? Please don't say you were doing the nasty.”

“We were dancing.”

“Oh my god, that's so cute.”

“Not helping, Bishop,” Sam scolded. “You have the song?”

“It was Darcy's...but it was Louis Armstrong. Dancing Cheek to Cheek.”

“Yeah, I've got that.” Sam pulled out his phone. He started to play the song. “Katie, you wanna stand in for Darcy?”

She nodded. “Okey-dokey.”

“I asked her to dance,” Bucky said, rising to his feet and extending his hand to Kate. He led her through a few steps before he said, “Then it just hit me. Like a ton of bricks.”

“You feeling anything weird now?” Kate asked.

“Yeah. Clumsy. Where'd you learn the foxtrot?”

“Debutante ball. My folks are loaded.”

Sam ignored them. “Focus, Barnes. What were you saying? What were you feeling?”

“I'm feeling like an idiot. This isn't working.”

Sam turned toward their other teammate, “Help me out Daze.”

Daisy was sitting with her hand on her chest and her mouth slightly open. Her eyes were wide.

“Daisy, you okay?” Kate asked, leaving Bucky so she could kneel in front of Daisy. “You're looking a little...not okay.”

“Sam,” Daisy looked up at him. “I'm feeling it. Super intense deja vu. Don't you?”

Sam blinked a few times and shook his head. “No, I... maybe. Katie? You?”

“No. Nothing at all. Not right now.”

“But you have?” Bucky asked.

Kate nodded. “It's been happening a lot.”

“Anyone in particular that you are with when it happens?” Sam asked.

“Yeah. All of you.”

Chapter Text

“Please. No. Don't make me do this,” Bucky begged.

“Soldat, you will follow orders or be punished,” Rollins pressed the barrel of his gun against the back of Bucky's head. “Kill the girl.”

The Defenders were on the ground around him, killed by Bucky's gun. Each of them had a single bullet hole in the middle of their foreheads. Misty, Colleen, and Jessica stared at him with dead eyes. Parker was crumpled on the ground. Darcy was alive, cowering on the pavement, her blue eyes wide and glistening with tears as Bucky held his gun on her.

A disembodied voice told him, “Tell 'em to go to hell, and get some decent sleep, Dumbass.” Bucky felt a warm arm draped over his shoulder, even though no one was there.

“This isn't how it happened, Rollins. My girl tazed your ass,” He turned and looked Rollins in the eye, “So go to hell.”

The nightmare faded into a pleasant dream.

“Oh, go to hell, Barnes!” Sam yelled.

“It's true,” Bucky laughed. “And I stand by my statement. You're a chicken.”

The group was lounging on the edge of the settlement, all of them sprawled on the ground except Sam, who was pacing, and Darcy, who was pretty much just sprawled across Bucky. He was playing with her hair, pulling the curls straight and then watching them bounce back. Kate was tossing berries into the mouth of Colleen, who had joined them. She had only been at the settlement for two weeks, but like Kate, Colleen had fit right in.

“You have less game than the itsy bitsy Spiderman,” Kate teased. “Just tell her.”

“It's been too long,” Sam argued. “I've been friend zoned.”

Sam paced around some more. Colleen and Kate had switched and Colleen was tossing berries at Kate, who was less adept at catching than throwing. Berries kept bouncing off of Bucky and Darcy, much to Kate's amusement.

“I could tell her we're soulmates. That's how you conned that poor girl,” Sam gestured to Darcy.

“I think that only works if you actually are soulmates,” Darcy laughed. “Right babe?”

Bucky placed a soft kiss on her forehead.

“You don't know that we aren't,” Sam argued. “Maybe we are...”

“Maybe you are,” Bucky agreed. “But you'll never find out. Because you're chicken.”

“I need to come up with something dramatic.”

“Like something out of a movie...” Colleen mused. “Like a romantic comedy.”

“Or a musical,” Kate added.

Bucky woke to an alert on his phone from Steve. It was 4AM. They were back, and Steve wanted to meet them at the Zephyr's hanger. Bucky rubbed his eyes, which were still swollen from last night. His shoulders hurt from the awkward position he had fallen asleep in, on the floor with his head on the armchair.

Kate was curled up like a cat behind him. He couldn't imagine she was comfortable either. Her neck was bent awkwardly and her lower back had to hurt. One of her arms was draped over his shoulder. It must have been Kate that comforted him during his nightmare. He hadn't even remembered he had had one until just now. He scooped her up and placed her in his bed, placing a chaste kiss on her forehead. “Thanks, Katie Kate,” he whispered.

Sam and Daisy were cuddled together on his couch, their limbs tangled. He was envious of them right then. That's how he should have awakened, tangled up in Darcy.

As he walked to the hanger, he thought of all of the ways he was going to apologize to her. That is if she would forgive him. The thought that she wouldn't frightened him more than anything.

He walked out of the dark night and into the bright hanger. Standing in front of him was a tall, blonde woman who looked very familiar, and a man he didn't recognize at all.

“Hey,” she said to him.

“Hey.”

He registered a presence behind him but recognized it as Natasha. He felt the sting of a needle against his neck and things started to go fuzzy. He felt Nat lower him to the ground.

“Do you know each other?” The man asked the woman.

“No.”

“You were all 'heeeey soldier'.”

“Hunter, don’t be jealous. It’s not attractive.”

“I’m adorable.” There was a pause and Bucky could feel that the man had come to stand over him. “Who looks like that? With the jawline and the muscles?”

Natasha asked acerbically, “Do you need us to leave you two alone, Hunter?”

Bucky drifted completely out of consciousness...

“So, is Sam going to do anything about his ridiculous crush on Daisy...ever?”

Bobbi Morse took a couple of swings at Bucky, all of which he blocked. “I think he's planning something dramatic.”

She ducked away from an uppercut.

“I've been here three weeks, and I swear it's like living in a reality show. Like Survivor.” Bobbi dropped to the ground and tried a leg sweep, which he avoided.

“I don't know what that is,” Bucky admitted, grabbing her arm and twisting it. “But if you want survival tips, Bobs, there are three rules: Never spar with Gamora.”

“Man, she is intense!” Bobbi tapped out, ending the sparring session.

“Never let Quill and Sam get into a karaoke battle.”

“Figured that one out already,” she laughed. “What's number three?”

“Live like every day is your last,” Bucky looked into the science building, where Darcy was waving at him from the window. He smiled and nodded back to her.

“You really going to propose to her, Bucky Bear?” Bobbi asked.

“I really am.”

“You don't mind being tied down?”

Bucky pulled against the restraints around his hands. They were soft. Just leather. He could break them easily.

A hand soothed his forehead. “Hey, Bucky Bear, you’re okay. I need you to go back to sleep. Gonna give you a little something. Okay?”

“Okay, Bobs,” he mumbled.

As he drifted out again he heard the man from before, “What the hell was that?”

“I have no idea.”

“You said you didn’t know him.”

“I don’t!”

“Sure, of course. I’m sure everyone calls the freaking Winter Soldier 'Bucky Bear'!”

“For god's sake, Hunter. Don't be so dramatic.”

“You really gonna do this Birdbrain?” Bucky asked.

“Told you, Bucky Bear, it's gotta be dramatic.”

“You're up next,” Bucky told him, as Quill put the finishing touches on the song that he dedicated to Kevin's bacon. Bucky had no idea who Kevin was and what the deal was with his bacon. He'd ask Darcy later.

A small contingent of the group had conspired to make this particular karaoke night memorable. Darcy moved the party to the edge of the settlement. Kate asked for a movie musical theme. Bobbi made sure that Daisy was in just the right spot. Gamora provided Sam with a few needed props. And Bucky made sure that Sam didn't chicken out. “You gonna pass out?”

“I might.” Sam took a few deep breaths. “Jumping out of planes, off buildings. Fighting super villains. No big deal. I can do this too.”

“You sing all the time.”

“I sing all the time.”

“You're gonna be fine.”

“I'm gonna be fine.”

“You're gonna pass out.”

“I'm gonna pass out,” Sam looked over at Bucky, who had a shit-eating grin on his face. “You're enjoying this.”

“Yep.”

“You're a terrible person, Barnes.”

everybody cut, everybody cut
everybody cut, everybody cut
everybody cut, everybody cut
everybody cut Footloose.

Quill played air guitar during the final chords and waited for his applause, his arms up in the air with victory.

“You're an unbelievable dork,” Darcy told him, nudging him out of the performance area. “All right, kids. Let's hear it for Sammy, who is actually going to sing something other than Marvin Gaye.”

The group whooped for Sam, who still looked like he was gonna pass out.

The opening strains of Sam's song began, and Sam donned a fedora with a flourish. Gamora flicked her fingers and a lamp post appeared in the liquid ground.

I'm singin' in the rain
Just singin' in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I'm happy again
I'm laughin' at clouds
So dark up above
The sun's in my heart
And I'm ready for love

Bucky had never seen the musical that Sam's song was from, but Darcy assured him during practices that Sam's performance was going to be perfect.

When the instrumental part of the song began, Sam pulled Daisy out to dance with him. She laughed and threw her arms around him with joy.

Dancin' and Singin' in the rain...

Sam dipped Daisy at the end of the song and kissed her. The group applauded and hollered.

“Now that's what I'm talking about,” Darcy whispered in Bucky's ear as she wound her arms around his neck.

“He did it.”

“We did it.”

“I think we did it,” Jemma Simmons voice broke through Bucky's subconscious, bringing him back to reality. “Bobbi?”

“Yep, this blood sample is clean.”

Bucky's eyes fluttered open to see Steve hovering over him in the medical unit at the Tower. “He’s ok?”

“No trace of the virus in his bloodstream. Wake him up.”

“Punk,” Bucky said hoarsely.

“No need, he's up.”

Bucky wasn't restrained anymore and sat up groggily. “What the hell's going on? Why am I at the Tower?”

“Hello, James,” Jemma's gentle voice was as big a surprise as her presence.

“Jemma? I thought you were with Darcy.”

“Oh, I was, two days ago. We've had to keep you sedated while we worked on the cure. Not easy, with your physiology.”

“Cure? For what? I'm not sick.”

“The virus has been dormant in your system. Unfortunately, it is no longer dormant in mine. I'm dying, James. And I need your help.”

Chapter Text

“Does Fitz know?” Bucky asked Jemma as they walked to the conference room.

 “Not yet. I was hoping to have a plan in place before I worried him.”

 “And these two? Morse and Hunter? You trust them?”

 “Completely. They were on our team back before SHIELD fell. They had to be disavowed after a mission went wrong.”

 “And they've been doing what, freelance spy-craft?

 “Yes, I suppose so.”

 A small group was gathered around the conference table in the Tower: Bucky, Steve, Natasha, Jemma, May, and Bobbi's partner, Lance Hunter. Agent May signaled for everyone to sit, as she quickly and efficiently began the mission briefing. “Everyone, please be seated.”

 “We're not waiting for everyone else?” Bucky asked.

 “This is need to know only, Barnes,” She passed out paper files, instead of using the Stark Tech. “In front of you, you have files on Rina Kozlov, Karl Malus, Ethan Dormer, and Cassandra Killian. They call themselves AIM. Advanced Idea Mechanics. They were originally founded by Cassandra's brother Aldrich Killian as a think tank until he started experimenting on himself. By the time he found himself on an Avenger's radar, he was heavily engaged in terrorist activity.”

 “Was?” Steve asked.

 “He is now deceased,” May said matter-of-factly.

 “An old friend contacted us and asked us to go in, undercover,” Bobbi said.

 “To clarify,” Hunter said, “She was undercover. I was just support.”

 Natasha asked, “What's their agenda?”

 “Good question,” Bobbi said, “Up until now they've been consistently inconsistent. Bringing in former members of HYDRA, project Centipede, the Hand... Each member has been focused on their own pet projects. Malus is interested in bio-engineering, super soldiers. Killian is focused on bioterrorism. Kozlov is invested in mechanical engineering. And Dormer? Memory manipulation and mind control.”

“Jesus,” Bucky muttered.

“Unfortunately, they've decided to stop working at cross purposes. They've pooled their resources, in a bad way.”

Jemma spoke, “They've developed a virus that lies dormant, nearly undetectable, until a second agent is introduced, that allows it to pass through the blood-brain barrier. There, it infects the frontal lobe, allowing AIM agents to use the subject for mind control experiments.”

 “I've seen a few of the subjects,” Bobbi said. “Most are fairly normal, just more susceptible to suggestion, compliant. But others...they're blank slates, like zombies.”

 “But without the craving for brains,” Hunter added.

 Jemma explained, “I believe they intended to recruit me, but as Bobbi intimated, they're disorganized. Instead, they took me captive. During my abduction, they used a concussive weapon. As it turns out, it was more than that. It was a large scale hypospray. A method of introducing a non-airborne virus into several individuals at once.”

 “That's how I got infected?”

 “Yes,” Bobbi said, “but it's also inefficient. It requires a break in the skin to infect the subject. That's something they're hoping to improve.”

 “They're using the Avengers as their own personal guinea pigs,” Natasha said with disgust.

 “You're a perfect mix of powered and non-powered. A control group and an experimental group built right in,” Bobbi said.

 Bucky thought back to his two encounters with the concussive weapon. Clear as a bell, he could see the gash on Darcy's head and the small scratches on Daisy's arm from her broken gauntlet. “Daisy and Darcy. They're infected.”

 “Yes,” Jemma said quietly, “And possibly Kate, Sam, and the Defenders. I'm sorry James.”

“Why aren't they here, receiving treatment of some kind? We have to do something. We have to tell them.”

 “We can't, not yet,” May said. “One of the subjects at the AIM facility was susceptible to mind control without the second chemical agent. We can't take the chance that either of them is under AIM control. Once we have a plan, we'll bring them in. Isolate them.”

 “And the second chemical agent, how is it transmitted.?” Steve asked.

 “Airborne,” Jemma said, “And if it isn't introduced, the virus starts to attack the kidneys, liver... complete organ failure. It was pure luck that I caught the symptoms. Just some fatigue and nausea. I thought maybe I was pregnant until I ran my blood work.”

 “And when Jemma contacted our mutual friend, I smuggled out a few vials of the antiviral, and contacted him for extraction.”

 Bucky took her hand and squeezed. The fact that it was his left hand, the one that Jemma's husband had created for him, was not lost on him. “But you said the antivirals worked. You cured me.”

 “The antiviral was created specifically for your unique physiology, Barnes. They used blood samples that HYDRA had stockpiled. That's why they've come after you more than once. You're Malus's ideal subject,” Bobbi told him.

 “I still don't understand why it can't be tried on everyone that has been infected. Why aren't we giving it to Jemma right now?”

 “As the antiviral exists now, it will destroy my kidneys even faster than the virus. Your accelerated healing factor is the only reason we could try.”

“What do you need me to do?” Bucky asked.

May was matter-of-fact, “Let them take you, let them dose you with the second chemical agent, let them think you're under their control, and take them down from the inside. And if we get lucky, we can find a cure.”

“Let's be clear here,” Steve argued, “This isn't an order. You can refuse to take this mission, Buck.”

 “It's Darcy,” Bucky said. “I'm not going to let her die, Steve. I'm not going to let Jemma die, or my team. I'm in. On one condition. Let me say goodbye.”

 “We're going to bring them to the Tower anyway. Medical is more sophisticated here,” Jemma said.

 “There's something else. I'm not a scientist. I'm certainly not a virologist. I don't know what I'm looking for.”

 “You won't be going in alone, Agent Barnes,” May promised.

 “My entire team is potentially infected.”

 “You're getting a new team,” before Bucky could protest, May raised her hand in supplication, “for this mission only.”

 Then May nodded towards the door. “In fact, half of your team has arrived. You're late.”

 “What can I say,” Jessica Jones flopped down in an empty chair. “Dr. Palmer is a worry wart. But I'm virus free and ready to roll.”

 While Jess was talking, Jemma rose from her chair to wrap her arms around the man that had followed Jess in. “Coulson, I knew if I called that you'd come running.”

 “I'm just glad I already had Bobbi on the inside,” he replied, hugging her back.

 “Just the three of us?” Bucky asked. He'd only known Coulson by reputation, but he didn't think virology was his strong suit.

 “You have one more team member. You're not going to like it,” May said ominously.

 


 

 

Bucky stood on the balcony, looking at the city lights. He absently rubbed the rice-sized communicator that Dr. Palmer had embedded behind his ear. His final team member had landed just before the rest of the Avengers and Initiative staff had arrived at the Tower.

 May was right. He hadn't liked it.

The potentially infected had been taken to medical, and put in positive pressure rooms, to keep the second chemical agent from reaching them if it were to be released. The rest of the Avengers had been briefed on the plan.

 He purposefully avoided seeing Darcy. He was still trying to figure out what he was going to tell her.

 “Hey, Buck.”

 “Everyone's screening done?” he asked Steve as he took the beer his friend offered.

 “Still waiting on Sam's and Kate's.” There was a pause while Steve figured out what to say. “You were right. Darcy's infected.”

 Bucky just nodded. He already knew.

 “You talk to her yet?”

“Not yet. Haven't figured out what I'm gonna say to her.”

 “Tell her how you feel.”

 Bucky scoffed. “Easier said than done, punk. I don't know how I feel.”

 “I think you love her.”

 “Wasn't real though. Mind control. False memories. I know it wasn't her fault. She's just as much a victim as I am. More so, probably.”

 “I don't get what you mean, Buck.”

 “Kate, Sam, Daisy, Darcy, me. We've all been experiencing false memories. All of us have been infected with this damned virus. Doesn't take a genius to figure it out. I should go. Tell her goodbye.”

 “For now. You mean goodbye, for now, right?”

 Bucky just shrugged.

 


 

  

Saying goodbye to the team, without actually saying goodbye, was hard enough.

 He had to stand in front of the door to Darcy's treatment room for several minutes before he could find the will to enter. He fidgeted with the small box that he was holding in his hand.

 He knocked, but the voice that told him to come in was not Darcy's, it was Dr. Christine Palmer's. She was setting up for a procedure. Darcy was sitting on the cot, looking prettier than anyone should in a pair of white scrubs.

 “Hey babe,” she said quietly.

 “Hey.” His mouth was dry and his mind was blank. She was looking at him expectantly, but for the life of him, he couldn't remember the speech he had just been rehearsing in the hall.

 “Steve told me you've been sick. Are you okay?” She asked.

 “Yeah. All better.”

 “Same thing they're treating me for?” She let out a little squeal of pain as Dr. Palmer pierced the skin of her hand with the IV.

 “Sorry,” Dr. Palmer said, “Nurses are way better at this than I am, but we're on a bit of a skeleton crew.”

 Bucky had flinched away when the IV went in. His own pain was nothing. Watching her hurt...even for a second...it was horrible.

 “She okay, Doc?”

 “Kidney enzymes are a little high. Gonna start some fluids to flush them out a bit.”

 “I feel okay, maybe a little tired,” Darcy shrugged. She met his eyes and softly admitted, “I was worried about you.”

 “I'm sorry. They kept me sedated.”

 “I meant about the other night...”

 Bucky wasn't sure if it was easier or more difficult with Dr. Palmer in the room. “I owe you an apology.”

 “Yes, you do. And I owe you one too.”

 “No. You don't.”

 “All done!” Dr. Palmer announced, “I'm just gonna run this one on gravity, set a pump later. Gonna leave you alone. Let you talk. Okay. Bye.”

 She gave Bucky a gentle touch on the shoulder as she hustled out of the room.

 “Well that was awkward,” Darcy chuckled.

 Bucky only managed a faint grin. “Sassy, what I said to you was...”

 “Pretty fucking awful.”

 “Yeah.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “I'm really sorry.”

 “I know you are. Me too. I lost my temper. I shouldn't have stormed off like that.”

 “Don't blame you.”

 “So..are we...okay?”

 Bucky sighed. “I don't know. There's something else. That deja vu thing. Those memories, the dreams. It's a symptom of this illness. When it's out of your system, you may not feel the same way about me that you do now.”

 “I didn't need those dreams to fall in love with you.” One lone tear trickled down her cheek.

 “Please don't say that...” Bucky whispered. “You're making this harder.”

 “You're ending this, aren't you?”

 “I have to.”

 “No. You. Don't.”

 Bucky set the small box at the end of her bed. “Do me a favor and put that on, just in case.”

 Darcy ignored the box, “You're cured. Right?”

 Bucky nodded, his eyes cast down.

 “So, when you were cured, did your feelings for me just... go away?”

 Bucky met her eyes one last time. “No. They didn't.”

 Alarms began to blare overhead.

 “Put that on!” He commanded as he raced out of the room.