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Storms In Life

Chapter Text

According to official reports S.H.I.E.L.D. was declared a terrorist organisation on Saturday, April 5th 2014.

According to official reports the fall of the Triskelion was the start of Hydra’s takeover.

According to the official reports James Barnes, Nick Fury and Phil Coulson are dead.

The official reports are wrong.


“C’mon Cookie, just a little bit further,” Clint encouraged softly from where he was sitting less than two feet inside the air vents above the S.H.I.E.L.D. gym in New York.

I chewed on my lip anxiously, shaking my head, refusing to move.

“You’re doing great, Babe. Just a little bit further and then we can get out and I’ll buy you lunch,” He said. My eyes narrowed in a scowl.

“You already owe me lunch asshole,” I mumbled, shuffling to inches further towards him. “You said ‘just a little way into the vents and I’ll buy you lunch.’” I quoted, glancing over my shoulder towards the exit where I could hear several other Agents training.

“Smartass.” He chuckled slightly. “But alright, we can get out –” Clint’s voice was drowned out by the wailing of an alarm, it echoed through the tin vents making me snap my hands over my ears.

Clint’s eyes widened slightly.

‘We’re under attack.’ He signed making my eyes widen in alarm.

We were what now –

‘This way.’ He signed, beckoning me to follow him further into the maze of vents.

Taking a deep breath I summed every ounce of courage I followed after him. Trying not to think about how the alarm abruptly cut off and the sounds of friendly training in the gym had been replaced by gunfire.

We turned right, then left, then right again before Clint stopped in front of a grate.

He peered through the grill.

‘Wait here.’ He signed. I nodded in understanding, watching as he silently unlatched the grate, dropping down into the armoury just as soundlessly, wrapping his arms around a guard’s neck in a choke hold.

The guard struggled for a minute but was no match for Clint, who let him slide to the floor unconscious.

“It’s clear,” He called out.

 I dropped down into the room.

“Secure the door,” He ordered as he dragged the unconscious guard to the wall, grabbing some zip ties from a nearby drawer, tying him securely and taking his weapon.

What sort of guard didn’t have a backup weapon?

I shook the thought away, moving to the panel next to the door, pressing a couple of buttons, the glass door slid closed and locked, the windows tinting darker.

Clint deactivated the security cameras before turning back to me.

“Fuck knows what’s going on, so grab as much as you can, take a vest because we need to move. It sounds like they’re already in,” He said sharply.

Without waiting for an invitation I did what he said, pulling a bulletproof vest over my hoodie, pulling a S.H.I.E.L.D. jacket on over that.

Mentally cursing myself for leaving my two guns in my locker I grabbed two more, strapping them to each of my thighs before sliding various magazines into the appropriate pockets on my vest.

I winced slightly as the speakers on the PA systems squealed painfully, like a microphone too close to a speaker, before crackling to life.

“It’s S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents. The threat is S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, they’re Hydra. Get ou –” His voice was cut off but a strangled shout followed by a strange gurgling noise like he was choking on – on his own blood.

Clint looked green, staring at the speaker for a full minute before he moved. He grabbed various guns and knives, strapping each to different parts of his body.

“There’s not going to be an easy way out of here. We’re gonna have to take the vents to the staircase, then get to the garage,” He said, pulling out his phone, his face furrowing in confusion. “Have you got service?” He asked.

“You have a StarkPhone you always have –” I broke off as I looked down at my phone. No Service sat in the top right hand corner of my screen. “That’s not possible unless someone’s blocking the signal, but that’s virtually impossible without an entire department of –” The threat is S.H.I.E.L.D. That’s what the guy had said.


I moved round a shelf of AK-47’s to the computer, my fingers flying over the keyboard, running through various servers before finding what I was looking for.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. has been blocking all of our calls for the last three days,” I said, Clint came to stand behind me, peering down at the screen. “Tony’s security is too high for them to be able to block our service in the tower, but the second we step out of the front doors…” I trailed off, waving my hands expressively.

“Can you fix it?” He asked and I scoffed.

“Of course I can fix it. S.H.I.E.L.D. has ridiculously shite firewalls.” Clint gave me an impatient look and I took the hint.

I unblocked all of the phone numbers I recognised and both mine and Clint’s phones pinged wildly with missed notifications.

Clint swore loudly in a variety of languages.

“What is it?” I asked, not looking up from the screen, looking for anything else relating to the current situation, freezing at the sight of the latest updated file. “Never mind,” I said weekly. “I think I know,”

Director Nicholas J. Fury

Captain Steven G. Rogers – Captain America

Agent Natasha Romanoff – Black Widow

“I’m gonna call for back up,” Clint said, stepping away slightly, raising his phone to his ear.

I didn’t listen to what he was saying or who he was talking too I just scanned through the files taking out the main pieces of information.

Fury was dead.

He was assassinated in Steve’s apartment.

The assassin had a metal arm.

Steve broke out of the Triskelion.

Steve and Natasha had gone rogue.

Maria had been suspended.

Alexander Pierce was in charge.

Steve and Nat were now public enemy one and two.

S.H.I.E.L.D. was compromised.

S.H.I.E.L.D. was Hydra.

“The rest of the team is on its way,” He said, leaning over my shoulder to read latest file updates, drawing up the same conclusion I did.

I watched as a pained expression crossed his face. Clint had worked for S.H.I.E.L.D. for twenty plus years. S.H.I.E.L.D. had rebuilt his life, turned it around, and made it legit.

He thought he was doing good work for the right people, and now he was finding out that the last two decades had all been a lie, just another cover.

He’d never actually gone legit.

He shook his head, his face going blank before he said “We need to get to the garage and get out like planned because they’re gonna bring the place down,”

I nodded, turning away from the computer following him back to the bottom of the vent before freezing.

Like planned…

“We’re gonna have to take the vents to the staircase, then get to the garage,” He had said. “Take the vents”

The staircases were on the other side of the building.

We would have to crawl through small tin ventilation tunnels to get there. They weren’t designed to be crawled through. They could collapse. Cave in and crush us.

“Darcy snap out of it!” Clint barked. My head shot round to him, looking up at with wide, panic filled eyes. “I’ve crawled through these vents thousands of times, so has Natasha. They’re stable. We can make it there in under ten minutes. The alternative is going out of that door where every single Agent in this building is heading towards with a hot trigger finger. This is the safest option,” He said and I knew logically that he was right.

Potentially suffocation or be crushed to death or get killed by Nazi’s?

I’ll take suffocation or being crushed any day.

“Alright,” I nodded, then hesitated slightly, glancing back at the computer.

S.H.I.E.L.D. was compromised. Probably beyond easy repair… How much did it matter if I broke the confidentiality agreement now?

“Clint wait –” I called out. Clint turned back to me with an irritated sigh.

“Darcy we don’t have the time for –” He broke off as he caught sight of my face. “What is it?” He asked, his voice slightly softer.

“There’s something you should know…” I took a deep breath, struggling to find the right words. “It’s Coulson,” I managed. “He’s alive.”

Clint visibly flinched at my words, glaring at me darkly.

“This isn’t the time to joke. Especially – especially about something like that,” He said, his voice cracking slightly.

“It’s not a joke,” I said. “I sort of… ran into him while I was in London, he was there, working with a team, his team I think. He made me swear not to tell any of you. When I joined S.H.I.E.L.D. I signed the forms just like you and I had no –”

“Enough!” He snarled, his voice raised. He slammed his fist against a locker, I flinched violently. I must have made a startled or fearful noise because Clint turned back to me, his expression slight softer, but somehow still just as angry.

He turned away, taking three deep, controlled breaths and I knew he was mentally counting back from ten.

He ran a hand across his face before turning back to me.

“We need to move,” He said sharply in his Agent Barton voice.

I winced, wiping the stray tears from my cheeks I nodded.

“Yes Sir,” I said, trying, and failing to keep my voice steady.

Clint pulled himself up into the vent and I took a deep breath, taking his offered hand, letting him pull me roughly into the shaft.

I tried to stay focussed as I followed him through the maze of tunnels, I chewed my lip until I could taste blood to try and keep myself from panicking.

 You’re with Clint. You’re safe.

-But Clint’s pissed at you. He probably hates you.

 He’s pissed at everything right now but he doesn’t want you dead.

-Are you sure about that? He’s acting like nothing more than a pissed off SO that doesn’t like his trainee.

I forced myself forwards, through various passages, trying not to pay attention on the terrified screams and rapid gunfire below.

Clint stopped at the end of the end of the ventelation system, peering through the grate at the staircase below.

“Watch my six,” He said as I stopped behind him. He still trusted me enough to watch his back.

“Copy that.” I nodded. Waiting for him to drop down into the stairwell and step to the side before I did the same. Drawing my sidearm.

The stairwell was a bloodbath.

Several bodies lay across the stairwell, blood trailing down the stairs like a waterfall.

“If they’re S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, then how do we know who’s good and who’s bad?” I asked quietly.

“Shoot first and ask questions later,” He instructed, already moving down the stairs.

I followed after him. One floor, two floor, five floors, ten floors.

“It’s Hawkeye,” A guy several floors up yelled. “Take him out!”

Clint dove backwards against the wall, out of the line of fire.

Raising my gun I didn’t hesitated, firing several times, not looking to see who I’d hit before firing again.

Two guys fell over the rail, dropping down the stairwell hitting the ground twenty floors below.

Did I shoot the—

My thought was cut off by a single gunshot, ringing through the air and a burning pain shot through my shoulder. A scream tore through my throat as I stumbled backwards.

I looked down to see blood soaking through my sleeve, running down my arm and dripping onto the floor. My vision started to blur and my knee’s buckled.



I faintly heard another shot and somebody’s arms were around my waist, lowering me to the floor.

“Darcy’s been shot… left shoulder… I need to get her outta here…” Clint’s voice faded in and out, I couldn’t focus on it, like it was too far away in a crowded room. “Darcy… Fuck! Darcy! C’mon Kid, you need to stay with me!” Something pressed against my shoulder, it felt like someone pressed a blowtorch to my arm, the searing pain dragging me back to the present, bringing everything back into focus as I let out something between a scream and a sob.

“Hey Kiddo. That should hold for now. We need to get you outta here. C’mon.” He took my good arm, pulling me to my feet.

I stumbled slightly, catching myself on the rail, taking a deep forced breath. I looked to my shoulder, Clint had wrapped a field bandage around my shoulder tightly, it wasn’t going to last long but it was enough to stop the bleeding for now.

“You good?” He asked, looking at me cautiously, making sure I wouldn’t pass out. I nodded slightly, reaching down to pick up my fallen gun, trying not to look at the pool of my own blood. “Tony and the gang are on the upper levels. Thor’s going to meet us downstairs. We need to get there fast though.”

I nodded again.

The adrenaline seemed to take over again, drowning out the pain as we ran down the twentieth flight of stairs and into the garage, where Thor was waiting, hammer in hand, a dozen unconscious guys laying at his feet.

“Lady Darcy.” Thor reached forwards, resting a gentle hand on my good shoulder.

“I’m fine, I swear,” I assured him.

“She needs to get back to the tower to get medical,” Clint said. “You can get her there fastest. I’m going to go back up, regroup. Try and find out what the hell is going on,”

“I shall get her back and then return,” Thor said with a nod, wrapping his arm around my waist securely. Clint nodded in satisfaction before turning back towards the stairs.

“Clint!” I reached out with my good arm, catching his hand.

“We’re gonna talk later,” He promised, his voice softer, but there was still a hint of anger in his eyes, but I’m not sure if it was directed at me or Hydra.

“Later.” I nodded.

Later when we all get out of this shit storm.

Clint squeezed my hand before ducking back into the stairwell.

I holstered my weapon, wrapping my good arm around Thor’s chest.

“Close your eyes,” Thor said. I complied, listening to the rushing of the wind as we flew through the air.

There was a slight jolt and I blinked open my eyes to see that we were now stood on top of the balcony outside the common room.

I stepped away from Thor, wincing as my shoulder twinged painfully, I pressed my hand against the bandage cursing as it came back damp with blood.

“You must see a healer,” Thor said, I shook my head.

“I can get there on my own, I promise. You need to get back to the team,” I said. Thor hesitated slightly before nodding gravely, stepping back to the ledge.

Taking the hint I backed against the glass doors, watching as he swung Mjölnir round, shooting upwards in a blur of red.

I clenched my jaw, leaning heavily against the rail for a minute before pushing myself up, pulling the door open I dragged myself across the common room.


“I am here, Agent Lewis.”

“Take me down to Ops please,” I asked, stumbling into the elevator, trying to keep pressure on my shoulder. “And ask Betty come down with a medkit, preferably sooner rather than later,”

“Certainly,” He said as the doors slid closed and the elevator started descending.

It stopped with a jolt and stumbled down the corridor into ops, falling into a chair, pulling myself over to a monitor.

“What the hell is going on?!” I didn’t bother to glance up at Betty’s panicked exclamation. “Bruce and the others left, yelling something about Hydra!” She caught sight of me. “What happened?! Have you been shot?” I looked up at her.

“Yeah, through and through, Clint wrapped it but it’s still bleeding,” I said. “Thor dropped me off. FYI, flying isn’t good for bullet wounds,” I warned.

Betty shook her head, dropping her bag on the table, already reaching for my vest.

“Okay… Let’s get you out of this.” She undid the straps, pulling it over my head. And helped me out of my jacket and hoodie. “It totally missed your vest, and your jacket and hoodie have pretty nice holes through.” I hissed as she pulled the hoodie away from the wound. “I’m really not this type of Doctor… It seems to have missed muscle and bone. I’m gonna give you something for the pain, alright?”

“Sure.” I nodded, only half listening, grabbing my earpiece and pulling up the appropriate feeds.  Clicking my com to life. “Guys, Thor’s probably already back. I need a sit-rep?” I said, flicking through the S.H.I.E.L.D. bases cameras.

“Hydra is fucking everywhere,” Tony yelled, followed by the familiar roar of the Hulk.

I hissed as Betty pressed a needle into my arm.

“Why am I hearing that Cap and Widow might be dead?” Tony asked, a hint of worry in his voice, making my fingers falter on the keys.

I turned to a third monitor, pulling up news reports from DC.

“Oh my God…” Betty breathed.

The news footage was filmed from a helicopter but it was easy enough to make out Steve’s shield and Natasha’s fiery hair.

I flicked for news footage to security cameras on the street.

Steve, Natasha, Agent Sitwell and a fourth guy drove from Capitol Hill.

“Jarvis, run the licence plate on that car please?” I asked, fast forwarding the footage until a guy with a metal arm literally tore Agent Sitwell out of the window, throwing him in front of a truck, before ripping the steering wheel out of the other guys hand.

“The car is registered to a former Master Sergeant Sam Wilson,” Jarvis said. “Facial recognition confirms that Master Sergeant Wilson was the fourth man in the car.”

So Steve’s randomly picking up Vets now?

I sped up the footage, my eyes widening as I watched Natasha fight the guy. He was better. I realised. Nobody was better than Natasha, not Clint, not Steve.

Betty gasped sharply as we watched helplessly as the guy put a bullet through Natasha’s shoulder.

Watching Steve fight him was even more terrifying, they were equally matched strength wise.

This guy had the serum. Or at least a serum.

I flicked between feeds as Steve pulled off his mask, no matter which angle I watched the fight through, I couldn’t get a clear picture of his face.

Everything was drowned out by the ringing in my ears, I watched as he disappeared and S.H.I.E.L.D’s STRIKE team lead by Rumlow pushed Steve, Natasha and Wilson to their knees, cuffing them and shoving them roughly in the back of a van.

“Jarvis, keep track of that van,” I requested, trying to push my emotions away, turning back to the fight in New York. “Steve and Natasha are alive,” I said, getting a collective sigh of relief. “Or at least they were a couple of hours ago. Natasha’s been shot and they were shoved in a van by S.H.I.E.L.D’s STRIKE team.”

Tony swore loudly.

“She’ll be fine,” Clint said, his voice tight. “They’ll be fine!”

“Jarvis, who else is on the top floors of the tower?” I asked, glancing up at the scan for the van that Jarvis was running.

 “Just Doctor Foster, she is in the labs,” The AI replied.

“Get her down here J. Where’s Pepper?” I asked, wincing as Betty pressed a gauze either side of my shoulder.

“Miss Potts is in her office on the top floor of Stark Industries.”

“Can you put me through to her please?” I asked.

“Right away.”

Pepper Potts… Connecting…

Appeared on the screen in front of me.


“Pepper, its Darcy, don’t be alarmed. Just say yes or no, is anyone in the room with you?” I said.



“Can you get them to leave?” I tried, the call muffled slightly, as if she pressed the phone into her shoulder.

“Angie, would you give me a moment please… Okay, I’m here,” She said.

“Okay, there is a very high chance that your office is bugged. I need you to come to Ops ASAP, it’s an emergency,” I said, I heard a sharp intake of breath.

“I’ll be there in less than five,” She said curtly before cutting the call.

“Jarvis, keep an eye on her? Make sure she gets out of there safely,” I requested, glancing between the New York and DC feeds anxiously.

What the fuck is happening?

“This should be good for now,” Betty said. “Just don’t do anything too crazy, I’m gonna give you a shot for the infection.” She pressed another needle into my arm at my nod.

“Holy fuck Darcy! What happened?!” I jumped at Jane’s exclamation, I turned to see she’d stopped dead in the doorway.

I’m drugged up. I’m allowed to not notice her coming in.

“I got shot,” I said meekly. “It’s not as easy as Natasha and Steve make it seem.”

“You got shot?! Please tell me Tony isn’t doing something ridiculous again,” Pepper said, stepping into the room, looking flawless as ever.

“Hold on.” I took out my ear piece, turning to the three expectant women, giving a quick but descriptive rundown on the current shit storm.

“We need to lock down the building,” Betty said, a hint of urgency in her voice.

“We can’t.” I shook my head. “There is probably Hydra Agents in Stark industries, they’re rising up, and they could have anything planned, for all we know they could have the building rigged to blow. As far as SI employees are concerned things need to be running as usual.”

“Jarvis, sweep the tower, look for anybody carrying a weapon, and anything out of the ordinary,” Pepper instructed.

“Scan initiated.”

Chapter Text

The fight at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ carried on til the sun rose again, it was long and brutal and the team were just starting to help with the clear up when my computer chimed with a news alert.

Smithsonian Break In! Classic Captain America Uniform Stolen!

I breathed a sigh of relief, the only person that would be stupid enough to steal that would be Steve.

“Steve’s alive!” I announced through the coms, grinning as I heard Tony whoop loudly, Clint laughed and Thor cheered loudly, even Hulk grunted.

“Someone’s stolen his original suit, security cameras show someone the right height and build, but no facial recognition. It’s him though. I know it’s him!” I gushed, reaching for another cup of coffee, only for Betty to press a glass of orange juice into my hand instead.

I rolled my eyes but didn’t comment.

It took several hours before the clean-up was starting to look like it was making progress when my screens flickered.

“Um… What was that?” Tony asked.

“We’re being hacked,” I said, my eyes widening in alarm, flicking through pages of code, but it kept flicking back to the same decoding message.

Out of the ashes. Into the light.

The message appeared on every screen, in the room.

“It’s everywhere,” I said, flicking through the security feeds on the tablet Pepper held out to me, it revealing the same message on every computer screen in the building.

I gasped as gunfire echoed through the coms and the chaos resumed.

“Report?!” I snapped sharply, overriding the hack, getting my screens back.

“It was an activation signal, those who weren’t fighting back before, damn well are now,” Clint said with a slight grunt.

“Clean ups on hold for a while,” Tony added, followed by the familiar sound of repulsor beams.

“Darcy!” Jane called, pointing to a different screen, showing the live news from DC, three helicarrier were rising above the Triskelion.


“Miss Lewis, someone is trying to access the private elevator,” Jarvis announced.

“Fuck!” I swore, looking between the monitors in panic. “Pepper suit up, Extremis, Rescue, whichever is quicker,” I said, pulling my tac vest back on over my head, re checking my weapons.

I moved into the locker room, digging through a tray for some spare mags.

“Here,” Betty called, tossing me a Glock 19, before loading her own gun. “I’m an army brat. I know how to fight back,” She said with a slight smirk.

“Jane, I need you to stay here and do my job, you’re our eyes and ears, Pepper, Betty take a com. DC is gonna have to sort itself.” I pressed my Glock 42 into Jane’s hand. “Anyone that comes in here that isn’t us, shoot them,” I ordered, she nodded vigorously.

I mentally thanked Natasha for making Jane learn basics.

“Jarvis evacuate the building. Potts override 0-6-2-4-1-1-8. Hold on Lockdown,” Pepper instructed, stepping out of the locker room, she’d ditched the jacket and skirt, now wearing a pair of denim shorts, pulling her hair up into a ponytail.

“Be careful,” Jane said. I gave a slight nod before stepping into the elevator.

“Jarvis, stop on the 42nd floor but don’t open the door,” Pepper requested. “And project the surveillance footage onto the window,”

Instead of answering the elevator started going down and the security feeds appeared on the window, showing several people trying to pry the elevator doors open.

The elevator came to a stop and Pepper pressed her hand to the metal door.

Closing her eyes as she concentrated. I watched as her hands glowed red, heating the doors up with a slight hiss.

Betty gave a slight laugh and I looked around at the security footage to see the Hydra Agents jumping away from the door in pain as the doors they were trying to pry open burnt them.

“Open them,” I instructed.

Pepper ducked to the side, catching her breath as the doors slid open.

One, two, three, four.

I fired each round in quick succession, watching the men hit the floor.

I went to step forward but stopped dead as Betty fired.

“Wha –” I stopped, further down the corridor a woman dropped to the floor, her gun hitting the ground with a clatter.

“Jarvis are there any other hostiles in the building?” Pepper asked.

“Doctor Foster is the only other person in the building,” Jarvis said and I sighed in relief, stepping towards the still breathing Agent that Betty shot, I grabbed her weapon, shoving it in my waist band.

I reached down to grab her not shot arm but she grinned, crunching something between her teeth and grinning.

“Hail Hydra,” She gasped before she gagged violently, foaming at the mouth before falling still.

“Agent Lewis, Doctor Foster is requesting your presence upstairs, she says it’s urgent!” Jarvis said.

My eyes widened in alarm, rushing back to the elevator, which despite the mangled door seemed to rise faster than ever.

The three of us ran down the corridor, back into the situation room, stopping dead at the sight of the screens.

Each one of them showed a different Social Media platform, each one of them showing the same things.

S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Drop
The Black Widow Releases S.H.I.E.L.D. Files

My breath caught at the last trend.

Bucky Barnes Is Still Alive!

“What the fuck…”


I scrambled for a keyboard, running through site after site.

It was true, somebody, apparently Natasha, had put every single S.H.I.E.L.D. and by extension Hydra file on the internet for everybody to see.


The Red Room.

Clint being deaf.

Project Rebirth.

Furys personnel file.

The Avengers Initiative.

Every single Agents file.

“What do we do?” Betty asked.

“Nothing,” I said, running a hand across my face. “There’s nothing we can do. It’s out there, people would have already downloaded half of this,”

With S.H.I.E.L.D’s firewalls down it was easy enough to get access to their security cameras.

It took me a second to find the right one and I watched as the three helicarrier were shooting at a guy with robotic wings who was ducking between Quinjets.

The camera zoomed in on Steve.

My stomach dropped as he dove over the edge of a helicarrier, freefalling before the wing guy dove down and grabbed him, setting him down on the runway.

Before a third guy, the guy with the metal arm, he guy that facial recognition had ID’d as Bucky.

Except this wasn’t Bucky… This was a… a soldier… an assassin.

Jesus… What have they done to you?

He kicked Steve away, Bird guy fired at him, but the soldier was better, faster, he broke the bird guy’s wings and kicked him over the edge, I breathed a slight sigh of relief at the sight of his chute, wincing slightly at the rough landing.

I flicked between cameras as Steve ran inside a carrier but I couldn’t get a visual as the soldier ran after him.

“Lewis, what the fuck is going on?!” I jumped as Clint’s voice echoed through my com. “S.H.I.E.L.D’s files are everywhere!”

“It was Nat, I think. All of the files came from the Triskelion, with Fury’s authorisation, Steve’s there, I think Maria is too. But I don’t know why,” I said.

Clint and Tony both swore.

“Have you heard from any other S.H.I.E.L.D. bases?” My SO asked.

I turned away from the fight in DC and went back to combing through their systems.

“I’m working on it. Hydra are trying to reach out too, so it’s taking longer. I think I’ve got something at The Hub, I’m working on it,” I said.

“Keep working, we’re cleaning up here,” Clint said.

“Roger that,” I said, trying to break through the encryption for The Hub.

Damn this person was good!

I finally sent a message through and the hacker hesitated before sending out a secure line to talk.

A video chat appeared and my eyes widened in surprise at the tired face that appeared.

“Skye!” I blurted out, her eyes widened and her face brightened.

“Darcy?! Oh my God Darcy!” She exclaimed.

“Skye, where are you? Why are you on a S.H.I.E.L.D. line?” I questioned.

“I’m at the Hub, which is secure-ish. I’m with Coulson, he said to tell you that. I’m a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, or at least I was for like a day, before… before everything went to hell,” She said. Behind me Pepper made a startled noise as a second familiar face appeared.

“Holy fuck…” Jane breathed.

“That’s not possible… You’re dead. They told us you were dead,” Pepper said, bringing a shaking hand to cover her mouth.

“Pepper, Jane, Darcy,” Coulson said, resurfacing the guilt in my stomach.

“Clint knows,” I said, forcing my voice not to waver. “I told him and now he doesn’t trust me,” My voice cracked slightly and Coulson at least had the decency to look ashamed. “The Tower is secure, so is New York Headquarters, the Triskelion… Cap, Widow and Hill are there and… and Furys retinal scan was used twenty minutes ago,” I said.

Coulson’s eyes widened in surprise but nodded.

Behind them Agents starting running backwards and forward, yelling out as the computers behind me started to beep rapidly.

Spinning round I let out a string of curses at the sight of the three helicarriers crashing together, crumbling to pieces in the Potomac.

“…Reports suggest that Captain America was still on board with an unknown hostile…” The reporter said, my breath caught in my throat.

Steve was still on board… So was the soldier, Bucky. How much could the serum take… they could be –

Jane pressed her hand into my shoulder, forcing me into reality.

Over the ringing in my ears I vaguely heard Pepper talk to Coulson and Skye, she might have also talked to the team but I couldn’t focus.

My stomach turned violently and I bolted out of my chair, through the locker room, dropping to my knees in front of the toilet, painfully bringing up whatever I had left in my stomach, which wasn’t much.

After a minute of painful dry heaving it finally stopped and through a strangled sob I managed to pull myself up of the floor.

Break down later. Focus on the job. I told myself.

WWND? What would Natasha do?

I dried my eyes, flushing the toilet and moving to the sink, rinsing out my mouth and splashing cold water on my face.

Avoiding the mirror I took a deep steadying breath, stepping out of the bathroom I walked back to the main room, yanking my vest off painfully.

“The team are on their way back,” Pepper said, her eyes slightly bloodshot, whether from her powers or from crying I don’t know. “There’s not much we can do from down here, the team are going to go straight up to the Common Room, and I think we could all do with some food.”

So that’s what we did.

I dropped down into the Conversation pit, with my tablet I started to sift through the files.

Howard and Maria Starks death. Hydra.

Bucky turning into… Whoever he was. Hydra.

Trying to take Tony’s suits a few years back. Hydra.

Making the Extremis serum and everything that happened last year. Hydra.

Digging deeper through the files on Tony’s parents I stopped at a video file, it was from a security camera next to the road.

Mission report: December 26th, 1999

I watched as a motorbike overtook the car, shooting out its tyres so that it swerved off the road, crashing into a tree.

The soldier dragged Howard out of the car and I paused the video. It was obvious what was going to happen, what had happened

I stared at the frozen image, the soldier standing over Howard, the red star on his metal arm gleaming in the light.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.

I carried on digging, not noticing the sky outside darkening and the lights automatically raising, halfheartedly nibbling at the plain toast Pepper bought me but downing the coffee in record time.

My phone pinged and I dived for it, knocking my tablet to the side and making my shoulder twinge.

From Nat:
We’re all alive.

I let out a shaky sigh of relief and grinned.

“It’s Natasha, they’re all alive,” I said, watching the three faces brighten.

“Steve’s to stubborn to die,” Jane said, and I grinned brighter in agreement.

He was alive. They were alive.

Before I could put my phone down it pinged again.

It was from Natasha again, an email, but this time there was no message, just an attachment, a single rather large file written in mostly Russian.



I opened it to the first page and my eyes automatically drifted to the pictures first.

First there was a picture of Bucky, Steve’s Bucky that he spoke about and drew, in his dress uniform with a carefree grin and a crooked hat.

Then a picture of him asleep? Unconscious? His hair slightly longer surrounded by ice.

Tears slid down my cheeks as I read the first page.

He was experimented on when his unit got taken.

He got the serum.

He lost an arm when he fell.

That’s when they took him.

He was given a new arm.

Had his memories wiped.

Was tortured constantly.

And trained to be the Soldat. The weapon.

He trained Natasha.

He killed Tony’s parents.

But he was alive.

I closed the file, tossing the tablet to the side as the elevator pinged, trying desperately to dry my face.

Clint, Tony and Thor stepped out, all looking a little worse for wear.

Clint and Tony were supporting a half conscious, exhausted, but okay looking Bruce.

Betty flew over the back of the couch, taking Bruce from the others and slowly helped him into the conversation pit.

“Sit rep?” I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

“New York base is secure,” Clint said, dropping down next to me, without hesitating he pushed the neck of my shirt to the side and pulled back one side of the gauze. “All Hydra Agents we know about were either captured or killed. We’ve got no word from the Triskelion. Pepper said you heard from the Hub,”

“The Triskelion is down,” I said gesturing to the TV with my good arm that wasn’t being inspected by Clint. “Nat sent me a text, everyone is alive, but that’s it. I don’t know any more than that.” I hissed slightly as Clint pressed the gauze back down and straightened up my shirt. “I’m trying to sift through the data that was released. I couldn’t stop anyone’s files from going out. I wasn’t expecting it. I’m sorry. Everyone in this tower, there files were looked up first,”

“It’s okay, Kid,” Tony said, I looked up at him, where he was perched on the Conversation pits ladder. No more secrets. No more lies.

“There’s something else,” I said, hardly above a whisper. “The man Steve fought, that shot Fury and Nat, The Winter Soldier.” Clint tensed next to me as he recognised the name. “He’s Bucky Barnes,”

Tony’s eyes widened as Clint and Bruce both swore.

“I do not understand,” Thor said, looking between us all in confusion.

“Bucky Barnes was Steve’s best friend before Steve came here. They were all each other had, everyone thought Barnes died, Steve thought that he’d died,” Clint said. That was a guilt trip I looked forward to dragging Steve out of, not.

“They tortured him and wiped his memory for seventy years, he’s been Hydra and the KGB’s best assassin,” I said and then hesitated slightly. “He was sent to kill your parents Tony,” I said quietly.

Tony’s eyes widened fractionally and several emotions passed across his face as if he was having an internal debate. He reached out clutching the rail, his knuckles turning white as if he was holding on for dear life.

He opened and closed his mouth several times but nothing came out, instead he just nodded, stumbling backwards up the steps and fleeing into the elevator.

“I’m sorry,” I said as Pepper rose to her feet, she just gave a sympathetic smile.

“It’s not your fault. It would have been worse if you didn’t tell him,” She said, following after him.

“We should all get some rest. This shits not over yet,” Clint said.

Everyone nodded, Betty, Bruce, Jane and Thor all slowly pulled themselves to the elevator but neither Clint nor I made any attempt to move.

“You need more pain meds?” He asked, shuffling closer to me.

I shook my head.

“I’ll be fine,” I said.

“Darce, if you’re in pain then take the meds,” He said softly. I looked up at him, my eyes burning.

“I – I –” I broke off. I couldn’t get the words out and sniffled slightly. I took a deep breath. You need to say this. He deserves that much! “I’m sorry, I know how much Coulson meant to you, means to you, and I wish I’d told you. I never wanted to lie to any of you, but he said he was going to tell you, I didn’t think he’d leave it this long, I swear and I –”

“Darcy, stop!” Clint said. “I’m sorry.” My eyes widened and I shook my head vigorously. He shouldn’t be – “I had no right to be mad at you like that. I never should have lashed out. I know how S.H.I.E.L.D. works, I know how Coulson and Fury work. It’s them I’m pissed at, not you. The others will see that too.” I stared at him with wide eyes.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, my voice weak. Clint gave half a smile.

“I forgive you Cookie.”

I sobbed at the nickname, falling into his arms, he just held me as I cried, blubbering apologies.

“Steve’s gonna be alright ya know,” He said, combing his fingers through my hair. “Nat would have said if he wasn’t,”

“I know,” I sniffed.

Clint pushed me away slightly as I tried to dry my face, wincing as I used the wrong arm.

“Here.” He reached for the syringe and bottle of clear morphine that Betty had subtly left on the table. He hesitated, waiting for me to reluctantly hold out my arm. I wrinkled my nose as he expertly pressed the needle into my arm.

With Clint’s forgiveness and the morphine top up, the adrenaline seemed to drain from my system and the last 36 hours of no sleep seemed to catch up with me as I slumped into his arms.

“I punched him ya know?” I mumbled sluggishly.


“Coulson,” I said. “Made ‘gent May smile,”

Clint chuckled under me.

“You made May smile? I’m so proud,” He said with a laugh. I just managed to smile before sleep took over.

Chapter Text


I rolled over, burying my face further into the cushions, inhaling the scent, my mind stopped short, freezing in alarm.

This wasn’t my bed. I gasped, bolting upright, looking around in panic, not registering where I was.

 “Hey, Darce.” My head snapped around and I let out a breath of relief.

Clint was standing at the top of the steps.

I was in the common room, I was safe.

I looked towards the kitchen where everyone, including Maria, looked away quickly.

“You good?” Clint asked as I untangled myself from the blanket, pulling myself to my feet, running my hand through my dishevelled hair and stretched, wary of the shooting pain from my shoulder.

“I’m fine.” I nodded, stepping up the steps following him to the kitchen where Jane handed me a ready cup of coffee.

I already had my phone in my hand as Betty ushered me into a chair, unbuttoning my shirt.

“Ya know, I’d usually insist you buy me a drink first,” I commented off-handidly, she smiled slightly.

“Haven’t you heard? Romance is dead,” She said, pulling the gauze away from my wound making me hiss, turning my attention to my phone to distract me.


“Shouldn’t you do that, ya know, somewhere more medical?” Tony asked, wrinkling his nose in disgust.

“You took a bullet?” Maria asked. I nodded, setting my phone back down, she could probably tell me more than Twitter.

“It’s not as cool as movies make it look,” I said, wincing as Betty pressed the bandages back in place.

“She had 10ml of morphine eight hours ago,” Clint said, my eyes widened in surprise.

“I had eight hours sleep?!” I exclaimed, Clint smiled but nodded. “Huh.”

“I’ll change these after you have a shower,” Betty said, rolling to her feet, I smiled in thanks as she moved to the sink.

“Now that everybody’s awake. What the hell is going on?” Tony asked, turning pointedly to Maria.

She sighed, running a weary hand over her face.

“Jarvis, lock down this room, stop all outgoing transmissions,” Maria instructed. The windows tinted and my phone turned itself off.

“Privacy mode engaged,” Jarvis said.

“Several S.H.I.E.L.D. bases were bugged, so was various Agents cars and apartments, Steve’s too, we can’t guarantee they’ve not compromised the tower,” She said. Tony looked mildly offended at the insinuation but didn’t comment. 

Everybody is alive, Fury included. Steve’s in the hospital, he’s in a coma but the Doctors are saying that he’s going to be fine, they just can’t give him any meds because his metabolism burns through them too quickly. But he’s okay. Natasha took a bullet to the shoulder too, she’s okay, she’s healing like she always does. The other guy that was there, Sam Wilson, he’s an ex-soldier, we can trust him. He’s refusing to leave Steve’s side.

“Hydra has been in S.H.I.E.L.D. for years. It’s been compromised from almost the start. Some people noticed, they paid the price.” She looked over at Tony. His eyes shone and he looked away as he realised what she was saying.

“Nat put all of S.H.I.E.L.D’s files online, I apologise for the invasion of privacy, but we had to put everything out there. No more secrets, no more lies,” She took a breath. “I know Darcy told you about Coulson.” I looked away guiltily and Clint rested his hand on my good shoulder. “Fury is the only person who knows what actually happened. Coulson has only recently found out, he and his team were looking into it before everything went to hell.”

She turned to Tony.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. has officially been declared a terrorist organisation and – and I need protection, anybody who worked for S.H.I.E.L.D, me, Clint, Nat, maybe even Darcy. They’re going to try and do everything they can to lock us away. I – we need the protection that Stark Industries lawyers can offer,” She said.

Tony scoffed slightly.

“You want a job?” He clarified, Maria gave a slight shrug but nodded. He exchanged looks with Pepper and nodded.

“Done. The tower needs a new head of security, since the last one was Hydra, we need someone we know,” Pepper said. “Also…”

“We’re privatising The Avengers Initiative,” Tony said. “Cutting ties to both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra,”

“We’ve been planning this for a while,” She said. “We want you and Darcy to run it.” I raised my head, my eyes widening in surprise. “That is a discussion for a later date though.”

“What about Steve?” I asked, turning the conversation back to what was important right now. “When can we go see him?”

“I’ve pulled in a couple of favours, we can fly to the Navy Yard and they’ll get us a car. He’s at the George Washington Hospital,” Maria said.

“Why are we still here then? Let’s go,” I said, jumping to my feet.

“Pack a bag, take a shower. If Steve see’s you like that he’s going to worry, you’re still covered in blood. If Natasha see’s you like that she’s going to kill me. Not to mention that hospital and most of DC is crawling with press, it’s not a good look Cookie,” Clint said.

I scowled slightly, but sighed, he was right.

“We leave in thirty minutes,” I snapped, not waiting for a reply I turned on my heel and went back to my apartment.

I took a ridiculously fast shower, careful to leave my shoulder uncovered.

I packed a bag of bare essentials, making sure I had my tablet and laptop.

Jacket and bag in one hand I took the elevator up to the common room where Bruce re bandaged my shoulder while we waited for Betty who came back with various vials.

“These should work despite his metabolism,” She said. “I have pain killers and sedatives.” I gave a slight smile of thanks. “And I have these normal pain killers for you,” She said, pressing a strip of tablets into my hands with a pointed look.

“Thanks,” I said, shoving them into my pocket, carefully pulling my jacket on.

Betty, Bruce, Jane and Thor all decided to stay at the tower, knowing they could do more good here than in Washington, while everyone else piled into the Quinjet.

Tony flew and the journey seemed to pass much quicker than usual. Clint spent most of the flight on the phone to Natasha, talking quietly in a language I didn’t understand, Japanese? Thai?

The jet touched down on the Naval Bases runway and I glanced out of the window, and it didn’t surprise me in the slightest to see a large crowd stood around, waiting for a glimpse of whoever got off The Avengers Jet.

The perks of a Navy Base, no press.

So when the ramp lowered we were directed into a black SUV where Clint drove us straight off base.

I zoned out the car ride, resting my head against the window, only half aware when we were driving past the Washington Monument.

It seemed like most of the hospital had been shut down, and there were Soldiers and Stark Industries security everywhere.

Going through security seemed to take forever until Tony stuck his head out of the window, giving the “You Know Who I Am.” speech, and Pepper threatened to sue somebody before we were finally let through.

The second the car stopped I jumped out, half way across the parking lot before the engine was off.

I went straight into the lobby and straight into Natasha’s waiting arms.

“Are you okay?” She asked, pushing me away slightly as I nodded.

“I’m fine,” I insisted, but she pulled my jacket to the side anyway, pulling back the gauze to check the wound.

People have gotta stop doing that!

She hummed slightly in satisfaction, pressing it back in place and straightening my clothes.

“Steve?” I asked, making Natasha’s expression waver slightly, anxiety twisted in my gut. “Where is he?!” I demanded.

“He’s fine, he’s in surgery still. They’re just removing bullets, he’s due out in a minute,” She said, looking over my shoulders as the others caught up.

Clint sidestepped around me, wrapping his arms around Natasha’s shoulders, she sagged against his chest for a minute, allowing herself a moment of weakness.

“Я скомпрометирован,” She said lowly. I’m compromised.

“Я знаю. Я тебя понял,” He murmured back. I know. I’ve got you.

I glanced away, feeling like I was intruding on a personal moment.

“Natasha, they’re bringing him out – oh.” The dark skinned guy stopped dead, his eyes widening slightly as his eyes drifted over the group. “Now the rest of the band shows up. I mean you couldn’t have gotten here yesterday maybe?”

Natasha scoffed slightly, pulling away from Clint but not letting go of his hand.

“Guys meet Master Sergeant Sam Wilson, Para rescue and the last EX0-7 pilot.” Clint straightened curiously and even Tony looked mildly impressed. “Sam this is Clint, Darcy, Pepper and Tony,” Natasha introduced.

“The wingsuit, that’s yours?” I asked, with a respectful nod in greeting.

“Well… It is now. What’s left of it anyway,” He said, his carefree smirk turning into a slight frown. I could practically hear the cogs in Tony’s head turning as he planned a new set of wings. “They’ve just bought Steve out of surgery, he’s in a Coma. Normal meds won’t touch the serum. The coma is his body’s way of shutting out the pain,”

“Betty, our Cellular Biology and Bio-chem expert, gave some us some meds that should work with his metabolism. I’m going to pass them on to his Doctors,” Pepper said, pulling Tony after her.

I turned back to Natasha and Sam, bouncing impatiently on the balls of my feet.

“Can I see him?” I asked.

“This way.” Natasha nodded, leading us down the corridor.

I glanced at the closed blinds nervously before stepping through the door.

My eyes were drawn straight to Steve, I’d seen him messed up after a mission before, but never like this.

There was bruising across the side of his face, bandages wrapped around one arm, tubes and needles sticking out of the other. The monitor beeped a steady rhythm.

“Jesus Cap,” Clint breathed.

I stepped up to Steve’s bed, hesitantly reaching out to take his hand, brushing my thumb over his knuckles.

A naïve part of me that once believed in fairy tales and happy ever afters thought that he’d wake up knowing I was there.

I laughed slightly at the thought.

“I so get a free pass for the next month on every shitty thing I do,” I muttered.

I could imagine the way he’d smile and say “That’s a lot of free passes, Doll.”

I bit my lip, scrunching up my face to stop myself crying.

“He is going to be okay Mалютка,” Nat said softly, coming up behind me, all I could do was nod slightly.

“Let’s go get some coffee,” Sam suggested.

“Good idea,” Maria agreed. I was only half aware as the four of them left the room, the door shutting softly behind them.

I carefully pushed myself up to sit on the bed, my fingers ghosting across his face.

“Oh Steve,” I breathed. “You’re going to be okay, because he’s alive. You’re going to be okay for him.” Jealously twisted inside of me at the words and I sniffled slightly. “I love you, but he’s going to need you, and – and I get that. I’ll help you find him and then I’ll give you space, you both deserve that.”

I leant down, placing a soft, lingering kiss on his forehead before sliding back into the chair behind me, not letting go of his hand as there was a knock on the door.

I looked up as the nurse pushed open the door.

“We have Captain Rogers’ new medication,” She said, I gave a small smile and nodded, drying my face with my sleeve.

“How’s he doing, Kiddo?” Tony asked, stepping into the room, resting his hand on my good shoulder, Pepper not far behind.

“Sleeping,” I said simply.

“I blame his age. He slept for seventy years and he still needs more?” He said. I gave a slight smile and leant into his touch, to exhausted and in too much pain to do anything else.

“Only two people are supposed to be in here at once. Tony and I are going to head back to his apartment, Maria’s coming with us, it isn’t far from here. We’re going to try and get ontop of this media storm,” Pepper said.

“I can run some of it from here. It is my job to –” Pepper held up her finger to silence me.

“What you need to do is stay here, take your meds and be here when Steve wakes up and you’ll call the moment there is any change,” She said sternly, I ducked my head bashfully.

“Yes Ma’am,” I said meekly. Tony squeezed my shoulder firmly before they left.

Sam came back in, saying Clint and Natasha were waiting outside together.

Shifting in my seat I pulled the strip of tablets out of my pocket, tossing them on the nightstand so I didn’t crush them.

“Should you be taking them?” Sam asked curiously.

“Probably.” I gave a one shouldered shrug. “I’ll be fine.”

“What’re they for?” He queried.

“I took a bullet at the New York S.H.I.E.L.D. base the day before yesterday,” I told him making him wince in sympathy.

“You should take those. Getting shot is a bitch,” He said.

I shook my head.

“I’ll be fine,” I insisted. He gave a doubtful look but didn’t press any further. Instead he plugging his phone into the docking station that apparently Natasha had bought and put on a playlist of “music he missed” before he settled down the opposite side of the bed with a book.

We sat in comfortable silence for hours, he read as I scrolled through various pages, trying to at least keep up to date on what was happening.

My heart sank at the articles and posts about Natasha’s horrific past, it was everywhere. Pictures and videos of the Red Rooms training methods were being shared between profiles.

Despite a lot of people wanting Natasha, Bucky and Clint prosecuted for their pasts I couldn’t help smiling at the current worldwide trends on Twitter.

The Avengers
The Winter Soldier
Bucky Barnes
Tony Stark

I scrolled through a couple of the tags, liking various tweets.

Stop posting vids & pics of how she was trained.
#SheDoesntNeedAReminder #IStandWithTheBlackWidow

If someone controls your mind, it’s not your fault!
#IStandWithTheBlackWidow #BuckyBarnesIsStillAWarHero

They’re victims.
#IStandWithTheBlackWidow #BuckyBarnesIsStillAWarHero

He is the longest PoW in history. We. Failed. Him.

I’m sorry Sergeant Barnes.

We failed them and all those who suffered like & with them.
#BuckyBarnesIsStillAWarHero #IStandWithTheBlackWidow

Protect them.

Sure, some people wanted them in a prison, or dead. But people still supported them, they still saw the Avengers as a symbol of hope, although now, people saw them as a little more human.


I yawned for the hundredth time, rubbing my eyes underneath my glasses wearily.

“You should get some sleep,” Sam said. “He’s still gonna be here when you wake up.”

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I muttered grouchily. Sam laughed slightly.

“You’re stubborn, like him.” He nodded at Steve. “But you know what else he is?”

“What?” I asked.

“Likely to worry,” Sam said and I snorted slightly. That should be on his gravestone. “If he wakes up and you’re sick or hurt, he’ll have all of our asses, yours especially.” I stared at Steve, he looked so peaceful, even despite his face being cut up and bruised. “I’ll wake you up, the second that anything happens.”

“Promise?” I mumbled childishly.

“I promise.” Sam nodded with a reassuring smile.

I sighed, finally admitting defeat.

Still holding Steve’s hand tightly I curled up in my chair, pulling my jacket over me like a blanket and shut my eyes, letting the exhaustion kick in.

The pain slowly faded into the fuzzy numbness before the drowsiness took over and everything went dark.

Chapter Text

That point where you’re not quite awake, but you’re not really asleep either. You’re just sort of drifting, able to hear what’s going on around you, but not actually having enough energy to open your eyes and wake up. That’s where I was.

“On your left.” I heard someone say, their voice was quiet and hoarse, they sounded so far away.

Somebody was squeezing my left hand in time to that beeping.

Beep. Squeeze. Beep. Squeeze. Beep. Squeeze. Wait… When you went to sleep Steve was the one holding your hand but he was –

My eyes shot open and I jolted upright, almost falling out of my chair as I spun to face the bed.

Sam, who was startled by my sudden movement picked his book up of the floor with a lazy grin.

“Steve…” I breathed, relief washing through my body. “How are you feeling?” I asked, half aware that Sam had slid out of the room, to get Natasha, Clint or maybe even a nurse I don’t know.

“Like I got hit by a truck,” He replied then frowned. “What happened?”

“You fell off of a Helicarrier, into the Potomac –” I broke off worriedly as he shook his head.

“Not that. I remember that. Your shoulder. What happened to your shoulder?” He clarified, I glanced down, realising I'd taken my jacket off and the bandages were perfectly visible under my tank top.

“Clint and I were in the New York base when everything went to shit, I took a bullet on the way out,” I said, only making his frown deepen and his monitors beep louder as he tried to sit up. “I’m fine, honestly. Betty patched me up,” I assured him, trying to ignore the fact that ushering Steve to lay back down after jumping out of the chair hurt like a bitch.

“Liar,” He accused softly, I couldn’t help but smile slightly. He knew me way too well.

“What’s she lying about now?” I looked up as Clint's voice as he, Nat and Sam all came back in. “It’s a terrible habit of hers that we can’t get her to shake. I blame Tony.”

Steve’s chuckle turned into a grimace.

“She need’s pain meds,” He said in his Captain voice making me wince, waiting for Clint’s glare.

“She has some,” He said, his voice hard.

“But hasn’t taken any,” Sam added. Jesus, I’ve known the Dude ten minutes and he’s already ganging up on me with everyone else.

I winced again as Natasha, now wearing a black suit (when had she left and changed?) marched across the room, snatching the strip of tablets of the nightstand.

She popped one into her hand before pouring a plastic cup full of water, pressing both of them into my hand with a firm expectant look.

With four pointed stares fixed on me I sighed, swallowing the tablet and downing the entire cup of water before turning back to the rest of them.

“Happy now?” I asked with a slight petulant pout.

“Very,” Steve said, reaching for my hand again.

He hasn’t even been awake ten minutes and he’s already doing his Captain America voice and trying to take care of everyone.

“Might I remind everyone that I’m not the one in the hospital bed,” I said, taking Steve’s hand and leaning against said bed.

“Yes, and as much as I would love to sit around and lecture him on how reckless he was I have a date with Capitol Hill,” Natasha said. “It was either me, Clint, Tony or Bruce… Pepper say’s there is no choice. Maria is going to various other Senate hearings today, but they can’t touch us with Tony’s army of lawyers.” She gave a slight shrug, saying her quick goodbyes she left.

After a while Clint and Sam disappeared to where ever birds disappeared to, so I carefully curled up into Steve’s side, flicking the TV on to Natasha’s hearing.

“This isn’t going to go well for them is it?” I mused and Steve chuckled slightly.

“Whatever gave you that idea?” He said, pressing his lips against my hair in a lingering kiss.

“Senator Stern has been arrested,” I commented, scrolling through my phone. “He’s Hydra.”

“Isn’t he the one that tried to take Tony’s suit a few years back?” Steve asked.

“Uh huh.” I nodded, before looking up at the TV as Natasha took her seat, she looked so done with everything.

“Why haven’t we yet heard from Captain Rogers?” The Committee General asked.

“I don’t know what there is left for him to say… I think the wreck in the middle of the Potomac made his point fairly eloquently,” She replied smoothly.

“Well, he could explain how this country is expected to maintain its National Security now that he and you have laid waste to our intelligence apparatus,”  He said.

Steve tensed under me, I squeezed his hand in reassurance, tracing patterns lightly down his arm.

“Hydra was selling you lies, not intelligence,” Natasha said sharply.

“Many of which you seemed to have had a personal hand in telling.” Natasha shifted in her seat, at the Committee General’s words, giving the air of unease, but I knew she was exactly where she wanted to be, exactly how she wanted to be there.

“Agent you should know that there are some on this committee who feel that given your service record both for this country and against it… That you belong in a penitentiary, not mouthing off on Capitol Hill,” The second guy, General Scudder said

“You’re not going to put me in a prison,” Natasha said confidently. “You’re not going to put any of us in a prison. You know why?”

“Do enlighten us.” He said.

“Here we go…” I mumbled with a smirk.

“Because you need us.” She said simply, with a casual shrug. “Yes, the world is a vulnerable place, and yes, we helped make it that way. But we’re also the ones best qualified to defend it. So, if you wanna arrest me, arrest me. You’ll know where to find me.”

The committee looked around at each other in defeat, knowing she was right, of course she was right she was Natasha Freaking Romanoff.

She slid from her seat and the sea of reporters parted for her, as she strode confidently out of the room, a familiar, triumphant smirk on her lips.

Damn girl!

I reached for my laptop with one hand, already texting with the other.

To Natasha:
And where exactly will we be able to find you?

My phone pinged seconds later.

From Natasha:
Home. With my team.

I smiled warmly at my phone before getting to work.

I fired out several text messages to the team (and Sam), and they all agreed that once Steve was out of hospital that a press conference would be best and I relayed that to various media outlets.

I also posted a quick statement on Facebook, which I then shared through Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram.

Within an hour of Natasha’s Capitol Hill exit Tony texted me, giving me the go ahead to announce the Privatisation of The Avengers Initiative, saying that all questions regarding S.H.I.E.L.D. and The New Avengers Initiative would be answered when Captain Rogers leaves the hospital, and almost everyone seemed to accept that his health came before their answers.

There was however one question that people couldn’t seem to wait for.

What about Bucky Barnes?

In everything that I’d posted through The Avengers accounts I’d been very careful not to mention him or The Winter Soldier. They’re different people until he tells me different.

Because that wasn’t down me or Natasha or the government. It was down to Steve, and then may the Gods help whoever stands in his way.

“I’m going to find him. Bring him home,” He said, without me needing to ask later in the day, his fingers never stopped combing through my hair.

Jealously swirled through me again.

“I know,” I mumbled quietly.

“I heard what you said earlier,” He said making me freeze. But his fingers kept untangling knots in my hair. “Or was it yesterday… I don’t know. I do know that I love you. Bucky being alive, it doesn’t change that. I – I do still love him. But I don’t know what’s going to happen once we find him, I don’t know what sort of state he’s going to be in.

“I don’t want you to think that because he’s… back that I don’t love you anymore or that I don’t want to be with you, because I do, he’s not going to change that. The same way that loving you doesn’t stop me loving him. I don’t know how to explain this Doll, and right now, I don’t know what I can give you.

“But I know that you not taking your meds, you saying you’ll leave. It’s because you don’t think you deserve to be happy… You think you deserve to be in pain, first with your leg, then Ian, now this.” I buried my face further into the blankets on his chest. He knows you better than you know yourself.

“Like I said, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But all we can do is take it one step at a time. Go with right now. Don’t dwell on what could happen tomorrow,” He said.

It took me a minute to regain my composure, lifting my head from his chest I turned to face him.

“One day at a time right?” I said, repeating his words from over a year ago.

He smiled slightly.

“One at a time.” He nodded, leaning forwards to kiss me soundly.

Chapter Text

The rest of the day was surprisingly calm, I would only leave Steve’s side to use the restroom and then went straight back to my place curled up next to him, my head carefully resting on his chest.

Various nurses and doctors came in throughout the day, checking Steve over and by the evening they declared that he was pretty much fully healed and that he could be discharged.

Tony drove us away from the hospital, through the Washington streets to his apartment building (yes, he owns an entire apartment building), where everybody was staying in his Penthouse.

“There’s been an attack,” Natasha said in way of greeting, stepping into the living room, tablet in hand.

“Where?” Steve shot up right next to me.

“Ideal Federal Savings Bank. It was the day before yesterday, but Sharon just found out from the CIA. It wasn’t a S.H.I.E.L.D. base,” She said. “They found Hydra files and… and a piece of technology that’s in Barnes’ file. It was a Hydra base, perhaps his last check in point.

“Four Hydra Agents were arrested, they needed medical attention, but he left them alive,” She reported.

“Are we sure it was him?” Steve asked, a hint of hope wavering in his voice.

Nat touched something on her tablet, passing it to Steve.

“This was what they found,” She said.

I leant closer to Steve, looking down at the screen. It looked like a chair, a metal chair that had several clamps, and a something mangled that looked like it attached to someone’s, Barnes’, head. The computers that attached to the chair where smashed and the chair itself had several dents, one of the restraints was bent.

“All of the files on or relating to Barnes were also taken, including the ones about his arm. One of the recovered Hydra Agents confirmed it was the Winter Soldier that tore up the place,” Natasha said.

“He’s going after old Hydra bases,” Sam said, looking through the pictures as Steve handed him the tablet.

“He’s looking for closure,” She agreed with a nod, Clint reached out, squeezing her hand slightly.

Everyone looked up as the front door opened and an aggravated Maria stepped inside.

“Maria, you didn’t call back. Are you alright?” Pepper asked in concern, stepping forwards.

“Sorry Pepper. I ran into May –”

“Melinda May?” Nat asked.

“Yeah, I need to do her a favour, I’m going to be gone 48 hours max, I’ll go straight back to the tower,” The former Deputy-Director said.

“She was with Coulson in when they were in London, after the Dark Elves. Is she still with his team?” I said and Maria nodded, opening her mouth to say something but was cut off by a sharp intake of breath.

“Coulson?” Natasha asked and Clint sighed, untangling their hands, pulling his into his own lap with a guilty look.

“I didn’t think the Hospital was the best place to have that conversation, neither was outside Capitol Hill,” He said quietly.

“Phil’s alive. He has been for months,” Maria said, I shifted away from Steve slightly as he tensed. “Darcy met him when she was in London, that’s all she knows, S.H.I.E.L.D. made her not tell any of you, so don’t take it out on her. I need to go and fill his team in on… well everything,” Maria said. “On a side note if you need assistance, don’t call the FBI. Their reaction time is shit, I don’t expect 3 minutes 20 from Level 1 Agents.” Obviously done with her speech, she turned on her heel and left the apartment, the door swinging shut behind her.

“He’s alive?” It took me a second to realise it was Natasha who had spoken, I turned back to her, her eyes were clouded over and her voice sounded so small, so lost, and not in the way they normally looked when she was pretending to be vulnerable for an interrogation, this was her façade actually cracking.

“Yes.” I nodded slightly, my voice quiet.

She took a deep breath and nodded, gripping one of her wrists tightly. Clint’s hands twitched in his lap, as if he wanted to reach out and take her hands again but he didn’t.

Natasha nodded again, her eyes showing her mind far away in thought. She rose sharply to her feet and took a step towards her room then paused.

“Excuse me,” She said quietly, nodding again to herself she disappeared into her and Clint’s room.

Clint sighed, running his hands across his face and through his hair, he too rose to his feet, going to follow her, but pausing next to Steve and my couch.

“It’s not your fault, Darcy,” He said before following after her.

“He’s right,” Steve agreed quietly, reaching out resting his hand on my thigh.

“It’s Fury’s,” Tony added, leaning heavily into Pepper’s side as she stepped up next to the barstool he was perched on.

There was a muffled thud from Clint and Nat’s room, followed by her muffled yelling in Russian that I didn’t feel right to translate

Pepper sighed sadly.

The evening wore on and everybody started to drift to bed, Clint reappeared saying that he was going for a walk to clear his head and Sam stepped up to go with him.

Clint hesitated at the idea but then agreed that it probably wasn’t best to go out alone.

“You coming to bed?” Steve asked after they left and I nodded slightly.

“Give me a minute? I need to talk to Nat,” I said, Steve smiled and nodded, disappearing into our room.

I pulled myself off of the couch making two steaming mugs of hot chocolate, carefully carrying them in one hand so I could knock softly on Nat’s door.

“Hey, it’s me. I’m comin’ in,” I called out. I waited a beat and when she didn’t tell me to leave, I pushed the door open, stepping inside so I could shut it softly behind me.

I sighed softly at the sight of Natasha, the large king sized bed was untouched, instead she was sitting in the far corner of the room, her knees pulled tightly against her chest.

Her hair was a mess and I couldn’t help but notice her red rimmed, puffy eyes.

On the floor in front of her lay her Widow Bites.

I sat down without a word, leaning against the wall, sliding a mug across the floor towards her, setting the other one next to me to cool down.

“I’m sorry,” I said quietly, looking down at the floor. “For not telling you.”

“I forgive you. That’s how S.H.I.E.L.D. works – worked,” She corrected.

“I feel like you’re still mad at me,” I prodded carefully.

“At myself,” She said after a beat. “I’m mad at myself.”

“What for?” I asked, looking to her in confusion.

“Barnes trained me, did you know that?” She asked instead and I hesitated in surprise.

“I did.” I nodded.

“It’s funny that it would be him. We were told to call him Soldat or Сэр, he was with us for so long that his conditioning, the memory wipe, it started to break down. He’d started to become a person again. We never knew that of course, and neither did he. We became as close as two people could be in the Red Room. He said his name was Yasha. Do you know what the English equivalent is?” I shook my head. “It’s James.” She gave a slight humourless laugh.

“I loved him,” She said it like it the most hideous thing imaginable, maybe to her it was. “He’s the only person I ever said that too. I don’t anymore, not in that way of course. But he made me what I am today, he helped me get out of that place. I owe him.

“You know, I looked into it earlier, I dug through the hundreds of files, The Red Room, what was left of the KGB; it became Hydra.” She sniffed slightly but didn’t cry.

“I wasn’t raised, I was made in the Red Room. I was made to be the best. I was made to know everything, even the things that nobody should know. But I don’t deserve these anymore.” She nudged her Widow Bites with her foot. “I don’t deserve the title because I’m not the best.

“I didn’t know Coulson was alive, I didn’t know who Yasha really was, I didn’t know I was still taking orders from them. It was our jobs to know, and none of us did. I failed!”

I reached out slowly as not to startle her, resting my hand on top of hers, squeezing it lightly.

“Despite what the Red Room tried to make you, despite what S.H.I.E.L.D. tried to make you, you’re still a human being. You’re allowed to not notice things, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Nobody knows everything, not even Fury or Tony ‘nd that’s okay,” I said, Natasha slowly raised her head. “If you do stick with the team, then there is never going to be a doubt on whose orders you’re taking.

“Steve being Hydra is literally the most unrealistic and outlandish thing ever,” I said, Nat gave a slight smile in agreement.

“And for the record.” I picked up her Widow Bites, pressing them firmly into her hands. “There is nobody better than you.”

Chapter Text

The next morning after a restless night’s sleep, Pepper and I got to work, combing through media outlets, confirming or denying various reports.

Sam, Steve and Nat disappeared out to meet Fury, when they got back Steve clutched a folder tightly, a paper copy of what Nat gave me, and Clint looked pretty annoyed.

I didn’t ask questions, just loaded everything up and flew back to the Tower, where everyone went straight down to the Situation room where everyone took their place around a conference table.

“Fury is alive, Coulson is alive, Barnes is alive, my parents were assassinated, what else is everybody hiding?” Tony asked in a clipped tone.

“Barnes trained me as a child,” Natasha offered and Steve’s head snapped up in surprise. “He helped me get out of the Red Room and then tried to kill me a few years back.”

“When we first designed Darcy’s leg, we used the basics from some schematics in S.H.I.E.L.D’s files,” Betty said. “Those schematics were from The Winter Soldier project. Jarvis is running through the plans again, making sure we didn’t accidentally use any hidden bugs.”

My eyes widened in alarm.

My leg was based on Hydra designs…

“Miss Lewis, I can confirm that I found nothing out of the ordinary in your prosthesis,” Jarvis said and I sighed in relief, sinking back in my chair.

“On the plus side. If Darcy’s leg is based on the same designs, it mean it’ll be easier to scrap Barnes’ current arm and make a complete new one for him,” Tony said making everyone but Pepper look over at him in surprise, she just gave a soft smile.

“You’d do that?” Steve asked softly. “Even after… After everything he’s done?” After he killed your parents. Tony gave a slight shrug.

“I let Barton live here after everything with Loki. It wasn’t him. It was Hydra,” Tony said, Steve gave a small smile as Clint nodded.

“There are rumours going around that the Ten Rings and Mandarin is all Hydra too,” I put in, Pepper bit her lip but nodded in acceptance.

“What about everyone’s families?” Jane asked, speaking up for the first time. “All of our files went online, all of our family’s details and emergency contacts etcetera. They all went up too.”

“I don’t have anyone,” Tony shrugged, Pepper, Clint, Natasha, Steve, Bruce and Thor nodding in agreement.

“Chelsea and Malia are with Mike. He’s being deployed the day after tomorrow –”

“I’ll send a car for them tomorrow,” Tony said cutting me off and I turned to him in surprise. “We have more than enough space, and it’s secure. Jarvis, order things for a baby to stay,” He said with that ‘don’t argue with me I’m Tony Stark’ voice, so I just smiled softly, knowing better to argue.

“Thank you,” I said. “And as for my dad, I don’t like him but I don’t want him dead, but all of the data in my file is out of date. I don’t have his current number or address.” I shrugged, there was nobody else in my file to get hurt.

“My Mom is in England, but she wasn’t in my file, Darcy is my emergency contact,” Jane said. “Erik is at the Stark facility in Cambridge, he should be safe.”

"We'll send security just in case," Steve said, getting a smile in thanks.

“The only other person is the General,” Betty said tightly. “He can protect himself.”

“I was never on S.H.I.E.L.D’s radar until two days ago,” Sam said with a shrug.

The room fell silent.

The fighting was done, for now. We were all alive. We were all relatively safe. S.H.I.E.L.D. was gone and so was a privacy… But…

“Now what?” Betty asked.

“We’re privatising National Security,” Tony said, exhaustion outweighed the confidence in his voice. “The Avengers have been declared Private, I’m paying for it. We don’t take orders from any form of government, that way we choose what missions we take and don’t take,” He said.

“This has been on the table for a while now, but now it needs to happen,” Pepper said. “Darcy, we want you and Maria to run it, you’ll do the same job as before just without the reporting to S.H.I.E.L.D. part. On top of being head of the towers security, Maria is going to be helping you veto missions and run recruitment. For now that’s all that’s going to change, also where your pay checks are coming from. If you got pay checks from S.H.I.E.L.D, they’re now going to come from the Initiative. Any questions?”

“I have one,” I said, raising my hand slightly. “I promised a Press Conference once Steve was out of hospital, I was planning on including this, yes?”

“Yes.” Pepper nodded.

“Also, I was thinking tomorrow. The entire team would need to be there, plus Sam,” I said. Sam looked slightly unsure but Pepper nodded again.

“Hold up, I’ve never done anything like that, the pubic eye thing, before,” He protested, looking between the rest of the team anxiously.

“It’ll be fine, just answer all the questions directed at you directly. If they ask about anything other than the current situation you don’t have to answer,” I said. “Most of the questions are probably going to be directed at Steve, Tony or Natasha but I can’t guarantee that.” Sam nodded.

We spent the next several hours going over everything for both the press conference and the new Initiative.

When Clint ordered pizza and we moved back to the Common Room, sitting around together with a cheesy movie it almost felt normal.


“Bucky, Bucky!” I woke with a start, turning straight to Steve as he yelled in his sleep.

“Steve, wake up. It’s okay you’re safe,” I said, resting my hand carefully on his arm, trying to draw him away from the memory. “Steve!”

Steve’s eyes shot open with a sharp gasp, looking around in alarm before sinking back into the pillows.

“I couldn’t save him,” He said, his voice barely above a whisper.

“It wasn’t your fault,” I said. I said the same thing every night he woke up, sobbing his name.

“They took him, they did this to him because of me. I should have saved him!” Steve sobbed and my heart broke as he crumbled into my arm.

“It wasn’t your fault Steve. You couldn’t have known that he had survived. You didn’t know,” I said, running my hand through his hair. “It’s over, he’s alive and we’re going to find him, I promise.”

Steve sniffled slightly, trying to dry his eyes without me noticing.

“I love you,” He murmured, burying his face further into my shirt.

“I love you too,” I murmured back, pressing my lips against his forehead. “C’mon, it’s still early, try and get some more sleep,” I said, pulling the covers back over him, shifting so I could keep my arm comfortably around his shoulders. “It’s going to be okay.”

It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. It has to be.


I waited for Steve to settle back down, his breathing evening out before sliding out of bed, the second my feet hit the floor I hesitated.

I couldn’t go to the gym because of my shoulder.

I couldn’t go to the range because Jarvis would tell Clint.

I couldn’t wake Steve because he deserved way more than a few hours’ sleep.

I moved into the living room as not to wake Steve.

“Jarvis, who’s up?” I asked.

“Sir is in his lab and Agent Romanoff is in her studio with Agent Barton,” He said, I nodded as I contemplated it.

Grabbing my hoodie off the dining room chair I took the elevator up to the lab.

The elevator stopped and I tugged on the ends of my sleeves as I stepped into the lab.

“Hey Kiddo,” Tony said, looking up from whatever he was working.

“Hi,” I said meekly.

“C’mere, I need a hand,” He said.Stepping forwards I let him guide my hand to hold several wires as he twisted another one through. “Rough night?” He asked, not looking up from his work.

“Wasn’t me this time,” I said, tightening the screw he pointed to, Tony just hummed in acknowledgement.

I did this a lot when Steve was in DC after a rough night. Tony wouldn't ask questions, he wouldn't tell me everything would be okay. He just distracted me, taught me about whatever he was working on. He even let me study the arc-reactor blueprints and helped me make a mini one of my own, like a nightlight.

We'd work together in almost silence until one of us would crash, either stumbling back to our rooms or on the couch in the corner.

As usual we worked in near silence, only breaking it when he gave instructions, we worked for nearly two hours before I yawned for the tenth time in the last five minutes.

“Go to bed,” Tony ordered, reaching over to snatch the wrench out my hand, too tired to argue I nodded. I stumbled back into the elevator and straight back into bed.

Steve shifted, wrapping his arm around my shoulders, drawing me against his chest.

“Sorry I woke you,” He murmured.

“Don’t apologise. It’s fine,” I replied.

“I love you,” He said. I smiled sleepily.

“I love you too.”

Chapter Text

The next morning was chaos.

I dressed in a navy blue pantsuit with a pair of matching fuck me heels, with the Camo Device, covering my leg making sure my pants sat straight before strapping my Beretta to the small of my back and my Glock to my hip.

Jacket and phone in hand I took the elevator up to the Common Room, knowing that Steve would still be in the gym for a while.

Clint did my makeup, and changed the bandages on my shoulder as I skimmed through my notes.

CNN, ABC, GMA, Fox News, Daily News, Washington Post, ITV, NBC and various other papers and stations.

Fox would probably be an issue, but the rest should be a walk in the park.

“J, how’s the press floor looking?” I asked as Clint started packing up his kit.

“Security has been tightened, six reporters are in the Press Room, my scanners have not detected any threats as of yet,” Jarvis announced.

“Give a thirty minute heads up to the team and the press please,” I said, bouncing my heel nervously.

“Of course.”

“Is Steve still in the gym?” I asked.

“Captain Rogers is in your apartment,” Jarvis replied. At least he’s not kicking the crap out of punch bags.

The rest of the team, Steve included, appeared and we took the elevator down to the Situation floor.

The main corridor that led to the Operations Room, Press Room and locker room was only accessible from the private elevator.

The Stark Industries Employees elevator was the one that was bringing all the Press here. It lead to the other side of this floor and only lead to the Press Room. It was also as high as that elevator went.

“Please don’t do anything outlandish,” I said, looking to Tony, he smirked and shrugged slightly.

“I’ll try.”

“Let’s just get this over with,” Natasha said, straightening her jacket before pushing the door open, leading the team up onto the raised stage. They took their assigned places at the table and I moved to the podium.

“Good morning,” I said, my voice echoing around the room.

Stay focussed. Pepper had advised.

“As you all know several days ago the biggest Intelligence breach in history occurred. Now, despite all of the files that were released, not many people know what actually happened. The people in this room do however know and want to put an end to the speculation going around.

“Questions can be directed at any member of the panel but only if they relate to current events. Any unrelated questions will not be answered,” I said. “The panel is now open. You there?” I pointed towards a guy in a red shirt.

“A lot of people have been wondering who actually made the decision to release all of S.H.I.E.L.D’s files. Was it one person’s decision or was this planned?” He asked.

“Ultimately it was my decision,” Steve said, leaning forwards slightly. “The decision was made about four hours before the data was released. It wasn’t ideal but a decision had to be made,”

“And you believe that it was the right decision?” Red shirt guy asked.

“I do.” Steve nodded. “Despite the various consequences to releasing the files, it’s better for everybody that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been taken out.”

Red shirt scowled but nodded.

“You, red hair, second row.” I pointed.

“Captain, you said ‘ultimately’ that makes it sound like it wasn’t your initial idea,” She said. “It makes it sound like it was a group discussion beforehand. Was it the Avengers that you had that discussion with?”

She said group discussion like it was a high school project.

“It was discussed thoroughly between myself, Agent Romanoff, Former Deputy Director Hill and Master Sergeant Wilson,” Steve said.

“Just to clarify Master Sergeant Wilson is the man to your right?” She asked. Sam nodded. “Who besides from being a former Air Force Soldier we know nothing about. How can we trust his judgment?”

Steve and Sam exchanged a look.

“Because he wasn’t fighting on Hydra’s side. He risked his life to help uncover and try and bring down the biggest terrorist organisation in history. That should give you a hint on who’s side he is on,” Steve said, a hard tone to his voice.

“Next question,” I put in before the redhead could dig herself into a deeper hole. “Back row, third from the left,” I said.

“Can you confirm the reports that say Howard and Maria Stark were assassinated?” He asked bluntly.

I glanced round at Tony who visibly flinched, clenching his jaw tightly before he nodded, leaning forwards slightly.

“Yeah, I can confirm that Hydra had them killed,” He snarled, glaring darkly at the table.

“Next question?” I said, my voice coming across sharper than I had intended. “Second row, blue shirt, orange tie?”

“When Agent Barton’s file was released so was his medical information. We find out he’s deaf and we’re supposed to be comfortable with letting him defend us if he can’t even hear anything?”

I narrowed my eyes in anger.

“Given the fact that Agent Barton is currently in the room, why don’t you ask him, he would after all be the best person to answer that question,” I snapped.

I looked over to Clint who bit back a smirk before leaning forwards.

“I lost eighty percent of my hearing when I was eleven years old, I learnt to fight and shoot before that. When I joined the circus one of the animal handlers spent days teaching me to sign, and she made sure that every other member of the circus could sign too. Later when I was recruited to S.H.I.E.L.D. they were fully aware of my disability from day one, they got me my first aids and when I went through medical they realised that my disability is what makes me better at my job.

“What a lot of able bodied people don’t know is that losing one sense can enhance another. My hearing loss, enhanced my eyesight, it makes my eyesight better than any non-enhanced person. As a sniper and an archer I need perfect sight, and I have it. I now have StarkTech hearing aids which enable me to hear just like everybody else.

“My point is my disability doesn’t hinder my ability to do my job, it makes me better at it, ask anyone at this table. But if it’s really such a concern for everybody, by all means, Steve is welcome replace me, but I can guarantee they won’t ever be as good as me.”

Tony laughed slightly and I couldn’t help but smirk as I turned back to the audience.

“Next question?”

“Between the data release and various facial recognition programs, the man that Captain Rogers, Agent Romanoff and Master Sergeant Wilson were fighting both on the bridge and at the Triskelion building, he’s been identified as Sergeant James Barnes, also known as Bucky Barnes of the Howling Commando’s. Sergeant Barnes was declared dead 1944.

“The man on the bridge, the Winter Soldier, up until a week ago he was a ghost story. How did Sergeant Barnes, one of the most notable soldiers of World War II become one of the world’s best assassins for the KGB and Hydra?” He asked.

Natasha leant forwards.

“May I take this one?” She asked. I nodded and the reporter shrugged.

“Sergeant Barnes and his unit were captured early in 1944, he was experimented on and tortured by a scientist named Zola. When S.H.I.E.L.D’s files were released so were a lot of Hydras. Reading through those files we discovered that part of the experimentation was a replica of the super soldier serum. It is also one of the three successful serums ever made.

“The serum is what helped Sergeant Barnes survive the fall that made everybody think he was dead, he lost an arm but he was alive and a Soviet soldier discovered Barnes at the bottom of the ravine. They tortured him for days, kept him captive for two years before they handed him back to Hydra and then to Zola, who got to continue his experiments. They built him a prosthetic arm and then wiped his mind completely.” My eyes drifted to Steve as Natasha spoke, his jaw was locked, his fists clenched tightly on the table.

“Every single memory of his life, every inch of his personality, they erased in a very painful way. In the same process they would implant skills, languages, fighting styles, ways to kill people. They made the world’s greatest killer and he never once had to set foot in a gym.

“Between missions, when he wasn’t useful to them, they would use Cryogenic freezer chambers to preserve him. Bringing him out only when they had a mission. Mission, wipe, freeze, repeat.” She hesitated and from here I could see Clint slid a hand under the table and she took a breath, moving her arm as if she took his hand.

“I first met the Winter Soldier in Russia, where I was trained… He was different from my other teachers. We all knew that… He always had his handler with him, they were always feeding him instructions. He taught us what they wanted, how they wanted, in the way they wanted.

“He was with us for years, and that meant that he wasn’t wiped or frozen for years. His conditioning started to break down. He started to get more of his personality back, he helped us.” She smiled slightly. “He’d give us advice, he hinted to us that the Red Room, the KGB wasn’t what we were told it was. He told us that there was more out there. That the Americans weren’t necessarily what we thought it was. What we were told to believe it was.

“He kept his recovery from his handlers of course, but eventually they found out, they always found out. We didn’t know what they did to him that night. But for two days solid all we heard were his screams.”

Jesus Nat…

I looked across the press, most of who were shifting uncomfortably, a couple with wide glassy eyes.

Despite her harsh, matter of fact words it was having the desired effect, it was making people see him as he was, a prisoner of war, a victim.

“Nobody in the Red Room saw him or spoke about him again. The next day we got a new trainer, one that wasn’t an asset himself and that was it. After the soldier, Yasha we called him, was taken some of us, some of the girls talked more after missions. We’d look at the world differently. We’d start to see it for what it was. Not what other people wanted us to see. What he told us helped me and several other girls get out of there.

“When I defected I looked into him, he was credited with hundreds of kills over fifty years. I presumed like The Black Widow, that The Winter Soldier was a title, passed between men. It was more merciful to think like that. That that amount of pain, spread between various men was more humane, more bearable than decade’s worth of the worse types of torture was inflicted onto just one man…” She hesitated.

“In 2009 I was in Moscow on assignment, my mission was to protect a scientist, get him from one place to the other and keep him alive. Our tyres were shot out, so was my backup, I looked up and he was there, the same man that trained me years before, the man who saved my life, he looked right at me, seeing me as nothing more than someone standing between he and his target, and he shot the scientist, straight through me.”

A ripple of horrified whispers ran through the crowd of reporters.

“And just like that he was gone again. There was no mention of him for years until Director Fury’s assassination. Then we fought again, on the bridge, he shot me again. He didn’t recognise me, who he trained for years. But more importantly he didn’t recognise Steve.”

“Before Barnes fell they were as close as two people could be, they had only each other and Hydra and the KGB, they took that away from him, every inch of who Barnes was, they took.”

My eyes fixed on Steve, his eyes were firmly fixed on the table, he was tense, trying to keep his emotions in check, but he was failing.

“Given what we know on the technology they used to control Barnes’ mind. In a different environment, away from handlers and monitors, without being exposed to the wipe or tactical inserts, we have every reason to believe that he can and will get both his personality and his past memories back. Does that answer your question adequately?”

“Er yes, thank you Ma’am,” The reporter nodded, looking startled as he nodded.

My eyes scanned over the team.

“Thank you. We’re going to take a short, ten minute break, we’ll all reconvene in a moment,” I said.

Steve pushed away from the table and practically ran out of the room, glancing briefly towards Natasha, Clint pulled her from a different exit. Knowing that she’d be okay I hopped off the podium, and out of the room, running down the corridor in the direction Steve left in.

I turned a corner and stopped in my tracks, Steve was slumped against the wall, his elbows rested on his knees, his head in his hands as his body shook.

“Hey,” I breathed softly, stepping forward I lowered myself to my knees, pressing my hand into his shoulder.

He looked up at me, tears streaking down his face a shattered expression fixed on his face.

“I should have – I could’ve – I didn’t save him,” He sobbed.

“Oh Steve,” I sighed, wrapping my arms around his shoulders, drawing him into my chest as his body wracked with violent sobs.

I clutched him tightly, knowing that there was nothing I could say, nothing I’d ever be able to say to make this better for him.

He would continue to believe that this was his fault until Bucky himself told him otherwise.

Jarvis gave us a five minute warning in which I took that time to gently pry Steve off of the floor and into the nearest bathroom, where I pressed him to wash his face and I dabbed some concealer under his eyes.

“Welcome back,” I said, stepping back up to the podium, waiting for the reporters to fall silent. “The same terms as before, questions are now open… Third row fourth from the left.”

“Just to clarify, The Avengers Initiative is against the prosecution of Sergeant Barnes also known as The Winter Soldier?” He asked.

Was he not listening to Nat?

“We’re all firmly against it,” Natasha said sharply.

“Next question?”

Chapter Text

I sent what felt like the hundredth email, setting my tablet on the coffee table with a weary sigh.

I jumped slightly as my eyes landed on Steve, stood silently by our bedroom door for Thor knows how long.

“I – I can’t read Russian,” He said, his voice barley above a whisper. He held out a brown file and I could tell without looking which file it was. “I need to know.”

I nodded silently, dropping two cushions on the floor, I slid down onto one of them.

Steve took the hint, stumbling clumsily across the room, dropping onto the cushion next to me, handing me the file.

I set it on my lap, reaching out to lace my fingers with his, offering what little comfort I could before I opened the first page.

The entire time I read Steve clutched my hand tightly, his head tilted back against the couch, a pained look on his face as silent tears leaking out of the corners of his eyes.

Once I started reading I couldn’t stop; because if I stopped I knew I wouldn’t want to start again.

This was destroying him. I knew he was rethinking everything since Barnes fell, tearing himself apart for not being able to save him. I hated that I had to do this. A small, unfair, part of me wanted to hate Natasha for ever teaching me Russian, because if I hadn’t learnt Russian I’d never be in this situation. 

According to these files before the last week Barnes hadn’t been out of cryo-freeze since he shot Natasha in 2009.

I finished reading the final report, the attack on the bridge, closing the file, setting it up on the couch out of the way.

“Steve?” I asked warily, wiping my face before he opened his eyes and saw me. But he didn’t move. “Steve? Talk to me, please?” 

Steve hiccuped slightly, before lifting his head and opening his glassy, pain filled eyes.

“It said – they said that he screamed, he screamed for me to save him, and I didn’t,” his voice caught in his throat. “He was waiting for me to save him, but I never did. I failed him! I didn’t save him! I couldn’t –” He sobbed, sagging against me, burying his face in my chest as he sobbed violently.

“We’re gonna find him,” I murmured, pressing a gently kiss to the top of his head. “We’re going to bring him home, I promise.”

We will find you Barnes, and you’re coming home whether you like it or not, because you have to fix this, because I don’t know how.


After nearly half an hour Steve pulled away, with red rimmed eyes and a slightly dazed, but still pained look on his face. He pulled himself off of the floor and with hardly two words he went to shower.

How the fuck did this become my life?

“Miss Lewis, Master Sergeant Wilson is requesting entrance,” Jarvis announced.

I let out a deep sigh, pulling myself off of the floor, tossing the cushions back on the couch as I cracked my back.

Pulling open the door Sam took one look at me and sighed.

“He read the file, huh?” He said.

“You could say that,” I said with a weak humourless laugh. “Come in. Make yourself at home.” I pulled open the door further, letting him step inside. “He’s in the shower, given that he usually only takes five minutes and he’s already been in there fifteen, it means he feels shitty and is pushing himself further and further down the guilt train and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Coffee?”

“Sure.” Sam nodded, taking a seat at the breakfast bar as I poured two mugs of coffee, sliding the cream and sugar towards him before handing him the drink.

“So, have you officially moved in?” I asked. “I’m guessing given the current circumstances the ‘Welcome to the madhouse’ party has been postponed.”

Sam chuckled.

“Yeah, all my stuff got here from DC this morning, but unpacking doesn’t seem worth it at the minute. I’m waiting for the word and then I think we’re gonna be hitting the road,” He said. “Besides, I’m also not convinced that any of this is actually real, it all seems way too insane. Tony Stark just offered to pay me to live in this tower, he offered me a check due to the noise of construction on the two floors below. Apparently now that I’ve moved in there is only one apartment free and that’s being taken today, or something.” He shrugged.

“You should probably accept the check for the upcoming disturbance. My erm – sister-in-law and 18 month old baby are moving in,” I explained. “A screaming toddler is probably not what you had in mind.” Sam smiled, but before he could say anything our bedroom door opened and Steve came out, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, a blank expression on his face.

“What time are they getting here?” Steve asked, pressing a light kiss to my forehead before pouring himself a cup of coffee.

“I have no idea. I just know Tony was sending them a car,” I replied with a slight shrug. “Tony’s set up the apartment below us, above Sam, for them, so I guess its long term.”

“Safer that way.” He nodded.

“Jarvis, what time are Chelsea and Malia getting here?” I asked, glancing towards the ceiling.

“The van is currently at Miss Grey’s place of residence, they’re loading it up now. A car is en-route to Brooklyn. I estimate they will be at least two hours,” Jarvis said.

“Thanks J,” I said. “We have about two hours until I have to play the ‘everything’s fine the media is exaggerating’ card. So, what’s the plan?” I turned to Steve.

“We start with the Ideal Federal Savings Bank. It’s the last place we know he’s been. But that was several days ago so…” Steve trailed off.

“So he could be half way around the world by now,” I finished.

“Given Barnes’s current mental state I think that’s unlikely,” Sam put in. “He’s got very little idea of who he is, other than the Soldier. I believe that he’d try and find out who he was, who James Barnes was, who Steve was to him, first, and then find out who Hydra made him into,”

“So what? He’d go after Hydra bases?” I asked.

“He’s already taken out one base, the bank. It suggests there’s a chance he’ll go after the others.”

At some point we moved downstairs to the Situation room where we spread his file across the conference table, looking for any hint of locations.

Natasha, and by extension Clint, joined us, she gave us everything she knew about the Red Room’s location and various other safe houses she used when she was with the KGB that he might know about.

“’ntie Darcy!” My head shot up, just in time to catch the eighteen month old who launched herself at me.

“Hey Cariño.” I lifted her up, noting thankfully as Natasha and Steve covered the horrific pictures on the table and Clint got rid of the ones on the screen.

“I’m sorry.” Chelsea came in, looking pretty exhausted. “Bruce said it was okay to come down here,”

“Its fine,” Steve assured her, kissing her cheek in greeting before turning to Malia.

“’cle Steebe,” She giggled, extending her arms towards him, almost smacking me in the face. Steve chuckled, carefully extracting her from my arms.

“Chelsea, Malia, this is Sam Wilson, Sam this is Chelsea and my niece Malia, your new neighbours,” I introduced.

“It’s nice to meet you Ma’am,” Sam said, shaking Chelsea’s hand as she scoffed.

“Just Chelsea please,” She requested, Sam smiled and nodded.

“I think we should call it a day,” Natasha said. “Jarvis is running fifty different scans to find him, but we can’t do anything else for now. We all need a break.” I nodded in agreement.

“C’mon, I’ll cook,” I offered, powering down all of the screens.

“Do you want me to take her?” Chelsea offered, nodding towards Malia who was fiddling with the dog tags which she’d pulled out from under Steve's shirt.

“It’s okay.” Steve shook his head, his eyes fixed on the child, a small smile etched on his lips.

Not for the first time I thanked the Gods for Malia's existence. 

We all took the elevator back up to the Common Room and I couldn’t help but laugh at Malia’s fascination with the scenery the elevator walls formed, this time choosing images of space, stars swirling around us.

“Estrellas,” She said pointing up at them. Stars.

“Así es. Son estrellas,” Chelsea praised. That’s right. Stars.

Malia giggled, clapping her hands together.


Chelsea, Clint and I moved into the kitchen as Steve and Natasha sat on the floor next to the piano with Malia, playing with a bag of stuffed toys that had appeared from somewhere.

My head shot up from the sauce I was stirring at the sound of both Steve and Natasha’s laughter and despite the horrors of the past several days, my heart swelled with warmth at the picture of the three of them sitting on the floor together, for a moment, nothing else mattered.

Chapter Text

Two days passed with nothing.

Jarvis was scanning every public security camera in the world, and still there was no sign of Barnes.

That’s what we’d all fixed on calling him for now, well, all of us but Steve, he still clung to the thought of his Bucky.

But the rest of us couldn’t do that, because he wasn’t Steve’s Bucky anymore, nor was he Natasha’s Yasha, but he wasn’t the Soldier either. So, for now, until he told us any different, he was Barnes.

Chelsea, Malia and Sam all seemed to settle into the tower pretty well. It was a bit of an adjustment for Malia, Jarvis was constantly informing someone that the toddler was trying to get in somewhere she shouldn’t be, and there was yesterday night where she screamed because Mike wasn’t here, and he'd promised to read her a bedtime story.

So instead she finally calmed down when Steve offered to read her one instead. So Steve was now her favourite person.

Which is why Steve was currently reading her (and Clint) a book in the conversation pit while Chelsea, Jane, Pepper, Betty, Natasha and I were sitting the other side of the room on the couches by the bar, talking about everything but what was currently going on.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. Bus 6-1-6 is requesting permission to land,” Jarvis announced, breaking up the peaceful afternoon.

Natasha shot to her feet and Clint shot bolt upright from where we thought he was lying in the Conversation pit.

“Who’s piloting?” Nat asked, stalking over to the window, scanning the skies for a plane.

“Agent Melinda May. Her credentials check out,” Jarvis said.

“Who else is on board?” Tony asked, stepping out of the elevator with Bruce, Thor and Sam.

“Agents Phillip Coulson, Maria Hill, Antoine Triplett and Skye as well as Doctor Jemma Simmons.”

A harsh intake of breath was echoed around the room and everyone looked to Tony who looked to Steve.

“Let them land,” Steve said, lifting Malia up the steps, setting her on the piano stool, keeping hold of her hands as everyone moved towards the dining room, watching out of the windows as the sleek black jet twisted in mid-air, landing perfectly on the pad.

Tension filled the room as the ramp was lowered and five people were lead down the ramp by Maria.

I was half aware of the way Clint tensed and Natasha moved her hand to her back pocket where I knew she hid a knife.

The door opened automatically and the team stepped into the room.

My eyes drifted across them, they all looked exhausted, but the worst of the injuries seemed to be the bruise on Doctor Simmons’ cheek and Agent May’s split lip.

The rest of them looked to be in pretty good shape.

I couldn’t help but let my eyes rest on Skye, she was taller than she was when she was sixteen, she looked stronger too, but it was still her, the same long brown hair and the exact same determined glint in her eyes.

“Never got the van, huh?” I asked, ignoring the uncomfortable silence around us.

Skye smiled slightly.

“I got the van, it got put in a S.H.I.E.L.D. storage facility last I saw of it…” She hesitated turning to Coulson. “Shieldra Agents better not have broken my van.”

Coulson sighed, not taking his eyes off of Clint.

“I’m sure they haven’t,” He replied wearily.

“Good. But these guys found me in the van and I upgraded to the plane. It has better WiFi, and cheaper food,” She said and I grinned. “I see you got an upgrade too.” She nodded to my leg and I glanced down at the glinting metal that was clearly visible due to my shorts.

“The perks of living with Stark, he has an obsessive need to fix everything,” I said with a fond smile at Tony’s affronted noise. Skye grinned brightly and despite the tense atmosphere in the room we both rushed forward, I threw my arms around her neck, ignoring the shooting pains going through my shoulder, as I clutched her tightly.

“I thought if I ever found you with a S.H.I.E.L.D. team it would be in handcuffs,” I said as we pulled apart.

“Been there done that… several times.” She gave a sheepish shrug. I rolled my eyes before we turned back to the two teams, who were still stood staring tensely, well, at least the Avengers were staring tensely at Coulson.

Finally Natasha stepped forward, Clint judging what she was going to do reached out but was too slow as she sprang across the room, grabbing Coulson by the front of his jacket, slamming him against the thankfully reinforced windows, pressing her arm against his throat.

Nobody was stupid enough to try and pull her away.

“Natasha,” He choked slightly.

I couldn’t see her face, but I could tell she was processing everything, considering every possible option and outcome.

“Nat,” Clint called out after a minute, but Natasha made no indication that she’d even heard him speak.

“That’s enough Natasha,” Cap said firmly, leaving no room for argument. Nat dropped her arm instantly, taking a step backwards, she turned and fled the room.

Clint’s shoulders sagged even more, he looked up at Coulson before he too turned away, disappearing into the stairwell after Nat.

Coulson sighed, straightening his suit, he looked up at the Avengers.

“I’m sorry,” He said, his voice low.

“It’s not us you need to apologise to,” Cap said sharply, Coulson’s head dropped in shame.

“I know.”

“Take the elevator, Jarvis’ll show you,” Tony said, his eyes fixed on the floor, clutching Peppers hand like a lifeline.

Coulson nodded gingerly, moving to step past the team towards the elevator but Jane reached out, grabbing his arm, yanking him to a stop.

Before anybody could question her, she raised her hand and it met Coulson’s cheek with a resounding slap that seemed to echo around the room as everyone but Thor gaped at her in surprise.

“That’s for putting all of us in some pretty shitty situations,” She said with a glare before stepping back into Thor’s arms as he smiled proudly, pressing a soft kiss to the crown of her head.

Coulson nodded again before continuing his path towards the elevator, though this time nobody made a move to stop him.

The elevator doors closed and the dark skinned guy from Coulson’s team gave a low whistle, breaking the startled silence.

“May, Tripp, Skye, Simmons meet Steve, Darcy, Pepper, Tony, Thor, Jane, Bruce, Betty, Sam, Chelsea and Malia.” Maria introduced, gesturing to each person as she said their name, before letting out a breath. “They’re Coulson’s team and they’re not Hydra,” She added, glancing at Coulson’s team. “I don’t think I need to assure you that The Avengers aren’t Hydra.”

Pepper stepped forwards with a friendly smile.

“Welcome to The Avengers Tower. We er – weren’t expecting company, but please make yourselves at home,” She said politely.

Skye turned towards Simmons, both of them grinning like kids in a candy store, Skye bouncing on the balls of her feet.

“Wait.” Chelsea stepped around Steve. “Skye as in Internet café Skye? That Jake thought wasn’t real?”

“The very same,” I said with a grin. “Skye this is Chelsea and my niece Malia. Chelsea, Malia meet Skye.”

“It’s great to finally meet you,” Chelsea said, shifting Malia to shake Skye’s hand.

“Likewise,” Skye replied. “Is your brother not here?”

I felt the smile slip off of my face as Chelsea ducked her head.

“Jake died, in Afghanistan,” I said quietly, leaning back into Steve’s touch as he came to stand behind me, Malia in his arms, I felt him press my lips to the top of my head.

“Oh Darcy… I’m sorry.” Skye’s face fell.

“It’s okay.” I shook my head. “It was a couple of years ago.” I glanced at Chelsea. “We’re doing okay now,” I said, before turning to look up at Steve. “Steve this is Skye, she taught me to code. Skye this is –”

“Captain America!” She practically squealed like a hyperactive fangirl.

I snorted as Steve chuckled, holding out his hand.

“Steve’s fine,” He said with an amused smile.

“Steve, right, yeah…” Skye breathed, looking at me with wide amazed eyes as Steve pried his hand out of her grip.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the exchange.

She blushed, looking over her shoulder, beckoning Simmons and Triplett to join her.

“Oh Skye. You just totally humiliated yourself didn’t you?” Simmons said, giving Skye a knowing smile making Skye splutter and Triplett chuckle, before he turned to Steve.

“This is Simmons and Trip,” Skye said, gesturing to each in turn.

“It’s an honour to meet you Captain, my Granddad told me a lot about you,” He said, shaking Steve’s hand and I watched as Steve’s expression faltered.

“Um… Your Granddad?” He asked, glancing to me making me shrug in confusion, although both Skye and Simmons were grinning brightly.

“My Granddad was Gabe Jones.” Steve’s eyes widened slightly. “He spoke very highly of you and Sergeant Barnes.”

“Gabe is – was a good guy. I’m sorry to hear of his passing,” Steve said.

“Yeah… Aunt Peggy’s the only one left, besides you and Sergeant Barnes. She’s not really here anymore… Sharon told me what happened in DC, what happened to him. If there’s anything I can do, to help you or him,” Trip said.

“I appreciate that,” Steve nodded sincerely. “You know Sharon?”

“We all grew up together. So did our parents. They made sure we never forgot our family. Except Howard, I only met him once,” Trip explained.

“What did Dear Old Dad do now?” Tony asked, coming to stand next to Malia who stuck her tongue out at him, he retaliated by pulling a stupid face before looking back up at Trip. “You’re Gabe’s grandkid right?” He shook Trip’s hand.

“We were talking about The Commando’s kids growing up together,” Steve said, Tony shifted, sadness flashing across his face briefly.

“Ah, the Legacies,” He sighed wistfully. “I met the first generation, Aunt Peg made sure of that. Dad dragged me away before I could meet the second. How’s your Mom?” He asked, looking to Trip, who looked up in surprise. “Still got that scar on her chin?”

“She’s good… How’d you know about that?” He asked.

“She never told you how she got it?” Trip shook his head, curiosity burning in his eyes. Tony chuckled slightly, his eyes lost in memories. “I was wearing one of Dum Dum’s bowlers, I refused to take the thing off all day ‘nd my Dad wasn’t there and Aunt Peg didn’t mind, turns out those things are reinforced, Marie, Trips Mom, and a couple of the others and I were running round playing God knows what.

“But I remember for some reason she was in a tree on your Grandads farm, she jumped from the treehouse onto my back and smashed her chin on my head. She screamed so loud that they all came running from the house guns in hand.” Tony chuckled slightly as Trip grinned.

“Sir, you have an incoming call from Lieutenant Colonel Rhodes,” Jarvis announced.

“I’ll be right there J,” Tony said, stepping backwards. “Excuse me,” He muttered, before turning and disappearing into the elevator.


Nobody saw or heard from Clint, Natasha or Coulson for the rest of the day, the trio reappeared at dinner looking exhausted.

And although Clint and Nat seemed to have forgiven him, judging by the tense silences and the snide comments from Tony, other people hadn’t.

Coulson’s team were all offered rooms for the night but they opted to stay on the plane (it was more practical) and everyone started disappearing their own ways.

“I’m gonna head down to the gym,” Steve said, pressing his lips to my forehead.

I glanced across the Common Room to where Tony was standing on the balcony alone.

“I’ll be down in a bit,” I told him, sliding out of his arms, walking out into the cool spring air.

Tony glanced up at the sound of the door closing and gave a rough smile.

“Hey Kid,” He said.

“Hey,” I said warily, stepping up next to him, looking out at the city, not entirely sure if he wanted company. “I’m sorry,” I said, my voice barley above a whisper.

“I’m not mad at you,” He said, I felt my shoulders sag in relief.

“Are you mad at him?” I asked hesitantly.

Tony didn’t answer right away, his eyes fixed on a point in the distance.

“Not for being alive. Not for not telling me… I’m mad at him because of the position he put Clint and Natasha in, although they’ve forgiven him so I can’t really be mad at him for that either. I’m mad at him for putting you in a shitty situation, and you’ve not forgiven him for that,” He said, and I ducked my head.

 “I just – keeping that a secret for the last nine months… It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Every time I looked at you or Clint, you both blamed yourself for his death. I could have stopped that guilt, but I didn’t. I let you live with that, and I hate him for asking me to do that and I hate myself even more for agreeing to do it,” I admitted, pressing the tongue to the roof of my mouth as my eyes burnt.

Don’t cry. Don’t cry. You’ve cried enough the past week.

“But then I think about it,” I continued. “I think about everything that’s going on, and about how hard it’s going to be to trust people now. We can’t push good people away at the minute, because there aren’t enough of them.

“I’m not sure how long it’s going to take me to forgive Coulson, but I know that despite all this. I know I would still trust him with my life and the lives of everyone in this building.” Tony gave a soft smile, tearing his eyes away from whatever he was staring on and looked up at me.

“That sounds a lot like forgiveness to me,” He said softly and I sighed, looking away from him.

I know. That’s the problem.


I took the elevator down to the gym and I couldn’t help but smile softly at the scene.

Natasha was standing next to a punch bag with Skye, re-teaching her something.

Clint and Coulson were sparring on the mats, ducking and dodging each other’s blows, laughing as Coulson flipped Clint onto the mats.

May was stood slightly further away, doing some sort of T’ai Chi, rolling her eyes as they fought.

Sam was jogging at a steady pace on a treadmill.

While Steve was leaning back against the pile of mats that Simmons was sitting on, he was spotting Trip as he lifted weights.

It looked so normal, like these people had known each other for years.

I moved over to the mats that Jemma was sitting on, tossing my cell phone and my hoodie next to her, toeing off my shoes.

“Darcy, you have a healing bullet wound,” Steve said, a hint of warning in his voice, I rolled my eyes as several people looked over at me as I stretched.

“And by the looks of it so does May and Natasha. Also, I’m not the one who was lying in a hospital bed in a coma less than a week ago,” I said, hiding a smile as Steve gave a slightly frustrated sigh.

“My shoulder is fully healed,” Natasha called out, pulling her shirt to the side to show smooth, un marked skin. I rolled my eyes. Stupid enhanced people with stupid super quick healing.

“Seriously though Cookie, take it easy, shoulder wounds are a bitch,” Clint said.

“I promise I will take it easy. I won’t even use that arm,” I promised, hooking my right foot on a rack of weights, leaning against it to stretch, fully aware of the fascinated stares my metal leg got from Sam and Coulson’s team.

There wasn’t a hell of a lot I could do without upsetting the gunshot wound, so I ended up throwing kick after kick at a bag, it wasn’t as satisfying as punching it, but it was close. That was until Sam took pity on me and grabbed a couple of pads, holding them so I could kick something properly.


Skye and Jemma were the first to disappear from the gym, hitting the showers.

As Phil stepped off of the mats, declaring that he’d had it for the day I took my chance to follow him out of the gym.

The elevator ride was tense, as several thoughts swirled through my head and I opened and closed my mouth several times not knowing where to begin.

The elevator doors slid open at the Common Room and Coulson stepped into the room.

“I don’t want to forgive you,” I blurted out before I could stop myself, wincing slightly at how harsh that sounded. “I really want to hate you for the position you put me in. I want to hate you for making the team, especially Clint and Natasha suffer. I want to hate you so badly for everything. But… I don’t think I can...

“Because I know that it was Fury’s orders that stopped you from telling them. I know what it’s like for your body to fail on you and I know how much it sucks trying to make it work again. And I know how much you love them… And, despite them denying it to you and themselves, I know how much they love you.

“I don’t know… everything the last week has been beyond fucked up. Nobody knows where anybody’s loyalties lie. But I know that your loyalties lie with Clint, Natasha, May, Maria, Steve, Pepper, and Tony, in that order. I do know that right now, there is a very short list of people we can trust, and I can’t afford to shorten that list.

“I know you’ve suffered a lot since Loki, and as much as I want to hold a grudge and make you suffer a little more. I can’t. So, I forgive you,” I said quickly.

Coulson, whose eyes had been fixed on the floor during my entire speech, slowly raised his head to look up at me, smiling softly.

“I really am sorry,” He said quietly and I nodded, giving a sympathetic smile in return.

“I know.”

Chapter Text

After we talked Coulson and I ended up back on the Common floor couches by the bar with everyone, catching up on everything from the past few years.

I explained to Coulson about my leg, and how it was Skye’s fault that it was never in my S.H.I.E.L.D. file because she taught me to hack through ‘unhackable systems’ much to Clint’s dismay.

Skye told the full, long story about how she became a S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent, how she took two in the gut and how her douchebag of an SO ended up being a Hydra Agent, almost killing their entire team and putting one member, Doctor Leo Fitz in intensive care with pretty serious brain damage.

Coulson also said that despite all of that the team was still together and they had something they wanted to discuss with everybody in the morning when it wasn’t midnight and when everyone hadn’t had a couple of beers and was less sleep deprived.

With that everybody starting disappearing their separate ways for the night.


The next morning everyone gathered in the Conversation Pit per Coulson’s request, looking up at him with bleary eyes behind cups of coffee as he explained everything since his “revival”.

He told us about Tahiti, Natasha looked away as if she were in pain as he spoke about how they re-wrote his memories, making him think he was in one place as one person, when in reality he was somewhere else, strapped to an operating table under a knife.

May explained how Fury recruited her to recruit Coulson’s team.

The team spoke about John Garrett, Trip’s old SO, about how he was the clairvoyant, and about planted a spy, Grant Ward, in their team.

Steve swore angrily at the files on the Centipede project, but was pleased to know it was no longer active.

As the story went on my eyes drifted around the couches.

Clint and Natasha both sported professionally trained blank looks for the most part, anger, guilt and something that might have been fear occasionally flicking across their expressions.

Tony looked like he was in pain, like any minute he was going to tear from the room or start yelling; he looked like he wanted a drink. As Coulson’s story came to a close he looked up at the former Senior Agent and I knew, despite our conversation last night, Tony had forgiven him.

Steve looked angry at what Coulson was saying, as more of Fury’s bad decisions came to light, more secrets and lies that they’d all unknowingly had to tell.

“Your Agent… Doctor Fitz,” Steve said, looking over between Coulson and Tony. “Is there anything we can do?” We all knew we basically meant Tony.

Coulson sighed heavily looking down to Jemma who gave a helpless shrug.

“He was without oxygen for a considerable amount of time, plus the time it took for Director Fury to pull us out of the water it’s a miracle – it’s a miracle that his heart is still beating.” Jemma’s voice wavered slightly and Skye reached out, taking the young scientists hand. “He’s in a Coma, the Doctor’s are optimistic that he’s going to wake up, but there is an almost certainty of severe, potentially permanent – potentially permanent damage to his brain.”

“I’ll have the best specialists in the world sent to whatever hospital he’s in. I’ve seen some of his tech, he’s a smart Kid,” Tony said. Jemma eyes widened in amazement and she smiled slightly.

“Thank you,” She breathed, looking to Skye and Trip as a hopeful expression settled across her face.

Tony just nodded, leaning back in his seat, taking Pepper’s hand.

“Despite what Fury has told you –” Oh, here we go again. “He hasn’t completely given up on S.H.I.E.L.D, or at least the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. Before he left to… wherever he is, he gave me a final order. To rebuild the Agency, to completely start again. He made me Director and then left. The only people I currently have are my team plus Agent Koenig.”

“Sam?” Clint asked with a slightly apprehensive look.

“Sam?” Trip’s head shot up in alarm. “There’s more than two?”

Clint shuddered but didn’t reply.

“I don’t know what other Agent’s I can or can’t trust.” Coulson went on as if neither of them had spoken. “But I know I can trust the people in this room.”

“What are you saying?” Steve asked, cutting straight to the point, his voice hard.

“I need new Agents, and several people in this room recently became unemployed,” Coulson said bluntly.

Several heads shot up in surprise.

Was he seriously…

“I’d like to offer you all a job.”

Yes, yes he was.

“With all due respect, Sir. I can’t work for S.H.I.E.L.D. again, no matter who’s at the top,” Natasha said, a hint of something I couldn’t quite read in her voice.

“I’m out too,” Clint said as he shook his head without hesitation. “I trust you Sir. I just don’t trust the people higher up who will eventually start calling the shots again. I’m good where I am.”

Coulson sighed but nodded respectfully before looking at me.

“I’m done with all the secrets and lies. S.H.I.E.L.D. never really was the place for me, but good luck,” I said, Skye looked slightly disappointed but gave a small supportive smile.

Steve glanced around the team, taking a second before nodding.

“I think I speak for everyone here when I say we’ll have your backs when you need it, but we can’t work for S.H.I.E.L.D. like before,” He said.

Coulson nodded in understanding as Steve stood up and they shook hands.

“I understand. I had to ask,” Coulson sighed.

“And if the new and improved S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn’t work out for y’all, The Avengers Initiative is hiring,” Tony said, clapping his hands together.

Jemma stared at Tony with wide eyes. “Fitz is so not going to believe this when he wakes up.”

Chapter Text

The new S.H.I.E.L.D. team left just as it started to get dark with a rather large check from Tony and a load of top of the range Stark Industries Tech, as well as a promise that Doctor Fitz would be treated by the best Doctors there is.

“Captain Rogers, Agent Lewis wake up!”

My eyes shot open as Steve sat bolt upright at the urgency in Jarvis almost painfully loud voice.

“Jarvis, what’s wrong?” Steve asked as I reached for my phone.

05:22. Fuck!

“The Smithsonian Museum has reported another break in to the Captain America department,” Jarvis said.

Twice in a week… That was not a coincidence.

“Was anything taken?” I asked, pushing my glasses up my nose and stifling a yawn.

“Sergeant Barnes’s Howling Commando’s kit is missing.” He said. My eyes widened, suddenly much more alert, I scrambled to untangle myself from the sheets as Steve started to pull on a shirt.

“Security cameras?” I asked, pulling off Steve’s shirt to pull on my own clothes.

“Security Cameras were disabled thirty seconds prior to the break in. The intruder was in there less than five minutes. No fingerprints have been found.”

“It’s him,” Steve said, looking at me with hope filled eyes. I nodded.

“Wake Sam, Nat and Clint up, J. And please get the Quinjet ready for flight,” I requested, tossing my emergency kit bag on the bed as I pulled on my boots, securing weapons to my body.

“They will meet you in the Situation Room.”

Taking the couple of minutes I had, I ran through the bathroom, freshening up and cleaning my teeth.

Bag over my shoulder I filled two travel mugs with coffee which Steve took hold of one as we stepped into the elevator, his shield strapped to his bag.

“Jarvis, can you get me all the security cameras outside of the Smithsonian, have them ready for me in Ops?” I requested.


My heart hammered in my chest, it was him. It was Bucky. Steve’s ex. Natasha’s ex. The man I said I would leave Steve, so that they could finally be happy.

I shook my head as the elevator doors opened and I sighed as Steve practically ran into Ops. I walked in behind him at a much more sedate pace.

Every screen in the room, including the hologram table was alight, each running different surveillance footage and a the hologram table was littered with various photos of the Smithsonian Howling Commando’s  mannequins, sure enough where Bucky’s original blue should have been, now stood an empty white mannequin.

“What’s going on?” Natasha strode into the room, Clint and Sam trailing behind her, all dressed but the latter still looking half asleep. 

“Someone stole Barnes’ Howling Commando suit,” I told them.

“Security footage?” She asked.

“None.” I shook my head. “All cameras in the exhibit were disabled, they went back on line three minutes later and the suit was gone. No alarms were tripped, a security guard noticed it was missing.”

“Sam and I’ll run through the cameras in the surrounding area. Nat, Darce, run through the feeds in the exhibit today, you’d have to scope out that place before you’d break in. Steve, why don’t you try and – Steve?!” Steve jerked slightly, looking over at Clint apologetically.

“Sorry,” He mumbled, ducking his head, rubbing the back of neck in embarrassment. Clint sighed but didn’t comment.

“Cap why don’t you help Sam and I run through the camera feeds after the break in?” The archer suggested gently.

Steve nodded. “Sure.”

Nat and I scanned through yesterday’s security footage on fast forward, looking for anybody out of place or familiar when a guy on the screen caught my eye.

I rewound it slightly before playing it at normal speed.

There was a guy in a dark blue jacket and a baseball cap, he had a glove on just his left hand, almost always keeping it in his pocket.

I followed him on the screens as he walked around the exhibit, lingering on each piece longer than everybody else.

He stood in front of the Bucky Barnes wall and seemed to freeze, he stared at the wall for twenty minutes solidly before finally looking away towards one of the screens showing a video of Steve and Bucky’s friendship until he suddenly raising his right hand to his temple as if in pain and staggering slightly before all but running out of the exhibition.

“I think I’ve got something,” I called out, rewinding the footage. “Jarvis, this guy in the baseball cap, is there a shot of his face?” I asked, as everybody came to stand behind me.

“I’m scanning now,” Jarvis said.

“What is it?” Steve asked.

“This guy –” I pointed him out. “He’s wearing one glove, almost always keeps his left hand in his pocket, he spent longer at ever piece than anybody else. He spent nearly an hour in this one section. He looks at everything then finally comes to this wall, he spends twenty minutes staring at it before looking at this video here and then –” They watched as the guy staggered backwards and left.

“The clearest shot of his face is being displayed now,” Jarvis said, popping up a picture.

Steve gave a sharp intake of breath.

The picture was grainy from a reflection but it was without a doubt him.

“Wheels up in two,” Steve said his voice hard and determined.

“Steve, it’s been nearly two hours since the break in, he could be anywhere by now,” Nat said softly, Steve shot her a glare.

“But he could still be there. We have to find out,” He said and I could hear the unspoken I’m not leaving him again!

Natasha sighed but nodded in acceptance.

“Jarvis, let everyone know what’s happening when they wake up, also monitor every motel and security camera, look for anything that might be Barnes, as well as any stolen vehicle reports,” I said, grabbing my bag, following everyone else into the elevator.

“Of course.”

The flight to DC seemed to take forever.

Steve sat rigid in his seat, not moving not speaking. Every time someone tried to talk to him or touch him he acted like he couldn’t hear us.

In the end I gave up, moving across the jet to sit next to Sam.

“We have to find him,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper, my eyes still fixed on Steve.

“He might not want to be found,” Sam replied.

“I know.” I sighed, “That’s what’s worrying.”

Because if he didn’t want to be found, nobody would find him. Not even Jarvis and I don’t think Steve would be able to cope with losing him a second time.


Once we got to DC we got a Stark Industries car straight to the Smithsonian which as expected was crawling with cops, agencies from every letter of the alphabet and a lot of press. All apparently with the same idea that we had.

“There’s no way we can get close to that exhibit,” Clint commented as Natasha pulled up across the street.

“Are they allowed to block it all off? I mean it is Cap’s stuff?” Sam said.

“No,” Steve said through gritted teeth, pushing the door open and striding towards the museum before anyone could stop him.

“Shit,” Clint said.

“I’ll go,” I said. “All of us will draw even more attention.” At Nat’s nod of agreement I slid out of the car, jogging across the street, pushing my way through the crowds of press towards Steve who was glaring at a guy in a suit.

“All due respect Captain, but you’re not authorised to give me orders,” The suit said.

“I just want to know what was taken, that’s all,” Cap said.

“And I’m just saying that you don’t have a high enough security clearance to know that anymore.” I caught Steve’s arm before he could step a further, pushing him behind me I fixed the suit with a hard look.

“You know who he is right? Steve Rogers? Captain America? Yeah? Good. That means that you know that an entire exhibit in that museum is dedicated to this man. Did you also know that most of the items in that exhibit are Captain Rogers’ personal property that he is kindly loaning to the Smithsonian?

“Which means, due to the contracts he and the museum signed, by law he has a right to know if any of his items were stolen or damaged during this break in. If you’re willing to break those contracts and oh yeah, federal law, then we will happily stand back and watch as several of Tony Stark’s lawyers have you fired.” I spat. “So, I will ask again. What items were stolen and or damaged in the break in last night?”

The suit swallowed nervously, glancing over his shoulder, taking several steps away from the reporters so they couldn’t hear us.

“Inventory has been taken twice and the only thing missing is Sergeant Barnes’ uniform,” Suit said, Steve gave a slightly aggravated sigh and I reached out to squeeze his hand.

Screw professionalism.

“Is there any idea who did it?” I questioned, Suit shifted, glancing up at Steve uncomfortably.

They also think it was Barnes.

“No Ma’am, we have no evidence, no forensics, no witnesses, no camera footage. It could have been anyone.” But it wasn’t. It was him.

I nodded in thanks, walking back to the car, tugging Steve to follow me.

Climbing back into the SUV I relayed what the Agent told us and with a weary sigh Clint drove us back to Tony’s penthouse in a tense silence.

Steve hadn’t said a word since I pulled him away from the Agent.

Realistically I knew if Barnes trained Natasha it meant he was better than her. It meant if he didn’t want to be found, then there was no way in hell we would find him,

We all seemed to realise that… except Steve.

Steve was convinced Barnes would find us.

That he would come to him, wanting to come home.

Deep down Steve realised the truth, he had to, but he just refused to admit it.


We spent the next week in DC, finding no leads on either Barnes or Hydra, finally admitting defeat Natasha made the call to head back to New York and nobody, not even Steve was willing to argue with her.

So, we packed up our bags and were due to be at the Navy base in an hour when my phone rang.

“Maria, what’s up?” I asked in a faux cheerful tone. “We’re just packing up, we’ll be back in two.”

“Don’t bother,” She said, my face scrunched up in confusion and I clicked my fingers several times, silencing Sam and Clint’s bickering on the ways to cook breakfast.

“What do you mean ‘don’t bother’?” I asked.

“The FBI came to me twenty minutes ago asking about a S.H.I.E.L.D. base in Rosaryville, someone turned the place over, the place is practically destroyed, but no one got killed,” She said.

“And… I’m sure there are a lot of people wanting to destroy what’s left of S.H.I.E.L.D,” I said, not quite understanding the relevance.

“There is no S.H.I.E.L.D. base in Rosaryville. There never has been. From what I can tell from Jarvis’ satellites and the files that Tony obtained it was a Hydra base and the attack almost exactly matches the one at the bank,” She explained.

“Oh…” I breathed in realisation. Barnes.

“I’ll send you the coordinates, go check it out.” She instructed.

“Will do. I’ll let you know what we find. Thanks Maria,” I said.

“No problem.” She cut the call and I tossed my cell on the breakfast bar.

“What is it?” Steve asked.

“That was Maria. A Hydra base outside of DC was just destroyed. Same as the bank, people walked away,” I explained. “We have every reason to believe it’s Barnes and Maria wants us to check it out never-the-less. She’s sending me the coordinates –” As if on que my phone chimed at an incoming message, opening it revealed a set of coordinates which I copied into my maps, revealing a pin just outside the town of Rosaryville, in the middle of a reserve.

“It’s a couple of hours out by car,” Nat said, leaning over my shoulder. “Twenty minutes by Quinjet. He won’t be there still, but it’ll still be worth a look around.”

“Pack up, we leave in five,” Steve said firmly, turning back to our room, shutting the door a little harder than necessary behind him.

I sighed, dropping my head against the counter a little harder than I intended making me swear softly.

Without a word Clint rested his hand on my back, drawing me against his chest and just held me, letting me take whatever strength I could draw from him.

We took a quick, barely in the air, flight to Rosaryville and then had to take a car to the middle of the woods. Not creepy at all. Where we found the remains of a building.

When Maria had said there was an explosion I expected the entire place to be smouldering pile of rubble, but it wasn’t. Most of the building was still standing. It looked as if one room had been blown up and all of the damage was from the single explosion.

I held my StarkPad up to the building.

“Jarivs, scan the building, I need to know if it’s structurally sound,” I requested.

I watched on the screen as Jarvis scanned the building, both inside and out, giving me a floor plan of what was left of the building.

“The majority of the buildings architecture is undamaged, although beware of the flooring around the room where the explosion detonated,” Jarvis said.

“Thanks J,” I said, sliding the tablet into my bag. “We’re good to go in, just watch your footing near the blast area,” I called to the “team”.

We trapesed through the building, looking for anything that could be used as information, I found my way into the Security office and moved to the computers, wincing at the Stark Technology’s logo branded across almost everything. It didn’t matter though, they were all dead, there was no power to the entire building.

I dug through six draws, two cabinets and a storage cupboard before I managed to find a tool kit, digging through it I came up with a small screwdriver.

“What are you doing?” Clint asked, as I moved back to the computers, leaning them screen down on the desk so I had better access.

“Taking the hard drives, unless you want to carry six different computers out of here and then deal with Tony finding out they’re using Stark Tech again,” I said, Clint grimaced slightly before dropping to his knees, setting a black case in front of him.

I dismantled each of the computers, passing each hard drive to Clint who set them securely in the case.

“Anything else of interest in here?” I asked, tossing the screwdriver carelessly back into the tool kit.

“Some files in that cabinet over there –” He pointed to the one behind me. “I don’t know what’s in them, but we should take them anyway.”

I nodded, moving to help Clint empty both filing cabinets.

We combed through the entire base, collecting anything that looked remotely important, packing everything into crates, loading it all up into the quinjet.

Once again as we left the base Steve sat at the back of the jet in silence looking like he was in physical pain and I gave a frustrated sigh dropping down on the floor between the two pilots chair, glancing over my shoulder at Sam who was trying, and failing, to talk to Steve.

“You doing okay, Cookie?” Clint asked, looking down at me.

“I’m fine,” I muttered, pulling my knees up to my chest.

“Liar,” Natasha accused lightly, reaching out combing her fingers through my hair pulling me to lean against her seat.

“I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help him,” I said softly.

“You just have to be patient with him. There isn’t something any of us can do to just make this better. He feels guilty and upset and angry and he’s stubborn,” Nat said softly.

“I suck at being patient,” I mumbled. Burying my face in her side.

“I know, but you can’t push him,” She said.

“I want to just make this better,” I said wiping my face with end of my sleeve. Staring out at the city passing below.

“We know… and Steve knows that too, Cookie.”


We made it back to the tower and transferred all of the Hydra base stuff into the situation room where Jarvis started scanning all of the files, making digital versions of all of them while Tony started working on the hard drives.

“How’s it going?” Chelsea asked, automatically handing Malia over to Steve as she reached out to him.

“I have some news regarding that,” Jarvis interrupted before anybody could say anything.

“What is it Jarvis?” Nat asked.

“There were several sets of coordinates in those files that could potentially be other Hydra bases,” Jarvis said.

“Where?” Steve asked.

A list of address’s appeared on the table. There were twelve, all spread out across the country. It obviously wasn’t all of them but it was a start.

“Put these on a map, J?” I requested. The table span and turned into a map, various pins dotting across the US.

“This one’s closest to Rosaryville.” Sam pointed to a pin in Virginia. “He’s going after Hydra bases, we know that for sure now. This is most likely his next stop.”

“We could be there in fifteen minutes,” Steve said.

“Is that the plan?” I asked, wincing at how sharp that came across. “Go after each base on the list, one after the other?”

“If that is what it takes,” Steve said, I nearly flinched at the defensive tone in his voice. Patience Darcy. Be Patient with him!

“Then let’s go,” I said ignoring the look of surprise that turned into a soft smile across Steve’s face. “But we can’t afford to keep coming back to the tower between destroyed Hydra bases. It’s wasting too much time.”

“We could be on the road for months…” He warned.

With a deep breath I nodded.

“I know,” I said, giving him a reassuring smiles.

“So road trip?” Sam asked.

“Hydra base road trip,” I nodded.


The rest of the day was spent making plans for every eventuality, it was finally decided that Steve, Sam and I would start chasing Hydra bases by car (it was most likely Barnes’ mode of transport) that Clint and Natasha would sort out all of their blown covers, mend relationships with old CI’s and make sure they didn’t have too big targets on the back of their heads and that they would join us when they could, and while all of us were doing that Pepper, Tony, Maria and everyone else would stay at the tower legitimizing the Avengers Initiative.

Despite the fact that I wasn’t going to be in the tower for maybe months Chelsea decided to stay, despite the fact that it wasn’t in the tabloids a lot of people still knew she and Malia were connected to me and therefore connected to the tower, and any one of those people could go to the press or to Hydra, it wasn’t worth the risk.

So she quit her job at the New York Methodist Hospital and Tony secured her a place as part of the Avengers Initiative medical team, making life ten times easier for her considering the only patients were the residents of the tower and despite how Clint made it seem, they didn’t spend all of their time in medical, so she wouldn’t be needed all that often.

Everyone woke up painfully early (it wasn’t even six yet) the next morning, bags packed and loaded into the back of the most discreet (It was totally not discreet!) SUV that Tony had.

Goodbyes weren’t as bad as I thought they’d be but as we drove away from the tower, I couldn’t help but look up at it a little sadly.

It was the closest thing to a happy home I’d ever had, and a part of me doubted that it would ever be the same again.

I pushed the thoughts away, turning back to Sam and Steve who were already bickering over the radio controls I smiled slightly.

And so the road trip begins…

Chapter Text

As it turns out a road trip with your boyfriend and his wingman (Sam’s choice of words) to look for your boyfriends sort of ex-boyfriend who was a formerly? Brainwashed assassin was neither as fun nor as easy as anybody thought.

Actually… Nobody ever said it would be fun or easy…

But that’s not the point. It had been four months and nothing.

We checked off every Hydra base on the list, we always got there too late. Barnes was always one step ahead of us and so by the time we got there they building was in ruins and we had to deal with the clean-up of multiple, mostly alive, Hydra Agents and a lot of new intel that we had to send back to the tower before calling Sharon.

Four months and twelve destroyed Hydra bases later and we were still no closer to finding Barnes, except now we had no more leads, no more Hydra base information to follow.

So after four days aimlessly spent in West Texas, Steve finally called it a day and called Clint to come and pick us (and the SUV) up.

On the plus side Steve was doing slightly better.

He was talking to Sam more and not just as friends, every couple of days they’d talk and afterwards Steve always seemed a little more hopeful, and Steve’s more positive outlook, definitely helped our relationship. It wasn’t totally back to normal, but whenever we managed to get our own motel room… It seemed pretty damned good.

It took an hour for Clint to get to Texas and I threw my arms around him as he stepped off of the jet in an abandoned field.

“Hey Cookie,” He laughed, lifting me off of the floor in a bear hug. “Urgh, I missed you too.”

“It’s been two months asshole,” I said as he set me back on the floor. “You and Nat said Budapest wouldn’t take that long.” I crossed my arms childishly.

“Yeah well, Budapest never goes as planned,” he said with a guilty shrug.

Steve and Sam both gave him those weird manly hugs with several pats on the back before I drove the SUV onto the quinjet.

Clint got us in the air and set the controls to auto-pilot, before turning back to us.

“Maria is currently running through every S.H.I.E.L.D. base trying to find out if there’s a connection between their locations and Hydra’s bases, no such luck yet. Other than the ones that have been destroyed we have no new leads. Either Barnes has stopped going after old bases or he’s getting better at covering his tracks.” Clint shrugged slightly. “Right now, either is possible.”

“So all we can do is wait?” I asked, looking between Clint and Steve.

“All we can do is wait.” Clint nodded. “Sorry Cap.”

“It’s not your fault,” Steve said with an exhausted sigh. “We expected this sooner or later.”

We were all just hoping for later.

“It’ll be good to get back to the tower though,” Sam said. “Continuously chasing Barnes or Hydra bases 24/7 is just going to make us exhausted and we’ll get sloppy. We need a break.”

Clint nodded in agreement.

“We have no new leads, so you guys can afford to take a couple of weeks,” He said.

Steve sighed in defeat but nodded anyway.

I curled into Steve’s side as the Quinjet took off and let myself sleep, knowing we were finally going home.


I rolled over with a content sight, burying my face deeper into the soft cushions.

Soft cushions? Wait… I fell asleep on a Quinjet!

“’Ntie Darcy!” I winced as something him my stomach and I opened my eyes to see Malia’s face just inches from mine a bright grin on her face. “You’re back!”

“Hey Cariño.” I shifted, lifting her so I could stand up, setting her on my hip. This is the common room... I'm home!

“Missed you,” She mumbled, her face pressed into my shoulder.

“I missed you too,” I said, my fingers combing through her short dark hair. “Where’s your Mommy?”

“Coming. She was talking to ‘Ntie Pepper,” She said. “J’vis let me come up here on my own.”

“Jarvis, where is Steve?” I asked.

“Captain Rogers is in the shower. Would you like to send him a message?”

Oh Jarvis I have missed you!

But thank God he’s getting a shower and not punching things in the gym.

“I’m good thanks, J,” I said, pouring myself a mug of coffee, sighing in content.

Motel and diner coffee is not as good as the stuff at home!

Glancing over at the clock it was almost five o’clock.

I sat Malia on the counter, listening as she babbled on about everything I’d missed (her teddy had nine tea parties, she had a new favourite book, and knew all the words to six different nursery rhymes! Also, she knew her alphabet and could count to ten, though sometimes she forgot eight.)

She was halfway through showing me her new favourite soft toy, a rabbit called Bruno (she was a girl though), when the elevator flashed and Chelsea and Pepper stepped out.

“I missed you Sis,” I muttered, hugging Chelsea tightly.

“How long are you back for?” Chelsea asked.

“A couple of week’s maybe.” She clutched me slightly tighter for a second before pulling away, holding me at arm’s length, looking me up and down.

“You’re too skinny,” She said then paused. “Damn I sound like my Nana.”

“Mommy said a bad word!” Malia exclaimed, pointing to Chelsea with a horrified look on her face.

“I did. Los siento,” Chelsea said. I’m sorry. “But it’s true, you’ve been skipping meals.” She prodded my side accusingly and I shrugged slightly guiltily, batting her hands away, making Malia giggle.

I turned to Pepper.

“Hey Pep,” I said.

“Hello Darcy,” She said with a warm smile, drawing me into her arms, I let myself melt into them.

It was moments like this where I felt most guilty, because it was moments like this I wished Pepper was my Mom. She had the patience that my Mom never had, even when she was angry, she still made you feel loved.

I did it when I was with Tony too, despite his difficulty handling emotions, he was still a giant softie and he was a hundreds time the man that Paul was, and he was the closest thing to a father I had.

I buried my face in Peppers shoulder for a full minute, she didn’t seem to mind, just held me until I got enough strength to pull away.

“She’s right,” Pepper said, looking me up and down, her thumb brushing over my cheek bone. “I’ll order some Italian. Jarvis, can you take people’s orders please and place an order with the usual place?”

“Certainly, would you all like your usual orders, or would you require something different this evening?”

“The usual please,” Chelsea said, Pepper and I nodding in agreement.

“Of course.”

Chapter Text

I official hate The Roxxon Corporation.

Maria was in Germany for some Stark Industries thing, so I was stuck picking up her Avengers Initiative meetings in New York.

Which meant I had to deal with The Fucking Roxxon Corporation and have them waste four hours of my life that I will never get back! Urgh!

I sighed irritably, walking towards the waiting SUV.

Why do some people fail to see past the fact that I am Captain America’s girlfriend, just because I got my job with S.H.I.E.L.D. then the Avengers Initiative after we started dating makes me no less able to do my job.

C’mon I’m the Avengers Handler, I run the Initiative. Technically I outrank them all!

Derek, my driver (Tony’s idea, not mine) took one look at me and smiled sympathetically.

“That bad?” He asked, opening the back door for me.

“Terrible.” I came to a stop in front of him. “I should be used to it, I don’t know why it still bothers me. They’re all just a bunch of sexist pigs!” I ranted.

“It bothers you because its 2014 and they’re a bunch of sexist pigs!” He said as if it were obvious and I sighed.

“They make me want to slam their heads into their desks,” I grumbled. “Or stab pencils into their eyeballs, Nat taught me the best way to do that…” I trailed off thoughtfully.

“It could be worse, when Pepper –”

A gunshot cracked through the air.

Derek’s words were cut short as he crumpled to the floor, his unfocused eyes staring blankly ahead, a single trail of blood trickling out down his forehead.

Holy fuck!

I forced myself to tear my eyes away from the pool of blood and I don’t even want to think about what else that was pooling under his head.

I dove forwards behind the door for cover, trying push the nausea away as my once beige blazer brushed against the door, coming away with a unmistakable smear of red.

Glancing around the door, I kept my eyes away from the floor I scanned the crowd of panicking civilians, there was nothing.

I swore as another bullet hit the door, inches from my head, ducking back against the passenger door.

Sniper. The shot came from in front of Derek, so the back of the car? High up, gives the best vantage point? On a rooftop? Out of my range.

Reaching into my bag, I drew my Beretta, flicking the safety off.

Taking a breath I dove forwards, kicking the door closed as a spray of bullets hit the other side of the car.

And guys on foot, great!

I leant back against the front wheel for a beat, stopping short as I came face to face with my reflection in Roxxon’s glass doors and windows.

My eyes scanned across the inside of the lobby, praying to any God that was listening that they had all taken cover.

Adrenaline burning through my veins like fire I shot out each of the windows, before rising up, returning fire over the hood of the SUV.

Two guys went down at my shots.

They were all wearing black tactical gear and they looked pretty well armed.

The most noticeable thing…

I was severely outnumbered.

I didn’t hesitate firing a round into a guy coming round the back of the car.

I grunted in pain as a bullet hit my thankfully metal leg, it didn’t hurt as bad as being shot but it wasn’t exactly pleasant either.

There were still five guys getting nearer to me, plus a Sniper somewhere, and panic seemed to seep in.

There was no way I was walking away from this. These guys were pretty well trained.

A pained gasp broke through my lips as something hit my arm. Looking down I expected to see blood but there was none, just a weird capsule embedded into my arm by a needle.

 “What the fuck…”

Question it later!

I back spun round, putting two rounds in the guy who shot me with whatever the hell that was.

Questioning it later seemed to become less of an option as the muscles in my arm spasmed violently and my gun slid out of my grip, clattering to the floor as numbness started to seep down my arm.

I whimpered at the intense ringing in my ears that my head pound and my vision spin.

I stumbled against the car, tripping down the curb I hit the floor.

Did they fucking Roofie me?!

I heard four more shots but no pain came and could have sworn I saw a flash of silver metal reaching towards me, before the ringing in my ears faded and my world went dark.


After every storm that strikes in life, is followed by a rainbow that shines.