Darcy Lewis’ guestroom in the heart of the Avengers’ Stark Tower residence looked like a hurricane blazed through it.
Her suite didn’t usually have clothes and shoes and toiletries strewn on every available surface and spilling out of the oversized suitcase taking up most of her unmade bed, but the Stark Industries private jet was taking off in two hours to take her home and she hadn’t actually packed yet.
When she traveled with Jane to parts unknown, on Earth or otherwise, nine times out of ten, Darcy had to be the one who was packed not only first, but way in advance, especially after the one time Jane was too distracted by last-minute equations and forgot the important things, like her toothbrush.
And her pants.
That made for a memorable weekend at a conference in Oslo.
But when it came to going home for one of her religion’s many major holidays—for the entirety of said holiday, because if there was one thing her mother was good at, it was making her feel guilty—Darcy absolutely, positively did not want to go, and therefore put off packing to the very last minute.
She endured four years of holiday trips back to California when she was at Culver, but then she waltzed right into Jane’s life to start off what would have been her final semester of her super senior year, and hadn’t been home since the world opened up to her in New Mexico.
Because in the four years that followed, New York happened and she spent way too much time with a Norwegian For Dummies handbook practically glued to her right hand, elves broke London and Ian lost the car keys, Jane found the car keys and was infested by creepy red air, SHIELD turned out to be full of Nazis and Steve had to be fished out of the Potomac by his apparently not-dead bestie, and Tony built accidentally homicidal robots with giant a Pinocchio complex that tried to wipe out all of humanity.
So her parents, who sort of had the hang on what she could tell them about her life, sort of understood that she was a little busy trying to keep her best friend and mentor alive.
But then Jane decided to spend a few weeks in London with her mother for the woman’s fiftieth birthday, and also check in with Erik—specifically to make sure he was still consistently wearing pants while in public, but also because of some developments with that old machine he built while under Loki’s influence.
And the Avengers were getting ready to head out to avenge things in China, or avenge China, or maybe it was furthering the Avengers’ diplomatic relationships with China—Darcy had honestly tuned it out in favor of showing Thor all the best places to get Jane a birthday present and avoid last year’s accidental incident with the three goats and the donkey.
But all it really amounted to was that it effectively cut Darcy’s long list of excuses to avoid home, well, none.
So back to Santa Barbara she had to go.
For ten days.
As in, ten days, one right after the other after the other with her entire family, who was so completely different from the people she surrounded herself with these days.
And not just because her family wasn’t a bunch of superheroes.
Darcy sighed, running her hands over her face and into her hair as she glared at the contents of her closet, mentally considering each piece of her carefully cultivated wardrobe of casual chic, which had been working out really well for her the last few years, and dismissing each and every one of them.
This was not an auspicious start to her so-called vacation.
She continued to frown, waiting for the universe to give her the answers she was desperately seeking when there was a knock on the door.
“Please be someone telling me I have to cancel,” she muttered as she stomped into the living room, tripping over a pile of tangled jeans and throw pillows that had somehow migrated to the hallway before she got to the door, nudging a pair of sandals out of the way with her foot before she opened it.
Captain America—because Steve was definitely rocking his stealth suit’s blue spangly tights and shoulder holster—was standing in the doorway.
“There is an emergency! Yes!” She pumped her fist in the air. “Is Doctor Doom attacking again? Space cows? Ninja zombies from that creepy other dimension Clint accidentally fell into that one time last year? Is the government going after super beings again? New York City sewer alligator revolt?”
He blinked, “Um, no, no, no, I wouldn’t be surprised, and I’m pretty sure those aren’t real. Can we come in?”
Before Darcy could retort that the New York City alligators were definitely real, she noticed the ‘we’, and then noticed Bucky was standing just over his shoulder, mostly obscured by the shield holstered across Steve’s back—by either magnets or magic or pure, unadulterated patriotism, no one really knew.
“Oh, hi Bucky,” she chirped and moved to the side. “Yeah, come on in. Sorry about the mess. Sort of. Rough morning, you know?”
She had to kick her sandals out of the way again before she could close the door, and she watched Bucky take a steadying breath before he took a careful step in from the hall.
Everyone said Tony was Type-A, but Bucky’s case of post-traumatic OCD—which apparently was a real thing—took the damn cake.
Captain America looked more than a little ridiculous as he sat down on the only open space on her couch, between some laundry that she prayed to Odin was clean and a pile of books from her sophomore-year decision to major in women’s studies that somehow made it halfway around the world and back.
On the other hand, Bucky scuttled over to the far side of the room and propped his shoulder against the floor-to-ceiling windows, letting the duffel hanging off his arm fall to his feet.
She looked at them both, and then arched a brow when neither said a word, “So the world isn’t currently about to end?”
“Damn,” she winced at the looks she got. “I mean, yay. That is awesome. Because the end of the world would be terrible, and we all learned our lesson with that thing that Wanda can do. So what brings you by? Come to see me off?”
Steve leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees, gloved hands pressed together and serious all over his face, “You know that there’s still a shoot-to-kill order on Bucky in China, right?”
Sparing a glance at Bucky, who was still more or less impassive and unsurprised at something as serious as that, she shrugged, “I may or may not have seen it in a report, or a news broadcast, or you know, all over Twitter.”
The bashful look that crossed his face made the fact that he was in uniform just so much more ridiculous, and Darcy had to resist the urge to giggle as he shook his head, “Well, with Pepper in meetings in Europe and Maria down in Virginia overseeing the Initiative training camp, I was thinking that maybe Bucky could join you on your trip home?”
Darcy blinked, looked from Steve to Bucky, who continued to betray a grand total of none of his thoughts, and back to Steve again, “I don’t think I heard you right,” her brows furrowed as she rocked on her heels and leaned forward. “You want Bucky to come with me, when I go home for Chanukah? As in today.”
“If that’s all right with you,” he looked so earnest and she wanted to throw up a little. “We agreed that it’s better that he not be alone this time of year, but with most of the residence clearing out, and the fact that most people don’t know much about Bucky, so you won’t get hounded-”
She scratched her forehead when he trailed off, “Steve, I know things are a little different now compared to back in the ye olde, but do you have any idea what it implies when a person brings someone of similar age home to a major, family-based holiday for the first time?”
He arched a brow, “That you’re being welcoming for a friend who doesn’t have anywhere else to go?”
“I can’t tell if you’re intentionally being dense or if you’re being seriously serious right now,” she looked at Bucky. “You’ve known him for a hundred years, can you translate?”
She clapped her hands together, “Okay, seriously serious it is then,” she looked back to Bucky. “So Barnes, what do you know about Chanukah?”
“That you can spell it about sixteen different ways?”
With an owlish blink, she shrugged, “Fair enough,” she looked back at Steve. “I hope you know what you’re getting him into. Any trauma induced by my family is therefore, your fault.”
Steve smiled, “I don’t think it’ll come to that.”
“Clearly, you haven’t heard me bitch about my mother after far too much of that boxed wine Tony thinks we don’t know he likes so much,” she looked at Bucky. “If you want to stay here and be a hermit for a week and a half, no one is actually going to judge you.”
She sighed, “All right then, Lewis family guest it is,” she looked around. “JARVIS, where’s my phone? I must inform the Generalissima and somehow convince her and Dad to let a man sleep in my room for a week and a half, because we haven’t had a guest room since Mara was born, and while I’m sure Bucky would be fine camping outside, that’s stupid.”
“It’s in a box of PopTarts in the cabinet under the sink.”
Bucky snorted back a laugh, and she rolled her eyes, smiling a little as she crossed over to the tiny kitchen she rarely ever used, since it was a million times more fun to eat in the common kitchen, especially when Natasha decided to cook for the team, “How did it even get there?”
“I’m sure you don’t actually want to know.”
“Got that right,” she ducked under the sink and grabbed her phone from its depths. “Anyway Bucky, sit tight, I’m almost done packing. Give me five, ten minutes, tops.”
She popped back up and glanced across the open-plan apartment to her bedroom, wincing at the sight of her still unopened suitcase, “Or maybe a half hour. Hey JARVIS, can you cue up that music video that Six13 did about Chanukah to Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off? That’ll basically explain like, the rest of everything you need to know.”
By the time Darcy finished packing—aka growling and just throwing the rest of her closet into her suitcase—she and Bucky were only forty-five minutes late for her original flight time, which the pilot assured them was way earlier than Tony ever was, even when Pepper was riding herd on him.
After the plane—allegedly the one where Tony used to party with the flight attendants in his pre-Afghanistan life—took off, Darcy padded over to the lounge where Bucky was sprawled across one of the couches with a tablet in hand, “What are you reading?” She sat down next to him and glanced down at the screen, eyes wide when she saw her dad’s drivers license photo in the upper right corner. “Are those dossiers on my family?”
“I got them from JARVIS,” he muttered as he swiped the bio away and Darcy could see more small files with each of her family members’ names. “He wanted me to be prepared.”
“How did he get them?” she almost screeched, then shook her head and took a calming breath because she was going to be an adult about this. “Never mind, very stupid question. Remind me that I need to have a strongly-worded conversation with him about privacy when we get home.”
She pinched the bridge of her nose as she drew her legs up and sat cross-legged, “You know,” she drawled as she propped her chin on her palm. “You could just ask me about them. I’ll have you know I am a wealth of information. Most of it might not even be useless like my knowledge of nineties pop music that you refuse to educate yourself with.”
Bucky put the tablet aside and turned to look at her, his expression bland, “Your knowledge of modern popular culture scares me.”
“Good,” she winked. “So, questions?”
“You haven’t been home for years?”
“Nope. Been too busy trying to keep Jane alive.”
He arched a brow, and Darcy shrugged, “You know her self-preservation is about as bad as Steve’s,” they shared a laugh. “She may not throw herself out of planes without parachutes, which will definitely give you an ulcer one day, but come on, you were briefed about Jane’s incident with that creepy red Infinity thingy.”
“I’ve said this before: you’re all insane.”
“Well duh,” she dropped one leg onto the floor and turned to face him. “But yes. I haven’t been home. Hard to go back after everything I’ve seen. The person who moved to New Mexico for six science credits to graduate isn’t the same as the person I am now, but they don’t know that.”
He smiled, but it was crooked, “I think I know where you’re coming from.”
Reaching out, she hesitated for a brief second and then nudged his shoulder, “Figured,” with a smile, she hopped off the couch, “And on that note, I’m going to make use of the bar. Martini?”
“One of us should stay clear-headed.”
She blinked, “Is that a no?”
Bucky gave her a look, and she smirked, “More for me then.”