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Three Weeks, Ten States, and One Million Reasons to Fall for You

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Darcy decided the whole thing was a terrible idea the very moment Natasha suggested it. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the glorious cup of steaming espresso which had just arrived in front of her, she might have found something else that needed her immediate attention and left. But the espresso was there, and it was glorious. Plus Nat was paying. So...she stayed.

“Let me get this straight,” she said, fingers drumming the table next to the tiny cup of caffeinated perfection. “You want me to come along with you, Steve, and HYDRA’s least social ex-assassin, on a road trip to the Gulf of Mexico?”

Natasha glanced at her over the rim of her own cup. “Yes.”

There was only one intelligent thing to say to that, so Darcy said it. “Um, why?”

“Steve thinks it would be good for Bucky to finish his recovery beyond the bounds of SHIELD, and have a chance to acclimate himself to the outside world without feeling like his every move is being monitored.” She paused a moment, tilted her head, and said, “I do too. He needs a break from everything. I think we all do.”

“Okay, that I get. If a formerly brainwashed ex-assassin needs a break, a formerly brainwashed ex-assassin should have one, probably for the safety of all. I'm more concerned with the part where you think I should come along for the ride.”

“I would have thought that was self-explanatory. You and Steve are friends, you and I are friends…”

“Because you are terrifying, and I don’t want to die,” Darcy interjected. “Also, you talked Steve into letting me have the good office with the window, which I’m still very grateful for by the way.”

“Terrifying, huh?” Natasha rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you seemed really terrified when you barged into my place uninvited the other night demanding sugar.”

“First off,” Darcy said, raising a finger, “I was having a cupcake crisis. It was an honest to God, Defcon One batter emergency that required drastic action. And second of all, I had no idea you and Steve would be having tantric super sex or whatever up against the refrigerator. People who are getting busy up against a refrigerator should probably lock the door, which you had completely failed to do. For the record, I had no idea you and Steve were having sex at all. So that was hardly my fault. And third of all...”

“There’s a third of all?”

“There most certainly is. Third of all, yes I am still terrified of you, because you managed to get me sugar, threaten my life, and kick me out all in the space of three seconds while you were still tantric-ing it up with Steve. I didn’t know whether to be completely impressed by your prowess, or to start making final arrangements in case you showed up later to ensure there were no witnesses to your kitchen hook-up.”

“Which did you decide?” Natasha asked, cup poised halfway to her mouth.

“Both. I now own a very nice burial plot just outside of Syracuse. Did you know that Friday can notarize wills? It’s pretty damn convenient. I left you my cupcake tins.”

“I don’t bake.”

Darcy shrugged. “I’ll teach you in exchange for me not needing to use the plot anytime soon.”

“I’ll consider it,” Nat said.

“Super. Now, about this road trip,” Darcy began.

“The one that you are coming on as a personal favor to me?”

“The one that I am definitely not going on, since you and Steve are insane, and this is the worst idea ever,” Darcy told her. “But mostly because, in case you haven’t noticed, Bucky hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you,” Natasha said.

“Um. Yes. He does. Last week I offered to share my popcorn with him during movie night, and he got up and left the room. As in, sharing popcorn with me was so offensive to him that he vacated the entire media area just to avoid it.”

“Maybe he doesn’t like popcorn,” Natasha countered with a nonchalant shift of her shoulders.

“Or,” Darcy responded, “and let’s just think about this for a second, because I really think it makes sense: he hates me.”

“Stop making this weird,” Nat said. “Just say you’ll go so we have a fourth.”

“Are you serious right now? You’re the one who wants to confine everyone’s favorite angry, knife-wielding hermit in close quarters with someone who has won the title of SHIELD's Most Non-Existent Filter two years running, on a drive down the coast from New York to Louisiana. And you think I’m the one making it weird? Natasha, this is a disaster waiting to happen. One of us will end up dead, and fyi? It will be me. In a ditch. Probably somewhere in Roanoke, Virginia.”

“I don’t think we plan on driving through Roanoke,” Nat said calmly. “And I think Tony has you beat right now on the whole non-existent filter thing.”

“I doubt that Bucky is going to worry about what city the ditch is in,” Darcy retorted. “And you are wrong about Stark. I’m totally ahead of him in zero-filter points at the moment. We’ve been keeping track.”

Natasha lifted her eyebrows. Darcy wasn’t sure if she was considering ditch related situations, or the zero-filter point system she and Tony had worked out. Probably both.

After a few more seconds of silent contemplation Nat said, “Bucky won’t kill you. Steve and I will be there. We’ve got a strict no homicide policy for road trips since that whole situation last fall.”

“Oh well, I feel so much better now that I know you and Steve will turn the car around if Bucky threatens my life,” Darcy groused.

“You are really making a bigger deal of this than it is,” Nat said, shaking her head. “And your espresso is getting cold.”

“Espresso, exshmresso. I’m not going.”

Natasha folded her arms over her chest, and leaned back in her seat. “What if I made it worth your while?”

Wait. Was the Black Widow bargaining? This could be good. Possibly. Depending on how desperate she and Steve were right now. Darcy hoped it was really, really desperate.

“Worth my while how?” she asked cautiously.

“That’s up to you. What do you want?”

Darcy took a sip of her espresso, then set the cup back in the saucer with a clink, thinking about what could possibly make spending weeks in a car making stilted small talk with the Winter Soldier worth her while. Finally she looked up. “Fine. I’ll go on your potential nightmare of a road trip, and I’ll even play nice with Bucky. Or as nice as he'll let me, anyway. But when we get back, you and Steve are upgrading me to a set of taser batons.” Nat opened her mouth, and Darcy held up her hand to stop her from speaking. “And my own Widow’s Bite bracelets.”

“You know, if Bucky decides to kill you, I might just look the other way,” Natasha remarked, narrowing her eyes at Darcy.

“Take it or leave it,” Darcy replied. She took another sip of espresso. “The way I see it, I’ve got nothing to lose here, and we both know that’s the best possible position to be in.”

Nat glared at her. Then she yanked a tablet out of the bag hanging on the back of her chair, rapidly tapped on the screen for a few seconds, and said, “Done. I expect you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at zero five hundred on Saturday morning, packed and ready to go. Friday will make sure you have the travel itinerary and a list of the gear you’ll need for the trip. Don’t worry, SHIELD will provide anything you don’t have.”

Wait. What gear? Why would she need gear unless… Oh, fuck no. Fuck. No. Darcy suddenly realized she had just been played, because gear sounded a hell of a lot like camping. God dammit, she should have demanded her own vibranium shield too.

“Is there a problem?” Natasha asked sweetly.

“Potentially. Because I’m beginning to think this is a camping situation, and I'm completely allergic to the outdoors,” Darcy answered.

“Too bad. You already agreed to go.”

“Well this is me disagreeing to go, then. I’m really sorry, but the thing is, sleeping outside is actually against my religion.”

“Darcy, you’re an atheist,” Nat said dryly.

“I just decided to get baptized,” Darcy replied.

“No you didn’t.”

“Okay then, I worship Thor. All hail the Mighty Mew-Mew!” Darcy raised her arm, waving an imaginary thunder-hammer in what she hoped was the direction of Asgard.

Natasha just shook her head. “Nice try, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say Thor would approve of his acolytes going camping.”

“Fine. Whatever. That doesn’t change the fact that spending the night in a tent is fundamentally wrong on so many levels. Like, every level. All the levels, Nat. Do not do this to me.” Then Darcy thought of something else. Something way, way worse. “We’re all getting our own tents, right? Oh my God, I am not going to have to share nylon housing with Sling-Blade the Hermit, am I?”

Natasha stood up, smiling in a way that made Darcy incredibly nervous. “Like I said, Friday will make sure you get all the relevant details. See you on Saturday.” And with that, she left the cafeteria, flicking her fingers at Darcy in a tiny, sardonic wave.

Darcy sat for a few minutes, staring into her espresso morosely. “I’m an idiot,” she said to the liquid in the cup. “An idiot, who probably won’t survive the first night.”

Her comm crackled to life, and Nat’s voice replied, “Oh hey, idiot? Don’t forget the waterproof sleeping bag. You’re going to need it.”

The comm crackled off, and Darcy dropped her head to the table with a groan. Camping. With the Winter Soldier. It was safe to say she was totally fucked.