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Steve's always had nightmares, ever since he was five and sleeping on a trundle bed below his mom in a rooming house. The guy who lived across the hall was obsessed with pulps and gave Steve Herbert West – Reanimator to read one day when he was being watched by the landlady while his mom was at work. He didn't understand all of the words, but he got the gist of it, the terrifying gist of corpses being violated and brought back to life as tortured souls and, especially, decapitated heads screaming.

His nightmares were always a jumbled mess of shapes and colours and often nothing more distinct than a vague sense of unease the morning after. The most concrete ones involved Cthulu when he was ten, because despite finding each one more scary and unsettling than the last, he kept on reading whatever Lovecraft stories he could get his hands on. The nightmares, while upsetting in the moment and the occasional cause of embarrassing bed-wetting incidences, faded away in the daylight, leaving him to enjoy the fast, uneven beat of his heart all over again when he got a new issue of Weird Tales. His mom always warned him that he couldn't run around with the other kids and get himself all riled up because of his heart and his asthma, but he was always, always too stupid to listen.

He wishes so, so much that he still had those indistinct nightmares. In their place he gets the smell of gun powder and the feel of dirt in his boots and the sounds of explosions that left some men deaf and the chill of snow and ice and the taste of vomit from being caught off guard by a dead body. And there isn't really any comfort in waking up from it, because he can't console himself that none of it happened, that he remains unscathed.

When he wakes up on Sunday morning from a particularly bad dream, his fingers are clenched in the sheets, desperately trying to hold onto something that isn't there, knuckles white. For a few seconds he can't even stretch them out, and has to tug his hand away. Once he manages to straighten his fingers, he looks around the room with blurry eyes, familiarity and unfamiliarity jostling for place in his mind, until he settles on a framed drawing of... of Darcy that he was embarrassed about putting up because it really isn't very good at all but she refuses to let him fix it.

Darcy. A thin vein of panic shoots through him as he starts to remember where he is, because her side of the bed is cold and she's not in the room and where is she? And he sort of knows that she's probably in the kitchen poisoning herself with coffee, or on the computer watching cat videos, but he just can't quite get himself calm down right now.

He kicks at the blankets that he's managed to get all wrapped around himself, and tries to get out of bed. 'Tries' because he can't even get his damned legs to work, and he swiftly ends up on the floor.

“Steve?” Darcy calls, and he breathes out. Okay, he's just being a weirdo again. That's okay, everything's okay.

Darcy pads into the room in her bunny slippers and looks down at him. “Did you fall out of bed?”

She's wearing his old shirt, and not much else, it looks like. He smiles a little and takes the hand she offers.

“I got out of bed and... then fell over,” he says, sitting back down on the bed. “If that helps.”

“It doesn't,” she says, dropping down beside him, and he hums agreement. “Did you have another nightmare?”

“Yeah.”

“Man, I thought I was being nice, letting you sleep in.”

“You were,” he says, and presses his face against her shoulder.

“Would a shower help?” she asks, her hand creeping up the back of his t-shirt. “If you're going to keep falling over, I'm afraid I'll have to supervise it.”

“In that case, I think it's very likely that I'm going to fall over again,” he murmurs against her neck.

-

Darcy convinces him to go out in the afternoon, to shake the last of his disorientation off. He doesn't really want to; ever since they got outed to the press, it's been even harder to live his life in peace, but Darcy tells him that he can't stay inside all the time, and it seems disingenuous to say that he still goes to the gym and spends time at S.H.I.E.L.D.

“Let's go to the promenade,” she says, slipping her hand into his when they get outside. “I wanna go watch the Statue of Liberty cruise ships.”

“I don't think they run in January.”

“You don't know everything,” she says.

“No, but I'm pretty sure--”

“Do you, or do you not, know everything, Steven?” she interrupts.

He sighs and looks down at her. Her nose is going red from the cold. “I do not know everything, Darcy.”

“Well, there you go,” she says with a sharp nod, and tucks their clasped hands into the pocket of his coat.

-

“So, I don't see any boats,” he says, leaning his elbows against the railing, looking out at Manhattan.

“Okay, okay, so Captain America is right again, as usual,” she grumbles.

“It's still nice, though. I used to come here when I was a ki--”

He's cut off by a face full of snow.

“Story time later,” Darcy says, “Snowball fight now.”

“Darcy,” he starts, and gets hit by another snowball. He spits stray twigs out of his mouth and narrows his eyes. “Okay, you asked for it.”

She squeals and ducks behind a bench as he crouches down to collect some snow, devising a strategy on the fly; if he tries to go around the other side of the bench, she'll just run away, and although he'd be able to catch up to her in a couple of strides, that's not really in the spirit of the game. He's pretty sure, though, that he'd be able to lob it over the bench and hit her, if he's gentle enough with it.

He packs the snow in as tight as he can and throws it lightly. It lands exactly on target.

“Oh!” Darcy shrieks as the snow crumbles down her hair. “No fair, foul, I call foul!”

He grins. “Sorry.”

“You're not sorry,” she mutters, and reaches up to pat the snow out of her hair. “Ugh, there are twigs in my hair! Twigs, Steve!”

“Come here,” he says, holding his hand out, and she edges closer with a suspicious look on her face. He spreads his hands. “Haven't got any more snow on me, promise. Come on,” he says, and starts to pick out the little twigs and stones.

“You're terrible,” she says, knotting her fingers in his shirt.

“I'm sorry,” he says. She pushes up on her tiptoes to kiss him, slipping her other hand inside his coat and around his back, humming against his mouth. He tangles his fingers in her hair and pulls her closer.

“Ex-excuse me?” a voice says behind them. Darcy kisses him harder. “I'm sorry, are you--?”

Darcy sighs and pulls away. “Your audience awaits,” she murmurs.

He turns around; his 'audience' looks about fourteen, standing about ten feet away from a similar group of fourteen year olds, clustered together, whispering to one another. He resists the urge to sigh as well, and smiles at her instead. The USO girls told him to always smile, 'even if you're feelin' like shit, show 'em those pearly whites and everything'll be okay'. Wasn't exactly the truth, but it was good advice anyway.

“Are you Captain America?” the girl says, blushing.

“Yeah,” he says. Darcy slides her arm around his waist and hooks her thumb into his belt loop.

“Wow,” she says and bites his lip.

“And what's your name?”

“Oh, uh, I'm... I'm.” She's going even more red, if that's possible. “I'm Amy.”

“Hi, Amy, I'm Steve.” He holds out his hand, and she looks at it like she's never seen a hand before.

“Don't worry, he doesn't bite,” Darcy says. Somehow she manages to not turn it into innuendo.

Amy takes his hand nervously and he shakes it for a moment before taking pity on her and letting go. She looks at her hand for a moment, then back up, blinking rapidly.

“So, are you his girlfriend?” Amy asks Darcy.

“Yup,” she says.

“Are you a-- are you a superhero too?”

“Nope, I'm just an office grunt.”

“Wow,” Amy says again. “Um.”

“You the only one brave enough to come over here?” he asks, nodding at her friends in the distance. There's a faint squeal and they look anywhere that isn't over at him.

“Oh, uh, yeah. They didn't believe it was you.”

He smiles. “It's good to have a brave friend, I hope they appreciate it.”

“Yeah, well...” She lifts a shoulder. “I don't think they do.”

“Neither did I when I was your age.”

Her eyes go round. “You weren't brave?”

“I was the stupid friend.”

Darcy tuts and knocks her shoulder into his. “Steve was the arty friend.”

“Oh. Art's my best class at school,” Amy blinks up at him some more. “Is it really true that you were born in the twenties?”

“I was born in 1918. I was probably a teenager when your grandparents were born.”

“Wow,” she says again. She really likes that word.

“Hey, d'you want me to take your picture with him?” Darcy asks, pulling her hand away from his belt loop.

Really?

Darcy shrugs, ignoring the look Steve gives her out of the corner of his eye. “Sure. He does weddings, too.”

Amy frowns, but pulls her phone out anyway. “You just press--”

“I know the way of the iPhone, I'm not old like Steve,” Darcy says, taking it from her. She tugs Steve around to stand next to Amy, humming to herself, then holds the camera up, frowning. She lowers it, still frowning, then takes a few steps back and smiles.

Amy looks up at him. “Wow, you're really tall.”

“Yeah, I think it's going to mess up your picture, I'm sorry.”

That makes her blush again, for some reason. “I don't mind,” she says quietly.

“Okay,” Darcy calls. “Say 'America'!”

Steve rolls his eyes, then plasters on the biggest smile he can muster. The camera flashes and Darcy scrutinises the picture for a moment before handing the phone back to Amy.

“Thank you. Wow,” Amy mutters, looking at the picture. “Everyone's going to be so jealous.”

“That is normally what happens when Steve's around,” Darcy says, taking his hand again. “Hey, we gotta get going, but remember to rub it in everyone's faces that you got a picture with Cap, okay?”

Amy grins. “Okay. Bye.”

Steve waves at her briefly as she retreats back to her friends, who practically swallow her up into the middle of their group. “Wow,” he says.

Darcy laughs and slaps him lightly on the chest. “Wanna get sushi?”

-

They get a table in the furthest corner at the back of the sushi place. The waiter takes one look at Steve and really, really doesn't want to seat them there.

“By the restroom? We've got tables free by the window, it's got a great view of the street, or I'm sure someone would move, if you'd like to sit somewhere else.”

“That table will be fine,” he says, and because he can see that the waiter is still wavering on it, he adds, “Son.”

There's something about that word that gets people to do what he wants, even though it's clearly ridiculous to call someone only a couple of years younger than him 'son'. Darcy's soft chuckle confirms it.

“Your menus,” the waiter says as he shows them to their seats. He even pulls the chair out for Darcy; she looks slightly disconcerted. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“Lemonade for me, please,” Steve says, flipping the menu open.

“Coke, please,” Darcy says. “Not diet, no ice, okay?”

The guy nods earnestly. “We have a great red wine, if you'd like that. On the house!”

Steve gets the feeling that this is going to be a tiring meal. “Soft drinks are fine, thank you.”

The waiter looks unsure, but nods anyway and walks off.

“A lesser man would totally take advantage of all your fame, you know,” Darcy says.

“I'd take advantage if they'd offer me something I wanted.”

Darcy raises an eyebrow. “If you say so. Hey, let's share the yakitori, I can never get through all of it on my own.”

“I wanted to get nigiri.”

“Get both,” she says, “I don't think you're going to have a problem finishing it all off.”

“Oh, okay.”

She pushes his leg lightly with her foot. “Hey, are all right? You seem kind of... I don't know, down.”

“I'm okay, it's just... bad dreams, you know?”

“Yeah... But, I mean, that was five hours ago. Maybe you should...” She pulls a face. “Talk to someone about it.”

“I'm talking to you,” he says.

She narrows her eyes. “Because that's exactly what I meant.”

“Yeah, I'm sorry. I know I should, I just... don't want to.” He had a couple of mandatory therapy sessions after he got out of the ice, until he realised that, actually, they weren't mandatory at all. He had long since been marked as KIA, was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1966; he was, supposedly, a free agent, so he decided to draw his line in the sand over his meetings with the aggravatingly gentle therapist.

Darcy smiles. “Fair enough. Guess I'll just have to cheer you up later, then.”

He bites his lip. “Okay.”

Lunch goes pretty well – he gets a couple of 'love you, man!'s from passersby, and one woman asks him to sign her t-shirt; he offers a signed napkin, but apparently that doesn't cut it for her. Darcy almost busts a gut laughing.

“Can we go?” he says after they've finished eating, and Darcy is fiddling with the napkin, trying to get it back into its origami swan shape. It's definitely not a whine, because Steve doesn't whine.

Darcy's look suggests otherwise. She sighs and glances around; there's a guy across the aisle who thinks he's being very inconspicuous about filming them on his phone. “Ah,” she says, “okay, I'll get the California rolls to go, then.”

The walk home is less stressful, if only because they take lots of side streets and alleyways to avoid people and Darcy distracts him with dumb jokes. He knows he's worrying her and he hates that. The nightmares are just so much worse than they used to be, so much harder to forget in the morning, even with Darcy's soft face and loud voice to keep his mind on better things. It's even worse on weekdays, though, when he's left alone with his thoughts until the early evening.

Darcy has work to do when they get home, work that she should have done Friday night, but she's always been a last minute kind of girl, she says.

“I can leave it till tomorrow,” she says, “I don't normally have much to do in the mornings, anyway.”

“I've got my book, don't worry.”

She doesn't look convinced. “Okay... but not one of your depressing books, okay?”

He picks up his bound copy of The Spirit. “Dashing masked hero having improbable adventures.”

She sniffs. “All right.”

“Glad you approve,” he says, settling down on the couch.

She kisses him on the side of his head before she comes around and sits next to him with her laptop.

“You're going to get a bad back, typing like that,” he says.

“Working,” she says, and places a finger to her lips, “shush.”

She fiddles with the locket as she works, twirling it gently around the fingers of one hand while she types. He loves seeing her wear it – he remembers it hanging around his mother's neck when she was hunched over the piece work she took in on the side, the only thing remaining of his father besides one of his dog tags. The army was fairly successful in holding on to Steve's belongings after his 'death'; that had a lot to do with Dum Dum, Fury told him.

Darcy glances at him out of the corner of her eye, eyebrow arched, and he looks back down at his book. It's difficult to concentrate on today, though, and his attention wanders. He tidies up the living room, hangs up Darcy's scattered clothing, tries to sketch what Captain America would look like as a masked gentleman superhero – stupid, is what – and starts on dinner. Darcy slips in behind him while he's chopping vegetables, and wraps her arms around him.

“Man, you are as twitchy as fuck today,” she says.

“I'm sorry, was I bothering you?”

“As if you could,” she says and presses her mouth against his back before tugging his shirt from his pants. “Wanna quickie?”

“Y-yeah,” he stammers as she works on his zipper with one hand, rubbing the palm of her other hand against his dick. He drops the knife onto the chopping board and grips the edge of the counter while she makes quick work of his erection. For having such small hands, she sure knows how to use them.

“Never get tired of that,” she murmurs. “Soft to hard in thirty seconds – they should put that on the packaging of your action figures.”

“I think-- ah-- I think that would be a completely different sort of, of-- ohhh,” he groans, dropping his head to his chest. God, her hands are just so incredible, he could do this all day.

And he really could – so far his sex drive appears to be nearly limitless. After the serum, he found that he got aroused at the drop of a hat, and thought about sex at least twice as often as he used to. He imagined all the things Peggy might do to him, all the stuff she could teach him, holding him down, tying him up. He thought about Private Lorraine, too, had lingering memories of that kiss that he was ashamed of, because he wasn't really interested in her as a person but kept on thinking about her body anyway. He just generally had all sorts of feverish thoughts about any woman that passed by him. Howard said all the extra testosterone swilling around inside of him was the cause but, predictably, he didn't see the problem, and didn't offer any solutions. Steve had pretty much got it under control, with the help of the intense immersion therapy of spending the majority of his time with barely dressed showgirls, but that was before he actually lost his damn virginity.

When he was still at the orphanage, the other boys used to talk about what it was like to finger girls, what their breasts felt like, using the crudest words possible, though Steve was always pretty doubtful that any of this was from first hand experience. They weren't exactly the most attractive, charismatic bunch of guys around. By the time he and Bucky moved in together, the talk was more lurid and more based in fact and he came home at least a couple of times to find Bucky having sex on the couch. And in the army, most of the guys had a girl waiting for them back home, and when they told stories after a few pints of beer, they were hazy and rose-tinted, about long legs and curled hair and red lips.

Steve listened to all these stories with varying levels of interest, but managed to put it almost entirely out of his mind in the war: he'd either die or he wouldn't, and if he didn't die, then maybe Peggy might be interested in going on a date with him sometime. And after getting out of the ice, it was just about the last thing he was concerned with.

Until Darcy. He wonders if she'd be freaked out to know just how much he thinks about her naked. Probably not. Maybe not.

Darcy pulls him around to face her, her hands disappointingly ceasing their work. She starts unbuttoning his shirt, which, well, it isn't as good, but it's still pretty great, then leans in and licks a strip down his chest. He sucks in a stuttered breath and almost manages to bite back his entire groan.

“We haven't christened the kitchen yet, have we?” she asks, toying with his belt.

“Nurgh-no, we haven't,” he says.

She looks thoughtful. “Hm. Ever had a blowjob?”

“Uh uh,” he mumbles.

“That is the right answer, Captain,” she says, and starts to work his pants off his hips. She stops for a moment to carefully lift the locket over her head and off, setting it down gently on the counter with a raised eyebrow at Steve, then shoves his pants down his legs and drops to her knees with a wink.

“Oh,” he gasps, as she blows gently on his dick.

She sits back and presses her tongue to her bottom lip. It's all he can do not to sink down there with her. “Okay, full disclosure,” she says, “I can't deep throat, my gag reflex is... gaggy, but I do all right.”

“Okay,” Steve says in a very small voice.

She smiles, and leans forward. His brain short circuits a little at the sight of her mouth stretching around his dick. It's obscene, like the tijuana bibles that Bucky used to slip to him, but it's real and it's Darcy, and he almost comes just from looking. He squeezes his eyes shut and grips the counter again.

Darcy flattens her tongue against his shaft and hums around him, and he can't help the moan the escapes his mouth. He pushes his hips against the counter and drops his head back.

“Oh, oh, Darcy, God,” he babbles. She rubs his leg in response, sliding her palm up and pressing her thumb against the muscles of his inner thigh, rubbing light circles there. His foot spasms and he bites his lip; it's so hard to keep quiet, but he's going to end up screaming if he's not careful.

Darcy shifts a little, sitting up more – every little movement sends shudders through him. He digs his nails into the underside of the counter. It feels like his legs might give out, the way they're aching and tingling, like the counter is the only thing keeping him upright. Maybe doing this standing up wasn't such a good idea, it's hard enough for him to control himself when they're in bed, his limbs just don't respond to him the way they're supposed to when he has sex.

“Oh, ohhh,” he pants, trying and failing to hold his breath. Jesus, he's so loud. He doesn't remember Bucky or any of the commandos being this loud, when he inevitably overheard them having sex in their close quarters. It was always the girls that he could hear more clearly, but even then, they weren't like this.

Darcy sucks and licks at him for what feels like forever, till he's quite sure that her jaw must be starting to hurt, but she grips his ass and keeps at it, and he can't really form the words to tell her she can stop, even if he were inclined to.

She slides her hand up the outside of his leg and around his thigh, fingernails scraping across his skin. Her fingers tease just behind his balls for a minute, setting his feet tingling, then press in and rub gently. The tingling in his feet turns almost painful for a moment before it all just... clicks into place, and he's pretty sure he shouts something completely nonsensical, gripping the counter until he distantly hears a crack. He looks down with unfocused eyes and she's... God, she's swallowing.

“Dar...” he groans, “you don't... have to...” He doesn't manage to finish his sentence, though, it's just too much effort, and they are so far beyond politeness now. Darcy rubs circles against the back of his knee and sucks him dry before pulling off with a pop. She licks her lips and he thinks maybe his legs really are going to give out now.

She looks up and raises an eyebrow. “That counter never stood a chance.”

“Huh?” He lifts his hands and looks at the two snapped off pieces of counter in his hands. “Oh... yeah. Damn.”

“It's very flattering,” she says, and stands up. “Don't know how you're going to explain this to a carpenter, though.”

“Yeah,” he says and puts the broken pieces down. “So, uh.”

She elbows him. Her cheeks are all pink and flushed, much like his own, he imagines. “First blowjob, dude, did you enjoy it?”

He laughs, ducking his head. “I think that would be a 'yes'. What was the, uh, the thing you did with your fingers at the end?”

“That was Captain Prostate,” she says, “it's like the g-spot for guys, thought you might enjoy that.”

“Oh,” he says, “yeah, that was... yeah.”

She grins. “Eloquent as always, Steve. Now, I don't mean to offend, but I'm gonna go wash my mouth out.”

“Darcy?” he says, resting his hand on her shoulder.

“Yeah?”

“Can I...” He bites his lip. “Can I kiss you?”

“Can you... Oh.” Her eyebrows raise. “Like it kinky like that?”

He shrugs. “Maybe, let's find out.”

She grins and reaches up to grip the back of his neck, pulling him down to her. The kiss isn't really that much different from any other, aside from the fact that his pants are still around his ankles, but that isn't exactly unprecedented for him these days. Darcy bites his lip and tugs on it, pulling him forward.

“Nurgh,” he groans, pressing into her with absolutely no grace whatsoever. It's a good thing that Darcy doesn't seem to mind his occasional bouts of clumsiness.

She finishes the kiss with a pat on his waist. “I know you're ready and raring to go again, but I'm kind of hungry. Which is ironic, considering.”

“I'm making pasta.”

She wrinkles her nose. “Again?”

“We don't have anything else, and also, if you don't like it, you can cook.”

She laughs and gives him a peck on the lips. “Okay, Grumpy, I'm gonna go gargle, you put your pants back on and get to that amazing pasta that I really enjoy so much.”

Despite complaining about it, Darcy still eats her pasta in about two seconds flat, and licks the plate clean, and leaves it all for Steve to wash up. She just smiles cutely at him and he doesn't even mind.

When he gets back to the couch, Darcy scoots over and curls up next to him, pillowing her cheek on his arm and flicking aimlessly through the channels on the TV.

“Ugh, TV sucks,” she mutters.

“Mm,” he murmurs. He really doesn't mind the television, despite everyone thinking that he must get all his news from broadsheets and think that when people talk about 'the wireless' they mean the radio. There's a lot of crap, but he likes some of the twenty four hour news channels, and he likes TCM and AMC, and he definitely doesn't mind a few hours mindless entertainment.

Darcy lands on some romantic comedy, and makes a disgusted sound but doesn't change the channel. Valentine's Day is in three short weeks, and it's incredibly hard to avoid. Guys used to give their girls heart-shaped pillows and take them to the local dance hall – now there are chocolate and flowers and expensive jewellery and weekend getaways and dinners at exclusive restaurants, and he has no idea what to do for Darcy. The last two are out, really, because of being recognised, and he's sure she'd be gracious about a bunch of roses and heart-shaped box of chocolates, but it's not exactly inspired. He wonders if he should have waited to give her the locket, but if he hadn't done it then he'd have lost his nerve altogether.

“Ugh,” she repeats. “I don't get movies like this. I mean, why doesn't this guy just tell her he's been in love with her since he was in the womb, blah blah blah. Acting like a high school kid with a crush isn't cute. Like, high school crushes are the worst.”

“It's supposed to be romantic,” Steve says. It's no It Happened One Night, but it's not the worst thing he's ever watched.

“Well, it's not. There's nothing romantic about fucking around like an idiot. People should just say what they mean.”

“Well, yeah, it would make everything a lot easier.”

“Like,” Darcy continues, “this dude should just propose to her if he wants to marry her. Trying to make everything perfect is just, like...” She waves her hands around a little. “I mean, if I wanted to marry you, I'd just say, 'hey, Steve, wanna marry me?', you know?”

She cranes her head back to look at him and he feels himself flush cold. Which is just silly, really. “Uh huh,” he mumbles.

She looks away for a moment, frowning at the TV, and Steve tells himself to relax and stop being an idiot. Then she looks back at him, unblinking. Steve can't stop himself from holding his breath. “Hey, Steve,” she says, her voice just a little shaky.

“Yeah?” he squeaks.

“Do you want to marry me?”

He swallows. “Uh...” he murmurs.

She takes his hand gently, curling her fingers into his. “Steve,” she says quietly.

“Are you joking?” he somehow manages without stumbling over his words.

She shakes her head slowly.

“I thought you didn't want to get married for at least ten years,” he says. His heart is pounding like crazy.

“I changed my mind.”

“Oh,” he says. He swallows again, then leans over and kisses her. And kisses her and kisses her, drawing his knees beneath himself to sit up over her. She slides her hand over his cheek, thumb resting along his chin, and pushes him away slightly.

“So, that's a 'no', then?” she says, biting her tongue between her teeth.

Steve laughs, high-pitched and a little hysterical. He presses a hard kiss to her mouth and drops his forehead to her shoulder. “You're not just saying it because you know it's what I want, right?”

“You know, I'm not. I'm as surprised as you are, honestly. Hey.” She sinks her hand into his hair and tilts his head up. “Hey, let's get married, Steven Grant Rogers.”

“Okay, Darcy Lewis,” he says, looking at her carefully. She seems happy, she's smiling just as much as he is, and he thinks his cheeks are going to start aching before the week's out. “Wait, do you have a middle name?”

“Elizabeth. My mom thinks she's so funny.”

“Can I take you to bed now, Darcy Elizabeth Lewis?”

She giggles and kisses him on the cheek. “You sure can, Captain.”