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The Amazing Adventures of Darceline Lewinsky and Roger Stevens

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“Captain and Mrs America. Sounds like the title of a bad eighties sitcom.”

Steve looks over at her. “Huh?”

She turns the laptop towards him, showing him the extremely boring picture of the two of them buying groceries on a miserable, rainy afternoon that has Perez Hilton so excited. Steve raises his eyebrows.

“I thought we weren't going to look at any of that stuff,” he says.

“I know, I know,” she says, resettling the laptop. She's banned him from reading anything about them online or in magazines, but that's mostly because privately she thinks that she can handle it better than he can.

She skims the comments quickly. They're a mix of the usual: conspiracy theorists who are sure that she and Pepper are beards for Steve and Tony (now that was a fun thing to explain to Steve), people declaring their undying love for Steve in all caps, a lot of discussion about her tits and ass, and an overwhelming majority of comments about how it's never going to last. Those kind of depress her.

She closes the tab and looks over at Steve, with his knees drawn up towards his chest and his sketchbook balanced on them. He looks like a kid. “So, can I see what you're drawing?” she asks, scooting towards him.

“No,” he says, shielding it from her view.

“No?”

“No,” he confirms. “It's not finished.”

“You let me see unfinished drawings!”

He shakes his head. “Not this one.”

She hardcore pouts and crosses her arms over her chest, the ultimate act of annoyance, but he doesn't waver. He must be serious about this.

“Fine,” she says, closing the lid of the laptop and putting down on the coffee table. “I'm going to go be sexy in the bedroom. On my own.”

It takes about thirty seconds before she hears Steve's footsteps behind her, following her into the bedroom.

“Am I in trouble?” he asks.

She turns around and he's right behind her, biting his lip. “Do you want to be in trouble?”

He raises his eyebrows. “Depends on what you're going to do about it.”

-

The thing about most of the reporting on them is that it's so bland: 'Steve Rogers and new wife Darcy Lewis share a kiss outside Starbucks!', 'Captain America and wife spotted buying groceries!', 'Mr and Mrs Rogers waiting for a train!!!'. Like, seriously, get a life.

She looks down at Steve sleeping beside her, his hand twitching slightly where it lays next to her thigh. It's almost two and he's been out for the count for the last hour and a half, and she should really join him, but it's kind of horribly addictive, scrolling through endless shots of them online. There's been so much speculation about them, and she guesses that they've only made it worse by not really addressing anything. When Steve got cornered by a reporter, his entire answer to all the guy's questions was 'yeah'.

What pisses her off the most, she thinks, is all the discussion about how she must be pregnant, as if there's no way that he'd marry her otherwise. Any hint of her wearing baggy and layered clothing – in New York in March – sets off a new round of frenzied speculation. There are at least some voices of reason within comments sections that point out that a) it's winter, and b) she's often seen in big, baggy sweaters, but that doesn't do much to stop the inane chatter about babies.

“Ugh,” she mutters.

Steve huffs in his sleep, shifting slightly, and she reaches down to smooth his hair. He settles again.

What she does like, though, what she likes kind of a lot, are all the little things that the photographers catch, like the way Steve looks at her when she's talking with her hands, all soft and smitten and often amused, and the way he's always ready to put his arm around her or carry her stuff, and the way his face opens up when he laughs.

Now, if people would just quit calling her a fat bitch, she'd be golden.

“Turn 'puter off,” Steve mumbles plaintively into his pillow, blindly pawing at her side.

“Hey,” she murmurs. She closes the lid of the laptop and leans over to put it on the floor, then turns back and scoots down beside him.

He hums, and snuggles in closer to her, fitting his face against her neck.

“Good night,” she says.

“Night,” he mumbles, and wraps his arm around her waist.

-

Basically, she's a glorified data entry clerk, who the higher ups occasionally drag away from her desk and throw into some 'training situation', which basically means, 'clean up this mess that we made'. She's pretty sure people are talking about her behind her back, about how she was given this job even though she's unqualified, and they'd be right, just not in the way that they're thinking. She didn't get the job because of Steve; she got 'head-hunted' after Thor's whole thing in New Mexico, and she told herself that it'd look great on the résumé for her real job, but she's beginning to face up to the reality that this is her real job, that they're not going to let her go. It might even be worse than before, now that she's with Steve: she's a huge security risk.

There's a staff meeting at two, and she sits in the back with the other grunts, listening to Sitwell droning on and on, turning the appropriate page on her tablet when told to. Beside her, Matthew is playing flash games on his, and she honestly doesn't know why they keep him on – it's all he seems to do. She peers over his shoulder and watches him rack up points.

“Surveillance of the subject will begin tonight,” Sitwell is saying.

Darcy frowns, looking at the profile on her tablet. This guy, really? She puts her hand up, and waves it a little when he doesn't notice.

“Yes, Lewis?”

Everyone swivels around to look at her. She tips her chin up – if she can talk Captain America down from a panic attack, she can do this. “This guy's a social worker, chief,” she says. Sitwell doesn't like being called 'chief'. “It sounds like he's a step away from sainthood, what are we following him for?”

“He's engaging in dangerous and illegal activities.”

“He's saving children from abusive homes by day and saving grannies from muggers by night. We could do with more people like that.”

“Well, thank you for your input, Agent,” Sitwell says, “we'll take it under advisement.”

Matthew actually looks up from his game to laugh along with everyone else. Darcy sets her jaw and looks back at the profile as Sitwell continues with his blather.

-

shit day need to hit sth – meet me 7 @ gym? she texts Steve later, hunched over her desk, picking at the remnants of a late lunch.

The phone buzzes a moment later. :( Okay. What happened?

Her heart melts a little. just assholes, tell u ltr.

She gets to the gym late, of course, held up by more paperwork, and walks in to find Steve boxing, his shoulder blades moving underneath his tight t-shirt with every throw of his arm. She's never quite got why someone as reserved and upright as Steve always wears such tight t-shirts, but she is not complaining.

“Hey,” she calls.

He looks over his shoulder and stills the bag. “Hey,” he says, “feelin' any better now?”

She shrugs. “We'll see. I'm going to change.”

They warm up with some boxing, and she vents her spleen at length, about Sitwell and Matthew and being laughed at (she hates being laughed at when she's actually trying to be serious), and Steve listens patiently to it all, lets her go full force without interrupting her flow.

They switch to sparring after that, practising how to break a stranglehold, and she knows he hates doing it with her, hates playing the attacker, but he does it for her.

“If S.H.I.E.L.D. is making you this unhappy, maybe you should quit,” he says, moving through the steps with her.

She touches her bent elbow to his ribs and tucks her chin down under his arm across her neck. “As if they'd let me leave. Nope, I'm basically an indentured servant at this point.”

“Darcy,” he murmurs, sounding worried. “If you want me to talk to Fury...”

She dislodges his arm and turns to face him, fake-punching him with the heel of her hand into his throat. “Nah, it's fine, I'm just bitching. I mean, what else would I do? Who's going to employ a chick with a poli sci degree and no interest in grad school or working in politics?”

Steve does his frowny eyebrows. “Lots of people. You could teach or write or intern somewhere...”

“None of which I want to do,” she says, pulling a face. “Anyway, seriously, don't worry about it, okay? How was your day, since I've been bitching this whole time and didn't ask.”

He shrugs. “It was fine. I got press-ganged into helping Mrs Rossi with her laundry, and then uh... Well, I sort of applied for a job?”

“A job?”

She helped him write a résumé a few weeks ago – it took hours to tease all the necessary information out of him, because his default setting about himself is 'well, I didn't get any education and I never did anything important before Cap', but eventually they establish that he went to art school, did a significant amount of illustration work, and briefly worked for a publishing company. Of course, all of this happened in the thirties and forties, so once written, she turned it over to Pepper, who worked some magic and updated his credentials in a way that would fly if an employer did some digging. Steve said it seemed kind of dishonest, but he didn't put up much of a fight.

She didn't really think he was going to do anything with it, though, and how here he is applying for jobs!

“Yeah, it's a freelance illustration thing for a company, so they won't know who I am. I probably won't even get it, but...”

“You probably will get it,” she says, tugging on his t-shirt. “Come on, let's go celebrate.”

“I only applied today, I won't hear back for weeks.”

She takes his hand and tugs him towards the door. “We're celebrating you trying, you know you want to.”

“Well... how are we going celebrate?” he asks.

“I was thinking, get some...” She almost says 'sushi', but Steve's given that up for Lent, so she goes with, “Chinese, drag the TV into the bedroom and watch a movie, then have sex?”

He raises his eyebrows. “That's acceptable to me.”

-

Darcy loves the way that Steve's toes curl up when she touches him just right. She loves the way he moans and squirms and the way his eyelashes flutter and his fingers twitch, but she loves his toes the most. She loves them because she knows that she's got Steve right there, so dizzy with pleasure that his body just curls up around her, aching for release.

She wakes up before him, hours later, and watches him sleep. He hasn't had a nightmare, she's pretty sure, because his face is still slack and relaxed, and he normally ends up waking her when he has one, even if he doesn't mean to. They've been coming less often recently, after he word-vomited all over her a few weeks ago, though she has noticed that he's started to sleep with one arm protecting his stomach – she hopes it isn't going to turn into a thing.

She leans over and kisses his cheek, and he rolls towards her, wrapping his other arm around her waist.

“Hey, sleepy,” she murmurs.

He tugs her in closer. “Hey,” he replies, muffled by the pillow. “D'you have to go to work?” he mumbles.

“Nope, day off,” she says.

“Mm,” he replies happily, his fingers pressing into her skin.

She runs her fingers through his hair and he curls up against her, pushing one of his legs in between hers and tucking his chin against her shoulder. She never would have thought she'd enjoy cuddling so much, especially with a big dude like Steve, but he's kind of politely steam-rolled over all of her informal dating rules.

The biggest one being, of course, that she actually cares about this guy, that she can't imagine a single reason that they'd part ways. This is the first time that's ever happened; even in her best relationship (and let's be honest, the guy came home every night stinking of French fries, was taking seven years and counting to finish up his Philosophy major, and spent most nights jerking one out while looking at hentai – she doesn't have a problem with either hentai or self-love, but there's a limit) she could see multiple reasons why she'd ditch him. In the end, she just got tired of his constant monologuing about post-structualism and how everything was a fictional construct. She told him that her half of the rent that month was a fictional construct, packed a bag, and couch-surfed for a couple of weeks.

Steve, though, she'd go to any lengths for him. She'd protect the fuck out of him, which, considering that he's the superhero, is kind of backwards, but he needs a lot of protecting, even if he doesn't know it himself.

He's totally out for the count again by the time she's finished her musing, and she's still wide awake. It's just past five in the morning, but she's got all day to sleep, so she grabs her phone off the night stand and thumbs it on. She can't access the S.H.I.E.L.D. intranet from home – her clearance is nowhere near high enough – but she can look at good old fashioned police records. She types in a name, 'Samuel Wilson', and skims the results. Some minor stuff as a teenager, a spell in juvie, and – yikes – a tangle with the mob. There's why S.H.I.E.L.D. is so interested in him.

Further research shows that he's pretty much a model citizen these days, though. His work in the community has even been recognised by the mayor. A little bit of superheroing seems right up his street, honestly. And she can't really blame him, the big guys have been giving a lot of people ideas, and at least this guy has some personal experience with right and wrong. But she knows that S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to shut him down with extreme prejudice, and it just isn't right.

Steve snuffles against her collarbone, and clutches a little harder at her. She sighs to herself: Steve wouldn't let some good Samaritan get railroaded by S.H.I.E.L.D.

“You are just way too perfect, you know that?” she murmurs, smoothing his hair. He hums in response.

-

“Darcy, I want to do something,” Steve says the following afternoon.

It takes her a couple of seconds to tear her eyes away from the Friends rerun she's watching. “Okay,” she says, looking up at him. He's all dressed up, and she's sitting here in a t-shirt and his sweatpants. “I can look up movie listings, if you want.”

“I actually meant something in particular,” he says, sitting down beside her. “D'you remember I told you about a guy I knew called Arnie?”

She shuts the TV off. Chandler will just have to entertain her another day. “The Jewish guy?”

He nods. “Yeah. Well, I googled him and I found out that he's still alive and still in Red Hook. His niece runs a bakery over there...”

“And you want to go over there?”

He shrugs. “What do you think?”

“Well, why not? Is that why you're dressed up so nice?”

“I thought I should make a good impression. He is an old man now, he might be all crochety.”

“Takes one to know one.” She holds her hand out to him. “Help me up, I fused with the couch after the fourth rerun.”

They take his bike over there, which is reason enough for the trip, as far as she's concerned, even if it gives her helmet hair. Steve doesn't get helmet hair, of course, because he's perfect.

Steve stops outside a charming little shop front, pretty much exactly the kind of thing she associates with him. Over the quaint awnings, it says 'Roth's Bakery', and painted on the window, 'kosher bakery and delicatessen'.

“Oh shit,” she says, “it's a Jewish bakery?”

“Yeah?” Steve says uncertainly, pushing the kickstand down and getting off the bike.

“Hell yeah,” she says, “I'm getting mandelbread and you can't stop me.”

He smiles and kisses the top of her head. “I'm nervous about going in there,” he confesses.

“Sure you are, that's normal.” She takes his hand and pulls him onto the sidewalk. “But I'll beat anyone up who's mean to you, so no worries.”

He rolls his eyes and lets her drag him into the bakery. A little bell jingles as she opens the door (fucking adorable) and the lady behind the counter looks up and blinks at them. She goes several shades paler than before, Darcy notes, eyeing Steve.

“Do you sell mandelbread?” Darcy asks.

The lady nods and points to the glass cabinet, eyes still on Steve.

“Are you Arnie Roth's niece?” he asks.

She nods again.

“Is he here?”

“He's upstairs,” she says quietly. “Just give me a second.” She backs up and disappears through a door.

Darcy looks at the array of pastries behind the glass. “They've got good shit here, you have excellent taste in friends.”

“That's good,” he says, coming up behind her and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “What if he doesn't remember me, Darce?” he murmurs. “What if he's too old to remember me?”

“Then we'll just have some really tasty food?” she says, and Steve huffs. She turns around and frowns up at him. “Look, let's not worry about things that haven't happened yet, okay? Kinda makes life a lot harder.”

He rubs at his eyebrow. “Yeah, okay. Sorry.”

“And anyway--” She reaches up and pinches his cheek. “--who could forget a face like this?”

“Don't mock me,” he mutters, just as two people come back out of the back, the lady from before, and an old guy who looks like he was probably a knock out when he was younger. She guesses that the guy's not Arnie, by the way Steve's frowning slightly and the fact if this guy is ninety, he's looking real good.

“Captain Rogers?” the guy says, and Steve nods. “I'm Michael. Arnie's having a nap, but he should be awake soon. Would you like to come up?”

“Thank you,” Steve says, and glances at Darcy in slight confusion. She takes his hand firmly and pulls him forward.

The little apartment above the bakery is just as charming as the rest of the place, floral couches and books covering the surface of every battered table and chair, pictures covering the walls like wallpaper.

“This looks just like his Ma's house,” Steve says, looking around.

“It should,” Michael says, “she lived here for forty years. We never really redecorated. Please, sit. Would you like something? Tea, coffee, food?”

Darcy perks up. “Do you have any pastries?”

Michael laughs. “I'll bring some out.”

They sit down, Steve pulling a face when couch sinks a little more than it probably should when he settles. “I don't weigh that much,” he murmurs.

“I think everything's falling apart a bit here,” she says quietly. There's a silver framed picture on the side table, a browning shot of two men with their arms around each other. One's tall and broad with thick dark hair, pretty clearly Michael minus about forty years, and the other guy is shorter, older, a little rounder. Arnie, she's guessing. She nudges Steve and points at it. “I think Arnie's gay,” she says.

He blinks at her. “Yeah,” he says, “I guessed that before.”

“Oh well, look at you, Mr Modernity.”

“People were gay when I was younger, they just didn't talk about it,” Steve says mildly.

Michael comes back in with a tray of food while Steve's looking at the picture and smiles. “We were on holiday in Miami,” he says. “I tanned, he burned.”

“Yeah, we had that in common,” Steve says.

Michael puts the tray down on the coffee table and Darcy scans it quickly – matzos, score. She grabs one before even Steve can get there, and stuffs it in her mouth.

“This is really good,” she says, covering her mouth with her hand. Steve grins lopsidedly.

“Thank you,” Michael says, “they're usually big sellers this time of year.”

She swallows and pats at the corners of her mouth in a last ditch attempt to recapture her dignity. “Oh,” she says, “I guess Passover's coming up soon, huh?”

“Couple of weeks,” he says, and turns his head to one side. “I think I hear Arnie. Just give me a minute.” He walks out of the room and turns down a little hallway, leaving Steve and Darcy alone again.

“You okay?” she asks.

“I'm... I think so. Why, don't I seem it?”

She nods at the table. “Well, you haven't eaten anything yet, so...”

“Oh,” he says, grabs a piece of matzo off the tray and takes a bite. “Wow, these are good.”

Floorboards creak out in the hallway, and they both look up at the door. She sees Michael first, rounding the doorway with his arm around very little, very old man. She glances at Steve, whose face has gone tight, and pats him gently on the knee.

Michael helps Arnie over to the chair at an agonisingly slow pace, and she watches with a slight wince – this is how Steve would have been, should be, and she knows that there's no way that's escaping his attention.

“Arnie,” he says, half standing from his seat.

“Took you long enough to come round,” Arnie says. His voice is kind of thin and gravelly, like it's a strain to really talk. Michael helps him lower himself into an armchair painstakingly slowly.

“Sorry,” Steve murmurs.

“You know, I never really believed Arnie when he said that he knew Captain America,” Michael says, pulling a chair up to sit beside Arnie. “Especially when he said that he used to protect you from bullies.”

“He did. His whole family took me in when I was a kid.”

“You were the son my mother never had,” Arnie says.

Steve frowns. “You had five brothers.”

“My point remains,” he says, arching an eyebrow. Darcy thinks she likes this old dude. “Now, are you going to introduce me...?”

“I-- oh.” He looks back at Darcy. “Oh yeah, of course, this is Darcy, my wife.”

She leans around him and quickly shakes his hand. “You make awesome matzo, by the way.”

There's a little twinkle in Arnie's eye as he glances at Steve. “My mother would be very happy to know that you married a nice Jewish girl. Of course, she wanted it to be Deb, but at least she was half right.”

“Deb? Your little sister? How is she?”

“Oh, she passed a while back,” Arnie says, and Darcy can almost feel Steve wilt beside her. She slips her arm around his waist.

“You just met her daughter, Judy, before,” Michael adds.

“This, by the way, is my husband,” Arnie says. “Married July 24th, 2011. Michael, get the photo album.”

Michael sighs. “Yes, dear.”

They look at the cutest old people wedding pictures Darcy's ever seen, and she shares her one wedding picture of her and Steve that Jane took on her phone (they look like they're at the prom and it occurs to her that maybe Pepper has some better ones, because they really should have proper pictures to put into a fancy album like Arnie and Michael's), and then they look at older stuff, and she realises that these guys have been together for, like, fifty years. She can't even imagine being with someone that long – she can barely imagine being with the same guy for two years. In fifty years, Steve's going to be seventy seven – are they really going to still be together when they're all old and wrinkled? Is Steve even going to age the same as everyone else or is he going still look thirty and she'll look like his grandma and that'll be weird and a little creepy?

Well, that escalated quickly. She shakes her head and looks back at the pictures. Arnie's got even older pictures, in an ancient album that looks like it's being held together with tape and prayer. It also happens to have the oldest picture (save for her locket) of Steve she's ever seen. It's black and white and curling around the edges, but she can tell it's Steve.

“What were we, six?” Steve says, looking up Arnie.

“'bout that,” Arnie says, yawning. “It was my family's first camera, my ma took pictures of everyone.”

Steve's absolutely tiny in it, a whole head shorter than Arnie standing beside him, wearing extremely ill-fitting clothes, his face covered in freckles and dirt.

“You had freckles!” she says.

“Good old Irish skin,” he says, “it was either freckles or first degree burns.”

They flick through more pictures, but it's pretty obvious that Arnie's flagging, and a couple of hours after they arrived, Michael quietly suggests that they should call it a day, as Arnie dozes in his chair.

“Come back any time,” he says as they get ready to leave. He gives them a box of assorted pastries and won't hear of taking payment.

Arnie startles away as they move to the door. “Oh, you don't have to go so soon,” he murmurs tiredly. Michael rolls his eyes.

“I'll come back again soon,” Steve promises, walking back over him. He crouches down in front of the chair and holds out his hand.

“If you're sure...” Arnie says, taking it. “Seeing you after all these years... My mother cried for days when we heard the news that you'd died. She tried to get custody of you after your mother passed, you know, but the city just wouldn't allow it.”

Oof. Darcy knows he means it to be comforting, but that's going to stick with Steve, and not in a good way.

Steve squeezes his hand and smiles tightly. “I'll see you again soon,” he says softly.

When they get back out onto the street, Steve looks a little lost, holding his keys loosely. She rubs his back and looks up at him. “You okay?”

He shrugs. “I guess. Um... do you wanna drive? I don't really... feel like it.”

“Damn, I'd be honoured,” she says, snatching the keys out of his hand. This isn't exactly the circumstances under which she hoped this would happen, but she is not going to pass up the opportunity to drive his goddamn sex machine motorcycle.

She settles on the bike, adjusting the handlebars and the seat, and pulls on her helmet. “Hop on, partner,” she says.

Steve's answering laugh sounds a little hollow, but at least it's something. He gets on behind her and wraps his arms around her waist.

“Good?” she checks. She feels him drops his chin to her shoulder.

“Yeah,” he says. “Let's go home.”

It's as fun as she thought it would be, driving Steve's bike. She got her license when she was seventeen, but she hasn't used it in years, and in the eight months they've been together, it just hasn't really come up. It feels nice having Steve hold onto her, too, he's such a pleasingly solid presence against her.

It's almost time to eat when they get home, and Steve disappears into the kitchen to make supper while Darcy changes back into her normal weekend wear: an old, now embarrassing, band t-shirt and Steve's sweatpants, which fit almost perfectly on her hips but have to be rolled up a good six inches on the legs.

She goes back into the kitchen and pulls herself up to sit on the counter while Steve chops vegetables. “Hey,” she says, “so was today... good?”

Steve's hand stills. “It was... yeah, I mean I don't regret it, but I guess I didn't come away from it feeling so great.”

“I think he was really pleased to see you,” she offers.

“Yeah.” He puts the knife down and turns to look at her. “I'm glad that I made him happy, but...” He shrugs. “He's so old.”

She almost laughs, because it sounds like such an immature thing to say, but she knows he doesn't mean it like that. “Yeah,” she says, because she doesn't know what else to say. “The thing about, um, his mom wanting to adopt you, I think that... I mean, do you want to talk about that?”

He shrugs. “The way I see it, I would've had a better life with Arnie's family, anything's better than an orphanage, but... I probably wouldn't've become Captain America if I had...”

“I don't know, I think you've always been Cap on the inside.”

“Well... I dunno,” he says, smiling a little. “But I wouldn't've met Bucky or Peggy or Howard, and I wouldn't be here with you, so I can't be upset about it, can I, 'cause this is the only place that I want to be.”

She smiles and opens her arms, beckoning him forward for a hug that he comes readily to. She gives him a good hard squeeze. “It's okay to feel a little sad about it, though.”

He tucks his chin down and kisses her shoulder. “Maybe a little.”

-

Mid morning the following Monday sees her sitting at her desk playing tetris, and she fucking hates tetris, but the higher-ups are having a staff meeting about Wilson which Darcy was specifically not invited to, and it's Matthew's day off, so she doesn't even have a buddy to complain to. Not that he's much of a buddy at all, he's kind of an asshole, but he's reasonably attractive, so people talk to him.

She does what she always does when she's in a mood like this, she calls her mom.

“Hey, Mom.”

“Sweetheart, you know it's nine am here, don't you?”

Darcy rolls her eyes. “Yeah, but you're up, I know your teaching schedule.”

Her mother sighs. “And you also know that I like to start my mornings quietly. It's hard enough with your father around. What's up?”

“Mommy, all the kids at work are being mean to me,” Darcy says, just as someone walks by, eyebrows raised. She pulls a face at their retreating back and hunches over her desk.

“Well, do you want me to talk to the principal?”

Darcy imagines her going up against Fury, man, she could sell tickets to that show. “Nah, it's okay. But I do have a real question – are Grandma and Pop having everyone round for Passover this year?”

“They are... why?”

“I'm thinking, maybe me and Steve will come.”

Really?

“Well, would you rather we didn't? Because if we're not wanted...”

Her mother sighs deeply. “Of course you're wanted, your grandparents would be delighted. You just haven't come home for Passover in years.”

“People change.”

“Mm-hm, we'll see. Do you think Steve's really going to want to celebrate Passover with all our crazy relatives?”

“Yeah, he'll want to. Look, the thing is...” She hasn't really told her parents anything about Steve's problems, because she knows they'd only worry, and she doesn't think that Steve would appreciate her broadcasting it, but she guesses it's okay to mention something. “The thing is, Steve's been having some... problems, recently, and he's better, but I think what would really help is if he felt like part of family that's bigger than just the two of us. I think it'd make him happy to feel like one of the tribe.”

“Well, I'm sure that can be arranged. Your grandfather will certainly be thrilled. And you'll be able to spend your birthday with us, so that works out perfectly!”

“Oh...” she says, “yeah.” Damn, she forgot that Passover ended on her birthday. Her birthday being on April 1st. Yeah, that's kept family and friends and enemies well-stocked in jokes over the years. “Fair warning, though, if Becky tries to embarrass me in front of Steve, I refuse to be held responsible for what I do.”

“I'm warned,” her mother says. “So, is Steve all right?” She says it in a mild tone, but Darcy knows what she's asking is, 'are you all right?'.

“Yeah, he's okay. He just... I don't know. I don't think he knows. I think he just feels a bit lost at the moment. I guess he's kind of... transitioning from being Cap to being Steve again. He's going to be fine.”

“Mm-hm. Well, you know you can call me any time.”

“Yes, Mother,” Darcy says. “Look, I've gotta go, I'm meant to be working right now.”

You were the one who called me,” her mother says.

-

Steve is totally into the idea, just like she thought he'd be, but after a couple of minutes he starts fussing about whether he'll be welcome.

“Are you shitting me?”

Steve half-heartedly glares at her. “No, I'm just sayin', it's a-- a religious holiday, and I'm not...”

“It's an opportunity to get a week off work and eat, and, at least this year, come stare at the big hot superhero.”

He laughs. “How bad am I gonna get it from your family?”

“Well, Becky is going to follow you around and try to 'playfully' grope your biceps, Pop's going to corner you somewhere and talk at you for two hours, and all the various kids are going to ask you endless inane questions. But hey, if it gets too much, you've got me, Mom, and Dad to pull you out of the fire.”

“I'm sure I'll be fine,” he says. “Thanks for--”

She slaps her hand over his mouth and narrows her eyes at him. “Don't even finish that sentence.”

“Mmph,” he mumbles.

“Promise?”

He scrunches up his eyebrows at her. “Mmph.”

“Well, okay...” She removes her hand slowly and quickly replaces it with her mouth.

“Mm,” he hums, and she can feel the corners of his mouth curve up against hers.

-

She gets the week and a half off work without much issue. Sitwell grumbles a bit about it, but honestly she's pretty sure he'd prefer she wasn't around at all. It would certainly make this Wilson case easier for him to deal with. She downloads what she can of the file to her phone, and decides that she'll take the week to think about what, if anything, she should do about it.

They get to her grandparents' house in the mid-morning the day before Passover, and they manage it with minimal media coverage, since S.H.I.E.L.D. are none too subtly following them.

“I'm nervous,” Steve murmurs, as the cab pulls up outside the house. She checks out the driver looking at them in the rearview mirror, so she hands him two twenties, tells him to keep the change, and tugs Steve out of the car.

“If you're nervous, the rest of us are fucked.”

The cab driver springs out of the car to get their bags from the trunk, but Steve gets there first, smiling pleasantly, and the guy just smiles back stupidly.

They get about four steps up onto the property when the door opens and Pop ambles out. He goes in for a hug with her, but she knows that he never bursts out of the door like that when she doesn't bring a superhero home with her.

“Sweetheart!” he says, kissing the top of her head. “It's good to see you.”

“Sure,” she says, patting him on the chest.

His raises his eyebrows at her. “Well, are you going to introduce me to this husband of yours?”

She turns back and looks at Steve, who's holding all their bags and looking extremely awkward about it. “C'mere,” she says.

Steve puts down the bags and sticks his hand out. “Good morning, sir, um...”

“Ted,” she supplies.

“Ted,” he repeats, smiling widely.

Pop gets that look on his face that most people do around Steve, that momentary blank look and little swoon. “It's an honour to meet you, Captain, truly,” he says, grasping Steve's hand.

“Oh, well...” Steve says. “Thank you?”

“Steve!” her father calls from the door, then quickly makes it over to them and hugs them both in turn. Steve's hug lasts longer, she notes.

“Still excited about being Cap's father in law, huh?” she says.

“I'm the cool guy at the office now,” he says.

“That's not going to last,” she says, and Pop laughs.

“Dad!” her father says, “don't embarrass me in front of the kids!”

“Maybe we should get inside, people are starting to look...” Steve murmurs, and sure enough she can see some kids across the road taking pictures with their iPhones.

“Good idea,” she says, and grabs one of the bags. Her father and grandfather grab the other two, and Steve is left empty-handed, which she's sure is just sending his sense of chivalry into a tailspin.

There's a similar scene of patriotic appreciation in the downstairs hallway when her grandmother comes out to meet him. She cranes her neck back to look at him and widens her eyes.

“Oh my,” she says, offering her hand. “Hello.”

“Hi...”

“Abby,” Darcy says. She probably should have told him their names before.

“Abby,” he says, and her grandmother seriously bats her fucking eyelids at him. Steve smiles a pleasant smile which starts to slip when she doesn't let go.

“All right, break it up, where're we putting our bags?” Darcy says.

“Oh, yes...” her grandmother mutters, wiping her hands on her pants. “Down here.”

They follow her around the maze of a house and down the stairs into the basement, and unless her grandparents have renovated the house without telling anyone...

“You're putting Captain America in Pop's workshop?” she says, looking around at the cramped basement, shelves upon shelves of crap lining the walls and a mattress on the floor in the middle.

“It's okay,” Steve says, “I've slept worst places than this.”

She turns around and smacks him in the chest. “You're not helping my case here, dude.”

His nose wrinkles up as he smiles. “Sorry.”

“This is the only place we could fit a third king-sized bed. If you and Steve want to sleep apart, I can make up beds for you upstairs.”

Darcy sighs. “No, this is fine.”

“Somehow, I thought you'd say that,” Grandma says. “Well, I leave you to get settled.”

Darcy sighs some more as she leaves, then turns to Steve. “Sorry about this.”

“It really is fine,” he says. “You know I could sleep outside on the concrete and be fine.”

“Mm. Well, I guess one good thing about being down here is that no one's going to be able to hear what's going on.”

Steve closes his hands around her hips. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, Pop gets so pissed that no one can hear him yelling for a sandwich.”

Steve smiles and tips his head down to kiss her. “I don't suppose we have time to test that out now, do we?” he says, and she's pretty sure he's mostly joking, but she knows that it only takes him thirty seconds to get undressed, even when he's all decked out in his 1940s gear.

“Come on,” she says, smoothing out his shirt, “I've gotta show you off to everyone.”

Everyone's congregated in the kitchen when they get back upstairs, in the middle of a conversation that abruptly stops when she and Steve walk in. She narrows her eyes at the room and steps a little in front of Steve, who laughs and presses a kiss to her hair.

“Having a nice chat?” she asks.

“We were talking about the weather,” her dad says. He's always been a terrible liar, which she guesses is why he didn't become a trial lawyer.

“Uh huh,” she says, scanning the room. Oh, Grandma is making matzo balls. She reaches out to grab one off the tray and gets whacked on the hand with the spatula. “Ow! What, why are you hitting me?”

“You know why,” her grandmother says, staring her down.

“I... oh, fuck,” she says, and pauses. “Fudge.” Her grandmother just shakes her head as if Darcy's a lost cause.

“What's wrong?” Steve asks.

“Gotta fast the day before the beginning of Passover. Ugh, really, we're still doing that?”

“It's an important part of our culture,” Pop says, digging into a packet of chips. Steve frowns.

“Only first borns have to do it. In fact, most people only get first born males to fast, but we're progressive,” she says with a sigh, and flops down onto a chair. “Goddamn you, parents.”

Her dad huffs. “I'm in the same boat, kid,” he says, glaring at her mom as Pop shares his chips with her.

“We'll eat at sundown,” her grandmother says, “it's really not that long. Steve, honey, do you want to try one of these?”

The corner of Steve's mouth tips up a little at being called 'honey'. “Oh no, I'm, I'm first born too.”

“But you're not Jewish, sweetheart, you don't have to,” her grandmother says, and like, seriously, terms of endearment have never been her thing before. Her grandmother better not try to move in on her man.

“I know, but...”

“Solidarity, man,” Darcy says, and leans over for a fist bump. He bumps it back and smiles.

“Exactly.”

“Well, if you're sure,” Grandma says.

“I am, thank you... Abby,” he says, sitting down next to Darcy.

Grandma sighs wistfully. “Such lovely manners.”

-

They move into the living room to chat and watch TV, which means Pop and her dad arguing about legal procedures on cop shows, and her grandmother and mother forming their own two person book club. Apparently they've been reading a lot of John Grisham novels recently. Of course, all of this is interspersed with various levels of grilling Steve about what it's like being a superhero, what Tony Stark is really like, and what Steve's doing to defend her honour.

Steve blinks a few times and frowns. “Uh...”

“Pop, leave him alone,” Darcy says, glancing at Steve, who still looks a little confused.

“It was just a joke,” Pop mutters.

Steve says progressively less and less as the afternoon wears on. Her dad declares that he can't deal with his father any more and storms out of the room. Steve watches him go for a moment, then looks at the floor.

“Hey,” she says, leaning over to him, “you okay?”

He blinks about a dozen times before he looks round at her. “Huh? Oh, yeah. Um... I'm gonna... go to the restroom.”

She raises her eyebrows. “Okay.”

“Okay,” he says, and gets up slowly, which gets her suspicious right off the bat, because Steve pretty much springs from one place to another, he's so full of energy to burn. Her grandparents and mom are setting up the table decorations and not really paying attention, which is good because it means they don't catch Steve swaying on his feet and stumbling to one side as he leaves the room. She jumps up after him and ducks under his arm, wrapping her arm around his waist.

“Uh,” he mumbles, looking down at her.

“C'mon,” she says, “let's get you out into the hallway.”

“Yeah,” he mutters, and lets her hustle him out of the room. She leads him over to the staircase and sits him down, and he rubs his hands over his face, digging his heels into his eyes.

She crouches down in front of him and frowns. “Dude, what's wrong?”

“I'm just, uh, a bit dizzy, that's all,” he says, dropping his hands to his knees and blinking hard.

“Shit,” she says. “Shit, what was I thinking, of course you can't fast, you're burning everything up too quick.”

“I should be able to, though. I barely ate for three days in Boca Caliente.”

“Yeah but I bet you had some crazy adrenaline going on out there. Hopefully this place isn't as bad as a war zone. Not yet, anyway.”

He laughs. “I guess you're right.”

“Cool. Let's get some food in you.”

He shakes his head. “I'll be fine, it's not so long till sunset.”

She arches an eyebrow. “Dude, it's three hours, and you're about to hit the deck as it is. Look, you wouldn't tell a diabetic that they shouldn't eat, would you?”

“But I'm not diabetic.”

“You may as well be. Look, we Jews don't like to cause ourselves undue suffering, so it's totally fine to break a fast if there's a good reason to.”

“I just feel bad doin' it...” he says, but she can tell that she's already got him.

“Then stop feeling bad,” she says, and pulls him up. He stumbles a bit, and it takes them a moment to get to grips, which is kind of dangerous when you're talking about a man made of two hundred pounds of muscle and super strength. She manages to walk him over to the kitchen, though, and opens the door to find that they're not the only ones thinking about raiding the fridge.

“Dad?” she says, pushing Steve into a chair.

Her dad looks up from where he's hunched over a great big slab of chocolate cake. “Shit,” he says.

“Yeah,” she says, and grabs a plate, a knife and a fork from the rack and slices it basically in half. “I'm taking this.”

“Hey!” he says.

She slides it across the table to Steve. “It's for Steve,” she says.

“Why's he allowed to eat?”

“Because his metabolism is four times faster than yours and that cake is not even kosher.”

He spreads his hands. “I was just getting rid of it before Passover. I'm doing the whole family a service.”

“Uh huh.” She pats Steve, who's already halfway through the cake and she can tell he's pacing himself, on the shoulder. “I'm gonna grab your protein powder from your bag, I'll be back in a minute.”

When she gets back with the mammoth tub of powder, Steve is laughing about something her dad has said, and seems to be finishing off what's left of the cake.

“You gave him the rest of it?” she asks her father.

“He just made such big eyes at it, I couldn't say no.”

“I did not,” Steve says with a smile. Darcy pops the lid of the protein powder and he starts to get up. “Hey, I'll do that.”

“Nope, sit down, I've got it, I've watched you do it enough times.” She puts the tub down on the counter and looks at it. She knows that he doesn't follow the instructions on the side, and substitutes a bunch of stuff, but what?

“Milk,” he says.

“I know that,” she tuts. She grabs the milk and the blender and reads the back of the tub again. It says one and a half scoops, but she has a suspicion that he uses more.

“Five scoops,” he says.

She turns and glares at him, and he grins back. She scoops the powder in and taps her fingers on the counter. Sugar!

“That does not look healthy,” her dad says, as she heaps the sugar in.

“I burn sugar off so fast, I have to eat a lot of it,” Steve says.

“Sometimes he just eats it straight out of the bag,” she adds. “You want me to throw something else in here before I blend it?”

“Uh... got any chocolate sauce?”

She opens the cupboard. “Let's see... Yep, here it is.” She squeezes a large helping into the blender and fits the lid on before switching it on. She didn't quite get the measurements right though, because it starts dripping down the side of the jug. “Damn,” she mutters, grabbing a paper towel to staunch the flow of the concoction she's created. She slops some of it into a cup and puts both the cup and the jug down in front of him.

“Don't say I never do anything for you,” she says.

“I never say that,” he replies, before draining like half of the cup in one go.

“That looks disgusting,” her father says.

“It's not great,” Steve agrees, and pats Darcy's hand when she pouts, “in general. But it lets me have a fairly normal eating schedule – three big meals and lots of snacks. Otherwise I'd be eating about every hour, day and night. It's better than the stuff they used to give me in the army, anyway, that was disgusting, least now I have the choice between vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry.”

“Being a supersoldier sounds like a lot of maintenance,” Dad says.

“Yep, even more than when I was a sickly little kid. At least I only needed a tiny bit of food back then.”

“Good thing you're rich,” he says.

Steve nods. “Yeah.”

“What's going on in here?” Grandma's voice carries from the doorway.

“Steve's the only one who's eating anything,” Darcy says quickly, and her dad nods vigorously. Technically it's true, Steve is the only one eating at the present moment.

“Oh, well that's fine, as long as it really was just Steve,” she says, and eyeballs him.

His ears start to go a little pink. “Yes, ma'am, just me,” he says steadily.

She narrows her eyes for a moment before tipping her chin up. “Well, okay then. Sammy, come help me with the candles.”

“But Mom,” Dad says in a high-pitched whine as he follows her out.

Steve chugs the rest of the shake and wipes his mouth.

“You just lied to my grandmother,” she says.

“I know... I'm blaming your dad if I get called on it.”

“It's a solid plan,” she says.

-

Dinner goes well. Her grandmother is clearly suspicious of her and her dad, but Steve's appetite thrills her. Darcy's pretty sure that she wants to pet him, but she controls herself.

“So, Steve,” Pop says.

Steve glances at Darcy out of the corner of his eye, and she pulls a face.

“Your face will stick like that, young lady,” Pop says. “Now, Steve, I've been wondering, why the costume change? It's a little... revealing.”

Steve snorts. “Yeah, it wasn't my choice, S.H.I.E.L.D. presented me with it. It's harder to get on and off, but it's easier to move in, it keeps me cooler, and the material is actually tougher, believe it or not.”

“So, you like it?” Pop asks.

“Nope, it's awful,” Steve says, and laughs. “But... people seem to like it.”

“I'm sure they do,” Pop says.

“Oh, don't be such an old man,” Dad says, “all the kids are wearing... blue spandex these days.”

Steve grins. “I really hope I don't start a trend, 'cause that would be horrific.”

“Oh, I don't know,” Mom says, “I like the... boots.”

Steve flushes an impressive shade of pink in a little under ten seconds. It's been a while since Darcy's seen him blush like that. “Okay,” he says, smiling awkwardly. “How about I go do the dishes?”

“Oh no, don't worry, guests don't have to wash up,” Grandma says, catching Steve half out of his chair.

“But he isn't a guest, he's your grandson-in-law,” Mom says, and Steve smiles widely – score one for Mom, seriously, “so he can damn well go wash the dishes with Sam.”

Darcy's father looks up. “Me? What did I do?”

“Wrong place, wrong time, Dad,” Darcy says, smiling.

“That's a very good point,” Grandma says, “Ted, you go help them too.”

Pop sighs, pushing his chair back from the table. Grandma coordinates the passing of the dishes to him. “This is your fault, Steve,” he says, as she loads him up.

“Yeah,” her dad says.

Steve ducks his head, still smiling. “Sorry.”

She watches him go for a second, talking and laughing with her father and grandfather, then turns back to her Mom and Grandma. “So...” she says. She may as well get this conversation out of the way now. “What do you think of Steve?”

“He's a doll,” Grandma says. “Literally, I saw them at the store a couple of days ago.”

“Ba dum tish,” Darcy murmurs. “How long have you been holding that one back?”

“I thought of it a couple of weeks ago,” she says. “But really, he's very sweet. I have to say I always thought he'd be a bit more...”

Darcy arches her eyebrow.

“Commanding,” she finishes with a nod.

So many replies flit through her mind, and she can see her mother looking at her with pre-emptive disappointment. She takes a breath. “Well, Cap is, but Steve's a go with the flow kind of guy. Or at least he tries to be.”

“I can see that. Do you treat him right?”

She laughs and shakes her head. If Steve needed any more proof that everyone loves him, this would be it. “He seems to think so.”

“Good, see that you keep that up.”

“You know I'm supposed to be the one you worry about, right?”

Her grandmother shrugs. “I haven't been worried about you since the time you kicked that boy in middle school who snapped your bra strap.”

Oh man, she'd forgotten all about that. She was the first girl in sixth grade to need a bra, which became abundantly clear in gym class. One genius, Charlie, decided that her wide, visible bra straps were just the best goddamn joke in the world. She kicked the shit out of his shin.

“Oh, how he cried,” she murmurs happily.

-

She and Steve retreat to their mattress on the floor at around ten. Early, for them, but it's that or stay in the living room and watch reruns of Modern Family with her grandparents, and they're about to have seven solid days of her extended family, so they need this time alone.

“So, what do you think of the family?” she asks. The mattress isn't that great, so she's using him as a a convenient pillow.

“I think they're great,” he says, twisting her hair around his fingers. He sounds like he really means it, too.

“Well, that's good, 'cause you're not going to be saying this tomorrow night.”

She feels a chuckle rumble through his chest and turns onto her side to look up at him. “I mean it. Even someone as nice as you isn't going to be able to stand Peter and his kids for long.”

“Noted,” he says, smirking.

She taps him on the chin. “Sarcasm isn't attractive.”

He catches her fingers and runs his thumb over her knuckles. “Learned from the best, didn't I?”

“Suave motherfucker,” she mutters, rolling onto her stomach, their chests meeting. Steve slides his arms up over his head without direction, and she smiles, a knot of arousal unfurling in her. She's already put a chair under the door handle to stop any unwanted visitors, so all she has to do is lean over to the bag beside the mattress and grab the box of condoms. She puts it next to his head, then threads her fingers through his, pinning his hands against the pillow, and kisses him slowly, until he's groaning into her mouth and spreading his legs wider.

He rocks his hips as she keeps kissing him, whining on every little thrust, getting himself all worked up before she's even got there. She breaks the kiss and grabs the box of condoms, scooting down the length of him (no pun intended), and tugs his sweatpants down. He licks his lips over and over, twitching his hips convulsively as she strokes him everywhere but his dick, condom held loosely in her other hand.

“Darce...” he groans.

She runs her palm up his thigh and his muscles pull and clench. “Mm-hm?”

He makes a grunting sound low in his throat and licks his lips again. “Nothin'”

“You've got nothing to say?” she says, pressing her nails into the corded muscle of his thigh. He sinks his teeth into his lip and shakes his head. “Really?” she says, pulling her hand away and replacing it with her teeth, biting lightly.

He gasps softly and digs his hips into the mattress, beginning to suck in ragged breaths. “Please,” he pants.

“You just had to say,” she murmurs, pulling away and tearing the condom wrapper open. Steve's eyes rake up and down her body for a moment before he grins lop-sidedly.

She rolls the condom on and scoots back so that her knees are bracketing his hips. He shifts from side to side, and she thinks about torturing him a bit longer, seeing how far he can stretch, but there's an ache between her legs that needs dealing with, so she shelves it for later and sinks down onto him.

“Nurgh,” he groans, dragging his legs across the sheets and squeezing his eyes shut for a couple of seconds as he acclimatises to it. When his eyes flicker open again, she clenches around him, just to watch the way his body shudders anew.

“Good?” she says, spreading her hands out over his chest.

“Great,” he moans, as she hits his nipples, rubbing her palms over them. She's never known a guy to be so sensitive around there before (hell, nipples do nothing for her), but she guesses he's sensitive all over his body – she's yet to find a spot on him that she can't turn into an erogenous zone after a couple of minutes. “Oh, God, yeah,” he groans, Adam's apple bobbing as he tips his head back, his fingers curling into his palms above his head.

It's amazing, she thinks, as he squirms beneath her while she takes it slow and steady, how much this gets to her. How fucking beautiful he is. How she increasingly just wants to hold him down and fuck him. How much he wants that too.

She loves how he opens himself up to her, spreads his arms and legs for her and leaves himself vulnerable. This kind of stuff never used to do it for her, but she guesses that even with all her experience, she's hasn't had a lot of really great sex. And she really hadn't expected to have any with Steve, once she realised how uptight and Catholic about it he was – she told herself that it wouldn't matter because he was so kind and compassionate and funny and perfect, but it definitely helps.

“Yeah, yeah,” he pants as she keeps grinding against him. She flicks his nipples and he tips his head back against the pillow, his moaning ratcheting up a couple of notches. She'd been semi-planning to tease him for a while, but shit, the sounds he's making go to her core and she's not going to be able to hold out against it. She slides her hands up, sweeping up the flushed skin of his neck and into his hair. His eyes flicker open, and he looks up at her with a checked out expression, his lips slightly parted, blue eyes so fucking clear. She another couple of good thrusts in and watches his face as his eyelids slide closed again, his mouth opens wider as he groans. Most people's 'O' faces are kind of goofy, but Steve's is just... it's just a fucking masterpiece, like something out of the hottest porn she's ever watched – in fact she's never seen anything even close to this in porn.

She's so caught up with watching his face that she doesn't notice that he's moved his arms until he's sliding a palm up her leg and pressing his fingers into her, smiling with his bottom lip caught between his teeth as she comes around him. She lets her head fall forward and curls over him as much as she can, because even with all this working out she's been doing she's still nowhere near as flexible as he is.

“Good?” he murmurs, still rubbing his fingers lightly over her over-sensitive clit.

She shudders. “You little shit,” she murmurs, kissing his chest.

He chuckles breathlessly, and strokes a hand over her hair. “'m just learnin' from the best.”

-

In the morning, she wakes up to Steve's steady breath on her neck and his arm curled around her waist. She opens her eyes slowly and runs her fingers through his hair.

“Mm,” he hums, shifting in closer. “Morning.”

“Morning.”

“I think the rest of your family's here,” he murmurs.

“Really?” Ah, shit, that means Becky's already here.

“Yeah, I heard a bunch of people comin' in before.”

She looks up at the ceiling. “You can hear them?”

“Yep. You don't wanna know the things I hear our neighbours doin'.”

“I kind of really do,” she says, and he laughs, rolling onto his back. “I guess we should get up.”

“Yeah...” he says, stretching his arms over his head and arching his back, before looking back over at her. He knows what he's doing.

When they eventually get out of bed, Darcy washes up in the little bathroom that Pop had added down here, and then digs around in her bag for clothes and make-up. Steve pulls on a pair of pants and a shirt, tucks the bottom in, and looks over at Darcy.

“Slow down, buddy, I'm going to be a while,” she says, brushing her hair out.

“I'm hungry,” he says.

“Well, I'm sure Grandma will feed you,” she replies.

Steve glances up at the ceiling. “I... think I'm gonna need back up, it sounds like they're having a fight up there.”

“And they call you a hero...” she murmurs, and tosses him an energy bar from her bag. She pretty much just emptied half the kitchen into their bags for the trip.

“Thanks,” he says, and sits back down on the mattress with his sketchbook.

She puts on a pair of tights and a polka dot dress, then cinches a belt tight around her waist, giving her the type of silhouette that her body tries its best to have but falls just slightly short of. Then she starts on her make-up, picking through the bag to find her least congealed tubes mascara and eyeliner.

The steady scritch-scritch-scritch of Steve's pencil stops after a few minutes. “You don't normally get all dressed up like this,” he says.

“Just making myself nice for the family get-together.”

“Huh,” he says. “Only time I've seen you put make-up on like that was when we got married.”

“I just want to look nice, is that a problem?” she says, a little snippily.

“No...” Steve says, and when she glances over her shoulder, he's frowning. “Of course not...”

She sighs. “Sorry, it's just... family, you know? Me and my cousin Becky have kind of an... adversarial relationship. I just want to look hotter than her today.”

“Well, you did that just by waking up,” he says, and grins when she rolls her eyes.

“Gold star, Steve,” she says, smiling. “Do I look nice, though?”

“You look beautiful.”

She puts down the mascara wand. “Okay. Just stick close to me, maybe some of that blond perfection will rub off.”

He snaps his sketchbook closed and stands up. “I feel like there's a rubbing joke to made here...”

“I have nothing left to teach you,” she says wistfully, tugging on a cardigan and heading for the door.

“Oh, I don't think that's true,” he says, sticking close to her back as they leave the basement.

Everyone has moved into the kitchen when Darcy and Steve get upstairs, and there's a very lively conversation about the proper way to prepare Borscht that holds everyone's attention for the first couple of minutes after they come into the kitchen.

“Save yourself,” Dad says, handing her a cup of coffee, and suddenly heads are swivelling towards them.

“Darcy!” Aunt Carol says, pulling her into a brief, crushing embrace that almost ends in coffee tragedy but for Steve swooping in and taking it from her. When Carol steps back, she grips Darcy's shoulders and says the kind of blandly pleasant things that relatives say, though her eyes keep drifting to Steve. When it's obvious she doesn't care about how Darcy's employment history is going, Darcy sighs and gestures to Steve.

“This is Steve, Steve, this is my aunt Carol, and my cousin Becky.” And shit, Becky looks just as cute as a button, like she always does. She had what looks like fresh highlights in her honey blonde hair, and Darcy isn't jealous or lacking in self-esteem, but the googly eyes Becky's making at Steve are just not fucking cool.

“Hi, Steve,” Becky says, and smiles as he shakes her hand. “I'm a big fan.”

“Thanks,” he says, and glances at Darcy.

“Steve, darling,” Grandma says, over the heads of Carol and Dad, “breakfast?”

“Yes, please,” he says instantly, then blinks. “If it's not too much trouble.”

She sighs and shakes her head. “Everyone, sit down.”

Darcy opts to stick with just her coffee while Steve demolishes his breakfast of home fries, eggs, and the protein shake that Grandma eyes distastefully. Becky looks a little surprised, and Darcy can't help but be pleased, because even Steve is less attractive when shovelling food into his face.

“So, Darcy,” Carol says, all fake friendliness. “Let's see the ring.”

“Oh yeah, sure,” she says, holding out her hand to show off her snake ring. Carol's face kind of falls.

“Didn't you think you should get her a diamond ring, Steve?” she says.

Steve looks caught, glass halfway to his mouth. “Uh... Darcy chose it herself?” he says.

“Well,” Carol says, and smiles. “It's very nice.”

“Thanks...” Darcy says, and leans over to steal some of Steve's fries.

Thankfully, the doorbell rings, and Carol jumps up, preventing any further discussion of Darcy's bad taste in jewellery. “Oh, that'll be Peter and the kids, I'll go let them in.”

That still leaves Becky, though, looking all sweet and perfect. Mom seems to read Darcy's mind, because she makes a face at her that says, 'don't start something you can't finish'. Darcy could totally finish it, though. Steve just blinks, face betraying nothing of the exchange, while Becky moons over him.

“Boys!” she hears uncle Peter yell, and she and her dad pull the exact same face.

“Get ready,” she says to Steve.

“Huh? Oh...” he finishes, as her little cousins race into the kitchen and skid to a halt, staring at him.

“Are you really Captain America?” Tommy asks, the oldest out of the bunch at nine, with his two little brothers peaking out behind him.

“Yeah,” Steve says, slipping into his meet-and-greet face. “Nice to meet you...”

“Thomas,” he says, sticking out his hand proudly. “And these are my brothers, Ian and Ben.”

Steve leans over to look at them, and the littlest (Ben...? Shit, Darcy doesn't even remember) shies away from his gaze. “Hey, guys,” Steve says.

“Kids!” Dad says, opening his arms. “Aren't you gonna say hello to your uncle?”

That pretty much gets a resounding silence, but they reluctantly shuffle over to him and leave Darcy to introduce Steve to Peter, who is sans wife, she notes; she's pretty sure that's going to contribute to the Passover fun.

-

The thing is, Darcy just doesn't really like kids. She's got nothing against them as a section of society – most of the time – but any younger than twelve and she's just doesn't really know what to do with them. They're into things like Justin Bieber and that British band with the weird name, which Darcy finds herself in the strange position of actually feeling too old to understand. Peter's kids are nice enough, but they're still stuck in that stage where they have like a bazillion questions about everything, all of which need answering right now. To her recollection, they normally spread these questions out among all the adults, but today, of course, Steve is the focal point. They interrogate him all day, until even his impeccable mask of pleasantness is cracking.

“Hey,” Steve says in the late afternoon, “how's about we watch a movie?”

“Yes!” Darcy replies, lunging for the DVD cabinet. “Kids, come choose something, 'kay?” she says, throwing the doors open, then leaves them to fight it out and returns to Steve, tucking herself under his arm on the couch. “Sorry about all the questions, we could have just stepped out onto the street if we'd wanted this kind of treatment.”

“I don't mind,” he says.

She glances at him out of of the corner of her eye and raises her eyebrows as the kids fight over whether to watch Kung-Fu Panda or The Dark Knight.

“I don't mind much,” he amends, smiling.

They settle on The Dark Knight, which Darcy is a little iffy on, but when she yells to Peter, he okays it, so whatever, it'll be his problem later.

“Oh, I love this movie!” Becky says, flopping down on the couch a little down from them. “I dressed up as the Joker at the premiere.”

Darcy begrudgingly has to admit to herself that that's pretty cool, but that doesn't mean she has to admit it out loud. “Uh huh,” she says, and gets comfortable against Steve as the dudes in creepy clown masks rob the bank.

Apparently double crossing and shooting dudes doesn't hold the attention of four year olds for very long, because Ben (and she's pretty sure now that the littlest is Ben) climbs up beside Steve and stares at him.

“Hi,” Steve says.

Ben stares some more.

“Hey, kid,” Darcy says, “you want to ask Steve something?”

Ben screws up his face and Steve glances at her. Hell, maybe the kid doesn't even speak yet; the last time she saw him he was like one, or something. When the hell do kids even start talking?

“Steve,” Ben says in the tiniest voice, pretty much answering her question.

“Yes?” he replies.

“What's the... the heaviest thing you've picked up?” Ben says quietly.

“The heaviest thing?” Steve repeats, looking thoughtful. “Huh...”

“Darcy,” Becky says out of the corner of her mouth, quiet enough to count as 'humour', but loud enough for Darcy to hear, and by extension coming through loud and clear to super-ears-Steve. Darcy just rolls her eyes, but the sharp look that Steve shoots Becky should by all rights freeze her in place. Darcy elbows him in the side and tips her head at Ben.

Steve narrows his eyes for a moment, then turns his attention back to Ben. Becky looks unsettled. Ha.

“Well...” Steve says to Ben, “one time I picked up a half-track – that's a big army truck.”

“Why?” Ben says.

“It got stuck in the mud. It was the first really big thing I'd had to move, so I kinda over-estimated how hard it'd be. It went about five feet into the air and twenty feet down the road.”

Darcy laughs. “You're making that up!”

“I'm not! I sure got it out of the hole, but the suspension was busted, so they made me push it the twenty miles back to base.”

“They really made you do that?” Tommy says, totally losing interest in the movie as well.

“Yeah, well it was my fault.”

“But you're a superhero!”

Steve shrugs. “That didn't matter to them, they used to make me haul all sorts of heavy things around. I was the dogsbody of the camp.”

“Didn't that annoy you?”

“Nah, it was just their way of makin' me feel like a part of the team. Darcy does the same thing.”

She pokes him in the chest. “I do not.”

“You do too,” he says, poking her back.

She sighs heavily and leans back against him. “Whatever.”

-

The dinner mayhem starts at five.

“Girls! Come in here!” Grandma calls from the kitchen in her sweetest voice.

Darcy grabs the throw off the back of the couch, pulls it over her head and hunches over. “Nope,” she says.

“What's going on?” Steve asks.

“I'm not here,” she says.

“You aren't?”

“Nope.”

She feels his palm fall on her back. “Okay,” he says with a laugh in his voice.

“Darcy!” her grandmother calls again, her voice getting closer, until Darcy's pretty sure she's in the room. “Darcy?”

“Darcy isn't here,” Steve says cheerfully.

“Really,” Grandma says. “So why's that blanket moving?”

“Strangest thing,” Steve says, “it just grew sentience a couple of minutes ago.”

“Well, it's a shame that Darcy isn't around, because now I don't have anyone to taste the charoset...”

Darcy throws the blanket off. “I'm here! It was me all along!” she says.

Steve laughs and smooths down some of her errant hair.

“The sad thing is,” Grandma says, “she used to do the same thing when she was younger, but back then she really believed that I didn't realise it was her.”

Grandma puts Steve on potato peeling duty, which he does well and without a word of complaint.

“Just point him towards a task and he'll keep going till it's completed,” Darcy says. “Like a roomba.”

“Like a roomba?” Steve repeats, raising his eyebrows.

“Yeah, they just kind of--” She butts her head against his arm a couple of times. “--keep going until they think that bit of the carpet is clean.”

“What are you two doing?” Mom asks.

“I'm just demonstrating what a roomba does,” she says, giving his arm another head butt as an example. “See?”

Mom nods slowly. “I don't remember doing things like that when we were newlyweds,” she says to Dad, who shrugs.

Darcy sighs, and turns back to Steve, who's smiling to himself. She watches him for a couple of seconds before rubbing his back. “Like being called 'newlyweds'?” she says.

His smile turns kind of goofy and he leans over to give her a quick kiss. “Yeah.”

“You're doing a really good job with those,” Grandma says, totally ruining the moment.

“I'm Irish,” he says, “we know our potatoes.”

Darcy takes responsibility for making the charoset, sitting on the counter as she mashes the apples and nuts together and Steve chops various vegetables that Grandma gives him. Dad is dealing with the brisket, and everyone else has kind of just wandered away. Peter put the boys down in front of another movie and Pop ineffectually grumbles about how the Seder is supposed to be all about educating kids.

“What is that?” Steve asks, eyeing the bowl in her hands.

“It's deliciousness,” she says, adding some more cinnamon. “Wanna taste?”

“Sure,” he says. She grabs a spoon and scoops some out, then holds it up to his mouth. He raises an eyebrow, glancing across the kitchen to where Grandma and Dad are (spoon feeding has been known to lead to... other things at home), then closes his mouth around the spoon and licks it clean. “That is good,” he decides, wiping his mouth on his arm.

“Right?” she says. “My favourite part of Passover. This and matzo.”

Steve smiles and leans in to kiss her.

“No swapping spit around the food, please,” Dad says, grabbing a stack of plates.

Dad,” Darcy says, but Steve just laughs and continues dicing carrots.

-

Grandma makes a ton of food, enough to feed Steve and everyone else, though he tries not to take a helping bigger than anyone else's. Darcy just looks at his plate and raises her eyebrows.

“That's not enough food,” she says.

“It's fine,” he murmurs.

“Really?” she says, disbelieving. This from the guy who got through three large pizzas and two tubs of ice cream one night and still felt up to squirming and writhing underneath her later? Yeah, a couple of slices of brisket and a couple of roasted potatoes just aren't going to cut it.

“It's embarrassing,” he says, glancing around at everyone leaving the kitchen with their plates. “You know, eatin' so much.”

“You didn't have a problem with my parents at Christmas, and you don't have that problem with me.”

He shrugs. “It felt like... less pressure with your parents, and I don't have to impress you any more,” he finishes, with a goofy smile.

She bumps his shoulder. “Dick. Look, no one's going to be scandalised at your appetite. Probably they'll be distracted by Peter's kids starting a food fight.”

Steve grins, and looks back at the spread of food. “Maybe I'll take a little more.”

The dining table is all decked out when they get there, Seder plate in the middle, and half of her delightful family members already chowing down. Steve falters slightly as they sit down. Becky's on the other side of him, which Darcy can only imagine was engined that way.

“Isn't there...” he says quietly, frowning. “More... stuff?”

“'Stuff'?” Darcy repeats, picking up the glass of wine set out in front of her plate. “Oh, you mean, like, Jewish stuff?”

Steve shrugs.

“There are, like, fifteen different things you're meant to do, like praising God and washing your hands symbolically. We just eat and get drunk.”

“Fair enough,” he says.

There's some small talk that Steve participates in a little, though he seems perfectly content to just listen and smile at appropriate times. He's not bad at socialising by any means, but when he's not required to be 'on', he... isn't. He's still attentive and polite, though, listening to conversations and tracking peoples' movements.

“So, Darcy,” Carol says, and Darcy eyes her glass of wine. She isn't nearly drunk enough to talk to Carol. “How's married life treating you?”

“Pretty much the same as not-married life?” Darcy says, frowning. “Except now I get to wear these snazzy rings everyday.”

“And you didn't want a big wedding?”

Annnd there it is, she thinks. Auntie Carol wanted an invite.

“It was kind of a spur of the moment sort of thing,” she says, shrugging.

“I wanted her to marry me before she changed her mind,” Steve says, just above a murmur. Everyone looks at him, and he laughs self-consciously. “That was a joke, by the way.”

“It was nice and... private,” Darcy says, thinking back on it. She'd never really thought about getting married before it all sort of just happened. She's never been someone who really plans very many steps into the future (which if you want to make it sound good is 'living in the present', but generally it's just called, 'being stupid'). Marriage just wasn't something she saw herself doing and it kind of still isn't. And she didn't do it for Steve, she really didn't. She just did it because why the hell not? And since she'd never given weddings any thought, getting hitched in a friend's house was perfect for her. Of course it helped that that friend was a multimillionaire.

Fuck, what even is her life these days?

“Have you thought about having another ceremony. You know, for family?” Carol pushes. Jeez, lady, give it a rest.

“Hadn't thought about it,” Darcy says, looking at Steve, who doesn't seem all that enamoured with the idea.

“Carol, leave them alone,” Pop says. “Me and your mother got people off the street to witness us getting married.”

“Really?” Steve says.

Grandma smiles. “My parents didn't approve of the union, which is at least thirty percent of the reason that I even married him.”

Pop huffs and skewers a potato.

“Why didn't they approve?” Steve asks, then falters. “Uh, if that's not prying...”

She laughs and lays her cutlery down. “It's not prying, darling-” Again with the pet names! “-everyone else knows. You see, Ted came over with his family from Germany in the war. My parents weren't well disposed towards Germans, even the Jewish ones.”

“Oh,” Steve says, “that's awful.”

“It was pretty normal back then... Well, you know,” she says.

Steve frowns thoughtfully. Gah, this is not the trajectory Darcy wanted this dinner to go down. “Yeah...” he says.

“My parents didn't approve of me marrying Sam either,” Mom pipes up. “But that was just because they thought he was an idiot.”

That breaks the awkward tension somewhat, and then Darcy adds, wrapping her arm around his shoulders, “You're the only husband that's been approved of by my family in generations.”

-

Dinner drags on pretty late into the night, which gets the kids in turn hyperactive and whiny, and though Peter tries to put Ben to bed early, he ends up back downstairs crying about the 'scary man' who turns out to be the Joker. Darcy could have seen that coming from a mile away. And, of course, Ben only wants to be comforted by Steve, as the newest, shiniest person present, and the other two continue their constant grilling of him.

They manage to escape back to the basement at around midnight. Darcy's more than a little tipsy, and promptly flops down onto the mattress.

“Thank God,” she says, “I thought we'd never get away from them.”

“Yeah,” Steve says, amusement evident in his tone. “Those kids sure are a handful.”

“Yeah,” she agrees. “Make you want to have one?”

“It really doesn't,” he says, sitting down beside her.

Darcy nods to herself, a seed of a thought in her head that maybe this is an important conversation for them to have. She'd be able to focus on it better if it weren't for this bra cutting off circulation, though. This dressing up fancy to stick it to Becky thing was a crappy idea. She twists her arm behind her back and feels around for the clasp of the bra through her dress. “Ugh,” she whines, unable to free herself from her wire prison.

Steve laughs. “Let me do that, drunky.”

“Drunky!” she murmurs, mock scandalised, and rolls onto her side so that Steve can get at the clasp. “Ohhh,” she groans as he gets it open. “That feels so much better.”

Steve laughs again and lies down next to her as she settles back down on her back.

“Steve?” she says after a moment.

“Yeah?”

She turns her head to look at him. “Do you want to have kids?”

“I...” She watches as he frowns faintly, his mouth pouting as he thinks. He rolls over onto his side and pillows his cheek on his arm. “I guess I used to? At least, I thought that's what everyone just did. Get married, have a couple of kids. I didn't really think I would, but only 'cause no girl was ever gonna look at me. But now...” His brow furrows a little again. “I don't think I want the responsibility of it. I just... wanna be with you, you know? I don't wanna have to split my time.”

She smiles. “Yeah, same. Plus I don't want to put on a bunch of weight.”

Steve eyes drift downwards a little. “Your breasts would get really big,” he muses.

“Yes, they would, you pervert,” she says, swatting at him. Steve laughs and hides his face against her light attack. When she lets up, he shifts a little closer to her and wraps his arm around her waist. “And for our next trick, solving world hunger!” she says.

“Let's just get through the next week first,” he murmurs.

“Good plan,” she says. “So, how'd you like everyone?”

“Well...” Steve replies, trailing his fingers between her breasts. “I think you were right about what you said last night.”

“Of course I was. What did I say?”

He smiles and tips his chin up to rest on her collarbone. “That I wouldn't be saying that your family's great any more. I don't think I like Becky very much.”

“Becky's a bitch,” Darcy says cheerfully, “but I give as good as I get, so it balances out.”

“You seemed pretty nice to her today.”

“Yeah, but that's only because you were there. Otherwise I would have clawed her eyes out.”

Steve looks unconvinced. Oh, if he'd seen her in her high school years. Actually, he'd probably never have agreed to a first date, so thank God he didn't. “I wanted to tell her to shut the hell up, but I didn't want to make things uncomfortable for you.”

She kisses his forehead. “Best husband ever.”

He smiles, but his brow is all furrowed and his eyebrows look worried. Steve has very expressive eyebrows.

“What is it?” she asks.

“It's just...” He works a couple of fingers between the buttons of her dress and twists the material a little. “Has she always insulted your appearance like that?”

“Pretty much. We went to the same middle school for a couple of years until Carol and her husband moved away, and she was the pretty, skinny blonde one while I was the dark-haired goth who got beaten up by puberty before everyone else. In college, boobs are beloved, but in middle school, they're viewed with a certain amount of suspicion.”

Now Steve's eyebrows look concerned/thoughtful. “Blonds are overrated,” he settles on.

She tugs on the slight curl falling across his forehead. “You sure about that?”

“Cap's pretty overrated too.”

She frowns, sliding her fingers into his hair. “Steve...”

“Kidding, I'm kidding,” he says, closing his eyes. “That feels nice...”

She's pretty sure that he is not kidding, but she's equally sure that he's trying to change the subject by being cute and, sadly, it's working.

“You're not overrated,” she murmurs, kissing his forehead.

-

In the next few days, she's reminded why she never comes to family Passovers any more. Seven days with her family is about six days and twenty three hours too long. Steve copes pretty well with everything, but she can tell that he's flagging, and that he finds the constant stream of people draining. He goes for a few runs, but that little snot across the road the day they arrived recognised him and now there's press swarming, ready to get a picture of Steve.

Their last full day there just happens to be her birthday, and she wakes up to Steve gently playing with her hair.

“Morning, birthday girl,” he says, brushing his mouth against hers.

“Hey,” she says, sliding her hands up to his shoulder blades.

They kiss for a couple of long moments before Steve pulls back and smiles. “Excited to be twenty five?”

She wraps a hand around the back of his neck. “I'd be more excited if we were at home.”

Steve grins at that, leaning back in for another kiss, sliding his hand up her t-shirt and caressing her skin. She smiles into the kiss, stroking the back of his head.

“That's actually not what I meant, but don't stop,” she says, as his eyebrows climb. “It's just that since it's Passover, I'm not going to be getting a birthday cake.”

“Huh, I didn't think of that.”

She shrugs. “It's okay, it's happened over the years.”

Steve nods, eyes drifting thoughtfully for a moment. He sucks on the inside of his mouth, then looks back at her. “Can I give you your present now?”

She bites her lip and slides her hands down to his waist, pulling him down against her. “You definitely can, Captain.”

“Not that,” he says, scrunching up his face. He pushes himself up and gets off the bed, heading for his bag, and she mourns the loss of his warmth for a couple of seconds before turning her attention to him.

“You mean a real present? Oh, Steve, you didn't have to.”

“Sure, I didn't,” he says, glancing over his shoulder at her, and she sticks out her tongue. He pulls out a wrapped object and an envelope and comes back over to the bed. It's a very slim object, barely wider than the envelope with the card. She reaches for it instinctively and Steve pulls it away.

“Card first,” he says, putting the gold envelope into her hands.

“'Card first',” she repeats petulantly, opening the flap and sliding it out. It's made out of pale pink, crinkly paper, with hearts and fancy calligraphy drawn on the front. Hand drawn. She smiles up and flips it open – there are doodles all over the inside around the writing, someone getting water tipped on their head from a bucket balanced on top of a door, little superheroes with huge capes flying around the card.

“This is adorable,” she says.

“I'm glad you think so,” he says. When she looks back up at him, he seems kind of nervous. He hands over the present with a tight smile, mumbling, “It's stupid.”

“Don't tell me it's stupid before I open the stupid thing,” she says, which gets a laugh out of him.

She rips the top of it open and slides out what's inside. It's a... magazine? She frowns at the back cover, with an ad for some goofy looking pair of x-ray glasses, before flipping it over.

“It was a dumb ide--” Steve starts to say, and she leans over and covers his mouth with her hand, looking down at the cover. The Amazing Adventures of Darceline Lewinsky and Roger Stevens She's on the cover – well, the version of her that Steve sees, at least (and Jeeesus, if she didn't already know that this guy was crazy about her...) – and Steve's in the background, in a ridiculously over the top drawing of his suit. She opens the comic and starts reading, letting her hand fall away from his mouth. Thankfully, he doesn't try to talk himself down again as she turns the pages.

The story's about Darcy--Darceline, paper pusher extraordinaire, uncovering a huge alien conspiracy and saving the day, while her slightly dim superhero husband bashes the great big green invaders on the head with his shield. As soon as she turns the last page – a full page 1940s style spread of ads for things that look normal but aren't; toasters that transform into cars, and beds that can be hung from the ceiling by the power of anti-gravity – Steve takes a deep breath and starts talking again.

“I'm not a very good writer, so I know the whole thing's kinda of hokey and stupid, but I racked my brains for weeks over what to get you and I just couldn't think of anything...”

She puts the comic to one side very carefully, and climbs into his lap, hugging him. “It's the best birthday present ever,” she says, squeezing him hard.

He lets out a breath. “Good. Good, I'm glad, 'cause Tony's never gonna let me here the end of this.”

She leans back to look at him. “Tony?”

“Yeah, I had to get him to help me with printing it. Well, I had to ask him to print it for me. See how it says published by 'Stark Comics' in the top left hand corner? Those were his terms.”

She picks it back up and looks at the logo, a big 'C' with a little 'S' inside it. “Awesome.”

“Well, I dunno about that. He wouldn't let up about how adorable I was for doing this. I felt like a kid, or somethin'.”

“But you are adorable,” she says, kissing him. “Definitely not a kid, though.”

“I can live with that,” he says.

She settles into his lap and looks through the comic again. It must have taken him weeks to draw this. “This is what you wouldn't show me you were drawing, isn't it?”

“Yeah. I was so worried I wasn't going to finish it in time.”

“It's amazing. You should do this, you know. Draw comic books.”

His answering shrug jostles her a little. “I couldn't keep to a schedule. I mean, I don't know when I'll be busy for weeks at a time. I'm worried enough about what'll happen if I get this illustration job.”

“Okay, I get that,” she says. “What about doing an independent thing? Like, a webcomic, or something?”

His brow furrows. “Never thought about that. I guess I could?”

“You totally could,” she says, kissing his forehead. “Now, come on, you've got to stick with me today, because I know some fucker's gonna try to play a prank on me.”

“I won't let any fuckers prank you,” he says seriously.

-

She makes it through the day relatively unscathed, though Ben turns jumping out from behind various large objects and scaring her the game of the day. She gets an assortment of presents some of them good (gift certificates, hell yeah) some of them not so good (a re-gifted pair of earrings from Becky that Darcy knows Grandma gave her a couple of years ago), but nothing tops Steve's comic.

They take off the next morning, and Darcy has never been so glad to see the peeling wallpaper and water stained ceiling of their bedroom again.

She has the next day off, so she sleeps in, not even opening her eyes when she feels Steve get up and kiss her gently on the forehead. A few minutes later, she hears him clattering a round little in the kitchen, but she doesn't pay it much attention and is soon asleep again.

She wakes up for real a couple of hours later, by Steve's soft nudging of her arm.

“Happy birthday,” he says close to her ear.

“That was two days ago, doofus,” she mumbles into her pillow.

Steve laughs and brushes her hair back from her face. “Humour me,” he says.

“Huh?” she murmurs.

“Darcy,” he says, drawing out the syllables as he nuzzles her hair.

Jesus, he's going to wake her up with the sheer power of his adorableness. She rolls onto her back and looks up at him. “Morning,” she says.

He leans down and kisses her, then pulls back. “Close your eyes,” he says.

“Dude, they were closed before,” she grumbles, letting her eyes slide closed again. What the hell is he up to?

The mattress shifts a bit as he gets off it and then back on. “Open your eyes,” he says.

“Make up your mind,” she says, opening them. Steve is kneeling next to her on the bed, with a plate in his hands and goofy expression on his face. She blinks. “Did you... make me a birthday cake?”

Steve smiles and looks down at the slightly sloppy chocolate cake with the words 'Happy Birthday, Darcy' on it. “Nah, I made it for a different Darcy, just thought I'd get your opinion.”

She narrows her eyes at him and pulls herself up. “The next great comedian, folks. But seriously, you didn't have to.”

He grins. “I just got to thinking about what you said about not gettin' a cake. I called around some bakeries, but none of 'em could fill an order that quickly. I'm not much of a cook, but my ma used to make this. It's got no eggs, milk, or butter.” He frowns. “It's better than it sounds, though. Least I hope it is.”

“So, gimme a knife and let's find out.”

“Oh, cutlery,” he says, and sets the plate down on the bed. “Hang on, I'll be back in a minute.”

She looks down at the cake as he hurries away and thinks, for like the millionth time, that she hasn't done a single thing in her entire life to deserve a guy like him. Not that she's being down on herself, she's fucking awesome, it's just a totally different kind of awesome to Steve's awesome. Or something.

She shakes her head and smiles as Steve comes back with a knife and a couple more plates.

“Gimme,” she says, grabbing the knife from his hands. She slices herself a generous piece and takes a bite. “Oh man,” she says through a mouthful. “This is fucking amazing. Holy shit, is there anything you're not good at?”

He grins and cuts off a piece for himself. “I'm sure we'll find something eventually.”

“Dick,” she murmurs, licking icing off her fingers. “So, what're we doing today?”

He lifts his shoulders. “Whatever you want to do.”

“Well, first I want a shower,” she says.

“We can do that,” Steve replies, smiling some more.

She raises her eyebrows. “I'm sure that we can. And then, I want to take the bike out, and I want drive it again.”

“We can do that too,” he says, leaning over and kissing her.

-

They take the bike over to Queens, to her old stomping ground. As much ground as one can stomp after living somewhere for all of a year and change, at least. She chose Queens because the apartment was cheap and didn't ask for any references (let's just say, her previous landlord wouldn't have been so up for giving one), and Queens seemed cool and trendy and a little bit hipster, which she pretended to hate but really, doesn't everyone have a little hipster inside of them? She had several, before meeting Steve.

They get off at Flushing Meadows Park, and Steve looks around, smiling. “I haven't been here in... six years? Or whatever that is the other way. The Trylon and Perisphere used to be right over there,” he says pointing across the park. “It was a shame to see 'em go.”

“World's Fair, right?” she says, and he nods. “You went to that?”

“Couple of times. Admission was cheaper on the weekends, for some reason, but it was still pretty steep for me. Food was about the same again or even more, and they didn't like it if you brought your own. Rides were extra, too.”

“How much was admission?”

He looks at her and wrinkles up his nose with a smile. “You're gonna laugh. Forty cents.”

“Forty whole cents?” she asks. “Oh, my stars and garters!”

He tips his head back as he laughs. It's a nice sight to see, and she wraps her arm around his waist. “It was a lot at the time! 'specially for someone like me. You've gotta remember, bread cost eight cents, minimum wage was thirty cents an hour, and sometimes I still went hungry.” He says it with a smile, but, like a lot of Steve's anecdotes about his life before, it strikes Darcy as kind of terribly sad.

“Wanna go to the art gallery?” she asks.

“Do you? Today's supposed to be about you.”

She shrugs. “Sure. I like art, I'm cultured and shit. I even took an art history elective in my sophmore year.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, don't remember a thing about it, but hey, I got like an A in the course, or something.”

They wander over to the museum, Steve telling her how it used to be the New York City Building. “Never went inside, though, it was too boring, it was all about government stuff.”

She chose well in coming in here, she decides, just for the look on Steve's face at some of the exhibits. “That's a urinal,” he murmurs, frowning at what is, indeed, a urinal.

“Modern art,” she says.

Steve looks thoughtful. “I mean, I guess Duchamp did it first, but... I don't know, maybe I'll just stick to realism.”

She looks up at him, eyebrows raised a little.

“What?” he asks, frowning.

“Just thinking about what a brainbox you are.”

He looks at her like she's nuts. “I think you got me confused with someone else...” he says, smiling a little.

“Nope, it's definitely you.”

“Well... I guess the serum did jack my head up.”

She narrows her eyes. “Uh huh. Because you didn't know anything about art before the serum, right?”

“I...” He scratches at the back of his head and shrugs kind of bashfully. “I dunno.”

“I do,” she says, latching onto his arm. “Let's go look at that tiny model of New York.”

There are a dozen or so kids leaning over the platform above the Panorama, gawking at it and a couple of harried adults yelling at them to not throw their gum at it.

“Field trip,” she says to Steve, who's been eyeing them carefully. They agreed that they wouldn't try to hide and disguise themselves any more, but there's still that tension waiting for the first person to spot them, and she knows that it gets to Steve. The skin around his eyes gets tight for a moment before he takes a deep breath and smiles at her.

“Yeah. Poor teachers.”

It's the littlest kid that recognises them first. “Captain America!” he cries in a gratingly high-pitched voice. Steve looks at her and pulls a face. The kid runs up to them and tugs on Steve's pant leg. “You're Captain America!”

“Zachary, leave that man alo--” one of the teachers call, voice petering out as her gaze hit his face. Darcy's got to give her credit, she recovers pretty quickly, even if her face is now bright red. She comes up and ushers this Zachary kid back to the group, then clears her throat. “I'm sorry for Zach bothering you, he's a little energetic.”

“It's fine, don't worry about it,” he says, and he really does sound like it's totally fine, though Darcy knows better. Steve's the consummate performer in public.

“You really are, aren't you?” the woman says. “I mean, Captain America.”

“'fraid so,” he says, smiling. “And this is my wife, Darcy, Ms...?”

“Law,” she says, shaking Darcy's hand. “Or Catherine. Catherine.”

“Hi, Catherine,” Steve says, shaking her hand as well. He nods to the group, who are now all staring at them, along with some other visitors to the museum. Darcy sees that dick with the camera phone. “Field trip?” he asks.

“Yeah, we're trying to get them excited about art.”

“Good luck with that,” Darcy quips. Steve smirks a little and she clears her throat. “Sorry.”

“It's fine,” Catherine says, “this is the most animated they've been all day. Actually... I don't suppose you'd be interested in... maybe coming to the school sometime to speak, Captain? We don't get a lot of funding, it would do the world of good.”

The skin around Steve's eyes tightens again for a moment. This is not the kind of thing he likes to do – kids, parents, media coverage, and forced cheerfulness – but he's going to say yes, she can already tell.

“Sure,” he says, “I'd love to.”

There's an awkward pause, and it occurs to Darcy that maybe Steve doesn't want to give his phone number out, which is probably a sensible way to feel, but makes arranging stuff like this difficult without some kind of middleman. Maybe they need to hire a PR guy.

“Hey,” she says, smiling brightly, “what number can we get you at? Our people will call your people sort of thing?”

“Oh, right,” Catherine says, and digs around in her bag for a moment. She pulls out a little notepad and a pen, and writes her number on it. “Here you go. It's my cell, so you can call at any time.”

Darcy takes it and smiles. “Thanks. We've got to get going, but Steve'll call you soon.”

“Oh, okay, thank you!” Catherine says.

They makes tracks out of there after that. There isn't much more to look at, and the day has been kind of soured, so they leave the museum and head back to his bike.

“You okay?” she asks, sliding her hand into his. At least one person snaps a picture of them as they pass.

“Oh yeah, I'm fine,” he says, swinging their hands. “Gotta get used to it, don't I?”

“Sure, but it'd be nice not to be bothered on my birthday celebration.”

He laughs as they get back over to the bike. “If they knew it was your birthday, they wouldn't've dared disturb us.”

“If they had two brain cells to rub together, that's true.” She pulls her helmet back on and sits down on the bike. “Hop on, partner.”

-

The line for her coffee place of choice is stretching out the door when she gets there at eight thirty. She knew she shouldn't have crawled back into bed when Steve started nuzzling her hair. He's becoming such a bad influence.

After standing in the line for five unmoving minutes, she gives up on her dream of an Ethiopian mochachino and heads to S.H.I.E.L.D. Matthew will have to deal with the consequences when she gets there.

Her phone buzzes in her pocket as she dodges around people on the sidewalk and she pulls it out to find a message from Steve. It's a picture of a unicycle chained to a lamppost with a message that reads, there is a unicycle outside the grocery store.

typical brooklyn, she texts back.

Her phone buzzes again after a moment. I think I see the owner inside the store. He's wearing a baggy vest and a fedora. I wonder how he's going to get his groceries home on that thing.

well keep me posted

I will. :)

She's musing on how adorable Steve's continued use of emoticons is when she runs right into someone.

“Shit!” she says as she fumbles to keep a grip on her phone. She can't break another one of these damn things; AT&T aren't going to give her any more replacements for a while, that's for sure. A hand shoots out and catches it as she continues her awkward dance to hold onto it (shit, you'd think it was a bar of soap rather than a phone), and she breathes a sigh of relief.

“Damn, you just saved me like three hundred dollars there, kudos on your reflexes...” Darcy says as she looks up, and... shit.

“No worries,” the woman says, then blinks at Darcy a couple of times. “Uh.”

“Beth, right?”

“Um,” Beth – and it's definitely Beth, Darcy's got kind of familiar with her face recently – murmurs, looking like she wants to be called anything other than 'Beth'. “Yeah.”

“We meet at last,” Darcy says.

“Uh, yeah... I'm sorry about...”

Darcy waves her off. “I wasn't looking where I was going.”

“Oh, well, yeah, I meant the... the other thing...”

“'The other thing',” Darcy repeats, raising her eyebrows. The people moving around them on the sidewalk are starting to look pissed – is there anything New Yorkers hate more than people stopping in the middle of street? – so she nods over to a store window and they move out of the crush. “There's nothing to apologise for.”

There isn't a single part of her that thinks that Steve did or tried to do anything with Beth. The thing is, Darcy's had guys cheat on her. Several times, in fact, and she never had any trouble believing it. If she found an earring that wasn't hers, or an angry woman knocked on the door and informed her that Darcy's asshole boyfriend had got her pregnant? She packed a bag and peaced the fuck out of there. When she saw that fucking TMZ post, though, her first and only thought was 'bullshit'. And hell, maybe Beth was trying to put the moves on him, but he'd have told her if he'd realised, and Darcy can't really hold a little flirting against the woman.

“Well, uh, yeah, but it can't have been, I mean it can't have been fun for you. People got really nasty about it on the internet.”

“Yeah, it sucked. They weren't exactly kind on you, either, though.” Honestly, they hammered the fuck out of her. The internet doesn't think much of Darcy, but they hate 'the other woman' even more.

Beth shrugs. “It's fine. I've got to admit, I didn't think you'd be this nice to me. Or, at all.”

“What can I say, Steve's a good influence.”

“Yeah, he's... he's a nice man. I was really happy when I heard you'd got married. I thought, you know, that everything that happened might have caused you two some trouble.”

Let's be honest, she isn't that happy about it, but hell, Darcy'll take it. “Nah, we're solid, me and Steve. Hey so, do you work around here? You used to work near Stark Tower, right?”

Beth purses her lips. “I'm just shopping my résumé around... My boss let me go because I wasn't a 'good fit' work the café any more, after all the stuff with the newspapers.”

“What, are you serious? Shit, you should sue for wrongful dismissal.”

“I don't know...”

“Dude, my dad works on cases like that, you've totally got grounds.”

“Maybe...”

They stand in awkward silence for a moment; this is probably the most awkward situation she's been in in the last four years or so (probably nothing's ever going to top getting caught mid-unsatisfying-fumble by her then boyfriend's parents, in said parents' bed – that one's difficult to beat). “I've gotta... get to work,” she says, pulling out her phone as if that's some sort of proof.

“Oh! Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to keep you,” Beth says.

“No, you didn't, I've just gotta...”

“Sure, I should be getting the temp agency, anyway...”

“Yeah. Hey, I hope you find another job. It totally blows that your old boss was an asshole.”

Beth laughs. “Thanks. Well, maybe I'll see you around again.”

“Maybe. Apparently New York is a small place, who knew?” Jesus, why is she dragging this out?

Beth smiles and nods, and thankfully they part ways. Darcy's phone buzzes in her hand.

It wasn't the hipster's! A guy dressed as a clown just came round and rode away on it! He's really good, too...

-

Of course, the internet loves it.

“Hey,” Matthew says, poking her in the arm with a pen. Once he has her attention, he turns his computer screen towards her. “Trouble in paradise?”

“Huh?” she says, mind still stuck on the file she was poring over. Matthew taps the headline on the screen. 'Mrs America to Captain's Mistress: back off bitch!'.

“Which reminds me, do I have to call you Mrs Rogers now?”

She sighs, and looks back at her screen. “You're a terrible person and you deserved that demotion off the helicarrier.”

“Now you're just being mean,” he says, turning his screen back. “What are you even doing over there?”

“It's called 'my job'. Maybe you should try doing yours sometime.”

“You've changed,” Matthew says, shaking his head.

Maybe she has. She opens up Wilson's file again and scans it. She can't see the whole thing, but she can see that it's being updated regularly, so she's guessing that the surveillance is ongoing.

Fuck it. She grabs her phone and shoots Steve a text: can u meet me in harlem 2nite after i leave wrk – 8pm?.

Steve replies a couple of minutes later. Sure. Why?

2 long ill tell u when we're there.

OK. Xxx.

She smiles down at the phone.

“It doesn't look like you're doing that much work any more, Mrs Rogers,” Matthew says snidely.

“Fuck off, Matthew,” she says, attention still on her phone. Matthew sniggers and she lifts her eyes to find Sitwell standing in front of their desks. “Chief,” she says, saluting him.

“Agents,” he drawls, and walks away.

-

She takes the subway to Harlem after work and waits in the station for Steve. Of all the ideas that she's had in her life, this is probably the worst. She can't imagine that there isn't at least one S.H.I.E.L.D. spook following her, and she wouldn't be surprised if she's sacked on the spot, or worse. She guesses that if Steve is against what she's planning, she won't do it, but she's probably halfway to being fired right now anyway.

Someone taps her on the shoulder, and she jumps about an inch off the ground.

“Hey, it's me,” Steve says, his eyebrows drawing together worriedly. “You okay?”

She sighs and wraps her arms around his middle. “Just jumpy.”

“Okay...” Steve says slowly. “So, what are we doing out here, anyway?”

She pulls back a little and looks up at him. “Remember how I was having some trouble at work? People were laughing at me and stuff?”

Steve's expression darkens a little. “Yeah. Do I need to punch someone?”

“Not right now, honey,” she says, laughing, and pats him on the chest. “Well, you know how they weren't listening to me about this guy they were surveilling and how I thought that he seemed like a good guy?”

“That guy lives in Harlem,” Steve guesses, nodding.

“Exactly. And I'm kind of worried about what they're going to do to him once they decide that surveillance isn't enough. I was sitting at my desk today, thinking 'what would Steve do', and what you would do is you would help out a guy who's just trying to do the right thing.”

“Maybe,” Steve says, eyes going shifty as he does a piss poor job of lying. “But it's going to get you in trouble.”

She shrugs. “It's still the right thing to do. And anyway, that's why I called you to come with me.”

“Oh, I see, I'm just your bodyguard, huh?”

“And I'm a famous musician who's getting death threats from a crazy stalker.”

Steve narrows his eyes for a moment before saying, “Whitney Houston.”

She takes his hand and tugs him towards the exit. “Gold star.”

She shows him some of the articles that have been written about Wilson's after school activities on a couple of local websites. Avenger Wannabe Cleans Up Neighbourhood! one says, while another leads with the slightly more slanderous Local Nut Thinks He's Captain America!.

The problem is, though, that he's not a nut. S.H.I.E.L.D. investigate a lot of people who put on tights and run around getting into fights, and quickly pass the cases over to local authorities to deal with as they see fit. Wilson, on the other hand, has an idea of what he's doing. Maybe he's messing some stuff up here and there, but he's got some kind of plan.

“So, what're we gonna do when we get there?” Steve asks, 'there' being Wilson's apartment.

“I was hoping you'd figure something out, amazing strategist that you are.”

“I guess we've just gotta talk to him and go from there.”

It's about a ten minute walk to Wilson's neighbourhood, a leafy block with lots of hip looking stores. It reminds her a bit of home. “Okay,” she says, lifting her hand and pointing to one of the buildings, “I think this is his pla--”

She's cut off by an arm around her throat sharply tugging her away. She yelps, more with indignation than anything else, as she dragged into an alleyway, and she hears Steve yell for her, followed by a muffled thud of something impacting with someone. She'd love to think that it was Steve doing the hitting, but the fact that he's not already following tells her otherwise. The guy holding her yanks her arms behind her back, removing the option of using her trusty taser, and she tries to think back to training with Steve, going through the motion of breaking a stranglehold. If she'd known how difficult it'd be to recall that stuff when you're actually in a situation where it's needed, she might have trained for it a little more.

Now, if the guy would only stop dragging her along, maybe she'd be able to give it a try.

“Hey!” someone yells. It's not Steve, but it's something, and the guy pauses long enough for her to stamp on his foot and elbow him in the ribs. His grip gives a little, which just tells her that whoever these people are, they didn't dispatch their greatest fighter to take her on, and she tucks her chin down against his arm and fucking bites. She's probably going to catch something, but S.H.I.E.L.D. has a great health plan.

The guy fucking shrieks, loosening his grip on her in shock, those she's still not free, and she takes a gamble, slamming back against him as hard as she can, knowing that he's off balance and she's no feather. It does the trick, and he stumbles back, opening his arms and freeing her. She plunges her hand into her bag for the taser, only to have her arms grabbed by one this loser's friends. Oh, for fuck's sake.

“Leave these people out of it!” the same someone from before shouts, and she's going to use some of her mad secret agent skills and guess that this is Samuel Wilson. “You want a fight, get over here!”

Her new attacker doesn't take Wilson up on his offer, though. “Looks like you've got some friends we didn't know about, Falcon,” he shouts.

“The hell are you talking about?” Wilson shouts. He's fighting with some of the other guys, and he's doing pretty good, but there are just so goddamn many of them. Shit, he doesn't even know who she is, he's just here to rescue some innocent citizens from the fucking mob or something.

“You're in the big leagues now,” her attacker replies.

“Let her go!” Wilson shouts, and she wishes that he wouldn't get drawn into this conversation, because she can see that the distraction is slowing him down. Another guy sets upon him, and she can see him bend under the weight.

And then there's no one attacking him at all, because they've been picked up by the back of their jackets and thrown ten feet down the alley. Thank God, because anything that could incapacitate Steve for any length of time would be seriously bad fucking news. Her first attacker scrambles up with a muttered 'fuck!' and takes off, but the new guy whips out his gun and points it squarely at Steve. Wilson tries to jump in front of Steve (dude is stupid brave, she's giving him props for that), but Steve pushes him out of the way.

The guy turns the gun on her. Super duper. It feels like the bottom has dropped out of her stomach. “Back up, Captain, or your new wife's brains are going to be all over this nice alleyway.”

“I can guarantee that that isn't going to happen,” Steve says evenly, voice dropping lower than she has ever heard it. She's never actually seen him in action up close. Footage, sure, but not the face to face stuff. She's never heard that steel in his voice before.

“Can you really?” the guy says, and then, like, Steve has crossed the twenty or so feet separating them and his hand is around the gun, bending the muzzle, and then slamming the butt into the guy's head until he lets go of Darcy's other arm and hits the ground.

Steve throws the gun aside and cups his hands over her cheeks. “Are you okay? Did they hurt you?” he says, running his fingers over her face, as if he's trying to map her out. His hands are shaking.

“I'm fine,” she says.

His hands drop lower, ghosting over her throat. “What about...”

“I'm fine,” she says again, taking hold of his hands and squeezing them. “He didn't press hard enough to hurt anything.”

“Darcy...” Steve says in a high-pitched, broken off voice. “You could've...”

“But I didn't,” she says, hugging him. Steve sighs and presses his face into her hair. “I didn't, it's okay.”

“I'll just... uh... deal with this,” Wilson murmurs, picking up the gun and unloading it. “We should probably tie that guy up,” he adds, motioning to her attacker who's slowly coming around.

“That won't be necessary,” a new person says, and she feels Steve go on alert again, lifting his head and tightening his grip on her. From the suit and the way the guy's flashing his badge, though, she can tell that it's S.H.I.E.L.D.

“You've been tailing him and it took you this long to get over here?” she asks. She eases Steve back a little but doesn't let go of his waist. “Sitwell's gonna be pretty pissed.”

The guy looks momentarily nervous before directing his men to haul the mob guy's ass out of the alleyway. “Captain, Agent, Mr Wilson, I think all three of you should come with us.”

“Is anyone going to explain to me what's going on?” Wilson asks.

-

“So, you're Captain America,” Wilson says, when they're all in the back of an SUV. Steve has yet to let go of her hand.

“Yeah,” he says. “Who the hell were those guys back there.” He sounds pretty angry and his grip on her hand tightens.

“Some guys I've been tangling with.”

“Uh huh. Almost got Darcy killed,” Steve replies tightly.

“Hey, they were waiting for me, it's not my fault you two were lurking around my building. What were you guys even doing?”

She feels Steve bristle at that. “Okay dudes, everyone just chill out.” She looks at Steve, and leans in, speaking quietly. “You know it was my idea, and I'm fine, stop freaking out.”

Steve frowns, his jaw jutting out a bit the way it does when he's pissed off. He doesn't do it that much with her, but she's seen it with Tony several times. Finally he nods.

She turns to Wilson. “Okay, here's the thing. These guys are S.H.I.E.L.D. – they coordinate superheroes and do some other stuff, and I work for them. They've been interested in you for a while, and I felt like you should know because you seemed like a good guy from your file. I didn't think that things would go quite this badly, though.”

“Okay. I guess... thanks, then?”

“Don't thank me yet, they're going to question you when we get to S.H.I.E.L.D.”

Wilson looks out the window for a moment. “Shit,” he says. “What are they going to do to me?”

“I dunno, honestly,” Darcy says.

Steve takes a deep breath. “It'll help if you tell the truth. Who were those guys?” He sounds calm and authoritative again, at least.

Wilson grimaces. “The mob.”

“I knew it!” Darcy says, then settles down again. “Sorry.”

“And what do they want with you?” Steve pushes.

“I used... do some racketeering for them. I thought they'd forgotten about me, but apparently not.”

“You're a criminal and you thought it'd be a good idea to try your hand at being a superhero?” Steve says, leaning over to look at Wilson.

“Steve!” Darcy says.

“Look, Captain,” Wilson snaps, “I didn't ask for your help, so how about you back off?”

Steve sets his jaw and stares out the window. Jesus, the testosterone in this car is suffocating.

-

“Congratulations, you managed compromised an operation and almost get yourself killed,” Sitwell says back at the base. She already feels suitably embarrassed and regretful about this whole thing, he really doesn't have to rub it in. “This is the stupidest that you've done so far, Lewis.”

“Hey,” Steve says sharply. “Don't speak to her like that.”

Sitwell blinks in indifference. “You're lucky that Fury isn't firing you. You're on probation and you've been suspended for the next two weeks, someone will drive the two of you home and there will be agents stationed outside your building for a few days to make sure that the men after Wilson don't come after you. We don't expect them to.”

And just like that, they're dismissed.

The ride home passes in near silence. She tells herself that it's because there's an agent up front and Steve doesn't want them hearing anything, but it's a pretty weak excuse.

It's past ten when they get back, and Steve slopes off to have a shower while she orders two large pizzas and one medium. When he comes back out with water dripping off the ends of his hair onto his white t-shirt, he smiles awkwardly and leans against the arm of the couch.

“I ordered pizza,” she says.

He nods. “Thanks,” he murmurs, then frowns. He looks like he wants to say something. She waits for him to gather his thoughts.

“I'm sorry I acted like such an asshole before,” he says finally.

She smiles and pats the couch cushion next to her. “It's okay, you were freaked.”

He sits down beside her and leans in to her, tipping his head against hers. “It was like my worst nightmare come to life. If you'd...” He lets out a long breath and sniffs. “I don't know that I could...”

She wraps her hand around his and squeezes. “You don't need to think about that.”

“But your job is... it's dangerous,” he murmurs. “I don't think really appreciated that before tonight.”

“So's your job.”

“But you're not a super-soldier.”

“That doesn't mean I can't do stuff too, you know. Being a ninety pound asthmatic never stopped you from doing what you thought was right, did it?”

Steve shrugs, but some of the tension has drained from his body. “Can't I just wrap you up in cotton wool or something?”

She laughs and scoots around until one of her legs is thrown across his. “Only if I get to do the same to you.”

“I'd be okay with that,” he says, kissing her forehead, then trailing down, pressing his lips to the bridge of her nose and down to her mouth. That passes a pleasant five minutes or so. Well, maybe more like ten minutes by the time Steve's t-shirt is tangled around his arms. The doorbell goes before they can get any further. Steve tenses up again.

“Pizza,” she says, sliding off his lap.

“I'll get it,” Steve says, leaning forward.

“With this thing?” she asks, squeezing his erection through his pants. His eyelids flutter and he drops back down onto the couch with a quiet huff. “I'll get the pizza, and then I'll deal with you, okay?”

“Okay,” he breathes, spreading his legs a little. She smirks at him and turns to leave.

“Darce?” he calls.

She looks over her shoulder. He's leaning back against the couch, legs open, bulge visible and t-shirt crumpled up beside him, his still damp hair sticking up and his mouth pink and full. She's seen Steve in a lot of compromising positions, but somehow this seems the filthiest.

“Yeah?” she says.

“I got that job that I applied for a while back.”

“You did?”

He bites his lip and nods.

The pizza guy can wait a little longer. She crosses back over to him and tips his head back to kiss him, until his foot is thumping rhythmically against the carpet and there are little tremors running through him. The doorbell rings again and she reluctantly draws back. “I'm really proud of you. We're gonna celebrate the hell out of this after I get those pizzas.”

“Okay,” Steve murmurs, giving her that doe-eyed look that he does sometimes.

She shakes her head; now she has to kiss him again. He grins into it and threads his fingers through her hair for a moment before pushing her back. “Get the pizzas, I'm hungry.”

-

She can't sleep. Steve's head is on her shoulder, his arm curled around her middle, and he seems perfectly content, but she's starting to feel a little stifled. The air in their bedroom seems warm and close, and all the body heat Steve is throwing off isn't helping. She never normally has trouble sleeping, that's Steve's thing.

Well, she thinks, she can't just lie here sweating; she slides out from Steve's grip, and he murmurs irritably, but rolls over onto his stomach without waking, stretching his arms over his head and mashing his cheek into the mattress. She smooths his hair down with a smile and gets up.

She knows she's safe here. She's never not felt safe here, unlike back in Queens when her neighbours across the hall start screaming at each other in the middle of the night, or the first place she lived on her own that was so sketchy that it prompted her to buy her first taser. She's got a super soldier in bed and agents outside, and nothing to worry about, but she still kind of wishes that they lived at the front of the building so she could look out onto the street, instead of just the empty alleyway around back.

She paces around the living room for a couple of minutes before ending up in front of their bookcase. It's mostly full of Steve's books, and he's pretty much got a book about everything: art, science, wars, the moon landing, technology, all sorts of novels, and even a copy of the Kama Sutra that made her cackle when he informed her that it was a gift from Tony. He reads crazy amounts every week – when he doesn't understand something, he buys a book about it and reads it from cover to cover. Sometimes he even makes notes. Whenever he says he's stupid, she thinks about this bookcase and feels kind of sad.

She's still looking at, running her fingertips lightly over the spine of the books when the old floorboards creak and groan and she nearly jumps out of her skin, whipping around to the source of the noise.

Steve blinks back at her. “Hey,” he murmurs.

“Sorry, dude,” she says, huffing a short laugh.

He smiles a little and walks up to her. “Are you okay? Pacing around the apartment at night is kind of my thing, you know.”

She laughs again and puts her hands on his chest. “I'm not going to steal your thing, don't worry.”

“Hope not,” he says, and ducks his head down to look at her. “Hey, you were amazing tonight, you know that?”

She leans up and kisses him for a moment. “I think the phrase you're looking for is, 'kicked ass'.”

“Kicked a lot of ass,” he agrees. He puts his hands around her waist and tugs her a little closer. “You know I'd never let anything happen to you, right?”

“I know,” she sighs, and shakes her head. “I'll be fine by morning.”

Steve furrows his brow for a moment before nodding. “Okay. D'you want me to bring the TV into the bedroom and we can watch movies?”

She grins and kisses him again. “You read my mind.”

Of course, she falls asleep just when they get to the good part of Poison Ivy 4, but by morning she feels less anxious and at least rested. Steve's still in bed when she wakes up, which is kind of weird, because it's ten and he's normally up long before this. He's leaning against a couple of pillows, drawing in the sketchbook open across his knees. She watches him through slitted eyes for a few minutes, before he murmurs, 'morning', and smiles.

She stretches her arms out. “How long did you know I was awake for?”

“The whole time. You breathe different when you're awake.”

“Creepy,” she says, pulling herself up and squirming underneath his arm. “What're you drawing?”

“Making a start on the illustration work. It's a newspaper advertisement for beer. It's dumb.”

“It's not dumb. Imagine what they'd do if they knew their artist was Captain America.”

He snorts. “Imagine what the internet would do if they knew Captain America was encouraging people to drink beer.”

“You're corrupting the youth of America, Captain Rogers,” she says in the deepest voice she can manage.

“There's only one person doin' the corrupting here, Agent Lewis, and it ain't me,” he says, looking down at her. She's wearing one of his henleys, the top three buttons undone. “I love it when you wear my clothes.”

“I bet you love it more when I take your clothes off, though, right?”

“Well...” he says, snapping his sketchbook closed and tossing it aside. “As long as we've got no place to be...”

“Two weeks suspension, baby.”

“We're joking about that already?”

She directs his hands to pull the henley off. “I joke about everything.”

“All right. Can't say I'm not glad to have you around more for the next couple of weeks.” He tugs the henley over her head and runs his palms up her sides and around to cup her breasts. She kind of loves how he always looks at her like it's the first time he's seen her naked, touches her like it's the first time he's felt her skin. He can make even a quickie in the bathroom feel romantic.

“I... I want to try something,” she says, feeling uncharacteristically nervous.

Steve tips his head to one side. “Okay... What d'you wanna do?”

“I, uh... Ugh.” She shakes her head and laughs a little. “Do you know what pegging is?”

Steve looks thoughtful for a moment, then shakes his head. “No.”

“Of course you don't, why would you?” she murmurs. She pulls at the bottom of his t-shirt and twists it in her hands. Steve is looking increasingly confused. “It's, uh... I'll just show you.”

She gets up and walks over to the closet, where she has a little shoebox of secrets that she's never shown to Steve. She guesses he might have looked in it, she wasn't hiding it from him, but she doubts he'd snoop.

She bought the strap-on a few years back, when she was with a guy who got off on prostate massage, but then he stole two hundred dollars from her and she reported him to the police and... there was no more kinky sex to be had between the two of them. She pulls out the toy and shows it to him. His eyes widen a little

“You can, uh, you get what this is for, right?”

“Um,” he murmurs, still staring at it. “Yeah, yeah, I, uh, I get it...”

“Okay, well...” She's about to tell him to forget about it, but then she notices how he's kind of squirming a little, his toes are twitching. “Is this doing it for you?”

He bites his lip and nods. “Yeah, uh, yeah, I think so.”

“Wanna try it out?”

He looks at it for a moment longer, then at her. “Yes,” he says, very definitely.

“Okay.” She sits back down and shows it to him. He touches the dildo and frowns.

“It's softer than I thought it'd be,” he comments.

“Yeah, well, would you want to be fucked with a hard bit of plastic?”

“I honestly hadn't thought about this at all before two minutes ago.”

She grins. “Fair enough. It's five inches long, which is about what you're packing when you're hard. You don't want any more than five, believe me. I slept with a guy once who was eight inches erect. Not fun.”

Steve eyebrows have been steadily creeping up his face and hit critical eyebrow height at the end of her short bit of wisdom. “O...kay,” he says slowly.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” she asks. “Because I know it's kind of weird and we totally don't have to.”

“No, I, uh. I mean, it is... weird, I guess, but I want to. I really want to. Maybe don't want to hear about your exes who had bigger dicks than me, though...”

“But the moral of the story is that your dick is just right, Goldilocks.”

“Wouldn't you be Goldilocks in this analogy?”

“Nobody finds smartasses attractive, Steve.”

He smirks. “Really? 'cause I think maybe you do...”

“Oh, shut up, Steve,” she says, and he grins. “Okay, I'm going to put this thing on.”

She gets up and pushes down her pants, then looks at the harness. She put it on a few times after she bought it, and it wasn't too difficult, as she recalls.

It feels weird, though, once she's stepped into it, pulled it up, and tightened the straps around her thighs. It's kind of hot in a Lara Croft sort of way, though.

“So, how do I look?” she asks, putting her hands on her hips and striking a stupid pose. The dildo bobs around comically.

Steve lets out a long breath and looks up at her. “Yeah...” he murmurs.

“'Yeah' what?”

He blinks. “Huh?”

“All right, horny, get the condoms and lube from the night stand, I'll get the gloves.”

He snaps out of his reverie. “Condoms?” he asks, already reaching for the drawer.

“Makes it easier to clean everything up afterwards.” She grabs a glove out of the box on the dresser and pulls it on, making it snap for Steve's benefit. When she turns back to him, he's already undressed and shifted into the centre of the bed.

“You're keen,” she says, climbing onto the bed in front of him. He's already hard and everything, and she has the passing thought that they could duel now. Do guys do that? She shakes her head and takes the condom packet, ripping it open. Steve watches with big eyes.

“This okay? How are you feeling?” she asks, glancing up at him from rolling the condom on.

He swallows and nods. “Yeah, I uh, I'm a little nervous but...”

“Good nervous?”

He nods again and smiles. “Yeah.”

“Good. Lie back.”

They make out for a little while, the dildo pressed flat against his stomach, and Steve groans every time it drags across his abs, clutching a little harder where he's caressing her sides.

“Enough foreplay?” she murmurs.

“Yeah,” he breathes.

She presses one last kiss to his mouth and squeezes out a generous amount of lube into her hand.

Fingering is kind of gross, really, when she thinks about it, but Steve's face is just so gorgeous when she hits his prostate, it goes straight through her. His eyelids flutter closed, his mouth opens, and he rocks his hips against her, getting himself all worked up.

“Darcy...” he whines, the muscles in his thighs tensed and pulled tight. He has the best fucking legs ever. She rubs her palm up his calf muscle for a moment, before sliding her fingers back out and taking the glove off, pulling it inside out. He grunts, but doesn't complain about the lack of a payoff; he knows that there's something better coming up.

She picks up the lube again and slicks up the dildo, then reaches down and grips his hips. “Okay, I...” She trails off as it suddenly occurs to her that this is going to get kind of messy. “Crap, I should probably get a towel...”

She lets go of his hips and he makes a sharp noise of irritation.

“I promise I didn't do this on purpose!” she calls as she runs into the bathroom to get an old towel.

When she gets back, Steve half-heartedly glares at her, although he's still looking a little hazy. She sticks her tongue out and grabs a couple of cushions. “Legs up,” she tells him, and he complies immediately. She puts the cushions underneath his ass and covers them with the towel, then settles between his legs again, squeezing his thighs. “Ready?”

Yes,” he groans.

She snorts and lines the dildo up. “Okay,” she breathes, reaching out and hiking his legs up around her. “Put your legs around my waist.”

“Aren't I gonna... nuh... hurt you?” he groans, rolling his shoulders as she presses the tip against his asshole.

“You won't,” she says, and pushes. He doesn't argue, just gasps as she slides in. “You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he pants, “it's just kinda w...weird-- oh God, there, right there, Darcy...” His voice goes high-pitched at the end, and he tips his head back into the pillow as he starts to moan in earnest.

She leans up as much as she can – she normally enjoys how tall he is, but she can't fucking reach him – and rocks her hips. She isn't really even sure what she's doing, but he seems to like it well enough, his fingernails scraping against the headboard as he squirms with pleasure.

It takes her a couple of minutes to get the hang of thrusting – it's an awkward position already, and Steve isn't the easiest person to move around – but by the sounds that he's making, she gets it pretty good. His legs are wrapped around her waist, and his whole body moves with every thrust, accompanied by moans and gasps that make her press her fingers under the harness and against her clit for a moment's relief.

The first time she wraps her fingers around his dick, he comes almost immediately, shuddering, legs tightening around her. “Oh God, yeah, yeah,” he groans, as she jerks him through it. He clutches at the headboard and whimpers a little as she thrusts shallowly, her hand and his stomach getting slick with his come.

Darce...” he pants.

“Want me to stop?” she asks. She's pretty sure that she already know the answer to that question.

“No, God, please,” he says raggedly.

“Tell me when,” she murmurs, backing up and slamming back into him. He arches his back and shudders some more.

It's not long before she's completely drenched in sweat, and even Steve's got a little perspiration going on, as well as a pretty impressive blush stretching from his cheeks to his chest. She reaches up as far as she can get and strokes his chest, rubbing a thumb against his nipple, and she swears he comes again just from that, though the friction of his dick between their bodies probably helps too.

She always finds his stamina kind of crazy; he can just go and go and go. Or rather, come and come and come. And each orgasm comes faster than the last, until he's a shuddering mess. His body is a fucking pornographic masterpiece.

As long as he might be able to keep going, though, she isn't going to last much longer. Her muscles in her legs and back and shoulders are burning, and her clit is throbbing more than a quick rub is going to relieve. She's got to finish this up soon, but she's going to go for the fucking gold.

She pulls back again, almost fully out of him, and grabs one of his legs, pulling it up and over her shoulder. She resettles on her knees, so that his body is almost diagonally off the bed, wraps one hand around his dick, and shoves the other one underneath the harness again, rubbing furiously at her clit as she thrusts into him. It's a testament to how flexible he is that she can push his leg nearly flat to his chest.

Her orgasm hits her like mack truck, her surprised gasp of pleasure mingling with Steve's as he comes one last time. She curls over him as she rides out the aftershocks, touching her forehead to his chest.

Steve's hand falls on her back, rubbing slightly, as his breathing settles back down. It shakes her out of her haze enough to push herself up and slide the dildo out, to Steve's slightly disappointed huff. She has just enough foresight to push the cushions out from under him before she collapses beside him.

“Wow...” Steve murmurs hazily. “You're strong.”

She turns her head to him and smiles. “Horniness gives me special powers.”

He chuckles, eyelids fluttering closed for a moment, before looking at her. “I don't think I can move,” he says, eyebrows drawing together.

“That won't last long,” she says. She assumes it won't, at least, the way his body bounces back from things. She's not feeling so much like moving either, the muscles in her legs throbbing. The sweat is starting to dry cold on her skin, though, and she feels all sticky and gross. “I've got to have a shower, though.”

“Yeah... me too,” he mumbles, looking down at himself. “In a... minute.”

She leans over and kisses him. “How about next time I use a vibrator?”

He nuzzles against her cheek and groans. “God, I love you.”

-

The doorbell starts going in the early evening. Darcy freezes up for a moment, then shakes her head. Would the mob really ring the doorbell? Steve squeezes her shoulder.

“We'll ignore it,” he decides, but the person at the other end of it has other ideas, and keeps ringing in thirty second intervals.

“Ugh,” she sighs, “I'll get it.”

Steve puts his hand on her arm, already getting up off the couch. “I'll get it,” he says, and she doesn't argue, since she's still stiff from the morning. In fact, she's pretty sure that by tomorrow morning, she won't even be able to move. Good thing she got suspended, really.

He grabs the phone off the wall and answers with a tense, “hello?” Darcy wonders if it's one of the agents, ringing to tell her that she's been fired or they're suing her or she's been exiled or something, because God knows she wouldn't put anything past S.H.I.E.L.D. Steve listens for a moment, frowning, then says, “Okay! I'm letting you in!” He buzzes the person in and hangs up the phone. “Uh, that was Jane, she sounds kind of... mad.”

“Okay...” She hasn't seen Jane much lately, but she doesn't think that that would necessitate an angry, spontaneous visit.

It take Jane all of five seconds to get to their door and start knocking. Steve pulls a face and opens the door. “Hey, Jane--”

“Are you okay?” Jane says over Steve, heading straight for Darcy. “Bruce said you were attacked last night! Why didn't you call me? Are you hurt?”

“Uh... which one of those questions do you want me to answer first?”

Jane huffs and pulls her into a hug. Darcy winces a little. “You should have called me,” she says.

“I'm sorry...” Darcy says, pulling a face at Steve, who shrugs.

“And you're meant to be a superhero!” Jane starts up again, turning to Steve and waving a finger at him. “Things like this aren't meant to happen when you're around.”

“I know,” he murmurs, his whole demeanour wilting.

Jane sighs. “Are you okay?”

Steve smiles a little. “I'm okay,” he says.

Jane sighs again, and holds her arms out to him. Steve looks a little confused but accepts the hug anyway. “I just worry about you two,” she says, patting him on the back.

“Thanks?” Steve murmurs. Jane laughs and gives him a squeeze before stepping back.

“So, how did Bruce know about what happened last night?” Darcy asks, motioning to the couch. Jane sits down and Steve leans against the armrest.

“Tony told him.”

“How did Tony know?”

“How does Tony Stark know anything?”

Darcy nods. Tony Stark probably knows the personal details of everyone's lives, and he isn't exactly good at keeping secrets, old 'I am Iron Man'. But that doesn't exactly explain one thing. “Why were you talking to Bruce?”

Jane shrugs, avoiding Darcy's gaze. “We've been corresponding.”

“With your genitals?”

Steve barks with laughter and covers his mouth. Jane glares at Darcy. “Wait,” he says, “are you?”

“I'm not talking about this with either of you,” she replies irritably.

Darcy shares a look with Steve, and shrugs. Steve looks like he wants to ask more questions, but he's the soul of tact and discretion, so he takes a deep breath and smiles. “Do you want something to drink, Jane?” he asks.

“What have you got?”

“Tea, coffee, orange juice, apple juice, grapefruit juice, lemonade, milk...” He trails off as they both start laughing a little.

Darcy rolls her eyes. “You really don't want to know how much money we spend on groceries every month with Captain Teenage Boy, here.”

“Water's fine, thanks,” Jane says.

Steve leans over to look at Darcy. “D'you want anything, Mrs Teenage Boy?”

She pats his cheek. “Make me a sandwich.”

He grins and gets up to head into the kitchen. Once he's gone, Jane leans forward and pats Darcy's arm awkwardly. “So... are you really okay?”

“I think so. Me and Steve both kind of freaked out about it last night, I've got it out of my system.”

Jane's eyebrows rise. “Really? Because I know you talk a big game, but that man almost strangled you, according to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s records.”

“It was two men, actually. The strangly guy and the guy with the gun...”

“There was a gun?” Jane asks. “Darcy...”

Darcy waves her off. “Steve bent it in two and beat the guy in the head with it.”

Good,” Jane says vehemently. “But if you ever need to talk...”

“All right, Mom, chill.”

Jane scowls at her. “Which reminds me, are you going to tell your parents about this?”

“Holy shit, no. You don't know my mother, she'd flatten those mob guys, I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy.” She hears Steve laughing from the kitchen, and leans back against the armrest. “Hurry up with that sandwich, Chuckles!” she calls.

Her back protests a little when she straightens up and she winces.

“You are hurt!” Jane says.

“Not from yesterday's fun, I promise you.”

Jane frowns. “Did something happen today?”

Darcy shakes her head. “Nothing I'm going to talk to you about.”

-

They get a lot done in her suspension. Firstly, there's a lot of sex, natch, and lots of making out on the couch and watching TV, sometimes at the same time. They get a lot of other stuff done, too, though, cleaning and shopping and fixing stuff. Steve finishes the first draft of his beer advert design and emails back and forth with the client before declaring that the guy's an idiot. He sulks about that for a day, but eventually lets it go and does what the guy wants, though he mutters something about artistic integrity under his breath.

They also finally get around to painting the bedroom, covering up the yellow-stained ceiling, and Darcy wins the argument about doing a red accent wall like she's seen on HGTV and was never allowed to do by her parents.

“You're lucky I don't want to do white and blue walls, too,” she says, as they load up their rollers. Steve makes a face and flicks her with paint, and they end up in the shower later with the water running red around their feet, not that they pay it much attention.

She goes pretty hard at training with him, too. She's in the best shape of her life, and she's got the best coach, but she's less concerned about that, and more concerned about being able to beat the shit out of the next mobster with a gun that she comes across. She can tell that Steve's worried about her from all the big-eyed faces he makes at her.

She gets a call in the second week of her suspension, while she's trying to learn how to kick harder than a sleepy five year old, and she stops with a sigh of relief and grabs her phone from her bag as she wipes sweat off her face. The number comes up unknown, and she answers it with an idea already of who it is.

“Hello?”

“Agent Lewis, this is Agent Sitwell.”

“Chief,” she says, and mouths 'Sitwell' at Steve when he looks up. “What's up?”

There's a barely contained sigh on the line before he answers, “We have found the men that attacked you. We were able to identify your first attacker by matching your dental records to the bite on his arm.”

“Cool,” she say. She hopes it got fucking infected.

“Mm-hm. HR have also said that since this is your first incident with an assailant, you'll be required to see a counsellor before they'll clear you for work again.”

“Are you kidding?” she says, and Steve looks at her curiously.

“I'm not,” he says in a bored voice.

She sighs. “Fine. I'll see you next Monday, Chief, bright and early.”

“Yes,” he says, and hangs up. She feels so respected.

“What did Sitwell want?” Steve asks.

She sits down on the edge of the boxing ring next to him. “They found those asses who jumped us.”

“Hey, that's great,” Steve says.

“Yeah,” she says. It is great, of course it is, but it doesn't make her feel as happy as she would have thought. “He wants me to go to a S.H.I.E.L.D. counsellor, too.”

Steve nods, pressing his lips together thoughtfully. “That might not be such a bad idea,” he says.

“Ugh,” she mutters.

Steve snorts a little, and reaches over to lace their fingers together. “If you go, I will.”

“Yeah?”

He nods. “Yeah.”

“Okay, yeah, sure.”

Steve knocks his shoulder against hers and smiles.

“You know what I think we should do?” she asks.

He arches an eyebrow. “I can imagine.”

“Steve, you're a sex fiend, but sure, we can do whatever's going through your pervy little head. I had something else in mind, though.”

“What?”

“Wilson,” she says.

He pulls a face. “I was kind of an asshole to him, huh?”

“You were a huge asshole to him. The asshole to end all assholes.”

“I don't think I was that bad,” he says. “I was less of an asshole than Tony, right?”

“Well...” she says, and Steve covers his face with his hands.

“I'm gonna have to rethink my whole life,” he mumbles.

“Aw,” she says, petting his hair. “I think we should go see him.”

He looks up. “Tony?”

“Wilson.”

“Oh. Okay. Tonight?”

She checks the clock: almost seven. “Nah, it's too late and I'm hungry. Tomorrow? My calendar's wide open.”

“I'll have to check mine...” he murmurs, corner of his mouth tipping up the way it does when he thinks he's being funny.

She ruffles his hair. “It's a good thing you're cuter than Tony.”

-

They go to see Wilson at his office in East Harlem, which is good, because she doesn't know if she can walk down that street by his apartment again so soon, even with Steve's arm firmly around her shoulders.

They both disguise up as much as possible, in hats and sunglasses, because this is one time they really don't want to get spotted.

They get to the little community centre in the mid-afternoon, and seek out a receptionist. The place is decorated in bright colours and children's projects, littered with couches and chairs. It's cramped as hell.

“Is Samuel Wilson around?” Darcy asks, as Steve focuses very hard on a wall of pamphlets with titles like, 'so, you're pregnant' and 'my mother's an addict, what now?'.

“He is, and I think he's free,” the lady says, tapping at her computer. “Yep, no appointments. Can I tell him what it's about?”

“It's, uh, personal.”

The lady glances at Steve, who couldn't look much weirder or more awkward than he does perusing pamphlets about teen pregnancy and drug addiction. “Okay, I'll go get him.”

When she's gone, Steve comes back over. “This place kinda reminds me of places I went when I was a kid.”

“Yeah?”

He nods. “Weren't as cheerful as this, and a lot more... Catholic, but they used to feed us and give us clothes and a warm place to stay for a few hours. One of the nuns even tutored me in math, only reason I managed to graduate high school on time.”

“Huh,” she says, “I didn't know that.”

Steve shrugs. “They're good places.”

“Hey,” a voice calls, “What can I do for y-- oh.”

She looks around at Wilson, who's standing in a narrow hallway with the receptionist, looking irritable. “I guess you'd better come into my office so we can talk.”

He couldn't sound less happy about it if he tried. He leads them down the narrow hallway, covered in more artwork, to his cluttered office, and closes the door.

“What do you two lunatics want now?” he asks.

Darcy nods. “Yeah, we probably deserved that.”

“You did, yeah,” Wilson says. “So?”

Darcy elbows Steve.

“Oh, uh, we--” Darcy elbows him again, and he clears his throat. “I wanted to apologise for being an asshole to you before.”

Wilson nods. “Well, thanks. I guess... I mean, I guess I get why you were so pissed...”

Steve shrugs. “I could have handled it better, I was a bit... agitated. Sometimes I don't... get on very well with other guys at first.”

“It's all right, man, no hard feelings.”

“Thanks.” That would be rather a nice note to end things on, but Darcy can tell that Steve's building up to something else. “The thing is, though,” he continues, and Darcy prepares herself for a second falling out. “You can't just... decide to be a superhero one day. You're going to get yourself, and others--” He looks at Darcy. “--hurt.”

Wilson sighs heavily. “Yeah, yeah, that's what your buddies told me, too. Plus they said that if I didn't stop, they'd find something in my past that would cause me 'some problems', and considering my past, that wouldn't be very difficult. So I'm out, don't worry.”

Steve frowns. “They threatened you?”

“Oh, I don't think it was a threat,” Wilson says.

“Yeah, it probably wasn't, sorry, dude,” Darcy says.

“It was a dumb idea anyway, I'll just focus on my job. I was just kind of a big fan of Cap, back as a kid.” He looks at Steve. “I definitely didn't imagine that meeting you would go down like it did.”

Steve is still frowning. “They can't do that. They can't threaten you like that.” Uh oh, he's starting to get worked up about bullies. That never ends well.

“Well, they did anyway.”

“I'm sorry, man,” Darcy says, lifting her shoulder. It's probably best this way, though. Less dangerous for him, and less likelihood of her getting suspended again. “S.H.I.E.L.D. are kind of huge assholes.”

“Don't you work for them?”

“I'm the exception.”

“You know...” Steve says, eyebrows furrowed tightly in thought. “I could help you. Train you.”

“You could what?” Wilson asks, sounding about as surprised as Darcy feels.

“I second that question,” she says.

Steve looks between the two of them and shrugs. “It was just a thought. I... know what I'm doing, fighting-wise, and I think you could be a real... be one of us, if you knew what you were doing.”

“Thanks?” Wilson asks, frowning at him.

“I'll donate money to this place too, if you want...”

Darcy raises her eyebrows at him, and he shrugs again. “If I'm gonna be an asshole like Tony, I may as well be generous like him, too.”

“You'll really donate to us?” Wilson asks.

“Places like this helped me out a lot when I was a kid,” Steve says, “I'd like to help, whether or not you think I'm too much of an ass to deal with.”

Wilson nods thoughtfully. “Well, I never turn down a donation.” He holds out his hand. “Call me Sam.”

“Steve,” Steve says, taking it.

Darcy grins to herself as they stoically feel each other out. She's pretty sure that Steve's just made a friend!