Back when Darya had been growing up, there were times that Bucky wondered what life would be like if Steve had survived his plane crash to meet Bucky's kid. If they would get along, if he would be the Cool Uncle or the Strict Uncle, if he would recognise the person Bucky had become. At times, he even wondered if Steve wouldn’t just take Darya away from him, take her somewhere safe where he couldn’t hurt her.
It was hypothetical of course; Bucky's bizarre yet terrible history with HYDRA ensured that. But still, he couldn’t help but wonder.
And then he forcibly ejected the thoughts from his brain, because if one stubborn bisexual with the temper of a maladjusted chihuahua was bad enough, two would be an utter nightmare.
The Dad!Bucky of his youth had been right. The two of them were a nightmare.
By the time he'd managed to get his shit together enough to go back to his family, Dary–Darcy and Steve had been good friends for some time. They hadn't been at first, from what he could gather. As Natasha told it, in the beginning, the both of them were too stubborn to get along without knocking heads and spent several weeks either ignoring each other or exploding into raging arguments. Not that that was completely unexpected, considering their infuriatingly similar personalities and ethical codes.
Evidently, that had changed. As he found out within an hour of moving into the Tower, Darcy and Steve were as thick as thieves. Much to their significant others’ consternation – and Bucky's, definitely Bucky’s – the two had clearly decided that their efforts were better spent in tandem rather than in opposition, and thus had become very close.
It was everything Dad!Bucky had hoped and feared. That became very clear the first time they all went for a walk in Central Park together.
Warm for early November, the walk had nevertheless started out pleasantly enough. It was quieter than usual on a Sunday afternoon, with fewer people milling around than Bucky would have expected, but that only made it nicer. As they ambled around the Reservoir, Darcy and Steve chatted a bit, Bucky only a step behind them. Though they kept throwing him (what they thought were) subtle looks here and there to join the conversation, he stayed silent.
He wasn’t exactly sure how to convey that he was remaining quiet out of contentment than anything else. Knowing them, they would probably think he felt left out, or something equally stupid, and would then go to such great pains to include him that he would only end up annoyed.
Unfortunately, pissing him off seemed to be at the very top of their lists. At least, that’s what he reasoned when they came across the protest.
For a protest, it was pretty small. The counter-protest seemed, to Bucky at least, to be much larger. There were about one hundred or so people on one side, crowding about with placards and pamphlets. A banner proclaiming “New York State Right to Life: Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things” hung above them. On the other side, a much larger group also had placards to wave about, and, though the few closest to the other group were quite angry, most of them seemed
they had even started a sing-song chant.
“Keep your rosaries off our ovaries!”
It was creatively done, he’d freely admit.
Apparently, Steve and Darcy thought so too.
“Come on, dude, it looks fun!” exclaimed Darcy, tugging his metal arm towards the protestors.
Though HYDRA had left her strong, she was not nearly muscly enough to drag him wherever she wanted, and so she stood there for a moment with her biceps trembling with the effort of moving him. It was only when he relented that she was able to make any headway, falling over a little in her scramble to join the protests. Despite not saying anything, Bucky could feel the excitement emanating from Steve too, no doubt left over from Mrs Rogers’ impassioned speeches during their boyhood on reproductive health.
Bucky couldn’t hold back the sigh as they were eagerly handed spare signs that proclaimed “If it’s not your ute, you should scoot.”
It wasn’t that he didn’t agree, because he did, wholeheartedly. The problem was that Darcy and Steve … well…
“How dare you?! What gives you the right to dictate that?!”
Neither of them had what anyone would call–
“The fuck did you just say? Come back here and say that to my face you fucking cowardly piece of shit!”
The odd feeling in his chest as Natasha bailed them all out post-protest was hard to name. Maybe it was apprehension as he saw the almost-identical, satisfied grins and knew that this would only be the first of many times, or maybe it was resigned tolerance as he realised he would only be useful to minimise their bullshit. He wasn’t sure.
He did recognise a slight twinge of pride but quickly shoved it down. Such a thing would only encourage them.
It happened again when they went out to lunch the next week and Darcy overheard the man in the booth opposite theirs telling his girlfriend that she ought to order a salad.
The lunch date was another of their attempts to integrate him into society, like the walk in Central Park and trips to the downstairs coffee shop. Like the first big outing, however, it was ruined as Darcy, in over-alert puppy mode, perked up upon hearing the jerk in the booth over.
Darcy tapped the table in front of Steve’s bowl, but the lug was too engrossed in his chicken soup to notice. She then proceeded to kick him. Only she didn’t, because she missed and nailed Bucky’s shin instead, and so Steve remained oblivious until Bucky elbowed him in the ribcage after Darcy’s second failed kicking attempt got him in the knee.
“What?” he yelped.
Darcy jerked her head in the direction of where the man was saying something about weight loss programs while his girlfriend’s eyes filled with tears. After a moment, Steve’s jaw clenched shut, the rest of his face growing stormy with poorly-disguised disgust.
But when Darcy made as if to leave her seat, Bucky put his foot down.
“No,” he said sharply, though quietly enough that only Darcy and Steve could hear. “Don’t. You don’t know either of ’em and it’s not your place to get involved in other people’s relationships.”
“But–!” Darcy started to protest.
“No,” repeated Bucky. “We’re in public place and the wait staff don’t need to be dealing with your lack of self-control. Sit down.”
“But she deserves better,” said Steve. He’d gotten that glint in his eye which said he was disappointed with Bucky’s life decisions, which, what a fucking hypocrite. “You can’t think she deserves that, someone should say something.”
“I don’t think she deserves that,” Bucky responded, an aura of fake calm overtaking the need to pummel Steve’s face into the ground. “But I do think that you two have no idea what “escalation” means.”
Steve looked as if he was going to say something else, but at that moment, the guy from the other table exclaimed, loudly enough that the whole café could hear him, “I deserve better than a girlfriend who thinks shovelling food in her face is more important than my happiness.”
Squeezing his eyes shut, Bucky cursed. And next thing he knew, Darcy had leapt out of her seat with pie in hand and an already-lecturing Steve at her side and proceeded to threaten the guy with pie face. In the next moment, it ceased to be a threat.
Luckily for Bucky, that time, the plainclothes officer that had been conveniently sitting at the breakfast bar was sympathetic, issuing only a warning.
The next police officer was not so sympathetic.
“There was an armed robbery, which we stopped. We were literally stopping an armed robbery. Which is, y’know, your job. We did your job for you. No need to thank us.”
The cell door was locked with an audibly loud clang. Without even looking at them, the officer stalked away to sit at his desk and continued to ignore them, seemingly unable to hear Darcy’s exclamations. She huffed, and Steve turned to her with a serious expression on his face.
“You just made that worse,” he told her.
Her eyebrows jumped in derision, her mouth curling, and she snorted.
“Says the guy who threw the robber into the aisle and damaged five thousand dollars’ worth of wine.”
“Yeah,” retorted Steve, having the grace to blush slightly, “but at least I–”
“Both of you are equally dumb,” said Bucky, stretching his arms. At an audible crack, he winced and reclined back into his corner. “Neither of you are smart enough to call the other dumb. You’re both dumb.”
If he hadn’t been languishing in a prison cell, he might have worried over the twin glares they sent him. As it were, he was languishing in a prison cell, so he didn’t give a fuck.
The next time they were arrested due to Steve and Darcy’s bullshit, Bucky gave even less of a fuck about their anger than the last. Especially since it was over Bucky being called a “hobo”. He did, however, realise that he should have been more apprehensive about their meetings in his retrospectively insane Dad!Bucky wonderings.
(He didn’t know why he called the period of time when he raised Darcy that. It was probably Darcy’s fault.)
The time after that, though, he could genuinely say he wasn’t mad.
By then, Bucky had improved a lot. Calm was his usual setting, and the slightest stressful moment no longer had him running for the hills. Which was useful, considering he spent most of his time around the two most stressful people on the planet. So yes, yay for improvement and all that. Apparently, though, that meant he had to start pushing himself to be out in very busy, very public places.
With the two most stressful people on the planet.
(Ok, so he didn’t have to. He just felt obligated to. At least one of them was his fault, and he hadn’t managed to stop the other from engaging in bullshit the entire time he’d known him. It was, therefore, his responsibility to protect the world from them.)
So they were out at a bar, one of the ones Darcy called “a complete dive”. Though they all nursed glasses of Jack, she’d managed to pinch some of the Asgardian mead Thor favoured, which was, incidentally, the only stuff that would get any of them even the least bit drunk. They were all slightly tipsy as a result, and from there the conversation had just gotten strange.
“On a scale of odd to really freaking weird, how weird is it that I’m out drinking alien liquor with my dad and his best bud who happens to be one of my best buds but both of them are from the 1940s and it's currently 2016?”
“I think,” said Bucky, pushing her glass away, “that you’re jumbling up your grammar and need some sleep.”
She nodded but made no move to leave. Instead, she curled up into Steve’s side, resting her head on his shoulder and dozing off the second her crown hit skin. Even Steve’s chuckles weren’t enough to rouse her.
“She’s got moxie, this one,” said Steve, his voice pitched low so as to not disturb her. He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “You have a good kid, Buck.”
Bucky shook his head, a grunt of self-deprecation escaping his throat.
“Hardly,” he said. Feeling Steve’s eyes on him, he looked up and continued, “I’ve fucked her up more than anything.”
“I doubt that,” said Steve softly.
Meeting his gaze squarely, Bucky replied, “I almost killed her when she was three. She woke me up while I was having a nightmare and I almost gutted her like a fish. And that’s not mentioning HYDRA, or the moving around, or my apparent death. If anything, she’s a good kid in spite of me."
Before Steve could disagree, as Bucky could tell he vehemently wanted to, they were interrupted by Darcy. She jerked awake suddenly, hitting Steve’s chin with her forehead and nearly knocking him out as she did so. As Steve cursed loudly much to Bucky’s amusement, Darcy’s gaze zoned in on the bar.
“Did you hear that?” she asked, focused unwaveringly.
Bucky shook his head no.
“What is it?” he said, also turning to focus on the bar.
Nothing out of the ordinary was happening, just a few clusters of people here and there. One guy in a purple shirt was accepting a drink from the man he was chatting to, and another couple were sequestered in the corner between the bench and the wall. Everyone there seemed to be having a good time. The only thing of note was that the bartender, a heavyset woman with beautiful tatts running up her bronze arm, looked a little bit flustered from having to deal with so many people by herself.
He turned back to his daughter, eyebrow raised, but she wasn’t paying attention. Gaze still fixed on the bar, she was eyeing the man talking to the purple shirt guy with a familiar single-mindedness.
“Darcy,” he said slowly, yet she still acted as if she hadn’t heard him. Far more forcefully, he hissed, “Darya!”
“He’s going to put something into his drink, or he already has,” was all she said. Her body had gone stock-still, zeroed in on the object of her scrutiny. “I heard the scumbag talking about it. He’s having his friend distract the bartender so she won’t notice him.”
The stillness was infectious, it seemed. As Darcy relayed what she’d overheard, Bucky felt himself becoming rigid. That voice in the back of his head that he’d fought so long to control got just a bit louder. Next to him, Steve had stopped cursing and had gone quiet, also intent on watching the scene play out by the bar. And true to prediction, as soon as the purple shirt guy had turned around, his companion had leant around him and tipped something into his glass.
Instantly, Darcy was out of her seat and partway to the bar. The only thing holding her back was Bucky’s hand, a restraint on her arm with its metallic grip. Steve halted too, sending Bucky puzzled yet anxious looks that urged him to speed up his explanation.
“We are going to alert the bartender that this has happened,” said Bucky, quietly so as to not alert people around them. “She will call the police and while she does that, we will go and watch to make sure that that man is ok, and get him out of there.”
Both of them nodded in agreement, and with that in mind, Bucky sidled over to the bartender, waving her over with his most urgent “there is an issue” face. In a low voice, he relayed to her what he’d seen. Meanwhile, as her face went white and she fumbled for her phone, out of the corner of his eye, Bucky saw Steve and Darcy approach the couple at the bar. Whatever they said was too quiet for even him to pick up (though that may have been the music), but the expressions on their faces?
There was no way he could misunderstand that.
“Shit,” he cursed, launching himself across the bar in time for Darcy to take a swing.
From there, the fight wrapped up pretty quickly. Scumbag put up a shit fight and went down quickly. Then the scumbag’s friend took obvious offence to his friend being beat on by a girl, but then Steve was there. When body-checking him didn’t work, the tap he delivered to his head did – an effective knock that would leave the guy with a headache the next day.
Even so, the cops weren’t exactly thrilled with them. The time they spent in cuffs was shorter than usual, though, so that was a plus.
Bucky didn’t like to admit it (mostly because it undermined the parental aura he purposefully exuded to command respect from his wayward child and to scare off potential threats), but while Darcy reminded him of Steve, a lot of the shit-stirring behaviour she had was inherited from him.
Out of necessity, he had become good at being the cautious friend. The one who pulled his mate out of strife whenever it occurred, who wiped up split lips and dragged Steve from the fray. The only reason he didn’t get into trouble as often as he could was mostly because he was too busy chasing after Steve and making sure he didn’t get beat to death to get involved in anything else. But before Steve?
Well, Winnie Barnes had some stories. And after that day, so would Darcy Lewis.
It was late, so late in fact that it was almost early, and they were walking back from the dive bar from the week before. That particular time, Steve had gotten more than a little drunk and became quite cuddly and weepy as a result, so Bucky had an arm slung around his shoulders to help him walk back. As usual, tipsy Darcy was more interested in waving around the bi flag she’d pinched from the bar and was no help with Steve, not that Bucky blamed her. Helping Steve walk was like accepting a ton of bricks onto your back.
“I love you, bud,” slurred Steve into Bucky’s jacket. “You’re the – the bestest.”
“Betterest,” corrected Darcy.
“Yeah, that. Betterest.”
“Oh boy,” Bucky sighed.
But only three blocks from the bar, they encountered the Problem™ of the night.
For once, it wasn’t Steve or Darcy starting shit. It was a group of rowdy, possibly-drunk men instead. The three were the kind that overdrank at sports events and got themselves kicked out of the stadium for racist remarks. Or beat their girlfriends because they weren’t quick enough to bring them sandwiches or something along those lines. They were the kind of drunk, angry men that Steve Rogers had spent his teen years standing up to, and so Bucky was surprised when he, not Steve, was the one that threw the first punch.
“How have you fags been tonight?” the one with a nose that looked like it had been punched one too many times called. No doubt someone who thought that calling out two very obviously buff men and a similarly muscly woman got punched in the face a lot. “Had fun sucking each other off?”
Despite being so inebriated that he could barely stand properly, Steve was conscious enough to flip them off, much to their amusement. Their laughter ringing in his ears, Bucky resolved to ignore them and sent Darcy a look warning her to do the same. It was really too bad that she didn’t listen.
“Why don’t you fuck off back to your jail cells, you homophobic pricks?”
“The fuck did you just say, bitch?” shouted the second one. This one’s face was bright red like a tomato, but Bucky couldn’t tell whether it was from anger or from overeating. Then the man’s piggy eyes spotted the flag Darcy had tucked into her back pocket, and he let out a howl of laughter. “Well, well, a couple of fairies and a dyke! No wonder you’re such a cunt.”
The uneasiness of the Winter Soldier, that uncomfortable rage he had spent so much of his time since HYDRA controlling and smothering, reared its head. He pushed it down, suffocating the flames with bullshit rationalities, and while he tackled his literal demons, the other men had moved closer.
“The fuck you just say, you disgusting fuck? How about you say that to my face when you don’t have all your little friends standing around?” Darcy retorted, almost falling over as she took what she no doubt thought was a threatening step towards them.
The men were still far enough away that Bucky and Co. could leave, but it was a close thing. Motioning for Darcy to stand down so that they could leave, Bucky hefted Steve up on his shoulder and started walking, trusting that his daughter would follow, which she did with only minimal grumbling.
“Where are you going, baby? Don’t you want a real man to show you a good time?” one of them called at their backs.
And then they said it.
To Darcy’s resounding no, another of them shouted, “You don’t have to want it for it to be good, I promise!”
One look at the well-concealed fear flickering in Darcy’s eyes was all Bucky needed.
In one moment he was transferring Steve over to Darcy’s capable hands, and in the next, he was throwing Pig Eyes into Cracked Nose and high kicking the third in the ribs. Pig Eyes jumped up for more almost immediately. Holding up his fists menacingly but feet arranged in a weak, indefensible position, it took less energy than Bucky expelled in waking up to dispatch the guy. Cracked Nose took one look at his friend and held up his hands for mercy.
Within seconds, the men lay groaning on the floor. Nursing their various bruises, they looked far more pitiful than they had before, and not at all likely to go for another round.
As became apparent quite quickly, though, someone had called the police when they’d seen the men have a go at Bucky’s family. All too inconveniently, those police turned up as Bucky doled out the last of his vengeance, and the cuffs they clapped on him made it clear that they weren’t exactly impressed.
Usually, Bucky wouldn’t be impressed with his own behaviour either. But when he caught sight of the ugly pricks as he was carted away, he couldn’t find it in himself to care all too much.
After all, less chihuahua-like than not, Bucky’s temper was also pretty maladjusted itself.