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Dangerous Woman

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Part One: Tub

 

 

There is warmth and darkness. It’s a comfort, knowing there is a world beyond her little sanctuary. She is able to create a distance, even just for half an hour or so.

Darcy is lying in the tub, up to her nose in the warm water that engulfs her, cuts off the sounds of the outside. Bubbles crawl across and rise. She can hear her own breathing, the water lapping. She feels herself be limp under the water, eyes closed. She’s never drifted off in the tub, thank God.

She sits up suddenly, water sloshing. Her ears are a little blocked. She glances around the bathroom, seeing her phone on the floor near her towel. It’s getting late, and the water is already becoming tepid. She looks down at her hands, seeing the wrinkled fingerprints.

She rises, draining the tub as she grabs her towel and starts to dry herself. She can hear murmurs outside the bathroom, and she knows it’s most likely Jane and Thor having some lovey-dovey conversation.

She grabs her phone, sees Ian hasn’t called her back yet. She’d rather not have their conversation over the phone, but he’s getting harder to reach those days.

She grabs her robe and wraps herself in it, toweling off her hair as she walks out into the landing. Thor and Jane are standing together, the night stormy outside from what Darcy can see through the windows. She sighs a little and Thor glances her way.

“Darcy. Feeling better?”

She shakes her head. She’s restless, itching for something she can’t quite name but she knows it’s not here, not in London.

“That’s too bad.”

She shrugs. “What about you, big guy? Heading off soon?”

Jane shoots her a look and Darcy’s eyebrows rose.

“I wasn’t supposed to say that?”

Jane crosses her arms. Darcy supposes Thor doesn’t need prompting, and Jane’s time with him is few and far between. Darcy tries her hardest not to feel like a third wheel but it’s harder in such a tiny space. Erik is out, but he’s been sleeping on their couch for weeks and shares Darcy’s frustrations. Jane and Thor’s relationship is… stormy. Darcy can no longer laugh at the irony.

Darcy departs for her room, dressing and pulling the bed covers over her. She finds herself listening out and she can hear Jane’s raised voice. She sighs, unlocking her phone once more.

We need to talk. Why are you MIA dude?

To her surprise, grey bubbles appear almost immediately to indicate Ian’s speedy reply.

I think we were better off as friends. Colleagues.

She feels relief. At least she’s not hurting him.

Okay. Do you need a reference for your next job?

She adds a winky face and he replies with a thumbs-up. Darcy puts down her phone and grabs her laptop that’s charging on her floor, flicking potato chip crumbs off it when she opens a web browser.

-

Thor left without saying goodbye. Darcy’s hurt by that but she understands. She wonders how she’s meant to bring up her plan with Jane without causing more disappointment.

Jane hasn’t been her boss in a long time. Sure, Darcy works for her still, but there’s a different dynamic to their relationship, especially since the Dark Elves. Life feels more precious, which is why Darcy bought her Eurotunnel ticket.

She spends another week after Thor leaves preparing herself for the conversation with Jane, only to have Erik ask her about taking that holiday she was always complaining about not having.

“I’m going to France,” Darcy says.

They’re all sitting at the table eating dinner, fish and chips on Friday. Darcy douses more vinegar on her chips to combat her rising nerves, wondering how badly Jane could take it.

“Oh,” is all she says, pausing her chewing.

Darcy and Erik exchange a look.

“When?” Jane adds, popping another beer batter chip in her mouth.

“Three days from now,” Darcy mumbles, finally looking at her.

Jane blinks a few times. “Okay. That’s… good. That’s good.”

It’s like she has to say it twice to make it true, and Darcy grabs her greasy little hand and squeezes it.

“I’ll come back soon. I just need a break from all the rain.”

Jane tilts her head at her, eyebrow quirking.

“It doesn’t rain that much. Maybe two-hundred days of the year.”

Darcy mirrors her.

“Really?” she says, licking her salty lips for a second while she and Jane stare each other down. “Gavin, the guy who owns the corner shop… he says this is unseasonable rain. As in, it’s raining more than usual. I’d say it’s closer to three-hundred days of the year.”

“‘Unseasonable’ means it’s unusual,” Jane retorts.

“I think we’ll have fun, Jane and I,” pipes up Erik, and Darcy draws her hand back to rest her elbows on the table, surveying him. “Just like the good old days at Culver.”

“I resent that,” Darcy mutters. “I don’t remember a life before you guys.”

She’s being perfectly candid. She doesn’t remember a time before knowing Jane or Erik. She knows she existed before them and that one day she might be without them but it’s hard to fathom, especially when she belongs with them. She likes her weird nerdy science family.

“So don’t go,” Jane says.

Darcy can detect her sadness more easily since Thor left, feeling her heart sink a little.

“I need a break,” Darcy says again.

Jane falls silent, nodding.

-

Darcy packs what she can, telling herself over and over that she deserves this. She’s worked hard and she hasn’t had time off in years. Ian was meant to make things easier, but she knows she has to slow down for once.

She needs a second to breathe, to let the outside world in. Her life has become too insular. She all but fell off the face of the earth after the Destroyer. The Dark Elves just further amplified the weirdness of her life. She promises Jane she’ll be back in three months. Three months seems exceptionally long, but she knows when she used to have fun time would pass by pretty quickly.

She still feels selfish, feels like anything she does can’t have value if it’s not for research or some materialistic value like paying their rent.

She knows she’d never have stayed so long with Jane and Erik if she had a family to go back to, but she just had her Aunt Jo back in Chicago, just that little gravestone beside her late mother’s own plot in a graveyard she hadn’t been to in years. Darcy was raised by one woman, a fierce creature of utter independence. Maybe she needed to try it again, being alone.

This can’t be selfish. She heard of people running away from their responsibilities but Darcy’s doing the opposite. She needs this to miss work while she’s gone. She’ll eat pizza in Italy and wish Jane was there, but maybe next time they’ll go together. It’ll change how she looks at London when she gets back.

She boards her train, new sunglasses on her head, waving at Erik and Jane from her window.

-

There’s a wave of nausea. Sounds that come before light, the feeling of latex. She can smell something sterile like she’s in a lab. Darcy’s been in enough labs to recognize the remnant Bunsen burner smells. There’s just one voice speaking but she can’t be alone, she feels heat of more than one body touching her.

She tries to blink herself awake, sure that she’s on the train still and probably waking from some awful dream. Maybe she fainted during the journey.

Her mouth is dry. There’s a bitterness but her teeth have a fussy film to them, her tongue is heavy behind her teeth. Something unhinges her jaw and there’s the first bloom of pain behind her eyes.

She whimpers because she still can’t see and she’s hurting. She shivers, feeling so much colder.

The person who’s talking isn’t speaking a language Darcy understands. It takes longer for puzzle pieces to fit but she understands after a few sentences that it’s Russian.

Shapes come into view and she tries to blink away the dark edges of her vision, failing to do so when more fingers pull at her tongue, grab her arms.

“Please…”

She doesn’t know what she’s begging for. Maybe some release, an explanation. Why does it feel like she’s got the flu? Her limbs are like lead and she aches all over.

Her stomach clenches and she doubles over, hands grabbing her shoulders. There’s a sting and warmth wraps around her, trapping her.

She feels something like bliss, something soft and inviting and she goes back to the darkness once more, collapsing into a dream.

-

Darcy jolts awake to darkness.

She begins to hyperventilate, desperate to orientate herself. She feels slick wetness beneath her, smells dirt. She’s sitting in leaves and mud on the ground, staring up at the moon.

There’s a dog barking somewhere beyond and she whips her head around, seeing nothing but the empty park behind her. She rolls her shoulders and hisses.

Something feels bruised. Her chest is tight and she tries to breathe slower though her heart is racing. She tries to remember something – anything – that could help her.

She grunts as she moves slowly up, pulling herself to a standing pose. Her legs feel weaker. She touches her face and feels stickiness.

She remembers sitting down on her train. She remembers that morning, remembers the butterflies of anticipation. She was taking her first vacation in years.

She shuffles and then begins to walk out into the open air, seeing a house’s porch light on across from the park. She pats herself and finds her phone but it doesn’t switch on.

She tries to remember if she took anything while on the train. She’d done sleeping pills before on planes, but she doesn’t even remember leaving the station. She remembers Jane and Erik waving up at her.

Why does everything feel so fucking foggy? She makes soft huff of irritation as she walks toward the house, feeling like something is nagging her in the back of her mind. It feels like when she walks into a room and can’t remember why she was there to begin with. It’s right there, whatever information she needs. And yet it’s so impossibly far away.

She knocks on the front door, seeing her hands are caked in blood. She lets out a gasp, rapping on the glass a little faster.

“Please! Please help me –”

The door abruptly opens and a woman is standing there with her small child hiding behind her. The woman’s eyes bulge and she puts a hand to her mouth, spinning around to shield her kid from the sight of Darcy.

“Alice, go upstairs. Upstairs, now.”

She’s speaking English, with some kind of accent Darcy’s heard in London. Maybe she’s from Newcastle? But what is a woman speaking English with that kind of accent doing in France?

“Where am I?”

“Please stay still,” the woman says, glancing back at Darcy as the kid races upstairs and out of sight.

“What do I look like?”

“I think your nose is broken.”

Darcy’s hands go to her nose but it doesn’t feel tender. She feels more stickiness, congealed blood. Everything’s a little blurry and she realizes she’s not wearing her glasses or her contact lenses.

“Where am I?” Darcy asks again.

Her throat is dry and she’s trying to swallow. Her voice sounds hoarse.

“Fenham, love,” the woman replies.

She has her phone out and starts dialing.

“I’m calling the police.”

Darcy feels like she might pass out. She lowers herself on the porch, staring at her hands. Her nails are torn, with dirt and God knows what else under them. She tries to rub her hands on her pants and she can see they’re filthy.

She stinks. It’s as if she wasn’t aware of herself and then the volume’s been dialled way, way up. She cups her ears, feeling like her head might burst from the sudden onslaught of sensations.

“Police?” she finally says, and the woman nods.

“I think you’ve been hit by a car, love.”

Darcy’s eyes widen up at her.

“Wait… Fenham? Where’s that?”

-

The police arrive with paramedics. Darcy feels herself start to shrink, afraid of what everything means.

She hadn’t done anything close to risky in the longest time. Before Puente Antiguo she used to smoke weed every so often but she never overdid it. She only drank a few beers at a time, occasionally cracking open some wine to share with Jane while they watched TV.

She tried acid once. Just once. Maybe this was something residual from years ago? That theory seems a little far-fetched, but weirder things happen to Darcy all the time.

She must have blacked out but she has no idea when that could have happened. She thinks of her mom and shudders, the paramedic asking if she’s alright.

“My mom… she had episodes when I was a baby.”

“What kind episodes?”

Darcy felt her face flush. “Psychosis.”

The paramedics looked at one another.

“Miss, we should take you somewhere to get cleaned up.”

Darcy gulped, glancing at the uniformed officers who were watching her while she sat on the porch.

“Her pupils,” one of them said, and Darcy frowned.

“I’m not on drugs.”

She had no idea if that was true but she still felt she had to defend herself against the accusation.

She was driven to the nearest hospital, asking for a phone charger several times before someone at the front desk took pity on her. The paramedics did their best job at cleaning her of the coagulated blood on her face and hands but she was still aware of her own smell.

It didn’t help that people were turning to look at her, their noses wrinkling.

The hospital was smaller than Darcy was used to, the waiting room cramped with local patients. She was finally shown into another room and a doctor looked over her chart.

Darcy unlocked her phone, seeing the date was wrong on her phone.

“What’s… the date today?”

She didn’t want to ask a question that would make her sound like a crazy person. Absent-minded, sure. But she didn’t want people to consider locking her up.

“It’s April 23rd.”

Darcy’s eyes widened. “No. It’s… no. I…”

“Are you alright?”

Darcy felt like she could throw up. That couldn’t be right. It was June. She left London on June 3rd. Maybe the doctor had been run ragged, their own mind a little off.

“It’s April 23rd?” Darcy repeated.

“Yes. Do you know where you are?”

“Fenham. The lady who answered her door told me.”

“You’re American…”

The doctor trailed off, glancing at the chart once more. He frowned a little.

“Darcy Lewis.”

“Yes, that’s me.”

She knew that without a doubt. Her name was Darcy Lewis and she’d woken up in a park in Newcastle, covered in blood.

“Where are you staying? At one of the hostels in town?”

Darcy shook her head.

“I’m… meant to be in France.”

“Do you know what happened to you?”

Darcy swallowed a couple times, feeling sick.

“No… I… don’t remember.”

She felt the sudden urge to cry. The doctor consulted the chart yet again, unaffected by her tears that began to fall.

She looked back at her phone, seeing she had several hundred text messages left unread.

Her eyes bulged.

“Miss?”

“I need to leave. Now, I need to leave right now. Right now.”

She looked around and remembered she had no bag. No money, nothing. She just had her phone and her muddled head, her rapidly beating heart.

“Do you have someone we can call?”

The doctor continued talking while she went through her phone, tuning their voice out. She never had more than a few unread texts at a time. Darcy prides herself on being a great communicator. She is punctual, precise with her texts.

Is this even her phone, she wonders. She opens each text, seeing Jane behind the majority of them.

Did you arrive safely?

Just checking in again, Darce. Call me sometime soon?

Darcy, are you safe? You said you’d stick to the tourist traps. Were you just saying that so I wouldn’t worry?

Darcy’s hands begin to shake the further she goes.

Did you break your phone? You’re not answering emails, either

Darce, please call me

D, did I do something wrong?

One from Erik breaks the chain:

Jane is very worried. I’m worried, too. Please call us. Please.

More from Jane, reaching the edge of hysteria.

Did I do something wrong?

Where are you?

Darcy, please – anything. Anything at all. Please let me know you’re safe. I don’t care if you’ve gone for good. I just want to know if you’re okay.

Please. Please Darcy. Please. Anything.

Darcy feels tears start to fall and the doctor snaps:

“Miss Lewis, I need you to tell me if you’ve taken anything. You told the paramedics that your mother has experienced psychosis…”

“My mother is dead,” Darcy murmurs.

She stares down at nine months of texts, all from Jane and Erik. She sniffs, swiping at her eyes.

“I need to call someone in London. They’ll come get me.”

-

Darcy can’t explain nine months missing from her own mind.

She has scans, tests of all kinds. There’s nothing wrong with her brain. She had no activity on any of her social media accounts the entire time she disappeared. Not a single blip of anything anywhere. Darcy knows hacking might help, but surveillance cameras only show so much data before they’re wiped. She can’t go back further than a few days when she tries to see how she got to Fenham.

She has no idea if she even left England. Her passport was missing along with the rest of her belongings.

When she sees Jane and Erik as she arrives in London she begins to cry. She is so afraid but she can’t give them a reason. For the longest time they thought something awful had happened to her.

She did a pregnancy test and it came back negative. She was clean, healthy even. She’d lost weight but not enough to consider significant. She felt so different.

For a few days, they theorized what happened. Maybe Darcy was transported somewhere. Maybe it was Loki. Maybe Thor accidentally did something and there were repercussions on Earth. They didn’t know, and they couldn’t know.

It becomes the thing they don’t talk about.

It becomes the thing that keeps Darcy up at night.

It becomes the fuel of her nightmares to follow, the nightmares full of hands, stabbing pains and hazy sighs.

It becomes a secret buried deep inside her.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

See yourself, your image in the eyes of someone else
See yourself, your fears as they appear to someone else

When the sun sets
On dark silhouettes
Collapse into dream

- "Scarlet Fields" by The Horrors

 

 

Part Two: Chair

 

 

Darcy is a petulant little bitch.

Ian already knows this well. It’s one of the things he likes about her. She’s a little bit too much of everything. She’s too loud, too reactive, too big for her little boots. He watches her behind the glass with two of his colleagues. When he dragged her from the train in Paris she put up a fight, leaving a puncture wound on his arm from her gnashing little teeth. He meant to bop her on the head, make her pass out. He knew he needed to file way more paperwork because of the complications of the mission.

Darcy is sitting on the floor of her padded cell, staring at the wall with a vacant expression on her face. She was pumped full of tranquilisers the second Ian could manage keeping her still.

It’s just his luck that he has to watch her with Karl and Yuri, two of the most incompetent dickheads he’s ever had to deal with, and that’s saying something.

“Why doesn’t he just make her another Widow?” Karl says, and Yuri smacks the back of his head.

“Fucking hopeless, aren’t you? She’s the Foster woman’s assistant. Ian couldn’t get the information by himself.”

Ian shoots Yuri a sharp look, folding his arms where he stands while they sit in their swivel chairs.

“I did exactly what needed to be done,” he retorts. Yuri exchanges a look with Karl, who shrugs. “If either of you paid enough attention you’d know we’d have made her a Widow only if the other strategies didn’t work.”

Karl glances at Darcy beyond the glass.

“What is she doing?”

“She’s out,” Yuri says, chuckling.

Ian knows her better, so he doesn’t recoil when she suddenly runs at the glass, banging her fists on it and screaming. Ian thinks of Boudicca, the feral woman that defeated Romans. Darcy has the wild glint in her eye still despite the drugs.

“She needs a top up,” Yuri murmurs. Karl sniggers.

“I suppose I’ll do it, shall I?”

Ian glances at the source of the voice and sees Ivan Malakhov and he stands to attention, staring straight ahead. Yuri and Karl scramble to their feet, a lighter and a biro pen falling to the floor as the three of them salute.

“At ease,” Ivan snaps with his usual impatience. He nods at Darcy, who’s currently scratching at the glass and grunting. “Someone put her out of her misery.”

“Yes, sir,” Ian replies, and Molokhov narrows his eyes at Yuri and Karl.

“Sir?” Yuri asks, and Ian can’t help but smirk behind Malakov’s back as their boss walks over to the grunts and promptly smacks Yuri across the cheek.

Karl freezes, wide-eyed.

“Do not let her suffer longer than necessary. It is imperative that she stayed sedated at all times. Is that understood, Comrade?”

Ian is used to Molokhov’s thundering tirades and keeps still, face neutral while he continues to berate the other two men.

“Comrade Popov, is that understood?”

Karl nods. Molokhov turns back to Ian.

“I will not lean onto others, sir,” Ian says, and it’s the right thing to say. Molokhov nods. “I will continue to be attentive with Darcy, as requested. She will be prepared for stage 2.”

Ian dislikes his own Russian. It’s too formal and it makes him sound like he’s constantly kissing someone’s arse. At least he doesn’t sound like the son of a nitwit farmer like Yuri and Karl do.

Once Molokhov leaves, Yuri rubs the pink mark left on his cheek.

“Christ, he needs to get laid.”

Ian meets his gaze, raising an eyebrow.

“I mean that in the nicest way possible,” Yuri adds, looking sheepish.

-

Darcy spends days in and out of consciousness. Ian tries to sleep when she does but she’s still fighting off the men who try to touch her delicately. Ian recognises that he absolutely underestimated her strength. She has the constitution of a much larger man, which in a way makes sense. She said she used to drink all her boyfriends under the table.

At least it wasn’t a pathetic fight. She manages to pull out some of Karl’s hair at one point, her pupils so dilated her eyes look black under the fluorescent lights.

Stage 2 comes because of scheduling. Ian wonders if Darcy notices the change in the air, the possibilities that are unfolding the longer she is captive. She locks eyes with him once after three days in her cell and he swears she sees him, really sees him there but he knows it can’t be so. She’s way too high to know up from down, let alone access a familiar face from her memories.

“Please…”

She begs just once, when people are examining her, five doctors all probing her with latex-gloved hands.

Her voice is hoarse, her lips cracking and dry. Ian is watching from a safe distance, gun in hand just in case.

One female doctor glances at Darcy, her stern expression softening. Darcy promptly spits in her face, seeing the opportunity too sweet to save the remaining moisture in her body. She dissolves into a cackle and the female doctor grabs her by the jaw, fingers bruising.

“Enough. Let her be,” Ian yells, and the female doctor remembers the mission, nodding.

She might be shot for interfering. Ian wouldn’t put it past Molokhov. The doctors all take their notes once they leave the cell with just Ian inside with Darcy. She looks far away again, hunching over with the curtain of her long hair covering her face.

“Is Molokhov ready?” Ian asks, and he hears someone over the intercom answer him.

“Yes, Comrade.”

Ian waits in the control room with his arms crossed and Molokhov marches in twenty minutes later, checking a folder full of papers.

“She is responding well to the serum so far,” he begins, scanning each page. “Excellent work, Comrade Bokaryov.”

“Thank you, sir,” Ian replies, avoiding looking him directly in the eye. ‘Boothby’ didn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Darcy has a seizure while Ian is sleeping and he’s shaken awake by a younger grunt covered in acne scars. He shoves him away with annoyance, climbing down from his bunk and grabbing his boots.

He reaches the lab to see Molokhov running his hands through his thinning hair, several doctors attending Darcy inside the cell.

“She’s not strong enough,” Molokhov murmurs.

“Sir?” Ian says, and Molokhov turns his head to glare.

“You brought her here! Tell me I’m wrong.”

Ian knows being honest won’t help him. He’d be the next one shot if he actually corrected Molokhov to his face. That was just the chain of command.

“Perhaps we need time –”

Molokhov hurls a pen at him, seething.

“You sleep with that little slut for months only to fail?”

Ian tries his best to keep still, letting Molokhov berate him for several minutes. He’s only interrupted when a doctor says something from within the cell.

“She’s stable. She’s not responding to the sedative as much.”

That’s a good sign. Ian lets himself sigh when Molokhov does. The commander presses the intercom button.

“We will move on to stage 3 as planned.”

Ian salutes him when he leaves, his heart still racing long after he is alone.

-

Ian doesn’t do any of the programming. That’s above his training, something Molokhov and a couple American agents do over the next few days.

Darcy’s memory fades fast. Their control sentence is ‘Leaves on the earth, water in the sky, stars in the eye’ and she can recite it perfectly every time they ask her to… until she’s told several more commands and she forgets it.

No-one hits her for a while. It’s only when she begins to learn how to fight that Molokhov finally loses his temper, his little pet acting up.

Ian is watching the first time she’s knocked to the ground. She’s told to jump to her feet without using her hands. Her legs are much stronger than her arms and Ian thinks it might be a reasonable request but Darcy’s still sloppy.

“Again,” Molokhov commands, voice like ice. His English is sometimes stunted, but especially so when he begins to get angry.

Darcy struggles, resorting to using her palms to press into the mat below.

“Again.”

She grunts, her hair a wild tangle and obscuring her strained face.

She finally gets up, only to be socked in the mouth and she gives a little cry of surprise, hitting the mat hard. She clutches her face, wide-eyed and blinking blearily up at Molokhov.

“Again,” he hisses.

She lets out a growl and dives at him, managing to get hold of his pants leg before one of the Americans pulls her off. She struggles, screaming obscenities.

“Does Molokhov need a translation?” Yuri asks Karl in a low voice, who snorts.

“Shut the fuck up,” Ian snaps in English.

Darcy is kicked in her stomach a few times as punishment, her whole body curling up and she shudders with the pain, probably craving another hit.

They wipe her the first time that night, the gap in the front of her teeth showing as she bites down on the rubber mouthpiece. She screams and screams, but the serum saves her from any great damage to her body – her mind is what suffers most of all.

-

Darcy’s first kill is a doctor, opening their neck with a scalpel. Blood sprays all over her face and she’s breathing heavily. Ian slams his hand on the button for the siren and Darcy looks around, panting.

The doctor on the floor is choking on their own blood and Darcy stares and stares before she’s tackled to the ground by one of the American handlers.

She’s hit with more sedatives, and then is wiped again.

She gets better at learning right from wrong.

-

She learns Russian pretty fast. She knows some of her trigger words after only a month in captivity.

One time she knocks a flashcard out of a handler’s grasp and her water is taken away for the day.

Ian can see she’s becoming someone else, someone more.

He checks her phone every day, seeing the sea of worried texts. He doesn’t delete them, keeps them well away from prying eyes when he feels like Darcy’s taking too long. The texts assure him that he’s on the right path.

Three months in, Molokhov admits:

“She’s very intelligent. More so than I predicted.”

Ian feels a flare of irritation. Being a clever girl didn’t help her, it didn’t stop him from taking her. He tries not to seem pissed off but he wants to defend himself.

Molokhov glances at him, his face less tense.

“Well done, Comrade.”

“Thank you, sir,” Ian murmurs, his injured pride forgotten for a moment.

-

Nine months is longer than some people realize. At least, when you’re doing the same meticulous tasks over and over nine months can feel like a lifetime.

Nine months is long enough to grow a baby in the womb. Ian thinks of that when Darcy kills her first target, a defected soldier who pleads for his life. When Darcy is let loose, she runs toward him with eyes like stone and stabs him repeatedly with a little knife and the soldier cries out.

“Please! Please, I beg you. Please, I’ll do anything –”

She grabs him by the lapels and drags him along the floor while he struggles, bleeding on the ground. She reaches the glass and holds him up for Molokhov to see. She seems to understand that there’s always someone watching her.

Molokhov gives her the command and she slits the soldier’s throat.

He turns to Ian, shooting him a pointed look.

“On to firearms, then,” he murmurs, and Ian nods.

-

She’s six months in captivity before she holds a proper conversation with Molokhov in his native language. Her Russian is poor but closer enough to speak in simple codes.

“We want to visit, for the summer weather,” Molokhov begins.

He means ‘there is a target in the south’.

“For how long?” Darcy replies.

She means ‘How many targets?’

Molokhov gives a small, genuine smile. It’s like a miracle, and then Ian can’t help but wonder what that means, that Darcy makes him smile.

“Only a few days.”

It means ‘one’. There is no quantity explicitly described in code.

“It may rain on…”

Darcy trails off. She’s meant to say ‘Thursday’ to indicate there are CIA or other agencies watching the target.

“Thursday,” Molokhov prompts her.

Darcy frowns, looking away. Molokhov grips her by the jaw, forcing her to look him in the eye.

“Thursday,” he snarls, and she growls.

He takes a step back, pulling out his pistol, switching the safety off. He could shoot her somewhere to make a point, not to kill her.

“Thursday,” Darcy says, narrowing her blue eyes. She swallows, switching to English. “Thursday.”

Ian knows her mind is trying to constantly remind her of her past, tell her she has friends like Thor Odinson out there in space, but she can’t be making connections when they’re already two thirds of the way through the program.

“Wipe her,” Molokhov says, and Ian nods.

Darcy is shocked more than usual, as if Molokhov is trying to make a point. She lets it happen, doesn’t struggle when she’s sat on the chair and strapped down.

-

They reach spring and Darcy manages to escape her cell twice. She’s reprimanded swiftly but Ian is surprised that Molokhov seems proud of her for her insolence.

“She has spirit, like the Winter Soldier.”

Ian wishes he could roll his eyes. The HYDRA wet dream that was the Winter Soldier came up so often but Ian was yet to see his appeal. The man was currently in cryotasis in Siberia, not even helping train Darcy.

Darcy is leashed by a thick long chain and she takes her time to try and struggle out of it but never manages to. Ian knows its made of adamantium. She nearly pops her shoulder out before she’s stopped.

-

They give her one last wipe, a really fierce one that makes her scream the loudest. She’s hosed down and dressed in her old clothes from the train made dirty by some grunts that rubbed them in some manure and mud. Her hair is still tangled, and her nails are ruined from months of training and scraping at the walls.

They rough her up to make it seem like she’s been in an accident. One of the handlers socks her in the nose and she bleeds all the way down her front, her hands made sticky from clutching her face.

They roll a dark van through Newcastle and deposit her in a park.

When Ian hears the all-clear, Molokhov hands him a glass of vodka and they toast.

“Hail HYDRA.”

When Ian is sent a photo of Darcy lying on the ground as proof of a job done, he keeps unlocking his phone to look at it, to remind himself.

She almost looks peaceful, broken and sprawled on the ground like that.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Don't be cautious, don't be kind
You committed, I'm your crime
Push my button anytime
You got your finger on the trigger, but your trigger finger's mine."

- "COPYCAT" by Billie Eilish

 

 

Part Three: Star

 

 

Darcy jolts awake.

She fumbles for her light and grabs her phone that sits facing down on her bedside table. She opens her note app and taps out a few words.

It was the hands nightmare again. She’s had that one the most. She feels more than she sees the latex-gloved fingers grasping her, invading her mouth. She’s even drawn some biro doodles on scraps of paper when words don’t seem like enough to describe it. Swirls of blue biro ink with jagged lines to express her roiling anxiety.

She doesn’t have to check – she can tell already her sheets are soaking with her sweat once again. The first time it happened she was a little irritated because she hates doing her laundry. They don’t own a washer or dryer so there’s always the laundromat around the corner from the London flat she still shares with Erik and Jane. Darcy used to hate that trek but now it’s a welcome distraction from the scary images in her mind’s eye. She bundles up her sheets before pulling on her rumpled tracksuit she wore yesterday, and then she tries not to wake anyone as she moves out of her bedroom to slip out into the world.

She needs to see another doctor. For months she’s had nearly every kind of test but no-one can explain her memory loss. She was referred to a psychiatrist who very gently suggested some kind of acute stress that caused her to black out for long periods of time. She was prescribed Lexapro, which didn’t help. Darcy still couldn’t sleep easily and her moods alternated between desperate attempts at remaining calm and chronic sadness. She can’t quite say she’s depressed even though she knows she must be – she has all the classic symptoms – but she can’t find herself sitting with it properly, letting it have more power than it already does.

She still doesn’t talk about it with Jane or Erik. Work has become the least stressful part of her life.

She makes her way down the steps two at a time, aware of the lack of people around. The time before dawn is almost entirely hers. She knows it’s not safe this time of night but she just… doesn’t care. She’s aware of the danger but she’s not stupid, she keeps to the well-lit areas. They live in a pretty safe area of the city anyway. Darcy passes the New Age store near the Nando’s and pauses at the window, seeing the fluorescent sign for palm readings. She walks past the store every day and has never been inside. While staring at a painting of Buddha beyond the glass window she feels the hairs on the back of her neck stand up and she shivers, glancing behind her.

She feels like she’s being watched. This happens every so often. Darcy remembers her mom whipping her head around at unseen figures, her eyes wide. Darcy tries to move slower, as if she’s in more control that she actually is. She hasn’t heard voices, or seen people following her. Yet.

She grabs her bag with her dirty sheets inside and slings it over her shoulder again, walking a little faster towards the McDonald's that never closes. She orders a black coffee and sees a woman wearing next to nothing filing her nails with a few coins on her otherwise empty table. Darcy meets her gaze and the woman nods at her.

She guesses she’s a sex worker, but Darcy can’t judge her for that. She had friends in college that took money from their dates sometimes. There was one guy who bought a foot picture off Darcy once when she had no money for gas. Darcy takes her black coffee to a table in a corner so she can see her entire surroundings and the woman is looking at her, before getting up from her seat.

“Love, can I borrow a tenner?”

Ten whole pounds? Darcy lifts one eyebrow.

“Or just a couple quid?”

Darcy takes out her purse and hands her ten pounds, and the woman gives her a smile. She’s quite beautiful and Darcy hopes her life isn’t always like this.

“Thank you so much, babe. God bless you.”

The woman leaves and Darcy passes a hand over her face. She’s the only one sitting there and she can hear the people out back murmuring about their personal lives, some creep on Tinder who didn’t want to wear a condom.

Darcy can hear better. She doesn’t know when that started but now everything’s turned up and she’s sensitive to loud noises. She used to blare her music through her earphones but can no longer stand it. She wonders if the neighbors keep her up, not her thoughts. Maybe it’s a combination of the two.

She gets up from her seat and orders enough food for a large family and sees the girl whose lack-of-condom story she just overheard raise her eyebrows before turning to collect her food.

Hunger keeps her up at night sometimes, too. She eats more in secret than around Jane or Erik nowadays. She knows this will be her first meal of the day, and probably her first breakfast of three. She’ll have brunch then a big lunch, then afternoon snacks, dinner, supper, dessert and a midnight snack. The first time she binged was the day after she got back to London from Newcastle and she felt bottomless.

Darcy rubs her eyes while she waits for the judgmental server. She doesn’t wear her glasses anymore, either. The optometrist said that on the rare occasion people’s sight might improve but Darcy knows her sight is better than it’s ever been. Darcy thinks she might have got laser eye surgery during her blackout but there’s no evidence of her paying for it. She had no wallet when she resurfaced but none of her savings had been touched. Her credit cards were stolen but never used, and no-one accessed her Internet banking accounts, either.

Darcy eats her food when it comes, feeling eyes on her again. She gobbles fries, Big Macs, chicken nuggets, an egg McMuffin and a couple huge cups of Sprite. She asks for a soft serve when she’s done and takes her laundry bag in one hand with her ice cream in the other as she walks out. The laundromat is pretty quiet except for an old lady Darcy sees there most nights.

“Hey, Agnes.”

“Hello, Darcy,” she replies. She’s knitting and Darcy takes the machine beside her, loading it up.

Darcy sits down beside her, watching the machine fill with water. Darcy glances over her shoulder again and feels her heartbeat quicken. She thinks of the hands again and covers her mouth, remembering the feel of something on her tongue.

Were those hands meant to be a doctor? Or more than one doctor?

She leaves Agnes eventually with her dried sheets and sees the sun is close to coming up. She arrives back at the apartment and hears Erik still softly snoring.

-

It’s just like Ian’s luck to be transferred to England once again. He couldn’t just stay in Russia, he had to be moved to where Darcy was. He’d rather not go back there.

He got used to living in the countryside. He likes living among masses of tall trees, snow everywhere. He is very much the ideal Russian. It’s just his luck he’s only half-Russian and he’s the only one Molokhov trusts to keep Darcy in line.

Apparently there’s been some drama happening across the pond anyway. At least he’s not being dragged over to America. The thought of having to be around Americans for that long of a time already gives him a slight headache.

He flies separate to Yuri and Karl, meeting up with them a week into reacclimatising, and they’re still annoying as ever. The only added bonus is having Robbie Brown assigned to the team as well.

Robbie is Scottish, born and raised. He was recruited by his father from birth and speaks Russian, French, Gaelic, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese, Indonesian and Japanese… with a heavy Glaswegian accent throughout.

It is somehow harder for Yuri and Karl to understand him in English than any other language, and his Russian is perfect. Somehow Greek is easier to digest but neither Yuri nor Karl speak enough Greek.

The first time Robbie meets the two grunts both Yuri and Karl turn to Ian for an explanation.

“He’s asking how you are,” Ian says, in English.

“Did he?” Yuri says, and Karl makes a face.

Robbie is everything they’re not. Intelligent, charming, handsome – and a man who has proven his worth time and time again. He specialises in surveillance and occasional hit jobs. He has intensely blue eyes, brown wavy hair and an auburn beard.

The few times Ian has worked with him, Robbie had the ability to stop women – and men – in their tracks.

They’re all sitting in the apartment building across the street from the one Darcy, Jane Foster and Erik Selvig are all living in. They have a window looking straight into Darcy’s but she never has her blinds open during the day.

“I cannae see in,” Robbie murmurs, looking through binoculars. “Ye need eyes by tomorrow or hell slap it intae ye.”

Yuri widened his eyes, and Ian smirks.

“We need cameras,” he says.

Yuri looks exasperated. “Why didn’t he just say that, then?”

Robbie winks at Ian. “Tone it down?”

Ian nods. “Otherwise I’ll be an interpreter for six hours.”

“Why six?” Robbie asks, smiling.

“Six is my limit and then I throw one of these lads out the window,” Ian murmurs. He picks up his own binoculars and looks toward the apartment windows opposite. “We’ll do it when they’re out this morning. Foster and Selvig tend to walk every day together. Debrief one another on more theories.”

“Where does the lass go?” Robbie asks. He glances at Yuri and Karl. “‘Lass’ means girl.”

Gull?” Karl repeats.

“Christ,” Robbie mutters, but he’s still smiling. He mutters something else to himself, shaking his head.

“Darcy goes to have breakfast down the street,” Ian replies.

They only have to wait another hour and the two scientist appear sans Darcy, already deep in conversation as they move down the street.

Ian clicks his fingers at Karl.

“Follow them, make sure we know where they are.”

Karl lets out a sigh and walks out, grabbing one of the burner phones on his way. Yuri smirks, but Ian’s eyes slide to his.

“You’re helping set up.”

“Can’t I watch the chick walk out?” he whines.

“Robbie will have the distinct pleasure this morning,” Ian says, and Robbie immediately perks up.

“Oh, aye? She pretty?”

“Pretty big tits –” Yuri says, but begins to laugh too much. “But she’s close to shaving her head these days. Very spaced out.”

Robbie doesn’t inquire, just turns his head back to the window. They wait another ten minutes before Darcy emerges, glancing around. Ian is pretty sure Darcy doesn’t want Jane or Erik knowing she gets breakfast while they’re out.

Robbie lets out a rush of a breath, still looking through binoculars.

“Oof. She’s bloody gorgeous.”

It surprises Ian that Robbie never comes across as lecherous. He glances at him, feeling himself frown.

Yuri begins to snicker and Ian waits for the usual comment about his extensive mission when he first was her intern.

“Really hard work knowing her, huh, Boothby?”

Robbie glances at Ian, eyebrows raised.

“Honey trap?”

“Not exactly,” Ian replies stiffly.

He puts down his binoculars. He clicks his fingers again and Yuri steps away from the window, moving to grab the bag of equipment.

“Five minutes,” Robbie says.

Ian nods. They have to be quick so there is as little room for error as possible. He and Yuri take off, racing down the stairs and into the street below. They let themselves into the apartment building and Ian sprints up the stairs. He picks the lock in no time because he can’t trust Yuri to not make a mistake. He keeps his phone on in case Robbie alerts them.

The apartment is barely contained chaos. There is so much to nearly knock over. Paper covers almost every surface. Yuri lifts a hand to grab some notes and Ian smacks it away.

Do not take anything, you fucking idiot,” he hisses in Russian, and Yuri shrugs.

“What? Wouldn’t it be easier to take it now? Save months of prep –”

“If we take anything Foster will be on high alert and it’s essential Lewis is uncompromised.”

“I’m trying to be efficient,” Yuri throws back.

Ian stalks into Darcy’s bedroom and Yuri follows him. Ian takes out the first microphone and puts it on the light fixture above Darcy’s bed. He glances down at Yuri.

“Undermine me again and I’ll tell Molokhov about your brilliant ideas.”

“You’re just good at sucking his cock,” Yuri snaps, his face a little pink. “If you weren’t always gargling his balls you’d be the same as me and Karl.”

Yuri places a camera smaller than a Tic-Tac above the window, concealing it in the curtain rod. Ian knows he’d never reach that without a footstool so the grunt is useful at last. He ignores the little jibe, knowing he’ll retire with honours when Yuri and Karl are always one or two interactions away from being hung out a window in Siberia by their intestines.

They fix two more cameras in the main living area. More microphones in light fixtures and then one last glance around to make sure everything remains inconspicuous.

They leave and Ian trips Yuri in the street, making sure his little insults don’t go unpunished. Once they reach Robbie again Yuri’s scowling at Ian, arms folded.

“Good timing.”

Ian sees the familiar figure emerging from the café. Darcy only stopped by for a cup of takeaway coffee and something in a brown paper bag.

“What did you get, darling?” Robbie murmurs. “She a sweet or savory lass?”

“Bit of both,” Ian mutters. He knows there’s some kind of innuendo there.

“She any good with that mouth?” Yuri mutters, and Robbie begins to chuckle.

“Christ, it’s like staring into the sun,” Robbie adds. “If this doesn’t work out, what are we meant to do with her? She’s way too obvious to be a Widow.”

Ian shrugs. He’d rather not think about the mission somehow failing, because that would mean his own execution.

Yuri opens the laptop once Darcy goes inside and the camera feed appears, a grainy black and white perspective showing Darcy standing at the kitchen table. She’s glancing around.

“How could she know?” Yuri whispers.

“She wouldn’t. I was careful.”

Robbie is silent, his binoculars down as he peers over Yuri’s shoulder at the feed. Ian narrows his eyes slightly at the Scot, daring him to add his own commentary.

He’s feeling suddenly territorial and he doesn’t like it. He knows Robbie would only have his best interests at heart but he’s still an enigma. He endured years of torture after returning from a mission with the British Secret Service, to prove that he was still loyal to HYDRA.

“What do you think?” Ian murmurs, and Robbie’s face slackens.

“She’s very sad.”

“Serum makes her hungry,” Ian explains. “I think that’s affected her mood.”

“Right,” Robbie says, and he flashes a smile. “Not the programming or her being in a foreign country.”

Ian shrugs. He doesn’t care about how she feels. He doesn’t need her in this form. He sometimes itches to activate her, just to show himself what he’s capable of. He wonders if Robbie would still say such sweet things about her if his lass tried to slit his throat with her own teeth.

He cracks his knuckles and they wait for her to do something. Yuri gets bored easily, leaning on his elbow. Ian glances down at the street and sees Jane and Erik again.

“Cavalry’s back.”

Karl returns a few minutes later with coffees and Ian wants to roll his eyes at the gesture. He never takes anything from anyone else, not even people within HYDRA. He doesn’t trust anyone, and he thinks it’s the best choice to make every time. He shakes his head at the Styrofoam cup Karl offers him and instead makes his own instant brew in the little kettle by the power point in the next room, listening out for conversation.

“Did they winch?”

“What?” Yuri says, and Robbie chuckles.

“Shag. Did they fuck?”

“Oh, absolutely,” Karl replies in Russian. “For five or so months, I thought.”

Ian walks back in and feels the tension in the room. He glances at Robbie, expectant.

“Just curious,” the Scot murmurs.

“That thing about her liking sweet or savory things?” Ian says, and Robbie’s eyebrows hike. “I’m guessing you want to know what she’s like in bed.”

Yuri and Karl exchange a look. Robbie doesn’t smile for once.

“Just curious,” Robbie says again. He sounds colder. “If she put up a fight.”

Ian feels himself give a sly smile. “Didn’t have to convince her.”

“So she’s good?” Karl asks, and Ian’s eyes swivel to him.

“Hmm.” Ian licks his lips.

Robbie begins to laugh loudly and Ian jumps at the sudden outburst, coffee spilling over and scalding him. He hisses, flicking droplets on the floor as Robbie keeps laughing.

Yuri and Karl join in eventually but the moment has passed.

“I think I’ll like it here,” Robbie says, and he glances back at the feed.

-

The next few days are mostly uneventful. They take turns watching Darcy. Since there is a procedure to it, Ian’s notes are extensive despite the lack of activity.

Ian still doesn’t know what to make of Robbie. The first time Darcy undresses in front of the camera he glances away and doesn’t even smile in that mischievous way Ian’s seen before. Yuri and Karl watch and so does Ian. It’s as if Robbie doesn’t know the rules don’t apply to him. He could easily get away with wanking at Darcy peeling off her shirt and bra, or her little pairs of knickers.

“Fuck, we never saw her like this during the programming,” Karl says to Robbie, who nods. He takes a gulp of his water bottle instead of looking anywhere the computer screen.

“What was she like?” Robbie murmurs.

“Fucking crazy.”

Robbie makes a humming sound, and Ian supposes the Scot is remembering the long months he spent locked away. Ian heard rumours about him being left in a dark room with no clothes in the middle of winter, with not even a bucket to piss or shit in. There was also the waterboarding stories, and the stories about him having his nails ripped out with his eyes forced open to watch.

Ian glances at Robbie’s wrist one night when they’re watching Darcy together while Karl and Yuri sleep. There’s a mark on the underside and Robbie catches him staring.

“Broken and reset four times.”

Ian doesn’t say anything, doesn’t indicate if he’s moved by this new information. Robbie has scars from his months in captivity while Darcy doesn’t because of the serum. Ian nods at Darcy.

“I didn’t rape her.”

Robbie doesn’t blink. “I didn’t expect you to have. Don’t seem the type. Usually handlers do that, anyway.”

He finally looks away and Ian feels a flare of irritation, the urge to clarify. Robbie makes him sound like a lower rung in the ladder than he actually is. Molokhov started calling him by his first name by the time Darcy was released.

Without looking at him, Robbie murmurs:

“Do I have to point out that not raping her is a good thing?”

Ian’s lips part to reply but he doesn’t.

“Because it is,” Robbie says, licking his lips. He stares at the shape under the thick bed covers in Darcy’s bedroom. “A good thing.”

There’s a silence as Ian tries to think of what to say.

“I’m not into that," he finally murmurs.

-

Darcy goes to the New Age store one Thursday afternoon when the sun peeks out for a few hours. She’s eating another ice cream and wondering if she should invest in a mini fridge to put in her bedroom when she pauses in front of the palm reading sign.

Fuck it. She’s tried so many things. She slips inside and licks her soft serve some more, taking in what she sees. She can see the areas for numerology, palmistry and crystals.

She glances at the astrology section and runs her finger along the spines. There’s the scent of incense and she feels the urge to sneeze come and then dissipate.

The store owner smiles at her and Darcy points at her ice cream.

“This okay? I promise I’ll pay for anything I get dirty.”

“I doubt it,” the store owner replies, a woman in her forties with her braids covered in an orange bandanna. “Where are you from?”

“Down the street,” Darcy replies.

“I meant –”

“New York originally,” she adds, smiling. She nods at the sign behind the woman’s head. “You do tarot readings?”

“Yes. I’m free now if you’d like me to do a spread.”

Darcy considers this, licking down to the cone. She shoves it in her mouth gracelessly. Her mouth full, she nods, giving a thumbs-up.

The owner turns around and reaches down for something behind the counter. She tilts her head toward a bead curtain at the back of the store.

“Come back with me.”

Darcy tries to ignore the way her pulse immediately quickens like she might be making a lethal mistake but she tells herself she’s not in danger, she’s just meeting this hippie lady before going back to do more data entry.

The back of the store is even more cramped, cardboard boxes lining the walls. Darcy sits in a plastic chair opposite the owner and swallows the remainder of her ice cream. It occurs to her that she doesn’t know anything about tarot cards.

“If you have a particular question in mind –”

“How much does it cost?” Darcy interjects, and the woman blinks a couple times.

“Depends.”

“What if I draw, like, one card?” Darcy asks.

The woman give a short laugh. “Uh. I suppose I could do that easily enough. We could chase the meaning of the card.”

“Which means?”

“The first place your eye goes on the card you draw, we follow the symbolism in other cards.”

Darcy’s turn to blink a couple times, trying to figure out if it’s too fishy for her own liking. She glances away, seeing a box labelled Sagittarius – OTHER and she can’t help smiling.

“Listen, I don’t think I believe this stuff. I’m just kind of drifting and wondering about how to make sense of…”

Darcy trails off, swinging her eyes back to the other woman.

“Maybe just one card and you tell me what it means. I don’t need my fortune told.”

“It’s a good thing to be curious, to be skeptical,” the woman replies. “I encourage it with my clients.”

Darcy nods.

“But I won’t charge you for one card.”

“Okay,” Darcy murmurs. She nods at the cards the woman holds in her palm. “You shuffle them or me?”

“You.”

She hands them over and Darcy tries shuffling them precisely but they’re not like regular playing cards. She thinks the gloss on them makes them kind of slippery, or maybe her palms are sweaty. She shuffles a few times, probably not enough. She then puts them on the little table between them and the owner waves her hand across.

“Spread them out.”

Darcy obliges and she likes the sight of the long line of cards. It makes her think of witches and spells. She was a witch three years in a row for Halloween. Her hand hovers above the line and she picks one to the left, turning it over in her hand.

“It’s… the Star,” Darcy reads.

It’s a figure of a nude woman crouching and holding two chalices, one of the chalices is pouring water into a stream with the other chalice pouring water onto the ground beside her. There’s a large star above the woman’s head with several others in the sky.

“What does it mean?”

She can see the nude woman has one foot in the water, the other firmly planted on the ground.

“She’s in between.”

“Yes. It’s about spirituality, faith,” the owner says. She gives a little smile. “I like this one. She represents hope and purpose.”

“Purpose?” Darcy repeats. She stares at the card, swallowing. She puts it down and gets up from her seat. The owner copies her and Darcy turns her heel.

She feels a little lightheaded as she makes her way back to the store. She’s never felt this claustrophobic before. Why would the question of purpose bother her so much? She feels guilt, thinking of the owner trying to help her. She pulls out her purse and puts a note on the counter even though she can hear the owner calling out to her, asking if she’s okay.

She bursts into the street and walks straight into someone, gasping as she freezes, hands grabbing her arms.

She stares at the man she’s knocked and feels herself immediately blush at the sight of his face. He’s not particularly tall but exceptionally handsome, his eyes warm and bright blue.

“I’m so sorry,” she hears him say, recognizing his accent as Scottish. “That’s just like me to nearly knock someone over.”

Darcy pulls her arms back, babbling:

“No, my fault. Sorry. I’m a space cadet.”

He chuckles, the sound genuine. He doesn’t immediately turn to walk away. Darcy readjusts the strap of her back on her shoulder, glancing away.

“You alright, darling?”

“Yeah,” Darcy mutters, giving a nervous titter. “Figures I’d run into a cute guy when I’m having a weird enough… month as it is.”

She doesn’t say ‘year’ even though it’s the truth. She’s had a weird year. She clears her throat awkwardly.

“Let me get you a coffee then, take your mind off things.”

Her eyes snap to his. “Uh. No thanks.”

She can’t get into why that’s a bad idea, but she knows she’ll be looking over her shoulder the whole time.

“Sorry, I just thought –”

“No, it’s fine, I just –”

“You seem upset and I think you could use a cuppa –”

“I’m fine, I’m just fucking awkward as hell -”

He throws his head back, laughing and Darcy feels herself smile. He offers a hand.

“Robbie.”

“Darcy,” she replies.

“Anyway. Sorry for that,” Robbie says, flashing her another dazzling smile that would have otherwise made her swoon if she wasn’t such a mess. His thumb brushes the back of her hand for a second before he lets go. “Nice to meet you.”

She just nods, feeling her cheeks burn more. She watches him walk away, his hands back in his jacket pocket. His tight jeans are doing him a lot of favours.

He suddenly turns his head and sees her looking right at him and he smiles.

In another life she would have chased after him, slide her hand into his and taken him up on his offer. Darcy glances away because she can’t bring herself to dream about a date with him.

She’d have to tell him about her memory loss, and nothing would ever be normal between them.

-

Robbie slips out when Ian is taking a piss one afternoon and comes back with a grin on his face, a swagger in his step.

Ian glares at him, having seen him walk right up to Darcy through his binoculars. He grabs him by the front of his jacket, shoving him against a wall the second he reappears.

Robbie doesn’t seem bothered by Ian’s outburst.

“You do not engage with her. Ever.”

“It’s getting fucking boring around here,” Robbie retorts, smiling. “No harm in a quick interaction.”

“If she recognises you –” Yuri begins. Even he and Karl are alarmed by Robbie’s actions.

“What would she recognise me for? Some stupid bastard who knocked into her down the street? She’s craving human interaction, that I can tell.”

Ian shoves him again. “Do not sleep with her.”

“Why, you jealous?” Robbie says, and his smile fades for that half a second before it morphs back into place. “Ah umnae.”

“What?” Karl asks.

“I won’t shag her,” Robbie says, a little clearer. He pushes Ian off him and glances at the camera feed on Yuri’s laptop again.

Ian still stands by the wall, his hands balling into fists as he pants with his rage. He wants to shake someone, preferably the smug Scotsman looking at Darcy with hearts in his eyes.

“I’ll report you.”

“I expected you would,” Robbie replies.

On the screen, Darcy is moving to grab the kettle and fills it with water before putting it on the hob to boil it. She suddenly moves the curtain above the kitchen sink and bites her lip, looking out at the street below.

“Must have made an impression,” Karl murmurs in Russian.

Robbie just smiles, turning his head to look Ian in the eye again.

“If you’re the reason –”

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, man,” he chides, and Ian lunges for him.

Yuri steps aside, looking mildly curious at the two men on the floor. Ian has his hands around his throat, the vibrations of Robbie’s voice box against his thumbs.

“If you’re gonna get mad about that, this isn’t the right field for you to be in,” Robbie says, and Ian hates his condescending tone.

Maybe all the impressive stories he heard about him were just that – stories – and there was no weight to them. Ian couldn’t believe he ever respected the man beneath him.

“There will be a lot of paperwork if you crush my windpipe, Ian,” Robbie rasps, his face starting to go pink.

Ian finally lets him go, moving off him and scowling toward the window.

-

Ian is shook awake hours later and he expects to see Robbie but instead Karl is staring down at him, eyes wide.

“What is it?” Ian grunts, shoving him away. He glances over at the empty cot beside his in the dark.

Yuri was meant to be doing the same shift as him.

“There’s been a breach.”

“What?”

“American branch. Something about Captain America –”

“What the fuck?” Ian whispers in English, getting to his feet.

He stumbles out and sees Robbie and Yuri sitting at the laptop, their burner phones out and scrolling.

“Why are you not watching her?” Ian hisses, and Robbie looks up for a second before returning his gaze to his phone.

“She’s sleeping. As long as she doesn’t start floating off the mattress we don’t have to record –”

Yuri cuts himself off when he sees Ian’s fierce glare.

Robbie clears his throat, putting his phone away. “Something bothering you, dear?”

Ian wants to ruin that handsome face with his, either with his fists or his pocketknife. He wants to make him ugly and weak. He wants to take him back to that isolation cell and make him beg for water.

“The breach in the U.S. doesn’t mean the other branches are necessarily affected,” Ian replies, his voice like ice.

Yuri gives an elaborate shrug. “I was always told there was always more of us all around the world, in the most unlikely places.”

Ian stares at him blankly. Karl smacks Yuri on the back of his head.

“We might go home sooner,” Karl hisses. “If this is cancelled.”

“You’re not leaving unless I say so,” Ian snaps.

“I don’t think that’s up to you, mate,” Robbie murmurs.

Ian turns his head to spit on the ground to stop himself from outright growling at Robbie. He shoots Yuri and Karl another venomous look.

“You want to leave now? Fine. But if you turn up in Moscow a week from now as headless torsos, don’t blame me for your unlimited stupidity.”

“Hey!” Yuri says, looking hurt. “I help around here. I do the shitty work. I scrubbed the fucking toilets back home. Without me, you’d be lost.”

“Shit rolls downhill,” Karl added, nodding.

-

They last a few more days and the grunts are called back. From what Ian can piece together, there’s been a major hack of the HYDRA cell encompassing the United States. The infodump online meant thousands upon thousands of agents were compromised. HYDRA swiftly cut off those who were left behind, leaving them for American authorities for the sake of the rest of the organization.

Ian knows if it spreads to Russia he will have to go undercover again, shed his name for another like he’s done before.

What Ian can’t get over is how possessed Darcy is by this revelation, that SHIELD is made up of HYDRA officials, that everything she thought she knew was a lie.

“Does that mean Fury was in on it? I didn’t think he seemed like the type –”

She’s babbling to Jane during breakfast and Robbie’s watching her with a frown on his face. Ian wonders if he’s thinking the same thing as him.

Darcy might be compromised by thinking about HYDRA too much. Ian breaks his own rule and fires off a frantic text message to Molokhov:

Proceed? May be at risk due to news coverage.

The reply was almost immediate:

Proceed. May be delayed for the future but do not abandon.

He feels Robbie’s eyes on him and he glances at the Scot, narrowing his eyes.

“We might have to do this for a few years,” Robbie says.

Ian wants to groan but doesn’t allow himself to. He presses his lips together and exhales through his nose.

“I’m going to test her,” he blurts, and Robbie’s face falls.

“What?”

“Now, I’ll do it now.”

He knows he’s breaking more rules, but things have changed and he can’t stand the idea of going back home after this, unsuccessful. This could hang over his head forever.

He presses the speed dial on his phone and watches Darcy on the screen react to her phone suddenly vibrating in her pocket. She squints at the number on her display.

Robbie stares at him wide-eyed as she answers it.

“Hello?”

“Leaves on the earth, water in the sky, stars in the eye.”

Her face goes blank on the grainy camera feed and Ian sucks in a breath.

“Go to the bathroom and smash the mirror.”

Robbie is up from his chair and Ian steps back.

“If she smashes the mirror, how does she explain it?”

“Tell everyone you slipped and elbowed it,” Ian adds, tripping over his own tongue a little. “Go, now.”

Darcy rises from her chair suddenly and Ian watches Jane stare after her. They never put a camera in the bathroom, but the distinct breaking of glass can be heard in the distance.

Robbie stares at the screen, throat bobbing.

“Good. She follows orders,” Ian whispers. He doesn’t care if Robbie can hear him, he’s way too glad everything is still working so many months after her programming.

“Oh, my God! Darcy, what the fuck did you do?” Jane shrieks.

“I hit it with my elbow, I dunno.”

The two women squabble and then try to clean it up, Erik Selvig going to borrow a vacuum cleaner from their neighbour.

“You got a kick outta that,” Robbie murmurs, and Ian sees he’s staring right at him.

Ian reflexively narrows his eyes but Robbie only bursts into a broad smile, offering his hand.

“Well done. Onto the next phase, then.”

He hesitates, then finally takes his hand and shakes it for a microsecond before taking the seat beside him again, watching the panic across the street go on for a while.

Darcy seems spooked. Her fear is inspiring to Ian, and he can’t explain why.

-

Ian answers his phone. It hasn’t rung in weeks.

“Comrade, I have some awful news.”

It’s Molokhov himself.

“Sir?”

“The Asset has escaped.”

Ian’s eyes widen, glancing at Robbie beside him. That could only mean that The Winter Soldier must have defected.

“He’ll show up, sir.”

“Yes, and when he does we’ll wipe him and start over. It will require more than the regular amount of personnel.”

Ian feels his heart begin to hammer.

“Bokaryov, we’ll need you to come back when we find him. She may have to wait.”

They never gave Darcy her name. Ian glances at the camera feed, seeing Darcy still in the same position as before, painting her toenails at four in the morning.

She looks worse every day, like a little zombie fitting herself into whatever small space she can find. She rarely leaves the apartment.

Robbie’s phone buzzes and he gets up to answer it. Ian narrows his eyes at him, wondering why he’d be taking a call if Molokhov –

He keeps perfectly still, feigning nonchalance as Robbie exits the room.

“I have other news. Are you alone?” Molokhov says, and Ian murmurs yes.

He already knows what his commander is about to say. He thinks of the knife in his right pocket, his pistol in the holster on his side under his jacket.

“We need to tie up loose ends, and it’s been revealed by a mole that Comrade Brown has been working with MI6.”

Ian hangs up, going for his gun just as Robbie moves out of the next room, his pistol raised. They freeze, staring each other down. Ian knows that if there’s a gunshot heard a police report will be filed, and then Darcy might find out about him and the surveillance equipment.

“We know how this goes,” Robbie says, in English. “You let me walk out and I don’t make a sound.”

He even smiles and Ian narrows his eyes.

“But you won’t.”

“No,” Ian says, in soft English. “You’re dying here, Robbie.”

“Hmm. Then don’t make it quick.”

Ian lunges for him, knocking Robbie to the ground. The Scot lets out a laugh, struggling with his gun between them. Ian head-butts him and Robbie’s head smacks against the ground.

“Bloody hell…”

“Shut the fuck up,” Ian snaps, kicking the gun aside.

Ian has the advantage of being taller than him but Robbie seems just as strong and fierce, punching and shoving him. More than once he manages to land a blow and Ian feels his tooth cut the inside of his cheek, tasting blood.

Robbie will make enough noise to alert someone, and then Ian’s fucked. Ian smacks him with the pistol a couple times, making Robbie cackle.

“Shut up, shut up!” he hisses, and Robbie whoops.

His smile drops when Ian shoves the nozzle into his mouth. He takes a deep breath through his nostrils, his red beard stained with blood.

Ian breathes heavily, wanting to paint the walls with his brains.

“British Intelligence?” Ian hisses, and Robbie smiles around the metal shoved in his mouth. “Little light on the intelligence, I always thought.”

He pulls the gun out and Robbie chuckles.

“Think I haven’t heard that one before?”

Ian doesn’t understand. Robbie had more or less the same upbringing as him, throwing it all away.

“Why?”

“Because I felt like it,” Robbie taunts, his eyes wild. He giggles and Ian growls, fumbling for his knife in his pocket.

Robbie takes the opportunity to punch Ian, scrambling away and kicking him in the stomach before Ian manages to get hold of him once more.

He punches him over and over, and Robbie laughs throughout, even when his nose is gushing, his lip split.

“Like you mean it, man, come on!” he yells. Another punch. “Come on!”

Ian’s knuckles are split and stinging. There’s blood down his front, all over the floorboards.

He presses the knife against Robbie’s shirt, and the Scot sinks to the floor.

“Why?” Ian hisses again. “How could you?”

Robbie gives a wet cough, smiling up at him. He sing-songs: “Because HYDRA took my da from me.”

Ian presses the knife in, breaking the skin.

Robbie grunts at first, but smiles wider.

“Do it slow. Hurts more that way.”

Ian puts his whole weight into it, and he’s sure Robbie’s seconds out from death but he looks triumphant.

“You’re dying, Robbie,” Ian murmurs, panting. He moves back, seeing his knife hilt is comfortably stuck in his chest.

“I hope you get a good look of me afterwards,” Robbie says with some difficulty. His voice is rough, and he’s swallowing blood. It comes out of his mouth. “Then you won’t forget how bad death is.”

Ian doesn’t know what he means. He’s seen many people die, several by his own hand.

“I’m gonna haunt you, ye little prick,” Robbie whispers, and he chuckles.

He coughs again.

“And Darcy’s gonna kill you in the worst way imaginable.”

He laughs, long and low, coughing occasionally. Ian pushes on the knife hilt with his hand, letting out a growl.

The Scot’s accent is thicker than ever.

“She’s got a soul. Ye cannae take a soul,” Robbie whispers, his eyes bright. He smiles. “Ye cannae take every part of her away if she’s got a soul.”

Robbie Brown dies with a smile on his face.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all."

- Emily Dickinson

 

 

Part Four: Train

 

 

Darcy dances in a club in Paris.

She wears ear plugs that only partially smother the sounds of the club. Without them she wouldn’t be anywhere near a place like this. She started coming here when she and Jane moved from London several weeks ago. She still can’t sleep through the night so she goes dancing.  

It’s day 183, according to her journal. 183 days since she woke up in Fenham. When she managed to sleep for a couple hours before she got to the club, she dreamed of that man in London, Robbie.

It was incredible, what her mind could do. She managed to have a sex dream of such intensity that she woke up soaking, clenching on nothing. She was sure she’d never felt more aroused in all her life. Robbie was attentive with his hands and mouth down her body, tasting her, caressing her slick folds with his thick fingers before filling her so completely with his cock. His eyes were so blue they seemed to shine down at Darcy as they rutted again and again.

She’d never find him. Being in another country with nothing but his first name would never be enough to bring that dream to life, if he ever wanted her.

Darcy hasn’t had sex in months. She feels bodies press up to hers when she dances and she knows she’s starving for some kind of intimacy. She reminds herself that she shrinks away from strangers on the train. She can’t expect herself to snap out of this, all this.

The music’s too much so she drifts away, feeling her sweat for the first time. She glances at her arm, seeing the little dent there. The last doctor she went to said she wasn’t gaining weight. Darcy felt smaller – the doctor said it was muscle. She was toned, now. Darcy argued she never worked out, never did anything particularly active to gain muscle. The doctor didn’t know what else to say – except that maybe it was puppy fat.

She rips out the earplugs and tucks them back in her denim jacket pocket. She thinks about slipping into a bar somewhere. Last time she drank she didn’t calm down. She drank and drank and drank and nothing seemed to sink in. Another time she bought a bottle of vodka and drank it all, feeling queasy from the sheer volume of it. She knew she might poison herself, but she tried to will herself, will her body to release, to succumb to something else. Nothing happened.

She checks Jane’s data over and over, for something they might have missed, but there’s no activity around the area she disappeared, or the park in Fenham. There’s nothing to explain it all.

Even the way she moves through the world, like in Paris now, is different. Her footsteps are measured. She can see obstacles further away, like a straggling tourist couple, or someone about to drop their umbrella. She doesn’t understand where this agile movement is coming from. She always was such a clumsy person, all her life.

She knows that in a way she is lucky. She didn’t die when she disappeared. She’s older than her mother ever was by several years. She still has Jane even though Erik moved back to Denmark for a while.

She lets herself into the apartment and listens out for Jane, seeing her bedroom light is off. She glances around the kitchen and she can hear people in the street. She can hear them speaking as if they’re in the room with her. She shoves the earplugs back in and tries to sleep some more.

She has a new dream, with the same vividness as the Robbie dream. She is running through the woods, the fastest she has ever moved. It’s like she’s flying, and she can hear the wind whipping as she hurtles along. She’s barefoot, running over grass, leaping over logs. She hears barking in the distance, and a siren far away. She can hear the roar of her blood in her ears. She can feel the sun on her bare arms.

Darcy jolts awake. She stares at the ceiling in the dark of her room, panting.

That wasn’t a dream.

It’s a memory.

-

Ian sees Darcy every day, she obviously doesn’t know that. She’s more alert than ever.

She’s spent a year in Paris with Jane. She’s still susceptible to triggers, which is good. HYDRA needs all the agents they can possibly use now that the US faction is nearly gone.

After terminating Robbie, Ian had to investigate the Scot’s exploits. It was easier said than done, because the bastard had no electronic fingerprint of any kind. His only known place of residence in Camden only had a mattress on the floor with a small shelf carrying only two books inside: The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson and The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. Both books were sent off to Russia and thoroughly examined.

If it weren’t for Molokhov revealing Robbie’s true allegiance, Ian may never have suspected the Scot was disloyal to HYDRA. After several months Molokhov finally sent Ian a full dossier detailing exactly what Robbie had done over the entirety of his career. Among the contract killings and surveillance for HYDRA, he undermined the organizations sleeper agent network for over a decade. He was a collector of female agents especially, making their escapes possible over years of planning.

Ian didn’t doubt that Robbie had intended to release Darcy. The day he made sure to run into her in the street was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Ian was glad he was able to snuff that out.

They dumped Robbie’s body in Barcelona and the man had never looked uglier. Police were only able to identify him with the fake passport HYDRA planted on him. The police concluded he must have been backpacking through Europe and met some unsavory tourist along the way, since he was also discovered with traces of cocaine on his person and no money. His death was not considered worthy of much attention by the international press.

-

During the Sokovia incident a HYDRA agent defects and Ian is put on high alert. The female agent was only known as Canary and networks spot her in Paris soon after.

It would be Darcy’s one last test, before she could complete her mission.  

-

Darcy blinks rapidly, hearing someone scream. She steps back and the world comes flooding back. She’s in the metro tunnel but she doesn’t remember coming there.

She gets the feeling it’s not an accident. She chose at some point to come here. She wonders who screamed. There’s a train screeching to a halt.

There’s yelling from other people on the platform. Darcy’s French is good enough to make out some of the yelling.

Someone’s dead. A jumper. She glances down as sees she’s cut her hand. The sting is delayed, the pain reminding her she is still somehow in her body.

She’s alone, behind a column, almost completely covered from the light. She’s lurking, why was she lurking?

She tries to remembering walking down here, getting ready for a train. It’s Wednesday. Jane didn’t send her out, she’d remember that.

She’s gasping for air. She remembers a knife slicing her hand – her shoving.

Did she -?

Darcy’s eyes widen and she smothers her mouth with her bloody hand, covering it with her clean one as she presses herself into the wall behind her.

She remembers the scream. She made that woman scream.

She pushed her.

But it must have been an accident. She can’t have meant to push a stranger into an oncoming train. That’s insane. The woman must have spooked her, cut her with a knife.

Maybe she was trying to rob her?

No –

Darcy sees more fragments, her spotting the blonde woman wearing a beanie, her backpack on her shoulders in front of her as Darcy followed her down.

She’d been looking for her. She followed her down, down, down and she turned around, and –

The scream again, Darcy pushing her easily in the way of the train.

Darcy squeezes her eyes shut, and she tastes the blood on her lips where she’s pressed her hand. She wipes at her face and glances around. No-one is coming for her. She’s alone, everyone is distracted by the train halting, the horrible accident –

It wasn’t an accident. Darcy pushed that woman.

She sucks in a breath and retreats, practically running out toward the escalators, shoving people out of the way. Eyes bulge at the smears of blood on her face.

She has to disappear now. She has to figure this out.

She bursts into the apartment out of breath. She ran all the way home. She sees no sign of Jane. She’s probably gone for a walk somewhere. She checks her phone and sees no messages, no apps open.

Her phone rings.

-

Darcy wakes several hours later on the couch. Her hand is fine, no sign of a cut.

She had another horrible nightmare and she lets go of a shaky breath, putting her face in her hands.

She needs to get a fucking grip.

 

Chapter Text

 

"The regrets are useless in my mind,
She's in my head..."

- "Whatsername" by Green Day

 

 

Part Five: Glass

 

 

 

“Darcy, do you remember applying for a Stark grant?”

Darcy picks her head up from her desk, frowning. Jane is holding up a letter, looking seriously confused. Darcy scans her brain and comes up short. She doesn’t want Jane to know that, though.

“Uh, yeah. Surprise! I thought it would be a good idea.”

She does her best to smile at her, doing jazz hands for good measure. Jane reads on, frowning.

“It says he’s declining but he’d like us to join him in New York, at the Avengers facility."

“Wait, what?” Darcy blurts, jumping up from her chair. She reads the letter Jane’s holding, and sure enough Tony Stark has signed it at the bottom. If everything fell through somehow with Jane, Darcy could always sell the letter on eBay.

Darcy grabs her Wonder Woman mug and sips the tepid coffee inside. Jane glances around the cluster of equipment and monitors and sighs.

“I dunno. Maybe it’d be a good idea,” she murmurs.

She’s probably thinking about Thor showing up. Darcy tries to be delicate.

“He’s… most likely still cruising in space. So like, he’s not gonna…”

“Come back for me just because we’re working with Stark?” Jane finishes, her tone clipped. She glances away. “Yeah, I know.”

Darcy changes the subject for both their sakes. She knows Thor’s relationship with Jane was obviously very different to her own relationship with him, but she misses him, too. She thinks Jane forgets that sometimes. There was a time when she considered him as something like a long lost brother. From space.

“Did they sort out that legal shit with the Accords or nah?” Darcy says, and Jane shrugs. Darcy feels herself smile. “Y’know, for someone really smart you don’t pay a lot of attention to other things in the world.”

“Oh, there are other things in the world?” Jane says, but she’s smirking.

Darcy books flights to New York that night.

-

Moving a bunch of equipment overseas is a bitch. Darcy hopes Tony Stark realizes that. She also knows he’d most likely offer to buy them more but Jane is still twitchy about working with others.

Erik got married last year and his wife is having twins so he’s otherwise preoccupied in the best way possible, so Darcy has to gently remind Jane that having other people working around her could help a lot. Especially since Darcy’s still not trained for this shit, and the interns they’ll inherit actually have the applicable degrees.

Their first day back is weird. Darcy sees stranger after stranger after stranger in lab coats. She’s the only one who doesn’t wear the prescribed uniform, opting for her regular cardigan and leggings outfit. She even brings the old maroon beanie back. She makes tea in her microwave at lunch and she misses having her little electric kettle. Americans really don’t know enough about tea.

The interns swarm around Jane because she’s the latest attraction, other lead scientists from R&D occasionally glancing at them from their desks and shaking their heads.

It fact that they don’t worship Jane like the interns do automatically makes them assholes to Darcy. Jane’s a pioneer. They should be thanking her and Jesus every day for being able to work even vaguely close to her. Darcy glares at the other eggheads and considers bringing fish to lunch tomorrow to fuck up the microwave and make everything stink.

Maybe one day she won’t be petty, but it’s so tempting. They all seem so smug. Jane shoos the interns away at one point in the afternoon and Darcy hands her a cup of coffee wordlessly. She anticipates Jane putting a lot of this restless energy into an all-nighter. She thought her boss turning thirty-five might slow her down but she’s seen no evidence of that so far that year.

“I was kinda hoping to see an Avenger today,” Darcy murmurs while Jane sips.

“I don’t think they’re really interested in us down here,” her boss replies. She glances at a page of data. “They’re probably off… avenging somewhere.”

Darcy’s eyes widen when she sees a familiar face walk through the glass doors. It’s Bruce Banner, looking far less Hulky than the last time Darcy saw him on TV. She never got the chance to meet him when he worked at Culver.

She knows what she’ll write in her journal – Day 821, I met Bruce Banner.

“Hi, I’m Darcy,” Darcy says, sticking out her hand.

Banner blinks at her, giving a small smile. He’s a little like Jane that way, twitchy around new people. He takes her hand and shakes it.

Darcy forgets that offering her hand means someone will actually touch her. She tries to not think about it too much, but his hand feels nice in hers. She glances away immediately, talking to the floor instead of his face.

“Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” he says, and he nods at Jane whose back is to him. “Doctor Foster?”

Darcy nods and Jane spins around, bursting into a smile.

“Bruce, hi. We have – mutual – anyway, Erik says hi,” Jane says, getting up from her stool and shaking his hand.

She hasn’t smiled like that in a long time and it makes Darcy stare. She moves away to her own desk and gets out her phone, trying to distract herself. She feels hot all over and she can’t figure out why. She’s never been that awkward around someone new before. She glances at Banner a few times when he’s speaking to Jane throughout the afternoon. He seems warm and friendly, so why does Darcy feel a little sick at the sight of him?

It’s not attraction. Not that he’s ugly, but – why does she want to hide? She keeps her head down, forcing herself to focus on something right under her eyes instead of being distracted.

-

The Tower is so insular that rarely does Darcy have to leave, unless she feels some kind of cabin fever coming on. There’s a café across the street that she gets chai lattes from when she feels like splurging. There a multiple gyms in the Tower, Darcy’s apartment, the labs, the rooftop gardens. It’s like its own little zip code within Manhattan. It’s tempting to never leave, but the last time Darcy did that she was very depressed. She’d like to think she was doing better, even if her dreams were still crazy vivid.

Darcy kind of sticks out in the labs but that’s the way she likes it. One weekend she buys a taxidermy crow and perches it on her desk the following Monday. It only cost her a nickel and it makes her happy.

As far as she knows, the only cool people who knows she even exists are Jane and Bruce. She keeps asking him inappropriate questions about the Hulk. Her curiosity knows no bounds.

“Why doesn’t he wear shoes?”

“The soles of his feet are pretty thick. I don’t think he’s got time for laces,” Bruce replies. She knows he’s humouring her while Jane keeps telling her to stop interrupting what he’s trying to do. Something to do with a graph but Darcy’s not paying much attention.

“What about pedicures? Would he like those?”

She doesn’t refer to the Hulk by name. She doesn’t know if it’s strictly polite.

“Darcy,” Jane warns.

“What, I’m just making conversation.”

“Why don’t you make conversation with the interns, then?”

“I’m banned from their table in the mess hall.”

It’s not true but they were mean about her once, calling her a freak because of her crow. She could hear them whispering from across the lab but didn’t have the guts to confront them at the time. She should have, just to make the point that she doesn’t care what they think of her.

Darcy pouts, and Jane relents.

“Alright, but could you please get me another coffee?”

Darcy smiles. She glances at Bruce, wondering if he’d let her wait on him, too.

“Hey, Doc, you want coffee?”

“I don’t… really do caffeine.”

“So, herbal tea, then?”

“Green. But it’s upstairs. I can get in myself –”

Darcy waves her hand. “Hey, I’m dying to venture upstairs so gimme your pass and I’ll be right back.”

Bruce hesitates for a second and Darcy tilts her head, but he lets out a sigh and places his pass on her open hand. She walks out of the labs and takes the elevator up to the common room she’s heard the interns gossiping about. Apparently some of the big players hang around up there.

Darcy feels the flurry of anticipation in her gut and she watches the numbers ascending as she rides up. She ducks out of the elevator, smelling coffee beans and cooking oil.

The common room has high ceilings, a few long dining tables, a massive TV screen and several couches. There’s an open kitchen with a long bench in front of it, with only one occupant as Darcy walks in.

She glances at the man sitting there whose eating a bowl of cereal about three times bigger than the regular serving size. Darcy sees his blue eyes and blonde hair and she freezes midstep.

“No.”

He glances at her, eyebrows hiking. “What?”

“You’re… you’re Captain America.”

He blinks at her a couple times, swallowing his mouthful. Darcy shuts her mouth, shaking her head and moving toward the cupboards.

“I’m Darcy,” she says, her head in the pantry cupboard. She spies the packets of tea and grabs a whole box of green tea. She turns back to face the man still staring at her. “I work in the labs.”

“Steve,” he says, and he sticks out his hand for her to shake.

His hands are big and he seems to relax despite her outburst before. Darcy stares at him a little too long, feeling her cheeks heat and she grasps his hand for a lightning second before stepping back.

“Sorry, I’m – I’m – anyway. Sorry.”

“That’s fine.”

A thought pops up and she can’t help herself.

“Quick question. I’ve been working here for nearly two weeks and I still haven’t met Tony Stark. Is he likely to show up… this century, or -?”

Steve smiles. “Tony’s at the UN most days.”

“Why?” Darcy asks, and then she remembers the last few tumultuous months. “OH! Right. That makes sense.”

A man with cropped brown hair walks in whistling to himself and stops abruptly, his eyes traveling over Darcy.

“New girl.”

She feels her blush intensify. “I’m Darcy.”

“She works in the labs,” Steve adds, and Darcy feels him watching her intently.

The other man looks surprised. “What are you doing up here, then, Darcy?”

“Getting Dr. Banner some tea,” she replies. She tries to place him, narrowing her eyes at him. He looks amused by her confusion.

“We met. Kind of. A few years back. It’ll come to you.”

Darcy doesn’t remember. The thought of her not remembering meeting someone scares her. She hasn’t had many memory lapses lately and she reads over her journal often enough.

“Puente Antiguo,” he says. “Guess I didn’t make much of an impression.”

“I’m…” Darcy doesn’t know how to finish the sentence, and then he smiles.

“Clint. I’m being a jackass. You and Jane Foster were on our radar.”

It’s so obvious Darcy cringes. He’s from SHIELD. She tucks her hair behind her ear. She shakes the box in her hand.

“Anyway. Tea acquired. Nice to meet you. Fuckin’… verbal diarrhea,” she mutters under her breath, before taking off.

-

Clint turns to look at Steve, eyebrows raised.

Steve shook his head as he smiles, going back to his cereal. Clint grabs a bagel and toasts it. Steve anticipates Clint’s questions. It was either going to be him or Natasha asking him today.

“How’s Bucky?”

“Same old,” Steve murmurs.

Bucky’s been in a weird limbo for the last few months since they came back from Siberia. After convincing Tony to not kill Bucky for assassinating Howard and Maria Stark, Steve’s oldest friend was living in the Tower.

He knows Clint can understand Bucky’s situation better than most.

“His head’s gonna be fucked up for a while,” Clint murmurs, glancing away. “It’s… slow going.”

Steve nods. “I know.”

He wishes there was something he could do. He was glad that Tony listened to reason, trusted him even though he’d lied to him. He knew he’d always choose Bucky over anyone else, and maybe that was Steve’s biggest weakness. He’d die for him.

“What does he remember?”

Steve closes his eyes for a second, passing his hand over his face. “Everything.”

-

Darcy makes Bruce his tea every day after stealing the packet from upstairs. She starts to learn his routine. He’s not as much of a night owl as Jane but he still gets caught up in it too long, forgetting to eat. Darcy starts bringing them both food. He likes soup for lunch, usually.

She coaxes Jane out of the labs one afternoon and drags her upstairs to the common room just so she has an accomplice. She grabs several boxes of Pop Tarts and Little Debbie snacks. They almost got away with it, too.

She freezes when a vaguely familiar face walks in, his long hair obscuring his face for the most part. He sees them and sits over on the couch, turning the TV on. Darcy waits for him to say something but he’s silent, watching an infomercial while Darcy stuffs her backpack with food. Jane grabs a glass and some milk from the fridge, nudging Darcy.

They dunk a couple Oreos and they giggle together. Darcy imagines the guy turning around and telling them to leave but he doesn’t. Darcy does technically work in the building. Jane finishes the glass and they ready to leave, but Jane fumbles it.

Darcy drops her backpack to grab the glass and she’s too forceful.

It breaks in her hand, piercing the skin of her palm and Jane lets out a little cry. Darcy freezes, milk droplets and her own blood pooling and then falling down on the tiles. There are several pieces of glass stuck in her hand, with more on the floor.

The guy sitting in front of the TV whips his head around, eyes widening.

“Darcy, don’t move,” Jane says, and she looks terrified.

“Ow,” Darcy says finally. She feels numb, looking down at the carnage.

The guy jumps over the couch easily, racing over to Darcy while Jane glances around, trying to find something to staunch Darcy’s bleeding. Darcy wants to shrink away from the stranger but he grabs her wrist gently.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he murmurs, his voice rough. Darcy swallows.

“Get it out,” she whispers. “Please just get it out.”

In any other situation Darcy would be getting all flustered from this muscly, quiet stranger holding her so intently, his gaze focused. She can’t stop staring at the jagged glass stuck in her hand. That kills the mood big time. She can vaguely detect the heat of him beside her where he stands, the smell of his skin. 

He carefully plucks each piece out as Jane gets a first aid kit from a drawer. Darcy’s boss looks a little pale, her hands shaking as she gets a bandage.

Darcy’s bleeding less than she thought she would. She’s still having a hard time feeling any pain but she can feel herself shaking all over. She’s in shock.

“Thank you,” she murmurs to the man, and his eyes meet hers.

He shrinks away, as if he’s only just realized how close they were. He nods, rubbing the back of his head.

“No… no problem,” he mumbles.

He disappears, leaving the TV on. Darcy exchanges a look with Jane.

“What the fuck was that about?” she says, and Jane shrugs.

-

Darcy walks into work the next day and Steve is waiting for her, holding flowers.

Her eyes bulge.

“Uh.”

“From a friend,” he says, handing her the daisies. “He’s hoping your hand is better soon.”

She didn’t need stitches. It’s wrapped up even though the cuts healed during the night. Darcy wants to keep the bandage on to not raise any suspicions.

“Is your friend asking me out?” Darcy quips, and Steve’s eyes widen. “Because I would have thought Captain America would be brave enough to ask a girl out directly.”

“I’m not… making it up. My friend –”

Darcy rolls her eyes. “Okay, Steven. Your friend is shy.”

“He is, actually.”

It takes a few seconds to sink in and Darcy flushes.

“I am so sorry. Jesus, I’m an ass –”

Steve starts to laugh and Darcy puts her face in her hands. She shakes her head at herself, scrubbing her face with her non-bandaged hand.

“Is your friend Bucky Barnes?” Darcy asked, and Steve nods.

Darcy remembers reading some of those leaked HYDRA files. Years of captivity and brainwashing. Torture and assassinations. Cryotasis and government conspiracies. Darcy would never have believed such things if it wasn’t for crazy incidents she’d already been part of, like the Destroyer in New Mexico and the Dark Elves in London.

“Tell him thanks. For helping me,” Darcy murmurs.

Steve holds her gaze for a while. Was he waiting for her to do or say something? She glances away. Her life is nuts. No-one’s got any idea but her.

“I heard Tony’s back today, so Doctor Foster will finally be able to meet him,” Steve said, and Darcy lit up.

“Finally? Yes!”

She can’t help it. She’s been excited for Jane for a while, not that she remembers even applying for that grant. She likes being Jane’s biggest cheerleader.

Steve departs and she looks at the daisies she’s placed on her desk.

-

Darcy is in the middle of making Bruce’s mid-morning cup of green tea when Tony Stark breezes in.

She whips around to see the man, the myth, the legend. Then she feels her heart inexplicably sink. She glances at his hair, his pressed suit, his little pocket square that matches his tie.

Her eyes swivel to his shiny shoes and then back up to his smiling face.

She hates him.

 

Chapter Text

"Bad girls underneath, like that..."

- "Dangerous Woman" by Ariana Grande

 

 

Part Six: Notebook

 

 

Being a handler is fucking hard work.

Ian had no idea just how difficult it was until he became Darcy’s handler. Since moving to New York the task had become far more complicated, especially since Darcy was working alongside SHIELD and Avengers alumni. Frankly, Ian preferred London over New York and he’d hated London.

He managed to keep track of Darcy because of small implants in her coats, but she happened to donate a lot of her belongings in the mad rush to cross the pond once more.

Unfortunately, it meant Yuri and Karl were back since they knew Darcy’s situation better than other underlings back in Russia. Every so often Ian would remind himself that this is all temporary, and sooner than later the pair of them were bound to get themselves killed. He just hoped his patience was strong enough to not dropkick them off a building.

After a couple weeks in New York there was a routine going. The three of them stayed in a shitty shoebox apartment that HYDRA purchased in the 80’s with two bedrooms, a bathroom and a small living area and open kitchen. Ian woke at dawn and walked into the living room to find either Karl or Yuri sitting in front of the three monitors and other surveillance equipment. Darcy uses her phone often enough that he can track where she is at all times, but he also can watch her through her front-facing camera whenever he chooses. The camera feed is set up across his three monitors in the apartment down the street from the Avengers Tower. Ian had other methods of tracking her, namely the surveillance gear he had installed on her dummy phone and laptop.

It was Tuesday. The day before, Ian heard her break a glass with her bare hand. Unfortunately there was no visual data to go with this, but it was assumed that Jane Foster was the witness plus another voice, low and male.

Yuri and Karl had a bet going. When was the Winter Soldier meant to show up? Ian already had the two objectives before the fall of the American HYDRA branch over two years ago, which were the procurement of Doctor Foster’s plans to build a portal and the assassination of Tony Stark. Both tasks required a lot of precisely timed actions, but there was still a lot up to chance.

Molokhov had already expressed his rage, disappointment and anguish over the loss of The Asset, and it was understood by people even as low as Yuri and Karl that Siberia was meant to end differently.

“Stark was supposed to kill him, I heard,” Yuri murmured, mouth full of doughnut. He’d been gorging himself on American fast food for weeks, the same as Karl. Ian crinkled his nose in disgust every time they came into the apartment with more ultra-processed foods.

“He’d never,” Karl scoffs. “He doesn’t kill people.”

“He’s killed two people at least,” Yuri fires back. “Obadiah Stane and Ivan –”

“Do not say that man’s name,” Ian hisses, and Yuri’s eyes widen.

He glances at Karl, who turns his gaze back to the monitors, the conversation dropped.

Ivan Vanko was known to HYDRA but never fully part of any faction. He was too reckless, governed by his emotions. He would have only tarnished HYDRA’s reputation, which was why neither he nor his father were ever recruited despite numerous attempts to get attention. HYDRA didn’t validate that kind of thuggery, at least not openly.

“He did kill two men,” Ian went on. “He heard that the Asset terminated his parents.”

“After Vienna –”

“Do you want to speak about things you don’t know some more?” Ian snaps, and Yuri shut his mouth, looking sullen. “We do not discuss past discretions, not here. This is my mission, we do it my way.”

His voice raises only a little at the end and Ian pauses, swallowing.

“Where is she?”

Karl taps the screen with his pen. “She’s shopping. She did another all-nighter.”

Ian can see her adding several scented candles to her shopping cart. She opens a new tab and types out:

Fast healing + high metabolism

Karl frowns. “Does she know?”

“Since her hand yesterday, I thought she’d be suspicious,” Ian murmurs. “She’s not alarmed.”

They fall silent, watching her screen scroll down a few articles. There’s the sigh from the microphone on her phone. She gives up and goes back to shopping.

“It’s close,” Yuri says, and Ian nods.

“She’ll meet Stark and then we’ll move.”

At some point she buys some socks.

“She is… a boring little bitch,” Karl murmurs, shaking his head. “Y’know, she hardly watches porn nowadays.”

Ian remembers when he dated her. She was very sexual with him, hardly needing time to get to know him before sleeping with him. It was easy to pretend he enjoyed her company, at least, in bed. She was enthusiastic and sex was fun for her. He can still picture her eyes fluttering closed, the breathy little gasps.

Then he thinks of Robbie, the way he watched her.

She’s very sad.

“I’ll do a check-in. Tonight,” Ian says, the idea sudden.

He can’t have Darcy kill herself because she’s miserable. He cracks his knuckles and the two grunts exchange a look.

“What kind of porn does she watch?” Ian asks, to change the subject.

Karl smirks. “Amateur stuff. Couples, usually. Some kinky shit.”

Ian knows that her libido could be affected by the serum. It’s not like there was ever anything lacking in that area.

“Lesbian stuff too, I thought,” Yuri adds.

“She’s straight,” Ian replies. “Doesn’t mean she’s into girls.”

Yuri smirks. “Right, just like how you fucking her for five months doesn’t mean you’re into girls.”

Ian ignores his childish insinuation and turns his attention back to Darcy’s room.

-

He feels his heart in his throat when Darcy asks Steve Rogers about the Winter Soldier. He can’t even hear Yuri or Karl when they ask him about it, what they should do.

Ian fooled himself into thinking that maybe the Winter Soldier was contained somewhere else, far away from the city. In some SHIELD safe house, maybe a continent or two away.

“We can’t change plans,” Ian says, more to himself than either Yuri or Karl.

“The Commander would piss his pants if he knew we made contact with the Asset,” Karl hisses, and Yuri nods. “He’d promote all of us.”

“We don’t know his protocol!” Ian snaps. “Even if we somehow manage to get him far enough away from here, we have no idea how to control him.”

“There’s a book,” Karl pipes up. “With his activation words. There were copies –”

I will kill Stark,” Ian thunders, and Karl flinches. “Just like I’ve planned to for years. I will not hear your moronic strategies anymore.”

He knows that bringing in the Winter Soldier would be a career-defining move but Darcy was meant to make his career, not some improvised mess. He had to show he was reliable.

“So we just… forget to tell Molokhov?” Yuri says, somewhat exasperated. “Eventually he’ll find out, and then we’re all facing the firing squad.”

All three of them knew that it wouldn’t be as sophisticated at that. Most likely they’d be shot in the street and thrown into the Hudson River.

“I’d rather have Stark gone than have the entire operation compromised,” Ian says, trying to calm his tone.

Karl rubs his eyes. “Then we do it as soon as possible and then get the fuck out of here.”

Yuri looks ill, eyes glazing. Ian looks away, back to Darcy’s laptop feed. She’s looking at the little bunch of daisies sitting on her desk, her hand going to touch a tiny white petal.

-

Ian activates her that afternoon, meeting her in a bookshop before dragging her by the elbow into an alley. He’s wearing his cap and sunglasses in case a CCTV camera managing to spot them. He stands in a blind spot, lowering his glasses.

“Stark will be terminated tomorrow.”

She gives the briefest nod.

He hands her back her purse and she puts her arm through one of the straps, hitching it on one shoulder. She stares straight ahead.

“Look at me.”

He grabs her chin, glaring at her. Her eyes are like steel and she narrows them slightly at him. He hates that despite all that she’s been through, she still has that petulance inside her. Even when she’s under his control she’s defiant.

“You do exactly as you’re told.”

“Yes.”

That’s all she says. He shoves her back into the street and glares after her as she walks back to the Tower. He turns over the notebook he found in her purse, flipping through it. He was hoping to get hold of this for months. He first noticed her writing in it in London.

It’s better if there’s no paper trail.

-

“Darcy, what the hell?”

She glances up from her desk and Jane’s eyes are wide. She feels several more pairs of eyes on her and her gaze darts around at the other eggheads staring at her. Darcy feels her face flush.

“Did you see a little black notebook?”

That’s what you’re looking for?” Jane says, and Darcy watches everyone else look away, probably silently judging her. She’s sick of that happening.

“You wanna take a fucking picture next time?” she calls out and Jane tries to shush her. “It lasts way longer.”

“Darcy. Calm down. I’ll help you find the notebook,” Jane hisses.

They go through Darcy’s desk in silence and it doesn’t turn up. Darcy tries to hide her panic but she clutches her stuffed crow under one arm, feeling her heart quicken.

If she can’t remember where she put it, there may be gaps missing again. Without the notebook, she can’t track everything from before today. She can’t rely on her own mind to remember every detail. What if she forgets a chunk and it comes back to bite her in the ass?

She thinks of that awful nightmare of the woman being pushed into the train, her stomach twisting. She sits back down on her chair, jiggling her knee.

“Darcy, what’s the problem? What’s in the notebook?”

“Nothing, just… it’s my dream journal,” she mumbles. That’s partly the truth. “It’s deeply personal stuff I’d rather not have spread around.”

She squints at one scientist who’s typing on his laptop, his eyes darting to her crow and then Darcy’s knee.

“Darcy, leave them alone,” Jane whispers, and her voice is gentler.

Darcy relents, stroking her crow. Jane tilts her head.

“You look tired.”

“I’m always tired,” Darcy mumbles.

“Tony’s coming down in half an hour. Are you gonna stay or walk off like you did yesterday?”

Darcy’s eyes swivel to Jane’s, and she puts the crow down beside her laptop. Yesterday she felt sick at the sight of Tony Stark and practically ran out the door to her apartment. She couldn’t explain it, not even to herself. She never knew the man. Maybe it was something to do with expectations, but she didn’t have the same reaction to Steve Rogers.

She glances at the daisies on her desk, wishing she’d just stop being so weird. There was a big difference between being eccentric and whatever it was she’d been going through the last few years. She’d have days where things felt normal and she’d get used to feeling safe, and then her nightmares would start up again. The idea that they were waiting for her at night made her reluctant to sleep.

“I’ll stay,” Darcy manages to reply.

-

Tony Stark appears over an hour later than expected, so Jane makes the mental note that he’s not the type to follow rules. She had an inkling yesterday.

He smiles at her and Jane returns it. He only encourages her, which is quite different from her other experiences with people who are associated with SHIELD. She sometimes still has that recurring stress dream where she’s lost all her research, or it’s been taken away again. Tony arrives wearing a AC/DC shirt with scuffed sneakers, very different to yesterday’s crisp suit. He has motor oil in his hair and he snacks throughout their little interactions. He’s constantly moving around, watching interns fawn over him while other scientists stammer excitedly about their projects.

Darcy sits at her desk the entire time and Jane keeps looking at her, hoping she’ll snap out of her funk. She has no idea what Tony did for Darcy to suddenly become mousy. How does a girl like her switch to repressed, especially around someone like Tony Stark? If anything, Jane expected Darcy to blossom around him the second he showed up because they seem to have the same mischievous streak in them.

Darcy being a wallflower makes her think back to when she’d be out all hours of the night in London and Paris, acting like Jane had no idea what was going on. The girl made her worry, but she knew she’d push back if she showed too much concern. Darcy was bad at asking for help, though she was an expert on offering it. Jane couldn’t help feeling like she wasn’t trusted because Darcy never opened up. She tried not to stare at her too much when Tony flitted around the labs.

At one point, Darcy disappears to answer her phone and Jane gives a little sigh. Tony catches her eye and she smiles.

“I read your thesis from Culver. Bruce sent it my way last night,” he says, and Jane’s eyes widen.

“You read that all last night?”

She knew she never had to explain anything to him or Bruce. It was nice to be around more people like her. She misses Erik a lot, and even he sometimes struggled to keep up. Bruce was out of the labs at the moment because Darcy had scheduled him for an aromatherapy massage. Jane made sure he went to the appointment just to please Darcy. He agreed that working on his stress levels could be good, he just wasn’t great at dealing with strangers touching him.

Tony shrugs like reading three hundred pages in a single sitting was no big deal. Maybe he’s a speed reader. Jane glances around to check on Darcy and she’s not there at her desk. She’s been gone a little while longer than usual. Jane masks her concern by smiling at Tony once more.

There’s a loud bang and Jane jolts, whipping her head toward the sound. Someone screams.

Jane’s certain it was a gunshot. She sees someone cowering on the floor, one of the interns whose name is Gabby. She’s shuffling back from something, trying to make her escape.

Another bang, and Gabby’s head throws back, hitting the floor. There’s blood pouring from the hole in her head, bits of skull and brains spilt.

Jane sees Darcy standing over Gabby with her gun pointing at her. Jane’s stomach drops and she blinks furiously.

“Darcy?”

Some people are scurrying on their hands and knees behind their desks and Jane ducks down, her heart racing. She sees Tony do the same, his eyes wide.

“What’s happening?” Jane whispers.

“Your assistant just shot that intern.”

“She wouldn’t… she wouldn’t do that, it must have been someone else,” Jane whispers.

That has to be it. Darcy doesn’t know a thing about guns. She gets nervous even walking past cops in the street. Jane hears another crack, more screaming.

Tony is murmuring to his AI and Jane covers her ears. More banging.

“Please. Please, I have children. Please -!”

Louder bangs, people begging. Jane glances around, remembering the storage closet out back. She swallows, her eyes darting to Tony.

“Do you have a suit?”

“Not on me. FRIDAY just got an alert from this lab. We’ve had a breach,” he whispers. He presses a couple buttons on his silver bracelet and metal plates spring up to wrap around his wrist and hand. He has a miniature repulsor, and Jane has nothing.

Jane sees someone dragging themselves along the lab floors, a figure standing behind them with their gun raised to fire. It’s Darcy. Jane stares in horror as one of the other scientists is trying to crawl away from her. He’s whimpering, leaving a long trail of blood behind him.

A siren begins to blare. Darcy doesn’t react, just shoots the guy in the back of the head, and Jane covers her mouth to muffle her scream.

The P.A. system comes online:

“Security alert. Code silver. Security alert…”

It goes on and on, and Jane watches Darcy shoot several more people without blinking. Jane takes a deep breath and ducks out from under the desk despite Tony’s protests.

Jane keeps crouching as she makes her way to the back of the lab. She tries to be quiet but she knows she’s hyperventilating. She can feel the adrenaline pump as she opens the door, glancing toward her desk. Tony mouths:

Shut the door.

She shakes her head, beckoning him toward her. He gives a fierce wave.

No. Shut the door.

Jane whimpers as Darcy turns toward Tony, reloading. Jane leave the door slightly open, peeking through the crack.

She doesn’t know this girl, this thing that looks like Darcy. She moves differently, has a face of stone. She doesn’t even blink when she fires at Tony, who blocks her bullet with his repulsor hand.

There’s a struggle and Darcy punches him over and over. She wrestles him to the ground, her hand around his neck. She pins him to the floor, taking out a knife from her belt and raising her hand to plunge it down –

The knife is knocked from her hand by something whipping through the air and Jane sees Captain America standing behind her, catching his shield. Darcy turns toward him and lunges.

Despite their height difference, Darcy can match his moves. She lets out little growls every so often as she’s blocked over and over. Captain America’s eyes are wide as he attempts to subdue her. Tony manages to get to get up and Darcy kicks him, knocking him off his feet once more. He crashes into one of the desks and Darcy doesn’t miss a beat. She wraps herself around Captain America, twisting her way up to his shoulders and wraps her arms around his neck in a chokehold.

Jane can hear Captain America grunting, straining to rip her off. She’s wound tight, squeezing the life out of him. His fingers scramble to unfurl her and Darcy only intensifies her grasp. Tony groans, moving to stand again. He raises his hand and shoots at her, managing to clip her shoulder.

She falls back enough that Captain America hits her with the edge of his shield and she lets go, tumbling to the floor. She ducks away to reach for her knife on the floor and jumps back.

“Where the hell did she come from?” Tony snaps, and Captain America shoots him a confused look.

Darcy gives a yell and runs at Tony, her knife aloft. Captain America dives for her and flattens her to the floor. She gives a scream, and she sounds like a struggling animal. She drops the knife and manages to grab one of the guns she used earlier, putting it under her chin.

Jane bursts out of the back room, yelling:

“Stop her!”

There’s a click and Darcy growls:

“No, no, no, no!”

She squeezes the trigger over and over. She’s out of bullets. She punches at Captain America. Jane gives a little scream as she claws her way out from under him, lunging for Tony once more.

“Take her out, Cap! While I’m young!”

Captain America slugs her in the back of the head and Darcy stumbles, falling to her knees. She’s given another smack for good measure, and she keels over, her gun clattering on the floor.

Both men pant and Jane begins to cry.

“W-What…?” she whispers. “What the fuck just happened?”

-

Darcy feels a spike of pain across the back of her head. She’s ripped away from her daydream and she blinks furiously. She tries to rub her eyes but she feels something heavy.

She can’t move.

She winces.

“What the fuck?” she croaks. She feels hungover. She tries to make out the shapes in front of her and she expects to find herself in her bed with a bucket next to her.

Instead she sees all the Avengers staring down at her, each one of them looking poised to strike.

 

 

Chapter Text

"Nothing fucks with my baby
Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing..."

- "NFWMB" by Hozier

 

 

Part Seven: Basement

 

 

 

“Captain Rogers, Mister Stark is requesting back-up in the laboratories on the thirteenth floor.”

Steve is sitting beside Bucky on the couch when FRIDAY alerts him. Bucky’s eyes snap to his.

“I haven’t heard anything about HYDRA, bud.”

“Captain –”

“Alright, FRIDAY,” he calls. He jumps off the couch and runs toward the corridor. Bucky sits up, suddenly alone.

Then a siren begins to blare and Bucky tenses, hearing the announcement come over the P.A. system:

“Security alert. Code silver. Security alert…”

That means an active shooter. He glances up at the ceiling.

“Sargent Barnes?”

“What’s… what’s goin’ on?” he murmurs. He’s still not used to talking back at the disembodied voice. “Is it HYDRA?”

“Unclear at this stage, but there has been a major security breach.”

He nods, glancing down at his metal palm.

“Does Steve need me?”

“Maybe stay here for the time being, Sargent.”

He no longer takes in the images or sounds of the TV in front of him. He stares at the wall beside it, listening to the siren still blaring.

-

“Listen – Listen to me!” Jane yells. “She’s probably concussed.”

“Doctor Foster,” Steve begins, and Jane glares at him.

“My name is Jane. You can call me Jane,” she snaps, and Steve closes his eyes for a second.

“I’m sorry. Jane – she’s stronger than you think. I think she’s enhanced.”

They’re standing in the hallway in the basement, with several other new faces Jane’s seen on the news a few times. One of them has metallic skin and a stone on his forehead.

“You think Darcy has powers?” Jane says, her eyes widening.

The one she thinks is Black Widow moves toward the closed door they’re hanging around, and Jane instinctively follows her. Tony cuts her off, shaking his head.

“Jane, it’s not a good idea.”

Jane’s heart is still beating so fast from before that time is overwhelming fast to her.

“Then tell me what the plan is.” Her voice wobbles. “Can someone tell me what’s going on?”

Black Widow pauses with her hand on the doorknob.

“She killed 19 people, before trying to kill Tony.”

I know that. I was there.”

“I’m saying that on the surface it looks like a long con.”

“I’ve known her for seven years,” Jane hisses. “If she wasn’t on our side, why would she have helped me and Erik for so long?”

“Because she needed to gain your trust,” Black Widow murmurs.

Jane presses her lips together and narrows her eyes, tasting bile. Black Widow disappears inside with Steve Rogers. There’s a pause, and Jane glances at the floor.

Tears well in her eyes and she squeezes them shut, passing a hand over her face.

There are more footsteps and when she finally glances up, she’s alone in the hallway.

-

“Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit!”

“Shut the fuck up,” Ian hisses.

He’s sitting back in his chair while Yuri and Karl begin to panic. Everything was going to plan, until Captain fucking America got down to the labs.

“What the hell was she thinking? Why didn’t she kill Stark first?” Karl practically squawks. “Maybe you spent too long with Molokhov, nurturing her bloodlust.”

Ian watches as Darcy lies face down on the lab floor on the monitor. Today was meant to be the last day of her life.

“We need to get that terabyte and leave,” Ian says, trying his best to ignore the way the other two men are pacing.

He doesn’t wait for them. He grabs his backpack and runs out the door. The rest of the plan went off without a hitch. Darcy uploaded the entirety of Jane’s research to the external hard drive before returning with her weapons to assassinate Stark.

Ian can hear Karl and Yuri racing after him and he spins around, his pistol raised.

“Take a different route. We’re air. Fucking disappear.”

He doesn’t wait for either one of them to confirm they understand. He races into the street, tucking his gun away before running to the gym down the street. Darcy left the hard drive for him in the locker and he wraps it in plastic before stowing it in his bag.

He can hardly concentrate over the racing of his heart. He failed. He knows his time is up.

-

“FRIDAY?”

“The Avengers have convened in the basement, Sargent Barnes.”

Bucky glances at the TV and blinks a couple times. It’s been nearly an hour. Maybe Steve has some idea about what’s happening. Bucky just hopes it doesn’t have anything to do with him.

He kept telling that punk that being in New York was a bad idea. Steve always argued that Bucky was safe.

“Do they know who it was, who they’re working for?”

“It’s Darcy Lewis, Sargent.”

Bucky blinks, his stomach dropping. He must have misheard.

“No.”

He thinks back to his only interaction with her. She stared blankly with her hand bleeding onto the tiles. Bucky reacted quickly, and then panicked the second he realized he was touching this virtual stranger. He sent her flowers to apologize for being weird, except he knew Steve delivering them for him would have just emphasized his weirdness.

He gets up from his seat and walks out into the corridor, taking the elevator.

He doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but he’s down in the basement quicker than he expects and he sees the other woman that Darcy was with, the one who looked squeamish and scared at the sight of the glass sticking in Darcy’s little hand.

She bristles, glancing up at him. She looks like she’s been crying.

“What’s happening?” he murmurs, and she shakes her head.

“Darcy – Darcy’s in there,” she murmurs, her voice rough. She indicates the closed door and Bucky nods.

“Steve in there?”

“Yeah, with everyone else,” Jane says. She sniffs.

There’s a scream and Bucky blanches, meeting Jane’s gaze. She moves to the door and bursts into the next room. Bucky can only follow, clenching his fists.

The room is cramped because of the amount of people, and Darcy Lewis is lying on the floor with her arms restrained by some metal cuffs. She’s crying, completely unhinged, her whole body wracking with sobs as she twists.

“What did you do?” Jane asks, and Tony glances at her.

“Told her what happened.”

Darcy keeps howling and Bucky stares at her. She’s in so much pain he feels his eyes prickle. Veins stand out on her pale neck and forehead. Steve’s throat bobs and he looks at Bucky, probably to check on him.

“She doesn’t remember anything,” Natasha murmurs, and Bucky closes his eyes for a second.

Tony looks right at Bucky in the next moment and he feels his hackles instinctively rise.

He knows they’re past that – the whole Siberia incident – but it’s still early days. He can feel his eyes on him and the tension in the air.

Darcy whimpers and the sound distracts Bucky from his shame.

“The sedative isn’t working,” Steve murmurs.

-

The world has ended, that can be the only explanation. Darcy’s probably blacked out and walked in front of a bus and this is Hell.

Either that or she’s lost her mind, like her mom.

She cries because she’s afraid. Black Widow stares down at her with the rest of the Avengers, assessing her. She tells her she killed everyone in the labs accept Tony and Jane. Darcy strains to find something, anything that can excuse her from this accusation but she can’t.

It’s as if the more she tries to remember the fuzzier things become. She sees Jane and Bucky Barnes come in, and Jane’s crying, too.

Darcy gasps for air.

-

They convene upstairs in a boardroom, Natasha’s arms folded. Jane sits in a chair while the others either stand or lean against the tables. Jane looks exhausted, going through every detail she can remember.

“I got two complaints from HR about her hostility towards the other staff in the labs,” Natasha murmurs, and Jane frowns at her. She picks up two pieces of paper and throws them on the desk. “It’s not much, and usually I’d ignore that kind of issue since we’re all a little rebellious –”

“Are you gonna dredge up everything she’s ever done, to build a case against her?” Jane interjects, and Natasha blinks at her.

“She murdered all those people.”

“Darcy doesn’t know even know how to fire a gun,” Jane hisses. “I saw it happen and it still doesn’t make sense.”

She glances at Tony, pointing at him.

“What about her rights? Where’s her lawyer?”

“The second she stole your research, she waived those rights,” Tony fires back. “You can go find her a lawyer, but it’s not looking good, Foster.”

Bucky hangs around the back of the room, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. He can feel Sam’s eyes on him.

“Something – something happened a few years back,” Jane says, and Tony’s face slackens. “And we never – Erik and me – we never got to the bottom of it.”

“What was it?” Steve asks, and Jane swallows a couple times.

“She was meant to go to France for a vacation. She never takes time off, she’s always looking after me, making sure – anyway, she went and didn’t come back for nine months.”

Tony glances at Natasha. Bucky doesn’t have to have Wanda’s powers to read their minds. Having gaps like that creates suspicion.

“But she doesn’t remember any of it,” Jane adds.

There’s a beat.

“So she doesn’t remember nine months of her life, and she doesn’t remember what happened in the labs,” Steve says.

She says she doesn’t remember,” Tony adds.

-

“Why didn’t anyone file a police report when Darcy went missing?” Tony asks, and Jane’s face flushes.

“She does this stuff sometimes. Runs off, doesn’t have plans. She only became my intern on a whim.”

“What did she major in, anyway?” Steve asks, and Jane bites her lip.

“Political science.”

“Are you… serious?” Tony says, and Jane shrugs.

“It wasn’t suspicious at the time! She was the only person to apply for the internship,” Jane says.

They’ve been sitting in the boardroom for three hours. The longer they talk about Darcy and rifle through the information Natasha finds on her, the crazier it seems to be that Jane never looked into Darcy’s background. The longer Jane speaks, the more foolish she feels.

“Does she have any associates, links to any kind of activist group –?”

Jane cuts her off. “No. Darcy barely leaves the Tower.”

The only people who remain in the boardroom are Steve Rogers, Tony, Black Widow and Jane. The rest of the Avengers left for other engagements. Occasionally Tony receives updates from FRIDAY. Darcy is still being held in the basement.

Jane just hopes she can clear up the confusion and get Darcy out of there, maybe to a secure hospital.

“Do you know about her family? Does she have a boyfriend?” Steve asks, and Jane blinks.

“She doesn’t have any. Family,” Jane mutters, looking at the table.

Whenever she’s asked Darcy about her family, her assistant goes quiet and then changes the subject.

“I’m her family,” Jane adds, her voice soft. She wipes her eyes and glance up at Steve again. “Last boyfriend she had was Ian Boothby, he was her intern for a few months before she went missing.”

Natasha runs a search on Ian with surprising results.

“He’s… a shadow,” she says, and Jane’s eyes widen.

“And Darcy hired him?” Tony says, and Jane nods.

“You don’t think –?”

“You don’t wanna know what I think,” Tony says, and Jane feels her heartrate pick up again.

“Is someone checking on Darcy?” Jane murmurs, and Natasha picks up her phone.

“Wanda can do it.”

-

Darcy stares at the ceiling, aware that she’s being watched. She hears the door opening and closing several times.

She loses time. She wonders if she’s broken, like maybe her brain has just checked out. She can’t feel her arms anymore but she knows they’re still strapped down.

“Darcy.”

A figure approaches. She was staring at her before. Darcy’s seen her on TV. She’s sure she’s the Sokovian girl who accidentally killed some people last year.

Darcy’s eyes roll down toward her.

“I’m… I’m going to check something. Is that okay?”

“Please don’t touch me,” Darcy whispers, and the girl shakes her head.

“I won’t do that.”

The metallic guy is hanging around in the background and Darcy’s gaze dips to him for a second.

“What about him?”

“Vision’s not going to come any closer, I promise.”

Darcy squeezes her eyes shut, feeling fresh tears fall. She feels a tugging from the back of her mind, like she’s trying to remember something. It’s the same sensation as remembering lyrics from a classic song. Darcy’s eyes open and Wanda’s brows are furrowed with concern.

“She’s HYDRA.”

“What?” Darcy whispers, and Wanda steps back. “I’m not. What did you do?”

Wanda doesn’t answer her. She leaves with Vision and Darcy begins to yell out:

“What did you do? She’s lying! I’m not HYDRA! She’s lying!”

-

“Ian Boothby isn’t his real name,” Natasha murmurs, reading from her laptop.

“Shocker,” Tony mutters, and Steve shoots him a look.

“We didn’t want to be right about that, Tone,” Steve murmurs.

At least he’s being somewhat sensitive. Jane is biting her nails, trying to think of every instance of Ian’s interactions with Darcy that she witnessed.

“What’s your intel saying?” Jane murmurs.

Natasha looks up from her screen, sighing.

“There’s no birth certificate, no mention of an Ian Boothby of his age and description in any school in the United Kingdom. He might not be English.”

Wanda bursts in, eyes wide.

“Cap, I saw HYDRA.”

“What did you do?” Jane snaps, jumping to her feet.

“I… looked inside her head,” Wanda replies carefully. She glances back at Steve. “I need to see photos, if anyone I saw is a person of interest.”

“Would Barnes know?” Tony asks.

Steve’s jaw ticks. “He wouldn’t know everyone who HYDRA ever recruited. Wanda, tell us what you saw, before any more reaching occurs.”

Tony looks a little ticked off by Steve’s sass but he doesn’t interrupt again as Wanda explains.

“I saw a lot of blood. People speaking in Russian, I think it was her training. It came in bursts.” Wanda bites her lip. “It’s hard to make sense of it all. I think she thinks they’re dreams.”

“She had a dream journal,” Jane whispers, and she feels all eyes on her. “But it went missing this morning, before –”

“Her phone was bugged,” Natasha blurts. “And her laptop. I just got the details from forensics.”

“I thought you could read minds,” Jane says to Wanda, who frowns.

“It’s not as simple as that. I can’t read Bucky’s mind that easily.”

“Why don’t we just ask him, then?” Jane says. “To clear things up?”

-

Bucky is sitting on the couch again, not taking in the screen in front of him. Sam walks into the common room and leans over the back of the couch.

“Hey, man. Wanda’s asking for you.”

“Why?” Bucky asks, and Sam shrugs.

“They need you downstairs.”

He feels something like dread seeping through and he goes quiet again and nods, getting up from his seat. He doesn’t say a thing as they descend in the elevator. He doesn’t even speak when he reaches the basement floor, seeing everyone waiting for him in the corridor.

Steve looks like he’s barely holding back his anger and Bucky knows why. His friend wants to protect him. Bucky thinks that if he can be useful he should try to help, even if he doubts he’d be of any use to Wanda.

Natasha hands Wanda a few photos and the Sokovian turns them over on the table. Bucky feels a twist of anxiety at a couple photographs. They’re undoubtedly American handlers he’d dealt with during his captivity. He knows he’s strangled one of them to death.

“Do you recognise any of these men?” Wanda murmurs.

Bucky shoots Natasha a look of Really? Because she’d know he knows them all.

“What is this?” he murmurs.

“Darcy Lewis’ memories had a couple of these guys in them. We just want to know what you know about them,” Natasha says.

Bucky points at the handler he killed.

“Boris. He’s dead.”

The three other photos he can name, but the final one makes Wanda’s eyes widen.

“Petrov. Another handler.”

Wanda nods at Natasha.

Jane suddenly balls her hands into fists and rises from her chair.

“Darcy would never hurt a fly. She wouldn’t even hurt a fly’s feelings. Somebody made her do this.”

“Yeah, her handler,” Tony says, somewhat exasperated. “Because it was her job.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“That doesn’t matter!” Tony yells, and Bucky feels himself tense. “This building is no longer a sanctuary, and we need those more than ever! So your feelings can’t be what drives this situation, Doctor Foster.”

Jane seems to freeze in place, and Steve raises a hand.

“We need… cooler heads to prevail.”

“She attacked you, too, Cap – or did you forget that because Barnes has a crush?” Tony snaps, and Bucky feels his face flush.

He stares straight ahead, feeling like the walls might close in on him.

Steve and Tony bicker for some time, until a door slams and Jane is gone. Bucky finally looks at Steve, who’s furious.

Bucky doesn’t know how Tony could possibly know about him giving Darcy flowers. Maybe they’ve gone back over the security tapes during their lengthy investigation. It doesn’t stop Bucky from feeling violated, from feeling the intense urge to run away.

“Bucky –”

Bucky gets up from his chair, ignoring the look on Wanda’s face. He keeps walking until he reaches the door and he slams it behind him – not enough to break it off of its hinges but he’s pretty close, and he stalks toward the room down the corridor that a guard is standing in front of.

“Sir, please take a step back.”

“Let me in,” he hisses, and the man staring at him cowers back.

So much for high security. Bucky wasn’t even going to hit him. It just shows how scary he still is to everyone around him. He opens the door and slips inside.

He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He thought he’d go straight back to his rooms, maybe bury himself in his blankets and call it a day. He could imagine Steve coming to find him later, his voice heavy with that concern that makes Bucky feel sick sometimes.

He sees Darcy still strapped down, staring at the ceiling. She doesn’t acknowledge him, and Bucky hesitates.

He should leave.

He glances at the floor, rubbing his neck.

“I’m not HYDRA.”

He looks up, and her eyes are still glued to the ceiling. She’s not blinking that much.

“I’ve had time to think and I’m ready for questions,” she adds.

“I don’t think you want that,” he says.

Her eyes dip, and they look dead.

“It speaks,” she says.

Bucky feels his guts twist. He’s such an asshole for barging in there without warning. He should never have sent those flowers. He should have just helped her with her hand and left her alone.

“Anyway. Has Stark found the girl I pushed in front of the train?”

“What,” Bucky says.

Darcy sniffs. “I thought it was a nightmare. I don’t know what’s real anymore. What’s… right.”

Bucky finds his feet, moving toward her bed and glancing at her restraints.

“They… should let you out of these.”

“What if I tried to kill you?” Darcy rasps.

“I don’t think you’d win that fight,” he replies.

Her eyes are glued to him. He is ashamed to notice her beauty, even when she’s vulnerable and hurting. He feels like it’s exploitive.

“Please,” she whispers, and his eyes widen slightly at her change in tone. “I just want the shit out of my head. If it happens again –”

“You’re secure here, they won’t get to you.”

“If it happens again, make sure –”

He knows what she’s asking him to do, but he doesn’t know if he could do take her out.

“Bucky.”

She’s never said her name before.

He lets out a breath, his chest tight.

“I don’t do that anymore.”

-

Jane sits in her chair, staring into the steaming cup of coffee she got when she walked out earlier. She tried calling Erik but he didn’t pick up. She hopes this is somehow a misunderstanding. She can’t stop to think about all those people whose families are being notified.

“What about Loki?” she murmurs, and Natasha shakes her head.

“He hasn’t been to Earth in years. And you said your data didn’t show that kind of activity for months when Darcy was missing –”

“I could be wrong,” Jane says, but she knows that’s unlikely.

The door opens and Bucky strides back in, looking at Natasha.

“She killed a woman in Paris. Blonde hair. The Gare du Pont de l’Alma.”

Jane’s stomach drops. “She said that?”

“She doesn’t know what’s real anymore. She says there are gaps. Her notebook was helping her piece it together,” he murmurs, his eyes not reaching Jane’s face.

“So we check if a woman –” Jane begins, but Natasha cuts her off.

“She killed the Canary.”

“What? Who is that?”

“Ex-HYDRA agent. There was a rumor she was coming over to us, but she never made it. It was two years ago, just after SHIELD went down,” Natasha says.

She begins to type on her laptop again. Tony asks FRIDAY to pull the security feed from the Paris train station, looking for any accidents.

They find the grainy footage of the woman falling off the platform, seeming to launch herself into the oncoming train. It makes Jane queasy but she forces herself to look.

“It’s a suicide.”

“Wait,” Natasha murmurs.

They cut to the crowd forming on the platform. There’s no sound but Jane imagines people screaming, the echoing of voices and running footsteps. There’s a figure that moves out from the edge of the camera, pushing through the people flooding in. Jane squints.

“Extract it,” Tony says, and FRIDAY obliges.

The footage is projected above their heads. It’s the same few frames, and though it’s still grainy, Jane would recognise that face anywhere.

She sees Darcy with blood smeared on her face, looking wide-eyed as she runs toward the exit. Jane can’t look away, even though her heart is breaking.

The projection vanishes, a quiet hanging over the room. Jane wipes her eyes again, sniffling.

“Steve, we should move her.”

Jane looks at Bucky after he breaks the silence. He’s looking at his friend, his throat bobbing.

“She’s suicidal.”

 

Chapter Text

Part Eight: Teeth

 

 

 

Darcy knows that she’s only lying still because she’s being watched. She’s pretty sure she could snap the restraints off of her wrists faster than the guard could blink.

She can hear her guard occasionally rocking on the balls of his feet if she concentrates. Finally her superior hearing is useful. She considers the rest of her room. There’s no window, so she won’t be going out that way. She’ll need to be fast.

If her dream of running through the woods turns out to be a memory, then she is faster than she used to be. Gym was her most hated class and exercise is general is the Devil, that she knows.

She can’t stay here. She wants this to end on her terms, and since Bucky Barnes didn’t respond how she wished he had, she’s got to do it herself. She thinks of Jane being maybe the only person to attend her funeral, and she jerks her wrist, cutting the metal and leather strap like a hot knife through butter.

She gasps, then snaps the other cuff. She remembers the first time she broke something by accident, which was her metal fork. At the time, she thought it was just shoddily made, but she broke a couple alarm clocks since then. She was able to carry a lot of Jane’s equipment with ease when they’d moved in the last couple of years.

By now the Avengers would have found the metro footage, confirming their suspicions. She has no way to explain it away. Soon she’ll be taken to an actual prison and she’ll have to live with this guilt for the rest of her days, unless some agent along the way executes her. She could try provoking someone and commit suicide via police, but she can’t take chances. She needs to find some rope, or something extra sharp. Poison will probably not work, if that vodka binge was anything to go by.

Darcy scrambles from her bed, crouching and listening. The guard is murmuring into his intercom:

“Roger. I’ll suppress.”

He’s heard from whoever’s watching her through the camera on the ceiling that she’s broken out. She can’t hesitate.

She hears the door being opened and she lunges, pulling it toward her with all her strength. She knows it’s a heavy door and she strains a little to tug it wide open, but she manages to as the guard’s eyes widen. He’s yelling into his intercom and Darcy punches him on the nose.

It hurts her hand more than she thought it would and she winces. He drops to the floor, out cold.

She murmurs an apology as she grabs his pass from his belt and dashes down the corridor. She reaches the elevator and calls it. She can hear voices, and she steps back from the elevator doors, her hands fists.

When the doors open she sees a familiar face that causes her to blush.

Bucky’s eyes widen at the sight of her.

“Darcy.”

“Don’t try to stop me. I’m going,” she says. She hoped she’d sound fiercer but she’s suddenly nervous.

“Where’re you going?”

“Doesn’t matter. Away from here,” she babbles, and she moves to get in the elevator but he steps forward, blocking her.

“You don’t wanna do this.”

Darcy began to laugh, low and without mirth.

“Do what? You’re gonna fight me?” she says.

He ducks out of the way of her punch easily, grabbing her wrist. Darcy doesn’t really know what she’s doing so she improvises, kicking his knee as hard as she can so that he loses his balance, before throwing her other arm out to grab his.

She somehow forgot about his metal limb and she grunts, pushing all her weight into the movement, trying to manoeuvre him out of her way.

He begins to push back and he makes a sound at the back of his throat. Darcy’s feet slide but she scrambles for purchase, letting out a growl. He’s eating up too much of her time.

“Let me go, Bucky,” she hisses. “Let me go.”

“No. I can’t do that.”

Please,” she whispers, feeling her eyes fill with tears. “Please just let me go.”

He looks like he’s hurting and he shakes his head.

“Fine,” she snaps, and she lets go of his metal arm and punches him. The burst of pain across her knuckles makes Darcy cry out, pulling back her hand and staring down at it.

“What the fuck!” she yells. “That really hurt.”

You hit me,” Bucky retorts, clutching his cheek.

They’ve forgotten their fight for a moment as Darcy hisses at the bloom of pain radiating down her hand, Bucky’s grip loosening enough so that she holds her injured hand in the other, feeling the pain disappear in seconds.

“You okay?”

She punches him again but he blocks the brunt of it and she tries again with her left hand. Kicking doesn’t seem to work either. Bucky manages to push her to the ground and the elevator doors finally shut and Darcy growls under him.

“Let me go you fucking –”

She dissolves into a frustrated sob and squeezes her eyes shut. She hates how weak she feels, like she’s been rubbed raw. Her chest hurts and Bucky’s mouth his a hard line as he hovers above her, her wrists in his hands.

There’s a ding and Darcy can hear the elevator doors open and she keeps her eyes closed, readying herself for being forcibly removed.

Instead, she hears:

“Am I interrupting?”

Darcy blinks up at Clint and Bucky moves back like he’s been burned and Darcy scrambles to her feet, glaring at the pair of them.

“Nat told me what happened,” Clint says, and Darcy looks away at the floor. “Sounded fucked up.”

Darcy stares at the ground. She wants to disappear. Would Clint kill her if she attacked him? She might be stronger than him. She’s pretty certain he’s an expert archer but he doesn’t have powers.

“Did she send you down here, too?” Darcy murmurs.

Clint nods.

Clint and Bucky exchange a look.

“She try and run?”

Bucky nods.

“I tried that, too, when Loki –” Clint begins, gesturing at his head. “Y’know.”

“No, I don’t fucking know. What the fuck does that mean?” Darcy snaps, and Clint’s eyebrows rise.

“It means I know how you feel. You were brainwashed.”

There’s a distant groan and they all turn to look at the guard on the ground in front of Darcy’s room and he tries to sit up.

“That’s on me,” Darcy says. “At least he’s alive.”

She takes a couple seconds to gather her thoughts, feeling their eyes on her.

“I need the bathroom. Can I go back to my place for a minute?” she asks the floor, and then she lets her eyes wander up Bucky’s frame, finally meeting his eyes.

He looks at her differently and for a second Darcy feels worse, because she’s manipulating him. She can feel her heart racing and she’s almost sure that he could hear how fast her heart was beating.

“Please?” she says, and Bucky falters.

“Okay.”

Clint gives a little sigh and Darcy ducks into the elevator with the two men, trying to weigh up her options. She’s fast. She might be fast enough. She makes sure her back is to the door, and she looks at Clint’s boot.

The second the doors open once more, Darcy plants her foot and pivots. She takes off, Clint’s fingers missing her by less than an inch.

“Bucky!”

Darcy doesn’t dare turn to see if Bucky’s on her tail. She knows he is, and she sprints down the hall, hearing Clint yelling after them. He didn’t have his bow on him but Bucky could still reach her.

She shoves at the exit door, bursting out in the open air. The rooftop is empty and she runs to the edge.

“Darcy!” Bucky screams.

She can’t stop. She can’t let the way he sounds trick her into staying. She can’t let herself hear how desperate he sounds.

Fuck him. Fuck everyone. She’s gone. She’s out. She just has to get her leg over the glass ledge –

She’s ripped away from it and she feels his hands on her arms, gripping her so hard it bruises.

She starts screaming, and she can’t stop. She cries.

She cries for all those nights she spent awake, afraid of her own mind. She whimpers when she thinks of all the blood, the woman she shoved off that platform.

“Let go of me! Let me go! LET ME GO!”

He keeps her relatively still and she struggles anyway, until she leans down and bites his flesh arm. He grunts at the pain and Darcy knows she’s a wild thing, she’s completely lost it.

“Darcy.”

Clint’s behind them, watching.

“Darcy, quit wailing on him.”

She spits on the ground, growling.

“You fucking assholes. I’ll kill you. You know I could.”

“But you won’t,” Clint says, a little softer. “Hey. Look at me.”

Darcy refuses, still trying to get out of Bucky’s grip. She can’t believe it was only yesterday that he gave her flowers.

“Buck, let her go,” Clint says.

“What? No.”

“I’ll jump,” Darcy snaps, finally meeting his gaze. “It’s my time. It has to be now, or –”

She feels like a child, trying to explain her flimsy plan.

“If you jump, he’s going down with you,” Clint says.

Darcy closes her eyes, trying to think.

“It’s gonna be okay,” Clint says.

“Fuck you,” Darcy whispers, and to her surprise, Bucky chuckles.

It’s barely detectable but it makes Darcy pause. She looks out at the other buildings around them and she can hear the city. It’s as if she’s been ignoring the rest of the world until that precise moment.

She doesn’t remember Bucky letting her go of her but she glances down to see the bruises he left on her arms start to fade in the sunlight.

Clint touches her shoulder and squeezes, and Darcy feels her throat tighten.

“But Jane,” Darcy whispers. All that research. Whoever has it now will be brought up to speed, and the technology would be used to harm people in droves.

“I know.”

“And those… people.”

She starts to cry again, covering her face with her hands. She hears a voice, distorted and tinny come from Clint’s earpiece. Clint murmurs back:

“We got her.”

Darcy hears Steve’s reply:

“Okay. Bucky good?”

Darcy’s eyes dart to Bucky’s arm where she can see the tiny puncture wounds from her teeth, and she feels her face burn with the shame.

She feels Clint give her shoulder another squeeze.

 

 

Chapter Text

"Stooped down and out, you got me beggin' for thread
To sew this hole up that you ripped in my head
Stupidly think you had it under control..."

- "Beggin for Thread" by BANKS

 

 

 

Part Nine: Postcard

 

 

 

 

Jane gives a sigh of relief when Clint confirms that Darcy is secure.

Jane’s been like a geyser the last few hours, tears of indignation and misery mingling to make her the perfect mess by the time Darcy ran out onto the roof.

She was past feeling embarrassed by her own emotions. She’d bitten her nails all the way down, and her face feels all puffy from the crying. She bursts out of the room when Steve says they’re going to take Darcy back to her room so she can shower.

Jane foregoes the elevator and races up the stairwell, her chest feeling tight, and she runs to Darcy’s door, hammering on it. It takes no time at all for the door to open, Bucky Barnes staring down at her.

“Where is she?”

She doesn’t wait for his answer, pushing past him and running toward Darcy who’s standing at the doorway to her bathroom. Jane collides with her, wrapping her arms around her.

She and Darcy don’t hug that often. Jane knows it’s her fault, Darcy’s pretty touchy-feely. Her assistant freezes with her arms at her sides for a couple seconds before she returns the hug.

“I stink, so I want to shower.”

Jane moves back, trying to subtlety smell her. It’s not that bad. She glances at Clint Barton sitting on the edge of the tub.

“They don’t want me to… be alone,” Darcy murmurs.

She doesn’t look Jane in the eye when she says it, so maybe she’s ashamed. She nods at Bucky who’s pretending to not listen to their conversation.

He specifically doesn’t want me alone.”

Bucky’s stone face changes to something like mild surprise and Jane places her hands on Darcy’s shoulders and steers her into the bathroom. Clint gets up and walks out.

Jane runs a bath for Darcy and they sit together on the edge, waiting.

“Darce, do you want something to eat?” Clint calls, and Darcy blinks a few times, considering.

“Yeah… I’m starving,” she says. For the first time she seems to smile a little, and it’s like finding treasure to Jane.

Darcy strips off her clothes and sits in the bath, drawing her knees up. Jane can remember the first time Darcy saw her naked – it was after some asshole ex cheated on her and Jane got drunk way too fast. She threw up and instead of judging her, Darcy pulled off her clothes and dressed her for bed.

Darcy stares at the wall until Jane passes her bottle of body wash and she takes it wordlessly, working up a lather between her shaking hands that she rubs all over. Jane doesn’t hand her a razor and Darcy doesn’t ask for it. At one point she finally lies down, staring at the ceiling and Jane feels her chin wobble with emotion.

She suddenly drops herself further down so her head is beneath the water and she lets out a scream, only partly muffled. The sound still startles Jane and she stares at Darcy lying there with her eyes wide open in the water. She moves back when Darcy abruptly sits up again, water sloshing.

-

Clint returns with bags and bags of burgers and fries and Darcy eats all of it. Bucky’s wondering how she managed to run on an empty stomach for so long.

“Where does it all go?” Clint says at one point, sipping his soda through a straw and glancing down at Darcy’s legs under the table.

“Shut up,” Darcy mumbles with her mouth full of food.

They sit at her tiny table in her kitchen, Bucky’s eyes on the empty space in front of him. The sun had gone down and he knew he’d need to leave soon. He’s pretty sure that he’s outstayed his welcome and Jane will be shoving him out the door, if Darcy wasn’t already planning to.

Clint looks at his phone when it buzzes.

“Natasha wants to run some tests tomorrow.”

“I’ve had all those tests,” Darcy says, and Jane raises her eyebrows.

“Different tests,” Clint says. “But you gotta sleep, so –”

He doesn’t have to look Bucky’s way because he already gets up, tucking his chair in. Bucky doesn’t want to leave. He was starting to get used to hanging around Darcy, despite how much she seems to dislike him.

“I’ll walk you out,” Darcy says, which surprises him.

Jane stays seated, waving at them as they go to the front door. Darcy’s wearing her pyjamas already, her feet bare. Her hair is still wet from the bath. Clint opens the door and Bucky steps out after him.

“See you,” Clint says, and he turns his back, leaving Bucky in the lurch.

“Uh.”

Darcy turns her gaze to his, and she seems different to before. Almost calm. Bucky hesitates, thinking about leaving her with Jane. Jane’s very smart and very protective but she’s also tiny. Darcy waits and he feels his skin go hot again.

“Sorry for… biting you,” she says, and his eyes snap up to hers.

Her cheeks have gone pink and Bucky doesn’t know what to say. He can hear Clint leaving her floor, not bothering to wait for Bucky to get to the elevator. There’s the sound of Jane opening and shutting cupboards in Darcy’s kitchen.

“Uh,” he says again, and he cards a hand through his hair.

“Unless you enjoyed it, then I’m not sorry,” she says, and Bucky feels his blush deepen. He shoves his hands in his pockets and retreats, just like the time he exited stage left after getting that glass out of her hand.

He calls the elevator and keeps his eyes on the floor until the last second and he looks back at her door, seeing she’s watching him leave. The elevator doors open and he’s stuck, looking back at her for way too long. The doors start to close and he thrusts out a hand to stop it. He ducks inside, feeling butterflies in his stomach.

-

“You… bit him?” Jane says, when Darcy shuts the front door and walks back to her kitchen.

Jane’s preparing some tea and Darcy shrugs.

“He wasn’t letting go of me.”

“So you bit him?” Jane says.

She’s never heard of Darcy doing that to someone before and yet it sounds exactly like something she would do.

“Poor guy. Why are you picking on him?” Jane adds, and Darcy lets out a low whistle.

“It’s been… a weird day,” she replies carefully, and Jane regrets pressing her. She tried everything to get herself to the roof, and Bucky had stopped her. “Also, have you seen his ass?”

Jane lets out a burst of a laugh, surprising herself. “Uh, what, the two times he’s walked away in my presence? I guess so.”

Darcy bites her lip and she’s more herself in that moment, her eyes bright.

“I was gonna make a rabies joke but he looks at me like he’s Bambi in headlights, like…”

She cuts herself off.

“What the fuck am I talking about? He’s not thinking of me that way, when I’ve just killed all those people…”

Jane puts down the mugs she takes out of Darcy’s cupboard and watches Darcy morph back into that zoned out expression from before.

“Darcy…”

“I’m okay,” she snaps, passing a hand over her face. “I’m… whatever.”

-

Bucky doesn’t go to bed when he’s supposed to. He sits in the common room, staring at the TV but he’s not taking much in. Sam comes by and leaves and he barely notices.

Steve’s still with Natasha downstairs going over what they can find on Darcy and Bucky keeps thinking about her.

He glances down at the place on his arm where she bit him, tracing his metal finger over the marks that have faded too quickly for his liking.

Unless you enjoyed it.

She bit him. Why does the idea of her doing that again make his dick half hard? He puts his face in his hands and sighs. He’s such a creep. She’s been through hell today and he’s thinking about her teeth on his skin?

“FRIDAY, is Steve still with Natasha?” he mutters.

“Yes.”

He gets up from the couch and stalks off to the elevators before he can change his mind. He gets to the basement where they’re still deliberating and he sees Stark is gone. He feels immediately better, and he’s glad that neither Steve nor Natasha tease him about being interested in the Darcy investigation.

“There’s one source that disappeared a little after HYDRA got found out,” Natasha says. She picks up a few postcards in Ziploc bags labelled by Forensics and turns them over. “I never met them but they were consistent for years, working HYDRA from the inside.”

“How do you even know if they were SHIELD?” Steve says.

Bucky leans forward and sees a few words on a postcard from Copenhagen. It only says:

Wish you were here.

“They weren’t from SHIELD,” Natasha says with a small smile. “They were MI6.”

“What does the code correspond with?” Steve adds, and Natasha gives another enigmatic smile.

“That’s classified.”

“Even from me?” Steve says, smirking. Natasha nods.

“All I can tell you is they’re called Mogun.”

Steve frowns. “What does that mean?”

-

“I can’t do this,” Darcy says.

Clint smiles, his arms crossed as Natasha stands beside him with her clipboard at the ready. Bucky stands in front of Darcy with his knees slightly bent.

“Darcy, hit him as hard as you can,” Clint says again, and Darcy gnaws at her lip.

“I hit him yesterday pretty hard.”

“Then do it again,” Clint says.

Darcy rolls her eyes, sighing. “Okay. Okay.”

Bucky knows he’s basically a punching bag at this point but he’s fine with that. He tried his hardest before not to jump too enthusiastically at the opportunity when it came up. Steve’s taken the morning off to rest, which Bucky thinks Darcy should be doing as well. She looks like she hasn’t had a wink of sleep, creases under her big blue eyes.

She throws a punch and collides with his arm and Bucky tenses, but it doesn’t exactly hurt.

“You can do better than that,” Natasha says, and Darcy makes a face.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Beat the shit outta him, c’mon,” Clint yells.

“Oh, my God you’re so fucking annoying,” Darcy hisses, and she lunges for Bucky again, clumsy.

The force is better but she still executes it poorly.

Bucky steps back when she recoils her arm. He can’t help himself, ignoring the voice in his head telling him not to get too close to her like yesterday.

Darcy’s face falls and she lowers her hands to her sides.

“I’ll show you,” Bucky says, and Darcy blinks a couple times.

“Okay,” she murmurs.

“You put your whole body into it,” he says. He points to her legs. “Bend ‘em. Not too much. Okay, better. You right-handed?”

Darcy nods.

“Pull back your right hand and your right leg. Yeah.”

He’s aware that this is the most he’s ever said in front of her and he’s got those butterflies fluttering in his stomach again but he tries to stay focused, gesturing to her lower half.

“The force comes from up your legs, hips, everything.”

She nods, raising her hands again. He gestures to her fists.

“Don’t put your thumbs under your fingers, ’cause you’ll break ’em. You turn your wrist when you throw a punch.”

Darcy does as he instructs, showing him. She looks pleased with herself when he nods.

“And you hit –” he moves closer, taking her wrist and showing her the spot on her knuckles where she should aim to hit with. He moves to press his chest against her fist. “There. Okay?”

Darcy’s eyes are wider and he realizes his mistake. He touched her without asking.

“Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” she says, just as fast. It comes out like a squeak.

Bucky hears Clint snicker and Natalie presses her lips together, pretending to read her clipboard. Bucky steps back again and Darcy bends her knees.

“And it’s one, two – okay?” he adds, and she nods. He signs it and she nods some more.

“Get ’em, Darcy!” Clint says, clapping.

Darcy moves toward Bucky and copies the movement – one punch, then two

There’s a loud smack as Bucky falls to the floor. Darcy covers her mouth with her hands, her eyes wide.

“Holy shit, I’m so sorry!”

Clint jogs over, pulling Bucky up by his flesh arm. Darcy’s hands are up, hovering over Bucky’s midsection where she struck him.

“It’s okay, honey,” Clint says, waving a hand. “His back broke his fall.”

Bucky doubles over, coughing, and Darcy makes an aggrieved sound.

“I told you I can’t do this!” she wails, and Bucky stares at her feet.

Her socks are blue with little clouds and thunderbolts. The clouds have tiny little smiles and wink up at him.

“I’m fine,” he manages to say. “You definitely got the serum.”

He never doubted it – but he had to prove it to Natasha. She was the one in charge of the investigation. It didn’t matter that Steve was the team leader.

Stark still hadn’t made an appearance, and Bucky was still glad. Darcy kept glancing around, probably expecting him to march in at any second.

She does a few exercises with Natasha because they were closer in height, but the redhead still manages to drop her on the mat every time.

“Why are we doing this?” Darcy says, lying on the floor. “This only seems like a test for my patience now. You’ve proven I suck at fighting.”

Instead of answering her, Natasha offers her hand and pulls Darcy up.

“We’ll talk about it when Steve gets back.”

Bucky glances at Clint. At least they’re trying to spare her feelings somewhat.

-

“There’s only one group with the same technology to manufacture that serum,” Steve says.

He’s leaning against the long table Darcy sits at, Natasha sitting beside him while Bucky leans against the wall, arms crossed.

Clint sits beside Darcy. Tony Stark is still avoiding her. Jane and Bruce are trying to work together away from the labs.

“HYDRA,” Darcy says, and Steve nods.

“And because you survived long enough to absorb it, you’re on a list somewhere,” Natasha adds. “They programmed you over those nine months to steal Jane’s research on their behalf, and to kill Tony.”

Darcy swallows. Hearing it all out loud makes her want to contradict it.

“How do you know that?” she asks, and Natasha blinks.

“What do you mean?”

“My mom, she…. She wasn’t altogether there when I was – ” Darcy glances at the ceiling, wondering how to phrase it. She decides to just be blunt. “She had schizophrenia and she killed herself when I was a baby. She had psychosis a few times.”

Before anyone can say anything, she raises a hand.

“I don’t remember her. My point is I don’t know if I’m okay. Mentally.”

“You were brainwashed,” Clint murmurs. “You were a completely different person to who I saw in New Mexico.”

“What does Tony think?” Darcy murmurs, glancing at Steve.

“He’ll come around.”

“I tried to kill him, he won’t come around,” Darcy says.

“I used to spy on him for a while,” Natasha says, and Darcy’s eyes widen at her admission. “I went by a different name. He was pissed, but he got over it. I lied to Steve before. He got over it.”

She points to Bucky.

“He’s tried to kill me three times. I’m okay with that.”

She points at Clint but he shakes his head. Darcy knows there must be a trove of moments between those two.

Darcy nods, looking at her hands on her lap.

“What do you remember about Ian Boothby?” Natasha asks.

Darcy looks over at Bucky and she sees his face change.

“Why?”

“He’s a person of interest at this point,” Natasha says, her voice gentle.

“What did I do?”

“It’s not you,” Clint says. “It’s him. He doesn’t exist.”

Darcy looks away, rifling through what she can remember about him, those few months she spent outside of work actually having a personal life. He seemed like a decent guy at the time.

“Then who is he?” she says, her voice low.

“We don’t know,” Steve admits. “But we’ve found him in some footage around Manhattan, so he’s been in the country for a little while in the last few weeks.”

“But Ian was… boring. Normal. He made me seem really… exotic or something,” Darcy says. She can’t quite believe what she’s hearing. “So before you ask, no – he wasn’t racist or even slightly rude about anything ever.”

“He was running down the street minutes after the shooting started,” Natasha says, and Darcy feels her words like a punch to the stomach. At least she didn’t phrase it as ‘your shooting’.

“You can’t find him?” Darcy asks, and Steve shakes his head. “But you think he’s responsible?”

“It’s the most likely story, yeah,” Steve says. “I know it’s hard to hear.”

Darcy thinks of SHIELD falling years ago, and the pain he must have felt. All those people he worked with, fought alongside with, turning out to be the scum of the earth, and exactly who he tried to save the world from all those years ago.

“I led him here,” Darcy whispers.

“No, it’s not that simple –” Natasha begins.

“You were the perfect target, sweetheart,” Clint murmurs, and Darcy nods, swallowing hard. “You were connected to Jane, you’re smart, you have people trusting you. He abused that.”

“Why a serum, though?” Darcy murmurs, glancing at Steve. She swipes at her tears. “Why not just brainwash me?”

“They lost all their other serum soldiers,” Natasha says. “In Siberia.”

Darcy glances at Bucky, blinking.

“So he’s the last one,” she murmurs. “I mean, we’re the last ones.”

“Yeah,” Natasha murmurs. “Not everyone survives the serum.”

Darcy lets out a breath of a laugh, scrubbing her hands through her hair.

“So what now?”

“You’ve got a target on your back,” Natasha says. Darcy likes that she’s not bullshitting her. “Because they can’t afford having someone they gave their serum just wandering around New York, working with the Avengers.”

Darcy blinks. “They want… to kill me… because it looks bad?”

She begins to laugh, and she’s sure she’s reached her limit for the day. She’s reached her limit for batshit crazy for a while, probably.

“They probably don’t want it getting out, at all,” Natasha adds. “And you tried to shoot yourself before Steve knocked you out.”

Darcy freezes. She feels Clint touch her hand.

“I’m okay, just. Why didn’t it work?”

“Not enough bullets,” Steve says. “And you could have used your knife.”

“I had a knife?!”

“Darcy, it didn’t work. You fought it,” Steve says, and she meets his gaze. “You can remember some things, it’ll just take time.”

Darcy rubs her eyes again, feeling overwhelmed. A silence falls over them, and she stares at the table in front of her.

“We’ve still got a lot to work through, but we need to move you to a safe house,” Natasha says finally, and Darcy nods.

“And I’m meant to be on vacation,” Clint adds.

Her eyes swivel to him, and she sees Bucky staring at her, too.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

 

 

Chapter Text

"Don't look down the barrel with an arrow and a bow
Dressed down in apparel with camouflage from head to toe
With everything so sterile in a heavy monotone
Oh soldier, you gotta let things go.."

- "Soldier" by Trixie Mattel

 

 

Part Ten: Couch

 

 

Ian is surprised it takes four hours for him to be found instead of the usual three. He’s ready when the man knocks on his hotel room door, disguised as room service.

Ian’s able to knock him out pretty easily, but then three other men follow after him and there’s only so much energy left in him after the last couple days he’s had. Since fleeing New York, he was cooped up with only energy bars and bottles of water. He knew his own disguise had been useless – HYDRA really was everywhere, even after SHIELD fell.

He wakes up with Molokhov’s face looming over his, strapped to a chair with his arms bound behind his back. He wasn’t expecting the commander to come all this way.

Ian runs his tongue along his teeth, feeling them all there, but he tastes blood and he can feel more on his face. They broke his nose. It’s been a while since that’s happened. There’s a concrete floor beneath his bare feet, and the ceiling looks low. They’ve probably taken him to a warehouse somewhere. There are men hanging around, and he sees Yuri on the ground, coughing.

He’s missing an eye.

“Comrade,” Molokhov says, and Ian glances at him, wincing at the sudden movement. His head is spinning. “It’s good you’re finally awake.”

“Commander,” Ian begins, and Molokhov gives Yuri a firm kick to the ribs.

Ian watches Yuri cough once more, and tries again.

“Commander, I am sorry. I’m sorry I failed you.”

Molokhov steps toward him, grabbing his chin to tilt his face up to his.

“Your father would be appalled by your negligence. In all the years we worked together, he never made so many mistakes as you.”

“I can repair this,” Ian says, and Molokhov’s jaw ticks.

“How?”

“I’ll kill her. I’ll make it right,” Ian says, trying his hardest to keep his tone level. Yuri keeps coughing and groaning on the floor.

“Back in the good old days,” Molokhov says, as he drops Ian’s chin and steps back. “We were more to the point. Cyanide capsules, for instance.”

“She disobeyed me,” Ian says.

Molokhov glowers at him. “You little shit! How dare you imply that my programming was inefficient!”

“I’m… not, Commander, I swear,” Ian says, raising his voice over the sound of Yuri’s whimpers. “I would never say such a thing. It was my fault that she was defective. But I will make it right.”

He won’t cry. He won’t beg. If Ian dies tonight, he’s not letting it be like Yuri is right now, so undignified and pathetic.

“How?” Molokhov says. He points to Yuri. “That worm says our Asset is with her.”

Ian wishes he could rip of what’s keeping him tied down so he can beat Yuri to death with his bare hands. He only hopes he can watch him die, along with Karl, wherever he is.

“I can activate her, and she can bring him to us. She can be like a Widow.”

That would mean she seduces him, makes him trust her before Ian kills her. Molokhov pauses, thinking this over. Yuri sounds like he’s crying and the commander kicks him again, hard.

Yuri is murmuring something and Molokhov leans closer, straining to hear.

“Speak up.”

“Just… kill me.”

“Not yet,” murmurs the commander, his face morphing to serene. “Not until we break every bone.”

“Please –”

Molokhov nods to one of the guards standing by with a rifle and they pick Yuri up, dragging him out of the room and slamming the door. Ian can hear him start to scream.

“That’ll be you, Comrade, if you can’t bring her back to me,” Molokhov says, wiping his hands with a handkerchief he pulls out from his coat pocket.

Ian nods, hearing Yuri crying out in the distance for his mother. Ian’s mother is dead, so he would never sob over her saving him.

“Ian,” Molokhov adds, and his eyes snap up to his.

The commander looks him over, assessing the blood. He purses his lips.

“Just because you are your father’s son, it doesn’t mean I’ll take pity on you. I’ll keep you alive long enough for you to lose your mind over the pain, the impossible things I can do to your body. Of course, you know Zola.”

Ian nods.

“Zola’s methods were always a bit… soft, I thought,” Molokhov murmurs, a hand going to push the hair out of Ian’s face. He shrugs. “I’m more creative.”

Ian tries to disguise the chill he feels running down his body. He bows his head.

“She’s mine,” Molokhov whispers. “All mine. Don’t forget that.”

“Yes, Commander.”

-

It was Steve’s idea. At least, that’s what Bucky will say if Darcy objects to him tagging along. Steve came to Bucky right after Darcy’s first training session. He took him aside as Natasha and Darcy fought on the mat.

It was all very one-sided, but that was to be expected. Darcy doesn’t know how to fight properly.

“She’ll need someone else, apart from Clint. Someone she relies on,” Steve says, and Bucky feels his eyebrows hike.

“Not me, no,” he says. “She doesn’t know me.”

“She likes you, doesn’t she?” Steve asks, and Bucky makes an exasperated sound.

“Punk, you know you’re the better choice.”

Steve crosses his arms, tilting his head. “She’s been spendin’ more time with you… jerk.”

Bucky stares him down and sighs, his eyes darting to watch Natasha throw Darcy against the mat again. Clint looks over his shoulder at them.

“Me in a safe house with her? How is that not a bad idea?”

“I’ve been to Clint’s place before. It’s very secure, and we’ve upgraded since with FRIDAY’s network.”

“Doesn’t he have a wife? And kids?” Bucky says, and Steve nods.

“It’ll be good for you –”

“Not my point,” Bucky interrupts. “It’s not safe for kids to be around me.”

Steve sighs this time, glancing at Darcy. Natasha pulls her up from the floor and Darcy adjusts her ponytail when she’s upright once again.

“She needs you,” Steve says.

Bucky doesn’t know what to say. He disagrees, but the thought of her being apart from him is somehow feels worse. He feels it in his guts, the power she has over him.

“I can trust you and Clint to do this,” Steve adds.

Bucky turns his gaze to him, closing his eyes for a second to compose himself. He’s ready to argue with everyone all the time about his reliability. He’s barely recovered from the last few months. He can’t help admitting to himself that Darcy is a distraction from the shit inside his head.

“You wanna help her?” Steve asks, his voice soft.

“Yeah,” Bucky murmurs. He looks at her, and as if on cue, she turns her head to look back at him.

She smiles before going back to Natasha. She throws a punch just like Bucky taught her. Bucky looks away, thinking of last night.

“Any more news on that Mogun source?” he mutters, and Steve shakes his head.

“Natasha’s gotta go see someone, in England. I’m going with her.”

-

“Where am I going?” Darcy asks.

Jane packs her suitcase, letting Darcy borrow it because her own is still in Forensics being searched for bugs. In fact, all of Darcy’s belongings are being searched and tested, so Jane bought her brand new clothes and toiletries.

“Clint said it’s a couple day’s drive away from here.”

They’re not taking a jet because it would be an immediate giveaway. All Darcy knows is that she’s been eating into his vacation time, and Bucky was also assigned to be her bodyguard. Darcy watches Jane pack her a box of Pop Tarts and some peppermint tea. When they zip up the suitcase together, Darcy can see Jane’s trying to hold it together and failing.

“I’ll be okay,” Darcy says, and Jane’s throat bobs.

“I love you. I don’t say it… ever. But I do,” Jane whispers, and she grabs hold of Darcy, squeezing her in a tight hug. “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” Darcy says, feeling her throat start to close up.

Darcy drags her suitcase behind her, the wheels making soft whirring sounds against the tiles of the lobby. Clint’s standing by wearing civilian clothes, and Bucky’s got a red Henley on, a worn baseball cap on his head.

“Those are terrible disguises,” Darcy says.

Clint glances at her bright red Vans, raising his eyebrows.

“You dress like my daughter.”

“Okay then, Dad – where are we going?” Darcy snaps, and Bucky presses his lips together, trying not the laugh.

“Missouri.”

“Oh, that’s specific,” Darcy throws back.

“You got any other flavors apart from sarcastic, sweetheart?” Clint says, taking her suitcase from her.

She narrows her eyes at him. “No.”

-

“Is this your station wagon?” Darcy says to Clint as she buckles her seatbelt.

Bucky slips in the backseat, glancing around. The seat feels kind of lumpy underneath Darcy and she wriggles, making a face.

“No. This is a SHIELD piece of shit for situations like ours.”

“Two jacked dudes and a twenty-seven year-old in a soccer mom car? How is that not suspicious?” Darcy says, and she opens the glove compartment, only to have Clint lean over and slam it shut.

“There’s a gun in there. Leave it alone.”

Darcy’s eyes widen. “What?”

Clint starts the car and they back out, before speeding off out of the basement parking lot.

“It’s for emergencies,” Clint says, and he joins the traffic.

Darcy stares at the closed glove compartment in front of her, eyebrows furrowing.

“I hate guns.”

Clint gives his head a little shake, smiling to himself. It makes Darcy want to smack him. She spots Bucky looking out the window through the rear view mirror.

“Can I put on some music?”

“I pick the music,” Clint replies.

“How is that fair?”

“You’re such a pain in my ass, Laura’s gonna adore you.”

Darcy rests her chin on her elbow, looking out the window like Bucky is.

“What does your wife think about us staying at your house?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Clint murmurs. “Haven’t told her yet.”

-

Darcy dozes off at one point because her lack of sleep catches up to her, and Bucky’s glad she’s finally resting.

The backseat doesn’t have enough leg room and he feels his knees start to hurt but he’s not about to kick her out of the front seat. They drive in silence while she sleeps, until they have to stop for gas.

“You want anything?” Clint asks, and Bucky nods.

“Doughnut.”

“I’ll get you more than one,” Clint says with a chuckle, opening his door.

“Thanks.”

When Clint shuts the door, Darcy stirs awake, stretching.

“Where are we?”

“Stopping for gas,” Bucky murmurs.

She makes a little sound at the back of her throat as she stretches some more, looking around. She turns to look at him properly.

Bucky feels aware of the lack of space between them and he blinks at her. Her eyes are really big, but it’s not like he hasn’t noticed that before. There are blotches of pink on her face, and she looks sleepy. She looks soft.

He glances away.

-

They drive for eight hours. Darcy feels like New York was days and days away.

She starts to get used to the way Clint makes fun of her, the companionable silence they have among the three of them. She keeps catching Bucky looking at her when he thinks she doesn’t notice him. Truth be told, she constantly feels him there, listens to his breath.

He sleeps at one point and he looks beautiful, the sun on his face. His long hair is pushed out of his eyes but his cap obscures the majority of Darcy’s view.

Clint looks at her when she’s watching Bucky in the rear view mirror.

“Go easy,” he murmurs, and she raises an eyebrow at him.

“Whatever do you mean, Mister Barton?”

He wrinkles his nose. “Please don’t call me that.”

She chuckles, glancing back to Bucky’s reflection.

“What does he remember?” she murmurs.

Clint’s face falls and he concentrates on the road.

“Steve told me he remembers everything.”

Poor thing. Darcy knows she’s at an advantage. And yet she still wishes she knew everything.

“Why do I want to know?” Darcy murmurs.

“Nine months is a long time,” Clint replies. “And time is precious.”

Darcy rubs her eyes, wishing she’d fall back to sleep. She sits up straighter instead.

“Do you want a break? I can drive. I mean, it’s been a while, but –”

“It’s okay, we’ll stop for the night soon,” Clint says.

Darcy nods, glancing out the window. It’s golden hour. The soft snore coming from the backseat rips her away from the landscape and she covers her mouth to stop herself from snorting.

Clint smiles, glancing at Bucky in the mirror.

-

The motel is about as shitty as they come, but Darcy feels the exhaustion of the past couple days seeping into her bones. A bed’s a bed, and she needs one badly.

The get two rooms with two double beds. Darcy takes one room, her stomach flipping at the idea of Bucky choosing whether or not to be closer to her.

Clint takes the decision away from him, volunteering to take the other room. Darcy sees something like alarm pass over Bucky’s face when Clint announces this, and Darcy’s heart sinks.

Bucky dithers by the car when Darcy grabs her suitcase. She sets it down and pulls it along behind her, unlocking the door to her room with the key Clint tossed her.

She glances over her shoulder at Bucky, her eyebrows raised.

“You want to sleep in the car?”

He shakes his head, his eyes darting to her.

“So sleep on the couch in my room. Or don’t. Just don’t be a dick about it.”

He looks confused and Darcy shoves the door with her shoulder, glancing around the little room with 70’s décor, a yellowed painting of a fruit bowl on the wall opposite the bed. The couch looks tiny, and he’d have to curl up to sleep on it.

“Does it pull out?”

“What?” Bucky says, and Darcy glances at his face, seeing he’s blushing, his blue eyes wide.

She smiles because she can’t help herself. She realizes he doesn’t understand what she means. She licks her lips.

“Uh, the couch might have a fold-out bed. A mattress.”

“Right,” Bucky says, clearing his throat. “Yeah, it might.”

Darcy keeps smiling to herself and she opens her suitcase to get out a towel. She walks into the tiny bathroom and shuts the door behind her, giggling.

-

By the time they turn out the lights, Darcy’s wide awake again. She stares at the ceiling for a while, then turns to her side. She flops onto her stomach. The springs of her mattress squeak really loud and she feels a little guilty, knowing Bucky’s hearing is like hers.

“Can’t sleep,” she murmurs, sighing. It’s her way of apologizing.

“Yeah, me neither,” she hears him reply.

She can’t put this down to chronic insomnia. She feels kind of suffocated by him being this close. She knows if Clint was there she’d probably sleep more easily. She thinks it’d be kind of rude to ditch Bucky and wake up Clint in the process of taking out the fold-out bed in his room.

Darcy sighs, sitting up. She turns on the lamp and watches Bucky sit up on the couch, blinking at her.

“Wanna watch TV?” she asks, and Bucky stares at her.

“Uh, yeah. Sure.”

Her eyes dip. He’s not wearing a shirt. He must have taken it off when she turned off the light. She feels herself blush at the sight of him and presses her lips together, going to grab the remote for the TV.

She can’t help herself – she keeps glancing at him while they watch a couple episodes of MASH. At least, Darcy’s pretty sure it’s MASH, but the picture is really fuzzy. The motel doesn’t have cable.

Bucky’s sheet goes up to his middle and Darcy can see the contours of his muscles, the full heft of him much more obvious without all those clothes in the way. Darcy knows she’s not that much more covered. Her tank top Jane bought her is thin and doesn’t stay down properly. Darcy thinks her boss either was ignorant of Darcy’s big-boob issues or it was part of a devious plan.

Bucky looks at her twice – once to tell her yes, he’d like to watch TV with her, and then a second time. He does a double-take and Darcy feels a burst of something close to pride.

She pictures asking him to join her under the covers. She imagines it long enough to lose track of the episode of MASH, never laughing at a single joke. It’s hard to not think Bucky is also sitting in stunned silence.

She pictures his arms wrapping around her, his massive shoulders rolling as he kisses her neck. She bites her lip as she imagines licking along his abs, nipping at him as his muscles jump under her touch.

In the corner of her eye, Bucky moves in his seated position and Darcy dares to glimpse at him for a microsecond. His hand goes under the sheet for a second before he brings it back up again, rubbing his neck.

Is it crazy to think he’s adjusting himself? Darcy thinks of the ways to phrase her proposal.

Hey, Sarge. Want help with that?

You bothered, baby? Come over here.

Come over here and fuck my brains out.

She sighs, settling down once more. She closes her eyes, trying to push all of those stupid plans away. Most likely he’s here as a favour to Steve. He’s probably to make amends for his past by doing little jobs like this one.

She pretends to fall asleep. She listens to the show end and she hears Bucky get up from the couch and pad over to her.

He picks up the remote and turns off the TV. She keeps her breathing steady, opens her mouth slightly. She waits for him to move away.

He puts the remote back down, switching off the light.

“Darcy.”

He’s checking to see if she’s asleep. She keeps still, trying to not react. She waits a few more seconds before he sighs.

“Come on, man.”

Why does he say that to himself? Darcy feels her stomach flipping like crazy, her heartbeat picking up.

He walks back to the couch, slipping under the covers.

-

When Bucky wakes the next morning, he knows he’s already hard. He didn’t dream but he kept thinking about Darcy while he tried to sleep last night. He knows the cause of his aching dick.

It feels wrong. She’s vulnerable. He’s meant to be looking after her, and this isn’t the way to do it. Last night when he saw the outline of her nipples in her little top he knew he was doomed. He was picturing her heavy, soft tits all night, wondering what they tasted like.

He squeezes his eyes shut, listening.

She’s asleep. He can see her hair sticking out from under the covers. He watches the rise and fall of her breathing.

He carefully pulls back the sheet from his body and glances down, grabbing his shirt from yesterday off of the floor and covering his crotch with it. He walks swiftly to the bathroom, shutting the door behind him.

He turns on the shower, pulling down his pants and boxers to see his dick is pink and leaking and he groans softly, palming it. He closes his eyes, stepping under the water and letting it run down his front.

-

Darcy hears him wake up, stays still as he gets up. She moves her head up at the last second to watch his retreating back.

He has a great ass. She pictures digging her nails into it, or the heel of her foot. Round and firm, jutting out like Steve’s does.

It’s not a crime to look.

-

Bucky bites his bottom lip between his teeth, gripping his dick hard. He strokes hard and slow, until Darcy’s face appears in his mind.

Those bee stung lips, the way her smile reaches her eyes. He imagines pushing the straps of her top down her shoulders, kissing her neck. He’d peel it all down, cup her tits. They’d be a handful, and so fucking soft.

He groans, going for it, pressing his forehead to the tiles as he strokes faster.

He’d kiss her everywhere. Turn her over and pull down her pyjama shorts and panties, bury his face into her, grip her heart-shaped ass. Fuck, she’d feel so good. He’d want to make her scream before he filled her up good and proper, his hips smacking into that perfect ass –

“Fu-uck,” he moans, and he comes hard, toes curling.

He pants, seeing spots as the water washes his load away down the drain. He stays there for a few seconds while the world comes flooding back. He sighs, before moving to wash his head.

His heart is still racing by the time he leaves the bathroom.

-

He doesn’t say much to her for the rest of the trip. He knows it shouldn’t have happened, him jerking off to her like that. It feels like a violation.

This is a girl who never did anything to deserve the pain she’d been through, and he was abusing her trust. She’d lost all agency because of HYDRA. He should know better than anyone what that felt like.

They get to Missouri and take a shortcut through some backroads. Clint seems to loosen up, so Bucky figures they’re close.

When they park the car, Bucky can see toys in the yard, the farmhouse in the background. He sees the satellite dish on the side of the house and Darcy’s taking it all in, too, assessing.

The front door opens and Laura Barton stalks out. She stops in front of Clint, her hands on her hips.

“What did I say about bringing broken things home?”

Bucky glances at Darcy, who looks upset. He wants to reach out and touch her hand, to comfort her.

A second passes and Clint says:

“I guess that’s one way of getting rid of me,” he says.

Laura laughs, bringing him into a kiss.

Chapter Text

"What do you do with a loving feeling
If the loving feeling makes you all alone?"

- "A Loving Feeling" by Mitski

 

 

Part Eleven: Moon

 

 

Darcy watches Laura Barton kiss Clint a couple times while she and Bucky wait behind them.

The way Clint carries himself changes completely. He’s looser, dropping his shoulders as he holds his wife’s face in his hands. Darcy feels as if she’s intruding, and not just because Clint didn’t ask if they could stay at his farm. Seeing Clint suddenly all gooey makes her look away.

“Hey,” Clint says, and Darcy looks up, seeing Laura staring at her. “C’mere.”

“Honey, don’t call to her like she’s a sheepdog,” Laura chides with a smile.

Darcy feels her chest loosen at little and she walks up to her, offering her hand.

“I’m –”

“Darcy, I know,” Laura says, taking her hand. “Natasha called when you guys left the Tower.”

She looks at Bucky. “Is he -?”

Bucky comes forward as well, taking Laura’s hand.

“Bucky Barnes. Thank you for your hospitality, ma’am.”

Laura’s face lights up and Darcy presses her lips together, exchanging a look with Clint. Laura is clearly charmed by Bucky, and not just because he called her ‘ma’am.’

Clint wraps an arm around her shoulders and steers her away toward the house, and Laura throws another smile Bucky’s way while he rubs the back of his neck.

“He’s very, very welcome,” Laura murmurs, and Darcy begins to giggle. The woman probably forgets that some of Clint’s co-workers have superior hearing.

Bucky and Darcy stand outside the front of the house while Darcy can hear children shouting inside, and Clint laughing.

Bucky’s face morphs into something harder than before.

“You don’t think we should be here,” Darcy says, and his eyes duck to her, and Darcy crosses her arms.

“It’s not the best idea,” he replies.

Darcy turns her heel, walking back to the station wagon and popping the trunk. She lifts both hers and his suitcases with ease and sets them down on the ground. Bucky comes over to pick them up before she has a chance to close the trunk. It bothers her that he’s trying to be nice, but she can’t say why. She’s irritated either way and she thinks he can sense it.

“What did you suggest?” Darcy asks, crossing her arms and following Bucky back toward the house, taking the stairs to the front door. “I would have thought the city was the worst place to be.”

“I didn’t want to be in the city, either,” Bucky says, as Darcy opens the door and the sounds of Clint and his family are suddenly ten times louder. Bucky doesn’t adjust the height of his volume because he knows Darcy can hear him. “But there might not be any ideal place for me.”

“Or me,” Darcy adds, because he can’t pretend this isn’t entirely about her. They aren’t here because Clint asked them nicely.

She feels Bucky staring at her as she moves towards the screaming. She turns the corner and sees Clint on the floor with three children on top of him. The youngest couldn’t be more than two years old. Darcy’s eyes widen and she joins Laura who’s watching the carnage of the living room.

“Cooper, try not to step on his head too much,” she says, but she’s smiling. “Your dad’s only got one.”

Darcy watches the toddler take her in, his dad forgotten.

“Hey, baby,” Darcy says, and she stoops. She picks up the miniature Clint with ease, hoisting him on her hip.

“That’s Nathaniel,” Laura says, stroking his hair. He doesn’t seem to take much notice of his mom, gripping the front of Darcy’s shirt in his little fist while Clint’s other two kids still climb over their dad on the floor.

“You guys hungry? We gotta start dinner soon.”

No reply from the kids, and Laura rolls her eyes and smiles at Darcy. She give a wave of her hand.

“Anyway, I’ll give you guys a quick tour.”

Darcy spins around with Nathaniel in her arms, following Laura out with Bucky behind her. At one point Darcy stepped over a Lego Millennium Falcon, Nathaniel still attached to her front, looking down her shirt and then up at her face.

“Is he okay?” Laura says, and Darcy smiles at him.

“Yes, he reminds me of my ex-boyfriends,” Darcy says, kissing his fuzzy crown. “Don’t you, baby?”

He seems happy as Laura leads them up some stairs, showing them the rooms.

“Cooper and Lila are here, then Nate’s with us in here…”

She stops at one spare room.

“We had Natasha up here last time. We have air mattresses, the couch…”

She stops mid-step, glancing up at Bucky.

“Unless you want a space for just you two, that’s fine.”

Darcy feels her stomach flip and her face blush as Laura looks from her to Bucky, who looks like he’s swallowed his tongue.

“No, we’re not –” Darcy starts, and Laura’s eyes widen.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine, we’re just – it’s fine,” Darcy babbles, Nathaniel tugging her shirt further down. Bucky’s eyes flicker to her chest for a second before he glances away, looking uncomfortable.

Darcy feels her face burn some more. He clearly would rather sleep in a tent in the middle of a blizzard than entertain the idea of being close to her again. Last night she’d bullied him into staying up with her, watching TV. Even that morning when she heard him in the shower, she could have sworn –

She wants to roll her eyes at herself for her stupidity, those ridiculous fantasies.

There’s an awkward pause but Laura skirts over it, shrugging.

“You guys can fight over the spare room, then,” she says, winking at Darcy.

Good God, no wonder she’s married to Clint. There’s footsteps behind them and Clint appears, panting. He’s pink in the face and smiling.

“You guys decide on -?” he cuts himself off, seeing Nathaniel grabbing Darcy’s shirt. “The little man’s in love. That’s a good start.”

He looks at Bucky. “We need firewood.”

“Sure,” Bucky says.

The leave together and Darcy cuddles Nathaniel while he tugs on her bra strap. It makes Laura laugh. They descend the stairs, and Darcy can hear the sound of wood splitting and falling beyond the kitchen window.

“Can I help?” Darcy says, as Laura starts to get out vegetables.

“What can you cook?” Laura asks, before ducking into the fridge again.

“I can make scramble eggs, sugar cookies… I do a lot with ramen. Stir fry stuff, too.”

“Well, you’re better than Nat,” Laura replies. She puts one hand on her hip. “Can you do mashed potatoes?”

“Yes!” Darcy says, and Nathaniel startles. “Sorry, baby.”

Darcy sets to work, boiling potatoes as she sits Nathaniel on the counter in front of her. She likes the feel of his soft, chubby limbs. His hair reminds her of duck feathers. At one point, Cooper comes running in, asking how long it is until dinner.

“An hour tops, sweetie,” Laura says, and Cooper looks at Darcy a couple times, distracted. “Did you say hello to Daddy’s guests?”

“I said hi to Bucky, Lila’s outside with Dad shooting the tree again.”

“I told your father –” Laura sighs, putting down her knife and stalking off out of the kitchen, leaving Cooper with Darcy and Nathaniel.

“We’re having meatloaf, huh?” Cooper says, and Darcy nods, smiling. “Does Dad know you from work?”

“Yeah,” Darcy says. “Why?”

“You don’t look like… you work with my dad,” Cooper says. His eyes land on her sneakers and he looks away, racing out again.

Darcy doesn’t take it to heart. She knows she doesn’t seem the killer type, which was probably how she managed to stay under SHIELD’s radar right up until she tried to kill Tony Stark. She’s ripped from Clint’s house in that moment, feeling her guts twist with the reminder of what she’s done.

She lets out a shaky breath, closing her eyes. She presses her forehead into Nathaniel’s little shoulder, sniffing. She moves back, stroking his little head.

“Hey, FRIDAY?”

“Yes, Miss Lewis?”

“Put on some music.”

-

Bucky comes into the kitchen when the pile of wood outside is big enough for Clint’s liking. Clint and his daughter are getting in a short archery lesson despite Laura telling Clint that they needed to make another proper target instead of the tree trunk Lila is shooting at repeatedly.

For a girl of her size and age Bucky can see she’s already highly skilled. He walks back indoors, meaning to get a glass of water and stops abruptly when he reaches the kitchen.

He sees Darcy dancing around with Nathaniel in her arms, Laura laughing from her spot by the sink. There’s a French pop song playing above their heads and Darcy swivels her hips to it. She’s kicked off her sneakers, her little socks scuffing the floorboards as Nathaniel giggles.

The baby’s got his hand down her shirt and Bucky envies him for a split second, before he remembers Darcy’s vulnerable. She’s just trying to feel safe and Bucky’s being a creep. She stops moving so much when she senses Bucky looking at her.

She moves toward the stove and stirs the mashed potatoes while Bucky goes to the fridge for water. Laura points to a cabinet for glasses and he murmurs his thanks.

He wishes he didn’t feel so awkward. He sips his water while Darcy talks to the toddler, who seems entirely bewitched. Before Bucky can leave, Laura calls out:

“Dinner!”

Darcy hands Bucky the baby wordlessly and he freezes, Nathaniel staring up at him. He can’t remember the last time he held someone so small.

Nathaniel doesn’t look pleased with his new companion, his little brow furrowing.

“I know, buddy. But she’s busy,” he murmurs.

Darcy piles the mashed potato onto a plate, Laura bustling around with the carrots and green beans. Bucky hangs around, holding the baby. Nathaniel begins to fuss, and Darcy comes back, grabbing him from Bucky once more.

He follows her into the dining room, the table already set. Cooper hovers, and Laura asks him to retrieve Clint.

Bucky sits down and Darcy slips in beside him. Their shoulders bump and Bucky opens his mouth to apologize, but Darcy’s in another world, Nathaniel on her lap. Throughout dinner, she feeds the baby in between her own mouthfuls.

“You have a good trip?”

Laura’s been trying to get his attention for God knows how long, and Bucky pauses mid-chew, eyes widening. Lila and Cooper smirk at each other but Darcy doesn’t seem to notice how much of a dope he is.

“Uh, yeah.”

“Not too cramped in the backseat?” Laura adds, and Bucky shakes his head, a little smile playing on his lips.

“No worse than when I was in the backseat of a Volkswagon from Bucharest to Germany.”

After dinner Darcy helps Laura with Nathaniel while Cooper, Lila and Clint watch a movie called Flash Gordon. Bucky sits in one of the armchairs, listening out for Darcy.

She keeps giggling, helping bathe the toddler and put him to bed. Eventually, the women return, Laura ushering the kids.

“Bedtime. Now. Come on…”

“Listen to your mother,” Clint says, and Laura crooks her finger at her husband as well and he smiles.

He gets up from the couch and follows after his kids. Laura points to the linen cupboard in the hallway.

“Sheets, blankets, pillows.”

“Thank you,” Darcy murmurs. “Thank you for everything.”

“Don’t thank me so soon, Clint hasn’t started training you yet.”

Darcy’s eyes widen a fraction.

“But if he’s too hard on you, remind him that his wife is still on the property,” Laura adds, and she gives Darcy’s arm a squeeze. “Goodnight, Bucky.”

“Goodnight, thank you,” Bucky murmurs, and Laura smiles.

-

Darcy glances at Bucky when Laura leaves. The movie is still playing but he’s not watching it, he’s looking at her.

“What’re you doing?”

“I thought you’d be going to bed,” he replies, instead of answering her.

Her stomach flips. Being alone with him now feels different. She drops her hip, looking away.

“Do you wanna go for a walk?”

He blinks a couple times.

“You don’t have to, you can tell me to leave you alone, or say it’s not safe –”

“I’d love to.”

She meets his gaze again. “Okay.”

They slip out into the night, and Darcy can hear crickets. They walk past the woodpile and down a slope, until they’re in the clearing beyond the trees that surround Clint’s house.

“It’s so quiet. I haven’t heard a place this quiet since –” Darcy cuts herself off, because she is reminded of the serum once again. She stops walking, and Bucky mirrors her.

“Me, neither,” he murmurs.

“How far away are we from the next house?” Darcy asks. She squints and sees in the distance a little light.

“It’s a few miles away at least.”

The moon makes Bucky’s skin look blue.

“What does Laura mean by training?” she asks, and Bucky glances at her mouth while she speaks.

She could almost swear his gaze has intent, but it has to be wishful thinking on her part. He licks his lips.

“Don’t tell me it’s just a way to pass the time,” she says before he can answer. “Because I can think of things that are way more fun to do.”

He doesn’t pause this time. “Like what?”

His voice is different, low. It makes Darcy’s stomach pool with warmth, seeping down to between her legs.

“It doesn’t involve you sleeping on the couch and me in the spare room.”

He stares, and Darcy turns away from him. Even when she’s miserable she’s a complete flirt, not that she ever doubted herself. She takes a few deep, sobering breaths of the night air.

She lowers herself to the grass, lying on her back to stare up at the night sky.

Bucky joins her, their shoulders pressing together. They’re quiet for a while, but it doesn’t feel the same as before. It doesn’t feel tense. Darcy’s accepted Bucky doesn’t want to be flirty.

“Clint’s training you so that you can protect yourself,” he says.

“I had an inkling.”

He chuckles. Darcy closes her eyes for a moment, listening to his steady breaths beside her.

“It’s beautiful.”

Darcy opens her eyes, and he’s looking right at her. They’re heads are closer.

“The stars in the sky,” he whispers, and Darcy stares back at him.

Her heart is racing.

“Yeah,” she breathes.

-

Bucky watches the line of her back in the dark as they walk back to the house. He itches to reach out, to feel her skin. It’s not his place, and she’s not his to touch.

It doesn’t involve you sleeping on the couch and me in the spare room.

He can’t go along with the joke. She’ll end up teasing him too much, cutting to the bone. He goes to the linen closet, getting her a blanket and a sheet for the spare room. She grabs a pillow and follows him up the staircase. Bucky hears Laura giggle and Darcy raises her eyebrows.

The reunion must be in full swing. They duck into the spare room and Bucky starts unfurling the sheet.

Darcy covers her mouth to muffle her own laughter. Bucky presses his lips together as he starts to make her bed while she watches. He works fast, stepping back when he’s done.

She reaches out, taking his flesh wrist in her tiny hand and squeezing. Bucky tries to not seem startled, her eyes roving his arm and chest. He’s not imagining that.

“Thank you,” she murmurs, but by the way her words run together, it sounds like she means to say more.

“That’s okay,” he whispers back.

He swallows, her hand still locked around his wrist.

“Goodnight,” he adds, and she pulls back.

She blinks a few times, nodding.

“Yeah… goodnight.”

He tries to not feel his heart sink. He tries to not feel disappointed in himself. He tries not to see the hurt on her face. Maybe she just wants to be held, to feel less alone.

He hesitates, his hand hovering over the doorknob. He closes his eyes, letting out a sigh.

He turns, raising his hands, and he pulls her toward him by the waist until she rests against him, her head to the side as her face presses against his chest.

He rests his chin on her head and stays there. She sighs, breathing him in. Her hands are around his middle and he’s sure she can hear his heart, hear how fast its beating.

“Goodnight,” she says again.

She’s the one to step back. She squeezes his hand in hers once, twice, and then lets it go.

Bucky doesn’t fall asleep for a long time after that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"No fair
You really know how to make me cry
When you gimme those ocean eyes
I'm scared
I've never fallen from quite this high
Falling into your ocean eyes..."

- "ocean eyes" by Billie Eilish

 

 

Part Twelve: Blanket

 

 

 

Steve feels like he’s in a museum. The place is beautiful and everything looks very expensive, and the rooms are cold.

He and Natasha walk down a long corridor, the sun streaming through the high windows. For a cooler climate, England is going through a heatwave. Steve saw several shirtless people in the street on their way there, a stark contrast to the several butlers that waited on them as they sat on a chaise lounge.

The man they are meeting is Fairfield. No first name, no title. Steve trusts Natasha, and she claims he’s the man who will answer their questions about Darcy. Steve and Natasha sit and wait for roughly twenty minutes.

Steve hears the quick footsteps and the door opening. He and Natasha rise as a bald man walks in, offering his hand to Natasha.

“Natasha.”

“Fairfield,” Natasha replies.

They smile like they’re friends and Steve tries not to stare. The man smells strongly of cologne and it starts to burn Steve’s nostrils. He steps back, touching his nose for a second and sitting with Natasha once again.

Fairfield gestures to a butler that appears with a tea tray. Steve got used to the concept of tea when he was in Europe during the War, but he was told he never mastered making a proper one.

He took a cookie instead of a teacup, while Natasha and Fairfield laughed about the weather and the sights. Steve was sure there was a code, but he was only there for one reason, the attack in the labs.

“Captain Rogers, I am honored to meet a true hero of the War,” Fairfield says, touching his chest with a hand.

Steve nods, not quite sure what to say. He never does.

“We’re here because of an incident –”

“Yes, quite the cock-up,” Fairfield says with a little sigh. “How many were killed?”

“19,” Natasha replies, her voice quieter. “We’re trying to piece together exactly how it happened. She was a relatively low-level threat to us.”

“Can’t rightly say if there was anything to go by when we were watching her,” Fairfield says, eyes on Natasha. “But that’s HYDRA for you. Very insidious despite it all. That old motto still rings true. And they are truly everywhere.”

Steve nods, thinking of Bucky’s anxiety when they took him back to New York. He hopes he feels better being in Missouri. It probably helps that he’s sweet on Darcy.

“We still receive updates, from the old source,” Natasha says. “So I don’t quite believe you, Fairfield, when you say there wasn’t anything to go by.”

“Our sources are highly valuable,” Fairfield says, his face changing. “Please be direct with your questions, darling.”

Natasha lets out a short laugh. “Alright. Since you know her name, you must have some idea about how she was brainwashed.”

Fairfield nods, crossing one elegant leg over the other and swivelling his gaze to Steve.

“What questions does he have?”

“Who’s Mogun?” Steve asks.

Fairfield begins to laugh, long and loud. Steve glances at the butler on the other side of the room who’s staring straight ahead like a statue. Fairfield laughs until he wipes the corner of his eyes with a long finger, sighing. He claps his hands.

“Americans,” he says, as if it explains everything. “You know the last American we had here?”

“Was it Tony Stark?” Steve asks, and Fairfield nods.

“How is he handling this debacle, yet another attempt on his life?” Fairfield asks.

Steve thinks back over the last couple of days. Tony has not been doing well. He was completely focused on being Bucky’s advocate, and since Darcy tried to murder him, he had retreated to Malibu to be with Pepper. Steve wonders how long it will be before he hears about some new deal struck with Ross, and then maybe Bucky would have to run once more. Steve feels lost.

“Not well,” Steve answers eventually.

“When he visited, he flew in, acting like he owned the place,” Fairfield says, chuckling.

“Tony’s… Tony,” Steve says.

“Never a more truthful thing has been said,” Fairfield says. “But you came all this way for Mogun.”

Fairfield puts his teacup and saucer aside, clearing this throat. The butler departs. Steve feels the immediate change in the atmosphere. He’s surprised a cloud doesn’t suddenly cover the sun.

“We believe that Darcy Lewis was brainwashed while living in London in 2014,” Natasha says.

Her voice changes to something hushed. She pulls out a postcard wrapped in plastic that she hands to Fairfield. It’s a different one to the several Steve has seen. This postcard shows a photograph of Piccadilly Circus. Fairfield turns it over.

Wish you were here,” he reads. “Righto.”

“Over the years we have received a number of these postcards with the same sentiment from various locations that corresponded to defecting agents,” Natasha explains. “I learned of the codename Mogun, but the stories –”

“They seem wildly untrue?” Fairfield says, and Natasha tilts her head.

“Not exactly. Not much surprises me these days,” she says. She glances at Steve. “Well, domestic and international secrets don’t so much.”

Steve thinks of Chitauri flying through New York City and he gives her a small smile.

“Whatever stories you’ve heard of Mogun, I can assure you they’re all true.”

Natasha’s eyes widen briefly. “So he is the one who -?”

Fairfield leans forward in his chair, unblinking.

“Mogun, or correctly Mungo, has been operating on behalf of her Majesty’s Secret Service for fourteen years, before he vanished in 2014.”

“You think he’s dead?” Steve says, and Fairfield nods.

“Absolutely.”

Steve glances away, sighing. If they can’t speak to the triple agent, they can’t understand Darcy’s triggers any faster.

“Who was he?” Natasha asks.

“Ask her. Your little assassin,” Fairfield says. “Apparently she was enough to make him slip up.”

When Steve and Natasha leave the building, they weave through tourists on their way to Buckingham Palace. The sun beats down on Steve’s head and his head is reeling from all this new information.

“A triple agent?” he says.

“It’s been known to happen,” Natasha replies. “You gonna call her, or do you want me to do it?”

Steve thinks of Darcy’s face when they told her she’d murdered all the people in the labs against her will. He thinks of Bucky, asking him what happened when he and Sam managed to slip him away in Bucharest. Did it make him a coward to want Bucky to shoulder that responsibility? He thought about it coming from him, and maybe it would seem colder, almost managerial.

“I need to talk to Tony, I think,” he finally replies.

Natasha nods. “You want Bucky to talk to her.”

Steve nods. They’re making their way back to the Underground. Steve sees a young couple holding hands in front of them.

“How long do you think, until -?”

“I have a bet going with Clint,” Natasha replies, her mouth spreading into a smile. “But he promised to not push them together too much or interfere.”

“What’s the bet?”

“Clint says a week. I said two,” Natasha says. “If it were you and Darcy, I would have said a week. You’re both shameless flirts.”

“I have no idea what you’re talkin’ about, Romanoff,” Steve replies, and she chuckles.

He hopes Bucky doesn’t leave the poor girl hanging too long. Steve knows exactly how that tends to pan out.

-

When Darcy wakes the next morning, she takes several seconds to remember where she is.

Her pillow smells clean, and the walls around her are covered in photographs and pictures. There’s a framed photo on the dresser with Lila’s photo in it. She’s missing her two front teeth.

Darcy can smell something cooking and she stretches. It feels warm already. She sits up, glancing around on the floor.

There’s a knock and she looks down, remembering her tank top is sort of see-through, and she pulls her blanket up to cover her front before answering.

“Come in.”

The door opens slowly, and Lila stands there, little Nate on her hip.

“He missed you.”

“Did he?”

She jumps out of bed, coming over to Lila and taking Nate. The toddler smiles at her, his little hand touching her right breast.

“Bingo,” Darcy chuckles, and Lila rolls her eyes.

“Sorry. He does the same thing to Mom usually.”

There’s a beat and Darcy points to her suitcase.

“You want Pop Tarts?”

Lila’s eyes light up. “Yes! What flavour?”

“Hot Fudge Sundae, I think,” Darcy replies. Jane packed them for her and she’d been saving them. She stoops to pick them up, handing the box to Lila. “A fair trade.”

Darcy pulls on a jacket and walks down with Lila. Cooper already sits at the table with a laser gun beside his toast, his hair sticking up. Darcy sits beside him, seeing Clint is absent.

“Your dad up yet?” she murmurs.

Cooper shrugs, and then sees Lila’s box of Pop Tarts.

“Hey, I want some!”

“You wanna help me prank your dad?” Darcy murmurs, and Cooper’s eyes widen.

He nods emphatically. Darcy turns her head to see Laura by the stove, flipping an egg. The older woman raises one eyebrow, nodding.

“He sleeping in?” Darcy asks, meaning Clint.

“Maybe. Maybe don’t tell him I told you that,” Laura replies with a wink.

Darcy puts Nate in his highchair, promising him she’ll be right back, and takes the laser gun from the kitchen table. At the last second, she wanders through the living room, seeing Bucky on the sofa, dozing on his back.

“Hey, Sarge,” she murmurs, and his eyes snap open.

His face changes, and he glances at her bare legs in the morning light. There’s a warmth to his gaze and Darcy flashes a smile.

“What’re you doin’?” he murmurs, his speech slurred from sleep.

“If I come running down here in a minute, will you hide me?” she asks.

She knows it’s a flimsy excuse. What she’d actually want to do with a sleepy, shirtless Bucky Barnes would never happen with children present.

“Where would you -?”

She nods at the blanket. He blinks, then his eyes widen.

“Oh, right.”

He takes a fraction of a second to decide, before adding a breathless “Yeah, yeah”, and Darcy gives him an appreciative nod.

She turns her head to the ceiling.

“FRIDAY, when I go to the master bedroom, could you please play some music?”

“Yes, Miss Lewis. Any particular song?”

She’s impressed that the AI does not question her actions. She grins again.

“Play Vivaldi. Real loud. That concerto in G,” she says. “But not a second sooner.”

She stalks up the stairs, Lila and Cooper in tow, their hands covering their mouths while they try not to laugh. Darcy cocks the laser gun, moving stealthily toward Clint’s bedroom. The door is slightly open, and she can hear soft snores coming from inside.

She counts down 3, 2, 1 and then kicks the door, her laser gun raised as she yells:

“Wake up, sleepy head!”

Vivaldi blasts over the P.A. and it’s like Clint’s been electrified. He sits bolt upright, looking around in horror at Darcy as she aims her laser gun at him, the toy making a long, annoying beeping sound as the laser hovers over his chest.

Clint clamps his hands over his ears, groaning.

“Shut it off! FRIDAY!”

Lila and Cooper cackle, and Darcy sees Clint’s eyes change to something darker, something mischievous. Darcy readies herself and then bolts out of the room, hearing Clint take off as well.

She’s still faster than him, thundering down the stairs and into the living room. Bucky is waiting for her, and he lifts the blanket. She dives, twisting around so she has her back pressed into him, tucking her feet under the blanket and scooting far enough down to hide her head, her heart racing.

Bucky’s metal arm wraps around her, his hand resting just under her boobs. She giggles, and Bucky shushes her softly. Darcy supposes he’s faking sleep for her.

She hears Clint grumbling as he comes down to the kitchen to find her. Laura says something about her taking off through the backdoor and Darcy presses her lips together, trying not to snort. For a few seconds, she feels like a kid.

Bucky is so warm against her and there’s not much air under his blanket. She rolls over, feels his arm tuck her body against his. She tilts her head and sees him looking down at her, smiling.

God, she’d do anything to see that smile every day. It makes her catch her breath. She smiles back, and Bucky looks behind her where she can’t.

“He’s comin’ back,” he whispers. “Shh.”

He puts her flesh hand over her mouth and Darcy feels something sink into her, a warmth radiating from her stomach to her cunt instantly. She’s his little secret, under his blanket, his cock only inches from her hands.

There are blotches of pink on his face, and his eyes have changed. Darcy holds his stare, wondering if he can feel her speeding pulse. She wonders if it’s her imagining it, how wet she already is. She wants to feel between her legs and she sucks in a breath through her nose.

“He’s gone to the farmhouse, Darcy,” Laura calls.

Bucky’s hand leaves her lips and she turns back over, Bucky moving away from her. She pulls the blanket back, swinging her legs over the couch to plant them on the floor. She doesn’t look at Bucky. She thinks if she does she’ll embarrass herself.

She walks over to the kitchen table where the kids are sitting and she props up her chin in her hand, waiting.

When Clint stalks back, he looks irritated.

“What’s up?” she asks casually, sipping her orange juice.

She gets the feeling he’s planning to make her regret messing with him.

Chapter Text

"Shout when you wanna get off the ride
'Cause you crossed my mind, you crossed my mind
I'm a penny in a diamond mine
We could be movers
We could be shakers
If we could just shake somethin' outta the blue 
We could get off the ride
I'm the only sour cherry on the fruit stand, right?"

- "Sour Cherry" by The Kills

 

 

Part Thirteen: Fence

 

 

Darcy wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, getting up from her seat as Clint watches her leave.

“Get dressed and come back in five.”

Darcy gives him a thumbs-up over her shoulder and disappears up the stairs. She wonders what Bucky will do if she’s training all morning. He might just sit around, or play with the kids. Last night during dinner and the movie, Darcy overheard Cooper and Lila asking a lot of questions about his cybernetic arm. At first, Laura told them to not be rude, but Bucky sounded more than happy to answer their questions. He was still on the couch when Darcy finished her breakfast. She could feel his eyes on her the entire time like Clint’s were, but she’d like to think his gaze had a different intent.

Darcy peels off her tank top and rummages through her suitcase for the activewear Jane bought for her. Again, her boss’ choices are unlike her own. Darcy would be happy to work out in a baggy shirt and leggings. Jane bought her a crop top and a pair of Lycra three-quarter pants. Her sneakers are the only things that aren’t new. Darcy twists her hair into a bun, feeling the heat more than ever in the stuffy spare room. She wrenches open the window and glances outside. From what she can see, Clint is retrieving cans of white paint from one of the sheds, with paintbrushes and rollers.

Darcy skips out of her room, descending the stairs two at a time. Nathaniel calls after her, something unintelligible, and Darcy waves at him as he sits in his armchair. She races out the backdoor to join Clint.

“What’s first, boss?” she calls, and he turns around, crossing his arms.

“You’re painting the fence.”

Darcy’s brow furrows, and she glances at the fence behind him. He means the fence that surrounds the entire house. Her eyes widen and he smirks.

“Is this like a Karate Kid thing?”

Clint shakes his head. “You fucked with my sleep schedule, sweetheart. This is the one place I can get a decent sleep in, and you fucked it up already.”

“So this is punishment?” Darcy says, crossing her own arms. “There isn’t even a lesson behind this for my training?”

“I was meant to spend the next couple of weeks painting the fence,” Clint replies, shrugging. “I figure you can do it instead.”

He points to the cans of paint and the brushes.

“Better get to it, it’s gonna be a hot one today,” he says.

He leaves Darcy outside and she scoffs. She waits a good minute, staring at the paint. He can’t be serious. He’s meant to be making her stronger.

-

“When’s the first F bomb gonna happen?” Clint asks Bucky, as they watch Darcy from the kitchen window.

“Any second now,” Bucky says. He takes another sip of his coffee, waiting.

Laura hits Clint’s arm with a tea towel.

“Go out there and help her. Don’t be a dick.”

She woke me up,” Clint retorts. “Is nothing sacred?”

Laura rolls her eyes. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Papa Barton. Did you mention to her that you use that excuse to not change your own baby son first thing in the morning?”

“I was sleeping, I swear,” Clint replies, laughing a little.

“I saw your eyes open.”

Bucky watches Darcy as they bicker, wondering whether she’s about to kick the paint can across the grass. He wouldn’t put it past her. She’s temperamental as hell, but it’s undeniably cute to him.

“His eyes are glazing over,” Laura says, and Bucky’s eyes swivel over to her and Clint.

Their argument seems to have been forgotten. Bucky feels his face flush.

“Go help her,” Laura says, and Clint snorts. “She’d love that.”

Bucky waits a couple more minutes, the Bartons staring at him expectantly. He gives a little sigh, putting down his mug.

-

The front door slams and Darcy turns her head, expecting Clint to be walking over to her to tell her he was joking.

Bucky’s pulling on a t-shirt as he walks over, and her eyebrows hike.

“So he wasn’t kidding.”

He shakes his head.

They start painting, and Darcy can feel the sweat gathering on her forehead, her upper lip. She harrumphs and Bucky chuckles.

“Glad you’re enjoying this,” she grumbles. She wipes her forehead.

“I haven’t painted anything since –” he pauses, thinking. “I guess since the 30’s.”

It makes Darcy pause, too. She knows about his background. It was hard to avoid studying the Hollowing Commandos at school. Putting the man she’d seen in history textbooks in middle school and the man she’s sitting beside on the grass together seems too strange.

“A long time ago,” she murmurs.

He nods, starting to work again. Darcy watches him, and he gives a small smile.

“What’re you lookin’ at?” he murmurs, and Darcy’s stomach flips. His tone is low and rough, and it does all sorts of things for her imagination.

“How old are you?” she asks. She already knows.

“I’m one-hundred,” he replies, and his face changes. “My birthday’s in March.”

He turns his head to look at her and Darcy gets back to work, clearing her throat.

“What did you do to celebrate?” she asks. “Anything special?”

Bucky looks at the ground.

“Went to the park and fed some ducks.”

Something about that makes Darcy smile. She can picture him on a bench, his metal arm gloved and hidden under his jacket, tossing little bits of bread into a pond.

“I didn’t get to do much in Bucharest,” he adds, and Darcy realizes he’s a little embarrassed.

“You were hiding,” Darcy says, shrugging a shoulder. “You probably had cabin fever.”

She flicks a little paint on her shirt and she groans, lifting it up a little to try and rub it off, but it’s well and truly stained. She sits back on her knees, feeling sticky all over.

Bucky keeps working, and Darcy watches his muscles under his shirt flex as he moves. She bites her lip, thinking of his hand over her mouth an hour ago.

“When’s your birthday?” he asks, not turning around.

“June,” Darcy replies. It wasn’t that long ago. “I didn’t do much. I was… sort of depressed.”

That was an understatement. She picks up her brush again and gets back to work. They start to move further away from each other as they work in opposite directions. Every so often, she catches Bucky looking at her. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Either way, they keep smiling at each other like idiots and Darcy’s stomach is nothing but butterflies.

Around noon, Clint comes out of the house, glancing at their work. He seems impressed.

“Good job,” he says, and Darcy puts down her brush. “You want a break?”

“Uh, yeah. I feel disgusting,” Darcy replies, readying herself to walk back inside.

Clint puts up a hand.

“Since you haven’t done any actual training yet, you can run four miles thatta way and come back.”

He points to the field behind them and Darcy’s eyebrows hike.

“Are you fucking serious?” she blurts.

Clint smirks. “Four miles down, four miles back.”

She balls her hands into fists. “You realize I can kick your middle-aged ass into next week, Barton?”

Bucky chuckles, throwing down his own brush and standing up. Clint doesn’t seemed bothered by her sass, just amused.

“Four miles down –”

“Yeah, I got that,” Darcy hisses, stalking off. She mutters to herself about slave labor and heat exhaustion until she hears Clint’s whistle rip through the air. The sharpness of it hurts and she winces, glaring back at him.

“Buck’s gonna race you.”

Darcy huffs, her eyes darting to Bucky, who comes to life. He breaks into a run, and Darcy whips her head back and takes off down the hill.

A giggle escapes as she nearly trips in her haste, and soon she’s bolting through the grass like she’s grown wings. It reminds her of the running dream. The scenery almost parallels it, the grass so green beneath her feet.

She pants but unlike when she was a child, there’s no burning lungs or aching muscles. She runs and runs and runs, until she meets a purple pole at the very edge of the property, marking the end.

She touches it, seeing Bucky right behind her. He skids to a stop and knocks into her, hands going to her arms.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be, I don’t mind,” she pants, and he licks his lips, his hot breath on her face.

He lets go, eyes dipping. He’s definitely checking her out. Darcy wants to move forward, to touch him in places she hasn’t had a chance to touch yet.

He steps back, eyebrows lifting.

“Race you back?”

He doesn’t wait for her, taking off once more and she bolts after him. All Darcy can feel is the sweat on her skin, the way her heart races and the feeling of her stomach flipping over and over, like she’s never been seen by another person before. He seems to have no idea how well his stare pins her in place.

She sprints, managing to catch up to be running beside him, and Bucky laughs. It’s everything. Darcy pushes on, seeing the house grow bigger and bigger.

Clint’s gone, probably back inside, and Darcy puts in one more burst of determination, slipping past Bucky to touch the still-wet fence to signify her victory. There’s only a couple seconds before Bucky reaches her.

“I beat you,” Darcy pants, feeling him knock into her, and she reaches out, pulling him toward her.

She glances up at him, his arm around her shoulders. He’s panting, too, and smiling at her.

“Maybe next time.”

“Hmm.”

He leans down and presses his forehead to hers. They probably look like two dumbstruck teenagers, in a haze of pheromones. Darcy turns her head toward the house, Bucky’s nose bumping her forehead.

“I’m wrecked,” she pants.

“Yeah,” Bucky replies, his lips brushing against her skin. It makes Darcy shiver.

His arm slips off of her when the front door swings open, revealing a smug Clint.

“I’m gonna nap,” Darcy says, before he can taunt her. “Then I’m gonna have lunch.”

She peels away from Bucky, stalking past Clint. She glances over her shoulder at Bucky, who’s pulled off his shirt and wiping the sweat from his face with it.

Darcy gulps, probably loud enough for him to hear and she disappears inside.

-

Darcy smells really good when she sweats. Bucky should have known. He also should have known this was all a bad idea, but his dick is starting to call the shots, not his brain.

He stares after her as Clint watches him. His eyes swivel to the archer, his jaw ticking.

“What.”

“What yourself,” Clint retorts.

-

Darcy races upstairs, still panting. She has to get away, has to settle herself. She feels like she’s nothing but wet – sweat and arousal – and she rests against her door when she closes it softly behind her.

She sighs, peeling off her clothes. She all but falls onto her bed, crawling under the thin sheet, the comforter pushed aside. She rests her sweaty forehead against her pillow, closing her eyes. Her hands slip down past her stomach, teasing through the wet folds of her cunt as she rocks her hips a couple times, picturing Bucky’s intense blue stare.

She wishes she packed something, like her little vibe bullet, the one that’s discreet and always reliable for a quick release. Her fingers will have to do. She rocks against her thumb, gnawing at her lip. She hasn’t done this in so long. She misses this, misses how good wanting someone feels. He must want her, too. He keeps looking at her like she’s good enough to eat.

“Oh, God,” she gasps, and she comes – finally, slowly, but hard. She muffles her moan in her pillow, the warmth rushing all over her, fresh sweat covering her under the sheet. She pants, turning onto her side and closing her eyes.

-

She’s woken by a knock, and she mumbles a “what is it”, rubbing her eyes.

“It’s Bucky. Can I- Can I talk to you?”

His voice is soft, and she pictures him leaning against the door, his hand on the knob. She sits up, gathering the sheet around her.

Oh, what the hell.

“Sure.”

He opens the door and his eyes widen at her, and he ducks inside, leaning against the door. He blushes and Darcy raises one eyebrow.

“What brings you here?” she asks, leaning slightly forward. Her front is covered but it’s clear that she’s naked under the sheet.

“I just – I just –”

He can’t find his words and he’s so adorable – how had she missed that? He’s unmistakably shy and he’s tongue-tied.

“Hmm?” she asks, and he blinks, stammering:

“S-Steve called,” he says.

Darcy’s heart sinks. He wasn’t there to visit her, he was there to pass on a message from Steve. She glances away, closing her eyes.

“Right.”

There’s a pause and she passes her hand over her face. Bucky looks at the floor.

“I’ll be down in a minute,” she says.

He doesn’t move and she glances up at him, waiting.

“Sorry,” he blurts, and he slips back out again.

-

He can smell her. She probably doesn’t realize that – he can smell her musk, her arousal wafting toward him.

Was she -? What was she doing before he knocked on her door?

He wants to shake himself. This isn’t about him. Steve called, asking if she knew anyone else in London while she was there, someone Scottish. Something about the codename Mogun turning out to be an anagram for Mungo, as in, St. Mungo of Glasgow.

He’ll get the rumpled, dozy look of her out of his head, especially when he could make out the shape of her hourglass figure under that thin sheet. He could have just pulled off his clothes and joined her, get rid of the taut air between them whenever they were alone.

He’s a fucking animal. What the fuck is wrong with him?

He shakes his head, walking back toward the staircase and going down, hearing Cooper and Lila arguing about something at the table while the Bartons have their lunch.

“She’s comin’ down,” Bucky murmurs to Clint, who’s holding Nathaniel.

Bucky sits in his chair, elbow on the table and his hand adjusting himself as subtly as he can. He’s trying not to get too worked up.

Darcy walks in, plucks Nate from Clint’s lap and sits opposite Bucky. Laura tells Cooper and Lila to go into the living room to give them some privacy. Nate makes a contented sound when Darcy puts a piece of watermelon in his little mouth, watching him eat.

“What did Steve want,” she says more than asks, and Bucky clears his throat.

“They left London. A triple agent might have been in contact with you in 2014.”

Darcy doesn’t look him in the eye, just watches Nate looking back at her. She strokes his hair.

“I don’t remember much. There was this old lady I saw when I went to the laundromat. I didn’t have a lot of friends back then. Still don’t.”

Bucky nods even though she’s not looking at him. “Steve said he might be Scotish.”

Something passes over Darcy’s face and she blinks, her throat bobbing.

“There was one guy.”

“Who?” Clint asks, and she finally turns her attention away from Nate.

“I don’t know. It’s probably nothing. I bumped into him in the street.”

“What was his name?” Bucky asks, and she blinks a couple times.

“Robbie.”

“Nothing else?”

“No,” she snaps. Her glare is like steel. “Why, did they find footage of me being seduced by a HYDRA operative? Did they think he slept his way into my head?”

She sounds irritated by him, and Bucky knows it’s for the best but it hurts just the same. He shakes his head.

“No, Steve said –”

“Why didn’t Steve just talk to me directly?” Darcy snaps. “Or does he still think I’m gonna kill everyone?”

“He doesn’t,” Bucky mutters. “He never did -”

She cuts him off. “Can I see that footage one day? Of me in the labs?”

Clint lets out a breath, looking horrified.

“You don’t wanna do that.”

“Yes, I do,” Darcy retorts. “Don’t tell me what I want.”

Clint closes his eyes for a moment, and Bucky stares at the table. He feels like a coward.

“I never knew,” Clint says, “how many people I killed for Loki. Nat wouldn’t let me know.”

“I’m different to you,” Darcy says, giving a short laugh that lacks mirth.

“You’re not,” Bucky says.

She glares at him but her face softens when she sees how upset he is. Nate begins to grizzle and she clutches him to her chest.

“You’ll wanna take it back,” he adds, his voice barely a whisper. “If you ever saw it. You’d go crazy over it.”

Darcy’s chin wobbles and tears spill over. She sobs quietly and Bucky feels it in his chest. It hurts to see her hurt and he wishes he could do more, say something to make it right. Laura comes back because Nate is suddenly screaming, and Darcy puts her face in her hands when he’s taken away.

Bucky doesn’t hesitate, and moves from his seat to the empty one next to her, squeezing her trembling shoulder. She moves fast, wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug. It feels like it’s bruising him and he doesn’t flinch.

He meets Clint’s gaze and the archer wipes his eyes, sniffing.

“Fuck, Darce.”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbles, and Clint shakes his head.

“It’s not that,” Clint says with a half-laugh, half-sob.

“I shouldn’t be acting like this,” Darcy adds, moving back a little to look Clint in the eye. Her hand rests on Bucky’s knee while her other one swipes at her eyes. She sniffles. “I’m acting like a teenager, and you’re not my dad.”

“I should be so lucky, sweetheart,” Clint says, his voice tight.

-

After their eyes dry, Darcy uses FRIDAY to call Steve and Natasha in New York. She’s still getting used to it, and the advanced hologram technology still comes as a shock, like it’s something out of a science fiction movie.

“His name was Robbie,” she says, and Natasha nods. “I met him before going to Paris, so it was before I killed the Canary.”

“If you saw a photograph of him, would you recognise him?” Steve asks.

Darcy feels her face flush. “Uh, yeah. He was… distinct.”

She sees Clint shoot Bucky a glance.

“How is everything going besides?” Steve adds, and Darcy shrugs.

“Only cried a little today, and no-one’s dead.”

“Progress,” Steve says with a chuckle, and Darcy nods.

When they hang up, Clint’s eyebrows hike.

“So, he’s distinct.”

“Shut up,” Darcy snaps. “I’m a straight woman with a pair of eyes.”

 

Chapter Text

"Because you're near to me 
My head goes round and round 
My knees are shakin' baby 
My heart it beats like a drum..."

- "Feels Like I'm In Love" by Kelly Marie

 

 

Part Fourteen: Knife

 

 

Darcy feels delicate, and she hates the feeling.

To compensate, for the next couple of days she keeps her head down, doesn’t do much besides what Clint tells her to do. She pretends she’s a Barton for a little while. And maybe that’s pathetic, but she figures that’s what she needs.

She doesn’t feel like a Lewis anymore. She doesn’t want to. That would mean having to mend the two parts of her that split her in half – the before and after of her attack in the labs. She thinks if she spends too long keeping still she’ll fall apart, and she can’t have that.

She wishes Bucky would stop looking at her the way he does, like he’s happy to see her, like she’s a comfort.

Natasha calls a few days into their stay in Missouri, asking about Robbie.

“Is this him?”

Darcy, Bucky and Clint all stand in the kitchen, the children playing outside. Laura was hanging out washing with Nathaniel sitting in the grass. Darcy crosses her arms and swings her gaze back to Natasha.

A picture of Robbie appears and Darcy tries to not flinch at the sight of his face. She glances down at her hands, cracking her knuckles.

“Yeah, that’s him. Where is he?”

“He’s dead,” Natasha says. Darcy could hear her hesitate and she swallows, nodding.

For someone she didn’t know, it still hurts. He was so kind, for that brief second. God, what would her life have been if she chose to go with him to get that cup of coffee?

“How? Where?” Darcy asks, and she can feel everyone looking at her.

Steve stands by with Natasha again. Darcy notes the lack of Tony Stark in the picture. Maybe that’s something she can never repair. She knows she can’t just go back to being Jane’s assistant. Too much has changed.

“Police report in Spain. He… he didn’t look like himself but it was a close match,” Natasha says. “Unfortunately, it means that lead is gone. We can only keep digging elsewhere.”

“What happened to him?”

“Stabbed,” Steve says, and Darcy nods.

“When?”

“Couple years back.”

Darcy clears her throat, trying to loosen the sensation of it closing up with emotion. She glances up again, nodding some more.

“So we don’t know the trigger words. Our best source is dead. So now what?”

“We take a step back and wait. Try something else,” Clint says, and Darcy rubs her eyes.

“Yeah. Cool,” she mutters.

-

She’s a fast learner. Bucky admires her drive.

He knows that with the serum she’s able to adapt quicker, and things that require muscle memory she can pick up after a couple demonstrations. She manages to flip a dummy knife fast enough to give Bucky a run for his money. He and Clint watch her from the kitchen window the day after Darcy found out about Mungo’s identity.

Darcy picks up something she calls a ‘Rambo knife’ with a hilt almost as long as her forearm and throws it at the tree Lila usually punctures with arrows. Darcy watches the knife for a few seconds, seeing that it’s truly stuck, and then she takes out a little dagger and starts playing with it.

Clint glances at Bucky, eyebrows hiking.

“Tell me you’re not turned on by that,” the archer says, and Bucky tries his best to keep his face blank.

There’s a thud of Laura’s washing basket hitting the floor and she nods at Darcy out the window.

“I know I would be,” she admits, and Bucky smirks.

“Archery not that impressive anymore, hun?” Clint drawls, and his wife smiles at him, shrugging.

“Are you gonna get back out there, or is she meant to entertain herself?” Laura throws back. “She finished the fence, too.”

Clint’s face slackens. “What?”

“Yeah. Hours ago,” Laura says, throwing the men a look. “She deserves a break.”

Bucky gets the feeling that if they tried to get Darcy to relax she’d consider stabbing them with that pretty little dagger he gave her. He got it from Clint’s weapons cache in the farmhouse yesterday.

“I’m thinking barbeque tonight,” Laura says.

She throws one of Bucky’s t-shirts at him and he catches it, smelling that it’s clean. He murmurs his thanks, his eyes never leaving Darcy.

-

“You’d remember me, right?” Darcy asks, hours later.

Bucky sees her go through several stages in the space of a couple seconds. There’s hesitancy, then there’s her fear, then there’s her hope and trust, and then there’s her cynicism. She’s decided already what his answer must be by the time she got the question out of her mouth.

“Yeah,” he replies.

She blinks at him. “I hoped you’d know. If I was brainwashed back before you escaped, I hoped you’d have some answers.”

Bucky wishes the same thing, but he can’t place her. It’s not he hasn’t tried. He shakes his head, and they fall silent.

They’re watching the sun set, the Bartons racing around to get the table outside set. For once, Darcy didn’t help out with the cooking because Laura told her to put her feet up.

They eat together. Darcy’s bare knee knocks Bucky’s every so often. She hasn’t deliberately touched him in days and he misses it more than he wishes to.

It’s better this way. That’s what he tells himself when he stares at the ceiling at night knowing she’s upstairs alone. He rests with his hands behind his head, listening out for her. He doesn’t even close his eyes in the dark.

He needs to kick this aside, this stupid entitlement. That’s what he thinks of it, that it’s a nuisance and ultimately completely selfish. He’s there because he promised Steve he’d look out for her. He wants to help her.

-

Darcy wakes in the middle of the night, hearing something beyond her room. She squints in the dark, and there’s another muffled sound.

It’s Bucky. She gets out of bed, walking swiftly to her door. She’s sure she’s the only one who heard him. She moves through the house, down the stairs.

He’s in the middle of a nightmare. She walks over to the couch and sees him with his eyes screwed shut and she stands over his twisting body, her hands hovering.

“Don’t – fucking –”

He whimpers and Darcy touches him finally, feeling the cold sweat on his skin. She tries to soothe him and he shudders, muttering threats under his breath.

“Bucky.”

His eyes snap open and he sucks in a breath, grabbing her wrists.

“Bucky, it’s me. It’s me,” she whispers, and he lets go of her, his hands going to cover his face.

“Oh, God.”

“It’s okay. I’m here,” she says, and she climbs under the blanket, her hands reaching for the sides of his face.

He keeps his eyes squeezed shut and he shudders again. Darcy realizes he’s crying and he doesn’t want her to see.

“Bucky, it’s okay,” she whispers, though her chest aches for him. “Hey. Hey, look at me. It’s okay. I promise.”

She knows it’s a bad idea and alarm bells are going off in her head but she pulls him to her, lets his head rest on her neck as he all but lies right on top of her. Her stomach flips as he relaxes, sighing. She can feel her neck is damp from his tears and she swallows hard.

“You gotta go, Darce,” he whispers. “Y-You – gotta –”

He shifts and she feels herself blush. He seems to realize at the same time as her – that he’s hard and pressing his crotch up against hers.

“Fuck,” he hisses, and he pulls back, sitting back on his knees.

Darcy draws her knees up, hugging them.

“You gotta go.”

“Yeah,” she breathes.

She runs out of there, back up the stairs. Her heart races and she stands next to her bed for a few minutes, wondering how she’s meant to recover from that.

 

Chapter Text

"Just one step at a time,
And closer to destiny.
I knew at a glance,
There would always be a chance for me.
With someone I could live for;
Nowhere I would rather be."

- "Is Your Love Strong Enough?" by Bryan Ferry

 

 

Part Fifteen: Glock

 

 

 

“Okay. Okay. Okay, okay, okay.”

Darcy babbles to herself as she paces the bedroom. Her mind is reeling from earlier, and she can’t settle. She wants to move, keep moving. If she stops, it’s over. If she stops, she’ll race back down there and make a fool of herself.

“Okay. Okay,” she adds, and she takes a gasp of air. She feels her eyes prickle and she groans, trying to smother the sound with her hands. She sobs with her face in her hands as she settles on the floor by her bed.

She stays there for some time, until she collects herself. She wipes her eyes, her eyes stinging. Her nose is blocked. She takes a few more big breathes of air.

“FRIDAY,” she murmurs.

“Yes, Miss Lewis?”

“I need everything Natasha has, everything she has on me,” she says, her voice low.

She knows it’s still the middle of the night but she won’t be sleeping any time soon. She feels wide awake. She has some idea of why Bucky was so quick to throw her off the couch. He’s terrified of her, and she wants to know more.

“And please keep this request to yourself.”

“Understood.”

Darcy stands, seeing the images fly around, the various excerpts. There’s footage of The Destroyer in New Mexico. She stares at the college ID photo. She frowns, glancing at the pieces that make a very confusing puzzle.

“The Canary. I want to see the footage of that,” she says. “Now.”

“The footage is –”

“Am I not authorised? It’s me in that train station,” Darcy says before FRIDAY can even get the sentence out. “I’m ready. I want to see. And while you’re at it, I want everything on Ian Boothby.”

The grainy footage of the Gare du Pont de l’Alma begins to play in a small window hovering above Darcy’s face. She sees a crowd of people hanging around one end of the platform, and then a figure cutting through to make their way to the exit.

“Zoom.”

Darcy knows it’s her. It couldn’t be anyone else. She looks wild-eyed and frantic, a smear of blood on her face. Darcy thinks back to that day, when she woke hours later, thinking it was all a bad dream.

“Pull up my conversations with Ian on Facebook.”

She lifts a finger to scroll through the rows upon rows of their conversations. There isn’t much to them, no tell-tale signs of duplicitous behaviour. If anything, the messages are boring reading them the second time around.

“What are you looking for?”

“I don’t know,” Darcy replies, trying her best not to snap at the AI. “Is there any kind of pattern?”

“He’s usually asking you if you’re awake at night.”

Darcy passes a hand over her face. She knows exactly what happened after every time he asked her ‘u up?’ She hates the cliché of it.

“Where’s my phone?”

“Forensics have it, along with your laptop.”

Darcy licks her lips.

“I need Natasha’s notes. Her sources.”

“She will know –”

“I don’t care. I want everything.”

It was about time that she started snooping around. She used to do it a lot, when she needed access to SHIELD files another time, and that was for Jane. She hasn’t done it for herself before.

“Has she found Robbie and Ian overlapping anywhere?”

“No, she is still searching Robbie Brown’s history.”

“History?” Darcy repeats. “I thought…”

Several photos swim up, all of Robbie with several different women. Darcy’s eyes dart around, seeing the same smile he shone at her that day in London.

Did he sleep with them all?

“Who are these girls?”

“Classified.”

“FRIDAY, I swear to God –”

“These are MI6 files, Miss Lewis. Miss Romanoff does not have the clearance, either.”

Darcy rolls her eyes.

“If it were Tony Stark asking you to do it, he’d have everything in front of his eyeballs,” she hisses. “Goddammit.”

-

Several hours later, Darcy was lying on her bed, hearing a knock on her door.

She rolled over, glancing around. The sun was up. She motions wiping and the files she has open vanish. The door opens, revealing Clint.

“What the hell?” Darcy yells.

“I knocked.”

“So your instinct was to open the door instead of waiting for an answer? I could have been doing anything in here –”

Clint shuts the door behind him and Darcy sits up, crossing her arms.

“Like reading your files on FRIDAY’s network?” Clint says, and Darcy presses her lips together.

Darcy narrows her eyes at him.

“Do you even know how stupid that sentence sounds?” she hisses. “And did Natasha give you that update?”

“Steve did,” Clint replies.

Darcy crosses her arms, staring him down.

“Who are the women in the photos with Robbie? Were they HYDRA assets?”

“Widows,” Clint says.

Darcy drops her arms. “What are those?”

She feels sick. She knows the answer before she even asked the question.

“They were honey traps,” Clint says. His voice drops a little, and Darcy nods. “Women that HYDRA used to seduce targets, for information, for – for everything.”

“Does Natasha’s name have anything to do with that?” Darcy asks.

“No. Well,” Clint frowns. “I guess so. Her record is longer than – anyway, we’re talking about you.”

“Was Robbie planning to seduce me for MI6?” Darcy asks.

Clint’s eyebrows hike. “He usually did that all for himself.”

“What?”

“Is it so hard to believe he’d want you for you?” Clint says.

Darcy glances away. “God. I dunno. I was a mess.”

There’s a distant calling from the kitchen. Laura promised pancakes today. Darcy sighs, trying to bring herself back to the present.

-

Ian doesn’t sleep. Passing out after so many hours awake doesn’t count. The hours are inconsistent. He feels like the second he stops to rest he’s wasting more time.

It’s like chasing his own tail. Darcy is nowhere to be found. She’s either in SHIELD custody or she’s been killed. He figures she would have shown up by now if she was dead.

Karl watches Ian with unbridled loathing every day. He still holds what happened to Yuri against Ian, even though it was beyond his control. It’s like the asshole has forgotten who they work for.

“Comrade, something on your mind?”

“You look like shit,” Karl says. “You always look like shit, and also like you’re gonna shit yourself. Shit upon shit.”

Ian rolls his eyes. Their room smells stale. They’ve been staying in the same hotel room for days, monitoring equipment. Ian is so sick of this. He wants to get it over with and break out. He needs a compass.

“Why do you even care this fucking much?” Karl mutters, his face going slack again.

Ian knows he’s depressed. His best friend is dead and he’s staring into the face of his own demise day after day, with the end closing in on them.

“You’re certifiable,” Karl adds.

Ian turns his head. The database is constantly searching for matches, for anything that looks like Darcy Lewis. Random woman will surface occasionally, but what Ian wishes he could do is hack the Avengers network.

“What do you mean?” Ian asks. He’ll do this once every few days so he can irritate Karl some more. It’s a welcome distraction.

“You and the Commander. You’re both psychopaths.”

Ian pretends he’s surprised, lifting his brows slightly. When he was a teenager he was told this by his family’s doctor. He was taken out of school the next day and joined his father at HYDRA. He knew he could hide in plain sight, but HYDRA would probably benefit from his particular personality since they had already done so with Ian’s father.

“Robbie Brown. Do you suppose he was a psychopath?” Ian asks.

“Are you still jealous of him? Even after he’s dead?” Karl says, and Ian narrows his eyes.

Karl looks smug.

“He’s better looking than you. And smarter, to be a triple agent for so long,” Karl goes on.

“You better watch your mouth,” Ian says, turning his attention back to the screens in front of them. “I might tell Molokhov what you think of the traitorous Scotsman, and then he’d literally tear you a new asshole.”

“How are you not dead already?” Karl snaps. “When all Yuri did was what he was told to do –”

“The Commander values me,” Ian retorts.

Karl lets out a growl. “God, it must kill you, knowing she’s out there, doing whatever she wants.”

“Shut up.”

 “What if she’s with the Winter Soldier now in some safe house, making little serum babies –?”

“You’re disgusting,” Ian spits. “Get your mind out of the gutter.”

“You pretend like you don’t care, but Molokhov knows it too, that you like her. You love her, in your own sick way. He’s the same. Practically slobbering over her for months when she was with us. Yuri and I used to laugh about you.”

Ian sets his jaw, glaring at him.

“Every night at the end of our shift, we’d go back to our bunks and laugh about you.”

Ian lunges for him, knocking Karl off his chair onto the floor, pressing his thumbs into his windpipe and squeezing as hard as he could. The veins pop out of Karl’s face and skull and he gasps for breath.

Ian can see the light close to leaving his eyes. He’s dying, and Ian can choose whether it’s now or later. He loves that look of hopelessness. He wishes he could bottle it somehow.

There’s a dinging of a notification and Ian turns his head, releasing his grip on Karl.

Karl coughs into the carpet as Ian reaches his chair again, looking over the footage.

Natalia Romanova and Steve Rogers in London, walking in broad daylight.

“They went to see Fairfield,” Ian says. “They must know about Robbie.”

Karl keeps coughing, turning to look up at the screens.

“They’ll find you next.”

Ian watches the two Avengers walk through the street, smiling about something. He squints. He runs the footage back, watching their mouths. There’s no corresponding audio.

“She said – Bucky,” Karl gasps, and then he coughs some more.

Ian runs the footage on a loop, writing down what he can decipher.

I have a bet going with Clint. But he promised to not push them together too much or interfere.

After an hour of watching Romanova speak, Ian sits back in his chair.

He needs to find Clint Barton.

-

Darcy thinks Bucky’s avoiding her. She might be wrong, but – why wouldn’t he be after last night? He doesn’t sit at the kitchen table with her to eat. He helps Laura with stacking the dishwasher when Darcy walks out into the yard afterwards and he doesn’t step up to be her training mate.

Clint is the one she tackles into the grass. It’s not an easy fight because he’s experienced but Darcy is still stronger than him. When they break for lunch, Bucky sits on the couch watching a movie with his sandwich.

Darcy stares at her empty plate when she’s done, hoping Bucky will move or at least acknowledge her. Clint taps her shoulder when he gets up, taking her plate with him. She nods, following him out into the yard.

He keeps walking and she crosses her arms.

“Where are we -?”

Clint opens the shed that holds his weapons cache and her question is answered. He walks in and Darcy moves up behind him, glancing around. For a small space there’s a lot in there. Guns of all varieties as well as throwing stars, grenades and knives.

“My Rambo knife came from here?” Darcy asks, and Clint smirks.

“You know, it’s not called that, and that name’s confusing to Bucky.”

“He never asked for me to clarify,” Darcy retorts. She tries to not sound hasty but she practically blurts: “Did he say something to you before?”

Clint picks up a pistol and Darcy stares. He snaps it open at the bottom and takes out a little box of ammo for the empty magazine. He works quickly as Darcy watches, unblinking.

“About what?” Clint asks, distracted.

“Last… night?” Darcy says, and he meets her gaze, snapping the magazine back in place.

“Do you want me to ask him about last night?” Clint asks, and he’s back to smiling again.

Darcy’s face flushes, thinking of Clint and Bucky discussing her like it’s the most pressing thing happening right now.

Darcy swallows, nodding at the gun. “You know I hate guns?”

“You’ve mentioned that a few times, yeah,” Clint replies.

They argued about this before. Darcy tried to delay firearm training for as long as possible. She watches Clint holster the pistol and pack up the ammo boxes and stash them away.

“Why can’t you teach me archery? Make me your little Hawkeye apprentice?” Darcy says, shrugging. “It’s better than bullets, right? And you’ve said you prefer your bow.”

“That’s Lila’s job you’d be trying to steal, sweetheart,” Clint replies with a chuckle.

There’s a pause and Clint doesn’t stop looking at her.

“Want to talk about last night? Did it make you read all those files FRIDAY had?”

Darcy scoffs. “It’s more what didn’t happen.”

“Oh,” Clint says, smiling. She rolls her eyes at him.

He walks back out and Darcy follows him, her hands up.

“Can we put a pin in – ah!”

Darcy screams as Clint tosses the gun to her. She squeezes her eyes shut as she catches it. Clint doesn’t seem bothered at all, he’s watching her.

“Are you fucking insane?!” Darcy screams.

She feels the weight of it in her palm, and her finger slots into place. She aims it at the ground. She glares at Clint, whose hands are up, but not directed at her.

Darcy’s eyes swing to see Bucky standing several feet away, the rest of the Bartons in tow.

“Darcy said –”

“Yeah, Lila, I heard, honey,” Clint calls. “She said the F word.”

Darcy’s eyes meet Bucky’s. He looks frightened.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

Darcy gulps. “Yeah, just – fuck, I think I – ” She squeezes the gun tighter. “I’ve done this before.”

-

Bucky ran out when he heard Darcy scream. Seeing her standing there with the Glock in her hand was his nightmare from last night.

He’s been afraid of losing since the day he met her. He shrank away from her when she had the shards of glass in her hand, but he knew he cared even then, her face blank, her eyes lost.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just – fuck, I think I –” Her arm starts to shake as she squeezes the Glock tighter. “I’ve done this before.”

“Are you remembering?” Bucky asks.

Darcy screws her face up. “I can’t be. I’m not supposed to.”

Bucky moves closer, and Darcy’s eyes widen.

“I’d love to know what the plan was, Clint,” he mutters, and he sees the archer shrug.

“She’s not going to shoot us.”

“Yeah, but does she know that?” Laura yells. “Come on.”

 “Okay, I’m putting it down,” Darcy babbles, and she drops the Glock in the grass with a gasp.

She steps back like it’s a rattlesnake and Bucky reaches her, grabbing her wrist. She looks down at his metal hand and then up at his face.

“I feel like I’m tripping balls right now,” she whispers. “I need a sec.”

Clint picks up the gun, clutching her shoulder.

“Hey, sweetheart. It’s okay. You’re good with guns.”

Darcy makes a pained sound but nods.

“You know what this is?”

“It’s a Glock. I used one before,” Darcy says, and she stares down at it. “I’m better with knives, though. They’re my favourite.”

Her eyes widen. “But how do I know that?”

Laura clears her throat and they all turn to look, Clint’s kids staring back at them. Laura raises her hands, incredulous.

“Do you guys… wanna chat?” Bucky mutters.

Clint holsters the gun, for the first time sheepish. “Yeah, I’ll do that. But you guys should talk, too.”

Bucky feels his face go instantly hot and he looks at the ground.

“Sure.”

They all file back inside and sit at the kitchen table. Darcy slips her hand into Bucky’s, not even hesitating to touch his cybernetic limb. It’s baffling to Bucky that she’s this calm so soon. Minutes ago she screamed like she’d been burned.

“Your idea to jog Darcy’s memory was by her touching something she’s scared of?” Laura hisses, and Clint rubs his eyes. “After what she’s been through?”

“Nat would have done the same.”

“Do not use Natasha right now! I am so fucking mad –”

“Mom!” Cooper yells. “How come you and Dad get to swear all the time?”

“We’re adults!” Clint and Laura say together.

“It’s not fair!” Lila adds.

“Honey, how do you think it makes me feel knowing that I’m a hypocrite?” Laura replies. Nate sits in her lap and he starts to grizzle. Laura sighs. “Okay, children in the living room, now. Husband to be included the second he apologizes to our guests.”

She shoots Clint a glare and he nods, resigned.

“I wanna see it,” Darcy murmurs, when Laura is out of earshot.

“What?” Clint asks.

“Me attacking the people in the labs. I want to see what I can do. I mean, I have some idea but I wanna know for sure. It’s keeping me up at night.”

Bucky and Clint exchange a look.

“I know you both think it’s bad, but I’m a member of the Brainwashed Babes Club, so I think I should be able to choose this,” she goes on.

“Brainwashed Babes Club?” Bucky repeats, and Darcy nods.

“What, is the name stupid?”

“I –”

Clint cuts Bucky off. “We meant what we said the other day. It’s not something you can take back.”

Darcy nods. “I’m going to see it. I’m not asking for permission, Clint.”

He sits back, sighing. “Then I want to be there, too.”

Bucky squeezes her hand. “Me, too. I’m not leaving you alone. I want you to feel safe.”

Darcy stares at him, and Bucky’s stomach flips.

Clint clicks his fingers.

“Hey, hey. Focus. We go upstairs and watch, away from my kids. Okay?”

-

Bucky watches an expert. She’s probably as precise as he is. For someone who prefers a knife, she’s good with firearms. He keeps glancing at Darcy watching the footage as they sit together on her bed, Clint standing close by, leaning against the wall.

The footage is no longer than five minutes. They’re silent, until the end.

“I’m… killing Steve.”

“You were cutting off his air, yeah,” Clint says. “That’s what tipped him off about the serum. Most people can’t do that. That’s one of Nat’s moves, twisting around him like that.”

They watch Stark hit her in the shoulder and she falls to the ground.

“You were meant to die,” Clint adds. “Whoever programmed you wanted you to terminate, whether you managed to kill Tony or not.”

Darcy stares at the footage of Steve knocking her out. The video ends.

“Why didn’t I die?” she whispers. “The plan seems airtight, whatever it was –”

“I don’t think the serum made you as compliant as they liked,” Clint says.

-

They make their own pizzas for dinner and Darcy feels strange. She thought seeing the footage would disturb her, but it wasn’t like that at all.

She’s upset, definitely. She’ll always be upset about what happened, with all those people. It’s hard to decipher what she already knew before today. Holding the gun didn’t feel foreign at all. It was like she’d done it as a kid. That thing, about riding bicycles? It’s fucking true.

“How are you?” Bucky murmurs, when they’re all sitting outside with their plates, looking at the stars.

Laura seems to have forgiven Clint, his arm wrapped around her.

“I’m okay,” Darcy murmurs back, nudging his arm with her shoulder. “How are you? You scared of me yet?”

“No,” he replies instantly, and Darcy’s stomach flips. He didn’t have to think about it. “Never have been.”

Laura takes their plates, and Darcy stands to help but Laura shakes her head.

“You’ve had a big day.”

“Thank you,” Darcy says, and Laura nods.

The kids are shuttled off, and Clint doesn’t linger much longer, either. He shoots Bucky a look Darcy can’t fully read, but she feels the air change the second their alone once more. It feels like it hasn’t been like this in a long time, but it was only last night when she was under him.

She pushes off her seat and walks further from the house, turning back to see Bucky sitting there watching her. Her heart is beating faster. He’s got that look in his eye, the one he had when he covered her mouth with his hand.

Darcy keeps walking, down to the farmhouse. She unlatches the door and ducks inside, the door still open. She waits, time dragging.

She hears the door creak and Bucky’s there, shutting the door behind him. Darcy flips on the light, a weak little bulb to the side, and one up above in the loft.

Their eyes lock and Darcy moves toward him, hands going to his face. Their noses brush and he tips his head down, brushing his lips against hers.

He pushes back, and Darcy gasps. He holds her away from him.

“We shouldn’t…” he whispers. “We shouldn’t.”

Darcy nods, swallowing. “We shouldn’t.”

They’re still for a few seconds and Darcy stares up at him. Bucky makes a sound, something like a whimper and he kisses her again.

Darcy’s mouth opens to him in seconds and he moans, grabbing her to his body, wrapping himself around her. His tongue sweeps into her mouth and Darcy grips his hair. Darcy feels the heat rushing to her core, and Bucky can’t quite settle. His kisses are devastating, and she wants to remember them forever. It’s so fast and Darcy feels lightheaded. As if sensing her, Bucky pulls back, pressing his forehead to hers.

He’s so close his eyes are all she sees and she sighs, his hands in her hair.

“Darcy.”

He says her name like a prayer and she wants to cry.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

"All that you got, skin to skin, oh my God
Don't ya stop, boy

Somethin' 'bout you makes me feel like a dangerous woman..."

- "Dangerous Woman" by Ariana Grande

 

 

 

 

 

Part Sixteen: Hay

 

 

 

Darcy kisses Bucky again, not breaking eye contact. It’s just a slow peck, tentative.

She’s watching him take her in. She licks his lips and he groans, slotting a leg between her thighs. His metal hand rests against the small of her back, keeping her in place as he plies her mouth open with his tongue. Darcy’s eyes flutter shut and she grips his hair, fingers fastening in the hair at the nape of his neck.

It’s like he’s trying to be gentle but he’s failing spectacularly. He all but devours her with his kisses, sucking her lips into his mouth and probing her with his hot tongue. Darcy moans, her other hand moving down his stomach, going under the material to touch his stomach.

Christ, his muscles. Darcy’s hand goes for his belt buckle and Bucky kisses her face, making a trail down her neck. She shivers, his unshaven face scratching her enough to make her rock up against his thigh. It would be better if they weren’t standing.

Bucky licks her collar bone and Darcy gnaws her lip, managing to unbuckle his belt and unbutton the front of his pants but her own thigh is in the way of his crotch. Her fingers get under the waistband of his boxers and Bucky grunts, pushing against her until Darcy stumbles. He catches her and they sink to the ground, and Darcy’s exactly where she wants to be – under a horny Bucky Barnes.

He curls himself around her, hips rocking against hers when Darcy manages to hook a thigh around him. He nips at her skin, hands under her shirt. He wraps his hands around her waist, kissing her neck, biting her as she cants her hips to meet his. She’s otherwise pinned to the floor and she wants him – fuck, she wants him so bad she’s dizzy with it, like the first time she saw him without a shirt.

Even when he’s not kissing her, his pressing his mouth to her, tasting her, making her wet. His hands move down, skipping her tits altogether, grabbing her ass while he rocks into her. She wants him everywhere, and she arches her back to entice him. When he moves back to look her in the eye, his pupils are blown, and his mouth is pink and wet. He’s so fucking pretty and Darcy bites her lip, grabbing a handful of his hair again and tugging his mouth to hers.

He groans, drawn out and broken at the end, shifting against her. The solid weight of him against her clit makes her whine and he chuckles, pulling back.

“Darcy,” he says it like before, all praise and awe.

He unexpectedly glides his hand back up to cup the back of her head, his other on her back and he hugs her, just holds her against him for a full minute with his face in her hair.

Who would have known Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes was such a softie, a bona fide romantic? Darcy smiles, her hands on his back, rubbing his broad shoulder blades. He sighs, and she’s safe. She belongs here, in his arms. She kisses his neck, nuzzles his warm skin. He smells so good, and she nips his skin, his hand flexing on her back.

She’s throbbing between her legs. It’s needy, and she whispers in his ear:

“Can I touch you?”

He moves back, his face different, unsure. He looks down between them, at the shape of his hard cock straining in his jeans.

“If you want – you don’t have to. I – I – fuck.”

He moans into her open mouth as Darcy’s hand slips down to rest against the shape of him. She squeezes his length, watching his face. He bucks up into her hand and Darcy stares at his wounded face.

She keeps her eyes on his face as she undoes his fly, the rasp of the zipper making her stomach flip and her face burns. Bucky’s looking pretty pink, too.

She glances down, then back to Bucky’s face.

“Take it out, let me see.”

She can’t believe she’s saying this to Bucky, practically begging him to whip his dick out. He does, with shaking fingers and his chest heaving.

“I wanna see you,” she whispers.

She looks down, seeing his dark pubic hair and the tip of him, flushed and leaking in his palm. She can smell him, how aroused he is. Her hand touches his knuckles, his fingers wrapped around his cock. He’s watching her see him, really see him for the first time.

“How long’s it been?” she murmurs, and Bucky’s throat bobs.

“What?”

“Were you with anyone when -?” Darcy can’t quite say it. Did he sleep with anyone when he was with HYDRA? Was it against his will? Had he been with anyone in Bucharest or in New York?

He shakes his head, and he ducks his head, letting out a breath of a laugh.

“No, I… I don’t think so. It’s been a while.”

“That’s a fucking shame,” Darcy whispers, and she takes him in her hand, stroking him.

He moans, eyes widening. She experiments, pushing down his pants a little until he’s fully exposed. He’s thick, and Darcy licks her lips at the sight of him. Her dry hand isn’t ideal and she knows she’s being too gentle, but Bucky’s eyes flutter closed as he lets her pump him.

He kisses her, plaintive little moans into her mouth. Darcy stops, resting her hand on his bare hip, tracing the sharp line there. His cock twitches and Bucky pulls back to push her hair back, eyes roving her body beneath him.

“Do you want to fuck me?” Darcy asks, and he lets out a laugh, a warm puff against her skin.

“You’re killin’ me.”

“Is that a yes, or -?” Darcy quirks an eyebrow. “Am I being too much?”

He kisses her, light. Darcy is the one to turn it filthy, hands in his hair and tugging his body closer. She feels his hard cock pressing into her stomach and he moans.

“Yes,” he breathes eventually, and Darcy smiles up at him.

She pushes her hands to his chest and he moves back, eyes wandering over her. Darcy pulls her feet back and jumps up. She looks over her shoulder at Bucky, who sits on his knees, one hand on his cock. He looks confused, and then he flashes a smile.

Darcy giggles, moving further away from the door to the staircase. She races up to the loft and Bucky’s right behind her, pressing into her back.

She turns her head and he kisses her, her hand going up to grip his hair. His hands grab her by the hips and she backs into him. She’s moves away just as fast, laughing again.

“Hey, come here,” he says, his voice rough. It goes straight to Darcy’s cunt and she waits only a second for his hands to grab at her. Her grabs at her hips, while finally reaching her chest.

She lets out a laugh that dissolves into a moan, his teeth grazing her neck as he paws her over the fabric of her t-shirt. He kneads her tits as he rocks into her. Darcy’s hand reaches his cock and he grunts.

“Stay there,” he rasps, and Darcy whimpers.

His metal arm keeps her in place as his flesh hand cups her mound and Darcy moans louder. She can’t control herself, she’s been broken open and now she can only think of him being in and all around her. She cants her hips, craving the friction of the seam between her legs. Her jeans can only do so much. Bucky’s middle finger presses a little harder, stroking up over the material and Darcy thinks she might sob.

“Bucky,” she gasps, and he sucks her neck, making her shiver. She lets go of him to undo her pants and tug them down, Bucky’s grip tightening on her. He pushes up into her until Darcy sinks to the floor once more, her back still to him.

She’s on her knees, tipping forward. Bucky kisses her neck, gathering her hips to rub her against his cock. Darcy feels like an animal, consumed by her one desire – to have him buried inside her to the hilt. She turns her head to look at him and gnaws her lip.

He could snap her spinal cord, cleave her in two. She stares up into his dark eyes as he reaches between them to touch her. She gasps, her face burning. It’s been a while for her, too. She thinks the anticipation might kill if he doesn’t –

“Fuck, you’re wet,” he whispers, his chest heaving.

“Bucky,” she says again, urgent.

He suddenly dips his head and Darcy feels the wet glide of his tongue run along her, all the way from her clit to the cleft of her ass and she yelps.

“Jesus, fuck Bucky!”

He groans, his breath hot against her. Darcy reaches around to grab his hand, placing it on her bare ass. He moves back up and she feels the head of his cock rub at her. He sinks into her and Darcy moans, long and loud.

Without slipping out of her, Bucky manages to pull her back so they both rest on their knees, and his flesh hand covers her mouth, his lips at her ear.

“Okay?”

Through the haze of need, Darcy nods, clenching around him. He groans, and he shoves her back down, her hands to the floor as he starts to move. He takes deep, long strokes of her, hitting a spot that makes Darcy whimper against his fingers.

“Fuck,” he gasps, and he groans again as she constricts around him.

His hips beat against her ass, and Darcy is pushed further along the floor until she pushes back, grinding her clit against him. He then pins her in place, taking his pleasure from her in precise, rough strokes that begin to falter as Darcy clenches him tighter.

Darcy trails a hand down between them to touch her clit and she pants, feeling the sweat on her. The air smells of sex and she loves it.

“I’m gonna –”

She tries to speak against his hand but can’t and she grips his wrist. He moves his hand, his hips still smacking into her.

“You can. You can, you can come,” she pants. She sucks on his fingers and he moans.

He pushes into her as far as he can and stills, letting out a brutal moan into her neck as he comes. His fingers spasm in her mouth and he sighs, his forehead brushing the back of her head. He goes all shivery, oversensitive as he pulls out of her.

Darcy turns over, the mess of him beginning to drool out and she reaches for him. He’s slack-jawed and sweaty, kissing her with a clumsy tenderness that makes her heart squeeze with longing. Darcy grabs her jeans from the floor and pulls them back on, when all Bucky can seem to do is watch her in stunned silence.

“You good?” she murmurs.

“You didn’t –”

She glances at him and he looks concerned.

“I didn’t treat you right.”

It takes Darcy a second to catch on and her eyes widen. She kisses his nose, chuckling.

“It’s okay. I can come next time.”

He shakes his head, pulling his pants back on and doing up his fly. He cuddles her to him, nuzzling her neck.

“Darcy.”

He seems genuinely upset and it’s touching. She kisses him, slow and soft. He sighs against her and they pull back, their breaths still barely past panting.

“Let’s head back,” Darcy whispers, and he nods.

They walk out of the farmhouse, and Darcy picks a piece of hay out of her hair while they make their way toward the house. Bucky opens the door for her and she smiles at him.

“Goodnight,” she says, and he kisses her, cradling her face in his hands.

She doesn’t know what it all means, but it felt really good. She leaves him in the living room and goes to the bathroom, trying her best to keep quiet. Everyone else seems to have gone to bed. She flips off the light in the bathroom and goes to the spare room, and she can smell Bucky on her skin.

She takes off her clothes and slips into her pyjama shorts and tank top. She pulls back the blankets and crawls into bed. She lies on her side, listening out.

She hears Bucky clear his throat. She imagines him closing his eyes, lying on his back.

She sits up, swinging her legs over the side of her bed. She feels wide awake. She stands, hearing the crickets outside. She hears a soft snoring from next door. It’s either Lila or Cooper.

She pads her way to her door before she can change her mind, moving out and then down the staircase carefully, her body tense. She half expects Clint or Laura to open their door, asking her what she’s doing.

She moves through the house, hearing the hum of the fridge and the ticking clock in the kitchen. She reaches the living room and she can make out the shape of Bucky on the couch. His blanket is pushed down to his hips, his chest bare.

“Darcy –”

She cuts him off with a kiss and his sharp inhale goes straight through her. She pushes the blanket further down, climbing onto him and pulling it back over them, never breaking their kiss. She can feel how hard he is already, just from her lips pressed to his. His hands wrap around her and they move together, their bodies slotting into place as Darcy feels the push and pull of his tongue in her mouth.

She pulls back, just enough to get her words out.

“I want more.”

“I know,” he whispers. “Me, too.”

“Please,” she adds, her tongue licking his lips. She nips at him and he groans.

“Fuck. Okay. Okay.”

His dirty little secret. Why does that turn her on so much? She scrambles to pull off her shorts and panties as Bucky does the same with his boxers. They kiss again, Bucky lifting her to rest her soaking cunt against his cock. She angles her hips, rubbing against him and he gasps. He’s come-sticky and sweaty and she loves it.

She takes him to the hilt and they both gasp this time. Darcy circles her hips, his fingers gripping her hip and her back. He sits up, the sensation changing with the new angle, making Darcy clench around him. They rock together, kisses missing mouths.

“Gotta show me, Darce,” he whispers, one hand snaking down to where they meet, his fingers brushing her swollen clit.

She holds his hand, guiding his fingers and pressing down.

“There,” she whispers, and he nods, capturing her in another searing kiss.

He fucks up into her with sharp thrusts and with her clit under the rough, unyielding swipe of his thumb she feels the pleasure building faster. Her breath becomes a pant once more and he kisses her neck, drags his teeth over her pulse point as she begins to tremble.

He smothers her moan with his metal hand covering her mouth and she comes – hard and slow, her whole body going still. He fucks her through it and Darcy keeps going – feeling wrung out, her limbs like liquid by the time she stops.

He rolls them, slipping out of her but tucking himself back inside her, Darcy’s cunt still twitching as he drives into her, his arms wrapped around her.

It’s the best type of hug and he kisses her all over her face, his hips picking up speed. It’s such a simple equation and maybe that’s why it feels so fucking perfect.

He bites her neck and comes with a shudder, his hips faltering as he spills inside her for the second time in less than an hour.

They lay still for a few minutes, their naked lower halves still hidden. He rests against her, sweat beginning to dry as their breaths return to normal. Bucky kisses her forehead and Darcy sighs. She knows she can’t walk right now, not even if she tried. Bucky rolls onto his back and wraps one arm around her, patting her butt as he kisses her head.

Darcy traces the hair on his chest with her finger, not wanting to move. She knows she needs to soon, because Laura’s comforter is in danger. She can make out Bucky’s face in the dark.

“Did you – did you kind of eat my ass before?” she whispers.

Bucky covers his face with his spare hand, chuckling.

“Uh, does that mean what I think it means?” he mutters, and Darcy giggles.

“I mean, I’m not complaining,” she whispers back, her hand going to squeeze his shaft. “Just took me by surprise.”

He grunts, grabbing her wrist. “Darce.”

She lets go of him, stroking his hard stomach, feeling his Adonis belt and scraping his skin with her nails. She lifts up to lie on top of him, his arm around her shoulders.

“You gotta go back to bed, Darce,” he whispers, and she nods, sighing.

She kisses him for a little while, her lips feeling raw and swollen by the time she grabs her shorts and pulls them back on. Bucky shifts under the blanket, pulling his boxers back on.

“No fair,” Darcy whispers, her eyes drinking him in.

He kisses her, giving her butt a little smack.

Go.”

“Okay,” she hisses, blushing, and she moves away, backing out of the living room.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"It's so ridiculous
I can barely stop
I can hardly breathe
You make me wanna scream
You're so fabulous
You're so good to me, baby, baby..."

- "Hot" by Avril Lavigne

 

 

 

Part Seventeen: Shower

 

 

 

Bucky falls back onto the couch the second Darcy leaves his sight. He rubs his face with his hands, smelling her on his skin.

He should follow her, tell her something. How he feels. Fucking… something.

Maybe it’s because he’s rusty. The last time he was with a woman was before HYDRA, back in Italy. He thinks her name was Isabella. There was no promise of marriage in their courtship, and Bucky wonders now on the couch if he and Darcy are the same.

He can’t say he regrets any of it and he hopes she never does, either.

He eventually falls asleep and wakes a few hours later, hearing Laura in the kitchen. He throws on a shirt and makes a beeline for the bathroom. He turns on the shower and pulls off his clothes. He feels less tense than this time a day ago. His stomach flips when he thinks of last night again.

There’s a knock and he blinks.

“Bucky?”

Oh, God. It’s Darcy.

“Uh.”

He moves to unlock the door and opens it slightly to see her staring up at him, her hair rumpled from sleep. She looks so cute, and soft.

“Can I come in?”

He moves aside and she slips inside, pressing her back to the door. Her eyes have a different shine to them, like when she ran off into the loft. Bucky remembers he’s naked and he swallows. Her eyes dip to his crotch and he feels himself get hard, untouched. This girl.

He pulls her toward him, but at the last second he hugs her instead of kissing her and Darcy chuckles, planting a kiss on his cheek.

“You’re so cuddly.”

He smiles at her, searching her face. He can see those little freckles on her nose. He cups her cheek, this thumb running across her plush lower lip. Her hands move to touch him and he shivers, feeling her wrap a hand around his shaft and stroke him slowly, her eyes glued to his face.

He kisses her hard, backing her into the door. Her hand fumbles for the lock and she giggles softly. His hands shift and he lifts the bottom of her tank top, until Darcy helps him remove it, making little grunting noises as she tries to be as fast as possible.

“Too small for me,” she mutters, and she pulls it off, sighing.

She’s gorgeous. He didn’t have a chance to see all of her last night, and that seems like a crime now. He openly stares at her chest, seeing a perfect pair of tits, so round and soft and he all but devours her, mouthing at her skin while Darcy laughs softly.

“You like them?”

She’s teasing him, because yeah, he fucking does. He groans, latching onto one dusty rose nipple, his metal fingers teasing the other. He knocks her into the door and Darcy winces, putting a finger to her lips.

He looks up at her, her nipple still in his mouth. He nuzzles her skin, rubbing himself all over her. She starts giggling again, until he cups her through her little shorts.

“Fuck – Bucky.”

He nips at the swell of her breast, his hands releasing her to pull down her shorts and panties. He kisses her stomach, her hip bones and thighs. Darcy’s hand finds the back of his head and he kisses her mound, his nose rubbing into the dark curls above her cunt. He moves down, pushing her legs apart and he slides his tongue along her, all the way up to her clit.

Darcy bites back a whimper and he does it again and again. Her thighs start to shake and he pins her to the door with one arm across her hips, his other hand spreading her lower lips open. He’s feather-light with his touch and he can tell she wants more.

Maybe it’s a little of The Soldier in him, liking the way she squirms under his touch, dictating her pleasure. He sucks at her clit and she moans behind her grit teeth. He doesn’t hold back, goes straight to fucking her with his fingers, three pushed inside her and her eyes widen.

In the morning light, he can see her face when she comes. Her mouth falls open and she squeezes her eyes shut, shuddering all over until she clamps down on his fingers, a warm gush on his mouth and chin.

He gives her only a few seconds to recover before he gathers her up, pulling her under the shower water, moving the curtain to cover them. He wraps her thighs around his hips and he presses her up against the tile wall, and she already looks wrecked and loose-limbed, cockdrunk and dumb.

He shifts, rubbing his cock against her swollen clit and she wriggles, eyes opening wider. He pushes into her, Darcy’s body arching so the back of her head hits the tiles and she gasps. He’s shallow at first, trying to draw it out longer than last night, before Darcy’s heel nudges his ass cheek.

“I can take it,” she whispers. “Come on, I can take it.”

“Hmm?” he replies, nuzzling her neck.

“You try and pretend you’re all meek and soft but you know I can take your cock,” she whispers, and Bucky thrusts into her harder, pulling a ragged breath from her.

He repeats it and Darcy bites her lip, nodding.

“You can take it?” he whispers. “Huh? What if I want to be gentle?”

“You don’t,” she retorts, laughing breathlessly.

He really doesn’t. He wants to fuck her until she cries, but he can’t do that right now. Not unless he wants to wake up the whole house, and he doesn’t know if Darcy’s okay with people knowing about them.

He pulls her into a sloppy kiss and bucks faster, harder. He holds her in place and keeps at it, until he can feel her tensing up again, her muscles constricting around him.

“God, I’m gonna smell of you for hours if you come inside me again,” she gasps, and he growls, biting into her neck.

He wishes he could mark her for real, and that she could do the same to him. Her nails are digging into his arms as she holds on for dear life.

“I’m gonna –”

He makes a choked sound and comes, his hips knocking her over and over, until it feels like his knees are going to give out. He stills, panting into her neck. Darcy pushes her hands into his chest and he moves back, her legs sliding to the floor. She slips past him, pulling back the shower curtain and moving to the toilet in the corner.

Bucky stares as she sits down, smiling at him. He’s never seen a woman do that before. Why does it feel so natural to him? He hears the private sounds of her peeing before she cleans herself. She’s completely at ease and Bucky’s heart feels tight at the realization.

She flushes and Bucky feels a burst of cold water on his back that makes him jump, before the shower water returns to its warmer temperature. Darcy washes her hands in the shower, before pulling her clothes back on.

“I’m going back to bed,” she whispers. It’s more that she mouths the words than says them and Bucky nods. She slips out, and he returns to the spray, beginning to wash his hair.

-

Darcy sleeps for another hour before she decides to have breakfast. She has the warm, ache-y feeling of a satisfying fuck between her legs and she dresses for the day in her active wear, smelling eggs cooking downstairs.

She comes into the kitchen, seeing everyone seated and eating breakfast, feeling Bucky’s eyes on her. She slips into the chair opposite his and smiles at him while he sips his coffee.

She feels happy. She wants him to know that he makes her happy. She wishes she could tell him telepathically, and not have Clint be weird about it, teasing her like he always does.

Laura hands her a plate with scrambled eggs on it and Darcy smiles up at her. The older woman’s eyes swing to Bucky and – well, maybe they weren’t so quiet before. At least Laura doesn’t seem to have told Clint, because he doesn’t notice the moment at all. He’s too absorbed in cleaning his gun.

“Target practice today, boss?” Darcy says, and Clint glances up.

“Yeah. You ready to get your ass handed to you?”

“Pfft, whatever,” she replies, tucking into her eggs.

At one point, Bucky leans back in his chair and Darcy thinks about how nice it would be to be to have him lay her out on the table and lick her all over. He’s really good with that mouth. He’s looking at her like it’s on his mind, too.

Darcy pushes back her chair with a loud scraping sound and takes her empty plate to the dishwasher before running outside.

-

Natasha sighs. Steve can see she’s scouring the store. Steve hasn’t been into one of these places before and the scent makes his nose tickle. The woman who runs the store has incense pumping into the air at an obscene rate. He’s surprised Darcy was ever able to manage being in here during the one time she was here years ago.

“What exactly are we looking for?” Steve asks in a low voice, and Natasha shoots him a deadpan stare.

“Why, you in a hurry?” she replies.

He knows he shouldn’t boss her around. It only encourages her to be resistant, and he narrows his eyes at her.

“Do you need help finding something?” comes a voice, and Steve turns his head to see the store owner.

“We’re tourists,” he blurts. He’s still bad at this. Natasha gives a little smile.

“We’re on our honeymoon. We have a friend who lived here once.”

“You mean the American girl?” the store owner says, and Steve glances at Natasha.

The woman speaks with a slight Jamaican accent and she seems friendly enough, and from what Natasha told him earlier, she is no threat to them.

“Yes,” Natasha says. “What was she here for when she came?”

“It was a couple years back, as you probably know. But I mark every detail of my visitors. Especially if I do a tarot reading for them.”

Steve stares at her. “What happened?”

“I think she got a little spooked,” the woman replies. “She drew the Star card.”

Steve doesn’t know what that means. He glances at Natasha again for clarification. The redhead ignores him, nodding at the other woman.

“We’re looking for a man. She met him just after she came in here.”

The store owner shook her head. “I left her be when she ran off. She didn’t want to stay, left me a few quid.”

“He was Scottish,” Steve says, and Natasha shoots him a look. She’ll probably hold that one over his head for a while, mention it to Sam.

He’s not subtle, okay? He’s not a spy. He frowns at her.

“A lot of Scottish tourists come to London,” the store owner says.

When they leave, Natasha seems deep in thought. Steve keeps glancing at her, wondering what she’s about to do.

“I’m sorry for before.”

She nods, making a non-committal sound.

“Nat.”

“Yeah, I heard you,” she replies. She pushes her hands into her pockets, narrowing her eyes down the street.

“How much longer do we have to be here? What’s the plan?”

“If we find Mungo’s connection to HYDRA we can find her triggers. The sooner the better. Everything seems to come up short,” Natasha mutters. “I thought my sources with Bucky would be just as useful now…”

“Can we go see Fairfield again?”

Natasha considers this. She sighs.

-

“Throw.”

Bucky pulls back his arm and flings the clay plate in the air. Darcy shoots, hitting the target without blinking. She hasn’t missed even once.

She shoots Clint an expectant look.

“Don’t gloat so much,” the archer says, hands on his hips.

“I wasn’t.”

“Well, don’t look at me like that,” he retorts. “I’m the boss.”

Darcy snorts. She’s getting used to the pistol in her hand. She still prefers the knives she’s played with, but she needs to properly unlock her potential with firearms, too. She puts the safety back on and holsters it, her hands on her hips.

“Okay, Daddy Barton.”

Clint covers his eyes for a second, laughing.

“Definitely don’t call me that.”

She winks at him. Having Bucky fuck her hard in the shower that morning has made her mischievous, inching toward insolent.

“But why, Daddy?”

She laughs and Clint blushes. He clears his throat, nodding at Bucky.

“It’ll give Bucky too many ideas, hot stuff, that’s why,” he throws back, and Darcy hears Bucky make a sound across between a cough and a squeak behind her.

Clint begins to laugh at their expense and Darcy’s face feels hot. She turns her head toward Bucky, who’s rubbing the back of his neck, staring at the ground.

She moves toward him, pulling him by his shirt and she kisses him. He makes a grunt against her mouth, his hand going to touch the small of her back. She pulls back after a couple seconds, shooting Clint a sharp look.

“Happy?”

The archer’s mouth is wide open and he snaps it shut.

“Wait. Wait, hold up – since when? Since last night?”

Darcy ignores him, glancing at Bucky. He’s staring back at her intensely and she feels her stomach flip.

“Okay?” she asks, and he nods.

His throat bobs and he reaches out to squeeze her hand.

Chapter Text

"My body next to your body. 
Never separate again."

- Euripides 

 

 

Part Eighteen: Dress

 

 

Darcy spins around, staring daggers after Clint.

“What does it matter how long it’s been?” she snaps.

The hot wind of the morning whips her hair into her face and she growls, gathering up her mane to pull it into a high ponytail. Bucky watches her, before his gaze dips to her ass. He licks his lips, eyes darting to follow the archer.

He’s walking toward the weapons shed and Darcy follows him, Bucky in tow.

“Just to settle something with Nat,” Clint says, not turning around.

“Like a… a bet?” Darcy says, and Bucky can detect her rapidly growing fury. Her tone has an edge to it, but Clint is ignoring it as he puts back their guns and other equipment.

“Yeah,” he says.

Bucky’s sure Steve would be in on that, probably laughing it up with Romanoff when it’s really nobody’s business. Bucky feels a blush creep over his face. How long had it been, anyway? Was the bet how long it took for him to fall for her? Or just how long it took for him to kiss her?

“Last night,” Darcy snaps, crossing her arms. “You’re all a bunch of perverts. I should’ve known.”

Clint chuckles. “Imagine what it’s like to see two people act like idiots in love and never doing anything about it.”

Darcy’s face goes pink to match Bucky’s and she’s too cute. Bucky goes from feeling embarrassed to attracted to her like a magnet – he can’t help himself when he smiles a little at her indignation.

“What was the bet?” Darcy says, brows furrowing. “A kiss or –?”

“Nope. I’m not –” Clint waves a hand. “I don’t need details. I said it’d take you a week to finally do something and it’s been –”

“Nine days,” Bucky mumbles, and both Clint and Darcy glance at him. “We’ve been here nine days.”

“Right,” Clint says.

“That’s not a week,” Darcy says, raising a finger to wag at the archer. “So Natasha’s won, not you.”

Clint pauses, considering this. “It’s closer to a week than two weeks, like she bet. I won.”

They walk into the kitchen for lunch and Clint kisses Laura who’s cutting up carrots for Nate.

“Nat owes me fifty bucks.”

Laura smiles, looking over at Bucky and Darcy, who are sitting at the table, their knees bumping. Bucky rests his chin on one hand, his other under the table. Darcy grabs it, running his fingertips along her thigh.

“Good for you two,” Laura says, and Darcy glances up, nodding.

“Since Nat owes you fifty, why not go out for a treat tonight?” Darcy says, and Bucky’s stomach flips.

Clint turns around, smirking.

“You two are eating us out of house and home,” he murmurs, and Laura scoffs.

“We don’t mind.”

“We could have that fancy gelato you like,” he murmurs, and Laura’s eyes light up.

Clint goes over to Nate, kissing his downy head.

“We could go after lunch, come back after dinner.”

“Yeah!” Darcy says. “Go see a movie or something.”

“Uh-huh,” Laura says slowly, her eyes swivelling between Bucky and Darcy. “And you think the kids should go with us?”

“Yeah!” Darcy says, smiling.

Bucky feels his blush deepening. It’s so obvious what they’ll get up to while the Bartons are gone. Laura chomps a piece of carrot in two and thinks.

“Clint, go get the kids ready. We’ll go now, have some sandwiches in the car on the way to town.”

Darcy gets up when Clint takes Nate out, offering to help making sandwiches. Bucky stays in his seat, adjusting himself in his shorts. He watches Darcy move around, and Laura catches him staring.

“Do you need me to pick anything up for you two?” she murmurs, and Darcy looks up from her chopping board, her lips parted.

“Like what?”

“Something from CVS.”

Darcy’s eyes widen for a second and Bucky ducks his head. Laura means buying them rubbers.

“No, uh – that’s not an issue,” Darcy murmurs. “Thanks, though.”

“I’m just saying, there’s a reason why Nate is here.”

Bucky covers his mouth to stop himself from laughing as he glances back up at Darcy.

“I thought you said he was a blessed gift,” Darcy murmurs, and Laura gives a short laugh.

“Yeah. But – a surprise.”

“Hmm.”

-

“We’ll be back around ten. If you need us, FRIDAY can call,” Clint says, and Darcy gives a little salute, which makes Lila and Cooper snicker. “Alright. Hey – in the car with your mom.”

He smiles after them when they run off.

“If there’s an emergency –”

Darcy’s eyebrows hike and Clint cuts himself off.

“Yeah, you’ll be fine. Don’t break anything.”

Darcy wants him to get out of there already. She keeps looking over at Bucky, so aware of the space between them, wanting to reach out and grab him because he’s being quiet and bashful, a lethal combination.

Clint reaches out and squeezes Darcy’s shoulder, leaving them standing in the doorway. They watch him get into the driver’s seat and take off, the kids waving to them in the backseat. Darcy closes the front door when they’re out of sight.

Bucky’s leaning against the wall, looking at her bare feet on the floor. She moves toward him but Bucky is quicker, scooping her up and taking her by surprise as he hauls her over his shoulder. She lets out a squeal and then laughs, his metal fingers pressing into the back of her knee as he carries her off and up the stairs.

He only puts her up the right way to haul her onto her unmade bed and then he’s on top of her, kissing her smile and making her stomach flutter with anticipation.

She keeps thinking about what Clint said before, that they were idiots in love. Bucky kisses her with a tenderness and Darcy knows she’s got it bad. She brushes his nose with hers and deepens the kiss, sweeping into his mouth and pulling him closer by the hair.

It only takes another minute for his hands to trail down to her leggings, pulling them down. She’s soon bare to him, and his fingers trace over her inner thighs.

“You sure you can go again after this morning, Sarge?” Darcy whispers, and his eyes snap to hers. “You came pretty hard.”

“You’re trouble,” he murmurs, nipping at her chin before moving up to claim her mouth in a searing kiss. She moans as he dips his long middle finger into her, teasing her.

“Which is it?” Darcy says into his mouth. “I’m trouble or I’m in trouble?”

His metal hand closes over her throat and Darcy feels the thrill run down her spine, her hips canting to meet his hand as he cups her mound, two more fingers inside her cunt. He holds her in place as he pumps his fingers hard and slow. Darcy’s pulse quickens as she clutches his fingers, her eyes widening.

“Fuck,” she grunts, and Bucky’s eyes meet hers, his fingers rougher. Darcy whimpers when he adjusts to rub her clit with his thumb, adding his pinkie inside her. She tenses, feeling stretched all over. She seeks the release and he can sense it. She whimpers, never looking away from him. It’s so intense she blushes, hearing his fingers work her over and over.

Bucky,” she gasps, and she comes, shutting her eyes at the last second and shuddering, her hips circling, riding his hand. She moans, panting as he pulls her into another kiss. His hands leave her throat and cunt and she whimpers again, missing him. His hands go to her hips, leaving sticky marks in her skin as he bundles her into his arms, placing her in his lap as he kisses her again and again.

Darcy feels he’s hard as a rock in his shorts. They fumble, his shorts pulled down and off before Darcy climbs back on, sitting on his cock with little gasps between them. They rock together, gasps turning to moans. Darcy feels sweaty and pulls at her top, Bucky taking over instantly and helping her discard it.

“It’s too hot,” Darcy whispers, laughing a little. He smiles at her, kissing her and palming her tits with his flesh hand. She’s still wearing her two sports bras, soaking with sweat.

She feels dreamy, like this is her whole world. It’s not a bad way to live, especially with Bucky inside her and moaning into her mouth. She grinds her clit against him and he leans forward to wrap his huge arms around her, trapping her as he ruts hard and fast.

She takes it, his teeth on her throat as she comes – squeezing him over and over as she lets out a shout. Bucky loses it seconds later, a guttural moan into her skin as he spills deep inside her.

She pats herself on the back yet again for investing in that IUD after her nine-month memory lapse years ago.

She laughs weakly, her hands in Bucky’s sweaty hair. He moves back, looking up into her eyes. She pushes the hair from his face, feeling his cheekbones.

“Pretty,” she murmurs, and he kisses her without closing his eyes.

Darcy sighs, moving off of him and Bucky gives a little laugh of surprise.

“Shit, we shoulda thrown something down,” he says, and Darcy sees his crotch and thighs are soaking wet from sweat and arousal, the sheet beneath him wet, too.

He glances at Darcy’s crotch as she leans back on her elbows, still waiting for her breathing to return to normal. He licks his lips, leaning forward to push her thighs apart and his fingers run up her wet thigh to touch the mess they’ve made.

“Bucky,” Darcy gasps, and he licks his lips again, his stare intent.

“Messy,” he murmurs. “Messy girl.”

He pushes two fingers inside with ease, curling them just so and Darcy’s brain short circuits, her breath suddenly ragged like before. Bucky watches his fingers disappear inside her, pushing their come around as Darcy starts to squirm, her hand grasping his wrist.

“Bucky,” she laughs, but he doesn’t pull back.

Bucky’s filthy – he licked her asshole last night, so how did she not expect this to happen, too? Darcy moans, lying back as he hits her G spot. His other hand grips her ass, pulling her toward him so he’s almost lying on top of her. Her limbs feel useless and she just takes it all, his fingers gripping her and fucking her, her whole body burning up.

She whimpers, gnawing her lip as he goes faster. She reaches out and finds him –

“I’m still hard,” he gasps, and she nods.

He fattens fast in her hand and Darcy stares up at him, helpless. She spreads her legs wider and he moves up her body, her back bowing as he shoves inside her with a groan, his eyes wide.

“Fucking hell,” he gasps, and he sounds like he could cry. He pushes one leg up on his shoulder and Darcy moans.

His hips snap ruthlessly and she’s lost in him, she welcomes it. She’s never felt this good, cracked open and seen. The mattress springs squeak with each bone-shuddering smack of his body into hers and Darcy knows she’s loud. Nothing could possibly stop her from sobbing under him. His fingers brush her swollen clit and Darcy shakes her head.

“I can’t, I can’t –”

He doesn’t stop, and she can hear how wet she is, can feel it all down her thighs. She smells it in the air, his come and hers, their musk.

She goes still, every disappearing except Bucky as he fucks her stupid, her toes curling and her head thrown back as she comes hard and long, until spots edge her vision.

She shudders and Bucky moans, “Holy shit…”

He pants, and then one, two, three more thrusts and he comes, pulling her against his body as he releases inside her again. Darcy feels him shiver and pull out, falling on top of her.

Little satisfied sighs as the world floods back, their legs still tangled. Darcy feels her legs still shaking as she strokes Bucky’s hair, pressing a kiss to his sweaty forehead. She closes her eyes, sighing once more.

-

They sleep for no more than a few minutes but Bucky jolts awake, Darcy’s hands going to either side of his face as he pulls back from her, glancing around.

“Hey,” she murmurs, smiling up at him.

He seems to remember where he is and he blinks, his whole demeanour changing as he takes her in, seeing a bottomless Darcy beneath him, covered in sweat. He strokes her face, eyes dipping to her mouth and up again to her gaze.

“That was…”

“Yeah,” Darcy says, feeling herself blush. She’s so happy they agree.

He kisses her, seeking her out. She returns his heat and groans when he touches her between her legs with his deft fingers.

“Need to clean up a little.”

He kisses her again and Darcy squirms under him. He keeps kissing her until he comes up for breath, his pupils blown.

“Sorry, I just,” he bites his lip and looks shy. “I want you.”

It’s her kryptonite. She groans a little, so tempted to reach between them and jerk him off but she pushes against his bare chest with her hands and he moves off of her, rolling onto his back. She traces one of his hips and his spent cock twitches instinctively. Darcy moves to rest on her knees, seeing she’s puffy and red between her thighs, and the sheets are ruined, several wet patches dotted around.

“We can wash the sheets,” Bucky murmurs, rubbing his face with his metal hand.

Darcy pulls back on her panties and her shirt while Bucky pulls his boxers back on, and then they peel the sheets off, so very thankful for mattress protectors. Bucky bundles up the sheets and Darcy follows him down the stairs to the laundry. She shows him which buttons to press and he raises an eyebrow. She shuts the lid with the sheets inside, pressing the start button.

“Have you used a washer and dryer by yourself in this century?” Darcy quips, and he tilts his head, smirking.

“You know what –”

“What?” Darcy challenges.

He’s quick as lightning, grabbing her by the hips and turning her around, bending Darcy at the waist so she’s pressed up against the washer. She lets out a little gasp as he tugs down her panties, kicking her feet apart. His hand snakes down her front as his hips press into her ass and he shoves two fingers inside her, hitting her G-spot on the first go.

She moans and he fucks her hard and fast. Darcy makes an embarrassing keening sound.

“There you go,” he says, and Darcy’s toes curl as her back arches when his thumb rubs her abused clit. “There you go.”

He makes her feel like such a fucking animal and she fucking loves it. She doesn’t hide herself, throws her head back and cries out as she clenches around his fingers, seeing stars. She feels somehow further unravelled and she leans forward, Bucky’s fingers leaving her and stroking her back. She moves back to bump her ass against him and she giggles, feeling he’s hard in his boxers.

“Trouble,” he warns. She stops, turning around and looking up at him.

There’s something in his eyes, more than desire or satisfaction. He licks his fingers clean and Darcy’s chest heaves. She moves toward him, arms wrapping around his middle. His hands clutch at her hip and the back of her head and he kisses her face, nuzzles her skin.

She wants to say it, and not because he’s physically closer to her than any man has been in years. She wants to say I love you because he knows her. But that’s crazy, right? They’ve only been in each other’s orbit for a couple weeks. He lets her pull him to her and she kisses him, slow and thorough, and he makes a little sound in the back of his throat, like his chest is squeezing his heart, too.

“We should rehydrate,” he says eventually, and Darcy nods. She pulls her panties back on.

They go into the kitchen, and Darcy fills a glass at the faucet and drains it in several gulps, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. Bucky drinks with one cupped hand and Darcy watches him, feeling that urge again. He almost looks younger now, and free.

“You want something to eat?” Darcy asks, remembering they didn’t have lunch yet.

He nods, watching her move around the kitchen. She makes him toast and he eats it fast, glancing at her during and after, his hand slipping down to touch her bare knee, goose bumps breaking out under his fingertips.

Darcy licks her lips, distracting him.

“Don’t.”

“What?” she asks, and he chuckles, wiping his mouth.

She sees him coming this time and he picks her up, her legs wrapping around his middle as she’s carried out the kitchen and into the living room. He sits on the couch with her legs still wrapped around him, hands exploring as Bucky helps her tug off all her clothes. He kisses her chest, laves his tongue all over her tits, tugs at her nipples with teeth, lips and deft fingers. He’s attentive, watching her reactions as he all but makes love to her. She whimpers against his mouth when his fingers play with her clit again, her whole body tight again. She’s feeling less sore but it’s harder to find friction with all the sweat between them and Darcy huffs, rubbing herself on his fingers.

His lips part as he watches her intently, Darcy coming apart with a shudder, using his hand like a toy as she grinds. She moves back before Bucky has a chance to make up his mind, and lowers herself to the floor.

Her hands go to Bucky’s knees and she spreads them, shuffling forward on her knees so she’s at eye-level with his crotch, her hands sliding up his broad thighs. She moves closer, rubbing her face on his skin, Bucky’s hands twitching before he finally goes to touch her face, his eyes dark.

Darcy palms his dick without warning and he grunts. Darcy rubs up and down his length, feeling his hot and hard with a tent in his boxers. She looks up again.

“Take these off.”

He obliges, lifting his hips and pulling them down enough to expose himself to her and Darcy moves back, waiting.

“All the way off.”

He manages to do that, staring down at her, his hand always touching her somewhere. Right now, he’s got one twitching on the couch with the other on Darcy’s shoulder. The spare hand that sits palm up  by his thigh scrambles when Darcy leans forward and runs her tongue along the underside of his dick.

“This okay?” Darcy murmurs, and Bucky’s metal fingers dig into her. She looks up into his eyes for confirmation and Bucky does that thing with his lips again, that biting thing that drives Darcy crazy.

He nods. “I – I haven’t had – I don’t…”

Darcy realizes what he’s trying to tell her. He hasn’t had a blowjob before. Darcy takes hold of his cock and strokes him a few times, her eyes not leaving his.

“It’s not dirty.”

“I know,” he murmurs.

“Or dangerous,” she adds, with a little smile.

“I don’t know about that,” his voice goes tight at the end as Darcy takes him in his mouth, swirling her tongue around. The air leaves him in a rush and Darcy bobs her head, sucking hard and humming around him.

She grabs his hand from her shoulder and places it on her head, guiding him and she can feel him start to shake all over as she moves her head up and down, slow and deliberate.

“Fuck. Darcy. Fucking – I can’t –”

He’s moaning like he’s close already and it’s flattering, it’s truly music to her ears that she can do this to him. He tastes of her mostly, which makes sense, but then Darcy feels a burst of precome on her tongue and she sighs into it, going faster.

Bucky closes his eyes, his breathing shallow as Darcy keeps bobbing her head, drawing moans from him. She rocks her hips a little, already needy again. She knows she’s greedy. She’s ecstatic that Bucky is the same about her.

She pulls back, her eyes watering as she strokes him up and down, her spit making him slippery to the touch and his hips start to lift.

“Darcy –” he warns, and she goes back for more, threading his fingers through her hair, her ponytail coming loose. She’s a mess, and soon he will be again.

“Goddamn,” he hisses, and he huffs. “Fucking – holy… shit. Babydoll. Fuck, I’m coming, I’m coming…”

He shudders, his grip on her scalp hard enough to make her tingle and Darcy sighs the second his come hits the roof of her mouth. She swallows him up, not wasting a drop as he pants. She licks him clean, moving back onto her knees as he comes down, panting a little like he is.

He’s never called her that before – babydoll. It makes her stomach flip. He looks dazed for a good minute before he beckons her.

“C’mere. C’mere,” he whispers, and Darcy clambers over, his arms wrapping around her as he kisses her.

He doesn’t shy away from it, his tongue in her mouth and overwhelming her. They kiss until Darcy’s breathless, and she moves back, Bucky’s lips moving across her face. It’s like he can’t stop and Darcy wants him, she just wants him so much, in every way.

They lay down together, Bucky spooning Darcy and keeping her close. Darcy closes her eyes and she rests, her hands twining with his on her stomach.

-

When Darcy wakes she moves to lean on her elbow, feeling Bucky still behind her and dozing.

“FRIDAY.”

“It is five-thirty-four.”

Darcy rubs her eyes, and then turns over to face Bucky. His eyes are closed and he looks relaxed.

“Buck.”

He hums, blinking himself back to reality and takes her in, his hand going to touch her face.

“You okay?”

His voice is soft and she feels her eyes sting.

“Yeah,” she rasps. She clears her throat. “I haven’t eaten. I should shower, too.”

“Okay.”

She moves off the couch, walking out. She feels worry curl in her gut as she makes herself a stack of toast, eating it at the table alone with a glass of orange juice. She puts dishes away and walks back out and slips into the bathroom.

She washes her body, seeing the private parts of her are looking less raw after her nap. She shaves, scrubs her skin. She steps out of the shower and pats herself dry, feeling a sob bubbling up. She gathers her hair into another ponytail, before pressing the heels of her palms into her closed eyes to stop herself from crying.

There’s a knock. She jumps.

“Darce?”

“Come in.”

Bucky opens the door, and she glances at him. She’s started shaking and she can’t make it stop.

She’s reminded of the day she tried to end her life, when she met Bucky face to face at the elevators and she tried to fight him off. She sniffles.

“Darce –”

“Bucky, what are we doing?” she blurts, and her face burns. She ducks her head, shaking it.

Bucky’s throat bobs. “I don’t know.”

“Are we… are we just messing around? Are we friends?”

Of course they’re friends. She hates that she even asks that. She locks eyes with him.

“Sorry, I…”

“It’s okay,” he says, and he tugs her by the arm to him and he hugs her. Darcy gives a loud sniff, pushing her tears back down, his fingers splayed on her back, brushing the towel she has wrapped around her.

He holds her and she sighs, speaking into his bare chest.

“What do you want, Bucky?”

He pulls back, cradling her face in his hands.

“I wanna be yours,” he whispers. “Because I am. I’m yours.”

Darcy gives a little laugh, and she just about melts into his kiss, sighing. His eyes close, his dark lashes against his flushed cheeks. He kisses her harder, only pulling back when he has to, pressing his forehead to hers.

“Can we… can we make love again?” he murmurs, and Darcy smiles at his earnestness.

“Yes. Please.”

She can feel he’s hard in his boxers and she brushes her hand down his stomach, tracing his veins that disappear under the waistband taut against his skin. He’s back to before, overcome with his desire and trying desperately to keep it reeled it, probably to not scare her off or hurt her.

“Maybe… shower first?” she adds, and he gives a breath of a laugh.

“Do I stink?”

“Of my pussy? Yeah. But I like it. I mean for –”

“Hygiene,” he says, nodding. “Right.”

He presses a short kiss to her lips, one hand sliding up to grip her throat and Darcy bites her lip. How does him looking at her with those eyes already get her wet? It’s insane.

“I’ll be on the couch,” she murmurs, and he nods.

He lets her go and she slips out, rushing to dress in her room. She goes through her suitcase, trying to find something cute, something he hasn’t seen her wear a dozen times already. She finds a dress she bought last year in London and it’s creased, but it’s blue and has buttons that go all the way down the front.

She pulls it on, glancing at the little mirror on the vanity. She hasn’t worn makeup in days, and longs for some lipstick. Jane didn’t buy her anything.

She grabs a cherry chap stick and coats her lips, trying to tidy her hair a little. Her ponytail might be fun to yank.

She wanders downstairs, taking the sheets out of the washer and sticking them in the dryer before walking back to the couch, sitting down and turning on the TV. She listens out for Bucky, anticipates his footfalls.

When he comes down, she stares straight ahead, her heartbeat a heavy thump in her tight chest. She glances at him, watches him put on a pair of clean underwear and a pair of sweatpants. He settles beside her, and she feels his eyes on her face.

His eyes duck to her chest, her rumpled dress and bare arms and legs. He drinks her in and Darcy feels a blush creep along her skin. She turns her head right before he surges toward her, kissing her completely.

She whimpers, and it turns to hasty hands and mouths, shuffling around as Bucky pulls her into his lap again, his fingers inside her with her dress shucked up to her hips, panties pushed aside.

“Jesus, Bucky,” she gasps against his mouth, and he hisses, working further inside her.

“You’re so fuckin’ wet,” he whispers, and Darcy circles her hips, coaxing him. He looks down at her chest, his metal hand skimming the material. “I like your dress.”

Darcy smiles, eager to please. “Yeah?”

“Hmm,” he replies, metal fingers working the first button. She sees the realization dawn on his face that she’s not wearing a bra, and she spills out of the dress when he gets the first few buttons popped.

He lunges for her tits and she gasps.

“Fuck,” he groans, and she’s squirming underneath him, his fingers working her cunt in steady thrusts as he rocks his hips and sucks her skin.

She’s pinned in place and she moans again and again, edging towards a sweet release. She grips Bucky’s fingers, tensing her whole body. She comes, shaking and rocking, whimpering and tugging Bucky by the hair into a kiss. He slips his fingers out of her and gives her neck a nip before moving out from under her.

Darcy stills, wondering what is about to happen next. He takes her by the waist and pulls her to her knees on the carpet beneath them before flipping her dress up again, her ass in his face.

Darcy turns her head to look at him and he’s rocking against the back of her thigh, hands going to knead her cheeks, and he rubs his mouth on her hip.

“I just wanna –” He groans, and then moves forward to bite her and Darcy sucks in a breath. He moves back after a couple seconds. “God.”

He looks her in the eye. “Can I… Can I get a taste?”

Darcy blinks. “Of what?”

“All this…” he rubs both hands over her butt, the hardness of his metal fingers contrasting the softness of his flesh fingers, making Darcy perfectly present. “Deliciousness.”

Darcy laughs, and he smiles at her, edging toward that irresistible bashfulness she loves.

“Okay.”

He hooks his fingers on her panties and pulls them down, and Darcy feels the air on her bare skin, the way she feels her skin prickle under Bucky’s hungry gaze.

He kisses along her ass cheek, moving his body so he’s between her legs, pushing them further apart. Darcy feels herself blush when he reaches the middle with his lips. His flesh hand moves to touch her cunt and she bites her lip, waiting.

She feels his tongue, wet and firm against her pussy lips and she gasps. He’s moving achingly slow, dipping inside her cunt and lapping at her for a good minute as his fingers reach her clit, rubbing her. His nose is buried in the cleft of her and Darcy knows she’s tense.

She wills herself to ease into it. She’s knows a part of her is doing this to please him, but she knows she might enjoy this, too. It’s been a long time, years and years, since someone ate her ass. She remembers coming pretty hard that time, so she holds onto that knowledge, as well as the knowledge that Bucky is very good with his mouth.

He makes her come before he moves up her, and Darcy shudders once his tongue glides across her taint.

“Fuck.”

He reaches her hole and she gasps, Bucky’s fingers working her clit again. He wiggles his tongue around and Darcy feels the arousal wash over her. She forgot how sensitive the area is, and she digs her toes into the carpet.

He groans, fingers pressing harder. Darcy thinks it might be too much but he persists, making her pant. She can’t stop squirming and she feels one of his hands come up, reaching for her hand. She squeezes his metal fingers. He’s telling her it’s okay. He’s there if she needs him and she laughs breathlessly. His tongue will make her go cross-eyed if he tries hard enough. It’s like she can’t control the volume of her voice, and she knows she’s making obscene sounds. She backs into his face and he places his metal palm on her ass cheek, kneading it.

“Don’t… don’t fucking stop,” Darcy pleads, and he doesn’t. If anything, his tongue presses harder, laps at her and Darcy whimpers in time to each swipe. She comes, her hand covering Bucky’s flesh fingers on her clit and she feels Bucky move back, pressing a kiss to her back and pulling her toward him.

“Anything you want. Do anything thing you want. Please,” she babbles, and he laughs against the back of her neck, shucking down his sweatpants. “Jesus Christ.”

He’s almost gentle with how he pushes her face to the floor, her ass in the air. She feels his cock rub her cunt and he pushes inside to the hilt with a grunt and Darcy gasps.

“Oh, my God. Oh, my God…”

It’s like she can’t stop making sounds, because he’s fucking her hard and fast, his balls slapping her skin. She feels it all, wailing over time as he never relents. He starts to moan along with her, and then he presses his thumb to her asshole and she dissolves into a sob. He relents, his back pressing into hers, flattening her.

His hips snap like a metronome and his lips brush her ear.

“You gonna come for me, Darce?”

Darcy bites her lip, nodding. Her eyes are still streaming and she can feel her pleasure building up again. She’s going to come like a fucking supernova.

“You gonna come for me? If I play with you, huh? Let me –”

He manages to slip his hand under her and find her clit, and she tenses, eyes fluttering shut.

“There. There, come for me. Come for me.”

She lasts ten seconds more and then she comes, everything draining from her as she screams into the carpet. She comes so hard she can’t see for a few seconds, sobbing as Bucky hisses.

“Goddamn. Fuck. You’re so fuckin’ beautiful…”

She tingles all over, feeling drunk. She mumbles dreamily:

“Bucky… Bucky…”

He kisses her mouth, clumsy and urgent, teeth clacking. His hips falter and he pushes her flat to the floor again, losing rhythm as he crumbles with a moan. He jerks his hips until he can’t anymore, until he’s as lost as she is, flipping her over to hug her chest to chest.

They pant, fresh sweat all over them. Darcy can barely keep her eyes open, she feels wrecked, in every sense of the word. Bucky’s fingers go to her ponytail and he pulls her hair tie down.

He frees her long tresses, murmuring:

“Hair’s so pretty. Wanna see it.”

Darcy gives a half-laugh, sighing. He kisses her again, smiling down at her. She feels him move back, scooping her up in his arms to place her on the couch, retrieving his blanket and draping it over her.

-

Darcy wakes a while later, her feet in Bucky’s lap. He’s watching the TV, and his gaze falls to hers. He gives her a little smile, and Darcy feels it.

He loves her, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"But I can't help the feeling
I could blow through the ceiling
If I just turn and run
And it wears me out
It wears me out..."

"Fake Plastic Trees" - Radiohead

 

 

Part Nineteen: Pool

 

 

Steve and Natasha arrive at the public pool within an hour of contacting Fairfield. According to Natasha, he was not happy to hear from her so soon. Apparently, there was a limit to how many times she could use Fairfield – precisely once a year.

It’s another warm day by London standards, and while sitting poolside Steve can see hundreds of families running around, swimming and frolicking. He can smell chlorine and coconut suntan lotion, tinny pop music playing over the loudspeakers. He feels overdressed, and if Natasha does as well she doesn’t show it, her hands in her lap as they face Fairfield.

“This is… unbecoming,” he says, his gaze hidden by his dark sunglasses. His tone does him justice, deadpan and the opposite of the last time they met. Natasha is suddenly the worst type of visitor, when last time she was his best pal.

“Apologies,” Natasha replies, and Steve says nothing.

He’s watching a kid drift by with a snorkel on his head, openly staring at them. Natasha follows Steve’s eyes, before swinging her gaze back to Fairfield.

“Is this really an ideal meeting place?”

Fairfield smiles but it seems put on. Steve frowns.

“Ask what needs to be asked, Miss Romanova. No games.”

Natasha swallows, a flash of irritation in her eyes.

“We want everything you have on Agent Robert Brown.”

The reaction is devastating and instantaneous. Steve feels his whole body tense as the pool seems to freeze, every person in his line of sight going still as Fairfield reaches into his jacket and pulls out a pistol, pointing it at Natasha and Steve.

“This whole pool?” Steve mutters, and Natasha narrows her eyes.

“You’ve made your point, Fairfield,” she says, her voice low.

“Then what is my point, my dear?” he murmurs.

Everyone, every single person there is staring at them. Steve knows that he can get out of there alone, but not without breaking a few noses. It’s a disturbing sight, seeing children glaring at him like that. Who the hell does Fairfield even work for?

“We’re surrounded,” she says.

Fairfield smiles. “Yes. So you’re coming with me, both of you. Not much point separating you. Take out all communication devices you have, and all weapons.”

He gives his gun a little dip, waiting.

Natasha takes out her phone from her jacket, along with her own pistol from the holster on her ribcage. Steve copies her, his eyes on the creepy children still staring up at him all around. Steve feels hands touch his arms and he wrenches them away, seeing a couple men in suits behind them. Natasha grits her teeth as a couple more guards grab her by her hair.

“Hey! Take it easy,” Steve snaps, and they let go of her with shoves to her shoulders.

“Anything else that can be used as a weapon, take it off,” Fairfield says. “Or we will take it for you. That includes piercings.”

Natasha’s lips quirk and she says to Steve, “Got a belly button ring, Steve?”

Despite the fear, she still manages to joke around, and Steve welcomes it. His shoes are taken away as well, and they’re shuffled out of the open air to the inside building. Steve shakes off the hands that try to direct him. It’s as if people have forgotten his strength and he shoots them an incredulous look. They stop shoving them both and they’re lead to a backroom.

Fairfield gestures at the suits. “Leave us.”

Natasha looks like she wants to punch him for this, and honestly, Steve feels the same way. What he doesn’t expect is Fairfield to change once again, bursting out laughing. He places his face in his hands and keeps at it while Natasha bites her lip, snorting and giggling.

“What the fuck?” Steve hisses, and Natasha shoots him a look the closest thing to sheepish he’s ever seen on her face.

“Apologies,” says Fairfield. “People are watching us all, all the time.”

“That was fake?” Steve snaps.

“Me threatening you? Yes. But we can’t see each other again for some time, Natasha. We really can’t. My hands are tied.”

Steve gives a little sigh, tired of this shit. He wants to go home. He wants to stop having the rug pulled out from under him. He rubs his face a couple times.

“So Robbie Brown? You can tell us about him?”

“Yes,” Fairfield says, taking out a little black box from his suit jacket pocket and handing it to Natasha.

She turns it over in her hands, eyebrows quirking. “I’m guessing there’s no instruction material.”

“You’ll work it out soon enough,” Fairfield says. He glances at Steve. “Again, my apologies for the charade. I suppose you’d like to leave and get back to –”

Steve turns his heel and stalks out of the room before he can finish his sentence.

-

As they fly back Natasha uploads the files from the little black cube, and FRIDAY spreads them out in a projection above their heads.

“This is easily the best we could have hoped for,” Natasha says, and Steve crosses his arms, glancing at all the walls of texts arranged like a pack of cards spread in an arc.

“FRIDAY, play the files in chronological order.”

“Of course, Captain. Playing now.”

Robbie Brown’s face appears, leaning on a desk, not looking at the camera. He clears his throat, scratching his beard.

“Mungo, reporting on May 8th, 2014. I have established myself within the Cozenage project – which, by the way – a ridiculous bloody name. I’m guessing that Commander Molokhov is responsible for that shite.”

Steve glances at Natasha. “Molokhov?”

“I don’t know him. FRIDAY?’

Robbie goes on while FRIDAY does a full database search of the HYDRA commander.

“Darcy Lewis is currently awaiting instructions. This tiny unit watches her day and night. The ringleader is Ian Bokaryov, who previously worked as intern to Darcy Lewis before leaving her in the last year. It’s common knowledge among the ranks that he had a sexual relationship with her, and also that he has psychopathic tendencies, both of which I can confirm.”

“Bokaryov. FRIDAY.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Robbie rubs his eyes, sniffing. “Um. She’s, uh. She’s not well. From surveillance I believe she’s understandably in a state of chronic stress and she experiences insomnia and lethargy. Bokyaryov maintains that he never sexually assaulted her but I cannot confirm that. I am requesting we move to extract her as soon as possible.”

He finally looks at the camera.

“As soon as possible,” he repeats. “Please.”

He lifts a finger to switch off his camera and FRIDAY begins the next clip. Natasha and Steve exchange a look.

“He didn’t sleep with Darcy?” Steve asks, and Natasha shrugs.

“I don’t know. From what I’ve heard about him, he never took advantage of the women he freed.”

“So he met her in the street to provoke Ian?” Steve asks, and Natasha bites her lip.

“I don’t know, Steve. Robbie’s own story is messed up.”

Robbie coughs a couple times, looking exhausted in the next clip.

“I’m… fading pretty fast but it’s May… 22nd and Darcy Lewis is still waiting her activation. Occasionally Comrade Bokaryov will talk about her training, and I’m… I’m certain this operation is a rushed job overall. There’s a lack of resources, considering the Winter Soldier –”

Steve feels his heartbeat pick up at the mention of Bucky.

“- has several handlers in a constant rotation. Darcy has two, and she had four altogether back in Plyos during her training.”

Robbie licks his lips, shaking his head.

“I think Bokaryov won’t survive if her mission is incomplete, and the operation is beginning to grind away at the last of his… decency.”

“Captain, I have several hundred matches for Borkaryov and Molokhov, but these date back to the Cold War.”

“Less of a paper trail after then, I guess,” Steve mutters. “Anything else about Darcy and Ian, or is that all just fabricated?”

“FRIDAY, we need those trigger words. Does Mungo mention any of that?” Natasha interjects. Her brows are furrowed with concern to match Steve’s.

“Searching now.”

Robbie is looking at the camera this time, staring like he can see Steve and Natasha watching him.

“I think it’s close. The fall. I cannae – fuck.” He lets out a breath, his eyes misting. “She needs us. Whoever’s watching this, get off your high horse. She’s isolated and she’s in bloody pain and I cannae – fuck!”

He yells, kicking something off screen.

“I need help. Get someone, I don’t care who. Get someone over here and stop her. Or send someone to stop me because it’s getting harder to stand on the sidelines.”

The video ends and FRIDAY throws up the next one.

“I was able to recover some possible matches.”

“Fast forward,” Natasha says, but Steve puts up a hand.

“Let him speak, Nat. He deserves that much at least.”

“I… made contact. I slipped out when Bokaryov was taking a piss. If this kills me, then…”

He takes a second, running his tongue along his bottom lip and he sighs. He looks at the camera.

“Anyway. She’s beautiful, smart. Deadly, from what I know. I’m sure I’ll be gone by the time she even –”

He shakes his head, glancing away.

“I know we don’t throw away it all on one lass. Never been that way, never will be. I just wanted there to be an exception. When they find my body, make sure she doesn’t see how I look. She’ll find out eventually but she can’t – don’t do that. Let the girl live.”

Steve can see he cared about her. He’d read some of the defector reports Natasha managed to find when they were looking for Mungo’s alter-ego. The Canary was meant to be one of his, but since the HYDRA faction of the United States was exposed, contacts went into freefall.

“He spent two years in isolation in Russia,” Natasha reads, and Steve glances at the text she points at. “It was after he went to infiltrated MI6 for HYDRA. They wanted to make sure he was loyal to them.”

Steve thinks about the kind of torture he endured to keep his cover for the British Secret Service. His eyes dart over the details. Confinement without clothing, food or water. Sound torture, temperature control. Bones broken and reset poorly, sleep deprivation.

“He killed a fellow prisoner by ripping his jugular with his teeth,” Steve reads.

The footage of Robbie cuts to a new clip from the same date. The Scotsman looks paler, eyes red from lack of sleep.

“We got the report that The Winter Soldier is gone. I think I was able to convey some kind of shock. The men are hoping to leave but Bokaryov is getting his knickers in a twist. He activated her, finally, imagine my surprise. Excuse my accent, but you’re getting it from me now.”

Steve holds his breath and listens to the Russian phrase.

“FRIDAY, call Clint,” Natasha says instantly. It’s leaves on the earth, water in the sky, stars in the eye.”

Steve stares at the new clip that plays above their heads.

“Fairfield. I know you’ll be the one to find these. You know that if I’m talking to you, I’m dead in a ditch somewhere. Tell Her Majesty to splash out for my burial. I’d love something in Mykonos…”

“Agent Barton is not picking up, Miss Romanoff. He’s… put you through to his Voicemail.”

“The one time I tell him to take his vacation seriously he listens,” Natasha mutters, taking a deep breath. “Then call the safe house.”

Steve asks FRIDAY to pause the footage as they wait for someone to pick up. There are several rings before Bucky appears without a shirt, Darcy beside him. The pair of them look dishevelled, and Darcy pats her hair. Bucky throws on a shirt.

“Hi,” Darcy says. “What’s up?”

“Clint owes me fifty bucks,” Steve says, and Darcy’s eyes widen.

“I knew you’d have a stake in that, punk,” Bucky says, shaking his head. “I’m guessing you bet ten days?”

Steve shrugged a shoulder. It was the obvious choice. He knew Bucky wouldn’t be quicker than a week and but he wasn’t a monk so Natasha’s bet of two weeks was too long.

“Clint is unaware of that detail, by the way,” Darcy adds, her hands on her hips. “Did you want him?”

“He’s not answering his cell,” Natasha says, smirking at them. “We have the trigger words –”

There was a loud bang on the Missouri end of the call and Darcy’s hand grabs Bucky’s, her eyes widening.

“What was that?”

“Clint’s out,” Darcy replies. “He took Laura and the kids to see a movie and get dinner. Gave us space.”

Another loud bang above and Darcy glances at Bucky.

“It’s a sonic boom,” he says to her, and Darcy freezes in horror for a few seconds.

“Find Clint,” she says to Natasha. “Shit! I think –”

The feed cuts off, Steve’s heart in his throat.

“Get them back, FRIDAY,” Natasha hisses.

“There are several drones over the Barton property. Sargent Barnes and Miss Lewis have evacuated to the panic room below. I am unable to reach Agent Barton.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"As long as you're with me, you'll be just fine
Nothing's gonna hurt you baby
Nothing's gonna take you from my side.."

- "Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby" by Cigarettes After Sex

 

 

Part Twenty: Kneecap

 

 

Darcy manages to find a pair of gumboots on their way out the front door. Everything moves so fast but she can somehow keep up, and she remembers the serum.

She was about to start on their dinner when the call came through, and then FRIDAY cut out so suddenly it made her adrenaline kick in.

“FRIDAY, can you hear me? Flash the hall light if you can.”

The lights flash and Darcy scrambles back to Bucky, who’s ushering her along, his feet bare.

“FRIDAY, are the drones armed?”

No flash. Bucky takes her by the elbow and they run for the backdoor, bursting out into the evening air. The sun won’t set for a couple more hours. Long summer nights means less ability to hide themselves, but at least they’ll see people coming from a distance.

“We gotta go,” Bucky says, and they dart toward the weapons shed and Darcy smacks her palm against the wood, the door unlatching with a click.

They slip inside, the door locking behind them. Clint told Darcy about the emergency protocol if they’re ever under attack. There’s a bunker beneath them and Darcy tries to remember which wrench she’s supposed to turn on the wall to trigger the trap door opening. Bucky’s quicker, turning it with his metal fingers and moving aside as something pops audibly outside.

“Go, go, go,” he hisses, and he pushes Darcy to the floor, and they crawl together.

Bucky pulls the hatch down after them and he touches her face a second later, checking her.

“Okay?”

She nods, and glances around, seeing several screens, frowning.

“Did they hack FRIDAY?”

“Probably scrambled the ability to talk to them,” Bucky mutters, his eyes wild.

He moves around, the ceiling too low and the air feeling thinner to Darcy. She rubs her eyes, her heart still beating too hard and she places a hand on her chest, letting out a shaky breath.

“How did they find us? Clint?”

“I dunno,” Bucky says, his throat bobbing.

He moves around, touching random things and running his hands through his hair. Darcy watches him, gnawing her lip.

“If they know you’re here, they know I’m here, too,” he murmurs.

He paces and Darcy is reminded of a beast in a cage. She tries to think. There has to be a way out of this.

“Steve and Natasha know we’re in trouble though, right? Clint said there’s an automatic message sent through FRIDAY if we trip the trap door.”

Bucky nods, hands in his hair again. His eyes are wider.

“That’s if FRIDAY’s online.”

There are several loud bangs above their heads and Darcy moves toward Bucky and he catches her in a hug, her arms wrapped around his middle.

Darcy tries to remember that the ceiling is a foot of reinforced steel. FRIDAY was programmed to protect them.

“If they’ve hacked FRIDAY, can they hear us?” Darcy murmurs. “I wanna know how they found us.”

“Darcy –”

Bucky takes her face in his hands, kissing her on the lips.

“What? What’s the plan? Buck –”

“They want me, right? They want me,” he says, that spooked look still on his face. It’s hard to look at but Darcy doesn’t dare look away.

“No. Whatever you’re thinking… no. No fucking way,” she hisses, grabbing his arms, squeezing. “I’m not letting you go out there.”

“If they get to me…”

“They won’t,” she hisses. “Fuck that.”

“I’m not going back. I’m not going back,” he whispers, his chest heaving. He looks like he’s close to crying and Darcy moves to kiss him hard, their teeth clacking.

-

“Oh…my God.”

Ian’s eyes feel gritty when they snap open, and he scowls at Karl’s back. He must have fallen asleep again on his bed, reading over his notebook full of Darcy’s story.

“What?” he barks, and Karl turns his head, smiling.

Nothing sinister to it, in fact, the man looks relieved. His eyes are bright red but he’s looking at Ian like he’s won a prize.

“Those trackers, the ones you made Yuri put in her clothes in London?”

“What, I lost all of them,” Ian grumbles, moving off the bed to look over Karl’s shoulder at the screen. His eyes widen when he sees a bare chest, rustling sounds through the speakers of Karl’s computer.

There are little moans, panting. Ian would recognize those sounds anywhere – they were Darcy, and she’s having sex.

“Is this live?” he murmurs, and Karl nods.

“Whoever she’s fucking –”

“It’s the Asset. She’s fucking…” Ian’s voice trails off when Darcy shudders, and she sounds consumed by her pleasure.

“She’s fucking The Winter Soldier,” Karl says, laughing.

“Hey – fuck you,” Ian snaps, and he smacks Karl on the nose without warning.

They’ve been in this hotel for days, ever since they managed to see Doctor Foster at a Starbucks saying what Ian read as Missouri, but it’s a big fucking state.

Karl clutches his nose, shoving at Ian.

“Fucking asshole, you’re so obvious,” he snaps, and Ian balls his hand into a fist, raising it.

Ian is so angry he wants to scream with it and he breathes heavily, waiting for it to dissipate. Karl accesses the tracker’s ID and pulls up a map.

“She’s pretty far from any town,” he murmurs, sniffing as his nose drips with blood. “You should be thanking Yuri for fitting her dress with that sticker. He charged those for days and you never said a word.”

“It was his job,” Ian snaps. “He should be thanking me for ever making him part of this.”

Karl sets his jaw, whipping his head toward Ian. “You’re fucking evil. I hate you.”

“Good,” Ian retorts, already moving to pack up.

The location is less than two hours away from them and they can’t hesitate.

“Hate doesn’t begin to cover –”

Ian cuts him off, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. Pack up your shit and meet me in the car.”

Karl growls. “If it weren’t for me –”

“What?” Ian prompts, his fingers moving on instinct, loading his pistol and holstering it in seconds. “I was the one to tell Yuri to put those trackers in her clothes. I told her to buy the dress. If it weren’t for me, you’d be dead now, too, with Yuri.”

Karl shoves cables away, his back turned. “You’re just going to sweep in there and pick her up? With her boyfriend there? He’ll rip your spinal cord out with his bare hands.”

“You got somewhere else to be?” Ian retorts, and they both know Karl doesn’t.

They’re all each other have now.

Karl spins around, his eyes wet.

“You…”

“Grow up,” Ian says, shrugging. Karl looks appalled, but says nothing else.

-

Darcy hears more bangs and she covers her ears, trying to settle herself.

She keeps thinking about how small the space is that they’re in, how it feels like the air is being squeezed out of her lungs with each passing second. She remembers running through grass in her bare feet, dogs barking behind her.

“I escaped,” she whispers, and Bucky meets her gaze. “Almost. A couple times, when I was…”

She shakes her head.

“Me, too,” Bucky says, swallowing. “I stopped trying eventually.”

“Why?”

“They showed me an American newspaper, telling me Steve had crashed into the ice,” he says, a little smirk on his face that fades.

“They won’t get you.”

“They’ll kill you if you go out there,” he retorts. “They’ll activate you and you’ll put a gun to your head.”

“Then they’re not gonna leave, Buck,” she says. “It’s a stand-off until someone else arrives. Clint could come back. We don’t know if FRIDAY alerted anyone. They could be killed the second their car hits that road up to here.”

Bucky winces.

“Clint and Laura and Cooper and Lila and Nate,” she goes on. She huffs, her chest sore. She feels tears gather and she squeezes his arms again. “And I’m sorry.”

“What for –”

She kicks him in the stomach as hard as she can, releasing his arms as he’s ripped away from her, crashing into the wall. She whimpers, feeling nauseous. Bucky groans, trying to get up but Darcy’s quicker, hitting him on the head with all her might, just like he taught her. His head snaps back and he looks dazed, and she strikes him again and again until he’s out.

“FRIDAY, I don’t know if you can hear me. Make the lights flicker. Or reboot. Something.”

Bucky’s out cold at her feet and her knuckles sting. Maybe he won’t forgive her for this, but that’s too fucking bad. She runs on pure adrenaline as she moves back, grabbing a Glock from the back of Bucky’s sweatpants. She hurls herself up and smacks the pad on the ceiling, the trap door above clicking.

There’s dead silence as she pulls herself up into the weapons cache. She can feel the sweat down her back as she listens out for life beyond the door.

Only hours ago she felt so happy, so safe. She scrubs her face, feeling hot. She grabs a couple grenades, and slaps her hand against the next pad.

She runs out of there, almost tripping in Clint’s gumboots and she hisses, rolling her ankle. She glances up and sees five drones hovering above and she raises her hands together, one of the grenades between her palms. She pulls out the pin with her teeth, spitting it. She throws it and ducks.

The boom bounces off the side of the house and Darcy hears bits of metal and plastic hit the grass surrounding her. Why hasn’t one of them started shooting at her?

“Ian.”

She looks at one of the remaining drones.

“Ian, come out. Come and get me.”

She waits a few seconds and then the two leftover drones hover away, toward the slope that Darcy ran down days ago, a lifetime ago.

“IAN!”

She screams his name as loud as she can. She chases after the drones, spotting a Jeep in the distance by the gate with the purple marker. She stares down at it, waiting.

“Ian, I’ll throw another one. You know I can hit you,” she murmurs. She grits her teeth and takes off again.

Her ankle burns but she pushes through it, running down to the car. She stops several yards short of the car, her Glock raised.

She sees a stranger in the driver’s seat, Ian stepping out of the passenger’s side with his hands raised.

“Darcy.”

“Don’t say my name,” she hisses. “I don’t want to hear you say it.”

“Darcy,” he says again, moving closer. He looks almost calm, except he’s pale as a sheet, his eyes red. “We can talk.”

“No,” she says, gripping her pistol a little harder, enough to make her knuckles white. She glances at the other man who looks like he’s pissing himself in fear.

She loosens her grip, taking a deep breath.

“What would happen if I shot you right now?” she murmurs. She gestures to Ian’s head and he blinks.

“I know you’re stronger than me,” he says. “I want to talk.”

Darcy gives a little smile that lacks any true mirth. She thinks of the train in Paris, obliterating the Canary.

“I’ll be quicker than your words,” she whispers. “And you want to live.”

He sets his jaw. “We’ll find Barton. We’ll go back for the Soldier, too.”

“His name is Bucky,” Darcy hisses. “And if you touch any of them –”

“What, you’ll shoot me?” Ian says, and Darcy feels bile rise. “I didn’t say I’d touch them.”

Darcy looks at the other man. “If I come with you, you won’t trigger me?”

“Yes,” Ian says.

Darcy stares at him for several more seconds. Her arms go slack and she puts the safety back on, but Ian points to her Glock, shaking his head.

“Leave that. And the grenade.”

Darcy obeys, her eyes on the driver again. She doesn’t look Ian in the eye again as she slips into the backseat. Ian puts on the child lock and she’s tempted to remind him that she’d be able to wrench the door of its hinges pretty easily but she stays silent.

Ian takes out his own gun from the glove box, pointing it at her as they reverse and speed off down the grassy path to the road, and Darcy grabs the handle above her head to not bump so much.

“I’ve thought about this for a long time,” Ian says, his voice soft. “I think about you a lot, Darcy.”

Darcy meets his gaze and deadpans, “I don’t think about you at all.”

Her eyes swivel to the other man’s eyes reflecting in the rear view mirror and she sees something there, something among the panic. Ian’s face changes, his voice sharper.

“Want to know how we found you?”

“Why, was it Clint being out in public?” Darcy asks, making sure she sounds bored.

They join the road and they rocket toward the highway. Bucky’s probably come to by now, his head killing him. She sniffs, eyes on the world outside her window.

“Your dress. That button –”

Ian nods at the one in the dead center, the one Darcy noticed was slightly cracked when she unfurled it before she put it on.

“It’s not just a button.”

“And you can remote access it?” Darcy asks the other man, not Ian. “I’m guessing it’s a camera, too.”

She moves her eyes to Ian again. She doesn’t feel like it’s been years since she’s seen him. He’s too familiar, the contours of his face too easy to map out.

“What about Robbie, what did he do?” Darcy asks, and Ian’s eyes flash.

“He sold us out to MI6.”

“Right,” she mutters.

She’s trying to solve this all as they speed along, Ian’s gun never lowering. If he slips he’ll set it off. She might survive a bullet, but her resources are limited. She has no phone, no weapons. She reminds herself that she’s a weapon, her whole body is worth the trouble to track her from God knows where.

“You killed him,” she adds.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“I stabbed him.”

“Where is he?” Darcy asks, her voice low. Her eyes swivel back to the rear view mirror. The driver is distracted. “And who’s he?”

“Brown is in Spain somewhere,” Ian says, and Darcy can hear the pride slipping into his tone. “And that’s Karl.”

Karl blinks rapidly, and he’s sweating bullets.

Darcy leans back, closing her eyes. She listens out for them but she’s certain Ian is still trained on her. She’s no fool. They’re likely racing her off to a secluded area to have her shoot herself and then they’ll bury her. This is damage control. Bucky is who they actually want, except she can’t ignore how much Ian is bothered by her nonchalance.

Karl murmurs something in Russian and Darcy opens her eyes. She recognises a word Ian replies with, his words spat with venom.

Molokhov.

“We need to stop,” Ian says in English, and Darcy glances at him as if she’s forgotten he was there and there’s another flicker of irritation before it melts back to his smug stare.

“For gas?” Darcy asks. He nods. “Get me something to eat.”

He frowns and she loves it, loves how much she bothers him. All those nights alone and awake, afraid of her own mind for months and months, years blurring from her own pain and loneliness. She narrows her eyes enough for him to notice.

“What?”

“I need the calories. A donut, something. Get me something to eat.”

When the car pulls over at a truck stop, Ian clicks his fingers at her and she glares at him.

“Stay here. Karl –”

Karl moves to take out another gun from the glove box and Darcy swallows, keeping still. Ian gestures to the outside with a tilting of his head.

“If you move, I’ll shoot the cashier. And anyone else who’s here.”

Darcy holds her breath. Ian withdraws, murmuring something in Russian and Darcy waits. He slips out and he fills the tank. Darcy can see Karl is shaking.

He’s crying, trembling all over. Darcy watches Ian’s retreating back as he goes inside, and she looks at him through the rearview mirror again.

“Karl. Do you speak English?”

He nods, looking pained.

“Karl, he’s going to kill us both. You can let me go and you will live.”

He whispers something in Russian, shaking his head.

“Karl. He will kill us both. You have three choices. It’s him, or it’s me, or you live. Give me the gun. Give it to me.”

He sobs, nodding. Her eyes are glued to Ian, who’s moving around inside, getting food. She’s got no time at all.

“Drive back toward the house. You beg for your life.”

She takes the pistol, her words a rush.

“Tell the Winter Soldier that Trouble knows he’s hers. Okay?”

He nods, whimpering. “What if –”

“You beg for your fucking life, alright?” she hisses. She undoes her seatbelt and climbs into the front seat, opening the door.

The back of Ian’s head is all she sees, moving as fast as she can.

Her feet hit the ground and she runs as fast as she can in the direction they were heading, the Jeep’s tyres screeching as Karl takes off, reversing and peeling off the other way.

Darcy hears a shout and she keeps going, until she meets long grass on the side to the road connecting back to the highway.

She flattens herself to the ground, keeping still. She hears cars in the distance, crickets starting to chirp. The sun will set soon. She closes her eyes, waiting.

“Darcy! I meant what I said! I warned you! Think of Barton.”

He will trigger her with his next breath. It’ll be messy and she might never be found. She stands, gun raised and she sees him standing a few yards away with his back to her. She moves quiet enough for him to not notice, bless her superior stealth.

“If you speak, I will shoot you,” Darcy says, and he whips around, freezing at the sight of her.

He begins something Russian and Darcy squeezes the trigger, the sound of her gun a crack through the wind and Ian screams.

She strides over to him. He’s fallen to the ground, clutching his kneecap Darcy just obliterated. He keeps screaming and Darcy kneels beside him, watching his face contort in pain.

“Look what you made me do.”

“Darcy –”

She cuts him off with a sharp jab of her pistol to his injured knee and he screams again. Darcy’s surprised he hasn’t passed out. He pants, eyes staring up at her, pleading.

“You’ve become so strong, I’m so proud –”

“I was always strong,” Darcy snarls.

She watches him writhing on the ground, standing over him like he did to her in captivity. She remembers her first kill, the scalpel she stole, the blood on her face and hands, globs of it stuck in her skin.

“You can be an Avenger now,” he whispers. “See? I did that. Because I love you. I love you.”

“You don’t know what love is,” she replies. Her eyes are hot with tears in a single breath. “And it’s all over. Karl’s gone. You’re alone.”

“Darcy, please –”

He tries to reach her leg and manages to brush her skin and she punches his shoulder hard enough to dislocate it and he screams. She’s wild, pressing the muzzle of her Glock to his forehead.

“You took everything from me,” she snarls. “And I’m leaving you here.”

“Then kill me.”

“No,” she whispers, smiling. She likes the look of fear dawning on him. “Because I know that HYDRA will find you and cut you into little pieces, and when you wash up somewhere there will be nothing left of you. Not even your teeth.”

He growls at her, tears in his eyes.

“Kill me! KILL ME!”

She steps back, watching him beg until he’s sick with it.

“KILL ME!”

“No,” she says, and she hits him with the pistol across the face and he’s out like a light.

She begins to cry, tugging the button with the crack in it off and tossing it beside him. She sighs, closing her eyes for a couple seconds before she moves away from him.

She drags her feet, and by the time she reaches the truck stop again she’s shaking all over from the shock. She sees the cashier step back at the sight of her pistol, and a young woman getting a cup of coffee screams.

“Call the…” Darcy drops her gun on the floor with a clatter. “Call the police.”

She sits down, drawing up her knees and hugging them, closing her eyes.

 

Chapter Text

"Hell raising, hair raising
I'm ready for the worst
So frightening, face whitening
Fear that you can't reverse.."

- "Panic Room" by Au/Ra

 

 

Part Twenty One: Bruise

 

 

“I am unable to access the Barton safe house network. I cannot reboot.”

“Set a course to the safe house, alert all of the team,” Steve says.

He’s already grabbing his tac vest and pulling it on, before fitting his shield to his back. Natasha is testing her bracelets as the jet takes a sharp turn.

Steve’s eyes meet hers.

“FRIDAY, that includes Tony. Tell him what’s happened.”

-

Darcy keeps her eyes closed as she sits on the floor of the truck stop convenience store. She picks up her gun and pulls her knees up, holding the Glock as she buries her face in her dress.

She doesn’t know what to do. She knows she wants to sleep, but her heart is still racing. She wonders how many beats per minute it is. She counts for a little while, but concentrating is harder when all she can think about is how good it felt to do all that to Ian.

“Darcy?”

She glances up, seeing Steve standing with his shield in his hand, Natasha behind him. Darcy keeps still, her eyes averting. She swallows.

“Is Bucky okay?”

“Yeah. Just a little sore,” Steve says.

He walks closer, dropping to squat beside her. Darcy gives his shield a once-over and touches it with her spare hand. It’s cool to the touch. She flicks it with her finger and it makes a soft humming sound.

“Is he angry?”

“No,” Steve replies softly, barely a whisper.

She meets his gaze. “Who else is here?”

Natasha speaks this time. “Everyone. Anyone who took the call.”

“Tony?” Darcy says, and Steve reaches out to touch her hand.

“Yeah.”

Darcy scrambles to her feet when Tony walks in, lowering his sunglasses and giving her a cursory glance before grabbing a Snickers bar beside the cashier who’s watching them all convene.

“Hey, buddy. Sheriff’s on his way.”

“You’re…”

“Yes, it’s us and we’re very happy to be here, you’re welcome,” Tony says, and he cocks his head toward the exit after laying down a crisp hundred dollar bill on the counter.

Darcy follows them out, Steve beside her. A dozen or so bystanders have flocked and Darcy crosses her arms over her chest, feeling her cheeks redden as they walk together across the asphalt.

Wanda lands beside them, looking concerned, Vision in tow.

“The HYDRA agent is secure.”

“Karl’s okay?” Darcy says, and Tony throws her a look. “It’s not what you think. I was improvising. He was… he was going to get himself killed either way and I thought we could use –”

“We?” Tony repeats. “You’re not one of the team yet, toots.”

“Hey,” Steve snaps. “She’s trying to help.”

They travel back to Clint’s farm and Darcy keeps her arms wrapped around herself, Natasha taking her gun when they arrive. The farm looks different now, a different shade to it now that she’s seen drones hovering over it, Ian and Karl in a car at the edge of the property.

The Jeep from earlier is parked with its front door still wide open, and Steve shuts it as they walk past to the front door. The sun is setting as they step inside.

Darcy barely registers what is happening when Clint appears, pulling her into a hug. She can feel herself shivering despite the heat and she feels him press a kiss to her hair and she hugs him back, her guts twisting.

“I’m…. I’m sorry.”

“This isn’t your fucking fault, alright?” he hisses, pulling back to look her in the eye. He grabs her face. “Hey. Look at me. It’s not your fault.”

“Is everyone okay?”

“Hey.”

Laura appears with Nate and Darcy hugs Laura with the toddler between them, and Nate begins to grizzle. She sees Lila and Cooper lurking when she takes Nate in her arms to kiss him and cuddle him to her chest.

“Where’s Bucky?” Darcy asks, turning back toward Wanda, Tony, Natasha and Steve.

“He’s upstairs.”

Darcy nods. “You guys need me to make a statement to the police or anything –?”

“No, we’ve got some other agents coming to fix that,” Natasha says.

“What about Karl?”

“He’s gone. People took him to another safe house.”

Darcy has no idea how long she waited in the convenience store. She can’t believe that this time yesterday she hadn’t even kissed Bucky. She feels so tired as that realization set in. Laura takes Nate back from her and ushers the kids into the kitchen. Darcy remembers the point of them going out was to take a break from this place and eat something elsewhere and she sighs, passing a hand over her face. She sits on the couch while everyone else stands or leans on something else.

They talk like she isn’t sitting there, and Darcy pulls her knees up again, feeling like a child. She hears footsteps coming down the staircase and sees Bucky come down and make his way into the living room.

Bucky has a nasty bruise reaching across his forehead down to his temple and Darcy flinches at the sight of it. It’s purple with yellow around the edges.

She hit him, repeatedly. She reminds herself that he would never have otherwise let her out of the panic room. It already happened. She has to live with that.

“He could not have got far, considering he had no vehicle,” Wanda says, and Natasha nods. “I couldn’t see him when I did a sweep.”

“The Sheriff has a description, he doesn’t need to know anything else,” Steve says. “We don’t need people panicking.”

Darcy glances at Steve, feeling Tony’s eyes watching her from where he stands between Steve and Natasha. Bucky lurks in the background, looking tired and sad. She accidentally makes eye contact with Sam before looking at the floor.

“I lost him. Ian,” Darcy says, and she clears her throat a couple times.

“How?” Tony asks.

She bristles at his tone, taking a deep breath.

“I shot him before he could trigger me.”

“Why didn’t you wait for someone else to show up?” Tony asks, and Darcy meets his gaze, narrowing her eyes.

“I don’t know.”

She’s lying through her teeth. She knows exactly why she knocked Bucky out and followed Ian and Karl.

Clint crosses his arms. “How did he find this place?”

“A button, on my dress,” Darcy says. She goes to touch it, remembering it’s gone because she wanted it left with Ian. “Had a tracker on it. I… dropped it.”

Tony doesn’t seem convinced. “You dropped it, and lost a HYDRA guy you shot.”

“I know what that sounds like,” Darcy says, putting her hands up and shoving her legs down to the floor. “You think I led them here and I’m pretending I didn’t.”

“We’re not thinking that,” Steve says.

“I said you as in –” Darcy points at Tony. “You.”

Tony’s eyes change at her accusation, and she stares him down, daring him to speak.

“Why’d you knock out your boyfriend?” Tony asks.

Darcy’s eyes dart to Bucky and she feels sick, deflating.

“Why?”

“Tony,” Steve hisses.

“Do not let her deflect, Cap. I’m asking why she chose to give Barnes a concussion over waiting for any one of us to come to their rescue.”

Darcy stands up, her arms wide.

“Because I wanted to kill him, alright? Is that what you wanted to hear? I wanted to kill Ian Boothby so I beat the shit out of Bucky and hightailed it down there. I knew Bucky would never go out there without me, and I knew he’d never let me slip out.”

Tony’s frozen in place. She’s certain he sees the woman who tried to murder him in the labs, wrath seeping out of her, her eyes wild.

“I shot him in the kneecap and then I dislocated his shoulder. And then I left him with the tracker so he’d be found. Not by any of you, but by HYDRA.”

The room goes silent and Darcy steps back, her chest tight. She swallows and her eyes begin to sting.

“At least you’ve got your story straight,” Tony finally says.

Darcy looks up, seeing his eyes are cold.

“The first time, sure. Not your choice. I get that,” he goes on, and Darcy feels the tension rising in the room, Bucky in the background unable to keep still. “But you decided to become judge, jury and executioner.”

Darcy’s voice rises to a scream:

“I HAD NO CHOICE!”

Tony’s mouth becomes a thin line as Darcy glares at him.

“Why the hell was no-one else here with you two?”

Darcy grits her teeth. “We were fine.”

“You wanted time alone with Barnes, so what? You could –”

“Tony, stop it,” Steve hisses. “It’s not your business.”

“Can it, Cap. I’m done with you being so self-righteous. You are delusional about how dangerous your buddy and his little girlfriend are –”

“Tony,” Natasha snaps, shaking her head. Wanda and Clint have similar looks on their faces.

“I’m sorry I tried to kill you,” Darcy says, and Tony’s eyes snap back to hers. “I’m sorry I killed all those people. I remember it, now. I’ll never forget it. I have to live with that.”

“You murdered that HYDRA lead, then,” Tony adds, and Darcy flinches.

Yes. She did that. Ian begged her to kill him out of mercy and she refused. She looked him in the eye and told him no, I will not take away your pain.

“Enough.”

Darcy stares as Bucky comes forward, pushing his way through to her and grabbing her by the hand and Darcy feels her face flush. He tugs her out the living room, down the hallway and outside. All she can hear are the crickets and their footsteps as they walk away from the house.

“Where are you taking me?” Darcy asks, and Bucky looks down at her.

“You don’t need to hear any of that shit.”

Darcy snatches her hand away and they stop walking. Darcy raises her hands for Bucky to see, both of them shaking uncontrollably.

“Look at this shit. Look.”

Bucky’s jaw sets and he blinks a couple times.

“I can’t avoid this. I did this,” she says. She lowers her arms, nodding at the ugly bruise on his head. “I did that.”

“Yeah.”

“I’d probably do it again, too.”

Bucky’s throat bobs. “I thought you’d say that.”

Darcy hears yelling from inside and turns her head, Bucky’s eyes not leaving her face. She glances back, feeling that sting again.

“You can make this stop,” Bucky says, and she frowns.

“How?”

“Tell me stop. I’ll leave you alone. We don’t have to –”

“Didn’t Karl give you the message?” Darcy interjects, and Bucky looks at the ground, losing his nerve.

“That’s not… that’s not fair, to you.”

-

“What are they talking about?” Clint asks, glancing out the window at Bucky and Darcy.

Their lips are moving, Steve and Tony yelling at one another behind Wanda and Clint.

“Would you two kiss and make up already?” Clint yells, and Steve stops abruptly, working his jaw as Tony shoots Clint another pissed off look. “You’ve both made your point. It’s getting late. We’ll work this shit out in the morning, like always.”

“It’s not even nine,” Tony retorts. “And you’re being way too lenient.”

“Remember whose house this is, Stark,” Clint says, and the billionaire goes quiet, rolling his eyes.

Clint turns back, Natasha joining him as they watch from the window.

“What is it?” Steve asks, and Clint shushes him.

-

“You can tell me to go, and I can walk away, and you won’t have to worry about me stopping you again,” Bucky says. “You don’t have to see me again.”

Darcy frowns. “Is that what you want?”

“This ain’t about me.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Darcy yells, and Bucky’s eyes flash at her petulance. “How is this not about you? You’re afraid of hurting me, of getting hurt. You’re afraid you’ll kill me, is that it?”

“It’s not that crazy, Darce. That could have happened today.”

“You want to break up?”

“I didn’t know we were – together.”

“Oh, fuck you.”

Darcy growls that last part, rolling her eyes as she moves to walk away, but he grabs her elbow.

Don’t touch me.”

“Life without me would be easier. Last night, when we were in the barn? I pushed you away at first, remember?”

Darcy wrenches her arm away from him. “And then the ten other times we touched, you’re saying that shouldn’t have happened, either? That shit isn’t entirely my fault. You kissed me after shoving me off.”

“If Stark doesn’t trust me and Steve, how’s he supposed to not try to get you locked up for killin’ Ian, huh?”

-

“Are they going to start punching each other, or what?” Wanda mutters.

Vision looks concerned. Everyone is watching the fight unfold outside.

“Twenty bucks she slaps him.”

“Why would she slap him?” Natasha mutters to Clint, and he shrugs.

“I dunno, the usual stuff. Men ain’t shit?”

“Yeah, you’re really not, but Darcy doesn’t seem like the type to slap Bucky,” Wanda murmurs. “I think they love each other.”

“Ya think?” Steve retorts.

“Shut up. I hadn’t seen it up close before today.”

“Wait, how long were they alone today?” Tony asks.

“Eight… nine hours?” Clint says.

“I’m asking because that looks like married people fighting to me,” Tony says, not missing a beat. “I’ve seen that up close.”

“Should we… get them to come inside?” Wanda asks.

No-one answers her question.

-

“You regret us. You regret coming here, you regret ever knowing me.”

Bucky’s jaw ticks. “I never said that.”

“Then…” Darcy moves closer to him, grabbing his shirt. “Say what you mean to me.”

“I…”

They stare into each other’s eyes and Darcy feels her stomach flip.

“I don’t regret it,” he whispers. “How could I?”

“What do you want?”

“You,” he says, and his throat bobs. “And I’m so sorry.”

“What could you be sorry about?” Darcy whispers, her hands gliding up to touch his face. “I’m the one screaming at you. I’m sorry.”

She kisses him, his hands going to her waist as she shuts he shuts his eyes, giving into her with a sigh. Darcy pulls back first, her heart hammering.

“I love you.”

His lips part, his grip tightening. He stares at her. Darcy licks her lips.

“You don’t have to say it back,” she blurts. “It’s okay. I know it’s really fast –”

He cuts her off, hands going to clutch at her face, and he kisses her hard.

-

“Should we… hose them down?” Natasha says, making a face.

“I’ll… make them stop. Or we should just… stop looking,” Clint replies.

He clears his throat and moves away from the window, gesturing for everyone to step back from the windows.

“I should go,” Tony says. “If anyone wants a lift back, there’s my jet and the other –”

“Yeah, it’s getting late,” Steve adds, nodding. “Nat and I can…”

-

Bucky’s kissing her like it’s been days since they last touched, and she whimpers against his mouth, hands wrapping around his middle as he kisses her over and over.

He pulls back.

“I love you, too.”

Darcy smiles and he does, too. It makes her heart soar.

“Why?”

This confuses him. “What do you mean? I love you because you’re you. You’re smart, strong, you let me touch you –”

Let you touch me? Have you seen your body?” Darcy retorts.

“Lemme finish,” he says with a chuckle. “You’re gorgeous, and funny. You… make me feel so good. I can’t stop smiling around you.”

Darcy bites her lip, one of her hands going under his shirt to touch the hard muscles of his stomach.

“God, I want to get on my knees right now for you.”

He blushes and she giggles.

-

They walk back inside and see everyone sitting around the living room. Darcy glances around at all the faces, waiting.

“I’m not under arrest?”

“Not yet,” Tony says, and Steve shoots him a look.

“Okay,” Darcy says. “Are you guys… staying?”

“We’re leaving,” Steve says, and he gets up from his seat. Everyone copies and Darcy moves back, bumping into Bucky.

His hand goes to keep her in place, to steady her and she’s grateful.

“Laura asked if you’re hungry,” Clint says, and Darcy nods vaguely.

Bucky wraps his arms around her middle and rests his chin on her head as they watch the Avengers move out.

“One last thing,” Tony says, and Darcy feels Bucky tense. “You know that breach you made?”

“When I stole Jane’s research?” Darcy says, and he nods.

“Yeah, well. Cap said you might rest easy knowing that FRIDAY automatically scrambles files when an unauthorised downloading of any files on their server occurs.”

Darcy stares at him. “Why didn’t Jane mention that earlier?”

“She thought, and Bruce agrees, that it’s not exactly… high on your priority list of concerns right now.”

He falls silent. Darcy blinks at him, waiting.

“Anyway. See you. Hopefully not too soon.”

He leaves, and Steve sighs, staring after him.

“We need to get that Jeep inspected by forensics, but Karl had a couple things to give you,” he says, and he hands her a couple notebooks.

“My dream journal,” Darcy says, and she opens it, flicking through the familiar pages.

“We uploaded them to FRIDAY earlier. The other one Karl said was Ian’s,” Steve says.

Darcy feels her stomach twist. “Should I read it?”

“It’s up to you. Maybe not… alone,” Steve says. He glances at Bucky. “Please.”

“Yeah,” Bucky murmurs.

Darcy reaches out and squeezes Steve’s hand, and he nods at her.

“Thank you.”

“It’s okay.”

To Darcy’s surprise, Natasha hugs her before leaving with Steve. Wanda and Vision follow soon after.

“You have allies,” Vision says. It’s the only thing he has ever said to Darcy and she nods at him.

-

Laura throws together a bowl of pasta for Bucky and Darcy, the kids shuffled off to bed as they finally begin to eat at the kitchen table.

Laura tells them goodnight. Clint lingers, watching Darcy twirl her fork.

“You don’t need the couch anymore?” Clint asks Bucky.

There’s no teasing behind it. He and Darcy share a glance and he knows where he belongs.

“Nah, I’ll stay upstairs,” Bucky murmurs.

 

 

Chapter Text

"I wanna be forgotten
And I don't want to be reminded
You say, "Please don't make this harder"
No, I won't yet..."

- "What Ever Happened" by The Strokes

 

 

Part Twenty Two: Tree

 

 

“So what’s the plan, Tony? You keep pushing Darcy back because she’s a new threat, and then what? You’d rather she was locked up than not on the team?”

Tony rolls his eyes, sighing. It’s Rhodey who says it all this in the conference room, which is more or less what Steve was trying to ask Tony last night.

Clint is remaining in Missouri with his family while Darcy and Bucky try to recover from the incident with Ian Bokaryov. Sam returned from his time off in Atlanta and he sits beside Steve at the long table. There are two distinct sides to the room. Tony versus everyone else.

“This isn’t summer camp. She doesn’t get to have a turn at being an Avenger so her feelings aren’t hurt,” Tony retorts.

Natasha gives a little nod, agreeing. Steve frowns.

“But as far as you’re concerned, if she’s not one of us, she’s against us,” he says, and Tony’s eyes dart to him.

“Did you just figure that one out?” Wanda mutters under her breath.

“My point,” Tony adds, his voice rising slightly, “is that there’s something called due process. If we’re gonna go after this Molokhov guy, we can’t have Bonnie and Clyde running the operation because she has a personal stake in it.”

“You really don’t like her,” Steve says, folding his arms.

“What’s to like?”

“Fellas, please,” Natasha says, sounding a little bored. “We already know what we need to do.”

Steve glances at her. “Do we? I got the feelin’ Tony wanted to ship Darcy off to the Raft as insurance.”

“Wouldn’t be the worst idea. At least until we know how to eliminate her triggers,” Tony says, narrowing his eyes slightly.

He glances at Wanda.

“What about you?”

“When I looked inside her mind, it was a mess,” Wanda says. “And if those notebooks are accurate, she was shocked severely for months as part of her training.”

“What does that mean?” Rhodey asks.

“She might have seizures if I try to fix that by myself,” Wanda murmurs, looking down at one of her hands, a red orb forming, its tendrils swirling around her fingers. It disappears and she looks at Steve. “It’s why I can’t fix Bucky, either.”

“We need help,” Natasha says.

“Fairfield?” Steve asks, and Natasha presses her lips together, nodding. “But we already used him twice.”

Tony begins to laugh. “That little asshole?”

Steve ignores him, meeting Wanda’s gaze.

“Vis?” she murmurs, and Vision frowns.

“It’s no less murky for me,” he murmurs, giving a rueful smile. “I expect Darcy is the same.”

“You’re not a neurosurgeon, got it,” Rhodey says. “Tony, do you have a contact?”

Tony sighs, getting up from his chair. He puts his hands behind his back, looking straight at Steve.

Steve knows Tony means well. They all do. Tony is dealing with this the only way he knows how, but he’s no less abrasive toward Steve than he always has been. Steve knows his view will always be a little skewed because Bucky is involved.

“Do you trust me?”

“Yes,” Steve says. He doesn’t have to think about it.

Tony nods. “I think we should talk with an ally. One I’ve met a few times since going to the UN for Barnes.”

Steve blinks a couple times. “Do you mean T’Challa?”

“What?” Wanda says. “Wakanda can fix them?”

“Maybe,” Tony says. “It’s worth trying to find Macavity to check.”

There’s a brief silence before Rhodey says, “It’s… a character from a musical” before Steve can ask.

-

Bucky wakes with Darcy’s hair tickling his nose. He’s surrounded by the scent of her, sweet and uniquely hers. Last night they whispered for hours, until Darcy couldn’t keep her eyes open.

He remembers kissing her a lot, trying not to make too much noise. He glances down and sees Darcy is naked with her back to him, her round ass against him. He’s still wearing his boxers and his cock is already hard.

He leans forward to kiss her neck, nuzzling her soft skin. He can’t remember the last time he slept that well. After such a phenomenal day yesterday he’s surprised he managed to doze off at all.

Darcy turns over, looking like she’s been awake for a while, her eyes warm. She gives a little smile, her hand reaching for him to thread her fingers through his hair.

“Morning.”

“Where did your clothes go?” he murmurs, and she laughs.

“Got too hot. You don’t seem to mind.”

“No,” he whispers, and he kisses her.

Her hands touch his bare shoulders, fingers skimming over the contours of his muscles. She makes appreciative little hums against his lips and he chuckles. He doesn’t expect her to do it, but she slips a hand toward the mottled scar tissue surrounding his cybernetic arm and he flinches.

Her eyes widen at his reaction and Bucky forces himself to keep still and not shy away from her gaze as she watches him. Her fingers stay on the scars and he swallows.

“It’s okay.”

“You don’t have to do that,” he murmurs. “It’s awful.”

“No, I – I don’t mind it,” she whispers. “You’re beautiful.”

“It’s ugly, Darce,” he retorts, feeling his hackles rise and he thinks about slipping out to dress.

He attempts to pull her fingers off and she shakes her head.

“I’m not lying.”

“Please don’t touch it.”

“It’s okay.”

Darcy,” he hisses, and she rips her hand away. He feels his heart sink. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine.”

Her voice is quieter and she moves away from him, lying on her back. She stares at the ceiling for a few seconds and Bucky rubs his eyes.

“It’s one of my worst memories,” he murmurs, and her eyes dart to meet his.

She sits up, looking down at him as he keeps talking. He’s trying to not lose his nerve.

“I don’t know if – I guess they didn’t care about anaesthesia when they operated –”

“They took off your arm when you were awake?” Darcy hisses, and Bucky sees her eyes change at the realization.

“I passed out from the pain, but…”

She grabs him, pulling him toward her in a hug. She kisses his face.

“I’m fine now. I just don’t like people touching that part –”

Darcy looks down at his arm, her fingers running along the plates. She looks like she might cry.

“I’m okay.”

“Bucky…” she whispers. “Baby.”

Bucky blinks a few times, letting Darcy trace along his cybernetic limb. He lies back, trying to stay in his own body as she kisses his metal bicep a couple times. They lie there together and Bucky listens to their breathing together, Darcy’s head resting on his chest.

“I’m worried,” Darcy says eventually, and she tilts her head up to meet Bucky’s gaze. “Because I don’t know what’s harder. Letting go or being okay.”

She swallows.

“I mean for both of us, not just you.”

Bucky nods. She said last night that she meant for Ian to suffer and he understood that. He didn’t know what he wanted from his captors. For the most part, they were dead. At least, that’s what Steve said about the intel he and Natasha managed to gather. Since Siberia all Bucky had to do was sit tight, hoping Stark would manage to procure him asylum.

“What do you want to happen?” he murmurs.

“I want…”

She glances away, sighing.

“Feels like I want to look Molokhov in the eye, but… for what purpose? I know I can’t go back to New York and pretend like none of this has happened…”

“But sometimes you wish you could,” Bucky finishes and she nods.

“Don’t you wish you could go back to when you hadn’t lost anything?”

He blinks at her, feeling his stomach twist.

“Darce… I wouldn’t have met you if I hadn’t been with HYDRA. I’d be dead.”

“But you’d have your arm, you’d have had a normal life.”

“What’s normal?” he says, and Darcy’s face flushes.

She moves back, pushing the sheet away and sitting on the edge of the mattress. Bucky runs his hands through his hair, groaning.

“I didn’t mean –”

“What did you mean, then, Bucky?” Darcy snaps, moving to grab some underwear from her pile of clothes on the floor. “I’ll never stop wishing I could take this all back, okay? I killed so many people.”

Bucky closes his eyes. “Seeing Molokhov won’t make it go away, Darce.”

She huffs, pulling her underwear on.

“Is this a fight?” he asks, and she shoots him an irritated look. “Because I don’t even know what we’re fightin’ about.”

“I’m going for a walk,” she replies, and Bucky sighs.

She dresses and leaves him in bed.

-

T’Challa is harder to contact that Steve predicted. He speaks to a king’s guard named Okoye who seems irritated by his questions no matter how courteous he is.

Wakanda was always secretive, but after Steve met the Black Panther they were given a much bigger picture of the nation that no other outside group had been privy to before. Steve was not about to take his privilege for granted, and neither was he expecting T’Challa to solve all his problems.

They use FRIDAY to speak with T’Challa directly.

“Hello, Captain.”

“Thank you for getting back to us so soon,” Steve replies with a little smile. “And congratulations.”

T’Challa had become the new king of Wakanda. According to Okoye there was a specific trial each hopeful went through, and T’Challa managed to come out on top despite some challengers.

“Please, nobody bow,” T’Challa says, and Steve’s smile broadens. “I heard you need help.”

“We… have a situation.”

“Does it happen to have anything to do with HYDRA?”

Steve glances at Okoye behind T’Challa.

“Yes. You have sources in Europe still?”

Okoye nods, speaking to Natasha who stands beside Steve. Tony sits in his chair, watching.

“We have waited to hear about Barnes. The offer is always there.”

“I hoped so,” Steve says. “Except we have another ex-HYDRA operative. She was brainwashed –”

Okoye quirks an eyebrow, murmuring something to T’Challa in Xhosa that Steve doesn’t understand, and they both smirk.

“You already know about her?”

“Yes,” T’Challa says with a smirk. “Assume that whatever you know, we’ve known longer.”

-

Darcy’s sitting in the top of the tree that stands behind Clint’s house, watching the clouds drift by.

She goes back to Ian’s notebook, seeing a lot of Russian she doesn’t understand. She knows Bucky would be able to help her, but for whatever reason she wants to avoid him.

He’s trying to be kind and patient and she can’t stand it. She didn’t know it bothered her until their conversation in bed. She hoped waking up that morning they’d fuck and forget about the world for a little while, but then she had to touch his scars like a fucking freak with no boundaries and he understandably freaked out.

Did he love her because she saw him the way he hoped other people saw him, as a good man? Was Darcy the same about him?

She finds her name over and over in Ian’s scrawl. She traces the biro with her thumb.

She can’t keep track of her mood. She alternates between too many scenarios and she doesn’t know where she’s meant to land. She misses her phone for the first time ever. She misses waking up in her apartment in the Tower, hearing the city when she opens her window.

“Darcy.”

Laura calls to her and Darcy flips another page. Clint already came out before, asking her to come down and she refused. She gives her a glance, seeing she’s squinting up at her with her hand shielding the sun from her eyes.

“Honey, time to come down.”

“I don’t want to.”

“You’ll have to eventually. You’ll need to eat, or at least drink something. And don’t get me started on the bathroom situation, because we have a general rule about people using the toilet inside instead of the garden –”

“The world can be my toilet,” Darcy retorts, and she knows she sounds like a pain in the ass, but that’s what she is. She’s a piece of work. “And I don’t want to come down.”

“Then I’m coming to you.”

“What?” Darcy says, and she sees Laura isn’t kidding around.

She begins to climb up the tree, grunting with the effort. She manages to scale a few branches until she loses her steam.

“Darcy.”

“Okay, okay,” she mutters, and she starts to descend.

They meet halfway up the tree. Darcy hugs the trunk, pursing her lips.

“Do you know how many times I’ve had to climb this thing?” Laura mutters, and Darcy shrugs. “At least ten. Clint usually is the one hiding.”

“Natasha said he’s in the vents at the Tower,” Darcy says. “I thought she was joking.”

Laura laughs. “He likes to nest.”

They fall silent and Darcy presses her forehead against the trunk. The two women sit on either side of it.

“This feeling… I don’t know what it is, but I’m feeling it so much I can’t stand it.”

“I think… I think it’s rage, Darcy,” Laura murmurs. “Clint dealt with it by capturing Loki during the Battle of New York.”

“So how do I deal with it, when Tony won’t let me have any agency?”

“In all fairness –” Laura begins, and Darcy grits her teeth.

“In all fairness?” she repeats. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Darcy, we’re on your side,” Laura says, and she gingerly moves closer to her, reaching out to touch her hand. “Tony was talking about due process.”

Darcy sighs. “I understand –”

“It fractured the Avengers the first time around. It meant Clint could have been under house arrest at the least, a maximum security prison in international waters at the most.”

Darcy stares at her. “I’m not worth that, though.”

“You’re trained,” Laura says. “Even if HYDRA hadn’t trained you, Clint has now. You’re more dangerous than a civilian.”

“I don’t want to be an Avenger.”

“No-one said you had to –”

“Then what else am I supposed to do?” Darcy snaps, and Laura closes her eyes briefly. “My life has been stolen from me. If I leave this place, I’ll be under arrest. Don’t tell me otherwise. The only reason why Tony didn’t drag me away from here is because of Clint.”

“It’s because of Bucky, too, Darcy,” Laura murmurs, and Darcy glances away. “Or did you forget that he’s a weapon?”

“He doesn’t want to fight anymore. Not for me.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

-

“Molokhov spent months creating what he hoped to be the perfect assassin, his own Winter Soldier,” Bucky murmurs, and Clint glances at the notebook between them on the kitchen table.

Clint’s kids are playing in the living room while Laura went outside to see if she could coax Darcy down from the tree.

Bucky didn’t want to force her to come down, which is why he’s sitting inside still and going over what they know about Darcy’s situation.

“Ian’s notes show she was shocked, trained, learned commands, everything?” Clint asks, and Bucky nods.

Clint lets out a breath of a laugh.

“Jesus. And her first kill was a doctor?”

“He got too close. She cut his throat with a scalpel,” Bucky says. It’s what Darcy told him last night while the Bartons slept. “Ian’s notes were about her bein' praised for ingenuity.”

Molokhov encouraged her rebellious nature, which only bit him in the ass in the end, because her bloodlust meant Darcy preferred killing everyone she possibly could in the labs instead of going straight for Stark.

“It’s all sloppy,” Bucky adds. “Risks everywhere because the stakes were so high.”

“So Darcy’s mistakes were bound to happen.”

“I think they were desperate from the start,” Bucky says.

Clint considers this, putting his hands behind his head. Bucky stares at the notebook in front of him. It’s clear that Ian was an obsessive man, bent on controlling Darcy no matter what the cost. In a way, Bucky considers the man lucky to have dealt with Darcy instead of himself yesterday. He’s sure he would have made him scream longer, broken more of his body than Darcy did.

There was no mention of him raping Darcy when she was activated the few times he met up with her before her attempting to kill Stark.

Clint rubs his eyes, sighing. “Natasha says it’ll be harder to find Molokhov. He could be anywhere.”

Bucky knows this already. “But you’ll bring him in, right?”

Clint blinks. “That’s not what Darcy wants though.”

Bucky doesn’t know what to say.

“It’ll be bloody either way,” he murmurs. “Because she was brought into this.”

They fall silent and Bucky listens to Cooper yelling something at the top of his lungs with the beeping of his toy laser gun to accompany him.

Bucky’s throat feels tight.

“It’s not about... her innocence or somethin’,” he murmurs. “At least not with me. I… I love her just the way she is.”

“Does she know that?” Clint says, his voice softer.

Bucky meets his gaze, biting his lip.

Laura walks in, wiping the sweat on her brow.

“She won’t come down,” she says to Clint, and then the couple glance at Bucky expectantly.

Bucky looks from Laura to Clint.

“What do I tell her? Nothing else has worked.”

“Be honest.”

“She’ll hate that. I can’t expect her to be okay just because I tell her how I feel –”

“She is very, very lonely, Bucky,” Laura interrupts, and he clenches his jaw. “She’s been alone for most of her life. She wants to push everyone away now but you can’t let her.”

“Everything’s such a fuckin’… mess,” Bucky groans, but he gets up anyway.

-

Darcy wipes her eyes, sniffing as Laura leaves her to it.

She closes her eyes, feeling the wind on her face. She hears footsteps and glances down to see Bucky walking out, his hands in his pockets.

She waits. She hears him scale up the tree with ease, reaching the branch Laura got to before. Darcy doesn’t look his way.

“I’m gonna sit here,” Bucky murmurs. “Until you’re ready to come down.”

“What if I stay here for hours?” Darcy replies.

She can see the edge of the Barton property from where she’s sitting. If she tries, she can hear cows in the distance.

“That doesn’t matter.”

“What if I stay here all night, too?” she adds.

“That doesn’t matter,” Bucky says again.

She turns her head, and she sees he’s looking down at his cybernetic arm, turning his palm over to compare with his flesh limb. He turns toward her, waiting.

“I don’t want to change you,” he murmurs. “I want you to heal. I want us to heal together.”

“What if I want to kill Molokhov? What if I try to run away?”

“I know I can’t stop you,” he replies.

She looks at his forehead. The bruise was gone that morning when she turned to face him. She had the same serum running through her veins all those months ago.

“Whatever happens –”

“Bucky…”

“Whatever happens,” he says again, firmer. “I love you. Not because we’re alike. Not because I want to control you, or change you. Not because I’m pretending we haven’t done the things we’ve done.”

Darcy feels more tears start to fall.

“I love you because you make me happy. You make me feel safe.”

She doesn’t dare look away. She sniffs, reaching out to squeeze his hand, his cybernetic fingers threading through hers.

“I’ll follow you through it all, Darce,” he says. “If you’ll let me.”

 

Chapter Text

"I'm a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm
I'm a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb
I am the world's forgotten boy..."

- "Search and Destroy" by The Stooges

 

 

Part Twenty Three: Teacup

 

 

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Robbie glances at Karl, winking. He wonders if the man even understands the reference. He and Yuri don’t seem to be the types to watch movies older than themselves. Neither do they seem to care for culture of any description, but Robbie doesn’t mind. The more clueless they are, the better.

Robbie leaves as soon as Ian is out of the room, taking the stairs two at a time. He bursts into the street, seeing Darcy slip into the little New Age shop near the Nando’s. Robbie knows this street better than any other one these days. He used to only know one room in all the world, for a solid three years in that HYDRA basement in Krakow. He can still smell it if he tries hard enough.

He wants to see her, to make an impression. He knows that if he’s got half a chance, he has to help her. It’ll be worth it, even if he’s blowing his cover. He feels sick from the stress of it if he’s honest, and he’s feeling so useless despite all the other people he’s managed to help escape.

He doesn’t understand what the hold-up is. It’s usually a little slow to move an operative out of the clutches of HYDRA, but this is ridiculous. No-one seems to care that this girl is suffering. Robbie screamed about it enough in those messages he sent out. They may as well be swallowed by the ether of the Internet for all the good they’ve done.

Robbie knows Yuri and Karl will be watching, and soon Ian will see him as well. He’ll know just how unhinged Ian is once he starts playing with his toys.

Darcy collides with him. She doesn’t see him standing by the front door of the shop. His hands go to her arms to steady her. Her eyes are wide and so blue. She’s beautiful, but he already knew that.

“I’m so sorry,” he says. He lays on the charm a little thick. He can’t help it. She makes him want to smile at her, so he does without restrain. “That’s just like me to nearly knock somebody over.”

He can play the dumb bastard pretty well, a friendly idiot instead of some guy who’s trying to get her alone. He is trying to do that, just not for the reasons she’d think.

She pulls her arms away from him, her cheeks going pink. “No, my fault. Sorry. I’m a space cadet.”

She’s adorable. If only he could trust that this version of her was genuine. He chuckles, even though he knows she’s been suffering in silence for months and months. She’s pretending to be okay for a stranger in the street, for Christ’s sake.

Her eyes avert and he asks her a question he already knows the answer to.

“You alright, darling?”

“Yeah,” she replies, self-conscious. “Figures I’d run into a cute guy when I’m having a weird enough… month as it is.”

He smiles at her, searching her face. If he acts too hastily he’ll scare her off. She already seems pretty anxious. He remembers last night, when she got up three times to check if the front door was locked. If he was anyone else, he would have lost his temper with Ian forty times over. His experience was what stopped him every time, instead having little victories here and there.

There’s an awkward back and forth when Robbie asks her if she’d like to get a coffee. She’s reluctant, and he understands. He hoped, and maybe he shouldn’t have. Not everyone walks down the street with a total stranger. He’s usually more subtle, despite what people think of his methods.

She makes him laugh. This beautiful, funny girl that Ian wants to control. Robbie knows he can’t let her die. She’s got under his skin. It’s his own fault. Maybe he’s tired.

He shakes her hand. “Robbie.”

His birth name. Named after his grandfather on his mother’s side. Darcy tells her his name. He walks away, only to glance over his shoulder to see her staring after him.

It’s so much harder to not kill Ian when he returns to the hideout. He lets him choke him. He makes fun of him, sees that way his eyes shine when he’s causing someone pain. Robbie has seen it enough in other people to recognise it. He’s sure people don’t realize they give themselves away like that, but they do.

He should never form attachments. That was Intelligence 101. Robbie knows Ian is guilty of this as well, but in his own sick way. He’s attached to Darcy in ways that are evil. There is a hate so strong in him that he’s distorted it into something he thinks is love. All he wants is to possess her. Robbie would be happy to never know what happens to her afterwards, just so he could get her away from him.

He considers his options. If he kills Ian, his cover is blown for good. He will never be able to help another sleeper again. Other sleepers might be killed for HYDRA to start over again. Innocent lives obliterated because of Robbie.

He doesn’t sleep long when it’s his turn to, and he knows Ian is the same. Robbie wakes from one of the regular nightmares of cold and darkness to see Ian standing over him, watching him.

“You… alright, mate?”

Ian glances down at Robbie’s bare chest, the scars that mark his body. The worst one was from a mortar over ten years ago and it gets the most stares. It’s the colour of wine and its shinier than the rest of his skin, like Robbie is made up of pieces of different men.

Robbie scratches his beard, brows lifting. “You wanna see the rest, is that it?”

He pushes down his blanket, his thumbs hooking into the waistband of his boxer briefs before he pulls everything down. From spending years in captivity, Robbie no longer suffers from any kind of shame when it comes to nudity.

“Got an itch to scratch?”

Ian looks at his cock, blinking a few times before he deigns to answer the question with his own.

“Everything works?”

“You want a test drive?” Robbie throws back.

He could fuck Ian. It would be a strange turn of events but if it meant somehow getting closer to Darcy, he’d do it. He’s not attracted to the man in the slightest, and thinking about him touching him that way makes him feel a little sick but he’s can fake it. He can come if he tried hard enough.

He thinks of Jessica. She was stationed in New Delhi. He managed to get her a plane ticket and she thanked him with three days in a hotel. He didn’t do it for a shag, in fact he let her down easy more than once but she told him being free meant making her own choices – and she chose him.

Whatever Ian is thinking, Robbie can’t read him as well as before. His stare is intent, but he can’t decipher if there is desire behind it. Either way, he knows Ian will enjoy making him suffer.

Robbie lies still as the knife comes out from behind Ian’s back. He watches the flash of the metal, feels it cool along his stomach as Ian runs the blade down. The touch is feather light but that could change in a second. Robbie has to quickly assess what he’s willing to lose.

“Is that what you’re into?” he murmurs, and Ian’s eyes meet his. “Knives? Hurting?”

The knife reaches his neck and Robbie freezes, a smirk forming on his face. Ian doesn’t like talking about sex, for whatever reason.

“Remember that this is where you sleep,” Ian whispers, in Russian. Robbie doesn’t blink, stares back at him. “I’m in charge.”

It dawns on Robbie. This isn’t about sex, or domination. It’s Ian’s ego.

“Yes, sir,” Robbie replies, and he pulls his clothes back on.

His heart is still racing when he rolls over, ignoring Ian. He hears him leave.

When HYDRA falls in America, Robbie knows he’s going to die soon. Call it intuition at the least and paranoia at the most, but he’s been close to being right before. The first time he thought he’d die was on an excursion as a child when he was nearly swept out to see. A teacher saved him from drowning, but he still remembers the wave crashing over him, the helplessness of it.

The second time was the mortar. There was so much blood, and there was a peace. He almost accepted it, the same as he accepted it years later the third time he thought he’d die. It was after six months in captivity and he’d stopped hoping for a rescue. He was so deep undercover that there was no way MI6, SHIELD or whoever would bring him out of there. He wouldn’t have been possible to find anyway.

Fairfield never guaranteed him asylum. He hopes the postcards were enough to show a pattern.

Robbie knows he is alone in this world. His only hope for years was to foil HYDRA over and over again. His life was written out that way long before he was even born, since his father was brought into it and could never leave. Robbie knows he was a good spy, too. He couldn’t have got this far and done this much without also helping HYDRA to cover his tracks and squash any suspicions.

He sees the text from an unknown number and he slips out of the room he shares with Ian. They’ve spent weeks watching Darcy, testing her, waiting. The Winter Soldier got away, which is something Robbie never wraps his head around fully.

He knows he’s fucked up, too. Being kept in the dark would do that to everyone. That’s why he revels in the pain Ian causes him. He wants a fight. He wants the shit kicked out of him. He doesn’t want a whimper, he wants a bang.

He thinks of Darcy in those final moments. He does not know how long it takes to drift away, but he is happy, unafraid.

“She’s got a soul. Ye cannae take a soul. Ye cannae take every part of her away if she’s got a soul.”

-

Darcy packs her suitcase. She knows she has to go. She can’t live with Clint and his family forever, no matter how good it feels.

There are loose ends. She flipped through her notebook enough to know her dreams and memories were too jumbled to decipher between the two. She sees Bucky watching her from where he’s sitting, his massive arms folded.

“Thoughts?”

“What if Robbie wasn’t a dream?” he asks, and Darcy pauses her hunt for a missing sock.

When she thinks of Robbie she feels her stomach flutter. He was so handsome, and so kind for someone who never got to be safe from HYDRA. According to what Natasha could find, his father was recruited before Robbie was born. As a diplomat’s son, Robbie travelled the world as a child before being brought into the fold.

From the outside, Robbie was the perfect spy. He killed, obeyed without questioning, charmed the hell out of everyone he came across. His reputation preceded him.

“Why?”

“I don’t think he died because of his own mistake,” Bucky adds. “I think he chose it.”

Darcy glances away, tossing the lone sock.

“If he chose to let me stay with HYDRA, why would he do that?”

“The bigger picture, maybe,” Bucky murmurs. He meets her gaze again. “I’m not defending him. There would have been others out there –”

“Like the Canary, who I killed,” Darcy cuts in.

“I’m taking what Ian wrote as gospel,” Bucky says, his voice quieter. “HYDRA was meticulous with their note-taking. It was kind of a runnin’ joke. I’m sure my own dossier is this fuckin’ big –”

Bucky holds his arms wide.

“I think you met him more than once. Ian’s notes have gaps, moments when Robbie was gone.”

“I didn’t sleep with him!” Darcy says, somewhat incredulous.

“I wouldn’t care if you did,” Bucky replies.

“According to…?” Darcy asks, and Bucky’s eyebrows quirk. “And please don’t say Fairfield. Just saying one name over and over again is not enough.”

Bucky went quiet and Darcy rubs her eyes, sighing. For hours she’s been feeling raw. It’s as if everything has finally caught up with her. She spent yesterday running away from responsibilities until HYDRA was literally landing outside. She spent months and months working and eating, hiding in blankets and bathtubs. Even when she danced in clubs in Paris she still ran from the world.

“If I keep digging, I won’t be able to stop,” she murmurs. “And I can’t go back. I can never go back.”

“Go back where?” Bucky says.

He’s not at the same stage as her. He’s had years to uncover his memories, to live outside of HYDRA’s grasp. He may have only spent his birthday feeding ducks at a pond, but it’s better than what Darcy can ever hope for now. The thought of leaving Missouri fills her with dread.

“It doesn’t matter,” she mumbles. She closes her suitcase and zips it up. “I don’t think I can expect anything different. It’s not realistic.”

Bucky gets up, reaching out before wrapping his arms around her.

“You’ve got me. I know it’s not much…”

“Bucky.”

“But you do, you’ve got me. Maybe we can go on a date.”

Darcy pulls back, smiling despite herself. “A date? Like, a meal in a place other than the Tower?”

He smiles back, dipping to kiss her face.

“Yeah. Dinner and a movie?”

“And leave the Tower during daylight hours?” Darcy says with a chuckle. “What a concept!”

-

“Molokhov’s not in any usual place,” Natasha says with her arms crossed.

They’re all sitting in the conference room three days later. After driving the SHIELD car back to New York, Clint, Bucky and Darcy join the Avengers to discuss the next phase.

Darcy is trying to stay positive, and yet Tony still looks at her like she can’t be trusted. She understands, and it still feels wrong for her to have left the farm.

“From your ex’s notes, he made it seem like his job security was at an all-time low,” Tony says to Darcy.

“It means HYDRA is reckless,” Steve interjects. “And they’re not as powerful as they ever were before. We can’t lose sight of how close we are to the end.”

“But when you figure out where this guy is, I won’t be invited to come along?” Darcy asks, and Steve glances at Tony. Darcy’s eyebrows hike. “Unless you’ve changed your minds?”

Tony looks like he wants to roll his eyes and it’s taking a lot of mental effort to stop himself. He sighs, nodding.

“What did you call it, Tony?” Steve prompts. “Summer camp?”

Darcy tilts her head. “What did Fairfield say?”

-

“No need to pretend you don’t know who I am,” Fairfield says.

He gives Darcy a smile, pushing his sunglasses down to get a proper look of her.

Darcy knows that she could never be a true spy. She sticks out. She knows she does that deliberately sometimes, but for the most part she just not a subtle person. She’s emotes, she curses out loud, she doesn’t always control the volume of her voice.

They sat in the palace Steve told Darcy he’d been to before a couple weeks ago, when she first went to the farm with Bucky. It is so quiet where they are sitting that Darcy could hear a pin drop.

She and Fairfield are alone. Natasha and Steve stayed outside. They’d used Fairfield enough, since apparently there was a limit.

“Is this the annual favour you require me for?” he adds.

Darcy shakes her head. “Annual means there’s supposed be a pattern. Honestly, I never want to see you again.”

He smiles at her. “I like your attitude.”

Darcy picks up her teacup, sipping from it before placing it in the saucer on her lap.

“I spent time here, in London. I like it, despite the cold. Despite the rain. I used to get these candy bars and I haven’t had one since the last time I was here –”

“What were they?”

“Pixie bars,” Darcy replies with a smile. “I used to buy them every day, when I was trying to eat enough to not go completely insane. I mean, I used to think being able to eat whatever I wanted would be a blessing…”

“But it’s not. It was expensive,” Fairfield says, and she nods.

“It’s lonely, too,” Darcy adds. “Trying to make sense of a world that’s suddenly laid out in front of you differently. It was like I wasn’t paying attention to the things in the corner of my line of sight. I was ignoring everything, all the time.”

Fairfield can’t be his real name. He knows everything about her and she knows nothing about him. How was that fair?

“Why didn’t you stop it?”

Her voice is harsher. Fairfield’s face changes. He no longer seems light-hearted.

“I am sorry,” he murmurs. “People are sacrificed for the greater good. It’s what Steve Rogers learned. It’s what Mungo learned. It’s what you have to learn, too.”

“He let me go so I could kill Molokhov,” Darcy murmurs, and Fairfield nods.

He swallows, lifting a hand to go for his jacket. Darcy tenses, until she sees he’s not reaching for a gun. He produces a little USB drive. He clears his throat and a door opens on the other side of the parlor room, a butler walking in with a tiny laptop and a pair of headphones.

“What is this?”

“Mungo left this in case you ever came to me,” Fairfield says.

The butler leaves, and Darcy takes the USB and laptop from Fairfield, starting the computer. She opens the USB, seeing only one file on it.

Darcy puts on the headphones and presses play. She can feel the flutter of anticipation in her stomach as she sees Robbie Brown staring back at her.

“Darcy.”

Tears spring in her eyes in an instant.

“Darling girl. I’m sorry. I can’t make it right.”

“Oh, Robbie,” she whispers.

He looks tired and sad, but he gives a little smile. His eyes are soft.

“There are others out there, but you’re different because they gave you the serum and your body didn’t reject it. You’re strong. And you’re so damn clever.”

He clears his throat.

“Ian made a mistake, choosing you. HYDRA’s always been so bloody stupid that way, thinking they had all the answers, all the power. He chose you because of Doctor Foster.”

He licks his lips, smiling a little wider.

“So bring the Avengers to Krakow. That’s where I was. It’s where Molokhov will hide now. That old saying, that when you cut off one head and two shall follow or some shite?”

Darcy chuckles, and Robbie does, too, onscreen.

“It’s just that, shite. They’re in trouble, and they know it. It’s why you were able to… act differently around me.”

Darcy pauses the video, glancing at Fairfield.

“What does he mean by that, act differently?”

“I’m not sure, my dear,” the Englishman replies, a hint of cheekiness to his tone. “Imaginations may run wild.”

Darcy glances back at the screen, resuming the video.

“I want… I want you to… live,” Robbie adds. He rubs his auburn beard, taking a deep breath. “I’ll see you when I see you. In the next life.”

Darcy is back to nearly crying, sensing the end.

“Bye, gorgeous girl.”

He leans over, that dazzling smile Darcy remembers seeing in the flesh. The video ends. Darcy feels the first tears fall and she swipes at them, pulling off her headphones.

“What, that’s it?”

“On the side of that USB, there are co-ordinates,” Fairfield says.

“Why are you helping, anyway?” Darcy says, turning the USB over to read the numbers. “Since you have a limit for how many times you can be bothered helping us?”

Fairfield glances at the ceiling for a moment, considering her words.

“I’ve known many people, over many years.”

Darcy sits back in her seat, folding her arms.

“If you’re about to give me a riddle –”

“Darcy, if I could stop HYDRA, I would,” he says in a rush. His voice has changed again. He sounds weary. “And I may know everyone’s secrets, but you were never given a choice.”

Darcy nods.

“And if we keep carrying on like this, how are we supposed to deal with the Big Bad when it comes? Who cares about the littler factions when the universe becomes that much smaller?”

Darcy blinks. “You mean with Thor and –”

He nods. Intergalactic adventures make other things fall away. It’s what caused Jane and Erik to be so much more precious to Darcy when the Dark Elves came.

“It won’t just be poetic justice, Darcy,” he says. “Because I know you won’t be able to go back to being a civilian. Whether Tony Stark wants you or not, you are an Avenger, now.”

He’s deadly serious, his voice a sharp whisper. Darcy doesn’t dare look away.

“Find Molokhov, and end this.”

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

"At the rock bottom baby crawl, crawl
I let you lick it from the ground, ground
'Cause I've been drippin' for your love, love
You can call me that bitch
It's all signed
All I can think about is you're mine..."

- "Gimme" by BANKS

 

 

Part Twenty Four: Blood

 

 

“I guess if anyone wants to say a little prayer, now’s the time,” Tony murmurs.

Darcy loves lists. They’re underrated. Sometimes nothing feels better to Darcy than making a list and then crossing things off. She makes lists all the time for Jane, for herself. She made a list when she left London.

Talk to Wanda.

Darcy remembers the time she met Robbie but it’s not enough. She can’t ignore that part of his message to her, how he said that she acted differently with him. The answers were inside her own head, and she needed someone to access them. Wanda tried before when Darcy was in the basement of the Tower.

She sits in the labs, a heart monitor attached to her as well as a cap with wires on her head to measure her brain activity. Only moments ago, Tony told her she didn’t have to do this in the labs, especially so soon after the shooting. She declined using the conference room for this. She wants to try and sit still, let herself be in the places that scare her, just to see if she can do it.

Wanda, Bucky, Steve, Natasha and Tony all stand around as Jane and Bruce hook Darcy up. Bucky looks like he feels sick, so Darcy keeps looking over at him to assure him she’s fine.

“Let’s do it,” Darcy says, when Jane and Bruce step back.

Wanda purses her lips, taking a deep breath.

“If it’s too much, I’ll pull back,” she says, and Darcy nods. “But I might not find anything.”

Darcy nods again. “Please.”

Wanda comes closer, hovering. Darcy’s heartbeat picks up immediately when the world is plunged into darkness. Darcy’s breath hitches when Wanda delves deeper.

-

Robbie sneaks away. He swears he doesn’t even feel his feet as he dashes across the street. The sedative was weaker than others Robbie has used before to make sure Ian doesn’t wake up groggy. If he’s at all dazed, he’ll suspect him immediately.

He recorded Ian’s voice on the phone. Robbie knows his own accent butchers the activation, and most likely Darcy is only activated by two voices – Ian’s and Commander Molokhov’s.

This is beyond stupid of him, but he’s desperate. His guilt has weakened him beyond repair. He will die soon, that he knows for sure. People within MI6 are going to flush him out. People within HYDRA will flush him out. His reputation will be shredded, his name forgotten. His body will end up in some remote town he never visited when he was alive. There will be one day when he knows he will never see her face again, because Ian will kill him.

He has to die so that Darcy lives.

He calls Darcy’s phone. She picks up, and he sees her pick up her phone in the monitor he watches her on. Ian’s out cold in his chair, his mouth slightly open, softly snoring.

When Darcy’s activated she gets the same glazed look on her face. She changes the second Robbie speaks in his Scottish lilt.

“Meet me in your hall. Please.”

He races up the stairs, and she’s there. She has her pyjamas on, her hair sticks up at the back. She stares at him when he reaches the top of the staircase outside her apartment. He has to be quiet because of the neighbours and Doctor Foster possibly hearing them.

He wants to touch her, but he won’t. He freezes when her hands go up, and she moves toward him like it’s natural. The thought of her doing this with anyone else controlling her horrifies him.

“You don’t have to –” he whispers, shaking his head. He holds her wrists in place, trying to be gentle. She pushes, and she’s so much stronger than him. He can’t stop her touching his face.

Her fingers glide through his beard, they trace the lines on his forehead and his crow’s feet. Her lips part and her eyes are focused, pinning him in place.

“Darcy,” he whispers. “I – I…”

“I know you,” she whispers back. “You’re…”

She moves closer, and she kisses him. All she does is press her mouth to his and Robbie feels his heart in his throat, making a muffled yelp of surprise, pushing back with his hands on her bare shoulders.

“No, no, no…”

She kisses him again, closing her eyes and he melts. Her tongue nudges between his lips and it’s like an electric shock to his cock. He can’t. He won’t.

“Fuck,” he groans, and he moves his face away. “No.”

She kisses his neck and he bites his lip, trying his best to not react. She sucks at his skin with a contented hum and Robbie squeezes her shoulders, his eyes on her closed apartment front door.

“Darcy, stop. We can’t,” he pleads. “Please stop.”

She moves back, her eyes glazed, but not because she’s at his command. She looks like she wants to eat him whole. She licks her lips and Robbie feels hot all over.

“When’s the last time you… did something like that?” he asks. He can’t help himself. If Ian is secretly wandering off to shag Darcy when Robbie’s back is turned, he’ll take his balls and he’ll mail them to Putin.

“Kissing?” she asks, and he nods.

“Or… anything. Touching.”

“I don’t know,” she murmurs. She speaks slowly. “Long time.”

He sighs in relief. “I came by to check on you. I wanted – Christ, I know what I want. It’s not about that. It’s about you. Are you okay? You’re not okay. I know you’re not…”

He’s babbling and she stares up at him, watching his mouth move.

“I’m okay now,” she murmurs. “With you.”

She smiles, and he smiles back. He needs to go. He’s already spent too long with her. One of her hands leaves his face and he jolts – she’s gone for his belt buckle.

“No. No, no, no,” he says, and he clutches her wrist. “No, Darcy. I would love to, but never like this.”

He never will know her that way. That’s his path and he’s already on it, no turning back.

She looks a little sad as he says all this, and he lets her wrist go. She glances away. He sees that look on her face most of the time when they watch her on the hidden cameras. It makes it that much harder to step away from her, so he hesitates.

“Darcy, I have to go.”

She nods. She glances back at him. “What if we… could?”

“Could what?” he asks, and she gives a little smile.

It’s broken and sad, and it hurts to look at. She’s hurting all the time, and Robbie feels nothing more than useless.

“What if we could,” he says, nodding. “I think that all the time. I think about you all the time. About how wonderful you are… and how I… fucked up and you’re stuck here.”

When she kisses him again he doesn’t resist. He knows he did not tell her to touch him. She’s going against every command from her training. She’d sooner kiss him than kill him, and that has to mean something.

He kisses her and kisses her, wrapping his arms around her and she sighs, opening her mouth to him as his tongue sweeps inside. He wants to be lost in her forever. When he finally pulls back, she looks like she might cry, and his chest hurts.

“I have to go. I have to,” he whispers, and he kisses her forehead.

He pulls back before he loses his nerve and he rubs his beard, walking backwards until he meets the stairs. Darcy’s hands are balled into fists and her face is pink.

“Go to bed,” he whispers. “And sleep. Please. You have to forget this.”

She shakes her head. “I don’t… want to.”

Forget,” he says, a little sharper.

He runs back. He sees Ian still passed out and snoring, and he works fast, erasing what he can. He chops and changes things. He cuts back to the live feed and sees Darcy sitting on her bed, staring at the wall.

What if we could?

He puts his face in his hands.

-

Darcy is ripped back to the present like she’s been pulled out of icy water. She gasps, and Bucky moves toward her on instinct.

Her eyes are glassy with tears and she sobs. Bucky cuddles her, rocks her as she sobs. Wanda says what she managed to see – Robbie came to her before he died.

For the first time, Bucky sees Stark is hurting for Darcy, his jaw tight. Bucky is too busy watching Tony as he cradles Darcy to hear whatever FRIDAY says.

Steve touches Bucky’s arm and he glances up.

“What?”

“Ian. They found him.”

What’s left of him, Bucky thinks. Darcy resurfaces, long tear tracks down her face, sniffling.

“Where is he?”

“Santa Fe,” Steve replies. “Of all places.”

Darcy clears her throat, wiping her eyes. “What did they do to him?”

-

It turns out Darcy was right. There is so little of Ian left over. His eyes, tongue and most of his teeth are gone. The wounds are clean. HYDRA has surgeons who would have saved his life over and over just to keep him alive long enough to pull each piece off of him. Bucky had heard of Molokhov’s sadism – and it makes his stomach turn at the thought of Darcy going to find him.

“I don’t want you to end up like him,” Bucky whispers when they’re alone.

She’s wrapped in a sheet beside him in his bed. They haven’t spent more than a couple hours apart in the last few days. She crashed there a couple hours ago after she finished training with Natasha. She’s better prepared for Poland but Bucky can’t ignore his anxiety. He knows Darcy can read it on his face, anyway.

“I won’t,” she whispers back.

They have T’Challa to back them up. Darcy will never be alone when they fight, in case someone attempts to trigger her or Bucky. Ever since Darcy went to meet Fairfield she’s been focused on one thing – finding Molokhov.

They haven’t made love in a while. Bucky is not complaining, they simply haven’t had many chances to be alone. When she kisses him now, he knows it’s to assure him, and possibly distract him.

When he pulls back, a breathless laugh escapes her lips.

“If you need time,” he murmurs, and she looks confused. “I’d understand. With Robbie and everythin’.”

She blinks at him. “Oh. Oh, Bucky.”

Her hands are in his hair and he closes his eyes for a second, distracted by how good it feels when she scratches his scalp. Since they’re lying side by side, Darcy slips her leg over his hip to slot them together as she kisses his face, playing with his hair.

“I love you,” she whispers, rubbing his nose with hers.

“I love you, too,” he says back, and he can’t quite smile. “But I want you to be happy.”

“You make me happy,” she says. “I am happy. I’m sad, but… I’m happy, too.”

He nods, trying to make the words sink in. He wants to believe her. He knows she’d never lie about that. She’s never lied to him. Before he can kiss her, she scoots back, hopping off his bed.

“Where are you goin’?” he asks, and her eyebrows lift.

“We’re going into battle tomorrow, right?”

“I… guess so,” he replies.

Her hands fall to her shirt and she peels it off, throwing it aside and pulling down her leggings. She stands in her underwear and two sports bras, kicking her clothes aside. She puts her hands on her hips.

“So, are we fucking or not?”

He chuckles, the blood already rushing to his cock.

“I was hopin’.”

“Then come get me,” she says, eyes bright.

She only makes it as far as his hallway outside his bedroom before Bucky catches her, scooping her up and carrying her back to the bed.

-

Bucky lands on top of her, and she laughs with him as he kisses her face and neck. She missed this so much, being in their little world.

“Trouble,” he whispers, when her hand goes between them to squeeze the hard length of him in his gym shorts. She nods, squeezing again and again and he pushes against her.

Their kisses turn clumsy as hands wander all over. Nails dig into skin and hips roll together. It’s needy and rough and Bucky gets her naked in no time, pinning her down as he kisses the line of her back. He smacks her ass and she hisses, staring down at him over her shoulder. He bites one cheek and then the other. He licks her everywhere and Darcy can’t control herself. If she was without her serum, she’d be marked all over - her asshole and cunt would be red from Bucky’s beard.

“Jesus, you’re nasty,” she gasps, and he tongues at her again and again, groaning into her skin. She feels lightheaded, laughing breathlessly. She writhes under his touch until she’s crying from the sensations. He’s a mess by the time he comes up for air and Darcy kisses him hard, teeth clacking as they roll together.

“Please,” she whispers into his mouth, her legs wrapping around his hips. “Please.”

“I got you,” he murmurs, and he pushes inside her to the hilt with a grunt. “Fuck.”

He closes his eyes for a second and Darcy thinks she could melt from it. He’s so lost in his own pleasure, and she knows she’ll do anything to keep them this way – together and safe, loving each other and fucking until they’re weak and spent.

He doesn’t move for some time, he only kisses her deeply, making her whimper. She longs for him to move, nearly pleads audibly again. She angles her hips, coaxing him. He holds her still in his arms, fingers bruising skin. The perfect mix of pleasure and pain and Darcy wants to sob from how good she feels beneath him, around him, above him – everywhere.

“I love you,” he whispers, and Darcy’s eyes widen.

“Bucky –”

He begins to move and whatever else she meant to say falls away. He’s so beautiful and strong, fucking her slow as her ankles cross though she knows she doesn’t have to trap him there – but she wants more, and he knows it, too.

“I love you,” he whispers again. “I don’t know what I’d do without you. Fuck, I’m lost without you, Darce. Fuck –”

He goes a little harder and Darcy moans, never breaking eye contact. She grinds her clit against him and he growls.

“Fuck me really hard,” she gasps. “Come on. Give it to me.”

“Fuck,” he hisses, and his hips snap.

Darcy cries out as he knocks into her, skin slapping. He leans forward to bite her neck and Darcy feels like she could die. She could die this way, coming hard with a hoarse scream ripped from her lips. Her heel digs into his back and the world falls away as she shudders again and again.

He flips her over and hardly misses a stroke. He fucks her until he comes, flattening her into the mattress and groaning into the back of her neck. They’re boneless, panting together as Darcy feels the sweat dry on her skin.

Darcy wonders how long it will take for him to fuck her again. She wipes her face with the back of her hand, wriggling out from under him. It turns out to be three minutes, when he pulls her on top of him to eat her out from behind as she takes him to the back of her throat, her eyes streaming.

At one point, she pulls back, strings of spit between her mouth and his cock and she bites back a whimper.

“I called you nasty already, didn’t I?”

He slaps her ass hard for that and she chuckles, until his tongue glides across her taint.

“Jesus Christ.”

“You love it,” he murmurs, biting one of her cheeks and working her clit with his thumb.

“I do,” she admits. She feels more arousal pool between her legs and he groans appreciatively, licking it away. “Fuck. Don’t stop.”

She comes hard, stroking his cock until she feels like she’ll pass out and she goes limp. Bucky kisses her thighs, laughing softly into her sweaty skin. He pulls her off of him and turns her so she’s settled in his lap.

When he pulls her back down so she’s more or less riding his hand, he hits her G-spot on the first go and Darcy laughs, almost delirious.

“Fucking… snipers,” she whispers. “You got good aim, Sarge.”

She comes with a gush down to his wrist and he coaches her through it, praising her, kissing her pink face and bitten lips.

“You’ve gotta come,” Darcy babbles. “Then we gotta… stop for a bit.”

He nods, tucking his cock back inside her and pushing forward so Darcy lies beneath him.

“I like it this way, y’know,” Darcy whispers, into his ear, his hands placing her thighs around his hips that begin to grind. “Missionary position’s better than I think it’s given… credit for. Tried and true…”

He kisses her and she moans. He pulls her hair enough to make her purr despite how exhausted she already feels.

“I’m a fucking… mess, Buck,” she gasps. “How am I meant to do anything else today, huh? How am I meant to act like I wasn’t fucked into the next decade? Huh?”

He answers her with sharper thrusts and she tenses, anticipating something so thorough to run through her she’ll see stars.

“Fuck, you feel so good,” she whimpers.

“You feel better,” he manages to reply, and then he finds her clit with his thumb, working it as he never lets up. “I love you.”

“I love you, I love you, I love –”

Darcy comes, and it almost hurts. Pleasure blends with the sting of everything else and she sobs. When he comes he shakes all over, his massive shoulders rolling with it as he pushes her legs up to be as close as possible to her.

“No more, no more,” she pants, and he pulls back to look at her face.

He kisses her, gentle. It’s so startling in its vulnerability that Darcy feels her eyes sting with tears. She’s nothing but sweat, tears and come with him softening inside her.

-

He looks at her differently from then on and Darcy wonders what he’s thinking. They suit up, joining the others in the jet. Darcy checks her guns four times, and Natasha checks them for her, too.

Her guts churn with anxiety. She feels out of her own body for some of the flight. She welcomes the distraction Sam brings when he mentions her knocking Bucky out the other day.

“Too bad no-one took a picture on the phone of it,” Sam says with a smile, and Darcy glances at Bucky, seeing he’s irritated.

“Maybe next time,” Darcy says, and Bucky pinches her butt for that when nobody’s looking.

Her gear feels like a whole other person strapped to her chest. She has her own earpiece, a bulletproof vest, pads on her elbows and knees. She doesn’t have a specific outfit, unlike the rest of the Avengers.

She catches Tony looking at her and she nods. He’s trying. She appreciates the fact that he no longer looks at her like she’s the worst person in the room.

“I’m sorry,” he mouths, and she nods. She wonders if he’d ever say it to Bucky, too.

This feels like a dream. FRIDAY tells them they’re fifteen minutes away from landing and Darcy’s heartbeat picks up speed, her adrenaline working its way through her in seconds.

“Remember?” Bucky says, and she nods. He’s asking if she remembers the plan.

She glances at T’Challa, who winks at her. His mask melts into place and Darcy takes a few calming deep breaths. She remembers the train station, pushing the Canary out.

She can count twenty-three people she has killed. The doctor whose neck she slit. The agent HYDRA brought back who she held up for Molokhov to see through the glass before she was asked to kill them. The Canary – yellow hair whipping as Darcy shoved her into the path of the train, her scream smothered by the sound of the metal crushing her body into the rails. The nineteen people in the labs, pleading, screaming.

Ian.

She blinks at the space above Bucky’s head, and then her gaze dips to his.

“I’m okay,” she whispers.

-

Breaking into a locked facility takes no time at all. It’s a bunker on the outskirts of Krakow. All Steve can smell is the earth beneath his feet.

He watches the intricate dance of his team. Darcy rises to the occasion. She mirrors Bucky and Natasha, her bullets cutting through the air and hitting the people that come toward them. Steve knew it was going to be a one-sided fight, but they were counting on it.

HYDRA doesn’t ever deserve a fair fight, considering everything they’d ever done.

-

Darcy can smell the grass she ran through when she tried to escape. She pretends she’s dreaming and this creates a distance. She doesn’t have to think about the light behind the men’s eyes she extinguishes.

They started firing first. Darcy knows they don’t negotiate with HYDRA. It goes without saying, especially when they try to sneak up on them.

Darcy follows the sounds with her eyes. She never stops moving, and she doesn’t have to. She’s built for this, fighting – and she can’t say she doesn’t enjoy seeing how much damage she can do.

At one point she sees a man behind Tony and she shoots him over the billionaire’s shoulder without blinking.

“You need me on your six?” Tony says with a smirk, and Darcy shakes her head. That was currently Bucky’s job.

“Where is he?” Steve asks over the comms, and Darcy knows he means the Commander.

They work their way down the hallways, until they meet a crossroads and Wanda peels off with Steve and Natasha. Sam and Rhodey are behind them, Vision following after Wanda, disappearing into a wall.

They pass some cellblocks and Darcy pauses, glancing inside each enclosure. Robbie survived years in one of these. They stink, and Darcy reels back, gagging.

“Jesus,” she rasps, and Bucky glances inside with a pained expression on his face.

He opens the door. “We gotta check ‘em all -”

“BUCKY!”

She hears the crack of the gun going off as she shoves him out of the way with all her might. She feels the bullet smack into her vest and she’s winded. Bucky shoots the guard a second later, hauling Darcy up by the shoulders.

“Are you fuckin’ nuts?!” he yells, grabbing her face. “Why would you do that?”

“Because I can – I can take a bullet.”

He looks fierce, chest heaving as he inspects her. Tony smacks Bucky’s shoulder.

“Hey, come on. Gotta move, lovebirds.”

Bucky pulls Darcy along by the hand until she can breathe again. He keeps looking at her like he’s checking she’s still there. She clutches her chest where the bullet hit her and she winces. Maybe a bruise will finally last longer than a few seconds.

Steve’s voice comes over the comms. “Molokhov’s gone.”

“He’s here,” Darcy gasps. “He’s got nowhere else to go.”

“Wait –”

There’s a scuffle and Darcy presses her finger to her earpiece. Several of them ask after Steve and the others.

“Cap, come on. Give us a sign, buddy,” Tony says, and even he sounds like he’s on the edge of panicking.

“Hello.”

They stop in their tracks, and without hesitating, Bucky takes Darcy’s gun and knife from her like they agreed to before.

The voice over the P.A. system is thick with a Russian accent and Darcy swallows, her mouth feeling suddenly dry.

“Bring her to me. Soldat, I can make you do it, or you can bring her –”

“Don’t,” Darcy urges, grabbing Bucky’s arm before he can decide for himself.

“How would they have your triggers?” Tony says, and Bucky looks like he’s going to be sick. “Don’t listen to him.”

Bucky’s eyes dart between Tony and Darcy.

“Don’t do it, Barnes,” Tony warns.

Bucky pulls Darcy toward him by the elbow and Darcy’s eyes widen pleadingly, shaking her head.

“Bucky… don’t do it.”

He tugs her along despite Tony’s protests and yelling over the comms to Steve and the others. It’s like they’re back in the panic room in Missouri and the world is turning sideways. Darcy tries to rip her arm away from him but she can’t. His cybernetic arm is stronger than all her might. She digs her heels into the ground and Tony keeps yelling.

At one point, Bucky stops abruptly, glancing down at Darcy.

“You trust me?”

She nods. “Tell me what to do –”

He cuts her off with a kiss and then lets her go, breaking off into a run down the hall.

“Are you… fucking kidding me, Barnes?!” Tony yells after him.

Darcy takes off, following Bucky’s retreating back down each new hallway. She can’t hear anyone else. The comms might be down.

“Steve? Anybody? SOMEBODY?”

She stops in her tracks, sees the doorway to a basement wide open, hears voices coming from inside, shouts and blows to bodies echoing around. She dashes inside, seeing the team fighting soldiers, with no sign of Bucky or Molokhov.

Wanda lands beside her, arcing bullets away from her in a whirl of red energy.

“Where’s Bucky?”

“He’s not with you?”

“What the fuck is happening?” Tony snaps, letting off a blast from his repulsors. “Where’s Barnes?”

Steve’s shield smacks someone aside and he catches it, somersaulting to Darcy’s feet.

“Buck’s gone.”

“Where?” Darcy asks.

“Saw him go upstairs.”

They glance up to the rafters, and sure enough Bucky is there with a familiar figure pointing a gun at him.

Molokhov’s eyes are bright, his smile wide.

“Get me up there,” Darcy hisses to Wanda. “Now.”

She obeys, and Darcy’s flung up into the air. She grabs the railing and lands between Molokhov and Bucky.

“Darcy.”

She hears that voice in her dreams sometimes. Dreams in which she strangles him to death with her bare hands. She imagines how he might sound as he screams.

She doesn’t know what Bucky’s plan was. Maybe he figures he’d have to kill Molokhov himself, since he’s probably under the impression that Darcy wants to see the Commander live out his days in a cell.

“Activate me now and see what happens,” Darcy whispers, and the Commander’s eyes flash.

“You’re mine.”

“No,” she says. “It’s over.”

He raises the pistol to aim at her chest. Darcy shakes her head, sees his anger at her defiance burn in his eyes. It’s the same look Ian gave her before she took out his kneecap.

Molokhov’s mouth spreads into a crooked grin and he lifts the pistol higher. Darcy is faster, reaching out to grab his arm and crush the delicate bones of his wrist and he gives a yell.

To her horror, he reaches behind his back and pulls out a second gun, firing it at Bucky. Darcy screams, grabbing Molokov and slamming his head as hard as she can into the railing.

Blood and brains splatter her face, his body slumping to the side a second later. She turns, seeing Bucky is fine, more or less. The bullet only seems to have grazed his ear, a streak of blood down the side of his neck.

Darcy kicks away the guns from Molokhov’s limp hands and begins to shake all over.

“He came out of nowhere,” Bucky whispers. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t run away from me again.”

“I won’t.”

Darcy swallows, nodding. She wipes her face, tasting blood that she spits away with a grimace. Bucky surges toward her before she has a chance to catch her breath and wraps his arms around her.

“You saved my life,” he whispers.

Darcy turns her head to look at Molokhov, feeling a wave of nausea, and yet she can’t look away.

“Is that what we all look like on the inside?”

 

 

Chapter Text

"I've been the archer
I've been the prey
Who could ever leave me darling?
But who could stay?"

- "The Archer" by Taylor Swift

 

 

"All of our heroes fading
Now I can't stand to be alone..."

- "Perfect Places" by Lorde

 

 

"All my heroes got tired
And all the days, they got short
And a love that I dreamt of
Came to me at my worst..."

- "All My Heroes" by Bleachers

 

 

Part Twenty Five: Stone

 

 

“There are twelve women,” Steve says.

Darcy nods, and Bucky blinks. Few people would know the subtle signs of his relief, but his face slackens enough for Darcy to notice. He thought there would be far more HYDRA sleepers.

“So what do we do now? Round them up?” Darcy asks, and Steve gives her a little smile.

T’Challa’s offer was still there and Darcy knew it was a matter of time before the Captain would put his foot down – somewhat gently, but still adamant.

“No, Darcy. You gotta rest,” he says.

She and Bucky were chewed out for how Krakow went, and they knew they were lucky neither of them were killed. They were too vulnerable for combat, if that’s what they chose to do.

“When do you get to rest, Steve?” Darcy retorts, and he chuckles.

“Any day now, doll. Any day now.”

-

They got back to Missouri for a few days. Darcy carries Nate around wherever she goes. She doesn’t pick up a single weapon except for knives, but those are for cutting ingredients for cooking.

She tries to sleep but she has nightmares. Bucky is the same. Maybe that will never go away, but at least he gets to sleep beside her each night. He watches her with Nate and she seems completely at ease. She plays with him, cuddles him, and she secretly sings to him when Bucky naps.

He’s drifting off one afternoon and he hears her soft voice, quiet and soothing the toddler:

“I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream…”

Bucky’s eyes open and he watches her swaying, running her fingers through Nate’s fuzzy hair.

“I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam…”

Nate is looking at her with an adorable, completely absorbed expression. He may as well have hearts in his eyes, he looks so happy laying there in Darcy’s arms while she sings.

-

“What about that date?”

Darcy’s eyebrows hike. “Oh? You thinking of asking someone out?”

Bucky smiles, pulling her toward him and kissing her. They’re lying in the grass under the stars. The August air is warm enough that they can still wander around after dark with no shoes and sweat like it’s the middle of the day. There’s a layer of moisture everywhere, like the air is velvet.

Darcy relaxes into the kiss, pulling back to look up at him and she smiles.

“Where? The barn?”

“I mean if when we get to Wakanda.”

Darcy glances away, nodding. The smile returns with less warmth and she should have known – Bucky’s too close to her not to notice when something’s on her mind.

“What is it?”

“I made a list when I met Fairfield,” she says, and Bucky threads his fingers through hers, squeezing her hand. Darcy meets his gaze. “I’ve got two more things to do.”

“What are they?”

“I saw the messages Robbie left, and he wanted to be buried in Mykonos. I know it’s a lot to ask of Steve and the others, but I’ll feel better if –”

Bucky cuts her off. “Okay. We’ll do that.”

Darcy gapes. “I… I ask and I get what I want? Just like that?”

He smiles at her, reaching to cup her face with his cybernetic hand, running his thumb over her lower lip.

“Just like that.”

-

Natasha holds up a manila folder and hands it to Darcy.

“MI6 dental records.”

Darcy’s eyebrows hike and she examines the files, seeing they managed to confirm Robbie’s body is in Barcelona. Darcy scans the papers, seeing a portrait of Robbie staring up at her. She closes the folder and nods.

“I’ve asked for someone to escort you to Greece. He said he doesn’t mind one last assignment before retiring.”

Clint greets Darcy with a fierce hug the next morning when they’re ready for take-off, lifting her into the air and spinning her.

“Hey, sweetheart.”

“Laura pissed she can’t come, too?” Darcy asks when he puts her down.

He holds up his thumb and forefinger less than an inch apart, smirking.

“Little bit. About this much.”

Darcy thinks about how she named them the Brainwashed Babes Club, and how Erik and his wife had the twins. She’s so thankful for those things, seeming so normal to others but such a gift because of what they’ve all been through. Clint has his family and his farm, Erik has his academia and family, Darcy and Bucky have each other.

Darcy meant to go to Greece once. She thinks she had the idea to when she was in college, but then her aunt Jo died and she put life on hold. Being there now with Bucky and Clint, she can see how people could lose themselves in traveling. There’s so much life to look at, and it’s not your own. A MI6 liaison greets them in Mykonos, takes the paperwork Natasha gave Darcy to pass on.

They travel a little further out, to somewhere there’s still plenty of views of the ocean, where the warm air swirls. Darcy feels her heart lift a little, turn and ache as they stop.

-

Darcy gets out of the hired van. Clint stays behind with Bucky, watching her go.

“Follow her,” Clint says.

“I’ll give her a minute to herself first,” Bucky says. He’d usually snap but he’s trying to be gentle.

Clint gives a little sigh as they watch her walk over to the plot.

“God, she’s incredible.”

Bucky glances at him and Clint’s eyebrows hike.

“Don’t get territorial, bud. I’m just saying.”

Bucky smiles, looking away. “She is. And I’m gonna spend the rest of my life tellin’ her that.”

They fall silent. In the distance, Darcy stands with her arms crossed.

-

The plot was dug in the last couple of days. It’s not your traditional grave and Darcy figures Robbie would appreciate that – not being conventional even in death. There’s simply a large oval-shaped stone with a tiny black plaque and gold lettering.

Darcy kneels, reading. It has his full name, birth and death dates. Darcy looks over at the sea beyond the cliff she stands on and raises a hand to shield her eyes from the sun.

“It’s a beautiful day.”

She can remember his smile the most. She imagines it now, his eyes closed as he feels the sun on his skin. She’d tease him about getting more freckles. She’d hold his hand, laugh with him.

“Thank you.”

She’s crying and she hears the van door open. She turns her head to see Bucky walk over. He touches the stone wordlessly and joins her, his arm wrapping around her shoulders.

“I won’t be long.”

“We can stay as long as you want,” Bucky replies. “As long as you need.”

They watch the world below. When she gets up to leave, Bucky right behind her, she runs her fingers along the top of the gravestone.

I’ll see you when I see you. In the next life.

-

Darcy hopes one day Jane can visit and work with Shuri. That girl is the smartest person Darcy has ever known, and yet she makes her feel like she isn’t an idiot.

T’Challa officially apologizes in front of the Avengers and Darcy for not sharing intel sooner about Darcy’s situation. Darcy knows it’s all been a steep learning curve. She thought she was exempt from the concerns Jane had for years being connected to Thor. Darcy thought she’d never be in any real trouble, and it seemed other people had felt the same way. She’s no longer underestimated, and she no longer underestimates herself.

She has her own gun and knives. She prefers sharp things to firearms, but she hasn’t had to use them in months. She regularly updates the team with photographs of Bucky and the goats in the Wakandan sun, which she knows Steve and Sam appreciate the most.

He seems looser, content. His arm is replaced with a black and gold vibranium one Shuri creates and it’s beautiful.

She thinks of Robbie all the time. She can’t escape him, or the people she killed. She knows her life is in three sections, now. Before HYDRA, after she was brainwashed, and now in Wakanda. She knows she will return to New York eventually, but there’s no time limit.

-

Bucky spoils her. He’s true to his word about dates on the town. He walks with her through the city, they eat good food and look up at the stars when they return home.

There are some nights when Bucky leaves their bed to go sleep in the hut at the edge of the paddock where the goats are sleeping.

One particular night, Darcy follows him out the door. He glances over his shoulder.

“I thought I might start thrashin’ around, didn’t wanna wake ya,” he murmurs.

She takes his hand in hers, shaking her head.

“I don’t mind.”

There are crickets, and the little enclosures for the goats come into view and Darcy can make out the shapes of the creatures dozing peacefully. Life around here is equally simple and advanced and she thinks Bucky has to have it that way. Turns out he’s a real nerd for the technology Wakanda boasts, and yet he loves his goats more than most people.

He slips into the hut and Darcy looks up at the moon for a moment, taking a mental picture. Memories are precious again, no longer something she’s afraid of. They’re not something that feels beyond her control.

When she moves into the hut, she sees Bucky lying on his little bed with his hands behind his head staring up at her. It’s usually a look in his eye he only has when he thinks she’s looking the other way. It makes butterflies flutter in Darcy’s stomach and she feels almost shy under his gaze.

“C’mere.”

She moves toward him and he pulls her into a kiss, their mouth slanting together. He puts every part of himself into everything, and yet she’s still floored by the way he kisses her. He folds his arms around her, grabs her hair, tugs enough to make her desire kick in that much stronger. She bends to his will though she could fight him off if she tried. They both know it, how much she can take, how much she loves the way he manhandles her. He loves it to, and she won’t forget that. He loves her cracked open for him, all his, always.

Clothes are tugged off and Darcy giggles, slipping under the covers with him. He rolls on top of her, and there’s that look again. She feels it deep inside her and she stills, hands going to his face.

“I love you,” she says.

He licks his lips, nodding. He nuzzles her nose, kissing her deep again as their legs tangle. She loves the shape of him, so solid and warm. He brackets her head with his arms and kisses her all over her face and neck. He bites, rolls his hips with hers.

When he pulls back to watch her face when he pushes inside her with his cock she gnaws her lip, her eyes fluttering at the sensation of being so full, so wanted.

“Do you know –” his hips snap as he whispers to her and Darcy moans. “- how long I’ve loved you?”

Darcy’s hands glide up along his back, her eyes glued to his.

“How long?” she chokes out.

“Since that day you bit me,” he replies, and Darcy’s face flushes at the memory.

“Really?” she says, and he nods.

They kiss, and it’s like he’s trying to stop her breathing by the way he goes back and forth, sucking the air out of her as he ruts.

She loves it best this way – when they’re fucking like animals, all inhibitions thrown aside. He doesn’t control himself because he knows he doesn’t have to.

An hour later when they’re come-sticky and trembling, Darcy tucks him back inside her for the last time that night. She knows she has to rest or she’ll have trouble doing anything tomorrow. She’ll sleep the days away otherwise. God, sometimes she wishes this was all they ever did – fucking and loving each other, so alive, so awake.

She sits in his lap as her hips circle, and she pushes his damp hair from his face, tracing his skin with her fingers. She kisses cheek, watching his eyes widen again as she begins to ride him.

“I never knew how much I wanted to love someone until I met you,” she whispers. “I want you so much. All mine.”

He moans, and he’s blinking like he’s trying not to cry and Darcy whimpers at the sight of him, so beautiful beneath her.

“I’m yours,” he whispers. “And you’re mine.”

He’s never said that other part out loud before and Darcy nods, bringing him into another kiss. It’s getting sloppy now because they’re close to the end, but she loves it. She loves it so fucking much.

She clenches around him, shuddering. The world floods back a couple seconds later, Bucky coming with a moan into her open mouth, their grips on another fit to bruise.

Darcy flops beside him, their legs tangled as they pant, sweating and fading away.

When Darcy wakes several hours later, her hand slides down Bucky’s broad chest, her other one moving between his legs to stroke him to life.

“Trouble,” Bucky warns without opening his eyes, his lips spreading into a smile.

-

The last thing on Darcy's list?

Live.