ouroboros - n. an emblem of wholeness or infinity.
Darcy adjusted her bra strap again under her shirt, checking her rear view mirror.
She knew she looked older. It would be weirder if she didn’t. She had already decided belatedly to RSVP to the event. She tended to avoid Facebook for the most part, since it never made her feel good and all her family was on there.
She sighed, giving herself one last once-over. Wrinkles? Maybe some where coming in. Fine lines, if she stared too hard. Fading youth wasn’t something she thought she’d ever care about. Maybe she needed to stop using social media altogether, but that was impossible. She shifted, undoing her seat belt and ducked out of her car, shutting the front door, locking it.
“Darcy? Darcy Lewis?”
She turned toward the voice, not recognizing it. She could place the face, it was Layla Weissman, a cheerleader Darcy sat behind in French for almost her entire high school career. She was still blonde, but less brassy. She clearly spent a lot of time on maintenance. She looked soft, her hair in a fresh blowout, her salmon nails almond-shaped, her bag designer but not screaming about it.
“Layla, hi,” Darcy said.
She knew she was dressed like shit, comparatively. Darcy dressed for comfort, cardigans and long sleeved shirts. At least she’d bothered to wear a nicer pair of jeans with her sneakers. It wasn’t that Darcy felt she was above fashion, she just didn’t see the point in trying, especially tonight. It would seem so obvious she was uncomfortable if she wore heels like Layla was.
“Oh. My. God. You’re exactly the same,” Layla said.
Her silver SUV gave a chirp as she locked it, rolling her eyes at Darcy.
“Must be the genes.”
“Thanks, you look great,” Darcy said, adjusting her bag on her shoulder.
She didn’t want to catch up in the parking lot if she could help it. She wanted to get this dumb idea of hers over with, drink beer and then hightail it out of there before 9PM. It was after 7.30. A ten-year high school reunion was not part of the plan that year, and yet there Darcy was, stone-cold sober.
Darcy had been in town for her mom’s hip surgery. She’d asked Jane for the time off, and it wasn’t a big deal, not until her mom reminded her she had the reunion that same Saturday. Darcy was going out of her way to accommodate her mom and she’d insisted Darcy needed to go.
To catch up on what, Darcy didn’t know. Her life was too weird to explain to a lot of people, including her own mother. She also wasn’t technically allowed to discuss any of it, it was borderline illegal according to SHIELD.
Darcy walked in with Layla, who’d begun to chat about her kids.
“They’re four, three and two,” she said, taking out her phone, thumbing through her camera roll to show Darcy. “I said to my hubby that tonight I had to come, so…”
She didn’t ask a single question about Darcy, and by the time they reached the desk in the foyer, Layla had already spotted her friends and began to shriek and jump up and down like she used to ten years ago.
Darcy took a sticker with her name on it and fixed it to her shirt, taking a deep breath as she walked on, weaving past Layla and her old friends. Darcy could hear Katy Perry playing in the gymnasium, where people were already standing around to chat.
She supposed it was meant to look a bit like prom, by how the silver banner draped across with the inscription:
Class of 2009
Darcy had told herself for the last couple hours leading up to this that she’d probably blown a lot of things out of proportion, since she was a teenager in high school and everything was very dramatic back then. She’d since become less introverted, stopped feeling so much like the floor could open up and swallow her if she spoke her mind, but she hadn’t exactly flourished. Her twenties hadn’t always been about growth, or prospering.
As she stepped out among the dancefloor lights, peering around, Sex on Fire began to play. Darcy could have sworn she was taller.
She turned her head again, seeing a man with a thick black beard, square glasses and gauges in his ears. He had tattoos on his hands and knuckles, plus a few on his neck his shirt and tie couldn’t cover. His lip piercings highlighted his full lips that pulled into a shy smile.
Darcy couldn’t place him.
“Um. I’m really different, now,” he said, clearing his throat. “It’s, uh – my name used to be Chloe. I’m Cole, now.”
Chloe from band, who was a Hufflepuff and ate honey buns from the vending machines every morning. Chloe, who always laughed at Darcy’s little snarky comments she thought had gone unnoticed when they shared the same lunch table.
“Cole, hi,” Darcy said, and she moved toward him to hug him.
“You’re not the only one who can’t remember me,” Cole said, scratching his beard when they separated. “Thank fuck they had the sense to give me the right nametag, though.”
“What’s that tattoo?” Darcy murmured, pointing to one on the left side of his neck, and he grinned, reaching to pull back his shirt collar a little.
“Deathly Hallows,” he said, and Darcy grinned. “You been here long?”
“No, just arrived,” Darcy said. “I’m not based in Massachusetts anymore, these days.”
“Oh, yeah? Whereabouts?”
“Oh… around,” Darcy replied. “I’m a research assistant, I go where she goes.”
Sometimes she had dropped Jane’s name at conferences, and she’d got laid a couple of times because nerdy space guys were really into that, for some reason. Other times, she’d tell people who she worked for and they’d never heard of Doctor Jane Foster, which wasn’t entirely surprising for women in STEM.
“What kind of research?” Cole asked, tipping his beer. “You drinking, by the way?”
“Oh, fuck, yeah,” Darcy said, and they grinned at one another.
They walked over to the bar and Darcy ordered a beer, picking hers up to tap with Cole’s. They chatted, and it didn’t feel forced. Cole had married, his eyes lighting up when he spoke about his wife.
“She likes that I’m half-Samoan,” he said. “I think it’s because I make her feel dainty.”
“Show me a picture,” Darcy said, and Cole obliged, revealing a five-foot tall woman with tattoos up and down her arms, beaming up at Cole at the beach. “She is adorable. Wow.”
Someone bumped Darcy and she almost spilt her drink, handing Cole back his phone, spinning around to see the culprit, feeling her face flush.
How had she not thought this through? Of course she would be seeing Colin Shea again, after all this time. Her lips parted and she stared up at him, seeing the recognition in his eyes.
He wore a suit, which Darcy wouldn’t have expected, but it had been ten years. Maybe he didn’t wear t-shirts with slogans anymore with his camo shorts and scuffed Converse shoes. Darcy knew she wasn’t one to judge, she’d worn her own beat up sneakers to this event.
Either way, he cleaned up well, still dark blond, in good shape and smiling down at her with his long eyelashes and blue eyes.
“Hey,” she said, drawing out the word. “The fuck?”
“Yeah, what’s up?” he retorted, and he was moving toward her, arms lifting.
Darcy, who’d never hugged this guy in all the time she’d known him, returned the gesture, embracing him. When he drew back, he glanced Cole’s way.
“Cole, I’m Colin,” he said, offering a hand. “We did band.”
“Yeah, I used to be Chloe,” Cole said, shaking it.
“Figured, but I didn’t want to deadname you,” Colin said, which Darcy hadn’t expected.
The guy wasn’t a transphobic piece of shit, as far as she knew, but she only ever remembered him as being a little shallow and teasing. Darcy couldn’t get over how her body had reacted to Colin, so aware of where she was in relation to him, hoping he wouldn’t walk away.
He glanced down at her again, a little smirk forming.
“What happened to your Boston accent? I heard you talkin’ before and you don’t sound–”
“Why,” Darcy cut in, glancing away. “You think I’m not up the harbor eatin’ chowder for supper?”
He began to laugh and Darcy found herself grinning, pleased she was still funny enough to him all these years later. She also wondered how long he’d been listening to Cole and her speaking before he decided to interrupt. She wouldn’t put it past him to deliberately bump into her to get her attention.
She remembered him stealing her sheet music when her back was turned, then feigning innocence when she straightened back up from getting something out of her backpack, glaring at him before she managed to snatch it back from under one of his dumb shirts.
The song faded to a Black Eyed Peas track and Cole gave a little groan, Darcy mimicking him, tipping back more of her beer.
“Please, God. We can do without the nostalgic music,” Cole muttered.
“Good excuse to mingle,” Colin said, raising his brows.
Darcy didn’t expect him to touch her, but now that she thought about it longer than a couple seconds, she remembered he was like this all the time, deliberately antagonizing her when they were in school together. He touched her lower back, propelling her toward the crowd, waving at Cole along the way.
“Where have you been the last ten years, anyway, Lewis?” he asked, a softer murmur to her ear.
“Where have you been?” she retorted, speaking out the corner of her mouth. “A federal prison?”
“Well, if I was a sex offender, I’d have to tell you,” he said, and Darcy felt her lips curl in a smirk.
“Is that a segue -?”
“No, and I have not been to jail. Except for public intoxication in 2010, but I did not do hard time,” he said. He glanced down at her, inspecting her, and Darcy’s brows furrowed. “You look great.”
“Thanks, I guess,” Darcy retorted. “You look old.”
His hand on her lower back was suspiciously close to her ass but she was allowing it for now, letting him steer her toward Layla and her friends, who’d decided to come inside to gossip.
“Did you see -? Oh, hi, Colin!” Layla said, grinning wide. She spotted Darcy and faltered a little. “And Darcy. Does everyone remember Darcy Lewis?”
A brunette with a short bob narrowed her eyes a little at Darcy, confused.
“Honestly, to be honest? No.”
“Yikes,” Colin said, and Darcy bit her lip to stop herself from laughing.
“Well, she’s – what do you do, again, Darcy?” Layla said, sipping her wine.
Her engagement ring was enormous, Darcy noticed for the first time. Layla licked her lips, waiting.
“This and that,” Darcy said. “I can’t really talk about it.”
“You’re a cop?” another woman, a carbon copy of Layla, said with her mouth gaping. “Like, a federal agent?”
“No,” Darcy replied, scrunching her nose. “I mean, it’s secret research. Legally, I can’t say.”
“It’s nothing to be ashamed about if it’s, y’know,” carbon copy Layla said, dropping her voice. “A little racy.”
“Oh, no. I’m not a sex worker,” Darcy said, not missing a beat, even smiling.
She walked off, sensing Colin behind her, whose laugh was blending with the music. Darcy knew both would be stuck in her head for days, despite how little she wanted to care about any of this.
“So, you’re not a girlboss or a mom, who gives a shit,” he said, falling into step with her.
She walked all the way out to the parking lot again before she stopped and spun around, glaring at him.
“It’s not that,” she retorted. “I’m trying to understand why I ever gave a shit about this place, or this school.”
“I am surprised you came,” he said, his smile beginning to fade. “You didn’t really… leave on good terms in the first place.”
He remembered prom. Darcy barely did, and that was because it was the one night in all of high school that she let loose, drinking in the bathroom and then blacking out by the end of the night. There were pictures taken, and she’d left for college without saying goodbye to anyone she knew.
“Did you see me that night?”
“Yeah,” he said, looking away for a second. He wasn’t smiling anymore. “I figured if I didn’t see you tonight, you might have figured something out.”
“What was I supposed to have figured out?” Darcy said, closing her eyes briefly.
She could make out the music blasting from the gym as she put her hands on her hips, waiting for an answer, Colin’s eyes swinging back to meet hers as he shrugged.
“You seemed like you didn’t intend to stay. So if you never came back, I figured you were happy. That’s what I hoped.”
Darcy was happy. Happy enough. She frowned a little at him, pieces beginning to fall into place. She had adult hindsight now, and her shoulders sagged when she sighed, passing a hand over her face.
“Oh, you liked me, liked me,” she whispered.
She began to chuckle without mirth, hating how dense she was, too inside her own head, too insecure to let herself believe he was flirting with her all those years.
“Yeah, I did,” he said, and he didn’t sound embarrassed.
His hands dug into his pockets. “You wanna dance back in -?”
“You wanna go somewhere else?” Darcy said, cutting him off.
He stopped, staring back at her, a little smile forming. He ducked his head.
“There’s no… there’s no husband that’s gonna run after me when you head back to… Europe or wherever you live?”
He scuffed his shiny leather shoe against Darcy’s dirty sneaker and she glanced up into his eyes, feeling her face flush under the heat that had begun to form.
“I live in Manhattan right now,” she murmured.
All they did was look at one another for several long moments, and Darcy wondered if he could see every way she’d changed. She’d stopped growing the summer before her freshman year of high school, she’d only filled out. Sometimes she’d catch her breath, remembering she was closer to thirty than twenty. Other days, she was relieved. There were days when she couldn’t wait until she was old, so she didn’t have to live through all the angst of middle age.
That week with her mom, she didn’t know if she’d ever find someone who’d look after her. She knew it was entirely possible that she and Jane would be friends for life, but she also suspected she’d outlive her. Whenever she thought about that, she’d abruptly smother it all, too afraid to think about death for too long.
“Top secret Manhattan research job,” Colin said, narrowing his eyes slightly, smiling. “Sounds like Avengers bullshit to me.”
“Bullshit?” Darcy repeated. “Those mega dickheads have saved your life more times than you could possibly know.”
“Alright,” Colin said, putting his hands up. “Fair enough.”
Darcy’s smile was back, and Colin nodded behind her.
“My car’s that piece of shit over there.”
Darcy turned her head, seeing a Toyota something with a dent in its side, her snort falling out before she could stop, her hand going to her mouth too late to cover the sound.
“Sorry. I mean, mine’s only slightly worse, so I think I am legally obligated to laugh,” she said.
They started to make out on his couch.
He’d been a gentleman by Colin standards up until that point, opening his apartment front door for her, taking her bag to hang it somewhere, offering her a beer when she walked through.
His apartment was messy, a bachelor pad by any standard. She saw his acoustic guitar against a wall, glad he hadn’t given up on that. He’d always been talented, and Darcy couldn’t say the same about her clarinet playing. Hers was sitting in her mom’s apartment somewhere, gathering dust, and she didn’t know the last time she’d played anything.
Darcy hadn’t kissed anyone in a little while, and having it be a guy she knew when she was a literal kid made it so charged and strange, desire and anxiety and confusion all blending together, her lip catching between his two. He cupped her jaw with his hand, and he turned his head a little to deepen it, tasting of beer.
She was thinking too much. It didn’t have to mean anything. If she had bothered to stick with her New Year’s resolutions, she’d have a therapist to talk to about all this. She knew it meant something, seeing an old friend – he was her friend, he’d always been that, even when she thought he was just making fun of her all the time – and then taking it further within an hour of seeing him again. It all meant something, her breath hitching when his hand skirted down her side, his tongue slipping past her lips to taste her.
He wasn’t her type. She didn’t think she was his type, but he’d had a crush. She’d had a crush, rolling her eyes at herself now for how obvious it all was.
She knew why she was single. She never stayed with the same guy longer than a few months before things fizzled out. She wasn’t lonely, exactly. She was too busy to be lonely, but occasionally, like now, she’d get that itch she needed to scratch. She tended to use an app on her phone for that, or a vibrator.
But maybe Darcy was that girl, the type he liked, because he groaned when she sucked on his tongue, racing further ahead. Her mind was reeling, but she couldn’t lose her nerve, that he was this handsome and paying all this attention to her, that he saw her, and he always had.
His hand slipped down to her ass, grabbing a handful, and it was all the more real. He wasn’t doing this because she happened to ask him, this wasn’t some act of charity. He chased Darcy’s lips when she drew back for air, before he trailed down her neck, pulling her into his lap.
Darcy’s hands went to his tie, undoing it, then the button of his collar.
“Why’d you wear the monkey suit?” she whispered, and he chuckled into her neck, fingers brushing the hair from her shoulder.
He pulled down her shirt a little to expose more skin, teeth grazing before he planted hot kisses.
“It’s pretty easy to put on a suit. Don’t have to overthink it.”
He made a good point. Darcy had deliberately dressed down. She was calling herself out now, why didn’t she just wear a fucking dress? She looked good in them. Maybe she didn’t want to be seen to try too hard.
He mouthed at her neck, Darcy’s fingers digging into his hair as he nudged her neckline with his nose, lips skirting over her cleavage.
“Fuck,” he breathed, and Darcy closed her eyes, liking the sound of his admiration, even if it was just her tits he liked so much.
He managed to reach her nipple and wrapped his lips around it, sucking, and Darcy gave a little moan, their hips rolling together. He wasn’t unlike other men in that regard. Even if a guy showed no interest in her boobs, the second they were close enough to touch they got so grabby, and Colin laved one breast and then the other.
Darcy knew she was growing wetter, and she had no intention of slowing down, unless he had a girlfriend who happened to be out, or –
“You’re not, uh, married?” Darcy gasped, and Colin pulled back with a soft pop, eyes practically black, his lips pink and wet.
“No,” she whispered.
“Good,” he said, and he kissed her mouth, messy and thorough.
Darcy’s shirt was partway down her arms, her chest out, as he picked her up with a soft grunt, walking them out of his living room and down the hallway.
His apartment was really shitty, like hers, and just as messy. She appreciated that, Colin laying her in the middle of his bed, everything smelling of him, music from one of his neighbors creeping in, overlapping with their panting and sloppier kisses.
“Take off your pants,” Darcy said, and he grinned at her slowly, holding her face with both hands.
“Okay. You want me to get a rubber, too?” he whispered.
She was going to have sex with Colin Shea from high school, what the fuck. What even was Darcy’s life? She nodded, shifting to grab her jeans, popping the button and shoving everything down, Colin distracted as he reached for his bedside table.
He rummaged through it blindly, eyes still on Darcy as she stripped off the rest of her clothes, feeling her cheeks heat under his gaze, before he finally looked away, unbuckling his belt.
He stripped off unceremoniously, but Darcy stared, turning onto her side and crossing her arms over her chest, waiting. Her eyes fell to his cock, seeing he was hard and thick.
The heat in her guts reignited and Darcy lay back, expecting him to roll on a condom right away, but instead he moved back toward her, hitching her thigh over his hip, his nose brushing hers.
Another kiss, gentler than before, and she was shocked by it. He pulled back, then shuffled further down the bed, kissing her stomach, her thighs…
He sealed his mouth over the cut of her and Darcy sucked in a breath, not expecting this at all. He wrapped his huge arms around her thighs and pushed his tongue deep inside her pussy, lapping at her core, his nose bumping her clit. Darcy moaned, her hand in his hair, the other grabbing the sheet.
“Fuck, Colin,” she gasped, and saying his name like that was so strange, but it wasn’t scary.
Why wasn’t she terrified right now? Probably because he was making this seem like a natural progression. She’d never been eaten out like this before, hearing his soft groans of appreciation, her eyes blinking up at his ceiling as she tried to process it all. She glanced at him, watching him lost in the taste and feel of her, his enthusiasm flawless, and then he was leaning up to suckle her clit, his eyes meeting hers.
Darcy nodded, and he doubled his efforts, her body beginning to tighten up, the warmth of pleasure flying up and up, until Darcy was panting and straining, a low whine beginning at the back of her throat.
She came, hips lifting, and he licked her through it, pulling back to kiss her thighs, his mouth sticky and wet, wiping his face on his bare shoulder. Darcy grabbed him by the shoulders, trying to yank him up, and he was reaching for the condom, Darcy’s chest still heaving.
He was kneeling, rolling it on, Darcy’s eyes glued to his face, waiting with her heart in her throat. He leaned down to kiss her, arms bracketing her face, and Darcy guided him into her, both of them groaning as he pushed inside past the tip –
They didn’t close their mouths as they kissed, and it was filthy enough for Darcy to begin to tremble, still wound so tight, wanting so much. She didn’t know it could be like this, with someone who’d known her this long.
He began to rock, shallow at first, until Darcy dug her heel into his ass, his hand taking hold of her wrist to pin it to the mattress. She couldn’t look away from him, afraid it would break the spell. It almost felt like an illusion, and he’d change his mind, throw her out of his apartment with a laugh. It could all be a trick. She’d see a post about it on Twitter or Facebook, this pathetic nerd girl that no-one remembered –
That was such a discredit to Colin, though. He’d never hurt her. She’d never given him the chance to get this close.
“It’s okay, Darce,” he whispered, because she must have changed in his arms.
Maybe her face had gone too serious. She nodded, reaching up for another kiss, and she realized he was slowing down to stop himself from finishing, kissing her long and lingering, moaning when they broke apart.
Darcy put her lips to his ear.
“You gonna come for me?”
He groaned, the grip on her wrist tightening, his hips snapping. He began to speed up, knocking into her, their bodies sounding wet as they moved together, sweat gathering. Darcy glanced down at where he disappeared inside her, allowing herself to feel the stretch of him, her eyes fluttering shut.
He flattened her to the mattress, forehead pressing into hers as he came, his mouth falling open as he succumbed to it, his shoulders rolling.
He was panting, kissing her, rubbing his cheek on her face and neck, and Darcy could picture his face when he leaned against the locker next to hers in the school hallway, all those years ago… how he rubbed his eyes when he was tired, how he looked first thing in the morning, how he’d still be there in her memories, how this would still be here, long after she was gone…
She felt a pull on her heart, which was completely uncalled for. She didn’t deserve to be hit over the head with this type of longing.
He slowly pulled out of her with a sigh, and Darcy sat up, hearing her hips give a little click when she managed to stand and walk out to his bathroom.
She returned to his side, leaning on her elbow, watching him watch her.
“We’re not young anymore,” she whispered. “Not as young.”
“Guess not,” he replied. “I don’t think anyone knows what they’re doing when they get older, though, Darce. No matter what.”
“I don’t wanna get too sappy,” Darcy whispered, leaning down to kiss him.
“You never were,” he replied, rubbing her cheek with a thumb.
They breathed together, a long sigh. Darcy swallowed, feeling strangely at home with him. It was like a long return, an endless loop between them.
“It’s okay. You don’t have to say it,” he whispered, and she nodded, a lump forming in her throat.
I’ll miss you.
“My mom’s expecting me,” she whispered. “I should get back.”
They drove back to the school in silence, and Darcy knew she was memorizing it all as it was happening, especially the forehead kiss he gave her.
Darcy turned her head, mid-step, reaching for her door handle.
“Be careful with those Avengers dickheads, alright?”
“Get the fuck outta here,” Darcy called back, rolling her eyes that had smarted.
He grinned at her, hands deep in his pockets, and as Darcy took off it was difficult to say whether he looked like a man or the boy she used to know.
She kept looking in her rear view mirror until he disappeared from her sight, the swooping feeling of nostalgia taking over once more. She sighed, smelling him on her skin as she brushed the tears from her face.
At the first red light, she scrolled through her Spotify, putting on that damn Katy Perry song she heard before, rolling her eyes at herself again with a little smile she couldn’t suppress.