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down to our skeletons

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Steve finds her exactly where Detective Dugan says she’d be, sitting on one of the awful plastic chairs in the waiting room by the desk clerk, her head tipped back, eyes trained on the ugly, discoloured ceiling.  This isn’t the first time he’s found her here like this.

Her chin dips down, eyes catching his as he steps close enough that her knee knocks against his shin.

"Don’t," Darcy says, holding up a hand.  She looks tired and worn down, but still so beautiful it makes Steve’s teeth ache.  Steve loves his brother despite the shit Johnny has put Steve through, but days like this, days where he has to watch what Johnny’s rollercoaster of self-destruction has done to Darcy, are the days he wants to shove Johnny in a cell and throw away the key.

"You need to stop doing this.  He can’t lean on you every time he decides to fuck up his life.  You don’t deserve to be put through this because Johnny can’t get his shit together."

(She was Steve's first, he reminds himself.  His before Johnny’s undertow pulled her in, helped along the way by Steve’s complacency.  Johnny’s like gravity: he grabs hold and drags you down, and Steve has spent the better part of five years trying to pull her back out.  Steve misses her in his life the way she used to be - in his bed, in his heart - but he misses her looking whole and happy even more.)

"We’re not kids anymore, Darcy," Steve says seriously, invoking the type of tone he imagines her father would if he were still around.  Darcy’s eyes drag down to the hand he’s got resting over the gun holstered on his hip.  "This isn’t Johnny taking you out for joy rides in Mr. Johnson’s hotwired Chevy."

"Please don’t lecture me, Steve," Darcy says, but her words lack bite.  He knows her well enough to know when she’s exhausted past the point of fighting, which is so rare it makes his heart hurt even more.  "What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to be smart."  He reaches down and brushes a lock of hair behind her ear, trying to ignore the way his heart pounds when she seems to move into his touch.  "I love him, but he’s spent the better part of his life aching to put a foot in the grave.  I live every day knowing that it could be the one he gets himself killed with his shit.  What truly scares me is that you’re going to get caught in the crossfire."  Steve stops himself before he continues, before he says, he’s going to get you killed and kill me in the fucking process.

"I…" she says before screwing her mouth shut, her chest heaving just hard enough that Steve knows she’s trying not to cry.  Dugan had told him that she hadn’t been in the car when Johnny was pulled over, but she had been at the party beforehand.  He’d been to a few of Johnny’s parties before the shattered femur ended his NFL career, and he hates the thought of her there, around those people.  Parasites and vampires, every one of them. 

"Come on, I’m driving you home," Steve says.  She starts to shake her head and opens her mouth to argue, but he cuts her off.  "They’re not letting him out until the morning."

"What?" she asks.  "Why?"

"Because he’s drunk, Darcy.  And still a bit high, and there’s no goddamn way I’m letting him go back home with you like that.  He can sleep it off in his cell and I’ll drive him back to his place when he sobers up."

He holds out a hand.

"Okay," she says quietly, slipping her warm, slim hand into his offered one, letting him pull her to her feet and slip his coat over her shoulders.

She falls asleep in the car beside him on the drive back to her apartment.  He circles the city a half-dozen times, watching her sleep, before he finally puts himself out of his misery and stops in front of her building.