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In For a Penny, In For a Pound

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Darcy wrung her hands together and chewed her lip nervously. Her heart was pounding in her chest and she was almost certain she was about to be sick. God, why had she ever thought this would be a good idea? Fuck, she was so stupid.

He eyed her, coffee cup held aloft halfway to his mouth and his mouth open in mute shock. “… Darce,” he croaked, setting his mug down carefully on the counter with a clink, “-are you fucking serious?” He asked as he turned his big body toward her, one large boot on the wrung of the stool, the other planted flat on the floor. He squinted at her and his fingers, shiny and silver flexed against his thigh in a loose fist. “I mean… Seriously??”

Hysterical, nervous laughter bubbled up and out of her mouth before she could stop it and she felt her face warm with embarrassment. She rubbed at her cheeks self-consciously and looked anywhere but at him, her toes wriggling anxiously within the warm, cozy confines of her fluffy purple slippers. Jesus, what on earth had possessed her to… I mean, yeah, it was something she had always wanted to try, but why on earth had she asked him of all people?! Sure, he was one of her very best friends but fucked if she didn’t know better. Shit. She blew out a sharp, short breath and humiliated, turned to leave. “Forget it, Bucky.” She didn’t look back at him. Couldn’t. “Please. Please, forget I ever said anything..”

He was on his feet and at her elbow before she even reached the doorway, long, thick fingers curled around her arm and pressing into the soft skin of her bicep. “Darcy,” he held fast when she tried to pull free and he tugged gently, “Damn it, Darce, stop!” He barked. “Stop!”

She winced and let her arm go limp but did as she was told, chin down and eyes on the floor by his feet. She blinked back humiliated tears and swallowed thickly. His warm hand loosened and let go once he was sure she’d stay put and she shivered at the loss of it.

“Darcy,” he tried again, his hand coming to rest on the small of her back, thumb stroking up and down against the soft, fuzzy fabric of her sweater. “C’mon, sweetheart, look at me.”

She steeled herself for the look of horror on his face, the abject disgust and slowly lifted her eyes to his face. He was watching her with an expression of careful concern, his bright blue eyes confused and wide and he was so close that she could feel the warmth radiating from him, could smell the warm, spicy scent of his cologne and the coffee on his breath. He ducked his head to meet her eyes, his thumb still doing that stupid, distracting stroking thing in the dip of her lower back. She blinked up at him and desperately tried to concentrate on what he was saying but nothing was registering beyond the white noise. His mouth was moving but she hadn’t heard a damn thing he’d said because he was touching her. Bucky fucking Barnes was stroking her back in tiny sweeping motions and she could. Not. Concentrate.

Her mouth dry, she swallowed and wet her lips. “What?”

The muscle in his jaw jumped and he pressed his tongue to the inside of his cheek, his big chest heaving a sigh before he gave her a gentle nudge back towards the kitchen counter. “C’mon, Darce, come sit down.” His sweater clad arm brushed her shoulder and he gave her a light shove, her feet skipping across the floor. He waited for her to climb onto the stool and looped his foot around the leg of one of the chairs at the table, dragging it over to sit in front of her so she was perched above him and he appeared less threatening. Big blue eyes looked up at her and he waited for her to speak.

Her face was burning and she was chewing on the inside of her cheek to keep the tears at bay. “What do you want me to say?”

He cocked a brow at her and braced his elbows against his knees, hands clasped loosely between his thick thighs. “I’d really like you to explain what you meant.”

She looked down at him and marvelled at the man before her. He was a beautiful creature, a complete fucking specimen if she was being honest and the way the muscles across his shoulders bunched and rolled as he moved made her want to do all kinds of unseemly things with and to him with her mouth. Wet, filthy, bitey things. His hair was pulled back into a haphazard ponytail at the base of his neck but there was still that rogue strand that wasn’t quite long enough yet that hung in his eyes and his jaw was dark with a three day old beard. A soft navy sweater was stretched across his broad chest, a flash of white cotton underneath in the V of the neckline and his legs were encased in faded black denim that hugged his ass and thighs just so. Silver fingers twitched as he waited for her to reply.

She took a deep breath and looked at the ceiling. “You’re one of my best friends.”

He hummed quietly. “I am aware.”

The snort of laughter that came out of her mouth was brittle and she felt pathetic. “I don’t,” she blinked rapidly, “I don’t have the best track record with guys, you know? Every time I think I’ve found a winner it all falls apart and I,” she risked a look at him and he was frowning now, “I just want it to be fun, you know? I want it to be good for once.”

He blinked slowly and his throat bobbed as he swallowed. “I’m not sure I follow, Darce…” His brow creased in confusion, eyes searching her face for a clue as to what on earth she was on about.

Her fingers rubbed at her brow, eyes squeezed shut and mouth in a thin line. “I’ve never had an orgasm.” She blurted out and she was met with silence. “Ever. I – I’ve had sex, but it’s never been good and I just- yeah...”

To his credit, Bucky didn’t laugh like she had expected him to. He eyed her with his brows somewhere up in his hairline. “…. Ever?” He asked quietly, his tone tinted with disbelief and a little bit of horror, she thought.

She shook her head and picked at her chipped nail polish. “Nope.” Good lord, why wasn’t the ground opening up and swallowing her right now? She kinda sorta wanted to just curl up and die quietly in a corner somewhere.

He shifted in the chair and sat a little straighter, but didn’t touch her. “I,” he opened his mouth and snapped it shut, brows drawn together now, “I don’t see what this has to do with me choking you?”

Really, Bucky??” She scowled at him and watched as his handsome face processed what she was saying. She could see the moment it registered and his eyes widened and he choked on his tongue with a cough.

“Y-you want me to have sex with you,” he blurted, voice coarse and ragged, “-while I’m choking you?!”

She bit her lip. “Yes.” At his slack jawed look she rolled her eyes and smiled a little. “It’s a thing, y’know?”

He squinted at her and shook his head slowly. “But,” he paused. “If you’ve never had decent sex how do you know you’d like…?”

She twitched and smothered her embarrassment with a shrug. “Thinking about it gets me hot.”

His neck flushed pink and he worked his jaw a little. “Why me?” He looked at his hands and back to her, his eyes flitting to her throat then up to her face. “Of all the - why me, Darce?”

“Because,” she started, looping her fingers with his flesh ones. She gave them a squeeze when she felt them shaking. “You’re the only one with the experience,” at his sharp look she elaborated quickly. “That’s not what I – I didn’t-“ Her breath caught and she shook her head a little. “You’re the only one I trust enough. Plus, you’re pretty fucking hot, in case you haven’t noticed.”

He looked at their twisted fingers and sighed, eyes anywhere but her face. “Darcy, I…” He blew out a sigh and sat back, untangling his hand from hers and running it through his hair until his fingers caught on the elastic and he slumped backward. “Can,” he started, “Can I think about it?”

She caught her lip between her teeth and sucked it into her mouth, tongue prodding at the raw, sore patch that was maybe one layer of skin away from splitting. Her eyes were wide and her stomach did a weird little flip when it finally registered; he hadn’t said no. “Of course.” She nodded, not looking at him. “Yeah. Yeah, of course.” She shot him a tight but affectionate smile. “Take your time.”

He studied her for another long, mortifying moment before his big hands smoothed down his thighs and he rose to his feet without a word, reached past her for his forgotten coffee cup and headed for the door. She watched his back disappear into the hall with a heavy, sick weight in her stomach and she mulled over what she had just actually done.

She had just propositioned her best friend, the world’s most dangerous, prolific assassin turned superhero in the tower’s communal kitchen before he’d even had the chance to finish his first cup of coffee of the morning. She’d cornered him in one of the only places he genuinely felt safe and protected and fuck, she was an awful friend.

Ugh.

She rubbed at her eyes with the heels of her palms and sniffled with no small amount of misery when she noted that he hadn’t even bothered to say goodbye.

**

“Clean up on aisle three!”

Darcy flailed wildly at the sudden shout from the hallway and sent her half melted bowl of ice cream flying across the couch, sloppy vanilla and rainbow sprinkles slicking across her thigh and onto the expensive woven fabric. “Shit.” She quickly shrugged out of her robe and mopped up the mess, cursing quietly under her breath as she went, fingers plucking at the sticky remains of her self imposed pity party as she hauled herself off the couch and padded towards the kitchen. Her robe –a beautiful silk thing covered in butterflies that had been a gift from Natasha after their last trip to Vietnam and was probably, no scratch that, definitely ruined was clutched in her fingers and dragged across the floor behind her.

She didn’t even look up as she entered the room, merely glowered down at the wet, sticky mess on her thighs and shorts as she set about pulling out the big metal first aid box from the lower shelf of the cabinet. She set it down on the counter with a thump and pushed her curls back out of her face.

“Who’s the lucky victim tonight, then?”

A body slumped heavily onto the stool to her left and she glanced up as she began pulling sterile packs of gauze and saline tubes out of the box quickly followed by medical tape and a small pair of scissors in a paper and plastic packet. The plastic crinkled in her fingers when she caught sight of her favorite sniper leaning heavily against the counter top, head hung low and almost touching his forearms. He was still decked out in his uniform, straps and buckles hanging undone and the zippered section underneath his left arm halfway open. The plates that made up his bicep were fluttering and trying to realign but were gummed up with globs of something wet and fleshy so they were constantly rippling and shifting, a quiet whirring audible.

There was a steady drip, drip, drip of cherry red blood on the counter.

“For fuck’s – what even - Jesus, Bucky!” Her fingers twitched in the air, desperate to reach for him but something stopped her and she held herself back, unable to forget how they had left things almost two weeks prior in the kitchen.

She had barely seen him since then and each time she had he had been distant and distracted, a wan, tight smile shot in her direction before he’d abruptly leave the room and her behind. Her chest hurt from the blatant lack of interest he had in spending any further time with her.

Things were a mess between them and it was all her fault.

He was quiet, painfully so and she glanced from him to Clint in question. He gave her a slight one shouldered shrug as if to say ‘beats me’ and he nudged Bucky with the back of his hand. “Alright, Barnes?”

He grunted and his head sagged even lower until it pressed flush against the counter with a wet, tacky squelch. “M’fine.”

Clint cocked a brow at the monosyllabic answer and waved a dirty, gloved hand at him with a roll of the eyes. “If you say so, buddy.” He pat him on the shoulder and backed up a little when the bigger man tensed. “I’ll just,” he waved between the pair and backed towards the door. “Yeah. I’ll leave you to it, Darcy.” He fled.

There was a moment of tense silence before she finally found her words. “I can call medical instead, if you like?” Her voice was quietly ashamed and she plucked at the plastic wrapping that held the small pair of sterile scissors. She understood, really, she did. She had approached him with a request that had made him so uncomfortable that he couldn’t even look at her and she had ruined everything. The loss of him from her life had stung, even more than the rejection, but she deserved it. She had made her bed and she was damn well going to sleep in it. His silence was telling and she set down the package on the counter by his elbow. “I’ll call medical.”

He moved slowly, pushing himself upright and he blinked through a face full of blood, voice coarse and raspy. “No, don’t.” He sighed. “I’d rather not have to go down there. You can do it.”

She bit at her bottom lip and nodded wordlessly as she watched him thumb the blood from his eyes and wipe it on the leg of his tac pants. He pulled at his jacket, fingers slipping underneath the straps and tugging them free before he shrugged out of it completely and let it slop to the floor.

Her voice only shook a little when she wrung out the damp cloth to begin washing his face. “Is it just the head wound?”

Bright blue eyes met hers tiredly and he gave a slow, solitary nod. “Yeah,” he blew out, eyes dropping away from her face as she stepped in close and took his chin in her hand. Her bare thigh pressed up against his knee and she reveled in how warm he was, even through the heavy Kevlar fabric.

God, she had missed him so much.

She dabbed at his face with careful, steady fingers until she could see skin instead of blood and lifted up on tip toes to get a better look at the deep cut under his hairline. Her nails parted the wet, dark strands and she frowned at the already granulating wound. “Looks like it’s stopped bleeding,” she mumbled, reaching for the saline tubes and snapping the cap off of one. “Just let me clean it and I can go.”

He slumped a little at her words and she felt the brush of his long eyelashes against the inside of her wrist. His breath was hot and damp against her arm and her stomach clenched, goosebumps prickling along every inch of exposed skin and then some.

“Such a fucking mess,” he muttered, eyes downcast towards the counter, his hands gripping his knees as she leaned between them in an attempt to reach his head.

Darcy glanced at the bloody smears all over the counter top and her shoulders rolled in a tiny shrug, fingers carefully holding his hair out of the way as she dabbed ointment on the rapidly healing wound. “It’ll wash off.” She tried for flippant but had the feeling that it fell a little short and she felt him tense at her close proximity. His chest pressed against the curve of her breasts and she sucked in a breath.

He grabbed her elbow with his tacky, bloody prosthetic and squeezed. The plates were still rippling and trying to settle flat against his arm but she barely even registered the mechanical whirring. Bright blue eyes searched her face, took in the bruised circles under her eyes and he swore under his breath.

“I didn’t mean the goddamn counter.” He spat, lip curled and agitated, dark brows drawn in tight. He pushed away from the counter, the stool he’d been sitting on clattering to the floor as he stood and stalked from the room.

A noise that was way too close to a sob slipped past her lips and she coughed to cover it, just in case he was still in the hall, fingers that were sticky with his blood pushing through her hair before she moved to clean up the kitchen. She waited for a good ten minutes, washed her bowl and flipped out the lights before she gathered up her robe, headed for the elevator and then to bed.

Bucky was right. This was a fucking mess and it was all her fault.

**

She blinked awake, disoriented and confused in the darkness. Her mouth was dry and it felt like she’d been chain smoking cheap, shitty cigarettes all night. Her head felt heavy and her hair was still damp against her neck from the shower she’d taken before bed.

The old alarm clock she had brought with her when she’d moved in cast an emerald glow over the room and she curled herself around her pillow and pushed her face into it trying to escape its cheerful glow. It was early, only three A.M. and she had only been asleep for forty three measly minutes.

She pushed back the blankets and tripped out of bed, feeling her way down the hall and into the small kitchenette that was the same as every other suite on her floor and pulled open the fridge door so there was enough light for her to see but not enough to wake her properly. She fumbled for a glass and poured herself some water, emptying it twice before she felt any better.

A light tap at her door made her jump and she nearly dropped the glass, heart in her throat. “Jesus,” She cursed softly, padding towards the door with no small amount of trepidation. Who the hell would be knocking on her door at three in the fucking morning? She knew it would be one of the tower’s other inhabitants so it was definitely safe to open the door, but it didn’t curb her confusion one bit. Who the hell else was up at this time of night? She had her hand on the handle and she pressed herself against the cool wood, cheek resting on the door.

“… Who is it?”

A beat of silence passed before a quiet shuffling sound made its way through the door. “S’me.”

The locks tumbled loudly in the dark and then there he was, shoulder pressed into the door frame and hair hanging loose around his face. He looked down at her and cleared his throat, eyes looking over her head into the dark apartment and then back down to her sleep rumpled cheeks. He frowned. “I can come back later if…?”

Darcy rolled her eyes and stepped back, opening the door wider and waving him inside before clicking the door shut and flipping on a nearby lamp. The room was bathed in a warm, yellow glow and she took a moment to watch him as he sat on the edge of her coffee table with a sigh.

He was wearing a pair of plaid pyjama pants that were frayed and worn at the heels, the grey and white fabric soft from wear and a tight black tank top that did little to hide the impressive cut of his shoulders. His feet were bare and his toes were curling into the plush rug in the middle of the room.

She waited a few minutes and quietly called his name. “… Bucky?”

He wordlessly reached for her with one hand, head still bowed and she padded closer until his fingers looped around her wrist, his thumb brushing the heel of her palm as he slowly drew her in until he could rest his head on her hip. He took a slow, deep breath and buried his face in the soft curve of her stomach. “Smell good.” He mumbled into her shirt and she squeezed his shoulder. “God, Darce, I’ve been such a prick to you.”

She squirmed at the unfamiliar feeling of his hot breath against her ribs and tentatively stroked the top of his head, careful to avoid the wound site from earlier. It was probably already scabbed over but you could never be too careful. “Bucky, you don’t have to apolo-“

“I do.” He peered up at her and frowned, his metal hand coming to rest on her hip as he leaned back and looked over her face. “I do. I want to.” He told her with a light squeeze to her hip, his tongue darting out to wet his lips. “I’m so sorry I took off like that and left you hangin’, Darce. I was just so surprised that you’d want me that way and,” he shot her a depreciating smirk and shook his head at her, “It threw me more'n it should. Kinda haven’t been able to think of anythin’ else since.”

She blinked down at him in shock and a jolt of something hot and heady flared in her stomach. “Wait. What?!”

A wry, secret smile lit up his eyes and he hummed at her, nose against her ribs and hands on her hips. “See,” he started, fingers flexing against her soft curves, “You took me by surprise, Sweetheart. There I was drinkin’ my coffee and tryin’ to wake up and you come right out and ask me to fool around with you.”

She flushed pink and bit the inside of her cheek to stop from smiling. “I believe I asked you to fuck me, actually.” His grip tightened and he looked up at her with a cool raised eyebrow. She grinned. “I’m sorry, please, continue.”

His big hands squeezed her waist and he huffed a quiet laugh, his breath hot against the underside of her breast. “… I’d have to be blind not to want you, Darce.” He admitted lowly, fingers plucking at the waist of her sleep shorts before smoothing across the warmth of her stomach and pushing underneath her tank top to lay against her skin. Her brain short circuited a little and she let out a small gasp, her body following obediently as he drew her in closer and wrapped a thick arm around her waist. He nuzzled the warm juncture of her neck and brushed his open mouth against it, teeth scraping the delicate skin before he pressed a damp, open mouthed kiss to her jaw. His flesh hand tangled in the ends of her hair and pulled, exposing the line of her throat. “D’you still want it, Sweetheart?” He nipped at her chin and then her full bottom lip.

Her stomach pitched and whirled and she whimpered into his open mouth, breathing him in and clutching at the back of his neck, fingers twisted tightly in his hair as she struggled to think, to breathe. She could barely keep track of what he was saying and her breath was leaving her in shallow pants, her forehead pressed against his and his mouth brushing across hers in slow, lazy strokes. It was like nothing she’d ever done before and she was drunk on the sensations already. Sure, she’d been intimate with a few guys, had a couple of exes and a fling or two here and there, but this…? Nothing had felt like this and he had barely even touched her.

His tongue swept across the bow of her top lip and his left hand scraped at her lower back and cupped her ass, gripping and kneading just this side of painful through the thin cotton shorts she wore. Her breath hitched and she finally managed a short but definite nod. “Fuck, Bucky..”

He surged forward and kissed her as he pulled her closer to straddle his thigh and she whined into his mouth, fingers scraping at his stubbled jaw, his tongue in her mouth. He let out a low groan when she melted against him and he broke away after a moment with a sharp inhale, eyes bright and mouth swollen. He nuzzled her face and nipped at the skin over her cheekbone, breathing unsteady.

He huffed against her face. “Tell me what you want me to do,” he reached for her hips and pulled her flush against his thigh. “You tell me what you know you like and I’ll get you there, Darce, I swear to fucking God, I’ll get you there.”

She bit her lip and tried to squeeze her thighs together, desperate to feel him between them and let out an honest to God whimper when he arranged her just so and told her to straddle his leg.

“C’mon, there’s a good girl,” he murmured as she settled against him and her hips canted upward at the firm pressure against her core, “You wanna ride my thigh?” His mouth was at her ear, breathing heavy and hot against her skin.

Darcy moaned at the mere thought of riding his thick, muscular thigh until she was sopping wet and sobbing because she had honestly thought about it (on more than one occasion, in fact) but held still, nervous. “A-aren’t I too heavy?” She squirmed against him and sighed because honestly, even just the warm pressure against her was perfect but he scoffed against her neck and his fingers dug into her ass hard enough to leave a bruise.

“Fuck off, you’re too heavy,” He muttered darkly, “You’re perfect, Darce. Fucking. Perfect.”

Her mouth fell open and she bit her lip, her body hot with arousal and flushed a pretty pink from the top of her breasts to her cheeks. “Bucky..”

“Yeah, sweetheart? C’mon, tell me…” He mouthed at the soft spot beneath her ear and sucked until she was left with a mark, his mouth curling into a shark-like grin at the broken gasp that slipped out of her pretty, lush mouth. His fingers stroked and kneaded, coaxing her hips into motion. “I can’t ruin you if I don’t know what you like.”

She gasped against his cheek, her eyes fluttering shut as she ground against him. “I,” she couldn’t quite believe this was happening, “I want,” her breathing hitched, “I want to hear you. I like to listen.”

He moaned into her ear and she felt a rush of warm, wet heat pool between her thighs at the low pitched sound. God, he sounded pretty and she was embarrassingly wet. He licked and sucked his way down her neck and across her collarbone, his big hands under her shirt splayed across the width of her ribs and he sank his teeth into the soft skin above the neckline of her tank. Long, thick fingers pulled and tugged at the straps until she was exposed and he swore colorfully before he bent and took a pebbled nipple into his mouth. She squirmed and tugged on his hair, her breath leaving her in short, shallow pants. He released her with a pop and brushed his thumb across her damp skin.

His gaze felt like a physical thing, heavy and intense as he watched her rock against him, his thumb brushing back and forth across her nipple, tongue rolling out to wet his lips. He looked hungry, like he wanted to eat her alive and she had the sudden desire to see more of him, to touch him the way he was her.

She pulled at his shirt and leaned back a little ways, her hips slowing just enough for her to strip him of it and throw it onto the nearby couch. Her breath caught at the sight of all that muscle and skin but before she got a good look he had fisted his hand in her hair and slanted his mouth across hers. She reached up and held onto his forearm as she rode his thigh, the moisture between her legs soaking through into the fabric of his pants and he let out a rough groan, biting at her mouth and panting against her cheek. She could feel her legs starting to shake and her toes were curled against the carpet, her teeth hugging her bottom lip as the pressure began to build. Her eyes screwed shut and she whimpered, grabbing at his arm and shoulder, hips rolling faster and harder.

“That’s it, c’mon,” he muttered gruffly, “You gonna come for me, Darce, huh? You gonna make a fucking mess of me?”

She gasped into his mouth, a steady stream of curse words falling from his mouth, filthy promises to fuck her ‘til she couldn’t see straight spurring her on. His hand pulled impatiently at the waist of her shorts, thick fingers pushing down into her underwear until they met slick, wet flesh.

He was at her ear again, voice rough and desperate. “Can i?” He stroked her with two thick fingers, the tips of them brushing her opening with each frantic roll of her hips. The heel of his palm ground against her clit and she howled into his shoulder. “Darcy,” he dipped a fingertip inside her and she keened and started to panic as her toes curled even tighter and her body grew tense. It was too much. Her hips faltered and he let out a low grunt, open mouth against her face. Two fingers roughly pushed deep inside her and he rolled his palm against her. “You’re gonna come all over my hand, Sweetheart. Don’t stop. Don’t you fucking stop!”

“I c-can’t!” She cried, face in his neck but continued on as he insisted, “Oh fuck, oh god, oh fuck..” her body grew taught like a wire and with a sharp twist of his hand, she careened over the edge with a wail and sank her teeth into the nearest thing she could find as her body jerked against him. She faintly heard him cursing up a storm but after a few moments his voice tapered off and finally when she could feel her legs again and her ears had stopped ringing, she opened her eyes and blinked slowly into the damp skin of his neck. She tried to regulate her breathing but gave up after a minute and pushed her hands against the flat of his chest and sat up. There was a sluggishly bleeding bite mark at the juncture of his neck and shoulder and his fingers were still seated inside her.

He was watching her with an intensity that she’d not seen before. He cocked a brow at her and his fingers flexed inside her, making her gasp and whine before he carefully withdrew them, the elastic of her underwear snapping against her skin and stroked her hip with his wet fingers. He cleared his throat and lifted his hand to eye level so she could see herself all over him.

“D’you mind if I..?”

She swallowed and cocked her head. “Do I mind, what?” Her breath stuttered out of her in a whoosh when he sucked his fingers into his mouth and his eyes slipped to half mast. He hummed around them and licked all trace of her away before he pushed them into her hair and thumbed at her cheek.

Her mouth curled into a warm, pleased smile and she clenched her thighs around his. “I think you broke me.”

He huffed a small laugh and dropped his forehead against hers, sobering quickly and the length of his nose brushed hers. “I need you to be sure, Darce,” He kissed her lazily, teeth pulling at her lip and hands on her face. “It’s so fucking dangerous and I,” his voice cracked, “I can’t lose you. You gotta be sure.”

She smiled against his mouth and wrapped her fingers around his left wrist, nails scraping at the smooth, cool plates lightly. “I want it, Bucky,” she whispered, her voice low and honest and damn near wrecked all at once. She guided silver fingers down her cheek, her tongue flicking out to swirl around the pads of them before she pressed a firm, open mouthed kiss against his palm. “I want you, you idiot.”

She delighted at the way his mouth hung open as her tongue touched the metal and downright fucking squirmed at the sharp exhale he made through his nose. Her nipples hardened instantly and she stifled a moan against the palm of his hand.

His eyes drifted shut and he let out a low, deep groan that did things to her, that made her toes curl and made her want to bend over and beg him to take her apart. “Christ..”

She dragged his flesh hand toward her mouth and bit the webbing between his thumb and finger, sucked until he bruised and then repeated the process on the fleshy heel of his palm. “You got a hand thing, Bucky?” She wondered aloud when he began to pant, his thighs shifting underneath her impatiently. “You want me to lick and suck on every inch of skin until you’re all marked up from my mouth?” When he let out a harsh, strangled gasp she hummed against his palm. Apparently, it was a thing for him.

Interesting.

When all of his fingers were wet with her saliva she released them from her mouth with a lewd pop and scraped her nails through his hair, pulling and bringing his mouth down to hers with a moan.

He tugged at the shirt she still had on with a growl, bunched around her waist and then at her shorts. “Off.” He demanded and she climbed from his lap to stand on shaky legs to strip.

She looked up at him from underneath her lashes and pushed her shorts down past her hips and stepped out of them, leaving her in her bright pink underwear and not a scrap more. She suddenly felt very self-conscious and shifted from foot to foot as his eyes dragged down the length of her, his tongue wetting his kiss swollen lips. She couldn’t get a read on him and her nerves doubled. She wasn’t perfect like most of the other women they were surrounded by each day, her hips were too wide and her thighs too soft and she was constantly wrapped in red lines from where her underwear dug in a little… She was soft and squishy and built for snuggles, not covert operations and spy stuff. For fuck’s sake, last time she did this she was pretty damn drunk so it hadn’t really mattered then. Or the time before. Or the time before that. Ok, so she’d never really had sex and been sober for it, big deal, right?

But it was a big deal.

This was huge for her.

Almost as if he could read her mind, Bucky looked up at her with a terrifying intensity that made her skin prickle with heat. She could feel the sweat drops forming between her breasts and she took a slow, calming breath.

He crooked two fingers at her and beckoned her closer, dragging her between his glorious thighs and oh.

Oh, indeed.

He was hard against her hip, the thick line of him pressing up against the soft flannel of his pants, the fabric damp and clinging to him as he gave a small roll against her. His hand was on the side of her neck and he squeezed to get her attention but she couldn’t bring herself to look away, fingers reaching for him to palm him through the fabric.

“No,” he shifted his hips back out of her reach and pushed her hand back. “S’about you, now.”

Blue met blue and she searched his face for a moment. “You’re kidding.” She uttered flatly. When his nose wrinkled in confusion she quirked a brow and pushed at his big shoulders. “Damn it, Bucky, I’ve wanted this for a long time and you’re gonna hold out on me?!” She asked incredulously. Her lip curled and she pushed him again, his shoulders giving just enough for her to know he’d let her move him. Completely and utterly furious and embarrassed, she took a step away and set her hands on the flare of her hips and looked him up and down before making her demands. “Take off your pants.”

He leveled her with a look and started to shake his head but she was having none of his shit.

“You’re going to stand the hell up and drop trou, Sergeant because if we’re gonna do this then goddamn it we’re gonna go the whole hog! I want the whole shebang, not just third fucking base, James Buchanan Barnes! Stop being so.. so.. Greedy!”

He blinked at her, surprised and his fingers flexed against his thighs, the right one idly rubbing circles over the damp, slick patch she’d left there. He licked at them absently as he watched her try not to squirm and let out a deep, weary sigh. He stood up with a muttered curse and quickly shucked out of his pants and boxer briefs before kicking them clear across the room. He stared at her defiantly, mouth set in a firm line and waited.

Her breath caught in her throat at the sight he made, all long, muscular lines and warm golden skin bared for her. Just. For. Her.  His thighs were thick and dotted with scars, some were obviously knife wounds, old and silver from age and there was one amazingly spectacular burn scar by his knee that made the skin pucker tightly until it disappeared behind the back of his knee and down to his calf. Her eyes traveled higher until she caught sight of the thick, long length of his erection, hard and slightly curved toward his navel and she felt herself clench at the mere thought of taking him in her mouth or even having the hot, hard length of him pressed between her breasts and bumping her chin as he rutted against her. Jesus. Ok, maybe she was getting ahead of herself here.

Her eyes flicked up to meet his and she licked her lips. He was watching her, waiting for her to move first and he was doing the thing. The biting his lip thing. Fuck.

“Where do you want me, Darce?”

Her fingers crept toward the waist of her underwear and slipped underneath, hand trapped between cotton and skin. “Here,” her other hand trailed across her neck, fingers curling around her throat to squeeze, “-and here.”

He had her pressed up against the back of the door in a blink, big hands lifting her off her feet and pulling her legs around his waist before his weight settled against her to pin her in place and leaving her dizzy with want. One hand curved around the back of her leg where thigh met butt cheek, fingers slipping between her legs to tease and stroke her back to life and his other hand, the cooler metallic one made short work of her pretty pink underwear then pushed up her belly and into the valley between her breasts, the tips of his fingers coming to rest on her collarbones. He kissed her hard and fast, swallowing her needy gasp as his fingers slipped up inside her and curled just enough to make her grind against him.

“Please, Bucky,” she could barely even think let alone speak, babbling and squirming against him. “Please..”

He grunted into her mouth as her wet heat came into contact with his cock and he pushed his fingers even further into her, adding a third without a second thought or warning and she cried out at the almost painful stretch. Her heels dug into the curve of his ass.

Words, Darcy,” he growled, crowding closer and thrusting his fingers roughly into her, dragging them out of her slick walls and pushing back in with bruising force. “Use. Your. Words.”

It took her longer than she’d like but finally she managed to speak, eyes tightly shut and body shaking from his actions. She could hear how his breathing hitched, the wet sound of his hand between her thighs and his sharp muttering about how good she was for him, how fucking pretty her pussy was and how he was going to fucking ruin her with his hands, mouth and cock. “Fuck me… Please!” God, she’d had no idea that her shy, softly spoken best friend had such a filthy mouth. She loved it. Fuck, she really did love it. She had always been a sucker for a little bit of dirty talk but finding someone who was good at it, whose voice was that perfect blend of filth and sex without sounding like a dodgy porno...? That had been difficult. She pulled at the hand on her chest and tipped her chin up, begging for him to slip his hand around her neck as she rode his thick fingers towards her second orgasm. Everything was tight and hot and her vision was beginning to white out at the edges. “I want.. I can’t.. need..” She was straining against him, her breasts crushed against his sweaty chest. She almost started sobbing when he pulled his fingers out leaving her feeling painfully empty. “N-no..”

He shushed her quietly, unyielding metal fingers sweeping across her throat gently at first before settling heavily and his thumb pushed at the underside of her chin forcing her head back. “This ok?” He asked gruffly, the blunt tip of his cock pressed against her where his fingers had just been.

She blinked rapidly and swallowed, moving her head tentatively to check for any discomfort. She was shaking like a leaf. “S’good,” she tried to push down, tried to ease herself onto his length and failed with a sob. “So fucking good. Oh my god, Bucky, please… Please, please, plea-” her pleas broke off with a whine as he pushed up into her, inching further and further inside with his jaw clenched, fingers digging into the globe of her ass, white knuckled. The room was silent save for their harried breathing for a moment, then three things happened at once.

Bucky’s hips surged up into her and Darcy let out a sharp, choked wail as she sunk the rest of the way down his length and his hand tightened around her neck just enough to limit her air supply. His mouth was back at her ear and he was swearing profusely as he fucked into her with hard, rolling strokes.

Oh god, it was so much better than she’d ever imagined. She could feel his breath hot against her skin, the sweat on the back of his neck when she buried her fingers in his hair and held on for dear life as he pushed her higher up the back of the door with each solid thrust. The muscles in his shoulder rolled and flexed under her hand and she dug her nails in until her hands hurt.

“C’mon, sweetheart, don’t get shy on me now,” he growled, fingers loosening and flexing against her skin. “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” he gasped, “Fucking. FUCK!”

Darcy dug her heels into his ass and strained against him, biting her lip until it bled as the now familiar heat began to suffuse her entire body. It started at her toes and raced up her legs, swooped through her belly and unfurled in her chest, her thighs shaking as fat tears glassed up her eyes and she cried out wordlessly into his mouth. “B-bucky!”

His lip curled up into a strained grin, lips red and rubbing over her open mouth as she gasped around the hand on her throat. He lapped at the split in her skin and his eyes rolled back in his head at the rich, metallic copper taste on his tongue. Fuck, he was a deviant.

“Want you to come for me, Darce,” he moaned into her mouth, his hips rolling against her, his cock pressed deep into her tight, wet heat. She was beginning to flutter around him, her sounds changing from sharp and needy to desperate and fuck-drunk. “Take me, Darce, c’mon, take it.. Such a good girl, my good girl, my babydoll...” he rambled. His flesh fingers crept between the round, perfect cheeks of her ass and he pressed the pad of his fingertip against the puckered opening there. “Gonna have you here next time, sweetheart. M’gonna fucking ruin you.”

She came with a ragged sob, fingers scratching and pulling at his hair and trying to close his hand tighter around her neck as her slick release flooded out of her and her walls clamped down on his cock so hard that his eyes crossed.

He let out a broken curse and groaned into her open mouth as he came a minute later, his hips gradually slowing from punishing to shallow lazy thrusts as she whimpered her way down. Eventually, after he slowed to a stop and she caught her breath, he held her against the door and ran his hands up her sides and pressed a warm, lazy kiss to her brow.

She hummed, contented and stroked his hair back out of his eyes. “Gold star for Bucky Barnes,” she murmured. “Two thumbs up, would definitely ride again.”

He huffed out a laugh and pecked her on the lips, his hands adjusting their grip on her hips so he could carry her toward the couch, still buried inside her. “Gimme ten minutes, ok, Darce?” He carefully settled into the soft cushions and arranged her against his chest. “Ten minutes.” He muttered with a yawn, body slouching with her knees hugging his ribs.

She smirked and thumbed at his temples until his eyes slipped shut, her limbs loose and sore in the best possible way. “It’s alright, Old Man. Have a nap, you earned it.”

One bright blue eye opened and he squinted at her. “And for that, you can wait twenty.” He flexed his hips beneath her and she gasped softly at the feel of him inside her, good to go already. “See if I care.”

She let out a throaty laugh and tossed her hair back, the curling ends brushing his thighs. When she calmed down and looked back at him he was watching her with a soft unguarded smile on his face and she felt her cheeks warm under his gaze. “… What?” His fingers tipped her chin up a little and he pressed a kiss against the corner of her mouth.

He hummed against her skin. “You’re perfect, Darce.” He rolled his eyes at her wry smirk and pulled her against his chest, big arms winding around her and pinning her in place, his chin on the top of her head. “You are,” he insisted, “And I’m gonna keep telling you so until you believe me. Every damn day.”

She huffed and snuggled against his chest, fingers idly plucking at his nipple. “And you’re crazy.”

His hand clapped against her bare butt cheek with a sharp crack and he laughed at the squeal she let out. “Respect your damned elders.”

“Yes, Sir, Sergeant Barnes.”

He twitched inside her and he hummed thoughtfully, firm hands creeping toward her breasts. “Well, shit,” he mused at her flushed cheeks. “I guess that’s a thing.”

“The spanking thing or the ‘Sir’ thing?”

He grinned at her, slow and filthy. “I guess we’ll just have to find out, wont we?”

 

 

Chapter Text

Darcy blinked against the silk tie that was covering her eyes and tried to get her breathing under control as she felt the zipper that held up her pencil skirt give way. Her heart was beating so hard that it felt like it was going to lurch out of her chest and her breaths were coming along short and quick. She curled her fingers against her palms and waited for his next move. She could hear him behind her, could feel the body heat coming off him but she resisted leaning back into it for fear of him stopping. Keep your hands where I can see them, he’d said. Don’t touch the blindfold, he’d told her, a hint of warning in his gravel-rough voice. If you make a sound, I’ll stop, he promised.

She’d stumbled through her door after work, her feet sore from the heels she’d had to wear all day due to meetings and her skin sore from where her underwire had broken free of her bra and had been digging into the side of her right breast for the better part of the afternoon. She was tired and frustrated and all she wanted to do was strip out of her awful, stuffy work clothes and have a glass of red. Ok, maybe the whole bottle, but that was irrelevant. Bucky was off on a week long mission and she was valiantly pretending that she didn’t miss his gorgeous ass. She’d only just gotten him back after the whole ‘proposition-gate’ and it was hard knowing that he was out there somewhere putting himself in danger mere days after he’d taken her up on her offer. The sex had been amazing, mind blowing even, but he’d been called away to assist the feds with a human trafficking ring in Seattle before they’d had the chance for a repeat performance. He’d reluctantly left her on the sofa, pulled his clothes back on and slipped out of her apartment with a whispered apology and a grimace of regret on his face when he saw the way she was sprawled on the cushions with her fingers pressed between her legs, slick with the evidence of his release all over her thighs and hand as it leaked out of her. He’d taken three steps back towards her before he growled and spun on his heel, the door slamming loudly behind him after he was paged a second time and told it was wheels up in ten minutes.

He’d been right there waiting for her when she’d flipped on the lights and after a stunned moment of silence, her sore feet were the last thing on her mind. She was torn between being happy he was back safe and sound and desperate to strip him bare and slide into his lap, pull his face into her cleavage and lick him all over just to make sure he was in one piece.

She’d hesitated in the doorway long enough for her to ask him if he was alright and instead of answering her he’d merely risen to his feet and ambled closer, reached around her to push the door shut and dug a strip of blood red silk out of his pocket. One of his ties, she’d realized.

“Undo your hair,” he demanded softly, skimming his eyes over her attire for the day as she did as he instructed, a mass of chocolate curls tumbling over her shoulders once the clip was removed. His tongue wet his lips and he held up the fancy necktie in front of her. “You trust me, Sweetheart?”

Her answer was immediate and sure. “With my life.”

He’d smirked at her and bent to brush his lips against her forehead before he’d eased behind her and covered her eyes with the red strip of silk, tied it firmly behind her head and guided her down the hall into her bedroom.

“Rule one; you don’t move unless I say so,” his voice rumbled in her ear, his lips brushing over the sensitive shell as he spoke, “Rule two: You even try to take this off,” his fingers brushed the blindfold, “-I stop.” He smirked against her ear as she shivered. “Final rule: You don’t speak. You don’t ask for more. You don’t make a fucking sound. You get what you’re given and you like it. Understood?”

She’d given him a jerky nod and that was what had brought them to where they were now – her standing in the middle of her bedroom in nothing but her skirt and heels, bra and blouse already discarded on the floor.

His big hands pushed underneath the waist of her skirt to settle on her hips and she heard him hum to himself, a sound of intrigue escaping him as his fingers encountered the lingerie she wore underneath. “What do we have here?” He wondered, pulling the skirt down her thighs to puddle on the floor at her feet. “Sweet merciful Christ…” he groaned when he saw what she was wearing underneath.

He’d been gone for a day when she’d found the set by chance on her travels and the moment she laid eyes on the cobalt blue garter belt, and matching seamed stockings she’d had to have them. Bucky loved blue, especially this particular shade. They set her back a pretty penny but as soon as she’d put them on for the first time she knew that she couldn’t go a day without them; the thought of what he would do to her if he saw her wearing them had immediately rendered her useless for the rest of the day and she’d been living in a state of constant arousal ever since. She’d lost count of the amount of times she’d found herself with her hand up her skirt, three fingers knuckle deep in her pussy as she tried (unsuccessfully, mind you) to get herself off at her desk.

He braced her with his metal arm as she stepped out of her skirt and she bit back a moan as his hands skimmed up her stockinged calves, brushed over the seams that ran the length of her legs and traced the pretty lace bands that held them up at her thighs. “These for me, Sweetheart?” He asked, his nose brushing the crease where her thigh met her butt cheek, fingers plucking at the strap of the suspenders. “Did you wear these for me?” His teeth nipped at the swell of cheek and she jerked, her breath rushing out of her in a harsh puff but she remained quiet. She didn’t want him to stop. He nipped her again, harder this time and the suspender stretched tight before snapping against her skin with a sharp sting. She almost sobbed when his fingers stroked the stinging skin, goosebumps prickling up under his touch. “Questions require answers, Sweetheart.” He sucked a mark against the curve of her ass and lathed it with his hot tongue, his big hands holding her hips steady as she shook against him. “Speak, Darcy.” He ordered, voice rough.

“Yes! Saw them and hoped you’d like them,” She gasped as his thumbs worked up the inside of her thighs and pushed underneath the crotch of her lace boy shorts to dip into the line of her already wet slit. He made a low sound in the back of his throat when his thumb slipped straight into her with no resistance, the wet slick of her arousal already thick in the air and on his tongue.

“Oh, I like ‘em alright, Sweetheart,” his tongue swept across the bright blue lace where it disappeared between her thighs, his head following and forcing her legs open wider. His fingers trailed down the length of her leg, tracing the black line of the seam all the way down to the glossy black heels on her feet. He fingered the ankle strap and buried his nose between her thighs, took in a deep lungful of her scent and groaned into her. “Fuck, I like these too.”

Darcy bit the inside of her cheek and sucked in a ragged breath when his thumb sunk deeper into her, the single thick digit doing more for her than three of her own fingers had done in a week. She tried not to make a sound, tried to keep quiet but when she felt the heel of his palm press against her, the deep twitch of his thumb inside her she whimpered and dug her nails into her palm. She almost sobbed when he pulled back and she wanted to ask him to keep going but the damage was already done; he was on his feet and two steps behind her, his body heat lost.

“Bend over and spread your legs,” he demanded, voice tight and annoyed. “Bend. Over. Darcy. Put your fucking hands on the bed and don’t move.”

It took her a moment to get her legs to comply and she took an unsteady step towards where she thought the bed was, hands outstretched so she could find the end of it. She twisted her hands in the air for a moment, feeling for the solid end of the bed frame before she finally found it and curled her fingers over the smooth, polished wood nervously. She spread her heeled feet a good shoulders width apart and bent over, ass in the air and spine arched to push her breasts out. She tried to imagine how she looked to him, cobalt lace against milky pale skin and framing the gap between her spread thighs, crotch already dark with the slick of her arousal… She wondered if he was already hard and if he had his hand wrapped around the thick swell of his cock.. Jesus, that’d be a sight..

“Pick a safe word.”

Darcy blinked against the silk and swallowed thickly. “W-what?”

“Pick a safe word,” he repeated, the sound of his belt buckle jingling loudly in the room, then the rasp of a zipper being lowered. “I might get carried away and you’ll need to be able to stop me. Make it somethin’ obvious.” His hand smoothed over the swell of her ass and she jerked helplessly as he roughly tugged the lace higher between her cheeks to bare more of her perfect unblemished skin with a barely concealed groan. “Fucking perfect, Sweetheart.” He pinched the inside of her soft thigh hard enough for it to sting and start to bruise. “Safe word.” He reminded her impatiently.

“Mermaid.” She blurted out, breathless already, nervous because she didn’t know what he was planning and just as excited for the exact same reason. She wished she could see him.

He rumbled his approval behind her. “Mermaid,” he repeated, seemingly satisfied with her choice. “Good girl.”

She felt a rush of heat pool between her thighs at his praise and she wriggled her hips, arched her back a little more and her breasts pushed against the bed end. “Please, Bucky,” she pleaded softly, “Please touch me, I’ll be good, I’ll be so good for you, please…”

His hand palmed her bare ass cheek roughly before he pulled back and slapped her hard enough on the butt to make her squeal. His metal hand pushed her chest flat against the end of the bed when she started to straighten up in shock and he grunted at her to stay down.

“Ass up,” he ordered sharply, “Shoulders down, ass in the air, Sweetheart. Show me how good you can be for me and do as you’re fucking told.”

She fell against the bed pliantly and pushed her hips back and up into the air, adjusted her feet and braced herself. The lace between her legs was more than damp now, wet and pulled tight between her lips and scratching against her tender clit. She took a shaky breath and whimpered when the rough pads of his fingers traced the bright red hand shaped welt on her skin. It stung and the skin prickled at his touch. “Please…” She whined desperately, “… please…”

“Mmm, please what, Sweetheart?”

“Hit me again, Sir… please?”

He let out a sharp, deep groan and brought his hand down against the back of her thigh this time, just below her butt cheek and the bright red line of his fingers formed quickly against her pale skin.

“Such a good girl,” he cooed in her ear, hand stroking the back of her head, “Asking me so pretty like that,” he licked a solid stripe up her neck and nipped at her cheekbone with sharp, white teeth. “Good girl.”

She whimpered into the bed and shuffled, spreading her legs wide enough for him to fit between them if he saw fit to try. “Thank you, Sir,” she managed, voice shaky and wrecked with arousal. “Another?”

He didn’t even bother replying this time, merely cracked his hand against her ass again and again and again until she was a sobbing, pleading mess, dizzy with need and barely able to stand any more. Her legs were shaking with the effort it took to remain upright and there was a sheen of sweat covering her entire body, her nipples painfully hard and pressed into the scratchy cotton bedding. She squirmed and whimpered as she felt the throb between her legs, the wet slick of arousal coating her thighs and her body clenched with the need to feel him pressed tight against her back and buried balls deep inside her. Her skin burned where his hand had landed against her over and over and she wanted to feel his tongue tracing the welts he’d undoubtedly left behind but she was so far beyond words that it wasn’t possible for her to ask.

She let out a sob when he pushed both hands between her thighs and spread her open even wider by kicking her feet apart, the stance pushing her shoulders lower for support. His fingers slipped against her slick skin and she heard a heavy thump then felt the wide press of his shoulders between her legs. His mouth was hot against her core and he was breathing heavily, fingers digging into her thighs as he mouthed at her flushed skin. The strong, wet press of his tongue against her slit made her knees buckle and she let out a sharp, thready wail that melted into a broken plea for more when it dipped inside of her.

His mouth moved away from its task between her thighs, his tongue stopped flicking against her lace covered clit and he pressed his face against the curve of her butt cheek. She could feel his wet chin against her skin, the stinging pressure of his mouth sucking another mark into her already abused flesh followed by the sharp prick of teeth.

Her hips bucked and she twisted, desperate for something more, anything to soothe the ache inside.

His voice was rough and strained and he pulled at the suspenders that ran down the back of her legs. “Too much?” He asked thickly, licking his lips clean of her as he pressed the tip of his index finger shallowly inside her, pulling and stroking at her slick walls. She jerked against him, bumped back into his face and a filthy, broken moan slipped past her lips. “Darcy,” he pushed, “Is it too much?”

She tossed her head back and strained against him, pushing her hips back to try to take him deeper but he held fast and she struggled not to cry. She was almost crazy with the need for him to fuck her and she wasn’t sure how much more she could (or couldn’t, as the case may be) take. She was seconds away from safe wording, her body wound so tight that it hurt and she could barely breathe through it. “Please, Bucky!!” She begged him, “I can’t… It hurts… Please don’t stop!!”

His arms curled around her thighs and she felt her feet leave the floor, her hands scrambling for purchase as she flailed mid-air. Her body crashed down further up the bed and she was momentarily winded as his big hands grabbed her hips and flipped her onto her back before pulling at the suspenders until they gave up the ghost. Her boy shorts were tugged roughly down her legs where they caught on one ankle and he had her knees pushed up to her shoulders, blindfold tugged down to rest around her neck before the room stopped spinning completely.

Her breath caught in her throat when she was able to focus enough to see the flush on his face and neck, the wet sheen of her on his face and the puffy swell of his bottom lip where he’d obviously been biting down on it pretty hard. His hair was a mess and his pants were hanging open at his hips, the thick swollen length of his cock proud against his belly. He was still wearing the one sleeved leather jacket he wore for missions and it hung open at his sides, the undershirt he usually wore under it pushed up around his ribs. He looked utterly debauched and as if he was barely holding onto his control by a thread. It was a fucking beautiful look on him, even if he was staring at the wet, swollen folds between her legs like he was about to dive in face first and eat her alive.

She gave a whimper and opened her mouth to plead with him, her fingers tugging at his forearms where they had her legs pinned against her chest so she was spread wide open for his eyes. “Bucky…

His eyes snapped up to look at her, dark and hungry and a slow, filthy grin spread across his face. “You want me?” He bent over her to lick her face and breathed into her open mouth, the weight of him pressing into her and pinning her in place. “You want my cock in your pretty little pussy, Sweetheart?” He nuzzled her cheek and gave a dark little laugh when she whined, so worked up that she was unable to speak. “Thought about you all the time while I was out,” he murmured into her ear, “Kept thinkin’ about how pretty you looked with my hand wrapped ‘round your neck and my cock in you, your legs pulling me in at the waist and the sounds you made as I fucked you hard…” He groaned into her ear and settled against her so his cock was pressed against the dripping line of her slit. He rocked into her and sucked in a sharp breath when she let out a low, delirious moan. “Pretty much fucked my hand raw most days, Sweetheart,” he told her, “Damn near got caught more’n once and had to stuff my fist into my mouth to get rid of the evidence. Couldn’t wait to get back so I could come see you.” He pulled himself up onto his elbows and reached down between them, wrapped his fingers around his length and swept the leaking head over her clit once, twice, three times before he guided himself into her with a harsh groan. “Fuck, you feel good,” he gasped, “So good for me, Sweetheart, such a good girl…”

Darcy wailed as he sank into her and threw her head back into the pillows, eyes rolling back in her head as he filled her inch by inch until he was flush against her, his mouth running a mile a minute with filth in her ear. She could feel the familiar rush of heat coiling in her belly, her thighs shaking as they were pressed between her shoulders and his big chest and it took no more than three of his solid thrusts before she was screaming in his ear, sobbing with her release and her vision whited out. He shifted back just enough to free her hands and adjust her legs, calves draped over his shoulders as he pounded into her, fucking her right through her first orgasm and straight into the next.

She twisted her fingers into the shaggy bulk of his hair, pulling and yanking as her body railed against him, her heels dug into the back of his shoulders as he swore into her mouth.

“Fucking hell,” he snarled, biting at her mouth, metal fingers curled into a fist around the sheet beside her head, “That’s it, Darce, so fucking good for me. Take it all, Sweetheart.” he pushed his flesh arm under the small of her back and lifted her hips off the bed, pulling her tighter against him as he continued to slam into her, teeth bared. He cursed as her body gave a little more and he sunk even further into her with the new angle. She let out a wail and yanked on his hair so hard that he winced. “Jesus fucking Christ, woman,” he spat, “Why the fuck can’t I get enough of you, huh?”

“Wanna come,” she rambled mindlessly, “-wanna come on your cock... all yours… need it, please, let me…”

Bucky’s eyes flared at the sound of her begging and he seized her mouth in a blistering kiss that was messy and filthy and it stole almost all the air from her lungs as the pressure inside welled to the point of pain. She let out a hiccupping sob and clung to him, her hands shaking wildly, her legs weak.

“Please…” she mumbled into his mouth when they broke for air, “Please let me come…” Her voice was plaintive and something inside him wrenched at the sound of it. He wanted nothing more than to see her fall apart, wrapped tight around him and sobbing from pleasure.

He grunted as she tightened around him, her walls fluttering in waves and he pressed his forehead against hers, his thrusts becoming erratic and uneven as he began to lose the tenuous grip he had on his control. He huffed into her mouth and ran his tongue across the full width of her bottom lip, dipping into her mouth before he nodded against her.

“Since you asked so fucking nicely,” he muttered with a smirk, “Come for me then, Sweetheart. Wanna see you fall apart. Let go, Darcy…”

She whimpered and pressed her open mouth against his cheekbone, her body bowing up into him and she came with an almost violent cry, fingers still twisted in his hair and her legs tight around his neck. She shuddered and arched against him, her breath leaving her in unsteady gasps and whines as he buried himself as far inside her as humanly possible and he too came with a shout.

Darcy twitched and shivered against him, her body completely overwhelmed and exhausted from their coupling and she waited with her eyes closed for him to recover and move off her. She winced when he finally dragged himself out and off of her and the following rush of wetness that leaked out of her was oddly soothing against her battered parts. She struggled to lower her legs and whimpered when pins and needles prickled down her left leg, sore and abused but so fucking pleased with herself for making him lose his shit like that.

“Hey,” he sounded a little more like himself now, his voice was gruff from exertion and he was still panting a little, but he was definitely calmer. “Are you… Shit, Darce, did I hurt you? Why the fuck didn’t you safe word?!”

She hummed and kept her eyes closed. She didn’t want to see the look on his face that she knew would be there; he thought he’d gotten carried away and had hurt her. “Didn’t want to,” she rasped, her body boneless and heavy as he carefully eased her legs down onto the bed and massaged her hips and knees before she felt him plucking at the tiny buckles on the ankle strap of her high heels. One shoe fell off and thudded to the floor then was quickly followed by the other. “Was too good to stop.”

He grumbled as he stripped her bare of the remainder of her lingerie, his big hands hot on her skin as he stroked her all over to make sure she was uninjured. His fingers slipped between her legs and she jerked as they dipped into the sore, sticky mess he’d left in her folds and she blinked her eyes open in time to see him inspecting his glistening fingers. They were covered in come and once he was seemingly satisfied that he’d not maimed her, that there was no blood to be seen he sucked them into his mouth and shrugged out of his jacket, completely unaware of the wild eyed look on her face as she watched him lick his fingers clean. It was way hotter than it had any right to be.

“Um, Bucky,” she started and he turned to her with a raised eyebrow, “You just licked your own come off your hand.”

He cocked his head, confused. “And?” He watched her face flush bright pink and a slow smirk spread across his mouth. “Ah, you like that, then, huh?”

She squirmed under his gaze and sucked her lip into her mouth. “I, uh... I might, maybe?”

He lifted his hips off the bed and shoved his pants the rest of the way down, kicked them off to land with the rest of his clothes on the floor and crawled towards her. He pressed a languid, lazy kiss against her mouth and nuzzled her cheek as he hovered over her, long fingers tucking her hair behind her ear. “I will certainly keep that in mind for future reference,” he murmured with a wicked grin before he kissed her quick again and flopped onto his side next to her. “Is it alright if I stay a while?” He asked, suddenly a little more bashful and hesitant. “I missed spendin’ time with you is all. Been a while since I had the chance.”

Darcy carefully rolled onto her side so she was facing him and cupped his cheek in her palm, rubbed her thumb across the dark pink skin of his swollen mouth. “I’d be disappointed if you didn’t,” she grinned at him and used her feet to pull the blankets high enough for her to grab them and pull them the rest of the way up. She snuggled into her pillow and let out a quiet hum of pleasure as he stroked her hair back away from her face and ran his knuckles along her jawline. “I can’t feel my toes,” she yawned, “Can you feel your legs?” She asked, growing sleepy, her body sated and worn out.

He huffed a laugh into the pillow and shook his head minutely. “Not especially, no,” he laughed and curled his arm underneath his head, hand on her hip. “Sleep tight, Sweetheart.” He murmured as her eyes slipped closed and her breathing started to even out.

“Welcome home, Bucky,” she mumbled, almost asleep, “-missed you.”

He watched her until she was well asleep before he sidled closer to her and draped his arm over the curve of her waist, smiled into her hair when she wrapped herself around him like an octopus and let out a small snore. He finally closed his eyes and let himself drift off, content with the knowledge that his little avoidance stunt a few weeks ago hadn’t cost him his best friend. She was beside him as he slept and that was exactly where she belonged.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“I sincerely hope you know what you’re doing.”

Bucky looked up absently and frowned at Steve, eyebrow cocked as he went about racking the weights in front of him. He’d come down to the gym for a little bit of quiet, some time to himself and had planned to lift some weights, run a couple of dozen miles on the treadmill maybe and do a little bit of boxing. Maybe mess around a little bit with the new kettle weights that had been delivered whilst he was away on assignment. He hadn’t had the time as of late to even scratch his ass let alone get in a decent workout and between work and liaising with the feds over that fucking trafficking ring in Seattle… Well, he was in dire need of a little mindless routine.

He racked up the final couple of plates onto the barbell and straightened, hands on his hips. He hummed as he looked at the weight bench and his mouth ticked up on one side and he sucked at his teeth. He eyed the barbell thoughtfully for a moment before he cocked his head and nodded to himself.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” he stepped away from the weights and headed for the treadmills instead. “Should probably warm up first.” He crossed the gym at a leisurely pace and stepped onto one of the two largest of five treadmills before hitting a few buttons, setting the speed and program before the belt started to slowly move. He punched speed up and quickly settled into a steady clip, his long legs striding along almost lazily. It was mindless and easy and before long he’d run almost seven miles before Steve appeared at his side again and tossed his towel over the front of the neighbouring treadmill. Bucky frowned and glanced at him, confused. Steve never used the treadmills unless it was snowing out and even though he hadn’t left the tower since he’d returned the night before, he knew that it was a bright, sunny, clear day outside. It was the type of day where Steve could and would easily spend hours lapping Central Park before he got tired enough to throw in the towel. The weirdo liked people for some reason. It was fucking strange.

Bucky hated running in the park; too many eyes and ears for his liking and he much preferred getting in twenty or so miles in the gym where nobody would bother him or heckle him and throw around words like murderer and terrorist and motherfucking turncoat. He’d been officially pardoned by the president himself and had even been awarded years upon years worth of military back pay, but there were still members of the public, press and society who thought he deserved to hang for his crimes. He supposed they were right; he’d done some truly unspeakable things in his lifetime but in more recent years he’d also done some incredible things.

He’d helped The Avengers thwart intergalactic invasions, mad scientists and terrorist attack plans. He’d assisted the feds multiple times, last week included and on one memorable occasion he’d even dragged a terrifyingly quiet toddler out of the Hudson River in the middle of winter whilst her mother screamed and flapped her way along the banks… All the while still clutching her fucking cell phone to her ear and giving her girlfriend a running commentary whilst her daughter almost drowned. The stupid woman hadn’t even thanked him for helping, the ungrateful wretch, and had immediately set to complaining that the little girl was going to ruin the leather seats in the car on the way home with her wet clothes. He’d taken great delight in refusing to hand the child back to her until the authorities and paramedics arrived on the scene. The mother had tried to tug her daughter out of his arms but the little girl held fast with surprisingly strong fingers and he’d swaddled the toddler in the oversized hoodie he’d discarded before diving into the frigid water. She’d drawn a crowd, the mother, but then once people started to catch on to what happened, started paying attention to the fact that the little girl’s lips were turning blue and he had a great big fuck-off metal arm… Well. The press showed up and long story short, he’d received a commendation for bravery (much to his embarrassment, he’d tried to refuse) and the woman had been flagged by social services. She wasn’t even going to take her daughter to the hospital. The father had full custody now and he got a card every Easter, Birthday and Christmas with a new picture of the pair and every single one ended with a heartfelt ‘I cannot thank you enough’ from the father. He kept them all in a little tin under his bed along with the few photographs he had left of his family.

She would be five next month.

Darcy had made him a cake afterwards, raspberry with white chocolate chips throughout, to celebrate his sudden popularity boom in the press and he hadn’t run outdoors since. He knew there were terrible people out there, people like that little girl’s mother, but he had no desire to mingle with the bastards on a day to day basis. It wasn’t his idea of fun at all.

The press events and charity galas were bad enough. Too many fake people trying to get a piece of him without actually caring about who he was beneath the cybernetic arm and fearsome moniker.

Out of the corner of his eye he spied Steve glancing at him every now and then and he repressed a groan of irritation when he realized that he was working himself up to say something. He fucking knew something was off. He grit his teeth and kept his eyes forward, upped the speed of the treadmill and wilfully ignored his lifelong friend as his feet pounded heavily against the belt. He was a good man, Steve Rogers, a tactical genius in his own right, but he was also a goddamned overprotective mother hen and some days Bucky just wanted him to back the hell off and leave him be. He loved Steve like a brother but he was such a fucking helicopter parent.

Eventually he grew tired of the glances and he slammed his palm down on the emergency stop button and smoothly side-stepped off the treadmill to avoid landing flat on his face. He heaved a sigh and rolled his eyes as he wiped the sweat off his face with the hem of his compression shirt.

“Out with it.” He barked and Steve full on fucking flinched, his face flushing with guilt. “Speak Steven!”

Steve hesitated for a beat before he opened his mouth. “I see that you’ve sorted things out with Darcy.”

Bucky blinked at him mutely, expression blank. What the actual fuck? That was not what he was expecting at all.

He gave a disgruntled grunt and set his hands on his hips. “What the fuck’re you talking about?”

Steve fixed him with a glare, the very same one that the blonde’s mother used to give him when she was calling him on his bullshit and Bucky felt a tickle of apprehension crawl under his skin. Did Steve somehow possess his mother’s talented nose for bullshit?

Shit.

Did he know? Did Steve actually know about the strange friends with benefits thing that they had going on at the moment? Sure, it had only happened twice so far but he was definitely keen to continue with the arrangement if she was. She was beautiful and sexy and sweet and Jesus, those curves… Oh hell yeah, was he willing to see how things progressed with her. So fucking responsive. Christ.

Steve cleared his throat and slowed his pace until he was walking, then shut the treadmill off altogether and stepped off. He grabbed his towel and dabbed at his face. “I noticed that you guys weren’t so good a while back, avoided each other like the damned plague and every time you left the room she just about cried. Is everything alright now?”

Bucky felt a twist in his gut. He didn’t know she’d been so upset by his avoidance and something ugly settled in his stomach at the thought of making her cry. He shoved it down and gave himself a mental shake. He was only upset about the prospect of her crying because she was his friend. The best, in fact, right after Steve. She was just a friend who he happened to have leg shaking, lucid thought stealing, filthy, dirty sex with. And that he couldn’t quite stop day dreaming about, either, apparently.

Yeah, keep telling yourself that, you asshole… You’re so far in denial that you might as well be in Egypt.

“Yeah,” his voice didn’t crack and he congratulated himself for how level headed he sounded. “We had a minor issue but things are fine now. We talked it over.”

Steve quirked an expressive eyebrow at him and took a mouthful of water. “Is that so?” He studied him for a minute and Bucky resisted the urge to fidget. “Hm. Alright then.” He shrugged. “Saw her this morning on her way down to the labs… Is she alright?”

Bucky’s gaze turned suspicious and he turned side on, ready to walk towards the weight bench he’d set up earlier. “I haven’t seen her today, if that’s what you’re asking.” He threw over his shoulder. Technically it wasn’t a lie, he’d left her apartment in the early hours of the morning whilst she was sleeping. He wasn’t sure if she’d wanted him to stay over so he’d erred on the side of caution and had left. “Why do you ask?”

Steve trailed after him and took up his place by Bucky’s shoulder, ready to spot him. “She was limping.” He commented all too innocently. “Thought she might have hurt herself somehow.”

Bucky hesitated for a split second, concern blooming in his chest at the other man’s observation, but it was all it took and he knew he’d been busted. He eyed Steve uncertainly and swung his leg over the bench. “Why are you here, Steve?”

He didn’t answer right away, merely gestured for him to get on with his workout and Bucky laid back and wrapped his fingers around the bar. He’d done twenty three reps before Steve spoke again.

“Like I said earlier, I sincerely hope you know what you’re doing, Buck.”

Oh yeah. He knew, alright. Steve somehow knew that he and Darcy were sleeping together.

He grunted and bared his teeth at him. “I am more than aware of what I’m doing, Steven.” Another rep.

Steve snorted and shook his head, irritated and a little impatient. “Are you really?” He asked, his lip curling. “You’re going to hurt her, Bucky,” he snapped, “-and I don’t mean physically. Although you seemed to have already done that too.”

The weights slammed down onto the rack with a loud clank and he sat up, twisting to look up at America’s favorite interfering asshole. “I gave her every opportunity to tell me to stop!” He snarled, his guilt at potentially harming her making him defensive. “And it’s none of your fucking business what or who I do!”

Steve looked at him with a barely concealed sneer of disgust. “She’s not a ‘who or what’, asshole.” He snapped, taking a step closer. “She’s not a fucking play thing, Bucky, she’s your best friend! You can’t play with her like this and not expect her to get hurt!”

“I said she could have stopped me!”

“Oh bullshit she could have stopped you!” Steve snarled, his face red with anger. It almost gave him pause because Steve had never gotten this worked up about him sleeping with someone before, but then the blonde was moving and he jerked backwards from the force of the shove. “A herd of fucking elephants couldn’t stop you when you get into it, Buck and you damn well know it! She’s delicate and you’re a two hundred and forty pound super soldier who could snap her in half! And I didn’t fucking mean that, anyway – you know exactly what I’m talking about!” He seethed and well aware that there were ears all over, he chose his words very carefully. “She is going to get hurt if you’re not careful, Bucky. You need to make sure you’re on the same page because I swear to fucking God, if I find out that you’ve broken her heart, I will make you wish you were still in that fucking ravine!”

Bucky blinked and staggered back away from him, his hurt sharp and vicious in his chest. “What the fuck, Steve?!” Incredulous rage swelled in his gut and he shook his head, his features broadcasting the betrayal he felt at Steve’s words. “Seriously, what the actual fuck?!”

“She was my first friend after I woke up, Bucky,” he stated lowly, “She was the one who put me back together when I thought you were dead. She is the one who sat with me every time I tried to drink myself to death and she is the one who took the fucking knife out of my hand every time it all got too much and I just wanted to stop existing. I will not have you breaking her fucking heart because you can’t keep your goddamned dick in your pants!”

Bucky blustered and struggled to keep up with the conversation but all he heard was Steve tried to kill himself. More than once. “… You tried to kill yourself?” He croaked, voice small and terrified and full of hurt. “Steve…” he took a step closer, wanted to reach out and grab him by the collar of his shirt but couldn’t. He knew Steve wouldn’t let him. “Steve, what the hell? Why would you do that?”

The captain swallowed thickly, his throat bobbing with the action and he clenched his jaw, eyes somewhere over Bucky’s shoulder. “I thought you were dead.” He muttered dully. “You were dead and I was alone. Everyone I knew was gone and I couldn’t even manage to kill myself properly in the first place, so why not give it another good old college try?” He mused, still avoiding his horrified gaze. Steve rolled his shoulders and shrugged nonchalantly. “Didn’t work anyway,” he dismissed absently. “Stop deflecting.”

Bucky shook his head and tugged on his hair, heart pounding wildly in his chest. He felt sicker than sick over this sudden revelation and there Steve was glaring at him mulishly, chin jutting out and arms folded over his broad chest like he hadn’t just dropped the equivalent of a fucking nuke on him.

“Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?” He tried not to sound as wounded as he felt but it wasn’t any good. He felt like he was about to burst into floods of tears and he hated it. He hated how feeble and weak it made him feel and why the actual fuck hadn’t Darcy told him any of this? “Stevie, me being dead…? It’s not worth you dyin’ over.”

Steve scoffed and rolled his eyes, some of his ire waning and receding from his eyes. “We’ll agree to disagree,” he argued petulantly, “Right now, you need to promise me that you’re not going to break my baby sister’s heart by pretending that she doesn’t mean more to you than you’re making out she does.”

Bucky eyed him with a confused furrow in his brows, mouth in a thin line. “Your baby sister?” He asked softly, cocking his head. Steve nodded slowly and unfolded his arms with a sigh and let them hang limply by his sides.

“Look, Bucky,” he started, “You can’t tell me that if you found out I was fucking around with one of your sisters that you’d be happy about it, right? Pretend I was in love with her but I was too fucking stubborn to tell her so and she just thought I was using her... How would you have felt?”

He scowled at the thought and grimaced with disgust. “I think I would have beaten you to death with your own leg,” he admitted after a moment, “Once I stopped throwing up from the thought of my sister fucking my best friend. Or having sex at all.” He shuddered. “My sisters were pure as the driven snow, Stevie.”

Steve snorted in disbelief and he held up a hand in warning. He wasn’t willing to even entertain the idea of what Steve was eluding to. Nope. Not happening. Not now, not ever. His sisters did not have sex. They died virgins. They joined the convent and lived a life of celibacy.  

Pure as the driven snow, Steve. Not a fucking word.”

His shoulders shook as he repressed his laughter. “What, so it was ok for you to whore yourself around back then but it wasn’t ok for them to do the same thing?”

Bucky felt the snarl leave him and he took a menacing step towards the other man. Whatever expression was on his face was enough for Steve to narrow his eyes and hold up his hands in surrender.

“Hey, whoah, I didn’t mean it like that, you know I didn’t.”

“I don’t ever want to hear that word and my sisters in the same sentence again, Steven. Do you fucking hear me? Never. Again.” He threatened, voice tight and low and dangerous as hell.

Steve nodded silently and stared at him, brow cocked. “So you understand where I’m coming from then?”

Bucky blinked and opened his mouth a little, hesitated and thought about what Steve was saying. He loved Darcy like Bucky had loved his baby sisters and the thought of a man being quite so careless with any of their hearts both infuriated and sickened him all at once.

Steve seemed to realize he was having an epiphany of sorts and his glare softened into something friendlier and he clapped him on the shoulder, bent his head in close so only they could hear their conversation. “I know how you feel about her, Bucky, I’m not as oblivious as you think I am.” He insisted. “You two are good for each other and if you treat her right, I’ve got no problems with you courting her, Buck. You’re a good man and if she wants you then that’s good enough for me.” His hand tightened over his shoulder and Bucky glanced at it then back to Steve’s earnest face. “Don’t jerk her around just because you’re scared she might not want you for more than a night.”

Bucky felt his face flush red and he cleared his throat, looking anywhere but at Steve’s suspicious eyes. “It uh, well, actually, more’n once.”

Steve stared at him blankly and Bucky winced, giving in to the burning desire to confess all to his best friend. “Also, she approached me for... That’s why we were avoiding each other. I was in shock and she was embarrassed and I wasn’t sure what to say so every time I saw her I’d just run away and yeah… It was a bit of a mess for a while.”

Steve sighed now and rolled his eyes. “Oh for the love of God, Bucky,” he sounded so long suffering that it almost made him smile. Almost. “You’re a fucking idiot, you know that?” He let out an exasperated sigh and shook his head. “A beautiful woman who loves the hell out of you wants you and you turned tail and hid from her?” He snorted when Bucky winced and nodded. “And right there is that monumental case of ‘stupid’ that you dragged off to war with you the first time.”

Bucky cracked a hesitant grin and leaned into Steve’s rough side hug. “Didn’t take it all with me, though, remember?” He bumped Steve with his shoulder. “Left a shit-tonne of it with you, didn’t I?”

“Oh fuck you,” Steve snarked before his expression grew serious again. “Seriously, Buck, make sure you keep her informed, alright? I don’t want either of you getting hurt just because you’re not stopping to think of what’s going to happen the morning after, you know?” He waited for him to agree and poked a long, firm finger into the middle of his chest. “And for fucks sake – aftercare is a thing, Buck.”

Bucky blinked and turned wide eyes on his best friend as he registered what he’d just said. “Steven Grant Rogers,” he said slowly, “Are you telling me that you’ve got a similar leaning as I have?”

Steve snorted and pushed him away. “I’m not at all interested in physically dominating a lover, thank you, James Buchanan Barnes.” He mocked. “I do however know that things can get a little carried away in the moment and it’s important to make sure everyone is alright afterwards. Even if they say they’re ok, sometimes they’re not being completely honest.”

Bucky thought back to how Steve said Darcy had been limping that morning and he closed his eyes with a groan of self-loathing. “Shit. She said she was alright.” He grumbled and reluctantly reached for his towel. He peeled his compression shirt off and draped it over his shoulder, took a mouthful of water that Steve offered him. He wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand and cracked his neck. “I’d better go see her,” he mused. “Make sure she wasn’t pulling my leg.”

Steve snorted, amused. “Pretty sure you did that to her last night.” He barked a laugh at Bucky’s mortified look and shoved the brunette towards the door. “No, she didn’t tell me anything, it was just a lucky guess. Go find her, asshole. Make sure she’s good and remember what I said.”

Bucky threw his hand up in a wave over his shoulder as he headed for the door and replayed the past twenty minutes in his head. He never thought he’d be on the receiving end of a shovel talk from Captain America himself, but stranger things had happened, he supposed. Steve really was an over protective ass-hat but Bucky could appreciate where he was coming from and he respected the shit out of him for it.

He looked down at his trainers as he waited for the elevator to arrive and briefly contemplated taking a shower before he went to find her, but his nerves won out in the end and he stepped into the elevator and punched the button for the labs. He had to make sure he hadn’t hurt her first. The ride was quick and before he knew it the doors were sliding open with a ding and Jesus fuck, she was standing right there in front of him looking at her phone and apparently waiting for the elevator to arrive.

He cleared his throat and she jerked her chin up to look at him, her tired, frazzled expression blooming into something brighter and affectionate.

“Hey, you!”

He took a step back and she hustled inside, dumped her phone into her shoulder bag and they stood in silence until the doors slipped shut and they were alone. He studied her quickly, his eyes searching and assessing her for any signs of discomfort, the knot in his chest only loosening when he couldn’t find any. Once he was satisfied that she wasn’t hiding a limp from him he dragged his eyes up to look at her and he felt a flush of warmth wash over him when he noticed that she was too busy ogling his bare torso to notice he was studying her. Her teeth caught her lip and she sucked it into her mouth with a hitched breath when his abdomen twitched and he smothered a grin in his shoulder.

“Going down, Sweetheart?”

God yes,” she whimpered and then blinked rapidly and looked up at him. “I mean, um, yes. Down to the lobby. Going to grab some lunch from the Thai place down the block.”

He took a step closer and she held her breath as he brushed up against her to reach past to jab at the button for his floor. “I’ll come with you,” he offered innocently, “Just give me a couple of minutes to clean up and we can head on out.” He didn’t bother putting any space between them and he delighted in the way her eyes grew hazy and she licked her lips. He bit the inside of his cheek when she leaned in and sniffed him, her almost inaudible moan muffled by her tightly closed mouth.

“How is it possible for you to smell so fucking good when you look so gross?”

He barked a laugh and brushed his hand over the back of her head affectionately. “I look gross, huh?”

She rolled her eyes and tried to suppress her grin but failed and her eyes twinkled up at him. “You’re all sweaty and gross, Bucky and you know it.”

He hummed and pressed closer to her, ignoring her feeble protests in favour of holding his finger over the ‘door closed’ button so nobody could board the elevator with them. She was sandwiched between his big, sweaty body and the wall and he held himself still as her small fingers trailed over every ridge and bump across his abdomen, her tongue darting out to wet her lips.

“Thought you liked me all sweaty and gross?” He questioned lightly, eyes darkening as her fingers skimmed over his navel and lower until they dipped under the waist band of his loose running shorts. His hips bucked into her hand as her fingers curled around him and he grunted, eyes shut tight so he couldn’t see her hand down his pants. If he looked at her right now then everything would go to shit and he’d end up fucking her right there in the elevator. He was already considering doing it anyway, control be damned. “Jesus, Sweetheart… You’re killin’ me here.”

“I never said I liked you being all sweaty and gross,” she reasoned, ignoring his previous statement, “I do however like it when you get us both all sweaty and gross at the same time.” Her fingers stroked him in a slow, firm grip and he bit back a moan when her thumb swept across the tip of him and smeared her fingers in the wet slick of pre-come that was leaking from his cock.

“Sweetheart,” he warned. “You’re playin’ a very dangerous game right now..”

She hummed and leant in to sink her teeth into his right nipple as she gave his cock a firm tug, white hot pleasure hitting him like a bolt to the gut, before she jerked her hand free of his shorts and took a slow step sideways. He groaned at the loss of her and blinked his eyes open just in time to see her sucking on her fingers as if she’d just eaten something sticky and sweet, an impish grin on her face. “So,” she leered at him, “Lunch?”

He stared at her for a long moment and his mouth curved up into a wicked smile that grew even wider at her flushed cheeks. “I could eat,” he mused suggestively as he took a slow step towards her. “Nothin’ like a good hot lunch after a workout, right?”

The doors slid open behind them and her eyes darted past him to the open space. He grinned at her wolfishly and cocked his head, nodding towards the door. “I’ll give you a head start,” he offered and he grinned widely when she darted past him and disappeared down the hall towards his apartment door. He counted loudly to five, long enough for her to reach the door before stepped out after her and his face broke into a wide, gleeful smile as she let loose with a peal of nervous but excited giggles. He could see her hand punching the code into the pin-pad by the door as she looked back over her shoulder at him as he advanced on her and he was two steps behind her when the door swung open and she fell inside with a squeal. He stepped right in after her and kicked the door shut with his heel.

“Better move your ass, Sweetheart,” he teased as she scrambled to her feet and barrelled down the hall towards his room, a trail of clothing left in her wake. “I’m fucking starving.”

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                  

Chapter Text

Darcy Lewis had lost her virginity when she was sixteen. The lucky recipient of said virginity was senior at her school, one of the ever-plastic jock types who every girl swooned over but very few had the guts to actually approach. His name was Daniel something or other and she couldn’t exactly remember his last name now. Was it Roberts? No. No, it wasn’t Roberts… Richards, maybe? Either way, his name was Daniel and he was on the school’s swim and lacrosse teams. He was a decent height, tall without being too tall and he’d had wide shoulders that spoke of all the time he’d spent in the pool, strong arms that sliced through the water with ease and a narrow, tapered waist that was firm but not nearly as defined as some would have liked. He’d had an easy smile and a head full of thick auburn hair and he was sweet. Friendly in a non-creepy way and they’d only gone on the one date before he’d popped her cherry in the bed of his truck at the drive-in… During said single date. It was awkward and uncomfortable and she really didn’t know what she was thinking, letting him fuck her (if you could even call what he did fucking, honestly it was being a little generous) right there in the back of his truck out in the open. Maybe she only did it because she’d been a little bit drunk on stolen bourbon from her father’s study and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Sometimes she wished she’d waited for someone special to sleep with, but then at the time she’d seen it as a means to an end, desperate to grow up and convinced she’d die a virgin. Esteem issues, what can you do? Anyway, it was a bad experience and afterwards when she’d been gritting her teeth against the dull burn between her legs and the gross sticky slick of her own blood she’d managed to tamp down the welling disappointment and paste on a smile, asked him to take her home and that was that. It was awful and he hadn’t prepared her near enough and despite him not being particularly blessed in the downstairs department, it had hurt enough for it to put her off sex for the next thirteen months. She didn’t see Daniel again after that.

Eighteen crawled around and she’d met her first boyfriend, Alexis, a cheerful Greek boy with a penchant for mischief and an affinity for underage drinking. He liked his booze so much that even at such a young age he would frequently suffer from something her father referred to as ‘brewers droop’ and he was unable to get it up enough to perform anything save for a lacklustre attempt at oral sex on her. He was a lovely guy, but he was shit with his mouth and their sexual relationship had turned into yet another disappointment for her. He was the reason she wasn’t too fussed about a guy getting his head between her legs nowadays.

Well. Most guys, anyway until there was Bucky. Bucky was different. She liked Bucky’s head between her legs and it was more than obvious how much he liked being down there himself after he came in his pants the first time he’d eaten her out. He hadn’t even had to touch himself, either and he’d let go with a deep groan of satisfaction when she’d pretty much gushed all over his face and yanked out a handful of his hair in the process. He’d looked just as stunned as she had and had eagerly allowed her to return the favour, praising her the whole time she’d spent lapping up any and all evidence of his arousal. Twice. God love super soldiers.

Bucky was her very first considerate lover and she felt a sort of warmth, a swell of unnamed emotion that tucked itself up underneath her ribs and at the same time made her skin crawl with butterflies and a hot, heady want that just wouldn’t quit. He was generous with what he gave her, nowhere on his body off limits to her and fucking hell, the man had a mouth like a hoover. It was a beautiful, wicked slash across his handsome face and there were times that just being near him, even If she was unable to see it, wasn’t quite enough. He really liked it when she sat on his face and whilst she’d been wary of doing so initially, it quickly became one of her favorite things to do most days. He’d spend hours lavishing his attention upon her, slipping his tongue up inside her and worrying her clit with the edge of his pearly white teeth and afterwards, after she’d screamed herself hoarse and was a boneless mess of limbs he’d crawl over her, his cock heavy and thick between his thighs and he’d rail into her like a man possessed. He’d use her body for his own gain and more often than not it was all she could do to hold on to the mattress with numb fingers as he dragged her back onto his cock and took and took and took until she couldn’t take anymore. Apparently sobbing into the pillows and being delirious from the pleasure-pain of it all was a thing that she rather enjoyed, nowadays. Go team.

She was certain that she’d never had as much sex in her entire life as she’d had in the past month and more often than not she walked around the tower, her muscles inside and out aching in a delicious abused sort of way.

Bucky had been called out on a mission earlier that day and in a rare show of consideration, Steve had sent him a text that had given him more than ample warning about their departure time. Normally a mission would be sprung on him and he’d have to depart in mere minutes, on occasion sometimes he had a half hour to prepare, but this morning she’d woken up with him pressed against her back, his big hands holding her hips aloft as he’d slipped deep into her embarrassingly wet pussy without a word. It was a hell of a way to wake up, that was for sure and he’d spent the next hour or so dragging her to the point of orgasm before he’d reel back and start all over again. In the end it had been the lazy press of his fingers slipping into her ass that had done her in and her stomach squirmed at the memory of him burying himself balls deep in her and coming with a quiet sigh in her ear. There had been no words spoken throughout the whole encounter, but she’d known he was on his way out for a mission anyway and she’d indulged his odd but strangely arousing habit of massaging the come that leaked out of her into her skin. He liked it when she reeked of sex, her skin sticky and warm and covered in him and she’d only nodded at him when he’d insisted that she didn’t shower until before bed later on that night. It wasn’t the first time he’d requested it of her, but it was the first time she’d had to go to work sticky and reeking of him afterwards. She knew from experience that the longer she took to shower him off her the more heady the scent got and she was sure that by the end of the day she would be so wired and worked up that she’d be fucking her fingers underneath her desk, her free hand stuffed into her mouth in an effort to keep quiet.

She donned her softest pair of cotton underwear (she was still sort of leaking a little and there was no way she was wearing lace today, no sir, wet lace chaffed like a bitch in a thoroughly unpleasant way, thank you), a floor length gauzy skirt that had a row of tiny silver bells around the hem and at the drawstring waist and a tank top, a pair of sandals and she was on her way.

She took the stairs down to the lab level and almost whimpered from relief when she pushed through the heavy doors into the air-conditioned hallway and the cool of it slapped against her skin. She took a moment to relish it, her eyes shut and she hummed in content. It was a warm day out and the stairwell was one of the only places in the tower that the cool air didn’t reach. It wasn’t grotesquely hot, but it was still warm enough to make her break into a sweat and for her hair to frizz around her face and at the back of her neck. She ran her fingers up the side of her neck and scooped her hair up into a messy bun as she meandered towards Jane’s lab.

Barton was hovering outside the door to said lab, dog leash in one hand (yet surprisingly, no dog) and a legitimate carafe of dirty, strong coffee in the other. He shot her a friendly grin as she neared and lifted the hand holding the carafe in greeting. “Mornin’ Lewis, how goes- Jesus Christ, did you bathe at all after what I’m assuming was a weekend long fuck-fest?!” His blue eyes raked over her critically and he pulled his head back a little, brow cocked curiously. “Is this a new thing? Are you seeing someone? Do I know him?” He peppered her with questions as she pushed past him and swiped the employee ID that hung from the lanyard around her neck and he let out a startled noise behind her. “Are those teeth marks in the back of your neck, Lewis?!”

Darcy smothered her irritation with a painfully polite smile and a gentle eye roll as she marched through the doors of the lab and detoured into the small shoe box that doubled as her office, the archer dogging her heels the whole way. “Yes, it’s new. I don’t know, maybe I’m seeing someone, maybe I’m not and his identity is none of your business, Bird Brain. Lastly, I cannot see the back of my neck, therefore, I don’t even know what the hell you’re talking about.”

Barton pressed his palm to his chest and shot her wounded look, his lips curling into an exaggerated frown. “You wound me, Lewis, I thought we were buds!” He looped the leash around his neck and reached out to tug on a lock of her hair, his expression one of grim determination as he carefully twisted it around the rest of it and tucked the lock underneath the hair tie she’d haphazardly looped around the mess. “Seriously, though,” he insisted, “Do I know him?”

She smirked at him as she pushed the button to power up her computer and started digging through the pile of paperwork that hadn’t been on her desk the night before when she’d ducked into the lab to grab her ipod out of her desk drawer. She frowned when she realized that it meant Jane had been in the labs overnight instead of sleeping and she felt a flare of irritation at her boss-lady slash friend. God, the woman was a workaholic and a half – it was no wonder things hadn’t worked out with Thor. There wasn’t enough time in the world for both her work and Thor so when push came to shove, the thunder god had ended up getting the short end of the stick and it still hurt Darcy to think that her buddy wasn’t really around much lately because Jane refused to adult like proper human being. She made a mental note to try to give him a call later on to check in on him.

“Look, Barton, I get that you’re curious, but whatever you’re thinking, forget it. Leave him alone and let me handle it, alright?” She answered tersely. She wasn’t angry with him, but with Jane. God, why couldn’t she just sleep during the night like a regular person?! She was going to be slammed at her desk working through papers until tomorrow at this rate and she knew that there was undoubtedly more of it to come.

Barton pursed his lips and after a long moment gave her a short nod. “Alright, if you insist.” He conceded, “-but if you need an out or something, I’d be more than happy to step in and be your white knight. Any time, Darcy, you know that, right?”

She shot him a warm, pleased grin and knocked her knuckles against his ridiculous arm. “Naww, shucks, Clinton. I never knew you cared so much.” She teased and then laughed outright when the human disaster flushed pink and slurped from the carafe to cover his blush. “I don’t think it’ll come to that, but thank you for the offer regardless.” She assured him as she eased herself into her desk chair. Standing and walking was fine, but sitting… Sitting presented a small host of problems that namely started with an ouch and ended with a slick squelch. Luckily for her, her desk chair was leather and not fabric otherwise she’d never get the scent of Bucky’s come out of the upholstery and she’d be forced to rethink all of her life choices up to this point.

Especially if Jane noticed she was quite obviously freshly fucked and walking funny. She made a mental note to make sure she concentrated on relaxing her gait and avoided limping.

Clint leaned against the edge of her desk and slurped happily from the coffee pot and smacked his lips a little, pleased with himself. “So, even if you won’t tell me who the lucky bastard is, can you tell me if he’s any good? I happen to be going through a bit of a spell lately and I’m just going to have to live vicariously through you. So spill. Details, woman, details!”

Darcy laughed loudly, her head thrown back, hands flat on the desk in front of her. She loved that about Clint, he was unashamedly frank about his sexuality and he was of the opinion that if you’re hot, you’re hot. Gender wasn’t an issue for him, at all. She thought he was bisexual but he referred to himself as just plain fucking greedy. The adorable perve.

“I’m not telling you specifics, Barton, but you might be able to glean a lil’ something from whatever answers I can give you… For the sake of living vicariously, of course. You poor lamb.”

He bounced and shot a furtive glance back over his shoulder before he hopped up and bounded over to close her office door, flipped the lock and hurried back to sit by her side but on the desk. He swung his feet and clutched his hands together in his lap.

“Ok, so it’s a guy, it’s totally a guy, right?” He looked down at her and sniffed. “Yeah, totally a dude. I mean Jesus, look at the size of those teeth marks on your neck.” He admired.

Darcy snorted and nodded. “Yes, Clint, he is a man.” She answered patiently, trying not to give into the urge to blush. “Go on, ask away.”

He bounced again, eyes bright. God, he was such a girl. “On a scale of ‘meh’ to ‘whats my name again?’, how good is the sex? I mean, obviously he’s effective but that doesn’t mean he knows what he’s doing, right?”

She couldn’t contain the blush this time and it only grew deeper at his hoot of glee. “I think it’s more of a case of ‘oh yeah, breathing is a thing I need to be doing right now’, actually.”

He recoiled and blinked at her, his body rolling in a shudder. “Jesus.” He hissed. “Can we share? Tell me we can share.”

Something possessive and dark curled in her belly and she sneered. “Yeah, no. Mine, Clint. Mine.” She bit back. She was immediately embarrassed by the flare of jealousy and possessiveness that had bloomed across her skin and she shrunk back apologetically, face grim.

He eyed her, suddenly a lot more serious that he had been seconds ago. “Darcy, how long has this been going on? Is it serious?” He touched the back of her hand with his rough fingers in a show of gentle support and comradery. He was sweet like that, always had been ever since she’d met him after Thor-gate in New Mexico all those years ago. “Has he hurt you, Darcy?”

She hurried to assure him that no, he’d not hurt her and when she admitted that it had been going on for a little over a month, he balked at her and his mouth fell open.

“You’ve been fucking some random for over a month and the wonder twins haven’t managed to catch on or scare him off yet?!” He was referring to Steve and Bucky, her personal guard dogs. There was a bond between the three of them that was blatantly obvious to everyone around them and the fact that she’d managed to get this by them was mind boggling in itself. “How the hell have you managed that little miracle, woman?”

Darcy took a moment too long to answer and Clint’s eyes widened comically. “Holy shit!” He swore. “Holy shit, it’s one of them, isn’t it!” He studied her as she stuttered out a weak denial and his eyes grew wider. Rogers had been busy lately, what with the charity appearances and all and Barnes spent the majority of his time sequestered away in either his quarters, the gym or Darcy’s apartment so really, that only left him as the only viable option. “Holy fucking hell, you’re fucking Bucky Barnes!”

Darcy immediately slapped him and shushed him. “God, Clint, inside voice! Inside voice!” She gestured to his hearing aids and scowled. “Turn the fucking aids up, you’re pretty much shouting right now.” She scolded and he immediately flushed, embarrassed and sheepish.

He reached up and fiddled with the dials on the back of his hearing aids and suddenly everything sounded clearer. He could actually hear movement out in the labs now through the closed door and he was also privy to the sound of Darcy’s harried breathing. She looked pale and peaky and he immediately felt bad for potentially outing her secret relationship with Barnes. “Sorry, Darcy,” he apologised softly and repeated his earlier statement but as a question this time. “Bucky? Really?”

She bit her lip and nodded, her fingers absently fiddling with the mouse pad in front of her. She clicked a few buttons and tapped a few keys on the keyboard. “The first time was a while ago,” she admitted, her voice small and hesitant. “You remember the night you dropped him off in the commons kitchen, all busted up and bloody?”

Clint nodded, bemused but then it was like a light bulb flickered on and he made a sound of dawning understanding. “He totally got some victory girl action that night, didn’t he?”

She flushed a pretty pink and he snorted into his palm. “He might have.” She answered evasively before she let out a sigh and rolled her eyes. “Who the hell am I kidding? Of course he fucking did and I loved every fucking second of it.” Her eyes glazed as her mind replayed that night again and she gave herself a visible shake and casually swiped her thumb across her mouth to make sure she wasn’t drooling. Because that would be embarrassing. Her eyes grew focused again and she looked up at him, her blue eyes wide. “Clint, you can’t tell anyone about this!”

He cocked his head, bemused. “Why not? You’re both consenting adults, why should your relationship be a secret?”

“Because there is no relationship, Clint, it’s just sex!”

He blinked at her and his eyes narrowed dangerously. “Are you fucking kidding me right now?” He demanded. “What do you mean there’s no relationship?! You two are so syrupy sweet around each other that it gives me cavities! I was already halfway convinced he was angling to ask you out anyway and now you tell me you two are casual fuck buddies?” He exclaimed incredulously. “Is he refusing to put a label on things? Do I need to shoot the bastard in the eye?”

Darcy squirmed in her seat and tried not to wince at the slick, wet feeling between her thighs. She’d soaked through her underwear and just the thought of it made her clench painfully, desperate for the nearly painful full feeling that she got when he was inside her. Fuck, she was horny again and he wasn’t even there to take care of it for her; she was still woefully inept at getting herself off. Unless he was watching her and egging her on with a stream of filthy praise and suggestions, that is. She loved it when he’d coo to her that she was a good girl and tell her how well she was doing, how pretty she looked wrapped around him and how she was made just for him…

“You don’t need to shoot him, Clint,” she scolded gently, “And he’s not doing anything wrong, so hakuna your tatas.” She took a deep breath and tried to explain. “He helped me out with something I wanted to try and we sort of just… Kept going?” She winced. “He’s not done anything wrong. He’s the best I’ve ever had, Clint and I don’t want to mess that or our friendship up by getting attached.”

Clint eyed her with a look that screamed of both vexation and deep, deep sympathy. “Darcy,” he soothed, his fingers curling over the back of her hand. “Kiddo, I think you’re in over your head here.”

Her nose wrinkled and she flinched back. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Darcy,” he tried gently, “This thing you guys have going on,” he started and continued only once he was sure she was listening, “Alright, ok, how’s about this? You say he helped you out with something you wanted to give a try, yeah? If he’d said no, would you have approached someone else to help you with it? Steve maybe?”

She threw him a look of disgust and shook her head. “Ew, Clint. Just… Ew. Steve is like a brother to me, how could you even… No. No.” Her head shook decisively and she shuddered. “And I probably would have just pottered along and gone without, I guess. Why?”

His eyes bore into her and he folded his arms across his chest. “Why him? Why Barnes, Darcy-girl?”

She frowned and thought about what he was asking her, absently clicking her way through the logins on the computer. She had asked Bucky because she couldn’t imagine trusting her safety to anyone else, not when it came to having a great big man hand wrapped tight around her neck and smothering her as she was being nailed to the wall. Her whole body clenched at the memory and she took a shaky breath, concentrated on not hiking her skirt up right then and there and burying her hand in her underwear. She’d asked Bucky because he was beautiful, he was handsome and sweet and lovely and always concerned about her well-being and she trusted him. That was enough for her. He was visually and emotionally appealing and there was no-one else that she would want to- shit.

Clint watched her emotions flicker across her face and his mouth pulled into a frown. She’d gone from thoughtful to pensive to pale as a fucking sheet in mere seconds and her hands were starting to shake. He watched her scrub a hand over her mouth and her eyes glassed up behind her glasses.

“Darcy,” he insisted gently and repeated his earlier sentiment, “I think you might be in over your head, kiddo.” He settled his hand over hers and held it until she stopped shaking. “Do you know how Barnes feels about you? Is it just casual sex for him or is it something else?”

She took a little while to answer and after a little while she shrugged, her expression growing bland and exhausted. “Pretty sure he’s just in it for the fucking,” she replied dully, her stomach churning with sickness and self-pity. God, she was an idiot. She’d opened herself up to him and let him do whatever he damn well pleased and whilst she absolutely without a doubt loved everything he did to her, she felt a little bit foolish for allowing this to happen. It was meant to be a one time thing and here she was practically living in his bed, at his complete sexual beck and call and she’d gone and caught feelings for him. The way he grinned down at her when she teased him, the way his brows drew together and his jaw clenched when he was trying to hold it all together, desperate to last just a little bit longer (he did, he always did. The man had the sort of stamina that would make a professional sex worker weep) and the attentive way he would check in with her randomly, make sure she was comfortable and right there with him enjoying herself made her heart thud painfully against the back of her ribs. “I suppose that’s what I get for being easy.” It was all just a matter of convenience for him. She was just a soft warm place to bury himself between missions, that was all.

Clint made a wounded noise and hurried to reassure her. “Jeez, Darcy, don’t say that shit about yourself. You’re more than allowed to enjoy sex, in fact, it’s healthy and encouraged.”

She surprised herself with how level headed she felt right now, her eyes glassy but dry enough. “That’s the thing, Clint,” she mused, “I never did. I didn’t enjoy sex before Bucky at all. He’s the only lover I’ve had that has even considered pleasing me… At all, really.”

He scrunched up his nose and his lip curled. “You’ve dated some real jackasses in the past, haven’t you…” He observed mildly. “How do you get to your age without having decent sex? That should verily be a crime.”

She shrugged and stared blindly at the screen in front of her. “I can’t exactly tell him I don’t want to sleep with him anymore,” she mused to herself, “But I don’t want to stop either.” She glanced at Clint out of the corner of her eye and flushed. “Yes, Clint, it’s that damn good.”

He smirked and nodded. “Oh, yeah, I can imagine it would be.” He agreed readily. “There’s something about the way he moves that says he’s gotta be great in bed. He is, isn’t he?”

She snorted softly and squirmed in her chair. “Um, understatement of the century,” she admitted with a flush that wasn’t entirely all embarrassed. “He’s very…”

“Cocky? Generous? Ooh, is he all gentle and thorough?”

She bit her lip and swallowed thickly, her eyes glazing over a little bit. “Dominant.” She supplied and she couldn’t help but notice the way Clint’s pupils blew wide open. She couldn’t help but throw him a satisfied smirk. “And all of the above. Sometimes. When it suits him. He’s very tactile.”

He took a shaky breath and rolled his shoulders. “Shit, now there’s a thought and a half.” He breathed, impressed. He didn’t want to fuck Barnes, but he was fine as hell to look at and now that he knew that he was also fine as hell in the bedroom, well, he was sure there would be more than a little bit of harmless ogling going on in the gym. “Guy has a great ass too. Made for sinking your nails into like a fucking grab-rail for when he’s nailing you to the bed.”

She tossed her head back and laughed, her gloomy mood lifting a little bit. “For sure.” She giggled and tried to sober herself. “Seriously though, Clint, you can’t tell anyone about this.” She warned gently. “I don’t think anyone else knows and we haven’t really discussed logistics past the point of ‘put your hands on the bed and bend over’. There’s a lot of talking, but it tends to lend itself more towards pornographic than anything else.”

He made a noise in the back of his throat and shuffled a little on the desk. “Shit, he’s a talker too?” He asked, eyes wide. “Christ, Lewis, padlock him to the bed and don’t let him leave. Goddamn.”

She gave him a self-conscious half grin and shrugged. “He got me off just by saying a heap of filthy shit in my ear once,” she admitted, “Damn near necked myself ‘cause he wouldn’t touch me.”

Clint slipped to his feet and let out a ragged breath. “Ok, I’ve gotta go, this is way more stimulating than I was expecting and I’m afraid if I learn anything else I’m going to embarrass myself. Never gonna be able to look at him in the locker room the same, am I?” He looked her over and reached past her to flip on her little desk fan. “You look a bit flushed,” he observed. “I’d avoid Steve for a while too, he has a wicked sense of smell and he’s not gonna be able to ignore your…” he waved his hand all over her and smirked. “Eau De Barnes.”

She blinked down at the desk top, mortified and yet a little more than a bit turned on and she nodded. “Noted. Avoid Steve. I smell like a whore house. Got it.”

He laughed at her now, light and genuine and he tapped her on the shoulder. “You said it, not me!” He took a step towards the still locked door and turned to look at her, eyes narrowed and gleaming. “Seriously though, what did you do? Bathe in it, or something?”

She stammered out a reply and squeezed her thighs together. She could feel how slick the skin between them was and her stomach flipped. Her thighs were sticking together because he’d spent more than a little amount of time smearing his come all over her and fuck, she had actually gone to work like that. “He has a… thing…” She blushed violently and clammed up. Clint really didn’t need to know how much Bucky liked to fuck her raw and then bury his face in her cunt and sloppily eat her out right after (being completely candid, she really liked it when he did that too), nor did he need to know how much he liked to virtually paint her with his come, his fingers drawing shapes and patterns on her sweaty skin. Yes, Clint was the equivalent of a gossipy girlfriend, but there was a line and she wasn’t going to cross it.

Clint grinned at her and waggled his eyebrows so suggestively she snorted with laughter and covered her mouth with her hand. “Such a lucky girl,” he clicked his tongue and sighed dreamily. “Right, I’m off like a prom dress!” He shook his empty carafe at her sadly. “Need more sustenance.”

She huffed a laugh and waved her hand in his direction. “Go on, get gone then,” she called, “Hush, hush, remember!”

He snapped off a sloppy salute and unlocked the door, hand on the knob. “Your secret is safe with me, Darcy-girl. Not a peep, I promise!” He held up his fingers in a girl-scout swear and gave her a cheeky grin. “Seriously though,” He reminded her, “Any time, Darcy. You need an ear, I’ll make sure the aids are on.”

She smiled at him, grateful and touched by his offer. “I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks Clint.” She watched him disappear out the door, leaving it ajar and she turned back to her computer screen. She didn’t think any more on the whole feelings thing, she could have that little freak out in the privacy of her own home but for now she had more than a little bit of work to do and hardly any time to do it in.

Fuck Jane and her propensity to overwork herself and every single other person employed in her lab. Fuck her hard in an uncomfortable and inappropriate place (although thanks to a certain super soldier she’d learned that there were no inappropriate places to be fucked, in fact). She hated her job sometimes.

As she scrolled through the hundreds of unread emails on the system she repressed a groan of irritation when she noted that they went back weeks and then, a small almost befuddled thought occurred to her.

Why the hell was Clint carting a leash around if he didn’t have his dog with him?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Bucky was positively fuming.

He could feel the white hot rage pulsing throughout his entire body and he was struggling to get a handle on it as he stormed through the bowels of the building, baby agents scattering left, right and centre as he approached and passed them by. He could feel the eyes on him as he went, the itch of too many people bubbling underneath his skin and he outright snarled as a small-ish male employee (definitely too soft to be anything but a civilian) got in his way and slowed him down. He didn’t want to be here, he just wanted to get back to his quarters so he could seethe in peace but apparently short-shit didn’t get the goddamned memo.

He moved to step around the short, pot-bellied man and didn’t even bother to attempt any pleasantries when the man side-stepped back into his oncoming path. They both shifted at once, the man trying to step aside at the same time as he tried to move past and he bared his teeth and loomed over the seemingly terrified office minion; the little man was sweating bullets and was pale as pale, stammering out an apology that Bucky had no inclination to even listen to. “Get the fuck outta my way!” He roared impatiently and the man just about threw up all over himself. He turned grey and swallowed audibly, let out a pathetic whine and promptly peed himself.

Bucky sneered at him and rolled his shoulders, fists clenched at his sides. “I said,” he started, voice low and menacing, “Move. Your. Ass.” He bit out and the man finally hustled off to the edge of the corridor, a fellow employee grabbing him by his pasty little arm and tugging him to safety.

He supposed he should feel guilty about scaring a civilian into wetting themselves, but then he was so far beyond being capable of civil conversation that he couldn’t even bring himself to care. Stark blue eyes followed the little man’s progress down the hall, his lip curled in disgust and he started on his way towards the elevator bank at the end of the corridor, long legs carrying him quickly towards his destination. He knew how this must have looked to the rest of the employees on the floor, he knew that they all thought that he’d slipped up and his Winter Soldier programming had kicked back in, but really, really this was just regular old James Buchanan Barnes and he was well and truly pissed off.

How fucking dare Steve pull him from a mission like he was some sort of naïve, vulnerable child! He’d thrown some token bullshit excuse about him being in danger from a measly little HYDRA cell at him and had bodily tossed him into the quin-jet before shooting him in the ass with a fucking tranquilizer dart strong enough to put down a rhinoceros. He’d tranqued him in the ass and had locked him in the motherfucking jet like he was a freakin’ princess in a tower, unable to protect himself and unconscious and drooling in a heap on the fucking floor until the battle had ended and the threat had been neutralized. He was beyond pissed and so. Fucking. Embarrassed. 

There was a ruckus behind him, people scattering in fear and panic and he threw a feral look back over his shoulder. He knew what was coming; he could practically smell the testosterone rolling off them before they even spilled into the hallway behind him and he let out a low growl of warning. Over a dozen black clad men swarmed into the hall behind him fully decked out in Kevlar body armour and sporting stun batons and he turned side on to face them, eyes blazing. He bristled silently as they advanced on him and a frenzied sense of panic started to boil in his veins. This was fucking ridiculous and who the fuck did they think they were dealing with here? He completely understood the security measures that had been put into place years ago when he’d come to live in the tower but they’d never had to be mobilized, ever and when he found out who sounded the fucking ‘Winter is Coming’ (thank you Tony fucking Stark, you absolute asshole) alarm he was going to take great delight in choking the life out of them, reformed assassin or not. There had never been an incident where he’d lapsed into the Soldier’s mindset that had resulted in this sort of reaction in all four and a half years he’d been an Avenger and he was absolutely livid that some hopped up text-book hero of an engineer had probably hit the panic button and ruined his perfect record.

He was willing to put money on it being the scrappy little female desk jockey who had dragged Pasty McPissy-Pants off to safety and he sneered at her through the three inch thick safety glass that lined the hall. The entire floor had gone into lockdown thanks to her twitchy assed bullshit and now he was looking at the business end of at least twelve heavily modified stun batons and a potential for a hefty fucking headache. The little engineer flinched and paled and he scowled even more at her. Yeah. It had definitely been the text-book hero who hit the metaphorical big red button and alerted the troops.

He heard a click and his eyebrows raised incredulously as one of the Kevlar flunkies tossed a canister of tear gas in his direction. The group swelled along the hall and swarmed towards him, batons raised and sparking dangerously. They’d all pulled on gas masks and he knew it was only a matter of time before they converged and attempted to subdue him.

“Are you outta your fucking mind?!” He roared at them as the remainder of the floor’s employees scattered towards the other end of the long, long hallway already coughing and spluttering and crying out in panic. He turned furious eyes on the SWAT-trained team and took two measured steps towards the billowing canister and booted it back in their direction and away from the remaining civilian employees. The gas leeched into the air and he swore loudly as his eyes started to stream, the mucus membranes in his mouth and nostrils burning painfully as the snot and saliva poured out of him. This was already absolutely, without a doubt, the shittiest day he had ever experienced since coming back to New York to live in the tower and now it was just getting worse. “What the actual fuck do you think you’re doing??” He shouted, “Why the fuck would you let off motherfucking tear gas in a hallway that was still crowded with civilians? Are you fucking stupid?!” He raged. “You really are just a bunch of glorified fucking rent-a-cops, aren’t you!!”

There was a flurry of noise down the hall and now he staggered towards what he thought was the wall with burning unseeing eyes. Fuck, he hated tear gas. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been exposed to it on numerous occasions before, but it still stung like a bitch and he spared a moment to cringe for the unenhanced employees that were practically stampeding to get away from it down the hall. If his entire face was hurting this much, he could only imagine how the innocent minions were feeling.

He was completely blinded by now and he hacked a wet cough, hands flailing for a solid surface to grab a hold of. He stumbled past what he thought might have been a water cooler and slammed face first into the rough wall as the pack of meathead security guards made their move.

Fire sparked along his limbs and he let out a ragged scream as the first burst of high voltage electricity licked along his skin. One of the guards managed to get their baton up under his chin as he stumbled and his mouth opened in a silent scream as the pain exploded behind his eyes, the sheer weight of his body sending him careening into the wall with sickening force. He tasted blood in his mouth and his fingers spasmed wildly with the current that ran through him.

Well, he supposed, he guessed that the moderations made to the batons were sufficient enough to bring him down after all.

Another crack of electricity sparked by his ear and his back bowed as the current sailed down his spine. “FUCK!” He screamed and tumbled to his knees, nausea swelling and bubbling in his gut as the pain burned its way all the way down his legs. He tried to clamber to his feet but someone, one of the rent-a-cops, shoved a boot between his shoulder blades and shoved him back onto his belly and this time, he went willingly. They obviously thought he’d been triggered (even if in reality he was just having a monumental temper tantrum) and the sooner he ‘complied’, the sooner they would leave off and stop with the electro-shock bullshit. He could feel the nerve endings that ran down his spine screaming at him and he bared his bloody teeth as his face was pushed into the thick pile of the carpeted floor. His salvation came via a furious, familiar voice roaring down the hall, heavy footsteps thudding toward him rapidly. Thank fuck for Captain America (even if he was totally the reason that Bucky had been on a rampage in the first place, but whatever).

“WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE?!”

Bucky screwed his eyes closed and let out a sharp, ragged breath that hurt more than he expected it to and tried to repress the violent shudder that ripped through his whole body. His muscles were grabbing and seizing frantically and he could feel the sweat pouring off him. He still couldn’t see, his eyes burning and streaming with tears, vision blacked over, but he could hear the sound of the pack of rent-a-cops falling back past the dull roar that filled his head.

“Sir!” Kevlar lackey numero uno snapped to attention beside him and kicked him in the head in the process. Bucky might have vomited on his boots a little. Fuck, he felt like shit and his legs were still twitching violently against the carpet, his boots scraping noisily against the coving on the wall. “Sir, someone sounded the alarm and we were deployed to subdue-”

Steve let out an outraged, incredulous snarl. “Deployed to subdue Sergeant Barnes?!” He raged as he shoved past the group of Kevlar covered idiots and he fell to his knees beside him. Bucky felt his broad hands press against the back of his shoulders and Steve let out a furious curse. His fingers swept along the back of his neck and Bucky whined lowly at the wet drag of them against his hair line. Someone must have gotten in a lucky shot; he was almost certain he was bleeding. He felt Steve’s breath beside his ear but couldn’t really feel much else. His head felt leaden and his hearing was just a little bit patchy.

“Bucky, are you ok? Can you hear me?!”

His fingers twitched against the carpet, one hand pinned underneath the bulk of his body and the other curled in a loose fist beside his hip. He was still face down and it hurt to move, but he managed to form his fingers into a sluggish hand signal that to his utmost relief, Steve caught sight of. He was conscious, but he wasn’t feeling too great.

There was a muffled scuffle and Steve’s commanding voice boomed down the hall over the din of noise. He couldn’t tell what he’d said but there was a sudden flurry of muffled sound and vibration as multiple feet moved along the floor. People were crying somewhere off to his left and fuck, his ears were ringing now. He threw up again and struggled to drag his face out of the puddle of bile. God, everything hurt so much and he hadn’t felt this rough in a long, long time.

Steve’s hand pushed under his cheek and scooped his head out of the mess on the floor. He could feel his body being dragged into the recovery position and his spine protested the shift. His stomach roiled again but there was little to nothing left in him to give so all that happened was a painful bout of dry heaving and choking.

“You’re ok, Buck,” he heard a weird gurgling sound and he struggled to figure out where it was coming from only for him to eventually realize that it was coming from him. Steve’s fingers pushed into his mouth and he hacked around them, long fingers scooping away the remnants of vomit and blood that were sticking in his throat. “Help is coming, Bucky, they’re coming, ok?” He told him once he’d finished clearing his airway.

He let out a pained groan and blinked blindly but curled his fingers into a loose attempt at a ‘thanks’ before he finally succumbed to the dark pull of unconsciousness.

 

**

Her office door swung open with a resounding bang and Darcy just about fell off her chair in surprise. It had been a long, long two days and she’d only gotten an hour of sleep the night before so she was constantly fighting the pull of slumber as she sat at her desk. She didn’t fall out of her chair in the end, but she definitely cracked her knee and elbow on the heavy frame of the desk as well as managing to knock over a half filled glass of water in the process. It spilled across her desk and she scrambled to move her keyboard and mouse as well as her phone out of the way lest they get ruined. Water dripped off the edge of the desk and onto the floor and her heart hammered in her throat like she’d swallowed a whole flock of hummingbirds.

“What the actual merry hell, Steve?!” She shouted shrilly, eyes wide as she clumsily tried to mop up the spill with a wad of napkins. “What the-”

“Bucky is in medical.” He blurted out, his voice sharp and clipped, furious even. “You need to come with me.”

For a split second she thought she felt her heart stop completely and she blinked at him with her mouth hanging open. She shook her head frantically and was already shoving her phone into her pocket and pushing her feet into her discarded magenta pink cons. “He’s what?!” She demanded, glancing at him whilst she quickly tied her laces. If Bucky was in medical then it had to be serious; he hated going down there with a fiery passion and that was how she ended up patching him up most of the time. “What the fuck happened? Was it the mission?”

Steve’s face morphed into something black and ugly, he was angrier than she’d ever seen him and she forced herself to remain calm in the face of his fury. “There was a gross misunderstanding in engineering and someone hit the panic button,” he spat, lip curled, “Security were deployed to subdue The Soldier when it wasn’t actually necessary in the first place.”

Darcy felt her stomach clench in the most unpleasant way possible and she stumbled to a halt a few steps away from Steve, suddenly coming up short. “Oh my God,” she breathed, terrified. She knew the measures that had been implemented years ago when he had arrived but back then he was almost completely feral and felt very little physical pain. Nothing short of a tank could stop him back then but over the years he’d mellowed into the quietly spoken in control man she’d grown painfully fond of and she’d been under the impression that all those incredibly excessive security measures had been nullified and discarded by the wayside. There were contingency plans for multiple scenarios that had been put in place and she desperately hoped that it had been one of the milder methods of subduing him that had been utilized. “Steve, what happened?!”

His hand around her bicep was tight and she stumbled along behind him as he dragged her towards the huge double doors that lead to the elevators. She tripped as they hurried along the wide, empty hallway and he punched the call button so hard that the thick plastic disc covering the wiring cracked under the pressure. He sneered at the little glowing lights above the door as they flickered through the floors until it reached them and he bodily shoved her into the mercifully empty car.

“Unnecessary force was used and he’s not responding well to emergency treatment,” he told her factually but tersely. He was practically vibrating with anger and Darcy squeezed his forearm in an effort to calm him a little bit. He took a deep breath and visibly tried to get himself in check.

“Steve,” she queried urgently, “Which plan was implemented? Did they tranquilize him? Please tell me it was the tranquilizer gun…”

He clenched his jaw and kept his eyes trained on the floor display. “It really wasn’t, Darcy.” He worked his jaw and his big fists clenched and released at his sides. “They gassed him and took him down with brute force whilst he was incapacitated.” His neck flushed dark red and his fists curled again. “He passed out just after I found him and started seizing on the way to medical. They stabilized him but the stubborn motherfucker woke up and is refusing further treatment.”

A shrill whine slipped out of her and she grabbed for Steve’s arm, her other hand clutching at her chest as she tried to stave off the rapidly encroaching panic. “Seizing?! Steve, what..?”

His expression turned grim and he sucked on his teeth, lip curled. “High voltage stun batons.” He uttered darkly. “There were five by my count on him at the one time when I arrived, including one under his chin and the other behind his ear.”

Darcy paled and she choked on her tongue. They’d electrocuted him. He’d spent decades on the receiving end of a vicious variety of electro-shock therapy and he still had the occasional night terror featuring it (and wow, hadn’t that been an eye opener the first time he’d spent the night and she’d woken up to him keening in his sleep, wailing in terror; she’d never forget that sound and she never, ever wanted to hear it again) and now they’d gone and done it to him again?! It was entirely possible that he could relapse from this and slowly but surely, her horror morphed into a terrifyingly calm fury that burned low in her belly. If her best friend had been adversely affected by this, if there were any hints of anomalies in his test results, she was going to maim the lot of them with her bare hands and possibly even a set of rusty pliers and a blowtorch.

“I assume they’ve all been disciplined?” Her eyebrow twitched and she bounced on her toes, moving through the elevator doors at speed before they were even fully open. Her shoes squeaked against the linoleum as they hurried towards the ward, Steve’s heavy steps echoing alongside her.

He scoffed, both disgusted and vexed beyond belief. “Oh trust me,” He muttered as they pushed through the swinging double doors and into the sterile white walls of the med bay, “I’m handling this one myself.” His words were innocuous enough, sure, but there was a deadly underlying promise that she knew meant he was going for blood.

The curtains were pulled haphazardly around the bed when they reached the emergency treatment rooms and Darcy inwardly rolled her eyes at whomever it was inside that was trying to convince him to consent to a seemingly endless battery of blood tests. There was some heated arguing from the nurse, a woman by the sound of it, and Bucky’s distress was palpable even before she was able to see him. He sounded wounded and feral, just like a cornered animal.

“You put that thing anywhere near me and I’ll kick you in the fucking mouth!” He snarled roughly from inside and Darcy threw a concerned look at Steve who had faltered beside her. He looked like he wanted to be sick and he twisted his mouth into a pained pout.

“Uh, maybe it’s best if I don’t go in there with you right now,” he suggested and she immediately frowned, suspicious. It didn’t matter how it happened, every time Bucky ended up in medical Steve was a permanent fixture at his side, his refusal to leave his lifelong best friend a constant source of irritation for the staff. The fact that he was refusing to even enter the bay with him this time was more than unnerving and she fixed him with an inquisitive look.

“Steve,” she started, “What did you do?”

He flushed and cleared his throat. “I’m going to go and deal with the fallout from this bullshit,” he ignored her question and turned on his heel to hurry back out the door. “Keep me posted!” He called back over his shoulder and she watched, stunned as he disappeared out the door.

What the actual fuck was going on?

She shook herself out of her stupor and spun back towards the curtained bay that Bucky had been placed in, her hand reaching for the curtain and tugging it aside. The argument inside fell silent instantly and she shot the nurse a barely concealed look of disgust when she noted the syringe in her hand, her brow cocked and eyes narrowed. “Could you give us a few minutes please?”

“You can’t be in here!” The nurse argued and Darcy opened her mouth to protest but Bucky beat her to it.

 “She’s one of my emergency contacts,” he snarled. “She has every right to be in here! Why don’t you just haul your fat ass out of here and leave me the fuck alone! I. Do. Not. Consent!

Darcy’s eyebrows flew up in surprise, he wasn’t usually the type to be so nasty and she couldn’t have dragged her eyes away from the sight he made even if she tried. She barely even registered the nurse hurrying by her to leave and she didn’t even notice the wet tear tracks on the woman’s face at all. She was too busy taking in the way his oversized body dwarfed the hospital bed and the grey pallor of his skin. He had dark, angry marks seared into his skin under his jaw and a furious red burn down the side of his temple that was still tacky with a smear of thin bright red blood and ragged, torn skin surrounding it. He had something that looked like a wet, oozy carpet burn on his cheek under his left eye and his face was bruised purple and green from the sharp line of his jaw to his brow on the same side. He was shirtless and his chest was rising and falling rapidly but unevenly, matching marks that mirrored the ones on his face dotted all over his torso. He was either very, very angry or very, very frightened. Quite often it was difficult to tell the difference with him but it was quite possibly even both. He had oxygen tubes over his face and his hair was in a loose, scruffy mess around his head, his eyes wild and wide.

He looked like shit and her heart lurched painfully at seeing him so vulnerable.

She stepped up beside the too-small hospital bed and set about righting the twisted tubes that ran across his cheeks that piped oxygen up his nose, ignoring his muttered protests.

“I’m fine.” He insisted rudely as he turned his face away from her fingers, pulling back.

“Shut the actual fuck up, Barnes.” She ordered, her patience running thin. His flinch made her feel awful but she steeled her resolve and took his scruffy chin in her hand and turned his face back towards her as she finished her task. She tucked his hair back behind his ears and let her eyes drag across his features to take in his injuries. God, he really did look like he’d been through the wringer. “When did you get back?” She asked instead of enquiring about his wellbeing. She wasn’t stupid. She knew him well enough to know now that he was shaken and embarrassed and this was her way of glossing over the great big elephant in the room.

He looked at her with an indiscernible expression before he quietly answered her. This time when she moved to adjust another tube and fussed with the heart monitor that was clamped on his finger he let her do so with little to no argument. “Bout an hour ago.” He watched her as she perused his charts with a detached sort of calm that he wasn’t used to seeing on her face. “Are you mad at me?” He questioned cautiously, his ire fading just enough for the adrenaline in his system to start to bomb out. He felt a little faint and the heart monitor sped up a bit, but he managed to hold it together a while longer. “You haven’t called me Barnes since-” he trailed off with an almost violent twitch, his chin jerking against his shoulder. He took a deep, calming breath and tried again. “You stopped calling me that years ago.”

Darcy kept her eyes on the paperwork in front of her and her fingers tightened around the clipboard painfully. No, she wasn’t mad at him. Yes, however, she was fucking terrified for him and she wasn’t quite sure how to process the rush of swirling emotions that were screaming at her to stroke and soothe him and take care of him whilst at the same time were telling her to scream at him and tear him down for scaring her like that. She swallowed thickly and blinked back tears. She knew the anger was irrational and it wasn’t at all his fault that she’d gone and grown feelings for him in the past month so she had to pull herself together. They were friends (who fucked on a frequent basis), nothing more. She was one of his two emergency contacts and if Steve refused to be here (what the fuck was going on?) then she had to step in and pony up. No sappy, fluffy feelings, just friendly concern, she could do it. She had to. She hooked his notes back over the rail and came to stand beside him.

“Don’t you ever scare me like that again, Bucky,” she warned him softly, features softening into something more affectionate but concerned. “Why won’t you let the doctors run some tests? They need to make sure you’re alright.” She laced her fingers with his and traced light circles over his pulse point on the inside of his wrist.

He frowned at the sudden one eighty and struggled to keep up with her. She was acting strange, but then again, maybe it was his head playing tricks on him? He had a filthy, dirty headache all of a sudden and he blinked away the spots blurring across his vision. His booted feet twitched against the bright white bedding and clunked against the bed end. “I,” he blinked slowly and willed the room to stop spinning but didn’t mention the ugly sensation for fear of upsetting her. He didn’t want her to know just how upset he actually was. “I don’t want anyone near my head,” he admitted after a moment, shame flooding him along with the heady pulse of fear at the thought of being hooked up to even more of the monitors. The heart monitor and oxygen tubes were bad enough. “They want to do an EEG and an ECG and I don’t want them near me.”

“They need to make sure there’s no damage to your brain or your heart, Bucky,” she explained quietly, her fingers itching to smooth up his arm and into his greasy hair. “Please let them take a look at you,” she pleaded with him, voice small and concerned as she squeezed his fingers with hers, “Please, Babe. For me? They just want to make sure you’re alright and then as soon as it’s done we can go home, ok? Please, Bucky? I’ll be right here with you the whole time, I promise.”

He let out a soft, choked noise at the sound of her gentle pleas and he closed his eyes for a minute. The mere prospect of a bunch of doctors poking and prodding him frightened the fuck out of him (not that he’d ever admit that out loud to anyone) but it was the way she asked him that made him reconsider. If it were up to him he never would have even been there in the first place, he would have happily cauterised his own wounds with a glowing iron poker first, maybe take his own eye out at the same time if it meant that he could avoid the medical team but there was something in the way she clutched at his hand and ran her shaking fingers through his hair that made him squirm inside and roll over at her pleading, something that was desperate to make her happy. He felt his resolve wavering dangerously before it completely collapsed and dissolved into nothing.

“Fuck’s sake,” he sighed and blew out a wary, exhausted breath. “Ok.” He agreed softly with a slight nod. “Alright, they can do the tests. Call ‘em back in, Sweetheart.”

She dragged his big hand up to her mouth and pressed a long, lazy kiss against his knuckles, her eyes shining up at him. She pressed her cheek against his fist and shot him a warm, grateful smile. “Thank you.”

His fingers flexed around hers and he nodded quietly. “Anything for you, Darce.” He closed his eyes and settled back against the pillows, resigned. She carefully untangled their interlocked fingers and darted back out into the hall to find a doctor and he frowned to himself. He’d told her he would do anything for her and it was with no little amount of surprise that he realized he’d meant every word of it; he’d go to hell and back for her with no hesitation if it meant making her smile.

God, Steve was right. He was such a fucking idiot.

 

**

“Just a- you have a thing-“ Darcy carefully peeled the rogue sticky sensor patch from just below his shoulder blade and carefully folded it in half before running her fingers over the tacky patch of skin where it had been. She was sure they’d gotten them all back down in medical but there was always one of the little bastards that managed to slip through the cracks. “All gone.”

He was quiet in front of her and it wasn’t like him at all. Sure, he wasn’t normally chatty Cathy exactly, but this was a whole new level of awkward and she was worried. He’d been like this since the EEG and she wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. Their friendship was solid, but their relationship was a whole other story… If they even had something that really constituted a relationship in the first place. She wanted to check him over head to toe herself for her own satisfaction but she wasn’t sure that was something he’d allow, so she kept her hands to herself and kept her eyes averted as he disrobed in silence. The final piece of clothing he lost was his boxers and after he kicked the pile aside he wordlessly disappeared into the bathroom and the door clicked shut. The shower sputtered to life and she was left alone in her silent apartment with nothing more than a thumping tension headache and her exhaustion for company.

With a heavy sigh, Darcy headed into the kitchen and took the bottle of imported blueberry vodka out of the freezer and grabbed the container of ice cubes along with it. She tossed a handful of the cubes into a tall, plastic cup and filled it halfway with the vodka before she took a hearty sip. It was strong and she winced as it burned on its way down but she ignored the discomfort and settled against the counter to wait for him to finish up. Apart from the occasional click of ice cubes rattling around in the cup every time she took a sip, the apartment was quiet and before long, it had been almost half an hour.

Darcy frowned and set her cup down, her head a little bit fuzzy from the alcohol but nowhere near drunk and she padded down the hall towards the bathroom. She pressed her ear against the door and yeah, sure the water was still running, but it was muffled and strange and the sound pattern was all wrong. She rapped her knuckles against the door and jiggled the handle, surprised when it turned all the way around and the door opened inward.

“Bucky?” She stepped inside tentatively and something sour settled in her stomach when she noticed the distinct lack of steam in the air. The mirror over the sink was clear and there was a chill in the air that sent a shiver up her spine. He’d been in there over half an hour and she knew for a fact that he took scalding hot showers, a rebellion against the time he’d spent in captivity where they would hit him with the equivalent of a freezing cold fire hose after each assignment to rid him of the filth his missions brought. Normally the room would be billowing with steam within minutes and she was always having to remind him to switch on the exhaust fan because she didn’t want mildew forming on the tiles. What in the world-? “Bucky?!” Her heart was starting to race and she couldn’t see his massive shadow behind the frosted glass when she looked for him. She glanced around the room wildly and was just about to barrel back into the hall when she noticed the shadow behind the lower half of the shower screen and she grabbed for the handle with shaky fingers. “Oh, Honey, no,” She crawled into the cubicle with him and let out a sharp gasp when the freezing cold water hit her face. On her knees now, she reached for the knobbly taps and twisted the top one sharply, cursing the whole time as she tried to cover him with her own full clothed body until the water started to shift from icy cold to lukewarm.

His eyes were closed and his head was pressed into the corner of the cubicle, knees tucked under his chin and his skin was pale and cold. His arms were curled around his knees and his fingers hung limply between his thick thighs. She ran her fingers over his bloodless lips and gave his cheek a gentle slap to try to rouse him from his stupor. He blinked sluggishly but he couldn’t seem to see her and his eyes, pale and dull stared right on through her and into the wall behind her head.

“Come on, Bucky,” She coaxed gently as she dug her fingers into his scraggly wet hair. It was clumped against his head and in his face and she did her best to push it back without pulling on it, frightened by his lack of response. “Bucky, Babe, can you hear me?”

His head remained on the wall but his eyes slowly regained some semblance of consciousness and they slid in her direction. They swept over her face and down her soaked body, taking in the wet clothing and her close proximity before they returned to her face. He eyed her for a moment and held himself so very still, almost as if he were awaiting a blow.

“Who the hell is Bucky?”

She stared at him, horrified and frightened. “That’s not funny,” she insisted weakly, wide eyed and shaky. She waited for him to crack a smile and tell her it was just a joke but the silence stretched on and she felt her stomach drop painfully when she realized he was serious. “Oh,” she whispered in dawning horror, “Oh no.”

The lights were on, but Bucky wasn’t home right now. He was unable to come to the door, unavailable to take your call. Out. Fuck. She’d never met The Soldier before, Bucky had gone to great lengths to keep that part of him hidden from her but she knew he was in there, she knew that he was part of her friend and that he was dangerous. She wasn’t fucking stupid. Carefully, as not to startle the big bad soviet assassin, she pushed herself back onto her heels and settled her hands on the top of his bent knees, his dull, lifeless eyes watching her with a sort of detached calm that made her sick. There was none of Bucky in them, none of the warm, affectionate sparkle that he had when he looked at her and there was certainly no recognition in them either.

She almost burst into tears when it registered that he didn’t know who she was to him. Almost. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and forced herself to remain calm. If she gave The Soldier no reason to see her as a threat then maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t hurt her. She didn’t want to believe he would, but she had seen the state Steve had been in all those years ago in the hospital and she knew that if he’d been capable of inflicting so much damage upon his best friend and almost-brother, then breaking the neck of a simple fuck-buddy would mean nothing to him. Just another faceless husk left behind.

“Am I to report for treatment?” He questioned softly, his voice devoid of emotion. “Does my body require medical intervention?” He flicked his eyes over his limbs and his body tensed as he considered his physical state. His brows furrowed, confused when he found no signs of serious physical injury upon his perusal, just a few minor burns, cuts and bruises.

Darcy smothered the urgent need to cry and telegraphed her every move as she reached for his face to look over the fading bruising and the angry red burn on his temple. It would be gone by tomorrow, hell, most of the bruising was already an ugly shade of yellow that signified his rapid healing, but this was her opening and she grabbed hold of it with both hands.

“You are injured.” She touched the burn and felt more than sick when he didn’t even flinch away from the painful stimuli. She knew it had to hurt, he’d told her it did back down in medical not even an hour ago as the doctors carefully applied the electrodes to his scalp and forehead to perform the EEG, but now, he wasn’t even reacting to the pain. It was as if he knew that he wasn’t supposed to feel anything and any sign of outward weakness would earn him a beating. She just wanted her Bucky back but she knew that it was prudent to wait him out and the first step of doing just that was to get him out of the shower. “I need to treat your wounds.”

There was a tense beat of silence before he unfolded himself from his huddled crouch on the floor and rose gracefully to his feet with little regard to her balance in one fluid movement. She toppled backwards and thumped into the solid shower screen, but muffled her curse of pain by biting her lip and she looked up at him through wet hair and water in her eyes.

His big body fell into parade rest but his eyes followed her as she climbed to her feet unsteadily, waiting for God knows what to happen next. His brows drew in a fraction before they smoothed back out into a bland, bored expression and he held out his wrists to her expectantly. The nausea returned full force at the implication and she shook her head as she reached around him to shut the water off. The space was tight when it was just him in there alone, but with the both of them in there it was even smaller and she had to press up against him to reach the knobs.

“No restraints, Bu-“ she cut herself off with a grimace and glanced up at him. He felt massive like this, all predatory grace and quiet intensity crammed into the tiny shower cubicle and his eyes took on a glimmer of confusion. His chin jerked in a short movement, almost a head shake, and he pushed his wrists at her again, insistent. She frowned and took a step back and out of the shower. “I’m not tying you up.” She argued and avoided calling him anything right now as she reached for a couple of towels. She held one out to him and when he just looked at her confused, she stepped back in to wrap the fluffy blue fabric around his waist, twisting and tucking the end in over his left hip to secure it in place. She’d barely finished when he again pushed his wrists against her hands and made a sound of distress.

“I don’t want to restrain you!” She insisted, upset and hurting and scared. How long would he be like this? Would it last a few minutes or would it be hours? Days, even? “I’m not cuffing you, Soldier!”

His eyes grew wide and he looked down at her fearfully. He glanced around the small bathroom and seemingly satisfied that they were alone, he spoke quietly and urgently. “Injuring auxiliary staff is a punishable offense,” he insisted, overwrought, “You need to restrain me for treatment.” He pleaded with her and she immediately knew that at some point in the past he had been reprimanded for doing something along those very lines. Fuck, he thought she was a fucking HYDRA gopher or something and didn’t that just take the cake? He pushed his hands at her again and widened his eyes in a silent plea for her to do as he was asking. He looked uncomfortable and tense, but in the end it was the blatant fear of a violent reprimand in his eyes that made her crumple.

“I,” she started and bit her lip, “Let me see what I can find, alright? Give me a minute. Wait here.”

She slipped out the door and down to the bedroom where she scrounged through the piles of washing and soiled sheets in the corner (she still hadn’t had the chance to wash them, fuck off) for something suitable to ‘restrain’ him. She didn’t want to do anything of the sort, but if it was going to bring him an iota of comfort then she was willing to try. The more comfortable he was, the sooner he could come back to her, right? God, this was so beyond fucked up. She rifled through the drawers beside the bed and muttered a stream of profane curses when she came up short and she tugged on her hair, frustrated. Wait! Wait a fucking minute… She hurried over to the closet and dug into a shiny silver lockable case that Bucky had stashed in there weeks ago, the grin on his face at the time that was secretive and more than a little bit filthy and let out a cry of victory when she found what she was looking for. She ran her fingers over the buttery soft, purple leather and flicked at the shiny D rings with her finger as she tried to estimate the length of the straps. The buckles jingled quietly as she turned the cuffs over in her hands and she pursed her lips in thought. He’d presented her with the bondage cuffs weeks ago with the insistence that if he were to tie her up, it wouldn’t be with some shitty uncomfortable handcuffs that could split her skin if she pulled against them and whilst she’d been thoroughly touched by the gesture, they hadn’t had a chance to use them yet. She’d been hoping to break them in once he returned from his mission but obviously things had gone sideways and that wasn’t an option right now. She dug through the case of toys and implements until she found the trigger clip that was used to connect the cuffs together and she tapped them against her palms and headed back towards the bathroom.

He hadn’t moved a muscle since she’d left and there was a steady trail of water beading down his neck and dripping between his shoulders. She almost forgot for a second that he was currently ‘absent’ and it was only when he looked up at her that she felt reality snap back into place. She tried to smile at him reassuringly but it came out as more of a grimace and she held up the cuffs. “Found something.” She mumbled, embarrassed as he perused the cuffs in her hands. “Hopefully they fit around your wrists.” She tacked on absently. “Gimme your hands.”

He didn’t even hesitate and she stared at his outstretched hands, her heart breaking. His fingers were curled into loose fists and he waited patiently as she fumbled to secure first one, then the other leather strap around his wrists and fastened them together with the metal clip. It was a bit of a stretch, the buckles set on the last possible fastening, but once he was secured she looped her fingers around the clip and tugged him out of the bathroom. He followed pliantly and silently back into the bedroom and she ushered him across the room to sit on the bed so she could look at the burn on his temple. He sat in silence as she prodded at the wounded flesh, the only indication that he could feel her fingers on him being the slight tightening around his eyes. He stared ahead blankly, otherwise unresponsive.

It was angry and red, blistered in places but it looked better than it had upon leaving the medical unit and a small part of her was glad for his rapid healing and cell regeneration, but the rest of her was sad. She just wanted her Bucky back. Once she’d satisfied her curiosity she gave his shoulder a tentative nudge and tried to get him to lay back on the bed.

“You need sleep.” She insisted when he resisted and his eyes flew to hers, confused. “Come on, Bu- Soldier. You need to lay down and go to sleep.”

“Wha-“ He hesitated and his brow creased, shoulders tense, “I don’t understand.”

Oh. Ok, well, there’s that too, then. Her Bucky loved his sleep and would luxuriate like a cat in a sunny patch for the majority of the morning if he had time to do so. She pushed at his shoulder again and tried another avenue. “You need to lay down and close your eyes,” she told him and eventually, once his head hit the pillow and she tucked the covers over him, she touched her fingers to his brow and settled on the bed beside him. “Try to relax, alright? Don’t think too much and try to get some rest.”

It took almost an hour, but eventually his breathing settled into a slow, steady rhythm and his body sagged heavily into the mattress with sleep. She pressed her fingers up underneath his chin and felt the steady thrum of his pulse under her hands, laid her hand on his chest over his heart and dropped her head back against the headboard. He was finally asleep and only then, once she was one hundred percent sure that he was out for the count, did she let the tears come in an ugly, hot tide of emotion.

This wasn’t meant to happen. He’d been doing so fucking well and now, even though it had gone much better and way smoother than she’d ever considered, he’d had a relapse.

She was going to find out who it was that had sounded that stupid fucking alarm and she was going to kill them.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Darcy’s head was fuzzy and thick from exhaustion, somewhere in between asleep and awake when she felt something brush against the soft skin under her jaw. She hummed a soft sound, almost a whimper and lifted her chin when dry, chapped lips scraped over her pulse point and something warm and heavy settled across her hips and pinned her legs to the bed. Her eyes fluttered open and she bit back a gasp when the lips were replaced with sharp teeth and her mind snapped awake all at once.

Bucky’s mouth – was it even Bucky? – travelled up the column of her throat, leaving a wet, stinging trail behind it as he peppered her skin with kisses and nips until he reached her mouth. He hovered there for a moment and breathed her in, the still cuffed tangle of his hands pressed up against her ribs between them over her still kind of damp clothes. She had honestly meant to get changed, she had, but apparently she’d fallen asleep and her intentions had become moot.

Bucky’s lips brushed hers as he spoke and she felt a sharp swell of relief at his words. “Did he hurt you?” He was back. He was Bucky again. He brushed his mouth over hers in a barely there fashion that was reminiscent of their first time together and she chased his mouth as he pulled away from her, brow cocked as he waited for a reply. “Darcy,” he repeated, “Did The Soldier hurt you?”

She shook her head mutely and reached up to run her fingers along the cut of his jaw. The bruises that had decorated the entirety of the left side of his face were all but gone and his eyes were a bright cornflower blue, clear and completely lacking any of the redness or confusion from the night before. He turned into her touch and mouthed at her palm, his fingers twitching against her ribcage as his shoulders sagged in relief. “Thank fucking God.” He breathed quietly.

“Do you remember anything?” She asked softly, eyes searching his for answers. At the slight headshake of his reply she frowned but continued to stroke his face. “He was actually rather sweet.” She mused, her mouth curled into a tiny, warm smile. She shrugged a little bit and cupped his cheek in her palm and ran her thumb across the warm swell of his bottom lip. “A little bit sad and expecting me to hurt him, but he wasn’t violent.” At his dubious look she thumbed underneath his eye and surged up to kiss him. “I promise. No hurting happened.”

He shifted against her and that was when she noticed that the weight across her hips was in fact his thigh thrown over her, the towel he’d fallen asleep in long gone somewhere in the sheets and bare skin for miles. His cock was pressed into her hip and she could feel it stirring against her in interest. “I have to ask,” he murmured into her mouth as she teased her tongue against the bow of his top lip, “Why am I wearing the cuffs I had made for you?”

Darcy blinked rapidly at that little tidbit of information (he’d had them specially made for her?) and pulled back, her head pressing into the pillows. “You seriously don’t remember?” She asked, surprised and a little bit afraid. Not of him, but for the sort of things that could be done to him whilst he was less than present in his own mind without him even knowing it was happening. It was a terrifying prospect, the possibilities endless and her heart skipped a beat at the thought of him coming to harm by someone’s less than honourable hands.

He furrowed his brows and shook his head, dragged his thigh off her and pulled away until he could sit up and he eyed the purple leather dubiously. “What?” He gave a gentle tug against the cuffs and made a noise of surprise when they held fast. His mouth twitched up in one corner as he mused aloud about money well spent but before long his gaze was back on her face. “What happened? I don’t really even remember getting into the shower,” He looked around the room, brows furrowed. “I know I went for one, but it’s sort of fuzzy from there on out.”

Darcy pulled herself upright and pat her hand across her messy hair, absently trying to smooth the riot of waves and kinks into some sort of submission. “I found you-“ she paused at his wince, “I found him sitting in the bottom of the shower, the water was freezing cold and he was barely responsive. I managed to drag him out of the shower and he insisted that I had to restrain him before he would let me look at the burn up here…” her fingers touched the dark pink of the almost healed burn site, the skin smooth and no longer angry nor blistered. He really was a medical miracle. She bit her lip and looked up at his slack face through her lashes. “He really didn’t want to hurt me, Bucky. I tried to say no but he was pretty insistent. I had to make do with what I could find,” she touched the purple leather cuff on his right wrist and stroked the line of his thumb. “I hope you don’t mind. I – I wasn’t even sure they’d fit.”

He shook his head, as if to clear it of cobwebs and rolled his neck, the crack of it loud in the quiet room. He sighed and held out his hands and Darcy had to remind herself that he was fully present this time before she unbuckled the cuffs carefully before setting them aside on the bed. She watched him wring his fingers around his wrists and his eyes followed her as she slid off the bed and started to strip off her day old, almost damp clothes in an attempt to busy herself. She wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen now. Was he going to hang out for a while or was he going to leave, claim it was for her own good and avoid her from here on out?

She removed her clothes on autopilot, her back to him as she tugged on the hooks that held her bra closed. It was a pretty thing, bright yellow and lacy without being too risqué but the bottom hook always caught when she was trying to take it off and she grumbled to herself when she couldn’t get it undone. It was comfortable and pretty and it made the girls look amazing so she was less than enthused about the thought of getting rid of it; she could put up with a simple faulty hook and eye for the sake of great support. She started to slide the straps down her arms so she could push it down around her waist and spin it around to unhook it in front of her when Bucky pressed up behind her and stilled her hands. He pushed them away from the straps and she could feel the cool metal of his fingers between her shoulder blades.

“God, don’t you dare,” he muttered, “You’re always bitching that undoing them that way ruins ‘em,” he pointed out, punctuating his words with a kiss to the back of her shoulder. “Call it self preservation but I don’t exactly want to hear you complaining all day about wrecking your favourite bra.”

She rolled her eyes but fell still and his fingers carefully pried the hook open and undid her bra for her, the daffodil yellow sheer fabric falling forward as she shrugged out of it. “Thank you,” she wasn’t sure why it had felt different, him undoing her bra carefully instead of yanking at it for once, but somehow it felt more familiar, intimate in a way that it never usually was. Her stomach fluttered in a way that was becoming familiar and she bit her tongue to keep quiet. She couldn’t tell him about her less than platonic feelings, not unless she wanted to scare him off. Friends, she told herself firmly. We’re friends.

Completely unaware of her inner struggle, his hand fell to her hip and smoothed around to rest over her belly, the palm pressed just above her navel and his fingers brushing the underside of her breast. A jolt of heat flared in her belly, hot and heady and she inhaled slowly. God, those hands. “He doesn’t like people, you know,” he said into her hair as he gently pulled her body back into his, “He’s never shown consideration for anyone’s safety before. What did you do,” he teased, “Did you feel him up a little to distract him?”

Darcy spun in his arms and shook her head wildly, her hands clutching his arms urgently. “No! No, I would never take advantage when you were- You have to know that I wouldn’t-”

“Hey, hey,” he soothed, a soft smile gracing his lips. “I was kidding, Sweetheart, kidding, ok? I know you wouldn’t fuck around with me when I’m like that… You’re not suicidal, Darcy.” What started as a little gentle teasing ended in a sort of sad, depreciating smirk and he yelped when she pinched a wedge of skin over his ribs and twisted. “Hey!"

“Don’t you dare talk about yourself like that, you moron,” she scolded sharply before rubbing the abused spot apologetically. There was a red mark left behind and a quiet, hidden part of her delighted in the fact that she had put it on him. “I’m pretty sure if he’d tried anything of the sort I would have let him do whatever he wanted anyway.” She admitted with a wince and Bucky fell painfully silent. The mark was already fading.

He was eyeing her with a strange look on his face, his hands on her hips and mouth twisted into a frown. “You really mean that.” He observed. “You’d have him put his hands on you?”

Darcy flushed and opened her mouth, only to close it again stubbornly. “I’m not seeing the problem here,” she grumbled, “He’s just as much a part of you as any other piece. Why wouldn’t you believe that I’d want him too? It’s not like it’s any different to you fucking me. It’s still you.” She kept her eyes fixed on the soft trail of fuzz beneath his navel and avoided his gaze until he tucked his fingers under her chin and forced her to look up at him. His face was thoughtful and he squinted down at her ever so slightly before his expression cleared and he reached his hand down to cup her ass through her jeans. He pulled her against him and grinned as she flushed pink at the feel of him against her bare belly. He was definitely happy to see her, indeed.

“So, here’s what we’re gonna do,” he told her lightly, a small smirk on his face as he backed her towards the bed. “You’re gonna lose the pants and I’m gonna fuck you, m’kay?” His eyebrow twitched up into an arch and he nodded to the open button fly of her pants. “Chop chop, Sweetheart.”

Darcy should have been insulted but she was too busy trying not to snigger at his expectant, wiggling eyebrows and despite herself she cracked a grin. “Oh, so just because you tell me to ditch the clothes and bend over I’m expected to hop to it?”

He shrugged his wide shoulders and nodded, sucking his bottom lip into his mouth. “Yeah, pretty much sums it up. So,” he waved his hand at her. “Get to it, woman.”

“Oh my God, you’re such an asshole. So romantic.” she laughed but shucked out of her jeans, underwear caught up with them and stumbled over the crumpled fabric to crawl up the bed.

“You don’t want romantic, not from me,” he teased, “Now move your ass.”

She ignored the dull ache in her chest and shifted on her knees, already moving. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Romantic and Bucky Barnes in the same sentence. Shocking.”

She was halfway to the pillows when she felt the mattress dip behind her. His fingers circled her ankle and he gave it a light tug and she paused to look back over her shoulder. “Hmm?”

He had one knee on the bed and was looking at her ass, his hand slipping up the back of her calf to squeeze the muscle firmly. His eyes flicked up to glance at her and she shivered at the heat they held. Cornflower had darkened into cobalt and he tipped his chin up at her, licked his lips and drew his other knee onto the bed so he was kneeling at her feet. “On your back, Sweetheart. I wanna look at you.”

She blinked at him in surprise but quickly flipped over onto her butt and pressed her feet into the bed, brought her knees up and fell back onto her hands. The position pushed her breasts up and out and she squirmed a little as his eyes swept over her before settling on the space between her spread thighs. She could feel the tell-tale flush of arousal creeping over her as his tongue swept across his lips again and he let out a quiet groan when she slipped a hand down low over her belly and dipped her fingers into her neatly trimmed thatch of hair. She watched him tense as her fingers crept lower and lower until she was lightly stroking herself and he crawled closer until he was sat on his heels between her knees. His hands curled around the back of her thighs and he gave her a sharp tug that sent her sprawling onto her back with a gasp, her hips canted up onto the slope of his thighs leaving her open and exposed.

“Fuck, Sweetheart,” he breathed, his hands gripping the back of her legs under her butt cheeks, fingers spreading her even further open. “God, would you just look at you…” His eyes raked over her body, his pupils blown wide with want. “So fucking pretty, Darce… Could just look at you all damn day.”

She flushed dark pink at his words and her heart thrummed wildly in her chest as he brought her hands up above her head and held them there with one big hand, the other trailing down the side of her neck and over her breast, fingers flicking her firm nipple on the way past. She breathed a sigh and arched toward his hand, mouth falling open when he cupped her breast and gave it a firm squeeze, kneaded it with silver fingers and dragged the backs of his knuckles over the underside and down onto her ribs. She twitched, giggling as the feather light touch tickled the spot just above her waist and the giggles tapered off into a sharp moan when he dipped his head and planted a rough, wet kiss against her navel. He pressed closer, the jut of his chin digging into her belly and he scraped his teeth against her skin, his tongue dipping into her belly button. Her abdominal muscles clenched and jumped under his mouth and she pushed up into him with a pitiful mewling moan. Her heels dug into the bed and her breath caught in her throat when his fingers circled over the slick damp of her clit and then lower around her entrance, the tips of them barely even grazing the scalding hot skin inside.

He moaned against her belly and scraped his roughened cheek against her hip. “Jesus, Sweetheart,” his voice was full of gravel and heat and another wave of slick warmth coated his fingers. “Fuck, so wet for me,” he murmured, rising to take one of her poor, neglected nipples into his mouth, worrying it with his teeth. “Always ready for me, aren’t you, Darce? So perfect,” he sucked a mark against the curve of her breast, “So fucking perfect. Always feel so good around my cock, Sweetheart. So fucking warm and tight and soft…” His fingers teased and circled around the edge of her entrance, the wet slick of her arousal coating his fingers and the palm of his hand. He ground the heel of it against her clit and grinned against her skin at her broken cry. “Such a pretty sound,” he praised softly, pressing against her just to hear it again. He was not disappointed. “Tell me what you want, Sweetheart,” he cooed, “You tell me what you need and I just might give it to you…”

Darcy screwed her eyes shut against the onslaught of sensations. The scratchy coarse scrape of his stubble against her skin, the maddening trace of his fingers, barely even inside her and the warm, heavy weight of him looming over her. She dug her heels in and raised her hips, shuffling higher up his thighs and closer to the hard line of his cock. “Please…” She wriggled and writhed and let out a curse of frustration when it got her nowhere. His fingers dipped a little further into her, maybe just an inch or so and she clenched around them instinctively, her body desperate and needy for more of him, any of him inside her. She let out a wobbly moan and blinked up at him, her hair a halo of curls and waves against the pillow. “Please, Bucky…”

His mouth curled into a sultry grin and he hovered over her, hand between her thighs and the other holding her wrists above her head. His mouth was so close to hers that she could feel his hot breath puffing into her and she tried to catch his lips with hers but he pulled his head back and shook his head. “Uh, uh,” He avoided her searching mouth and dragged his cheek up the side of her neck to lap at her earlobe. His teeth snagged it and pulled, breath curling into her ear and she shuddered under him with a needy gasp. Her fingers flexed against the pillows but she made no move to pull out of his grasp and he murmured into her ear, told her how good she was being and how proud he was of her. “Please, what?” He rasped into her ear, his hot, wet tongue tracing the curve of it. “Tell me what you need, babydoll,” he coaxed patiently. “Is it this?” He queried, bringing his mouth to hers to swallow a greedy moan, his tongue dipping into her mouth lewdly as their kiss grew frenzied and desperate. He broke away with a groan and bit down on her lip, hard enough for it to taste coppery and metallic in her mouth. He lapped at the broken skin and huffed into her mouth, the grunt that he let out at the taste of metal on his tongue filthy and obscene, even for him. Her hips rolled frantically against his hand, fingers shallow inside her and he gave her a little more, sunk them in to the next knuckle and delighted at her keening. “Or is it this, hmm? Do you need a little more, Sweetheart? You need something bigger in your pretty cunt?”

Darcy jerked against him brokenly and looked up at him with wide, glassy eyes. “Y-yes,” she nodded desperately and felt a flush of searing heat pool between her legs at the sight of the cheerful, bright red smear of blood at his mouth. Her blood. She knew that it wasn’t supposed to be as arousing as it was, but the sight of him all flushed and intense and red lipped made the heat in her belly coil tighter and she shifted to try to take his fingers deeper. “Please, Bucky, I need more.”

He hummed thoughtfully and cocked his head, his hair falling over one side of his face as he considered her plea. “I suppose,” he began, “That I might be able to help you out..? Seeing as you asked so nicely, that is.” He didn’t give her any further warning and her eyes popped wide open when he sank not two, but three fingers deep into her with a wet squelch, her body swallowing them up greedily and her mouth falling open in a silent cry. “So fucking wet, Sweetheart, so perfect…” He purred into her mouth, tongue worrying at the split there to get more of the coppery taste from earlier. “My pretty, pretty, babydoll. Such a good girl, taking my fingers so well, Sweetheart.”

She pulled against his grip now, desperate to touch him, to run her hands through his shaggy hair, anything. She needed to touch him. She needed to feel his skin under her hands, the tight roll of his muscles bunching under his skin as he dragged her kicking and screaming towards her orgasm.

“Please,” she begged as she ground down onto his thick fingers, spread her legs a little wider so he’d sink in even further. He curled them inside her, spread them open and it punched a deep groan out of her as she stretched and strained around them. “Fuck, Bucky, please let me touch you, need to touch you, please, please, please…” She pulled futilely at his grip around her wrists and let out a sob of frustration when he didn’t budge. It was growing harder to think, her brain muddied and hazy with pleasure and she tried one last time. It wasn’t enough, his fingers weren’t enough and she needed to feel him, to have the heavy weight of him on top of her and pinning her to the bed as he rutted to his heart’s content. “Please, James, oh God, please!”

He growled out a curse and his hand jammed deep into her with a sharp shove and she wailed loudly, knees jerking and back arching up into the air. She needed him so bad, fuck, so, so fucking bad and if he kept on like this she was sure she would burst into tears. She could feel her body giving to him, the ridges of his knuckles pressing into her even further until the broad width of his palm caught against her, nowhere else to go and no other way to fit. His pinky finger pressed into her slit and she whimpered as she felt the press of it teasing to join the rest of his fingers inside her. He’d never given her all four fingers before and whilst she felt a flicker of apprehension, he had fucking big hands after all, she bore down and nodded wildly. “More!”

He loosened his grip around her wrists but didn’t let go just yet. “You want ‘em all, Sweetheart?” He rasped, “You want me to split you wide open on my hand?” He drew his fingers out of her a little, teased them back in and then removed them completely. She shuddered at the loss and gaped, chest heaving in breaths like she was trying not to drown. Her whimpering was loud and miserable and she stifled a sob into her shoulder. “Hey, hey,” he soothed, slick, wet fingers petting her already abused flesh, massaging the tips against the cut of her. “Cut it out, Sweetheart, you’re gonna get what you need.” He assured her in a firm, commanding tone. “Stop your crying or you get nothing.”

She sucked in a breath and struggled to centre herself, fought to gather what little composure she had left and nodded shakily at him, a little bit dazed and a lot upset that he’d stopped abruptly like that.

His fingers lay flat against her and he loomed over her, his hair tickling her face. “I’m gonna let you go now, alright? The minute your hands go anywhere near my cock, I stop, do you understand? Feel free to grab my ass all you want, I know you like that, pull my fucking hair if you like, but I swear to whatever God you believe in, Darcy, you touch my dick and I’m out. I’ll go jerk off in the fucking shower and leave you cuffed to the bed so you can’t touch yourself.”

She looked up at him and knew that he was telling the truth. He would leave her desperate and wanting and she’d get nothing, no relief if she didn’t do as she was instructed. He’d done it before, after all. He was close enough to kiss and she stared at his swollen mouth, lips red and wet and God, how she wanted to taste him again. She nodded slowly and let out a shaky, shuddering breath as he dipped down to nuzzle his nose along the line of her own, tongue catching her lip on the way. “Kiss me?” She asked quietly, fingers curling above her head. He gazed down at her, mouth open and eyes dark and he dropped the final inch between them to sink into her lips. He moaned into her mouth and his fingers loosened above her head, releasing her wrists before settling over the curve of her throat to stifle her breath. She let out a choked, noisy moan that fell short as his fingers, all four of them, pressed into her.

She tensed immediately and sucked in a sharp, wounded breath as she stretched around the digits and the burn of it made it hard to think. It actually hurt. Damn it. She grabbed for his hair and yanked on it, her hips pulling down. Her whine was muffled by his mouth and she screwed her eyes shut against the sudden invasion. The fingers were gone as soon as they were there and then he was pushing three back into her, hard and deep.

“Yeah, no,” he mumbled into her mouth at her questioning whine, “Not interested in tearing you up, Sweetheart. You might want ‘em all, but it’s not gonna happen without you getting hurt right now, so lets not, huh?” He withdrew his slick fingers again and pressed closer, climbing higher over her to nestle his hips between her shaking thighs, his free hand guiding her leg up around his waist as he pressed his cock against her opening. “You’re just gonna have to take this instead, babydoll.”

She worried his lip between her teeth and hooked her leg higher around his waist, her heel digging into the solid curve of his ass. “Thought you said I couldn’t have your cock yet?” She mused, breathless and itching to take him into her.

He huffed softly and stroked the thigh curled around his hip. “Well, if you don’t want me to fuck you-”

She seized against him, her thigh tightening against his hip and her hands clutching his shoulders to stop him from pulling away. “Please, no, I want it, please!” She rolled her hips against him and they both moaned when he slipped against her and the head of his cock caught against her core. He sank into her barely an inch and held himself still, elbow planted beside her head, hand fisted in the pillows. “Oh, please, Bucky…”

He hummed against her cheek and let out a ragged breath. “What the lady wants…” He trailed off suggestively before slamming his way home, sinking all the way into her with a loud grunt. His big hand held her by the hip and he pinned her down as she tried to lift off the bed, held her in place as he began fucking her until she was almost wailing. He set a punishing pace and it wasn’t long before she was sobbing her release into his mouth, her fingers both buried in his hair and gripping the back of his hip for dear life as her walls spasmed and pulled at him. Her nails bit into his skin and he let out a sharp hiss of pleasure. “God fucking dammit, Darcy!” He cursed into her mouth as she bucked and writhed underneath him, her thighs locked around his waist and her breasts tight against his sweating chest. He plowed into her with a little more force, his arm under the small of her back, hand gripping her ass to pull her wide open for him. “Fucking... Christ!”

She grew quiet under him, eyes rolling back in her head as she gasped and shook all over. He fucked her through it, easing off a little bit even though he knew she would be fine, that she would come around in a minute or so and be ready for another round. He drew back, lifting his body off her and falling back onto his heels, still thrusting into her even as she groped blindly for him, a thready, soft whine in her throat. He pulled her hips up into the air and settled her higher on his thighs, his hips moving now at a slow grind that sooner rather than later roused her from her stupor. “With me, Sweetheart?”

“So good,” she slurred a little, her hips starting to push back against him as she recovered. “Mmm, fuck, Bucky, feels so good…”

He thumbed at the swollen bundle of her clit and circled his hips against her in a slow, filthy grind, his mouth kicking up into a dirty grin when she let out a wanton sound. It was loud and ragged and lazy and perfect and he gave her a little more, just because he could.

“S’right, Sweetheart, you take my cock in that pretty pussy of yours,” he wet his thumb in her slick and reached around between her cheeks, circled the slick digit around her hole and carefully sunk it in past the tight ring of her ass. Her breath hitched slightly and she pressed her cheek against the pillow, eyes closed as her body rocked up and down with every thrust and grind. He palmed at her breast roughly, marvelling at the weight of it in his hand, the way her nipple tightened against his roughened skin before he drew his hand back and gave her a sharp slap across the dusky peak.

“Eyes on me,” He demanded, his voice low and insistent in a way that she couldn’t ignore. Her eyes cracked open into heavy slits and she rolled her head to look up at him, chin lifted and throat bared. She let out a soft moan of appreciation and brought her hands up to knead her breasts, slim fingers plucking and rolling hard nipples between them as she watched him fuck her. He gave her a slow nod of approval and she clenched around him with a whine.

Darcy fought to keep her eyes open, completely overwrought as he slowly drew back and sank forward, his hips pushing in with a jolt that made her cry out. He was fucking her slowly now but there was a strength behind each thrust that rocked her up the bed until her head was almost bumping the headboard. She flailed a little when she felt the hard surface above her and she pressed her hand against it to cushion the impact. “Bucky,” she moaned, the slow build of her second orgasm coiling hot and tight along her limbs until she shook with the need to come, “Bucky, please… Please, I need to come…”

He dug his hands behind her knees and dragged her even closer, fucked her a little harder and quicker. He arranged her legs around his waist and slipped his hands underneath her, cupped her shoulders and rolled her upright against his chest without missing a beat. She cried out, the sound more of a surprised sob than a moan and she felt the thick pressure of his cock sinking further into her, gravity doing its best to bring her unravelled.

“Hold on to me,” he mumbled into her mouth between filthy kisses, “Hold on, Sweetheart.”

She wrapped her arms around his neck and did as she was told; she’d quickly learned that when he told her to do something it was in her best interests to actually do it because it almost always certainly meant that she was going to end up wailing like a banshee. His hands circled her waist and he lifted her up but didn’t bother to guide her back down, he merely let go and she dropped heavily back into his lap. Her breath left her in a whoosh and she choked a little bit, barely having any time to recover from the shock of him hitting that place so far inside that it ached as much as it felt good before he dragged her up and repeated the action over again. The noise that bubbled out of her mouth and straight into his was muffled but loud and she clung onto him for dear life, his hands pulling her down against him as he rolled up into her with a harsh grunt. Heat flared in her belly and she clenched around him with a wail.

“Holy fuck!” She buried her face in his neck and wrapped an arm around his ribs under his arm, the other dug into his hair. She could feel the muscles in his back bunching under her fingers and his skin was slick with sweat as he fucked into her in long, solid strokes, her breath coming out in harsh, shallow pants. “So close, Bucky,” she bounced harder against him and tugged at his hair, dug her nails into his back as she chased her release. Her toes curled and she squeezed him with her thighs, frantic. She was so fucking close that she could taste it and her hearing sounded as if she were underwater, so close. “God, please, just a little bit more… Just a… Oh god!

His low murmur of approval rolled over her as she came hard, eyes clamped shut and colors exploding behind her closed lids as everything grew hazy and her hearing faded out. Distantly she felt the firm press of the mattress at her back again and the heavy weight of him on top of her, not even an inch between them as he rolled into her, his moaning in her ear growing more insistent and shaky. She turned her head into his cheek and her body gave a jerky shudder, her over sensitive cunt fluttering around his thick cock as he did his very best to climb right on inside her, his hips rocking into her in a series of agonizingly slow thrusts that left her feeling winded and dizzy.

“M’gonna come, Sweetheart,” he choked out, dragging his cheek past hers to find her mouth with his own, a quiet, wounded sound slipping out of him as he shuddered and came, her fingers buried deep in his hair and legs curled around his waist. She gasped into his mouth, his weight pinning her to the bed as his hips rocked languidly into her, the hot, wet feel of him filling her up making her sigh contentedly.

“So good, Bucky,” she cooed, fingers stroking the back of his neck as he shivered and mumbled brokenly, “-you’re so good to me, baby… So fucking good…”

He groaned softly and his hips slowed to a stop, sweaty skin plastered to her front and he reached up to cup her cheek, slipped his tongue into her mouth and made her dizzy all over again from lack of oxygen, warm and fucked out and absolutely sated. His other hand, silver fingers more careful with her than anyone would ever even consider possible, stroked her thigh in a broad, sweeping caress. When he’d finally had his fill of her mouth he broke away and dropped his forehead against her cheek, settled over and inside her and sighed. “God,” he muttered, eyes closed, muscles loose, “-the things you do to me, Darce…”

She hummed and curled her arms up around his ribs, smoothed her hands down his strong back and let them settle over the swell of his ass. Her fingers stroked the warm skin absently and she pressed a kiss against the dark shock of hair on top of his head. “Right back atcha, Babe.”

He gave a happy little sigh and nuzzled her cheek sleepily, buried his face in her neck and rolled his hips up into her one last time before he dozed off right there on top of her, exhausted and content, still buried deep in her warmth.

 

**

“Are you seriously eating that shit in my bed?” Darcy growled, gripping the pillow in her hands in a tight, irritated grip. Bucky shot her a beaming grin and stuffed another nacho cheese dorito into his mouth with a flourish.

“Indeed I am.” He chirped and waved a greasy orange fingertip in her direction, cackling when she darted backwards and got tangled in the sheets. He snorted loudly as she toppled to the floor and crawled to the edge of the king sized bed to peer down at her sprawled on the rug. “Heya, Honey, what’s doin’ on the floor?” He looked her over, her limbs bare save for the tiny cotton scrap she called underwear he licked his lips. She was otherwise unavailable for their standard form of entertainment-slash-exercise (she refused to fuck him on her period, whatever, like he cared about that stuff anyway, but she was adamant and he was a respectful sort of guy like that so there was no funny business for the next three to five days. Like clockwork, she was) but her mouth was still in perfect working condition and it was worth a shot. “Whilst you’re down there..” He suggested with a lecherous grin. He knew it was a long shot and she was likely to say no, but it was fun riling her up anyway. She was pretty when she was angry.

She scoffed and rolled her eyes, rolling onto hands and knees before climbing to her feet. “Yeah, no. No B.J. for you.” She spat. “You’re sullying my bed with fucking doritos. Newsflash, Buck, they’re not even real cheese! They’ve never seen a cow in their life!”

He frowned at her and popped another corn chip in his mouth, chewing loudly with his mouth open. “I don’t actually think that doritos have a life, as such, Darce,” he mused, brows tight. “In fact, they’re just chips and without dip, I’m afraid that they’re just a bit lacklustre.” He dropped the chip he was about to shove into his mouth back into the bag and set it aside before he licked his fingers clean. He looked at his stained fingers in disgust and wiped them against his chest. “Actually, they’re more than just a bit lacklustre, they’re actually kinda shit.”

Darcy snatched the half eaten bag of doritos off the bed and carried them into the kitchen pinched between her thumb and index finger held far, far away from her so she couldn’t smell them. God, they were disgusting and she was going to kill him for getting their cheesy, feral, awful crumbs in her new bed. The new bed she’d had to buy because Bucky had gotten carried away and had assisted in the collapse of her old one. Never mind that the old one had only been a queen and it wasn’t quite long enough for the asshole to spread out on and they were constantly crawling over each other every time they moved during the night, it was his fault that she’d had to buy a bigger, better bed and she was still salty about it.

Actually she was still salty about having to re-enforce the damn thing the day after assembling it (read; Bucky fucking Barnes strikes again) but that was beside the point.

All of her pretty brightly colored bedding was null and void now and she was stuck with boring white sheets and a stupid black comforter that Bucky had dragged in from his own apartment. He didn’t spend a whole lot of time there since the incident with security two weeks ago (he’d been signed off active duty for a full week after and had driven her fucking nuts by day two, mind you) and he’d argued that there was no point in her buying a whole new set of blankets when he already had some that she could use. She hated the black (it showed every single mark.. ALL of them!) but it was soft and fluffy and thick enough to wrap up in when he was away for a mission without her getting cold, so she grudgingly accepted the damn thing and faked liking it.

Ok, so maybe she wasn’t faking liking it, but it was still ugly as sin. It had no pizzazz and it made her grumpy just looking at it.

She dumped the bag of doritos into the garbage with a grin of glee and brushed her hands off happily. Ah, the abominations were gone.

“Nobody should look that happy about tossing something in the garbage, Sweetheart.”

She tossed him a grin over her shoulder and dug into the fridge in search of the chili-lime chocolate that he’d gone out to buy her the night before when she’d been curled up on the sofa hugging a heat pad and chewing on Midol like it was candy. She’d been ready to murder him for breathing too loudly (granted, she may have overreacted just a little bit) and he’d hauled ass out the door and returned almost an hour later with his hands full of her favorite chocolate as he’d timidly peered around the door with a cheeky ‘is it safe to breathe yet?. He really was a special sort and she was lucky to have him in any way, shape or form, feelings be damned. She would smother those fuckers in concrete if she had to.

She straightened and turned to face him, uncaring of her apparent semi-nude state and cocked her eyebrow at him as she propped herself up against the counter, fingers ripping the cellophane wrapper on her bar of chocolate open. She snapped a piece off and offered it to him then popped it into her mouth with a shrug when he pulled a face and waved her off.

“You’re missing out,” she told him as the bitter dark chocolate melted on her tongue, a small moan of content in the back of her throat.

He eyed her with a barely concealed grimace and looked pointedly at his neglected crotch. “Yeah, I am well aware that I’m currently missing out,” He quipped as he reached for an empty mug and flipped on the coffee maker. “Trust me, Darce, I know.”

She folded one arm across her bare breasts and toed the tile floor as she stuffed yet another shard of chocolate into her mouth. “Hey, big guy, nobody’s forcing you to be here.” She snarked. “Feel free to come back in three to five days when services have resumed their regular schedule.”

He sighed and tugged her against him, pressed a lingering kiss to her mouth and thumbed at her cheek. “Darcy, I know I don’t have to be here and I don’t care that we can’t have sex for a few days,” he explained patiently for the third time that day, “I like spending time with you and I want to be here, so shut up and eat your nasty chocolate, m’kay?”

You’re nasty.” She grumped quietly but snapped off another piece and nibbled on it as she sulked, cheek pressed against his bare chest as he poured his cup of coffee around her, his free hand resting at the small of her back.

The apartment was quiet for the moment and Bucky had just taken his first mouthful of coffee when his phone started to rattle and wail on the coffee table and he let out a deep, weary sigh, dumped the rest of his coffee and headed into the living room to silence the alarm. He read over the brief quickly and silently before he clutched the phone tightly in his hand and closed his eyes.

“Darce, I’m out,” he called into the kitchen and waited the few seconds it took for her to appear in the doorway. He shot her a tired, apologetic smile and stepped around the sofa to grab the duffle he kept in the hall closet just in case he got a call out when he was staying overnight. He tugged on his pants and bounced on the spot, buttoned the fly and draped his tags around his neck, fingers sweeping his hair out from underneath the beaded chain. His boots were unlaced but on his feet in no time and he held his undershirt and jacket in one hand, the bag in the other. “I’ll be gone a little bit,” he told her, eyes following her as she swayed from foot to foot on the spot before she nodded tightly. “I’ll try to make sure I’m back by next Thursday, alright, Sweetheart?”

Darcy sucked her lip into her mouth and hugged her waist. Next Thursday was her birthday and he’d promised they could go to the zoo. They were going to see the penguins.

“Don’t die.”

He bussed a kiss against the top of her head and nodded, eyes closed for a moment before he pushed off and headed out the door. He knew better than to promise her anything about his safety, he knew that anything could happen and he wasn’t going to fill her head with empty promises. She didn’t deserve that, those lies.

Steve was waiting for him on the helipad and he frowned at his state of undress, confused, then his expression cleared into one of remorse and he sagged a little bit. “Shit, Buck, I didn’t-”

Bucky shook his head at him and stomped up the ramp of the jet. “Leave it, Stevie.” He muttered as he tossed his bag under his usual seat. He pulled on his undershirt and tucked it into his pants before he slid his arm into the sleeve of his jacket and started buckling all the straps and zipping everything shut. “Was just having breakfast,” he dismissed him. “Nothing special to interrupt. Stop giving me that look.” He could feel the disapproval rolling off his best friend but he didn’t look up and set about lacing his boots instead. Finally, Steve heaved a heavy sigh and disappeared into the cockpit and Bucky threw himself into his seat, tugged on his lap belt and settled in to get some shut-eye. The trip to the drop off point would be a long one and he for one was not keen on the idea of having yet another heart to heart with Captain Interfering Asshole about his screwy relationship with Darcy.

It was none of his fucking business anyway.

Chapter Text

“Jesus, Barnes! You need to- you’re gonna kill ‘im if you keep goin’!”

He. Deserves. To. Die!” Bucky snarled as he savagely slammed his boot into the mercenary’s face one last time and staggered backward, spinning on his heel as he went before storming out of the cold, damp bunker and into the frigid night air. His teammates voices echoed after him but he ignored them all and pushed his way through the thick underbrush and out into the open field. His breath puffed out of him in stark, billowing clouds and he seethed silently, hands pressed to his knees, face dropped towards the earth as he sucked in a lungful of cold and he jerked violently against the sensation.

Shit, not now, he thought as he struggled to regain his sense of reality.  

Not in cryo, not in cryo, not in cryo… You never have to go back in cryo again… His lungs protested against the cold in his chest and he shuddered, bile roiling in his gut as he swallowed thickly. He took another shaky step out into the open field and forced his eyes open, hands on his hips and face upturned towards the thick blanket of glittering stars in the sky. Definitely not in cryo, he reminded himself as his heart started to settle into a normal rhythm. Cryo had never had a view like that. He took a deep, rattling breath and watched as it curled right back out in a wisp of air that floated away into the night.

They’d been experimenting on babies, small children who had never known the outside of their awful little cages and judging by the fragile, almost translucent quality of their skin, had probably never seen daylight in their little lives. None of them were capable of speech and had reacted like feral animals when they’d tried to free them, all snarls and growls that had broken his fucking heart; it pained him beyond belief that they’d been forced to leave them all locked away until another team could arrive on site to take custody of them. He felt like a monster all over again and nausea swelled in his gut anew when he thought about the terror on their little, feral faces, their hands wrapped around metal and the screeching as they tried to escape… It was like something out of a horrific science fiction movie and despite everything he’d seen in his long, awful career it was a new one for him.

Kids. Christ.

The grass was frosty under his feet and it crinkled and crunched with every step he took towards the empty quin-jet, his shoulders hanging heavier and heavier until he finally reached his destination and flipped up the cover for the palm sized scanner that would admit him into the warm, quiet cabin, finally alone. He bypassed his usual seat and instead sank onto his ass in the far corner, spread his legs out in front of him and dropped his head back against the cool steel behind him. His fingers, sticky with blood and gore from the beatings he’d handed out, curled into loose fists in his lap and he let out a deep, bone shuddering sigh. He lifted a hand to scrub at his face tiredly and he closed his eyes and tried not to think about bright blue veins under too pale skin and the blood he’d most likely just smeared all over his face. He was tired and worn in ways that made him feel every day of his chronological age all at once. He was getting too old for this bullshit.

The cabin was dim, the emergency lighting a warm, glowing red that cast more shadows than anything else and he glanced at the set of international clocks mounted over the entry into the cockpit. It was currently 11:56 PM in New York City and it was the Thursday after he’d been deployed. He’d missed her birthday.

“… Fuck.”

 

**

Darcy tried not to be upset that her best guys were off on assignment for her birthday, she knew that they had responsibilities to attend to and she knew that she wasn’t the centre of their universes, but it still smarted that her birthday came and went with no acknowledgement from ANY of her so-called friends. She’d spent the day curled over her desk, head buried in paperwork and data that left her reeling and exhausted and Jane hadn’t even bothered to get her a fucking cupcake. Hell, she would have settled for a cold pop-tart that was still in its wrapper but there wasn’t even a flicker of awareness in her bosses eyes when Darcy had mentioned the date to her all six times (after which, Jane had yelled at her for accusing her of not being able to read a fucking calendar on her own and had treated her to the silent treatment for the remainder of her work day). She was now twenty seven years old and the only people who cared were off in the ass-crack of somewhere she’d probably never even heard of and were too busy to call. She wasn’t upset with Steve nor Bucky for their lack of communication, they were ALWAYS on radio silent during missions, but shit, even her parents hadn’t bothered to call and wasn’t that just a kick in the teeth. She’d always thought she was more of an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of child to them but this cemented her theory and it actually really hurt to think about.

She checked the time on her phone and slugged her way into the elevator, dragging her feet as she hit the button for the open air cafeteria a dozen floors down that was open twenty-four-seven. It was coming up two AM, Friday morning and whilst she was tired and grumpy and just wanted to sleep she knew that if she crawled into bed without eating she would regret it in the morning. She hadn’t eaten since lunch and her stomach was slowly eating itself if the sounds gurgling away in her belly were anything to believe.

God, she could go for a slice of choc-cherry cheesecake right now. It was her favorite and it would be the perfect end to a shitty, craptastic day.

The journey down to the cafeteria was silent and uneventful and she practically spilled out into the place when the doors slid open and barely caught herself before she hit the floor. There were more people milling about in there than she’d expected for the time of night and she grit her teeth when she heard the pack of idiots that had been sitting by the door laughing at her less than graceful arrival. She resisted the urge to cuss them out and passed by the table without a backwards glance.

“Looks like someone’s had a few too many to drink tonight,” one of the voices brayed and she rolled her eyes at the accompanying laughter that followed. God, it was worse than high school in this place sometimes.

“Of course she has,” another commented, a woman this time, her voice nasal and high, “Didn’t you hear? Her pet monster is out of the building. Has been for the past week.”

Darcy’s feet slowed to a stop and she half turned to look back over her shoulder, eyebrows raised and face incredulous. “I’m sorry, what did you say?” She turned to face the group fully and there was a titter of sniggering and a few uncomfortable glances thrown around for good measure. Ah, they hadn’t known she was able to hear them. Wonderful. She knew who the woman, which one she actually was at the table Darcy was unsure of as yet, was talking about when she’d mentioned a pet monster; she knew that she meant Bucky and it set a quiet fury alight in her veins that swelled and ebbed under her skin like tiny, searing waves. “Did you seriously just say what I think you did?”

One of the women, a smaller than average slip of a thing with carrot red hair and a face full of freckles lifted her chin and scowled at her. “What, are you deaf too? Do I need to repeat myself or do you need it in ASL as well?”

Darcy’s ire flared and she narrowed her eyes. “Now I know that wasn’t a dig at deaf people,” she warned, “After all, Agent Barton is profoundly deaf and I’m sure you wouldn’t be disrespecting him like that if he were here right now.”

The red head scoffed and leaned back in her seat, sparrow-like bony fingers rolling against the steel table top in a sharp tattoo. “Oh, I’m sorry, are you fucking him too, then?” She asked, her tone sickly sweet and patronizingly friendly. “I’m surprised that your pet allows it, what with animals being territorial like that and all. I’m surprised he hasn’t cocked his frickin leg on you yet.” She looked her up and down and curled her lip meanly, “But then again, maybe he already has.”

Darcy gaped at the little woman and shook her head in quiet wonder. This woman had no fucking idea what she was starting, did she? “Who the hell do you think you are?” She snarled as she took a step closer to the table. The other members of the group all shifted and started murmuring at their friend to keep her mouth shut but the stupid wretch just kept on mouthing off.

“You know, it’s because of your filthy mutt that half of our floor is on sick leave. His little temper tantrum or whatever they’re calling it today facilitated dozens of hurt civilians and we’re working on a skeleton crew now because of him! Nobody is well enough to come in to work… All because your-“

“Call him a mutt one more time..” She warned lowly and took a step closer to the table full of sadly dressed minions. What was it about the sad little underlings that made them all look as if they were adhering to a strict dress code? God, did they take out shares in the color beige and boring loafers or something?? Jesus, one was even wearing a pair of high waisted khakis that were pressed within an inch of their life, the sharp crease running down the front of the legs. So tragic.

The woman smiled at her all simpering and fake, “-your mutt,” she spat, “-couldn’t keep his shit together because he screwed up on a mission. That button had to be pressed and lady, I’m damn well glad I slapped that big red bastard. He deserved everything he got and more.”

A quiet calm washed over Darcy and she cocked her head at the woman, took in the stubborn set of her jaw and the forced casual posture she sat in at the table and she glanced towards the others with an intentionally mild expression on her face. “So it was you who sounded the alarm a couple of weeks ago? You are aware that he wasn’t compromised at the time, aren’t you? Do you even care that an innocent man was attacked because of you? Technically, it was your fault that your colleagues were injured, not his.”

The woman scowled at her and spread her fingers out across the table, leaned in and gave her a nonchalant shrug. “He is not innocent and he doesn’t deserve to be here. He’s killed hundreds of innocent people – JFK included, if you want to believe the rumors and yet here you are, an apparently intelligent woman bending over for him just because he came sniffing around under your skirt.” She spat sourly and Darcy grit her teeth in anger. She was getting real tired of the dog analogies. “For the life of me I can’t even begin to fathom what he sees in you anyway. God knows it sure isn’t your figure.”

Ah, the fat jokes, right on time.

“What’s the matter, Darling?” Darcy simpered right on back. “You jealous that he’d prefer a real woman over some hopped up desk jockey like you?” She cocked her head at her and let her mouth curl up into a dark smirk when the woman’s face flushed bright red and her eyes widened just a fraction. “Oh, so that is it, isn’t it? You hit on the Big Bad Wolf and he shot you down, didn’t he? Guess the fairy tales have it all wrong, huh? Guess the wolf wasn’t too sold on the red after all, was he?”

The redhead was shaking with rage and embarrassment by now and Darcy felt a swell of satisfaction at the sight of her tightly clenched jaw and trembling hands. “How dare you even imply that I would let that thing anywhere near me! He’s so far beneath me that-”

“Oh, Honey, he’s never going to be anywhere near underneath you – the man likes curves and you seem to be lacking those in abundance. How old did you say you were again? Twelve? Thirteen?” She teased meanly. “Be sure to let me know when puberty comes a-knocking and I’ll be sure to tell him you’re a real girl now. Maybe then you’ll get a look in?”

Carrot-top let out an indignant squawk of rage and balled her hands into tiny little fists. Her freckled face was flushed and she was practically vibrating in her seat. Apparently, Darcy had hit a nerve and she couldn’t quite bring herself to feel even the slightest bit bad about it. She normally wasn’t the type of girl to bring down another woman, she was all about empowerment and hell, women could do anything they set their minds to no matter how they looked, but this waste of space had hurt her Bucky and she would be the first to admit that when it came to him that she was just to the left of being able to see reason. In fact, her loyalty to him bordered on reckless.

“He’s going to get tired of you soon enough,” the woman snarled, “And when he does, I’m going to be the first one in line to say I told you so, you stupid, good for nothing, fat whore.”

Darcy shook her head in bemused wonder and her smile was as far from friendly as it could get. “Wow, that was original.” She drawled, “Someone is definitely bitter and twisted, aren’t they?” She scoffed and bent at the waist to press her palms to the table, leaning in. “I understand that you might be pissed by the fact that I am apparently boning Big Bad, but if you wanted him so bad in the first place, why all the hostility, hmm? Bucky’s a good guy, I’m sure he didn’t mean to offend-”

“Offend? Offend?!?” The redhead pushed to her feet and flailed like some kind of lunatic who was five days into withdrawal from their mood stabilizers. “HE DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE I WAS THERE!!” She raged, her face bright red and spit flying. “He didn’t even have the decency to acknowledge me being in the room!!”

Darcy blinked, mouth open and her expression fell into one of abject confusion. “Wait, are you saying that you hit the ‘Winter’ alert just because he didn’t notice you right away?” Sickness swelled in her gut and she wondered if she might actually puke. “What the hell, lady? Did you even speak to him in the first place?!” The flush on the woman’s face deepened and Darcy let out a bark of incredulous, stunned laughter. Oh my God, she thought, this just gets better and better. “You rained down hell on him just because he didn’t bother to acknowledge your non-existent conversation?! Holy shit, lady, you need your fucking head read!” She snarled, jabbing her finger in the air between them. “How the fuck was he supposed to know that you wanted anything more than a polite nod in passing when you never said a word to him anyway?? He could have been killed that day and it all went to shit because you were fucking jealous?! I can’t believe you!! He damn near went into cardiac arrest because of you – he had a fucking heart attack!!”

She could feel the angry tears building behind her eyes and fought them off with a dogged determination that would only come close second to the time that Steve fought off pneumonia in the forties even after being read his last rites. She would not cry in front of this table full of jackasses, she wasn’t about to give them the satisfaction. It had taken an abhorrently long amount of time for the bloods to be run (two fucking days it took for the results to come in!) but when they’d come back and showed that he’d suffered a mild heart attack she’d had a major freak out because he’d spent said two days railing her into the mattress instead of resting like a normal person. He’d brushed off the results like water off a duck’s back, claimed he felt fine, but it still upset her to even think about it.

One of the other lackeys swung around to look at her and peered up at her with wide, horrified eyes. “Wait, are you actually serious??” The short, pot-bellied man exclaimed, sweat beading on his forehead. He looked panicky and pale at the new information. “He actually had a heart attack?!”

Darcy grit her teeth and cast a sideways look at him. “A mild one, yes,” she ground out, “It didn’t really slow him down but the blood test don’t lie – the only reason he was able to keep moving was the serum. That’s the only reason he recovered so quickly and there was no lasting damage to the heart muscle. What did slow him down, however, was the goddamned seizure activity. His head was so addled from being fried to shit that he could barely remember his own name!” Her eyes swung back to the now quiet engineer and she sneered at her. “Does that make you happy?” She leaned in, voice low and furious. “Are you fucking satisfied with yourself now that you know you nearly killed him because of your stupid jealous bullshit?!”

All bluster and denial, the redhead avoided meeting her eye. “I don’t believe you,” she argued, arms folded arrogantly across her chest, chin jutting out defiantly. “You’re just fabricating lies and exaggerating the aftermath to make me feel guilty and it’s not going to work.” She flicked at an imaginary piece of lint and huffed. “If he’d just said hello in the first place none of this would have happened. You should be angry at him, he brought this on himself.”

The table was quiet and the same man from before was the first to react. “Amy,” he said quietly, cautiously, “Are you actually saying that you had Sergeant Barnes attacked because he’s not interested in you outside of a purely professional relationship? T-that’s,” he stammered, eyes wide, “That’s entirely unprofessional and even more reckless than that! How could you do something like that?! Sergeant Barnes did nothing wrong!”

“Nothing wrong ?!” The engineer, Amy, apparently, parroted furiously. “He scared you so much that you pissed yourself, Arthur! He threatened you and you wet yourself and he didn’t deserve it ?! God, you're such a fucking doormat!”

Darcy blinked, momentarily side-swiped by that revelation. In one of his quiet moments of regret he’d told her what had happened leading up to The Incident and how he had scared one of the poor employees into soiling himself. He was embarrassed by it and she knew he wanted to apologize at some point but he didn’t know the guy’s name or if he'd even worked on the floor anyway or if he'd just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Apparently, Darcy had found him. “Wait, that was you? He told me about that… Said he felt terrible once he’d calmed down enough to see reason.” She winced as the man gave a humiliated grumble. “He’s really sorry about scaring you stupid, by the way.”

Arthur turned puce and whilst he looked mortified, he also looked angry. Very angry. “I have a weak bladder!!” He admitted with a snarl, “And yes, I pissed myself as you so bluntly put it, but I’m just as likely to do the same thing if a goddamned pigeon flaps too close to my head!! I am not a brave man, Amy, but nobody, and I mean nobody – especially a prisoner of war who spent the majority of his time in captivity being electrocuted – deserves that kind of hateful bullshit!! Don’t you dare use me to justify your actions! You should be ashamed of yourself!”

Darcy felt like giving this guy a rousing round of applause, she got the impression that he wasn’t exactly the type to stand up to his colleagues but here he was raging at one of them about the nobility of their actions in front of the majority of his team and a good deal of the cafeteria. A quick glance around told her that they were gathering a crowd. The reactions of the onlookers varied, but the vast majority of them looked like a combination of sickened and angry. It comforted her to know that Bucky wasn’t as looked down upon within the building as he thought he was and she was glad to see that so many other people saw the good in him, just like she did.

Evidently though, this Amy person did not agree. “He’s an arrogant bastard and less than human to boot!” She shouted, eyes wild and unstable. People were shuffling away from her now but she didn’t seem to notice. “Recruiting him was the worst thing Stark could have ever done,” she spat, “All he does around here is scare people and fuck the help.” Another cursory once over and a sneer this time. “It’s fucking pitiful.”

Darcy took a menacing step towards her and inwardly delighted at the fearful flinch she gave but halted in her steps when she noticed the stricken looks on the workers faces that were gathered on the opposite side of the table. They were wide eyed and pale, staring over her shoulder in that nervous, oh God we’re in trouble now, kind of way that looked most at home on high school freshmen when they were confronted with the senior jocks. She half turned to look behind her and cocked her head, a slow grin spreading across her face when she saw Clint standing in the midst of the gathered crowd of minions, arms folded across his chest and a dark expression on his face. Sure, he had a reputation for being a goofball and a human disaster, but he was still a senior agent and held one of the highest ranks in the building. He demanded respect and if it was given to him, he was more than amiable. He didn’t look impressed.

“He might only go around scaring people and fucking the help, as you so charmingly put it, which is fucking rude and entirely your own opinion not to mention irrevocably wrong, by the way,” He sneered, looking down his nose at her, “-but at least he’s good at what he does. Can’t really say the same for you, Miss Bosley.”

“It’s Boddington, actually.” She snapped waspishly with a pout. The engineer then tensed and swayed side to side warily as Clint’s expression darkened even further. Amy Boddington (what the hell kind of name was that anyway?) looked at him confused and angry all at once. “And what the hell is that supposed to mean??” She demanded.

Clint squinted at her and craned his neck closer, pulled his hand up to his ear and faked straining to hear her. “I’m sorry, could you repeat that for me? I’m a little bit deaf,” he quipped, “Or even better, you could sign it for me maybe? Goodness knows, I’m not intelligent enough to be able to lip read or anything.” The sarcasm practically dripped off him and Darcy had to muffle her snort with her hand when Amy’s eyes flashed and she spluttered. God, of course Clint had been observing the whole shit show from the start. He’d probably been watching from the moment she stepped into the cafeteria, hidden in plain sight and taking in the whole debacle in his own scary observant way.

“That’s not- I didn’t actually..” she trailed off, flustered. “I didn’t say anything of the sort!”

He snorted and rolled his eyes but didn’t budge an inch. “Right, of course not. How dare I assume that you would admit and assume responsibility for your own actions. How very careless of me.” His arms dropped to his sides and he straightened, authority rolling off him and the complete refusal to deal with her bullshit evident on his face. “What I meant, Miss Boddington, is that your employee file states that you are already on your second warning for workplace misconduct. Apparently,” he drawled, “Someone isn’t a very good team player.” He clicked his tongue and stepped up beside Darcy, took her by the elbow and gently started to lead her back towards the elevator she fell out of not even twenty minutes earlier. He stopped them after a few steps and looked back over his shoulder. “By the way? The entirety of your conversation with Miss Lewis has been recorded and logged with JARVIS and is currently pending submission for review. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from Miss Potts regarding said conversation at some point in the near future. You have a nice night now, you hear?”

He turned his back on the gathered crowd and guided her into the elevator, gave the now frighteningly pale redhead a little finger wave and grinned as the doors slipped closed and cut her off from sight. He settled his hand on her lower back and rubbed a wide circle over it as she started to shake.

“You alright, Lewis?” He ducked his head to meet her gaze, “That was kind of intense back there. Lot to process.”

She swallowed and gave a short, jerky bob of her head, a little dazed and a lot angry. “I was about to knock her teeth out of her head and feed them to her,” she admitted with a wince. “Maybe I should be glad you showed up when you did.”

He hummed in agreement and gave her a one armed hug, pulling her against his firm side. It was nice, she thought, but it wasn’t as nice as when Bucky did it. Bucky was bigger and warmer and didn’t smell like stale coffee. Also, Clint had no metal arm. It was weird being unable to feel the unforgiving press of it around her shoulders, the weight comforting in ways that she didn’t dare to think about too closely. Regardless, Clint was offering comfort and she wasn’t too proud to accept a hug from her friend so she dropped her head against his shoulder and let out a frustrated growl.

“I can’t actually believe that she admitted to that bullshit,” she muttered, mouth in a tight line. “Who the hell does something that petty and vindictive to someone just because they had the nerve to be oblivious to someone else’s non-existent flirting?”

He made a sound of irritation and disapproval and nudged her temple with his chin. “An immature know it all who graduated from MIT at fifteen and was snatched up pretty much right after,” he answered. “The woman is barely twenty years old and she’s showing her inner teenager something fierce. I didn’t tell you this, but she’s well known for throwing her toys out of the pram because it’s just not fair.” He mocked. “She needs to grow the hell up. Barnes would eat her alive, anyway. The man needs a woman who can take him to hand and tell him when he’s being a jerk, not some wet behind the ears kid who wants a prince charming and fairy tale ending. That’s not him and she is so far up her own ass that she can’t even see the forest for the trees.”

Mouth open in surprise, Darcy didn’t even notice that the elevator had stopped until he looked back at her and nodded out the doors. “You comin’, Lewis? I got a cheesecake in the fridge with a certain birthday girl’s name on it if you’re interested?”

Again, she gaped at him and her feet stumbled into action. “How did you know it was my birthday?!”

He tapped the side of his nose and meandered along ahead of her with a smug, adorable smile on his face. “I’m a spy, Darcy Lewis,” he reminded her, “I have my ways.”

She levelled him with an unamused glare. “Steve or Bucky told you before they left, didn’t they.”

His cheeks turned a ruddy red and he ducked his head into the fridge. “Barnes did, yeah.” He admitted with a snigger. “Told me to collect this for him if they didn’t make it back in time; he already had it on order. Just haven’t been free to find you before now, is all.” He produced the fanciest, most amazing looking dark chocolate and cherry baked cheesecake that she had ever seen in her life and set it down in front of her with a flourish and a pair of forks. It was dripping with curls of wafer thin chocolate and a thick, rich cherry compote that dripped down the deep sides and it smelled heavenly. “I’ll be helping you polish this baby off, if you don’t mind. S’been a long fucking day.”

She gave him a bright, beaming smile and reached across the counter to hug him. “Thank you, Clint!” She gave him a tight squeeze and pressed a loud, messy kiss against his scratchy cheek. “You’re the best girlfriend a gal could ask for!”

He swatted at her and flushed again, ducking off to retrieve a couple of cold beers for them before sliding onto a stool opposite her. He popped the cap and handed her one before doing the same for his own and clinked the neck of his bottle to hers. “To karma.” He toasted, “And the birthday girl!”

Darcy grinned around the mouth of the bottle and dug into the cheesecake with delight. As the first bite of it melted on her tongue she let out an obscene moan and tried not to laugh at the wide eyed squirm Clint gave across from her. At least the day wasn’t a total bust.

Clint shovelled a larger than necessary forkful of the cheesecake into his mouth and shook his head. “That noise should be illegal,” he grumbled. “How the fuck does Barnes get anything done when he knows what that sounds like?”

She shot him a wide eyed look of horror and even though she knew they were alone, none of the fellow Avengers in the building, she looked around wildly to make sure no-one else had heard his comment. “Barton!”

He rolled his eyes and shovelled another mouthful in. “Oh please,” he said around the dessert in his mouth, “Like anyone else is here to hear this shit anyway,” he dismissed with a wave. “Now,” he leaned in and grinned at her, eyes sparkling. “Tell me everything.”

 

**

For the first time in almost a month, Bucky woke up in his own bed with his legs twisted in the sheets, covers on the floor and his heart racing in his chest. The room was overly warm and stuffy and his head felt like it was stuffed full of cotton wool and glue, heavy and bogged down with a nightmare that he couldn’t quite remember. He blinked blearily up at the ceiling, a little cloud of dust particles swirling above him in a shard of sunlight and he reached out to his left to subconsciously reach for Darcy but all he found were cool sheets and an empty space where she usually slept. He dragged his head off the pillow and furrowed his brows as he glanced at the other side of the bed, his mind still heavy with sleep and confusion.

“Wh- Darce..?” He propped himself up on one elbow and scanned the room quickly for any sign of her before the night before came rushing back to him with a painful clarity and he fell back onto the bed with a groan, eyes closed and limbs sprawled in every direction. It had been later than late when the team had returned to base, the sun already starting to crest over the horizon, the city waking up in dawn’s early glow and he had been loathe to wake Darcy up after a further two hours in a debriefing meeting (it was Friday, which meant it was her bi-weekly day off) so he’d dragged his ass back to his own apartment and collapsed face first on his own bed for once. It was just after eight in the morning when he’d fallen asleep.

His head had been in a bad place when they’d returned and once he’d promised Steve that he would at least consider scheduling an appointment with the team psychiatrist he’d been dismissed and allowed to go off on his own. Hell, if Steve had seen through his ruse then he must’ve been bad; he’d gotten painfully adept at hiding his feelings and emotions from his best friend in the past few months. A quick visit to the armory to drop off any and all remaining weaponry he had on his person was last on his list and then he’d ignored every instinct that screamed at him to seek her out for a little comfort, the peace that her presence brought him in favor of slinking back to his own apartment for a nice healthy dose of solitary confinement and brooding.

He’d barely managed to get his boots off before he’d thrown himself on the bed, emotionally wrung out and physically exhausted. The sheets probably reeked of gunpowder and were covered in filth by now, but he didn’t give a shit about that and had instead fallen into a deep, fitful sleep that left him feeling even more raw and on edge than before.

There was a quiet chime and the lights dipped once and Bucky squinted one eyed up at the ceiling. “Can I help you, Jarvis?”

If anything, the AI sounded contrite and the voice that came from God knows where was quiet as though it had observed he wasn’t up to any loud or sudden movements. “My apologies for waking you, Sergeant, but Captain Rogers appears to be outside your apartment with provisions and is seeking entry. Shall I unlock the door for him or would you prefer to remain as you are? I can inform him that you are unavailable at this time if you wish?”

Bucky heaved a sigh and sat up sluggishly, his skin still ashy and sooty from the fire that had overtaken the entire evil facility that had housed the children the day before. They’d gotten all the kids out, most of them still under lock and chain though a select couple had been able to be transported freely, the smallest of which being a tiny little toddler with bright white curls and green eyes that had taken a liking to Tasha, hung on her like a limpet because she was physically unable to walk on her own. He suspected she’d never been taught how to in the first place. He wasn’t sure what had happened to the kid in the light of day, but the baby girl had clutched at The Widow for almost an hour as the whole team had rigged the facility for demolition and had fallen asleep against her neck, fingers curled in bloody red hair as the world burned around her.

“S’ok, Jarvis,” he yawned and pulled his shirt over his head, dumped it on the floor and shuffled towards the front door of his apartment. He took in the pale gray walls as he went, eyes scanning over the bare walls and the thin layer of dust that decorated the place and his stomach squirmed at the silence he was met with. There was no music playing, no television on (hell, he didn’t even own a television) and most of all, there was no off-key warbling that tried to pass off as singing from his curvy bed-buddy. It felt strange being back in his own apartment after spending so much time in Darcy’s and he wasn’t sure he liked it. It was dull and depressing and why the shit didn’t he have anything more colorful in the place? The quiet made him nervous and his gut churned with the implication of his thought process. He stuffed it down, refused to acknowledge his discomfort in his own home (but was it really?) and he unlatched the lock and jerked the door open, already turned away from it and heading back down the hall. “I need a shower,” he muttered, knowing he’d be heard loud and clear, “Be out on a few minutes.”

He stripped off quickly and efficiently, flipped the water on as hot as it’d go and stepped underneath the spray seconds later. Steam quickly filled the room until he could barely make out his hand in front of his face and he scrubbed at his skin until all the ash and scum was sloughed off him, gave his teeth a quick scrub with his finger and some water and washed his hair in record time. He was in and out in under three minutes and he took a moment to sit on the edge of the tub, towel slung around his hips, fingers working the knots out of his long hair. He didn’t even have to stand up to reach the bottle of hair product Darcy had thrust at him months ago, some sort of fancy middle eastern oil that smelled amazing that she had insisted he needed (“Split ends are a bitch once you have them, Bucky and your hair is just too pretty to cut!”) and he squirted a few pumps of it over his head before running his fingers through the lengths to distribute it evenly. He wiped his hands on his towel and sagged heavily for a minute, rolled his neck and shoulders and put on his game face. Everything was fine. He didn’t want to go to sleep and avoid waking up for three whole years, everything was fine.

Steve was sitting at the bench in his kitchen when he emerged a whole two minutes later, still buckling his belt and holding a thin, red t-shirt between his teeth. His hair dripped against his neck a little and he pulled his fingers through it again, combed it away from his face and tugged on the shirt.

“Hungry?” His best friend asked, volume low and comfortable in the quiet. “I just grabbed a bunch of stuff, wasn’t sure if you’d be up to eating yet.”

Bucky grunted and threw himself onto the stool opposite Steve and blindly reached for the giant, paper wrapped burger that was sitting in the middle of the island. The grease was already soaking through the wrapping and it was transparent in places but Bucky couldn’t bring himself to care about the shit he was about to shovel into his mouth, it all tasted like ash after a mission anyways. He carefully folded the wrapper before setting it aside, as always and dug into the burger with two fingers to dispose of the pickle slices on the paper beside him before he took a huge bite of beef, tomatoes, cheese and onions. There was some sort of gooey, cheesy sauce on there too and he took another bite, not as large this time and he cocked his eye at his best friend when he caught him staring.

“What?” He asked, mouth open and full of food. “Do I got something on my face?” He swiped at his cheeks and checked for ketchup or cheese, shrugged when there was nothing and took another monster bite.

“How much have you been staying at Darcy’s lately?” He asked instead as he waved his hand around. “This place feels thoroughly unlived in and it sorta smells weird, like you haven’t been here in a while and it needs airing out or something.”

Bucky gave him a half hearted shrug and chewed silently. Evidently, it wasn’t the answer Steve was hoping for.

“Buck,” He started.

“Oh, here we go,” he rolled his eyes and stuffed a handful of fries in his mouth, “Here comes the lecture.”

“God, are you even capable of shutting your fucking mouth, Bucky?! Keep shoveling that shit into it and let me speak, alright?”

Bucky grunted but did as advised and pushed yet another handful of over-salted French fries into his mouth and took a deliberately messy bite of his burger, eyeballing Steve as he chewed obnoxiously. Fried onions spilled out the side and over his hand and cheese sauce oozed over his fingers, the liquid so hot that it was virtually atomic. He swore through his mouthful of food and set the remainder of the burger down and swallowed hastily, sucking at the burning, molten cheese on his skin. “Well go on,” he snapped, giving his hand a shake, “Have at it, then.”

Steve frowned and picked at his own burger, tearing pieces of the bread roll off and rolling them up before popping them into his mouth. “I know I’m the last person you want to talk to about this, but you and Darcy,” he hedged, “I mean, if you’re always there anyway, is there much point keeping this place?”

He fixed Steve with a blithe glare and shook his head. “You’re reading too much into it,” he chewed slowly, avoided his friend’s steely gaze, “So I stay over sometimes, doesn’t mean that we need to be living together Steve. This isn’t some ridiculous romanticized love affair. We fuck, we hang out, we’re friends, that’s it.” He pointed at him with a french fry and drummed his fingers against the counter top. “Stop trying to make it more than it is.”

“More than it is?!” He echoed, incredulous. “Buck, she’s one of your emergency medical contacts and you spend more time in her apartment and her bed than you do in your own! This place is barely lived in and you’re telling me that I’m reading too much into it?!” He shook his head and pushed to his feet, snatching up a few of the leftover cartons of takeaway. “You know what, fine. Stay here moping and feeling guilty about missing your non-existent girlfriend’s birthday all on your own. I aint got time for your bullshit today and I don’t think I will have for the unforeseeable future. Pull your head outta your ass or we’re done, Jerk.” He was almost out the door when he looked back over his shoulder with a pissed off glower. “And don’t forget to submit your mission report. If it’s not on my desk by five I’ll write your ass up for misconduct. Don’t think I’ve forgotten how you kicked that guy’s skull in last night.”

The door slammed shut behind him and Bucky glared down at the remains of his burger, no longer hungry. A quick check of his phone told him it was almost two PM now and if he didn’t get a move on he wouldn’t get the report completed and handed in on time but that was neither here nor there at the moment. Steve’s words rattled around in his head and he squeezed his eyes shut against the onslaught of emotions that attacked him from all angles, fear and shame and guilt all waging a war in his gut, topped off with a swell of black fury that was threatening to consume him. He took a deep breath and clenched his jaw, swept his arm out across the counter and sent everything on it flying across the floor in a fit of rage.

Fuck Steve. He didn’t need him insisting he knew what was going on in his head. “Fucking judgmental asshole!” He shouted at the closed door and lashed out with his bare foot, kicked the stool Steve had been perched on across the kitchen and swore loudly when he heard his toes crunch and snap. “Motherfucker!!” He gasped and hopped on one foot, fingers gripping the base of his toes tight as can be, “Jesus fucking Christ!”

There was a sharp knock on the door and he swung his head towards it, teeth bared. “FUCK OFF!”

Another knock, then, “…. James?”

He sniffed violently and grunted as he set his foot back on the floor before he limped over to tear it open and he felt a flicker of shame curl in his gut when Darcy flinched and stared up at him wide eyed. He knew he must have looked a sight, all red faced and angry, wet hair and two obviously broken toes but try as he might, he couldn’t quite get a handle on things and instead of inviting her in like a civilized person, he turned on his heel and left the door wide open with her out in the hall. Luckily she took his mood for what it was, just a mood and slipped inside before closing the door behind her and leaned up against it to watch him throw himself face first onto his oversized sofa.

“Are you ok?” She asked after a moment, eyebrow cocked, palms flat against the door.

 He grunted and didn’t even bother to lift his head to look at her. “Never fucking better.”

She held her hands up in surrender and nodded. “Alright,” her voice was just a touch too high to sound casual and her eyes were wide, “-suit yourself.”

He pushed his face into the cushions and counted backwards from one hundred in Russian, unable to calm himself enough to be civil until he was at thirty four. He turned his face enough to draw in some fresh air (he didn’t need a mouthful of stuffing, thank you very much) and took a deep, calming breath before he cracked one eye open to take her in. She was still by the door, the picture of patience and calm as she waited for him to give her the go ahead to come closer and his eyes drank in the sight of her. She was wearing her favorite pair of jeans that used to be black but were now a soft, faded gray, distressed over the thighs and torn from just below the knee to mid thigh, the pale skin underneath soft and creamy white. She was wearing one of his sweaters and the soft dark green fabric fell off her shoulder on one side, the cuffs swallowing up her dainty hands and her hair was loose around her bare face. He loved it when her skin was bare, it was a side of her that she didn’t let many people see, she always had makeup on of some sort, even if it was just her bright red lipstick (and shit, he loved that too), but in his opinion she looked perfect like this. Soft.

Like home.

He pulled his flesh hand out from underneath him and reached out toward her, wriggled his fingers in a come-hither way and shuffled onto his back as she kicked off her shoes and padded over to him, one knee by his hip and her hand next to his head as she crawled on top of him and nestled into his wide chest. She dotted a kiss against the underside of his jaw and her body loosened and sprawled over him, blanketing him in her warmth and the smell of her shampoo tickled his nose.

He sniffed experimentally and pulled back, dropped his head into the cushion and settled his hand over the back of her neck, fingers in her hair. “New shampoo?” She smelled of violets and raspberries whereas normally it was a soft vanillary coconut. He took another whiff and the knot of distress in his belly unfurled a little. He felt better with her there already.

She hummed and nodded, eyes closed. “Ran out of the old one and the bastards don’t make it anymore,” she pouted. “It’s awful and I need to wash it every day now, but it smells nice. Only reason I bought it.”

“It does,” he agreed, fingers absently kneading at the tight muscles down the side of her neck. “If it’s not right, though, we can head out later to grab something else. S’not good for your hair to be scrubbing at it every day with all those chemicals. It’ll dry out.”

She made a sound of amused surprise and lifted her head to look at him, her chin propped up on his chest. “Well, look at you,” she mused playfully, “Someone’s been paying attention to my hair product related ranting…”

He huffed and rolled his eyes but he knew that she could tell he wasn’t really annoyed. “Yeah, well, when your hair looks that pretty all the time I guess it’s prudent to pay attention, isn’t it.”

She gave him a pat of approval and nipped at his jaw before setting back over him, face pressed into his neck. “Good boy.”

She curled into him even more and he dropped his cheek against her head and breathed in the scent of powdery violets, the knot inside easing even more. “So uh,” he started, changing the subject for the time being, “M’sorry I missed your birthday, Sweetheart.”

She picked at the seam of his jeans and shrugged. “No biggie, it’s ok.”

“It’s really not,” he argued weakly and bumped her with his chin, “How’re your mom and dad?”

She was quiet and her fingers tugged on the loose thread she’d been picking at a little harder. “Don’t know,” she mumbled, “They didn’t call.”

A sick feeling started to grow in Bucky’s belly and he lifted his head to look down at her. “Jane?” He bit back a curse at her head shake and his fingers fell still against her neck. “… Anyone?”

“Clint got me a cheesecake because you told him he had to,” she mumbled quietly, “He got me a beer too and we hung out for a few hours but aside from that...” She shrugged weakly and avoided his sad eyes.

“Fucks sake,” Her fucking parents didn’t even bother to call their only child for her birthday, Jesus.  “Your family are jack-holes.” He curled his arms around her and bodily hauled her higher up his body so she was hovering above him, nuzzled her cheek and kissed the corner of her mouth. “Name it and it’s yours.” He promised. “I wanna make it up to you.”

She dipped her head just enough to catch his lips as he pulled away and she cupped his cheek in her fingers and pulled him right back in for another kiss. “I want you,” (name the time and place) a hum of pleasure, “-to take me,” (oh, hello) another kiss and a sharp nip at his bottom lip, “-to the zoo. You promised, Barnes.” (Ah, there it is..)

He huffed against her mouth and let out a snort of amusement, fingers tangled in her hair to hold her in place. “S’pose I did, huh,” he mused as he peppered her cheeks and neck with kisses and fluttered his fingers down her sides to tickle her just above the waist. She arched into him and let out a peal of giggles that made his mouth kick up in the corners, delighted by the sound and the smile on her face. He settled his hands on her hips and nodded her closer to press a short, sweet kiss to her forehead. “When do you wanna go?”

“Hmm, is tomorrow ok?” She asked, fingers playing with the damp ends of his hair. “Its too late to head out there today but if you’re not busy tomorrow, we can head out early and make like tourists for the day? It’ll be Saturday so it might be a little busier than a weekday but you can be all Clarke Kent and wear a disguise and shit…”

He shot her a crooked grin and settled back into the sofa, thumbs absently tracking back and forth across the back of her shoulders. “Sounds good, Sweetheart,” he agreed readily. “But there’s no way in hell you’re getting me into a pair of those weak-assed glasses that Stevie wears. The asshole still thinks nobody recognizes him in ‘em.” His smile dimmed considerably when his earlier argument with Steve came rushing back and he dropped his head deeper into the cushions with a muffled curse. “Shit, fuck, damn it… The fucking reports.” At her bemused look he elaborated. “I have to file a mission report by five or Steve’s gonna write me up.”

“He’s what now?” She exclaimed, shocked. “What the hell crawled up his ass and died? He’s usually fairly easy going with the reports if you get back late.”

“It was ugly,” he deflected, “I think he just wants it done with.” He wasn’t about to tell her that he and Steve were on the outs at the moment, it would only upset her. She didn’t need to know. Technically he wasn’t lying to her, he was just avoiding telling her the whole sad story.

None the wiser, she shrugged and planted a loud, smacking kiss on his cheek and climbed to her feet. “I’ll start the coffee.” She punctuated her statement with a sharp slap to his cheek and he gave her a slightly dazed, filthy grin that left her blushing and hurrying towards the kitchen. “No way, Bucky, you get that damn report done and submitted and then we’ll see about ruining your sofa, alright?”

He grinned over the back of the sofa and gave her a flirty wink. “Have I told you lately how perfect you are?”

“No!” She called from the kitchen with a soft laugh, “But feel free to do so whenever you deem it necessary, Sarge!”

He smiled sadly down at his lap and tried to ignore the bitter swell of self pity that he felt whenever he contemplated this thing with her being anything more than friends with benefits. She didn’t love him like that and he was doing his damned best to pretend that he didn’t love her. He’d come to the conclusion a while back and it took everything he had not to spill the beans every time she smiled up at him. Such a fucking fool.

The small radio he kept in the kitchen flipped on and music filled the apartment, the coffee maker gurgling and puttering away as she hummed and sang under her breath, gathering mugs and clearing the trash from his aborted lunch with a cheerful bounce in her step that he knew he would be lost without. 

He cleared his throat quietly and scrubbed a hand over his face, doctored his tone and called out, “You’re perfect, Darce!”

She laughed in reply and he shook his head miserably. She didn’t know just how serious he actually was.

 

 

Chapter Text

Darcy pressed her hands against the thick plexi-glass surface and dropped her forehead against it, leaning in to get a better look at the animals on the other side. “Oh my God, they’re so cute I think I might die.” She stated matter of factly. She glanced up at him and gave a short, sharp nod. “I’m serious. Too adorable for me to live. I can’t even. I’m actually already dead.”

On the other side of the glass was a pair of otters, their little feet kicking in the water as they floated and dived and whirled playfully together. Their glossy fur was slicked down and wet and their little faces were bright and cheerful, the trilling and chirping sounds they made lifting her soul a little. The otters rolled in the water and were now floating on their backs, tiny paws clinging to each other as they snuggled together and basked in the pale morning sun.

They had arrived at the zoo well before opening in an attempt to get in early and avoid most of the crowds and so far, so good. There were a few other visitors milling about as the keepers went about feeding and watering the animals but nobody was paying any attention to the pair of them and for that, Darcy was happy. Going out in public with Bucky was an experience, one that on occasion she loved and thoroughly enjoyed, but on others, the times where some random stranger would march right on up to him without a second thought to their personal safety just to give him a piece of their bigoted, small minds… Well, those were a little less pleasant, as was the inevitably miserable aftermath. The abuse had died down a lot over the last few years as he had worked his ass off to improve his public image, desperate to smooth over his past indiscretions and make amends for the wrongs he’d done and for the most part, the public had embraced him. Hell, he even had an official fan club with numbers in the multiple thousands that spread across the globe these days. But. But, there was still a sector of society that screamed for him to be punished, brought to justice for killing dozens of innocent people over the years. What they didn’t seem to understand was that very few of his victims, so to speak, were actually innocent in the first place. Those people, the ones who would take a great big ballsy swing at The Winter Soldier himself in the middle of a public park, made going places with him difficult. Luckily the good far outweighed the bad and today was a good day, indeed.

She risked a quick glance at him and noted the easy, loose set of his shoulders and the small, relaxed grin on his face as he pressed his face closer to the glass to look at the animals on the other side, completely enamored. Their enclosure was lush and green, full of hidey holes and bubbling water over smooth rocks and there was more than an adequate amount of space for the adorable couple.

“Did you know that otters hold hands in their sleep?” He asked idly, glancing down at her, “Apparently they cling onto each other so they don’t lose their partner to the current overnight, or during the day maybe… Are they nocturnal, do you think? I don’t know if they’re nocturnal. Do you think they have a sleep schedule like we do? Like, wake up early, shovel in some grub then play the day away and go to sleep at sundown after a little bit of slap and tickle…?”

Darcy laughed quietly at his inane rambling and bumped into his side with her shoulder. “Maybe you could ask their keeper?” She suggested, pointing her finger in the direction of a uniformed staff member stepping into the enclosure carrying a large, white bucket that had segments of fish piled up high. “Or, I don’t know, maybe try not to humanize the poor little darlings. They’re otters, Bucky-Bear, not tiny, furry people, but to answer your question, no, I don’t think they’re nocturnal at all.” She waved her hand over her head and gestured to the sun in the sky. “It’s day time and there they are, Hon.”

He rolled his eyes and tapped on the glass with his flesh fingers absently. “But they’re asleep now, Darce,” he argued, “If they’re asleep and it’s daylight, maybe I’m right? Maybe they ARE nocturnal and I’m a secret genius or something?”

She shook her head and turned back to look into the enclosure when the excited chattering and chirping and trilling started, the little darlings scrambling towards their keeper in search of food. “Genius might be pushing it, Buck, but I’ll give you the secret part.”

He made a dramatic sound of indignation and pressed his palm over his heart, his face the picture of faux hurt and his bottom lip pushed right out. “You wound me with your insults, you cruel, heartless wench! I am an intelligent, charming individual and I will not be put down like that! How very dare you?!”

She couldn’t help herself and her lip quirked up in the corner. “Because nobody puts Baby in the corner, right?”

He squared his shoulders and gave her a definitive nod. “You’re damn right.” He replied, voice clipped. “I deserve someone who appreciates me for my personality, not just my pretty face,” he sniffed at her haughtily, “I deserve a Johnny all of my own. I deserve romancing and dancing and a love affair that is entirely too inappropriate for all ages but is played off as family friendly anyway.”

She tried to smother her giggles with her hand but it was useless and her shaking shoulders gave her away. “It’s ok, Baby,” she mocked, “I’m sure you’ll have the time of your life anyway, regardless of the rating on the case.”

A warm, happy grin spread its way across his handsome face and he let out a bark of laughter. “And I owe it all to you, Sweetheart.”

She groaned at the cheesy reply and screwed up her nose, giggling despite the terrible joke. She couldn’t quite believe that he loved that movie so damn much, but there you go, Bucky Barnes had layers and was a sucker for a good choreography scene. Who knew? “God, you’re seriously terrible. Does that shit even work with the ladies you know?”

He shrugged mildly and stepped back from the glass, nodding for her to follow them and they headed off towards the next exhibit, his hands pushed deep into his pockets. “Not really sure,” he admitted, picking up their conversation as they slowly meandered down the path, “Haven’t really bothered to try with that shit in a while. No time for that kind of thing, nor the inclination.”

She was quietly pleased with his response, happy that he wasn’t actively looking at other women but just a little bit crushed at the same time. He didn’t have time nor the inclination for romance. Figures. She played it cool and followed him up a few steps, past a gaggle of young adults who were too busy arguing over the complimentary map to pay any attention to them. “You’re not looking for that special someone at all?” She tried to sound casual and unaffected by the thought of him with someone else and she hoped that she succeeded. “You can’t be single forever, Buck. A guy has needs.”

He rolled his shoulders and peered through the glass in front of them into the next exhibit at the colorful array of tropical birds, “My needs are being seen to just fine,” he brushed her off casually but she caught the tick in his jaw, the muscle jumping under the skin in the way that it only did when he was bothered by something. It stopped almost as soon as she noticed it and whilst his expression remained calm and friendly his eyes were troubled. “And I’d rather be single forever than have to pretend that I’m good enough for someone to love me like that. Despite popular theory, I’m not a good guy all the time and there’s more blood on my hands than ever these days. I don’t deserve that kind of love and it’s going to take a special sort of someone to convince me that I do, so until then, you’re just gonna have to put up with my pathetic ass.”

Her stomach clenched painfully as he finished and she forced herself to swallow her arguments. She thought he was worthy of that strength of emotion, hell, she knew he was, but once he set his opinion on something there was no changing his mind so she settled for running her fingers over the back of his hand and gave him a one armed side hug. “You’ll find your Johnny someday, Bucky. You’ll get your big, romantic moment and someone will sweep you clear off your feet, I know it.” She snuggled into his side after his arm lifted up and slipped around her shoulders, his strong fingers curling around her upper arm and turning her into his body even more. She took a second to indulge in the rare public display of affection and inhaled the warm, woodsy scent of his cologne that was mixed with the fresh aquatic fragrance that was definitely her fabric softener before she gave his stomach a soft pat and stepped out of his embrace. “Ye of little faith, James Buchanan, ye of little faith.” It took all the bravado that she had in her to sound optimistic about his chances. She didn’t want him to find someone else. She wanted him to want her.

He stared ahead into the aviary and the muscle in his jaw ticked again just the once. “Don’t got a whole lot to believe in anymore, Darce,” he murmured, “But if you insist, I guess I’ll have to try.”

 “That’s the spirit!” She chirped cheerfully even though she thought she might be dying inside (God, why was she encouraging him to see other women? What was she, an idiot or was she just a glutton for punishment?) before giving him a playful shove onwards, “Now move that purty bubble-butt of yours and take me to see the penguins!”

He snorted and settled a big hand between her shoulders, bodily guiding her in the desired direction. “As you wish,” he sighed dramatically but the smile on his face was a little more easy now, his eyes clearer and warm with a deep seated affection. They reached the penguin enclosure in no time and despite the early hour there was a crowd between her and a clear view and she bounced on her toes, jumping up and down to try to catch a glimpse of her favorite creature. Goddamned tourists!! She wanted to see the penguins being fed, damn it!

“Ugh! I can’t see a thing from here!!” She wailed.

“You want a boost?” He asked, bending at the waist to press his mouth against her ear. His breath was warm and smelled like hazelnut espresso and she repressed a shiver, her body’s primal response to him being so close and so warm against her a strong one that almost robbed her of all sense and rational thought. Instead, she craned her neck to look back up and him and nodded, bracing herself for the weightless feeling she got when he picked her clear off her feet. His big hands circled her waist easily and she grabbed his wrists to steady herself. “Ready?” He asked and when she gave him a nod he lifted her high off the ground and hefted her above his head. “On my shoulders, Sweetheart, c’mon, up you get. That’a girl.”

She let out a shriek of surprise and clutched at his wrists but scrambled to drape her legs over his shoulders as instructed and carefully curled over the top of his head once she was situated, her fingers clutching the neck of his shirt as he adjusted her and held her in place with firm hands on her upper thighs. Satisfied that he wouldn’t let her fall and crack her head open on the concrete below, shit it was a long way down, she straightened and let out a girlish squeal of happiness and flailed excitedly. He swayed on the spot, momentarily surprised by her enthusiasm but steadied himself quickly and easily. “Bucky, there’s babies!! Look! There’s chicks in there! Oh my God, have you ever seen anything more gorgeous in your life?!”

Under her he let out an indulgent chuckle and gave her thighs a gentle squeeze. “No,” he pressed the back of his head into her stomach and his hands smoothed around to grip her legs a little tighter. “No, I don’t suppose I have.”

 

**

“So.”

Darcy looked up from the last mouthful of her pumpkin and ricotta stuffed ravioli, her cheeks puffed out and full of food, eyes wide and curious. They’d spent the majority of the day mooching around the zoo, her phone full of poorly taken photographs of all the different animals and more than a few candid ones of Bucky during the animal encounters that he’d splurged on for her. She’d gotten to feed the penguins and once she had recovered from her excitement induced nausea he had surprised her with another encounter, red pandas this time. There might have been pictures of him laughing until he cried as the furry little critters used him as a jungle gym, perched on his head. It was adorable and perfect and she was definitely getting it printed. She knew he felt guilty about not being home for her actual birthday but that was ridiculous and even if he’d had to make up for it, the day had been more than enough to soothe her frayed nerves. She chewed carefully before swallowing the mouthful of pasta before she licked her lips clean of the sticky sage butter that had coated said pasta. So. Fucking. Good. She was absolutely thrilled that he’d dragged her into the little hole in the wall hipster restaurant now, even if she’d been a little put off by the décor to start with.

“So??” She took a sip of her wine and cocked her brow at him. “What’s up, Bucky-Bear?”

He was lounging back in the booth, legs spread wide under the table with one arm stretched along the back of the booth, the other in his lap. He had his sunglasses perched on top of his head to hold his hair out of his face and he was chewing his lip furiously, eyes averted towards the artwork on the wall behind her head. His fingers drummed against the table beside his empty plate and he opened his mouth to speak, then hesitated.

“Your birthday,” he started, mouth twisted down in guilt. “I wasn’t here for it and-”

She cut him off with a soft smile and a shrug. “Bucky, you don’t still think I’m angry at you for that, do you? Work is work and saving the free world comes first. It always has and always will. I could never be angry at you for that.”

“Be that as it may,” he teased even though she could see he was relieved by her response and stuffed his hand into his pocket to retrieve something in a small velvet pouch, “I got you something before I was sent out and I forgot to give it to you when I got back yesterday.” A slow, wolfish grin spread across his face and he eyed her flushed cheeks with an appreciative gleam in his eye. His thumb stroked the soft velvet idly. “Got somewhat distracted.”

Distracted was one way of putting it, at least. His poor sofa would never be the same again, nor would her knees. Distracted, he said. Jesus.

She curled her fingers around the handle of her fork tightly and took a steadying breath before letting it out slowly. Reacting to his teasing whilst they were surrounded by strangers was a bad idea; it would only encourage him and despite how fun that could be sometimes, this wasn’t the time nor place for it. She’d already spotted three separate people sneaking pictures of them whilst they ate. She cast a furtive glance around the restaurant and peered at him from under her lashes.

“Do you really want to do this here?” She asked lowly, “If people see you giving some strange girl a gift in public they might think-”

He cocked his eyebrow at her and curled his lip. “They might think what? That I’m just a guy giving a female friend a belated birthday present? Fuck what people think, Darce. You know I don’t care about that bullshit.” He tossed the small pouch onto the table and grunted out a pissed off ‘happy birthday’. “Unless you don’t want it, that is?”

She glared at him and kicked him underneath the table. “Don’t be an asshole,” she chastised, “You know that’s not what I meant.” She plucked up the navy blue pouch and curled her fingers around it possessively. He’d actually gotten her a present. Fuck, she had butterflies in her stomach.

“Then what did you mean??”

She sighed and stroked her foot against his ankle this time, their legs hidden from view and she was happy to see some of the tension in his shoulders ease. His glower slipped and instead of angry and embarrassed he only looked confused now.

“I just don’t want the press hassling you about your relationship with some ‘mystery girl’, Bucky.” She explained quietly and his expression softened into understanding. “You deserve your privacy and there are still the vultures that don’t seem to share my sentiments, if you know what I mean. They pester you enough as it is.”

“Darcy,” he started, his hand moving to reach across the table before he pulled up short and glanced at the people around them and let it fall against the tablecloth. “I don’t care who sees me with you.” He assured her firmly, voice low and sure. “You’re my best friend, why would that be a problem? Let people talk, they’re going to anyway, Sweetheart. Now,” he nudged her with his foot and grinned at her faint blush, “Open your damn present.”

She beamed at him and tugged at the ties that held the pouch closed, fingers working the knot until it loosened and she glanced at him before peering inside. A glint of shiny, white metal winked up at her and she furrowed her brows curiously before tipping the contents out into her palm. A thick silver ring fell out and she immediately cooed at it in appreciation. The band was wide and had the outlines of tiny little flowers that looked hand pressed into the metal, the embossed shapes a dark black, oxidized for show and there was a narrow strip of bright hammered gold hugging the middle of it that was dotted with sky blue gems. Blue topaz, maybe? In the middle of the gold band was a tiny little daisy in the same metal and to her delight, the gold spun freely around the silver when she brushed it with her thumb.

“It’s a spinner ring,” he explained awkwardly, “I know it’s not much, I mean it’s only silver and shit, but you can play with it when you get anxious and it’s supposed to help you de-stress, you know? Gives you something to do with your hands when you’re trying not to strangle Jane.” He ended with a small huff. He knew just how much the tiny scientist irked her some days; her focus was legendary but her social skills left something to be desired and that was being polite. He didn’t like Jane, at all, but he wasn’t about to land that one on her. The woman was supposedly her friend, even if she treated her like shit on her shoes most days.

She tried it on three different fingers before settling it comfortably on her index finger on her right hand (handily enough, in fact, it was the finger he’d had in mind for it; he’d spent a stupid amount of time in the middle of the bustling market jamming it onto his own fingers trying to figure out the fit). She admired it with a huge smile on her face and thumbed at the gold band, the tiny gems set here and there sparkling under the house lights. “I love it,” she bounced in her seat and beamed at him. “Thank you, Bucky.” She said earnestly, her happy grin turning suspicious. “You didn’t spend too much money on this, did you?”

He scoffed and took a sip from the forgotten beer bottle on the table and made a face at it when he realized it was now warm. He swallowed it even though it tasted absolutely vile (seriously, he spent fourteen fucking dollars on that bastard bottle of craft beer, he was fucking drinking it) and hacked a little. “God, no,” he coughed. “Picked it up at this little open air market in Marrakesh a couple of months back after an outing.” He shot her a knowing smirk and it turned into a full blown grin at her solemn nod of acknowledgement. Best to leave the word ‘mission’ unsaid in public, after all. “The guy was practically ancient but he still handmade everything on the stall himself. I promise, Darce,” he reassured her, painfully aware of how she felt about people spending up big on her, “It was more than reasonable and even if it hadn’t been, I saw it and thought of you, so I had to buy it, ok?”

She ran her fingers over the shiny metal and gave him a tiny head bob, her cheeks pink and eyes sparkling. “Thank you.” She murmured. “Seriously, Buck. Thank you.”

He shrugged easily and lifted his hip off the seat to dig in his pocket for his wallet, tugged out a few bills and folded them over in his hand. “S’nothing special, Darce, don’t mention it. Seriously. Don’t.” He waved the waiter over and shoved the cash at him, told him to keep the change and slid out of the booth with his hand outstretched to help her to her feet. Once she’d shrugged into her bright red pea coat and he into his own navy blue one he guided her out the door and onto the street, the sky a bruised shade of blues, pinks and oranges that heralded the end of the daylight hours.

“Did you have a good time?” He asked as they slowly made their way back home. His hand brushed against her arm and his body heat leeched into her as they walked, their bodies close together but not quite touching. The evening air was brisk and he watched her rub her fingers together, a small smile finding his lips when he noticed her playing with her gift again, a sweet smile on her face as she looked at it. Her answering grin was bright and happy and he had to look away for fear of embarrassing himself by saying something stupid like ‘I don’t want anyone else, I want you’ or ‘you’re so beautiful, I love you more than life itself’ but he pursed his lips and kept his mouth shut as she gushed happily about the penguins and pandas from earlier.

She powered on, full of excitement and enthusiasm as she chattered about their long day out. It was rare for either of them to get a whole day out of the tower so he was grateful to whoever made it possible; he had a feeling it was a certain interfering asshole, but he wasn’t about to thank him just yet. He was still pissed at him and apparently, Steve still wasn’t speaking to him. It wasn’t their first fight and wouldn’t be the last by far, but he felt justified in his irritation. He never tried to lecture Steve about his piss-poor attempt at a relationship with Peggy, did he?

She bounced along beside him, her fingers brushing his arm affectionately every now and then, tugging on his hand to drag him over to look in a store window when she saw something pretty or sparkly and leaning into his side to hide herself from every gust of cold wind. He did his best to shield her from the elements but it didn’t take much time at all for her nose to pink and her skin to chill so he hurried her along and before long the tower came into view at the end of the block. They made their way inside and bypassed security with little fanfare and he hustled her into the private elevator that took them up to the residential floors. He punched in his personal security code and moved to stand behind her as the doors closed behind them, arms curling around her to help her warm up, chin on top of her head. She stroked his hands where they lay over her stomach with her cold fingers  and she peered back up at him, her expression hesitant but happy.

“You coming in?” She asked as they neared her floor, cold fingers dipping under the cuff of his sleeve to stroke his wrist. “I mean, you don’t have to if you’ve got work stuff to do.”

And he did. He had a metric shit-ton of work to do after the last mission but spending time with her was far more appealing than getting swamped under a pile of paperwork whilst Steve glared disapprovingly at him across the desk and he gave her a gentle squeeze around the middle and dragged his nose up the side of her neck.

“I can stay for a while,” he told her and the smile that swept across her face made the work he’d have to do later well worth it.

 

 

Chapter Text

Bucky staggered down the hall, blue eyes dull and red rimmed, unseeing and flat. His stomach rolled violently but he didn’t feel it, it didn’t even register on the charts because he was too busy trying to put one foot in front of the other. Too busy trying to will his heart to stop trying to claw its way right out of his chest, up his throat and out of his mouth and onto the floor in front of him.

A bleak swell of shame and hate and heartbreak cracked him wide open and left him wounded and bleeding out just the way he’d seen dozens of faceless men do on the battlefields in France. Their cries of pain and fear echoed in his head, the deep seated guilt that that he’d always felt for surviving that first night on the battlefield when dozens of bright eyed, honest, good men (most of them weren’t even old enough to qualify as that, either) had fallen under the hail of bullets and bombs, dying for a country who didn’t even care to remember their names.

He stumbled to a stop and dragged in a deep breath, closed his eyes and flinched when all he could see was shamrock green eyes and bright white curls, soft snow white cheeks and tiny fingers curled into red hair… Shadows flickered across the phantom child’s face, the bright orange glow of flames and the smell of gasoline and smoke creeping up on him until it was all he could see. All he could smell.

The little creature was beautiful, fragile and striking in a way that you couldn’t help but admire and so soft and delicate that it triggered some sort of primal instinct that made him want to tear the world to pieces to protect her until she took her very last breath, gray and old, curled up in a warm, safe place and at peace. But that would never happen, because it wasn’t meant to be. The baby girl was gone and he had a gaping, ragged hole in his chest because it wasn’t just her that he’d failed, it was every single one of those children they’d found in that evil, awful facility days ago.

Dozens of tiny little terrified faces sped across the back of his eyes, the memory of their bony, malnourished hands curled around bars and limbs folded tight and deformed, no muscle mass whatsoever into too-small cages that they’d never been released from, even after being rescued. A bitter ball of loathing gnawed at him from the inside out, swelling and pushing underneath his skin until it was all he could feel, an all encompassing pain that was eating him alive. Rescued. Right.

The children had been deemed incompatible with life and euthanized. Every single last one of them, even Tasha’s little cherub. His suspicions that they’d never been out of the cages, never learned how to speak or walk or how to eat with their own two hands had been painfully accurate and the extensive records found on site indicated that every last one of them had no immune systems, nothing to support their little bodies once they’d been removed from the sterile safety of the laboratories they’d spent their miserable little lives being locked away in. They’d been poked and prodded, experimented upon until there was barely any human DNA left and used for research every day of their short lives, nothing more than glorified lab rats. They were only test subjects specially bred for their purpose and nothing more, never had the chance to be children or to grow into young adults. Never knew a home or a mother or a father or siblings. Never knew how to feel safe and loved and wanted more than anything else in this world and they’d never known what it felt like to be touched for a reason other than to inflict pain and suffering upon them. They didn’t know how it felt to be hugged, kissed on the face or have their hands held for comfort. They didn’t know what comfort was.

He’d wanted to help them, free them from their prisons but all he’d done in the end was get them killed, disposed of like trash because there was barely anything human inside them left to save. The government had decided that for them and they’d never stood a chance. Dead. They were all dead, little frail bodies incinerated and disposed of like yesterdays trash because some higher power had admitted that they had no fighting chance for any kind of quality of life and he hated every inch of himself for agreeing with them.

It would be no kind of life to give a child, most of them were blind, some mute and some of them had been diseased, terminal at the time of rescue and it was unfortunate that they’d found them too late; one of the older ones had slipped away on the transport out of there, surrounded by doctors who for once had his best interests in mind and had swaddled him in warm blankets for the first time in his sad life. He’d lasted all of an hour and a half outside the laboratory before he’d closed his eyes and never woke up again. He’d been bleeding from the ears the whole time.

For the good of the children and with their best interests at heart, the decision had been made and they’d all just… disappeared. It didn’t stop him from feeling so guilty that he could barely breathe, though.

A sob forced its way out of his chest and tears spilled down his cheeks as he clutched at the middle of his ribs, fingers digging into the solid breadth of him, trying to push their way through skin and bone and muscle to the organs underneath.

Fuck, it hurt. It hurt so fucking much and he couldn’t catch his breath and he wanted to die.

He hunched over and heaved again, his stomach empty and aching in a way that it hadn’t done since he’d made his first kill and suddenly, his hands were covered in sticky blood and mud, saliva where the poor foreign soldier had spluttered all over him as he’d choked the life out of him with his bare hands. His first kill hadn’t been with a gun, no sir, the first man he’d ever dispatched had been right up close, right on top of him and had flailed uselessly as he’d pressed his thumbs into the hollow of his throat and strangled him into silence with a snarl of rage and vision hazed in red. He’d been close enough to see the life fade out of him and feel him struggle to take his last breath before he fell unconscious and then, even after he was limp and unresponsive, he’d held on longer, just to be sure he was really dead.

He wasn’t sure how long he hovered in the corridor clawing at his chest through his clothing and sobbing but once the tears subsided and tapered off he couldn’t feel anything anymore. He was an empty shell with a hole where his heart was supposed to be and not much else. The corridor had remained blessedly empty for the duration of his breakdown and it was now, after the shock and horror had worn off, that he remembered he was supposed to be at a press conference over twenty minutes ago. There was no point in going now, it would be virtually over, anyway.

His body working entirely on muscle memory and muscle memory only, he slowly put one foot in front of the other and forced himself to move, shoulder dragging along the wall. He felt traumatized by the news that the team psychiatrist had just dropped on him about the kids; fuck, none of them even had names. They were just a number, a subject that was forgotten at the end of each work day whilst the scientists that had used them and abused them had been able to go home to their happy little families to play house. He was glad he’d let loose now; not happy in the knowledge that he’d savaged some of the doctors to death, but comfortable with his decision and oddly free of guilt over his actions.

Tasha had wanted to keep the little girl, had already nicknamed her Button (which he thought was perfect). She wanted to bow out and be her mother, teach her how to walk and talk and love her but they’d snatched her right out of her arms and put her to sleep like some sick animal instead. The little girl had gotten two whole days of love and adoration from the widow before her life had cruelly been snuffed out without so much as a ‘sorry for getting your hopes up, Agent Romanov, but she has to die. Have a nice day.’.

She was not coping well and there were already whispers about her leaving the Initiative. Hell, he maybe wanted to do the same thing. He’d had enough of the senseless waste of lives, the fighting and the pain wearing on him more and more as each day passed.

He needed to get out of the tower. He wasn’t going to the conference, they never let him say his piece anyway so what was the point? He was destined to remain a mindless savage and the sheer refusal to let him explain himself was only perpetuating the image.

He slipped into the elevator soundlessly and stared ahead with hollow, sightless eyes, limbs heavy and tired and done. He was done and it felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel to even consider finding.

He was raw and bleeding and there was only one thing that felt like a balm to his battered soul, a light in the dark or a preserver found at the last minute just as he was ready to sink into the ocean’s inky black depths. He didn’t like her seeing him like this, but he couldn’t think of anything else that would help right now so he hit the emergency stop button on the panel in front of him and redirected the elevator to the floor that he hoped she would be on.

He needed to see her, feel her, smell her and bask in her presence in an effort to absorb some of her light into his own dark, empty chest.

He hated feeling like this and hated her seeing it even more, but he needed her right now and for once, he was going to let himself have it.

 

**

Darcy was on her way back down to the labs from HR after a meeting regarding the run in she’d had with a certain Amy Boddington in the cafeteria the week before, mind full of new information regarding the incident and wandering so badly that she stepped off the elevator on the wrong floor. She didn’t even notice until the doors slipped closed behind her and she was met with a very tired, very grumpy looking Captain America. He was in full uniform, shield strapped to his back and he looked exhausted and worn and so very over the day even though it was only ten thirty three in the morning.

“Rough day?” She queried lightly and the look he leveled her with made her shrink back a step or two, instinct calling for self-preservation tactics even thought he was one of her best friends in the whole world. He looked angry and his whole body was a mass of tension, expression dark and grim and this close to losing his shit.

“Nothing new,” he answered waspishly, “Just cleaning up another one of Bucky’s messes for the press, as usual.”

Shock blossomed in Darcy’s chest at the sharp edge in his tone. “What the hell, Steve?” She blurted. “What is wrong with you?”

His lip curled, irritated at her or Bucky, she wasn’t sure. “What’s wrong with me?” He scoffed. “He’s out of control lately, is what’s wrong with me, Darcy. There are only so many times that I can tell the press that his mood swings are a by-product of his past before they start picking and prodding for more information. I can’t keep covering his ass when he’s not willing to even bother making an effort to keep a level, professional head on his shoulders. He’s fucking reckless and-”

“I’m sorry, did I just hear Steven Grant Rogers call someone else reckless? Stop the fucking presses, Captain America has discovered situational awareness!”

He glowered at her and folded his arms across his chest. “This isn’t a joke, Darcy,” he scolded, unamused. “He kicked someone so hard in the face the other night that it crumpled in like an empty tin can in a trash compactor and unluckily for the other guy, it didn’t kill him right away. I’m pretty sure he’s experiencing some kind of personality bleed with The Soldier and he is out of control but I should have known better than to expect you to see any flaws in his sparkling personality, anyway.”

She blinked at him, open mouthed and shocked. Where the hell was this coming from? This wasn’t like Steve at all. Steve wasn’t a mean person. “Steve,” she stuttered. “What the hell? What the hell did I do? I get that you’re maybe having issues with Bucky on missions, but-”

“Oh, it’s not just on missions, Darcy,” he rolled his eyes and rocked back on his heels, mouth curled into a frown. “Can’t you see what’s going on here? Why the hell are you letting him use you like this? You’re better than that and worth so much more than an emotionless booty call whenever he feels like getting his dick wet.”

Incredulous rage swept over her and she didn’t even realize that she’d slapped him across his pretty face until his head snapped to the side and the bright red handprint bloomed across his skin. Her palm stung like a bitch and she curled her fingers against it, nails biting into her skin in an effort to calm the urge to scream obscenities at him right there in the hallway.

“I don’t know where you think you get off, Steven Rogers, but you have NO RIGHT to tell me who I can and cannot sleep with, nor the manner in which I choose to do so! My sex life is none of your business and how very fucking dare you even assume to think it is!” She raged. She didn’t even stop to think about how Steve knew about their relationship; Bucky had never mentioned telling him and she hadn’t told him either, but it was clear as day that he knew all about it anyway. “And if he’s using me, well that’s my problem, isn’t it? I’m just as guilty as he is if that’s the case. None of what we get up to behind closed doors is any of your goddamned business you arrogant asshole!”

“I don’t want him to- he could hurt you, Darcy!!” He shouted, face red and eyes wide. The handprint on his face looked angry and raised and she numbly congratulated herself on getting in such a good hit. It genuinely looked like it hurt.

She glared at him, mouth pulled into a mulish line, eyebrow cocked. “You mean like you just did?” She insisted and she ignored the way his face fell, guilt creeping across it. “How could you even imply that shit, Steve?? You know Bucky just as well as I do, if not better and you still think he’s capable of hurting me? You’re supposed to be his best friend! I don’t know what the fuck is going on with you two and quite frankly, I’m not interested in getting in the middle of it, but you need to pull your head out of your ass and wake up to yourself before you lose him all over again! Stop treating him like a child and stop expecting him to be the man he was before the war, because that’s not him anymore, Steve and you know it.”

He was silent in front of her, eyes downcast, hands curled into loose fists at his sides and she had never seen him looks so browbeaten and tired in all the time she’d known him. And she had been the one to pry the deathly sharp knife out of his hands when he’d tried to slit his own wrists.

“Steve,” she started quietly, “What does us sleeping together have to do with his working life anyway? How is that even linked to whatever it is that happened on the mission last week?”

He swallowed audibly and his eyes rolled up to meet hers, grim and pained. “Darcy, you can’t tell me that you don’t see it, can you?” He was quiet now, hushed and strained and exhausted.

She screwed up her nose and recoiled. “See what, Steve?”

He blinked at her, wide eyed and mouth open. “Oh my God, you’re just as fucking clueless as he is, Jesus!” He shook his head and ran his hands through his short, blonde hair. “Darcy, his feelings for you are bleeding out into everything he does. He’s so overwhelmed by them that he’s lost all ability to compartmentalize and he’s getting sloppy with not only his own safety, but the rest of the team’s. He can’t keep going on like this, it’s not safe and it’s sure as hell not healthy.”

“Feelings for me? What even are you-? Are you trying to tell me that you’re going to kick him off the team if he keeps sleeping with me or something? You can’t do that, Steve!”

He let out a frustrated growl and threw his hands up, startling her into action and she fell backwards and tripped over the large, artificial fern that sat by the elevators. She let out a startled squeak and a curse, pain shooting up her spine as her ass hit the floor with a thump. She bit back a groan and winced, propped herself up on her hands and shook her head. Fuck, she was such a klutz.

“Shit, Darcy! Are you alright?! Fuck, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean – I’m so sorry!”

She moved to wave his concern off and eyed his outstretched hand, contemplating whether she wanted him to help her to her feet or not. He moved closer and his fingers were inches from taking her hand when a black blur materialized and swept in and put itself between her and Steve. The black blur wasn’t a blur at all and she found herself looking up the back of long, muscular legs and a set of rigid shoulders that made something uneasy flutter in her belly. There was something about the way he stood that made her sixth sense tingle uncomfortably.

It wasn’t until Steve fell completely still opposite him and dropped into a shallow, timid crouch that she realized the implications of what her gut was telling her.

Steve held his hands up passively, voice low and careful. “I wasn’t going to hurt her,” he soothed, or tried to at least. Bucky’s shoulders tensed and he hunkered down, a booted foot sliding back a step to brace him, a low, threatening sound rumbling in his chest. “I was just going to help her up, Soldier. No harm done,” he cast her a furtive glance around Bucky’s legs and flared his eyes at her in warning. Bucky had gone AWOL and it was The Solider standing in front of her right now, not her lover. Steve’s eyes were screaming at her to tread carefully, his hand outstretched down low, urging her to stay put. “Right, Darce? You’re ok, right?”

She nodded mutely and it took three attempts to swallow before she could croak out the affirmative reply. All that came out was a raspy sound that could maybe, possibly pass as a yes.

“You need to verbalize your status, Darcy,” Steve growled, his eyes never leaving Bucky’s hulking, protective stance for a second. “Use your damn words!”

The Soldier seemed to take offense to his tone and slipped even lower, poised to strike at a moments notice. He’d produced a knife from God knows where and was brandishing it in his right hand, fingers twisted around the hilt as it twirled dangerously at his side. He cocked his head slightly, ear turned toward her but his eyes remained on Steve.

“Status report.” He barked, his voice clipped and dark, a savage undercurrent lacing the two words. “Are you injured?”

Darcy stammered and stuttered behind him on the floor and managed to drag herself onto hands and knees with a wince. “Just my pride and my ass,” she muttered, “It might bruise, but I’ll be-”

He was moving before she could even finish her sentence, before she could finish reassuring him that she was indeed fine and she cried out in horror as The Soldier made impact with Steve. It was loud and terrifying and she scuttled back into the wall as the two grappled for dominance. Bucky – no, The Soldier – was inhumanly fast and Steve was doing his best to remain defensive without becoming offensive. He didn’t want to hurt him, didn’t want to fight him. He was ducking and weaving but as fast as he was, Bucky was faster with his fists and the knife in his right hand slashed through the air and through the sleeve of Steve’s stealth suit like a hot knife through butter. That wasn’t supposed to be able to happen, the suit was reinforced with Kevlar and some sort of ballistics grade fabric that was meant to be nigh indestructible; it would take an incredible amount of force for it to even snag, let alone tear. Steve swore loudly and whirled out of reach, touched his fingertips to the cut in his suit and pulled them away, stained red and chest heaving as The Soldier started circling him, blood stained blade held aloft and a menacing snarl on his face. It was like some kind of morbid dance between the pair, both of them moving with a grace that she’d only seen before on a stage full of ballerinas or in a gymnastics competition, light footed and elegant whilst utterly, bone shakingly terrifying at the same time.

Steve’s hand was outstretched and he murmured softly to The Soldier, shield still perched on his back but his posture one of submission. “I don’t want to fight you, Buck,” he stepped backwards carefully as The Soldier took an ambling step closer, head cocked, eyes glinting with some sort of sick glee. “Bucky, please,” he pleaded, “I know you’re in there somewhere, Buck. Please believe that I didn’t hurt her – I would never hurt her. Aside from you she’s all I have – why would I jeopardize that by attacking her?”

Something dark flickered across his icy gaze and Darcy knew without a doubt that Steve had unknowingly said the wrong thing. A feral snarl curled its way onto his face and The Soldier threw himself at him with a roar. “MINE!”

Steve barely had time to brace himself and he went down like a ton of bricks, his head cracking off the floor with a sick thud that made her scream. He looked dazed and confused and he wasn’t entirely capable of defending himself from Bucky’s savage attack at the moment so she took a deep breath and shoved herself to her feet, staggered closer. Shit, what was she supposed to say to get him to back off?! She didn’t know how to call him off but she knew that she needed to do something; he’d already landed two solid punches to Steve’s face and was reeling back for another, hand wrapped around the blonde’s neck like a vise. Steve was choking and kicking, blood caking the right side of his head already, busted wide open.

“NO!!” She screamed, frantic. “SOLDIER, STOP!

His fist was already arcing down but he managed to abort the action at the last given moment and instead of a solid hit his knuckles scraped past his head in a glancing blow and impacted with the floor instead. He still didn’t let up on his windpipe and Steve kicked out a little weaker than before, the lack of oxygen starting to affect him. His eyes were bloodshot now and she’d see enough of those morbid crime scene detective shows to know that wasn’t good. He sent her a whale eyed look of terror, silently tried to get her to back away and get herself to safety and leave him to deal with the situation. Like he could right now, anyway. He was well and truly pinned and if she left, he would almost certainly end up dead. She needed to get Bucky off him and she needed to do it quickly.

The Soldier was still, his knee pressed heavily into Steve’s sternum as he loomed over him, eyes sliding sideways to watch her approach.

“You need to let him go,” She demanded, hands outstretched. “I’m not injured, you need to let him breathe.”

The Soldier grit his teeth and turned back to look down at the purpling face of Captain America, gasping for air and scratching uselessly at the rippling plates of his metal wrist. He bared his teeth at him for a long moment, shook him by his neck and bounced his head off the floor one more time before uncurling his fingers and letting Steve breathe for the first time in several minutes. He ignored the coughing and wheezing man underneath him and knelt silently astride him instead, awaiting orders. His knife was laying off to the side forgotten and sticky with blood.

“Are you dead, Stevie?” She called without looking away from the intense gaze of The Winter Soldier. He was watching her like a big cat would its prey, all calculating and predatory but oddly enough she wasn’t afraid. She’d met him before and it seemed that he remembered her. That was a good sign; maybe she would be able to sway him into backing down. Maybe, she could get him to leave Steve to fight another day and come with her instead.

She needed to get him away from Steve.

Steve was hacking loudly, blood smeared across his face and the pale marble floor and he was clutching his throat with one hand, bracing himself on his elbow. He gasped and spluttered, voice raspy and damaged but finally able to speak. “I’m good,” he managed breathlessly, “M’ok.” He sounded like he’d been gargling shards of glass and there were already finger shaped bruises around his neck.

“Good,” she breathed, “That’s good to hear.” She turned back to The Soldier and held out a steady hand, lifted her chin in an invitation. “Let’s get you out of here, ok, Soldier? We’ll get you somewhere safe and we can ride this out, ok?”

Steve sputtered and moved to push himself upright but she snarled at him to stay down at the same time as The Soldier shoved him back onto his back with a grunt. His metal hand pushed into the middle of Steve’s chest and held firm, pinning him in place. “Darcy, you can’t be serious!” He cried, frightened. “He’s compromised right now and you’re offering to go lock yourself up somewhere with him?! Are you insane?!”

“We’ve already met. I’ll be fine.” She shot the blonde a dirty look before turning back to The Soldier with a softer, gentler one. “You need to come with me,” she insisted, hands out. “Soldier. On your feet and come with me. Now.” She made it an order this time and he moved immediately.

He rose fluidly and silently, stepped on Steve’s chest instead of over his body and Darcy tried to hide her sharp wince when she heard the telltale crack of Steve’s sternum under Bucky’s weight and he let out a low, wounded grunt of pain. His head dropped back onto the floor and he wheezed wetly as Bucky came to stand at her side, waiting.

Steve opened his eyes and rolled his head to the side to meet her glassy eyed gaze. There was a moment of silent communication between them and she blinked blearily when he finally sagged back into the floor and gave her a solemn, slight nod. “Go,” he coughed, “Just… Get him somewhere safe. M’ok, Darce. Go.”

She bit her lip and even as she was reaching for the silver wrist beside her, she wanted to go to Steve, to make sure he was ok. “Steve…” Her voice shook and she had to stop herself from taking that first step towards him.

He blinked up at the ceiling and wheezed with every breath, eyes tight and pained. “Go, Darcy.” He insisted. “If he’s here when they arrive..” he trailed off and she felt the full force of his implication. If Bucky was still standing over Steve’s battered body when reinforcements arrived, he was done for. He was possibly done for, anyway. Every nook and cranny in the place was under surveillance and the fight was bound to have been noticed by now.  Steve coughed weakly and spread his fingers out either side of him, blinked sluggishly and licked at his bloody mouth. “Get him safe,” he rasped. “It’s ok, Sweetheart. He was just trying to protect you… Get him safe.”

She looped her fingers around his wrist and tugged, pulling him towards the stairwell and glancing back at the bloody, incapacitated Captain on the floor. “Come on, Soldier,” she murmured, upset at the thought of leaving her best friend in such a state but she knew he was right. “We need to go.”

She pushed into the stairwell with one last glance and The Soldier fell into step behind her, his movements liquid and smooth, footsteps silent on the concrete steps as they descended towards the lab floors. He was so quiet that she had to look back over her shoulder three times on the way down to make sure he was still there. He’d met her eyes each time with an intense, lingering look that left her feeling exposed and raw.

There was a panic room in Jane’s lab that she could lock down from the inside, only she knew the override codes and it would take her biometric signature to open the door so that’s where they were going. It was a risk, locking herself in there with him right now, but it was a necessary one. He needed somewhere where he could feel safe and where he would have enough time to decompress and let Bucky take back the reins, no matter how long it took. Darcy scanned her employee ID badge and waited for the locks to tumble, the light switching to green before she waved The Soldier through in front of her.

Jane was noticeably absent from the lab when they entered and she almost ran smack into his back when he stopped moving because she was too busy wondering where she was to notice he’d stopped dead. His arm was held out to hold her behind him as he swept his eyes around the quiet lab. It wasn’t silent, it never was with all the machines and gadgets that it housed but without Jane putzing around it muttering to herself it was eerie. She didn’t like it. She waited for him to check every corner and cupboard until he was satisfied that they were safe and there was nobody lurking in the shadows, distracted. Where the hell was Jane? He gave her a sharp nod and waved her after him and she puttered over to his side, took him by his wrist again and guided him towards the panic room hidden around a corner in the back of the lab.

The door was flush with the wall and if you didn’t know it was there, you’d be none the wiser to it’s location. The Soldier stiffened upon realization that he’d also missed it, hidden in plain sight. There was barely even a line in the wall and she moved carefully, made sure he could see her every move and slid her hand across the hidden holo-screen in the wall. There was an almost inaudible chirp and the wall opened up on itself to reveal a medium sized room, pale blue walls and a pair of single beds on either wall, a large storage closet stacked with non-perishables in the corner and a small round table off to its side complete with two sturdy chairs. There was a toilet behind a partition wall and a small sink, carpet on the floor to muffle any potential sound and a row of recessed down lights in the ceiling. It was a little dim inside, but it was cozy and safe and she ushered him inside quickly.

The door sealed shut behind them and for the first time since he’d appeared between her and Steve she could see him relax, even if it was just a smidgeon, it was something.

She took the few short steps across the room to close the gap between them and immediately reached for his hands with little thought to her safety, purple nailed fingers sweeping over his scuffed knuckles as she checked for any sign of injury. They were a little pink from hitting Steve in his hard head, but his fingers curled easily and painlessly and she dotted a gentle kiss against the back of them before moving to release him. She started to pull back, to let his hand drop but he grabbed for her in a frighteningly quick movement and once his fingers had looped her wrist he drew her in close and silver fingers swept over her face, pushing her hair back and checking her over for any bumps or bruises.

“I’m fine,” she soothed but allowed him to continue without argument, smiling softly as his hands frisked lower over her shoulders and down to her hips. His touch was light and impersonal but thorough and his features darkened when he swept his hands across the back of her hips and she tightened up, tender where she’d landed on her ass hard. He stared down at her, assessing her physical state and then he was pulling at her clothes and she yelped as the buttons on her blouse popped and tore away. She heard the rip of fabric and the ting of a button flying off to hit the wall and she slapped at his busy hands, swearing.

“Fucks sake, if you wanted me to strip off all you had to do was ask! Don’t yank at my clothes like that, they’re going to tear and I can’t afford to replace them at the moment!” She plucked at the ripped fabric over her bust and sighed. Fuck, this was her best blouse and it had been expensive to boot, not to mention it was her favorite item of clothing in her entire wardrobe full stop. She quickly worked the remaining buttons free and shrugged out of the ruined pale purple silk, his fingers already working at the hidden buttons of her high waisted trousers as she tossed the blouse aside. He let out a quiet huff of irritation that only subsided once she pushed his hands out of the way and unbuttoned her pants, let them fall to the floor and she stepped out of them so she was left in nothing more than her matching underwear set and her t-strap black heels. They were actually Bucky’s favorite, the underwear, aside from the bright blue garter belt, that is, and it was a sinking weight in her belly that she realized that this really wasn’t Bucky looking at her when he barely even reacted to her state of undress.

He circled her slowly, a hand trailing after him as he went and once he reached the small of her back he stopped. His hand was warm against her skin and she repressed a shiver; now wasn’t the time to get turned on by his hands on her, especially with him being so far from himself. The hand lingered and she waited, confused and a little bit nervous. What was he doing back there, counting freckles or something? (There were three, by the way. Just three freckles on the entirety of her back because when you had skin as pale and prone to burning as hers, you kept that shit covered up, damn it!)

He muttered something quietly, the words rolling off his tongue in a harsh, brutish language that she vaguely recognized as Russian. Maybe. Maybe it was German, she wasn’t sure. She was never very good with languages and whilst Bucky spoke more than half a dozen fluently, she did not possess the penchant for foreign languages like he did. He could be speaking some sort of pig latin for all she knew and it still wouldn’t make a lick of sense to her. He prodded at her back and repeated the same words, a little louder this time and she could hear the question in them even if she wasn’t sure what he was saying. When she didn’t answer he gave her a nudge and she swore loudly, annoyed and shit, how did he know exactly where to press for maximum discomfort?! Her ass was bruised, damn it, stop poking at it!

“I don’t know what you’re saying!” She shouted, frustrated. “I don’t speak whatever-the-fuck-it-is!! English, motherfucker, do you speak it?!”

Crap. Here she was in nothing more than her heels and her underwear, locked in a secret as fuck panic room with The Winter Soldier right up her ass and she was quoting Pulp Fiction at him instead of addressing the situation like a grown-assed adult? Fuck. She was going to die. He was going to kill her for this and maybe Steve was right all those times he’d told her she lacked self-preservation instincts? Ugh, she hated it when Steve was right.

He made a sound of irritation behind her but there was no burst of violence and instead of prodding at her again, his palm laid flat over the sore, bruising skin and he cleared his throat. “Do you need assistance treating your injury?” He asked, in English this time and her mouth made an ‘o’ of surprise. He was offering to help her, not hurt her. Oh. Oh, well, in that case she owed him an apology for thinking ill of him. His hand pressed a little firmer into the swell of her butt cheek and she winced, tensing. Ok, so maybe it did hurt a little bit after all.

“Is it bad?” She asked, trying to twist to look back at her ass but unable to see past her hip. “God, what good is having a big ass if you still can’t see it for shit?” She muttered and he glanced up at her, eyes clouding over just a touch. It was the same look Bucky would give her whenever she was being down on herself and she watched in morbid fascination as he stroked her tender skin with a sad frown,

“No,” He muttered, brows drawing in tight in confusion. “Not big,” he shook his head like he had something in his ear that tickled and bared his teeth. “Should be nicer to yourself, not-“ he broke off with a growl and the clouds cleared from his eyes and left him neutral and expressionless once more. “Do you require assistance?”

What in the blue hell was going on??

She gaped at him a little, confused by the rapid cycling between personalities and flustered by the absent hand pawing at her behind. Steve had mentioned something about personality bleed when he’d been ranting at her before and she narrowed her eyes on The Soldier, contemplative. Is that what was happening? Was Bucky in there trying to take over again or was it something else entirely? Was The Soldier pushing Bucky back, or was he actively becoming part of him, merging into one half of a whole that made up her lover and best friend?

She grit her teeth and decided to give it a whirl, no harm, no foul, right? Worse thing that could happen was he could snap her neck like a twig, best case scenario was that she was right and somewhere, somehow, Bucky would be able to hear her and push through just enough for her to check on him. Something monumental had to have happened to trigger his current state and she wanted to make sure he was ok in there. She needed to make sure he was ok in there.

She turned slightly, slowly and her heels made no sound against the carpet as she tentatively reached to touch the back of his hand. “Bucky-Bear…?” She peered back at him hesitantly and his head cocked to the left, just a minute smidgeon. “James,” she tried this time, “Are you ok?”

He eyed her suspiciously and drew back half a step but his hand remained on her hip, a subconscious lifeline that he wasn’t even sure why he needed. “Who is-“ he stopped short and blinked, shook his head and for a split second his face crumpled into an earth shattering mask of grief. He heaved a little bit, shoulders rolling in as if he was getting ready to be sick and then his eyes cleared into pale, emotionless blue and he blinked at her, lost again.

Darcy’s stomach rolled with the realization that there was indeed something terribly wrong with Bucky but also because she knew that she was terribly unequipped to deal with it. If whatever had triggered this latest episode was that bad, well, she wasn’t exactly sure how she was supposed to help him.

They eyed each other for a long moment, him unblinking and her narrow eyed. Finally, when it became obvious that he wasn’t going to engage in conversation with her she flopped onto the nearby, shitty single bed and bent to unbuckle her shoes. She might be stuck in here for the unforeseen future with a mute imitation of her Bucky, but if she was, she was damn well going to be comfortable doing it. The shoes were nice enough, cute in a sexy secretary kind of way but if there wasn’t going to be any appreciation for them they were coming off. They actually pinched her toes and the ankle strap rubbed at her skin so she was quietly glad to be rid of them, if she was being honest.

She plucked at the buckles and wriggled and huffed when she almost smothered herself in her own boobs. “Oh for fucks…” She pressed her hand against her cleavage and wrestled it flat, bent over and tried again. How did she even get the damn things on this morning with those things in the way?! God, maybe it was time for a reduction. After tugging at the strap for a minute she blew out a breath and sprawled on her back, thrust her leg straight up in the air and whistled sharply. She knew he was watching her, even if he wasn’t looking at her head on. He was propped against the wall, head turned away from her but at her whistle he stiffened, waiting.

“Your assistance is required.” She quipped, rolling her head towards him. She watched him straighten against the wall and push off with both palms, long legs crossing the room in four long strides until he knelt at her side. She waved her foot in the air and virtually shoved it in his face. “Unbuckle me?”

He shot her a wry, confused glance but reached for her foot. It was almost comical watching his big fingers navigate the tiny little buckles but the little sneer of irritation when he couldn’t get the strap loose was worth it. He spat out a feral curse under his breath and pushed his fingers under the strap, pinched it between his thumbs and pulled sharply. The leather split and he smirked triumphantly and Darcy gaped at him.

“You broke my shoe.” She looked at her foot, at his face and flailed her hand at him. “Damn it, James Buchanan, what the fuck?!” He rolled his eyes at her and wordlessly reached for the other foot. “Oh, so now you’ve got sass?! You break my damn shoe and now you decide to develop a sense of personality? You’re an ass and a half.”

He jerked her foot into the air and worked the buckle undone, this time releasing the strap properly before lining up the shoes on the floor under the small bed. He grabbed for her foot and grunted when she tried to tug it from his grasp, held firm and swept his fingers over the red marks on the back of her heels. She jerked away from his warm fingers and he glanced up at her before retracting them and replacing them with cool metal instead. The relief was instant and she let out a quiet moan and flung her arm over her eyes.

“Oh God, that’s so good.” His fingers tightened around her heel and she lifted her arm to look at him, head lifted up, chin virtually in her cleavage. He wasn’t looking at her, eyes downcast towards his knees and she pushed up onto her elbows. “You liked that.” She observed, brow quirked. “You liked that sound.”

He avoided her gaze but his grip held firm and she wriggled until she was upright, shuffled her butt to the edge of the bed and planted her feet either side of his thick thighs. She bent forward to try to catch his eye and inwardly delighted when his eyes skirted over the tops of her breasts, lingered on the soft cream lace that barely covered her and then her belly swooped, upset when he clamped his eyes shut and cringed, waiting for punishment.

“M’sorry.”

“Bucky,” she reached for him slowly and instead of curling her fingers around his neck like she normally would she took his hand instead. “You’re not in trouble, Babe,” she stroked her thumb over his tense hand until he relaxed a little and carefully set it on her knee. “You’re allowed to look, Bucky.” At his flinch, “You’re allowed to touch too.”

He squinted at her in confusion, glanced at his hand on her knee and back to her face. He was searching for something. “Is this a test?” He asked after moment, glancing back and forth. “I’m not allowed to- this is a test, isn’t it?” He pulled his hand away and crawled backwards until his back hit the opposite wall where he pressed himself against it and eyed her with no small amount of distrust.

Darcy watched him go and sagged, scrubbed at her face and chewed on the inside of her cheek. “Right,” she mumbled, “Too far. Got it.” She swallowed back her tears and pulled herself back onto the bed, laid down with her back to him, facing the wall and closed her eyes. If he wasn’t about to talk to her or trust her, then she was going to sleep. She knew instinctively that he wouldn’t hurt her, so she pushed her face into the awful, thin pillow and started counting sheep. This was great. Just great.

She quietly wondered if Steve was alright.

 

 

Chapter Text

She wasn’t sure how long she’d been asleep or even what the time was but when she woke up she felt like crap. Her head hurt and her stomach was cramping from hunger and she was just a little bit on the cold side. Actually, now that she thought about it, she was very cold. Her skin was prickled with goosebumps and she was shivering on top of the oddly comfortable yet thin mattress, knees brought up to her chest and hands tucked underneath her chin. Her teeth were chattering, for fucks sake. How the hell was it so cold in there? Sure the seasons were creeping towards winter, but the building was kept fairly warm so it shouldn’t be a problem, right? Did Tony forget to make sure that this particular panic room had heating or something?

She was still facing the wall and her hip hurt a little bit so she was fairly sure that however long she had been asleep she’d been in the one position the whole time. It could have been minutes, could have been hours, but she knew that she hurt and that was enough to make her feel miserable.

Behind her there was the jingling sound of keys, the muted thud of a lock being tumbled and after a moment of rustling she made out the sound of fabric being shaken out. There was the barest hint of a breeze before something soft, heavy and almost certainly a blanket was draped over her shivering body. Careful hands tucked it around her and over her hands, under her chin and up to cover the back of her neck, lifted her feet and folded it underneath. By the time he was done there was no way for any of the cold to seep into her skin and she was thoroughly bundled up in her very own blanket burrito. The blanket was thick and made of cotton, a waffle weave that she knew from intimate knowledge with the medical unit; it was a thermal hospital blanket and she had never been so happy to be wrapped up in one in her life. Despite how warm she knew the blankets would be soon, she continued to shiver and she clenched her teeth in an effort to stop them from chattering. It didn’t really work and all that it got her in the end was a sore jaw and a headache.

“God Tony,” she cursed the billionaire quietly under her breath, her stomach and shoulders sore from shivering and she curled in on herself tighter, “-would it have killed you to make sure this place was heated?”

A hesitant hand pressed against her shoulder and she blinked hard, determined not to react. She’d distressed him last time she’d tried to touch to him so she was keeping her hands to herself this time. She didn’t want to upset him again, to give him a reason not to trust her. The longer he was agitated and nervous the longer it would take for him to ‘wake up’, as it were. The hand on her shoulder lifted and she almost whined at the loss of the weight of it, but she smothered the urge and pressed her cheek into the crappy pillow instead. The back of warm fingers pressed against her cheek for a moment to gauge her temperature, dug under the blanket and lay against the back of her neck before withdrawing completely.  There was another bout of quiet rustling and twin thumps before she heard a very, very familiar sound indeed; the rasp of a zipper being lowered and cloth hitting the floor a few seconds later, then her blanket was tugged away from her back and miles of gloriously warm, bare skin pressed up against her back. All he was wearing was his boxer-briefs and fuck, he was so warm, his big body radiating so much heat that it almost burned against her own cold skin.

“Holy shit,” she breathed a quiet moan of relief, curling into his heat instinctively, rolling towards him and tucking her head under his chin, “God, so warm.” She toed at his calves, also bare and tried to worm her freezing feet between his legs like she normally would. She hated having cold feet and he knew this, well, Bucky knew as much anyway and he would always, without fail, let her push her freezing cold feet between his legs so they’d warm up with his body heat. This time though he wasn’t exactly himself and when he tensed she hesitated, drew her feet back and apologized quietly. She could deal with her cold, somewhat numb toes. She could. It would be fine. She was more than capable of warming her own feet up, thank you very much. She would definitely lay there and curse her own stupid poor circulation, but she could do it, no problem.

He sighed over the top of her head and shuffled a little closer, reached his flesh hand down to tap her thigh and lifted his leg a little to guide her toes in between his calves then sandwiched her feet between them. The hand stayed on her thigh and his thumb swiped back and forth a couple of times before abruptly stopping and Darcy realized she was holding her breath.

What the actual fuck?

He wasn’t Bucky, but somehow he knew exactly what to do, what Bucky would do in this situation and he’d done it without even thinking about it. Darcy slowly lifted her chin to peer up at him and the look on his face was one of pure confusion.

“How did you know to do that?” She asked him, voice soft and shaky.

He blinked slowly and glanced down at her, teeth dug into the inside of his cheek. She could tell he was biting himself by the slight dip in his cheek and the tight line of his jaw and she desperately wanted to reach up and stroke his face, to comfort him. “I,” he frowned, “I don’t know.” His brows furrowed and he opened his mouth, closed it, then his frown deepened. “You have poor circulation in your feet,” he muttered slowly, confused. “… you have poor circulation and you’re prone to chilblains in the winter. That’s why you always wear thick socks when it’s cold, because you’re scared it’s going to happen again and you’ll be sore for months.”

Darcy’s heart skipped a beat and she gasped. The Soldier wouldn’t know that about her, hell, not many people did anyway. She protected that little tidbit about herself like it was some dirty little secret. It was embarrassing and she hated it, hated the way her skin would get tight and sore and itchy all at once and the delicate flesh around her toenails would bruise and blister. It was ugly and painful and really, only Steve was able to sympathize completely. Bucky knew, of course, hell, he’d been the one that had spotted her sore feet and put a name to the condition for her (she’d never known why it happened and he was able to recognize it as something Steve had suffered from pre-serum), but The Soldier barely knew her. He’d spent very little time with her and the only way he would be privy to such information was simple; Bucky was suffering from a personality bleed and The Soldier was present a hell of a lot more than either of them were aware of. Even if he was lurking in the back of Bucky’s subconscious, he was there and he was watching, learning and listening to every little thing they did.

Jesus, that meant he'd been privy to everything they'd gotten up to. She wasn't sure whether to be embarrassed or aroused at the thought of him watching them go at it so hard that the bed collapsed...

She shuffled a little bit and managed to pull herself up the cramped bed so she was face to face with him and she settled against the pillow, their noses inches apart, her hands tucked up between them pressed against her own chest. He watched her silently and held himself stiffly, kept his hands to himself and pressed his palm flat against his thigh underneath the blanket.

Her mind was in such a tailspin over the newest development that she didn’t even realize that she’d stopped shivering and the ache in her jaw was easing from the warmth that his body leeched into hers.

“Can I ask you something?”

He narrowed his eyes and considered her question for a moment, then gave her a slow nod. His fingers flexed against his thigh and he pressed his calves tighter together, rubbed them back and forth a little to try to warm her feet up quicker. Another purely Bucky move and her belly clenched. Even when he wasn’t quite himself he was still taking care of her.

“Do you see everything?” She asked tentatively, throwing caution to the wind and picking up his hand to tangle their fingers together. He glanced at their clasped hands but didn’t pull away, let her slot their palms together and tug his hand to sit against her heart.  “Are you able to see everything going on around you even if you’re not,” she paused, bit her lip and considered her words carefully. “If Bucky is in control do you still know what’s going on or is it like waking up from a deep sleep?”

For a split second he looked terrified, completely bared and afraid. It was a look she’d never seen on his face in the whole time she’d known him and it physically hurt her to look at him and see him so rattled. He blinked rapidly before he shut it down and stared at her blankly. “I don’t understand the question.”

She snorted in disbelief and cocked her eyebrow. “Don’t lie to me, you’re terrible at it no matter which one of you is doing it. You understand the question just fine.”

He stared right back at her and stubbornly kept his mouth shut.

Darcy sighed and stroked her fingers over the blunt edges of his fingernails, the rusty shadow under the tips of them drawing her eye. Steve’s blood; it was Steve’s blood, there was nothing else it could be. He’d obviously tried to clean his hands whilst she was sleeping but there was still a line of old blood under two of his nails and it just served to make everything all the more real.

Something had triggered The Soldier, brought him into the forefront of Bucky’s mind and he’d attacked Steve because he thought he’d hurt her. Despite having only met her the once, The Soldier had thrown himself in front of her to protect her from a perceived threat. It wasn’t planned, she wasn’t his handler and he hadn’t had time to become attached to her during the scant amount of minutes they’d spent together, so why had he done something so impulsive? Why had he put himself between Steve and herself, virtually unarmed and unprepared to face off against a former target that was more than capable of putting him on the ground? He’d risked his own safety just to protect her.

“Alright,” she breathed, inexplicably tired again. “I’m just going to throw some theories out there and you can feel free to jump in at any time, ok?” He eyed her warily and drew his head back a little bit but stayed put otherwise. His hand was still loosely curled around her own and pressed against the upper swell of her breast, her heartbeat solid against his fingers. “Will you answer questions if I ask them directly?”

He huffed and his lip curled in distaste. “Unlikely.”

She blinked. “Rude.” She mused. “You’re rude. Not cool, Soldier. Not cool.” She shook her head and forged on. “So, here’s what I’m thinking. Bucky thinks you’re locked up somewhere in the back of his mind but really, you never even left, did you?” His nonplussed look was answer enough and she sighed. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’ve been there the whole time, watching and waiting for him to need you, I’ll bet. He spends every minute of every day worried that you’re going to break through and take over and hurt someone but you’re not even a separate identity at all. You’re right there hidden in plain sight waiting for him to call on you for help, aren’t you? He’s not entirely aware of you all the time, but you’re there. You lurk like a creeper and that’s how you know things about me, isn’t it?”

The expression on his face slowly morphed from nonchalant to wary to plain old scared in a matter of seconds and the grip on her fingers was tight. Painfully tight. If he could have broken out into a cold sweat she was sure he would have done it by now. It took a moment, longer than it should have, for her to recognize the fear in his eyes as the very same emotion he’d shown in her bathroom that night; he was afraid he was at risk of punishment. He thought he was going to be disciplined and thrown back into cryo or the chair. That fucking chair.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” she rushed to calm him, tried subtly to untangle her fingers from his crushing grip with little luck. “You’re not in trouble, but you will be if you break my fucking hand.” She winced as her bones ground together under his fingers. “You need to let go.”

He blinked twice in rapid succession and then looked down at their hands, saw the white knuckled hold he had on her and the way her skin was blanching under his fingers and he immediately released her, tearing his hand back and shoving it behind his back. He bared his teeth in a silent apology and averted his gaze, wouldn’t meet her eyes.

“Soldier,” she started, then paused. Her fingers were tingling as the blood pumped back into them and she rolled her wrist absently. “Can I call you something else? Soldier is so impersonal and it doesn’t feel right calling you Bucky right now, so what’s it gonna be? Do you want me to stick with Soldier or James or something else entirely?” She pondered aloud and tapped her finger against her chin. “Ooh! I know! How’s about Tall, Dark and Impulsive?” Her tone held an edge of irritation now and she prodded at his bare chest. Fuck, so warm. “What on earth possessed you to throw yourself at Steve like that? He had his shield on his fucking back and you’re lucky that he didn’t utilize it! You’re damn lucky he loves you so much and refused to hit you back otherwise you could have been hurt! Do you know what it would do to me if something happened to you?! You only had a knife on you, you idiot and he could have done some serious damage!”

Her face felt warm once she’d finished ranting and he was staring at her wide eyed, his surprise evident on his face. He gaped a little bit and his silence only served to upset her more. Bucky would have been yelling back by now. Alternatively, it was also possible that he could have made some sort of stupid joke in an effort to diffuse her ire. Actually, that was more likely to happen. He didn’t bother to yell at her, he just got sarcastic and quippy and did his best to distract her with corny, outrageous flirting that almost always ended up with her naked and him between her thighs. It was his patented distraction method and as much as it bugged her that she was so susceptible to it, she also kind of loved it too.

She hated not being able to just turn around and talk to him, even though physically he was right there in front of her.

“Why did you do it?” She asked him, voice small and quiet. “Why would you put yourself in danger for me when you don’t even know me?”

He looked thoroughly unnerved by her line of questioning and he swallowed convulsively. “You’re the only one who’s ever bothered to be nice to me,” he answered after a long period of awkward silence and her heart lurched in her chest. Her sinuses started to burn with unshed tears at the thought of him being held prisoner all those years without anyone showing him a hint of kindness. God, she was learning more about him now than she had in all the time they’d been friends. “You helped me when everyone else hurt me. I needed to protect you.”

She sniffed futilely and despite her efforts a rogue tear broke free and rolled down her cheek onto the pillow. “I didn’t need protecting,” she explained, “Steve wasn’t trying to hurt me, he was just upset and loud and I fell over because I’m clumsy. He never tried to hurt me.” Her lip wobbled and she blinked hard to try to clear the tears away. It didn’t work and more leaked out and down her cheek. The scratchy cotton under her cheek felt damp now and she grimaced. “Can Bucky see the things that you do, like you can with him? Does he know that you two tried to kill his best friend?”

It was strange, the whole referring to a singular person as multiple people, but she wasn’t sure how else to go about it. He was Bucky, but he was The Soldier as well. They were one and the same but so different all at once.

He looked uncomfortable and nervous, almost certainly afraid of saying the wrong thing in case he was to be punished for his misstep. “He…. Knows.” He answered hesitantly. “There’s a strange swirling in my stomach; it aches. I don’t understand what it means.”

Darcy snorted and swiped at her runny nose with the back of her hand. “Yeah, that’ll be the guilt. You beat the shit out of him and he refused to fight back, of course Bucky’s going to be upset. He hates fighting with Steve, even if he’s an interfering asshole sometimes.”

Something familiar and almost affectionate clouded across his eyes and he scoffed. “Goddamned helicopter parent.” He blinked. “I don’t know why I said that. What does that mean?”

“It means that he hovers and freaks out over every little thing; he’s scared something is going to go wrong and you’re going to disappear on him again so he overcompensates by suffocating you with his fluttering. He doesn’t mean anything by it, you have to understand. He lost you once and he’s terrified of it happening again.” He looked so perturbed by her explanation that she reached out and took his hand in hers again. “Honey, he would have let you kill him before he hurt you. If I hadn’t stopped you, he would have just laid there and let you beat him to death.”

“That’s reckless. And stupid.”

She snorted and rolled her eyes. “Steven Grant Rogers is the personification of reckless and stupid,” her lips quirked into a wry, affectionate smirk. “He’s a jerk, but he’s our jerk.”

A sort of hesitant tension washed over him and he shifted, inched a little closer to her and his mouth ticked in the corner. “I think he’s not talking to-“ he considered his words. “Us? Me? Bucky? I’m not sure anymore.”

She frowned and took his earlier actions to heart and wriggled closer to him again until there was barely an inch between them; her breasts were definitely touching his chest. “Did you two have a fight?” She queried, concerned. “Nobody mentioned anything, so I’m not sure either. What makes you think he’s not talking to… You? Do you remember anything?”

The Soldier pursed his lips and visibly considered her question. “Something happened. I know it did but I can’t- it’s all-“ he growled and shook his head, frustrated. “I can’t remember!”

Darcy shushed him and carefully stroked the cap of his shoulder to try to calm him. It was familiar but not too familiar and she didn’t want to freak him out by wrapping herself around him like an octopus and sucking his lips clear off his face. No. No, that wouldn’t do at all. No need to scare the poor man. “Hey, come on, don’t freak out. It’s alright, I can ask him what happened later, ok?”

He remained agitated but quieted and his eyes followed her hand as she continued to stroke and soothe, her glittery lilac nail polish bright against her pale skin and his shoulder. “Why do you do that?” He asked, bemused. “Why do you keep touching me?”

“Because it’s comforting.”

He looked doubtful but didn’t move to stop her. “For who?”

She shrugged and skimmed her hand up to cup the side of his neck, fingers stroking the skin beneath his ear there now instead. “For both of us,” she replied bluntly. “Taking care of you makes me feel better and he likes it when I pet him like he’s a big ol’ cat, so it’s a no brainer. I can stop if you don’t like it.” She offered, deathly afraid he’d tell her to stop even though she really didn’t want to. She needed the contact, she needed to reassure herself that he was still there even if he wasn’t.

He gazed at her silently, glanced down at her outstretched arm and then back to her face. “S’ok,” he turned his cheek into the inside of her wrist carefully, as if he was waiting for the other shoe to drop and brushed his nose across her skin. “I didn’t mean to scare you. Earlier.”

She supposed that was his version of an apology, admitting any wrongdoing had to be difficult for him but it really wasn’t necessary. Sure, he’d scared her silly, or rather watching him beat on Steve whilst the latter had refused to defend himself had scared her silly, but he hadn’t done it out of pure malice. He wasn’t trying to kill Steve for the sake of killing him. He was scared that she’d been hurt and he’d been trying to help her. It was a big step for The Soldier and in some weird, twisted, dark little way, she was proud of him for making a decision of his own.

“You did,” she hedged and his face fell, “-but I’m sure Steve will be alright. Just promise me that you won’t do that again, please? I don’t want to bury either of you. I couldn’t bear it if I lost you because you got in trouble trying to help me. Please don’t do it again.”

His eyes were wide and honest, bright, bright blue and solemn. “Ok.”

“The words, Soldier. I’m gonna need to hear the words.”

His tongue darted out to wet his lips and his teeth scraped over the pink swell of his mouth. “Ok,” he offered again, “I promise.”

Damn. A promise from The Winter Soldier himself; she wished she had been recording the conversation with her phone for prosperity.

She smiled at him, a small, warm curve of her lips that made her eyes sparkle and he swallowed thickly as if he’d been given an unexpected gift. His hand hovered between them, torn between touching her and pulling away and eventually Darcy made the decision for him and guided it towards her hip. She settled it against the flare just below her waist and returned to stroking his neck. “It’s alright,” she covered his hand with hers and reassured him. “Do you want to try to get some sleep? I can keep watch…?”

He stared at their hands on her hip and his fingers twitched against her skin. “You don’t mind?”

She smothered her smile at his cautious tone and shook her head. “It’s fine, honest. You get some sleep and I’ll be here when you wake up, ok? M’not going anywhere, I promise.”

**

He was still sleeping and sleeping heavily at that and Darcy rubbed at her burning eyes. She was so, so tired and just a little desperate with the need to pee, but she was stuck under his arm and every time she tried to crawl out from underneath the sleep-heavy limb he would grumble in his sleep and curl around her even more. It was nice, more than nice actually, to have him draped over her and pressed so close, nose in her hair, but she really, really needed to pee.

She did not want to stay pinned underneath him for as long as possible and he absolutely did not smell amazing, no sir. The lingering scent of his cologne and soap was not making her want to burrow into his neck and breathe him in deep, nor was it sending a slow heat licking through her veins. She was completely in control. Absolutely.

Fuck, he smelled good but she really, really needed the bathroom.

She poked his cheek with the tip of her finger and wrinkled her nose, trying not to snigger when he snorted in his sleep and grumbled, pushed his face further into her hair and threw his leg over her. She swore, not bothering to limit the volume of her profanities and she pushed at the leg that had just pinned her to the bed. Fuck, he was heavy.

“Hey, you, I need to pee,” she insisted, pushing and shoving at him in an effort to rouse him just enough to free herself. It wasn’t working and she cursed even louder and reached up to tug sharply on a fistful of his hair. “Jesus, wake up! I’m gonna pee myself if you don’t let me up!”

He let out a pitiful whine and wrapped his arm around her tighter, hauling her against his chest. “Don’t wanna,” he complained, nosing at the curve of her neck. “-s’warm.”

She snorted and rocked under his arm and leg, pushing at him insistently as her bladder complained bitterly. “Oh it’s warm alright, but its gonna get a hell of a lot warmer in a minute if you don’t get off me! I will wet the bed and you’re going to be laying in a puddle. Move!” In a last ditch effort to rouse him, because actually peeing herself was a very real possibility now, she pinched a wedge of the skin over his ribs and twisted hard at the same time as she brought her knee up and jammed it into his thigh.

He let out a startled grunt and his eyes popped open as he inhaled sharply and flailed, instinctively rolling away from the painful stimuli. If the bed had been any bigger he would have been fine, but it wasn’t and his eyes widened comically as he ran out of bed and toppled over the edge with a muffled yell. He landed with a winded thump and tangled in the blanket, he stared up at the ceiling of the panic room in confusion.

“What, the fuck?”

Momentarily blinded with relief, because if that wasn’t Bucky Barnes swearing on the floor she was a natural blonde, Darcy almost forgot her desperate need for the bathroom until she sat up and her bladder protested with a painful vengeance. She scrambled over the edge of the bed, tripped over his prone body and staggered towards the partitioned off toilet.

“You need to hum for your life, Barnes, because I don’t want you to listen to me peeing!!”

He grumbled as he pulled himself off the floor and blinked down at his bare legs, vaguely recalling stripping off and crawling into a stupidly cramped bed with Darcy but just a little bit confused. “S’not like I haven’t heard you pee before,” he muttered as his eyes searched the room, “Why should I have to hum?”

From behind the partition Darcy let out a whine of frustration. “I have a shy bladder, you ass! Now hum, damn it! I need to pee so bad it hurts so will you please just do this for me?! Fuck!

He muffled his amusement by pressing his lips tightly together, shoulders shaking.

“BUCKY FUCKING BARNES!”

He snorted so hard he choked and immediately straightened, cleared his throat and started humming the most obnoxious, awful song that he could think of as loud as he could; Barbie Girl. He wasn’t sure of the singer or band or whoever had performed it, but he knew that Darcy hated it and he loved how sweary and angry she got every time she heard it. Apparently, it was an ear-worm, whatever that was.

To be fair, he didn’t exactly blame her for hating it so much; the singer was awful and her voice was way too nasal to be appealing but he knew the tune (if not all the words) and he hummed with gusto, hands behind his back, rocking on his heels as she did her business.

He wasn’t about to tell her that he could still hear her, regardless. He wanted to annoy her, not embarrass her.

“Oh my God, Bucky, I’m going to actually kill you.” She promised vehemently, cursing him blind. “Any song in existence that you could pick and you choose the one fucking abomination that makes me want to cut my own ears off and eat them!”

He let out a bark of laughter and rolled his neck, pushing at his chin as he twisted to get his neck to crack. It popped loudly and he stretched with a hum, arms above his head as the toilet flushed and she appeared a moment later. She eyed him for a moment, her expression uncharacteristically guarded and he watched her in silence as she padded across the small room to the tiny little sink to wash her hands. She took her time, bent over the sink scrubbing at her skin with an extortionate amount of liquid soap and the longer she had her back to him the stronger the disquiet in his gut grew.

He looked around the small room with his brows drawn tight, something unsettling and ugly building in the back of his mind. He didn’t remember getting there, but at the same time he knew that they were in the panic room off to the back of Jane and Darcy’s lab and that they’d been there for more than just a few hours. There was a pile of clothes on the floor by the empty bed across the room and he was almost positive that they hadn’t been fucking around, so why were they both in their underwear when it was so fucking cold in there? And better yet, why was it so fucking cold in there? He looked down at Darcy’s bare feet and frowned; she should have socks on. She was going to get sore.

“Darce…?” He urged, “What’s goin’ on? Why are we-” He paused and ice crept through his veins as the past twenty four hours came rushing back and he choked on his next breath. “Oh God,” he clamped his eyes shut and let out a low groan. “Oh God, Steve. What have I done? What the fuck have I done?!” He couldn’t breathe and all the air in his lungs punched out of him, mind racing to supply him with a technicolor reenactment of his confrontation with Steve. He gasped, raw and ragged and hunched over to brace himself on his knees, his good mood upon waking all but obliterated. Fuck, he’d attacked Steve.

“Bucky, breathe,” She was at his side, her hands on his back and stomach and her cheek pushed up against his shoulder. “Shh, breathe, Baby, breathe.”

He sucked in a huge lungful of air and held it, concentrating on the feel of her hands on him, her quiet voice insisting that he breathe in, breathe out and the powdery scent of her shampoo. His lungs burned and screamed at him and he intended to let his breath out in a long, smooth exhale but instead it came out in a jerky rush that left him coughing and blinking back tears. “What have I done?” He moaned, “God, what have I done?”

Darcy wrapped herself around him and guided his head to her shoulder, kissed his brow and murmured quietly to him until he was able to catch his breath and once he was quieter she guided him back over to the bed they’d been curled up on and crawled onto it. She flipped over, still holding his hand and wriggled onto her back before she tugged him closer and tapped her shoulder. “C’mere.”

He went willingly and crawled over her, slotted his thigh between her legs and blanketed her with his body. Her arm curled around his neck and fingers carded through his hair.

“Are you still you?” She asked, mouth against his sharp cheekbone. Her hands didn’t falter and it brought a sense of comfort that he wasn’t sure he deserved.

He buried his face in her shoulder and tried not to think about just how much he wanted to vomit. There had been so much blood and the sharp cracking of bones breaking echoed in his head along with a wet, hacking cough that he knew all too well but hadn’t heard in a long, long time. “S’me,” he mumbled against her skin, “I fucked up, didn’t I?”

She made a small, considering sound and kissed his head. “Maybe,” she admitted. “We came straight here and there’s no cell service either, so I haven’t been able to find out what’s going on out there.” She dragged her nails across his shoulders lightly and swirled them as far down his back as she could reach. She knew that it was something he liked, something that helped him relax and despite the racket in his head his body went lax and boneless over her. She huffed a little bit and he shifted just enough for her to be able to draw a proper breath and settled back against her. Her fingers picked up where they left off.

“How long have you been sneaking around with The Soldier in your head?”

He froze against her for a split second then sighed and curled himself around her, almost afraid of how she would react. “I don’t know,” he admitted lowly, “S’been so long that I can’t- wait, how did you know?”

Her thigh came up to drape around his hip and she nestled against him, warm and pliant and not at all as angry as he thought she’d be. Truthfully, he’d suspected that his other personality had been dropping in and out of his everyday life for the past few months, maybe longer but he couldn’t remember experiencing any lapses in his memory save for the few hours he’d lost after The Incident with security a while back, so he’d kept his mouth shut and got on with it. He didn’t want to say anything to anyone until he was one hundred percent sure. There hadn’t been anything unusual going on, nothing strange to make him question his own actions and there still wasn’t, but lately there had been an odd sense of being disconnected from himself that left him feeling off. Not bad, but different. He hadn’t felt right since Friday, after they’d returned from their last mission. It felt like he was awake and asleep at the same time.

“I had a very enlightening conversation with our favorite interloper,” she huffed and to his surprise she sounded almost affectionate. “He’s a bit of a creeper, you know. Likes to watch.”

Bucky grimaced and wrinkled his nose. “Ugh, God, tell me you’re kidding,” He looked up at her and when she smirked and shook her head he winced. “Shit, Darce. I thought he might be hangin’ around but I wasn’t sure. This is the first time he’s hopped in the drivers seat since that night in your apartment.” Darcy made a little noise that had him both confused and curious. “What? What is it?”

“I don’t think he ever really left, Sweetie,” she replied delicately. “From what I can gather, he’s always there. He’s not separate from you, he’s just a part of you that’s happy to hang back until you need him. A defense mechanism, maybe?”

“But,” he was definitely confused now, “-but how could-”

She cut him off and the steel in her voice made him go quiet. “Are you gonna tell me what kicked this off?” She asked lightly, “What happened at your psych appointment this morning, Bucky? What was so bad that he felt he had to step in and cover your ass?”

He worked his jaw wordlessly and closed his eyes, inhaled deeply through his nose and fought off the swell of nausea. The kids. Fuck, it was the kids. He didn’t even want to think about them but now that he’d been reminded he couldn’t help but think of anything but. He was going to have to tell her now and there was a part of him that worried that she wouldn’t want anything to do with him once she knew what he’d had a part in.

“The mission last week,” he started, voice choked with emotion but sadly resigned to the thought that this could be the end of it all. He felt hollow and scooped out, pulled apart and scattered in the wind. “It was a complete fuck up from start to finish and I wish I’d never picked up the call to assemble…”

“Bucky,” she sounded quiet, tentative and a little bit nervous, “What happened?”

He pressed his face into her neck and closed his eyes to hide the glass in them when she turned her head to kiss his forehead. She wasn’t going to want to kiss him after she knew. “We received some intel about a facility…”

 

Chapter Text

Darcy clutched at his neck, horrified and sick and so very fucking upset by how upset he was. She hated it when he cried; it always made her feel painfully inadequate and lost, desperate and willing to do whatever it took to make it stop. Bucky wasn’t a crier by nature, he was capable of being stoic to the point of blithe indifference even, but when he did cry, he gave it everything he damn well had. His face would go deathly pale and his nose bright red and his entire body rocked from the force of his sobs, painful and all consuming. He would cry until his head hurt and he could barely see, until his eyes were so swollen and the bright blue underneath his eyelids was barely even visible past the bloodshot redness. It took a lot for him to get that bad but she had no qualms in admitting that this was an occasion that warranted such a primal reaction.

She’d been quietly disturbed when he’d started his story, the eerie quiet that he’d described that surrounded the facility when they’d finally located it in the middle of the night and then she’d graduated to just plain sick when he’d started describing the test subjects, the children in cages and the cold, clinical hands-off way in which they’d been handled by their so called carers.

How could someone treat a child like that, she wondered as she dug her hands deeper into his hair and rocked with him, cheek pressed against the top of his head. He’d told her all about the damp air inside the building, the undercurrent of malice that had lingered in the halls and then the moment of swelling rage he’d felt when he’d pushed through the laboratory doors, weapons at the ready only to find row upon row of cages, each and every one containing a child in varying degrees of ill health. There had been many of them, even one was one too many, but the dozens more that they’d found as they moved deeper into the facility had left him bereft and unable to hold his temper. He’d abandoned his guns in favor of using his bare hands and blades, a savage series of attacks that were driven by pure hatred and horror; he’d wanted to hurt those who had hurt the children, wanted to make sure they felt even just a fraction of the pain and fear that the poor little innocents had experienced day in, day out. He wanted to make sure they suffered for their actions. So yes, what Steve has said was true; he had kicked some guy in the face hard enough to cave it in, but the fucker had deserved it so she wasn’t the tiniest bit disturbed by it.

“They weren’t kids to them, Darce,” he’d mumbled into her breast, hands clutching her waist like a lifeline. “They were just experiments, like I was.”

She hadn’t been sure what to say to that and hugged him closer, dug her nails into his back and sniffled into his hair. How was she supposed to put him at ease when he’d experienced something so fucking horrible? What was she supposed to say? “But you’re a person, Bucky, just like they were. You’re here now, though and I’m glad for it.”

He’d pressed his face into her and his whole body shuddered. “But I shouldn’t be. I deserved it; they didn’t. They did nothing wrong and I’m the one that’s still alive? I spent decades destroying lives. Decades. How is that fair, Darce? How is that right when- fuck. They were babies, Darcy, babies… How can I even…”

He’d broken down after that and she’d been unable to get any sense out of him since. That was almost half an hour ago if she was to hazard a guess and he was showing no signs of letting up on the crying. She’d since joined him in sympathy and her eyes were scratchy and red and full of grit.

“Bucky,” she tried, cursing herself for sounding so watery and scared, “I know you think you deserved what happened to you, but you really didn’t. Adult or child, nobody deserves to be treated as anything less than human. You didn’t do it for fun, you did it to survive. What happened to you was terrible and if I could go back and stop it, even if it meant I’d never meet you or have you in my life, I’d do it. I’d do it for you, just so you could be happy and whole with your family…” Her voice wobbled a little bit at the thought of altering time itself so she’d never crossed his path and though the thought sickened her to her very core, she would do it in a heartbeat if it meant taking away all the horrors he’d seen and done in his long life. He’d had hopes and dreams and after everything that had been torn away from him, he deserved the chance to have them. As dangerous as it was, she’d do anything to give that to him. Anything.

“The kids, though…” she was reluctant to dig into the subject but it was about time that she did. “Those babies deserved some peace, Bucky. I’m not saying that everything that was done to them was right or good or fucking ethical because it was not, nor will it ever be, those fucking shit-bags, but for them to live a life with such crippling ailments and disabilities… Such a poor quality of life… It wouldn’t be fair to them, Buck. I’m not saying I agree with what was ultimately done with them, for fucks sake they’re children, not animals, but I sort of understand how they arrived at their decision. Imagine if someone had gotten their hands on one of them, any of them. What if for some inconceivable reason someone had wanted to continue the research that had been started? The testing. With the sheer amount of awful, evil people on this planet and the state of the black market these days, they were at risk and suffering and what was done in the end was the kindest thing that they could be given. You said that they were all sick?”

He heaved a deep breath against her cleavage and sniffled violently, nodding. “Yeah,” he was hoarse from crying and barely able to speak at all. “Some were in the advanced stages of all kinds of cancers, others didn’t even respond to outside stimuli at all, like little zombies; they were essentially just skin and bone with a heartbeat.” He scoffed and rubbed his face against the edge of her bra, the lace soft but just textured enough to scratch the itch that was building on his nose. “Button was the healthiest one out of all of ‘em and even she wasn’t meant to survive.”

Darcy frowned and tried to look down at him but he was just too close and her glasses were across the room, forgotten. She hadn’t had them on since they locked themselves in and that was hours ago. “Button?”

He nodded weakly and slowly managed to drag himself off her to lay beside her instead, still pressed as close as humanly possible whilst wearing clothes with her hands clutched tight in his own. He lifted his leg and she slotted in close, her thigh fitted against his groin and some of the knots in his stomach eased. She hadn’t berated him for killing those scientists or being a monster yet, so that was something. It gave the tiny flickering flame of hope in his belly a little more fuel.

“Bucky, who’s Button?” She had a bad feeling about whatever was about to come out of his mouth and her insides positively trembled with anxiety.

His mouth twisted into a miserable frown and he scrubbed at his face with his flesh hand, scratched his fingers down the underside of his chin. “Button was one of the kids, a toddler. Little girl.”

Sensing there was something important about this ‘Button’, Darcy nodded and silently urged him to go on.

He blew out a gusty sigh and dropped his hand against her waist. “She was strong enough to hold her head up on her own, which was more’n most of the others, and she took one look at Nat and imprinted on her. She picked Nat and well, lets just say Nat had no complaints about it.” He picked through all the words in his head and pressed his lips together tightly in a bloodless line. “She wanted to keep her,” He gave a short, humorless huff, “Tony was in the process of having his sharks draw up the paperwork and everything; Natasha wanted to keep her but when her bloods came back and showed that she was sick, really sick, the assholes took her too. Tasha had one chance at being a mother and now it’s gone up in smoke. She wasn’t even allowed to say goodbye. She was scared and they took her right outta Nat’s arms.”

“Oh my God,” she breathed quietly. “Bucky, that’s horrible! Natasha wanted to keep-“ She was almost afraid to ask, “… what was wrong with her?”

He sounded hollowed out and shattered, his shoulders rolling in a smooth shrug. “Something about a genetically altered disease, potentially a bio-weapon and wholly untreatable. She was lucky to get as long as she had and even before she was taken she was showing signs of deteriorating; whatever it was that she’d been infected with, it was enough to scare the bigwigs into finishing her off.” His eyes were wet again and he thumbed at them in an attempt to keep the tears at bay. “She was so pretty, Darce,” he wobbled and ultimately fell, “Such a pretty little thing. S’not fair, Sweetheart. It’s just not fair.”

Darcy wrapped him up in her arms all over again and cuddled him for all she was worth but remained quiet save for the hushed comforting sounds she was making into his hair.

She knew how it felt to want to be a mother only to find out that it wasn’t readily possible and to imagine that a chance presented itself only for the rug to be pulled out from under her in a matter of hours was enough to make her sick. For years, Natasha had openly accepted that parenthood wasn’t something she would experience but due to reasons beyond her control the seemingly exciting turn of events had instead ended up being some kind of living horror shit-show. She didn’t blame Natasha for being heartbroken over Button’s loss.

She blinked back tears and held him close. His gut-wrenching reaction to the demise of the children was heartbreaking; Steve had once mentioned that Bucky had wanted a whole gaggle of kids after the war was over, but then he’d fallen from the train and apparently the dream had fizzled out and died, just like he had. When he’d returned to himself and New York City, Steve had asked him again if that was still something he wanted and his answer was simple.

“It doesn’t matter if I want it or not; I can’t even consider bringing kids into this world if there’s no surefire way of keeping them safe, Stevie. I’m not about to knock some poor woman up just so I can play house. It’s not safe for babies with my history. The only way I’d have kids was if I could ensure  nobody could get to ‘em. Now stop bein’ a nosey bastard and hand me that spare magazine, would ya?”

Darcy couldn’t have children, not without a great deal of assistance, anyway. She’d always had really heavy, painful periods and it wasn’t until she’d started college and her roommate had seen how much pain she was in every month that it was pointed out to her that that amount of pain and suffering was not normal. Darcy’s mother had never sat her down and told her what to expect or even explained anything remotely sexual to her, so she’d simply assumed it was normal and got on with it. She’d had a bunch of tests done after that, scans and ultrasounds that were beyond humiliating and uncomfortable and in the end she’d walked out of the doctor’s office with a wad of information pamphlets and a diagnosis for endometriosis. Her uterus hated her for some reason and wanted her to suffer and without some very expensive surgery she wouldn’t be having children any time soon and since her diagnosis at twenty, well, let’s just say that the severity of her condition had only worsened. Her insides were a mess. She knew that she should really see about having the surgery, even if it was just for her health’s sake, but she was just a lowly administrational assistant with a butt load of crippling student loans to pay off so surgery was out of the question. She couldn’t even afford the insurance let alone the procedure itself. She figured she would wait until she was in a steady relationship where both people involved wanted kids and then she would look into the surgery; she could scrimp and save for it after the decision to try for a baby was made. If it ever happened, that is.

Also, did she mention that she had a lot of student debt? Seriously. A lot. At the rate she was going, what with the pittance of a salary that Jane was paying her, she would still be paying it off when she was forty. Apparently there was only so much money within the budget for wages and as Jane was the boss, Darcy really had no say in how much she got paid. Sure, it would be nice to be getting a little more each month, but if Jane said the money wasn’t there then it just wasn’t there.

Bucky had quieted against her breast and his cheek was scratchy against her skin, the prickly short hair of his beard catching against the soft lace of her bra. “You should probably take this off,” he fingered the edge of the cup absently and trailed his fingers down to slip underneath the band under her arm. “You’re a bit puffy.” It stung a little when the air hit her skin and she muttered some choice swear words when she registered how right he really was; she’d swollen up over the course of the day and the band was digging in now. She was going to have bright red pressure marks all over the place and once she started thinking about how swollen she must be, she couldn’t help but notice how the underwires were digging in to the side of her boobs.

She nudged at him and once he’d backed off her and risen to his feet beside the bed she reached behind herself and unhooked the four hooks easily. The band fell open and she let out a soft moan of relief as she took a second to relish the feeling of being without the torture contraption before she shrugged out of it and dropped it on the floor next to the bed. She rubbed at the tender skin under her arms with her fingers and flushed with embarrassment when her stomach gave a rather loud, insistent grumble.

Even though he looked tired and weary, he managed a little smile at her and instead of crawling back onto the bed with her he moved over to the storage closet and started digging through it to find something for them to eat. Now that he was himself again, she couldn’t help but admire how the muscles across his back and shoulders moved under his skin as he moved and the tight curve of his butt when he bent over to search the lower shelves within the closet. She had to stifle a moan of appreciation when his thighs gave a little flex and twitch; he was so fucking pretty that it was flat out rude.

He was mumbling to himself under his breath and every few seconds he shoved his hand back through his hair to push it out of his face, mouth set in a deep frown of concentration.

“Who the actual hell eats anchovy fillets? Why the fuck would you have them in an emergency food bank?! If I could throw this shit out the fucking window right now, I honestly would. Anchovy fillets. What the shit.”

Darcy covered her mouth with her hand and tried to hide her amusement from him. “Actually,” she managed after a moment of collecting herself, “-those are Jane’s. She likes them on grilled cheese.”

He stilled and slowly turned his head to look back over his shoulder. “Are you fucking with me right now?” When she shook her head his face twisted in disgust. “Christ, I knew there was a reason I didn’t like that woman.”

Darcy blinked, surprised. “You don’t like Jane?”

He swore softly under his breath before he sighed and reached back into the closet, absently reading labels and boxes. “It’s not that I don’t like her-”

“You actually just stated that you don’t, in case you forgot.”

He huffed and rolled his eyes, carefully knocking the doors closed with his foot, arms full of supplies. He picked his way back to the bed and dumped their spoils on the end of it before he climbed up next to her and crossed his legs, feet tucked underneath him, body slouched lazily. “Ok,” he admitted, “So I don’t like her. But I don’t have to, she’s your friend, Darce, not mine. It’s not like I expect you to like all of my friends.”

She shot him a nonplussed look before smiling gratefully when he pushed a twin pack of cookies and cream pop tarts into her hands, waving off his quiet apology about not having a toaster to cook them. She liked these ones cold, anyway, so she really didn’t mind. She picked at the packaging but didn’t open them, not yet. “Bucky, the vast majority of your friends are my friends too. Really, the only people we don’t have in common are Jane and Thor.”

The Asgardian hadn’t been able to visit in some time and she missed the big lug; he gave the best bear hugs. Hell, he was as big as a grizzly and just as strong so it made perfect sense that he would.

He picked at his own pop tarts, strawberry, and looked at his lap. “I didn’t want to tell you about Jane,” he shrugged. “You’ve got enough on your plate without worryin’ about me an’ her bickering all the time.”

Darcy frowned and thought back to the last time he’d been in the lab and suddenly it was like someone had switched on the lights. Now that he mentioned it she couldn’t actually remember the last time the pair had actually exchanged more than two words to each other. He would mosey into the lab to look for her and in the event that she wasn’t in her office and was instead buried underneath one of Jane’s constantly buggy machines, he would come find her and offer a brief greeting to Jane, but Jane never deemed him worthy of a reply. She’d simply look him up and down, curl her lip and continue on as if he’d never even spoken. Now that she thought about it, Jane was actually incredibly rude to him and the sudden swell of anger made her cheeks flush.

“I’m pretty sure that bickering requires both parties to speak to each other, Buck,” she mused, irritated. “She’s pretty shitty to you, isn’t she?”

He shrugged and tore his own package open and took a large bite of one of the pop tarts. The icing crumbled against his lip and caught in his beard and Darcy giggled as she brushed it away with her fingers. He caught her hand and pressed a quick kiss to her fingertips then released her and continued eating. “She’s not so bad,” he reasoned, “At least she’s just dismissive, not outright nasty… Like she is to you.”

She startled not only from his words but at the dark, unimpressed tone he used. “Huh?”

He snorted into his pop tart and stuffed the remaining quarter into his mouth whole. “She’s a bitch, Darce,” he said around his mouthful of food. “She treats you like garbage and makes you work for pennies. I’m fairly certain that she’s taking advantage of you and underpaying you too. What are you getting per hour, minimum wage?”

She blustered a little bit, caught unawares by the sudden topic of conversation. How the hell did he know she’d only just been thinking about her wages? Fuck, she hoped she hadn’t been thinking aloud again. “Uh, it’s something like fourteen fifty an hour, I think?”

He paused mid bite and cocked his eyebrow at her, chewed slowly and ducked his head as he swallowed. “Darcy,” he said slowly, “Sweetheart, that’s not even minimum wage in a business as big as S.I. What the actual fuck? Are you serious right now?” At her wide eyed look he scoffed and sneered, seething. “Fucks sake, no wonder you’re fucking broke half the time.”

Darcy looked down at her unopened pop tarts and struggled to comprehend his little revelation. She wasn’t even earning minimum wage? Why would Jane stiff her like that? “More than half,” she muttered softly, “More like most of the time.”

He paused again and this time instead of taking a bite he let his hand fall into his lap and he frowned. “What do you mean ‘most of the time’? Darce, what the hell? I thought Tony wasn’t making you pay rent?”

She rolled her shoulders in on herself and picked at the foil packaging in her hands, embarrassed. “He’s not, but I still have bills and stuff. I have student payments to make. Jane told me that there wasn’t enough money in the grant budget to give me a raise,” she shrugged self consciously. “It’s not like I had any reason not to believe her. At least I’m getting paid now – I wasn’t when we were in London. I was still an intern then.”

Bucky stared at her agog. “What the hell, Darcy?!” He exploded. “The fucking grant money has nothing to do with your wages, what the shit are you talking about? And why the actual fuck did you bother trailin’ after her to London if she wasn’t payin’ you?! You damn near got killed by those fuckin’ elves and you’re tellin’ me that you did it all outta the goodness of your damn heart?!”

“It wasn’t about the money! She’s my friend!!”

He scoffed and broke a chunk of pop tart off and shoved it into his mouth. “Right,” he rolled his eyes, “Friends. Friends don’t stiff their assistant’s on their wages and treat them like shit all the time. Friends don’t insult the shit out of each other and mean it. Friends don’t call each other fat and mean it.” He snarled.

“That was one time!” She argued weakly, her voice quiet and embarrassed. “It was one time and she didn’t mean it, she was kidding!”

Bucky leveled her with a stern, unimpressed glare. “Oh, she meant it, Sweetheart. I saw the look on her face when she said it – she wasn’t jokin’ ‘round with you. She was flat out insulting you.” His face darkened and he snarled, “And you’re not fucking fat! Just because you don’t look like an anorexic sparrow don’t mean she has the right to call you names! She’s nothin’ more than a fucking bully and you deserve better.” He fell silent and his chest was rising and falling rapidly, angry. He glared at his pop tart like it had personally offended him and stuffed it into his mouth and chewed it violently. “Fat, my ass. Nasty fucking wretch.” He muttered, lip curled.

Darcy gaped at his outburst and slowly closed her mouth. “How long have you been sitting on this?” She wondered, her feelings more than a little bit hurt as she slowly realized he was right. Jane did all those things; she treated her like an insolent child, talked down to her and dismissed any and all ideas she brought to the table simply because political science wasn’t actually science. Don’t be ridiculous, Darcy, she’d say. You don’t know what you’re even talking about, Darcy. Go back to your game of Candy Crush, Darcy and let the adults talk.

Fuck. Bucky was right. Jane was awful to her and she’d never even noticed.

She didn’t even notice that her hands were shaking until Bucky’s long fingers curled around her balled fists and squeezed, his thumbs stroking her knuckles gently. “Sweetheart, I didn’t meant to upset you, I didn’t,” he insisted quietly, “But surely you have to see if from my perspective? I’ve watched her belittle and bully you for too long and I’m not gonna stand for it any more. She’s awful to you and you slog your ass off inputting and decoding data at all hours and working weekends free of charge when technically that’s illegal. That’s bad enough as it is, but now you’re tellin’ me that she’s fucking you over with your wages and you’re struggling financially as a direct result? Darcy, I can’t just sit by and let her treat you like that, not when you deserve so much better.”

To her horror instead of speaking she gave a croaky sob and she crumpled, hands over her face. She considered trying to play it off as being overly emotional after the long day they’d had, and whilst it might be partially true, it wasn’t the case at all. Jane was a horrible boss and an even worse friend and it really fucking hurt.

He swore softly and there was a rustle as he pushed their food aside and scooped her up into his lap. “Aww, c’mon, Sweetheart, don’t cry.” He stroked her back and tucked her under his chin. “Shit, don’t cry, Darce. M’sorry. I shouldn’t have dumped all that on you.” He rocked her slightly and nuzzled into her hair, pressed a kiss against her ear. “You want me to fuck you happy?” He offered and she snorted wetly into his shoulder in surprise. She shouldn’t have been, but she was. Bucky Barnes, one hundred percent gentleman and pure class.

“Are you even up to it right now?” She asked, peering up at him. “You’ve had a bit of a day.”

He curled around her and parked his chin on her shoulder. “Yeah, probably not.” He agreed, hands stroking up and down her back and sides, down her arms and then he’d start all over again. She melted against him and closed her eyes, tucked her hand underneath his arm to rest on his ribs so she could feel the in-out of his breathing. His heartbeat was strong and steady against her cheek and before long it had begun to lull her towards sleep, her eyes growing heavy.

“If I go to sleep will you be here when I wake up or is there a chance that the pretty, pretty interloper will visit again?” She snuggled closer and yawned sleepily. “I don’t mind either of you, but it would be nice to know whether it’s ok to accost you or not in advance.”

He huffed against her neck and carefully twisted them until they were laying down again and Darcy rolled until her back was pressed flush against his chest, belly and thighs, her ass pushed into his groin. “Is that your way of asking if you can feel up The Soldier, Sweetheart?” He asked, his voice low and gravelly in her ear. He slipped his arm around her and fitted his big hand over her breast, silver fingers warm against her sensitive skin. “Or is it more along the lines of showin’ him a good time?”

She was grateful that he was behind her so he couldn’t see the violent blush on her cheeks. “Well it’s not like he doesn’t deserve a good time, is it? I hardly think he’d let me do anything of the sort anyway, but I’d rather know that you’ve consented to whatever happens in advance. I’m never sure what’s too much and if I’m toeing the line between comforting and inappropriate.”

He rolled his hips against the curve of her backside and made a happy little sound in the back of his throat followed by a low groan when she pushed back into him with a subtle wiggle. His cock twitched against her and she turned over just a little bit more so he could slot himself into the crease between her cheeks and he groped her lightly in return. Such a considerate woman, his Darce. His breathing hitched against her ear and he nuzzled the back of her neck. “You think he aint interested in playing with you, Sweetheart?” He rocked up against her a little harder and held her firm against him as they fell into a slow, lazy grind. She was exhausted and he was emotionally drained so it was the perfect alternative to their usual frantic pace and he nuzzled into her skin with a sigh. “I wouldn’t worry about all that,” he swore softly and his lips caught against her neck with a muffled groan, “He’s plenty interested, Darce. M’sure you can convince him if he makes a reappearance.”

She arched back into him with a soundless gasp and guided his hand away from her chest to settle between her thighs, fingers pressed against her clit over her the soft lace of her underwear. He hummed his approval and his lips dragged across the back of her bare shoulder, lips curling against her skin when she cupped her hand over his and ground harder against his fingers then back into his cock. “So you’re ok with me pushing him down, crawling on top of him and riding him until he breaks?” She wondered, words tapering off into a quiet gasp. His fingers slipped against her through the rapidly dampening lace and she tipped her head back in search of his mouth. Her breathing was shaky and shallow and just this side of wrecked. “Jesus, Bucky,” she sighed and guided his fingers where she needed them, just a fraction to the left and her whole body jerked against him when they found their target. The noise that came out of her was wounded and needy and it sent a bolt of heat straight down his spine. Their bodies rolled against each other languidly and he clutched at her a little tighter, ground against her ass a little harder.

“Sweetheart you can do whatever the fuck you like to my body, no matter who’s driving. You have my express permission to use me as you see fit. Not sure he’d break but you’d have a good time trying.” His breath caught in her ear and she moaned, pushed back into him and her fingers fumbled with his between her thighs, tugged the wet lace aside and guided him back to her clit. She was soaked and his fingers slipped against her easily, gliding back and forth over her clit until she was a shaking, whimpering mess with her cheek pressed into the pillow, his face buried against the back of her shoulder. “He might need some convincing, Babydoll,” he rasped into her ear, a wicked grin curling his lips when she started to shake even more, thighs twitching, toes curled, “I’m sure you can manage though. You’ll take good care of him, won’t you, Sweetheart… Take him deep inside and ride him nice and slow until he begs you to let him come. Make him work for it, Darce. You take what you need and don’t let him have his until you’re all fucked out and too sensitive to go again…”

She let out a harried cry and ground harder against his slick fingers. She was so wet and so worked up by the thought of riding The Soldier that she’d soaked his hand and hers and she was chanting his name, head thrown back against his shoulder, leg hooked back over his hip. He swirled his fingers against either side of her clit and his eyes rolled a little in his head at the sound of the desperate whine that slipped out of her and he groaned into her neck, rutted against the curve of her and licked a line up her jaw.

“Can I have you, Babydoll?” He pulled his hand back and gripped at her thigh, drew it higher back over his hip and groaned into her shoulder as she sunk her own fingers into her slick heat. “You won’t have to do a fucking thing, Darce, I promise. God, need you so fucking much, please..”

She buried her hand between her legs and gave him a jerky nod, made to roll onto her belly and he held her firmly on her side, spooned up behind her.

“Fuck no, don’t move,” he hurried to stop her from shifting, encouraged her to keep fucking herself on her fingers and reached between them to push his boxers down just enough to free his cock, hooked his arm around her knee and spread her open even further. “I’ll make it good for you, Sweetheart, fuck, you know I will. Let me take care of you. Just like this, Darce, just… Shit…” His words stuttered to a halt when her hand slipped further between her legs and wrapped around the solid length of him, her fingers still slick and warm and-

“Jesus fucking Christ…” He moaned, low and long and absolutely euphoric as she guided him home, lace tugged aside just enough for them to fit together. “Ugh, shit.”

She gave a little breathless huff of laughter and looked back over her shoulder, eyes bright and cheeks flushed a pretty, pretty pink. She gave him an affectionate, shy smile and the dimple in her cheek popped. God, she was gorgeous like this. “Go on, then,” Her mouth fell open a little and her lashes fluttered against her cheeks as he sank deeper and deeper until they were flush and she was breathless all over again, “-prove it.”

He bumped his head against her temple and nosed his way behind her ear. He knew how much she liked it when he breathed into it, how the feel of his mouth against her skin as he cursed and pleaded and praised her could bring her undone without a single touch. He let out a shuddering breath into her ear and traced the shell of it with his tongue, pulled at the lobe with his teeth and smirked when she dug her nails into his hip.

“Mmm, don’t mind if I do.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Awareness started to creep over him slowly, bleeding into every corner of his mind like warm spilled  syrup, all sluggish and unavoidably sticky and everywhere. He couldn’t hear anything yet and everything was surrounded by an inky black darkness, but by God, could he feel.

His chest felt strangely hot, like it was a dying camp fire and with every breath he took the pain would swell and ebb, flaring and easing just like a withering flame that was alternating between being starved of oxygen and shrinking down to a mere flicker before flaring hot again. On the surface he was calm but underneath the pain was raging and pulling every which way but up and shit, it hurt to breathe all the way in and wasn’t that a sensation he hadn’t missed? His lungs felt sore and tender and not quite up to the job of inflating all the way even though after a careful attempt he found that he was able to do so. He felt, for lack of a better term, like one great big bruise.

His head let itself be known not long after and he forced himself to relax into the soft surface behind him, crisp, cool sheets like a balm to his battered body. He wasn’t entirely sure he could even open his left eye and his jaw ached, both sharp and dull at the same time. He must have broken it. He’d done it before and the pain was oddly familiar. Yeah, definitely the feel of a re-set bone fusing back together with the serum’s help. It would hurt a lot less in about an hour so that was alright, he supposed. He’d had worse and it wasn’t like there was any pain relief that would stay in his system long enough to be effective before it was metabolized completely. He could grin and bear it until the pain dulled, no problem.

He’d forgotten just how hard Bucky could hit at the best of times (he knew he’d been pulling his punches when they sparred, that asshole), but when he was in full blown Winter mode… Christ almighty. It was like being hit by a fucking tank with glorious anger management issues and unlimited stamina. If Darcy hadn’t stepped in when she did, well, he certainly wouldn’t be in this much pain because he’d be dead by now.

The Soldier would have finished him off without a second thought. He was the only one who was capable of doing so, really. He was the only one who actually could.

He wasn’t sure whether to be perturbed by how protective he was of the feisty little brunette or over the moon for the same reason. The Soldier did not, nor had he ever shown any indication of interest in interacting with anyone, let alone a protective instinct that extended beyond handler/asset obligation. He was fiercely protective of Darcy Lewis and it really shouldn’t have surprised Steve so much given the intensity of Bucky’s feelings for her.

He wasn’t blind. He knew the depth of feelings that Bucky had for Darcy and he recognized the very same torch that he carried for her within Darcy as well. The pair were drawn to each other like a moth to a flame and neither of them had the balls to admit it. They were head over heels for each other and whilst Steve was absolutely, completely and utterly over the moon about Bucky finding a beautiful slice of happiness, he also wanted to bang their fucking heads together. They’d been playing at it for months now and it set his teeth on edge seeing them moon after each other and refuse to see the sky for the trees. Their pussy-footing around their feelings was doing more harm than good and it wasn’t going to be long before one or both broke the others heart.

God, and he was supposed to be the oblivious one when it came to women.

Steve couldn’t help the nearly indiscernible flinch when his ears gave a wet crackle and a pop and the sensation of warm fluid running out of his ear made him wince. He went to lift his hand up to dab at his ear but stopped short when a sharp wave of pain glanced through his sternum. Whatever it was that had dripped out of his ear would have to wait, because ow.

Ah. That was right. Bucky had stepped on him on his way past and the latent memory of his chest collapsing underneath the two hundred and forty pounds of furious super soldier came thundering back with a frightening clarity. Sure, his bones were stronger that the average mans, thank you Doctor Erskine, but there was only so much that the serum could do and holding up under that kind of brute force was not within the realms of possibility. Bucky was more than capable of treading so lightly that he barely left a track in fresh, powdery snow, a feat in itself, truly, but he hadn’t been Bucky at the time and The Soldier had no such desire to do so. He’d stepped on him and when he’d heard the crunch of bones breaking and quite possibly even the squelch of the jagged pieces piercing his lungs, he’d simply kept walking, unaffected. He couldn’t have cared any less that his host’s buddy was coughing up lifeblood all over himself, he’d been too focused on reaching the side of the woman he’d imprinted upon.

He smirked to himself despite the raging discomfort it caused. Imprinted was a good way of putting it, he thought. He’d taken one look at Darcy Lewis and every single part of him had developed a serious case of love at first sight. Bucky had mooned after her for years, perhaps even since he’d first been introduced to her, if he was being honest. He’d been right there, he’d seen the way his best friend’s eyes had lit up with a red blooded appreciation when he’d spotted her belting out some bright, upbeat disco tune into a fucking whisk in the kitchen. There may have been a close call with swooning too, but Bucky would still deny it to this day; he was a former soviet assassin, damn it, he did not swoon over pretty girls with pretty smiles and a body made for sinning.

Verbatim. Seriously. Who the hell was he trying to convince, anyway?

He’d been able to recognize that familiar look on his friend’s face once he’d managed to gather his wits, the one he’d gotten before the war that usually resulted in not one, but two pretty ladies ending up on his arm for the night and whilst he’d been happy to see Bucky regaining some of himself, it had scared the shit out of him too.

Bucky had tripped and fallen head over heels for the one person that Steve had considered family since Bucky himself had dragged him out of that dumpster as a little boy. Since his mother. He’d fallen for the brightest, most honest, reliably loyal woman Steve had ever met and the thought of her being just a token bed warmer, a phased interest made him squirm. Steve was deathly afraid of losing her and her getting hurt, be it mentally or physically. He understood now why Bucky had run off Phillip Murphy, that cad, when he’d caught him sniffing around his little sister, Harriet. Murphy was a player and had no qualms about getting a girl in trouble and Harriet, sweet Hatty, had been a painfully innocent young woman who was blinded by a pretty posy of flowers and a few over the top compliments. Barely even seventeen at the time, she’d heard wedding bells whereas Murphy had only wanted to see under her skirt. Hatty had never forgiven her brother for scaring off her potential beau and for being an overbearing jerk, or at least she hadn’t when he’d shipped out to basic, anyway. She’d barely said two words to him at the station, refused his goodbye hug and whilst Bucky had shrugged her mulish sulking off, Steve knew that he’d been hurt by her behavior. She’d refused to speak to him even after he’d returned home briefly before shipping out to Europe too and in the end Bucky had gotten on the boat and waved goodbye to his family, minus his younger sister. She’d flat out refused to see him off, still angry and still holding a stupid, senseless grudge that would deprive her of the chance to actually say goodbye to him forever. He wondered if losing her brother had changed how she felt; if she regretted not taking the time to understand why he’d done what he’d done, especially as he’d never gotten the chance to come home.

But Darcy was his friend, a sister even and it had taken a good solid week of fielding their interactions and a firm talking to from a certain God to make him step back and let them be. A sister to him she may be, but Darcy could take care of herself (as she had proven time and time again with that not-so-legal taser of hers) and Bucky the same and it had taken a mere ten minutes of observing them orbiting one another to see that they were two peas in a pod. Somehow, some way, everything that had happened to Bucky within his long, arduous life had lead him right to where he needed to be; right to Darcy Lewis’ side. Their friendship bloomed from the get-go, a beautiful, bright wash of gold and red and glittering blue and if Bucky couldn’t come to Steve with something, a problem, fear or question, he had no hesitation about looking for Darcy instead. She wouldn’t judge him for being confused by modern slang or the terrifyingly confusing rabbit hole that was modern sexuality or even a simple ‘how do I use the microwave?’. No, she was indulgent to the point of distraction and patient to the point of sainthood. She was just as enamored by him as he was by her and it was plain to see to everyone but them, apparently.

It was almost painful to watch them pretend that they weren’t meant to be anything but friends but Thor had assured him that when it was meant to be, it would be and until then he wasn’t to say or do anything to damage their blossoming relationship. He’d stepped back upon hearing the unspoken threat in the God’s voice without a fight; he’d been on the end of that man’s temper before and he was far from interested in getting up close and personal with Mjolnir ever again. He was reckless, yes, impulsive, definitely, but in no way did he have a death wish. So he’d waited. He’d watched them grow close and lean on each other and become the center of each other’s world and now, now that they shared everything except for their words… Well. He was ready to slap them upside the head and give them a stern talking to and it seemed that there was a line behind him.

Fucking idiots in love. Jesus.

“Are you awake, Good Captain?”

Steve startled so hard that the little heart monitor that was clamped to his finger flew off and another of the machines that he was hooked up to started to wail in protest. “Jesus Fuck!” He cried, eyes popping open wide and surprised before squinting closed in a grimace when his battered eyelid protested quite vehemently. He slid his eyes to the right of the bed he was currently semi-reclining in and glowered at the man sitting there. The asshole looked entirely too smug for his own good and Steve carefully hugged his chest with one arm and reached to silence the machine with the other. Stretching was uncomfortable and it pulled painfully, but he breathed his way through it and settled back against the bed. The heart monitor could stay on the fucking floor for all he cared.

“When the hell did you get here?” He questioned warily. He hadn’t even been able to tell there was anyone in the room with him, but then his hearing wasn’t at its best right now. That was it, that was the answer. He crept up on him because his hearing was shot. “How the hell can a man your size be so damned quiet?” He asked the God beside him. It had been a long time since he’d seen him in person, almost a full Midgardian year actually, and he looked more at ease now than he had in some time yet there was a weariness about him that wasn’t there before. He looked tired. More so than he had been whilst he was living in the tower with a certain astrophysicist.

Steve resisted the urge to spit on the floor and swear in three different languages when he thought about Doctor Foster. She was a witch and she thought she was above everyone else in the building; or she had until Thor had insisted quite publicly that he was going back to Asgard to fulfil his duties as heir to the throne and she wasn’t invited nor welcome to come with him. Her resulting outrage had been extreme to say the least and whilst Thor had gotten to leave after his spectacularly public dismissal of their so-called relationship, the rest of the tower had been left to bear the brunt of her embarrassment and anger. Then again, perhaps anger wasn’t a strong enough word; Foster had been humiliated by him leaving, yes, but more than that she had been furious that he’d left and taken all inside knowledge of The Bifrost with him. She no longer had a way to further her research, not easily anyway. She couldn’t just pump him for information when she felt like it anymore and that had been a harder blow for her than any breakup. Foster had treated Thor like an object and barely acknowledged him unless (on the exceedingly rare occasion) she was feeling frisky. The future King of Asgard had been relegated to nothing more than a warm body and a convenient fountain of unwritten knowledge and it had taken entirely too long for him to wake up and smell the power hungry witch, so to speak.

Darcy cried for a week after he left and Bucky had hovered behind her the whole time, crestfallen and distraught by her grief. He tried everything in his repertoire to soothe her hurts and finally, after seven whole days he’d snapped her out of her dwelling and to this day nobody knew how he’d done it. He’d asked him, sure, but every time he’d prodded him for an explanation Bucky had just smiled and shrugged, told him patience was a virtue and turned back to whatever he was doing without really answering the question. Cryptic asshole.

Thor smiled serenely and tapped the side of his nose with a single finger. “I am like a ninja,” He confided, his smile growing into something more mischievous. “Or so The Lady Darcy would say.”

“A ninja.” Steve drawled flatly. “You can bench press a bus and you’re a ninja now. Will wonders never cease?”

Thor’s eyes crinkled in the corners and whilst he looked amused, he didn’t laugh. His eyes were smiling but his face was not and shit, Steve had only just noticed that his hair was cropped short and his armor was different, more elaborate and not as brightly colored. He looked a little closer in scrutiny and his eyes flared a fraction when he saw a crackle of honest to God electricity behind the other man’s intense blue eyes. “Something is different about you,” he observed, “-and before you say it, no, it’s not the hair. Looks good by the way. Very sharp.”

Thor inclined his head in thanks and leaned forward to rest his elbows on spread knees, hands steepled in the space between. “Indeed there is,” He agreed mildly, “-but there will be time for such conversation at another time. I am here for another purpose.”

Steve had the distinct impression that he’d just gotten the silent equivalent of ‘mind your business’. Huh. “And that would be?” He tried to sound calm and collected and not at all suspicious but the whole calm and collected thing went out the window when his chest decided to wake up and kick him square in the teeth. He grit said teeth against the flare of pain and flicked his wrist at the other man, dismissing his concern and urging him to go on. “M’fine. What’s goin’ on?” He managed through clenched teeth.

Thor eyed him warily for a moment, a depth of understanding in his eyes that left Steve feeling exposed and nervous. Thankfully, the God either didn’t notice or he chose not to mention the sudden tension in his shoulders.

“Heimdall informed me of your injuries and I must admit, when he spoke of how you fared I was concerned. The man I know and have proudly followed into battle is not one to fall so easily. Tell me, Captain, how did you come to be in such a state?” His concern was palpable and Steve’s throat felt oddly tight. He had no idea that Thor had the all-seeing God watching over them. Darcy, he’d understand; Thor held an insurmountable amount of affection for the young woman and looked upon her as a sibling or a closer than blood companion, a true champion, but to think that he’d extended that courtesy to the rest of them… Steve wasn’t exactly sure what to do with that information.

“Bucky had a-“ he struggled to find a word that didn’t make his best friend sound like some sort of delicate flower or unstable lunatic, “Darcy and I were arguing,” Thor looked quietly disturbed by this, “I was in a bad mood and I was being unreasonable, I know that and it was inexcusable, but she tripped over when I startled her and Bucky put himself in front of her. He was protecting her.” He glanced at the frowning God. “But it wasn’t Bucky and he thought I’d hurt her, so he jumped me.”

Understanding dawned in the millennia old eyes and Thor sat back, sprawling in the hospital chair that was doing a fine job of attempting to support his giant frame. Thor knew Bucky, he’d even been one of the few who had covertly watched his every move when he’d returned to New York, one of the only other people in the building capable of putting him on the ground if he was triggered, but they weren’t what one would call friends, either. He settled his clasped hands over his belly and contemplated Steve’s explanation. “And you did not defend yourself. You did not attempt to fight back?” He asked mildly. “Not once?”

Steve made a small, distressed sound in his throat and tried not to wince when he shook his head. There was a dull thud behind his eyes but it was bearable. “He wasn’t himself,” he argued. “He was only trying to protect her from… from me,” Acknowledging that part stung, but he continued. “He thought I’d hurt her and so he acted to neutralize the threat. I scared her and I deserved it, so to answer your question, no, I did not attempt to fight back. I couldn’t.”

“I see.”

Steve tried not to fidget under the other man’s scrutiny and forced himself still. Why was he staring at him like that? What was so interesting about his explanation and why on earth was he smiling like that?

“What?”

Thor’s eyes were warm and amused but not at all surprised. “So my dearest lightning sister has tamed the warrior within your companion. I was wondering how long it would take.” He smiled widely at Steve’s baffled blink. “You cannot tell me that you were unaware of the affection they hold for one another? They are and have always been cut from the same cloth.” He explained patiently. “Fated, if you will.”

Steve narrowed his eyes and ignored the pinch of too-tight skin around his eyes and mouth. “Are you trying to tell me that they’re soulmates or something cosmic like that? Is this some Asgardian thing that us mere mortals don’t know about?”

Thor rolled his eyes and stifled a laugh. “I am not saying that they are soulmates, Steven, for those are indeed rare, but then I am not saying they are not, either. What I am saying, is that The Norns have decreed them a pair. Without one, there is no other.” He spread his hands and shrugged. “Fated.” He reiterated.

“You honestly expect me to believe that? How can you be so sure?”

Thor ran his thumb across his jaw and casually twitched his shoulders in a nonchalant shrug. “I do not pretend to understand the system on which your people place your beliefs, Steven, but do not assume to deny the beliefs of my people, either. There is no right nor wrong way to place your faith, Captain. I do not deem it necessary to judge you, therefore you should deserve me the same courtesy.” His voice took on an authoritive edge despite the casualty of his words and Steve immediately felt like an ass and thoroughly chastised. He hadn’t felt that small and sheepish since his mother had last dressed him down for getting into yet another fight.

God, he was doing that a lot lately, feeling like an ass. He was the king of foot in mouth.

“I meant no disrespect, Thor. I apologize. I was being rude and it was uncalled for.”

The thunder God nodded once and after a tense moment of silence his face brightened and pushed himself higher in his seat, clapped his hands together and positively beamed. “Now tell me, Steven,” he started, misstep forgotten already, “Where would I find my dear sister? I would very much like to be reunited with her. It has been far too long between visits.”

Steve cringed and plucked at the blanket over his legs as he sucked on his teeth. “Right, about that…”

**

“Oh my God, I smell so bad,” Darcy bemoaned as she tried to run her fingers through her snarled hair. She wasn’t sure how long they had been in there but she was sure of one thing; she needed a fucking shower. Her hair was well and truly in need of a wash and it hung down her back in a lank, knotty mess. It was beyond greasy against her scalp and it probably looked three shades darker than the rest and the ends were still fluffy and curly and absolutely tangled to shit from Bucky’s hands scrunching it in his fist. She could sort of hide the stringy roots if she tied it up but her scalp itched and now that she had acknowledged that she wanted to take a shower it was all she could think about.

Neither of them could be sure how long they’d been in the panic room but she suspected it had been a few days. Bucky tried to keep track of the hours whilst they were in there to start with but eventually even he had lost track; there were no windows or clocks and both of their phones had died what felt like days ago. They’d spent their time curled together talking and playing cards with two decks that Bucky had unearthed from the supply closet that more often than not had dissolved into playful bickering. They played poker (with skittles as currency) and go fish. They played blackjack and paired up for a double decked game of solitaire. Bucky had tried to teach her a Russian card game called Durak but Darcy hadn’t been able to get her head around the rules and then there was the rather painful, explosive game of snap that hadn’t been repeated for fear of breaking something.

They’d ditched the cards after that particular episode. She still had a light bruise on the back of her hand from where he’d slapped her as he tried to snatch a win and every time he caught sight of the faint yellowing mark he would cringe and press his fingers into the middle of it, kiss her hand and mope for a good ten minutes until she was able to distract him for a whole other reason. She didn’t mind the bruise and once she’d managed to convince him just how ok she was with it he gave her a handful more, albeit they were in a completely different location.

The inside of her thighs had never been so colorful.

She swore under her breath and winced as she tried to untangle a stubborn knot at the back of her head and when she felt Bucky’s hands join hers in the gross mess that was her hair she ducked out of his reach and moved to stand across the room. “Don’t touch it,” she grumbled. Hurt flashed across his face and she sighed, momentarily abandoning her attempt at personal grooming. “It’s dirty and gross, Bucky – I can barely stand to touch it myself so I’d rather you didn’t have to do it either.” She explained gently, her hand absently reaching up to scratch behind her ear. God, she’d kill for a shower and hello, she absolutely needed to shave under her arms. Gross.

He caught the squicked out grimace on her face and swung his legs off the bed, feet on the floor. “We should probably rejoin the land of the living, huh?” He didn’t look all too keen on the idea, but he reached for his discarded clothes anyway. “God knows how long we’ve actually been in here.”

She watched him step into his jeans and shuffle a little, tugging the denim this way and that so they sat comfortably. He had trouble getting pants that fit right; either he had to get them a size up for his thighs and they were too big in the waist or he bought them for his waist and they were too tight everywhere else. For the sake of comfort he usually ended up going up to the next size and throwing on a belt and to her absolute dismay slim fitting jeans were simply out of the question; she wanted to weep from the injustice of it but every time she tried to talk him into getting a snugger pair he would shut her down with a rant about how he had no interest in strangling his balls and cutting off the circulation to his ass, thank you very much. It was a damn shame. That ass was made to be shown off, not hidden under layers of shapeless denim. The only pair of pants he had that fit like a glove were his tac pants and whilst she loved how they hugged his thighs and his amazing bubble butt, they were hardly everyday wear, were they.

“Darce, you’re staring.” He smirked, dexterous fingers zipping and buttoning his pants before he started to push the thick strap of his belt through the loops. “You gonna put somethin’ on, Sweetheart? Whilst I love what you’re not wearing, I’m pretty sure you’re not gonna want to make the journey back to your place in your birthday suit. Could cause quite the scandal.”

She couldn’t help the small giggle that bubbled out of her but she sobered quickly and moved to get dressed, eyes darting in his direction as he sat on the edge of the bed to pull his socks on. “Are you sure you’re ready to go back?” She asked. As desperate as she was for a shower and clean clothes and holy shit, deodorant (there was only so much the little sink in the corner could do), she wasn’t prepared to jeopardize his progress by forcing him back into everyday life before he was certain he was ready to leave their private little bubble. Her hair fell into her face and she growled, abandoning her pants for a moment to tie it back in a knot before she went back to buttoning up. “If you want to stay in here a bit longer, that’s alright with me; I’m not going to kick and scream at you just because I’d like to wash my hair.”

He tugged a boot on and laced it quickly and efficiently, rolled the leg of his jeans down over the top and did the same for the other foot. “No, I mean, I get what you’re saying, but we probably should get back to it. I don’t know how long we’ve been in here but it’s probably at least a few days and you have work to worry about and I should really go make sure I didn’t kill Steve.” The last part was murmured quietly and he sat with his head bowed, hands in his lap. “God, Darce, what if-”

“Stop that.” She cut him off. “I’m sure Steve is fine, ok?” She crossed the room and dug her hands into his hair, made him look at her. “You can’t keep beating yourself up over this, alright? He told me to bring you here himself, he wasn’t mad at you, Bucky. Do you hear me? Steve does not blame you for any of this.” She swiped her thumbs across his cheeks and planted a firm kiss against his mouth. “Now if you’d like to finish getting dressed, we can get outta here.” She wrinkled her nose and smacked her lips a little. “You might need to get reacquainted with your toothbrush.” A grimace. “And some shampoo. Christ, you’re greasier than I am.”

He rolled his eyes and palmed her ass, smoothed his hands up to her waist and tugged her between his spread knees. “You just want rid of me,” he accused lightly, “You’re sick of me already.”

“Of course I am,” she quipped, giggling as he pinched the back of her thigh. “Spending time with you all by my lonesome is horrible. Torture even. I can’t believe I had to hole myself up in here with you and have loads of semi-satisfying sex for days on end.”

He cocked a brow and drew back. “Semi-satisfying, huh? Well. I guess that’s me told. I’ll just have to keep my dick to myself in future, wont I? I wouldn’t dream of disappointing you any further.” He teased. “That, or I could find someone who appreciates my lack of talent in the bedroom a little more.”

Darcy knew he was kidding but it didn’t stop the pang of hurt she felt, nor the swell of nausea that rolled over at the thought of him seeing someone else. But he had a point; they weren’t actually dating and she had no say in who he slept with so she had no right to get upset about it. She bit the inside of her cheek to distract herself from her irrationally jealous rage and stubbornly refused to tear up. She did her best to mask her reaction but he was observant and the smirk quickly faded from his face and was instead replaced by a frown.

“Hey, what was that?” He prodded gently, hands holding firm when she tried to step back. He shook his head and refused to let her loose. “Come on, Darce, stop it. What did I say?”

“Nothing, it’s fine.” She insisted before muttering under her breath, “Sleep with whoever you want.” She pushed her fingers underneath his hands and peeled them off her, turned her back and bent to retrieve her bra. She was surprised that he let her go but she should have known that he wouldn’t let it drop, especially after that crack about sleeping with other people.

“Have you completely forgotten the conversation we had on the weekend, Darcy?” He sounded confused and just a touch offended for good measure. “I told you there was no-one else so what the actual fuck is wrong with you? What’s with the face?” When she didn’t reply, she was far too embarrassed to open her mouth because she knew she was being childish, he spat out a low curse in Russian and crowded her into the wall face first. He pressed up behind her and his hands caged her in either side of her head. “I swear to God, Darce… What the fuck?”

“Get off me,” she pushed back into him and tried to duck out from under his arm but he leaned in further and pinned her in place with his hips. “Fucks sake, Bucky, I said get off!”

He let out a low, frustrated curse and physically forced her to turn around so she was facing him, big hands holding her against the wall. “Why the hell would I go lookin’ for someone else to fuck when I have you, huh? Damn it, Darce, look at me!” He implored, irritated. “For God’s- are you even listening to me right now? I don’t want anyone else, Darcy, I only want you!” He shook her just the once and his voice was softer the next time he spoke, almost nervous. “Just you.”

She jerked her chin up to look at him, big blue eyes saucer-wide and startled. “W-what?”

He sighed and dropped his hands, turned side on and rolled his neck. “Look,” he reached for his shirt and sweater, pulled on the shirt and handed her the sweater because her blouse was ruined to the point of indecency. “Why don’t we get outta here, go shower, get some real food and we can revisit  this train wreck of a conversation later, ok?”

She clutched at the sweater and gave him a numb, jerky nod. “I, yeah. Yeah, ok. Right.” She clumsily pulled the sweater over her head and promptly got her hand stuck in the sleeve, the ring on her finger (that he’d given her, no less) catching on the inside of it.

Bucky sighed and rolled his eyes, pushed his hand up past the cuff and worked her hand free of the snag before helping her into the oversized sweater, carefully adjusting it over her hips and on her shoulders. He nodded wordlessly when she mumbled her thanks and curled his hand around her wrist when she moved to step aside. “I mean it, Darce,” he was oddly quiet now, a far cry from five minutes ago before she’d acted like an ass and spoiled the mood. “Will you please look at me? Please?” He waited for her to meet his eyes and when she finally did his expression was cautious but honest. “There is no-one else. There hasn’t been anyone else, not since well before we started sleeping together. Well before.”

She scrutinized him curiously, still embarrassed by her little snit but there was a flutter of optimistic hope in her belly. “Define well before?”

He bared his teeth in a grimace and scratched the back of his neck. “Uh, like, before I moved back to New York, before.”

“Are you trying to tell me that you hadn’t got laid since you broke programming?” She blurted out, shocked. She immediately winced and hurried to pat him on the chest, the cuffs of his sweater covering her fingers. “Ugh, God, that was insensitive. Shit. Sorry.”

He pressed his lips together and tried not to smile at her fussing. “There was one time in Bucharest and I barely even lasted two minutes and it was awful and I’m pretty sure she put some kind of gypsy curse on me as she tossed me out on my ass after so we’re not talking about that ever again, but other than that,” he shrugged awkwardly. “There’s been nobody else. Just you.” He thumbed at her chin and ducked his head. “I don’t-“ he hesitated, huffed and shuffled on the spot. “Only you.” He confirmed.

Darcy blinked owlishly up at him and her mouth formed a small ‘o’ of surprise. “Oh.” She could practically feel her heart trying to bust its way through her ribs and a swarm of butterflies took flight in her belly, swarmed up into her throat and left her oddly short of breath. “Um. Same. I mean,” she fought the blush that steeled its way across her face but from the look on his face she failed spectacularly and cleared her throat. “Nobody else, either.”

He studied her for a long moment, expression unreadable before a slow smile curled across his lips and his eyes crinkled in the corners. It wasn’t his panty-dropper grin and it wasn’t the bright, beaming one he had when he was wildly amused, either. This one was soft, secret and a little bit shy and it made the butterflies in her belly go into a sharp barrel roll. How very dare he be so adorable. That bastard. “… Yeah?” She’d never heard him sound so hopeful.

The blush hadn’t faded one bit and she ducked her head, nodding as she tried not to chew on her lip. “Yeah.” She tipped her face up to look at him and his smile had widened into something beautiful that made her toes curl and her heart skip. “Yes.”

His hand curled around the back of her neck and he kissed her on her forehead, held her there for a good long minute and let out a happy hum. “Come on, Sweetheart,” he gave her a nudge, “Let’s get outta here. You stink.”

“Oh fuck you, James Barnes!”

He laughed and staggered backward away from her swatting hands. “Maybe later, huh? Let me get cleaned up ‘fore I get you filthy all over again.”

She grinned at the unspoken promise in his voice and scooped up her ruined blouse and heels and padded over to the control panel by the nearly invisible door. “You know I’m holding you to that, right?” Her entire body warmed as he wrapped himself around her from behind and propped his chin on top of her head as she punched in the override code to let them out. Time to get back to reality. “Let’s get out of here.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“God, I could eat a whole cow.”

Darcy rolled her head back against the wall of the elevator and tucked her hands behind the small of her back, eyes closed as she reveled in the warmth of the enclosed space after days of no heating. She could feel him next to her, they were pressed hip to hip after all and even though her eyes were closed she could hear the fatigue in his voice. She could tell that he was tired and weary, ready to just fall into bed and sleep for days. It wasn’t like they’d done a whole heap of anything strenuous whilst they were in the panic room, well, no more than usual anyway, but they were both tired and hungry and the warm air that blew into the elevator was doing a fine job of making them drowsy as fuck.

“I can do you one better,” she murmured without looking at him, “I could eat an entire farm.”

He hummed in agreement. “I tell you what, you let me have the cattle and you can have all the pigs. That sound fair?” He let out a jaw cracking yawn and slumped against her, hand sliding across her stomach to hold her hip as he hugged her from the side. “I know how much you like bacon and we both know I prefer beef...”

She covered the arm across her waist with her hand and stroked his wrist, turned her head into his chest and smiled. “I do love bacon,” she mused. “You’re so good to me, Bucky-bear.”

“Course I am,” Another yawn against her temple this time and he nuzzled closer, careful to steer clear of her hair. “I let you call me Bucky-bear, don’t I?”

She was grateful he was heeding her wishes and keeping clear of the mess on her head, it really was gross and she felt dirty just thinking about how bad it must look. She was glad that they hadn’t run into anyone so far since they’d left the panic room; even the labs had been quiet and whilst it was a little odd that they’d been the same way before they’d gone into the room, Darcy was able to shrug it off as coincidence. Jane was probably catching up on some sleep or bothering Tony or Bruce. Either way, if the labs were quiet then it meant she didn’t have to worry about working for the rest of the day and she could go back to her apartment, have a shower and stuff herself silly before falling into a full sized bed for the first time in what felt like forever. The bed in the panic room was comfortable enough, but it had been small and cramped and she just wanted to sprawl and lay flat on her back without the risk of toppling over the edge. It had happened to Bucky more than once in the past few days and somehow he managed to get the same startled look on his face every single time he crashed to the floor and yes, she absolutely laughed at him every time. He would call her mean, she would offer to kiss it better and well, things would escalate from there. She was starting to suspect it was all part of his dastardly plan to get laid, the look on his face was too practiced for it to be genuine surprise and there was no way that he didn’t know how close to the edge he was at all times. He’d been playing her like a fiddle the whole time just to get between her legs, that asshole.

It was such a great plan and she was pissed that she didn’t think of it herself.

The elevator dinged quietly and the doors opened but neither of them budged an inch and they remained curled into the corner, half asleep. Jarvis would tell them when they were on the correct floor so moving was unnecessary as yet.

“Darcy!”

Her eyes popped open and she was upright in a blink, exhaustion curbed, eyes wide and excited when she saw the owner of the voice. “THOR!!” She squealed and threw herself at the God as he stepped into the elevator with them and Bucky toppled into the space where she’d just been, his leaning post lost. He let out a grunt of displeasure but caught himself easily with one hand against the wall and she waved him off with a half hearted apology as the big blonde swept her into a huge, tight hug with a booming laugh that vibrated all the way through her. “Oh my God, Thor! When did you get here?! How long are you staying?! Holy shit, look at your hair!!”

He beamed at her and swung her around in a tight circle, her feet clear off the floor as he laughed. “I arrived some two days ago, little sister,” he answered patiently, his tone indulgent and full of genuine affection. “I will be staying for a short time, perhaps a week or two if time permits, although we shall see if I am required to return to Asgard in the meantime. And yes,” he chuckled, “It was time for a change. Do you like it, Little One?”

She ran her hands over his head and inspected the cut. It looked darker now that it was short and he looked less like someone you’d see on the cover of a period romance novel and more like the battle seasoned, proud warrior she knew he was. It was a little longer on the top and close cropped on the sides and she was pleasantly surprised to admit that it suited him; he looked good. Comfortable and confident. He was smiling at her as she perused his appearance but there was a certain tightness around his eyes that she didn’t like and he was a little bit drawn, shoulders tense and tired all at once. “I like the hair,” she petted the close cropped strands affectionately, “-but I’m not feeling the stressed thing you’ve got going on right now. You look exhausted. What’s up, Big Guy?”

He sighed and the smile fell off his face, instead replaced by a weariness that made her bones ache in sympathy. “Much has changed, Darcy, but we shall discuss the matter in private. I do not wish to have such a conversation where so many can interrupt us.” He gave her a gentle squeeze and pecked her on the cheek. His whiskers tickled her skin and she squirmed and tried not to giggle. “I have missed you, sister. Very much.”

He carefully set her down on her feet and nodded over her shoulder towards where Bucky was still leaning against the wall, half asleep but watching the reunion with an expression of veiled interest. He’d never really seen them interact before. “James,” he greeted him, stepping past Darcy briefly to clasp Bucky’s forearm in greeting. “I trust you are well today? You are feeling more like yourself?”

Bucky’s eyes narrowed and he pushed himself upright, suspicious. Thor still had a hold of his arm and he glanced down at the hand on him warily. “Why? What’ve you heard?”

Thor smiled at him placatingly and released him, unaffected by his suspicious tone and took a step back to give him some room. “Steven informed me that you were not quite yourself recently. He feels immensely guilty for his actions and blames himself for your disagreement. I was concerned for you, my friend, though Steven assured me that you were in the capable hands of our Darcy and that I should not worry. I am gladdened to see that you are well.”

Bucky looked a little bit green at the mention of Steve’s name and Darcy stepped up close and laced her fingers with his and stroked the back of his hand. “You’ve spoken to Steve?” She asked, looking back at the God. She frowned at the thoughtful look on his face as he eyed their joined hands but it disappeared as soon as she saw it and he looked up at them with a genuine smile.

“I have,” he nodded. “He is well, though he is most displeased with the restrictions your healers have given him. They are insisting on bed rest and he is being difficult, but I did not tell you such things.” He tapped his nose and smirked and Darcy blew out a relieved sigh and absently lifted Bucky’s hand to kiss his clenched knuckles.

“See, what did I tell you? He’s alright.” She cupped her lover’s cheek in her palm and nodded, “He’s ok.”

The tension seemed to leech out of Bucky’s posture and he fell back against the wall, eyes shut and a quiet murmured ‘thank fuck for that’. He tugged her closer and dropped his forehead against hers and sighed, fingers curled around her neck. “I’d better go see him,” He breathed a little easier knowing that Steve was alright but there was still a sense of nervous tension about him. “I need to apologize.” She knew that he wanted to make amends for the brutal attack and whilst she wanted to shield him from any further potential hurt, she knew that he needed to address what had happened sooner rather than later. If he waited too long to talk to Steve and to explain his actions it would most certainly be too late to repair the rift between them.

She bit her lip and nodded. “You’ll grab something to eat, right? You need to get some proper food into you. There’s no way that pop tarts and pre-packaged crackers and jerky have been enough to sustain you properly. Get yourself some protein – find that whole cow you wanted,” she told him firmly, “-and an extra helping of carrots and snow peas. You love those. Extra butter.”

He bumped his head against her and grinned, hand on her hip. “I do,” he agreed, “You take Thor back to yours and catch up. If all goes well with Stevie, I’ll crash there tonight. If not, I’ll be at mine if you need me.”

She wrinkled her nose and pushed away from him, her grin playful. “Ew, why would I want to spend more time with you? I’ve been locked in a tiny room with your snoring ass for the past few days. That’s enough for now.”

He glared at her in mock outrage. “I do not snore!”

“How do you know?” She arched a delicate brow at him. “You’re asleep when you’re doing it, aren’t you?”

His mouth snapped shut and he glowered at her instead, unable to fault her logic. “You’re mean. See if I ever wanna have a sleepover again.” He pouted but it quickly morphed into a grin as she lifted up onto her toes and planted a loud, smacking kiss on his mouth. “Was that an apology, Sweetheart?”

She snorted and shoved him towards the elevator doors that were open and waiting for him to disembark. They had reached the residential floors and Steve’s apartment was just down the hall. “That’s a go kiss and make up with your bestie,” she ordered. “Don’t think that I don’t know you two had an argument before all this shit happened.”

He blinked at her, surprised. “How did you-?”

“The pretty, pretty interloper told me.” She said smugly. “He talks to me. He likes me. He tells me that my idiot friends are at each other’s throats for some stupid reason.”

He eyed her warily but backed towards the doors. “Stop flirting with him,” he muttered although it lacked the heat of actual displeasure and instead he looked sullen and pouty, “He’s fucking sweet on you already as it is and it’s not fair when you two gang up me.”

A slow smile spread across her face and she looked at him coyly from under her lashes. “Aw, he’s sweet on me?”

Bucky curled his lip at her and glowered. “You damn well know he is – he wouldn’t talk to you if he wasn’t,” he paused in the doorway, head tipped back. “Competing with my own multiple personality, fucks sake… My therapist is gonna have a field day with this one.” He bemoaned.

She waved him off with a shooing motion and blew him a kiss, a bright, cheerful smile on her face. “Go talk to Steve. Grovel.”

He rolled his eyes and turned to leave. “Yeah, yeah, I’m goin’.” He grumbled. “Have fun with your brother.” He waved over his shoulder and stepped around the corner with a parting wriggle of his fingers.

The doors slipped shut behind him and Darcy’s giddy smile wilted a little bit when she turned and saw Thor watching her with a smirk on his face. “… What??”

**

“Jesus fucking Christ, Bucky – they told you in a therapy session?!”

Steve cursed as he paced a line in the rug, hand pushed into his already messy hair. It was standing up this way and that and he looked like he’d just rolled out of bed, which to be fair, he had. He’d been ‘resting’ when Bucky had arrived at his apartment and was entirely too excited to see him for someone who had been beaten stupid by him a mere four days earlier. In other words, he’d been bed ridden, bored silly and he’d kind of, sort of, maybe misplaced the remote for his television and couldn’t switch it on any other way. So very, very bored. He was swearing profusely by now and despite everything that had happened between them lately Bucky felt a warm pulse of affection for the man in front of him unfurl in his chest. This wasn’t Captain America wearing a hole in the rug in front of him, this was Steven Grant Rogers in all his foul mouthed, infuriatingly bone headed glory.

He hadn’t heard some of the words that were coming out of his mouth since he was in the trenches. It was actually quite impressive.

The damage from the beating (not an argument, never an argument. Steve would have had to fight back for it to qualify as an argument) had been substantial and even though Steve had waved it off like it was nothing, just a scratch, Bucky felt absolutely awful. A steaming pile of shit would be worth more right now. He’d broken his sternum and his jaw, fractured his left orbital bone and there had been a head wound that had actually been deep enough to require stitching, a few less severe ones scattered around his eyes and the inside of his mouth had been all but shredded from his teeth mashing into the soft flesh of his cheek. He’d bitten almost clear through his tongue and when he’d stepped on him, broken his sternum, the jagged pieces of broken rib and breast bone had punctured his lungs and one of them had collapsed entirely. If he hadn’t been enhanced, didn’t have the serum running through his body to help bolster it and assist with rapid healing, then the injury to his sternum alone could have killed him. His breast bone had been inches from puncturing his heart and it made Bucky so sick to his stomach to think that he’d done that to him that he had to stuff his flesh hand under his thigh to hide his shaking fingers and look away. He couldn’t even look at him without wanting to be sick now that he knew the extent of the damage done. Steve kept insisting that he was fine, just a little achy now that all the broken bones had healed and shit, didn’t that make him feel like crap all over again.

Suddenly that last packet of teriyaki beef jerky that he’d scarfed before leaving the panic room didn’t feel like such a good idea.  

“I never meant for this to happen.”

Steve stopped short and his head swiveled to look at him so quickly that he could have gotten whiplash. “What?” He blinked at him for a second and then his irritation smoothed out into concern. He had known him for so long, spent so many years deciphering his moods and facial expressions that he could see right through his attempt at pretending he wasn’t about to vomit on his ugly fucking rug. “Shit, Buck, I know that you didn’t set out to beat the snot outta me,” he sidestepped around the sofa and ducked into the kitchen before he quickly returned with a large, plastic mixing bowl. He handed it to him wordlessly and gave him a small, tight smile as he hunched over it and hugged it close. “Was it my argument with Darcy that triggered you or was it the psych appointment?”

Bucky shrugged helplessly and clamped his eyes shut against the swell of nausea that roiled in his belly. He felt hot and fuzzy and it was with a sigh of resignation that he knew he was about to hurl into the bright yellow plastic bowl. “Wasn’t too hot after therapy,” he mumbled, trying to swallow down the need to be sick. Sweat pricked at his hairline and he took a long, deep breath in through his nose and let it back out slowly. “Was a bit off kilter in the elevator and I remember askin’ Jarvis where I could find Darce and then I saw her fall over and it was just too much, too fast and he pushed forward. He was already there, waiting for something else to go wrong and when it did, when I just couldn’t anymore… I never wanted to hurt anyone, especially you.”

His mind helpfully chose that moment to supply him with the suppressed memory of Steve’s wet hacking and blood soaked face and he promptly vomited into the bowl, a low groan of disgust coming from deep in his chest when he could feel the warmth of it against his hand through the plastic.

The teriyaki jerky was definitely not a good idea. He couldn’t remember it smelling that bad before he ate it. So gross.

Careful hands dragged through his hair and tucked it behind his ears, one hand holding the bulk of it back in case he was sick again. Good old Stevie, always cleaning up his messes.

He’d killed people before, dozens of them in fact and he’d stopped feeling physically ill about doing it some time before his little sojourn in Azzano. Steve liked to think that he’d been a good man right up until he’d fallen off that damned train but really, even if he didn’t want to admit it to himself, Bucky hadn’t been a good man since he’d waved goodbye to his family on the day he’d left for basic training. When they’d first put a gun in his hand it was like something had clicked and as soon as he’d been run through the basic mechanics of firing said weapon once, he’d been a force to be reckoned with; he rarely missed to begin with until one day he just stopped missing altogether. He’d quickly proven proficient with a rifle, able to easily calculate angles and trajectories in his head like no-one else in his unit and with his history in the boxing ring he was more than adept when it came to hand to hand combat as well; there wasn’t a man that could best him in all of the entire unit and then some besides. Sure, there were some that were bigger than him and yeah, they put up one hell of a fight, but none were able to get the drop on him in the end and he’d put each and every one of them that had tried on the floor with a series of wicked jabs that made everyone, including the higher ups, sit up and take notice. He was smart, he was fast and he was strong so the promotion had been a no brainer; he’d made sergeant in no time. Then there were the knives. There was something about the weight of the hilt in his palm and the balance of the blade that felt right, so natural and easy that wielding them feel as simple as breathing. He would be lying to himself if he tried to say that he hadn’t gotten some kind of sick satisfaction from sneaking up on unsuspecting HYDRA agents during his early military career and sinking his blade deep into butter soft flesh, the warm spill of blood coating his hand had given him a sense of accomplishment that he’d never dared to speak of aloud.

He’d been doing wet work for The Howlies before wet work was even a thing that the United States Army admitted to partaking in.

That wasn’t to say that his satisfaction upon completing a raid equated to enjoyment, of course it didn’t, he’d killed someone’s son, husband or brother, but it had been his job and he was damn good at what he did... Even before his days as The Soldier. Someone had to do it, might as well have been him, right? He wasn’t an idiot either, he’d heard the whispering and murmurs of the other men in his unit; the stories about him being some sort of blood thirsty devil who would do whatever it took to get his men to safety and yeah, somewhere deep down he was that devil, but at the heart of him he was just trying to protect them. To get them safe and back to their families in one piece even if it meant that he couldn’t quite manage to do so himself and if that made him a bad man then so be it.

Maybe he could have gotten home someday if it hadn’t been for that fucking train, but if he had managed to go home after all was said and done he was sure that his mother wouldn’t have recognized the man he’d become somewhere on the battlefields in Italy. She would have welcomed him with open arms and she would have tried to piece him back together into some semblance of who she thought her son was supposed to be, but parts of him were missing by then and he doubted that she would have ever managed to get her boy back completely. Maybe he should be grateful that he’d never gotten back there; he hated disappointing his Ma and he was sure that’s what would have happened sooner or later once she realized that her eldest child was a hell-bound miscreant. Dum Dum had tried to tell him it was the big brother in him that made him jump headlong into the fray for his men more than once, the protective instinct so ingrained that was second nature but he wasn’t so sure…

Steve always told him that Erskine had said the serum took everything that made someone who they were and amplified it, made a good man even better and if that was the case then he’d been an animal even before HYDRA had gotten their hands on him. So in saying that, no, he wasn’t a good man, but he sure as hell tried to be. 

He wanted to be. He really, really wanted to be and wasn’t that the important part? That he wanted to be a good person and help people?

He felt sick about what he’d done now though because it had been somebody he loved that he’d hurt; because it was Steve.

“You coulda died, Stevie,” he rasped, spitting into the bowl to rid himself of the sour taste in his mouth. He decidedly did not look at the mess in his lap and focused on Steve’s stupid, ugly, threadbare rug instead. “Why didn’t you fight back? How could you be so stupid? I nearly killed you.”

Steve was entirely too nonchalant for his liking and the asshole just shrugged at him. “No you didn’t and no, I wouldn’t have. Trust me, Buck, it takes more than a few broken bones and collapsed lungs  to keep me down. It hurt, yeah, I won’t bother denying that because you hit like a fucking battering ram when you’re pissed off, but if I hadn’t been mouthing off at Darcy about shit that wasn’t her fault…” he trailed off guiltily and winced. “Well, if I’d just kept my fat yap shut then maybe you wouldn’t have been triggered, so this was all my fault. You’ve got nothing to feel guilty about.” The weight of his words hung heavily between them for a minute, then he opened his mouth again and what came out was not what Bucky was expecting to hear.

“I’m sorry I’ve been pushing you to tell Darcy how you feel about her, Buck. Even if I consider her my baby sister, it’s still none of my business and how you feel about her is yours. I think she deserves to know,” he paused, “-but I get why you’re hesitant to tell her. It must be terrifying to think that you risk losing her if she doesn’t feel the same.”

Bucky stared at that rug until his eyes burned and he was unable to hold on any longer. “I don’t wanna ruin whatever it is that we have,” he admitted softly, “If I tell her… Stevie, what if I tell her and she laughs at me? What if she doesn’t want me anymore and she never speaks to me again because I’ve made it weird?” He looked up at his lifelong best friend with wide, round eyes. “I don’t know if I can, Stevie. I’m so fucking scared that I – I’m not used to being so scared of something and I don’t… I just,” he scrubbed at his face with shaking fingers, “She’ll laugh at me for bein’ so fucking stupid.”

“Come on, Buck,” Steve knelt on the floor to the left of his knees and gingerly took the bowl of grossness out of his lap and set it far, far away on the coffee table. He could see him out of the corner of his eye, hand held aloft as if he wanted to reach out but wasn’t sure if it would be received well. Absolutely unashamed that he needed the reassurance, Bucky subtly nudged his knee closer and he saw Steve relax a little bit more and he dropped his hand onto his knee and gave it a comforting squeeze without a word. “Darcy would never laugh at you, you know that, right? I don’t think you’re giving her enough credit. If she didn’t want you, if she didn’t trust you with her all, she wouldn’t have you at all. She wouldn’t be your friend and she certainly wouldn’t have taken you to bed. Repeatedly. For an extended period of more than six months.” He nudged him lightly and the crooked grin on his face spelled trouble. “In fact, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or anything, but you guys are practically dating already. You’re both just too oblivious to realize how far gone you really are.”

Bucky squinted at him and ran his hands back through his hair, swiped his thumb across his bottom lip. “What are you saying, Steve?”

“I’m saying,” he started, “-that she is just as crazy about you as you are about her.” He shook his head when Bucky eyed him in wary disbelief. “Seriously, Buck.. Darcy thinks you hung the moon and I’m sure she’s likely to attempt to castrate me for telling you this, but when we were away the other week? She found out who sounded the Winter alarm and she damn near ripped her a new one – Barton had to intervene before she did something stupid. The woman in question is due in front of the board for disciplinary action early next week for less than savory reasons but that’s not the point. My point is that she’s crazy stupid about you, Buck. One hundred percent all in.”

A kindling of cautious hope flickered in his gut and he chewed on the inside of his cheek as he considered what he’d just been told. Could she really feel the same way about him as he did about her? Was she interested in having him as more than a fuck-buddy and would she even believe him if he went to her right now and told her how much he cared about her? Fuck. Fuck, he really needed to consider this properly before he went and word vomited all over her and told her he was in love with her. He needed to come up with a plan of action. He needed to consider all possible outcomes and plan accordingly in case the shit hit the fan and he needed to bug out.

He also really, really needed a shower. He was starting to offend himself. He needed to stop biting his fucking nails, too, he realized with a start and tugged his pinky finger away from his teeth with a jerk and wiped it on his shirt.

“You really think so?” He glanced at Steve and tried to gauge if he was being bullshitted or not. When all he saw on the blonde’s face was sheer, unhindered honesty he let out a shaky breath and gave him a jerky nod. “Ok.” He breathed. “Ok, I’ll tell her. But if this all blows up in my face I’m never speaking to you again and I’m going to shove a grenade so far up your ass that you might be able to cough it up if you try hard enough, you hear me, Stevie? I will happily blow your shit sky high if you’re lyin’ to me about this. I will tap-dance on what’s left of you.”

Steve snorted, not at all surprised by the creativity of his threat. “Good thing I aint lyin’ to you then, isn’t it?” He slapped him on the back and climbed to his feet, grabbed the bowl from the table and pushed it at him. “Now go empty this into the toilet and whilst you’re in there take a fucking shower. You absolutely stink. How the hell aren’t you offending yourself right now?”

Bucky let out a snort of amusement and grinned up at him. “Oh, I totally am.” He gave his armpit and experimental sniff and coughed, queasy from the smell, “Yeah, yeah the shower is a good idea. Can I borrow somethin’ to wear?”

“Course you can- we can’t have you loungin’ around on my sofa, balls out for the world to see, can we?” He laughed and pulled him to his feet. “Come on, asshole. You go clean up and I’ll make us somethin’ to eat. Sound good?”

Bucky nodded eagerly. “A cow, Stevie. I want a whole cow.” He thought back to what Darcy said in the elevator about the carrots and peas and butter and he started drooling a little. “And steamed vegetables,” he added absently. “Lots and lots of steamed vegetables. I don’t care if they come outta the freezer or if they’re freshly picked, but I want all the carrots and snow peas that you can fit into the fucking saucepan, Steve. I’m serious right now. And don’t you dare skimp on the butter. The good stuff, none of that unsalted fake margarine bullshit! Why do they even make that and furthermore, why do people actually eat it? Isn’t it like, one chemical compound away from plastic or somethin’? Why would you put that in your mouth, Steve? Why?!

Steve’s cheeks were puffed out and blotchy from the effort it took for him to hold back his laughter and finally he let out an undignified snort that resulted in a coughing fit when he choked on his own saliva. “You’ve thought about this way too much, haven’t you?”

“Fuck you, asshole. Serves you right, I hope you choke.” He grumped, flipping him off with great gusto. “A cow, Steven. Stop laughing at me and feed me a fucking cow.”

“Alright, ok, Jesus,” he laughed and pushed him down the hall, “I’ll see what I can do. Go shower,” he repeated, “And don’t forget to turn on the exhaust fan and put a towel on the floor! I’m not having you walk water all through my apartment!”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Thor’s fingers tipped her head on an angle and Darcy couldn’t help but giggle at the absurdity of their current situation; if she wasn’t living it, she wouldn’t actually believe it was something that actually happened. She was sitting on the floor in front of him between his spread knees, warm and a little bit sleepy from her first shower in days and days but absolutely full of sunshine and daisies because he was back for a visit. It had been so long and she’d missed him so much; there was so many things to tell him! The towel she’d hastily wrapped around her hair when she’d gotten out of the shower was in her lap and her unofficial sibling, The God of Thunder himself, was running his fingers through the damp lengths of her hair to rid it of any and all tangles before he braided it back for her.

The first time he’d offered to help her out with her hair, Darcy had baulked at him with a wary suspicion, hesitant to let the oddly ripped weirdo that had fallen out of the sky anywhere near her hair for fear of him knotting it up so bad that she needed to shave it all off. She’d finally given in to his puppy eyed pleas and even before he’d gotten his hands on her hair the first time the look of pure delight on his face when she’d agreed was kind of worth saying yes anyway. She’d been pleasantly surprised by how careful he was, the patience he had as he separated and weaved the strands together into some semblance of order with an ease that spoke of years of practice on his part. The resulting braid was far more intricate than she could ever do herself and she’d left it in for as long as she could, loathe to ruin all his hard work. The next time he’d done it she was the one to ask him and his reaction to her request had been just as pleased as the first time. Eventually it had become common place for them, him perched somewhere quiet and her on the floor in front of him as he explained what kind of braid he was weaving that day and what meaning it held for the wearer back on Asgard. Some were purely practical, a simple means to keep their hair out of the way during training. Others were what she liked to think of as Battle Braids, the type that a warrior would weave into their hair on the eve of battle in preparation for the following day, a tradition amongst his people that was taught to every child no matter their gender. Sometimes, and those were her favorite, he would carefully twist her unruly curls into a more formal style, something similar to what his beloved mother would have worn as a young woman; the intricate beauty of those braids made her feel beautiful and strong, regal and proud. Thor had gotten oddly quiet and tight in the throat when she’d told him as much and his sad, grieving smile had made her heart hurt more than a little bit and she’d spent the next few hours listening to him talk about his mother, Queen Frigga, with so much affection that she was fit to burst.

Darcy was sad that she’d never had the chance to meet the queen in person, but she had the feeling that she’d visited her from time to time in her dreams. She was never able to recall the dreams after she’d crawled out of bed, but she woke some days with a strange sense of longing and love that she didn’t feel any other time aside from when she was in the company of her Super Soldiers and the God. Even her own parents didn’t evoke that sort of feeling in her chest, although that was a whole other story for another time.

“Tilt your head,” He nudged her chin and angled her head to the side before carefully sectioning the strands in his fingers and getting started. “Tell me, Darcy,” he prompted, “How have you fared in my absence? I see that you and the warrior James have become close. I am pleased to see your eyes so bright and your heart so full. He is a good man. A fine choice.”

She fought the blush that she knew was creeping across her cheeks and inwardly cringed when she recalled kissing Bucky right there in front of him in the elevator. They weren’t exactly public with their relationship of sorts and it had been careless of her, although Bucky didn’t seem to mind so she shrugged off her smidgeon of guilt and merely rolled her head slightly as Thor’s hands worked their way over the top of her head from the right, weaving more and more hair into the braid until it curled down towards her ear on the left. “Uh, yeah, yeah we have. And he is, a good man, that is. He’s a great guy and I’m lucky to call him a friend.”

The fingers in her hair stilled and Thor nudged her side with his knee. “You are but only friends?” He sounded confused. “Darcy, I was lead to believe by my own eyes that there is more than that between you,” concern laced his voice now, “He has moved in with you and you share your bed with him, but he is just a friend?”

Darcy blinked at the phrasing ‘moved in with you’. “Um. Thor, we don’t live together,” she explained slowly so there was no confusion. “He stays over and we- well, yeah, but he doesn’t live here.”

He made a disgruntled sound and his hands started to continue braiding. “Forgive me for assuming, sister-mine,” he soothed. “I thought you had decided to share a living space as there are many things here that I do not recognize as yours. But then you may have procured these items during my absence. It was rude of me to assume.” He apologized again and she found herself looking around the room curiously to see what he’d meant.

On first glance there wasn’t anything unusual about her place; there were jewel toned throws and cushions scattered across the brightly colored sofa in the middle of the room (it was a pale dove gray with bright fuchsia pink swirls and flowers and she’d had to have it as soon as she’d laid eyes on the hideous thing; it was her most expensive purchase since moving into the tower to date and she still didn’t like to think about the price tag it had come with!) and the paintings (prints, whatever) were the same as they’d always been. There was a cheap knock off print of Van Gogh’s Starry Starry Night that she’d had framed that hung over the television, one of a puppy in a plant pot in the hallway and a row of pink and purple pillar candles in various states of use against the wall by the kitchen. Knickknacks littered the shelves here and there and there was a stack of paperwork that she hadn’t quite gotten to next to her laptop on the small-ish square table that lead into the kitchen. A crystal suncatcher hung in the window that spanned the majority of the room and beams of rainbow light bounced off the walls and floor. Nothing looked amiss upon her initial perusal but when she took a second look her brow wrinkled and she opened her mouth only to close it, surprised when she started to notice just how much of Bucky’s stuff has seamlessly integrated itself into her apartment.

There was a leather jacket draped over the back of the armchair across the room, obviously too large to be hers and the bookcase, normally a little sparse but nowhere near empty was positively overflowing with books that she’d never read and couldn’t if she even wanted to. Some were hardcover novels in Russian, the Cyrillic alphabet confused the shit out of her, but Bucky seemingly had no such issues and others were tattered sci-fi paperbacks that he or she had picked up from thrift stores and markets, worn and torn and well loved, complete with that old book smell. There was a large omnibus of William Shakespeare’s works that Darcy knew for a fact didn’t belong to her on the coffee table; she couldn’t stand Shakespeare, too hard to follow. It went straight over her head every damn time. There was a pair of stiletto knives on the coffee table alongside a whetstone waiting to be sharpened and a couple of different pairs of boots laying around inside the door and Bucky’s record player was nestled into the corner of the room to the far right, a stack of well-loved vinyl beside it. He’d brought it up a while back when he’d been trying to teach her how to swing dance (she had no rhythm and was awful at it) and had never taken it back to his place. A bottle of his cologne sat on the little table by the door that he would spritz on before he walked out the door, right next to a bottle of her own perfume that she kept there for the same reason.

“… Oh.”

He hummed as he worked, gathering the last additional section to weave into the rest before he reached the tail end of the braid. “Oh, indeed.” He tapped her arm, silently requesting the band she had looped around her wrist and tied the end off carefully once she handed it to him. “And the rest of it?”

She looked up over her shoulder at him and frowned in confusion. “Huh? What do you mean the rest?”

He gave her a put upon look and rolled his eyes. “Darcy,” he patiently waited for her to scramble onto the sofa next to him and watched her tuck her feet beneath her, “He has been your heart for some time now. Why have you not yet made him aware of this? I assure you that he would be most receptive to such affections.” He sighed quietly and pulled her to his side, wrapping her tight against him when he saw the flicker of doubt on her face and the way her mouth tilted downwards. “Ah, you do not think he returns your affections.”

She curled against his side and rested her head on his wide shoulder as she snuggled under the comforting weight of his arm. “Why would he?” She asked quietly, trying not to sounds as miserable as she suddenly felt. “Sure, he likes me and we have fun, but love? Thor, he could have his pick of anyone he wanted so why would he choose me? I’m just a frumpy nobody with a shitty job and pathetically low standards when it comes to how I let people treat me. I’m a doormat and he’s... He’s Bucky Barnes, war hero and avenger.” She sniffed a little bit and tried to ignore the burn in her nose that heralded tears. “I didn’t even notice that Jane doesn’t really like me until Bucky pointed it out not too long ago.”

Thor made an unhappy sound and the vibrations from it tickled her cheek. “She has not developed any social skills in my absence then, I assume?’

She gave him a humorless snort at that. “Yeah, no. Hardly. And by hardly I mean not at all. I get that she’s super focused on her work and all, but sometimes…” she trailed off. “I don’t like how she treats Bucky when he comes down to the labs to visit. She’s outright rude.”

“There is no excuse for her cruelty, Darcy,” He agreed. “None at all. However,” he stroked his hand over head a dropped a chaste peck against her hair. “We are not talking about Jane, we are talking about you being reckless with your own heart. And James’.”

She lifted her head to look at him and blinked rapidly. “Reckless? What?”

“Not only are you playing a dangerous game with your own heart by denying your affections for James, but he too stands to be hurt, Darcy. He may not be a close friend of mine, but I know well enough to tell when a man is interested in more than just a warm body. He watches you more than you are aware.”

She shook her head. “You’re wrong, Thor. He doesn’t-“

“If he was only interested in bedding you,” he interrupted and she could not actually believe she was having this conversation with someone she considered to be her big brother, “-why did he wait so long to do so? Why did he follow you around for years before he made his move?” The answering silence was telling and he knew he’d planted a seed of doubt in her logic. “Darcy, trust me when I say that when he looks at you he sees more than just a body,” he assured her quietly. “I would not dare to lie to you, sister. He cares far more than he lets on.”

She lay curled against him for some time, her mind buzzing as she tried to remember every single interaction she’d had with Bucky over the years. A lot of them bled into one another and she hated not being able to remember every minute they’d spent together but there were plenty of moments that stuck out in her memories that got her thinking. He’d always asked her to be his plus one to every single gala he’d been roped into; he hated going to those things alone and he’d plead and wheedle with her until she’d give in with an amused huff and agree to ‘protect him from the soul sucking socialites’. Apparently her resting bitch face was intimidating as hell and it kept the handsy rich women at bay, but really, he’d just wanted an excuse to spend more time dancing with her. She knew her resting bitch face was about as intimidating as a nine week old puppy who was just learning how to run properly and honestly? Accompanying him to those events was no hardship; the man looked fine as hell in a tailor made tux. That ass knew no bounds.

He’d go out of his way to buy her favorite kind of chocolate when she was feeling crappy, even if it meant him footing it out to Brooklyn to grab her something a little more fancy on occasion from Raaka Chocolate (“You walked to Brooklyn to buy chocolate?!” “Well, yeah. You looked a bit flat this morning. Thought it might cheer you up.” “Bucky.. It’s been raining all fucking day, are you insane?!” “Quite possibly, yes. Do you want it or not?” “…. Gimme.”). She was constantly having to fight him for the cask-aged bourbon chocolate bars and at times it even meant him stealing the things right out of her mouth as she tried to eat them. She couldn’t really blame him for trying though, they were all kinds of amazing so she supposed that he had good taste.

It wasn’t just him walking to Brooklyn to buy her sweets on a whim or spinning her around a crowded ballroom in a fancy dress that told her he cared, either. It was the way he’d always give her the crispier corner piece of the lasagna when she would have dinner with him and Steve because he knew it was her favorite bit. It was how he’d sit beside her and hold her hand every time her parents called and waited for the inevitable fallout afterwards, the quiet comfort he’d offer her when she’d hang up and burst into tears because she wished her parents were capable of showing even a miniscule amount of interest in her life even though she secretly knew they actually never wanted a child in the first place. She was just an inconvenience to them, a means to an end and a fast track to a promotion that they were stuck with for the rest of their lives; they didn’t even bother to pretend to be proud of her anymore. It was the way he’d put himself between her and the curb when they’d walk down the street and take her hand to help her hop over the huge puddles that littered the sidewalk so she wouldn’t slip and fall. It was how he would laugh at her stupid cow jokes like they were the greatest thing he’d ever heard, even if they were terrible dad jokes and it was the criminal level of tolerance he had for her bullshit when she was in a foul, grumpy mood after work some days and how he’d do everything in his power to make her smile again, even if it was to his own detriment. How he’d run her a bath after a long day and sit beside her on the floor listening to her rant about the idiot intern who spilled coffee all over one of Jane’s machines and told Jane that it had been Darcy who did it… That had been a wonderful day. Truly.

He looked out for her every step of the way and he’d done it long before they’d started sleeping together so she knew it wasn’t some weird sense of obligation just because they fooled around sometimes. Most of the time. Ok, almost all the time. Sex with Bucky was better than good, she wasn’t afraid to admit that to herself. They had fun and she loved that he could quite legitimately make her forget her own name sometimes, but could that actually mean that his feelings for her were more than just a closer than close friendship?  Could Thor be right and she was just an idiot for not seeing it sooner?

“I think I have a lot to think about,” she admitted with a wince. “I want to believe you, I just… I don’t..” she let out a frustrated little grumble and burrowed further into his side. A change of subject was in order. “What’s been goin’ on with you?” She peered up at him curiously and frowned when his gaze became shuttered. “Thor, are you alright? You’re not in trouble are you? Is Odin still giving you stick about that time you dated a goat?” She tried to lighten the mood that had swept over the room but her joke fell flat and instead of a smile, he closed his eyes and covered his face with his free hand. Her voice wobbled a little bit and she tried to stamp down the swelling panic in her belly. Shit, was he sick or something? Could Asgardians get sick? “Thor?”

“My father passed not long after I returned to Asgard,” He told her after a moment of tense silence and Darcy felt her stomach drop. “My father is dead and I am now King of The Nine Realms.” He looked down at her with sad, tired eyes. “I am sorry I did not tell you sooner, Little One. I was not sure how. It is why I have not returned before now; I have been… Busy.”

Darcy sat up ramrod straight and stared at him in utterly stunned amazement. “You’re king now?!” At his slow nod she grabbed his arm and shook him. “Oh my God, Thor!! Holy shit! You’re a fucking king!” She sobered slightly at the wary look on his face and she flushed pink. “God, I’m sorry. That – that was – wow. Just. Wow. I wasn’t exactly expecting that, I’m sorry.” She cringed and hugged his arm apologetically, relieved when he lifted his arm and hugged her. “Is that why you look so tired?” She asked. “Wait, if you’re here then who’s running Asgard? You said you were going to try to stay for a couple of weeks – can you even do that? Can you even take a vacation when you’re a godly king type?”

His laughter was soft and his smile affectionate as he gave her hands a comforting pat. “I did not leave Asgard unattended, Darcy, fear not. Indeed, I am tired and carry much weight, but I needed some time and Heimdall is more than capable of keeping watch whilst I am gone. Time on Midgard passes at a greater speed than it does upon Asgard; they will not even notice I am gone. He will alert me immediately if the need arises. For now, you have my company for as long as time permits. I am at your disposal.”

She gave a quiet cheer and beamed at him when he laughed at her antics. She gave his shoulder a couple of pats and dragged herself off the sofa, headed for the kitchen and glanced back over her shoulder. “I’m pretty sure I have a couple of pints of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer unless a certain asshole ate them all in the middle of the night and didn’t tell me again…” she muttered affectionately. “If he hasn’t, you want?”

“Is there Chunky Munky?” He asked hopefully as he peered over the back of the sofa at her, easily able to see her searching through the freezer. She made a sound of triumph and held up a carton with a grin, peeled the top off and looked inside.

“Will wonders never cease?” She mused when she found it was in fact a full pint, completely untouched. “He normally eats everything in sight. You’re in luck!” She pulled out a second pint of Coffee, Coffee, BuzzBuzzBuzz and rolled her eyes when she found half of it missing. Typical. She quickly grabbed two of the larger tea spoons out of the drawer (what? Smaller spoons made it last longer!) and wandered back to the sofa, handed Thor his Chunky Munky and a spoon and plopped down beside him with a happy sigh.

“So aside from the whole king thing,” she stuffed a spoonful of ice cream in her mouth and moaned happily, “What’s shakin’?”

 

**

After he’d showered he pulled on the clothes Steve had left on the bed for him, plugged in his phone to charge and headed back out into the main body of Steve’s apartment. Yeah, he’d taken a stupidly long shower but it had been a few days and it wasn’t like they needed to worry about using up all the hot water these days, so he allowed himself to indulge and remained unhurried, took advantage of the quiet and took his sweet time trying to decide which of the three shower gels that were already in the shower that he wanted to use. He sniffed them all experimentally and in the end went with the one the reminded him of Fall, cinders and spices, the kind of thing that warmed you from the inside out. The hot water on the back of his neck was better than he remembered so after he’d washed his body and scrubbed his hair three times he’d spent another twenty five minutes just standing there with the water hitting his face and a deep refusal to think about much of anything. He emerged squeaky clean and refreshed, hungrier than ever and he took one look at the spread of food on the table, stalked across the room and grabbed Steve’s face and planted a loud, enthusiastic kiss square on his stupid mouth. He dutifully ignored his spluttering and cursing in favor of throwing himself into a chair at the table so he could dig in.

There was a huge T-bone steak that was probably the size of both of his hands put together on a huge, white plate and every kind of vegetable he could imagine as well as some he’d never even heard of before set out in various dishes across the table. The steak was still pink in the middle, medium rare, just the way he liked it and there was a ceramic butter dish on the table next to his plate along with some fancy seasonings and sauces. He didn’t need those but everything else on the table was fair game and he grinned at Steve as he popped a steaming floret of bright green broccoli into his mouth. Fuck, so good. He dipped another piece right into the butter dish as he chewed and stuffed it into his mouth before he’d even finished the first piece.

“You’re the best housewife a guy could ask for, Stevie!”

Steve scoffed at him and rolled his eyes before he carefully lowered himself into a chair on the opposite side of the table. “Yeah, Buck, thanks. I’ll make sure to wear nothin’ more than a frilly apron for you next time too, how’s that sound?”

Bucky visibly pondered the idea. “Hm. I suppose you’ve got nice enough legs and you do look pretty alright in a pair of tights, so… Yeah. See that you do.” He picked up a whole baby carrot and bit into it with a moan of delight. “Seriously though, Steve,” he chewed quickly and swallowed with a duck of his chin, “How’d you swing all this at short notice? I know you, pal and there’s no fucking way that you had all this in your fridge; you can’t cook for shit. Who’d you have to blow to get it delivered before I came out of the bathroom?” He picked up his knife and fork and spun the blade in his hand before digging in. The moan of delight he let out after his first bite of steak was borderline obscene. “Fuck me… God, that’s good.”

Steve watched him eat for a minute and tried to hide his wide smile behind his beer bottle. “Firstly, you were in there forever. Secondly, I’m not tellin’ you how I managed it and thirdly, I didn’t have to blow anyone,” he chastised, voice bright with laughter. “You know my days of doing that are over, Buck. I’m a respectable pillar of the community these days. A regular paragon of virtue. I even go to church.” He sniffed at him, sarcasm practically dripping from every word. “Stop trying to sully my good name, asshole.”

Bucky snorted into his food and stuffed another forkful of carrots, broccoli, garden peas and boiled potato into his mouth. “You haven’t been to church since nineteen forty two and you’re just as much a pillar of the community as I am; the local mayor just about shits himself every time he’s in the same room as us ‘cause he thinks we’re walking wrecking balls out to demolish his precious city for kicks. He crosses himself when we enter the room, Stevie. Pretty sure he excused himself to blow chunks last time were in his office, he hates us that much. Hmm, or maybe he’s just scared? Huh. Also, if I wanted to sully your good name you’d need to have one to begin with. Also, also, you’re full of shit. Blow me.”

“I’m fairly certain Darcy would beat me to death with one of her spike heels if I tried to get anywhere near your dick, Buck, so yeah, hard pass. Sorry to disappoint and all that.” He rolled his eyes and chewed on a slice of honey roasted butternut squash. “Also, to steal your phraseology,” he cocked his brow and smirked at him, “You blow me. I do too have a good name, so fuck yourself.”

“Wow, Steve,” he took a sip of his beer and cut another slice of steak away from the bone, held it in front of his face and shook his head as he pointed at him with his loaded fork, “Whilst I’m impressed that you used the word ‘phraseology’ in context, your otherwise less than perfect use of grammar astounds me. Truly impressive. Read a fucking book.”

Steve threw a piece of carrot at him and scowled when Bucky’s teeth snapped in the air and caught it with little to no effort and he chewed it loudly, mouth open with a huge smile on his face. “Fuck you, Barnes. We can’t all be high school valedictorians, can we? Some of us are burdened with average intellect and can’t perform complex mathematical equations in our heads as we scratch our asses and talk to the company CEO about the merits of cronuts versus muffins all at once, can we? I get it, you’re smarter’n me. Go to hell. Why was I even bothered that you weren’t talkin’ to me for weeks? Why the hell did I miss your sanctimonious ass?”

Bucky blinked slowly. “Wow, that was a biggun. Do you even know what that word means? Do you need me to find you a dictionary?” He squinted at him and leaned in. “… can you spell it?”

“Fuck you.” Steve glared at him for all of two seconds before his face split into a wide, happy grin that mirrored Bucky’s own. “I’ve missed your abrasive bullshit for some reason,” He nudged his foot under the table with his own, “What on earth is wrong with me, huh?”

Bucky snorted and shook his head, smile firmly in place. “You’re a glutton for punishment, is what’s wrong with you.” His smile wilted a little and he looked at his plate, poked at the dwindling heap of vegetables with his fork. He quietly cut the remaining meat away from the bone and set the bone aside on the edge of his plate.  “Not many people would bother to keep tryin’ to get through to me.”

Steve gave a little hum and reached across to steal a butter coated baby carrot from his plate just to be a shit, even though he had a bowl full of them right in front of him. He made to stab him with his fork and Steve snatched his hand back, grinned and slumped back in his chair with a shrug. “Yeah, well, most people are stupid. You might be a bit of a rogue, but you’re worth the effort, Buck. All the important people know that, you just need to believe it yourself, sometime.” He licked the butter off his fingers casually.

He peered up at his best friend with a bit of a squint, nose screwed up, eyes crinkled in the corners. “Are we having a moment, Rogers? Is that what we’re doin’ right now?” He flicked his tongue against the edge of his teeth and cocked his head. “… you gonna cry or somethin’?  Because I’m pretty sure this shirt is dry clean only.”

Steve let out a deep, long suffering sigh and drained the rest of his beer in one long swallow. “Fucks sake, Bucky, just eat your dinner. Far be it from me to try to make you feel cared about. How very wrong of me. I’m such an asshole.”

“Course you’re an asshole,” he replied mildly but his smile was small, genuine and warm. “Thanks, though, Stevie.” He kicked him lightly under the table. “For everything.”

A faint blush stained Steve’s neck and he stood to grab another couple of beers for them. “There’s no need to thank me. I don’t do anything I don’t want to, Buck, you should know that by now.” He handed him another beer and tapped the neck of his bottle against his own. “Well I travelled around Europe in a pair of tights, but that’s different. If you really insist on thanking me, please don’t bother, we’re good. You’d do the same for me.”

“Yeah,” he grinned up at the blonde and nodded his head. “Yeah, I would. Now help me eat some of this food – I feel like a pig.”

“You are a pig.”

“Oink, oink, motherfucker.” He commented succinctly, punctuating his words with a sharp nod as he jabbed his fork into a piece of bright orange pumpkin. “Oink, oink.”