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i fear no fate

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Darcy woke up coughing. The air was full of smoke, and for a second she stupidly wondered why Johnny was making such a ridiculously grand entrance. And then her vision cleared and she realized that Johnny hadn’t showed up to their date, again. Which was a shame, because he’d be pretty useful right about now, considering the flames that licked the walls and the smoke that swirled in her lungs, robbing her of breath.

She crawled out from under the table, trying to figure out what had happened. Darcy had been sitting at the little table for two, wondering how many times a girl could get stood up on a date before she lost all dignity and self-respect. Johnny had already been over fifteen minutes late, and she was debating walking out of the little bistro—and out of his life—when there’d been a deafening burst of sound and everything had gone black. And now here she was, bruised and dizzy and unable to tell up from down. Bracing herself against the table, she peered through the smoke, trying to remember which direction she should go for the exit. But the white film covered everything, and she could barely make out dark shapes, much less a path.

She knew that the color of the smoke was important, but for the life of her couldn’t recall the meaning of white smoke—really hot, maybe? Yeah thanks, brain. Like she couldn’t tell that on her own. Shaking off those thoughts, Darcy forced herself to move—her brain was getting fuzzy from a lack of oxygen and she couldn’t seem to focus. Several steps in, she stumbled over something. Falling to her knees, she probed the shape with her hands. It was a young boy, she realized with horror. A sob escaped her, catching and setting fire to her throat. Tears laid waste to her cheeks, and her eyes burned so badly she couldn’t see.

Darcy tried to lift the boy up to get them both out, but she was completely out of energy. She couldn’t seem to find the strength to breathe, or to stand, and a sense of doom overcame her. Eventually, she gave up and sat with the boy. Maybe she couldn’t save him, but she wouldn’t abandon him, either. All of a sudden, she wished Johnny was here. So she could punch him or kiss him, she didn’t know. But either way, he was at the forefront of her mind as she draped herself over the boy, trying to protect him from any falling debris.

And as if her thoughts had summoned him, suddenly Johnny was there.

Darcy didn’t know if she was hallucinating him yelling her name, at first; everything was a haze and nothing seemed real. But then his voice came right behind her, and she started to hope. “Darcy!” he yelled, and then all the smoke and fire was gone from the room.

Oh, yeah. She’d forgotten he could do that. Fortunately, until now she’d never been in a position to witness it. There was a first time for everything, she guessed. A part of her wondered how she could be so calm after a near-death experience. Lack of oxygen, her brain snarkily replied. Her internal argument was cut off when gentle hands pulled her off the boy and turned her over.

Darcy peered up at him through dry and scratchy eyes. Her eyes welled with tears, blurring the image of him staring down at her. It was a beautiful sight nonetheless, and she choked on a sob. Johnny’s eyes softened and he reached for her with gentle hands, but she pushed him away. The panic seeped back into his gaze and he scanned her for life-threatening injuries.

“The boy,” she croaked, gesturing toward his body with a weak hand. He followed her gaze and nodded. His expression changed into something firm and strong—a true superhero face, she thought. This was what he was doing every time he stood her up, she realized. Saving people, like this little boy. Like her. How could she be mad at him for that?

“I’ll be right back,” he promised, oblivious to her thoughts. With a brief kiss to her forehead, bringing more stinging tears to her eyes, he stood up. And then he was gone, carrying the boy to safety.

Slowly, mindful of her still-swirling head, Darcy levered herself into a sitting position. Reaching blindly for the table’s edge, she carefully pulled herself to her feet. Johnny came sprinting back in the door at that moment, and raced to steady her.

“God, Darce,” he groaned. “You couldn’t wait for me to get back?”

Couldn’t wait raced through her brain on repeat, looping over and over again in her brain. She didn’t want to wait anymore. “No,” she whispered, reaching for him. “I couldn’t wait.”

As soon as her lips touched his, his whole body curved around her. His hands were everywhere, and she had the feeling he was reassuring himself that she was okay as much as he was enjoying the kiss. With soft, tender kisses pressed over and over against her mouth—she still couldn’t breathe very well, so a heavy makeout was off the table—he wrapped her in the cocoon of his body, simultaneously setting her on fire and keeping her safe from harm. Standing there in the circle of his arms, she forgot about the terror, the fire, the soot on her cheek and the bruises on her knees and elbows. There was nothing else but him.

“I’m so sorry,” he finally whispered against her mouth, and she drew away. Tears shimmered on his cheeks before they evaporated into steam, and he didn’t bother to wipe them away. He was open to her, ready for judgment. “I should’ve been here,” he said, his heart in his eyes. He stood in front of her, waiting for her to break him apart.

Luckily for both of them, she had no intention of doing so. “You were.” His eyes fluttered closed, and she reached up to place a gentle kiss on his mouth.

His eyes peeked open. “Not giving up on me?” he asked. His words were teasing, but his gaze was vulnerable.

“I get it now,” was all she said.

“I still need to make it up to you,” he said. She wasn’t going to pass up an offer like that, so she said nothing, which made him chuckle.

“Let’s go home, Darce,” he said, sliding an arm around her shoulders and steering her toward the door, “so that I can get started.”

Chapter Text

Despite his promising words, Johnny refused to do much more than kiss her forehead repeatedly as they made their way home. He did push her into stopping by the medical center at Avengers Tower, though. She fought back, but he didn’t back down when she glared at him, and she was too tired and worn out from the fire to engage in a serious battle of wills.

Rolling her eyes, she acquiesced to a quick check up. There was no triumph or gloating in his face when she capitulated, just an expression of serious concern. And she couldn’t bring herself to regret giving in, not when she saw the way his face sagged in relief as Dr. Cho declared her exhausted but healthy.

As they left the tower, she asked, “My place?” She didn’t want to do the will they, won’t they dance tonight. All she cared about was having him with her—now was not the time for games. His eyes lit up at the question, and he quickly hailed them a cab. The ride to her apartment was quiet: Darcy’s head was still swimming, a little woozy, and Johnny was stiff and silent by her side. But when she reached over to hold his hand, he immediately laced their fingers together in a tight grip.

Once they got to her apartment, Johnny lingered in her living room as Darcy went to change into a new set of clothes for bed—hers were all smoky and charred. Normally she would’ve put more thought into the whole thing, would’ve worn something a little more sexy, but honestly she just wanted to be comfortable right now. And to be fair, he didn’t even seem to notice what she was wearing.

When she walked into the living room, he looked up, examining her in a head-to-toe perusal, but it wasn’t even remotely sexual. It looked more like he was checking to make sure she hadn’t developed some kind of grievous injury in her short trip to the bathroom. Visibly shaking off the worry, he met her halfway and enveloped her in his arms. Darcy held on just as tightly, burying her face into his solid shoulder.

“You’ll stay?” she asked quietly. She tried to hide how much she needed him, but her hands spasmed against his back, betraying her. After everything, she wasn’t sure she could bring herself to let him go.

Johnny seemed to be having the same thoughts—his eyes closed in relief at her words, and he leaned down to press a soft kiss against her temple. His arms tightened around her, and he swayed them back and forth slightly. Darcy wasn’t sure if he was even aware of the movements, but it was very soothing. “I can’t imagine being anywhere else tonight, baby,” he finally admitted. He said it like a confession, or a dark secret.

But his body betrayed him, too. She could tell from the way his hands clung to her, the way his body surrounded hers, that he had no intention of letting her go. As one, they turned and headed to the bedroom. Darcy climbed into bed immediately, and Johnny stripped efficiently before following. There was nothing sexual about his movements, but the sight of his naked chest reminded her of his earlier promise.

“You said you’d make it up to me,” she slurred as he pulled the covers over them, snuggling into his side. He was lovely and warm, and she was already starting to fall asleep.

“And I will, Darce. When you can actually breathe again. And keep your eyes open for longer than thirty seconds,” he replied, tucking her in closer to his body. His hands fluttered up her sides and down her arms, leaving a pleasing trail of lingering warmth in his wake. She fell asleep plastered against his chest, with the rhythm of his heartbeat in her ear and his even breaths ghosting along the top of her head.

Darcy woke up alone. Johnny’s side of the bed was empty, but warm. For a moment, she wondered if it had been too much and he’d run. She kicked herself a second later when she heard the distinctive sounds of him cursing up a storm in her kitchen. No pun intended, of course. But honestly, she knew him better than that, and she felt guilty for her momentary assumption. It was based on rumors, on a playboy persona she’d never even met.

With that in mind, she crept toward the door quietly, wanting to see what he was doing in there. And immediately clapped a hand over her mouth, stifling an amused chuckle. He held a pan in one hand, squinting fiercely at something on his phone. Baking supplies were spread haphazardly across the counter, and the steady drip of the coffeemaker resonated throughout the room. The smell of freshly-brewed coffee drifted her way, and she stepped forward.

Johnny looked up with a sheepish grin. “Good morning,” he said, putting down his phone.

Her answering smile stretched widely across her face. “Hi, Johnny,” she said, stretching up on her tiptoes to place a kiss on the corner of his mouth before moving away to pour herself a cup of coffee.

She looked at him over the rim of the mug. He’d turned around, abandoning his task to watch her with hungry eyes. Darcy crossed her ankles as she leaned back against the counter, appreciating the way his gaze lingered on her bare thighs. “You know,” she began conversationally, “I’m not tired anymore.”

He cocked his head at her, confused. “That’s too bad,” he said slowly. “I was gonna serve you breakfast in bed.” She shook her head, and he fell silent. Waiting for her cue.

“And,” she added, dragging out the word. “I can definitely breathe again.”

It took a second, but then his eyes suddenly darkened with understanding and desire. They reached for each other at the same time.

Their lips fused together desperately, sparking an inferno that quickly spread throughout her entire body. She couldn’t get enough of him, nipping and nibbling and arching against him; he felt the same, and they stumbled backward. Her back hit the refrigerator, making her gasp. The cool metal surface was chilly against her overheated skin.

Johnny broke the kiss, gasping, “Are you okay?”

She appreciated his concern, she really did, but wasted no time in letting him know that she was absolutely fine. With her tongue in his mouth, and her hands in his hair, she let her body do the talking. They stumbled toward the bedroom, stopping for a moment at the couch, where she magically lost her shirt.

He dropped to his knees, reaching to spread her thighs apart, but she urged him to his feet. Swallowing his protest, she muttered against his mouth, “Bedroom. Now.”

A sexy smirk flitted across his face, and then she was in his arms. “Yes, ma’am,” he said, nipping at her mouth, then her jaw, then her neck.

She had no idea how they made it to the bedroom without breaking anything, but they did.

And then her back hit the bed, and Johnny was mouthing his way down her neck, her chest, her hips, and all she could focus on was him.

Chapter Text

They were in the middle of making breakfast together when Johnny’s phone blared a shrill sound she hadn’t heard before. He dropped the whisk into the pancake batter and cursed loudly, already wiping off his hands.

“Johnny?” she asked, turning to look at him from where she was cooking the eggs.

“That was an alert for the team,” he said, untying the apron from around his waist. A fleeting smirk crossed his face and he shook his head mockingly, already headed to her bedroom. “We have an assemble call too, you know.”

Without wasting anymore time, he exited the kitchen and hurried down the hall to change into his uniform. He’d been staying with her pretty much every night since the fire, and somehow a little section of her closet had been devoted to his clothing. She watched him go with a fond smile on her face. Until, that is, the meaning of his words kicked in.

Johnny was headed toward danger. It was something that had never bothered her before, and she wasn’t even sure it truly bothered her now. Darcy knew that he could look after himself. But all she could picture was the white smoke of the fire, remembering the way the heat of it licked at her face, her arms, her legs. How he’d rushed into danger to save her and the little boy.

“Darcy?” He called out to her, but she was locked in the memory, in the dizziness of a room without oxygen, a fire she couldn’t escape from. She was jolted back to herself when he touched her, the sensation of his warm hands on her arms grounding her back to reality—her skin felt clammy all of a sudden. “Darcy?” He asked again, tilting her chin up with his finger.

She blinked, and his face swam into focus. “There you are,” he sighed, stroking her cheek lightly. “Are you alright?”

She didn’t know how to say it without sounding needy. “Be safe,” she eventually ordered, choking off the words that wanted to follow. “Please,” she added, unable to stop herself.

Either she was completely transparent in her fear, or Johnny had learned how to read her like a book; honestly, it was probably a bit of both. Taking her chilled hands in his, he cradled them between his warm palms. “I’ll be fine,” he said, meeting her gaze with determination. “I will be coming back to you, and we’ll finish making these pancakes. Okay, baby?”

With a sound that was more huff than laugh, she nodded. He smirked, and tapped her chin with a knuckle. “There we go,” he said. “There’s my Darce.”

His phone blared again, but he silenced it. Instead, he reached out to press a tender kiss to her forehead, running his fingers through her hair as he did so. “Why don’t you call Jane while I’m gone?” He suggested. “Maybe she can come over and help you eat all these eggs.”

Feeling reassured, the fleeting panic nothing but a memory, she nodded and gave him a little shove. “Go,” she ordered, offering a feeble grin, “the world’s not gonna save itself.”

Johnny stumbled to the front door. He turned at the last second, reaching out for her. The kiss was short and sweet, full of happiness and commitment rather than fear. It made her toes tingle, and all she wanted was for him to go so that he could hurry back. “I’ll be back before you can even miss me,” he said. And then he was gone.

She followed his advice and texted Jane, who came over immediately. They ate the eggs before they could get too gross, then settled on the couch to watch a brainless cooking show. Darcy kept her phone right next to her the entire time, ringer turned up high. She couldn’t seem to keep herself from checking it every few minutes. It was probably a little on the irrational side, but she didn’t care. Jane watched her in amusement.

“It looks good on you,” her friend finally said.

“What does? Driving myself crazy?”

“No. Love.” Before Darcy could deny it, Jane pushed on. “I had my doubts, you know.” Darcy couldn’t help but roll her eyes at that. Everyone had their doubts about Johnny—she had, too, and it had taken him months to even get her to agree to go on a single date.

She was saved from replying by a text from Johnny. All done, Darce. Starving and ready for pancakes, it read. Give me half an hour to wash off this disgusting goo and I’m all yours.

“That’s my cue,” Jane said with a laughing smile. Darcy jumped up to give her best friend a giant hug, and whispered sincere thanks into her ear. “Don’t mention it, Darce,” Jane said, leveling her with a serious look. “You’ve done it for me.”

All that was left was to wait for Johnny to get back. Play it cool, Darcy told herself. You haven’t even been freaking out this whole time, unless you count your reaction to that monstrosity of a cupcake you saw on TV.

And then Johnny was there, and Darcy forgot all about playing it cool. One second she was at the kitchen counter, prepping the pancakes so that they could have breakfast for dinner, and the next she was in his arms.

Closing her eyes, she pressed herself to his chest, listening to the reassuring thump of his heartbeat. Johnny’s arms were tight around her back, and he pressed light kisses all across the top of her head. “You okay?” He asked.

She pulled away to look him in the eye. Rising to her tiptoes, she pressed a teasing kiss to his mouth. “Yeah, I’m fine now,” she muttered against his lips. “It’s about time you got home. I’ve been waiting all day for those pancakes.”

With that, she raced away from him. Johnny let out a sharp bark of laughter, then gave chase.