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Steve is not turning ninety four today. Steve is, as of eight oh five this morning, twenty seven years old. Steve's father died before he ever got the chance to see his baby son, and Steve's mother died when he was twelve years old. He spent six years in a Catholic orphanage, five years moving from flophouse to flophouse with Bucky, four years in the US Army, and six months in the twenty first century.

It's kind of cute, he guesses, and Tony doesn't actually make him wear the party hat that he got especially, 'a buck fifty at the dollar store, Capiscle! You'd better reimburse me!'. They fold his 'birthday party' into the Independence Day celebrations in Central Park, and turn it into an Avengers PR stunt. Well, a Captain America and Iron Man PR stunt, because Thor and Bruce are gone, and for reasons that Steve doesn't fully understand yet, Clint and Natasha have enough pull with Fury to get out of it.

So it's Steve, Tony and his friends, anonymous S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, the media, and the crowds. The never-ending crowds with their own cameras and their endless things to sign. Tony takes to it like a duck to water, as does his girlfriend, Miss Potts, and Colonel Rhodes, who both look effortlessly cool and unflappable the entire day, while Steve feels sullen and sticky under the hot sun.

It starts to wind down in the late afternoon, although there are still kids everywhere who want to touch his shield or try on his sunglasses. Most of them gravitate towards Tony after a while, who apparently has no compunction in taking his shoes and socks off and sitting in flattened grass to have super soaker fights with them.

It's not that Steve isn't good with kids, it's just that he's different; he's not exactly from the 'seen but not heard' era, but they're unruly, faintly disrespectful, and very easily broken if he throws a ball too hard or swings a kid too high.

“Fucking monsters,” someone hisses none too quietly behind him. He turns around and sees a young woman in a short floral sun dress and sandals, standing among a crowd of children. He looks back towards Tony and the others, but they're a ways in the distance now and no one seems to be around to help her.

“Are you okay?” he asks, edging towards her.

“Do I look okay?” she snaps, dropping down onto her knees to wipe at a kid's face. “I mean, this dress cost me eighty dollars, and now there's half a bottle of Sunny Delight down it and it's rapidly sticking to my bra. And now I'm telling some random guy about my bra!”

“Do you want me to get someone?”

“How about you get Captain America over here to deal with all his vertically challenged f—f--” she chokes as she looks up at him. “Oh, so you're Captain America. You could have told me.”

“You didn't really give me a chance. And anyway--” He offers her a hand up, and her dress really is stuck to her bra. “I, uh, I only play him on TV.”

She tilts her head and narrows her eyes.

“Uh. I'm trying to be funnier. Apparently it's important nowadays.”

“'Nowadays',” she mutters, pursing her lips into a smile. “Well, you should keep working on that, dude.”

He sticks his hands into his pockets and resists the urge to rock on his heels. She's short, almost a full foot shorter than he is, long dark hair, glasses slipping down the end of her nose, remnants of make-up smudged on her face. She's, well, she's very nice looking. “Thanks.”

“Oh.” She wrinkles her nose up. “Is that treason?”

“I don't know, I don't think so.”

She breathes out heavily. “Good, 'cause if I get fired, I think they're gonna assassinate me.”

“Okay,” he says. “How about I get someone to help you?” He turns around and raises his hand to one of the undercover agents.

“Oh my God, they're in the trees,” she mutters as they start to close in.

“Agent Lewis, we'll take over from here,” one black-suited agent says, appearing at her side. She starts, then looks up at the sky in exasperation.

“Agent?” he repeats. She doesn't look like any agent he's met so far.

“Agent Darcy Lewis, at your service, sir,” she says, thrusting her hand at him with a smirk.

He takes it, carefully wrapping his fingers around her hand. “Steve.”

“Nice to meet you, Steve,” she says, raising her eyebrows.

She has a firm shake for such a small hand, and holds on for a little longer than is probably necessary. He pulls his hand away slowly, and smiles.

“There's a water fountain over there, if you want to get the juice out of your dress.”

“If anyone but Captain America said that to me, I'd think it was a come on.” She wiggles her eyebrows and sets off in the direction of the fountain. After a moment's hesitation, he follows.

“I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that.”

She looks back over her shoulder and winks. “Did I say it'd be a bad thing? Hey, hold down the button for me, will you?” She sets her... chest on the edge of the fountain, and smiles up at him. It's a dangerous smile, he thinks, and presses his thumb against the button.

“So...” He looks at the rapidly drenched front of her dress, then decides to inspect the grass instead. “What gets a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent on babysitting duty?”

“Just your good old-fashioned hierarchy bullshit.” She leans even further forward against the basin, patting at her dress. “I'm at the bottom of the ladder, so I get bullshit grunt work. Plus they thought I was the 'least threatening' person to be around kids.”

“Really? You don't seem not... threatening,” he says, and wonders if he could have put that any more stupidly, but she just looks up at him and grins.

“Right? That's what I said. But you know men. Always thinks they know best.” She pauses and glances up at him again. “I mean, not you. You seem pretty non-jerky.”

“I try.”

She chuckles softly. “Nice delivery, very dry. B+, you learn pretty fast.”

He ducks his head. “Thanks.”

“It's your birthday today, right?” she asks, after a couple minutes more of scrubbing at her dress.

“Yeah,” he mutters.

“Ninety four, that's pretty awesome.”

He hums something vaguely in the positive before she adds, “So how old are you really?”

He smiles. “Twenty seven. Although, since my plane went down in May, and I got out of the ice in August, I was really twenty seven some time in October.” He pauses when he notices her looking at him with eyebrows raised. “It's complicated.”

She stands up and shakes herself, her breasts bouncing a little, and he looks harder at the grass. “It sounds complicated. And, hey, Captain America is only three years older than me? That's crazy. Well, this didn't work,” she adds, and he risks a look at her dress: it's completely soaked, turned semi-sheer and outlining her bra, which is... black.

“Oh, here.” He lets go of the fountain and starts to unbutton his shirt.

“Hey, whoa, you don't need to strip to make me feel better,” she says, her tongue in the corner of her mouth.

He feels his cheeks flush as he reaches the bottom buttons and pulls it off. “I just thought you might like to... to cover up,” he says, and hands her the shirt.

“Oh,” she says, looking momentarily crestfallen before putting it on. She buttons up the middle buttons, ties the shirt tails up around her waist, and pushes up the sleeves. It looks... it looks good on her. “I'll give it back to you next time I see you,” she says.

He shrugs. “You can keep it, I don't mind.”

“Whoosh,” she mutters and starts patting the pockets of her dress. “Aha!” she says, and produces a pen. She takes his hand and tugs him a little closer; he's caught between wanting to stubbornly stay where he is, and wanting to do the exact opposite, so he just kind of stumbles towards her and bangs his hip against the fountain. She laughs and begins to write something on his wrist. He tilts his head to read it: numbers. Ten numbers with a New York area code, so... a phone number. “In case you ever need any lessons on being funny,” she says. Then she salutes him and takes off across the park, leaving him to look at her writing on his arm. She has really terrible handwriting, it looks like she was drunk when she wrote it.

“Did you just hook up with some random girl?” Tony says when he makes it back over to them. “Don't tell me you're desperate enough to sleep with your groupies. I can introduce you to girls, you know.”

“I was talking to a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent,” he says, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Didn't look like any S.H.I.E.L.D. agent I've ever seen,” Tony says, then narrows his eyes. “Wait a minute, did she... She did! She wrote her number on your arm! Oh man, you are totally in there.”

“Shut the fuck up, Tony,” Rhodes says good-naturedly, slapping Tony on the back. “It's cute.”

Steve sighs.

-

When he gets home, he copies her phone number down onto a scrap of newspaper and secures it to his fridge with a magnet, then proceeds to look at it every day for two weeks, but never pick up his phone. It's a good thing that Tony never comes over, because he's already been at Steve about 'the girl with the rack', and he'd probably just go ahead and call her himself.

Then again, maybe he'd be too busy with the latest assault on his tower which somehow results in Steve getting his leg broken when part of it collapses on him.

Afterwards, he's taken to the hospital, where the doctors poke and prod at him, and set his leg without any anaesthetic because nothing short of an induced coma will knock him out. It's enough to get rid of Tony, his face paling at the snap and crack of Steve's bones, and Steve gets the cast put on in peace.

“You!” someone calls while he's waiting for it to dry. Darcy stomps across the room, all in black: boots, pants, tight t-shirt, and a fine layer of dust covering it all.

“Oh God, you weren't in the building, were you?” He'd been pretty sure at the time that they'd evacuated everyone before the fight really got into a full swing, and he can't really think of a reason why she'd have been there anyway, but he doesn't like the idea of her being in danger. He doesn't like the idea of anyone being in danger, but he really doesn't like the idea of it being her.

“Clean-up duty. Once you guys have finished destroying stuff, the little worker bees come in and tidy it all up so that the next time, you have an aesthetically pleasing background to fight to.”

“Oh,” he says, “I'm sorry.”

She narrows her eyes and puts her hands on her hips, drawing his attention there despite his best efforts to the contrary. “Is this what you do, Captain Rogers? Love 'em and leave 'em?”

That's the kick he needs to drag his attention back to her face. “What?”

“Typically when someone gives you their number, they expect to then receive a call from the recipient of said phone number.”

“Oh,” he says again. He looks at his lap for a moment, then back up. “I broke my leg.” He tries to sound a little plaintive; hey, it works for Tony.

She tilts her head. “How long's it going to take to heal?”

“Three, four days.”

She nods, pouting her lips faintly. He's almost successful in chasing away the thought that she'd be a very good kisser. “I'm going to tell you a story, Rogers,” she says. “In the summer of 1998, when I was but a fresh-faced ten year old, I was the queen of the playground. I didn't grow up in a very interesting town, so that concrete death trap was the bomb. My speciality was the monkey bars, they were my shit. Well, one day I was keeping on keeping on, and some pimply faced little bastard distracted me. I fell, Steve, and my left arm went kinda--” She twists her arm around her back and pulls a face. “Broke it in two places. It hurt like a bitch. 'Thankfully' I was already on my summer break, so I didn't miss any school, but I spent the rest of that summer inside with my father, watching CSPAN. I mean, it ended up helping me, in the long run, but playing on the monkey bars was never the same. My arm still aches when it rains.”

She pauses and he ducks his head, not sure if he's allowed to laugh or not.

“So, the moral of the story, Captain Rogers,” she continues, “is that I'm very unsympathetic to your sprained ankle.”

He bites his lips and grins. “Message received, ma'am. I promise I'll call you.”

“Nope, nope.” She pats down her pockets and somehow finds a pen in there somewhere. “The cast dry?” she asks, then starts scrawling something on it before he can answer. “Okay,” she says, when she's finished, “you're gonna meet me at this location next Saturday at fifteen hundred hours precisely. The only excuse I'm going to accept is seeing you get your face bashed in by a baddie on the evening news. Deal?”

“Deal,” he says.

-

The place where he's been ordered to go to is a Starbucks at Columbus Circle, and he gets there twenty minutes early, kicks around outside, trying not to look too much like he's been stood up, pulling his hat down low and hoping he isn't going to get recognised, before going in when his watch says it's 2:59pm. The coffeehouse is bewilderingly busy, not a single seat free, and he starts to wish that he'd gone in earlier, instead of trying to be cute about it and time it exactly. She doesn't have his phone number and he forgot his cell in his anxiety anyway, so there's no way to get into contact with her and rearrange, and he's starting to think that maybe he really has been stood up. Payback's a bitch, as Tony likes to say.

Or maybe not. “Hey, beautiful,” someone says behind him. He turns around to find Darcy smiling up at him. She's wearing shorts that show off her shapely legs, but what he really notices is how she's wearing his shirt, the bottom of it tucked into her shorts, sleeves rolled up to her elbows and held there with safety pins, a white tank top just visible underneath. He stares for a little too long, he guesses, because she puts her nose in the air and says, “You aren't getting it back now, buddy.”

He just smiles and follows her to the two seats by the window that she's staked out. There's a tall paper cup that's still steaming on the table in front of him when he takes his seat.

“I guessed you were a hot chocolate type of guy,” she says and shrugs.

He almost says something about how he should be the one buying the drinks, but bites it back at the last second, Natasha's disapproving face looming in his mind's eye. Instead he just says, “I am, yeah, thanks.”

“Extra whipped cream,” she says, and takes a sip of whatever she's having.

He tries his drink too, to cover his lack of having anything at all to say, and glances out the window. Right out at where he'd been standing not two minutes ago.

“Did you...?”

“See you standing out there for the last twenty minutes? Yep.” She pokes at the brim of his baseball cap. “You looked adorable trying to be all incognito.”

“Oh no, did people recognise me?” He leans his cheek on his hand and tries to glance around carefully, to see if anyone's looking. It seems pretty safe, but he's starting to live in constant fear of people and their damned camera phones.

She pats him on the shoulder. “It's New York, nobody looks at anybody else. Maybe, maybe, if you were in the suit, but otherwise, I'm pretty sure you're good.”

He sighs. “I hope you're right. So, um, how long have you been here for?”

“'Bout, well...” She lifts a shoulder. “Half an hour.”

“Okay,” he says, and takes another sip, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.

She rolls her eyes and sighs in disgust. “Don't look at me like you think you know something.”

“I'm not. I don't know anything.” It comes out a little more sadly than he means it to. She looks at him thoughtfully for a minute, and he shifts slightly away. “So, why'd you decide to become a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent?”

“Ah, well. It started with a man falling out of the sky.”

“A man fell out of the sky?”

“Thor.”

“Thor?”

“I tased him.”

“You tased him?”

“Are you just going to repeat everything I say?”

“Am I-- no. No, I'm not, sorry. But... you tased Thor? I fought with him, he's... strong.”

“Well, he was depowered when I--” She shakes her fist, in no way reminiscent of a taser. “So I guess you can't really judge him for that. What you can judge him for is sending Jane to Buttfuck, Norway and not even swinging by to say, 'hey'.”

“Jane?”

“Jane Foster, the most adorable of all the astrophysicists.”

“Dr Foster?” He remembers some talk of a 'Dr Foster', but he's pretty sure that they didn't refer to the place she went to as 'Buttfuck'. “Wait, do you know Dr Selvig?”

“Yeah, I was their research assistant.”

“How is he?”

She twists her mouth and taps her fingers on the edge of her cup. “He's... I don't know, he seems okay most of the time? Hasn't been going to his therapy sessions, far as I can tell, but then who does?”

Steve doesn't, that's for sure. This doesn't seem to be a very good topic of discussion for a date, though, if that's what this is; Darcy's starting to look a little sad and he grabs hold of the first thing he thinks of.

“So, why S.H.I.E.L.D., then?”

Her face goes from sad to annoyed in a split second. “Ugh. Okay. It's like Men in Black: either I became one of them or I got mind wiped, and since I hope those clicky pen things aren't actually real, I was very strongly advised to accept their job offer.”

“I... don't know what any of that means, but it doesn't sound very good.”

“Eh, I didn't have any other plans. I don't have a great track record with committing to things or, like, making decisions. I changed my major three times.” She shrugs and looks at him through her eyelashes as she sips her drink. “I guess there's no point me asking you why you work for S.H.I.E.L.D.”

“I wanted to be taller.”

“Solid reasoning. So, how're you finding this brave new world?”

He's finding it... he's not even sure any more. Sometimes things are familiar: people make Wizard of Oz jokes, read Batman and Superman comics, get drunk and sing loudly in the street outside his apartment at three in the morning. People are basically still the same, as friendly or unpleasant as they ever were, and it's not even the technology that throws him; it's not that hard to work out telephones or televisions or computers. And yet, most of the time everything feels so unreal and unfamiliar to him. Maybe it's just loneliness.

All that seems a little too heavy to tell a girl he's not even spent twenty four hours with yet, though, so he just says, “No one's created soma yet. I don't know how I feel about that.”

She squeaks with laughter and bangs her fist against his hand. “I didn't know you were a nerd! Excellent!”

“When you're a ninety pound asthmatic, you read a lot of books.”

“I imagine you would.” She drains the last of her cup, smacking her lips as she bangs it back down on the table. “Do you want to get out of here?”

He looks around, looking for press or maybe one of his more aggressive fans, but there's nothing different about the crush of people. “Where are we going?”

“I don't know, you're the New Yorker, I'm just a girl from small town California. Show me the city, Captain Rogers.”

“Uh. I haven't finished my drink.”

She hops up from her seat and collects up her cup and napkins. “Don't worry, it's portable. I'm going to start feeling rejected right about... now,” she says, and he stands up, maybe a little too quickly, ending up just a couple of inches from her.

“Great reaction times,” she says, and pats him on the hip. “Come on.”

She latches onto his arm pretty quickly as they walk down the street, oohing and ahhing at things that really aren't all that interesting. He's beginning to get the distinct feeling that despite her assertion that he was going to 'show her the city', she's very much controlling everything that's happening right now.

After a little while she falls quiet, and they wander aimlessly, neither of them saying anything. She looks up at him a couple of times, but still doesn't speak until finally she pokes him in the side. “Hey, you look nervous.”

“I am nervous,” he says quickly. It's such a relief to admit it that he's almost not embarrassed. Almost.

“Why are you nervous?”

“I don't... do this.”

“Walk down streets? I can see how being without your men to carry your chair on the... the pole thingies could be off putting.”

“Pole thingies?”

“You know, those chair throne things that people get carried on?” She rolls her eyes. “Man, you can ruin a joke at twenty paces.”

He frowns at her. “I meant, I don't date.”

“Twenty first century girls not good enough for you? If it helps, I was born in the twentieth century.”

“I mean... I've never dated.”

“You've...” She stops and lays a hand flat on his chest. “You've never been on a date?”

“I used to go on double dates with my friend, but most of the time it ended with him doing the double dating.”

“Wow.” She shakes her head. “Huh, I'd never have thought Captain America would be the nervous type.”

“Captain America isn't. Steve Rogers is.”

“Ah,” she says, eyebrows going high. “Got a little identity disorder thing going on, have we?”

Her hand is still on his chest; he takes a deep breath and tries to justify himself. “We don't even know each other!”

“Well, I know you, and you know that I'm a funny, intelligent, gorgeous woman with amazing breasts who you immediately started checking out upon meeting.”

“I didn't...” he mutters.

“Well, we'll agree to disagree, then.” She drops her hand and starts to chew on her thumbnail. “Look, I'm not maneater. Unless they like that sort of thing. Do you wanna take things slow?”

His immediate instinct is to say, 'no, no, that's definitely not a good idea', but what comes out is, “Okay.”

-

Darcy doesn't do slow. She'd been thinking one night stand, friends with benefits at best, and that was if he didn't just say, 'I'm Captain America, I can get any girl I want', (which he'd have been a fool to say and she would have swiftly disposed of any memorabilia she might have collected up over the years). She wasn't looking for any sort of relationship thing, and even if she had been, Steve Rogers has got 'baggage' and 'issues' written all over his face.

But, it's a very nice face. Especially when he smiles, which is what she tells Jane when they perform the post date dissection over Skype.

“That doesn't seem like a good basis for a relationship,” she points out.

Darcy settles down on her stomach, adjusting the laptop screen so that Jane doesn't get an eyeful of either her tits, or the wall behind her bed. “It's as good a basis as a nice set of abs and biceps, Dr I'm-an-intellectual-with-a-lady-boner-for-big-dumb-guys.”

Jane's eye rolling is delayed over the webcam, but still conveys her point. “Don was a physicist, and Thor isn't stupid.”

“Don was a skirt-chasing asshat, and the jury's still out on Thor.”

“Oh, whatever,” Jane mutters. “Tell me more about starting a relationship with someone who spent his formative years in depression era New York, is repressed to hell and back, and has identity issues.”

Darcy rests her chin against the edge of the laptop. “He's really cute.”

-

Their next couple of dates are slow. Like, molasses slow, going for walks and getting early lunches at Mom and Pop cafés.

The thing is, Steve seems like a really easygoing guy, and he is, but he's also really fucking sad around the edges, especially when they pass through construction sites, which is, hey, just about every part of Midtown for the foreseeable future. They need to find something else to do.

“Movie marathon,” she says, presenting him with a ticket. “Nary a technicolour in sight.”

It's an old theatre, threadbare seats, popcorn from an old, kind of suspicious looking red and white machine – basically it's crappy, but she refrains from saying it because he looks kind of charmed, with it and maybe with her too.

He laughs at all the lines that aren't funny and listens intently to all the talky bits and seems to swoon a bit at the romantic parts, and maybe after a while she starts to get into it, too, even though she can totally tell when it's a stunt double and when it's the actor. He also eats all of their extra large tub of popcorn, which is actually a good sign, despite the fact that she wanted some of that buttery goodness, because it means that he's not completely hyper aware of her the whole time.

Afterwards, he kind of gushes a little, with lots of 'did you see this and that part?' and sighing over the pretty girls before glancing sidelong at her. She just slots her arm into his and he keeps talking, as they wander through the darkening streets.

“Hey,” he says after a while, “can I take you home? Your home, I mean. Just to, uh...”

“You already are.”

“I am?”

She nods. Choosing a location close to home seemed like the best way to encourage well, sex, or at the very least a kiss at the door. Plus, Queens wasn't affected by the Chitauris, so there was less likelihood of a reappearance of sad face Steve. “I just live a couple of blocks that way,” she says, pointing east.

He's a bit quieter after that, but she's pretty sure it's because her neighbourhood is a little rough, and he's having lots of Captain America feelings about it.

“Wanna come up?” she asks as she fishes around in her bag for her keys.

“I'll just... I'll just see you to your door?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

“I'm... not sure.”

“Well,” she says, pulling her keys triumphantly from her bag, “this isn't my door. My door is up on the third floor. What if a bad guy kidnaps me on my way up? I think you should at least take me upstairs.”

Steve's face says she isn't fooling anyone, but he still follows her up.

“You sure you won't come in?” she says, when they get there. She leans against her door, spinning her keychain around her finger.

“Yeah, I'm...” He presses his lips together briefly. “Yeah.”

“How about a kiss?”

He blinks. Not exactly the response she was hoping for, but pretty much what she was expecting. “A kiss on the fourth date isn't scandalous, even for you, come on.”

“No, of course it's not,” he says, and she can practically feel his desire to scuff his toe in the gross carpet outside her apartment.

A thought occurs to her as he continues to put her in mind of her first 'boyfriend' when she was twelve. “Steve, how many people have you kissed?”

He narrows his eyes a little. “Two.”

“Two girlfriends isn't so bad,” she says. She'd kind of been thinking it was going to be a big fat zero.

“No, I mean... two kisses.” He kind of grimaces and shrugs at the same time. Well, that's more like it.

“Come here,” she says, crooking her finger to get him to close the distance between them. He's very good at taking orders, at least. She pushes herself up onto her toes and still only hits his neck. “Stop being so tall.”

“I can't help it.”

“Excuses,” she mutters, and throws her arm around his neck, hauling herself up. She's already against the door, and since Steve's ever the gentleman and wouldn't want her to strain her arm, he holds her there with light hands on her waist, as if she weighs nothing at all. And damn, thinking about how strong he is seems to be a bit of a turn on, she's just now discovering.

Also, he has the prettiest eyelashes she's ever seen. Like, on her best day, with her best make up, she still wouldn't be able to compete with that. “Ugh,” she mutters.

“Are you okay?” he asks. His fingers knead her skin a little, just under her ribcage.

“More than,” she says, and tips her head forward to kiss him. His lips are just as soft as they look and he parts them a little; not enough for a full on tonguing but there's definitely some intent there, and even more when he presses into her, just a little, just for a second before putting her down and stepping back.

“Okay,” he says, and he actually licks his fucking lips. “No bad guys here, ma'am.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely, Miss Lewis.”

“I'm holding you to that,” she says, pointing her door key at him.

“Please do,” he says and turns away before she gets to see the blush that she's sure is about to follow.

-

It turns out that he really likes kissing, as well as being a really quick study. It doesn't take much to lure him into her apartment the next time they go out, and their concerted effort to watch whatever's on TCM ends when he starts smelling her hair. He tries to be subtle about it at first but then he gets a little bolder, brushes his nose against her hair accidentally, and she turns to look at him and then somehow they end up making out for twenty minutes. It's a good twenty minutes.

“Do you wanna--” she says against his mouth before she pulls away, “--go somewhere else?”

He groans, chasing her for a minute before opening his eyes. “What?”

“How's the room with the bed in it sound to you?”

“Oh.” He sits back and wipes his hand across his mouth. “No, I--”

“No?” she repeats.

He cringes a little. “I'm-- I-- That sort of thing...”

“What sort of thing?”

“Sex before marriage,” he sort of half mutters, glancing at her shitty coffee table for a moment.

“You don't believe in it?”

“I believe it exists,” he says, trying for a smile that looks like a cross between amused and pained. “But I'm Catholic, I can't help it.”

She arches an eyebrow. “So you'll use me for my wit, interpersonal skills and pillow lips, but you won't use my body?”

“Your lips are part of your body,” he points out quietly.

“You're turning into a real smartass,” she says, grabbing the front of his shirt to drag him back in.

“So, you're okay with it?”

“For now,” she says, moving her hand from his shirt to the back of his head.

-

Steve leads a pretty sedate life, most of the time. He lives in an apartment in Brooklyn Heights, paid for completely by the interest he accrued on the money he got from the USO tours. He fought with S.H.I.E.L.D. about it, at the time: the higher-ups wanted him at one of the bases, or at the very least living in a building with a full contingent of agents working undercover as staff. For some reason, though, Fury sided with him on it, and he bought this slightly run down apartment with a tiny kitchen where he bangs his hips on the counters every time he goes from the fridge to oven. There's a grocery store down the street, an enormous supermarket the next block over, and a gym ten minutes away. He has an agreement with the owner of the place to use it after hours, at first because tearing punching bags to pieces tends to raise eyebrows, and now because he has one of the most famous faces in the US.

He doesn't really socialise with people. He used to, a little, but now he's always under threat of being recognised, and it's easier to just... not.

Except when it comes to Darcy. There's no 'not' with her.

“I don't think this is a good idea,” he says.

“Every idea I have ever had in my life has been amazing.” She looks at his wrapped hands. “Can I wrap my hands up like that? That looks cool.”

“You need to wear gloves.”

“Sexism,” she mutters as she takes the boxing gloves he hands her.

“Don't you get training as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent?”

“It had some holes.” She shakes her arms out and bounces on the spot. She'd called him just as he was getting ready to go to the gym; when he'd told her this, she said that that was perfect and that she'd see him in half an hour. Now she's here in leggings and a tank top and she doesn't have a coat, so did she come here dressed in just that? He's both appalled and a little turned on.

“Are you sure about this?” he tries again as she puts her fists up and jabs at the air.

“I'm wearing three bras. It's happening.”

“Okay.” He spreads his hands. “Punch my palm, don't push yourself, just whatever feels good. Right to right, left to left.”

“'Whatever feels good',” she repeats back at him, and winks. Once they start, though, she gets focused, bouncing on her toes a little as she lands her punches. It doesn't take long for her to start sweating, her neck and arms shiny, dark hair from her ponytail sticking to her skin. His attention wanders.

“Can we do that thing where I jab you with one hand and punch you in the face with the other?” she asks after a while.

“Huh?”

“Eyes up top, Captain,” she says

He blinks a couple of times, refocusing on her. “Oh, a one-two punch? Sure.”

It's a little worrying how much she enjoys pretending to punch him, grinning gleefully every time he turns his face with a glancing blow.

“You're kind of violent, you know,” he says.

“Mean streets of Monterey, man.” She spits hair out of her mouth and goes for another strike. He dodges it this time, and she trips, falling straight into him, their chests flush.

“I'm sorry!” he says, gripping her arms. “I was just--”

She laughs, tilts her head up and pouts at him. “No fair,” she says, and her mouth curves into a smile. When he ducks down to kiss her, though, she pulls away, and pushes him on the nose with her gloved hand. “We're working.”

“Can we stop working?”

“Are you trying to ditch your responsibilities?”

He manages to drop a kiss to her forehead; she swats at him like an annoying bug. “Yeah...”

“Okay. But! I want you to flip me first.”

“You want me to what you?”

“Flip me over your shoulder. It looks cool on TV, I want to know what it feels like.”

He steps away from her completely and crosses his arms over his chest. “I don't want to do that.”

She mirrors his pose. “Don't be a baby about it.”

“No, I... No.”

“Why not?”

“I'll... hurt you.”

“No, you won't.” She frowns at him, reaches out and tugs his arm. “Hey, you won't hurt me.”

“You don't know that.”

“I'm pretty confident. Come on. I get behind you, right?” She dodges around him and wraps her arms around his waist. “Is this right?”

“Darcy,” he mutters.

“Really, what's the worst that could happen?”

“I break your back.”

She squeezes him harder. “That would suck,” she agrees, “but it's not going to happen, so...”

“You don't know that,” he repeats.

“Oh my God, stop arguing with me, yes, I do.”

He grits his teeth and looks down at her hands fisting in his t-shirt. He knows she'll just keep at this until he agrees to it. “Okay.”

“Ha ha!” she says and lets go of him. He sets about arranging her properly, her right leg behind his, her right arm over his shoulder, and says a silent prayer before dropping to a crouch as he rolls her over his shoulder. She lands on the mat with a thump and an 'oof!'.

“Are you okay?” he asks, scrambling around to look at her the right way up.

She laughs, says, “That was awesome!” and pulls him down for a kiss. A kiss that is very much helped by her prone position on the floor, and in short order he finds himself pressing down against her as she opens her mouth under his, one of her hands in his hair, the other at the small of his back. She tugs lightly at his hair, and he shivers, pressing his mouth down her neck between groans. He can't stop shivering, but it's really more like... shuddering, and it's become harder and harder to resist the urge to rock his hips against her. He drops his forehead to her warm skin and sighs.

“Damn,” he mutters.

“Is this a little bit too exciting?” she asks, still stroking his hair.

He groans. “Yeah.” He pushes himself up and rolls over to lie next to her.

“Hungry?” she asks.

“I'm always hungry,” he replies. “Sushi?”

She hums. “It's ridiculous that you like sushi,” she comments after a moment.

-

Her presence at the gym becomes a regular thing. He helps her with her self-defence training, where his experience of being beaten up in the alleyways of his youth come in handy: shins and eyes are the best parts to go for, backs of knees if you can get to them, biting is unpleasant but a good option if you have strong jaws. Darcy looks a little sad when he explains all this, and kisses him afterwards, sweeter than normal.

When they aren't training, she sits with her legs over the edge of boxing ring, watching him work on the punching bag, giving him directions on how to stand. Namely with his back to her.

“Oh yeah,” she mutters, and smacks the bubble gum that she's chewing.

“Okay.” He stills the bag and looks over his shoulder. “I think I've entertained you enough for one day.”

“You're always entertaining, Steve. Gum?” She tosses him a piece because he can answer, and he catches it with one hand. “That, for instance. Entertaining.”

He rolls his eyes and throws the gum into his mouth. It's almost sickeningly sweet: she's the only person he knows that can stand the sugary food he likes. “Do you want to go for a walk?”

She sighs, resting her chin on one of the boxing ring ropes. “A walk?”

“It's nice out.”

“There are nice places inside, too,” she says, and widens her eyes at him. She's mostly taken his moral quandary in her stride, but that doesn't stop her from making it quite clear that she wants to have sex with him. It's embarrassing, but God, he finds the directness of it incredibly arousing.

He falls back on his standard, “Just because this generation doesn't appreciate...”

“Oh God,” she says, and throws the packet of gum at him, which again he catches easily. “Fine, let's go smell the tulips.”

“Roses,” he corrects, and she slides feet first out from under the ropes, arching her back.

His mouth goes a little dry. She shakes her hair out as she passes him and snags his former shirt from where she slung it over a chair earlier; she's rarely without it. “Coming?”

She takes his hand when they leave the gym, lacing her fingers through his as they walk, smacking her gum even louder. She tries to teach him how to do it, but he can't quite get the hang of it. He's pretty good at blowing bubbles, though.

There are billboards above their heads as they get closer to the waterfront. There's one in particular that he's been seeing a lot recently, from a personal injury attorney. It says, 'Were you injured in the Battle of Manhattan, May 2012? Call this number!'.

“Where were you when Loki attacked the city?” he asks her, still looking up at billboard.

She glances up too. “I was on a coffee run. I ended up in the subway. Because of you, apparently.”

“It was the best I could come with at short notice,” he says. “Sorry.”

“It was crazy, man. There should never be that many people in there at the same time.” She pauses and covers their joined hands with her free one. “Honestly, fuck, I was terrified. I didn't have any training, and it was kind of worse than the Destroyer in a way, you know, because I didn't know where the threat was. I didn't have Jane or Erik, or Thor and his crazy buddies. Or even Coulson. And I'd left my taser at home that day, I think that was the worst part.”

“You knew Coulson?”

“He was the S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison for the whole 'Thor from the sky' thing.”

He nods. “Right, of course he was. I remember Thor saying something about that.”

She lets go of his hand and wraps her arm around his waist. “I saw you at his funeral. That was a nice speech that you gave.”

“You were there?” He barely remembers what he said, something about honour and commitment and hard work, and other things he used to say when he lost a man. All of it was, quite frankly, bullshit; he barely knew the guy and it seemed like no one else did, either. Maybe the cellist, but she wasn't allowed to come to that funeral. Apparently there was a civilian memorial service a few days later. He hopes she made it.

“Yeah. I was in the back. Like, way way in the back. I might have been crying a little, didn't want Captain America to see me with mascara tracks down my face. Never wear mascara to a funeral. It's just an all round bad idea..”

He rests his arm along her shoulders. “I'll try to keep that in mind.”

“You should.”

He pulls his wallet out of his pocket. “Fury gave me these,” he says, sliding the plastic wrapped trading cards out. He hasn't looked at them since he put them in there months ago, but it feels right to carry them around. Or better, at least.

She stops walking and takes them from him, turning them over in her hand. “Cap trading cards? These are original.”

“How did you know that?”

She shrugs. “Dad's a bit of a fan. He taught me how to tell originals and reproductions apart. It's all in the stamp on the back.”

“Really?” He looks closer and she holds them up to his face. “Never noticed that before.”

She hands them back carefully. “That's blood, right?”

“Yeah. Coulson's. He wanted me to sign them. I did, but...” He taps the silver pen work across the middle. “Too late.”

“He'd be thrilled. And he'd be happy you have them, too.” She leans her head against his shoulder for a second, then pushes her shoulders back. “I mean, what a nerd, what the hell. Pfft.”

He slips the cards back into his wallet and smiles. “I know. And he watched me while I 'slept'.”

“He was a creepy ass little man,” she says. “Oh, hey, I got you something.” She pulls her arm from around him and starts digging in her patch-covered satchel. There's a patch for every country she's been to, she's told him. She's particularly fond of her Switzerland patch, because that's where she lost her virginity to a guy that Steve instantly hated. She hands him her taser as she continues to rummage, and he does his best to conceal it, because he's not really sure if these things are street legal. “Here we go!” she says, takes the taser back and puts a little metal object in its place.

“Darcy,” he says, looking at it.

“It's an iPod.”

“I know that. Aren't these things expensive?” Everything seems expensive to him, but he's pretty sure that these things are accepted as being moderately pricey.

“Well, I didn't buy it for you.”

“Oh.”

She clicks her tongue. “Don't pout. I bought it to replace my old iPod that was 'lost' after the Destroyer incident, but then they found it while... clearing out Coulson's bottomless paper tray and I was going to sell this one on ebay, but then I thought, like, you'd probably like something to put your old man music on and...” She shrugs.

“Okay.” He closes his fingers around the iPod. “This gift is about fifty percent less romantic now.”

“And don't you feel better about it now? I did buy this for you, though,” she adds and pulls out something that looks like a wristband. “You put the iPod in the pouch and then put the band around your arm so that you can listen to it while you run.” She pulls the velcro apart and tests it out around his bicep. “I got the biggest they had... I think it'll fit.”

“Five percent more romantic,” he says. “Now I have to get you something.”

“Oh, you give me stuff,” she says and smacks his ass.

-

Steve has a standing date every week to go to S.H.I.E.L.D. and just... be there, under their supervision. Of course, they say it's acclimation therapy, but the agents assigned to him do very little past 'this is how Google works' and 'Czechoslovakia is two countries now'. He resents it, but at least they're trying to be more open with him, he guesses. He'd prefer an in depth look at their weapons manufacturing, but apparently being Captain America doesn't give him high enough clearance for things like that.

He leaves his apartment just after nine, helmet in hand, to ride over to headquarters. The subway would be faster, but riding his bike helps calm him when he's feeling agitated, and he's trying to keep a lid on his increasingly combative side. He only gets a couple of steps from his door, though, before he feels someone watching him. He turns around slowly.

“Going my way?” Darcy asks, leaning against the railing outside his building. He almost didn't recognise her, she's wearing a leather jacket he's never seen before, and a huge pair of sunglasses.

“Shouldn't you be at work?”

She drops the sunglasses down her nose. “I'm sick.” She gives one pathetic cough. “See?”

“I see.”

She pushes herself off the railing and saunters up to him. She steps onto his shoes to give herself a couple of extra inches, and kisses him softly. He's still not quite used to all this 'PDA', as Darcy calls it, but it's one thing he's acclimating to pretty easily.

“You taking your motorcycle over to S.H.I.E.L.D.?” she asks, apparently not feeling the need to step off his feet.

“Yeah. How'd you know I have a motorcycle?”

“S.H.I.E.L.D. sees all and knows all. Plus-” She pokes him in the chest. “-if you want to keep your sweet ride under wraps, you should probably find a different mode of transport when every major news channel has a camera on you, making sure the crazy alien god is really leaving. And you're holding a helmet.”

“Right, good points.”

“So, let's see it.” At his frown, she adds, “The bike, Steve.”

“It's just over here,” he says, pointing to where it's parked on the road, covered in a dust cover. She grins and ambles over to it, waiting impatiently for him to take the cover off. Once he's got the cover off and is rolling it up to put in his bag, she stares silently at it.

“Steve,” she says after a couple of seconds, “I'm having sexual feelings for this bike. I'm afraid I'm going to have to start dating it. How do you feel about open relationships?”

He laughs. He's not entirely sure what an open relationship entails exactly, and he doesn't really want to be told right now. “It is pretty nice,” he agrees.

She runs her fingers along the handlebars, and smiles at him devilishly. “Play hooky with me.”

“I can't. Fury's expecting me.”

“Because you love your meetings with the big guy.”

“That's not the point.”

She pushes herself up onto her tiptoes, ghosts her mouth over his until his eyelids flutter shut, then asks, “And what's the point?”

He licks his lips. Either she's really manipulative, or he's just really good at getting manipulated. Probably both. “I forgot.”

“Great!” She bounces away, and he rubs a hand over his eyes. When he opens them again, she's pulling a bike helmet out of her bag with a flourish.

“You have your own helmet?”

She arches an eyebrow. “I have my own motorcycle license. But I'll let you feel like the man for today.”

“Thanks...” He frowns. “Hey, did you plan all of this?”

“Well, if I did, it'd be an amazing plan.”

When Steve was a kid, he used to dream of riding a motorcycle. There weren't many to be seen around where he lived, but he saw drawings in comics and pulps, and heard about friends' cousins' girlfriends' fathers and their Harley-Davidsons. He wanted to go fast, as fast as Superman flew in his comics, which seemed like an attainable goal when he was ten years old, and he wanted a girl nestled against his back, which seemed a lot less attainable to him at any age.

He got half his wish in the war, and it was as exciting as he thought it would be, but for all the wrong reasons. And the only people he ever got on the back of the bike were injured soldiers and the occasional injured civilian.

Having Darcy pressed up against his back, her small hands fisted in his jacket, lives up to all his expectations, even if she does yell all sorts of obscenities when the wind's whipping up fast enough that he's the only one that can hear them. He doesn't break the speed limit, he wouldn't dream of it, but he does push it a little, weaving through traffic more than he normally would until they make it to Coney Island. She jumps off the bike and pulls off her helmet as he parks.

“Oh, we have got to take this baby out onto a dirt road sometime!” she says, grinning at him, her cheeks pink. He takes his helmet off, drops it to the ground, and leans forward to kiss her, still sitting on the bike. She cards her fingers through his hair with one hand, grabs his chin with the other, and turns the kiss a little more intimate than he would normally be comfortable with outside, but there's still blood pounding in his ears from the ride, and he lets himself just not care for a few minutes.

She pulls away, still holding his chin. “Oh, so you're a speed freak?”

“Adrenaline junkie,” he says, thinking of the phrase that Tony threw at him last time they argued. (“You're a fucking adrenaline junkie; get yourself killed if you want, don't fuck us up too.”) “Bucky always said that I enjoyed getting into fights a little too much.” He pauses and looks towards the fair grounds. “Do you wanna go on the Cyclone?”

She pulls a face. “I'm kind of... scared of heights. And spinning around and shit.”

“But you thought it was 'awesome' when we got inches away from that truck?”

“As long as I'm within a foot of the ground, I'm cool.”

“I did throw up last time I went on it,” he says.

“Oh!” Darcy grins. “Let's get food!”

They get hot dogs from a place on the boardwalk; it's not even ten in the morning yet, but it's a warm day, and Darcy drops her feet into his lap once they're settled on a bench overlooking the beach.

“Did you used to come here a lot?” she asks.

“Yeah, taking girls on the Thunderbolt was one of Bucky's 'tricks' to get them to cuddle up to us. It would've worked better if I hadn't been 'like a rag doll'.” The girl had said it nicely, but he was bony and his hands were constantly cold; he was never going to be much comfort to a scared girl. “My mom tried to teach me how to swim in the ocean. I got pneumonia.”

“You always have such happy stories, Steve.” She scoots in a little closer and takes a huge bite of her hot dog, wipes ketchup off her face with the back of her hand, and grins. “I grew up by the beach. I never once got a tan. I'm very proud of that.”

“That's quite the accomplishment.”

“Thank you.” She moves in even closer, until she's almost sitting in his lap. “If I'd known we were coming to the beach, I'd've brought my bikini. I don't suppose you'd be up for skinny dipping, huh?”

“I don't suppose I would,” he replies, finishing the last of his hot dog.

“Okay, Mr. Sarcastic, what do you want to do?” she asks in an exasperated tone, but when he looks at out of the corner of his eye, she's grinning.

He shrugs in response.

“Excellent. Well, what do you do, you know, in the day?”

He shrugs again. The amused look on her face is starting to slide. “I draw?” he offers. “Sometimes.”

“You any good?”

He glances at his bag. His sketchbook is in there; he'd thought maybe after S.H.I.E.L.D. he might go over to the Chrysler building and work on his architecture drawing, he had considered spending his day doing that. “Not really,” he says in answer to her question. “I used to draw stupid comics about... liberty bonds and stuff.”

“Oh?” She narrows her eyes at him, glances at the bag, then lunges for it before he can stop her. Not that he makes much of an effort to.

“There's something in here,” she says, hugging the bag to her chest. “I can feel it. It's calling to me, Steve.”

“It's just a sketchbook.”

Her eyes light up, and she digs into his bag for it, pulling out the dog-eared green spiral bound book he'd bought from the supermarket a couple of months ago. “Would it be, like, a huge breach of your privacy if I looked through it?” she asks, staring at him with wide eyes.

“It's fine,” he says, and she flips the book open before he's even managed to get both syllables out. She grins at him like she's won something, then looks down. Her face... shifts.

“Whoa,” she mutters, and flips a couple more pages. “I thought you meant, like, glorified stick figures. This is very disappointing, I thought I was going to be able to tease you... Steve, these are beautiful.”

He's suddenly aware of the hard back of the bench, and he shifts awkwardly. “They're okay.”

She blows out a scornful sigh and turns a page towards him. “Where's this?”

“That's, uh.” He leans forward and turns the corner of the page down; he wrote place names on the back of every picture he drew. “That's a room in the Wadsworth Atheneum in Connecticut. I took my bike and went east for a little while, after. Got as far as Maine.” Before S.H.I.E.L.D. hauled him back home, he doesn't add.

She pulls the book away and goes back to picking through it. “I did one of those 'see America' road trips before college,” she says absently.

He tried to draw a picture of every place he visited: he'd spend all day at it, keeping his head down and his gaze away from people who didn't care to look at him until they saw a face they thought recognised, a face from TV and papers and the internet, and then he'd get on his motorcycle and be gone again. He stayed in B&Bs occasionally, but he'd long learnt that he could go days at a time with no sleep, thanks to the serum, with little to no side effects. Then S.H.I.E.L.D. said there were things to discuss, that he had 'responsibilities', and he folded like a cheap deck of cards. The whole thing had been a pointless waste of time, except for the fact that now Darcy is looking carefully at every quickly drawn and poorly coloured picture with a smile on her face. Until she turns a new page.

Her eyebrows draw together and she tilts her head to one side. He lifts his chin to catch a glimpse, and--

Oh God, he'd forgotten that was even in there.

She looks up into his wide-eyed face and grins. “You drew a picture of me?”

“No, I didn't,” he says quickly, even though it's completely futile, because yes, he did.

She tips the book down so that he can get an upside view of the barely started drawing. He sketched an outline of her face, her nose, her glasses, her hair, all from memory after first meeting her, before deciding that it was absolutely too creepy to draw a picture of a girl he'd barely knew, who was too young for him, and who he definitely wasn't going to call.

“I know what my own face looks like, dude, and also you wrote my name at the bottom.” She turns the book around and taps the intricate lettering work he'd done on those five letters.

“I was practising my calligraphy,” he mutters. He can feel his cheeks begin to burn.

She shoves the book into his hands. “Finish it,” she says.

“What?”

She digs around in his bag, muttering about why he has to bring so much crap with him everywhere, before emerging triumphant again with his pencil case. She drops it on top of the sketchbook in his lap and smiles. “Finish it. It'll be easier for you now.” She sticks her chin out and turns her head, trying for a very serious expression.

“O...kay,” he says slowly. He takes a pencil out of the case, tests it on the page, then looks back at her. “Don't do that, though. Just be normal.”

“'Normal',” she scoffs.

“As normal as you can be,” he amends.

She turns out to be a terrible model; she keeps moving and getting distracted by people on the beach, keeps trying to peer over and get a look at his progress. He's basically doing it from memory anyway.

“So, where'd you go on your road trip?” he asks after pushing her away for the fourth time.

“Oh, just around the west coast, mostly. My high school boyfriend 'borrowed' his brother's camper van and we did the whole seventies thing. I even wore a kaftan at one point. I say 'borrow' because I'm pretty sure he stole it, but Drew had a scholarship to UC Davis on the line, and his brother lived next door to a junkyard. Pretty sure their parents had a favourite.” She scratches her nose, tries for another look at the drawing and continues. “Drew ditched me in San Francisco, though.”

“He did what?”

“Right? I was also extremely offended by this. He just met someone else and left me at truck stop while I was getting a Froyo. We were planning on going to Six Flags the next day, I thought. I never did get to swim with dolphins. In Drew's defence, he'd had a sexual awakening, but that didn't stop me from tracking him down and stealing the van in the middle of the night.”

“Okay,” he says. He makes her lips a little fuller, her hair a little messier, imagining eighteen year old Darcy jacking someone's van under the cover of darkness. He can see it so clearly that it makes him laugh.

She grins. “After committing grand theft auto, I went to Las Vegas for a while, but I didn't have any money, so then I headed to Mexico. Eventually the van broke down so I left it in there and hitched a ride back over the border.”

“That, that sounds ridiculously dangerous.” He adds more laugh lines around her mouth, draws her glasses in more thickly. “Weren't your parents worried?”

“Steve, I drove around in a van tracking down atmospheric anomalies with two mad scientists, then tased a man who fell out of the sky. I don't always make great decisions.”

“I thought all your ideas were amazing.”

“Amazing, yes. Great, no. It's a fine distinction, I wouldn't expect you to understand. As for my parents, they just told me to come back with all the limbs I left with, and no babies. Plus my dad gave me his credit card for emergencies.”

“Right,” he says, looks at her, then back at the picture. “Okay,” he says, “I think--”

She practically jumps into his lap, ducking her head under his arm to look at the picture. “Oh, Steve,” she says. She reaches out and touches the pencil lines of her hair lightly. “I'm beautiful.”

He slides one arm around her middle. “You are.”

She twists in his grip and cups both hands over his cheeks. “Thank God for gay Drew,” she says between kisses.

-

All that training is actually starting to put some muscle on her. Her arms look crazy. She's tried working out before, but she's never had this kind of motivation: Steve's started doing those pull up things with a metal bar across the door frame. He can just, like, hang there and chat with her while she's using the punching bag. What more reward does she need but that?

“Look at it,” she says, and flexes her arm closer to the webcam.

“Very nice,” Jane says distantly, looking down at whatever's on her desk.

“You aren't even paying attention to me,” Darcy mutters, and rolls her sleeve back down.

“I'm a little busy, Darce, I'm sorry, there's so much to do before we close up the lab. Why don't you call Steve?”

“He's coming over in a couple of hours. You're going to come to New York when you get back, right?”

Jane looks up and wrinkles her nose. “I don't think I have much of a choice. S.H.I.E.L.D. basically owns all of my research, so if I want to pursue it I have to do it through them. Ugh, I don't want to think about it. What are you doing with Steve?”

“Getting him into my bed.”

Jane narrows her eyes at this: she had pronounced Steve's desire to wait 'adorable' when Darcy told her. It doesn't feel so adorable from this end.

“Well, we're making dinner and watching a movie first. Well, he's making dinner. I'm drinking wine while sitting on the counter watching. But then I'm going to see what we can do about this situation we have. I want to get my hand up his shirt and down his pants, at least.”

“Lovely. Does Steve know this?”

“Pretty sure he's worked it out with me grabbing his ass all the time.”

Jane sighs, and Darcy thinks she's going to get more hassle about being 'a bad influence' (from his stories, it sounds like Bucky was more than a little bit of a ladies man; Steve's already been corrupted), but Jane just rests her chin on her hands and says, “I wish I had an ass to grab.”

“It really is very nice.”

Jane sighs again. “I'll bet.”

She keeps her promise to sit on the counter and drink booze while Steve messes around with all the exotic vegetables he brought with him.

“Try not to get too drunk before we eat,” he chides her.

“Cook faster then.”

He mutters something under his breath and she takes an extra large gulp of wine just to spite him.

Her apartment isn't really made for two people, especially when one of them is Steve's size. Honestly, it's barely fit for one. There's mould growing over the front door that Steve stares at worriedly every time he's over (which is... often), but it's not in her bedroom so that's okay, right? Half the light fixtures are broken, and even the ones that do work are so weak that she has to have an assortment of thrift store lamps. And not cool thrift store, shitty thrift store. Her bedroom is almost entirely taken up by her small double bed, which she's particularly glad she stubbornly insisted on getting despite her dad trying to dissuade her, because trying to fuck Steve on a single bed would be ridiculous. Her dad did manage to convince her that the three piece L-shaped couch was a bad idea, so she has a scratchy little couch that she knows Steve finds uncomfortable but never says anything about.

The kitchenette is similarly not Steve-sized and the only place to eat is a pull down ironing board that doubles for a table. Normally she just eats on the couch with the plate balanced on her knees, but Steve gets all prim about it and under duress she digs out her two plastic folding chairs from the closet. And laughs at how awkward Steve looks sitting on one. He just tuts at her and tells her to eat her food.

He's made a stew, which she was extremely suspicious of when he mentioned it, because that's like gruel or something, but she's converted once she tries it.

“My mother taught me how to make it,” he tells her.

“Your mom was awesome,” she says. And also dead, she thinks; good one, Darcy.

“She was,” he agrees, and pushes a piece of beef around his plate for a minute before adding, “She'd have liked you.”

“Eh, I'm not a mother person. My own mom only just barely tolerates me, and that's because I'm the only kid she has.”

He smiles softly down at his plate. “She would. She'd have thought you were smart, and funny, and beautiful.”

Oh, she thinks as his cheeks pink a little.

“And then she probably would have made an uncomfortable comment about babies,” he says, and now his smile is wider, feels less serious.

She lets out a breath and digs around for something appropriately indelicate to say. “The mother of a boyfriend of mine once said I had 'birthing hips'. A little bit later on I threw red wine in her face. I was pretty smashed by then, though, so...”

Steve's face screws up a little as he laughs. “How'd the boyfriend take that?”

“He was stoned the entire time. I could have set him on fire and he wouldn't have had a care.”

“You've lived an interesting life, Darcy Lewis.”

She preens a little. “I have.”

It's not that hard to convince Steve to leave the dishes in the sink to soak/rot and pull him over to the couch to watch the DVD of some long, old movie that Steve had been talking about earlier in the week. Okay, it's Lawrence of Arabia, she's not stupid, but it's long, and Steve just totally stops talking when he's watching movies. He won't exactly shush her if she says something, but he always looks pretty pained to be maintaining a conversation under those conditions. She pulls out her laptop, puts her feet on the coffee table, and uses his chest as a pillow for the next four hours. It's close to midnight when he finally shifts and stretches his arms over his head.

“Hey.”

She looks up at him and jabs her glasses back up her nose with her index finger. “Oh, you're back?”

“Sorry. Um.” He looks at her screen. “Are you busy?”

“Extremely,” she says, closes her game of Minesweeper, and leans forward to put the computer on the coffee table. She can feel him move around to resettle against the couch cushions, then lean forward and press his mouth against her shoulder and up until he gets to just below her ear. A shiver runs all the way down her back, and she turns around to swing one leg over his, pulling him in to continue.

He kisses her achingly slow, like he's trying to imprint every last second of it onto his memory, and shit, maybe he is: his life is, like, eight five percent memories. And it's not bad; she hasn't spent this much time kissing the same person without there being some bigger pay off at the end since she was sixteen, but she's starting to foster an appreciation for it. Yeah, she'd like him to go to town on her, but this is kind of... loving, or whatever.

Plus, his hand is resting on her waist, under her shirt, and he's rubbing his thumb back and forth over her skin. Score!

And then the doorbell rings. Only her. This would only happen to her. Steve starts to pull away and she makes a muffled noise of disapproval against his mouth and grips the back of his head to hold him there. He doesn't need much more convincing to ignore the bell and she decides this is one of the 'do or die' situations that she's heard so much about. She shifts herself fully into his lap, pushing herself up onto her knees to lean over him and press him back against the couch cushions, all without breaking the kiss. He groans low in his throat and starts making little gasping sounds when she occasionally comes up for air. She pulls back long enough to give him time to say, 'whoa, this feels a lot like pre-premarital sex', but he just makes his own noise of disapproval and leans up to kiss her again. She risks rocking her hips into his a couple of times, and he fucking pants into her mouth. Oh, this is happening.

And the doorbell goes again. And again, and now someone's just holding the button down so that it's a constant blaring sound reverberating around her shitty ass apartment, making Steve tense up.

“Goddamnit,” she mutters, getting off him and stomping the couple of steps to the intercom. “Who the hell is this?” she demands into it. There's a long pause, and she looks back at Steve, who looks incredibly ruffled and a little hazy. Ugh, God, why is this happening to her? “I think it's kids,” she says, and reaches out to cut off the line just as there's a pathetic hiccuping sound.

“Hello?” she says.

“Darcy?” someone slurs. “Don't think I meant to come here, sorry...”

She squints. Steve's looking less hazy by the second, and that's just a damn tragedy. “Erik?”

“Yeah,” he sighs down the line.

“And you're here because...?”

“Couldn't remember where I live...”

“I-- okay. Wait there, I'll come get you.”

“I can get up the stairs,” Erik grumbles. “Just buzz me in.”

“Fine, grumpy pants. Try not to bump into too many walls on the way up.” She buzzes him up, cuts the line and looks back at Steve. “Cockblocking asshole,” she mutters.

He swallows, clearly choosing to ignore that, and says, “Is Dr Selvig okay?” He looks even more uncomfortable on the couch, crossing his legs gingerly, and he's really like the nicest person in the world. Well, maybe not the world, that might be a little bit of an exaggeration, but he's definitely the nicest person she knows.

“He's just drunk.” Jesus, Steve's mouth is all pink and kind of blurry around the edges, and his hair is sticking up at the back, hanging down at the front and brushing against his eyebrows. Quite frankly she wants to jump on him and ride him all night, drunk former boss at her door be damned, but now even Steve's eyebrows look worried.

“And at your door at midnight because he can't remember where he lives,” Steve finishes for her.

“Yeah, well,” she mutters, and there's a pitiful knock at the door behind her. “He's still a cockblocking asshole.”

Erik does, indeed, look pitiful, and extremely grumpy.

“You forgot where you live?” she asks.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. keeps moving me around. New place every week, it feels like.”

“And there was literally nowhere else for you to go tonight?”

No,” he says, and scowls. “Can I come in?”

“Mi casa es su casa,” she mutters, and steps aside to let him in.

“If I could just sleep on the couch...” he says, suddenly sheepish. It's like the five stages of grief, but with drunkenness.

“Mi couch es su couch.”

“Thanks, I'll just, uh...” He shuffles around her into the apartment and pauses. “Captain Rogers?”

Steve has her laptop on his lap now, she notices, and his hair is mostly smoothed back down. Can't do much about his mouth, though. “Dr Selvig.”

Erik blinks a couple of times, and squints at her. “Darcy, are you going out with Captain Rogers?”

“Actually, we were staying in,” she says. Boom, cue the canned laughter.

Erik merely frowns some more and leans in to her, saying in that drunk person whisper which is more of a yell, “He's far too old for you, Darcy.”

“The worried dad routine is a little ironic when you're stinking up my apartment with your beer fumes. And he's twenty seven, so...”

“Maybe I should go,” Steve murmurs, sounding none too sure.

“You're not leaving me with drunky here. You, get up,” she says to Steve, then slaps Erik on the back. He doesn't look amused. “You, sit down. I'll get you a glass of water. Steve, can you put my laptop away in my bedroom?”

She gets Erik his water and throws a bottle of Tylenol at him that bounces off his chest and rolls across the floor. Serves him right. She runs right into Steve as she goes into her bedroom to grab her extra blankets and they do the awkward 'which way are you going?' dance before Steve laughs and moves out of the way.

“Maybe we could go over to my place,” he says as she starts digging through her closet for her most hideous Disney princess blanket.

“You'd feel bad if he choked on his own vomit while he was sleeping. He'll be out cold soon, he won't hear a thing.” Steve doesn't say anything in response, so she guesses that it won't matter whether Erik's asleep or not. Damn, so close. She tugs on the sleeve of a sweater that's hanging down from the shelf, and a pile of balled up t-shirts make their escape all over her head. Steve's over in a second to help tidy up, and he's, like, folding the t-shirts up while she kicks the rest of them into the floor of the closet after locating her Cinderella blanket.

“So I'm... sleeping in here,” Steve says, looking up at her as she stands up.

“I don't know where else you'd sleep, I don't even have a tub.”

His face is studiously blank, which she's noticed is something that he does when he doesn't want to come across as 'old-fashioned'. She softens a little.

“You can go home if you want. I've dealt with uglier and drunker than Erik.”

“No, I-- I want to stay,” Steve says and shifts uncomfortably where he's kneeling on the floor, then glances at the bed.

Ah, she thinks. “I'm going to be using the bathroom in a minute,” she says, and looks pointedly at him.

He blinks at her.

“So if you need to go jerk off, you'd better do it now.”

He moves the pile of t-shirts in his lap carefully to the bottom of the closet and gets up. “Okay,” he says, voice going higher than usual. “Yeah.”

Erik is still grumbling on the couch, fiddling with the bottle of Tylenol, when she dumps the blanket by him.

“Damn American bottles,” he mutters under his breath. She snatches it from him and twists the cap off while he eyeballs her.

“So, Captain Rogers,” he says.

“So, hammered at my door at midnight.” She hands the open bottle to him and crosses her arms over her chest. “Any reason why?”

“I told you, I couldn't remember my address.”

“I meant the drinking.”

He shrugs. Well, there's not much more she can do there, she thinks, and walks over to the kitchenette to look at the dishes. They look pretty good. Steve's still in the bathroom, and she knows she shouldn't, but... she goes to the door and listens for a moment; faintly she can make out the same kind of gasping sounds that he was making on the couch just a few minutes ago. Right where Erik is bedding down, which is kind of gross, she guesses.

“What're you doing?” Erik asks. He looks ridiculous with Cinderella's face plastered over his chest and legs.

“Not having sex,” she says, “how about you?”

Getting ready for bed has never been more awkward. Steve does at least strip down to his undershirt and boxers (Jesus, his thighs), then just stands by the bed like a loose end while she gets changed. She almost decides to change in the bathroom, but fuck it, if he can't handle seeing her back and a little side boob, then they have bigger problems.

Then there's the getting settled portion of the night. Darcy likes pulling the sheets up around her ears, childhood stories of spiders crawling in there stuck with her, but when she does that, suddenly Steve's feet make an appearance at the end of the bed.

“I feel like we're in a 1950s sitcom,” she mutters. She's probably not quite awesome enough yet to be Lucille Ball, but obviously Steve's got that special brand of handsome that came out of the early to mid twentieth century.

“What?”

“Lying ramrod straight like we're Barbie and Ken, but with the hair colours switched. The only things missing are separate beds.”

He laughs, and at least a little bit of the tension drains out of him. She grabs his arm and rolls over, pulling him along with her. It's been a while since she's shared a bed, but spooning's good, especially since it can so easily lead to other things. Steve's just not playing ball though, and barely presses against her back at all.

“Steve,” she snaps, “what's the problem?”

“I-- I think I'm going to get too...” he trails off and she rolls back over to look at him.

“Say it,” she coaxes.

He sighs. “Turned on.”

“God, the sexual frustration is just coming off you in waves.”

“I know,” he mutters.

“Okay, come on,” she says, sits up and grabs one of his arms to pull around her shoulders, settles his other arm across her stomach and tugs at him until he gets the idea that he should rest his head against her chest. The phrase 'to her bosom' comes to mind.

“How's this?” she says.

“Yeah, it's-- this is okay,” he says softly.

“Good, then go to sleep.”

In the morning, he's basically in the same position, except he's thrown his leg across hers and pressed his face against her neck. When she opens her eyes, all she can see at first is blond hair, all ruffled and floppy, and she thinks, Jesus, do I really have Captain America curled up around me in my bed? and also: he's kind of cuddly.

He snuffles a little as he wakes up, stretching out, the muscles in the arm around her shoulders bunching up and relaxing again. She can't decide whether she has a best life, or the worst one.

“Morning,” Steve mumbles, cracking an eye open. There's a distinct lack of freaking out, so maybe she has the best life?

“Hey.” She runs her fingers through his hair and he smiles, pushing himself up to kiss her. It's not a long kiss, but it's a good one, despite concerns about morning breath.

Then there's a clattering sound from the living room, and Steve's immediately sitting up, straight-backed, metaphorical ears pricking up.

“Erik,” she says. She listens for a minute. “Pretty sure he's puking. Hopefully he got to the bathroom in time.”

Steve's back curves a little, and he looks over his shoulder. “Wanna go out for breakfast?”

-

Darcy was never one for sleepovers. For one, she didn't like sharing her toys, her food, or her pets ('no, let's not dress the cat up in my dollies's clothes, okay, Amanda?'), and for two, her mother hated having other people's children in her house for long periods of time; she didn't birth 'em and she sure as hell wasn't cleaning up after 'em.

Darcy decides that she's coming round to sleepovers when she wakes up for the twelfth consecutive morning with Steve's hand splayed out over her stomach. She thinks even her mom wouldn't mind him as a house guest. Let's be real, who would?

His things start to creep into her apartment, and he's not making any indications that he has any desire to go back to his own place at night, which, shit, is just fine with her. He does the cooking, the grocery shopping, cleaned that mould off the wall with bleach, and is just generally getting his househusband on. If she's found him standing in her living room at three in the morning looking confused and has had to guide him back to bed a couple of times, well, she talks in her sleep, so no one's perfect.

Still no sex, though. That's a sticking point.

“If that's your worst problem, you have a pretty easy life,” Jane tells her. She's been back in New York for two days – day one, sleep off jetlag; day two, Darcy-o-rama – and already she's giving Darcy shit.

“I'm sorry we can't all have epic, literally star-crossed, romances. Some of us are strictly earthbound.”

“Oh, shut up,” Jane grumbles into her coffee. “Some of us don't have a warm body to sleep next to every night. Don't talk to me about 'sexual frustration'.”

“I'm sorry, did you have to walk up hill both ways in the rain and the snow to have sex? That must have been very hard for you.”

“Shut up,” Jane repeats.

Darcy-o-rama is not going as well as Darcy hoped it would, mostly on account of Jane being so fucking grouchy. And maybe she's a little sad, too, but Darcy's stretching herself pretty thin dealing with Steve's bouts of epic sadness. She's all agony aunted out.

“I hope you're not going to be like this when Steve gets here,” Darcy says. “It's un-American.”

Jane rolls her eyes. Maybe plying her with caffeine had been a bad idea, but she'd just made such big eyes at the quadruple espresso mocha latte with extra whipped cream or whatever the hell it is. They're sitting outside waiting for Steve to get there – it's October and it's not really warm enough to be out there, but Jane's been cooped up in the ass end of nowhere for months, and she seemed a little edgy inside.

Honestly, Jane kind of looks like shit, and it's not just the jetlag. It's not anything in particular, just everything together, like the guy she'd spent the better part of a year trying to open a portal for turning up, getting into a couple of scuffles, and leaving again, all in the space of a few days. And, like, Darcy gets that he had to get that homicidal lunatic of brother off the planet and she's super grateful for that, no doubt, but eh, Jane's the closest thing she has to a best friend. Rationality doesn't come into the equation here.

“Oh hey,” she says, sitting up. Steve's on the next block, walking towards them. Still wearing that fucking cap. “Steve's here!”

Jane turns around to look at him, and he waves at them before breaking into a jog. Darcy's probably imagining the slow motion. Probably.

“Oh wow,” Jane mutters.

Right?”

Jane shifts a little in her seat, still watching his approach. “Oh damn.”

Big, blond, and hunky, she should have realised. “Okay, that's enough,” Darcy says, tugging on Jane's arm. “I saw him first.”

Jane looks back at her. “I take back everything I just said. I have complete sympathy for what you're going through.”

Well, that's something, at least.

“Hey,” Steve says when he gets to them, and ducks down to kiss her. She swipes the cap off his head and threads her fingers through his hair for a moment before releasing him. He pats his hair back down primly and puts the cap back on, then turns to Jane and smiles full force at her. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Jane swoons in her seat. “It's great to finally meet you, Dr Foster,” he says, offering his hand.

She takes it, looking not so much starstruck as horny. Where's a spray bottle when Darcy needs one? “It's very nice to meet you too, Captain... Rogers? America?”

“Steve normally works,” he replies.

Darcy wraps her arm around his waist and tugs him in until his hip is pressed against the armrest of her chair. “He's getting kind of snarky. He wasn't like that when I met him.”

Steve clears his throat. “So what are we doing today?”

“We need to get Jane some new threads.”

“Hey!” Jane folds her arms over her faded Jem and the Holograms t-shirt. “I like my clothes!”

“Far be it from me to insult someone's personal style, but...” Darcy leans forward and tugs on the bottom of the t-shirt, where there's a suspicious orange stain. “Are you keeping all of your dinners on it?”

Jane makes a disgusted sound and slides down in her seat. “Fine.”

Bringing Steve to the kind of places that Jane buys clothes from is a little hilarious. One would think that establishments that sell cheap t-shirts with eighties cartoon characters and anthropomorphic flowers on them would be pretty non-threatening places, but it turns out that it's a whole underground thing. Half the 'stores' Jane wants to go into look like they appeared overnight, with curtains stapled to alcoves as dressing rooms, and the prerequisite tattooed girl with a bar through her nose working the till. Steve just looks so big compared to everyone else, he's double everyone's size and the shops are so tightly packed that he can't help but bump into mutilated mannequins and borderline fetish wear.

Jane sweeps up an armful of coloured t-shirts and disappears into the little curtained changing room. Darcy stations Steve outside to guard her modesty, just to give him something to do, and every so often Jane pokes her head out and asks Steve's opinion on whatever she's trying on.

Darcy plops down in a chair and inspects the wall of pseudo tribal jewellery.

“Do you, like, share him?” tattoo girl asks, leaning over the counter.

“Her boyfriend just cut and run, so I'm letting her play house with him today.”

“Th-- He did not cut and run!” Jane calls.

Darcy waves her hand dismissively in her direction. “Whatever. He had 'reasons'.”

“He did...” Steve says, conveniently ignoring the rest of the conversation.

“Thank you!” Jane says.

“So, he's yours?” the girl asks Darcy.

Darcy glances at him and he smiles a little.

“Yeah.”

“Ugh,” the girl says, then leans forward and lowers her voice. “Sorry, he's just so... vintage. You don't see that any more.” Steve's switched his cap for a pair of aviators that obscure his face somewhat, because it's not 'polite' to wear hats indoors. She pointed out that it was a major douche move to wear sunglasses indoors, but it was the lesser of two evils, he'd said. Darcy's not surprised that tattoo girl is into the high waisted, tucked in shirt look, she's got the whole the rockabilly thing going on, Bettie Page bangs, bright red lipstick, tight polka dot dress. Frankly, she'd probably eat Steve for breakfast.

“I love your tats,” Darcy says. She's got a whole freaking collage of Disney princesses on her arm; if that doesn't make her cool, then Darcy is quitting the world. “Jane has a tattoo. Some sciency thing, right?” she calls.

“Double helix,” Jane calls back.

“Right cheek or left?”

There's a long pause before Jane pops her head out around the curtain. She looks at Steve, who raises his eyebrows slightly.

“Left,” she says. “I was very drunk, okay, never party with engineers.” She disappears back behind the curtain, and Steve clears his throat.

“Do... you have any tattoos, Darcy?” he asks almost shyly, even though she knows that he isn't half as shy and bashful as he comes across sometimes.

“That's something you're just going to have to find out for yourself.”

He bites his lips and looks back at the changing room when Jane pulls the curtain back and steps out with her armful of t-shirts.

“How many are you getting?” Darcy asks.

“All of them,” she says, dropping the pile on the counter.

“What about, uh, some new jeans?” Darcy says, eyeing Jane's worn in, frayed jeans that quite frankly she probably bought from the kids department a decade ago.

“No,” Jane says, putting her nose in the air. Darcy takes a breath to say something, and Jane clicks her tongue. “Drop it.”

After another couple of clothes stores, a sporting goods store to get a new pair of hiking boots, and two hours in a bookstore, where Darcy feels very ignored because both Jane and Steve get sucked into poring through the science and art sections respectively, she takes Jane back to her apartment to cook dinner for her. To have Steve cook dinner for her.

“He cooks too?” Jane whispers to her once they're firmly ensconced on the couch.

“He does everything, it's amazing. I don't know he was like this before or if that serum is just total magic, but he's basically perfect.”

Jane hums something and sighs, rolling the wine glass she holding between her hands.

“Hey,” Darcy says, squeezing her shoulder. “Thor'll be back.”

“Yeah, maybe. It's not even that, though. Everything's just so... such a mess.”

Darcy nods. “Have you talked to Erik recently?”

“Not really. He doesn't seem to want to talk to me any more.”

“It's not personal.”

Jane sighs and drinks more of her wine. “I know. I just wish I'd been here.”

“Yeah...” It just so happens that she feels kind of terrible about that: after the cops had finally let them back out of the subway (and Darcy still gets a bit short of breath in tight enclosed spaces; which is awesome when you live and work in New York), the last thing that was on her mind was calling Jane. She'd spent two hours crying on the phone with her parents, ran up her bill, and had her cell disconnected for two weeks before she could get the money together to pay it off. It wasn't until Coulson's funeral a few days later that she'd thought to call, from a phone at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, but of course Jane couldn't get back in time. She's not even sure when Jane found out what had happened, or from who.

Jane sighs again, drains the rest of her glass, and gets up to pour herself more. Steve looks at her out of the corner of his eye, then over her head at Darcy. She shrugs.

When Steve comes over with three plates of fancy spaghetti, there isn't enough room on the couch for all of them, so he sits on the armrest as they eat, and Darcy settles herself underneath him, his legs on either side of her.

“So, how's your... research going?” Steve asks awkwardly.

“It's going nowhere,” Jane says bitterly. “S.H.I.E.L.D. has it all, and after everything that happened with Erik, they're not happy about letting him work on anything any more, so it all falls to me and half the work is tied up in a bureaucratic shitstorm.”

“I'm sorry...” Steve says. Darcy wraps her arm around one of his legs. He's been great all day, but Jane's just a cloud of gloom right now, and maybe the relentless charmingness of Steve doesn't work on her as well as it does on Darcy.

“No, it's, it's--” Jane waves her fork, flicking spaghetti sauce onto the couch cushion. Darcy leans forward and wipes it away with her thumb, then licks her thumb clean. “It's fine. It's totally fine.”

It is not totally fine.

Jane is kind of a sad drunk. She's unobtrusively sad, though, thanks Steve for the food and picks at it well after they're finished.

“Um,” Steve says quietly when Darcy uncharacteristically elects to help with the dishes. “She can't just go back to the hotel.”

“Ugh.” Darcy is not, and has never been, the 'supportive friend'. She's the chick who gives good head, the girl across the hall with the best weed in the dorms, the friend who's fun at clubs but you wouldn't invite her out when your parents come to visit. She's also never been the one with the big, kind-hearted boyfriend who gives a shit about her friends' problems. “I'll get her the blanket.”

-

Darcy loaded up his iPod with all sorts of music, as well as making several playlists, such as: old man music, Elvis is the best, and get off my lawn, you damn kids!. Mostly he listens to it while he's on his run; he sticks to the streets in the early mornings or late afternoons when there aren't so many people around. There's too much construction going on in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and he tries to avoid the war memorial at Cadman Plaza altogether. His name is right underneath Bucky's on the plaque there; he laid flowers the week after he moved into his apartment, but decided that that was enough.

It's almost six when he gets back home, slowing to jog as he approaches his building. There's a bright red soft top car parked outside, looking like a great big target for thieves among the SUVs and Ford Fiestas that line the street, and two feet visible on the stoop of his building. Steve pulls an earbud out and walks up to the steps.

“Tony?”

Tony looks up from his cellphone. “Man, you've been gone forever-- is that an iPod?”

Steve tugs out the other earbud and takes the iPod out of his armband to thumb it off. “Why're you here?”

“'Oh hi, Tony, I haven't seen you in ages! I've missed you! Have you lost weight, you look great!'” Tony says, and stands up, brushing dirt off his jeans.

“Hi, Tony, I haven't seen you in ages,” Steve repeats back at him and pulls his keys out of his pocket. Tony rolls his eyes and shuffles to one side to let Steve pass. “What are you doing here?”

“I was in the area.”

“You just happened to be driving around Brooklyn in that?” he asks, glancing over at the car as he unlocks the front door.

Tony shrugs. “I was bored, thought I'd do a bit of 'Meals on Wheels'.”

Steve raises his eyebrows.

“I think there are some Hersey's Kisses in the glovebox,” Tony says. “Can I come in? I'm like a vampire, I have to be invited.”

“Of course you do. Why don't you come in?”

“Why thank you,” Tony says and sweeps right past him. Steve closes the door behind them and goes over to his mailbox; he hasn't really been bothering to check it recently. All bills. Nobody writes letters these days. “I'm still stuck on the iPod,” Tony adds.

“Let it go,” he says.

“Fine. This place is quaint. Cute. I like it.”

“Thanks,” Steve mutters. “My apartment is just over there,” he adds, pointing to his door.

Tony follows him in, and stops just inside of the doorway. “Wow, minimalist, that's, uh, that's... cool.”

Steve grits his teeth, but it's true. He has a couch, a table, and a bookcase in the living area, and a chest of drawers and bed in the bedroom, not to mention an incredible dearth of personal items. It's a little better than it looks, though, because half of his things – his books, art supplies, most of his clothes – are at Darcy's, but he doesn't want to get into that with Tony. He and Darcy have been going out for a couple of months, sleeping in the same bed for a few of weeks, and he doesn't want to share it, doesn't want it to become public property, and definitely doesn't want Tony Stark to ruin it.

“I'm not much of an interior decorator,” Steve concedes, dropping his mail on the table.

Tony looks at him funny. “Where did you learn that phrase?”

He shrugs. “I'm going to get changed, do you want to... go get a drink or something?” He doesn't really want to, he wants to go over to Darcy's, sit on her couch, and watch TV with her, but fostering good relations with the team is probably a good thing. With Tony, maybe less so, but he's the only member of the team who's ever reliably around.

Tony's still looking at him a little funny. “Sure, okay.”

There's an Irish pub not too far from his apartment, where Darcy got fantastically drunk last month and had to be carried back to his apartment, which had been a trial in and of itself because she's a squirmy drunk and even more ridiculous than usual. By the time he got them home, he was laughing pretty damn hard himself.

He shoves Tony into a corner booth and insists on buying the drinks; the last thing he needs is everyone there to start falling over themselves because of Tony,that would pretty effectively rumble his baseball cap disguise.

Tony narrows his eyes at the pint of beer that Steve puts in front of him. “Really? I've drunk three thousand dollar bottles of wine sitting on the floor of my basement.”

“That sounds healthy,” Steve says as he takes the seat across from him.

“You're getting kind of spicy, you know.” Tony stares at him until he seems satisfied that Steve isn't going to say anything in answer to that, then takes a sip of the beer. He wrinkles his nose up. “Not too bad, I guess.”

“Glad it passes inspection.”

“Still as grumpy as ever, huh?”

Steve smiles. “I'm working on it. So, Tony, why are you here?”

“You're the one who brought me here. I was thinking like a bar or a strip joint or something.” He pauses and twists his mouth worriedly. “Not a strip joint, pretend I didn't say that, no strippers for Tony.”

“I meant in Brooklyn.”

“Ah, well. Fury told me to make friends.”

“And you listened to him?”

Tony takes another sip of his beer and glares at Steve over the rim of his glass. “Pepper told me to, as well. And Rhodey.”

That sounds a little closer to the truth. He's not really sure why anyone should care about he and Tony being friends, but he guesses that the sentiment is nice enough. “So, how was California?”

“Hot,” he says, and winks at Steve. Tony must be feeling off his game, if that's meant to be innuendo.

The problem with Tony – one of the problems – is that Steve just doesn't know what to say to him most of the time, unless they're fighting. Tony confuses him: he's both younger and older than Steve, familiar and unfamiliar, unpleasantly brash and surprisingly sensitive. What the hell is Steve supposed to do with that?

His phone buzzes in his pocket, saving him the trouble of thinking of something else to say to Tony for a minute. Tony tips his chin up, trying to catch what's on the screen; Steve cups his hand over the top of the phone and reads the message: wrking late, pls make food 4 me.

Tony's eyebrows jump up when Steve turns the phone on its side and slides the keyboard out (it's the crappiest slider phone on the market, Darcy told him, fifty dollars from ebay, but texting the other way frustrated him to the point of throwing his first phone against the wall and shattering it).

Okay, he replies. I'm having a beer with Tony right now.

His phone buzzes in response almost immediately: tell that idiot 2 stop creating more pprwrk 4 every1.

“Peanuts compliments of the house,” someone says, and he looks up from his phone to see the barmaid dropping a couple of bags of peanuts on the table. “Thanks for dealing with that guy a couple of weeks ago.”

“That's okay,” he says, feeling, rather than seeing, Tony perk up.

“Did you get your friend home okay?” she continues.

“Yeah, uh, yeah,” he mutters, and risks a glance at Tony. Tony's smiling knowingly at him.

“For someone so small, she sure can sing loud,” the barmaid says.

Steve presses his lips together. “Mmhm,” he hums, looking back down at his phone.

“What's this?” Tony asks. Steve's surprised it took him this long.

“Nothing important,” Steve says quickly, but now the barmaid is looking at Tony, frowning.

“Are you--?”

“He gets that a lot, but no,” Steve jumps in. “Thank you for the peanuts, miss.”

“You're welcome...” she says slowly, and now she's looking more closely at his face under the brim of his hat. Damn.

At least Tony waits for her to get back to the bar before leaning across the table. “Stevie, what haven't you been telling me?”

“Don't call me that.”

“Aw,” Tony says, then his hand darts out to snatch the phone from Steve's lap. Steve's gripping his wrist in a split second, but Tony just takes the phone from his trapped hand with his other hand. Steve squeezes his wrist a little harder in retaliation, then lets go.

“'Idiot'?” Tony mutters after a couple of seconds of fiddling with Steve's phone. He sounds vaguely affronted. It can't be the first time the word's been used in conjunction with him, Steve thinks.

“So, I'm guessing that 'Darcy' is a chick, unless my gaydar is really on the fritz.”

Steve scowls at him.

“Have you been-- wait a minute,” Tony cuts himself off, and raises his hand to Steve, as if Steve was interrupting him. “Is this you wearing a dime store Captain America costume?” he asks, and shoves the phone in front of Steve's face.

Steve hates camera phones. “It was Halloween,” he mutters. Darcy thought it would be funny.

Tony pulls the phone back and continues bashing on it. “And another one! And-- whoa, that is one sexy Catwoman. And here you are kissing her. Wow, get it, Cap.”

“Okay, that's enough,” Steve snaps, snatching the phone back, Tony's thumbs left pressing air. He hasn't actually looked at the pictures, because that costume was ridiculously embarrassing, ill-fitting, scratchy, and he tore the back of it open by the end of the night, but he can't help but smile at the picture that Tony's pulled up: sometime after Steve had tossed out the guy who desperately wanted to start a bar fight no one else was interested in and before Darcy started singing sea shanties, she hopped onto his lap on the bar stool, mashed their faces together, and snapped the picture. He kind of likes it.

“Didn't take you for a ladykiller,” Tony says, rousing him from staring at the picture.

“What?”

“Making out with Catwoman. Tell me that's the friend that you 'got home okay'. Come on, please tell me that.”

“It wasn't like that.”

“It sure as hell looks like that.”

“Well, it isn't,” Steve says, and shoves his phone back in his pocket.

Tony doesn't say anything for a couple of minutes while Steve nurses his beer, which is possibly even worse than when he won't stop talking, because Steve's pretty sure he's one of those people who's at their most dangerous when they're silent.

What?” he finally caves, and Tony tilts his head to one side.

“Is this the girl from the park?”

Steve clears his throat. “Yeah.”

“Holy shit, are you dating her?”

In for a penny, Steve thinks. “I'm basically living with her.”

“Oh, wow,” Tony says, and sets his elbows on the table with a thump. “You're in the bubble, that's adorable.”

Steve sighs, and leans his head back against the cushioned booth. “What?”

“I heard it on the TV show or something: it's when you first get together with someone, and you want to do everything with them and never leave their side. When me and Pepper got together, I didn't want to do anything without her. Pretty sure she considered dumping me just so that she could have a bubble bath in peace once a week.” He pauses and smiles. “To be honest, that feeling never really went away for me.”

“Yeah, I guess that's, that's pretty accurate,” Steve says, and picks up the packet of peanuts.

Tony looks incredibly pleased with himself. “You know, you are way more relatable like this.”

“That's ironic, coming from you.”

Tony shrugs. “Well, I am 'Iron' Man.”

“Wow,” Steve dead pans.

“Jealous,” Tony says.

“Okay.”

Tony takes another sip of his beer, wrinkles his nose again, and says, “So, do you love her?”

“I don't want to talk about this with you, Tony.”

“Hey, look, do you have any other friends? 'Cause I don't think you do, and talking about this stuff helps sometimes. At least, that's what I've heard.”

Steve's pretty sure that Tony just referred to himself as Steve's friend, and he finds it somewhat depressing that it appears to be true. “There's nothing to talk about.”

“Really? Like you never had a sweetheart who you were sure you were gonna marry and have a litter of transatlantic kids with? And then you woke up one day and she'd got married and divorced and died in the interim? That never happen to you?”

Steve clenches his jaw.

“Look, it'll probably come as a surprise to you that I'm not actively trying to piss you off, hell it's surprising me, but... look, losing people you love is hard, trust me, and if I lost Pepper and Rhodey I'd go even more crazy than I already am. So I, uh, I admire that you haven't gone crazy – I mean, I assume you're not crazy, I guess I don't actually know you that well – but talking about this stuff sort of... helps.” He shrugs. “I've heard.”

“I think there's a nice sentiment in there somewhere.”

Tony pulls a face. “Doubt it.”

Steve runs his fingernail along the condensation around the bottom of his glass and flicks his eyes back to Tony. “When did you realise how you felt about Ms Potts?”

“There's only ever been Pepper, but... it was recent. Way too recent. What about you and Peggy?”

Steve shrugs. “I don't know.”

Tony sighs. “It sucks, man.”

“What does?”

“All of it. Your life's kind of a crapshoot.”

“That's your advice? My life is crap?”

“No, that's not my advice.” Tony pauses, stares at him, then lifts his beer to his lips and downs half of it in thirty seconds flat. Christ, he is like his father. Tony clears his throat and looks back at him. “My advice, Capiscle, is: just enjoy it.”

“Enjoy what?”

“Whatever there is to enjoy. 'Cause it won't last forever.” He drains the rest of his beer, then reaches out towards Steve's. “Hey, can I? Pep's parents are coming over this evening, and I am not nearly buzzed enough.”

Steve frowns at him, and Tony throws his palms up. “Hey, Pepper's been drinking since after her last meeting, I've got a lot of catching up to do here, okay, you'll know what in-laws are like soon enough.”

He pushes the drink over to Tony wordlessly, who starts drinking it greedily.

He wonders what Darcy's parents are like.

-

Sometimes Darcy wishes for a little excitement at work. Not, like, another Loki or any of the crazy guys who pursue Stark, but just a minor villain, someone to distract her from the slow drag of paperwork and data entry. This is not exactly the life she had imagined for herself. Of course, her imagined life involved discovering that she had an until now hidden talent that would get her a high paying, stress-free job, and everyone would love her and maybe she'd get her picture in the paper occasionally. She's used to being directionless, but her lack of direction used to be fun, alcohol-fuelled, and sexually stimulating. Now it's sometimes the first, occasionally the second, and never the third.

At least Steve has food in the oven and a DVD in the player when she gets home. She eats dinner to stories of Tony leaving the pub tipsy, in a cab, abandoning his sports car outside Steve's. He seems kind of offended by the flashiness of it, but in a slightly more affectionate way than normal, and despite his disagreement, he's not so offended by Stark's existence any more. Darcy kind of digs the idea of them becoming actual friends; she definitely wouldn't say no to going to one of those legendary bashes at Stark Tower.

The movie is a bust. Mostly because, as with so many other nights, they start kissing, and Jimmy Stewart is left to drone on ignored in the background. Only tonight things have progressed horizontally. Steve is way too big for the couch on a good day, so it's patently ridiculous now that his bent knees keep banging against the armrest – or at least it would be if Steve didn't just keep going and going, making all these little noises every time she touches him, like, anywhere. Someone is really, really horny.

The other thing that's different is that she's pretty sure he's not rubbing his gun against her leg over and over again, and she's doubly sure that he doesn't even realise he's doing it, so she elects to not point it out. She drags him away from where he's working on her neck and fits their mouths together again. He groans and pulls himself up, hunching his shoulders in to curl around her more. She feels his erection slide up and hit the crease of her leg and, man, that feels good. It reminds her of their first kiss – he's so fucking strong, even just in his little thrusts against her thigh, and Jesus Christ she wants him to let go, if only for a couple of minutes. It'd be the best couple of minutes of both their lives, she's pretty sure.

He presses his mouth to her jaw, panting hard, and tightens his hand in her hair. His hips stutter against hers, he whines in her ear, and starts trying to push himself up onto his elbows.

“Damn,” he groans, his eyelids fluttering. She twists her fingers in the front of his shirt and tugs.

“Hey,” she says, “you don't have to go.” Quite honestly, she doesn't think he'd make it; he's right on the knife's edge of orgasm, eyes dark as he stares at her, mouth hanging open, taking shorts sharp breaths. He sure as hell isn't going to get to the bathroom in time.

And she must be right, because he doesn't even argue, just drops back down and buries his face in her neck. She wraps her arms around his back tightly, and a couple of shallow thrusts later, he's shuddering through his orgasm, his muscles tightening around her. It's one hell of an orgasm, by the feel of it, and long. She's not exactly inclined to check the clock right now, but it's got to be sixty seconds, maybe even a little longer. Goddamnit, she wants that to happen in her.

He slumps against her, and she strokes his back for a moment before he sits up, falling back on his haunches around her legs.

“Um,” he says breathlessly.

“Yeah,” she says, as cool as she ever is (very cool), but really, he came in his pants just from a little kissing and rubbing. She's got skills.

He looks down at the stain on his slacks and flushes a deeper pink than his face already was.

“Sorry,” he mutters, and swings his legs off the couch to get up.

“I'll get you some clean pants,” she says, dragging herself back up.

Steve acts as if the whole situation is the most mortifying thing to ever happen to him. And really, Darcy's done more embarrassing things within the first three hours of waking up. He rinses his slacks and boxers in the sink and she puts them in the laundry basket – she sure as hell isn't shelling out a buck fifty for two pieces of clothing, they can wait till the weekend – then grabs him by the waist and pushes him against the sink.

“Hey, don't get all wallflower on me.”

“Isn't a wallflower someone who won't socialise at parties?”

She shrugs. “The point I'm making is...” She hooks her fingers through the belt loops of his new pants and tugs. “That was so hot. And also, you owe me one orgasm. I'd like to collect. Otherwise there'll be interest on it and-- well, that would be good, actually...”

He sighs, his deep sad sigh. Okay, not the time to work on his funny bone. “I'm sorry,” he says.

“Sorry for what?”

“For being such a... repressed weirdo.”

“Oh. Well, that's okay. I forgive you?”

He snorts and shakes his head. “That doesn't really help you though, does it?”

Whoa, he's taken a critical hit to the self-esteem and she didn't even see it coming. “If you're about to self-sacrificingly dump me so I can find true love like some romcom idiot, then you'd better shut the fuck up right now.”

“I wouldn't dare,” he says softly, biting his lip.

She nods. “Good. So...”

“I guess I've just spent so much time waiting,” he continues quietly. Oh, so they're having this conversation. “And I thought... I thought things would be different.”

“You thought you'd be boning Agent Carter.” Oh, and apparently she's taken a critical hit to her brain-to-mouth filter.

He screws his face up. “Yeah.”

“Well, that's okay,” she says.

“But she's dead...” he says, “and... I'm not going to have my perfect white picket fence family. I was never going to, not with Peggy.” He smooths his hands over her shoulders. “I don't want to live in the past.”

“Okay?” She frowns. This seems like progress, but... “Oh my God, you're not, like, going to propose to me, are you? Because I love you, but I'm not, uh, I mean...”

“You love me?”

“Uhhh,” she hedges, “yeah, but I'm not, not ready to get married for at least, like, ten years.”

“I love you too,” he says. His grin could light up Christmas trees, she has no doubt, and it's kind of really contagious.

“Okay,” she says, and slips her hands up higher to rest on his ribcage. “But no marriage, right?”

“No marriage. We're...” He pulls a face. “We're young, I guess. I don't want to wait any more, though.”

Whoa. She does not need to be told twice. She pushes herself up onto her tiptoes and slaps her hand on the back of his neck to pull him down to her. “You meant you don't want to wait for sex, not takeout or something, right?”

He rolls his eyes and kisses her. She throws her other arm around his neck and pulls herself up, locking her legs around his waist as he catches her. All that working out in the gym really has been the best thing ever, because this shit is harder than it looks in the movies. For her, at least; he carries her to the bedroom like she's the weight of the feather, and she knows she's not.

He deposits her very carefully on the end of the bed and moves half a step back to look at her. He looks like a mess; his hair is all tousled, his cheeks and mouth are still pink, and she doesn't remember undoing the top buttons of his shirt but there they are. She starts working on the rest of them while he continues to stare. She tugs the bottom of the shirt out of his pants (she teases him for always tucking his shirt in, but honestly, it kind of works for him), pushes his undershirt up and over his head, and runs her hands over his stomach.

“God, your body is ridiculous.”

He blinks heavily a couple of times, then reaches out to pull up her t-shirt. “So's yours. If that's a good thing?”

“It's a very good thing,” she confirms, helping him get the t-shirt over her head. If she'd known that today was going to be the day, then maybe she'd have worn the lacy, scratchy balconette bra that her cousin told her was an absolute must, but as it is, she's in her old beige boulder holder and Steve couldn't seem to care less. He rocks forward and kisses her as she scoots back further onto the bed, pulling him forward with her until he's kneeling over her.

“Pants,” she says.

“Mm?”

She threads her fingers through his hair and tugs his head back. “We should take our pants off.”

“We should,” he agrees. He gets back off the bed and starts to undo his belt while she works at shucking out of her jeans; why did she decide to wear skinny jeans today, they're the work of the fucking devil. Steve grabs the hems of them and helps her out of them once his pants are around his ankles. It's like the opposite of sexy.

“Okay, get back up here. And take your socks off.”

“Oh, right,” he mutters, hopping from foot to foot as he pulls them off. She smothers a laugh and sits up, reaching out for him as he gets back on the bed. He kneels in front of her, looking a little nervous.

“You look nervous.”

He snorts. “I am.”

“Well,” she says, and puts her hand on the small of his back, jerking him to her. God, his skin is so warm. “I'll kiss it better.”

He grins into the kiss, and loosens up pretty fast, wrapping his hands around her waist, his index fingers and thumbs almost touching. She drops her hand to his boxers and presses her palm against his dick. He groans into her mouth and pushes forward, his forehead to hers.

“Wow, you're already half hard again? That's impressive, dude.”

He groans again, his breath coming out in puffs across her lips. She hooks a finger around the waistband of his boxers and gives them an experimental tug, just to see what he's going to make of it. He squirms and kisses her temple.

“Yeah?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he pants back.

She gets another finger under his waistband to drags the boxers down while he nuzzles his face against her shoulder. She's pleasantly surprised by what she finds; it had occurred to her that he might be a bit of a monster downstairs and that she'd have to tell him that there was no way that was fitting in her lady cave, but he's just about perfect. She gives him a couple of a quick, rough strokes until he's shuddering against her again, then lets go and reaches back to her night stand to grab her long unloved packet of condoms. Steve straight up whines, clenching his fists in the sheets.

“Patience,” she says, and rips the foil packet open with her teeth just for show. “Okay, come on.”

“I can do that,” he says, as she gets ready to roll it on.

“Have you ever put one on?”

“No, but I've read the back of packets.”

“Well, since out of the two of us, I'm the one with the experience, let's make sure that your super sperm don't try to do battle with my birth control pills. I promise if Loki bursts in while we're going at it, I'll let you deal with that.”

He doesn't actually pout, but there's the ghost of one there.

“Now really isn't the time to get your manly ego on,” she adds.

“It's... not that,” he mutters, ducking his head.

“Oh, okay,” she says, and starts to roll the condom on. His eyelashes flutter, his tongue darting out to wet his lips. “Okay,” she repeats, a little more shakily.

“Can I...?” he mumbles, nudging her back until she lies down. She suddenly starts to feel a little shy, and it has seriously been years since she's felt shy with a guy, but wow, he is honestly the most beautiful man she has ever seen. It's not like she hasn't noticed this little fact before, but having it in front of her, naked, is actually a little... intimidating.

He leans down and presses a kiss just below her belly button, then up and up until her breasts are outlined by his hair. She can't say she's never slept with someone who actually enjoys foreplay, but it's definitely been a damn long time, and she feels herself flush all over from all the attention.

He lifts his head and looks at her, then her breasts, then back at her.

“Go ahead,” she says, her voice unexpectedly catching.

He leans up and presses his mouth to the skin just above the band of her bra, then the tops of both her breasts, paying both a hell of a lot of attention before letting out a long breath. “I've wanted to do that for so long,” he confesses.

“Welcome to the club, Steven,” she says. “Okay, I think... I think five months of foreplay is long enough, don't you?” Her voice doesn't shake as much as she feared it would. Wow, she really is nervous, this is kind of interesting.

“Yeah. So..” Steve says, glancing down between their bodies.

Right. She reaches down and tugs her underwear off, spreads her legs and wraps them around his waist. “Just, uh...” The direct approach is probably the best, she decides, and reaches to wrap her fingers around his dick, lining him up. “Just shove it in.” God, awkward. But Steve is a total champ at following directions, so he does what he's told, and somehow manages to hit her g-spot. On the first try! Skills, man.

She clenches around him – she has awesome pelvic floor muscles – and he pants against her chest.

“Wow,” he says.

“You're a natural.”

“I am?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. So, this is what I've been missing out on all these years,” he comments, his voice starting to go a little thin.

“Yep. You should move now.”

“Okay,” he murmurs, pulls out a little and pushes back in gently. A little too gently, really.

“You could do that harder,” she suggests.

He tries again and it's, well, maybe it's infinitesimally harder, but she'd need some kind of empirical scale to find out. Okay, new tack. She buries her fingers in his hair and pulls him up for another kiss, which is always a winner for him. If she can scramble his brains long enough, maybe he'll forget that she's such a delicate fucking flower.

She slides herself down a couple of inches, taking him in even further and oh oh oh. They groan in unison and he pushes into her just a touch harder and, okay, she has got to get him into the swing of this, because that was a little bit awesome.

“Steve,” she moans, “Steve, Steve, come on.”

He makes a sort of questioning noise against her cheek and she grabs a handful of his ass. “Harder,” she practically growls into his ear, and he gasps, burying his face in her shoulder and finally, finally slamming into her.

It's like the Fourth of fucking July (ironic, considering...); she arches her back, digging her nails into his shoulder blades and pushes down against him. She doesn't normally come this fast, but fuck, it's Captain America, it's basically unpatriotic to not spontaneously orgasm the moment you look at him.

“Come on, fuck me through my orgasm, Steve,” she says, and it's the most ridiculous thing she's ever said during sex (aside from 'oh yeah, baby, give it to me hard', but she was seventeen, no one can hold that against her), but it seems to work for Steve, who gasps something unintelligible into her skin and curls around her. His hips work unevenly, alternatively shallow and hard, and God, he could fuck her through the bed with those hips. Maybe next time.

He's still gasping and shuddering when she realises that he's starting to unravel, slowly losing control and just doing what feels good. And it feels really, really good. She clenches down around him as she comes, and the sound he makes is almost a wail as he keeps going, building and building on her sensitivity until she's actually... Jesus, she's actually coming again. She has to bite down on his shoulder to stop from yelling and apparently that really does it for him, because she can almost sense the moment he snaps; he scrambles to grab her leg and hold it flush to his hip, and she'd call his pace exhausting if it wasn't so damn amazing. He mumbles a string of mostly unintelligible words into her neck, seemingly trying to burrow himself into her as he comes; she wishes she could see his face right now, but there's always next time. And, by God, there's going to be a next time.

His weight on top of her is kind of suffocating, but she savours it anyway, rubbing his back. She can't help but notice that he's sweating; she's never seen him sweat before, and she decides that she's going to take full responsibility for it. Eventually he comes back to his senses enough to roll off her, and hits the bed with a pant. Her bra is still on, she realises, though it's all skewed to one side, her tits spilling out of the top, the band digging into her ribs. She pulls herself up to grapple with the clasps, then throws it onto the floor, Steve watching her the whole time. It's actually the first time he's got a good look at them, so she turns to him and lets him have it.

“Hey,” he mumbles. He's spread out on the bed, one leg bent, one arm thrown across her pillow. He looks like a Michelangelo painting, or some shit; she wishes she had a camera with her. And a boyfriend who wouldn't absolutely freak out at the idea.

“Was it everything you hoped and dreamed of?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he says.

They smile stupidly at each other for a minute, before she leans over and kisses him softly. “We should probably take this off,” she says, pulling back to remove the condom. She ties it off, climbs over him, and throws it into the bin.

“You really know what you're doing with that,” Steve says slowly.

She rests her elbows on the edge of the bed and frowns at him. “Are you calling me easy?”

His eyebrows jump up into his hairline. “No, I didn't--”

She smacks him on the shoulder and stands up. “Kidding, soldier. I'm gonna go wash up.”

Her everything is sore, her lips are dry and chapped, her legs ache – there are some muscles in play here that she wasn't aware she even had – but it's the best kind of pain ever. She thinks on this as she brushes her teeth. This is quite certainly the most satisfying end to a dry spell that she's ever had. It deserves some sort of acknowledgement.

She grabs her cell off the kitchen counter and texts Jane, i just had sex!

hate you, Jane replies within a couple of minutes.

She grins and texts back, love u 2 :), wandering back into the bedroom. Steve's sitting up, which is sad, with the sheets up to his waist, which is doubly sad. “I just told Jane we had sex, I hope that's okay.”

He looks at her with big eyes. “I didn't mean to imply that you're... easy, Darcy.”

She ignores the phone buzzing again, probably Jane telling her off for using text speak, and sits down on the bed. “You're still on this?”

“I just don't want to...”

“I am easy,” she says, putting her hands on his shoulders and pushing at them until he lies back down. “I like having sex and it doesn't take much to convince me. I'm also extremely hard to offend, you may have noticed.”

He smiles. “Right, okay. Sorry.”

“You're still a repressed weirdo, it's okay,” she says, and gets under the covers with him. “I'll fuck that out of you, don't worry.”

He just laughs, and rolls over to cuddle up next to her. He runs his fingers up and down her stomach for a couple of minutes, smiling when he hits a ticklish spot and her muscles twitch, before saying, “Hey, you don't have any tattoos.”

“You sound disappointed.”

He smiles into her shoulder. “Maybe a little.”

“Oh, have a little body art fetish, huh?”

He chuckles, reaching up to kiss her on the neck. “I could draw you something.”

“As long as it's not your shield.”

“What's wrong with my shield?”

“Would you want it tattooed onto your body?”

He shifts a little and throws an arm over her stomach. “I wouldn't mind,” he mutters.

“Okay, go to sleep, Steve.”

-

She wakes up however many hours later to Steve shaking her gently. She opens one eye. It's still dark. “What time is it?” she mumbles, plaintive.

“Just after five,” Steve says quietly, his voice still sleep-rough.

“Go back to sleep.”

“Your phone's buzzing,” he replies.

“It does that. Go back to sleep.”

There's a pause and, okay, they've just established that she loves him, but she will for real hit him if he keeps arguing this point. Thankfully after a couple more seconds she feels him put his head back on her chest. She pats him vaguely on the cheek and gets back down to that dream about swimming with dolphins. Or maybe she was the dolphin? She doesn't get to find out the answer to this important question, though, before there's a god awful ringing sound. Steve's phone.

He's out of bed in a shot, grabbing his pants from the floor to get the phone out of the pocket. “It's Agent Hill.”

Darcy sits up, squinting at Steve in the darkness as he answers the call.

“Agent Hill?” he says in his most Captain America-y voice. He listens for a moment, frowns, then lowers the phone. “She wants to speak to you.”

“O...kay?” she says, reaching over to take it from him. “Agent Hill, ma'am?” She sounds like Steve, but it's always a good idea to be super polite to people who could have you killed.

“Agent Lewis, could you tell your boyfriend to put the television onto a twenty four hour news channel, please.”

“Um.” Shit. She gets out of bed and walks into the living room, Steve close at her heels. She grabs the remote off the couch and switches the TV on, flipping over to CNN.

--and in entertainment news, our reclusive first Avenger has finally been spotted out and about, joined by an unnamed young woman...

Steve's eyes go round as they bring up a picture of the two of them kissing, sitting outside a café, Jane looking at them, his baseball cap in Darcy's hands. That fucking cap.

She lifts the phone back to her mouth. “Oops?”

“Yes. Director Fury would like to see both of you in his office at six thirty.”

“Of course, ma'am,” she mutters into the phone before hanging up.

Steve looks at her accusingly. “I told you there was a reason I wear the baseball cap all the time.”

-

Standing in front of Fury in his office before it's even fully light out puts Steve in mind of being pulled up in front of the nuns at the orphanage as a child. If the nun had a eye patch and was eating Ibuprofen like it was candy.

“Arrr, matey,” Darcy mutters under her breath and Steve covers his snort of laughter with a cough.

“Not coming down with a cold, are you, Captain?” Fury asks, glaring even harder at him. God, Steve thinks, it isn't funny, stop laughing.

“No, no, sir,” he manages.

“Good. Now...” He slaps a printout of the offending photograph onto his desk. “Let's talk about this.”

“Yeah, how'd they even get this?” Darcy asks. “This was weeks ago. Wouldn't the paparazzi have had it in magazines really quick?”

Fury sighs. “Somehow you got into the background of someone's holiday snaps. They didn't notice until the damn slide show for the kids, and then with the magic of digital photography they were able to blow it up enough to make out your fucking faces. Then Twitter and so forth.”

“And we'd have got away with it, too, if it wasn't for that damn Twitter!” Darcy mutters, shaking her fist slightly.

“You think so?” Fury produces a folder from his desk drawer and slaps it down on top of the photograph. “You haven't exactly been subtle.”

Darcy picks up the folder with a glance to Steve, flips it open, and slides out the contents. More pictures, and as Darcy goes through them, Steve can identify several of the days: them at the sushi place near his apartment, them outside his gym, them at the movie theatre in Queens – that was months ago.

“You've been following us?” he asks, fighting to keep his voice level. This has abruptly stopped being funny.

Fury looks at him like it's the stupidest question he's ever heard.

“Okay, so you're a shadowy organisation that knows everyone's movements at all times, I get that, but why the pictures?” Darcy asks. “Is this like a blackmail thing? Because I don't have any money, so that won't get you very far. Oh, this one is pretty nice.” She pulls out a shot of them at Coney Island, Steve sitting on his bike, Darcy holding his chin, her fingers in his hair, their faces inches apart. “Hey, can I keep this one?”

Fury waves his hand. “We have more,” he says.

“Creepy,” she mutters as she tucks it into her jacket pocket.

Steve takes a deep breath and pushes his shoulders back. “Director, I don't appreciate being followed.”

Darcy looks at him like he's just expressed his desire to become a showgirl.

“You don't have a choice, Cap,” Fury says. “The men above me think they own you, and you sure as hell want me watching you rather than them. They aren't exactly happy about this little office romance.”

Steve grits his teeth. “I am not a possession, sir. Darcy's not in my chain of command, and frankly it's none of their business what I do in my personal life.”

Fury rolls his eye. “Cut the adolescent act, Captain, it's unbecoming of a man of your years. I'm not the girl's father, you don't need to sell me on your epic love. And did I say that you should care what the council think? A little appreciation of the lengths we go to shield you wouldn't go amiss, though.”

“Ha, name check,” Darcy mutters, then bumps her hip into Steve's. “We can go, right, Mr. Director, sir?”

“You can.”

She reaches out and lays her hand over a fist that Steve didn't even realise he was making. He relaxes his hand and turns to press his palm against hers. Fury eyes them for a moment. “This revelation was well timed for Thanksgiving, it seems,” he says.

“My dad does make a mean deep fried turkey,” Darcy muses. She looks up at Steve. “My family deep fry everything, is that going to be a problem for you?”

“No...” Steve says slowly.

“Could you get out now?” Fury says, face mostly blank, although he looks slightly less menacing than normal.

“Oh, Jesus,” Darcy mutters, “come on.” She pulls him out of the room, past the early morning shift of agents who, to their credit, don't even look up from their work.

“Well, that went better than expected,” she says. She lifts up their entwined hands. “Look, we've still got all our fingers.”

“Yeah,” he says, “yeah, I guess it did.”

“And I always wanted to get on TV, you know.” She fluffs the bottom of her hair and glances up at him. “Of course, if I'd known I was having my picture taken, I'd have worn some lipstick.”

“Will your parents be upset that you didn't tell them?”

“They'll just be annoyed that they didn't find you first,” she says.

Steve does a double take and she starts laughing, ducking her head and clamping a hand over her mouth.

“I hope that's a joke...” he mutters, trailing off as his phone starts to buzz. He pulls it out of his pocket and has a look. There's a new message coming in every couple of seconds, it seems like. The only person who ever sends him text messages is Darcy, but obviously they're not from her, and when he checks he doesn't even recognise the number. The first three just say, 'oh my god', then, 'this is hilarious' and 'now they're speculating that you've got 2 girls on the go', swiftly followed by, 'dr foster is kinda hot' and 'wait, i didn't say that, delete that message'.

“Tony's enjoying himself,” he says, as the phone buzzes again. It says, 'btw pepper extends her invitation to dinner. she says, quote, it'll be nice to be around mature people for once. i think it'll be LOADS of fun, myself'.

“Oh God,” he says, giving his phone to her when she tugs at his hand. “What have you got me into?”