Chapter 1: prologue
Darcy Lewis has a gift.
At twelve the headaches start. Ticking at the back of her head, an itch she can’t scratch. The television remote burns in her hand. Ozone and melted plastic fill her lungs and she cannot breathe. She’s grounded for a week, no tv, no music, and no trips to the bookstore. She never voices a word about the blue light emanating from her hands. Electricity that tickles her palms and leaves no mark on her skin.
The first voice that speaks to her is the computer she inherits from her step-brother. The machine is slow, and not very bright but it’s the first time she has access to the internet. She closes her eyes and lets it sing to her, a slow buzz in her brain that feels like home.
She’s fourteen when runs. She gets on the bus one morning and steps off in a city, as far as she can get with the fifty-seven dollars from a shattered piggy bank. All she has are the clothes on her back, a blue and black plaid Jansport backpack, and a pair of scuffed black Converse with neon blue laces. The backpack holds a few tattered paperback books, a spiral bound notebook, a Casio calculator, and a pouch full of colored pens. The calculator had a grudge.
“You’re a freak.”
“I promise I won’t do it again.”
“It’s too late for that, freak.”
Darcy’s fifteen and sweet talking a stubborn ATM into coughing up some cash when the hairs on the back of her neck raise up. The machine beeps, and she shoves the cash into her pocket. Thanks, buddy.
“All yours, dude,” she says to the person hovering in the shadows at the edge of her vision. She grips the strap of her backpack tight, shoulders tense. The bones in her fingers ache, belly icy with fear. Fight or flight.
“I’m not here for that, child,” says a soft voice. “My name is Ororo Monroe. I’m here to help you.”
Her right hand curls into a loose fist, blue energy pooling in the palm of her hand. It’s not much of a defense but it’s all she has. Darcy tilts her chin up a little and turns to face the owner of the musical voice. The woman is tall, white hair loose over the left side of her head, and shaved smooth on the right.
“Look, lady, I don’t know what your deal is. This isn’t an afterschool special. I don’t need your charity,” Darcy grits out, adrenaline spiking down her spine vertebrae by vertebrae.
“Have you heard of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters?”
“I ain’t got time for your fairy tales.”
“It’s not a fairy tale.”
“Suuure, whatever, lady,” she says, eyes skating sideways down the sidewalk. Xavier’s School was a story. A whisper on the internet. A safe place for those like her. Mutants. “I’d say it’s been swell talking to you but...”
“You have a gift, child,” Ororo says, tilting her head to the side. Her eyes flash white, and a swirl of storm clouds gather in the cloudless blue sky.
The sphere of electricity gathering in her hand pulses and splutters out. Darcy takes a steadying breath, listens to the beat of her heart encouraging her to run. The air tastes of ozone and electricity tickles against her skin.
"Not a child," she protests, but she's already stepping closer. The fear in her belly fighting against the surge of hope in her heart. "My name’s Diode."
As fairytales go, Xavier’s kicks solid mutie ass. Three square meals, school all day, and a library as big as her house.
The computers, though.
They’re singing to her even before she gets through the door, so much power that she nearly misses the round of introductions as Storm walks her through the house. (It’s not a house. It’s a mansion. She’s never even seen a mansion before, and now she’ll be living in one.) One of the girls - and really, she should probably try and remember which one has the poisonous skin and which one likes to walk through fucking walls - takes her into the common room, and there’s a whole wall of babies, just sitting there, waiting.
“For homework and stuff. We’re allowed laptops in our rooms, too, and for real work, the Professor sometimes lets us use the big ones downstairs, and you should see how fast they are, like entire gigs of data,” the little brown-haired girl rambles.
“Uh - “
“Kitty,” she provides with a smile.
“Yeah, sorry, Kitty. You like computers?”
“Oh yeah. Like - a lot. Do you code?”
“Kinda - not really. Don’t need to. We just ... talk I guess.”
And it turns out, geeking out over the same stuff is still the easiest way to make a friend. She learns all the names, eventually, but Kit, and Jubes, and Rogue - these are her homegirls. Her crew. For a while she forgets Darcy, but not forever.
Forever only lived in story books.
She runs those hallways all night long, in her nightmares. Roguey’s there, and Iceman, and Pyro, and they scream from one room to the next, looking for Kit and Jubes. Then there’s a bellow, and soldiers, and blood.
So much blood.
Rogue had introduced them, once, that southern-sweet voice practically dripping honey. She called him Logan, and sugar, and growly man. To everyone else, he was Wolverine. Maybe it wasn’t his fault that the soldiers came, but still they came. And Wolverine tore them into bloody chunks. It still wasn’t enough, they were just a bunch of kids. Mutant kids in their pyjamas, with bloody feet and tears in their eyes fighting a battle they couldn’t possibly win.
She’s no coward, but she’s no fighter either. The soldiers rounded them up like cattle, herded them into metal cages. Technically, Wolverine rescued her. Rescued all of them, really. But the guns pointed at their heads, the cuffs and collars, the glint of his blades, the blood on the walls, the sheer, stark terror of it …
She’d told them she couldn’t do it, couldn’t stay and pretend that learning to be an X-Men was fun anymore. She couldn’t be a target, she said. Wasn’t willing to die for this. Didn’t have to, not when she could pass. She’d go off to college and hide in plain sight. Be normal.
Be Darcy. Forget Diode.
Sometimes it is easier to walk the lines of someone else’s story, than it is to write your own.
She didn't always live a half life between printed pages. But it was easier to fall in love with the characters in a well worn book than it was to navigate her own heart.
Be Darcy. Forget Diode.
Yeah, like fate was ever gonna let that happen.
Darcy lasted a grand total of three weeks at Culver before the itch to use her mutation grew too insistent to ignore.
Life was too short, and nightmares too numerous not to use everything she had. Not when gods and aliens crack open the sky and her whole worldview lies shattered on unstable ground. In the end, book in one hand and taser in the other, she shadows the steps of one wayward astrophysicist, Jane Foster, whose heart was among the stars.
Working, unpaid, for Dr Foster was unexpectedly awesome. She got to travel, meet alien gods from far flung reaches of the galaxy, and use her gifts to help Jane in any way she could. They didn't start out as friends, that took time, and alien intervention, but they got there eventually.
Darcy considered the diminutive (okay so she was only like millimetres taller) astrophysicist, and the god of thunder family, as much as the X-Men she rarely ever saw, and her mother. Not that she had visited her mother since her first year of college. Friendship was why Darcy was currently curled up on Thor’s couch, fiddling with Cer, the iPod, with one hand and cradling a book in the other.
The book was old and worn, with bent pages, and a musty smell that felt like home when nowhere else did. Books were her favorite people. The stories within them never made her feel awkward, or held that special brand of razor sharp terror her nightmares did.
The fingers of her right hand glow with a pale blue light as she turns the iPod over and over. She's lost within the story, ignoring the glass of white wine on the table, and the murmur of Jane and Thor in the kitchen.
“What’s that?” says a low voice that has Darcy cringing inside.
“Nothing?” Darcy says blinking owlishly as the light fades out in her hand. It’s the third time they’ve met. The second time they met had been a blind date. A blind date that was the kind of disaster that needed funding, and an airlift the hell out of there. It plumbed new depths of awkward conversation, and ended in a mutual agreement to never date again, much to Darcy’s relief. “I didn't know you would be here.”
“Thor invited me to dinner. I brought wine,” Steve says, voice trailing off. His eyes are on her hands.
“That's nice,” she says, trying for a light tone but ending up flat. He wasn't the last person on earth she wanted to see, but he wasn't far from it. She was going to kill Thor, and Jane, too, for good measure, once she dug a nice big hole in the ground to bury herself in.
“Oh, yeah. Surprise, I’m a mutant. It's my gift, the non-returnable kind. Used to run with the kids at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, you know the-”
“X-Men, I know,” Steve says, lips twisting up. “What do you mean by ‘used to run’?”
“You don't take a butter knife to a gunfight. I still run with them, but not in a yellow spandex and bondage gear sort of way….not that there is anything wrong with spandex, and you can certainly rock the leather jacket look. But more in the going out with the girls sort of thing. I'm so not built for heroics, so past tense,” Darcy shrugs, fighting to hold herself still and not curl up into a ball. “Long, boring story short: I'm a mutant, went to Xavier’s, not an x-men, I, uh, called myself Diode.”
Shut up, Darcy
“Diode?” Steve repeats, brows knitting together.
“It’s a semiconductor device with...it’s electrical. I thought I was being clever when I was fourteen. It’s kinda a thing with mutant kids, but not super-soldiers with a rank, I guess. When left to our own devices mutant teens pick random names. Some of them become X-Men and the names stick, some of them get left behind,” Darcy says. She pulls the sleeves of her sweater over her hands, sinks down into herself, hugging the paperback book to her chest.
“I see,” he says sitting down on the chair opposite Darcy. He looks uncomfortable, limbs slightly stiff, like he's waiting for her to burst into tears, or song, or tear out of there like a hurricane with an agenda to be anywhere else but in his vicinity. Steve probably wasn't all that far off the mark.
The one positive of Steve looking ready to bolt was that it made Darcy feel a little more at ease. Just a little bit, but sometimes that is enough.
“Not all of us are meant to be superheroes,” she says honestly.
“Nobody is meant to be a superhero.”
“Some people are. You do a pretty good job,” Darcy says, lifting her hands. The sleeves of her sweater fall back, a small ball of blue light glows between her fingers.
The ball of energy moves slowly, weaving in between her fingers, until she cradles it in the palm of her hand. Concentrating on the sphere of energy soothes the tension between her shoulder blades.
“Captain America’s got good PR,” he says dryly.
It startles a laugh out of Darcy, and the ball of light shrinks down in her palm. The laughter loosens the tightness in her chest, and her impression of Steve Rogers shifts in her mind. He isn't quite the man she thought he was, though what that meant to her she didn't know. Not yet anyway.
The ball of electric light, glowing blue white, weaves in and out between her pale fingers. A coin trick without a coin.
Blood rushes up to curl across Darcy’s cheekbones. Darcy never really considered her power to be beautiful, but he wasn't wrong, the light was as lovely as it was comforting. “Electric manipulation, with a technopathy chaser,” she says. She keeps her focus on the sphere bouncing between her hands, and wills the heat in her face and neck to dissipate.
At Steve’s blank look she explains further. “It means I can charge a phone battery, a taser, and a hairdryer. Barely gamma level, no real use in battle .” Darcy shudders at the intrusion of an old memory. Soldiers and blood, and a fight she wasn’t any good for. “...and I can talk to computers with my mind,” Darcy says tapping her temple. “Well, some of them anyway, some of them are really rude and not so bright. The Stark coffee machine in the break room is a total prick.”
Steve laughs, and it loosens a few more threads of nervous tension still cutting into her.
It’s not quite friendship, but it’s a better page than the last one.
Thursday afternoon rolls around crisp, and cold, and utterly ordinary. No attacks on the tower or the city, no explosions in the labs, not a file out of order or notes lost to overly helpful bots. Darcy had time for a bubble bath, after leaving Jane in the hands of the gaggle of interns that followed her around like imprinted ducklings. She even had time to send Kitty and Jubilee a message or a half dozen.
She might have moved away from the X-Men but it didn’t mean there weren’t still ties to the friends she made, the ones who stayed and became heroes while Darcy ran. Even though she ended up in the middle of a batch of heroes of another kind. It was nice to know that someone remembered she was still Diode even when She kept trying to forget. The name she gave herself, the one that still felt a part of her, even when she was mostly just Darcy Lewis assistant to Dr Jane Foster.
Darcy slaps her hand on the palm plate of Steve’s apartment with a shimmy of her hips to the music playing through her headphones. She was there to return a few books she’d borrowed while he was away, and a certain blue shirt that mysteriously found its way into her hands. She might have had plans to borrow a few more books. They were lonely after all.
The door clicks open and she dances through, heavy satchel banging against her hip. The apartment is empty, no signs of life, which was to be expected with Steve getting his mission on. But somehow a little piece of her is disappointed that Steve isn't sprawled on the sofa, in a nest of hard copy files, tablets, notepads, and half a dozen books with scraps of sketchbook paper used as makeshift bookmarks.
Steve is with Bucky, raining their own version of justice on a cluster of Hydra douches somewhere in South America. Or so the file, that she totally didn't read, said. She misses him, and busying herself falling down the rabbit hole of fictional worlds only filled out so much worrying time. Not that she needed to worry, Steve was an adult; an enhanced individual who knew his shit, but there was still the chance he could get hurt because he was Steve. He did stupid shit whenever he thought he could get away with it.
She is worried though, and a little confused by just how much she misses him when he’s gone. It isn’t the first mission he'd been on since their friendship cemented in mutual awkwardness, but she feels this one more keenly than the rest.
She almost hated to admit to herself just how much she felt his absence.
She’s certain that their friendship is pretty solid. Awkward at times, but solid. So is Darcy, and knowing that Steve could be awkward too, well, that kinda made things better. Captain America might be a paragon of virtue, Steve Rogers was really far from that.
Steve was an enticing mix of white hat, absolute asshole, perfect gentleman, and humongous dork. It took her awhile to see the real man behind the mask he wore when facing the world, and she hoped she never had to face that mask again.
Darcy lets her mind wander to thoughts of Steve the last time she'd seen him. The thoughts and memories she’d been avoiding via fictional worlds that didn't remotely resemble the weird one that she lived in. Steve had just returned from filming an interview and was rolling up the sleeves of a light blue dress shirt.
God, Steve's arms were beautiful. All of him was. That was sort of the trouble.
He’d sat down on the sofa, and they’d curled up together, Darcy half cradled in his lap, and traded a few soft kisses. Kisses that sparked, and lit up her heart, nestled safe beneath flesh and bone, cloth and wire.
They hadn’t yet talked about it, not with Steve away and Darcy busy ignoring her feelings. She was lost somewhere between what her heart wanted and what the tangled mess of her mind fretted about. It wasn't the first kiss they had shared, but it was a huge leap from their previous platonic ones. It was the first intimacy that blurred the line of their friendship with possibility.
It scared the crap out of her.
She spins in a circle digging a stack of books from her bag as the track turned over on her iPod. If Darcy hadn't been so happily getting her groove on, and swapping books from the rather extensive Library of Steve, she might have noticed the keys on the counter, or the shield leaning haphazardly against the door.
She isn't headed into the bedroom, just the bookshelf by the door, but her heart stops at movement in the room. Nothing more than the vintage fan beside the bed. Brass blades catching the light as they turn. The fan quickly loses its charm beside the man sprawled on his stomach naked on the bedcovers. A white towel covering one perfect ass cheek, the rest of the fabric disappearing beneath him.
"Holy shit," Darcy says mouth dropping in a perfect 'o'. The muscles of Steve's back ripple as he moves his arm up underneath the pillow. His mouth is open a fraction, a glistening line of drool disappearing into the beard covering the lower half of his face.
Darcy freezes, a shiver racing down her spine. A small voice in the back of her head urges her to run. She’ good at running. All she has to do is turn around, leave the apartment, and forget she saw a damn thing. Except she didn't want to forget. She wants to paint the scene before her...with finger paints...all over Steve's skin. The thought sends curl of heat to settle in her belly, sinking down between the bones of her hips.
'Go, go, go, ' her brain screams at her, but all she can manage is a stumbling step back. Steve mumbles into the pillow, the muscles of his back rippling. His hips rock against the mattress.
I'm in hell , Darcy thinks, sinking her teeth into her bottom lip. She could almost get used to the flames burning hot through her veins. She imagines crawling into the bed beside him, waking him with her touch, her mouth on his skin, imagines the smile curving his lips and the way his naked body would feel pressing her down into the sheets. The rush of arousal at her own thoughts leaves her feeling light headed and far too warm.
She turns away, heart jackhammering in her chest. She steps away from the bedroom, ready to slip back out of the apartment and try to forget the image that’s seared into her retinas. Heat flashes through her in a wave, embarrassment and arousal all twisted together. The cuff of her sweater catching the door handle, jerking her to a halt. She snarls at the door tugging at her cuff.
The noise is enough to wake Steve, who rolls over on the bed, body tense. "Darce?" Her name is a sleepy mumble, his blue eyes blinking open.
"You're back," Darcy says dumbly over her shoulder. It’s a mistake. Oh god is it a mistake. She tugs at the sleeve caught in the door. The heat warming her belly grows feeling like it’s setting fire to her entire face.
"Yeah," Steve says visibly relaxing, or mostly relaxing, some parts of him didn't appear to get the message that he was sitting on the bed in his birthday suit. Darcy focuses on a point over his shoulder and utterly fails to keep her eyes there. “Got in a few hours ago.”
Steve rubs and hand over his face, jaw cracking in a wide yawn. Darcy’s gaze drops into his lap, she was only human after all, well, as human as her mutation allowed, which probably wasn't much to some. Steve definitely has nothing to compensate for. Darcy is helpless to stop the shiver of want that runs through her body and sends a trickle of liquid heat between her thighs.
"Steve," she says, voice breathy and low. Her mind blanks out on her, any and all witty quips too far to reach. Steve's cock twitches, and he moves his right hand to cover himself. He wraps his fingers around his cock, thumb brushing over the head like he can’t quite help himself. It’s obscene.
A moan escapes Darcy’s lips an electricity sparks between her fingertips. "Damn it," she whines. Curling her fingers into fists, Darcy slams her eyes shut and takes a deep steadying breath. The sleeve of her sweater was still caught on the door handle, headphones still playing around her neck. Darcy mouths the words to a song pulling her power back, trying to ignore the embarrassment and arousal turning her inside out.
"Darcy, you okay?"
"No! Yes, er, I didn't mean to walk in on you on what looked to be the start of a really good dream if you know what I mean. Which of course you do because it was your dream. You said I could borrow your books and, well, I borrowed books," Darcy says. The words come out too fast, barely registering in her mind before they breach the space between them.
“I am not,” she denies with a vehement shake of her head. Except she was. A little. A slow breath in and out gives her enough space to pull her power back into her core. It was so stupid to lose it at the sight of a naked man. A really gorgeous, naked and erect man, that she maybe had a lot of mixed up feelings for...but still, it was stupid to lose control like that.
Darcy’s ‘gift’ had never been all that strong, not in comparison to gods and alpha class mutants. And despite the times when she pretended it didn’t exist, it was always there. Her mutation was always a part of her. She kept it spooled tight within her, held onto it as tight as she could. The most she ever used of her powers, aside from getting technology to obey her, was charging batteries at a touch. That isn’t entirely true, the electricity flowing through her touch was a little more dangerous than static electricity just not enough to make Darcy a card carrying member of the X-Men.
Stupid, stupid, "Stupid."
"You're not stupid, unless that was meant for me, and in that case I can’t really disagree.”
Darcy tilts her head back, a litany of curses tumbling from her lips. The sounds of the bed shifting, and the tinkle of a belt reaches her ears along with a muttered 'fuck'. She yanks at her sleeve and hears the fabric begin to tear.
"Let me help you," Steve says, a breath away.
“I can handle my own clothing rebellions, Steve.”
“Or you can stop being so damn stubborn and let me help.”
“I believe the word you're looking for is thanks,” Steve says. She doesn't need to open her eyes to know there's a smug smile on his lips. His warm hands encircle her wrist and tug gently on her sleeve.
"Thanks, ass," Darcy says. Her whole body feels too warm, like her skin is shrinking in her own heat and the closeness of Steve's body looming in front of her.
"You can open your eyes. I don't think there is anything left you haven't seen," Steve says ruefully.
Darcy scrunches her face up, opening first the right, then her left eye and blinking slowly. With the heels of her boots Darcy's eyes are on the same level with his chin.
Steve's face is a little flushed, hair plastered to the left side of his head, the rest spiking up in odd little tufts. His bare chest is covered in dark hair. Hair that narrowed down his abdomen to widen as it disappeared beneath the open button of a dark pair of jeans. His muscles twitch and she sinks her teeth into her bottom lip to keep her tongue inside her mouth.
"Darce, you okay?" Steve asks softly. Darcy nods silently her eyes locked onto the bulge not so discreetly tucked into denim.
Darcy blinks snapping her eyes up to his mouth. Before she can talk herself out of it she rocks up on her toes and presses her lips to Steve’s mouth. The angle is a little off but Steve adjusts the tilt of his head and wraps an arm around her waist. Darcy sighs into the kiss and he deepens it licking into her mouth. Her arms loop around his neck, and the careful space between their bodies melts away to nothing.
There’s an electric sizzle in her blood that has only a tiny bit to do with her mutation. Want burns bright in her belly, pounding through her blood. More. The word bounces around in her head in time with the rapid beat of her heart beneath her ribs. Her hands explore the expanse of his shoulders as they kiss, short nails lightly scratching the skin.
"Darcy," he says, lips brushing along her jaw. He buries his hand in the tangle of her hair, thumb sweeping back and forth on her neck. "This is..."
"You know I lo...like you, right? More than friends," Darcy says in a rush. The words tumble together and Steve stills beneath her hands. It's not what she meant to say, not even close, and for a second she wonders if she had enough juice to knock Steve out and forget everything. Her brain throws out thoughts that tighten the knot in her chest.
"Yeah," Steve says without hesitation, looking down into her eyes. His tone is firm despite the shiver that runs through him. “I like you, too.”
“Please don't think this is a friends with benefits thing, because, no, I don’t want that and I hope that you don’t want that either. I know we kissed before but that was different and now I different. But I still want to be friends but I kinda want more. I mean we are friends and we should stay that way but...I’m not making muse sense here. Ugh, can we go back to the kissing? The kissing was good.”
"Before I kiss you again, we should talk."
“Okay,” Darcy says, taking a few steps back to the relief of her neck. “I'll...I’ll put the kettle on. That is a thing that I can do.” She curls her fingers into her palms, squashing the tiny spark of electricity wanting to burst from her fingertips.
“Just, uh, gimme a minute to get dressed, Darce,” Steve says. His hand falls to the button of his jeans.
It's on the tip of her tongue to tell him not to but she shakes the words away before they can slip past her teeth.
Darcy makes her way into the kitchen, slings her satchel over one of the stools surrounding the little island in the center. She grabs the blue enamelled kettle off the stove and steps over to the sink. The sink is filled with a small pile of dirty dishes and plastic take out containers. “Slob,” she says, shaking her head in bemusement as the kettle fills.
There's a fancy espresso machine hulking on the counter, but coffee is the last thing Darcy needs with arousal refusing to budge from her belly and anxiety riding high in her chest. She busies herself fiddling with choosing the perfect mug and tea bag combination.
“Hey,” Steve says, stepping into the kitchen. He’s added a dark red t-shirt to the jeans and a pair of white socks. The tee looks good despite its almost disappointingly loose fit around the waist. “Better?”
“Eh,” Darcy says waving her hand. “Slightly less of a distraction.”
The tension in the room spikes and lowers as Steve pours boiling water into the mugs to steep.
"I don't really know where to start here, Darce. I'm gonna need you to help me out."
"Aren't you supposed to have a plan for everything?" Darcy asks, arching her brows above the frames of her glasses. She's perched on a stool in the kitchen, rolling a marble sized ball of electricity between her palms. The ball rolls back and forth and concentrating on it helps her fit together the pieces of her control.
"...if only," Steve sighs. "I need you to tell me what's going on here, what you want, cause I don't want to get things wrong. We’ve been friends a while now.”
“And the other night-”
“And just now.”
“We’re friends now but you didn't like me much on that blind date Natasha sent us on last year. I didn’t think you were interested in dating me or anyone else for that matter."
"Hey, you didn’t like me all that much either, Steve. And it's not that I didn't like you, it's that I didn't know you. You're my friend now, I feel...safe...no, more comfortable...cared for? God, I'm not sure I know how to say this. I wasn’t interested before. Ugh, however bad you think you are at women and relationships, I guarantee you I'm worse."
"I can't see you being worse than me. Ask Nat," Steve says. The smile he flashes is a bittersweet twist of the lips.
“Trust me,” she shrugs. “When I was younger I didn't understand dating, I guess I still don't. You grow up watching movies and shows, and love at first sight is everywhere, people hop into relationships, and beds like it’s nothing. Like touch was so easy, love just the same.”
The ball of electricity dissipates between her fingers, and Darcy wraps her arms around herself. Icy fear settles in her belly, chills the heat in her veins. Fear she might reach out, or say the wrong thing again.
“My mother, when we had contact, thought I was a prude; the way I dressed, and the way I’d rather talk to computers instead of dating. I was awkward, I mean more than I am now, when I'm not being an awesome indentured servant of the scientific persuasion. Anyway, I didn't want sex, or I did, but not unless it was on my terms and I felt...loved, and connected, and felt like I feel now with you. I mean I knew I was falling for you, I just wasn't expecting to feel so...overwhelmed. I don't know. There’s a word for it, demisexual, you can look it up.
“I wanted to be that girl in all the movies, be like my friends, my entire generation. I wanted to be free with myself, taste everything, feel everything, be enough, but I’m just me, awkward Darcy Lewis who doesn’t put out on the first or third or even seventh date.”
Steve covers her hand with his, lacing their fingers together with a reassuring squeeze. It's not nearly enough, but it slows down the hamster running wild in the wheel of her mind for a few heartbeats.
Sharing her innermost self, even with someone as safe-feeling as Steve, is scary enough to dampen the fire sparking in her veins. Tears burn in her eyes, and she scrunches her face up, willing them to fade away, along with the ball of unease turning cartwheels in her belly.
“You really have it all going on, don't you?” Darcy says, turning the conversation back to Steve. Jane always said Darcy had no filters, but that wasn't entirely true. When things turned personal she had a gift for deflection that saved her as much as any shield made of a hunk of space rock.
Steve tilts his head to the side. “Thanks...I think?”
“Seriously, I could do with some new panties,” she says, regretting the words as they slip between her lips. “Oh, my God, that was awful. I am so fucking awful,” Darcy says covering her face with her hands, smudging fingerprints on her glasses.
“You’re not awful,” Steve says. He ducks his head down to meet her eyes.
“Liar,” Darcy says wrinkling her nose.
“A little bit then,” Steve amends, the corner of his mouth ticking up a fraction. “No more than me.”
“Well you are a bit of a loser.”
“Exhibit A, folks,” she says.
“And what do you feel now? About us?” Steve asks. His eyes flick down and back up to meet hers.
“I think my heart’s bled enough around your kitchen island,” Darcy says, twisting a section of hair between her fingers. It was far easier to sweet talk secrets from computer equipment than to open up her heart and navigate the shift in their relationship. She tilts her head to the side, looking up at Steve through her lashes and a stray lock of hair. “Is there an ‘us’.”
“I'd like there to be,” Steve says, voice dropping lower.
“Can I...ugh, never mind,” she says.
“Never mind what?”
“Can I have a hug?” Darcy asks, fighting the urge to squirm on the stool, or hop down and run away.
Everything feels off kilter still, like there's not quite enough air in the room, like she's run out of words, but her head is filled with thoughts and images, flashes of emotion and tattered remnants of her control.
Steve steps up to her and wraps his arms around her, tight enough that she feels secure. Darcy sighs into the embrace, balling her hands in the hem of his shirt and letting her eyes close as she breathes in the fresh laundry scent of his shirt.
His warmth seeps into her where their bodies touch and his right hands slides up and down her back in soothing sweeps. It takes awhile, but eventually Darcy’s rapid heartbeat slows to match the steady rhythm of his. They stand there for what feels like hours, long enough that Darcy’s feet remind her that she should have worn her comfy boots and Steve’s belly rumbles loud enough to wake the dead, or her Great Aunt Ethel, anyway.
“Sorry,” Steve murmurs into her hair.
“Mhmm,” Darcy says rubbing her nose back and forth over his shirt. “More hugs, then you can cook.”
“Can I now?”
“Yup, emotional turmoil and all that,” Darcy says. She digs her chin into his shoulder and holds on just a bit tighter, fingernails scratching over the cotton of his shirt. Steve squirms and a low laugh vibrates through his chest. “‘Sides you’re a better cook.”
“Now who’s the liar?”
“Kraft Dinner okay?”
“Mac and cheese is the food of the gods.”
“Thor has a different opinion.”
“The God of Thunder is wrong.”
“Darcy, I need your help tonight.”
“Can't,” Darcy answers, not bothering to look up from the notes she's transcribing. She could use her gift to transcribe the squiggles of Jane’s writing, but having her fingers flying across the keyboard was soothing. “Is this a nine or a weird seven?”
“Seven, and why not? You always stay on Fridays.”
“I have a date. Is this an ‘e’ or a weird ‘a’?” Darcy slides her glasses up the bridge of her nose, deftly avoiding Jane’s inquisitive nature.
“You what now?”
“I have a date to get ready for. Gotta wash the lab grime off,” Darcy says, flippantly.
“My lab isn't dirty and who is this hot date?”
“It's not a hot date, it's just Steve. He’s making us dinner,” Darcy replies. She can feel warmth rising up from unsteady fluttering beneath her ribs, painting her cheeks a warm cherry.
“Since when are you dating Steve? Since when are you dating at all?”
“I date,” Darcy says defensively.
“You’ve gone on, like, three dates in the last year that I know of. Two of which I set you up. One of them was with Dr Herschel's stepson, where you faked sick halfway through dinner.”
”Cramps are not fake.”
”what about intern Peter?”
“Intern Greg, intern Peter is like twelve. Greg talked with food in his mouth. Food falling out of his mouth. So gross.” Greg was also handsy, not like taser handsy but enough to make Darcy uncomfortable. She didn’t really like being touched without being asked. Darcy may or may not have had something to do with his transfer to SI California.
I thought you said you would never go on a date with Steve again after you set fire to the table.”
“The fire was an accident and totally Steve’s fault. Why would Agent Romanoff book us a table at a fondue restaurant? I love cheese and bread but, you know, grilled in the pan or as a nice pasta sauce, not served at your table on fire.”
“You said it was awful and awkward and you would never go out with him again under pain of the Black Widow’s glow sticks.”
“Yeah, it was the worst. Steve had such a stick up his ass, with that weird twitchy jaw thing. Then hot cheese-lava everywhere, and the tablecloth went poof. Worst night ever, but we're friends now,” Darcy says, as if that explains it all. To her it does.
“Friends with b-.”
“No, Jane, just no. We hang out a lot when he's not busy getting his hero on, or pissing off politicians, and anti vaxxers. He's totally BFFs with Thor. He’s over at yours for dinner every week before you guys ditch us. We’re friends, I like him, I trust him, and we’re going out on a date. Well not out out but yanno dating, that's it.”
“We don't ditch you.”
“The first time Steve came over to dinner with us, like a year ago, and you went to get dessert from the kitchen and never came back. How about two weeks ago, when Thor made that giant roast beast and you drank all the gravy? Thor threw you over his shoulder and carted you off to the bedroom while Steve and I cleaned the kitchen. Well, Steve did most of the cleaning,” Darcy says stalking over to the sink to wash their mugs.
She doesn't tell Jane about the afternoon eye candy, that she very much wanted to get into Steve’s pants, but was also slightly terrified of the intimacy, and her own desire. The spark Steve lit within her refused to die out. She didn't really want it to.
Darcy was no stranger to touching herself, reading erotica and occasionally perusing porn blogs, but that is far different from what she's been fantasising about doing with Steve. Electricity prickles down her spine, and a flush creeps up her chest and rises into her neck. “Maybe I should go get us a Starbucks.”
“We cook so it's only fair that you and Steve clean up, like the other night.”
“Thor cooks, and you never actually came back.”
“Technically, I did. You were asleep on the sofa, wrapped up in that fugly blanket you love, and Steve was gone.”
“ After we cleaned the kitchen and watched the movie.”
“And what else, Darce? I need details.”
“There aren't any details to tell, not really,” Darcy says. She pushes back her chair and collects her empty coffee cups from the desk. The transcribing could wait, coffee could not. “Coffee?”
“No, and don't try and change the subject. What happened? Did you sleep with him?”
“No, but we kissed. A couple of times,” Darcy says. At Jane’s raised brows Darcy sighs, setting a clean coffee mug on the countertop. “What do you want me to say? He’s a really good kisser, five stars, A+, would kiss again.”
"Why do I feel like you're not giving me all the data?”
“Not everything is science, Jane.”
“Just don't forget to shave your legs. I think they shaved their legs back in the 40s, and tell me everything tomorrow."
"Jane, I really don't need your dating advice."
"Oh, and this," Jane says holding up her hand. She dives into her purse and rummages around an assortment of notebooks to pull out a strip of condoms. "Be safe."
"You have Thor-themed condoms?"
"They're yours now." Jane smiles and absently pats Darcy's elbow.
"Thanks," Darcy mutters flatly. She shoves the strip into a pocket. Her face warms as she imagines Steve wearing a condom with mew-mew at the tip. Oh, God no. That is a thing she did not need in her head.
This isn’t a new chapter. I was going through editing the story and decided it would be better and more accessible to cut the last chapter in two. I did make little tweaks here and there along the way. Hopefully for the better.
Editing this was my way of procrastinating on doing all the things...like actual writing and art and all the adulting stuff I really don’t have the spoons for.
Anyway if you haven’t read this before enjoy, if you have, well I hope you still enjoy the story. Thank you for all the love and continued readership even when this isn’t a new story to read.
You know Tony's still pissed they asked Cap to be on the show and not Iron Man,” Steve says as the intro music to Mythbusters plays.
"Do you have to sound so smug?"
"No, but I'm gonna,” Steve says.
“Is it the shield they want to blow up or is it so Adam Savage can fanboy his little heart out over Captain America?” Darcy asks, leaning over Steve to swipe the remote.
“Both,” Steve answers, catching Darcy’s wrist and gently taking the remote back. “You said it was my turn to choose something to watch.”
“That was when you promised we wouldn't watch a documentary.”
“You’re the one that said you wanted to finish reading your book.”
“Duh, but that doesn't mean I want to listen to explosions, that's what lab time is for.”
“You’re sure you don't want to go out to the pictures?”
“My boots are off,” Darcy says wiggling her blue fuzzy sock covered toes. “‘Sides, this is perfect.” She moves closer to Steve, book clutched tight to her chest. A light blush sweeps across her cheekbones as Steve’s arm wraps around her and he tucks her into his side.
“Okay?” he asks, turning his head.
“Mhmm,” she hums. She closes her eyes for a moment, letting Steve’s warmth sink into her. She felt like she was basking in the sun, but the heat filled her chest and head, and wondered if there were floaty hearts in her eyes. He smelled like cologne, something with a sharp green note that was different than the one he normally wore, not that she made special note of how Steve smelled. He also smell of onions, which was in no way sexy or charming. “Your breath reeks.”
“Thanks,” Steve says. He shakes his head, covering his mouth with a loose fist to cough.
“Remind me next time to not let you steal from my plate.”
“You weren't going to eat them.”
“I guess that means I won't share my dessert next time.”
“Nobody said anything about dessert,” Darcy huffs, digging her elbow into his ribs.
“Oof, your elbows are sharp,” Steve grumbles, wrapping his hand around her elbow.
“It's not the sharpness of my elbows that's to blame but your lack of padding, with all your muscle-y bits.”
“Is that a complaint or a compliment?”
“Eh, little bit of both,” Darcy says. Not bothering to look up from the open pages of her book.
"Shhh, I'm reading," she says. Reading the same line over and over. Steve didn't need to know her focus was more on the twitch of his thigh muscles as her fingertips skim up and down his leg.
They’ve been dating for a few weeks now. On the surface, things didn’t look much different; they went out together once a week, sometimes more when the world wasn’t falling apart and in need of the Avengers. The only thing that really changed was the increase in physical contact (No, Jane, we didn’t need the hammer themed prophylactics, thank you very much), but they held hands, kissed, and curled up together on the couch in an intimate sprawl of limbs.
Steve backed off every time things got a little too heated, which was a relief as much as it was frustrating as hell now that her heart and brain were working towards the same goal . Whatever that was. Her lips still buzzed from making out with him before he called a halt to things and carved out a little space between them with Netflix and a bowl of snacks that Darcy hardly touched.
Steve hums and turns his head to watch the show, letting his legs fall open a little more. It's an open invitation for Darcy to play, and a little thrill of power settles low in her belly.
His breath hitches when her fingers trace lightly over growing bulge in his pants. Darcy sinks her teeth into her lower lip and glances up at his face through her lashes in time to see Steve's tongue dart out to wet his lips. “Darce-”
“Still reading,” she murmurs.
He mutes the tv, and drops his head back against the sofa. His fingers flex on Darcy's shoulder, and slide up under the heavy fall of her hair to drag over the bare skin of her neck.
The touch is innocent enough, but it sends an electric jolt running a jagged path from his calloused fingers to settle in the cradle of her hips. Darcy moves a little, pulling one leg up tight beneath her. The heel of her foot solidly pressed between her legs. She curves her fingers over Steve’s cock, marvelling at the heat seeping through the layers of his jeans and underwear. She trails her fingers up to the head of his cock.
Steve groans low in his throat and his hand covers Darcy’s. He gives her fingers a gentle squeeze over his cock, stretching his legs out more, and uses their joint hands to adjust himself. She probably shouldn’t have found that as arousing as it was.
“Did you hear what I said?”
“Hmmm, you didn’t say anything?” she says, hoping her voice didn’t sound as breathy as she felt it did.
“I asked if you were enjoying the book,” Steve says. His blue eyes are dark but still manage to spark with humor.
“Oh,” she says. Darcy glances at the book in her hand. The pages of the book have fallen closed around her thumb. Her brow furrows as she tries to remember what happened in the last two chapters. “It’s good?”
“Mmmm, I’ll bet it is,” Steve says leaning forward to kiss her.
“Steve,” she says, flexing her fingers over him.
“I also asked what you wanted.”
“I need a bit more of an answer than that.”
“I wanna touch you. Do I need to spell it out or write up a dissertation about wanting to jerk you off?” Darcy’s voice sharpens as she speaks. A blue spark of electricity arcs from her fingers to Steve’s and he jolts beside her. “Oh, shit, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. It didn’t...I…,” he says voice trailing off in a heavy swallow. A flush of color warms his cheeks and Steve’s eyes are intently focused on Darcy’s lap. The hem of her dress has inched up to reveal a bit of pale skin and the garters that hold up her thigh high socks. The glazed-over look on his face startles a laugh from her, easing a bit of tension that had settled in her chest.
“Really, Steve? I’ve worn these socks before.” Darcy tugs her hand free, inching up the hem of her grey dress. She uncurls the leg beneath her, stretching her legs out to rest her toes on the lip of the coffee table. The socks are variegated in colour, her left toes teal, the right purple, the soft knit yarn changing from blue to grey and back to purple again as they travelled up her legs to the clips of the teal elastic garters she wore.
“I thought they were tights, not garters,” he says. Darcy snorts and lifts his arm up from where it’s been wrapped around her shoulders and places his hand just above her knee. “God, Darce, you’re fuckin’ gorgeous.”
“You can touch me. The garters, my legs. If you want.”
“I want,” Steve says.
“While I touch you,” she adds.
“Fuck,” his voice is a low rumble that sends a shiver of anticipation down her spine. She presses her thighs together but that does nothing to calm the pulse between her legs.
“Is that a yes?”
“Yes. Yes, it’s a yes,” he says fingers twitching on her thigh.
“You might wanna open your pants,” Darcy says with a wave of her hand. There is a smile tugging on her lips and she turns enough to drop a kiss on Steve’s shoulder. She glances up through her lashes to read Steve’s expression. His face and throat are flushed a pale pink, and his tongue is caught between his teeth as he fiddles with his brown leather belt and the buttons of his fly.
“Are you sure,” Steve asks licking his lips again. His brows are knit together in worry, hands stilled on his half undone pants.
A curl of pleasure sinks into Darcy’s belly, warming her from the inside out at the worry in his words. “Yes, I’m sure. I really want to touch you,” she says. She presses her lips together afraid that if she says anymore she will never stop the spill of words from her mouth. Darcy brushes a kiss over the sharp line of Steve’s jaw.
Steve turns his head chasing her mouth with his. His tongue teases between her lips as he moves on the couch beside her. He pushes his jeans and underwear down to his thighs, and carefully places her hand on the warm skin of his muscled thigh. Darcy gasps into the kiss, fingers digging into his skin. she pulling away, glancing down at her hand on his bare skin.
Steve’s thigh muscle twitches beneath her fingertips, and he laughs a little uncertainly. It's that little bit of self-conscious worry that catches her heart. She leans in to kiss him again, scraping her teeth over his bottom lip at the same time she moves her hand up and in.
The tips of her fingers glance against the shaft of his cock, and it jumps beneath her touch. Steve breaths out through his nose and his entire body tenses beneath her. She wraps her fingers around him and Steve shudders. His mouth is hot on her jaw, and his blunt fingers tickle the top of her thigh. Darcy shivers at the feel of him, hot and hard, against her palm. Slow movements of her hand up and down the shaft, and teasing twists of her fingertips massaging the foreskin over the head.
Steve groans, hips rocking up into her hand. Liquid warmth travels down her spine, and along her veins, settling in the ache of her breasts and the pulse between her thighs.
She’s barely had her hand around him when he knocks her hand down a little to squeeze and tug at the head of his cock. His hand slides down over hers to grip the base. “Steve?”
“Sorry, bit too excited,” he mumbles pulling his hand away, blood rushing into his face. The thrill that spikes through Darcy’s body at his admission is dizzying. “Can you just…”
“What?” Darcy asks stilling.
“Please,” Steve says gripping her by the hips and lifting her up as if she weighed nothing all. She grabs his shoulder to steady herself, knees sinking into the couch cushion bracketing his hips.
He slides his hands down from her hips and up under the fall of her dress, stopping when his fingers find the top of her socks and the clasps of her garters. “Is this okay?”
“Better to ask forgiveness?” she says, biting back a grin.
“Something like that,” he grunts, leaning further back into the cushions. His dark eyes skim down her body, and though the only place he is touching her is his hands on her thighs, it feels like he’s almost touching her everywhere his gaze lands.
It's bordering on overwhelming, the way a look had her pulse sparking, if she didn't have such a tight control on her mutation she would worry that she was going to lose control and fry the nearest electronics. Or give Steve some interesting, if temporary, scars.
“Do you wanna stop,” Steve asks. He slides his hand out from under the skirt of her dress and reaches up to cradle her cheek, thumb brushing over her skin. “We can stop.”
Darcy startles, mouth dropping open,”No. I don't want to stop...I just...thoughts.” Steve looks dubious, eyebrows inching up towards his hairline, mouth forming a line. “Oh, no you don't.”
“Go all Captain-y on me,” Darcy huffs.
“I'm not gonna go all Captain-y on you,” Steve says sliding his hand from her cheek to cup the back of her neck.
“Well, maybe in the future,” she muses blood rushing up to warm her already hot face. “I haven’t decided if it's hot or not when you go all grumpy.” She twitches her mouth to the side thoughtfully, rubbing her thumb up and down the underside of Steve’s cock.
“The future sounds...good,” Steve says. His voice is rough to her ears, and it sets a fire licking up the column of her spine.
“Do you have a thing for that, Captain?”
“You know that’s not my official rank,” Steve says.
Darcy feels a little wild, like every bit of her skin is alive and over sensitive to the seams her clothes and Steve’s gentle touch. The lace edge of her bra and panties dig into her flesh. Steve sweeps a hand up and down the back of her neck, while the other hooks into her garter, bare knuckles pressing into her thigh.
In all the little fantasies she constructed in her head about Steve she never imagined the sounds he would make. The half muttered curses, grunts, and little gasping noises as she teases and strokes his cock. Every little noise and tremble sends heat rolling through her. Her panties are soaking wet.
“God, that feels amazing,” Steve says, sliding his hands up and down her thighs. Steve’s eyes dart from her face to the glimpse of her thighs where her dress is hiked up around her hips. He tangles his fingers in her garters, tugging with calculated pressure, and sweeps his thumbs over the soft skin of her inner thighs.
“Good,” she says, hand moving faster as she strokes him. Her free hand clutches at the fabric of Steve’s shirt over his chest, nails digging into the cotton.
“Slow down, Darce. I don't want it to be over yet,” Steve says. His voice is wrecked, the muscles in his abdomen twitching as he struggles for control of himself. He covers her hand with his, pulling her away, before circling his fingers around the base of his cock.
“That close,” she says, a rush of heat flooding her. Her tongue flicks out to wet her lips.
“Yeah,” Steve says mouth twisting up in a rueful smile.
“Good,” she says, leaning forward to kiss him. Darcy smiles into the kiss, laughing a little despite the little grain of worry that keeps setting up shop in her chest. She flexes her wrist in a circle, and wiggles her fingers.
It's far easier to focus on the ache in her wrist than the pulse of her cunt. It would take very little to ask Steve to move his long fingers between her legs. The thought is enough to startle a gasp from her throat, if not the actual words.
“Maybe I want that,” she says, between kisses batting his hand away and curling her fingers around his cock. “I want you to come.”
“Fuck,” Steve says, taking a ragged breath and holding on tight to her garters. A few strokes of her hand and he groans into her jaw. The clasp of her left garter tears a hole in her sock from his tight grip as his body stiffens. Darcy moans at the hot splash of come dripping over her hand.
Steve kisses along her jaw, wrapping one arm around her back.
She feels hot all over. Wet and wanting. And a little overwhelmed by her own desire to be touched. Steve mutters something under his breath, pulling her hand away and roughly mopping up the mess with a crumpled button down shirt that had been lying on the back of the sofa.
“Steve?” she asks, burying her face into his neck. His reply is a muzzy hum, the hand on her garter moving up and down slowly, raising goosebumps on her skin. She grabs his wrist and Steve stills beneath her. “Touch me.” The words are barely a whisper.
“I’m sure,” she says, pulling his hand up to her panties and letting go.
“Are you sure?” he asks, mouth brushing the shell of her ear. “You don't have to.”
“I’d really like to come now, please,” she says lifting her head up enough to give him a withering look.
The smile that breaks over Steve’s face is warm and filthy, washing away the wrinkle of worry between his brows. “That so?”
There are words on her tongue but they never make it past her lips. Steve ghosts his thumb over her panties, and steals the words from her mouth and the breath from her lungs. Somewhere in her mind lives a bubble of embarrassment over just how wet she is, how needy and wanton she feels from the slightest touch of his fingers.
“So wet for me,” he murmurs like it's some sort of revelation. His touch is maddeningly light. Strong fingers mapping out the folds of her sex through wet cotton of her panties.
“Yes,” Darcy whimpers. She lets her eyes fall closed, it's easier then. Less intense, than staring into Steve’s eyes. Like he could read every thought in her head, every emotion as he stroked his fingers over her.
“Like this,” he asks, lips burning the shell of her ear. He hooks his fingers under the lacy edge of her panties and rubs where she is hot and slick.
Tension prickles down her spine, arcs of electric heat that dance between the soft hair on her skin, and make the hair on her head crackle with life. Steve presses one finger into her, and her cunt flutters at the blunt intrusion.
Steve nips the hinge of her jaw, whispers encouragements into the wild tangle of her hair. She rocks her hips in time with Steve’s thumb rolling over her clit. “God, you feel amazing, sweetheart.”
The soft bristles of his beard tease a sensitive patch of skin she wasn't aware was there, sending another shiver down her spine. His mouth tastes the salt of her skin. The finger inside her is joined by another.
She’s never thought of herself as vocal, not with her own hands, or with the few toys she managed not to break (internal surge protectors really needed to be more of a thing). But Steve had her gasping and whimpering in a way that she would be embarrassed over later. Mother of fuck, his hands were clever. He curls and rubs in counterpoint to his thumb circling her clit. She's so close.
“Are you gonna come for me,” Steve asks, sinking his teeth into her skin. She never thought biting was all that hot, it just seemed vaguely off-putting, but there seemed to be some invisible string connecting his mouth to the pulse between her thighs, because holy shit.
Darcy’s cunt flutters, and her hands turn into claws, digging into his massive shoulders. She wants to scream ‘yes’, but the word tumbles out on a ragged whisper, too close to a mewl for Darcy’s liking.
He’s anointing her face and neck with kisses, encouraging her to chase down pleasure on his fingers. There is no pomp and circumstance, no fireworks, or stars behind her eyes when she comes, back arched and thighs trembling. Her mind is a deliciously blank page as the orgasm takes hold, pulling from the base of her spine. Steve’s clever fingers and sweet mouth drag her pleasure out until she is a trembling mess in his lap.
Little aftershocks rock through her as Steve rearranges her legs. Darcy feels shaky in mind and body, tries and fails to focus on the power mostly locked within. It's easier than picking apart the emotions washing over her.
You okay, Darce?"
"Yeah,” she mumbles, thinking how okay she should be.
"You're crying," he says gently. His arms tighten around her back.
"A little bit yeah. That was good, intense," she says. She blinks back tears and rubs the tip of her nose over Steve’s shirt. There’s a spiky feeling in the back of her head, the build up of her power itching to be used, and a heavy dose of love and lust all tangled up. She keeps her eyes closed tight, willing away any more tears.
“I'm good. So good,” she repeats, listening to the sound of Steve’s breathing. And the steady beat of his heart. She’s okay, she’s happy.
This is the story she’s meant to be in.