“So how long will you be staying in New York?”
Darcy looked around at what was to be her new apartment in Avengers Tower, as she talked on her phone with her mother. She’d never set foot in this particular space and yet it already felt like home, as bits and pieces from her old rooms growing up, had been strategically placed throughout the area.
She sighed. “Indefinitely.”
“I’m glad you decided to move home, it was the right move, sweetie. I take it, since you’re not over here with me, that you’ll be staying with your father?”
Darcy shook her head, thinking of the place she used to go to school, the one her mother was now co-headmaster of. “Don’t take it personally, mom. I have no desire to live at a school anymore with a bunch of…walking time-bombs. Even if it’s a luxurious estate. I mean, there’s always some kind of crazy drama going on over there.”
“And the people living in the tower are not also walking time-bombs? Need I remind you …
“YES, yes, I realize that the Avengers are crazy-pants, too. But it’s a different brand of crazy, I can’t explain it.”
“Don’t you forget that you are our particular brand of crazy.”
“I don’t. And I’m proud of my crazy. But for now, I like the idea of living in Manhattan for the time-being…and I just didn’t have the energy to think about finding my own place. I need a breather for a minute. And, fyi? Dad doesn’t hover.”
“I don’t hover.”
“Mom. You’ve spent most of my adult life trying to convince me to move back in with you, and attempting to wrestle me into a uniform that’s ninety percent corset. I'm not comfortable wearing ‘fuck-me-pumps’ and a top that barely covers my nipples 24/7. Honestly, I have no idea how you do it. ”
“Fine. If that’s the way you feel, but it doesn’t change the fact that you could conquer the world with those assets you inherited from me.”
Darcy sighed. “I suppose I’m a disappointment to both of my parents. I just don’t have the kind of ambition to be anything where my superhero name could include the word 'Queen'.
“I’ll be over here holding out hope, sweetie. And speaking of ambition, are you still working with that Dr. Foster?”
She shook her head, as she knew that her mother never really liked Jane very much, accusing her of influencing Darcy’s so-called poor fashion choices, but when you’re hanging out in cold and rainy London, or a chilly night-time desert, sweaters, cardigans, and scarves just made sense. “Yeah, mom. Jane’s already set up over here … I was just staying in London out of some pathetic hope that I could work things out with Ian, but it’s over. It’s done.”
“He was never good enough for you, Darcy.”
“Why? Because he wasn’t rich and powerful?”
Darcy could hear her mother click her tongue. “No, honey. Because he wasn't your equal. Honestly, there’s not many people out there who could be your equal, I see you needing more than what just one man can give you … and that boy was always sadly outmatched. I really have no idea what you saw in him.”
“Well...Ian was…normal. Too normal, in the end. I mean, he loved to go bird-watching. I thought it was adorable at first, but turns out, it’s annoying. And I realize now that it was naive, but it was nice being around a guy who’s biggest fear was Arsenal losing a soccer match, or football, or whatever. Not, you know, if his mutant abilities could kill people unintentionally. Plus, he saved my life.”
“That’s total bullshit. You could have saved your own life.”
Darcy shrugged. “Yeah, but that’s not the point. He didn’t think twice about defending me…and he did it before I had to blow my cover.”
“So you’re still insisting on staying in the closet? Still using your middle name instead of Frost?”
“I thought you understood this, mom. I just want to be my own person. You and dad cast very long shadows. Once people find out who my parents are, it’s all they see in me. They’re like, ‘oh, she inherited Emma Frost’s boobs and Tony Stark’s sarcasm, but isn’t it such a shame that she didn’t inherit her mother’s supermodel body and perfect blonde hair ... along with her father’s genius swaggering charm.' I'd rather just be me.”
“You are so very beautiful, my precious girl, and charismatic.”
Darcy rolled her eyes. “Maybe. But not quite as beautiful as you, and not as charismatic as dad, and that would be my legacy. Almost, but not quite, as good as my parents.”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
“Maybe. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Think we could move on to something else?”
“Fine. But why are you still following Jane Foster around? You could be doing anything you want. Anything.”
She paced around her new apartment. “I love the work. And Jane is my best friend, my ‘bond girl’, things are just more fun with her, it’s comforting, being around her … and I need that right now.”
“Oh, don’t tell me you’ve bought into that silly ‘bond’ nonsense.”
“Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.”
“I have no desire to be a slave to the more baser instincts of humanity, and neither should you. You are more than human, Darcy.”
“I used to feel that way too, but having a bond, that connection, having a soul-sister, it’s actually pretty amazing. It’s nice, knowing that there’s someone out there who will always have your back, no matter what. There’s something inside of you that just calms down, when you’re around them. And I can talk to her about anything.”
“That’s nonsense. You can talk to me about anything.”
“Nope. I cannot talk to my mother about 5th-level orgasms, for example.”
“Sure you can, honey, I’m a licensed sex therapist.”
Darcy winced at the thought of pouring her heart out to her mother about her sex-life. “Ew. NO. Gross. I’m already traumatized just thinking about it.”
“Let’s go shopping soon, and I’ll prove you wrong," her mother said eagerly. "We'll get you some new Jimmy Choos, I can already see all the dreary Doc Martens you dragged back from London.”
“I don’t get along with heels, mom. You know that.”
“Well, it’s time you got properly acquainted. You’re a grown woman, and heels are more than just shoes. They are a weapon with many uses. It’s way past time you learned how to master them.”
Darcy pinched the bridge of her nose … sometimes it was just easier to agree and move on, when it came to dealing with Emma Sex is a Weapon Frost.
“Fine, mom,” she said, while looking out of her floor to ceiling windows. The view of the city was breath-taking, and it felt good to be home. It was comforting to be in the same state as both of her parents, even if they drove her slightly batshit half the time. Despite being what was probably the strangest and most unorthodox mom and dad that a girl could have, she knew they loved her, while still knowing exactly what she was.
Darcy was curled up in her new huge comfortable bed, so much better than anything she’d slept on during her stay in London. She had forgotten how insanely cozy her father’s luxurious taste could be. He’d even installed remote-controlled covers for the windows to completely block out the sunshine, so it felt like nighttime in broad daylight, which was insanely convenient, given the jet-lag she’d been plagued with.
She turned on her side and wrapped her arms around a pillow, hugging it to her body with a sigh of absolute pleasure.
But as usual, it didn’t last for long.
“Miss Darcy, your father requests that you pick up your phone,” said a loud disembodied voice.
She sat up and blinked. “Friday?”
Darcy still hadn’t gotten used to her dad’s new female A.I. assistant and missed J.A.R.V.I.S. terribly, though it wasn't like he was exactly gone...just different. She was still coming to terms with him being a walking magenta robot-Jesus guy.
“Yes. Sorry for the intrusion, but he is in distress.”
“Because of course he is.” Darcy rolled her eyes, and reached over to press the remote that let the sunlight in. She then felt around on the bed for her phone and answered it. It had been on silent, as she’d wanted to get some proper sleep, and saw that she’d missed about 20 calls. Okay. So her dad wasn't lying about being in distress, then. Awesome.
Darcy heard a bunch of yelling at first when she answered the phone. Male voices. She practically had to yell to be heard over them. “Hello??? What’s goin’ on?”
“Cupcake! You finally answered. Listen, I need your help.”
“Yeah, I know. Friday just woke me up to tell me. Where are you?”
“I don’t have time for big long explanations at the moment, we’ll catch up as soon as we get out of this, but for now, I need you to do exactly what I say, capiche? I’d do it myself, but I’m currently, um, a bit tied up.”
There was a bunch of scuffling, and she could hear other voices shouting again. “Did he just say Cupcake? Who the hell is Cupcake?” someone that was definitely not her dad yelled.
“Hold on. Am I on your com? Scratch that. Of course I'm on your com. Why am I on your com?”
“That's another long story involving two guys, a live reptile, and several lasers. For the sake of expediency, let's just say my phone isn’t exactly working right now, and I’m using the suit. It’s a whole thing, like I said, I’ll explain later. Anyway, the important thing is that I’m here with Cap and Boy Wonder, and we only have about ten minutes of oxygen left before we get to find out how long we can hold our breath. It's a bit of a pickle, and I’m afraid that the supersoldiers’ lung capacity will keep going long after mine. You know me, kid, I just can’t have that, so I need your help. Get on your computer, get to our network.”
“Holy, shit, dude! I mean, no pressure or anything!” Darcy stumbled out of bed and hit her toe on the corner of her night-stand. She doubled over in pain. “Motherfucker!”
“Captain America can hear you, Cupcake, and he doesn’t like that kind of language.”
“Well Captain motherfucking America is just gonna have to motherfucking deal with it, if you want me to get you out of this motherfucking situation.”
“That’s my girl,” Tony said, pride in his voice.
“I like this Cupcake,” said another voice.
“Hey, Anakin Skywalker, did you not just hear me say that’s my girl. Back off.”
Darcy hobbled over to her desk, opened her laptop, and signed into her dad’s super-secret network. “Alright alright, I’m in. What do you need me to do?”
“We're down to five minutes,” said a voice.
“Who is that?” Darcy asked, curious. The voice sounded hot. Which...okay, was that weird? Finding a voice that hot? Did she normally find voices hot?
“Er, Steve Rogers, ma’am,” he replied.
“Yeah, we don’t need your input right now, spangle-pants,” Tony said. "Where's the tubing? The...no...the blue. Oh for the love of..."
“Who’s the other guy?” Darcy interrupted.
“Bucky Barnes,” the other voice replied. “Pleased to meet you, Cupcake. You as sweet as the name implies?”
She rolled her eyes. Sounded like the Winter Soldier had gotten back in tune with his previous self, the one with all the famous charm, but his line only reminded her of a smarmy old man.
“That would be a no, Agent Barnes,” she retorted. “And, for the record, only one man gets to call me ‘Cupcake’, and still live to see tomorrow, and that man is definitely not you.”
“I think you mean Sergeant Barnes, cookie. Got the stripes and everything.”
Darcy frowned. Cookie? Really? She almost took a minute to be offended, and opened up her mouth for some major snark, but her dad brought her back down to Earth.
“OKAY CAN WE MOVE PAST THE INTRODUCTIONS, AS WE HAVE 4 MINUTES OF OXYGEN LEFT AND THE TUBING SEEMS TO HAVE DISAPPEARED!”
“Alright! Alright. God. Start giving me the numbers. I’m waitin’ on you.”
“Good to have you back, Cupcake. Okay …”
Her dad began to give her the instructions that would get him and his two mission-companions out of mortal peril. She hadn’t even been home two hours before shit went down. Darcy hoped it wasn’t a sign that major drama was on the horizon. She knew better, however, than to think she could have a chill couple of months before figuring out what to do next. Being around her mom and dad always brought out the drama.
As she figured out the codes that would save everyone’s lives, she smiled. “There’s no place like home,” she said, not realizing that it was out loud.
“Hey, I understood that reference!” Steve shouted.
“Yeah, that’s real nice for you, Captain Tight Pants,” Darcy shot back, momentarily distracted. “Everyone understands that reference. People living in remote rainforests who have never used electricity, let alone seen a movie, understand that reference. Crazy mountain-men living off the grid in Alaska understand that reference. Babies just out of the womb understand that reference.”
Darcy could hear extremely attractive laughter in the background. Because apparently finding laughter attractive was a thing she did now along with finding voices hot. Was that Barnes laughing? Ugh.
“Um. We’re down to three minutes, Cupcake. Three minutes. Believe me, I understand how easy he makes it, but I’mma need you to concentrate right now.”
She shook herself out. Her dad’s life was a little more important than snarking on Captain America, the guy with the ridiculous spangly outfit complete with stupid little wings painted on the sides of his helmet … the one she’d talk to her dad on the phone about all the time, the Avenger who could walk on water in the sea of self-righteousness.
“Okay, okay. Let’s do this,” she said, and set herself to work.
**********A Few Days Later in the Avengers Tower**********
“So, if ‘Cupcake’ isn’t Tony’s bit on the side, who do you think she is?”
Steve looked over at Bucky, who was stretched out across the couch in his apartment, idly tossing a baseball up into the air and catching it while they waited for the pizzas to arrive. He’d been wondering when this would crop up again. There was no way Bucky was going to let the identity of the mystery girl from their last mission go. It had started almost immediately after she’d signed off the coms.
“That Cupcake girl was awful helpful today,” Bucky had said casually to Stark. “Got us out of a jam pretty quick too.”
“Yes she is,” Tony replied. “And yes she did.”
Bucky nodded. “Friend of yours?”
“Something in that direction. Hey, Friday? Did Natasha send the new coordinates yet? I can fly this bird, but I’d like to know where I’m going. You know, for landing purposes. Cap here may be able to exit without a parachute, but I prefer to use an actual runway.” He reached up above his head, and flipped some switches. “So? Coordinates? Anytime now would be good, we’ve got a mountain range coming up.”
“One moment, boss. I’m contacting her now.” Several seconds passed before the AI spoke again. “The coordinates have been programmed into the quinjet flight navigation system. Your destination is an abandoned airfield about ten minutes from base camp. Recovery transport has been arranged for you.”
“Will Cupcake be meeting you when we get there?” Bucky asked Tony.
Stark didn’t even glance in Bucky’s direction. “Hate to burst your bubble there, Skywalker, but we can play Cupcake is None of Your Business all day long if you want, and, newsflash? You’re going to lose every round.”
Steve shot Bucky a look then, warning him off, and his friend subsided. Not that Steve’s own curiosity wasn’t piqued. There was something about the brief interaction with the quick-witted girl over the coms that left him wanting to know more about her as well. It was strange that he had this level of interest in a woman he hadn’t even seen.
Not that it mattered. He and Bucky weren’t really good candidates when it came to dating. If the double-Alpha package deal thing didn’t put them out of the running, the possibility that they’d end up being too much for any one Omega to handle was very real. Then there was explaining the type of platonic bond situation they had to begin with. That usually didn’t go well.
This was all hypothetical anyway, because finding an Omega that appealed to both him and Bucky had turned out to be a lost cause. So far none had. Not for either of them. Steve was an optimist, but even he figured over ninety years without a single girl feeling right didn’t warrant a lot of hope.
There had been Peggy, but Peggy was an anomaly. A Beta who won Steve’s heart with her warmth, dry wit, and endless reserve of tenacity. She hadn’t connected with Bucky, though, which had been difficult, but she was there after he fell. Peggy picked up the pieces, and kept Steve going...and then he lost her as well. First to time, and then, more recently, forever.
Pretty much since he'd been thawed, Steve had resigned himself to being alone. Dedicating himself to the cause of the Avengers left little time for anything else. It had been a lonely existence. One in which Steve never even dated an Omega, let alone took one to bed or bonded one.
Bucky, though… Bucky was a different story. He didn’t discuss it much, but Steve gleaned enough from the things he had said to know that HYDRA had attempted to match Bucky with a willing Omega more often than Bucky wanted to talk or even think about. The fact that he’d taken some to bed even though he hadn’t been interested, he talked about even less.
“I didn’t want to, Stevie,” he’d said, cringing slightly. “They had me so jacked up on stimulants I couldn’t help myself. Those poor girls. I… I wasn’t myself.”
“It’s okay, Buck,” Steve had replied. “That’s never happening again.”
That had been the end of the conversation, and the end of all conversation regarding Omegas in general. Bucky brought up the topic of women sometimes. Steve did too. It was hard not to notice them, the Avengers facility was full of intelligent, attractive women, but noticing them was all they did.
So why this particular faceless woman had them both so fixated was a question Steve couldn’t answer. He could only chalk it up to the heavy dose of personality she managed to infuse in their interaction over the coms. It was no secret that Steve had a type, and assertive was high up on the list of traits that got his motor running, Bucky too. The whole exchange with her had taken less than five minutes, but the amount of sass she was packing was impossible to miss. Steve suspected the girl could probably talk circles around Tony. Hell, she’d done it while saving all their skins from certain death.
“Hey, jackass, are you gonna answer my question, or stare off into space for another five minutes?” Bucky asked in an irritated tone, chucking the ball at him. “How do you think she’s connected to Stark?”
The baseball glanced off Steve’s shoulder, and rolled away down the hall. He watched it bounce harmlessly off his door, before saying, “I don’t know, Buck. It doesn’t matter either way, does it? You’re not getting an answer out of Tony, and even if you did…” He shrugged, indicating the pointlessness of pursuing someone after their more than seventy plus years of bad luck.
“Even if we did, you mean,” Bucky countered.
“Maybe she’d smell right.”
“Buck,” Steve tried again.
Bucky shifted on the couch, sitting up with his elbows resting on his knees and hands clasped between them. “She might. Even her voice felt different, Steve. You have to admit it. There was something there.”
“We were oxygen deprived.”
“Oxygen deprived," Bucky scoffed. "Is this because she called you Captain Tight Pants?”
Steve narrowed his eyes at Bucky’s grinning face. “That’s real funny, Buck. Big talk coming from the guy whose life I seem to recall her threatening once or twice during the conversation.”
“Yeah, but did you ever think maybe I liked it?”
All Steve could do was snort. Some things never changed.
“We could at least use your clearances to find out who she is,” Bucky said.
“You just don’t give up, do you?”
“Look who’s talking.”
“Fine.” Steve huffed impatiently, and said, “Friday, do you have any information on an individual in the SHIELD files with the pseudonym ‘Cupcake’?”
“Unfortunately, those files are restricted, Captain Rogers,” the AI replied.
Bucky sat straight up. “You’re kidding me. There’s really a girl with the code name Cupcake in the files?”
“As I said to Captain Rogers, those files are restricted,” Friday repeated calmly.
“By who?” Steve asked, trying to keep the incredulity out of his voice.
“I’m not at liberty to disclose that,” she informed him.
Steve made a final attempt to get more information. “Can you tell me if she’s currently in the Avengers Tower?” His security clearances gave him full access to all personnel, residents, and registered civilian visitors in the building at all times. If the mysterious girl was in the building, and Friday refused to tell him, it could be considered a security breach.
There was a lengthy silence before Friday answered. “She is, but she is not a threat, and that is all I can tell you. Will there be anything else, Captain?”
“No. Thank you, Friday.”
There was an immediate response inside Steve when he found out the girl was so close. One glance at Bucky told him his friend was feeling it too.
“Cupcake is in the building,” Bucky said quietly.
“We’re not pursuing this,” Steve replied, but the moment the words were out of his mouth, he knew they were a lie. They were absolutely pursuing this. And soon.