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Hold On

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     Darcy smiled as she put the last touches on the gift her and Steve had gotten for Bucky. She was dressed and ready to go, she was just waiting for Steve to hurry up.

     “Do I have to wear this?” He asked, coming out of his bedroom, tugging the edge of his shirt down. Darcy looked up and grinned. He looked so uncomfortable in the tight shirt.

     “Yes. Everyone is wearing them. That’s why I bought them.”

     “But it was so uncomfortable when I wore it to Barton’s party back in January and I swear it has shrunk even more since then.” He pulled the edge of the shirt down again and Darcy stifled a laugh.

     “You wear shirts that tight under your uniform all of the time.” She told him, shaking her head.

     “That’s different.” Darcy looked skeptical, but sighed, they had to go.

     “Fine. You can wear a zip up hoodie over it.” Steve grinned in triumph. “But you have to also grab me one!” She called after him as he ran back towards his bedroom. She heard him laugh and shook her head. He came back quickly, and handed her a jacket with a quick kiss before he picked up his keys and the gift and herded her toward the door like she had been the one who was running late.

     When they got to the Adventure Game Center, they went inside to find Bucky. It wasn’t too busy yet, even though it was a Friday, so there was some hope they’d get to keep a certain amount of anonymity. They spotted Jane at the concession stand, and waved before they headed in the direction she’d indicated everyone else was gathered.

    “Well it’s about time Punk.” Bucky said as he stood up to wrap his arms around Steve. Steve smiled wide and wrapped his oldest friend in a tight hug.

     “It’s not like I could miss your birthday Jerk.” Steve told him with a smile.

     “See! Bucky had no problem with his shirt!” Darcy told Steve as she reached up for a hug of her own. Steve rolled his eyes but smiled fondly at the brunette.

     “What’s this now?” Natasha asked as she sat down. “Did Wonder Boy have an issue telling people how old he is?”

     “Ha ha. Hello Natasha.” Steve said as he leaned over to hug her as well.

     “Yeah, he didn’t want to wear it.” Darcy pouted, as she also turned to Natasha. How she had managed to win the friendship of someone like the Black Widow she would never know, but she wouldn’t complain, especially since she was often on her side.

     “You have to be a team player Cap.” Natasha told him with a smirk.

     “I’m wearing it aren’t I?”

     “Do you see the rest of us wearing a hoodie over ours?” Jane asked from her seat further down the table. She was currently eating what looked like cinnamon pretzel sticks and nacho cheese. No one commented on the odd choice, just let the pregnant woman eat as she pleased.

     “No.” Steve said sadly. So much for his idea of cover. “But no one elses looks as tight as mine.”

     “Don’t blame us. Blame your girlfriend.” Bucky told him as he laughed.

     “Fine. Fine.” Steve said, as he pulled the sweatshirt from his shoulders and placed it on the back of the empty chair next to Bucky. He ignored the catcalls and whistles of his teammates, and took his seat. He reached for a piece of the pizza on the table and took a bite. “So what are we doing first?” He asked Bucky around the mouthful of food as he looked around again.

     “I signed us up for laser tag.” Natasha said with a grin.

     “Oh, that’s a horrible idea.” Steve told her with a shake of his head.

     “I’m on Natasha’s team!” Darcy exclaimed at the same time.

     “Okay fine. A horrible game of laser tag, what else?” Steve conceded.

     “Go Karts. Ax throwing. Arcade games.” Bucky listed off on his fingers.

     “Ah yes, you still think you can best me?” Thor asked Bucky as he returned to the table and placed drinks for himself and Jane down on the table.

     “I think I can try.” Bucky told him with a smirk. Darcy watched the exchange with a grin. It had been a rough few years, to hear Steve tell it, to get Bucky comfortable enough to hang out with everyone from the team. Thor was his favorite besides Steve and Natasha. Darcy understood, Thor was one of her favorite people in the Universe. The fact that he made her best friend incredibly happy helped raise her esteem of him even more.

     “Lady Darcy! When did you arrive?” Thor asked as he came around the table to wrap her in his arms. Even though he’d been permanently on Earth for the last few years, he still hadn’t completely dropped the formal way he spoke sometimes, and he’d never called her anything but Lady Darcy. Except the one time he’d called her a Shieldmaiden. Darcy had been especially proud that day.

     “Just now big guy. How are you?” Darcy asked him as he pulled away.

     “Fantastic. These games of chance look easy.” He looked around at the various arcade games surrounding them.

     “You’d think so, but not for us regular people.” She told him sadly, with a pat to his chest.

     “Who regular people? What?” Tony asked as he walked up behind where Darcy and Thor stood.

     “You know Stark, the pleebs like Jane and I.” Darcy snarked with a grin. Tony was one of her favorite people.

     “Regular you most certainly are not.” Thor assured her before he moved back towards Jane.

     “What would you know about regular Tony?” Darcy asked as she turned to look at him.

     “Me? Nothing. I leave that to you and the pint-sized scientist over there.” He snarked back at her.

     “Be nice Tony.” Pepper admonished softly, a beautiful smile on her face as she reached for a hug from Darcy.

     “Yeah, be nice Tony.” Darcy told him, before she stuck her tongue out at him.

     “So now that we’re all here. We are all here correct?” Tony asked the table as a whole. “What fun filled activities are on the agenda for the old man?” He asked with a pat to Bucky’s shoulder. It had taken a couple of years for Tony and Bucky to find solid ground, and another year after that for them to even have any kind of friendship.

     “Apparently the assassins have signed us all up for laser tag.” Darcy told him with an eye roll as she took her seat between Steve and Jane.

     “Who the what now?” Tony asked as he pulled a chair out for Pepper across the table from Darcy.

     “Two teams.” Natasha told the group at large.

     After a long argument over who was going to be on what team, it was split, Girls vs. Boys, with Clint being on the girls team to make the teams even. Or, as he explained it, he’d never be on a team against Natasha again. They sat around and ate, and Bucky opened a few of his presents while they waited for their scheduled start time for Laser Tag.

     The game itself was a lot of fun. The girls beat the boys by a narrow margin, although Darcy hadn’t been much help. Part way through the game, she’d quietly tried to sneak past a darkened corner, only to be pulled into the shadows by a pair of strong arms. Steve had wasted very little time and pulled her against him before he kissed her soundly. She’d grinned like a fool when she’d pulled away. As she’d backed away from him, she’d shot his sensor, then ran away cackling softly to herself.

     The next activity was Ax throwing. The guys soundly won that competition although the girls weren’t completely helpless. Darcy made sure to take a lot of pictures to put in an album for Bucky later. She liked to have pictures of everybody as they hung out and enjoyed being semi-normal.

     Her favorite thing about the night so far was the happiness on Steve’s face. Bucky was happy and carefree, he dropped easy affection on Natasha and was friendly toward everyone else. He didn’t flinch when Tony patted him on the back after a particularly good joke. He didn’t tense up when a rowdy group of frat guys down the lane started to argue loudly about whose ax throw was better. Thor shut them up quickly anyway, well he and Natasha. Thor complimented their attempt, and also called them small humans. Natasha was more thorough, she threw a bullseye that buried the handle of the ax into the board, instead of the blade. They left quickly after that. Bucky hadn’t had to glare and Steve didn’t even have to frown at them. It was a true testament to how far Bucky had come. So, Bucky being happy, made Steve happy, and a happy Steve made Darcy happy.

     A couple of hours passed while they enjoyed themselves. They played arcade games that most of them were too good at, but it was still fun. Childish fun, which was something that the team had needed, and deserved. They raced Go Karts around the track and made fools of themselves. It was simple. No pressure. None of the usual craziness, for at least one night. It amazed Darcy how much she missed being normal for a change. Like before people crash landed in the middle of a desert from a rainbow. Or metal killing robots. Or species from another planet. It was nice to do something that she would have done in college, with the family that she’d made herself in the craziness that had happened after she’d tazed Thor all of those years ago.

     By seven-thirty the group had decided what they really needed was a drink. The arcade had started to fill with the normal Friday night crowd and their window of normal was now closed. They wanted to hang on to it, just a bit longer. Instead of choosing to hit up the closest bar for a drink, which is what Darcy would have done, they headed back to the Tower, where Thor promised some mead that could actually get the birthday boy, and his best friend, drunk. Tony promised liquor and Pepper promised wine. Jane was just happy she wouldn’t have to help Thor to bed, because they would already be at home. They travelled in a sort of caravan back toward what was home for almost everyone, or at least a home away from home for the Barton’s.

     Once they arrived back at the Tower, they assembled in the main common room to have drinks and hang out. Darcy sat curled up next to Steve as he talked to Bucky and Thor. They passed the Mead between them and the more they drank the happier they seemed to get. Bucky and Steve started to tell stories of themselves from when they grew up in Brooklyn, much to everyone’s amusement. They didn’t talk about before the war too often. So much had changed for them so it wasn’t a lot of fun to reminisce sometimes. They talked about the Howling Commandos. Sam joined in with stories of his own about things he and his friend Riley had gotten up to during their own time on active duty. They talked a little about different things. Before the air could get too heavy, Darcy suggested a game of never have I ever. That managed to lighten things up a bit, and before long, everyone, including the super soldiers and Thor were a bit tipsy. Jane, ever the pragmatic and only sober person, started to herd everyone upstairs and to their own homes. It was late and she used the excuse of her pregnancy to quiet most arguments.

     “Happy Birthday Buck.” Steve said as he hugged his friend before he and Darcy turned toward his apartment.

     Once inside, Steve turned to Darcy and pulled her into his arms. “Thank you.” He whispered into her neck. She made an inquisitive noise as she snuggled closer to his warmth. “Without you, this party wouldn’t have happened and Buck,” his voice hitched on his name. “He wouldn’t have gotten to have a little bit of normal. You did that. So thank you.”

     “Hey,” Darcy pulled back to stare up at Steve. “I did it because he deserves a birthday. It’s not everyday you get to turn 103 and still look maybe 30.” She laughed a little, which prompted Steve to do the same.

     “Still. I don’t know what I would do without you.” Darcy’s face softened as she stared up at him. In what felt like slow motion, his lips neared her own and the kiss that followed was soft, almost reverent, and churned up feelings in her chest that made it hard to breathe. It wasn’t long before the kiss deepened into something that prompted Steve to hoist her up, and press her back into the wall by the door. Darcy started to lose time, as she tried to make her alcohol addled brain function with Steve biting that spot on her neck that always made it difficult.

     “Bedroom.” Darcy bit out through clenched teeth, as she used her grip on Steve’s hair to redirect his lips back to her own. He obliged without argument. They made their way to the bedroom, clothes left in a haphazard manner, like bread crumbs that would lead them back to the world.

     Sated, and completely boneless, Darcy let Steve pull her firmly against him. The slight buzz she had left from the alcohol, mixed with the post-sex afterglow and the warmth of Steve against her, lulled Darcy into sleep easily. A smile pasted to her lips, Steve had already started to snore behind her. Blissed out, she drifted off.

     Darcy’s return to wakefulness was sudden, not sure what it was that had woken her, but body on high alert. Her mind was a little slower to action. After a tense couple of seconds, she started to relax. There was no immediate threat. Other than her bladder that threatened to explode. Darcy rolled her eyes and started to extract herself from a still asleep Steve. She grabbed a shirt off of the floor and pulled it on, before she got up to go to the bathroom. She briefly wished her floors at home were heated like the ones here at the Tower. As she stood in front of the sink, she looked at herself in the mirror. She grinned a bit at her smeared makeup and mussed hair, and the shirt she’d picked up. She washed her hands, found a rag and ran it over her face before she pulled her hair into a messy bun. She tugged the edge of Steve’s party shirt down a bit, and grabbed the sleep shorts she’d left on the bathroom floor the day before. She pulled them on before she turned the light back off and headed back to the warmth Steve provided.

     As she climbed back under the covers, she snuggled back toward Steve again, his arm came back around her automatically. He pulled her closer and she adjusted until she was comfortable. Steve’s breath was warm on the back of her neck, and his arm around her was all she needed to get her to slip back into sleep. Steve pulled her closer again, a sleepy brush of his lips on her neck gave her a moments pause. He wasn’t awake, not completely, caught somewhere between awake and a dream most likely.

     “Peggy.” He mumbled quietly, before he sighed. “Love you.” Darcy felt like someone had dumped a bucket of ice water on her. It wasn’t the first time he’d mumbled Peggy’s name in his sleep, but it was the second time in a week. It was also the first time he’d whispered that he loved her while curled around Darcy. That was enough to give Darcy’s already rattled brain cause for concern.