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Children of Olympus

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Life with gods and superheroes- not to mention a lineup of the world’s most badass women to walk the earth- Darcy mused, could be hell on a girl’s self esteem. Stark Tower’s inhabitants could make brushing their teeth look heroic, and Darcy managed to break something important to Science! on a regular basis.

Not that a battered self-esteem had ever stopped her before; she was a Lewis, after all. So Darcy, ever the strategist, created herself an armor to hide behind: baggy shirts to slip past unwanted attentions, glasses and a curtain of hair to hide the clever, knowing gaze, red-painted lips that softened even the sharpest smile. She slipped past the notice of most.

Except now, she thought with a worried crease of her brow, under the scrutiny of those same heroes and gods, that armor had evidently slipped. It was safer to remain unnoticed, just another grunt in the workforce that was Stark Industries, but somehow one of them had seen through the pretense.

Her mother would be disappointed.

Darcy relaxed her shoulders from their militant tightness, a habit she’d spent years trying to break after her time in Camp Jupiter. She much preferred the ease of her usual home, Camp Half-Blood, but she’d been selected as one of the transfer kids at fifteen and had spent the next four years in that nightmare of a camp. Though her issues with authority certainly became legend within both demigod camps.

There were no demigods in the Tower, she reminded herself. Other than the snarling woman at her side, Darcy remained the only demigod in the zip code, thankfully. She’d spent far too much time rubbing elbows with children of the great prophecies, and Darcy preferred to avoid the attentions of their ever-fickle godly parents.

Besides, here she had one of those badass women in her corner, one who would go toe-to-toe with the most super of the superheroes without a second of hesitation.

“You can’t have her,” Jane said furiously. “She’s mine.”

“Didn’t you ever learn to share?” Tony demanded. He waved a wrench threateningly in Jane’s direction. “She’s a damn quantum prodigy, Foster, I saw the notebook!”

“Because you were snooping, you nosy bastard!”

“C’mon, we can share custody of your precious little minion,” Tony suggested, changing tack when Jane reached for the closest blunt object.

“Okay,” Darcy said calmly, finally stepping in to snatch the weapon from her friend’s hand. “Jane, remember what we talked about.”

“No beating up helpless morons,” Jane sneered. Tony looked affronted.

“No.” Darcy had to bite back a laugh. “It was ‘no killing the guy responsible for our paychecks.’”

“Pepper signs our paychecks,” Jane said with a mutinous glower. “You made sure of it.”

Tony harrumphed. “I’m offended, Lewis, I really am.”

“Uh huh. Look, I work for Jane and only Jane, Stark. The stuff you saw-” the math that had made the billionaire genius finally look past the airheaded act she made sure to use in his presence and see exactly what she’d been hiding- “it was something Jane was working on the other night. I was just translating it from gibberish on diner napkins to something legible.”

Tony’s dark eyes narrowed on her thoughtfully. Damn, she thought with a sigh. He wasn’t buying it. The last thing she needed was Tony Stark taking an interest in her. “Seriously, Stark, you think a poli sci major is capable of that kind of thinking? And here you said we were all just overly-philosophical government drones in training.”

“And you told me that I was an obnoxious, short-sighted tin can with nothing but a big gun and an over-inflated sense of self-importance.” Tony crossed his arms pointedly, but the corner of his mouth twitched. “That was mean, Lewis.”

“Thank you,” Darcy said with a bright smile, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “Maybe in the future you’ll remember to stop barging into Jane’s lab in the middle of her experiments.” She hooked an arm around Jane’s and hauled her friend to the door of Tony’s lab. “Now, we have work to do. Unless you’d like to accuse me of some other absurdity?”

“Quantum physics isn’t an absurdity,” Jane protested.

Tony sighed loudly. “Fine, whatever. I’ll stop trying to steal you for more interesting work, I promise.” Jane growled at him even as Darcy pulled her out of the room.

“Janie, I appreciate the defense and all, but you need to quit threatening Tony for me.”

Jane grumbled at her. “I don’t like that you let him think you’re stupid.”

“I’m trying to fly under the radar, here,” Darcy hissed. “And when you go all charging into his lab, acting like I’m some brilliant, precious treasure, he gets even more curious.” They took the elevator back to the floor dedicated to the labs of Stark Industries. Darcy waved to a couple of the passing scientists.

“Thor said that the Avengers are sensitive to powers and magic,” Jane informed her.

Darcy scowled. “I don’t have any powers. I’m not a child of the Three-” the Big Three, that is, comprised of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, all of whom had children that ended up in mortal danger with truly alarming frequency- “thank all the gods for that.”

“Your brain is your power. That’s not nothing.”

“I managed to make it out of both camps without getting a prophecy shoved down my throat,” Darcy said under her breath. “And the last thing I want is anyone’s attention that will remind either the camps or the gods of that. A team of superheroes breathing down my neck won’t help.”

“It’s a rite of passage,” Jane argued. “Even I got one.”

“It’s stupid, Jane. Besides, your prophecy was fulfilled when a Norse God fell out of the sky and into your lap. Your role in all of that helped save the world. Or Puente Antiguo, at least,” Darcy said thoughtfully. Her steps slowed as they rounded a corner, and Jane winced when Darcy’s hand tightened on her arm.

Steve Rogers, shadowed by his previously-brainwashed best friend, stalked down the hall in full armor, the shield strapped to his back. He seemed to draw all the light in the hallway- and certainly all of the attention. Barnes appeared content to lurk behind him, his blue eyes sharp on those they passed.

Darcy let her hair fall forward to cover her face and angled her chin down and away as if shy. Jane frowned at her but said nothing as the men passed them with polite nods in their direction.

“The hell was that about?” Jane asked when they were back in the lab. She, like Darcy, made a point to speak Greek when in the lab. Their primary language, when combined with the Mist at Darcy could sometimes wield, would ensure no one, not even Jarvis, could translate their conversations.

“Remember the Doombots last week?” Darcy collapsed into her chair. “Those two were fighting on the street when Shay and I were trying to get to cover.”

“And?”

“And I was afraid they recognized me waving a damn sword around on the street when one of the stupid bots came after us.”

“The Mist usually takes care of that,” Jane said, brow furrowed. “You think they can see through it?”

Darcy shrugged. “I know Thor can. Who knows what a couple of supersoldiers are capable of?”

Jane eyed her friend. “And you have a crush on Rogers.” Darcy scowled, cheeks flushed pink. Jane laughed when Darcy’s eyes slid away to study the ceiling with far more interest than it deserved. “Rogers and Barnes? That’s awfully ambitious of you, babe.”  

“Shut up,” Darcy muttered. “They’re pretty, okay? You know I like pretty.” She twirled her hair up into a bun and used the long, golden hairpin that she was never without to hold it in place.

“You should be more careful with that,” Jane lectured, like she always did when Darcy  carelessly shoved the pin into her hair. “You’re going to decapitate yourself one of these days.”

Darcy grinned. The hairpin was seemingly a delicate piece of metal with a beautiful snake design etched into it. But when needed, it transformed into sword of Celestial Bronze, the sword forged and named after her mother centuries ago- Πρόμαχος, Promachos , meaning “she who fights in front.”

Athena gifted it to her daughter in the hopes that it would inspire Darcy to become interested in seeking her own prophecy, one that would honor Athena the way that the Big Three’s children honored them. But Darcy was very careful to avoid playing into her mother’s hands. Athena, like all the gods, wanted a reason to brag of her offsprings’ capabilities, proof that her children- and therefore her own self- were greater than the others.

The gods liked their games. But those games meant nothing but pain and death for the demigod children. And the pain and death of a half-blood meant very little to their celestial parents.

Maybe she was just bitter.

“Please. My mother would never let that happen. She’s still convinced I’m going to go request a prophecy at camp and finally do something worthwhile with my life.”

“And when she loses her patience? You’re playing chicken with a goddess, Darce. They don’t like it when their kids make them look bad.”

Darcy examined her nails. “I might have suggested that my place in the Tower is, uh, for reasons other than watching over Hephaestus’s daughter.”

Dumbfounded, Jane stared at Darcy. “You lied to her?”

“Nope. I just let her believe what she wants to.” Jane closed her eyes, pained. “I don’t want any part of that life, Jane,” Darcy snapped, frustrated. “You know what happens to half-bloods in either camp. We’re thrown into the middle of the gods’ problems and left to die while they’re bickering over things that happened centuries ago.”

Jane sighed.

“Look at Percy,” Darcy said. “He’s been dragged into war after war because they can’t get their shit together. Why do we have to fight for them? Why should I risk my life for a mother that only wants to use me for personal gain? One who won’t give a fuck if I end up dead in yet another god-war?”

Jane squinted at her. “When did you get so bitter?”

“When Quinn died,” Darcy said quietly. “When they let a kid die for their stupid political games. When someone got mad at Zeus for whatever offense he committed that day and decided to punish a child for it.” Quinn was still Zeus’s blood- that counted for something in the demigod world. 

“He wasn’t a half-blood,” Jane reminded her gently. “I don’t know that Chiron would have let him in, anyway.”

“He would have,” Darcy said with a fierce light in her eyes. “Or I’d have torn the place apart.”

“Quinn’s mom was the half-blood. He may not have had enough magic in him to even find the camp, let alone enter it.”

Darcy rapped her fingers on the table. “There are ways around that,” she murmured. “I made sure of it.” She thought of her foster brother, a lively, talkative boy with a talent for shocking people’s skin or making their hair stand on end with the static electricity. Maybe his powers were muted, lessened as a quarter-blood of Zeus’s lineage, but that made the responsible god’s crime that much worse to her.

Darcy had been to camp the year before, after a baffling letter arrived at her foster home with directions to a summer camp supposedly paid for by her father before he’d died. Camp Half-Blood took her in, gave her a family where she had none, and welcomed her to the world of the gods and their demigod children.

She’d spent four years at Camp Half-Blood, then four at Camp Jupiter, and then she returned to neither in favor of attending college at a nice, boring human university. She was fourteen when Quinn died, which was probably the source of her violent, reckless rage in the following years.

Athena thought to take advantage of that rage, Darcy was sure. Especially after her mother approached with advice on redirecting her anger towards useful things. Some part of her always wondered whether Athena, the goddess of warfare and strategy, had seen the attack coming and done nothing to warn her daughter.

Darcy stared absently at her scar-flecked hands for a few heartbeats, and then shoved her thoughts away as she stood. “I’m going home, Jane. We’ve been here since three this morning.”

“Okay,” Jane said gently. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning?” Darcy nodded and slung her bag over a shoulder as she left the lab.

She walked through the halls, lost in thought and unaware that in one of the nearby labs Steve paused to watch her go, even when Bucky nudged him pointedly and the weapons specialist wondered at the Captain’s distraction. Only when she turned inside the elevator did she meet his gaze and freeze, arrested by the intensity in Steve’s eyes.

Movement at his side caught her attention, and her eyes drifted to find Barnes’s inscrutable gaze on her as well. Their dual attention had her somewhat flustered, something she was unused to. Darcy’s chin jerked up and her eyes narrowed, as if in challenge. It only made the corner of Barnes’s pretty mouth curl up. Steve seemed equally amused by her glare.

Were they making fun of her? Did they know she had a highly embarrassing crush on not one but both of them? Body language and context clues from the rest of the team- Thor, mostly, since she and Jane didn’t interact much with the other Avengers- told Darcy that the two men were at the very least sleeping together. Sleeping together, but probably in love. They were, after all, the tragic but beautiful love story of the century.

Too late, she remembered that she was trying to avoid notice, and that the smarter thing to do would have been to play shy and duck her head. “Stupid,” Darcy grumbled, stabbing the button for the lobby. The doors closed, hiding her from the supersoldiers. She leaned against the wall of the elevator and caught her breath.

The walk home was uneventful. Monsters, the ones that sought demigod children before they were capable of defending themselves, liked to hunt in cities. Lots of places to blend in, to hide and stalk demigods before they closed in for the kill.

It was summer now, which meant most of the demigods that lived in the city were gone for the next few months. Darcy herself had escorted some of them to the safety of the camp. Too many of the kids were attacked on the way, and most of them were too young to stay alive in a fight.

For the time being, though, the city was as safe as Darcy and her friends could make it. Jane had created a ring of Imperial Gold that warmed in the presence of monsters, which she promptly duplicated and gifted one to Darcy.

She reached a large, old home with a threateningly fierce iron fence that stretched above her head. The Victorian-style house within had a wide wrap-around porch and a tower that loomed over the rest of it. It was painted a faded blue-gray with a battered white door and trim, and was caught somewhere between historic and run down. Darcy loved every inch of the old house.

She pressed her hand to the lock on the front door, a clever combination of Ash and Adrian’s gifts that protected them from unwanted guests. “I’m home!” She called.

Adrian peered around the kitchen door as she tossed her bag on the ground and hung her jacket up. “Good timing,” he said cheerfully. “Dinner’s ready.” Then he frowned at her face and approached, all warm gold-brown skin and dark hair and a kind smile that was a carbon copy of his mother’s. A smatter of freckles decorated his handsome face.

Adrian cupped her face in his hands and peered down at her. “Bad day?”

Darcy leaned into the comforting touch and sighed when peace washed through her. “Kinda. Thanks, Adrian.”

Hestia’s son smiled down at her. “C’mon. I made dinner, and maybe we can talk Shay into making drinks.” He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and guided her towards the kitchen. “My mom is here, by the way.”

“Which one?”

“Mamá,” Adrian answered. “Mána is busy in Mount Olympus.” Mamá meant Valeria Cortez, Alex’s human mother. Mána, Greek for mother, meant Hestia.

Hestia, as it turned out, had a few children in a similar way that Athena “birthed” them. Athena’s children were born from the meeting of minds, a literal brainchild. Hestia, in very rare occurrences, found a human that attracted her enough to stray from her own hearth and into another’s. If her love was returned by the human, a baby, created by that bond, would be left in the human’s hearth.

“A surprise that nearly stopped my heart,” Valeria always teased her son. “Which would have been unfortunate, if not ironic.” Hestia’s children remained a secret from the rest of the gods, except for Hermes. As there were only three of Hestia’s kids throughout the country, it was an easy thing to hide.

“Darcy,” Valeria said with a smile. “How was babysitting your geniuses today?” Adrian left her in his mother’s competent care to check on something in the oven.

Darcy laughed as she returned Valeria’s hug. “The usual. Exploding tempers, exploding machines, and a Norse God ate my lunch again.”

“Rude boy,” Valeria muttered. “I hope you found something else to eat?”

“No time,” Darcy sighed. “Jane and Tony went at it yet again.”

A shout from upstairs drew their attention, followed by a series of loud thuds and an angry screech. Ash appeared in the doorway a minute later, breathing hard as he swept his dark hair out of his face. Shrewd green eyes alight with mischief met Darcy’s unimpressed gaze and widened in innocence.

“What?” He asked.

“One day, she’s going to stab you, and I won’t lift a finger to help stop the bleeding.”

Ash shrugged. “She’ll have to catch me first.” Hermes’s son threw himself into a chair, twirling a coin between his fingers.

Shay stomped into the kitchen, her dark skin still wet from a shower. She stabbed a finger at Ash. “The next time you try to steal my violin, I’ll smother you in your sleep.” Adrian and Darcy laughed.

“Or she’ll curse you to speak only in rhymes again,” Darcy told Ash.

Shay grimaced regretfully as she pulled her shower cap off to free an explosion of tight black curls. “No, he got too good at that. He’d only enjoy it.”

“Enjoy making us all miserable, you mean,” Adrian added. Ash grinned at them.

“Maybe I’ll call your mom,” Shay threatened Ash, who shrugged unrepentantly despite the threat his tiny Indian mother presented.

Valeria shook her head. “You’d better behave, Ashutosh. Your mother is a formidable woman.”

“You’re the one dating her,” Ash pointed out. “Besides, Maji knew what Hermes was when she allowed him to seduce her. She knows I can’t help most of it.”

Shay eyed him dangerously. “Most of it. You can definitely help the stealing from my room. Next time I catch you, I’ll shoot you in the ass.” As a daughter of Apollo, the threat was credible. All of Apollo’s children were naturally master archers, and she was no slouch with a sword, either.

“Yes, ma’am,” Ash said meekly, fooling exactly no one. He was a creature of mischief, after all, and seemed to enjoy pulling the lioness’ tail. He was lucky that Shay had a sense of humor.

Shaking her head, Darcy joined her little family at the table and let the comfort of home wash away the last of the stress from her day.

Chapter Text

Darcy hit the mat hard and let the momentum carry her into a roll until she was back on her feet. She raised her sword just in time to catch Shay’s strike and quickly stepped into the other girl’s space. Shay was forced to back away rather than let Darcy get any closer.

“You and that damn knife,” Shay muttered, but she was grinning, caught up in the excitement of the fight.

Darcy let the smaller blade of Imperial Gold- courtesy of the Roman camp- disappear back into the sheath strapped to her forearm with a flourish. “You’re the only one I can never quite hit,” she admitted, adjusting her grip on her sword. “Besides Reyna, anyway.” The Roman Praetor of Camp Jupiter was a holy terror in a fight, and far too smart to believe Darcy’s feigned incompetence.

“You got me once or twice with that trick,” Shay reminded her. She spun her sword lazily, the weapon an extension of her in the way it was for every demigod child. They all grew up hard, or they bled for it. “That was enough for me to remember to keep my distance.”

Adrianos, stretching on the mat in the corner of their massive basement gym, tilted his head in thought. “You ever think it’s weird that at some point or another, we’ve all been stabbed or shot by each other?”

Darcy and Shay laughed. “That’s camp for you,” Ash said, cranky as ever in the mornings. “Creating a bunch of murder children for the greater good.”

“Builds character,” Shay told him. Without any warning, she whirled and brought her sword down on Darcy.

Darcy dodged with ease. Shay was always a fun sparring partner- they'd become friends within the first few weeks of Darcy’s transfer to Camp Jupiter. And, as legionnaires in the fourth cohort of the Roman camp, both girls shared the tattoo that signified a full member of one of the fighting legions.

Adorning the inside of their left forearm, the tattoo showed their godly parents’ symbol above the initials SPQR- Senatus Populusque Romanus, The Senate and the People of Rome. Below were a series of lines similar to a barcode, signifying the number of years they’d been at Camp Jupiter. The tattoos were burned onto their skin after their first year in the camp, an excruciatingly painful "gift” from their militant Roman parents. Camp Jupiter had a different atmosphere than the bright, fun Greek camp. In the Roman camp, the weak did not survive.

Darcy’s tattoo showed an owl with fierce red eyes and outstretched wings above the SPQR initials, marked with four lines below. Shay, who’d been at the Roman camp for eight years, had two golden arrows crossed above the SPQR insignia with lines of sunlight in a half-circle behind them.

Ash had been a Camp Half Blood member only. He had a long strand of beads, one for each summer spent at the camp. Adrian was hidden from both of their worlds, so he bore no mark from either camp.

Darcy preferred the beads.

Shay’s back hit the wall hard enough to leave a dent. Darcy, who’d just kicked her in the chest, kept a wary distance. She didn’t trust the gleam in her friend’s eye.

And rightly so, because Shay dropped her sword and snatched a bow hanging on the wall beside her head. Darcy threw herself behind Ash, laughing as Shay fired.

“That’s cheating!” Darcy called. Ash plucked Shay’s arrow from the air with ease before it could hit either of them.

“It’s called using your environment to your advantage,” Shay lectured with a broad grin. Adrian hurriedly created a protective circle around himself, one of his gifts as a rare child of Hestia. Shay’s arrow shattered upon impact. Adrian smiled smugly at Shay.

Despite the threat an armed Shay presented, none of them were genuinely worried about their physical safety. Demigod children played violent war games at camp, climbed rock walls with molten lava pouring down from above, and had archery practice in which they were both the archer and the target.

Demigods were gifted with enhanced physical abilities, a benefit from their god parent. Strength, speed, extreme reflexes- all of the things necessary for surviving a life with a target on their backs. Besides that, they had a stash of ambrosia and nectar: food and drink of the gods that healed the wounds of demigod children.

Darcy deflected an arrow off the flat of her blade. Ash leaned around her to catch another that Shay ricocheted off the wall behind them. “How are your knife-throwing skills?” Darcy murmured to Ash.

The son of Hermes flashed her a cocky grin and wiggled Darcy’s own knife under her nose. She instinctively looked to her empty armband sheath and then rolled her eyes. Ash was a gifted thief and often managed to take things off of people and out of pockets without them realizing.

But he’d also been teaching them a few things. Darcy showed him the knife she’d slipped out of his own waistband and felt more than a little smug when the master thief looked impressed. Ash swatted another arrow out of the air before it hit her in the arm.

Darcy flicked her gaze to the rack of spears hanging by two ropes on the wall behind Shay. Ash’s green eyes gleamed appreciatively. When Shay twisted to fire at Adrian again, Darcy and Ash sent their respective knives hurtling through the air. Shay turned back and ducked, then winced in realization just as the rack dropped onto her from above and pinned her to the floor.

She groaned in defeat and pushed easily to her feet despite the sixty pound metal rack weighing her down. “Not this again,” she sighed as Darcy and Ash performed a victory dance.

“We win we win we win,” Darcy and Ash chanted. Shay huffed at them, arms crossed, but Darcy recognized the amused set of her mouth.

“It’s almost six thirty,” Adrian told them. He shook his head at the mess of spears and seemed resigned to leave it for now. “Time to get moving.”

Shay, a violinist in the New York Philharmonic- and regularly sought after by other orchestras- also taught lessons at the state university. She checked the wall clock and shrugged. “My first lesson isn’t until nine. I’ve got enough time to finish my workout.”

“Good, because I want first shower,” Adrian said. He jogged up the stairs to prepare for a day of wrangling his third grade class and attempting to teach them something that would stick in their hyperactive little minds.

Darcy frowned as she and Ash followed him up the stairs. “It’s too quiet around here without Mia.” The youngest of the house at seven, Mia was essentially the group’s baby sister. She was young enough that her god-parent hadn’t claimed her yet, but somehow had already attracted a monster to her foster home when they found her.

The foster parents didn’t believe the girl’s story about the monster that followed her home from school. She would have been killed, except Adrian had noticed the baby demigod in his school and arrived just in time to whisk her to safety. The giant scorpion that found Mia was lured away by Darcy and Shay and died shortly thereafter with Darcy’s sword in its neck.

Officially, Valeria now fostered the little girl. But it wasn’t safe for Mia to live with the human woman, proved when another monster found the girl at Valeria’s home only weeks later. Now she lived with Darcy and her three roommates in the safety of their warded home, and existed as the brightest spot in all of their lives.

Mia was at Camp Half-Blood now, learning how to fight with a sword and kill monsters and probably sneaking into the stables to ride a pegasi around until someone caught her again. Chiron’s weekly reports of the little girl’s exploits were highly amusing to the household.

“I know,” Ash commiserated. “It was my turn to read her a story last night. I forgot she wasn’t here until I was standing in her room.”

“I tried to go wake her up this morning for training,” Darcy said with a sigh. They all continued Mia’s training throughout the year, so she didn’t get rusty and therefore killed.

“How did we become those boring parents that need their kids around to have fun?” Ash grumbled, but he reached out as usual to touch the family portrait on their fridge that Mia had drawn in crayon.

“Speak for yourself,” Darcy said archly. “I’m going to have breakfast with a Norse god, and then wrangle a genius astrophysicist until a genius billionaire interrupts us, while simultaneously trying to avoid the attentions of two very, very pretty supersoldiers.”

There was a beat of silence. Ash scowled at her. “I want to smack you, just so you know.”

“Jealous,” Darcy sing-songed, and escaped before he could follow through with the threat.

Breakfast with Thor, their weekly Thursday tradition (for Thorsday, of course) was at a local shop that sold fresh, homemade donuts that Darcy would actually fight the Norse God of Thunder for- and win, because she fought mean. Plus, Thor was a gentleman. One with a Starkcard and essentially no spending limit.

Darcy continued to teach Thor about the structure of the American demigod camps. The Norse gods, it seemed, did not have demigod children the way that the Roman and Greek did. They were far too embroiled in Asgard’s political affairs, and even if they did have offspring, their power was primarily in Europe. Too few humans and demigods believed in them for the Norse gods to have enough power to linger in the US- at least, not with the force that was Mount Olympus so close. He could still identify the children of other gods, though, which had been a nice surprise for everyone when he’d crash landed in the desert.

Thor walked her to the tower lobby and deposited her at the elevator to the labs. He bent down, kissed her on the forehead, and cheerfully returned to the city streets for further exploration. Darcy watched him go with fond amusement.

A small, dark head wove through the crowded sidewalk outside the tower, stopping Darcy in her tracks. For one moment of suspended disbelief, she thought Quinn was walking towards her. He had the same bounding walk, the excitable hand-waving as he chattered away. He turned around just then, enough for her to see his face, and the dream dissolved. It wasn’t Quinn. Of course it wasn’t. Her little brother was dead.

She stood and remembered the desperate scramble for safety on a late summer night, the split second of horrified realization before the monsters descended. Quinn bleeding on the ground as she tried to fight her way free. A swarm of monsters out of myths and legends beating her to the ground, leaving her battered and bleeding like the young boy just a few feet out of her reach.

She’d promised to get him to safety, to a place where they could escape their abusive foster parents and not have to be so afraid all the time.

Darcy swallowed hard and turned back to the elevator. Her stance was rigid again, and she forced herself to relax despite the frustration and the ache in her chest.

The doors paused before closing all the way and she nearly dropped her coffee at the sight of Rogers and Barnes stepping into the elevator with her.

Barnes tipped his head in a polite nod as he moved to stand behind her. Steve’s eyes lingered though, on her pale face and the white-knuckled grip she had on her cup, before he moved to stand beside Barnes.

Interesting, Darcy mused, that she now made the switch to ‘Steve’ but still thought of Barnes as, well, Barnes. Maybe it was the murder strut Barnes had going for him, not to mention the truly epic bitch face that rarely softened.

Darcy watched the floors tick away on the screen above her head. She was grateful for the mirrored walls that let her keep an eye on the two men at her back- not that she was worried about Brooklyn’s politest supersoldiers misbehaving, of course, but she didn’t necessarily like having two goddamned giants behind her. Her mother and lifetime of war made sure of that.

Steve helpfully edged further back so that he was leaning against the back wall. She assessed the extra six inches of space he’d just given her and accidentally caught his eye in the reflection. He watched her curiously in the mirror, both men likely observing the unconscious tension drain from her shoulders. Hm. Maybe she’d give a little, try to see whatever game they played.

“Boys,” Darcy greeted finally.

“Miss Lewis,” Steve murmured. The elevator dinged at her floor; she stepped off and made her way down the hall towards Jane’s lab. Steve and Barnes fell into step with her, two obscenely tall and handsome bookends.

“Is there a reason for my escort this morning, or is it just my lucky day?” She asked, enjoying this far too much to play shy again.

“You looked... upset,” Steve told her. “Thought you could use some company.” Darcy twisted around to arch an imperious eyebrow up at him.

Barnes finally cracked a grin at her expression. “Foot right in the mouth, Stevie, every damn time,” he drawled. Steve’s cheeks were pink as he rubbed the back of his neck and sent a bashful look her way.

“Not sayin’ you look bad, Miss Lewis,” Steve hurriedly explained. “We just thought you, uh...” Darcy raised an eyebrow, waiting to see where he was taking this. Bucky- because he was Bucky when he smiled, not Barnes- rubbed at his mouth to hide the grin on his face.

Steve wasn’t getting anywhere with his explanation turned apology, so Darcy cut him some slack. “Relax, Rogers, I’m just fucking with you.” Steve blinked at her, so she patted him on the arm. “I had a weird moment, you’re right, but your company has certainly brightened my mood right up.”

A crash and a loud whoosh sounded from inside the lab. Darcy rolled her eyes. “Now, gentlemen, if you’ll excuse me, it sounds like I have a fire to go put out in the lab.” She winked at Bucky, smiled at Steve, and slipped through the door.

Darcy laughed quietly at the “Real smooth, Rogers” she heard through the closed door. Two pairs of footsteps trailed away, leaving Darcy with her extremely cranky friend and a collection of small fires around Jane’s slight frame on the ground. She wrinkled her nose at the acrid smell of smoke in the air, noting that the air filtration system had kicked on and was working furiously.

“Jane, do you know the floor’s on fire?” Darcy headed for the fire extinguisher just in case. Sometimes Jane forgot fire was dangerous to literally everyone else.

“Yes.” Jane’s voice was muffled underneath a giant metal contraption that Darcy edged away from. “I’m welding.”

Darcy eyed a nearby lab table with a few significant items in scorched pieces. “Without a blowtorch?”

“I’m not terrible with fire,” Jane said defensively. “I built the camp’s old catapults this way. But lately it gets a little... excited.”

“The blowtorch exploded again?”

Jane thumped her head on the ground with a heavy sigh. “The blowtorch exploded again.”

“Poor Jane,” Darcy said with sympathy. She sprayed a small fire a few feet away, satisfied when it subsided under the extinguisher's foam. “Can’t even use the tools the rest of us are so confined by. How terrible for you, to be Hephaestus’s pride and joy.”

Jane hissed at her. “Don’t say his name! He might stop by again and try to help!”

“So? You’ll just yell at him for touching your stuff again.”

“He thinks that’s funny,” Jane grouched. “Apparently the rest of my half-siblings never try to fight with him on these things.”

“He’s a god, Janie, of course no one else tries to fight him. They’re just happy he pays attention to them when he does show up. His little genius-” Darcy nudged her friend with a toe- “is the only one that ever really gives him something new to consider.”

“Not just me,” Jane said, absently swatting her away. “A couple of the others do sometimes, but they’re the ones really fond of explosives so I stayed away.”

“And I will be thanking all the gods that you aren’t one of those,” Darcy said with a shiver. “You’re scary enough, boss lady.”

Jane waved a hand. “Whatever. How was training?”

“Fine. You know, you really should come sometimes and brush up on your skills.”

“I fight with you!”

“Only sometimes, and you aren’t as good with a sword as you used to be.”

“Maybe you’ve just gotten better. Besides, I have other things for protection if a monster finds me,” Jane said, lifting a chain around her neck. Several rings and charms slid along the chain.

Darcy considered the self-satisfied expression on her friend’s face and, recognizing trouble when she saw it, decided, “I’m not even going to ask.”

“Probably for the best,” Jane admitted. She eyed Darcy. “Heard from your mother lately?”

“No,” Darcy said, wary. “Why?”

Jane scowled at her from the floor, hair a tangled mess and her face bearing streaks of grease and ash. “Because I’m still worried she’s going to throw you in the middle of a quest without any help because you apparently live to piss her off.”

“Are you saying you’d come on my quest with me?” Darcy asked, genuinely flattered. Her friend was fond of (obsessed with) her work and her lab, and it took all of Darcy’s scheming power just to get her to take a night off.

“Of course I would, you idiot. You came with me, didn’t you?”

“Well yeah, but to be fair, I mostly did it for the college credit.”

“Liar,” Jane muttered. Darcy leaned against a nearby table and abruptly changed her mind when it wobbled dangerously. She straightened, just now noticing the burn marks on the table legs with a sigh.

“Yeah, whatever, you know I love you.” Jane looked down to hide her pleased smile. “And if my mom does come after me with a plan to make me die in a scheme to honor her ego and make a point-”

“That’s not what a quest is,” Jane protested. “At all.”

“-I’ll let you know. Fair?”

“You continue to be the worst,” Jane informed her seriously.

Darcy beamed. “I try.”

Chapter Text

Three weeks later, Darcy had to resist the urge to hunch her shoulders defensively as she walked down the hall at Stark Industries. The hair on the back of her neck rose along with her irritation level, a surefire sign of a celestial presence. She had something like a talent for locating nearby gods, even when they wished to remain hidden.

She casually scanned the surrounding rooms. Glass walls- bulletproof, fireproof, and mostly explosion proof, unless it was Stark- gave her a clear view of the high-level Stark Industries labs and the scientists within. An unfamiliar, dark-headed woman in the lab just ahead caught her attention.

The woman conversed genially with Dr. Madlock, friendly and unassuming even though she towered over him. But Darcy saw past the disguise with ease- her mother liked to play these games with her, testing Darcy’s awareness and ability to identify the gods when they chose to walk among the mortals. It felt something like what she imagined a bunny experienced when hunted by a wolf.

As if she’d heard her daughter’s thoughts, Athena turned and smiled widely at Darcy. She said goodbye to Dr. Madlock, a cheerful older man who often shared treats from his family’s bakery with Darcy and Jane, and joined her daughter.

“Now that one’s interesting,” Athena commented as Darcy returned Dr. Madlock’s wave. “Certainly one to watch.”

"What are you doing here?" 

"I can't check in on my wayward daughter?" 

Darcy eyed her mother. Despite the slacks and button-up on the mortal form, Athena radiated other to Darcy. Her human form wavered for an instant in Darcy’s vision with that thought, revealing a fierce-eyed woman wearing spectacular golden armor and a helm, a bloody spear strapped to her back and a monstrous shield on her arm.

“Ah ah.” Athena tutted. The vision solidified, back to the forgettable businesswoman. “Stop that. You’ll ruin my disguise.”

“If I can see through it, I’m sure one of the other gods can, too,” Darcy pointed out.

Athena lifted a shoulder in an elegant shrug. “Perhaps there is something very distracting in southern Texas at the moment that calls for my siblings’ attentions.”

Oh, hell. “What did you do?”

Swinging her braided hair over a shoulder, Athena smiled blandly at her daughter and gestured for her to follow. The goddess, Darcy had discovered, switched between mortal disguises with ease. Today she had thick black hair and light brown skin. Brown eyes set in a perfectly average face missed nothing, even Darcy’s silent resignation. The gods were vain, though Athena usually exercised her legendary wisdom above the vanity.

“You haven’t had lunch yet,” Athena said. It wasn't a question.

Darcy sighed internally. “I haven’t.”

“Don’t sound so excited, daughter,” Athena murmured. “I don’t visit all of my children so often, you know.”

“Oh, I know.” Darcy had lived with a cabin full of Athena’s other resentful children for four years. “I won’t be thanking you for that one.”

“Do you ever thank me for anything?” Athena asked irritably.

Cautious now, Darcy said, truthfully, “You know I do.”

“Hm.” With that concerning response, Athena led the way to a small but popular diner around the corner from Stark Industries. On the way out the lobby door, Darcy saw Jane pause on her way to the elevator with Thor and frown after them. Good. If Darcy went missing, Jane would know where to start.  

At the diner, Darcy fidgeted with her drink as the waitress set their plates down and wandered off. Athena seemed distracted now, eyes on the busy city outside. She hadn’t given Darcy a booming lecture on responsibility and duty yet, so the demigod remained quiet. Something was different about this visit.

After a moment, Athena noticed Darcy’s close attention. She raised a brow in question, amused.

“You seem worried,” Darcy said quietly.

Athena’s forehead wrinkled, so briefly that Darcy wondered if she’d imagined the thoughtful frown. “How is it that you so often see the truth of things?”

“Wisdom from my mother?” Darcy asked wryly.

A smile softened the brutally sharp angles of her mother’s face. The disguise was slipping again. Athena noticed, corrected it, and sent her daughter an exasperated look- as if it were her fault. “You see the world differently than my other children, Darcea Athana.”

“Don’t call me that!” Darcy said, horrified. “I told you, I go by Darcy and Darcy only!” She shuddered. “Ugh, I hate that name.”

“It is a Mycenaean Greek name, Darcy. The first of my people. Few risked naming their children after me, for fear of insult. However, for your naming, I permitted it. You are welcome.” She said it most graciously.

“It’s terrible,” Darcy said flatly. “And I hate it.”

Athena rolled her eyes, an alarmingly human gesture from the goddess of war. “Because Darcy is far better than an honorable Greek name.”

“Twenty-first century, Mother. Get with the times.” Her mother wrinkled her nose in distaste and Darcy had to bite down on a smile. It could be fun, sometimes, arguing with her mother.

“Have you decided when you’ll return to camp for your quest?”

Never mind.

“I told you,” Darcy said evenly. “I have no interest in a quest.”

“And why not? It is tradition for the demigod children.”

“Only in the Greek camp,” Darcy pointed out. “I spent four years at Camp Jupiter. They don’t require quests there.” Mostly because they were too busy constantly fighting for their lives to go gallivanting off on a quest.

Athena tipped her head to the side, her prey caught. Darcy wanted to drop her own head to the table; apparently her mother had been guiding their conversation around to Camp Jupiter all along.

“Yes, you played quite a role in Camp Jupiter.”

“Not really.” The Roman camp had little of the joyful freedom that Camp Half Blood did; they were a war camp above all else, children of gods and expected to fight as such. She’d fought for four years in the fourth cohort- fourth out of five total divisions of fighting legions of campers.

“The Romans do not respect me quite like the Greeks,” Athena said, mouth twisting. It was true- her mother’s Roman persona, Minerva, was seen as a goddess of defensive wars and was certainly not held in the same high esteem as that of her Greek side. Two sides of the same coin, Darcy thought, but not if one side wasn’t very shiny.

“Yeah, they weren’t super impressed with me, either.”

“Not at first, no,” Athena agreed. Then she leaned forward. The lights flickered in the diner. Darcy met her mother’s fierce gaze and felt her hands want to tremble at the blood-red light within the fathomless depths of Athena’s eyes. “But you made them rethink that position. You made them pay attention to Minerva’s daughter, made them respect you.”

“I was angry,” Darcy said, feeling somewhat defensive past all the fear. How anyone could dismiss Athena or Minerva was beyond her; this was a goddess of war and courage, and even Zeus was known to bow to her wisdom. “Quinn had just died, and I was pretty fucked up over it.”

“You reminded them that I am more than what they see.” She had a look in her eye that Darcy didn’t like, one of celestial satisfaction, as if Darcy had played right into her mother’s hands during those rage-filled years fighting monsters and waging war on her opponents- whether on the battlefield or against smug Roman campers convinced she was a throwaway demigod. “After two years, you were appointed centurion. Unheard of, nearly, for a Greek demigod with a minor goddess mother.” She spat the word “minor,” as if the Romans’ dismissal enraged her beyond Darcy’s understanding.

Like she said- gods were vain.

“I was one of two centurions. I didn’t lead alone,” Darcy reminded her. “Shay and I led for only two years. And it was just the fourth cohort.” The Roman camp viewed the first cohort as the most prestigious, and the fifth the least. If she’d been chosen centurion of the first, or even second, cohort- now that would have been worth bragging about.

“And yet,” Athena murmured. “A daughter of Minerva commanding a legion of demigods in battle. Executing wisdom and courage in every fight, so that even your praetors took notice.”

Darcy kept her face very carefully neutral. “Um. I’m not really sure that’s why Reyna took notice of me.”

Athena looked at her, unimpressed. “I am aware of your relations with the daughter of Bellona,” she said dryly, referring to the other Roman war goddess. “If I did not approve of her, I would have made it known.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Reyna Avila Ramírez-Arellano,” Athena mused. “A most impressive leader of Rome. And a great compliment to you, that she considers you an equal.”

Darcy had a flash of memory then: a soft, smiling mouth, slick gold-brown skin, calloused hands pressing her into purple sheets. She cleared her throat and hoped she wasn’t blushing. “Yep. Equals. Definitely that’s all we were.”

To Darcy’s astonishment, Athena laughed. She sobered at Darcy’s stunned expression and touched the back of her hand with her fingertips, as if afraid Darcy would pull away. “I was only glad, my daughter, that you’d found some happiness after all of your suffering.”

Briefly, Darcy turned her hand over to squeeze Athena’s fingers. “Me, too,” she said around the lump in her throat. “Thanks, Mom.”

Athena sat back. “Don’t thank me yet.”

“Ah.” Darcy sipped her drink. “I wondered when you’d get around to it.”

An elegant brow raise, disdain and amusement all at once. Darcy returned the gesture with attitude and made her mother smile again. “I know you didn’t just come to catch up,” she said dryly. “The gods are usually too wrapped up in their immortal affairs lately to take much interest in what their kids are up to.”

“Hm. You are certainly one of mine,” Athena said, apparently unoffended by her snark. She glanced back out the window. Darcy followed her gaze but saw nothing worth the goddess’s attention.

“Mom?” She asked, hesitant, after the silence stretched on.

“I am worried, Darcea,” she said softly. Darcy scowled at her given name but let it lie. Athena turned back to her and acknowledged her annoyance. “Darcy. There is trouble building, and I worry who will be caught unawares when it erupts.”

“You’re worried about the gods?” Darcy whispered. She leaned forward, intent. Athena wouldn’t be so visibly concerned about humans, maybe not even for her own demigod children. “You think this trouble will affect Mount Olympus?” Mount Olympus, the realm of the gods stationed here in New York, on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building.

There was a special button for it, apparently. God magic can get weird, which was no surprise to Darcy at all.

“I do not see the source,” Athena said carefully. “Only the signs.”

“What-”

“Be careful, daughter. Watch for this trouble, and alert me if you see what the rest of us cannot,” Athena instructed. Her voice was deeper than before, with an odd echo very much like the cry of a bird of prey. It gave Darcy chills. Athena didn’t seem to noticed she’d interrupted her daughter. “Do you accept?”

Darcy was smarter than that, though. “I will agree to report any signs of celestial trouble that I observe,” she said slowly. She accepted nothing- specifically, the quest in disguise within Athena’s words.

Athena smiled ruefully. “Almost.”

“Not even close,” Darcy said with a grin. Her own wording left the exact time frame open, too. She will agree to observe and report- someday. The goddess nodded once in approval.

“Tell your messenger friend to check his list first.” Athena winked and disappeared.

Darcy felt like a weight had been removed now that her mother was gone. Then she looked around and threw her hands up. “You stuck me with the bill!” A twenty fluttered to the table where Athena had been.

She gave into the urge to laugh.

~*~

Her interactions with Barnes and Rogers quickly became the highlight of her day. Their relationship consisted of lingering looks and playful conversations, lighthearted and easy in a manner that contradicted the quiet interest in both men’s attention.

She wasn’t entirely sure what their end game was, but Darcy figured she would enjoy the fun while it lasted. Even if it were some stupid male-ego bet. Which, to be fair, the chances of those two pulling something like that were pretty much nonexistent. They were better than that.

“Wow. It’s really unlike you to have faith in someone like that,” Ash commented when she assured him of just that. He didn’t even glance up from his computer screen despite the genuine surprise in his voice. “Let alone two men.”

Adrian slid gracefully into the seat beside Darcy with their drinks. “Oh? Who does our mistrustful girl like now?” Darcy elbowed him.

“Coupl’a superheroes,” Ash said absently. “They’ve been flirting with her for weeks.”

Darcy made a face. “Not real flirting, I don’t think.”

“So, what, they’re just playing with you?” Adrian, forever overprotective of his family, frowned in disapproval.

“Nah. Just a fun way to soak up some mutual compliments, probably. Those two are so in love with each other it’s nauseating.” She cocked her head. “But, like, in a good way. Whatever.”

“You’re such a romantic,” Adrian murmured into his coffee. Ash snickered even as she kicked at them both in retaliation.

“Shut up,” Darcy grumbled. She let Adrian tug her chair closer to his and glanced at the empty space he assessed on her other side. “Your Circle holding okay?”

Adrian nodded. His protective circles, they’d discovered, could hide demigod children from gods, other demigods, and- more importantly- from monsters. Monsters could track demigod children well enough, but demigod children using technology was some sort of giant beacon to all the monsters in the area. It affected them all, and no one had figured out a way around it yet- until now. Adrian could create a protective barrier that hid that flashing neon sign of tech in a demigod’s hands. It was an invaluable gift.

Ash in particular was grateful. Hermes’s children were sort of a “jack of all trades,” with widely varied skills and gifts. One of which was money manipulation, including the stock market. Hard to manage, though, since demigods couldn’t safely use a computer.

Unless, of course, they had an Adrian.

Darcy tapped a finger on Ash’s notebook. “Mom says to check your list again. I assume she means the one with your stock market nonsense.” And by nonsense, she meant his illegible, chicken scratch handwriting.

“I’ll have you know my stock market nonsense pays the bills- and makes all you people plenty of money, too,” he said distractedly. Ash cocked his head and squinted down at the short, even Greek lettering at the bottom of the page. “Huh. Interesting. I had this company on a list of possibilities. I was about to go with their competitor.” He mumbled to himself some more, typing away at top speed.

“You saw your mom?” Adrian asked quietly. They were all accustomed to Ash’s distraction during the Monday, Wednesday, Friday coffee shop lunch tradition. Adrian’s school was just around the corner, and Ash worked from home. Darcy had the longest commute, other than Shay, but the daughter of Apollo had rehearsal today.

“Yeah. It was weird.”

“Weird how?” He inched closer to her, sharing the sense of peace that he could wield at will.

Darcy relaxed. “Distracted, a little. Worried about something.” She saw Ash look up, startled. “She thinks there’s going to be trouble soon.”

“What kind of trouble?”

“She doesn’t know, or if she did she wouldn’t say. She felt okay enough to try and trick me into a quest again, though, so we aren’t all doomed.” She thought about it for a second. “Probably,” she amended.

Adrian reached over the table to pull Ash’s thumbnail out of his mouth. “Stop chewing on your fingernails,” he scolded. “You’ll make them bleed again.” He let his hand linger a moment, likely extending the serene emotion to Ash as well. They both recognized the other boy’s nervous tell.

“It's fine, Ash, I’m sure we won’t all die horribly,” Darcy said with forced cheer. Ash rolled his eyes. 

Adrian sighed heavily. “We’ll be careful, then,” he said. “If your mother is worried, then the rest of us probably should be, too. Check in regularly. I’ll tell Shay.”

“Yes, Dad,” Ash muttered, but he was smiling. Adrian kissed them both on the cheek and ruffled Ash’s hair on his way out the door.

Darcy jingled her keys as Ash stowed his laptop in the bag Adrian had given him for Christmas a few years ago. It hid any object from the sight of gods and monsters, and was priceless because of that. “I gotta run home and change shirts. Jane accidentally set my jacket on fire this morning.”

“I thought she had that shit under control?” Ash slung his bag across his body and followed her down the street. “Better than that Leo kid, anyway. That dude burned down half of the Hephaestus cabin my first year.” He was referencing Leo Valdez, the only other demigod with fire capabilities and an alarming lack of common sense.

“She does, usually, but she has to rebuild a couple machines that Stark tried to... ‘modify,’ is the word I think he meant, but ‘improve’ is the word he used.” Jane’s machines were brilliant in their design, and she was very, very careful to avoid incorporating too much modern technology.

Ash winced in sympathy. “Stark tech would bring every monster in the state down on a demigod dumb enough to use it.”

“Tell me about it. It makes me want to strangle him. Now Jane has to tear the machines apart again and start over. She’s been upset, to say the least.” And they couldn’t tell the tech titan the real reason Jane couldn’t use his ‘improvements.’ She slipped her hairpin from her pocket and twisted her hair into a bun. “Next time, he’s getting stabbed.”

“Shay says that builds character,” Ash told her doubtfully. “I think Tony Stark has plenty of character already. Too much, maybe.”

“Fine, then I’ll use his souped-up, fancy machines and when the fucking Minotaur tracks us down I’ll let it loose in his lab.” She found herself cheered up by the image as Ash unlocked their front door.

“Ah.” He paused in the entryway and patted at his pockets for a moment before pulling out a small, unassuming lock. “My special lock,” he explained.

“Special how?” Darcy asked suspiciously. The last "special" lock he'd made had blown up in his face- literally.

“Special because I may have... improved it a bit. She’ll be interested, trust me,” he said with a sharp grin. Ash moved to the small table in the den that bore relics for each of their godly parents.

Shay’s first violin case sat open on one end of the table, the interior dark velvet lined with golden thread. Adrian simply used their obsidian fireplace. Ash had provided a Greek-style sandal, the leather worn but immaculately clean and polished, with wings etched into the base.

“A shoe?” Shay had asked skeptically, arms crossed.

Ash had shrugged. “Dad won’t care. Besides, it’s a nice shoe.”

Darcy had placed a heavy golden owl statue on the far end of the table. She’d passed it in a thrift shop window, and when it’s angry eyes seemed to burn into her back she’d gone inside, exasperated, to buy it.

Now, Ash pulled a small tea light candle from the cabinet and set it atop the lock at the base of the owl statue. He lit the candle with familiarity. “My gratitude, Lady Athena,” Ash said politely, and left his offering with the statue. “See ya, Darce! I’m going to take a nap.”

Darcy ran to change shirts and made sure to grab a couple extras to add to her dwindling stash in the lab. On her way back out the door she noticed absently that the lock had disappeared. The candle was blown out, only a thin trail of smoke wafting through the air.

Chapter Text

“Hey Lewis,” Clint Barton said as he strolled casually into Jane’s lab. “Where’s Stark?”

“Not in here, if he knows what’s good for him.” She didn’t bother glancing up from her paperwork. Jane had a shitload of grant opportunities, if the woman would just bother to look. “Probably in his lab, blowing shit up like always.”

Jane crawled out of a machine the size of a small sedan in the corner of the room. “Tell him if he touches my equipment again, I’ll murder him in his sleep.”

Clint looked appropriately wary, and the gorgeous redhead at his side amused. “If he touches your what again?”

Darcy looked at her disheveled friend. “There you are, Jane. How long have you been under there? I thought you went to lunch.”

“I was going to, but then I figured out the answer to one of the problems while ordering. So I had to leave. Like, immediately.”

“Did you at least get your sandwich?” Darcy sighed.

“No.” Jane looked forlorn.

“Jarvis, can you-”

“Already done, Miss Lewis.” The AI politely pulled up the emailed receipt on her monitor. “I took the liberty of ordering for you as well.”

Darcy saluted the closest camera, glad that whatever disconnect between her and the AI existed meant that she wasn't technically using technology, just in the general vicinity of it. Apparently that distinction mattered, as she and Jane hadn't been attacked by a monster yet for talking to Jarvis.

“Thanks, J.” She looked at Clint and the woman, who had to be Natasha Romanov. Darcy had a brief moment of internal hero-worship before she shoved it aside. “Is there a reason you’re still here, breathing our air, Barton?” Jane laughed.

“See!” He demanded, throwing an arm out in Darcy’s direction as he faced Natasha. “They’re mean, Nat, I don’t know why you wanted to meet either of them!”

“Because I’m tired of being one of the few women in the tower, Clint,” Natasha fucking Romanov said evenly. She caught Jane’s pointed look at a group of passing women heading into one of the other labs. “Only a handful of people have the clearance to be Avengers affiliates, and you two are the only ones other than Pepper and Helen Cho, at this point. I have to lie to everyone else. A lot.” She shrugged. “It gets boring.”

“To be fair,” Darcy said, moving on to the next stack of forms on her desk, “that’s only because Thor got drop-kicked out of space and into the grille of our van.”

Natasha smiled. “Also, I definitely wanted to meet the women who ran over Thor.”

“Like he was 250 pounds of human roadkill,” Jane said agreeably. Natasha’s smile widened at that, becoming more genuine. Darcy wondered if she always played a role when meeting new people. Duh, she told herself. Super spy.

“He took it pretty well, though. The taser thing, too.”

“He is an affable sort,” Natasha agreed.

“Like a golden retriever.” Darcy held out a hand. “Darcy Lewis. Nice to meet you, Ms. Romanov.” Clint stared at her in suspicion. “Seriously, Clint, who else would she be? You called her ‘Nat,’ for god’s sake.”

“You pick up on weird things, Lewis. And you’re awfully observant for a civilian.”

“Flattery will get you nowhere,” Darcy said reasonably.

Clint snorted. “I ain’t tryin’ nothin’ with you, darlin’. I like my women a little nicer.”

“Lie,” Natasha said slyly. Jane and Darcy grinned at her.

“Anyway,” Clint said loudly. “You’re being wooed by Mr. Morals and his murder shadow. I’ll steer clear.”

“I’m sorry, what was that?” Darcy set her pen down. Clint’s sheepish hesitation was a clear answer. “You think they’re ‘wooing’ me?”

“Apparently not very well, if you aren’t aware they’re doing it,” Natasha said, amused.

Jane crossed her legs. She appeared fascinated by the conversation. “Oh, she’s aware they’re doing it. Just not the it that Clint said.”

“That’s nice, Jane,” Darcy grouched as Clint cackled. “Really mature.”

“Sorry,” Jane said around an unrepentant grin. “But really, though, they’re just friends. Darcy says-”

“Excuse me, Dr. Foster. It appears that Mr. Stark is searching for you. You requested a warning, after the last time.”

Darcy and Jane leaped to their feet. “Jarvis, enact Plan STSAAC. Throw every distraction you’ve got at him,” Darcy ordered.

“The hell?” Clint asked, only to be unceremoniously shoved out the door by Jane. “Hey!”

“Bye Natasha, nice to meet you,” Jane said hurriedly as Darcy began pulling out pieces of equipment from underneath a thick tarp. “We’ll talk later. I have a billionaire to lock out before he fucks with my machines again.” Natasha followed Clint out the door with a graceful wave to Darcy. She looked mildly entertained by the drama.

Darcy handed off pieces to Jane, who began assembling with frightening speed. “You know,” she said in Ancient Greek. “I could just have Ash make us a super special lock. Then no one could get inside.”

“And then Tony will take the fucking glass wall down to prove a point. And then he’ll take the lock apart to figure out how it worked. Then we won’t have a wall or a lock.”

“Point.”

“Done.” Jane straightened with a nod of satisfaction. “Here we go.” She dragged the hundred pound object to the lab entrance without assistance. There, she placed her hand in a deep groove and murmured something to the contraption.

Just as a small flicker of fire glowed under Jane's palm, Stark appeared in the hall. She opened her mouth to warn her friend, but the smooth metal unfolded rapidly into a thick barrier that stretched from one end of the lab to the other.

Darcy laughed at Tony’s gaping expression just before Jane’s creation blocked her view of the hall. “Cool,” she told Jane.

“Let’s see him get past this,” Jane said smugly. “That came from Dad’s workshop. He made it to keep that nosy shit Apollo out.”

“Huh.” She heard a crash outside. “You know you’ve just given him a new challenge, right?”

“Yeah. But I’ll take it down once I’m finished rebuilding all my equipment. Then I’ll send it back to Dad. That’ll make Tony even crazier.”

“Devious,” Darcy said with approval. “I like it.”

“We can get out- or at least, I can. But I can take you with me.” Tony shouted in outrage outside.

“Have I ever told you that you’re my hero?” Darcy asked solemnly.

~*~

Steve greeted her as she passed through the common room after escorting a protesting but exhausted Jane to Thor’s quarters. “Heard you had an eventful day.”

Darcy smiled the smile of the victorious. “I had a supremely satisfying day,” she corrected. Bucky chuckled quietly from the couch. “Jane is reigning genius of the tower, Tony’s pulling his hair out over her undeniable brilliance, plus I was able to finish my paperwork and my lunch, for once.”

“Stark keep you from eating often?” Bucky asked, eyes narrowed.

“Not anymore, he doesn’t. He’s learned to keep his bullshit confined to respectable hours. For the most part. The training is ongoing,” she admitted. Steve laughed outright at that and pulled out a chair for her at the bar.

“Want a drink, doll?”

The nickname was cute, she decided. Darcy propped her chin on her hands and wondered at Steve’s newfound ease around her. Then she noticed the violent red skin of the back of his neck and wanted to smile. “I’m good. Gotta walk home in a few.”

“Walk?” Bucky materialized in the corner of her vision. He was frowning. “You walk home every night? Don’t you usually leave here after ten?”

Gods save her from overprotective men. Though he was probably right to be worried- she’d had to draw her sword a couple times in the past few months, and not just on immortal monsters. Ah, New York.

“I don’t live too far,” she assured him. “It’s an easy walk, through populated, well-lit areas.”

“Can we walk you home?” Steve asked earnestly. “If it’s no trouble.”

Darcy snorted. “No trouble, my ass. Put away the sincerity, Cap, nobody’s fooled anymore. You do your best to find trouble.”

To her astonishment, Bucky laughed. “She’s got you pegged, punk.”

“Not yet, I don’t,” she muttered with a sly glance at Bucky. Steve nearly dropped the water bottle in his hand even as Bucky grinned appreciatively at her.

“That’s my job, doll,” he said, reaching over to tug playfully at her braid.

“Couldn’t resist.” She waggled her eyebrows at him. He huffed a laugh. Steve, leaning against the bar, watched them with a crooked smile. He looked pleased about something.

Bucky rested a hip on the counter beside Darcy. “Seriously, though, we’d be happy to walk you home.”

“What Buck isn’t sayin’,” Steve interjected, “is that we’re going a little stir crazy, locked up in here. We’d like a reason to go out for a bit.”

“What, no one’s tried to take over the world yet today?” Darcy widened her eyes. “But it’s Tuesday!” Based on the monthly reports passed around the lab floor by the statistics gurus, Tuesday appeared to be the most favored day of wanna-be supervillains hatching their evil plans. Friday was a close second.

“I know,” Steve said somberly. His obnoxiously blue eyes were laughing. “It has us all on edge.”

Friendship would be easy with these two. So would falling further than planned, Darcy cautioned herself. She’d always been a sucker for the strong, silent types with a sneaky sense of humor. See: Reyna.

“Alright,” she decided, against her better judgement. “And since you two are all sad and pathetic about it-" Steve snorted- "how about dinner? I know a great place nearby.”

Bucky nodded in response to Steve’s questioning look. He’d had some trouble adjusting, Darcy remembered hearing from Thor, and it was a toss up as to how stable he felt on a daily basis. “It’s quiet,” she added. “And I know the owner. She saves a corner booth for me.”

For the whole group of them, actually. Darcy, Shay, Ash, and Adrian escorted the woman’s young son safely to and from Camp Half-Blood every year, along with agreeing to answer an Iris message for help if a monster sniffed him out.

Iris messages, the god and demigod method of communication, were sent through Iris, the goddess of rainbows. Sending a message required finding or creating a rainbow with the Mist. Then, as payment, a golden drachma or other item of value, followed by the words: Oh Iris, goddess of the Rainbow, please accept my offering.

Drachmas were the easiest payment- demigods always kept the Ancient Greek currency on hand, since they couldn’t use phones and therefore relied on Iris. The goddess accepted other valued items, though. Darcy had once used a bracelet of pure silver when in a tight spot and in need of backup.

A video message through Iris was a useful way to communicate immediate needs to another demigod. But if they needed an open line instead of a message, the cloud nymph Fleecy could be called instead. Darcy in particular was grateful for the nymph, as it was the fastest way to be warned of trouble when someone needed her or vice versa.

The Romans utilized eagles for messages, but that was hardly conspicuous in New York. In this, like many other things, Darcy preferred the Greek way.

“That sounds great,” Steve said warmly. He looked at Bucky’s sweatpants. “Let us change first, though.” She waved them off and spun around in her chair while she waited, wondering why the hell she’d just made the offer.

She’d spent a lot of time angry at the world and the gods. Shay was the first and only person who’d tried to be her friend for the first year at Camp Jupiter. Everyone else gave her a wide berth while she worked out her anger issues in the training ring.

Then Darcy had settled a little, after a year straight of training and fighting until she dropped. She’d then turned her attentions to getting the struggling fourth cohort into shape.

And the two years in which she’d led the cohort with Shay were a bright spot in her memory. She’d come to love her unit, had spent day after day training with them and learning each demigod, bringing them all together until they were the single most cohesive fighting unit in camp.

The last year she lived at the Roman camp, though, their war games became actual war. The palace on Mount Othrys, brought down years previous by the Romans and Jason Grace, a son of Zeus- Jupiter, she corrected mentally, Jason was Roman- had begun to stir once more. Not everything that died stayed dead, especially not when it was a Titan buried underneath the rubble.

Monsters crawled their way out of Tartarus and slipped through the cracks of the destroyed palace. Camp Jupiter was located near San Francisco, close enough to monitor the Mount Othrys- Mount Tamalpais, to the human world. They answered the call as they always did.

And so once more the Roman legions fought on the mountaintop, holding back the tide of monsters. It was a horrific fight, one of the worst in years, and the source of many of Darcy and Shay’s nightmares.

She’d lost a lot of friends on that mountain. It was terrifying to care again, to open herself back up to the potential for pain and loss. But she’d been more miserable alone, and she was better now. Smarter. More in tune with the world and the dangers it presented. She could be friends with these two and still keep them safe from her world, Darcy decided. After all, she had Jane at her back, and Ash, Adrian, and Shay.

Plus, they were literal superheroes. Surely they could handle a little extra danger.

“Ready,” Steve announced. He wore jeans and a soft-looking t-shirt that clung tightly to his body. Bucky wandered in behind him, adjusting the sleeve of his lightweight jacket. She rubbed absently at her tattoo, still a bit lost in her thoughts, and was grateful the Mist hid the mark and all of her many scars from non-demigods.

The walk to the restaurant was a somewhat tense affair. Darcy’s chest ached at the hyper-awareness in Bucky’s body language, the way his eyes roamed as if constantly expecting an attack. Steve was also alert, but he lacked the cornered-animal look in his eye that Bucky tried and failed to hide.

She breathed a sigh of relief when they entered the restaurant, and smiled widely when Amelie shouted a welcome from the kitchen.

“Darcy! I wondered when you’d finally come by. You just missed Marley, actually.” Marley was a child of Ares/Mars, whom she’d met at Camp Jupiter. She’d befriended the centurion of the second cohort sometime in the haze that was her second year at camp.

“I didn’t know she was in town,” Darcy said, surprised.

Amelie waved a hand as she led them to the corner booth reserved for demigod visitors. Amelie understood the value of a good line of sight and kept the booth closest to both exits open for them. “She’s here for some security conference, apparently. Marley said she’d get in touch with you once it was over and she had some free time. I think she’s staying in the city for a couple days.”

“Huh.” Darcy let Steve and Bucky take the seat with the best view of the rest of the restaurant and the doors. “I’m sure Shay will be delighted.” Shay had an odd relationship with Marley, one that mostly consisted of incessant arguing. Darcy was convinced it was a cover for both of their feelings, but Shay tended to shoot at her when she suggested it.

Amelie passed out menus with a friendly smile to Steve and Bucky. She told Darcy, “Luc called-” by Iris message, Darcy surmised, as Mia had done the same- “last night to check in. He’s having a great time. Some story about a rock wall and lava?” She shook her head. “What games they get up to out there is beyond me, but he’s loving every second of it.”

Darcy cleared her throat. Probably best if the demigod’s human mother didn’t know the lava was very real. “I heard that one, too,” she said smoothly. “Kids are imaginative, I guess.” Amelie winked and left them to it.

“How do you know her? You seem pretty close.” Steve asked. He was sprawled comfortably in the booth, one knee pressed against Bucky’s thigh.

Darcy shrugged. “I, uh, watch her son sometimes.” Close enough to the truth. The “watching” just entailed a very dangerous road trip with homicidal, mythological beasts attacking them at every turn. “His dad-” Hermes, who’d claimed the boy last year- “isn’t around much, so I help her where I can.”

Steve whistled lowly. “She’s a single mother and runs a restaurant?”

“If you’re ever short a superhero, she could fill in,” Darcy agreed. The woman handled the demigod surprise with more grace than most, and loved her little boy fiercely despite the insanity his kind brought. She’d also stabbed an empousa (winged, bloodsucking monsters with human disguises, often identified by their one donkey leg and one bronze prosthetic leg) in the neck with a metal fork when it went after Luc, earning Darcy’s eternal admiration. The monster wouldn’t die unless cut down with a Celestial Bronze or Imperial Gold weapon, but the fork was certainly inspired.

And slowed it down long enough for Darcy to get into the apartment, which she now had a key to- for the demigod-related emergencies, and the occasional dinner invitation.

“So, Barnes,” Darcy said. “What’s this I hear about Clint getting superglued to the air vents at the tower?”

Bucky flashed her a satisfied grin. She casually reached for her water and resisted fanning herself. Steve, to her amusement, appeared similarly afflicted. “Told him to quit sneakin’ around our apartment. He’s lucky I didn’t shoot him.”

Darcy laughed. Bucky raised a brow at her. “I hear that he’s just as scared of you. How’d you traumatize a Shield agent so thoroughly?”

“Jane, mostly,” Darcy said modestly. “He was part of the jack-booted thug crew that stole all her research in New Mexico. She holds a grudge, and she’s very good with a crowbar. I am very good at covering for her, and have also perfected all the petty ways to make someone’s life miserable.” Camp Jupiter came in clutch there, she had to admit. She’d let Jane do most of the swinging- Darcy was a little too good with sword-like objects to count on Shield not noticing her unusual skill. Jane had only ever been at Camp Half-Blood but she fought with pure, unfocused rage.

“Somehow all of his tires were always flat, his drinks salted, snakes in his room, and his clothes covered in sand,” Steve told Bucky with a laugh. “And Darcy flashed a mirror into his eyes when he was posted on watch after Thor left, so Coulson had to pull him from the rotation.”

Darcy was surprised by the extent of Steve’s knowledge of her and Jane’s mischief. He must have seen it, because Steve explained, “Clint complained about it. At length.”

Bucky laughed, louder than she’d ever heard from him. “Doll, remind me to stay on your good side. I don’t like snakes.” Unfortunate, really- they were one of her mother’s symbols and fond of Darcy.

At that, Steve grinned wickedly. “He really doesn’t. Before the war, a snake got into our apartment and found its way to his room. He screamed so loud I nearly had an asthma attack. High pitched, too. I thought he had a lady in there.”

Darcy cackled as Bucky’s ears turned red. “I’m sure you have plenty of embarrassing Steve stories, Barnes.”

“Bucky,” he interjected quietly. “You can call me James, or Bucky.”

“Bucky,” she corrected with a soft smile. Then she leaned forward excitedly. “Why don’t you tell me the dirt on boy wonder over there?

His mouth tipped into a crooked grin, even as Steve groaned a protest. “Why don’t I?”

 

Chapter Text

He dreamed of the cold. Cold that burned, cold that killed, cold that froze the very blood in his veins. It kept him horribly conscious of the excruciating deceleration of his heart and lungs. The cold was a cruel, wicked killer. It had tasted his agony, and it wanted more.

He had nothing left to give.

No. Not nothing. Steve.

Bucky woke. Not with a shout, not with a gasp or even a breath. He woke between one heartbeat and the next. Body braced for the bite of winter, come for him and his.

Steve’s steady breaths at his side reminded him that here, in their home, the cold had no power. His hands trembled. The rest of him wanted to.

Well. Not enough power, he acknowledged. It could make him remember, had even made him forget, but it could not touch him here and now. He told himself that once more, then twice, and finally relaxed with a soundless sigh.

Steve made a soft questioning noise, still mostly asleep. He was sprawled on his belly, taking up the whole damn bed, as usual. Bucky pretended he didn’t love it. He slid a hand- the flesh-and-bone hand, the real one- across the expanse of Steve’s broad, tanned shoulders. His back was warm and firm and muscled.

So different, Bucky mused, than that scrawny kid from Brooklyn.

Steve turned his head to squint blearily at him. Bucky’s chest tightened. “Buck?” Steve asked, voice hoarse from sleep. Same blue eyes, though, Bucky thought. Same heart, too.

“Go back to sleep, punk,” he said, but there was no heat to the order. Steve seemed to hear it, too. He propped himself up on his elbows to stare expectantly at Bucky.

“‘Nother nightmare?” He asked softly.  

Bucky didn’t answer. Above them, the fan circled slowly, lazily stirring the air in the room. The dark gray sheets were soft on his bare skin; early morning light crept through the window and cast them in hues of gold. He reached out and brushed his thumb over Steve’s bottom lip. Steve’s mouth curved into a smile at the gentle touch; he turned to press his lips into Bucky’s palm.

Bucky closed his eyes, so grateful to have Steve alive and well that it hurt. He never could have dreamed that they’d have this again, this quiet intimacy that he’d missed more than anything else.

Love was a scary thing, he thought. Like handing someone all the vulnerable parts of yourself with nothing more than trust to protect you. Just faith in the one you loved to hold you steady, hoping and praying they wouldn’t let you fall.

His belief in Steve was unwavering. Steve could have all of him, anything that he asked. And he was secure in the knowledge that his love would never ask more than he could give. That was love. Trust, faith in each other, that was their foundation. And it was unbreakable.

“You’re thinkin’ too much,” Steve complained. He nipped at Bucky’s thumb.

“Someone’s gotta do the thinking, and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be you,” Bucky teased. He let Steve yank him down until they were pressed together from chest to hips to toes. Smug, Steve tangled their legs together and brushed his mouth over Bucky’s.

Bucky propped himself up on his elbows and looked down at him, unimpressed. “You’re very pleased with yourself,” he commented dryly. Steve rolled his hips and grinned in satisfaction when it elicited a sharp inhale.

“You little shit,” he hissed, but it was fond.

“And now you’re sufficiently distracted,” Steve murmured. He set his teeth on Bucky’s collarbone and laughed when his hands were suddenly pinned beside his head.

“I’ll show you distraction,” Bucky muttered, and slid down the bed.

~*~

“What’s on your agenda today?” Bucky asked, teasing as Steve stared impatiently down at their waffle machine. God bless the twenty first century and its tech, Bucky thought, sipping his coffee and staring at the fading line of hickeys down Steve’s spine.

“Uh, logistics meeting at ten,” Steve said, squinting thoughtfully. “Then Stark wants to meet, something about the army stepping on his heels again. Probably for weapons and cooperation from our end, which is highly unlikely. Hm... And lunch with Darcy, if I can get her out of the lab. You free for that?”

“I’ll make time.” He’d planned to lock himself in the training rooms and work out until he dropped- a surefire way to lose the looming headache leftover from the nightmare- but lunch with the firecracker that was Darcy sounded even better.

She’d taken them both by surprise, caught their attention when they weren’t even looking. They’d shared their bed with women before, and Bucky knew they both missed a female presence that softened their edges.

Darcy, though, she was all sharp edges of her own, with a clever mind and even smarter mouth.

He didn’t think they’d fit, but somehow... He thought it might work, if they wanted. If she wanted.

Steve hummed thoughtfully. “We talkin’ about this, then?” At Bucky’s short nod, he rolled his eyes. “Finally. Usually I’m the one dancing around like a fool.”

“Things are different,” Bucky reminded him. “We’re not... I’m not the same. Not safe.”

“Bullshit,” he countered firmly. “Sure, we were worried at first. But, love, when you’re afraid, or when you have a flashback, you shut down. You don’t lash out. And you haven’t tried to kill me in my sleep or anything, so-”

“Don’t even joke about that.” To his absolute humiliation, his voice shook.

Steve was in front of him even as he moved to stand and leave. He knelt in front of the chair and wrapped a warm hand around the back of Bucky’s neck. “You wouldn’t hurt me, Buck.”

“I did before.”

“Before you remembered, maybe. But you wouldn’t now. That’s what snapped you out of it last time, right? You thought I was hurt?” The most recent flashback, one that had Bucky frozen for nearly an hour, until Steve had made a wounded sound. He’d snapped back to the present, terrified of what he’d find, only to discover Steve’s tear-streaked, worried face in front of him.

“Stupid,” Bucky muttered. “You shouldn’t have been so close.”

“Yeah, yeah. Heard it before.”

“One day,” Bucky promised, leaning forward to rest his forehead against Steve’s. Steve's hand slid into his hair. He closed his eyes. “One day, we’re gonna have a long discussion about your problems with authority.”

Steve chuckled. “Oh, you’re the authority now, huh? Since when?”

“Since I dragged your ass out of the fire yet again.” He took another moment to appreciate the peace of the moment, the warmth of Steve’s body, before saying, “Your waffles are burning.”

“Fuck!” Steve leaped up.

Bucky went back to his coffee, mood lifting. Hard to be unhappy when you had a gorgeous lover burning your breakfast to a crisp. Even better, he could almost picture Darcy, in one of their shirts and nothing else, sitting right beside him and giggling at Steve as he hopped around the kitchen trying to salvage the waffles.

“I was thinking,” he said when Steve stopped swearing the air blue, “about Darcy.”

“Yeah?" Steve glanced back over his shoulder. "Me too.”

“We did it before. I remember... some of it. Enough of it,” he said slowly. “Had women in our bed, sometimes for longer than just a night.” Not often, not with the war and the axe hanging over their heads all the damn time. But often enough to make them want more, to want a permanent third partner that fit with the both of them.

Steve cleared his throat. “I remember.”

“But this time it’s different. We’d always said, y’know, that maybe one day we’d find someone permanent.” Steve had hoped for Peggy, he knew. Bucky had even started to hope for it, too, until... Well. Until.

“You think it could be Darcy?”

“If she’s willing. If she’s even interested. She’s been a little distracted lately.” Bucky had seen her only yesterday wearing that faraway look that she got sometimes, the one that worried Steve. It worried him, too, if he was being honest.

There was something a little too familiar in that look. He didn’t want a woman as vibrant as Darcy to have that in common with someone like him. Whatever it was, it made her curl defensively in on herself, made her eyes go dark and wounded.

“Nat sees it, too,” Steve reported. “She’s interested in Darcy, I guess.” He flicked a look, somewhat guilty, at Bucky. “She looked into her, apparently.”

Bucky narrowed his eyes. “Rude of her. If Darce wanted to talk about her past, she would. We have no right.”

“That’s what I said!” Steve protested. “But Nat said I should at least know what not to say, so I won’t stick my foot in my mouth.”

He considered. “Yeah, that’s fair.”

“She grew up in the foster system. All over the place, from what Nat tells me."

“And what else did Natalia tell you?” Bucky asked, annoyed. This wasn’t theirs to know, not until Darcy told them herself.

“That some of the homes were bad,” Steve said quietly. “Bad enough that she ran away a couple times.” Bucky looked up at that and saw the grim set to Steve’s mouth. “She got hauled back eventually every time, except for the last time.”

“What happened the last time?”

Steve shrugged. “She was labeled a runaway at 15. No one could find her; she just disappeared for four years until she enrolled at Culver at 19.”

“Shit.” Bucky stared into his coffee. That was a long time to be alone. “Four years on her own. Jesus, she was just a kid.”

Steve chewed on his bottom lip. “Something happened, though, during those years. You’ve seen it.”

Bucky nodded. Every once in a while, Darcy lost the slouched posture, the bored shuffle and absent minded expression. And with that change- the anomaly that caught their attention early on- she moved like a trained fighter. She walked with a loose, easy stride, back and shoulders straight. Her eyes were always moving, awareness and confidence in every inch of her body.

She looked like someone who feared nothing, like she was daring them all, “Just fucking try me.” Like she could take on the world and win.

Then, inevitably, she remembered to recover her apparent disguise. It fascinated Steve, and intrigued Bucky enough to stir from his spiral of misery and self-hatred.  

“Still.” Bucky frowned. “Natalia shouldn’t have told anyone else.” He understood checking someone out for the sake of security, but this felt more like gossip.

“I know. But I’m a little glad she did. I was going to ask about her parents, for fuck’s sake.”

“She’s mentioned her mother, though, right?”

“Briefly. Estranged, maybe? Hard to tell, but they don’t sound close.” Steve cocked his head. “Hm. Nat didn’t find anything on a mother.”

Bucky huffed. “Not our business.”

“Not unless she makes it,” Steve agreed. He scowled playfully over his shoulder. “Come cook the bacon, you jerk, I’m not doing all this by myself.”

“What could you possibly need me for?” Bucky wondered in amazement. The smell of burnt waffle still filled the room. “You’re doing such a great job on your own.” He caught the spatula just before it smacked him in the face and laughed.

Obediently, Bucky pulled the bacon out of the fridge and preheated the oven. As he worked, Steve humming off-key at his side, he basked in the sheer, stupid domesticity of it all. And how much the presence of a certain pretty, dark headed woman would brighten the room further.

He was halfway in love with her already. And seeing her everywhere, too. Every short, curvy brunette in the tower made his heart lurch in the hopes that it would be her. There were more of those women than he’d thought, and it was rarely her, to his disappointment. She was busy riding herd on a bunch of geniuses intent of blowing themselves and everyone else to pieces.

Even months ago, in the middle of a fight, Bucky swore he’d seen her in the corner of his eye. She’d been swinging something- a stick, maybe? Odd, the memory was too blurry to tell- at a stray doombot. There hadn’t been much time to investigate. If Steve hadn’t also agreed that he’d seen the girl, too, Bucky would have thought his mind was slipping again.

But that happened less and less often these days. He was getting better. Recovering, healing from what had been done to him. What he’d been forced to do, and the innocents that suffered right along with him.

A soft touch on his hip distracted him from the heavy thoughts. Healing came a lot easier, he mused as a big, warm body pressed against his back, with someone like Steve standing with him. Arms wrapped around his middle. He smiled down at the tray of bacon as Steve kissed the base of his neck.

Something that felt like wonder swelled in his chest. Steve touched him now, his Steve, who still loved him despite all he’d done.

Bucky still remembered the way he used to lay awake at night in their shitty apartment and just listen to him breathe. Just to reassure himself that his love’s body hadn’t given out while he wasn’t watching. He’d listen to the weak rattle of Steve’s lungs every winter, the feverish days and nights, terrified that his frail little body would give in.

That kind of fear never left you, he thought bleakly. Except now he had to worry about Steve jumping out of planes without a parachute, which was arguably worse than the sickness. His hard-headed idiot would be the death of him, one way or another.

But it was a miracle that they both stood here together. He’d let it go. For now.

“What’s the plan, then, Buck?” Steve murmured against his skin.

“The plan for the bacon? Can’t do much about it, punk, when you’re plastered up against me.” A sharp sting of teeth on the back of his neck. Bucky jabbed an elbow back in retaliation and grinned as Steve laughed quietly against him.

“No, for- Hey! Quit it!” Steve tightened his grip as Bucky tried to push him off balance. He attached himself like a limpet and dug his chin into Bucky’s shoulder. “Quit bein’ such a jerk,” he complained. “I meant the plan for Darcy.”

“The plan is to not scare her off,” Bucky lectured. “Which means you should probably keep your mouth shut.”

“You sayin’ I’m not smooth?” Steve said, low and seductive. He skimmed a hand up Bucky’s bare abdomen to his chest and rocked his hips against him. “Surely you don’t believe that, after last night.”

Bucky found himself a little breathless. How could he still have this affect on him, after all this time? Still, the point stood. “You seem to lose all your brilliant charm when she’s around.”

“Ugh.” Steve stopped his slow seduction and slumped against him. He gently banged his head between Bucky’s shoulder blades. “I know. Fuck, I’m not bad with women,” he insisted. “But when she’s lookin’ at me I get so nervous about fucking things up that I just fall apart.”

“Idiot,” Bucky said, hopelessly in love.

“Bite me,” Steve grumbled.

“Only if you ask nicely,” he replied absently. “Hey Steve?”

“Mm?”

“The waffles are cold now.”

There was a pause. And then- “Goddamn it. Get dressed, we’re going out for breakfast.”

Chapter Text

The household rose with the sun. The four of them stood around the kitchen, glancing frequently at the clock with bleary eyes. Their old house creaked around them with an array of strange noises that had become a comfort over the years. It smelled like coffee and cinnamon bagels, the kitchen unusually quiet as they finished their breakfast and then waited with ill-disguised impatience.

“Fuck it,” Ash finally announced. “I’m not waiting any longer. Let’s go.”

Shay breathed a sigh of relief. She snatched up the keys of their only vehicle, a 1970 Chevy truck that barely held them all but had no computerized controls that would attract monsters, and tossed them to Adrian. He was the best driver of them all, having learned as a teenager rather than within the last five years like the rest of them.

He was also patient enough to handle New York traffic, something the other three couldn’t claim.

Darcy and Ash crammed themselves in between Adrian and Shay. Darcy slumped down on the comfortable bench seat to give the others more room. Ash slid an arm over her shoulders to give them more space and dropped into a light doze.

Shay, pressed against the door, tied her glossy braids into a low ponytail and checked that her small gold harmonica was within reach. The sight of the cleverly disguised weapon made Darcy instinctively reach back to touch the hairpin holding her hair up.

Ash wore a faded gold coin around his neck that would transform into his sword when needed. Adrian kept a small set of Imperial Gold daggers, a gift from Darcy and Shay, strapped to his body.

They were well prepared for the familiar journey to Camp Half-Blood.

“Odds,” Ash murmured halfway into the two-hour drive.

Darcy deliberated for a moment. “Seventy.”

Adrian hissed. “That’s high.”  

“We weren’t hit even once last time,” Shay reminded him. “I say seventy five, maybe even eighty.”

“I hate this game,” Adrian muttered. Then, unable to leave it unfinished, he prompted, “Ash?”

Ash chuckled darkly. “Oh, we’re most definitely being attacked. One hundred percent. The only question is how many times, and when.”

“Jay Creek,” Darcy suggested. The lonely back road stretched for forty miles and saw an average of ten cars a month. It was a favored ambush site of the monsters that tracked demigods to and from Camp Half-Blood.

“Probably,” Shay said on a sigh. “I wish we didn’t have to take that damn road.”

“It’s better than getting hit with a bunch of civilians around,” Ash reminded her.

Darcy squirmed around to get more comfortable. “Less collateral damage,” she agreed. She let the rumble of the old truck lull her into a resting half-sleep. Best to get as much rest as they could- she had a bad feeling about the trip home.

~*~

They arrived late in the morning, per Mia’s request. The little girl wanted as much time as possible with the pegasi in the camp. Since they could rarely deny her anything, they arrived on the latest day they could manage with their conflicting schedules. These trips required all four of them to protect the younger demigods.

Darcy let Ash nudge her impatiently out of the truck as Adrian parked at the edge of a thick forest. Shay and Adrian exited the truck but remained close to it. They would stay behind, since Adrian was a secret from the camp. Shay would stay to guard him and the truck.

The other two stepped towards the invisible wards that protected the camp against everything from monsters to gods to humans. Ash spoke first. “Ash Khatri, son of Hermes. Here to collect Mia Cross, unclaimed.”

“Darcy Lewis, daughter of Athena. Here to collect Mia Cross, unclaimed.” The air shivered in front of them and they stepped through the magic guarding the camp.

The wards tingled over their skin as they passed through, and then the camp suddenly materialized where there had been empty space before. The sky was a brilliant blue, sun shining with pleasant warmth overhead, and happy shouts and laughter reached their ears.

Cabins, one for each god and goddess with demigod children, were the center of camp in a giant U-shape. Stables housed both regular horses and pegasi, the winged horses that had played important roles in previous wars. The training fields, including the legendary rock wall, encompassed the far side of camp, suspiciously close to the small hospital run by demigods. The uncovered dining hall sat near the large house where Chiron lived and the previous Oracle of Delphi rested.

The Oracle was once an embodied skeleton until Rachel Dare, a human, accepted the spirit instead. Now she delivered the prophecies that warned the Greek demigods of great trouble. Darcy made sure to avoid her at all costs.

“I’m going to check in with Chiron,” Darcy said. Ash nodded and went in search of Mia.

Chiron, a regal centaur who led the camp along with the god Dionysus (who had been punished with the babysitting role by Zeus), stood by the dining hall tables. He watched her approach with a grave expression. “Chiron,” Darcy greeted shortly. She'd always liked the centaur, but resentment over Quinn’s death clouded Darcy’s view of the Greek camp and its leaders.

“Darcy, welcome back. I trust everything is well?”

“Well enough.” She sat on a nearby table, feet planted on the bench. Scorch marks and metal enhancements meant it likely belonged to the Hephaestus Cabin. Chiron eyed her in disapproval. “Relax. He won’t smite me for sitting on a table, Chiron. I keep his beloved daughter in one piece- at great risk to myself, I’d like to add.”

“Even minor offenses are a risk,” Chiron warned.

Darcy waved a dismissive hand. “How was Mia’s summer?”

Chiron sighed but allowed the change in subject. “It was fine. She made it to the top of the wall last week.”

She raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Well that’s impressive. She’s so little, still.” Pride warmed her voice. “Did you see any signs?”

Chiron shook his head. “Nothing to suggest who her parent may be. She’s still young, though. There's plenty of time.”

“I know. I just don’t like the unknown,” Darcy admitted. “Mia could come into her powers at any time, and I’d like to be prepared.” While all demigods possessed the enhanced physical abilities from birth, many either didn’t realize or even possess the ability to wield whatever powers they had from their god parent until their life was threatened. And Darcy and the others would keep Mia out of mortal danger, or die trying.

“I understand you live in what is likely the safest place in the state, outside of camp,” Chiron said, careful now. Darcy looked at him sharply. “That should be assurance enough. You can keep her safe from anything, including herself. I’ve rarely seen a more capable group.”

Darcy looked away at the compliment. His praise brought warring sensations of pride and resentment. “I’m still mad,” she muttered, so quietly it was barely audible.

“I know,” Chiron said gently. “I understand.” He didn’t say what she already knew- that they hadn’t known that she was in need of their help all those years ago, or that a swarm of monsters had tracked Darcy and Quinn out of the city. He said nothing of the uncertainty of Quinn’s blood, either, or whether the wards would have permitted him entrance. He was kind like that.

Darcy knew other ways in, though. Some she’d found. Others she’d created. Back doors and secret exits just in case. She always had a backup plan, a lesson she’d learned the hard way. A lesson in which Quinn paid the price.

An excited shout drew her attention. Mia raced down the hill, her olive skin streaked with dirt from whatever adventures had been keeping her busy until now. She was barefoot, because of course she was, and bleeding from a couple scrapes on her knees and one on her chin. It was a familiar sight.

“Darcy, Darcy!” A tumble of black curls streamed behind her and the girl’s dark blue eyes- so dark they were nearly purple- were alight with joy and mischief. Darcy leaped off the table to catch her. She swung Mia around, squeezing her tight as Mia laughed gleefully in her ear.

“Hey, Trouble,” Darcy said after setting the girl back on her feet. She leaned down to plant a kiss atop Mia’s head and then assessed the minor injuries with an experienced eye. “Looks like you’ve been busy.”

“I fell off the roof!” Mia said excitedly. She had a noticeable lisp, which was new. “And my teeth finally came out!” She pointed to her mouth where, sure enough, her front teeth were missing.

Baffled, Darcy folded her arms and tried to hide her amusement.  “Why on earth were you on the roof?”

“Kacey said I couldn’t do it. She double dared me,” Mia said. Her chin jutted out stubbornly. “I had to, Darce.” It was impossible to stay mad at that face. Mia, who was well aware of her charm, smiled winningly at Darcy. “I climbed the big house-” she pointed to the three-story house on the hill- “but I fell when I saw Ash coming. I got too excited.”

The tone of her voice relayed that next time she performed such a dangerous task, she wouldn’t make that kind of amateur mistake.

Ash jogged towards them with a wide grin. “I stopped by the infirmary and got some ambrosia. Eat it, kiddo.” He handed the small piece to Mia, who obediently swallowed it. As they watched, her scrapes healed over. “You are endlessly entertaining,” Ash told her, fond.

“Thank you,” Mia said solemnly.

“Alright, quit encouraging her,” Darcy ordered, but she was smiling. “Let’s round up the passengers.” This time, they were taking two other young demigods back to the city. Luc, who waved when Darcy found him in the Hermes cabin, and Fatima, who had to be fished out of the Hephaestus cabin’s workshop.

“How come my parent didn’t claim me yet?” Mia asked quietly as their group returned to the truck.

Darcy rubbed a soothing hand along the girl’s back. “I don’t know, baby. They all do it in their own time, I guess. Lots of them wait until their kid turns 11.” As negotiated by Percy Jackson years ago, every god with a demigod child had to claim them by their 11th birthday.

Mia sighed heavily. “I’m only seven,” she said morosely.

“Only four more summers, then,” Darcy said reasonably. Mia brightened at that, then hopped up and down in excitement as they went past the wards and Shay and Adrian came into sight. She shrieked excitedly and darted away to crash first into Shay, then Adrian.

“Hey, munchkin,” Adrian laughed. “Have a good time?” As Mia chattered away, sharing her summer adventures, the other two kids climbed into the truck.

Shay, Darcy, and Ash jumped into the truck bed. They’d likely need to leap out at a moment’s notice to bring down a monster or four, and it was more efficient this way. Plus, the kids were protected by Adrian inside the truck. If they got separated, at least the four of them would escape safely.

Ash crouched on the balls of his feet as the truck bumped along the long road back to the city. He swayed easily with the truck’s movements, eyes wary on the surrounding forest. Shay played a foreboding tune on her harmonica until Darcy kicked at her. She only grinned in response, glancing down to check on the longbow that she'd packed for the trip.

For her part, Darcy kept her long golden hairpin in an easy grip. One sideways twist of her wrist would bring the Celestial Bronze sword to life. For now, though, she rubbed her thumb along the snake design etched into the thin metal piece and watched for signs of trouble.

The truck ambled along for half an hour until a shadow flickered in the trees. The ring on her finger warmed, the one Jane had given her to warn of nearby monsters.

“South side,” Darcy barked. “It’s big, Shay.” She stood, adjusting her stance to remain balanced. One slap on the hood followed by a two-beat knock signaled to Adrian the arrival of a threat.

Shay came to her knees, the golden bow shining brightly against her dark brown skin. “I see it.” She loosed three arrows in rapid succession, so fast Darcy could barely keep track. An enraged howl echoed through the trees at the first hit. By the third, it was abruptly cut off.

“Nice,” Ash said with admiration. He squinted at the opposite tree line. “Other side, three o’clock.” Shay pivoted with inhuman grace and fired twice more without pause. She waited, another arrow at the ready, until Ash nodded. “It’s down.”

They scanned the trees, looking for others. None came. Darcy had a moment to wonder why her instincts were still screaming when the truck slowed. The three demigods braced against the motion and turned.

In the center of the road ahead stood the Minotaur.

“Aw, fuck,” Shay groaned. “It’s back.” Immortal monsters, when killed by Celestial Bronze or Imperial Gold, would disintegrate into ashes. But they always reformed in Tartarus and returned, called to their eternal task of killing the offspring of the gods. Sometimes it took years for them to return- but this beast was old and strong. It didn't take long to return to the hunt.

The Minotaur lowered its head, which was shaped like a bull’s, and bellowed a challenge that echoed through the trees. The thick, muscled hide of its humanoid body braced for a fight. He wielded twin swords. Even from half a mile away, Darcy could make out the strands of beads tied to each sword- trophies from his previous demigod kills.

“Shay.” Darcy saw her friend nod once in the corner of her vision. With the knowledge that Shay understood, she moved.

Darcy planted one hand on the roof of the truck and vaulted over it. She landed in a balanced crouch on the hood. One hand braced against the windshield, where the pales faces of the others peered out at her. In her other hand, the hairpin heated up in her grip.

Usually, she simply twisted her wrist to the side to release the sword from whatever ancient magic hid it in this harmless form. But, as she discovered (by accident) during her years at Camp Jupiter, flipping the hairpin longways would release a thick wooden spear tipped with Imperial Gold. She flipped it and caught the spear with practiced ease. 

Two sides, same coin, she thought with grim satisfaction.

The spear was heavy in her hand. “Speed up!” She shouted. Adrian complied. In response, the Minotaur roared, pawed at the ground, and charged.

Worst game of chicken ever.

Calmly, Darcy changed her grip on the spear for a throw. The distance between them closed. In the truck bed, Shay came abruptly to her feet. She fired three arrows over Darcy’s head.

The Minotaur staggered to a halt and clawed at the arrows clustered around its heart. It turned for them again, only to be hit in the face with Ash’s dagger.

“Stop!” Darcy shouted, and when the truck skidded to a halt she launched herself into the air.

There was a beautiful moment of suspension. Darcy felt as though time itself slowed as she soared through the air, spear raised. Some part of her had missed this, really, the intensity of a life-or-death fight. The satisfaction of knowing you were better, that you were going to win.

The Minotaur yanked the dagger from its eye and looked up just in time to catch a spear to the neck. As she fell, Darcy caught the end of the spear and let her weight carry it further. The spearhead slid deeper into the Minotaur’s neck and then all the way through its chest.

She hit the ground hard. She’d prepared for it, though, so she landed with a soft body and tucked head. Asphalt skinned her shoulder and back as she rolled into a crouch, but she hardly felt the wound. She braced with one hand on the road and the other palming her spare dagger, ready to lunge aside in case it charged again.

But the Minotaur was already turning to dust.

~*~  

“And then, when the other team was looking the other way, I grabbed the flag and ran away super fast!” Mia bounced along between Ash and Adrian, telling stories of the violent capture-the-flag games at camp.

Shay exchanged an amused glance with Darcy. Her guitar case was carried over one shoulder. Darcy clutched Shay’s violin case with extreme care. They were on their way to Amelie’s restaurant, where Shay played every few months. She agreed to sing even less often, but acquiesced when Mia pleaded for music tonight.

“So, you invited your boys?” Shay asked. She smiled softly as Adrian and Ash lifted Mia over a sewer grate, much to her delight. She swung from their grip and giggled hysterically.

“They’re not my boys,” Darcy said, long-suffering.

“Maybe not, but you want them to be,” Shay said under her breath. She whistled long and low at the sight of the two men waiting in front of Amelie’s for them. "And I sure as hell don't blame you."

Steve lit up at the sight of her. Bucky turned at the change in Steve’s expression. When he saw Darcy his face softened from its stoic expression. Both of them were well dressed for the dinner; Darcy was grateful she had dressed up as well. Her red dress matched her lipstick, and the soft fabric fit her like a glove. Sensible flats that she could run in kept the outfit from being too dressy, but she felt like a goddess herself from the looks on their faces.

“We’re not talking about this,” Darcy said belatedly.

“Oh, we're definitely talking about this,” Shay retorted softly. “Because damn.” She sidestepped Darcy's elbow to her side.

Darcy moved past the others to greet Steve and Bucky. She smiled warmly up at them both while they looked her over. “You look great, doll,” Steve said. Bucky made a quiet noise of agreement.

“Thank you. You two clean up nicely, too.” Darcy turned. “Boys, meet my family. Adrian, Ash, Shay.” Mia wriggled impatiently. “And Mia,” she said on a laugh. “Our little troublemaker.”

“Nice to meet you, Mia,” Bucky said seriously. If the two men had questions about Mia or the “family” comment, they showed no signs of it. Instead, they respectfully greeted Mia and the others and followed the group into the busy restaurant.

“We’re lucky,” Darcy told them as Amelie hugged her way through each person in the group. “Shay has agreed to perform for us tonight.”

Amelie hugged her extra tight. “He told me about the trip. Thank you,” she whispered in Darcy’s ear. They shared a significant look. Darcy noticed Luc already at the table reserved for them all, appearing genuinely thrilled to be back at his mother’s always-busy restaurant.

“Any time,” Darcy murmured back.

Adrian was kindly explaining Shay’s extraordinary musical talents to a politely confused Bucky and Steve. Bucky nodded to the violin case in Darcy’s hand. “Do you play?”

Ash and Shay laughed loudly. “No,” Darcy said, rolling her eyes. “Unfortunately, I don’t possess an ounce of musical abilities.” The last time Shay had tried to teach her to play the violin, Apollo himself had shown up and begged her to stop.

It was a very popular story in the fourth cohort.

Darcy handed off the violin case to Shay, who moved somewhat begrudgingly towards the small stage in the corner of the room. For someone as skilled and fearless as Shay, she was oddly bashful when it came to her music.

Darcy leaned in once they were seated and told them, “You guys are in for a treat. She’s amazing.”

Shay pulled out the guitar first. She cleared her throat and stepped up to the microphone. “Hello again.” The restaurant, filled with customers familiar with Shay’s performances, cheered. A shy smile tipped the corners of her mouth. “Tonight I’m playing at the behest of our Mia, back from summer camp and already ordering us around again.” She winked at the little girl.

Mia stood on the bench seat to wave to everyone. She braced herself against Bucky with that careless familiarity kids had, unconcerned with people's personal space. Bucky appeared both alarmed and touched by the vivacious child brave enough to rest against him.

Jane burst through the door just then, dragging Thor behind her. It said a lot about Shay’s talents that hardly anyone reacted to the sight of the God of Thunder, even halfheartedly disguised as he was.

“Oh, thank the gods, I thought we’d missed it!” Jane said in a hushed voice. Before anyone could respond, Shay strummed a few bars and then started to sing. Her voice filled the room like a siren song, bringing chills to her captivated audience.

“Damn,” Bucky said in quiet awe. Steve nodded wide-eyed in agreement.

“Right?” Darcy murmured, filled with pride for her friend. They sat and listened to Shay sing for nearly an hour. When she put away the guitar, Darcy leaned forward in anticipation.

If Shay’s voice was a siren song, her talent on the violin was straight magic.

Sure, some of it could be chalked up to her parentage. Apollo was the god of music, after all. But her technique was flawless, a testimony to hours and hours of practice. Darcy had seen her friend practice until her fingers bled.

The end result was the closest thing to perfection that any of them would ever see or hear.

By the time Shay rejoined them at the table, the spell was broken. Bucky and Steve stared at her in awe, which embarrassed her more than anything, but the group transitioned easily into friendly conversation that lasted so long it was nearly ten by the time they left Amelie’s.

Steve and Bucky complied with Mia’s demands, swinging the girl as they walked. Darcy watched on, probably with some horribly sappy look on her face. Shay and Ash bickered ahead of them. Adrian dropped back to raise a brow at Darcy.

“Not a word,” she grumbled.

Before Adrian could answer, though, the sky went utterly dark overheard. The lights of the stars disappeared abruptly behind massive storm clouds a concerning shade of black. A crack of lightning arched across the sky. It was so loud that people on the street clapped their hands over their ears with a wince.

Thunder rolled. The storm promised to be a violent one. But when lightning exploded through the clouds again and again, Darcy felt dread creep in. She shared a look with her family and noted their expressions were as fearful as hers.

High above on Mount Olympus, in the home of the gods, something terrible had happened- something that enraged Zeus so greatly that he was trying to tear the sky itself apart.

Chapter Text

They went their separate ways. Darcy made excuses about the oncoming storm and wanting to get Mia home before it broke. Steve hugged her goodnight and Bucky gave her a look that was just as good when they parted.

“I’m going get him back to the tower, too,” Jane murmured. Beside her, Thor was flushed and had his jaw clenched painfully tight. “He and Zeus have sort of a tug-of-war going with the whole ‘God of Thunder’ thing, and Zeus just yanked the rug out from under him.” They both gave Thor sympathetic a look.

“Message me if you need me,” Darcy ordered. She jogged to catch up with the others. “Let’s get home, fast.” They didn’t speak until the five of them were safe within their home. They gathered in the kitchen, Mia pressing close to Darcy with an anxious expression.

Ash peered out the window. “What the hell’s got him so pissed off?” He flinched when another blast of lightning ripped through the sky.

“I believe I can answer that for you.” They all spun around, Mia shoved in the middle of them, and went for their weapons.

Adrian stopped just before he drew his daggers. “Mom?” The rest of them froze at the sight of Hestia in the doorway.

Just after Darcy had decided, 14 and raging against the world, to hate all of the gods without distinction, she met Hestia. The goddess of home, hearth, and protection had an honest smile and kind brown eyes that tempered the rage in Darcy’s heart.

She was beautiful like all other immortals, but where the other gods could change their appearance to achieve perfection, her natural looks seemed to be tied to the quiet beauty of her soul instead.

Hestia did not seek attention or recognition. Instead, she guarded the hearth of Mount Olympus and was a place of solace for the enthroned gods. While technically an Olympian as well, one deserving of her own seat of power, she relinquished her own throne and seat of power to Dionysus in order to resolve the dispute amongst the others.

Instead, her own power was enshrined within her realm- in hearth and home.

“Hello, Adrianos.” Hestia’s usual aura of peace was missing. The goddess, appearing as a young woman close to their own age, clutched her hands before her belly. Her dark ringlets of black hair were limp, her face pale. She addressed the room. “I’m afraid that I am the source of my brother’s rage.”

Darcy heard the others blurt stunned questions at the goddess. Her mind was too busy racing ahead, shooting through a thousand possibilities and outcomes.

“Adrian, break the Circle,” she ordered. The room fell silent for a moment. They all gaped at her.

“Are you crazy? Anyone could get in without it-” Ash kept a hand on Mia as he spoke.

Shay shook her head wildly. “We can’t risk-”

“Break it!” Darcy shouted. “If Zeus tries to follow Hestia here and finds out that a demigod can create a protection strong enough to keep out the King of Olympus, he will kill Adrian.” A colossal force pressed on her mind, like a headache but something else, something worse.

“Listen to Athena’s daughter,” Hestia said calmly. “Zeus will not let a demigod with my protective magic live. They would be too dangerous, seen as a threat to his power. He cannot know who is responsible for these wards.”

Adrian closed his eyes and murmured something in Ancient Greek under his breath. Darcy felt the Circle break like the snap of a twig- only much, much stronger. A concussive force blasted outward as the wards broke apart.

Only seconds later, Darcy wondered if she had just killed them all.

Zeus exploded into the room like a hurricane in mortal form. The force of his fury nearly drove Darcy to her knees. She gritted her teeth and stayed on her feet- she’d rather die than bow to anyone, much less the so-called King of Olympus.

“You have deceived us all, sister.” His voice was the rumble of a storm, the strike of lightning through a violent sky. He wore his black hair at shoulder-length, his grey-and-black beard neatly trimmed. His eyes, though, were an unnatural, electric blue. “You have deceived me. And now you try to hide?”

Hestia alone appeared unaffected by his anger. “I deceived no one, Zeus. Only offended your own pride, at worst.”

Zeus appeared to notice the careful way she stood in front of Adrian. “You swore to me that you never wished to marry. You swore to be a virgin goddess for eternity.” He glowered at Adrian. “You broke your oath, sister, and made me look a fool.”

He pointed at Adrian. Mia whimpered. Before she had even fully registered the threat in Zeus’s eyes, Darcy stood between them with her sword in her hand. Zeus blinked at her for a few tense heartbeats, stunned by her audacity. Ash and Shay, she noticed, had immediately flanked Adrian with their own weapons at the ready, Mia tucked behind them.

“You dare?” Zeus whispered, his rage so fierce that the sky trembled overhead. “You dare threaten me, child?” Electricity crackled over his body. He seemed only a moment away from killing her where she stood.

The forceful headache throbbed at Darcy’s temples. She realized a moment later that it was not Zeus’s power at the source, but her mother’s. A flash of light shattered the tension in the room.

Zeus abruptly dropped the threatening finger in Darcy’s face at the sight of Athena. The goddess stood behind her daughter like a beacon of strength, as angry as Darcy had ever seen her. To Darcy’s astonishment, Apollo and Hermes were there also, standing with their respective children.

“Angry as you may be, Zeus,” Athena said tightly. Her tone was colder than ice, and positively dripping with a vicious fury. “That alone does not give you leave to murder one of my children.” Darcy shivered at the threat in Athena’s voice.

“Or mine.” Apollo frowned at Zeus. His skin was a rich brown, with golden hair so bright it appeared to be a halo of curls around his head. Mia stared up at him in awe. Even as angry as Apollo was, he noticed and winked down at Mia, letting her stand safely behind him. 

“You would stand against me?” Zeus asked dangerously. His rage was rising again, Darcy thought, and took strength in Athena’s presence.

“We protect the lives of our children, as we all swore to do,” Hermes reminded him.

“Your children commit treason,” Zeus growled. “By defending that abomination, and by raising their swords against the King of Olympus!”

“We didn’t vote for you,” Darcy muttered. Athena placed a hand on her shoulder. She took the hint and shut up.

“Stand aside,” Zeus commanded. “They must be punished.”

A woman’s voice curled from the shadows like sweet smoke through the air. “Would you risk turning us all against you, Zeus? Should you kill our children, you will bring a civil war right to your own doorstep.”

Hecate, the goddess of magic, necromancy, and the night- among many other things- materialized in the crowded room.

Athena practically radiated satisfaction behind Darcy. She glanced suspiciously back at her mother, who just gave her a subtle smile.

Hecate was tall and regal, draped in a purple dress of velvet that rippled as if the cloth was spilling ink into the air. Her night-black hair was pulled into a high, smooth ponytail, and a polecat crouched on one shoulder. For a moment in Darcy’s vision the goddess’s form blurred and formed three smoky images of the same woman moving in unison. It was a dizzying sight until the forms merged and solidified again. Hecate shot Darcy a curious glance but addressed Mia.

“Come, daughter.” Mia inched her way across the room as the other demigods sucked in a surprised breath. The little girl’s eyes were as round as saucers. She joined her mother, patted the black dog that sat at Hecate’s side, and reached up to hold the goddess’s hand.

Hecate stared down at her for a moment, bemused, before turning her attentions back to Zeus. “Tread carefully, Zeus. You may be the King of Olympus, but even you could not stand against us all.” By that, Darcy quietly wondered if Hecate meant all the other gods- or just the five standing here.

“Hestia has betrayed none of us,” Athena said sternly. “We simply never thought to consider her powers or existence beyond Mount Olympus. I suspect her children are born in a similar fashion to mine.”

At Athena’s questioning look, Hestia nodded. “My children come from my heart. My heart, and that of a mortal who desires a home and a child. It surprised me more than anyone when they were born.”

There was a heavy beat of silence. Zeus, breathing hard, appeared to have heard nothing past Hecate’s threat. “You are hereby banished,” he told Hestia, “from Mount Olympus. For your deception, and the deliberate secrecy of your crimes.” Hestia paled and raised a trembling hand to her mouth.

Apollo inhaled sharply. “You can’t-”

“I am the King of Olympus!” Zeus bellowed. “I answer to none!” With a mighty crack of thunder, he vanished.

The ensuing quiet was horribly oppressive. “What a dick,” Ash said shakily.

Hermes touched his son’s shoulder. “Careful,” he warned. “He is all-seeing, all-hearing. Do not offend him further tonight, or we risk ruination.” The messenger god was lean with seemingly average features. His eyes, though, were a brilliant, unnatural green.

Hecate’s eyes glittered dangerously. “He will not move against us. Not yet.”

“There is too much at stake,” Athena agreed. “And he cannot chance another civil war. Not while he is uncertain of where loyalties lie.” She glanced at Hestia. “But, to be safe…”

Hestia swallowed past her shock at Zeus’s proclamation and nodded. She touched Adrian gently on the chest with a fingertip. They all felt a rush of air as the Circle reformed. “I have tied it to you, Adrianos. Your home is protected once more.”

“He did the first one?” Hecate asked curiously. “You created the first Circle?” Adrian nodded warily. “Fascinating. Such power from an unexpected place. No wonder Zeus is so angry.”

Hecate was a third generation Titaness, Darcy recalled. One who resented not being honored by the demigods and being ignored by the Olympian gods despite her years of faithful service. She was refused a seat in the hall of power, and as a result supported Kronos in the Second Titan War against the Olympian gods.

Her grudge against Olympus allegedly dissolved when her children were given their own place at Camp Half-Blood. Before Percy Jackson negotiated on behalf of all demigods, many demigod children went unclaimed their whole lives. They were shoved into Hermes’s cabin, as he was the least likely to take offense. Now her children had their own home, and she a place of honor with the rest.

“How did he find out?” Adrian whispered. “We’ve been so careful.”

“Zeus received a message with the information,” Hestia said tiredly. “I was at the hearth on Mount Olympus when it arrived. Whoever sent it knew that I have three children with… special abilities.”

Athena studied the goddess of magic with predatory focus. “You have plotted against Zeus in the past, Hecate.”

“This was not my doing,” Hecate said grimly. She was evidently unashamed of her past crimes against Mount Olympus. “Now that I am required to claim my children, they are a target for Zeus’s retribution.” Her eyes drifted to Mia. “So many of my children were lost, captured, and worse in the Second Titan War. I will not risk their lives in another meaningless power scheme for Mount Olympus.”

Hecate looked up and studied the other gods in the room. “And you? Every one of you standing against the King of Olympus? That seems rather ambitious.”

“Already we fracture,” Hestia whispered. They all turned to look at her.

“Mom?” Adrian asked gently. He touched her arm, his dark eyes worried. “What’s wrong?”

When Hestia only stared into empty space, Athena explained. “Hestia is the true twelfth Olympian. When she surrendered her throne to prevent a war between the gods, her own power went to the hearth. She is the sole guardian of Mount Olympus. She alone protects our home.”

“Holy shit,” Darcy whispered. “Zeus just banished his only line of defense?”

“Arrogant, as always,” Hecate muttered.

Hermes sent her a sharp look. “And this time it may be the end of us all. Without Hestia guarding Mount Olympus, we are open to threats that we cannot even see coming.”

“And,” Apollo added, his arms crossed over a muscled chest, “none of us can truly fight in Hestia’s presence. She mediates even the worst tempers. She has kept us from civil war thousands of times, just by being in the same room as us. Without her, Mount Olympus becomes a powder keg.”

Shay looked between the gods. “So what now?”

Adrian stiffened. “Mom, what about-”

“Your siblings are safe,” Hestia told him. “I warned them first, as I knew you would be the safest until I found you. Kaori and Thais know the dangers, and how to remain hidden.”

“So whoever sent that message to Zeus knew about all three of your kids,” Darcy said thoughtfully. “Who knew about them, besides Hermes?” None of the other gods looked surprised by his knowledge. He knew many of the gods’ affairs, but he also knew the value of secrets.

“I did,” Athena admitted.

Hestia whipped her head around to stare at her in shock. “You knew? And you told no one?”

“My daughter began to regularly disappear from my sight,” Athena explained. “The first time, I tracked her down. I believed another god had taken her. But then I saw your son and the magic he’d created, and I understood.”

Hestia still appeared shocked beyond words. “Your heart and your body are your own, sister,” Athena said finally. “Not even the King of Olympus may command either. As your children did not concern him, I chose to remain silent.”

Darcy’s mother turned away, even as Hestia’s eyes filled. Perhaps Athena was uncomfortable with the gratitude on the other goddess's face. “Our hands are tied, Darcea.” Darcy cringed but didn’t protest. “The gods cannot intervene in this matter, or we risk a war within Mount Olympus. Zeus will already be enraged by the insult we delivered him tonight.”

“I understand,” Darcy said quietly. She saw where this was going, had seen it from the moment Hestia appeared in their house.

“Then choose your companions.” Traditionally, quests were made up of three demigods; a lucky number, and a tradition she shouldn't buck, not this time at least.

Darcy glanced at Adrian, then to Mia, and back to him. He appeared momentarily frustrated before giving in with a nod. They had made a promise to each other in the beginning: Mia came first. He would keep her safe while the others hunted. Hecate observed the exchange with an unreadable expression.

“Shay? Ash?” She could think of no one else she wanted at her side for this dangerous mission. Other than Jane, of course, but Hephaestus’s daughter would be too close to the tower for her to help. Besides, Darcy always liked to have an ace or two up her sleeve.

Shay and Ash both nodded their acceptance without hesitation. Their fathers looked on with quiet pride in their children’s bravery.

“Darcea Athana,” her mother’s voice boomed through the house. “Do you accept the quest laid before you?”

Darcy took a deep breath, and spoke the words she’d sworn to never say. “I accept this quest.”

“You cannot fail,” Athena said with urgency. “You must find out who is behind this. We cannot help you, not directly. Not while Zeus watches us so closely. But I can help you now, while we are all hidden from his sight.” She opened her hand to offer a slender rope of Imperial Gold.

Darcy reached for it and nearly screeched when it uncurled itself; the rope was in fact a tiny golden snake. It flicked a barbed tongue at her in greeting and wrapped itself twice around her wrist. The head of the snake rested happily atop her arm with glinting red eyes. The tail curled around to settle below the heel of her hand.

Athena stepped back and motioned for Darcy to touch the creature. She obeyed, surprised to find that it had hardened into metal on her arm. She was even more surprised when a massive shield exploded out of the bracelet. She almost dropped it on Athena’s foot; Ash muffled a laugh.

“Holy-” Darcy staggered under the unexpected weight and then straightened. She held it aloft and looked at her mother with appreciation. “This shield is god-touched.”

“This is a small piece of my own shield,” Athena told her. “And yes, I blessed it first. You will need every advantage you can get in this quest.”

Hermes politely cleared his throat. “As witness to the quest and parent of a member, I also offer a gift.” He unfurled a scroll and tore several square pieces from it. He handed one to every demigod in the room. “For messages between you. I worry that Iris messages are unsafe; others may be watching them. None but the five of you will be able to read the messages written on these pages.”

“Like texting, but with paper,” Ash said, impressed. He noticed Shay’s judgmental expression and grumbled at her. “I know what letters are, Shay. That’s not what I meant.”

Apollo raised a hand. Sunlight swirled around his fingers for several seconds, painfully bright in the dim room. When it faded, he revealed thin golden chains that dripped over his hand. Shay accepted the first one and, at his direction, touched it to her neck. The chain of sunlight brightened again as it lengthened into a necklace, then faded to a muted shade of gold. It rested between her collarbones in the hollow of her neck, and bore the shape of a rising half-sun with rays of light extending from it.

“Snap one of those rays off, shake it- like a glow stick, aren’t humans so clever?- and you’ll have twelve hours worth of light.” The others accepted their chains, impressed.

Hecate watched as Mia’s necklace settled against her skin. She reached down to touch the dog at her side. “You’ll need a defender.”

“Um.” Ash shifted on his feet, apologetic. “I’m allergic to dogs?”

Hecate sighed and waved a hand over the dog. It shrank before their eyes, form blurring until a small black cat sat in its place. It chirped at Mia and stretched up in a request to be held. Mia was thrilled to comply. She held the little cat aloft, stared deeply into its purple eyes, and announced, “Her name is Nyx.”

Everyone else winced. “Ah. Mia...” Darcy started. Nyx was the deadly, vicious goddess of night. She probably wouldn’t appreciate a demigod child naming a teeny tiny cat after her.

Hecate huffed a laugh. “It’s alright. Nyx and I have an… understanding. This will likely only amuse her.”

“That’s not much better,” Apollo muttered. Hermes grimaced in agreement.

“Your guardian here is more than she seems,” Hecate said ominously. “She will be adequate protection, even should you encounter the Minotaur again.”

“Perhaps we can re-route a few monsters to avoid that,” Hermes mused. “Technically it won’t be interference if I decide someone in southern California should meet him.” Ash grinned in appreciation.

Athena spoke to Hestia. “We will do our best to ensure Mount Olympus remains standing until Zeus reinstates you. I will be in touch by morning- we must hide you, sister, until Zeus is less likely to lash out in his anger.” She turned to Darcy. “Work fast, Darcea. If this plan succeeds and the gods should fall, so will the rest of the world.”

In the next breath, the gods were gone save for Hestia. Darcy stared at the others in horrified silence of the room as the cat’s purring reached an alarming decibel.

“What the hell have we been dragged into?”

Chapter Text

Eventually, they all trickled off to bed. Hestia remained in the kitchen, the heart of their home, and stared off into space in the dim, quiet room. Adrian only shook his head when the others might have approached her. Mia had already crashed; Ash carried her and their new companion up to her room.

Darcy lay awake in her own bed. She stared up at her ceiling and tried not to panic. It didn’t work. She took deep, even breaths, a familiar exercise that slowed her heart rate back to normal. Gradually, she dropped off to sleep- and straight into a nightmare.

No. Not a nightmare.

A memory.

The air smelled of fire and smoke. Trees were singed all around them, though the danger was hundreds of feet up the mountain. Darcy heard the heavy coughs of her companions as they fought to catch their breath in the smoke-tinged air.

The Fourth Roman Cohort sat together, leaning against the trees of the dark forest. It was cold, this close to the mountaintop, and she had to suppress a shiver. Heads hung low in exhaustion all around her. The few gifted healers in the unit, all Apollo’s children, made rounds to assess the various injuries.

They ate when they could stomach it. Most were catching sleep while they could, a light doze while still maintaining awareness of the nearby threat.

Weapons rested within easy reach as they slumped against each other. Their armor felt like a thousand pounds after three straight days of fighting, but it was a necessity.

Further up the mountain, something roared loud enough to shake the trees. The cohort exchanged weary, worried looks. Some glanced at Darcy, waiting for orders. She shook her head. “They’ll let us know if we’re needed again," she said, referring to the other cohorts that had replaced them on the front lines. "Just rest.”

Shay picked her way through the scattered demigods. She crouched at Darcy’s side, careful to avoid stepping on her sword. Her voice was low in Darcy’s ears, hoarse from days of shouting commands. “We can’t keep this up.”

Her face was streaked with dirt and blood; her eyes red-rimmed. She’d been to check on their grievously injured legionnaires, transferred to the healers’ tent near the base of the mountain. Darcy met her eyes in question. Shay looked away and shook her head.

Devastation gripped her. Another one dead, then. More kids lost to a war started by the gods. And where were they? She wondered bitterly. Certainly not on the mountain with their children. She opened her mouth to ask who-

and then the fire drake exploded into the clearing.

The fight itself was a blur. Fear was stomped down, shoved out of the way by determination and the knowledge that this beast could slaughter them all if they weren’t careful. Her unit was caught out of position, their fighting unit fractured.

But they were the Fourth Cohort, battle-hardened members of the Twelfth Legion Fulminata, the last of the once great Roman army. The fire drake died with Shay’s sword in its throat and Darcy’s through its eye. It bore dozens of deep wounds from the rest of the unit. Breathing hard, Darcy looked around to praise her cohort.

The bodies on the ground stopped her cold.

She saw Kallias, Phaedra, Sara, all horribly still. “Vic,” she rasped. One of their healers dropped her sword and moved instantly towards the fallen.

But the dream changed. Suddenly it was Shay lying dead on the ground, then Ash and Adrian and Mia in crumpled, lifeless heaps all around her. Her family, dead or dying. And Darcy forced to watch. Unable to save them.

She woke with a strangled breath, too well trained to let the sound escape fully. But she wasn’t at war anymore, didn’t have to remain utterly quiet.

Tears streamed down her face. She sat up and impatiently swiped them away. Her sword had appeared at some point during the dream, called by her fear. It glowed softly in the dark room. Darcy took comfort from the familiar feel of the weapon.

Her hands were still shaking, she noted. Trembling like a leaf on the wind. Images from the nightmare swam back to the surface of her mind. Suddenly, Darcy stood with her sword in hand. She’d do what she always did after a bad dream or memory.

Ash was still awake in his room, reading through a stack of books in Ancient Greek with his back to the door and music thumping through his headphones. She left him undisturbed. They all handled their trauma differently.

Shay’s room was empty, but her sword and bow were gone from their usual resting places. She’d be in the basement, then, beating the shit out of something or doing her own rounds. The presence of so many gods in their house earlier, along with Zeus’s threats, shattered the sense of safety the house had always provided them.

Adrian and Mia’s rooms were across from each other at the end of the hall. Adrian’s door was cracked just far enough that she could see him asleep inside, safe in his room. Mia was curled into a tiny ball in her bed, buried under a mountain of blankets. A small, dark shape blinked bright purple eyes at her from its place on Mia’s head.

Reassured, Darcy slid down the wall outside Mia’s open door. No reason she couldn’t stand guard, she told herself. This wasn’t irrational behavior, she tried to justify, not if the threat to their safety was real. It was just a bonus that Adrian’s room was so close. She could watch over them both this way, could guard the heart of their little family.

She drew her knees up, propped her elbows on them. Both hands gripped the pommel of her raised sword in between her legs, point to the floor. Her head dropped after a while, exhaustion seeping in. But the sound of quiet footsteps only minutes later had her alert, her body tensing in preparation for an attack.

Shay rounded the corner and slowed at the sight of Darcy on the ground. Her mouth twisted in sympathy. “You, too?”

Darcy shrugged a shoulder. “I think I’m starting to wear a dent in the floor, I’m here so often.” She kept her voice at a low murmur, careful not to disturb the others. Shay took a seat across from her, outside Adrian’s room. Her own sword was disguised as a harmonica, which she fiddled with absently.

“Paranoia, hyper-vigilance, nightmares,” Shay listed. “We’re a regular hot mess.” Darcy huffed a laugh. They sat in silence until her body went numb and cold. Sharp pains and aches made themselves known, but she didn’t move. Some things were more important.

Pain was temporary. Loss was not.

Adrian’s door cracked open after some unknown period of time. “Again?” He rasped, rubbing tiredly at his eyes. “It’s four in the morning. How long have you been out here?” They just blinked up at him and said nothing. “Fine,” he sighed. “Come on.” He opened his door wider and then moved to help Darcy stand.

Shay went across the hall to collect Mia, who grumbled sleepily but didn’t wake as they moved her to Adrian’s king-sized bed. Darcy and Shay climbed in, both on the side closest to the door. Only minutes later Shay tensed, then relaxed again.

“Room for one more?” Ash asked from the doorway. He shifted between his feet and rubbed the back of his head. Adrian wordlessly moved closer to Mia, offering Ash a place beside him.

With all of her family safe in one place- and a goddess monitoring the house downstairs- Darcy finally relaxed enough to sleep.

~*~  

“Where do we start?” Ash asked late the next morning. He sat cross-legged on the counter in sweatpants and a too-big shirt that slipped down one shoulder, sipping overly sweetened coffee from a mug. “How do we find the source of all this?”

Darcy finished her Iris message to Jane that said only that she was sick and needed the day off. If Iris messages were being watched, they’d have to be very careful with what information was shared through them.

At the table, Mia climbed into Adrian’s lap. He caught a bony elbow to the head as she tried to get comfortable and took it with good humor. He wrapped an arm around the little girl to keep her steady and propped his chin up on her head, looking to Darcy in askance.

She barely noticed, too busy staring thoughtfully at the serpent bracelet winding around her wrist. It blinked slowly at her when she skimmed a finger over its golden head. “The message,” Darcy finally decided. “We need to know who found out about Hestia’s kids, and why they decided to tell Zeus.”

“How?” Shay asked. She flipped a couple pancakes onto a plate and passed it to Ash. Mia’s came next, riddled with chocolate chips and in the shape of a cat. Nyx watched them reproachfully from atop the fridge.

Adrian suddenly jerked as if he’d been struck. “There’s a god outside,” he said tightly. They all turned to stare at him. Shay and Darcy reached for their weapons after a shared glance, assuming the worst.

Hestia appeared in the doorway. “It’s Aphrodite.” She cocked her head in thought. “I believe it’s safe. Athena did say she would send someone.” Adrian looked to the others for approval. With their nods of acceptance he closed his eyes, holding Mia close, and opened the Circle so the goddess of love could swan into the house.

Aphrodite was grace incarnate, her presence so overwhelming that it took Darcy’s breath away. She changed appearance in between blinks, shifting ethnicity and height and weight so fast Darcy could barely keep track. Each form was devastatingly lovely.

Her eyes, a myriad of swirling colors, scanned the room with great interest. They came to rest of Hestia last. Aphrodite clucked in sympathy. “You poor thing.” She drifted across the room to cup Hestia’s face in her hands. “I certainly heard Zeus’s temper tantrum, but I didn’t know the reason for it until Athena found me.”

“Athena?” Hestia still seemed a little lost, deeply wounded by her banishment.

“Am I not the goddess of love?” Aphrodite asked, her voice a ringing of wind chimes on a gentle breeze. “Even Zeus bows to love, my dear. I am therefore not only the oldest of us all, but also the most powerful. For I can influence even the King of Olympus. He would not dare threaten me.” She chuckled softly. “He is afraid of the answer to the question he cannot bring himself to ask.”

“She’s scary,” Mia whispered, and huddled closer to Adrian.

Aphrodite turned. “I’m sorry, little one. I forget myself.” She smiled at them and the tension brought from her earlier words dropped away. “Ah, one of Hecate’s. You’ll be trouble for certain. I approve.” She winked, even as Mia shrank away from her.

Darcy cleared her throat, drawing the attention away from Mia. “You’re going to shelter Hestia?”

“She’ll be plenty safe with me,” Aphrodite assured her. “Even if Zeus dared move against me, he would force others to… retaliate.” Because she was married to Hephaestus, Darcy remembered, and having an extended affair with Ares. Zeus probably wouldn't risk pissing off Ares, though Hephaestus regarded his marriage to Aphrodite distaste and apathy. Darcy couldn't blame him- hard to be happy when the King of Olympus forced you into marriage as a punishment and humiliation for your new wife. 

Aphrodite cocked her head and studied Darcy. “Hm. You are lovely, for one of Athena’s. And such promise.” She was suddenly closer. Darcy took a careful step back as excitement burned wild in her eyes. “Oh, what a life you will lead. I could help you some, in the love department.” She smiled winningly.

Oh, hell. “I appreciate the offer,” Darcy said cautiously, “But I prefer to handle romantic relations without celestial interference.”

“Such pretty words to reject of a goddess’s offer,” Aphrodite said with a beautiful pout. She was unhappy. And unhappy gods were dangerous gods. Darcy swallowed hard; offending the goddess of love could result in a vicious curse, or far worse. If she was truly insulted, which her now-vibrant pink eyes suggested…

There was a flash of light overhead. They all flinched, save for the two goddesses. A pure white owl feather drifted slowly to the ground. Everyone stared at it for a long moment until Aphrodite sighed.

“Oh, fine. I’ll leave your little spawn alone, Athena.” She eyed Darcy, “I suppose if you won’t even cooperate for your own mother, I had little chance. A pity. That would have been fun. And your love life will be so very interesting.”

“I hope not,” Darcy said faintly. She certainly didn’t want the goddess of love hovering over her shoulder. She had enough problems as it was.

“Mortal love lives will keep me entertained for now. That program, The Bachelor?” Aphrodite shook her head. “Terrible show. I’m positively enthralled. Humans are so messy, and so susceptible to my influence. It’s delightful.”

She took in the demigods’ baffled stares. “Oh, right. You can’t use mortal technology. A shame.” She returned to Hestia’s side. “Well, little sister, it’s time we got you to safety. You’ll like my new place- lots of marble. There’s a swan pool in the foyer, it’s lovely.”

Hestia looked to Adrian. “Be safe. I will check on you soon.”

“Be safe,” Adrian murmured back. The goddesses disappeared.

They stared at each other in the ensuing silence. “Who knew that she was so…”

“Crazy?” Shay suggested.

“Dangerous,” Darcy said, unsettled. Everyone tended to dismiss Aphrodite- she and Ares were caught in very public traps by Hephaestus on a regular basis, a humiliation tactic that served as revenge for their ongoing affair. And besides, ‘goddess of love’ just didn’t sound very threatening.

“Scary,” Mia said firmly.

Adrian kissed the top of her head. “She was scary. You were very brave, though.”

“So,” Ash said. “Back to the quest. How are we going to find out-” A knock at the front door interrupted him. “Oh, for fuck’s sake. What now?”

“Swear jar!” Mia chirped. She pointed to the overflowing jar on top of the fridge- Mia’s ice cream fund. Ash grumbled but stuffed a drachma in it as Shay went to check the door.

“Yeah, what do- Oh.” Ash and Darcy exchanged a look when Shay’s voice cut off in surprise. “It’s you.”

“It’s me.” There was a pause. “Are you going to let me in, or should we stand out here all morning?” The female voice was amused.

Shay’s voice was unexpectedly soft when she spoke again. “Right. Yeah, sorry. Come in.” She returned to the kitchen, leading an Asian girl with a heavyset, muscled build and a gold stud in her nose. Her ears were pierced from top to bottom and she wore her hair shaved on one side. On the other, hair dyed a rich maroon fell to her jaw.

The Roman daughter of Mars smiled at Darcy. “Heard you’re neck-deep in trouble. Again.” The previous centurion of the second cohort wore a black skirt and combat boots. Her white shirt was loose underneath a purple leather jacket, one that hid the SPQR tattoo on her left forearm, marked with twelve bars.

“Marley.” Darcy hugged her. “Amelie said you were in town.” Shay leaned against the counter near Ash and crossed her arms, oddly quiet. Her eyes never left Marley’s face. Adrian watched Shay in return out of the corner of his eye.

“Your hair is cool,” Mia piped up. She peered up at Adrian. “Can I dye my hair pretty colors?”

“We can discuss it later,” he murmured.

Marley smiled down at Mia. “Thank you.” She glanced at Darcy. “I have something that I think can help you with your quest.”

“How’d you hear about the quest?” Ash wondered.

“My dad.” Marley shoved both hands into her pockets at the mention of the god of war. “Mars said I would be needed.” Mars, Ares’s Roman counterpart, was not one of Darcy’s favorite gods. He represented the violence and savagery of war, none of the strategy and cunning that Athena was known for. If he didn’t revel in slaughter quite so much, maybe she’d appreciate him more.

Doubtful. Dude was an asshole.

“You said you have something that could help,” Darcy said. “What is it?”

Marley sat at the table with a sigh. “Information. Or at least where to find it.” She flicked a brief glance at Shay, as if unable to help herself. “I started a company a couple years back after I left camp. Security for hire, bodyguard work. Mostly for celebrities and musicians or whatever, but sometimes demigod parents reach out for help getting their kids to camp safely.”

“And one of these demigods might know something?”

“One of my clients,” Marley said carefully, “is someone with a very… special occupation.” She scowled. “It’s against my policy to distribute information on any client, just so you know. But dad told me what happened.” She looked curiously at Adrian.

“I’m a son of Hestia,” he confirmed quietly. “And Zeus tried to kill me last night because of it. And then the others, too, when they stood up for me.”

“He banished your mother?” Marley asked intently. “She’s truly out of Mount Olympus?” He nodded. She sat back and sighed, forehead creased in a frown. “Then you have to work fast. They’re vulnerable without her, left totally exposed. Does he have any idea what he’s done?”

“He’s too pissed off about his pride being insulted,” Shay said darkly. “And operating under the delusion that he owns Hestia.” Marley watched her quietly for a moment.

“Then you need to find out who told him,” she said finally. “I can help you with that.”

“Ares told you to help us?” Darcy asked doubtfully.

Marley flashed a grin at her. “Not Ares. Mars. Ares is still bitter that he lost to Athena in the Trojan War." Yeah, that checked out. "Mars is his Roman counterpart and presumably has no knowledge of the event.” She sobered and leaned in, back to business. “There’s a demigod in the city, Aya Al-Zayani. I did some security work at their apartment last winter.”

“And this Aya will help us how?”

“Aya deals in information of all kinds. Bring something worth knowing, and you will get your answer about the source of that message.”

“‘Something worth knowing’?” Darcy frowned. “I don’t give away secrets that aren’t mine. And I don't have anything useful to give, unless it's how Tony Stark takes his coffee." Ash looked at her, curious. "Which is basically any coffee that's not contaminated with motor oil.” Dum-E had intentions, though she wasn't sure if they were good or bad. The little bot tended to spike the drinks of an unsuspecting Tony with whatever he got his claw on. It was turning out to be a slight problem. Tony had only been rushed to Dr. Cho once. No one died. It was fine. 

Marley shook her head. “Then Aya won’t give you anything in return. That’s not how it works.”

“Give mine instead,” Adrian said. Darcy looked at him in surprise. He smiled ruefully at her. “Secret’s out, Darce. Those who haven’t heard already will soon. Might as well confirm it, if it’ll get us somewhere.”

“I don’t like making you a target.”

Adrian shrugged. “No one can get through one of my Circles. And I can make one anywhere, anytime. It’ll be okay, Darcy,” he said gently. “This should have happened a long time ago. Tell this Aya person who I am, and that I have protective abilities that not even Zeus can break through. That is worth knowing, isn’t it?”

Marley nodded, her dark eyes wide. “Oh, yeah. Aya will give you whatever you want, if you share that bit of information.”

Darcy hesitated. “Do it,” Adrian ordered. “We have to get to the bottom of this, Darcy, and fast. There’s no time to sit around arguing. It’s my decision, anyway.”

“He’s right,” Shay said. Ash nodded in agreement.

“Fine,” Darcy growled. “What’s the address? I have life-or-death secrets to go give away, apparently.” She took the proffered paper from Marley and stomped out the door to go meet Aya Al-Zayani.

Chapter Text

Darcy stood uncertainly outside one of the most expensive apartment complexes in New York City. She stared up at the penthouse, wondering how to go about this, when the doorman cleared his throat politely. He appeared to be trying to move her along.

She glanced down at her outfit. Black leggings and boots, a blue shirt that had seen better days, and a battered leather jacket didn’t exactly scream ‘high class.’ She squared her shoulders and approached the wary door guard. “I’m here to meet with Aya Al-Zayani. You can say Marley sent me.”

“And your name?” He asked politely.

“Darcy Lewis. We’re old summer camp friends.” She glanced over her shoulder, scanning the street as he stepped inside to make the call.

It only took a few seconds. “Miss.” He held the door for her and directed her to the elevators across the lobby. “Aya is expecting you.”

“Thanks.” She kept her expression neutral until she was in the elevator. The elevator required a key card swipe from the guard before it would start. “Swank,” she muttered, eyeing the high arched ceilings before the doors closed. She rode it all the way to the top floor, slightly nervous.

Aya’s penthouse was stunning. Open and bright, it boasted an incredible view of the city skyline through floor-to-ceiling windows that stretched along an entire wall. A large balcony with a small rock fire pit was visible through the glass, along with a veritable jungle of plants.

The interior was classy, understated in an elegant way that made it feel more like a home. Shallow stairs, the same black marble as the rest of the floor, led to a seating area with a massive, plush couch.

And in the center of the room stood a demigod. Aya was stunning, the kind of rare beauty that hardly seemed real. Skin a light brown, hair a silver-white color styled in an elegant undercut, Aya wore silk shorts and a loose red top. Darcy realized after a beat that she wasn’t sure if Aya identified as male or female- their features were expressive and alluring, but not distinctive either way.

Respectfully, Darcy said, “I’m sorry to drop in on you unannounced. You’re Aya Al-Zayani, correct?”

“I am.” Aya inclined their head and studied her. “Darcy Lewis. I’ve heard about you, you know.”

“I heard you know everything that happens in the city,” Darcy said with a shrug. “I bet I’m not nearly as interesting as what goes on in NYC.”

A smile tipped Aya’s full mouth. “Don’t be so sure about that.” Aya waved a hand, some of the tension Darcy hadn’t even noticed dropping away. “Please, sit.”

Darcy obeyed as Aya settled on the opposite side of the U-shaped couch. “I know why you’re here,” Aya said, crossing their legs. “I understand Marley sent you?”

“Marley suggested you might be a good starting point. She says you might be able to help us find out who sent an Iris message.”

“The message Zeus received last night.”

“Yes.”

“Why such interest?”

“Because whoever sent it knew about Hestia’s children.” Darcy saw a flash of interest cross Aya’s face. “Which is information I’m willing to share, if you agree to help me.”

“You would tell their secrets to a stranger?” Aya’s voice was merely interested, not even a hint of judgement in their tone.

Still, Darcy scowled. “No, I wouldn’t. But with their explicit permission, I agreed to share information for the sake of our quest. Whoever sent that message knew things we went through great pains to hide. And I believe that the message was just the beginning of whatever they have planned.”

Aya was contemplative for a moment. “I agree,” they said eventually. “And lucky for you, I thought it odd that someone sent such sensitive information to the notoriously bad-tempered King of Olympus.”

“You know who sent it?” Darcy leaned in, eyes on the other demigod’s face. “How?”

“I am a child of Aphrodite,” Aya said. “My father is a poet and professor at the City University of New York. But before that, he was a spy.”

“A spy?” Darcy repeated dumbly.

Aya smiled. “Yes. It sounds far-fetched, I know. But the government had an interest in him because his parents immigrated from Iran when they were young." An elegant shrug. "He agreed to work for them, at least until I was born. When I was little, he used to play games with me. Memory games, observation games, the kinds of games that built a foundation of skills that have kept me alive. He’d realized at some point in his… affair with Aphrodite that she was a goddess. Probably when I ended up on his doorstep months later. He knew I would need these skills to stay alive.

“Smart man.”

“Very,” Aya agreed. “The CIA released him from service somewhat reluctantly, and he’s content to live a perfectly boring life now.” The child of Aphrodite watched Darcy closely. “I only share this information, Darcy, because I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“Uh.” This could be an issue. She tried not to grimace. “From who, exactly?”

“Marley, whose judgement I trust implicitly. Amelie, and her son Luc, who was very excited to tell me about your battle with the Minotaur. A handful of others.” Aya flicked a glance at the fireplace. “They all say you’re trustworthy, if not reckless with your own safety. That you drop everything and rescue them from monsters whenever they call, no matter when or how often. That you would die to keep your friends and family safe.”

Darcy’s face was fire-engine red, her mouth open in surprise.

Aya only smiled and leaned forward to slide a piece of the tabletop aside. “A gesture of good faith.” Aya waved a hand over the pool of water inside. Darcy gasped quietly and leaned over to see better as a scene began to form.

A teenage boy with dark hair and malicious red eyes showed in the surface of the water. He wrote a short, abrupt note in Ancient Greek and spoke the words to call an Iris message. The note disappeared without any fanfare into the rainbow mist along with a golden drachma.

“Who is he?” Darcy breathed.

“His name is Deimos,” Aya said with distaste. “A minor god, but powerful nonetheless.”

“Minor god of what?”

“He is the god of terror. His power can affect masses of people at a time, inciting riots or worse. He is the offspring of Ares and Aphrodite. So, technically I suppose he’s my half brother.” The sheer dislike on Aya’s face stopped any personal questions Darcy might have asked.

“The son of Ares,” Darcy mused. “Is that why the god told Marley to be close by? Does he suspect Deimos’s involvement?”

“If he does, I highly doubt he would do anything to intervene. If the others find out about his son’s meddling, it would make him look…”

“Very bad,” Darcy concluded.

“Possibly even complicit,” Aya agreed.

Darcy sat frozen, her mind racing. Only when Aya shifted casually did she look up. “Right, sorry. My turn.” She braced her arms on her knees and met Aya’s steady gaze. “Hestia’s children have special protective and empathic abilities. I guess sort of like Aphrodite’s kids do?”

Aya hummed thoughtfully. “We can read emotions, and manipulate a few. Lust, desire, love.” Another skill Aya didn’t speak of, Darcy knew, was their ability to charmspeak. The magic of their words, when wielded correctly, could influence others into following commands without any knowledge or memory of the task. Some could resist, but the more powerful of Aphrodite's children were very, very dangerous.

“Hestia’s kids can read emotions, though I’m not sure to what extent. They can’t manipulate any specific emotion, other than a sense of peace that they can share with others through touch.”

“This is informative, Darcy, but nothing special. What had Zeus so concerned?”

“They can also create Circles, sheer protective magic, that nothing can break through. And by nothing, I mean nothing. Including Zeus.”

Aya’s eyes were wide. “A demigod is capable of this?”

Darcy nodded. “I saw it myself. He’s guarded our home for years- five demigods in one house, and we’ve never had a single monster track us down. And none of the four god parents can enter, either. Besides Hestia, but I’m pretty sure Adrian left her a loophole to get in.” She was the only truly trustworthy god, after all.

“This is incredible,” Aya breathed. “And from a goddess they’ve all dismissed as being unimportant. If her children can do this…”

“Then she’s even more powerful than they’ve ever realized,” Darcy finished gravely. “Maybe they’ll see her as a threat, I don’t know. But they all love her, every single one of them. She’s been their solace for millennia. Supported each one, been a touchstone for them all.”

“And now they’ve thrown their guardian from the tower,” Aya murmured. “This is very concerning. You should be very, very careful, Darcy. Whoever is behind this is smart- already, they’ve turned the gods against each other with nothing but a single note.”

“You don’t think Deimos is working alone?”

“I don’t think Deimos is capable of this sort of cunning otherwise. He’s certainly ambitious enough, but there’s no finesse to that power, and he’s never been particularly interested in improving his strategic abilities.”

“Yeah, I thought so too. He was the messenger here.” Darcy stood. “Thank you, Aya. I would never have known where to start without you.”

“You offered a fair trade, Darcy. Nothing to thank me for.” Aya hesitated, then added, “But if I learn of anything else that may be useful, I’ll let you know.”

Darcy’s surprise must have shown on her face, because Aya said, “This affects us all. I have a feeling if you don’t get to the bottom of it, Mount Olympus will tear itself apart, and we’ll be the ones to suffer for it.”

“I appreciate it.” Darcy walked to the elevator.

As the doors opened, Aya told her one last thing. “Darcy- you should know that Deimos has a twin brother. Phobos, god of fear. He’s the more dangerous of the two, and they’re never far apart.” Aya shook their head. “You’re going to need more help than two companions and my information. I would start looking for more support, and quickly.”

~*~

Aya’s words echoed in her head as she walked down the crowded sidewalk. Darcy shoved her hands into her pockets and chewed at her bottom lip in thought. Who could be behind this? Who benefited from this sort of plot? And where could she find more help- who did she trust enough to share this information?

The sky was clouded and a murky grey above. The air held a chill to it, as if a storm might break at any moment. She wondered if it were only her imagination that the city seemed to be on a tightrope, teetering from side to side. Primed to fall at any moment.

Halfway home, still in a busy part of the city, Natasha Romanoff fell into step with her.

“It took me a little while,” Natasha said thoughtfully. “But I think I’ve figured it out.” She wore muted red jeans and a navy v-neck shirt, as casual and unthreatening as any other passing woman. Darcy knew differently. She knew to be wary of the satisfied smile on the master assassin’s face.

“What is it that you’ve figured out?” Darcy asked calmly. She gripped the hairpin in her pocket and began to ease it out.

“I’m thinking… Pallas Athena.”

Darcy missed a step out of sheer shock. She cursed herself when Natasha smiled slyly. “How the fuck-”

“Oh, don’t worry. You’ve been very inconspicuous,” Natasha assured her. “You and Jane both. She belongs to Hephaestus, am I right? That barrier was something else.” She winked. “I just know what to look for.”

“Who have you told?” Darcy murmured, heart pounding. Could she take on the Black Widow and win? Not likely. But what choice did she have, if the woman tried to turn her over to whoever she answered to now?

Natasha sobered. “I have not given your secret away, milaya. I doubt anyone would believe me, anyway, even if I tried.”

“That’s…. really not reassuring. Was it supposed to be reassuring? Mostly I just feel threatened.”

“That wasn’t my intention,” Natasha said apologetically.

“What was, then?”

“Just establishing a connection. A common thread, if you will.”

“I won’t.”

Natasha huffed a laugh. “I make it my business to know the current events of the Greeks.” A man passing by gave them a confused glance. They ignored him.

“Such as?”

“Such as the King of Olympus’s terrible mood swings. And the price you probably have on your head for protecting something he wants.” She eyed Darcy, who’d remained silent. “Am I close?”

Begrudgingly, Darcy told her, “Yes.”

They walked in silence for a while. Darcy realized she had taken them in a circle, trying to keep the assassin away from her house. Natasha, likely aware of the detour and the reasons for it, didn’t protest.

“You should be grateful, milaya,” she said at last. Darcy sent her a questioning look. Natasha’s face was carefully even when she said, “The Russian deities are not so forgiving.”

Stunned, Darcy abruptly stopped walking. She stared after Natasha, who paused a few feet ahead when she realized Darcy was no longer with her. The crowds streamed around them both as if they weren’t there at all.

Natasha rejoined her and waited patiently. “You-” Darcy felt like she could barely think. “You’re a demigod?”

“I come from Russia,” Natasha said instead. Her mouth was drawn into a thin line. “My mother is Marena, a goddess of winter and death. Things are… very different, in Russia.”

“Do you have demigod camps like we do?”

The expression on Natasha’s face was chilling. “I suspect our camps are very different as well. We are taken from our human parents early, and forged into weapons meant to serve our country. We are taught ‘Sacrifice, Service, Loyalty’ from childhood, and expected to obey no matter the cost to ourselves.”

“You’re prisoners,” Darcy whispered. “They’ve made you all into assassins and spies.”

“They saw an opportunity,” Natasha told her quietly, “and they took it. But they have no power here, not with the Greeks reigning over America. My mother and those that trained me cannot touch me while I remain here.”

“So you’re safe?”

Natasha appeared bemused by this. She studied Darcy with an unreadable look in her eyes for a long moment, and then finally cracked a smile. “Safe enough.”

Darcy looked around, unsure of how to proceed. To her trepidation, she saw that they were near the Empire State Building. Mount Olympus rested high above the clouds; Zeus was likely brooding on his throne at this very moment.

Natasha leaned back to follow her gaze. “Right, your gods all share a throne room. So strange.”

“The Russians don’t?”

She snorted. “The Russian gods can’t stay within the same thousand miles without trying to kill each other. Cooperation is not something they understand, or have any desire to attempt.”

“Even for the greater good?” Darcy asked dryly.

“They don’t care about the greater good, only power. Power and who is in their way.” Darcy made a mental note to never visit Russia. “Though I do wonder-”

Suddenly, a sonic whistle sounded from overhead. Natasha immediately shoved Darcy to the ground. Darcy only had time to yelp in alarm before the city exploded above them.

Fire and heat rained down on them. Natasha covered Darcy with her own body, shielding her from the rubble until it slowed. Darcy came to her feet before the second explosion hit across the square. Then a third, this one louder than the rest. She heard screaming and saw panicked faces searching for the source of the explosions.

New York City was tough, though, and its people accustomed to violent attacks. They fought back the rising terror and worked together. Darcy saw people running for shelter, reaching out to carry the ones who stumbled, helping others evacuate the ruined buildings.

Darcy and Natasha turned to the building at their backs, the source of the first explosion. “Get the injured out,” Natasha ordered. “I’m going up to find the source.”

She disappeared into the building as Darcy moved towards the first trickle of survivors. As she helped the wounded limp into the relative safety of the street, she wondered if this was yet another supervillain attack.

A young man with a deep laceration on his leg collapsed to the ground nearby. Darcy moved immediately to help him, talking with a bright, calm tone to keep the panic from overwhelming him. She used his own flannel over-shirt to tie off the wound with confident, steady hands even as more injured people staggered around them. She worked on autopilot, moving from wounded to wounded.

Something nagged at her, though. Her instincts told her to look up, to look around at the crowds and the stalled traffic.

Her heart seemed to skip a beat at the sight of a red-eyed teenager watching the mayhem unfold from across the street. He caught her gaze a moment later and the malevolent smile on his face widened. She came to her feet, reaching for her sword, but he only smirked and disappeared.

She swore under her breath. No way to follow him, she told herself. But that answered her question- this was related to her own task.

There was a sudden cheer from the crowd. Iron Man rocketed by overhead, heading for the far building that appeared to be the least stable. The Falcon soared straight for the second building to catch a few people trapped on the higher floors before they fell from the unstable ground.

“Darcy!”

She whirled at the sound of Steve’s voice. Captain America, she corrected herself. For it was most certainly the Captain that stalked through the crowd with a dangerous expression, shield strapped to those broad shoulders.

A gentle touch at the small of her back signaled Bucky’s arrival. His black mask covered the bottom half of his face, a menacing sight but for the worried blue eyes that studied her.

Steve reached out and touched the small bloody scrape on her cheekbone. “Are you hurt?”

She shook her head. “No. I was with Natasha. She went up-” she pointed to the damaged building behind her- “to try and find the source. The first explosion was here, the second where Sa- Falcon is, and Iron Man’s at the third site.”

“Was there any warning? Any attacks after?”

“No. Just a… a whistle, like an incoming rocket, maybe?” Or a sonic whistle very much like the ones Apollo and his children were capable of producing. She’d deal with that possibility and all it entailed later.

Natasha dropped out of the gap in the building above, landing in a graceful crouch. “Sounded like it,” she agreed. Darcy noticed a comm device in her ear, which hadn’t been there earlier. She made a note to ask how the other woman avoided attracting monsters with the use of the tech. “But there was a device planted on the fourth floor of the third site, according to Clint. Stark should take a look at it. Maybe Foster, too. She’s good with strange tech.” She sent Darcy a significant look. Which meant… Shit.

“Emergency responders are setting up triage.” Clint joined them, bow strapped to his back. He looked Darcy over. “All right, Lewis?”

She smiled. “Not my first explosion. Or the worst, actually.”

Clint nodded gravely. “That’d be the particle responder, right?”

“Fucking Stark,” she grumbled.

“I heard my name.” Tony landed with a thud beside her, close enough that Bucky tugged her safely aside with a scowl in his direction. Tony turned to examine her. “You bleeding, kid?”

She glanced down at her clothes. They were soaked in other people’s blood. Her hands were worse. “Not mine.”

“Let’s get this started, then,” he told the rest of them. “Time for clean-up, and figuring out who the hell is responsible.” He took flight again.

The others started discussing where to start. Darcy studied her blood-soaked hands for a long moment. Now that the adrenaline had faded, she felt weak and shaky. A natural physical reaction, she reminded herself. But it felt worse than usual.

Deimos’s presence meant that whoever he worked for didn’t care about human casualties. They weren’t going to keep this between the gods and their children- anyone was a potential victim. This attack said that there were no lines they wouldn’t cross. That they were so unafraid of Zeus and the other gods that they staged an attack around their very home.

Which meant that Aya was right - this was bigger than what just three people could handle alone. She was going to need more help. And Darcy had a sinking feeling that she already knew who she’d have to ask.

Chapter Text

They were in the training facility when the alarm sounded. Steve rushed with the others to suit up; he fit a comm into his ear, courtesy of Maria Hill, and abruptly changed directions when Jarvis reported the location of the threat as too close to need the quinjet. He and Bucky headed for the garage instead.

They sped out of the below-ground garage on two motorcycles as Tony and Sam flew overhead. “Jarvis, is anyone taking credit for the attack?” Steve shouted over the wind.

“No, Captain Rogers. So far none of the usual suspects appear to be involved, either.”

Great. Probably some new maniac in town, here to try his luck against them. No matter how many heads he bashed together, there would always be more that came along. He might get tired of it, might even grow to resent it- if not for Bucky at his side.

They arrived on the scene too late to prevent any of the damage, but early enough to still feel the lingering panic of the crowd.

His heart damn near stopped at the sight of Darcy at the edge of the crowd- way too close to a blast site for his comfort. She was streaked with blood and ash. From the people she was helping, he told himself as he started towards her. Surely the blood wasn’t all hers.

“Buck.” Bucky followed his gaze and immediately started weaving through the crowd. People backed away from them both as they moved.

Steve watched Darcy as he approached, taking in the easy, casual way she knelt at young man’s side. He could tell by her face that she was keeping up a cheerful stream of chatter that distracted the wounded man, and even made him laugh at one point. Her hands were steady, moving in competent, practiced motions as she tied off the bleeding leg with expert precision.

That made him pause. And wonder once again where she’d been in those four years, if she knew how to assess and treat wounds of this degree without flinching.

“That’s it,” he heard her say over Bucky’s comm as his friend closed in, “You’re doing great, dude. This ain’t nothin’ but a scratch.” He saw her wink, friendly and unworried in a way that made the people around her unconsciously relax, and wanted to smile.

By the time he reached her she was standing, ready to move on to the next person. In the brief exchange between them that followed, Steve wondered at her composure. Somehow she’d remained clear-headed while half a building fell around her, enough to keep track of her surroundings and remember the small details. Unusual, for a civilian.

He stored that detail away for later consideration.

“Why don’t you go back to the tower?” He asked gently. She was staring at her bloody hands. He didn’t like the look on her face.

Darcy jerked her head up. “No way. They need help establishing triage, and getting people to it. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Okay, doll,” Bucky said before Steve could argue. “Just don’t overdo it. And get yourself checked out, too, you hear? If you were standing this close to the first explosion, you’ll need a medic to look you over.”

“Yeah, sure,” she said distractedly, looking around when someone cried out. “I’m going to go-” She pointed. Before they could step away, though, she turned back and grabbed Steve’s hand. “Wait. Can you... Can you both find me, after? There’s something I need to tell you. It’s important.”

He frowned at her deeply worried face and squeezed her hand. “Of course, Darce. Whatever you need.” He and Bucky watched as she nodded and then stepped carefully through the people on the ground until someone stopped her and asked for help.

“You think it’s about this?” Bucky murmured.

Steve glanced around. “I don’t know. Maybe she saw something else and doesn’t want to talk about it here. I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.”

~*~

Hours later, he and Bucky followed Darcy into her old, Victorian-style house. They’d walked her to the front door a handful of times but had never been inside until now. Steve took in the comforting atmosphere of the interior, the smell of something sweet baking down the hall, and wished he’d had time to peel his sweaty suit off first. He tried not to touch anything; his suit was a mess.

Bucky unzipped his tactical jacket. He removed his mask and wiped his face, streaking the ash and dirt onto the clean skin around his cheeks and mouth. He looked around, taking in the faded wallpaper and high, arched ceiling. Wall scribbles of a stick-figure family and other unidentifiable drawings at hip-height made them both smile.

“Mia,” Darcy said with a tired grin, noticing his attention. “She went through an art phase.”

As if summoned, the little girl appeared at the top of the stairs. She clutched Nyx to her chest, wearing a pink blanket tied like a cape around her neck. Her olive skin went pale at the sight of Darcy, who was still covered in blood.

“Darcy?” She asked in a small voice.

Darcy glanced down at herself and swore under her breath. “It’s okay, baby, it’s not mine.” Mia’s lower lip trembled anyway. Steve swallowed at the sight of the distraught little girl. Darcy angled herself out of the light and asked, “Can you go find everyone for me?”

“Okay.” Steve heard the patter of little footsteps as she ran out of sight down the hall. Seconds later, Adrian was standing at the top of the stairs, staring down at them. His eyes went to Darcy first, Steve observed, but he didn’t seem terribly concerned about all the blood.

Another thing to note.

“Darce?” He asked too calmly. Steve saw him gently nudge Mia back down the hall.

“We’re fine,” Darcy said. “I’ll tell you all in a minute.” She looked back at him and gestured for them both to follow her up the stairs. “Kitchen in twenty,” she told Adrian, who nodded grimly.

“You two can shower in my room,” Darcy said. She opened a door closest to the stairs. Steve couldn’t help but stare around the bedroom, unable to resist any insight to Darcy. In the center of the room, she had a queen-sized bed with a pile of soft blankets and approximately a million pillows. On one wall was a row of bookshelves; he frowned when the book titles all appeared to be in... was that Ancient Greek?

A white feather sat atop an old, huge wooden desk in the far corner. More books and a stack of papers cluttered the rest of the surface, along with spiral notebooks open to pages full of equations and illegible notes. The chair was wide and obviously well-used, hosting another fuzzy blanket and two pillows.

But the most impressive part of the room was the wall filled from ceiling to floor with faded off-white maps. Some were of places he recognized, some he’d even been himself. Others had geography he was familiar with but were marked with strange words and notes. Ancient Latin, he thought, and some Ancient Greek as well. All in the same handwriting as the open notebooks full of complex physics and god knew what else.

He and Bucky shared a subtle glance. Seemed their girl was full of surprises.

Darcy was shuffling around in the bathroom, opening and closing a few cabinets and muttering under her breath. After a second, she came back out and jerked a thumb over her shoulder. “Shower’s open. Towels are on the counter. Oh, and the faucet is backwards, by the way. Hot is cold, cold is hot. We’ve tried to fix it, the house just switched them again. It’s a thing.” She seemed to catch herself, paused her rambling. “I’ll try and find you two some clothes that’ll fit.”

“You shower first,” Steve said. She looked tired, he thought with a spike of worry. Dark circles under her eyes meant whatever it was that worried her went further back than today’s events.

She only shook her head. “I’ll use one of the other’s.” With a weary smile she slipped out the door, snatching a couple items of clothing off the bed as she left.

“You gettin’ as worried as me?” Bucky asked quietly.

“Oh, yeah.”

They took turns showering, knowing that when they did so together it tended to escalate into... more. Steve wrapped a towel around his waist and sat on the edge of the unmade bed as Bucky showered. He dug his toes into the plush white rug at the foot of the bed and stared sightlessly at the ground. His mind whirred along at top speed, trying to piece together all the information he’d picked up today. All those strange little details certainly pointed to something; he just couldn't figure out what. 

Darcy knocked on the door a couple minutes later and peeked her head in. “Natasha brought clothes for you guys,” she said, holding out a bag. Her hair was in a damp braid, the scrape on her cheek barely noticeable anymore. She was so pretty it was like a punch to the gut.

He stood to accept the bag and resisted a smug grin when her gaze wandered helplessly over his bare torso. Her eyes traced the path of a bead of water that rolled slowly down his chest. When she bit her lip, eyes drifting lower, Steve felt the first curl of heat low in his belly.

He stepped forward, eyes glued to her mouth, only for Bucky to step out of the bathroom and distract them both. He looked at Darcy out of the corner of his eye, wondering how she’d react to the horrific scarring around the other man’s prosthetic arm.

She only had eyes for his face, apparently as fascinated with Bucky’s mouth as Steve was with hers. Bucky looked momentarily startled by the charged atmosphere, pausing with a towel halfway to his wet hair.

“Hey, doll,” he said, eyes flicking between her and Steve with interest. “’M I interrupting?” He gave her a crooked grin when she cleared her throat and stepped back, cheeks flushed.

“Hell,” she said under her breath. Steve resisted the urge to laugh.

Bucky squinted at her when she fidgeted with her wrist. “That a new bracelet?”

To Steve’s curiosity, her face cleared of all emotion. But he’d been learning her for weeks now and saw past the mask. Panic, he read in the tightening around her eyes, then resignation in the slump of her shoulders.

“Yeah. I know you don’t like snakes, Buck, but this one’s special.” She smiled wryly. “Meet me downstairs? There’s... a lot you two need to know.”

Steve touched her gently on her jaw, not liking the way she dropped her eyes. Like she was afraid of something- of them, maybe. It pricked at him. Hurt, even. He’d thought she knew them better than that. Darcy looked up at them, blue eyes dark and worried. She stepped away and he had to fight not to pull her back; it felt too much like she was leaving them behind for good.

He shook himself. No time for melodramatic thoughts, he scolded himself. Darcy was upset, and waiting for them downstairs.

“Darce was with Natalia when the explosions happened,” Bucky said quietly, watching the empty doorway.

“You think Nat knows something?”

“I think it’s probable. She likes secrets too damn much to not know what has Darcy so upset.”

“Hm.” Steve gave that some thought as they walked downstairs. Sure enough, Natasha leaned against the counter in the kitchen, locked in a stare-down with a small black cat. She’d placed herself between them and the others in the room, he noted. It made him grind his teeth together.

Darcy looked up at their entrance. She rested at the beautiful wooden table in the center of the room, Mia in her lap and curled close. Shay sat at the head of the table, watching Steve and Bucky closely. Steve saw a flash of gold underneath the table near her leg and wondered what she had hidden.

Ash perched comfortably on the counter. Adrian stood next to him, arms crossed and a worried expression on his face. Whatever this was, whatever Darcy was about to tell them, everyone else already knew, Steve decided. And it worried them all that he and Bucky were about to find out. Afraid of their reactions, maybe?

Wary now, he pulled out the chair across from Darcy. “You wanted to tell us something?” He asked gently. Bucky took up a position against the wall at Steve’s back, too on-edge to sit.

Darcy skimmed a hand over Mia’s hair. “Mia, why don’t you go sit with the boys?” She prompted softly. Reluctantly, Mia slid off her lap and padded over to wrap her arms around Adrian’s waist. She peered anxiously at Steve and Bucky.

Darcy turned to them. “I have to tell you something, and it’s going to sound...” She released a laugh, the sound exhausted and not at all amused. “Insane. Totally beyond crazy. But more importantly, it’s going to be real. If you hear me out, I can even prove it to you. Well. Some of it.”

“Sweetheart,” Bucky started, reacting to the desperation in her tone, “look who you’re talkin’ to.”

Her laugh this time was more genuine. Steve leaned forward, reached across the table to grip her hand. She closed her eyes for a brief second. When she opened them, she was as serious as he’d ever seen her.

“What do you know,” Darcy asked, “about the gods of Ancient Greece?”

~*~

For a long few minutes after she’d finished her story, they could only stare.

“So, your mother is a....”

“Goddess, yes.”

“The Greek goddess Athena.”

“Right.”

“And the rest of the gods are here. In New York.”

Darcy grimaced apologetically. “They followed western civilization. As it expanded, the gods went where the people were. They rely on those believers to stay alive. They rely on us , really, and our belief in them.”

“The half-blood children.”

“Demigods.”

“And how are you involved?” Steve asked Natasha. His voice was unintentionally accusatory.

She raised an eyebrow at him, unimpressed. “I’m here to make sure you two believe her.” An exasperated look from Darcy, though, made her sigh and relent. “And also I am the daughter of a Russian goddess.”

The others in the room startled badly. Judging by the decibel of their questions, Darcy hadn’t shared that with them. And, Steve noted as he listened to the outcry, the existence of other gods made them nervous.

Which, fair. The existence of the Greek gods made him nervous.

Darcy reined in the others. “We can discuss the implications of this later! I’m kind of in the middle of something here!” She shouted over the noise. They quieted.

She turned back to Steve and Bucky, who had moved to the seat beside him. “The Mist that I mentioned, it’s an ancient magic that helps hide us and anything we do from the rest of the world.”

“The stick,” Bucky said, realization dawning. “You were the girl with the stick. Thought I was seein’ things.”

She winced. “Yeah, sorry about that. The Mist hid my sword from your sight, since you aren’t a demigod.”

“Sword?” Steve choked out. He tried not to look as dumbfounded as he felt.

In answer, Darcy turned to Mia. “Hey, kiddo.” Mia instantly moved to her side, eyes bright from all the excitement. “Remember what we practiced?” She glanced at the two men. “Mia’s mother is Hecate. She’s the goddess of magic, but also goddess of the Mist. Her kids can usually wield it better than any of the rest of us can.”

“I’ve been practicing,” Mia said solemnly. She was missing her top two teeth, Steve saw, and was all the more adorable for it. She scrunched up her little face in determination and gripped Darcy’s hand. The cat jumped onto the table to watch her with purple eyes and an unnaturally intelligent interest.

An odd feeling trickled over his skin. Beside him, Bucky made a noise low in his throat. Steve glanced at him, always in tune to Bucky's discomfort, only to see him staring at Darcy. Steve followed his gaze back to her and felt his blood chill. All of the room’s inhabitants, save for him and Bucky, had an odd sort of radiance, but what caught his attention rested below that faint shine.

Darcy’s short-sleeved shirt revealed an impressive collection of scars that marred her skin from fingers all the way to the very edge of her shirt. They were scattered over her body as if she’d spent a lifetime and a half fighting.

“What...” He looked at the dark-skinned girl down the table who watched him with wary eyes. Shay’s skin bore similar marks. Ash, across the room, had a fewer amount on his exposed skin- but still enough to speak of his own rough experiences as a demigod.

A flash of ink caught his eye. Steve reached over, slowly, to turn Darcy’s arm over. The inside of her left forearm bore a dark tattoo with the initials SPQR and a fierce-eyed owl. Four lines below caught his attention. He traced over them with a finger.

“Four years,” he murmured, everything finally coming together. Darcy looked up at him in surprise.

“Yeah. All the demigods in the Roman camp are given these.”

“Why?”

“They’re a mark of the last remaining legion of the once-great Roman army,” Shay said. “Demigod children are all that remains of it. And we still fight as such.” She stared down at her own tattoo. “Or we did.”

“They did,” Ash corrected. “I was in the Greek camp. We still fought plenty, but the Romans are stationed at the foot of Mount Tamalpais, which is actually Mount Othrys. They saw more fighting than Camp Half-Blood.”

“You fought at this... Mount Othrys for four years?” Bucky wondered. Steve saw both Darcy and Shay instinctively wince at the reminder.

“We don’t have to talk about it,” he reassured them. The women shared a weary glance.

“It’s okay.” Darcy sighed. “The fighting was mostly the last two years. A Titan tried to rise again, one that was buried underneath and stuck in Tartarus. It sent monsters to try and clear the way for him first.”

“What happened?”

“We held the line.” It was Shay who answered. She stared sightlessly at the table. “And we lost a lot of friends doing so.”

Steve oh-so-gently traced a few of the scars on Darcy’s arms. Marks that showed a life of war. The serum prevented scarring for him, and mostly for Bucky. He bet his own skin would look something like Darcy’s if it didn’t.

“Will this Mist thing mess with our heads again?” Bucky asked. His voice was even, but Steve could see the troubled expression his love tried to hide.

“No,” Darcy said immediately, apparently noticing the same thing. “Now that you’re both aware, the Mist won’t work against you unless a demigod wields it specifically against you. Which is possible, but not likely.”

“Why tell us, Darce?” Steve wondered. Why had she decided to share her secrets now? It wasn’t for personal reasons, which disappointed him more than he wanted to think about. Something else was going on, something that made her feel as though she had no other choice. He had a sinking feeling it was about to get much worse.

Darcy took a deep breath. And then she explained the current political standings of the Greek gods, the looming threat, and proved him horribly, horribly right.

Chapter Text

They were taking this way better than she’d expected. Adrian sent her a look, I-told-you-so written all over his face. She rolled her eyes at him and returned her attention to Steve and Bucky.

“We can’t show you proof of a god,” Darcy said. “They don’t exactly come when called.”

“Usually wiser to not call them anyway,” Ash muttered, hands shoved into his pockets.

“Ever,” Shay agreed.

“But,” Darcy said as if the others hadn’t spoken, “we can show you some of the things that we can do, as demigods.” She slid the hairpin out of her braid. “We can’t exactly go running around with a sword all day long,” she explained. “But if we’re caught without a weapon when a monster comes after us... Well, you get the idea.”

“I do,” Steve murmured, eyes on her scarred arms.

She stood and backed away from the table. “But we’re able to disguise some of our weapons. They’re forged from materials specifically designed to kill monsters.” She twisted her wrist sharply to the side. The sword hummed to life in her hand between one blink and the next, glowing softly.

“Huh.” Bucky leaned forward, fascinated. She twisted her wrist again to shrink it again, and then flipped it longways to catch the wicked-looking spear that formed.

Darcy reached for her bracelet and tapped the snake. The shield burst forth, heavy and reassuringly thick. Steve stared at her in astonishment. “Hell, doll. That’s a good look on you.” She smiled and let both weapons shrink again.

“We all have extensive weapons training,” she told them. “Shay is a daughter of Apollo, who is the god of archery, among other things. Ash is a son of Hermes, and pretty damn good with his knives. Our time at camp- both of them- was spent learning the skills we would need to survive.”

Mia stood on her tiptoes to peer out the kitchen window. “Look, Marley’s back!” Adrian caught her around the waist before she could go flying out of the house.

“Stay inside, Mia.”

“But the Circle!” She protested.

“The one around the house is strongest,” he reminded her. “Better that we stay out of Zeus’s sight for a while longer.”

“Darcy went out,” she grumbled.

“Darcy is leading a quest assigned to her by Athena. Zeus won’t interfere. It’s not allowed for a god to directly interfere with a quest.” Her mother had bought her more than time- she'd also bought Darcy a modicum of safety from the other gods. At least for now.

Marley’s entrance interrupted Mia’s next argument. The daughter of the war god paused at the new arrivals. “Huh. I leave you alone for just a couple hours and suddenly you have half the Avengers in your house.” She sent Darcy a mildly impressed look.

“Uh. Yeah, about that.” Darcy grimaced. “I pulled them in.”

Marley sobered. “That was probably a good idea.” She saw Darcy’s surprise and pulled a page from her jacket. “I went to check the explosion sites, to see what I could find.”

“And?”

“And I ran into Aya, who was ghosting around the place too.” She passed it to Darcy, grim. “We have a problem.”

“We already have a problem,” Ash said desperately.

Marley rolled her eyes. “Well, now we have a bigger problem. All of the ‘explosion’ sites? There was a dead demigod at each one.” Darcy could only stare at her in stunned disbelief.

Ash frowned. “Like, at the source of it? Were they the cause of it?”

“No. They looked more like assassinations to me.”

“Deimos was there, I saw him,” Darcy said urgently. “Why did he go after those three? What purpose did they serve?”

“A better question,” Marley sighed. “Is what purpose their deaths served.” She gestured to the note. Darcy dropped her eyes and skimmed the Ancient Greek writing before passing it around. Steve and Bucky, when it came to them, looked at it in confusion.

Mia peeked over their shoulders. “It says...” She whisper-read the note off to them. All demigods were dyslexic, so reading was normally a challenge for them. But their brains were hard-wired for Ancient Greek, and the language was easy for even the youngest half-blood to read. It was very convenient for passing notes.

“It’s a setup.” Darcy was thinking out loud now. “The first demigod, he was a son of Nemesis. She’s a minor goddess- revenge and retribution.”

“He was killed by a sonic arrow- a weapon that Apollo is known for,” Shay said, face drawn. She was personally capable of the sonic weapon, too, which was a rare gift.

“That’s what we heard, then,” Darcy said to Natasha, who nodded in agreement. She frowned at the list and continued. “The second victim had an olive branch left by the body.”

“Why is that important?” Steve asked.

“An olive tree is Athena’s symbol, or one of them,” she answered absently. “But the dead demigod was a child of Hypnos.”

Bucky looked to Mia. “God of Sleep,” she whispered. Apparently convinced of her role as translator, she climbed into his lap and smiled brightly at him. Bucky tried to ask her what she was doing, only to be shushed by the girl. Steve’s shoulders were shaking beside him.

“The third a daughter of Nike-”

“Goddess of Victory,” Mia told Bucky and Steve. “And Mr. Leo from camp says she’s super crazy.”

“- killed by some sort of contraption that looks like it’s one of Hephaestus’s, maybe. I’ll have to check with Jane.” Darcy scowled. “The explosions were just a distraction, or a cover so the humans wouldn’t look too closely at these three deaths.”

Marley leaned forward, upset. “But why? Why kill all of these demigods?”

Darcy, pacing across the floor, paused suddenly. “They’re severing potential alliances,” she said. The others stared at her. “Think about it. Zeus is already mad at our parents for getting involved. But now Nemesis is going to think Apollo, or one of his kids, is responsible. Hypnos and Athena fighting, Nike and Hephaestus. They’re turning the gods further against each other.”

“Surely they won’t fall for this,” Adrian said, worried. “It’s too obvious.”

Ash shook his head. “You haven’t spent enough time around the gods, buddy.”

“Ash is right,” Shay said. “They’re going to hear about this and jump down each other’s throats first. Their first concern is going to be pride and reputation. A murdered demigod child of theirs will look bad on them. They’ll react to that, not the actual death of their kid.”

“That’s...” Steve trailed off, looking at Darcy when she nodded her agreement. “That’s awful.”

Darcy wasn’t listening. “They’re turning the bigger gods against each other first, and now the minor gods against the Olympians. But to what end?”

Shay shook her head when Bucky meant to reach out to Darcy. “Let her think. It’s her superpower.”

“What’s the endgame, here?” Darcy retraced her way through the recent events. “Step one was destabilizing Mount Olympus. They got rid of the defender, and now there’s a crack in the foundation. Room to maneuver.”

Five steps, turn, repeat. She barely noticed the others giving her more space, barely avoided tripping over a chair. “Who benefits?” Darcy muttered. “Turn the gods against each other and they’ll just tear the world to pieces. Maybe someone could slip in during the internal fighting and take over, but in the meantime it’d just be...”

She staggered to a stop and stared off into empty space. A tiny, seemingly insignificant detail, learned in passing long ago, wormed its way to the front of her brain. Everyone held their breath at the dawning realization on her face.

“Chaos,” Darcy said into the pressing silence. “It would be chaos.”

“Darce?” Steve asked carefully.

She whirled, but to Ash and Shay and Marley. “Who is the patron of chaos?”

“Eris,” Ash said immediately, and then froze. “Oh, fuck.”

“And she not only causes it,” Darcy remembered faintly, “but she can gain power from chaos, as well.”

“Feeding off of conflict between the gods themselves?” Ash whistled. “She’ll be stronger than all of them, if they really do start a civil war.”

“How the fuck are we supposed to stop the goddess of chaos?” Shay asked. She pretended not to see Mia’s finger pointing emphatically to the swear jar.

“She’ll tear the whole world apart,” Marley said, horrified. “If she creates enough discord to feed off of and does manage to take over Mount Olympus, then she won’t stop. She won’t be able to- she'll have to maintain that level of chaos or else one of the others will unseat her.”

Darcy chewed on her bottom lip, noting distractedly that the sun was beginning to fall.

Natasha, who had drifted quietly back into the shadows of the room, watched her. “What’s her next step?” She asked. Everyone looked to the master assassin, but she only stared intently at Darcy. “You’ve tracked her this far, milaya. Follow it through.”

Darcy wet her lips and felt the whirlpool of details and plans become silent, leaving only one answer. “Eris drives conflict,” she said finally. “And the best way to ensure continual conflict is to go for the demigods.”

“How so?” Natasha asked, maintaining eye contact. As if to keep her focused, to give her a tether before the world spun out from beneath her. She wondered how the Russian demigod seemed to know what she needed.

“There are already rivalries in the camps. A few major ones, but mostly minor, petty stuff. Well-placed rumors or another attack like this one could tear those rivalries into divisions, or outright fighting. And the gods do watch their kids at camp- some even encourage rivalries between cabins. That kind of destabilization would be devastating for both camps.” Darcy turned on her heel and yanked the kitchen window up. Moments later, a golden eagle soared through the open window and landed on her arm. Its intelligent gaze didn’t stray from Darcy.

“I need you to take a message to Reyna Ramirez-Arellano, Praetor of the Twelfth Legion Fulminata.” A slow blink in response. Adrian held a paper steady for her on the counter while she scrawled out a message to one of the leaders of Camp Jupiter. She signed her name, watched Adrian roll it up and tie it before passing it over to her. She placed it in the small slip of the bird’s leather harness and carried it back to the window so it could leave.

“Do they just hang around the house?” Bucky wondered.

Marley smiled. “They know when they’re needed, and one is always close by a Roman demigod.”

“What about Camp Half-Blood?” Ash asked.

“Iris messages aren’t safe,” Shay reminded him. “Who knows if someone will try to spy on our communications- I'll bet Eris will have a nymph or two working for her.”

“Especially if they know we’re involved in the quest,” Darcy agreed. There was a flash of movement outside. “No, I have a better idea.” She scrawled another message to Chiron, who lived at Camp Half-Blood to oversee a number of other full-time campers. She approached the window again and came face-to-face with a spotted brown owl. “Camp Half-Blood?” She asked politely, offering the note.

The bird considered her for a moment. Then, by some unseen signal, it accepted the paper and flew away. “Thanks, Mom,” Darcy said quietly.

“So Eris recruited this Deimos person,” Steve said.

“God,” Mia reminded him. She sat sideways on Bucky’s lap, kicking her feet in the empty space between their chairs and inspecting his metal hand with interest. “He’s the god of terror, Mr. Steve.”

“Right, thank you. She recruited the god of terror and his brother, uh-”

“Phobos,” Bucky provided.

“And she’ll probably use the fallout from the attack to appeal to the other minor gods,” Darcy said.

“Turn them against her main opponent,” Steve agreed. “It’s smart.”

“Very.” Darcy was quiet. How in the hell was she supposed to go up against a goddess and expect to make it out alive, much less win? There was too much at stake. She couldn’t do this. She was going to get herself killed- or worse, someone else. 

“It’s getting late,” Adrian said gently. “You need to rest, Darcy.” He stepped forward to rest a hand other shoulder when she only stared at the sinking sun. She flinched a little in surprise and then nearly fell over when Adrian shared the warmth and peace that he could wield at will.

“Okay, okay,” she grumbled fondly. “The rest of you should stay, too. It’s late, and we have the space.” Darcy scrubbed her face tiredly. “I’ll tell Jane-”

“I will,” Natasha interrupted her. “I have to go to the tower anyway. And make a few stops in between.”

“Be safe,” Darcy told her. Natasha seemed to hesitate in the doorway, glancing back over her shoulder with an unreadable expression, before she slipped out the front door.

Darcy turned to Steve and Bucky. Bucky had half a braid in his hair, both men listening to Mia with great interest as she recounted their recent fight with the Minotaur. Mia had a tendency to exaggerate things, especially when it came to her adored guardians. Darcy was mildly embarrassed by the hero worship in the little girl's eyes as she spoke.

Minotaur? Steve mouthed to Darcy, wide-eyed.

“Okay.” Darcy clapped her hands as Mia helpfully tried to re-enact the scene, holding a butter knife as a spear and crouching in preparation to launch herself off the kitchen table. Shay caught her mid-leap and passed their sulking charge off to Ash and Adrian. “Mia, baby, tell them goodnight.”

Dangling from Ash’s grip, she stared anxiously at them. “You’ll be here in the mornin’, right?”

“We will,” Bucky assured her.

The boys carted Mia upstairs to bed. Her giggling echoed back down the stairs as they did so; Nyx trotted imperiously at their heels. Mia taken care of, Darcy turned to the super soldiers. They looked at her differently now, she saw.

But that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The respect and admiration, while always evident in their interactions with her before today, had risen several notches in the face of the truth. But she was still Darcy. And they saw that, too.

“You two,” she said over her shoulder as she led them back upstairs, “can have my room.”

“What?” Steve stopped on the stairs and frowned at her. “No. We’ll take the couch.”

“It’s cute, the manners,” Darcy said with an obnoxious smile. She had no patience for chivalry or stupidity tonight- they'd never fit on the couch, anyway. “Also unnecessary. I can crash with-” she glanced over their shoulder, where Shay and Marley were disappearing into the basement, heads bent close together, fingers brushing- “-Adrian. Or Ash, he barely ever sleeps, anyway.”

She herded them into her room somewhat impatiently. Low-grade panic had set in sometime after the realization, and it sat heavy on her chest, pressing on her lungs. “There are extra blankets in the basket,” she told them, pointing to the corner of the room, “it’s an old house, gets pretty drafty during the night. There are lots of pillows-”

“We noticed,” Steve said dryly, looking at the mountain of pillows at the headboard.

“-but you can’t have this one.” She snatched her pillow from under the sheets. “This one’s my favorite. But if you do want more-”

“Slow down, Darce. We don’t need more pillows,” Steve said gently. Bucky, squinting at the heavily marked maps on her wall with newfound appreciation, turned as Steve caught Darcy’s arm when she meant to whirl away to find them more pillows.

Carefully, he tugged her a little closer. She stared uncertainly up at him, even as Bucky closed in, too. “Take a breath, honey,” Steve told her. “It’s been a hell of a day for you, huh?”

Darcy laughed quietly and gave in, resting her forehead against his chest. “Yeah.” Steve settled an arm around her shoulders and let her lean on him.

“You did good, though,” Bucky told her. He took a seat beside them, on the edge of her bed and watching them both. He reached out, to her surprise, and she set her hand in his. She tilted her head against Steve’s chest to see Bucky better. “Kept yourself and others calm during the attack, and your head on straight during the clean-up.”

“Used to it,” she said tiredly. Gods, but they were warm. Warm and safe and gentle with her in a way that should have been infuriating but felt more like... adoration. It thrilled her, a little, to have two tall, gorgeous men treating her like she was something precious. No one had ever been that way with her before.

A big hand swept over her hair. She sighed and let her eyes close as Bucky’s thumb traced soothingly along the inside of her wrist. “I have to say,” she murmured, tucking herself closer to Steve’s body so he could support more of her weight, “you two took that really well. I was expecting more... I don’t know. Drama. Betrayed tears. Some righteous shouting, maybe.”

Bucky huffed a laugh as Steve shook his head. “This secret is not something to share lightly, Darce. We get that. Besides, if you weren’t one of Thor’s best friends, we’d have to lie to you every day about who we are.”

“I’d have figured it out,” she said sleepily. Steve swept a hand over her back. She damn near fell asleep on her feet, but managed to mumble, “You know, Clint thinks you two are wooing me.” The hand on her back froze.

Bucky cleared his throat in the ensuing silence. “Maybe we’d like to,” he said quietly. She opened her eyes to watch him. Evidently cheered that she hadn’t run screaming from the room, he continued. “Steve and I... We...”

“Have a lot of love to give?” Darcy suggested. She looked up when Steve made a strangled sound. “Honestly, Steve, what did you expect? For me to freak out over you two wanting a third? It’s not that uncommon nowadays, or such a crazy idea.”

He tugged her hair in retaliation. “Kids these days, think they invented everything.” She laughed at that, the sound bringing a smile to both men’s faces.

“Well, maybe I’m just saying that, if you two were wooing me, then I wouldn’t be very opposed to the idea.”

“Yeah?” Steve asked, voice hoarse. He damn near broke her heart, both of them, with the hope in their eyes.

Darcy squeezed Bucky’s hand. “Yeah. Though I do have to ask, is it just a sex thing? Or- What? Why are you laughing?”

“Darcy, doll, we’re pretty much head over heels for you already,” Steve said, laughter still in his voice. He reached up to tuck a stray curl over her ear, sobering as the air between them grew thick and charged. “Tony thinks it’s hilarious.”

“You- really?” She glanced between them. “You two are, like, the love story of the century. There are very dramatic, award-winning movies made about it. You give FoxNews conniption fits on a daily basis about it- can I just say, by the way, that the shirt was inspired. Who knew Captain America was such a troll?”

“Anyone who meets him,” Bucky said, long-suffering. Steve kicked him, as if the man who’d worn a Sounds Gay, I’m In shirt to a FoxNews interview had any moral high ground. The middle-aged white male interviewer had damn near had a heart attack at the sight of the super soldier in it- not to mention the argument once Steve got started on healthcare, LGBTQ+ rights, and non-vaccinating parents. It had been a shit show of epic proportions, and Darcy had delighted in every second of it. 

Tony had the interview saved permanently to the common room television, though if anyone asked he blamed Bruce.

“Point is, Darce, nothing you told us tonight changes how we feel.” Bucky tugged on her hand to bring her closer. She bumped against his knees, heart pounding. Uncertain, she looked between them both. And saw nothing but acceptance looking back at her.

Decision made, she said, “Can I...”

“Anything,” Bucky said immediately.

There was a lot she wanted to say to that, but ultimately decided to lean down and gently brush her lips over his. He sat very still for a moment, his surprise a little heart-wrenching. But then, as Steve sucked in a breath behind her, Bucky made a sound low in his throat and kissed her back.

Gentle. Careful. Reverent. Like he didn’t deserve what she offered, would only stain her with his touch.

Stupid. Darcy pressed against him, angling her head to deepen the kiss. His hands came up automatically to grip her waist. Hers came up to cup his jaw, brushing over the layer of stubble on his face.

They broke away after a long moment. Both of them reluctant to pull away entirely, all lingering touches and shared breaths. Steve was watching them with heated eyes. Darcy reached out blindly to fist her hand in Steve’s shirt and tug him closer. He came willingly.

Darcy tipped her head up; Steve complied with a crooked smile and leaned down. She hummed into the kiss, enjoying Bucky’s hands still on her waist, a few fingers curling underneath the hem of her shirt. She shivered at the touch, heat furling in her belly when Steve licked at her mouth in response.

Just when she wondered how far they’d take things tonight, he stepped back. Steve looked absolutely wrecked, mouth swollen and red and cheeks flushed. She squirmed a little at the intensity in his gaze, debating the merits of stripping them down and taking what they all very obviously wanted.

Steve smiled, slow and appreciative, as if he could hear her thoughts. “Not tonight. Not yet.”

“Let us court you right,” Bucky murmured into her neck. He scraped his teeth along the sensitive skin and chuckled when she gasped. “We like to take our time. Be deliberate. Thorough.”

“Okay,” Darcy gasped out when his nose traced up line of her neck. “I could get on board with that.” It took a herculean amount of self-control to leave them in her room- in her bed- and go sleep elsewhere. She collapsed on Adrian’s bed soon after leaving them there, her pillow clutched tightly to her chest, and stared sightlessly at the ceiling.

“Don’t come into my bed all hot and bothered,” Adrian grumbled into his pillow. “’S weird. Go bang your pretty boyfriends and let me sleep.”

“We’re not banging tonight,” she told him matter-of-factly. “They’re going to woo me first.”

“Huh.” Adrian, buried underneath the covers, turned to squint through the darkness. “I thought you’d prefer to get straight to the sex.”

“And I thought you’d be impressed with my restraint.”

“I’m asexual, Darcy, not blind. I can appreciate the aesthetics plenty.”

“Right, yes. Sorry.” She sighed happily. “This might be fun. Well. The wooing, not the homicidal psychopath hell-bent on killing everyone on earth.”

“I’d figured that one out myself, thank you,” he said dryly. “Now go to sleep. We have a psycho goddess to catch before she really does kill everybody.”

“Sir, yes, sir,” Darcy mumbled. She curled around her pillow, feeling lighter than she had in days. When she slept, she had no dreams.

Chapter Text

“Hi, good morning,” Jane said brightly when Darcy opened the door early the next morning. “Where have you been and what the fuck is going on?” Darcy just held the door wider so her friend could enter the house and padded tiredly back to the kitchen. 

“Jane!” Mia gasped. She darted over to the scientist and wrapped her arms around Jane’s waist to stare adoringly up at her. “Did you know that Eris is tryin’ to kill everybody?” 

“Eris is trying to-” Jane jerked her head up to stare incredulously at Darcy. “What?” 

Steve and Bucky looked up from the kitchen table. A giant plate of fruit sat before them. “Huh. Probably should’a guessed Jane was part of all this,” Steve told him. Bucky nodded in agreement.

“You told them? They know? Darcy, what the hell is going on?” 

Shay passed her a mug of coffee. “You’re gonna want to sit down for this one, Foster.” 

“Huh. That’s never a good sign,” Jane commented, staring down at the cup. She let Mia lead her to the table and sat, looking expectantly at Darcy. 

Darcy sighed and started from the top. 

“I knew something was off,” Jane said, fingers tapping an anxious beat on the table. Her other hand was extended so Mia could peer curiously at the scribbled writing and equations that stretched from palm to elbow. “Zeus usually doesn’t lose it like that; Thor had to go back to Asgard because he was yanking so much on his powers. It was either leave for now or fight the King of Olympus.” 

“It’s probably best that he doesn’t get involved anyway,” Darcy said on a sigh. She rubbed her eyes and leaned against Bucky. He wound an arm over her shoulders to pull her close. Jane squinted suspiciously at them, then at Steve, who was smiling softly at the pair. 

Shay pulled a chair out and slumped into it. “Marley’s meeting with Aya now. Maybe they’ll have more information.” 

“Hestia gone,” Jane murmured distractedly. “Who knew that such an overlooked goddess was so crucial to the safety of literally everyone on Mount Olympus? Even the most powerful of the gods relied on her to keep their home safe, and they didn’t even know it." 

“Or maybe they did know, and they just took advantage of the fact that she would never betray them,” Shay pointed out.

“She’s too good for all of them,” Darcy agreed. Shay and Jane stared at her. “What?”

“Nothing.” Jane shrugged. “It’s just surprising to hear you, of all people, defending one of the gods.” Jane had been witness to many of Darcy’s rage-fueled rants over the years. 

“Hestia’s different,” Darcy muttered. There was a genuine kindness in the goddess of the hearth that none of the others possessed. “Even I can see that.” 

“What’s the plan, then?” Jane asked. She fed Nyx a strawberry, much to the cat’s appreciation. 

“Plan?” 

“Don’t tell me you don’t have a plan,” Jane said, brows raised. “You always have a plan. Even for the stupid shit.” 

Darcy rolled her eyes. “The plan is... in progress. There’s a lot to consider. Such as how to not get us all killed.” 

“I like that one,” Shay offered. “Start there.” 

~*~ 

Marley returned around mid-morning. She came bearing gifts. 

“That’s the device that killed the third demigod,” she told Jane. “Looks like it worked as some sort of mask, maybe. Aya said you’d probably know best.” 

“Hm.” Jane commandeered the kitchen table and set the small cube onto the table. “It’s been deactivated.” 

“Aya.” 

“And how did this Aya person know how to do it?” Jane wondered. “This was made by one of Hephaestus’s kids.” 

“Aya knows things,” Darcy explained. “So many things. Probably best not to ask.” 

Jane inspected the device with the same intensity she did everything else. She gave it her total focus, muttering to herself and handling the killing device without an ounce of fear. “It’s primary form is this cube, which is a decent enough disguise,” she said eventually. “I bet it’s programmed to kill a specific person, though I’m not sure how yet. Once they touch it, it sort of-” she made a movement with her hands that was apparently supposed to mimic an explosion- “explodes open and attaches itself to their face. Brutal, and not even a little bit subtle. But certainly effective. Hm. I wonder...”

Darcy left her to it. Steve and Bucky followed her through the house, taking in the well-loved home, walls decorated with pictures of the group, some with people neither man recognized. She led them up a winding staircase, much to their curiosity.

A the top of the staircase, in the looming tower of the house, was a library. Bookshelves lined the curved walls, stretching to the top of the fifteen-foot ceiling. A rolling ladder rested against the nearest shelf. “Ash insisted,” Darcy told them when they looked at it. “He said he wanted a library ladder like Beauty & The Beast, and none of us were about to argue.”

“Hardly any of these books are in English,” Steve said, peering at one of the shelves.

“Demigod children are dyslexic,” she explained absently, moving towards the large table underneath the window. “We have trouble reading English, because our brains are hard-wired for Greek. Latin came pretty easy to me, too, dead language and all.” 

“Must’a been hard for you in school,” Bucky murmured. 

Darcy shrugged. “It wasn’t great. We’re all typically diagnosed with ADHD at some point, too. Perks of being half god, I guess. You get the battle reflexes that keep you alive, only most of the time you’re shoved into a tiny classroom and told to be quiet when your instincts are telling you to run or fight all the time. It’s a hard line to walk. Camp Jupiter was easier.” 

“How so?” 

“There’s a small city within it,” she said. “Made up of older demigods, their kids, affiliates, and so on. They have a university, so most of us took classes when we weren’t also training. Part of the cohort rules- education is required. Then I went to Culver, scraped by with a degree, reconnected with Jane from our briefly shared Camp Half-Blood days, and the rest is history.” 

“What made you leave Camp Jupiter?” Steve asked. He sat on one of the couches in the center of the room and watched her. 

“I don’t know,” she admitted. “I just... didn’t want to do it anymore, I guess.” 

“And you were free to leave? They didn’t care that you left the Roman army?” Bucky wondered. 

“Leaving requires a Praetor’s approval.”

“And you had it?”

“Yeah.” Darcy said quietly. She stared out the window, recalling her decision to leave and the discussion with her friend turned lover.

SIX YEARS AGO

Darcy stretched, sore in all the best ways. The late summer night was just cool enough that she didn’t feel the need to kick the sheets off the bed like usual, which drove Reyna more than a little crazy. Though an aggravated Reyna usually took out her frustrations on Darcy in very rewarding ways.

But she wasn’t in the mood for games tonight, no matter how fun they turned out to be. The Praetor of the Roman Legion lay beside her, still damp with sweat. The room was dim, only the flickering light of the two torches providing visibility other than the small balcony door that was left open, permitting soft moonlight that filtered through the columns and into the room.

The silence in the bedroom felt suffocating, and Darcy knew it was because of the heavy thoughts on her mind. She gathered her courage. “I’m tired,” she admitted quietly in the dark of the room.

She felt Reyna move and in the torchlight faintly saw the other girl prop herself on her side to peer down at Darcy. “So go to sleep. You can stay here if you’d like.”

Darcy gave her a rueful smile. “Not that kind of tired,” she whispered. 

Comprehension lit Reyna’s face in the following quiet before the neutral mask was back in place. “...I know.” She stood and tugged a purple robe over her bare body before retreating to the balcony doors.

Darcy sat up and watched Reyna stare out over the Roman camp. “I’m sorry, Rey.” Her shoulders slumped. After a long few minutes of silence, Darcy hesitantly asked, “Should I go back to my bunk?”

Reyna whirled around, amazement on those lovely, regal features. “No. Darcy, that’s not it.” She returned to the bed and knelt at the other girl’s side. Gently, she touched Darcy’s shoulder. “I could never blame you for wanting something different than me.” Reyna’s dark eyes dropped. “I’m just going to miss you, is all.” 

“Me, too,” Darcy whispered. “But I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep watching my friends be cut down in wars that shouldn’t be ours alone.” Reyna sat cross-legged in front of her, the robe falling open to reveal brown skin littered with scars. She paid the purple silk no attention.

“I’m not in love with you,” Reyna said abruptly. A startled laugh escaped Darcy. Reyna rolled her eyes and shoved at her. “I’m not in love with you. And you’re not in love with me.” Paused. “But I do love you, Darcy. You’re one of my closest friends, and I want you to be happy. You have my blessing, if you wish to leave the camp.” 

“Thank you.” Relieved, Darcy closed her eyes. 

Reyna brushed the back of her knuckles along Darcy’s cheekbone. “I would hate to see you ruined by this life,” she said quietly. “It’s not a prison, but it feels that way for you sometimes.” Darcy nodded. “Then go find your way, Darce. Find what makes you happy, and don’t let it go. Just don’t forget me.” 

“How could I?” Darcy murmured. She leaned in to brush her lips over Reyna’s smiling mouth. “You’ve been beating me into the dirt for four years. I have permanent bruises from your so-called ‘training.’” 

“Liar.” Reyna laughed. “You’ve held your own just fine. And you will out there, too. I know it.” 

“Well, since I’m leaving,” Darcy said seriously, “we might as well make the most of the remaining time.” 

“What an excellent point, Centurion,” Reyna murmured as she leaned in. “Why don’t I give you something to remember me by?”

~*~ 

“About that.” Darcy turned back to Steve and Bucky. They watched her with matching worried expressions. “I, uh, feel like I should tell you that I was in a relationship with the Praetor of Rome for a while. One of them, anyway.” 

“Okay,” Steve said calmly. 

“Her name is Reyna, and we’re still friends.” Darcy wondered at the hint of challenge in her voice. She couldn’t pinpoint why she felt so defensive all of a sudden.

“Thank you for sharing that with us,” Bucky said; somehow he avoided sounding sarcastic. He studied her. “This another thing you were expectin’ us to be mad about? Would you like us to shout about it, maybe? Would that help?” 

Some of the tension dropped from her shoulders. “No,” she said on a half-laugh. “No, not really. I just wanted you to know, I guess.” 

Steve held out a hand. She crossed the room to slide her fingers through his own, smiling at their difference in size. He tugged her gently onto his lap. “You’re so stressed you’re imagining fights, is that it?” 

Darcy groaned. “Something like that. Just looking for confrontation everywhere. Expecting it.” 

“Won’t find it here, doll,” Bucky told her gently. “We’ve got your back, all the way.” 

She tucked herself into the width of Steve’s shoulders and let him hold her for a while. Physical comfort, she marveled, could make a world of difference in one’s outlook on life. Amazing what a hug could do.

Steve held her close, one hand wrapped firmly around her waist and the other cupping her elbow. His thumb rubbed absently along her skin.

“What happened here?” He asked. 

Darcy glanced down to see the long mark where his thumb rested. The scar wrapped from the back of her upper arm, curling down around her elbow. “Scorpion monster,” she said with distaste. 

Bucky looked up from the book he was flipping through on Roman war strategy. “Sorry, what was that?”

“Adrian is a teacher at the local elementary school,” she said in explanation. “A few years back, he thought he recognized the signs of a demigod child in a coworker’s class.” 

“Mia?” 

She nodded. “He realized that she didn’t have anyone watching over her- and no parent in the know, because she was one of the foster kids.” She adjusted her head on Steve’s shoulder to get more comfortable. “Come to find out, she was quite a little storyteller, with a very active- and very accurate- imagination. Adrian knew the monsters she talked about following her were real, and that the foster family had no idea the danger they were in.” 

“She was attacked?”

“Yeah, but Adrian had tracked the monster that tracked her home. He set down a Circle until Shay and I got there.”

Steve hummed thoughtfully. “So how did you guys end up with her?”

“We didn’t leave her,” Darcy said. “I knew she would never be safe in the system from personal experience, so we used the Mist to make the foster parents forget everything and the case worker to assign Mia to Adrian’s human mother. Valeria took her in, but Mia kept attracting monsters.”

“So now you four raise her? It’s obviously a good system- she adores all of you, and it’s clear how much you all love her.”

“Hard not to love her, really.” Darcy smiled. “So yeah, we do our best to raise her right. It’s easier with the four of us, but Adrian and Ash’s human mothers are dating and take Mia a lot, too. Kid’s got her own village watching out for her.”

Steve was tracing absent minded fingers along her thigh. She leaned into the touch, appreciating the shivery feeling it gave her. She nosed along Steve’s jaw and smiled when he tipped his head back to give her better access. Darcy nipped gently at his throat, enjoying his low groan in response.

Bucky reclined in his chair and watched them with lidded eyes. Darcy made her way across the column of Steve’s throat; she hummed in approval when those big hands flexed on her, fingertips digging in when she sucked gently at a pulse point.

“He’s very sensitive,” Darcy murmured into his skin, and proved it when a scrape of teeth behind his ear made Steve jerk.

“Punk’s got a hair trigger,” Bucky agreed. Steve made a rude sound that had Bucky grinning unrepentantly at him. It made her laugh- Steve was hard as a rock beneath her, and she’d only just gotten started.

Gods, she felt good. The stress and worry seemed to be melting away with every inch of Steve’s skin she explored. Her hands came up to brace on his chest, then slid around to those obscenely broad shoulders.

“You’re killin’ me, doll,” Steve ground out. His hands tightened on her waist when she skimmed her hands underneath his shirt, seeking bare skin. Bucky, apparently having reached his own limit, leaned over and pulled their chair over to his. 

Darcy’s stomach tightened in excitement at the casual show of strength. Oh, they were going to be fun.

“I want-” She cut off with a muffled squeak as Bucky lifted her straight out of Steve’s lap and into his own. He slid a hand into her hair and kissed her. She promptly lost all the thoughts in her head.

“What do you want?” He asked against her mouth.

The possibilities were endless. “So much,” she breathed. Darcy nipped his lower lip, unable to resist that full, suggestive mouth. He slid a hand up her back, her shirt rising with its progress. She adjusted her position so that she was straddling him instead, knees tucked on either side of his hips.

“Fuck, you two look good together,” Steve said. He was breathing harder than normal, watching them with dark, intense eyes that roved over them both. Like some x-rated daydream was coming to life right in front of him.

“Bet we’d look better if you came over here,” Darcy said suggestively. She arched as Bucky’s thumbs brushed the underside of her breasts and clamped her knees on his hips until they ached in protest. One more touch from either of them and she felt like she’d go up in flames.

“We’re takin’ things slow,” he reminded her, even as his hands continued their leisurely exploration of her body.

“This is slow enough,” she grumbled. But even as she said it she knew they were right. If this... thing between them was going to be long term- permanent, even- then they needed to do it right. And she needed time to process the jumble of feelings that intensified at the thought of a serious relationship with the two of them.

Maybe it was selfish of her, but she wanted them both. She wanted what would obviously be a good thing in her life, a chance with the two of them. Needed them, no. Wanted.... absolutely. And that did scare her a little. Permanent things usually did. She had a tendency to fuck everything up, and this was something she really, really did not want to ruin.

“Okay.” Darcy sighed and slumped against Bucky, enjoying the feel of his calloused fingers running along her spine. “You’re right. Sex can come later, after the... feelings part of it.”

Bucky’s laugh was a low rumble against her. “Don’t sound so defeated, doll. You’re breakin’ my heart.”

“You’re both obviously more emotionally conscious than me,” she grumbled. “And love story of the century, remember? Give me time to get on your level.” And to adjust to the intimidation of stepping into said love story, even when enthusiastically invited.

“As much as you need, Darce,” Steve told her. “We’re in no hurry, and we’re not goin’ anywhere.”

“In that case,” she said, planting a kiss on Bucky’s mouth and then standing to do the same to Steve, “I’m going back downstairs to check on Jane and the others. I’ll bring us some food back up here, and we can brainstorm about how to stop a crazy goddess.”

She jogged down the stairs, instinctively skipping the weak step that would break if strained. It could only hold Mia’s weight, and probably not for very much longer. She made a mental note to fix it before they reached that point.

Jane was still muttering to herself in the kitchen. A bizarre arrangement of tools were scattered across the table; Darcy knew enough at this point about Jane's work process to leave her alone.

Shay and Marley were both absent. Adrian and Ash had pulled out a stack of games for Mia and were both currently losing horribly at Uno, much to Mia’s delight. Smiling, Darcy fished around in their pantry to find things to take upstairs.

She noticed the trash was overflowing, so she grabbed it and made her way outside first. Dusk was falling fast, giving the yard a shadowy appearance. She stepped outside the iron gate, tossed the trash bag into the bin, and froze.

The back of her neck prickled. The shadows around her were darker now, hinting at things hiding within. She eyed the safety of the yard, which was within the first protective Circle, and judged the distance to the open gate.

Energy seemed to hum through the air. Her shoulders tightened, and Darcy knew without turning that a god stood behind her.

Chapter Text

She turned slowly, carefully, aware that if the god was feeling particularly hostile, she would likely be killed before she could even draw her weapon. With that thought her hairpin warmed in her pocket. She’d left it in her room, but demigod weapons tended to be nearby whenever they stumbled into trouble. Which was pretty often.

Darcy stopped in surprise at the sight of Hecate standing in the center of the road. The goddess wore flowing, wide legged pants of a deep maroon and an off-white button-up tucked into it. She smiled at Darcy’s baffled expression.

“I like human fashions,” Hecate explained, lifting a foot to admire her tan, strappy heels. “It changes so quickly, and keeping up with it’s fun.”

“Huh.” Darcy studied her, taking in the way the clothing emphasized Hecate’s height and slender build. Her bronze skin was glowing with that familiar celestial light that Darcy could often distinguish, even when gods made an effort to disguise themselves. “It looks good on you,” she said honestly. Internally, she wondered at the bizarre state of her life that this didn’t even seem all that weird.

Hecate smiled. “Much appreciated, Darcy Lewis.”

“So, I thought you guys weren’t allowed to...”

“Involve ourselves?” Hecate looked down the dark, empty street with a troubled frown. “We’re not. But Athena shared your discovery with a few of us. The fact that Eris is the culprit is...”

“Concerning.”

Darcy jumped about a foot in the air at the sound of Athena’s voice behind her. She glanced back with a scowl as her mother materialized. Athena wore a form-fitting navy suit, hair in a severe ponytail to keep it out of her face. Her eyes were a clear, focused grey. “Won’t Zeus be mad you’re here?”

Hecate glanced up at the full moon. “I am the goddess of many things, Darcy Lewis. Magic, witchcraft, the moon and the night. Crossroads.” She looked around. “Did you know your home sits exactly in the center of a centuries-old crossroad? It was paved over a few years ago, but that power still lingers. Strange, that you’d find this as your home, of all places.”

A street lamp flickered overhead, playing with the shadows stretching along the ground. Darcy wondered if Hecate was performing some greater, invisible magic to keep them hidden. She felt like they were suspended in a little pocket of time- nothing ominous or particularly threatening, just... strange. A nagging sense that something was different about where they stood. Something other.

“Crossroads are my domain,” Hecate told her. “But we’re helped along by this place. It feels odd, no? Like an in-between.”

“Gods have some power over the in-between, Darcy,” Athena said. “You call them liminal spaces or moments, I believe. We can slip into those odd little moments of the world if necessary. It’s hard to keep track of them all, and who exists in those spaces in the meantime. Which means we’re hidden from Zeus, for now.”

“A few of us can suspend these liminal spaces, should we need to,” Hecate added. “To give us time to speak freely, without others watching. Our power over the in-between varies, but it includes the metaphysical spaces.”

“I thought it felt a little weird,” Darcy said quietly. “Even before you showed up.”

Hecate watched her curiously. “Yes, you’re oddly sensitive to these things. Tell me, who is your father? Does he possess or practice magic?”

Darcy shrugged and just barely resisted shooting her mother a pointed look. “I don’t know. Evidently I was left on the doorstep of a fire station as a baby. No one ever claimed me, so I grew up a foster kid.” Even the letter from her “father” that initially sent her to Camp Half-Blood, and also revealing the demigod secret to 11-year old Darcy, had been Athena’s work.

In all honesty, the absent father never bothered her much. She had better things to worry about than a man that hadn’t even wanted her.

Hecate’s vivid purple eyes drifted to Athena in silent question, but the war goddess only shook her head. “This is not the time for it,” she said.

“She says that a lot,” Darcy told Hecate, long-suffering.

“I will tell you when the time is right,” Athena said sternly.

“I don’t actually care that much, you know.” Darcy jerked a thumb back at the house. “I have all the family I need.”

The hard lines of Athena’s face seemed to soften, just slightly. “And I’m glad for it.” She grew serious again. “I read your letter, the one you sent to Chiron.”

“Of course you did,” Darcy muttered. Hecate hid a smile.

Athena continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “The fact that Eris is behind this means you have to be very careful. Very careful, Darcy.”

“I wasn’t exactly going to swan up to her and accuse her of planning a coup.”

“I should hope not. She would kill you without hesitation.”

“Eris is...” Hecate paused, as if searching for the most appropriate word, “unstable. She is the patroness of chaos, and she feeds off of it. Most dismiss her as a minor goddess, but her true potential is unlimited.”

“We cannot confront her directly.” Athena scowled, worried lines creasing around her eyes. “She can spark conflict between us like gasoline and a match; all she needs is a single instance to do so.”

“It will take a daughter of Athena to outwit her instead,” Hecate said.

Darcy blinked at her. “Sorry, what?” She looked between them. “You can’t be serious.” They appeared very serious. “I can’t outwit a centuries-old goddess!”

Athena shook her head. “Eris is more high-minded than most. She won’t consider you a danger to her plans, won’t even realize you’re a threat until you have her head on a pike.”

“Gross, Mom.”

“She doesn’t truly believe a demigod would be capable of stopping her,” Athena insisted. “That’s why it’s so imperative that you do exactly that. The rest of us can’t risk it, not with the tensions between us all.”

“Because of the attack?”

“Yes.” Hecate looked worried now. “That was very well orchestrated of Eris. The god parents of those involved are very unhappy.”

“Are they turning against Mount Olympus?” Darcy asked. “Did she get Hypnos on her side? Nike? Nemesis?” A god of sleep, a goddess of victory and one of retribution, all bolstering Eris’s side. The thought gave her chills.

“I’m afraid they are probably more receptive to Eris’s offer now,” Athena said grimly. She fixed her daughter with a look. “Be very careful to avoid any of Hypnos’s children for a while. He might decide retaliation is necessary, even though neither I nor any of mine played any part in the murders.”

“But none of your kids actually killed his,” Darcy said, exhausted by the egos of the gods. “It was Deimos, working on Eris’s orders.”

“We’re working to make that known.” Hecate sighed. “It’s no small feat, once a god has decided to take offense. They’re angry, and they will encourage their demigod children to take revenge. You see how it starts.”

“And how it ends.” Darcy rubbed her hands over her face. “Okay. I have outside help. We’re making progress.”

Athena looked at her. “And your plan?”

“I’m working on it,” Darcy said, testy. She was getting tired of people asking her that. “Step one is tracking her down.”

“She won’t be working out of her own realm,” Hecate said. “She’s too isolated down there.”

“Sorry, down there?” Darcy repeated somewhat incredulously. “Where exactly is her realm?”

“Close to the Underworld. Closer than Hades would like; she annoys him a great deal. The God of Death likes everything orderly- but the real threat Eris would try to avoid is Persephone.” Hecate shrugged, a fluid movement. “But Eris remains weak without anything substantial to feed off of in her own realm. If she’s actually making a play for Mount Olympus, she’ll have to be close to the action. I bet she would have been close to the attacks, too.”

“You think she’s in New York?”

“I think she’ll have to be, if she’s planning a takeover. Otherwise she’ll never have the power necessary to make her move.”

“Find her,” Athena ordered. “Stop her by whatever means necessary. And be careful.” She disappeared.

Irritated, Darcy scowled at the empty place her mother had just been. “’Find her,’” she mimicked rudely. “Like tracking down a fucking chaos goddess is just an exciting weekend adventure.”

Hecate appeared amused. “Good luck, Darcy. And if you can... try to keep my daughter far away from this. She’s too young to be involved just yet.”

“Mia’s safety is the number one priority for everyone in that house,” Darcy assured her. “I’ll make sure she stays out of it.” The stark relief on Hecate’s face made Darcy reevaluate her list of decent gods. Hecate was climbing the list rapidly- genuinely caring about their demigod kids was a rare trait for a god, and Hecate seemed to be more invested than any of the others, save for maybe Hestia.

“Keep the cat close if you stray too far from home,” Hecate said. She smiled, open and honest, and then disappeared as well.

Darcy stood in the silence of the street and listened to the sounds of the night creep back in. Weird. She hadn’t noticed the absence of noise until now.

“I’d wondered who gave you the cat.”

“Son of a bitch.” Darcy whirled, heart racing, and growled wordlessly at Natasha when the Russian demigod only smiled at her in amusement from the shadows. “How long have you been there?” She demanded.

“Long enough.” Natasha sauntered over, boredom on every feature. “Hecate knew I was here, of course. I was standing on the crossroads, too.”

“So you heard everything?” Relieved it wasn’t Eris popping up behind her like some sort of nightmarish surprise, Darcy looked around and noticed the sky still glowed with the same warm, purple-red light of dusk. She frowned thoughtfully. “How long was I out here?”

Natasha shrugged. “Liminal spaces, milaya. Little to no time passed once you were within their reach.”

Darcy considered for a moment. “I don’t think I like that.” Gods playing with time, even small, strange pockets of it, made her nervous. They didn’t view time the way humans and demigods did- a decade was but a breath for them.

“It’s unlikely that they care,” Natasha told her, unsympathetic. “You should be used to that.”

“Oh, trust me, I’m well aware of just how little they care about us.” Disgruntled, Darcy made for the house. “You coming in? Or are you just going to keep sneaking around in the dark?”

“You get very cranky when you’re startled,” Natasha said conversationally.

“Gee, I wonder why.”

“See?”

“Shut up and get in the house, for all the gods’ sake.” Darcy closed the door behind them. She peeked her head into the den- the card game was still ongoing. Creeped out by her recent foray into liminal spaces and the suspension of time, Darcy stomped into the kitchen with Natasha trailing silently on her heels.

Jane was packing things up in the kitchen. “I want to take a look at this- I swear I’ve seen something like it before, Darce. I just can’t remember where, or who made it...” She shook her head. “I’ll let you know what I find out.”

“Wait, don’t walk home alone,” Darcy said, anxiety rising at the thought of Jane wandering through the city, a walking target.

Adrian stepped into the kitchen. “I’ll walk her to the tower, Darce. I’m meeting Mamá for dinner anyway, and her apartment is close by.”

“See?” Jane said, elbowing her gently. “Stop fretting. Thanks, Adrian.”

Darcy watched them go and reminded herself that both of them were fully capable of protecting themselves. She tamped down on the urge to follow them, just to make sure, and turned to the kitchen. “Fuck this,” she muttered. “I’ll order something for dinner.” She pointed Natasha towards the drawer of takeout menus. The Russian demigod flipped through the stack with interest, starting two piles.

Mia scampered into the kitchen, Nyx close on her heels. She skidded to a stop in front of Darcy. “Hug,” she demanded. Darcy couldn’t stop her responding smile as she bent down to obey.

Ash paused in the doorway on his way to the office at the back of the house. “I need to get some work stuff done, Darce. Shay and Marley went out. You okay to watch her?”

“Please? I want to go upstairs with you.” Mia peered beseechingly up at her.

Darcy smoothed a hand over the girl’s wild curls. “Of course. Why don’t you help Natasha pick out dinner?” Mia bounced over to help, spreading Natasha’s selections out across the table.

“Can’t do this one,” she told Natasha seriously. “Darcy punched the delivery guy and they don’t come here anymore.”

Natasha slid amused eyes over to her. “Did she?”

“Shay made him cry first, after he called Ash something I will not repeat,” Darcy retorted. “And why did I punch him, Mia?” she prompted.

“Because he said rude, in’propriate things about Shay an’ Ash, and we do not tolerate racism or sexism from anyone. And we always protect our family, but for now I have to leave the punching to you guys ‘cause I’m little.” She blinked purple-blue eyes at Darcy. “Right?”

“Right.” Darcy barely resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at Natasha.

“She’s going to be a holy terror when she grows up, I hope you know,” Natasha murmured as Mia tossed aside another two menus. She sounded like she approved.

Darcy grinned. “She’s a holy terror now.” And gods, she loved the hell out of that little girl.

“This one,” Mia decided, waving a Thai menu around. She hopped in place when Darcy took it from her. “Darce, Darce, you gotta tell ‘em I’m back, okay?”

“I will,” she promised. “I’m probably going to order half the menu so we have enough.” She reached for the laptop on the counter, only safe to use within the Circles protecting and hiding the house.

Mia looked to Natasha and explained, “Mr. Tae always gives me roti for dessert, ‘cause we’re friends.”

“It’ll be here in an hour,” Darcy announced. “In the meantime, I have a lot of thinking to do.”

Mia slid her hand into Natasha’s as if they’d been friends forever. “C’mon, we’re going to the library.” She led the way, avoiding the weak step and solemnly warning Natasha to do the same.

Steve and Bucky were exploring the library, sharing absent touches whenever they passed each other. Mia darted excitedly to Bucky, reaching up to tug on his sleeve. Bucky looked down at her in question.

“Can you pick me up?” She asked, eyes wide and imploring. Steve watched with barely concealed amusement as Bucky instantly fell for Mia’s frequently employed cuteness tactics. He lifted her carefully onto one hip, letting her direct him around the room and as she chattered away at top speed to explain the titles and the books she'd read.

Darcy watched Steve’s expression soften as he watched the two dark heads bowed together in quiet discussion, Mia clinging tightly to the Winter Soldier without any reserves. “She worms her way into your heart before you even know what’s happening,” Darcy said softly. She also noticed as Bucky’s faint alarm became such a careful gentleness that it seemed he thought Mia would shatter with one wrong word or touch. It made her chest ache.

For her part, Mia had sought out arguably the most emotionally vulnerable person in the room and expressed an absolute trust that would have worried Darcy if it had been anyone but Bucky or Steve. Bucky responded to it with something like awe, warming immediately to the little girl. Steve watched them together with his heart in his eyes.

“He’s always so afraid of hurting someone,” Steve said, so quietly she had to strain to hear him. “Her trust scares him, but it also helps him heal a little, I think.”

“Mr. Bucky, can you climb trees? I like to climb things, but last time I fell off the roof at camp and then Ash said I couldn’t climb anymore without somebody watchin’ me.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and smiled winningly at him. “But I think climbing trees would be fun too.”

“You fell off the roof?” Bucky asked, amusement warring with concern.

“Uh huh. And then my teeth fell out!” She pointed helpfully at the gap in her top row of teeth. “Demigods heal super good though, so it was ok. And I got to say ‘I told you so’ to Kacey.”

“Ah. Always a plus.” He nodded sagely. Steve crossed the room to join them, welcomed by Mia, who was thrilled to have their attention. Darcy smiled to herself. One gap-toothed smile and both of these boys were goners. It made her like them all the more.

Behind her, Natasha unrolled a massive map. “This is very detailed,” she commented, impressed.

Darcy turned away from the others before her heart exploded at the sight of them huddled together. “Ash drew it,” she said, joining the other demigod to study the extensively detailed map of New York. “He’s good with the little details, and he can draw like you wouldn’t believe.”

“After seeing this, I’d believe it.” Natasha helped her place the map on the large table. She leaned over it, eyes drifting over the sketch, and asked, “What are you thinking?”

Darcy sighed. “I’m thinking that if Eris is in the city, we should start by learning where.”

“Best to know where your enemy waits,” Natasha agreed. “She’ll likely have ways of hiding herself, though. Especially so close to Mount Olympus.”

“I’m pretty good at detecting gods,” Darcy said with a shrug of admittance. “If I cross paths with her directly, I’ll know. But so far she seems to be using others to do her dirty work. I can try and track one of them back to her, but finding her agents is a whole other ordeal.”

Steve came to stand at her side, a pillar of heat and reassurance. “Is there a way to track her movements? You’re the expert in gods.”

“Yeah,” Darcy said, elbowing him, “but you’re a strategy genius, Rogers.” He smiled down at her. “What are you suggesting?”

“From what I’ve gathered from you, there are certain marks of the gods when they’re around or involved in something. Is it possible to find Eris that way? I know NYC’s huge, but surely she has some influence on humans.”

“She does,” Darcy said, realization dawning. “Eris causes chaos and conflict just by existing- she’ll be affecting anyone within a ten mile radius of her base. If we can track… I don’t know, police reports, maybe? General disturbances or confrontations that have increased in the past- what? Four weeks? Six?”

“Then we can narrow down where she’s based herself.” Natasha nodded. “Smart. I bet Stark has a way of doing so.”

“We can’t bring him into this,” Darcy said in alarm. “Tony Stark cannot know about the gods. For one, he’d have an existential crisis of epic proportions.” Steve huffed a laugh. “Besides the fact that he’d take it as a personal challenge to.. I don’t know, prove something. To them. Or himself. Whatever! The point is-”

“I’m well aware of your point,” Natasha said dryly. “I was suggesting we ask Jarvis and then lie to Stark if he asks why.”

“Oh.” Darcy deflated, her alarm fading. “Yeah, that’ll work.”

“I’ll go get started on that,” Natasha decided. “It will be less suspicious coming from me.” She waved when Mia chirped a goodbye from where she was showing Bucky her latest drawings- this time on paper and not the walls.

“Well, that’s a start.” Darcy heaved out a sigh, some of the worry fading away now that they had something to work off of.

Steve pressed a kiss to her hair. “You’ll get her, doll. I have no doubt.” Though warmed by his faith in her, Darcy had a sinking feeling that nothing about this quest was going to work out the way she planned it. She only hoped they would all survive the fallout.

Chapter Text

“Good, Mia,” Darcy praised, circling slowly around the basement gym. Mia’s eyes were narrowed in concentration, her focus divided between the sword in her hand and the illusion she was projecting of a two-headed fanged monster.

“That’s it, stay focused,” Shay said as Darcy feigned a strike. She moved slower than she usually would, making sure to give Mia time to react. This was about teaching the young demigod to defend herself, not scaring her.

Not that their girl had an ounce of fear in her.

The monster lunged for her and Darcy stepped instinctively away, even knowing it wasn’t corporeal. Mia struck then, nearly catching Darcy with the tip of their wooden practice swords.

“Atta girl,” Ash said warmly. “Keep her moving, keep her guessing.” Darcy nodded in agreement with his instructions, noting absently that Steve and Bucky had wandered in at some point and watched the proceedings with interest. They noticed the monster at Mia’s side and fumbled, but apparently decided since no one else was concerned that it must be okay. She appreciated their trust.

“Switch,” Adrian called a minute later. “Two in, spear and a sword.”

Darcy stepped away as Ash and Shay moved in. She joined Steve and Bucky, smiling up at them in greeting, as they watched Mia’s ongoing training.

“What’s this?” Steve asked.

“Practice,” she explained, pressing the tip of the wooden practice sword to the mat and leaning on it. “Mia’s training is year round- this is just a game we play to keep things interesting.” She nodded towards Adrian. “One of us will oversee it. Whoever is player one, Mia in this case, is defending a position. We start one-on-one, usually.”

Bucky made a sound of interest. “Weapons?”

Darcy smiled. “That’s where it gets fun. You have to hold your ground for two minutes. After that two minutes, the overseer will make the call. Add an attacker, switch one out, add a specific weapon, take one away, and so on.”

They watched Mia’s frown of concentration as she fought. Shay and Ash moved slowly but insistently pressured her into defending herself, acting and reacting while maintaining the illusion.

“Mia is a child of Hecate, so she has a gift for creating illusions that can even work on demigods.” Darcy gestured to the monster. “We want her to practice with it in case she ever has to use an illusion during a fight.”

“Shay out,” Adrian ordered. “Weapons out.”

Ash and Mia tossed their swords aside. Ash closed in, taking Mia slowly through the next round of hand-to-hand combat.

“I like this,” Steve said thoughtfully. “Where did you learn it?”

Shay leaned against the wall nearby. “Darce and I made it up,” she explained, watching Mia. “We led one of the cohorts at the Roman camp together for two years. One of our training drills turned into something like this, and we eventually had to come up with a set of rules when it became chaotic.” She and Darcy shared a grin- "chaotic" was a polite way to put that experience.

Bucky and Steve looked impressed. “It’s smart,” Bucky said. “You utilize different weapons, different scenarios, teach them how to respond instantly and keep their cool.”

“You should see us when we really get going,” Darcy said, ducking her head to hide her smile. “It’s about ten times faster than this, and extremely aggressive.”

“You said demigods have enhanced abilities,” Steve mused. She nodded and he flashed her a grin. “Want to spar?”

Shay barked a laugh. “That should be interesting.”

“You think it’d be an even match?” Bucky asked her, curious.

“I think Darcy will surprise him.” Shay grinned at her. “She fights mean.”

“Gee, and who taught me that?” Darcy wondered with a pointed look.

“Reyna,” Shay said immediately, and Darcy laughed.

“Sure, like you had nothing to do with it.” She wiggled her eyebrows at Steve. “Let’s go, Cap. I know you’ve been itching for this.”

“Maybe not this,” Bucky murmured. He looked pleased with himself when a flush spread across Steve’s cheeks in response.

Shay snorted a laugh. “Cute. I’ll take the kid out of here before we all suffocate on this UST.”

“What’s UST?” Mia asked, finished with her final round.

“Ask Adrian, he can explain,” Shay said without hesitation. Adrian sputtered. Mia looked up at him, waiting patiently for an explanation. He glared at Shay and then sighed in defeat, leading Mia upstairs.

“Come on, munchkin, I’ll explain on the way to school.” Adrian was teaching summer school and had Mia duty for the day, as the most qualified to protect her thanks to his Circles.

“He stuck me with the ‘how babies are made’ conversation,” Shay grouched. “He deserves worse.”

“Forever grateful I was at work for that,” Darcy said. Steve and Bucky chuckled.

Ash grimaced. “I remember how horrifying the sex talk was when my mom gave it and it seemed like the worst thing to ever happen to me. But now I think it might be worse giving it. She had so many questions.”

“She’s inquisitive,” Darcy said, struggling not to laugh. “And very smart. Better she learns the truth of things before some idiot in the school system tries to teach her differently.”

“That’s true.” Shay eyed them. “We’re leaving now, so you guys can stop making up excuses to touch each other.”

“Thanks, Shay,” Darcy said as they left. “I only find your investment in my love life a little weird.” Shay just waved over her shoulder and disappeared up the stairs.

“So,” Steve said, pressing up against her back. “What do you say?” He pressed his mouth very gently to the crook of her neck and made her shiver.

“Do you try to seduce all of your opponents?” She asked, earning a nip that made her jerk against him. Bucky laughed softly.

“Jus’ the real pretty ones,” Steve mumbled into her skin. She cursed when he dragged his tongue down the outer curve of her ear, pausing to bite gently at the hinge of her jaw. One big hand circled around to grip her belly, holding her still while his mouth turned her into a trembling mess.

“He has somewhat of an oral fixation,” Bucky drawled. “It’s only gotten worse with time.”

“Never heard you complaining,” Steve shot back. He took more of her weight when she leaned back heavily against him. Clever fingers slipped under her shirt, stroking her stomach. “Soft,” he murmured, dragging calloused fingers teasingly close to her waistband. His other hand came around and up to rest against the base of her throat, holding her back against him.

She felt encompassed, enveloped and surrounded by the warmth of him. It was intoxicating, made all the better by Bucky’s steady, heated eye contact. She pressed her thighs together against the building pressure between her legs.

“Buck likes it when he can make me fall apart,” Steve said conversationally. “But I think gettin’ to watch you would be even more fun.” He flexed the hand on her belly, fingers digging in with just enough sting to send sparks of pleasure shooting up her spine.

“I could get you off right here while he watches,” he continued, voice low and smooth. “Slide my hand into these-” he snapped the waistband of her yoga pants and made her gasp- “and finger you until you’re ready to scream. Let you soak my hand while I play with your clit, have you beggin’ for it.”

“What the hell- You’re fucking filthy,” Darcy said in awe. She caught his wicked grin out of the corner of her vision and tried to get her breathing under control.

“Or,” he said, dropping his voice lower until it rumbled in his chest- “Buck could hold you still for me, hold you open while I eat you out until your legs are shaking and you’re coming all over my face.”

“Shit,” Darcy choked out. Bucky’s eyes were positively gleaming as he watched them.

“I like to do that,” Steve admitted, face pressed into her hair.

“He’s good at that,” Bucky added, his voice hoarse. “And he’s wanted to get his mouth on you for months.”

“What the fuck stopped him?” Darcy asked, trying to regain some sense of control over herself. She distantly wondered if her knees would give out without him holding her up.

Steve pressed his mouth to her shoulder, and she felt the curve of his smile. “We wanted more than just sex, great as it would-will be. Hoped you might want that, too.”

“We didn’t want to blow it,” Bucky agreed. “Or scare you off before we could lure you in.”

“Please,” Darcy said, her voice thankfully no longer a breathy gasp, “I lured you. I was the lurer here. You two were my hapless victims.”

“Uh huh,” Steve said, amused. “And what are you going to do now that you have us?”

Darcy tipped her head as if in thought. She could barely focus beyond his strong grip and the steady, pulsing heat in her core, let alone past the stream of filth that came out of his pretty red mouth. “Add you to my harem, I guess,” she said.

Steve laughed. “Lucky us.”

“Lucky you,” she said solemnly. “So, are you going to fuck me on the floor, or are we going to actually spar? You got a little derailed, so it’s hard to tell.” Steve dropped his head to her shoulder with a low curse.

Bucky laughed. “You started it, punk.”

“C’mon, Rogers,” Darcy teased. “Let’s see how you do with a sword.”

“I saw you and Shay fight the other day,” Steve said dubiously. “I know when I’m outclassed.”

“Uh huh.” Darcy tossed him a wooden practice sword. Like hell was she passing up a chance to beat Captain America in a fight. She grinned widely at him, tapped her bracelet, and enjoyed the way he watched her appreciatively when she stood before him with the heavy shield.

Bucky straightened off the wall and padded over to the wall of weapons. “We playin’ your game, doll?” He picked up a dagger, tested the weight, and whirled to throw it directly into the center of the target across the large room.

“That sounds fun,” she said brightly. “We’ll take turns calling it.” Darcy smirked. “I’ll start. Bucky, you’re tagged in.”

“What’s the goal?” He asked, sending Steve a teasing, heated look.

“Beat Steve, of course.”

“Hey!” Steve protested on a laugh, but he was ready for them when they moved in.

The match quickly devolved into a game of ‘catch Steve’ and then Bucky, and then they inevitably turned on her. Both of them, she noticed, were careful not to let things get too heated, too aggressive. They kept it light and fun, teasing each other and backing away when things got serious.

She wondered why. Did Bucky struggle? Did Steve? They’d fought, she recalled vaguely, before Bucky broke free from the conditioning. Did sparring bring those memories back?

Whatever it was, she played along with enthusiasm. She could fake it with the best of them, and pretending everything was okay when you really just wanted everything to stop- well. That was like, 80% of her personality at this point. Pretending was something she could do, if that’s what kept them balanced.

She still struggled, sometimes, still had a tendency to drop into a pit of desolation. But already, even mere months after knowing them and inviting them into her life, they’d already made everything just a little bit brighter.

Whatever they needed from her, she would give.

~*~

“So,” Tony said, leaning casually against the kitchen counter. “Capsicle and the MurderBot? Really, Lewis? And here I thought you were the sensible one.” He’d ambushed her in the common room while she made a fresh pot of coffee for her and Jane- their third of the day, which wasn’t bad, considering it was only past noon.

Amused despite herself, Darcy filled a mug and slid the coffee pot out of his reach when she noticed the dark circles under his eyes and the manic look that came with a three-day science bender. “And here I never thought you of all people would object to an… unusual relationship. Is monogamy really so boring, that you’re butting into my life just for kicks?”

“I’m not objecting,” Tony said, offended. “Don’t put words into my mouth.”

“Hmm.” Darcy sipped her coffee and studied him over the rim. “So what is this, then? A half-assed intervention? On whose behalf, I wonder?”

“Excuse me, I never half-ass anything. I whole ass everything or don’t do it at all. That includes all the terrible decisions, too, of which you really seem to enjoy reminding me.”

“I feel like we’re getting off track here,” she said thoughtfully. “But the point still stands.”

He studied her with dark, shrewd eyes, abruptly serious. “You know what you’re getting into?”

Darcy felt a spike of amused horror mixed with something like, oddly enough, delight. “Are you worried about my honor, Tony? Going to threaten Captain America and the Winter Soldier on my behalf?" She made a considering noise. "Wow, is this what having a father is like?” She wondered.

Tony shuddered. “Bite your tongue.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Darcy said, waving a hand dismissively. “This tower is just one giant residence for people with daddy issues, anyway.”

“Oh, you too?” Tony asked, looking mildly pleased. “Excellent, we’ll start a club. I’m president, obviously. You can be the VP, if you play your cards right.”

“Lucky me,” she said solemnly. She kicked him gently in the ankle. “Thanks for checking up on me, Stark. It’s very sweet.”

Tony scowled. “Sweet?”

“Don’t worry,” she told him, filling a second mug for Jane and pouring the rest down the sink so Tony couldn’t have any, “I won’t give away your secret.”

He yelled after her as she sauntered away. “What secret?” Then, more quietly, “What just happened?”

“That you’re just a big softie,” she called over her shoulder.

“I am not-” he sputtered, then shouted, “This is why we aren’t friends, Lewis!”

Darcy laughed to herself and only shook her head at Jane when the scientist peered up at her from the floor of her lab, looking like a wild mess. “Any progress?”

Jane scowled, making grabby hands for the cup in her hands. Darcy obediently handed it over and watched as her friend chugged half of it in one go. “On what? My actual work, or the little death box? Because the answer to both of those is no.”

“Okay,” Darcy said patiently. “I’ll check on you later, then? I want to see if Nat has an update for me.”

“Fine,” Jane mumbled, already immersed in her work again. “Lock the door behind you so Tony doesn’t stop by and bother me.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Darcy wandered out of the lab, deciding to find Steve and Bucky before Natasha. Cheered by her plan, she stopped by the common room first to wash her mug. She absently hummed Shay’s latest piece of music under her breath; the violinist had practiced for a couple hours the night before and the house had been positively alive as music wove its way through the halls.

It was one of Darcy’s favorite things about living with her small family- there was always some sort of noise, sounds of life throughout the big house that was a constant reminder that she wasn’t alone.

She returned her mug to one of the cabinets and turned towards the door. The giant television on the far wall caught her attention as it blinked to life, showing the weather, the time, and… the date on the display stopped her cold.

Darcy felt her heart climb into her throat. She could only stare, frozen in place, and absently wondered how she was supposed to breathe past the tightness in her throat. Her hands were tight fists at her sides, her chest rising and falling rapidly despite the lack of air.

She promptly forgot her plans. Instead, she turned blindly towards the bar, grabbed an armful of bottles at random from Tony’s booze collection, and made her way to the roof.

How could she have forgotten? How could she have let the date slip by? What did it say about her, that she hadn't remembered? Her hands trembled now, unsteady as she shouldered open the roof door and found it blessedly empty. She stumbled her way to one of the chairs.

The lid of the first bottle- tequila, by the smell of it- was tossed aside impatiently. Darcy stared blankly out over the city skyline, swamped with emotion.

Regret, grief, remorse. She tried her damndest to drown them all. Because above all, even though it shamed her to her very core, all she wanted to do was forget.

Chapter Text

Bucky looked up when Natasha stalked into the room and stopped to stare irritably at him. He thought back, trying to figure out when and how he’d recently pissed her off, but came up empty. They'd already worked out the Red Room shit, as well as they could, anyway. He wondered occasionally how the hell he'd missed the whole demigod part of the girls he'd trained- and always carefully stopped thinking about it at the immediate memory of the chair.

“Where is Darcy?” Natasha asked, arms folded across her chest. She leveled him with a narrow-eyed glare. “She was supposed to meet me hours ago.”

Ah. Right. Natalia never had learned to share.

He shrugged. “I don’t have her.”

“Well, she never showed up. Steve?”

“He had a meeting with Rhodey and Sam, then planned to stop by weapons development.” He glanced at the clock on the wall of the common room, where he was waiting for Steve so they could go home. “Should be back in any minute.” Then her words caught up to him and he frowned back at her. “Wait. What do you mean, she never showed up?” Worry bloomed in his gut, that ever-present sense of dread growing bright and sharp.

“I had more data for us to go over,” Natasha said, the first light of uncertainty creeping into her eyes. “She wasn’t with Jane, so I assumed you and Steve had distracted her again.”

“I haven’t seen her.” He had a quick flash of images in his head- Darcy hurt, scared, lost, bleeding somewhere without him ever knowing she needed him.

Stop, he told himself when his hands wanted to shake. Stop it. There was no point in jumping to conclusions and having a panic attack because he didn’t know where she was at that exact moment. No use assuming the worst until they knew the facts.

He grew worried when his chest went tight anyway. Natasha eyed him with concern. And then, as if he’d known Bucky needed him, Steve appeared in the doorway. Suddenly everything was okay again. Or at least it would be, with him here. Steve would fix this.

Steve had been smiling at him when he first walked in, but it faded quickly at the sight of Bucky’s obvious distress and Natasha’s stiff posture. “What? What happened?” He closed in, cupping Bucky’s head in his hands and peering at him intently. “Buck?”

“Yeah,” Bucky rasped. “I’m fine, punk. Just had a moment.” Steve obviously didn’t believe him but subsided when Bucky shook his head. They could deal with his anxiety later- once they found the source of it and made sure she was safe.

“Darcy is missing,” Natasha said shortly. Steve jerked as if he’d been hit, whirling to stare at her.

“She’s- then why are we just standing here?” He demanded, reaching instinctively for the shield that wasn’t there.

A quiet noise came from the room's invisible speakers. Natasha’s eyes flicked up to the ceiling, and Bucky realized Jarvis was attempting to get their attention. The AI version of clearing your throat, he assumed. “Miss Lewis is accounted for,” the AI told them, and then said nothing further.

Frustrated, Steve spread his hands. “Where, Jarvis?”

“She has requested that she be left alone.”

“But she’s in the tower,” Bucky said. She’d have to be, if Jarvis was so certain that she was ‘accounted for.’ The AI’s silence confirmed it.

Natasha eyed the bar thoughtfully. “Jarvis, has Stark gone on another bender?”

“No, Agent Romanov.” He said nothing else.

“Then I’m going to assume Darcy was the one who raided the bar.” She leaned over the counter, examining the remaining bottles. “She took a lot with her.”

“So she’s somewhere in the tower... drinking?” Bucky said slowly. That made... absolutely no sense whatsoever.

“And she wants to be alone?” Steve repeated. He exchanged a baffled look with Bucky.

“So she’s drinking herself unconscious on the roof,” Natasha concluded, and smiled sharply when Jarvis didn’t respond. “Hardly anyone goes up there, so she’d be able to hide.”

“But why does she want to hide?” Steve wondered. He was already moving towards the elevator. Bucky followed. They could check in, at the very least.

Besides, drunk people of roofs typically had a tragic ending. Not even a demigod could survive a fall from Stark Tower.

Jarvis’s silence felt like approval, so he must have been concerned as well. It wasn’t until they stepped out onto the rooftop and saw Darcy standing entirely too close to the edge for comfort that he realized something was very wrong.

“I think we should handle this,” Steve murmured to Natasha without taking his eyes off of Darcy. “If you want to tell the others that we’ve got her?”

Natasha stared him down for a long moment. Finally, surprisingly, she relented. “Take care of her,” she ordered. “And don’t push. If she doesn’t want to talk, she doesn’t have to.” With that she stabbed a finger at the button and left them to tread uncertain waters.

“Jesus,” Steve muttered, noticing the small pile of empty bottles. “Do you think she has a metabolism like ours?”

“Has to,” Bucky said. He nudged a bottle of whiskey aside with his foot. “Otherwise she’d be dead right now.” Probably. There were a lot of empty bottles. It really wasn’t helping with the crushing weight of stress and worry on his chest, but he had other things to worry about.

Like the blue-eyed woman who flicked a glance in their direction as they picked their way across the roof to her. “If you’ve come to lecture,” she said, slurring less than he would have expected considering the bottles littering the ground, “don’t bother. I have a right to my bad decisions.”

In answer, Steve slowly reached over to twist the bottle in her hands. Her fingers tightened on it, like she thought he might take it away, but he just squinted at the label and nodded. “Stark’s got good taste in alcohol, I’ll give him that.”

Like Steve ever bothered to drink, Bucky thought, but the casual comment had some of the rising tension in Darcy’s frame easing again. The serum kept Steve from getting drunk, burning the alcohol out of his system too fast to keep up with, but Bucky’s was different. His bastardized version metabolized it all too, right up until it didn’t. He could get drunk if he really, really tried, but that was... Not optimal. Too many risks. He didn’t trust himself sober- drunk was out of the question.

Now, though, he studied Darcy’s white-knuckled grip, the bitter twist to her mouth. The hollowed-out look in her eye that made him nauseous, because he recognized it. Had seen it time after time in the mirror.

“What’s the occasion?” He asked, leaning against the edge of the roof. He used the change in position to step a little closer so she was within easy reach. Steve eyed the distance between her and the edge and moved a little closer, too. If she noticed she didn’t say anything, just stared out at the sinking sun. It set the city alight with the last few warm rays of color, and Bucky appreciated the sight and the soft scent from the nearby decorative plants.

“Does there have to be one?”

“No,” he said evenly, watching as she lifted the bottle again. “But you don’t seem like the type to drink yourself stupid on a roof.”

“I do all sorts of stupid things,” Darcy told him. She didn’t meet his gaze, just watched the skyline with far more interest than it deserved. But when he shifted, thought about touching her, she curled in on herself. The way she stood said that she would shatter at the slightest provocation, like even his gentle touch would ruin her.

“Darcy,” Steve said quietly.

In answer, she leaned down and plucked a bottle of tequila from the remaining pile. She handed it to Steve, who stared down at it like it might have the answer to his questions. Bucky accepted a bottle of scotch without comment.

“Tonight, we’re drinking to my own stupidity.” She lifted her bottle, toasting them both, and down a third of it.

Steve set his aside. “You aren’t stupid.”

Darcy took another swig, pointedly ignoring him. “And incompetence, I forgot that one.” Somehow, Bucky wasn’t surprised that she was a belligerent drunk.

“What’s so special about today?” He asked. Maybe she’d reached a breaking point. He wished she had found either or both of them to help cope with it all, but he also tended to withdraw when hurt. Now he knew how Steve felt.

“Today,” Darcy said, and Bucky’s heart ached when her voice cracked, “is the day that I got my little brother killed.” She took another long, long draw from the bottle, as if the admission had reminded her of her goal to drink herself to unconsciousness.

Shit. Bucky met Steve’s eyes over her head. “We know you,” Steve said very quietly. “And I definitely know that you’d never hurt your family on purpose.”

“Oh?” Finally, finally, she looked at them. It was a hard-eyed challenge, but it was better than that empty stare at a distant, uncaring city. “So I guess you know I left the foster home with him, where we’d been... safe-” and he really didn’t like the hesitation over that word, not one bit- “and walked us straight into a trap.”

“Did you know about the trap beforehand?” Steve asked, and Bucky loved him so fiercely in that moment. Because he knew that Steve would dismantle her self-loathing guilt with that logical mind of his, would rip her arguments to shreds until she started to believe him, until she saw herself the way he saw her.

He’d done it for Bucky, after all.

“No,” Darcy snapped. “But I should have expected it.” She punctuated it with another sip and a furious glare at Steve. He was unruffled by her combative stare.

“Seems to me like the fault lies with the ones who hurt you, not with you.”

She took a shaky breath. “I was supposed to keep him safe,” she said tightly. Fury warred with devastation, playing out in her expression, the way she wrapped an arm across her stomach and curled over it. Like it hurt to stand, hurt to breathe. Hurt to be alive. “He was just a kid. He depended on me. I was supposed to keep him safe.”

Bucky did some quick math in his head, assumed that she’d gone to the Roman camp around the same time as her brother’s death. It fit, from what little he’d pieced together. Steve evidently did the same, because he stepped a little closer to her and gently said, “You were just a kid yourself, honey.”

“That doesn’t matter. I’d spent enough time at camp, I was old enough to know...” She took a huge breath, more of a gasp than anything. “I wasn’t careful or smart enough, and Quinn died for it.” And it was eating her alive, Bucky saw.

“What happened?” He asked. She let him inch over, close enough that he could see the red in her eyes, could hear her soft, shallow breaths.

Darcy’s hands were shaking. “He was... he was a quarter demigod. Usually that doesn’t mean what it does for the half-bloods, but Quinn was strong. He had gifts that set him apart, abilities that suggested he might have enough god blood to get him through the wards at camp.”

She paused, eyes far away again. “Did you know that some humans are so horrible that their presence hides us from monsters? It’s as if they’re so terrible that the monsters don’t even register that they aren’t the same.” She looked down, one hand tracing a small, round scar on the inside of her elbow.

Bucky thought he might throw up. Steve’s jaw was clenched so tight it left white lines of temper on his face. Darcy paid them no attention. “The foster home we were in, it was one of those. But they were so bad that it meant I wasn’t being hunted, because the other monsters thought I’d already been caught if they found me at the house.”

“I’ve never noticed those before,” Steve said tightly. He gestured to the inside of her elbow, where Bucky could see more of those burn scars. The implications of which were horrifying.

“I’m good with makeup,” Darcy said dismissively. “Some of the older foster kids taught me. Demigods are kinda viewed as problem children anyway- though half the time it’s because of the collateral damage when a monster shows up at our school or something. It means we’re bounced around in the system a lot. So makeup helps cover the bruises, and when the foster parents got frustrated with all the constant trouble we cause, we learn to cover them up.”

“Why hide it?”

She shrugged. “Sometimes the home isn’t all that bad, if you just stay out their way. A couple bruises are worth getting fed every day, and some of the places have younger kids that... Well. That need a shield, I guess, until they’re old enough to know better.” Steve had to turn away.

But Bucky knew that kind of fear, the terror of being at the mercy of someone who didn’t know the meaning of the word. Darcy looked up, eyes brimming with tears. “I tried to get Quinn out,” she told him. “For some reason, monsters were still finding him even though I stayed hidden. I don’t know why- we were in the same house, shared the same room, even. I thought if I could get him to camp, he’d be safe.”

“But you didn’t make it?” He asked gently. She let him take the bottle away, didn’t even seem to notice when he tossed it aside.

“We were attacked just outside of the city. There were so many of them,” she whispered. Carefully, slowly, he pulled her in until she rested against his chest. “I thought I knew how to fight, at least well enough to get us there. But I wasn’t... I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t expect so many, didn’t plan for it, and he was bleeding and then I couldn’t see him and...”

“Easy,” he murmured, holding her tightly. “Easy, love.”

“I was almost dead when Adrian showed up,” she said, muffled into his shirt. Steve was leaning against the ledge, eyes closed as he listened. “I didn’t know who he was, or how he knew... But he managed to put down a Circle and dragged me into it. I didn’t realize what was happening, just kept trying to get to Quinn. Adrian had to hold me down.”

“And the monsters?”

“Dead. It was a god. I don’t know who, but a handful of the gods can smite monsters. And that’s what happened to all of the ones who attacked us. It might have been Hestia, but the other gods probably would have noticed if she’d used that much power, and then they’d followed it to Adrian. She wouldn’t risk that.”

“Your mother, then?” He wondered if Athena could have left her to die, and could see that she wondered the same.

Darcy was quiet for a moment. There was some meaning in that pause, something he hadn’t learned how to read yet. “I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe. She’s never said anything.”

“What happened after that?” Steve leaned in to brush her hair out of her face.

“Adrian called the police. The cops chalked it up to a robbery gone wrong or something, I don’t know. I spent a couple weeks in the hospital until I could walk again, and then I went to camp and... ended up being sent to Camp Jupiter.” He had a feeling there was more to that story.

“But you stayed in touch with Adrian,” Bucky surmised.

“I did. And I sent Ash to him when Ash wanted to leave the Greek camp but didn’t know where to go. Shay and I joined them when we left Camp Jupiter, and we all lived in a shitty, tiny apartment with each other until Ash scraped enough together for the house.”

They were quiet for a while. He let her tuck herself into him, face pressed into his neck and body plastered against him. “You sobering up?” Bucky asked eventually.

“Unfortunately,” she muttered. “Inhuman metabolism. You know the drill.”

“Darcy,” Steve said softly. She turned her head a few inches to blink at him. “I don’t think you should be alone tonight.”

“I can just go home.”

“If you’d wanted to go home, you would have,” he reasoned. “You stayed here to get drunk, which means... what, exactly? You don’t want to lean on them?” He cocked his head, studying her face. “Or you don’t think you deserve to?” She looked away.

Bucky shared a look with him. They could address that later, when she wasn’t emotionally vulnerable and affected by the lingering alcohol in her system. “Let us take you home with us,” Bucky said, sweeping a hand down her back.

“Stark has plenty of guest rooms,” she countered. “A trip downstairs isn’t too difficult for even me to manage.”

“Yeah, but we don’t live here.” He huffed a laugh when she blinked at him in confusion.

“We have an apartment here, for when we need it,” Steve told her. “But Buck and I have a place in Brooklyn.” Darcy rolled her eyes, looking like herself for the first time that night.

“Of course you do.”

“Darcy.” Steve waited until she met his steady gaze. “Let us take care of you tonight. Please."

She watched him, silent for so long Bucky was afraid she would say no. But she only ducked her head, hair falling around her face, and said, “Okay.”

~*~

Bucky woke early the following morning. He turned his head to find Steve, only to discover an empty bed. The sheets were cool when he slid a hand across the mattress.

A quick search found Steve in the kitchen, where he was staring blearily at the coffee maker as it grumbled to life. He glanced down the hall towards the guest room, as if worried the noise would wake Darcy, and found Bucky instead.

“Did I wake you?” He asked quietly. Bucky shook his head and padded across the kitchen. Steve kissed him, soft and reassuring.

“Didn’t sleep well,” Bucky said, eyes drifting closed when Steve slid long fingers through his hair. “Worried.”

“I know.” Steve glanced down the hall again, brow furrowed. They’d had a brief, silent argument over where to put her last night. Steve wanted her close, where he could keep an eye on her, but Bucky could see her fatigue and the influence of the alcohol and didn’t want her waking up with the wrong impression.

So instead they lied awake and fretted over her in the other room.

Steve looked past him and brightened. “Good morning.” Bucky turned his head to see Darcy standing behind him with an uncertain expression.

Strange, Bucky thought, that he forgot how she changed the gravity in the room until she was there again. He fell helplessly back into orbit again, reaching for her before he’d even decided to do it. She still had the wary look on her face, like maybe she was considering leaving.

But she let him take her hand, draw her in until she was standing safely between them. She wore one of Steve’s shirts. It fell to mid-thigh, and he couldn’t tell if she was wearing anything beneath it.

Not the time, he reminded himself. Not while she still looked so brittle, unsure of herself and her place here.

“I’m sorry,” she started, and was instantly cut off by Steve.

“Don’t apologize,” he said firmly. She narrowed her eyes, instinctively objecting to the command, and Bucky had to hide a grin. They were going to be a handful.

He was really, really looking forward to it.

Chapter Text

They herded her to a barstool, hovered until she drank some gatorade, and fed her french toast and fruit. She let them, vaguely enjoying the close attention and definitely appreciating the way they moved together in the kitchen. It was like a dance, both of them drifting into each other’s space but never colliding, always aware of the other.

She would feel like an interloper except for the way they drew her in too with soft touches and smiles, constantly glancing her way as if to reassure themselves that she was still there.

This was… better than the fallout she’d expected.

Her hangover was limited to a mild headache, more from dehydration than anything else. She felt like a wrung-out dish towel, as if the emotions from the previous night had been wrenched out of her by force. But most of all, most familiar of all, she felt tired. Instead of lingering on that thought, she looked around, looked into their lives.

Grey curtains framed a set of tall, lovely windows, the decor softer than she had expected. The apartment was all exposed, faded brick, and it was bright and friendly and felt like a home. Small pots with flourishing succulents and herbs lined the kitchen window sill.

Occasional noises from the city still drifted to her ears, but the apartment was in a quieter neighborhood so it wasn’t even a disturbance. The room smelled like the remains of breakfast and the mint plant in the corner of the window, which was growing to an aggressive size.

Peace, she realized. There was peace here, a serenity that made her ache a little- because it was exactly what she needed right now, and she could see what it meant to them both to share that with her.

Bucky’s hand trailed absently down her arm as he passed by. The touch drew Darcy out of her thoughts and she glanced up at him in question. He was watching Steve, though, who walked by a second later and paused to kiss her hair.

To her humiliation, the gesture made tears spring to her eyes. Steve halted in surprise, walked backwards until he could peer down at her in concern as she pressed the heels of her hands against her eyes. “Don’t,” she warned. “I’m sorry, it’s nothing.” Get it together, she told herself furiously. This was ridiculous- one kind gesture and she fell to pieces.

Steve wrapped her in a hug. “Shut up,” he said mildly when she tried to protest. He propped his chin on her head and held her until she managed to swallow back the tears.

“You’ve had a lot of pressure on you,” Bucky said gently, trapping her hands between his own. “It’s okay to ask for help, Darcy.”

“I just…” She dropped her forehead against Steve’s chest and closed her eyes. “I’m trying to figure out Eris’s plans before she strikes again and I feel like…” Like the sense of responsibility was crushing her, like all of her fears would come true because she wasn’t good enough. “I just keep remembering Quinn and everyone I lost at Camp Jupiter and I know that if I screw up one time, if I miss one thing, someone will die for it.”

“Baby,” Steve said so gently it nearly made her cry again. “This isn’t all on you. Not everything is your fault.”

“Wow.” Bucky looked up at him, impressed. “That means a lot, coming from Mr. Hero-Complex over there.”

Steve rolled his eyes. “Read the room, jerk. You can make fun of me later.”

“I can make fun of you now, too,” Bucky said with a shrug. Darcy muffled a giggle in Steve’s shirt when he huffed in offense. He refocused on her, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “What can we do, doll? How can we help you?”

Darcy took a moment to answer, wanting to think it through first. They were genuinely offering, wanted to help her, and she felt so much for them both at that moment that it scared her a little. The depth of her feelings weren’t exactly a surprise, but she’d had an emotional couple of days. It warranted some consideration.

Such as: how the fuck did she manage to fall in love with not one, but two people in such a short period of time? Darcy, queen of shutting herself off from the world, had fallen hard for them both. Tartarus must be frozen over.

Steve’s thumb rubbed the base of her neck.

Sex now, she decided. Feelings later. Once she’d dissected them thoroughly and took the time to feel them out (ha) first.

“I just want to stop thinking,” she said finally. “Make me forget, even if it’s just for a little while.”

“A little while?” Steve said, playfully insulted as his smile grew.

“I think we can handle that,” Bucky told her seriously. “Tell me, is your definition of ‘a little while’ the same as ours?”

She sent him a coy look from beneath her lashes. “Why don’t you show me?”

He grinned and she went hot all over. “Why don’t we?”

~*~

She lost track of time after that. Everything was a haze of warmth and wet and strong hands riding over her body. They’d made it to the bedroom at some point. Her shirt- Steve’s shirt- was left hanging from a floor lamp in the den. The rest of their clothes were scattered along the hall, the bedroom floor, the bedside table.

Big hands cupped her breasts, massaging the sensitive flesh and brushing a teasing thumb over her nipples. Steve grinned down at her when she squirmed impatiently, even as Bucky slid a hand around to brace her head so he could lick his way into her mouth. His tongue slid against hers, in control and confident without being pushy. She felt dizzy from all the sensations, trying and failing to keep track of them both.

She was left in only a pair of panties with ducks all over them, which made them laugh and her mentally kick herself for not going with the lace instead when she’d dressed yesterday. It was laundry day, in her defense.

Darcy gasped at the slow drag of fingers down her sides, Steve’s hands curling so his nails scraped against her just enough pressure to keep from tickling her.

Bucky caught her lower lip between his teeth, drawing back and luring her upper body off the bed after him. She noted absently how careful he was to keep his metal arm out of her sightline, never touching her with it. She made an impatient noise and pulled it up to her breasts, which Steve had abandoned in favor for exploring her inner thighs with his mouth.

Bucky gently twisted a nipple just as Steve traced his fingertips over her damp underwear, a barely-there sensation that sent chills down her spine. “He’s been lookin’ forward to this,” Bucky said low in her ear. His head was turned to watch Steve, who was drawing her panties off inch by inch.

Steve squeezed her legs, fingers dragging lazily over the sensitive skin of her inner thighs. Bucky kept playing with her breasts, caressing and rolling her nipples between his fingers until she was panting into his mouth.

Darcy felt like a firecracker had sparked beneath her skin, simmering and threatening to explode at the slightest provocation. She held her breath as Steve pressed down on her thighs, spreading her wide for him. She was already soaked. He noticed immediately, humming in appreciation as he settled down between her thighs.

“Steve, I-” She jerked when he used his thumbs to spread her open and blew a steady stream of hot air over her clit.

“You just hold on, honey,” he told her, and licked up her cunt in a long, slow slide.

Bucky laved at the skin underneath her ear as she gasped and whimpered. Steve’s hands came up, one wrapped around her upper thigh and the other settling across her hips to pin her to the mattress. She clenched her hands in the sheets, already trembling, and let out a short, choked cry when Steve released her thigh and pressed one long finger into her.

His mouth was unrelenting. A second finger joined the first, and she was positively writhing against his hold now. Steve pressed his mouth to her clit, sucking and licking until she was coming around his fingers.

“Not done yet,” he murmured when she arched her back and reached for him. “Hold her for me, Buck.”

Bucky grinned, hands sliding into hers so he could tangle their fingers together and press her hands down beside her head. “You’re doin’ great, doll,” he told her, leaning in to nip at her swollen mouth. She could only whimper, desperate, as Steve fucked into her with another finger and curled all three until the pads of his fingers were dragging against her inner walls, against a spot that had her hips bucking wildly against his grip.

“Fuck!” She could get herself off with a vibrator more than once, if she really set her mind to it. But she’d never had an orgasm so soon after another, had never felt like she was burning alive with the feel of it. Of being taken apart so thoroughly, with Steve’s mouth mercilessly bringing her to the edge again and again as Bucky sucked her nipples into his mouth and made her gasp for air.

Worship. That’s what this felt like. Hands riding over her body, lingering in the places that made her twitch, sinking strong fingers into her flesh to hold her still. Mouths gliding over her in a benediction, sucking marks into her skin, tongues exploring every inch of her.

Everything was just a shivery sort of pleasure now, bordering on over sensitive but not quite yet. Steve seemed to know exactly how far to push her, though, taking her right to the edge before backing off again until she was ready to scream with how desperate she was.

He drew it out until she was coasting on a steady pulse of sensation. Until she was limp and twitching under his hands and whimpering with every sweep of his tongue.

Only then did he rise to his knees and tug her down the mattress so her legs were resting over his own. His mouth and chin were wet, she saw through the lingering haze. She made a noise low in her throat when Bucky leaned over to lick Steve’s chin, then his mouth. Their kiss was one of old lovers, easy and familiar with lot of heat behind it.

They broke apart after a moment so Steve could lean down and press a kiss to her swollen mouth. “Okay?” He asked, voice hoarse.

“Yeah,” she sighed. “I want you to fuck me now.” Steve swore as she reached down to slide her hand over him. He was hard and leaking, and he was going to feel so good inside of her.

“Condom?” He asked, and she blinked at him in confusion until she realized Bucky was leaning over to sort through the bedside table. He moved to Steve’s side, winked down at Darcy, and slid the condom onto Steve’s cock. “Less cleanup this way.”

“Wait,” Darcy said, sitting up. She insistently nudged at Bucky until he complied, falling back onto the bed. She settled on her knees between his legs, dropping her head to lick a slow line up his cock, and grinned when his breath caught.

Darcy glanced back over her shoulder, where Steve was watching them with his mouth open. “Like this,” she ordered, wiggling her hips in invitation. He swallowed hard but slid his hands along her sides to rest at her hips.

She returned her attention to Bucky, who was breathing hard. “I don’t have a gag reflex,” she told him conversationally. Steve choked behind her. “Also, you can pull on my hair. I'm kinda into it, as long as you aren't too rough.”

“Jesus.” He dropped his head back, overwhelmed.

“Just don’t hold my head down,” she finished, and set to work. She actually enjoyed giving oral; it was the sort of mindless task that let her shut her brain off, turning all of her attention into getting her partner off.

And Bucky was so, so pretty when he begged.

Steve watched as she sucked him off, transfixed, before snapping out of it. He reached those long fingers down, dipping briefly into her before playing with the sensitive flesh around her clit until she was wet enough for him again.

Darcy released the head of Bucky’s cock and rested her head against his hip at Steve’s first slow press inside of her. Bucky had one hand on her head and petted her hair soothingly as she muffled choked noises into his skin.

Steve was big, solid and heavy and hot inside her. She was already near the edge again, back to that shivery place of almost too much and not enough. He pulled back, almost all the way out, and she made a noise of protest.

And then he pushed right back in, gasping at the tight clutch of her cunt. He set an easy pace, hips snapping hard against her even as she returned her attention to getting Bucky off. The noises they made were obscene in the otherwise quiet room, and the sounds of Steve fucking her and her moans around his dick soon had Bucky coming down her throat. She slid her mouth off of him slowly, just enough overstimulation to draw out the aftershocks.

He traced his thumb over her bottom lip, urging her up towards him. Darcy slid obediently forward, Steve following helpfully so she could kiss Bucky, who drew up his legs so they fit. The heat in her belly was rising again, her legs trembling and sweat beading on her skin.

Bucky reached down to rub gently at her clit, sending sparks shooting up her spine. Steve kept up smooth, steady thrusts that didn’t ease up, just kept building and building until she was coming helplessly around him. She felt herself clamp down on him, gave herself over to the violent pleasure of it, heard him curse as he followed her over the edge.

He braced himself over her as he caught his breath, pressing lingering, open-mouthed kisses down her back until he pulled out of her. She made a face, having never liked that sensation, but was quickly distracted when Bucky pulled her against him and tucked her into his side.

“Holy shit,” she said once she’d regained her composure. Or maybe not.

Bucky laughed, echoed by Steve as he returned from disposing of the condom. Bucky slid a hand along her back and pressed a kiss to her hair. “Good?”

“Do you even have to ask? Oof.” Steve collapsed onto the bed, half on top of her. “You’re crushing me,” she complained half-heartedly. Steve just nuzzled against her stomach, one arm tossed over them both.

Fuck, she felt good. There was nothing quite like being thoroughly fucked out of a bad mood, and these two had done their job well. Darcy sighed, content. “Thanks.”

Bucky’s laughed rumbled under her ear. “You’re welcome.”

“Sorry, is it weird to thank you for excellent sex? It just felt right.”

Steve chuckled and pressed a kiss to her belly. “Any time.” He waited until she was dozing- vulnerable- and asked softly, “You know, you taking Quinn out of that foster home was one of the bravest things I’ve ever heard.”

Darcy stiffened. Bucky’s arm tightened, as if he feared she would try to leave. “I don’t know how you could think that.”

“You were what, fourteen?” He waited for her nod to continue. “Just a kid. And you still knew it was right to try and take him someplace safe.”

She raised a hand to hide her face. “I failed.”

“You were outmatched,” Steve said gently. “And outnumbered. You can’t blame yourself for that. If you’d known they were waiting, would you have gone?” She shook her head, throat tight. “It’s not your fault, honey. You did the best you could. We don’t always win.”

She inhaled, shaky, felt a couple tears slip free. And finally, finally let go of some of that guilt. “I think I needed it.”

“The guilt?” Bucky asked softly.

“Yeah. I focused so much on the guilt so I wouldn’t have to really, truly grieve.” She curled closer to the reassuring warmth of them. “That’s not fair to Quinn, either. He deserves to be remembered, and not just from that day.”

“Why don’t you tell us about him?” Steve asked. He propped himself up on an elbow to study her, gently wiping a tear away.

So she did. Darcy told of Quinn’s gift for static shock, the way his smile could light up a room. How he crept into her room on bad nights and curled up with her, how he sat with her while she patched herself up from a fight with their foster parents or a stray monster. How he always inexplicably had marker or paint splattered on him or his clothes.

Their Saturday tradition of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, eaten in the relative safety of her room. His insistence on calling Darcy his sister, and stubborn refusal to cooperate with people who argued with him over the technicalities of foster families.

She told them how much she loved him, and how he was the first true family she’d ever had. And how losing him made her want to lie down and never get up again.

It was freeing. Talking about Quinn after years of keeping it bottled up was like finally breaking the surface of the water, like she’d been drowning all this time. They listened, letting her get it all off her chest, staying close and soothing her when she cried.

She was exhausted by the end of it. Crying always sapped away her energy. “I’m gonna take a nap,” she said sleepily.

Lips touched her forehead. “You do that, doll. We’ll be right here when you wake up.”

Chapter Text

They were right there when she woke up, and she took a few moments to appreciate the warmth of their bodies plastered against her before deciding to do something about the hard cock pressed against her leg.

Bucky was only half awake when she sat up and straddled him, his body warm and solid beneath her. His hands came to rest on her hips, thumbs sweeping over her skin in an absent way that made her want to smile. The look on his face was one of understated yearning, a quiet adoration that had her leaning down to kiss him, slow and deep.

He cupped her jaw in one hand, the other slipping down to rub at her clit. Soon she was pushing against his touch with soft little gasps, hands clenched in the sheets beside his head. A noise caught their attention, and they both glanced over to see Steve watching them with heated eyes. He was stroking himself, hips arching into his hand, and grinned when he saw them looking.

“Don’t stop on my account,” he told them. “I’m enjoying this as much as you are.”

“I bet you-” The words died in her throat when Bucky slipped two fingers into her without warning, twisting his hand so that his thumb pressed against her clit while she whimpered into his shoulder. He seemed interested in nothing but getting her off hot and fast, and his eyes gleamed with satisfaction when she clenched around his fingers with a little cry.

“God,” she said into his throat, hips jerking as he slid his fingers out. Steve caught his hand and pulled it over to him, taking Bucky’s fingers into his mouth to clean them off. She turned to watch, and flushed all over when Steve’s mouth came off of them with a pop and he said, “You taste good, doll.”

“Don’t be a shit,” Bucky said fondly.

Steve just grinned back, unrepentant. “You should ride him, Darce. Just like this. He likes that, likes being able to see you during.”

“‘Cause he’s a romantic at heart, right?” Darcy said breathlessly.

Bucky pinched her in retaliation even as Steve laughed. “That’s right.” To her surprise, he slid a hand onto Bucky’s lower belly, brushing teasingly against her mons, and then up, up, up until he had a big hand settled across Bucky’s throat.

Her mouth went a little dry at the sight of Bucky going limp against the hold, eyes drifting closed as every ounce of tension left his body. Steve’s fingers stroked along the line of his throat, the gesture loving and oh so careful. “Buck gets caught up in his head sometimes, too,” Steve told her, quiet and intense. "You'll learn to see the signs." 

“And this helps?” She asked, so turned on she could hardly think straight.

“It does.” He studied her closely. “It’s okay if it’s too much, if you don’t want-”

“I want.” She sucked her bottom lip into her mouth, watching as Steve’s fingers flexed against the pale column of Bucky’s neck and made the other man groan. Bucky’s eyes fluttered open a fraction, just enough that he could watch her through half-lidded eyes. “You’re okay if I keep going?” She asked, moving her hips to slide her wet cunt along his dick. He hissed at the touch but kept still other than a short nod.

Steve noticed her hesitation over his lack of response and shook his head. “He goes a little non-verbal sometimes. Doesn’t want to talk.”

“You do enough of it,” Bucky rasped. He crooked a smile at Darcy. “Go ahead, doll. You’re in charge.” She felt frozen in place, unsure of how to proceed and unwilling to accidentally hurt him in the process.

Again, Steve noticed her pause, and she wondered when he’d learned to read her so well. “Or I’m in charge,” he suggested. “Think you can follow directions?”

“If they aren’t stupid directions,” she snapped, mutinous to the last.

He laughed, propping up on an elbow to see them better. “I’ll do my best.” He leaned down to press a chaste kiss to the hollow of Bucky’s throat. “Buck, play with her tits. They certainly deserve attention.”

It was Darcy’s turn to groan, arching into the feel of Bucky’s hands all over her. Steve wasn’t finished, though. “Darce, you should get him wet. Keep rubbin’ on him. Yeah, just like that.” She bit her lip but obeyed, moaning every time the head of his cock brushed against her clit. It didn’t take long- she was so wet it would be embarrassing, if they weren’t so obviously into it.

Steve was whispering a stream of filth into Bucky’s ear, his voice soft and intense as he said things too softly for her to hear but had Bucky flushing red and squirming in place. This was a whole other side of their dynamic, and she was a little awed that they trusted her enough to share it with her.

Steve flicked his eyes in her direction. “You want a condom?”

Hips still moving, still guiding her over Bucky’s rock-hard cock, she cocked her head. “I’ve got an implant,” she said, breathless. “You two are clean?”

“Tested every two weeks,” Steve said. He noticed her raised eyebrows and explained, “The serum prevents most if not all transferable diseases, but we like to be safe. No telling what kind of things we’re exposed to when someone bleeds all over us in a fight.”

“Huh. Makes sense.” She considered it, then shook her head. “No condom. I’m clean, got tested a couple weeks ago.”

“Oh?”

She had to pause when Bucky twisted a nipple, tugging on it until she felt her cunt throb in response and a whine escape her throat. “Good,” Steve told him, voice low. “Keep going.”

“Had a feeling things were heading this direction,” she gasped. “We really should have discussed this before the first time.”

“Yeah, probably.” Steve’s fingertips touched Bucky’s jaw, turning his head to the side so he could press biting kisses to his mouth.

“Steve,” she whined. She needed more, wanted Bucky inside of her, but the thrill of waiting for Steve’s permission held her back. Huh. Who knew she would be so cooperative in bed?

He waited just long enough to remind them that they were both at his mercy and then finally nodded in permission. He propped up further to watch as she guided Bucky into her, taking him in with one sure slide of her hips. She could barely breathe with how full she felt. Darcy leaned forward a little to hook her feet back over his thighs and pin his legs to the mattress. Bucky’s mouth fell open, hands tightening on her waist while Steve looked on with approval.

She started slow- “slower,” Steve ordered- and let him dictate the pace. Bucky rolled his hips when Steve told him to, meeting her with every thrust. It was torturously slow, but the drag of his cock in her had Darcy’s eyes falling shut, her hands coming up to slide into her hair.

“Faster,” Steve said after a while, grinning sharply when she obeyed with a punched-out noise. “She makes such pretty sounds,” he told Bucky, hand tightening for a split second around his throat and making Bucky shiver helplessly. “You both do.”

Darcy leaned back, tilting her hips until she got the angle just right. Bucky planted his feet on the bed and thrust harder, so with every flex of his hips she was gasping and shaking. The orgasm built from her toes, a flash of heat throughout her whole body, building and building until she came with a sharp cry. Steve said something she didn’t catch, too busy trying to remember where she began and Bucky ended.

Bucky wrapped a firm arm around her waist, flipped her over so she was pinned beneath him, and fucked her through the aftershocks until he was coming inside her. She was breathing hard, legs still shaking as Steve bit off a groan as he came into his fist.

“I’ll say it again,” she panted. “Holy shit.”

Bucky laughed against her shoulder. Steve stared sightlessly at the ceiling. “I’m gonna have to agree with you on that one, honey.”

“Cool. We’re doing this all the time now, just so you know.” And as they both laughed, turning towards her and touching her so reverently, Darcy felt a little piece of herself heal.

~*~

Natasha studied her from across the table in Jane’s lab. Darcy resisted the urge to squirm underneath her piercing gaze and wished Jane would show up already and rescue her from the cranky Russian demigod.

“You look better,” Natasha commented.

Darcy winced. “Considering you last saw me drunk as hell, I bet I do.”

“I’m assuming they didn’t screw it up, then?”

Darcy laughed. “No. Just the opposite.” They’d dropped her off early at the lab before going off to deal with their own schedules for the day. She’d received a kiss from each of them that left her brain in a puddle and the rest of her wanting to drag them off to a closet somewhere.  

“Hmph.” Natasha passed her a folder. “The latest reports. Jarvis hacked into the NYPD database to get their disturbance reports as well.”

“A significant upward trend in… shit, a lot of places. She’s spreading out.”

“Let me know before you try to go check any of them out. You shouldn’t go alone.” Natasha eyed her. “Your friends were very worried about you.”

Darcy ducked her head. “Yeah. I’m planning to apologize the second I get home.” She noticed the earpiece in the other woman’s ear and frowned. “Hey, how come you can use tech without drawing a monster?”

“My god parent is very, very far away.” Natasha shrugged, a fluid movement. “They lose power over us when we’re this far, so that’s a lot of it.”

“And the rest?” She couldn’t help but probe.

Natasha tapped her fingers on the table, a rare tell. That she was letting Darcy see it meant something, though she wasn’t sure what. “The Red Room needed constant control over their operatives, especially in the field. Tech was the answer, though the monsters we attracted caused an issue.” She looked away. “So they found a witch.”

Startled, Darcy leaned in. “A witch?”

“There is a goddess in Russia- one who’s name I will not speak,” she warned. “Even that much can draw her attention, and we are best left far, far out of her sight. Her children have peculiar gifts, strange enough that they qualify as something other than a demigod.”

“Witches?” For some reason, the idea seemed insane to Darcy.

“Witches with express control over dark magic, as well as a cruelty and depth to their power that scares even me.” She saw Darcy’s worry and shook her head. “They are bound to Russia. Part of a curse on their mother from centuries ago- they cannot leave the boundaries of the country. Be thankful for that.”

“Oh, I am very thankful. So they made it so you aren’t affected by tech?”

“It’s a spell. A very painful one.” Her mouth tightened. “I’d rather not talk about it.”

Darcy touched her hand. “I’m sorry, Natasha. I didn’t mean to bring up painful memories.”

“It’s better that you know, anyway,” she said dismissively. “Just be glad you don’t know the specifics.” She moved to the door, pausing to remind her, “Keep me updated, and don’t go searching on your own.”

Darcy studied the reports until Jane showed up and poked at a hickey on her neck, grinning. “Quit it,” Darcy said on a laugh, swatting her away.

“I’m glad you finally got laid,” Jane told her. “But I finally figured out where I had seen the design for the mask before.”

The humor drained out of her and she sat upright. “What? Where?”

“At Camp Half-Blood.” Jane’s voice was grim. Which made sense- if a demigod child had created a weapon like this at camp, they could have been banned. This design wasn’t a war weapon- it was for assassination, pure and simple. “I only saw the schematics in passing, but I couldn’t remember whose they were until now. Drake McCarthy.”

“That dick from Hephaestus’ cabin? Didn’t he hate you? Like, a lot?”

“Yeah, but the more important thing is how a weapon that he designed ended up in Deimos’s hands.”

“You think they’re working together?”

Jane shrugged, brow furrowed. “I think he resented me for getting attention from Dad. And I took the mask apart- it had a secondary mechanism set to spring when I touched it. As in me, specifically.”

“What? Did it go off? Were you hurt?”

“No, because I’m better than he is.” It wasn’t arrogance, not coming from Jane. If she said she was better than him, then she was. “I saw the markings of the second trigger, reverse engineered it, and recognized his signature in the coding.”

“You think he’s working with Eris?”

“I think…” Jane chewed on her lip. “Yeah, I think it’s a possibility.”

“Shit.” Darcy scowled at the data reports and was deep in thought when something warmed in her pocket. She jumped, shoved a hand into her pocket, and found the scrap of paper that Hermes had gifted them. She’d left it in her room back at home, but apparently it had a few other useful properties.

Shay’s tidy scrawl appeared across the page. Come home already, Mia’s worried.

Darcy winced. She hadn’t meant to disappear on them. The others knew what yesterday meant to her and accepted long ago that she preferred to be left alone for it, but Mia wouldn’t understand Darcy’s disappearance for longer than a day.

“I have to go,” Darcy said, scribbling an affirmative and shoving the paper back in her pocket. “I kind of disappeared yesterday.”

“I know,” Jane said evenly. “And I’m glad you let Bucky and Steve take care of you, even if I’m still a little mad you wouldn’t let me help.”

“Spiral of guilt and self-hatred,” Darcy explained. She pressed a kiss to Jane’s cheek, made the other woman smile reluctantly. “But I’m getting better. Next time.” She darted for the door.

“I’ll hold you to that!” Jane called after her.

Darcy took a cab home, wanting the few spare moments to consider Jane’s information. Drake McCarthy had been a bully back at Camp Half-Blood. He’d targeted Jane primarily, mostly because she was infinitely more gifted than he was. Jealousy was certainly a motivator, as well as revenge for whatever offense he imagined Jane had committed against him.

What concerned her was that if Drake was helping them of his own accord, how many other slighted, bitter demigods were in on this plot?

Mia was waiting on the porch, sitting on the top step with her chin propped up on her hands. She didn’t move as Darcy stepped through the gate and approached her. Darcy winced. Yeah. She’d fucked up.

“Hey, kiddo.” Darcy sat beside the little girl on the porch, worried about Mia’s unhappy expression.

“You didn’t come home last night.” Mia picked at a hole in her leggings, not looking at Darcy.

Darcy sighed. “I’m sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to scare you.” Hadn’t even thought about Mia’s reaction, and didn’t that make her feel like a monster?

“Natasha said you had a bad day.”

“Yeah, I guess I did.” She considered the girl’s stiff frame and risked sliding an arm around her shoulders. Mia immediately curled into the touch, tucking herself into Darcy’s side.

“And you went home with Mr. Steve and Mr. Bucky,” she mumbled. "You stayed with them."

“Mmhm.” She waited, hoping Mia would tell her what had her so upset, exactly, about the events of the last 24 hours.

Mia pressed her face against her and blurted, “I don’t want you to leave!”

Oh. Darcy hugged her close. “I’m not going anywhere, Mia, I promise. I would never leave you. Not in a million years.”

“You’re not going to live with them?”

Darcy bit her lip, unsure of how to handle this. Because part of her did want that, someday. But Mia was her first priority, and she’d never abandon her. “I’m not. Not anytime soon.”

Mia wriggled closer. “Are they going to live with us?” Her voice was curious, maybe even hopeful. Darcy had to hide a smile against Mia's hair.

“That might be something we can talk about someday. They have their own apartment, though, so they wouldn’t always live here.” She sighed; they needed to talk about yesterday more. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you where I was going yesterday.”

“I forgive you. Shay told me why.” Mia squirmed around, half in her lap now, so she could peer up at Darcy. “Do you miss your brother?”

Darcy squeezed her. “Every day.”

“I wish I knew him. We could have been friends.”

“You two would have been best friends.” She swallowed, wanting to cry again, and instead pressed her face to Mia’s hair again. It smelled like her strawberry scented shampoo and that somehow made the sharp ache fade. “Want me to tell you about him?”

“Yeah.” Mia climbed the rest of the way onto her lap. Darcy held her tight and started to speak. It didn’t take long for the others to join them, Ash and Adrian bracketing her, Shay sitting one step below and leaning back against Darcy’s legs.

Her family stayed close, giving her the comfort and support Darcy needed to share her heartache and heal a little further.

Chapter Text

Darcy checked over her shoulder for the third time in as many minutes. As much as she loved the fresh markets every weekend, the crowds and narrow spaces made her skin crawl. Too many hiding places, she thought with irritation, and not nearly enough visibility.

Adrian slid an arm over her shoulders and pulled her along. “You’re so wound up you’ll explode any second now,” he said mildly. She scowled, but Shay fell into step with them before she could respond.

“God, I hate this,” Shay muttered. Adrian sighed when Darcy let out a victorious, “Ha!”.

Ash and Mia reappeared, each juggling an armful of purchases. They wore matching wild grins, obviously pleased with their haul. “Daniel saved us the good coffee,” Ash said, handing over a large bag. “He says hi, and also that you should quit drinking so much or you’ll have a heart attack and he doesn't want to be at fault.”

“I appreciate his concern,” Darcy said, referring to the owner of their favorite stall at the market, “but I think coffee is pretty far down the list on things that will kill me at this point.” Shay laughed.  

Darcy smiled down at the little transgender flag painted on the bag of coffee. Daniel was a human friend of theirs, and a fierce activist. He also saved her the high quality coffee beans, some of the best in the state.  

She turned distractedly, moving so her back wasn't to the crowd, and glanced up and around again. There wasn’t even anything specific that had her worried- just the constant alarm bells ringing in her head. But that happened even in the safest of situations, sometimes, a result of her years of fighting and being hunted by monsters.

Shay was just as antsy. She didn’t enjoy this any more than Darcy did, but they’d agreed years ago that these reactions couldn’t control their lives. Otherwise they’d never feel comfortable leaving the house, and Mia loved the markets more than the rest of them. They could never keep her cooped up, would never want to. So they adjusted. Adapted as best they could.

Still, as bad as it sounded, Darcy was glad she wasn’t the only one on edge. Ash, always alert, scanned the crowd regularly out of habit. Shay fell back a few steps to watch their backs, and Darcy looped an arm around Mia and nudged her forward.

Mia bounced along, chattering excitedly about all the familiar stall owners that she’d seen so far. Darcy was on autopilot as she assessed every new face, every nook and corner in the market. The rest of her brain was still mulling over the information she’d learned from Natasha and Jane.

They key to finding Eris had to be the demigods. Darcy would bet that Drake McCarthy had a place somewhere in the city, along with whatever other demigods Eris had recruited. Not hard to find a resentful god child these days, and the Queen of Chaos would certainly know how to win them over.

Maybe it wouldn’t be their base of operations, she thought, guiding Mia around a cluster of people. But surely they could follow the demigods from their own apartments back to Eris- they had to be checking in somehow. Because New York was a fucking disaster, and it would be impossible to find Eris based off of increased violence reports alone. The city was a hot zone of insanity before the goddess of chaos showed up.

Beneath her arm, Mia froze in place like a startled deer. Surprised by her sudden stop, Darcy jerked to a halt and looked down at the little girl. She grew worried when Mia only stared blankly ahead, eyes wide and fearful. Darcy followed her gaze, saw nothing worth panicking over, and crouched down to bring her face level with Mia’s.

“Mia, what is it? What’s wrong, baby?” She rubbed soothing patterns on Mia’s back, hoping to calm the girl’s rapid breathing. When Mia didn’t answer, Darcy glanced up at the others. “Ash, Shay?”

“Got it.” They split off from the group, weaving through the crowd to look for the source of Mia’s anxiety. Ash rolled his coin over his knuckles, darting through the marketplace like a shadow. Shay’s hand slid into her pocket, ready to draw her weapon at a moment’s notice.

“Bad,” Mia whispered. Her lip trembled.

Adrian scooped her up and moved them to the edge of the marketplace. “Mia, can you tell me what’s wrong?” She shook her head, desperation in her eyes. “That's okay, honey. Do you just feel like something is wrong?”

Darcy had them at her back so she could stand between them and the market. Ash and Shay appeared in her sight line every so often, using hand signals to report nothing out of the ordinary.

A shout further within the market drew her attention. She drew her weapon when a guttural roar sounded a second later, followed by panicked screaming from the civilians. Darcy swore under her breath, urging Adrian and Mia back. “Put down a Circle,” she ordered.

She turned back to the frantic crowd and blanched at the sight of the creature barreling towards her. It stood nearly eight feet tall, its skin a patchwork of color and texture, a constant roiling change that made her nauseous to watch. Massive hands tipped with four talons swatted people aside, its spine curled in a painful-looking arch that gave it a hunched appearance.

The Mist would cover most things from the humans, Darcy knew, but she wasn’t sure what it could do about something like this.

Mia and Adrian safe behind the Circle, she lunged forward with her sword in hand. It swung at her, teeth bared, and she barely ducked in time. Shit, these things were fast.

Her sword sliced into the monster’s abdomen, leaving a trail of sticky green blood on the blade. The monster snarled, spinning to face her, and Darcy struck while it was mid-turn. One talon-tipped hand flew into the air, detached by the same strike that twisted again to cut the monster in the face.

And then, to her horror, the creature laughed. The sound was so deep it made her ears ache, sounding past an abhorrent grin of fangs and drool. As she watched, the hand reformed in a slow, disgusting process that left skin and blood in piles on the ground. Shay shouted somewhere behind her, and Darcy wondered sickly why she hadn’t seen or heard from Ash yet.

“Look out!” Mia threw a rock as hard as she could. It whizzed past Darcy’s face and smashed into the monster’s face with a crunch. Darcy refocused on her own fight, doubling her efforts to injure her opponent.

Everything kept healing- she would die of exhaustion before she ever dealt any real damage. A quick glance over her shoulder showed Shay battling another; further into the market smoke was rising ominously into the air.

She made a decision. “Adrian, get her out of here!” Darcy shouted. This fight wasn’t going well, and they would be caught in the crossfire sooner or later. Mia was too small, too young and inexperienced to stay. Especially when they had to face off against these new creatures, monsters they didn’t even know how to fight.

Adrian straightened, gripping Mia’s hand tightly when she protested. “No! We have to stay and help!” Mia yelled. Adrian didn’t answer, too busy breaking the Circle and bolting for the nearest exit with her. He rounded the corner and skidded to a halt, backing slowly away. Mia’s protests died so quickly that Darcy whirled to find them.

Another skin-changer, a chaos monster that had to be one of Eris’s creations, prowled slowly after them. It didn’t bother to run. It knew its prey was trapped.

Darcy yelped when claws scraped over her hip. She swung again, giving herself a split second to make a move. The nearest market had shattered at some point, the wood splintered and broken. She snatched up a heavy piece and launched it into the creature’s face. It stumbled back, howling in rage, and she ran for the others.

She leaped between them and the new chaos monster, slashing it across the neck. “Go!” She struck again, keeping its attention on her as Adrian dragged Mia out of harm’s way.

He hesitated, though, in the opening of the market. “Darcy...”

“Go! You have to keep her safe.” His expression tightened, but he finally nodded and picked Mia up. Mia kicked and screamed, watching as both of the monsters closed in on Darcy. “No, no, put me down! Adrian, we have to go back!”

Darcy slapped her bracelet, grinning through a bloodied mouth when the monsters hesitated at the sight of her shield. It felt heavy, solid, and sure on her arm. With the boost of strength it gave her, Darcy moved in.

The fight was the fastest-paced she’d ever experienced. She didn’t even bother with a strategy at first, too busy trying to stay alive. Their blows against her shield felt like a battering ram, wearing her down quickly.

For the first time, Darcy thought she might lose this fight.

As if they’d heard her thoughts, the monsters struck. A backhand sent her flying into a stall, crashing into the remains and struggling to breathe. She coughed weakly and failed to regain her feet. Something was broken. A rib, maybe two. The fire of pain at her hip reminded her of the cuts from earlier.

A triumphant roar echoed through the emptied market. Darcy turned to see Shay limp on the ground, a second monster joining the girl’s opponent. Ash, she realized. Ash hadn’t reappeared. And now Shay was...  

Unnaturally long fingers plucked the shield away from Darcy, tossing it aside. She squirmed away, trying to reach her sword. It had landed just out of her reach, so close her fingers brushed the hilt-

Mia screamed somewhere in the market, loud and terrified. Darcy froze in horror, and that was all they needed to finally grab her and yank her out of the rubble pile. She was thrown to the ground, landing with a hard jolt that made her cry out, curling around her injured ribs.

Deimos smiled down at her, satisfaction in every line of his face. “Hello, Darcy.”

“Don’t hurt them,” she said, searching for her family. But the chaos agents stood around her, blocking her sight.

“I’m afraid it’s much too late for that,” Deimos said, unconcerned. He grinned, malice in his gaze. “You’re smarter than we gave you credit for. Smart enough that Eris needs you out of the picture.”

“So you’re here to kill me?” Fuck, she should have seen this coming. Eris wouldn’t have risked her getting too close... which meant that the investigation into the demigods was the right track after all.

A stupid thing to feel satisfied about, considering she was staring down her death.

“Oh, no. I’m not here to kill you. We wouldn’t want Athena to have a reason to retaliate.” He smiled, slow and smug. “Consider yourself the first prisoner of war.” And then he struck.

~*~

Darcy woke in degrees of hurt. A low throbbing brought her to consciousness, and from there the aches became sharp, stabbing pains throughout her whole body. Really, she would have preferred death.

She cracked her eyes open, just enough to see her surroundings. The room was small and dark, so dark that at first she thought she’d been blinded. After the first surge of panic, though, she realized that a tiny trickle of light showed somewhere very high above.

So small it didn’t even shine light on her cell, but enough to soothe her worries about her sight. The cell was so narrow that, if she could raise her arms, her fingers would touch the wall on either side. But her ribs wouldn’t permit even that much movement.

Though it was horribly narrow, Darcy could tell that the length of the cell was nearly thirty feet in total. Like a small, closed-off hallway, only one with rock walls and a grimly dirt floor and no visible ceiling in sight.

She clamped down on the fear when it tried to rise. Not the time. Not when she had things to learn about her location. Her breaths were labored and shallow. She slowly, carefully sat up, one arm braced over her ribs.

Darcy could feel the blood drain from her face as she moved. She’d broken ribs before at camp, of course, but had apparently forgotten the extent of the pain. It felt something like being repeatedly stabbed in the side with every breath, which was super fun. Plus, her hip had just barely begun to scab over, still throbbing with pain from the deep wounds. They’d scar for sure.

Upright, she leaned against the rough wall and gave herself ten seconds to panic over the unknown fates of her family. She couldn’t help them if she was imprisoned... wherever the hell she was... and panicking over it now wouldn’t help anyone.

And... shit. Steve and Bucky would lose their minds over her disappearance.

The ground beneath her rumbled, small rocks falling from above raining down on her. Darcy looked up, wary, and watched as a section of the wall scraped open. Light from the outside bled into the cell, splaying unevenly across the ground and hurting her eyes.

Deimos stood in the opening, his twin at his shoulder.

Darcy swallowed hard.

“You like your new home?” Deimos’s voice was cocky, hyped up on his victory. Phobos watched her with dark red eyes, quieter than his brother. But more dangerous, Darcy recalled Aya saying.

The god of terror and the god of fear, come to torment their prisoner. Already she felt her heart race, sweat bead along her temple, her hands try to shake. Just their physical presence was enough to send her spiraling.

“So,” she rasped. “Eris decided I got too close, huh?”

Deimos’s expression turned nasty. “You just don’t stop, do you? We wouldn’t have had to do this if you’d just left us alone." He looked her over. "And I wonder why you won't. Everyone knows that you aren’t the gods’ biggest fan.”

“That doesn’t mean I want a psychopath on the throne of Mount Olympus.”

“Too bad you don’t get a say, then, isn’t it?”

“What’d she promise you?”

Deimos shrugged. “Perpetual terror. Free reign across the country, eventually the world. It wouldn’t take much. Just a nudge here, a revealed secret there, and the humans would be at each other’s throats.”

“And Eris continues to feed off of it all until she’s strong enough to what, take over the world?” Darcy scoffed and tried not to show how much it hurt her. “She’s aware that there are deities in other countries, right? She wouldn’t stand a chance, not on their own turf.”

“She isn’t working alone,” Deimos snapped. “Eris isn’t stupid, she’s planned for that.”

Well, fuck. That was disheartening. And it also meant that the gods of other countries had traitors as well. Something to remember, if she lived past the next twenty minutes.

“The demigods you’ve recruited- how many are there?” Deimos raised a brow and she rolled her eyes. “What’s the point? It’s not like I can get out of here. I’m assuming you have to be super special to open the door, am I right?”

His lip curled at her condescending tone, but he inclined his head in answer. “Only a god’s blood can open it.” And she was so obviously not a threat to them, badly wounded and hardly able to move, much less fight.

“Good for you.” She didn’t dodge the kick in time, swore at him for the bruise already forming on her thigh.

Phobos stepped around his brother, attention firmly on Darcy. She shrank away when he reached for her with excited eyes. “So scared,” he murmured. “All the time.”

“Don’t you fucking-” she broke off with a gasp when his fingers touched her face. His power was a maelstrom of fear, everything she’d ever been afraid of rising up to choke her. It was a vice grip on her heart, a suffocating squeeze of her throat. White hot terror surged to the forefront of her mind, blocking all rational thought.

And then everything she’d been keeping at bay broke free. Everything she’d been repressing, unwilling to consider, playing out right in front of her. She was powerless in its grasp, couldn’t fight it, couldn’t even move.

Shay, lifeless on the market floor. Ash crumpled beneath a stall, unconscious as his surroundings went up in flames. Adrian trapped, Mia screaming as monsters bore down on them. Her family shattered, broken and bleeding. Bucky, Steve, Jane. Walking into a trap, cornered by those monsters that just wouldn’t die, falling one by one.

Quinn, standing in front of her in bloody clothes. Staring at her accusingly. Blaming her.

“I’m sorry,” she gasped. He was so real. As if he really were here in front of her. “Quinn, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean-” She broke off, curling in on herself, choking on her breath as the others joined him. Drowning, she thought absently. She was drowning in fear and pain and the hate shining in her family’s eyes.

Phobos stepped away. He looked taller, healthier after feeding on her. Deimos said something, laughed when she flinched away from them, and finally left.

Darcy slumped to the ground, fighting for air and trying not to choke on her tears. Her ribs were screaming with the desperate heaving breaths, and the was caught in a vicious, unrelenting cycle until she blessedly lost consciousness.

Chapter Text

The faint light high above never changed, so it couldn’t be the sun. Which only meant she had no way of tracking the time that passed, other than the frequent, horrific visits of Deimos and Phobos. They wanted to know what she knew, what she’d figured out. Where she'd learned the things she knew.

Something she’d done, or something she’d discovered, made them nervous. Darcy only processed that in some distant part of her brain, far too traumatized after their visits to concentrate. Instead she tucked herself into the corner of the room and shivered helplessly.

At one point, she’d stood on shaky legs to examine the cell. But there was nothing to be used as a weapon- not even the rocks that occasionally fell on her would be of any use. The walls were rough but not enough to provide a handhold, so climbing was out of the question. She was well and truly trapped.

That thought made some instinctive part of her hindbrain screech like a banshee. The rest of her was numb. At least, Darcy thought, Jane would know to look at the demigods in league with Eris. The genius wouldn’t forget his role or its implications.

Darcy groaned quietly when the voice returned.

You’ve failed before you really ever started. The voice was amused, female, and vastly superior. It echoed through her head so painfully that it brought tears to Darcy’s eyes. She hunched over and squeezed them shut, gritting her teeth against the hurt.

What made you think that you could ever face a goddess? You, a simple-minded demigod?

While she’d certainly had the same thought, Darcy couldn’t help but rise to the bait. “Not so simple minded, if I worked out your plan.”

But you didn’t, did you? You have no idea what I am going to unleash, Darcea Athana, not the slightest inclination.

The manic excitement in the voice really worried her. And Eris was finally admitting that she was the voice in Darcy's head- at the start, she’d tried to make Darcy believe it was her own thoughts. It left her a panicked mess, at least until she’d realized what was happening.

An honor, she presumed, that Eris would take the time to torment her when she had chaos to sow.

“Not all of it,” Darcy admitted. She kept her voice low, hoarse from all the screaming at Phobos’s last visit. He liked to make her watch her worst fears come true again and again, liked it when she pleaded for him to stop. “But I worked out enough to make you nervous, and I only had a few weeks. I’m close enough that you needed me out of the way.”

And her family, which- no. No, she wouldn’t allow herself to wonder about their fates. Or else she really would go insane, trapped in this hellhole.

You, like all humans, are insignificant. Your lives are fleeting, meaningless to the gods. You are all weak and stupid. Phantom fingers brushed her face. I do feel sorry for you, truly.

Darcy thought of Adrian’s gentle affection, Ash’s mischievous grin, Shay’s fierce love. Mia, the brightest thing in all their lives, her stubbornness and integrity that she’d learned from all of them. Jane's protective tendencies and unwavering loyalty. Steve and Bucky- their love for her and hers for them. And she decided Eris was better off not knowing how incredible people could be; she didn’t deserve them, didn’t have the right to know them.

Plus, maybe Eris needed the reminder that without the demigods’ belief in the Greek deities, they would fade away. “It must really piss you off to rely on us, huh?” The air grew sharp and cold. Darcy grinned. Yeah. She’d struck a nerve.

Deimos and Phobos are going to make sure your heart gives out this time. Eris was spitting mad. You’ll die alone and afraid, knowing that I will take my time with your little family once I’ve won Mount Olympus.

Hope burst in her chest, so wild and unexpected that Darcy gasped. They were alive; at least whole enough that Eris thought it worthwhile to threaten their safety. The goddess must have taken the noise as a victory, because her satisfied presence faded.

But that little spark of hope still lingered. And here was Eris’s mistake- because Darcy would do anything to get back to her family, would do anything to keep them safe.

Her shield and sword were gone, so it was likely that whatever magic kept her hidden also kept the weapons from returning to her. But she would make do without them. She’d have to turn the gods’ weapons against them, now that they considered her so little a threat as to wear blades into the cell.

Even as she thought it, though, something moved in the corner of the cell. A pair of slitted golden eyes glowed brightly; they were small, low to the ground, and focused on Darcy with unwavering intensity. Her breath caught, uncertainty and wariness holding her in place.

And then realization struck. With it came a breathless laugh, stark relief bringing tears to her eyes.

The ground rumbled, the early warning system she had learned to rely on. “Wait,” she whispered hoarsely. “Not yet.” The eyes disappeared.

Deimos sauntered in, Phobos absent so far. He was eager to feed off of her fear again. Only this time Darcy wasn’t afraid of the mere sight of him. This time, she had a plan.

She kept her eyes lowered, the picture of defeat as he approached. “No snark today?” He asked, but his tone was pleased. He thought he’d broken her.

Not fucking likely.

He heard her quiet scoff and aimed a kick at her. “What’s so funny?”

A dark shape slithered across the floor of the cell.

Darcy looked up from beneath her lashes, victorious. “This is going to hurt.” An ink-black snake sprang, fast as lightning, and sank its fangs into Deimos's throat. The god staggered, a strangled scream escaping, before he fell to the ground and began convulsing.

The snake released him after a long ten seconds, tongue tasting the air as it slithered over to Darcy. She reached out, unafraid, and let it wind itself around her arm. As she watched, the snake faded from black to a warm, glowing gold at her touch.

“Thank you,” she whispered. Deimos remained paralyzed on the ground, seeping golden god blood from his throat. She took the dagger from his belt, dipped her hand in the pooled blood, and used it to escape the cell. He’d be out for a while yet, if Athena’s own magic had taken him down. Might even be dying, for all she knew.

One could only hope.

Her ribs ached like a bitch, so her progress was slow. And worse, her surroundings suggested that she was wandering through tunnels- some sort of underground lair. It was winding and confusing, but the snake wound its way up to wrap around her bicep. Darcy turned to one tunnel, heard a disapproving hiss, and knew to go the other way.

She wouldn’t be able to use the shield, not with her ribs so injured. But it was dark and there were lots of places to hide in these tunnels. She knew how to disappear when needed, knew how to blend into the shadows so no one was the wiser to her presence.

And so Phobos was entirely unaware when he passed by her only minutes later. Darcy waited patiently, utterly still and quiet, until he was within reach. She stepped up behind him. Phobos paused at the kiss of the blade to his throat. A god’s blade, something that would seriously damage him if injured with it.

“Behave,” Darcy said into his ear, “Or I’ll let the Aegis have you, too.” Her mother’s shield, named the Aegis, had enough magic and strength to take a lesser god out for a few decades. And she’d gifted Darcy with a piece of it. Darcy hadn’t realized the extent of the weapon’s potential, hadn’t known that the actual Aegis was with her. She'd have to thank Athena for this, assuming she managed to escape. 

“Deimos-” Phobos managed before the knife pressed tighter.

“Bleeding out,” she said with vicious satisfaction. “Maybe he’ll be okay. Maybe he won’t. Aegis went for the throat, so it’s anyone’s guess.” Aegis flickered its tongue, tasting Phobos’s own fear with a satisfied hiss.

“You’ll never get out of here,” he managed. Darcy was a little worried about that herself, but she had the Aegis with her now. She’d be just fine.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that.” Time to get more information. She angled the knife so it pressed against his windpipe. “Eris is planning her attack soon.” The stiff set to Phobos’s shoulders told her that she was on the right track. “She’ll be aiming for Mount Olympus, and she’ll need to clear the way first.”

“The gods can’t risk involvement,” he said. A small trickle of golden god blood slid down his neck. She didn’t let up. “And they’ve been avoiding Mount Olympus.”

“Zeus’s temper, no Hestia to mediate, the other gods fighting amongst themselves. Yeah, I got all that. Mount Olympus is weak and poorly defended right now. Not even Zeus could hold it alone.” The center of the gods’ power was far too great for even the King of Olympus. It took twelve Olympians to hold it- and the twelve had fractured.

Phobos held himself very still, wary of the blade scraping his throat raw. “Zeus and his brothers have complications in their own realms to see to. Eris has been personally overseeing that part of the plan.”

“So Mount Olympus is empty?” Shit, things were worse than she’d thought. No wonder Athena hadn’t checked in earlier- she was probably using every ounce of her brainpower to keep Mount Olympus from crumbling. If Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades were too distracted to return to their thrones, Eris would easily take over.

“For now.”

“Those chaos monsters of hers were certainly inspired. How do you kill one?” Phobos didn’t answer. “Aegis.”

The snake curled lovingly around her neck, stretching out to brush against Phobos’s face. The god trembled as Aegis bared his fangs just within his peripheral vision. “Fire,” he breathed. “Only fire, or so much damage that they can’t heal from it.”

“Was that so hard?”

In a flash, Phobos reached up and grabbed her wrist. His power washed over her, but she’d been fighting it for long enough to distinguish reality from the vision. Even as she reminded herself of that, her family appeared, broken and bleeding all around her. Shay, Ash, Adrian. Mia.

Steve and Bucky were crumpled heaps, Jane lifeless near her feet. Thor reaching out for her even as his own breaths stilled. Tony, Natasha, Clint.

Quinn.

“What do you fight for, Darcy Lewis?” Phobos’s voice was smug, as if he’d already won. He thought she was already shattered by their previous torture, broken by the images forced into her mind time and time again. He thought she believed the visions to be true. "They're all dead, and it's your fault." 

But Darcy stared her worst fears in the face, and was stronger for it. She looked Quinn in the eyes, let all of her love for him show on her face, and finally let him go. Maybe it was her imagination, but she thought he smiled back at her.

“Eris let it slip that they’re still alive,” she said, keeping her eyes on the illusions. The knife was still at Phobos’s throat, his hand gripping her wrist with bruising force. “I would lay down my life for any of these people, and I’m starting to accept that they would do the same for me. So you can keep showing me my worst fears, Phobos, but that power only holds as long as it’s true. Right?”

The grip on her wrist faltered. Darcy smiled, small and sad as Quinn faded with the rest of them. But there was a peace in her now, an acceptance that she would never stop fighting for those she loved, would never give up on them. And she knew they would do the same for her. Because that’s what family did, blood or not.

“My worst fear was losing someone I loved again.” She kicked him in the leg, sending him crashing to his knees. “And that crippled me for a long time. I guess I should thank you for helping me past that.” She held out a hand, watched Aegis wind his way down to her wrist. “I’m going to stop Eris, and my family and my friends are going to keep each other safe. Shame you won’t be around to see it.”

With that, Aegis struck. Fangs sank into Phobos’s neck, closing around his windpipe. Darcy watched in satisfaction as he seized, eyes wide with terror, and collapsed. Aegis drew back, still curled around her wrist.

She looked around; the tunnels were so dark she could only see a few feet ahead of her. And then she cursed herself for forgetting the necklace. With shaking hands, Darcy snapped off one of the little rays and shook it. Light exploded out of the piece, which grew warm in her hand and made her current situation seem somewhat less dire.

Amazing what a bit of light could do for one’s outlook. Even if it did hurt her eyes.

She raised her hand to peer at Aegis . He blinked sleepily back at her, as if bored with the day’s events. “Mom sent you?” A slow blink. “Huh. I hope she knows I’m not giving you back. We’re partners, now.”

Aegis dropped his head onto her palm, uninterested in her rambling. She stumbled along the dark tunnels, talking so she didn’t panic about the feeling like she’d been buried alive despite the light in her hand. “You know, I might actually get in trouble for this with Zeus. He’s a dick, totally the type to blame me. I’m not the God-Killer here. That was you.” A soft hiss of disagreement. “Fine, okay, I’ll take partial blame. And they’re probably not dead, right? Just, uh... Well, I don’t actually know what you did to them.”

No answer from the snake, but that was to be expected. Right? Could he talk? Fuck, she was dizzy. And hungry. They’d given her small amounts of water a couple times, and even less food. At least she could see now.

“If you did kill them, they won’t stay dead for long. I think. Chiron said they always come back so long as we’re here to believe in them. So we’re, like, temporary God-Killers.” She fought the urge to giggle hysterically. “There was some maiming involved, but it won’t last.”

“No, but the scars will stay with them forever as a reminder.”

Darcy fell over in shock, then cursed viciously when her ribs screamed in protest. The necklace piece fell from her hands and bounced away, leaving her with dim light. Gasping, tears in her eyes from the pain, Darcy looked up to see Hecate watching her with a worried expression.

The goddess approached warily, as if Darcy might run screaming. Her hip flared, the scabs breaking too soon. She felt blood trickle down her side. A familiar sensation, unfortunately.

Gentle fingertips touched Darcy's arm. “We have been very worried, Darcy.”

“How are you here? How did you find me?”

Hecate helped her to her feet. “My realm is nearby. Your mother sent the Aegis to me days ago, and we’ve been looking for you ever since.”

“She sent you Aegis?” Darcy let the goddess lead the way, limping along in the tunnels.

“Yes. She is holding Mount Olympus together, but whatever magic they have here has kept us from finding you before now.” Hecate frowned over her shoulder when Darcy had to stop and rest against the wall. She made a small gesture with her hand, and suddenly there was a massive black dog at Darcy’s side. “You may lean on Hekabe for support.”

Darcy gratefully accepted the help, let the dog nudge her gently along. “Wait, Hekabe? Like the Trojan Queen that jumped into the ocean after the fall of Troy?” Hekabe yipped. Darcy stared down at her. “Sorry, was that a yes?”

“I transformed Hekabe before she died,” Hecate explained. “She was one of my descendants, and I did not wish to see her die at Poseidon’s hands.” There was some disdain there for the sea god, which Darcy found she could appreciate. She remembered the story of Medusa. Poseidon could rot, for all she cared.

“That’s cool. Thanks, Hekabe. Always nice to meet a badass former queen.” She could practically feel Hecate’s amusement. Before she could speak further, though, they reached a massive wall of obsidian. It radiated magic and was cool to the touch, like impenetrable black glass with veins of color shot through it.

Hecate rested a hand on Darcy’s shoulder. “My realm is on the other side. None can follow, not without my explicit permission.” Darcy nodded and then gasped in shock when Hecate pulled her through the wall. The hard black stone felt like silk drifting across her skin. It took only seconds, but Darcy could feel the depth of the magic within. Hecate was right- no one would ever be able to get through that.

And then they were free. Then she was taking a shallow breath, wincing at the pull in her ribs, and looking around in what appeared to be a palace. It was lovely- all deep, rich colors and a gentle breeze, the smell of herbs drifting through the air. She saw cypress and yew trees outside, past the high marble arches and lush garden where an explosion of plants flourished. It appeared to be dusk outside, the entire realm forever on the cusp of night.

The palace itself was cool and dry. Massive mounted torches lit the way, their fires glowing green when Hecate passed underneath. The goddess paused at a door, placing a hand on it and gesturing Darcy through when it swung open.

Darcy stepped into the room and could only stare in awe. The room was huge and open, with high ceilings and thin, gauzy curtains fluttering on the breeze let in by the open balcony doors. Everything was a lovely white marble, different from the tan-gold stone in the rest of the palace. There was an obscenely large bed to the left, covered in soft purple blankets and pillows.

But the thing that caught and held her attention was the giant bath across the room. It was set in the ground and was the size of a small swimming pool. Darcy could see steam rising from the water within, could smell the rose-scented water even from here.

She felt disgusting, was covered in dirt and grime and worse. She’d had to pee in the corner of her cell more than once, and wanted nothing more than to submerge herself in the bath and not come up for a long, long time.

The small dining table made her pause. It had a plate with ambrosia- food of the gods that demigod children could eat in small amounts. A chalice of nectar, the drink of the gods, was filled to the brim.

“You should eat something first,” Hecate instructed. “To heal your wounds.” Darcy obeyed, sighing in relief when the burst of flavor across her tongue distracted her from the odd sensation of her ribs healing slowly- her enhanced healing from Athena's lineage had healed the worst of the break, and the ambrosia finished repairing the remaining damage.

She tugged her shirt up to peer at her hip. It itched, though the scabs had disappeared to leave four shiny white scars that stretched around her waist from belly button nearly to mid-back. Hecate looked displeased. “You did not heal those fast enough. I won’t be able to help you with those marks, not this late.”

“It’s okay,” Darcy said, genuinely touched by the goddess’s offer. “I’m used to it.”

Hecate sighed. “I suppose you are.” She leaned forward, waving her hand over the chalice of nectar. The surface cleared to reveal Stark Tower, in what looked to be Jane’s lab. Jane was working furiously through a notebook, pausing to make a few adjustments to the small machine in front of her.

Steve stalked into the room with a thunderous expression, Tony close on his heels. Tony was hunched over a tablet, fingers flying. The scene moved again, this time showing Bucky and Natasha as they followed Shay into their house.

Adrian sat at the kitchen table, head held in his hands. Mia was curled up against Ash with red-rimmed eyes, though she ran over to peer hopefully up at Bucky when he entered the room. Bucky shook his head and crouched down to hug Mia when her expression fell.

“They search for you,” Hecate said. The images disappeared. “I will inform them that you are safe, though it is not safe for me to take you back.”

“Eris would just send her minions after us again,” Darcy agreed.

“You are safe here, Darcy. And you are welcome to stay in my realm until you’ve stopped Eris.” Darcy looked up at her, surprised and touched by her generosity. Gods were rarely interested in having demigods around, much less living in their realms.

Hecate touched her fingers to Darcy’s cheek. “You and your family saved my daughter’s life. And you have suffered greatly to keep her from harm. That is not something I take lightly.” She smiled softly when Darcy ducked her head in embarrassment. “Bathe and rest, Darcea. I will return shortly.”

Darcy was stripping out of her clothes before the door had finished closing behind Hecate. She stepped eagerly into the bath, moaning at the warmth of the water. By the time she’d finished soaking and bathing and then soaking some more, her fingers were wrinkly and she was half-asleep in the tub.

She found soft, loose clothes in the wardrobe, pulled them on and relished the feeling of her healed bones. And then, safe for the first time in days, she curled up on the giant bed and cried herself to sleep.

Darcy slept deeply, and when she woke Steve and Bucky were in the bed with her. Before she even fully realized that they were actually with her she was crying again, but they were there to hold her. She let them; they felt safe and familiar, and she finally felt like everything would be okay.

Steve let her burrow closer, Bucky a reassuring warmth at her back. She wanted to cling to his shirt, bury her face in his neck, and never let go. And since there was nothing stopping her, that’s exactly what she did.

Chapter Text

Steve wondered if there would ever be a time in his life when everything he loved would stop slipping through his fingers.

He’d lost so much- Bucky, Peggy, the Howlies. Time. Getting Bucky back was such a gift that he still had to touch him sometimes, just to be sure. Just to reassure himself that it wasn’t all some sort of fever dream.

The things Steve loved were always taken from him too soon.

It was hard not to be angry, bitter, about it. Hard not to rage against the world nonstop, to let all that resentment bubble over until he finally lost it. To be honest, that’d probably be exactly what he would have become, if not for Bucky. If not for Bucky and Darcy now, because she’d become so, so important to him in such a short time.

So when he heard about the attack at the marketplace, when Tony mentioned some sort of new monster sighting, his heart sank. He knew something was wrong, and that Darcy would be at the middle of it. Not just because she could find trouble no matter where she went- that was a gift he appreciated from his own similar experience. But because he loved her, and that meant that one day she would end up hurt. Or worse.

He didn’t let himself think about that- how he loved her, even though it was stupid to pretend otherwise. But it was easier to pick through the rubble of the marketplace attack if he didn’t have that thought at the front of his mind.

Bucky parked the motorcycle and was off of it in a flash to help Shay stand. The demigod was bleeding heavily from a head wound and Steve could see that her arm was dislocated. But she was standing, moving towards the fire further within the market without any consideration for her injuries.

“You’re making this worse, stop,” Bucky told her, eyeing a deep cut on her thigh with concern.

Shay shoved at Bucky’s grip. “Move, Ash is back there!” Bucky let her go and jogged towards the place she pointed, Tony flying with him overhead.

“Shay!” She whirled, hardly noticing when she tilted dangerously and Steve had to catch her. But then his heart was in his throat, because Adrian was holding a sobbing Mia as he staggered towards them.

“Is she hurt?” Shay demanded. She stumbled forward, her uninjured hand resting on the little girl’s back.

“No. We were cornered for a couple minutes, but-”

“Steve!” He turned to see Natasha a few feet away, holding a golden sword. And his heart dropped, because it was Darcy’s weapon in her hand. Mia was still crying, breaths coming in desperate heaves.

The sick dread in his heart crept outward until he could hardly breathe. Sam landed by his side, wings snapping into place at his back. “Cap? What’s going on?”

“This is Darcy’s family,” he managed.

Sam looked around, realization dawning. “Shit. What happened?” He asked Shay, moving instinctively to assess her injuries. Shay stared at Adrian, having some sort of nonverbal conversation over Mia’s head, but flinched when Sam’s steady hands touched her shoulder.

“Pop it back in,” she ordered, and Sam paused to stare incredulously at her.

“It’s dislocated. Do you know how much this is going to hurt?”

“A lot less than it does now.” She made an impatient noise. “Hurry up, those things might come back.”

“What things?” Natasha asked sharply. She looked down when a small black cat trotted up to them, meowing furiously.

“I thought we left you at home,” Shay said, confused. Nyx growled at her. “Damn, sorry for- fuck!” Her knees buckled. Steve caught her good arm and held her steady while she glowered at Sam, who was backing away with his hands held high.

“Sorry, sorry, you said to fix it-”

“I did,” she agreed. She tested the range of motion and winced a little. “Thanks.”

Clint jogged over, bow strapped to his back. "Civilians say there was some kind of monster tearing the place apart.” He studied Shay with sharp eyes, noted the way she eyed his bow in consideration.

“Shay,” Adrian murmured, fishing around in his bag. He held out a palmful of what Steve recognized as ambrosia- food of the gods, according to Darcy.

Even the thought of her was a violent ache. Uncertainty made him sick.

Shay ate it fast, deftly hiding it from Sam and Clint’s view. She turned immediately to go find Ash, but froze when Bucky appeared through the smoke. He was helping Ash limp along; Steve was relieved to see the demigod was conscious.

“Just a little burned,” he coughed. “Got caught under one of the beams.” Adrian handed him some ambrosia as Tony landed beside the group and studied the demigods.

“Do we know them?” He asked, confused by their obvious familiarity with half of his team.

“Darcy’s family,” Natasha said tightly.

“They took her.” Mia sat up, tears still streaming down her face. “They took Darcy.”

Bucky flinched and Steve instinctively reached for him. Ash closed his eyes, face pale. Tony looked between them, then at Shay’s quiet horror and Natasha’s too-still expression. “What the hell? Who took Darcy? What the hell does she have to do with anything?”

“Did they-” Steve found he couldn’t finish the sentence, but Adrian shook his head.

“No. She was giving us time to get away, but once they caught her they didn’t go for the kill.”

“Is this some sort of leverage situation? Jarvis, have we gotten any ransom calls?”

Steve wondered what the protocol was for demigods working for Stark Industries getting kidnapped by a non-Stark related combatant. He bet Jane would know... and, shit. Jane. They needed to tell her about this, and soon.

Shay opened her mouth to respond- but the whole group suddenly froze as a low, rattling roar echoed through the market. “They came back,” Shay said with a low curse. She turned to Steve. “They can heal themselves,” she told him urgently, already reaching for her weapon. “So fast that you can’t keep up.”

“The one that hit me was afraid of the fire,” Ash shared. He had a sword in his hand, which Tony and Clint only now seemed to notice. They both startled badly at the sight.

Shay was flipping her harmonica-turned-sword with practiced ease. Tony gaped at them. “Uh, hello! Civilians, get out of here!” Shay just sent him a disdainful look and gestured to Ash.

“I think you might actually the only civilian here, Stark,” Ash said, cheerful as ever. He handed Mia a small coin from his pocket. “Besides maybe Adrian.”

“See if I help you now,” Adrian muttered. He’d set Mia down to stand beside Nyx and was working fast to set down a protective Circle as a defense. "Stay close, Mia."

“Sam, Stark, air support.” Sam took off to scope out the incoming threat. Natasha had disappeared and Clint was climbing onto a remaining structure to find high ground. Steve glanced at Shay. “What’s your take on these?”

She looked grim. “If it’s the same monsters, our best bet is dealing so much damage it can’t heal. But they’re big, and fast.”

“Pair up,” Steve ordered over comms. “Don’t take one on alone. Hawkeye, you provide cover. Stark, blow them to bits.”

“Cap, it looks like we’ve got a couple trapped civilians on the south side,” Sam reported. “I’m going to get them out.”

Tony interrupted Steve’s response. “Holy mother of god, what are these things?” A series of blasts sounded, followed by multiple enraged roars.

Mia made a noise behind him, and Steve glanced back to check on her- only to lunge for her with desperation.

Adrian looked up, alarmed, and staggered back. Steve dragged Mia away from the purple-eyed cat that was stretching leisurely where Mia had just been standing.

At some point in the insanity, Nyx had grown to the size of a small horse, reaching Steve’s shoulder in height. She flexed her claws casually and left deep gouges in the pavement.

A bored yawn exposed a mouthful of unnaturally sharp teeth. Her black fur seemed to absorb all of the light around her- but the strangest thing was the faint purple stripes glowing beneath her coat. She blinked bright purple eyes at them, flicked her tail, and leapt over a row of stalls. A mighty crash sounded a second later, followed by a hair-raising yowl and a screech of surprise.

The latter was Tony, who was shouting over the comms.

“Cool,” Mia breathed, still hanging from Steve’s grip. She turned her gap-toothed grin on him, obviously enthused by her nightmare cat.

“This century is wild,” Bucky said under his breath. Shay laughed, wielding her sword confidently as a chaos monster crashed through a line of stalls. Steve marveled at her skill with the weapon, and the fearless approach she took to fighting.

Bucky at his back, Mia nudged into the safety of the Circle, Steve lost himself to the fight. Shay was right- the monsters were incredibly fast, and had enough strength that he worried about the others getting hit.

But Natasha was faster, and Bucky moved with him like they could read each other's minds. Tony soared overhead, blowing up the stray monsters and herding them back from the outskirts. Sam rejoined them and helped to keep the destruction contained, while Hawkeye made himself a nuisance and shot them full of arrows.

They worked like a team, fast and efficient.

And yet Darcy’s family made them look like amateurs. The demigods fought like a well-oiled machine, communicating with a glance, a gesture, a small noise. Even little Mia had a sword, keeping the rare monster that slipped by Nyx at bay. Adrian trapped monsters into Circles, working his magic quickly to keep them contained and permitting Ash and Shay to take the them down.

Steve had a feeling that in a straightforward battle like this one, with Darcy at their side, their brutal fighting unit would be unparalleled. Shay very obviously had rigid military training, but she fought with a freedom and grace that matched the free-spirited Ash. Adrian bore a pair of knives like they were extensions of his own hands.

At some point, Shay did something complicated with her sword and suddenly she was holding a bow. She pulled off a leather bracelet and did something Steve couldn’t see, too busy blocking a strike on his shield, and the next time he looked up she had a quiver full of arrows.

“Dad’s the god of archery,” she reminded him when he stared in surprise. “He gives me all sorts of fun toys.” She grinned, set an arrow alight on a lighter that Ash pulled out of his pocket, and fired it directly into the eye of a charging monster. It screamed, making them all wince, but the horrifying skin-changer stopped its approach as it burned.

Nyx bounded through the other incoming monsters, ripping them to pieces with unholy glee. Bucky discovered that the metal arm could tear out a monster’s spine, much to his disgust.

And finally they stood in the ruined marketplace, piles of skin-changing monsters littering the ground. Shay shot a few more arrows to set them on fire. Clint hopped down and watched her curiously. “You’re good,” he said, obviously impressed.

“I’m the best.” She flashed him a grin, then sobered. “But we’d have been dead if you guys hadn’t shown up.”

Steve remembered then, like a blow to the heart. “Darcy, she’s...”

“Prisoner,” Ash confirmed, dragging a hand over his face. “I heard some of it. It was Deimos.”

Adrian inched warily away from Nyx, who was purring so loud Mia had her hands clapped over her ears as she inspected her cat’s new form. “Eris must have sent the monsters back, once it was clear we had survived.”

“So Darcy probably doesn’t know we’re okay?” Shay swore under her breath.

Urgency was clawing at him, the need to move, to find her. “How do we find Darcy?” Steve asked.

Shay and Ash exchanged a look that made his stomach drop. “We might not be able to,” Ash said carefully. “If a god took her to a different realm, one of their own, then...”

“It would be impossible without another god’s help,” Shay finished. “And even that could take days, even weeks.”

“That’s time she may not have,” Bucky said, worried.

Tony landed heavily beside him and flipped the faceplate up. “Can someone tell me what the fuc-” he noticed Mia studying him with interest- “-what’s going on?”

“Did you say gods?” Sam asked, baffled. He glanced at Clint, the closest to him, who just shrugged.

“Nat filled me in years ago.”

“Because you’re a nosy shithead,” Nat muttered, arms crossed.

Clint shrugged again. “At least Lewis finally makes sense. Well. Some of her, anyway.”

Mia slipped her hand into Steve’s, tugging at him insistently until he leaned down to her level. “My mom can help.”

“Fuck.” Shay rubbed a hand over her face at the reminder. “Athena’s going to be furious.”

Mia was busy taking off a bracelet with swirling glass beads. She offered it to Steve. “Can you break it? Just one.”

“Why do I need to- I don’t want to break your bracelet, Mia.” Steve shared a bewildered glance with Bucky.

Mia huffed impatiently, stomped a foot. “It’s to call my mom! You have to!”

“Huh.” Ash peered over Mia’s shoulder at the beads. “Cool, Mia.” He nodded to Steve. “She’s right, that’s like an instant way to get her mom’s attention. Hecate’s got all sorts of magic. This is legit. We can't use regular tech, remember?”

Under Mia’s instructions, Steve carefully crushed one of the glass beads between his fingers. Instead of crumbling apart like he expected, it turned to sweet-scented smoke and wafted away.

He returned his attention to the rest of the group. Natasha and Shay were explaining to the others- Tony looked so skeptical it almost made Steve laugh, if he didn’t want to punch something so badly.

“Where would they have taken her?” Bucky asked Adrian quietly.

Adrian shrugged regretfully. “I have no idea. I’ve never been involved with the gods, so there’s a lot I don’t know.” He looked away, mouth in a tight line.

Ash wrapped an arm around his waist. “None of us do, Adrian. Don’t blame yourself. We’ll need a god to locate Deimos’s realm.”

As if summoned by his words, a tall, regal woman appeared at the edge of the battleground. She studied the area with purple eyes, coming to rest on Mia.

“Mom!” Mia darted over to her. She clutched Hecate, if Steve was remembering correctly, and stared pleadingly up at her. “Mom, can you find Darcy? They took her. Mom, please.”

“They took Darcy?” Hecate looked sharply at the group. “Was it Eris?”

Shay shook her head. “Deimos. And something Eris created, maybe. A new monster.”

Hecate frowned, absently sliding a hand over Mia’s hair when the girl pressed her face into Hecate’s waist and sniffled. “A new monster?”

“Shape changers,” Ash told her. “Damn hard to kill.”

“New monsters in addition to the others,” Hecate said, unhappy. That caught all of the demigods’ attention, though, and they were disturbed enough that everyone else took note.

“Eris commands other monsters?” Adrian’s voice was worried.

Hecate nodded. “It appears that way. They seem to have joined her cause.”

“It has been quiet lately,” Shay said softly to Ash. “No attacks other than the Minotaur at camp, and that was weeks ago.”

He nodded, said quietly, “I thought so, too.”

“What does that mean?” Bucky asked, leaning in. Mia was explaining the day’s events to her mother, while Natasha appeared to be warning the others to keep quiet in the goddess’s presence.

Ash grimaced. “If Eris created enough of these shape-changers and then also had other monsters join her cause? She’d have an army, one capable of taking down demigods.”

Shay was speaking quietly to Adrian. “-message to Reyna-”

Mia tugged Hecate over to Steve and Bucky. “Darcy’s boyfriends,” she explained. “They want to find her.”

Hecate met his eyes and Steve felt a jolt. From her magic, or just her presence, he didn’t know. But it reminded him that a literal goddess stood before him. He had a ridiculous moment where he wasn’t entirely sure what to do with his hands.

He settled on resting them on his belt, but the amused glint in Hecate’s eye showed that she saw through him. “I will begin searching for Darcy in the gods’ realms.”

“Without an offering? Or a request?” Ash asked warily.

“Darcea has protected my daughter from harm for years. As have the three of you. I extend this as a favor for such actions, with no expectation of repayment.”

Shay elbowed him. “Gods are terrible,” she agreed, loud enough for Hecate to hear. “But this one’s alright.”

“Thank you,” Hecate said dryly. “I will begin immediately. Deimos and Phobos are not captors I would wish on anyone.” She looked to Shay. “You must continue with the quest, daughter of Apollo. Darcy’s absence cannot mean the end of this mission, or Eris will succeed.”

Shay swallowed at the reminder that Darcy might not be coming back. “I understand.” Hecate nodded, leaned down to kiss Mia on the cheek, and disappeared.

“What,” Tony said slowly, “the fuck.”

~*~

Steve noped the fuck out of the explanation to Tony, though he did take thirty minutes to quietly catch Sam up to speed. Bucky said nothing as he removed the armor, wiped down his weapons, and showered. Steve kept half of his attention on the conversation with Sam and the other half on him- of course Darcy’s kidnapping and prisoner status would affect him.

So when Sam left, Steve showered quickly and met Bucky in their Stark Tower apartment. Bucky was sitting at the kitchen table, head in his hands, but didn’t react when Steve rested a hand on his shoulder.

“I don’t know enough about her world or the gods to understand what she might be going through,” he said hoarsely. “But I think that might be worse.” Steve dragged up a chair to sit close enough to hold him. Bucky leaned into the touch. “If it was anything like Hydra, I...”

“No. Don’t...” Steve closed his eyes when they burned. He pressed his forehead against Bucky’s. “We’ll find her, Buck. We will.” He could pretend everything would be okay, for Bucky. For now.

Days later, he reached the end of his rope with pretending. No reports, no progress, despite all of their work. Days of searching and no results to show for it.

Tony followed at his heels, glued to a tablet and scanning through Natasha’s reports. She and Bucky were out on foot, meeting up with Darcy’s family to work their contacts.

But in the meantime, Darcy was- she could be- Steve fought the violent urge to break something.

Instead he tried to leash the rising frustration and aggression, tried to school his expression into something appropriate for a team meeting. But Tony glanced up, took one look at his face, and blanched. “Cap, you need a break.”

Snarling, Steve whirled to face him. “Take a break? How can I take a break, knowing that Darcy’s out there, being tortured or worse-”

“And what does this help?” Tony snapped. “How does you losing your shit help her?”

“I don’t fucking know what else to do!” Helpless wasn’t an emotion he handled well.

Tony regarded him with dark, solemn eyes. “We’re all looking, Steve. None of us want for anything to happen to her, okay? And we all feel just as fucking useless at you do.”

The tension in the room broke when Steve sat down heavily. “I just-”

“I know.” Comforting people was never Tony’s wheelhouse, but he made an effort. The somewhat awkward touch to Steve’s shoulder made him smile a little. He meant well, which meant more than the uncomfortable reassurance.

Jane blasted through the doors, face set in hard lines. She’d lost weight and Steve noted the bruises underneath her eyes with concern. “I’m meeting with Shay and Aya, we’re tracking down the demigods helping Eris. I’ll let you know how it goes.” She stormed back out again.

“She was terrifying before I knew she was half-god,” Tony said in the ensuing silence. Steve huffed a laugh, then came to his feet when Bucky entered the room.

“Did you-”

“Nothing.” He wound an arm around Steve’s waist and dropped his head to his shoulder. “I just need a minute.”

An odd warmth seeped through Steve’s bones, and he looked around in alarm. But it was only Hecate, watching them and ignoring Tony’s yelp of alarm. “I found her,” she said.

Hope rose like a sun in his throat. “She’s-”

“She is safe in my realm. I can take you to her.”

Steve looked at Tony even as Bucky moved towards the goddess. “Go,” Tony said. “Go get your girl. I’ll tell the others.”

They didn’t waste a second; Hecate touched each of them on the arm, and then the world turned black. Not even long enough to panic him, though he did grasp Bucky’s hand until the darkness faded.

“In there,” Hecate said quietly. “She’s resting now. We can speak further once she’s ready.”

“Thank you,” Steve said, so grateful he couldn’t find the words. She nodded and disappeared into smoke. He shared a look with Bucky, opened the door, and they went to find their girl.

Chapter Text

They didn’t let go of her once during the night, even though she slept for nearly eighteen hours. Pure exhaustion combined with the stress and trauma of the last few days meant she was barely conscious for any of it. But each time she surfaced, bleary and anxious, they soothed her with quiet murmurs and gentle touches so she would go back to sleep with the knowledge that she was safe. That they finally had her back with them, and they wouldn’t let her go again any time soon.

That kind of unwavering reassurance soothed the edges of her fear and trauma. When she woke for the final time, Darcy remained curled into Bucky’s side for a long couple of minutes. The bed was like a cloud, the blankets soft and light against her skin.

“This place is unbelievable,” she heard Steve say quietly. It sounded as if he were across the room. A faint splash confirmed it. “We’re in the realm of a goddess, Buck. A literal goddess’s palace.” The stark disbelief and awe in his voice made her smile.

“Who’d have guessed that we wouldn’t be providing the weirdest aspect to this relationship?” Bucky said softly, but he sounded amused. Darcy opened her eyes to peer up at him. He had an arm around her to keep her tucked close, lying on his back with his eyes closed. There were dark circles beneath his eyes, which told her all she needed to know about him while she was missing, but his body was loose and relaxed against hers.

Darcy lifted her head to see Steve standing shirtless by the bath, examining the array of oils and soaps with interest. Bucky felt her move and instinctively tightened his arm before realizing she was awake for real this time.

“Hey, doll.” Steve’s head snapped up at Bucky’s gentle greeting. He made his way back to the bed, kneeling at her side and reaching for her.

“My family?” She had to ask as he gripped her outstretched hand, uncertainty creeping through her even though Eris had all but confirmed they were alive.

“They’re safe,” Steve reassured her. “The team made it to the market before the monsters returned.”

“The chaos ones?”

“Yeah. They were the worst,” Bucky grumbled. “Between the Avengers, your family, and your Hellcat, we made it out okay.”

She blinked. “Sorry, my what now?”

“Nyx turned into... you know what, I think I’ll just let you see it for yourself,” Steve decided. “It’s pretty much impossible to explain. Mostly because I don’t understand what happened.”

“Mia thinks it’s great, though,” Bucky offered. “I don’t know if that helps or not.”

Darcy considered. Their wild child was fearless, which could be considered a useful trait for a demigod, but it also meant more than a few hare-brained, reckless schemes. “Eh, it’s a toss up.”

Steve huffed a laugh and skimmed a hand beneath her shirt. She shivered as his big hand slid across her belly, coming to rest at the dip of her waist. He frowned, though, and sat up straight to stare at her. “What…”

She lifted her shirt a few inches to reveal the shiny white scars curling around her waist and hip. “One of the chaos things got me.” She watched as he traced careful fingers over the thick scar tissue with an unhappy expression. “It’s a fucking miracle they didn’t get infected.”

Bucky sat up on her other side. “You want to talk about it?” He asked gently.

Darcy thought about it for a moment. “No,” she finally decided. “Not yet. Not right now.” She squirmed around on the bed, trying to wrangle her shirt over her head. “Right now I want to celebrate not being dead.”

“Seems like a good reason to celebrate to me,” Steve said, helping her remove the sleep shirt when it tangled around her arms and head. She sighed when Bucky’s hands instantly moved to her breasts and then moaned when he dipped his head to take a nipple into his mouth.

One hand tangled in his hair as she arched into his touch. Steve leaned down to kiss her, slow and wet and deep. He cupped her head with one big hand, the other sliding down her body until he could slide beneath her waistband and tease her, fingers dipping into the slick wet at her entrance. Bucky switched to her other breast, stroking her higher and higher as Steve kissed her until her mouth went pleasantly numb.

Darcy gasped into his mouth when he curled two fingers into her without warning. His thumb set a steady rhythm on her clit and it didn’t take long until her legs were shaking and her mind went blank as she clenched around his hand.

He murmured something to Bucky that she didn’t catch, too busy coming down from the orgasm and distracted by Bucky’s attentive focus on her breasts. Steve slipped off the bed and padded over to the table by the bath again. Bucky leaned up to kiss her before she could ask what he was doing, settling comfortably between her legs.

She moaned into his mouth when his hips starting to grind against her. “Off,” she demanded, shoving at her pants. Bucky pressed biting kisses to her jaw as he helped her slide the pants off of her legs, taking a second to yank his own pants off as well before he was on top of her again.

Darcy sighed at the sensory overload- warm skin sliding against her own, a solid, reassuring weight pressing her into the mattress. Gentle hands cupping her face with reverent attention as he kissed her. A muscled thigh sliding up the bed, spreading her wide with an effortless strength that thrilled her.

Bucky suddenly jerked against her. He broke away from her mouth to pant against her neck, squirming. Darcy looked behind his shoulder to see Steve kneeling on the bed behind Bucky, cock hard and leaking. He sent her a wink, then refocused on fingering Bucky open with a small bottle of oil from the baths.

She was hot all over, so wet that Bucky’s cock slipped against her with every twist of his hips as he rocked back into Steve’s touch. Darcy reached down to wrap her hand around his cock, grinning when he groaned and nearly collapsed on top of her. She guided him into her, drawing her legs to her chest until he was so deep she thought she could feel it in her throat.

He whispered bitten-off curses into her skin, rocking his hips into her with a mindless rhythm. Steve crooned when Bucky’s noises turned desperate, choked and pleading until Steve finally slid into him.

Darcy skimmed her hands up his sides, enjoying the heat of his body and the thick stretch of his cock inside her. She liked his breathless pleas even more when Steve started to move. Bucky rested his arms on either side of her head, kissing her deeply as he matched his rhythm with Steve’s.

She felt the heat in her core build and build until she was coming again, gasping when Bucky fucked her through it. Steve adjusted his angle, pressing Bucky’s shoulders down until he was burying his face in her hair and letting out choked cries with every thrust.  

Steve fucked into him relentlessly, hips snapping roughly against his body. Darcy was open mouthed, panting and writhing against Bucky’s weight. He was still buried to the hilt in her, hot and hard and the head of his cock nudging against a spot inside of her that lit her body alight. Every thrust sent sparks shooting up her spine, every nerve screaming until she was hypersensitive to the point of pain.

But it was just enough to send her over the edge again, the orgasm a violent burst of pleasure that left her limp and trying to remember how to breathe. Bucky came seconds later, trembling with the force of it as Steve groaned and finished inside of him, head dropping to rest between Bucky’s shoulder blades until he caught his breath.

He pulled out of Bucky, fingers slipping into him with an obscene sound. Bucky swore, hands clenched so tightly in the sheets that she thought he might rip them. Steve twisted his hand and Bucky jerked violently, his cock twitching inside of her. “Bastard,” he hissed over his shoulder.

Steve only chuckled before finally pulling away, wiping his hand on his discarded pants. “Move it, Buck. I wanna clean her up.”

“What?” Darcy asked faintly. She was still floating along on a pleasant haze.

Bucky pressed a kiss to her mouth and pulled out slowly. She grimaced at the feel of his come dripping out of her. “Punk’s a kinky little shit,” he explained. “Tell us if you get too sensitive.”

“If I get too- oh my gods.” Darcy choked on her next breath when Steve settled between her legs and licked into her. His hands slid beneath her hips to tilt her against his mouth. She fisted a hand in the sheets and the other in his hair, gasping as he relentlessly fucked her with his tongue.

Bucky scraped his teeth over the side of her neck. “Told ya.” She could only whimper in response, helpless against the onslaught.

By the time he finished with her, she was a shivering mess. Steve kissed his way up her body, licking between her breasts and then pulling back to regard her with bright eyes. “Is that sufficient celebration for you?”

“You’re such a little shit,” Darcy complained. Bucky laughed. She met Steve’s smug gaze. “Next time, I want to be in the middle.” His pupils blew out and he wet his lips.

“I think that can be arranged,” he said, voice low and heated.

She hummed in response and slid her foot along the long line of his body, so relaxed she could easily fall asleep again. Instead, she glanced pointedly at the tub- still full of warm water, judging by the steam drifting from it. “Always wanted to have sex in a bathtub.”

“The logistics of it are a lot easier when you have a tiny swimming pool for a tub,” Bucky said dryly.

“Perfect,” she said brightly.

“You heard the lady,” Steve said. He lifted her off the bed and took her to the bath, Bucky wading in first and letting her wrap herself around him when Steve carried her in after him. She kissed Bucky, enjoying the hot slide of their mouths as Steve pressed up against her back.

The water was warm and soothing. She took a brief second to glance around, noting the little details she’d missed last night. A small, tumbling waterfall provided fresh water from an unknown source, rushing down an elaborate marble opening in the wall. Soaps, shampoos, and oils rested on a shelf behind the curtain of water, and thick robes hung near the steps.

It was beautiful and serene and exactly what she needed after days of being held captive. Darcy let her loves hold her close and surrendered to the peace of the moment.

~*~

“Don’t eat that,” Darcy warned when Steve examined the table of ambrosia.

“It’ll burn us alive, I remember,” he said with a reassuring smile. “Demigods only.”

“If demigods ate too much it would kill us, too.”

“So weird,” Bucky muttered. He eyed the plate with an open distrust that made Darcy smile as she dressed.

A bang on the door made her jump and reach instinctively for her sword. “You’d better not be naked!” Jane shouted through the door. Darcy relaxed with a huff of laughter. “I mean it, I’m not waiting any longer!”

Sure enough, the demigod burst through the bedroom door a second later. Jane made a beeline for Darcy and threw her arms around her, hugging Darcy tightly enough to bruise. Darcy clung to her friend just as desperately and tried not to dissolve into tears.

“I hope you killed the motherfuckers,” Jane said, voice muffled into her shoulder.

“Aegis did, maybe? At the very least, they suffered.” The snake was curled around her wrist again, head resting on the top of her hand so he could observe the proceedings.

“Good,” Jane said viciously. “Now come on, I have something to show you.” The satisfaction in her voice set warning bells off in Darcy’s head as Jane dragged her out the door. Nothing good ever came from that tone. She saw Steve and Bucky share a wary look before following them.

A high-pitched shriek echoed through the palace halls. Darcy turned in time to see Mia sprinting towards her and just barely caught the girl when she leaped into her. Bucky steadied her when she staggered under the unexpected weight.

Darcy crouched as Mia sobbed into her shoulder, hugging the girl tightly. She pressed her face into Mia’s hair until the tears dried up and she was sniffling quietly. “I’m so sorry, baby,” Darcy said softly. “I know you were scared.”

“You left,” Mia choked out.

Her chest ached at the hurt in Mia’s voice. “I didn’t want to leave you, Mia. I never want that.”

“They took you away. Everyone thought you might not come back.” Mia pulled back to look at her through red-rimmed eyes. “They didn’t say so, but they thought it.”

Darcy smoothed a hand over Mia’s hair. “I know. I thought so too, for a little while. But your mom and my mom worked together, and they sent me some help.” She lifted her wrist to display Aegis, who flickered his tongue at Mia in greeting.

Mia reached out hesitantly to pet him. “That’s really cool. Now both our moms gave us a pet!”

“A fucking terrifying pet,” Steve muttered behind them. “You could ride that cat into battle.”

“Please don’t give them any ideas,” Bucky said despondently.

“Between the cat and the snake, you guys are pretty well defended,” Jane said in agreement. “Looks like maybe sometimes they do care, huh Darce?”

“Shut up,” Darcy muttered. So maybe she’d been wrong about Athena’s ability to care for her children. Either that or the goddess just needed Darcy to stop Eris. Whatever. Maybe one day she’d stop doubting the gods, but it probably wouldn’t be anytime soon.

She stood, Mia refusing to release her hand, and was immediately wrapped into a hug by Ash. “Gods, we thought...”

“I know.” Darcy took a shaky breath against his shoulder. “I thought you guys were dead, for a while. It was...”

“Yeah, we can imagine,” Shay said from behind Ash. She poked him in the side until he let go of Darcy. “Move it, it’s my turn.” Shay’s grip was iron tight. “Heard you took out the twins.”

“Aegis did, yeah.”

“Badass,” Shay teased. Her eyes were wet when she pulled back. “Come on, Adrian is waiting with Hecate.”

“Oh, also, we told the Avengers about the gods,” Ash said casually.

Darcy stumbled. “Sorry, you did what?”

“It was necessary,” Shay assured her. Jane nodded in agreement. “But you should probably talk to them, once all this is sorted out.”

“Great. Really looking forward to that,” she said flatly, and then stopped abruptly at the sight of a demigod tied to a chair. He was gagged and glared at them with furious eyes. “The hell?”

“Drake McCarthy,” Jane said victoriously. “One of Eris’s demigod minions.”

“Jane! We have a no abduction policy!” Darcy hissed.

Jane threw up her hands. “He wasn’t cooperating! What was I supposed to do?” Darcy pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. Jane appeared unaffected.

“He’s been very helpful,” Adrian said as he made his way over to them. Darcy leaned against him for a long minute, letting him share the sense of peace until she felt less overwhelmed. The sight of Drake reminded her what she had to do, and how little time she had left to do it.

Mia tugged on her hand. “Darce, he said Eris is going to Mount Olympus.”

“I know she is, honey.”

“No, she’s going soon. We have to get ready.”

Darcy lifted her head to stare at Jane in alarm.

Jane smiled grimly. “We have three days before she makes her move. Hecate's alerting the other god parents- Athena, Apollo, Hermes, and maybe my dad, if he comes out of his workshop long enough to listen.”

“And he only knows part of the plan,” Shay said with a distasteful look at Drake. “So we’re working blind here.”

“No. Not blind,” Darcy murmured. She wandered to the balcony, stepping past the gauzy white curtains that hung along the marble columns. There were the cypress and yew trees again, and further out rusty clay cliffs dropped into a deep sea that was an abyss of black water. She could smell salt and earth and clean, sharp air.

Behind her, Shay and Jane exchanged a smile. Darcy was distantly aware of the others’ quiet conversations as she stared out at Hecate’s realm in deep thought. Mia joined Steve and Bucky at the table piled with food, but made certain to keep Darcy within her sightline.

Darcy watched as a purple-grey storm cloud drifted across the black sea, far enough away that she could feel only a hint of charged air, as if she stood at the very edge of a storm. Green lightning flickered across the sky. She could see the fog that settled across the trees, giving them an eerie silhouette every time the lightning struck.

Misdirection, she thought absently. Change the rules of the game.

Eris was so certain of her plan, of the chaos she’d created and the gods’ inability to protect their own home without Hestia. And she was right. Darcy didn’t know the specifics of what the gods with, just knew that Eris must have found a way to keep them focused on their own problems and not the undefended source of their power. Each god would certainly be more concerned with their own personal affairs, would consider their own realms more valuable and important than Mount Olympus.

And the goddess of chaos would never truly believe that a demigod could go up against her and succeed. Sure, maybe she considered Darcy something of a threat when part of her plan unraveled, but she’d said it herself: Darcy had no idea the true depth of chaos Eris was going to unleash.

But she could certainly guess. And she could use her brief interaction with the goddess against her- Darcy had learned a few things about Eris during that exchange. It wouldn’t do to waste that information.

She stood still for a long moment, let the idea come to her in waves. Breathed in the charged, thick air as a plan formulated, as she put all the pieces together.

“I think...” she said slowly. The others turned to her, attentive. “That I have a plan.”

“Are we gonna fight?” Mia asked, eager.

Darcy smiled. “Yeah, baby. We’re gonna fight.”

Chapter Text

Darcy kept quiet during the mayhem of transporting everyone back to Stark Tower. Steve and Bucky stayed close, giving her physical comfort as Hecate took two at a time back to the human realm. Mia climbed into her lab and cuddled close, reaching over to play with Bucky’s metal hand while Steve watched on with a soft smile.

Bigger pieces of Darcy's plan began to fall into place in her head, everything coming together in a seamless list of what she still needed to do and who she’d need to enlist to make it all happen in the necessary time frame. She rested her head against Bucky’s shoulder and started working on the little details; she didn’t want to overlook anything, couldn’t afford to make a mistake now.

Hecate blinked back into existence just as Darcy finalized the riskiest piece of the plan in her head. She was uncomfortably resigned to what she had to do. Gods, this was going to be a disaster.

“Ready?” Hecate asked. Ink-black smoke swirled around her tall frame and Darcy had to squint past the odd waver in her vision when Hecate’s form blurred into three separate ones.

Mia blinked sleepily at her mother. Nyx, tiny and cute and apparently a Hellcat in disguise- which was very fitting, Darcy thought with some amusement- yawned and trotted over to sit at the goddess’s side as the others slowly climbed to their feet.

“Thank you,” Darcy told Hecate while Mia dashed over to hug Hekabe goodbye. She would never be able to repay the goddess for her help, and definitely not for the extended stay in her palace. The Greek-Mediterranean design and serene atmosphere of the palace was stunning, and she wished they could have stayed longer- without the threat of imminent doom hanging over them all.

Hecate smiled. “You are welcome in my realm any time, Darcea. The palace will always remain a refuge for you, should you ever wish to revisit.”

Mia gasped in delight. “Darcy! Darcy, we can have vacations!” She whirled on Bucky and Steve. “Right? Tell her. We can all come back!”

“We will most definitely come back,” Darcy promised with a grateful glance at Hecate. The demigods could rarely risk travel for vacations- the threat of monsters too great, the distance often difficult to manage in an old truck.

And besides that, she was looking forward to spending more time in that bath with Bucky and Steve. A sly glance at both of them told her they were thinking the same thing.

“Let’s focus on Eris for now,” Hecate told her daughter with a fond smile. “And then we can discuss your vacation plans.” Mia was still wriggling with excitement when Hecate transported them all to Stark tower.

Darcy blinked against the sudden brightness of the tower common room, having become accustomed to the soft light of Hecate’s realm. She looked around, noting that her family mingled with the Avengers with an easy familiarity that was both confusing and somewhat alarming.

“I feel like I missed something,” she muttered, watching Shay join Natasha to tease Clint, Ash speaking quietly with Bruce Banner in the corner. Adrian, conversing with Sam, overheard and flashed her a grin. Mia darted away to find Jane in the far corner of the room.

“Lewis.” She turned to see Tony saunter into the room. He studied her with a dark, unreadable gaze, though the worry lines creased around his eyes revealed his concern. His attention lingered on the scars that he could see now that the Mist no longer worked against him. The sight of her tattoo made his brow furrow before he refocused on her face. “Looks like you won that round.”

She smiled wryly. “Looks like it. I plan to win the next one, too.”

“Yeah, about that. Can I just say, first of all, what the fuck?”

“You can absolutely say what the fuck,” Darcy granted. “This all seems like bullshit to you, I guess.”

“To put it politely,” he agreed. “But considering the goddess of magic and whatever else was blinking in and out of my tower for days, I’m a little more inclined to believe it.”

“You’re friends with a Norse god,” she pointed out. “What’s so hard to believe about the Greeks existing, too?” And Romans, but she didn’t think he knew about the duality of the gods yet. Better to not overwhelm him, at least not yet. Tony Stark did not like surprises, that much was for sure.

He made a face. “The fact that they’re supposedly living a mile away from me?”

“And roughly a million miles into the sky.” She shrugged. “I doubt you’ve ever interacted with them, though. They don’t take much time for humans.”

As if summoned, Athena appeared in the room. Darcy felt some relief at the sight of her mother, but Athena sent her a guilty look. She’d appeared as a shorter brunette with blue eyes, the closest to Darcy’s own appearance than she’d ever seen her. “Mom?”

Tony looked between them. “Mom? Wait, hold on, how do I know you? We didn’t...”

“Nice, Tony,” Steve muttered. Bucky elbowed him but seemed to agree with the sentiment.

But dread was growing in Darcy’s stomach, pooling and swirling until she thought she might be sick. “No. Oh, no. No no no.” Tony stared at her in bewilderment when she sank onto the closest couch and dropped her head into her hands.

Athena sighed. “I couldn’t tell you before, Darcea. It would have risked your safety, not to mention his and everyone else in this building.”

Darcy squeezed her eyes shut and didn’t respond. This felt, somehow, like the most unbelievable thing to have ever happened to her. She thought she might pass out, to be honest. Her family and Jane seemed to catch on just then, because she heard a round of shocked noises.

Tony snapped his fingers. “The Strata IT Conference. Shit, what, twenty something years ago? We talked-” he caught Steve and Bucky’s exchanged glance- “and only talked, fuck you two very much.”

“Ah.” Ash cleared his throat. “Mr. Stark, there are some things you don’t know about the Greek gods.” Tony blinked at him. “Athena’s children are literally a brainchild- a meeting of two minds that can sometimes result in, uh...”

“A baby,” Shay said flatly. “We’re saying Darcy’s your kid.”

There was a distinct, suspended moment of pure silence. And then-

“Excuse me?”

Darcy lifted her head, worried about the dangerous note in Tony’s voice. “You didn’t have to tell him,” she said quietly. She was suddenly exhausted. Steve reached down and swept a gentle hand over her hair, but he and Bucky remained standing, quietly positioning themselves between her and the rest of the room. Or more specifically, between her and Tony.

She saw Mia watching the proceedings with wide, worried eyes. Jane stood beside her, arms crossed and eyes narrowed on Tony, who had turned to stare down at Darcy.

“What do you mean, they didn’t have to tell me? Did you know?” He demanded. There was something like panic in his voice now. To be fair, this must be a terrible surprise. 'Congratulations, this is your twenty five year old daughter that was magically born from that conversation you had with the Greek goddess of war and wisdom. Oh, right, by the way, that was Athena, the goddess of war and wisdom.'

“I never told Darcea the name of her father,” Athena interrupted. Her voice was loud, deep enough to make the windows tremor and the lights flicker. Tony closed his mouth and watched her warily. “For a number of reasons that were my own, and not to be taken out on her. Yes, she is biologically your child.”

“How?” Bruce piped up. “How can she be a genetic match to Tony if you guys never...”

“Magic, dude,” Ash said with a shrug. “You get used to it.”

“It was a meeting of minds,” Athena explained. “You are undeniably brilliant, Tony Stark, and spoke with genuine passion and love for your work. At the time, I appreciated the respect you showed me and my own far superior mental capability-”

“Ouch,” Shay muttered, biting back a laugh.

“- which very few human men seemed to grant even me, the goddess of wisdom.” She paused, observing Tony’s shell-shocked expression. “To be fair, I did attempt to inform you of your daughter’s existence.”

At that, Darcy sat up and stared at her mother. “You did?” She noted absently that most of the room had cleared out to give them privacy, though Bucky now sat pressed against her while Steve leaned a hip on the back of the couch. She appreciated the solid warmth of Bucky at her side and Steve’s reassuring presence behind her.

Athena inclined her head. “I did. But one of your close friends... disposed of her instead.”

Tony closed his eyes as the blood drained from his face. “Obie.”

“Yes. Obadiah Stane, that was his name.”

“Hold on,” Darcy demanded. “Obadiah Stane dropped me off at a fire station when I was a baby?” She was holding Bucky's hand tightly, though she didn’t remember taking it in the first place.

“I generally bring the children personally to the other parent,” Athena said. She scowled. “But there were urgent matters to attend to, threats related to a Titan attempting to rise. I was forced to leave her on the doorstep of your personal mansion instead. I left a note.”

“And what, you never tried again?” Darcy felt her eyes burn and swallowed back tears. “I grew up in the foster system because you couldn’t be bothered with your mortal daughter’s quality of life? Do you know what some of those people did to me?” Tony flinched like he’d been struck when her voice cracked. Steve dropped a hand to her shoulder and squeezed.

“I had a choice to make, Darcea,” Athena said tightly. “And I was expressly forbidden from interfering again.”

“Again?” Steve asked softly.

Athena glanced at him. “Obadiah intended to kill you, Darc- Darcy. I only just managed to stop him, but Zeus discovered I was meddling with mortal affairs and ordered me to leave you. But I tried, I did try to help you as best I could.”

“You sent me,” Adrian realized. Darcy jerked her head around to look at him, relieved that he had stayed with Shay, Ash, and Mia. “It wasn’t Hestia that sent me to find Darcy that day, it was you.”

“I used every loophole I could find to keep you safe. There were some homes that would have been worse, far worse. And when you tried to take that boy-”

“His name was Quinn,” Darcy snarled, braced as if for a fight.

“Quinn,” Athena amended. “I know you suspected me. But I swear to you, upon my very existence, I did not have a part in the attack.” She took a step forward, eyes intense on her daughter. “Too much attention on one child is dangerous, Darcy. It interests the other gods, makes them wonder if there is something special about you, or if they would be able to use you as leverage against me.”

“It’s true.” Hecate’s voice was soft, but it made them all jump because no one had noticed her arrival. She smiled sadly at Darcy. “Many of my own children have been hurt or killed because the other gods know how deeply I care for them.”

“We are a petty bunch,” Apollo agreed, appearing beside Hecate. He glanced around, appeared startled at the tension in the room. “Oh. Did we interrupt something?”

“Yeah, just my life crumbling to pieces around me,” Darcy said helplessly. Bucky pressed a kiss to her hair as she rubbed at her face with shaking hands. Tony was watching her, evidently having decided to ignore the sudden influx of Greek gods in his living room.

She felt something at the edges of her awareness, a quiet calm creeping over her. Darcy watched as the rest of the room relaxed by degrees, the edges of their tension fading away until the room no longer felt like a powder keg ready to blow. Shay elbowed Adrian when Mia swayed on her feet with a sleepy yawn and the sensation abruptly stopped.

He cleared his throat awkwardly under the sudden inspection of the gods- for his power even touched them, which was highly unusual for a demigod's gifts. Shay and Ash subtly moved so he was behind them. Darcy was starting to worry about the sharp interest in the gods’ eyes when Clint stuck his head in the door.

“Is it safe to come back? I’m pretty sure we have work to do, so...” He noted the new arrivals and, to everyone’s surprise, suddenly froze in place. “Um.”

Darcy followed his wide-eyed gaze back to where Apollo stood, his dark skin shining against the riot of blonde curls and white toga. “Hello again,” he told Clint with a sly wink. Everyone looked between them in astonishment.

“Dad, tell me you didn’t,” Shay groaned. Clint, to Darcy’s delight, flushed a deep red.

Apollo shrugged. “No can do, kid.” He trailed an appreciative gaze over Clint. “I like archers, and that one has the best aim of any human in the last couple centuries. Of course he would catch my eye.” Shay slapped a hand over her face. “What? Honestly, Shay, it was only a few nights. A few very memorable nights, anyway.” Clint’s mouth twitched.

Darcy tuned out their bickering when Tony settled onto the table before the couch. He ignored Steve and Bucky’s warning looks, leaning forward with his arms braced on his knees to look at her. “I had no idea,” he said roughly, dropping his head to rub a hand over the back of his neck. “I didn’t... I didn’t even know you existed. Jesus, I'm so sorry.”

Darcy squirmed, uncomfortable with the guilt and dismay in his voice. “It’s cool, I didn’t know about you either. It’s not your fault Stane was a psychopath.” Darcy bit the corner of her mouth. He looked so unhappy. “We can just… forget about all this, if you want.”

Tony’s head snapped up. “What?”

“Look, you didn’t sign onto the whole half-god child thing. Especially since you never even slept with my mom. It seems kinda unfair that she still ended up having your kid.” She could see Steve frowning at her in the corner of her vision. She ignored him. “But I’m okay now. I have a house, and a family, and a solid relationship. If you don’t want to get involved, I won’t hold it against you.”

His expression was completely unreadable. “Is that what you want?”

“To be honest, I’m just happy to be alive right now.” She could compartmentalize well enough to see the situation clearly. And Tony’s dismayed panic honestly didn’t even hurt that much. She’d given up on having a father so long ago that his arrival in her life wasn’t quite so heartbreaking.

Yeah, sure, maybe she’d spent the early years in foster homes daydreaming about her father rescuing her like one of the princes from her storybooks, but fantasies never lived long in places like that.

Darcy offered him a small smile. “Clint’s right, though. We have bigger things to worry about right now. For now, just forget this ever happened, okay? I don’t... I don’t want anything from you.” And, shit, that came out harsher than she’d intended.

Tony’s face did something complicated, flashing through several emotions before settling on something too close to hurt for her comfort. She leaned forward and touched his hand to get his attention, which was fixated firmly on the floor. “I’m sorry, that sounded bad. I just want you to know that you aren’t obligated? To do anything. This has been really unfair for you.”

His jaw flexed. “So you don’t want anything to do with me?”

“I didn’t say that!” She protested. “I would like to sit down and talk about all of this, maybe.” If everyone lived through the next few days, anyway. “But I know you always assume people want something from you- money or fame or whatever. I’m happy with my life, Tony. So I’m saying...” She took a deep breath, the possibility for rejection opening up old wounds. “I would like to get to know you better. But I don’t expect you to feel the same, and I won’t be upset if you would rather forget all of this ever happened.” Steve shifted on his feet, expression dangerously displeased.

“You’re my kid,” Tony said quietly. “Of course I want to get to know you.” The rising tension in Steve's frame faded at that.

And Darcy had to take a moment to blink away the tears. She would have understood, truly, if he hadn’t wanted anything to do with his strange, magic-borne child. But it was a relief to see the honesty on his face, to see the tangle of emotions play out across his features.

Jane clapped Tony on the shoulder and grinned when he looked spooked. “That’s good to hear, Stark. I guess I won’t have to launch you into space after all.”

Darcy threw up her hands in exasperation as Bucky stifled a laugh. “Jane!”

“Where did you come from?” Tony inched away from her.

“Don’t worry about it,” Jane said casually. She raised a brow at Darcy. “Want to enlighten us about Eris’s plan?”

Darcy resisted the urge to shrink back into Bucky when the entire room turned to her. She cleared her throat. “I have an idea of what she’s planning, yeah.” She smiled to see Mia politely insisting Sam pick her up so she could see around the adults. Sam swung her onto his hip with an ease that showed familiarity with children climbing all over him, never mind the fact that Mia had only officially met him half an hour ago.

“Eris has to make her move soon, before the gods can create a defense within Mount Olympus. And she needs us to stay out of her way, which is why she has the monsters and her chaos agents. But what’s the easiest way to guarantee we’ll stay out of her way?”

“Civilians,” Shay said grimly.

Darcy nodded. “She’ll know that we care more about the collateral damage than she does, and I’m sure they’ll become targets.”

“So we have to figure out how to keep New York City safe?” Ash said dubiously. “Like, the whole city? They’re not going to cooperate.”

“No, but I bet that the Avengers can help minimize the damage.” Darcy looked between Tony and Steve. “If you guys keep people off the streets and out of harm’s way, then the rest of us can find a way to stop Eris and her army.”

“The four of you?” Tony appeared skeptical.

Darcy looked to Shay, who smiled and nodded once. “No,” Darcy said, warmth creeping into her voice. “Not just the four of us.”

“Sir.” Jarvis spoke quietly. “There are… visitors… in the lobby. Their leader is asking for Miss Lewis.”

For the first time in weeks, Darcy thought they just might win this fight. “I think it’s time for you all to meet the Praetor of New Rome.”

“New Rome?” Tony asked, baffled, but he waved a hand to Jarvis in acceptance.

“That’s right. And it sounds like Reyna brought the Twelfth Legion Fulminata with her.”

“The Greek camp too, if we’re lucky,” Ash said cheerfully.

“When are we ever lucky?” Adrian grumbled.

“You are today,” Reyna said as the elevator doors slid open to reveal her alone, wearing golden armor and the purple cape that marked her as Praetor. She stood tall and proud, her regal features as sharp and lovely as ever. Reyna found Darcy in the room and breathed a quiet sigh of relief at the sight of her alive and whole. Then she raised a brow, the picture of casual authority. “I brought you an army, Darce, as requested.”

“Gods, I missed you.” Darcy leapt up to hug her friend and former lover, sighing when Reyna hugged her back tight enough to bruise. She pulled back to grin at Reyna, then at the room. “Eris has no idea what’s coming for her. Let’s get to work.”

Chapter Text

“I’d like to reiterate that I think this is a stupid idea,” Jane said as she followed Darcy back into Stark Tower. She threw back the hood of her dark jacket with a scowl. They’d been out for hours the night before Eris’s attack, only returning as the sun crept over the horizon.

“I know it’s a risk, Jane, but it’s a necessary one.” Darcy made a face and adjusted her armor. She hadn’t missed wearing it, that was certain.

As for Eris… Well. Darcy knew she would go head to head with the goddess of chaos soon enough. She just had to out think the goddess long enough for the rest of her plans to fall into place. Which meant she needed to do something that the goddess would never expect, and pray that it didn’t end up biting her in the ass.

The chaos goddess’s army would advance soon. Darcy took a moment to study the demigods camped in the tower. Everyone but the second cohort, led by Marley and Shay, had already moved to their positions throughout the city. The second cohort would provide roaming support for the units stationed around the city. Darcy could only hope the rest of them would follow the plan. The Greek camp didn’t have the same rigorous discipline of Camp Jupiter, and the entire group was basically one giant wildcard.

Steve and Bucky crossed the lobby, both dressed for battle and armed to the teeth with Celestial Bronze and Imperial Gold weapons. Bullets would be far less effective on the monsters, so all of the Avengers were appropriately outfitted with whatever demigod weapons they could safely wield. And by safely, she meant anything the Hephaestus kids hadn’t touched or “fixed.”

“They’re in position,” Steve reported, leaning down to press a quick kiss to her lips. “Buck and I are going to scout. Back soon.”

“Be careful,” Darcy said worriedly. That familiar anxiety rose and she did her best to keep it from showing on her face.

But Bucky smiled gently at her in understanding. “We’ll stay in touch,” he promised, and tapped her earpiece. “Keep this in, okay?” He kissed her. “And be careful yourself. No unnecessary risks.”

“You either,” Darcy grumbled. She hesitated when they moved to leave. “I love you,” she said quietly. “So. You know. Don’t be stupid.”

“We love you, too, doll,” Steve said. He grinned at her.

Bucky eyed him. “The ‘stupid’ comment was for you,” he told Steve. He pulled Darcy into him and kissed her, slow and deep. “I’ll keep him out of trouble, don’t worry. And we do too. Love you, I mean.”

She smiled at him. “I know.” Somehow watching them go was easier this time.

Steve’s voice drifted back to her as he and Bucky crossed the lobby. “I’d like to point out that you do plenty of stupid things, too. I don’t see why I get all the blame.”

“Don’t even start with me, punk,” Bucky lectured. “Half of your personality at this point is just ‘treason.’ You do not get to call me stupid. Not ever.”

They continued bickering out the door. “Idiots,” Darcy sighed fondly, heart warm. She glanced at Jane, who’d stepped away to speak with Marley and Shay. “Ready, Jane?”

Jane flashed her a grin. “Are you?”

“Fuck no.” She thought about all of their preparations up to this point. “Well, maybe.”

Shay had her bow strung and a quiver full of arrows on her back. “I’m scouting, too.” She made a face and fiddled with her own earpiece. “You sure this won’t cause any problems?”

Darcy shrugged. “I mean, the monsters are coming for us already. I don’t see why using tech would hurt us, at this point. And if everyone does their jobs, the army won’t have a chance to single out any one demigod.”

“Makes me twitchy, though,” Shay grouched. She handed her earpiece to Marley. “But while I’m scouting it stays out. No point in giving myself away with it yet.” She hugged Darcy. “Be safe. See you on the other side.”

“Gettin’ dark out there,” Jane called. Storm clouds brewed in the sky above, dark and ominous. “It’s starting. Let’s go, Darce.”

“Be safe,” Darcy told Shay, and jogged after Jane into the elevator. Tony stood at the window in the iron suit. He glanced over his shoulder when Jane and Darcy entered the room and joined him. They all watched in awed silence when the storm exploded overhead, pouring down sheets of rain so violently that it seemed the whole world had turned to water.

Lightning arched across the sky with a ferocity that made Darcy’s heart pound. This was a storm unlike anything they’d ever seen before, one of fury and wrath and pure, unfiltered power.

As if summoned by her thoughts, a dark shape materialized on the balcony and approached the open balcony doors.

Thor stepped through the wind and rain, hammer strapped to his back. The god of thunder grinned at them, threw his arms out and tipped his head to the sky, reveling in the storm. “Is this enough for you, Lady Darcy?” He shouted.

“It’ll do,” she said with a shrug. Tony huffed a laugh even as they watched the waters swell to new depths in the streets. They’d emptied quickly, the humans taking cover from the storm. “It’s going to flood everything,” she said, concern rising. “Where is-”

“There!” Jane leaned precariously over the railing edge, Thor hovering nervously at her side, and pointed.

Percy Jackson stood on a balcony of Stark Tower halfway down the building, dark hair windblown and green eyes shining as the water coursed through the streets below them. He raised his arms, sword strapped to his back, and shouted a command.

The rising waters answered his call. Rivers rose in the city, the flood of rain changing course until it swept along the streets without damaging the buildings. The remaining stragglers on the streets finally ran for cover, hiding in the safety of nearby buildings.

“Holy gods,” Darcy breathed. “The kind of power that takes…”

“He’s probably the most powerful demigod alive,” Jane agreed. “Good thing he’s on our side.”

“And willing to leave college in New Rome for more Mount Olympus bullshit.” She waited, scanning the streets to ensure everyone had taken cover from the storm. Luc, Amelie’s son and a child of Hermes, waited deeper in the city for her command. Darcy gave the order and sat back to wait.

She knew the child of Hermes would deliver the message, and was fully confident that Adrian and Mia (and Nyx) would keep him safe in addition to the blessing from his father. And that was if Eris even considered the youngest demigods a threat, which was highly unlikely.

Darcy waited, impatience boiling over internally though her face remained smooth and unreadable. And then, slowly, reports came in from across the city. Humans dropped into unconsciousness within the safety of New York’s buildings as the God of Sleep sent his magic soaring over the city. Carefully executed, the magic didn’t touch the demigods preparing for battle or even the Avengers fighting at their side.

“It’s a miracle he agreed to this,” Darcy muttered. But Hypnos had listened to her long enough to understand the severity of the problem, and accepted the fact that Eris had been behind the death of his child.

Darcy spoke through her earbud. “Percy, the civilians are safe.” Far below, Percy guided the water back to the rivers, the excess soaring towards the ocean until the streets were no longer drowning under three feet of rushing water.

She watched in concern when he swayed dangerously, but a blonde-headed girl darted out from the same floor of the Tower to catch him. “I’m taking him inside,” Annabeth called over the comms. “He’s probably going to sleep for a week after this.”

“Not a week,” Percy mumbled, mutinous to the last, but he let Annabeth carry him into Stark Tower.

“Thor, back off on the rain? Just a regular downpour, not this mess. Thanks,” she added a moment later when the onslaught lessened. Darcy’s earbud came to life, Steve’s voice echoing in her ear. “Incoming, Darce. The army just appeared outta nowhere.”

She straightened. “You know what to do. All units, the number one priority is to keep the civilians safe. Second is Mount Olympus. Use the tech to keep the monsters drawn to demigods rather than the humans. Stay within your parameters. Understood?” She waited until the unit leaders sounded off and then glanced at Tony. “Roof?”

He and Thor met Darcy on the roof, Jane following with an armful of her own tech. The rain pounded steadily from above, soaking Darcy in seconds. But it was a warm rain, and the regular flashes of lightning were far enough away that she wasn’t too nervous.

Jane tapped her own earbud. “Thais, Kaori, are you two ready?” Adrian’s siblings agreed. Jane grinned and pressed her palm to the contraption she carried. Darcy gasped in awe when a small portal opened up beside Jane, who was glowing with satisfaction. “See you guys later.” She stepped backwards into it with a cocky grin and disappeared. The portal snapped shut a heartbeat later.

“Where the hell did she go?” Tony wondered, fascinated.

Jane spoke over the earbud a second later. “Not far, Stark, don’t you worry. I’ve got these set up all over the place.”

“My love is most brilliant,” Thor said smugly.

“Yeah, yeah, we know,” Darcy said, but her voice was warm. “Do me a favor and go zap some monsters.” Thor launched himself off the roof with an anticipatory grin.

“Ready?” Tony asked, helmet snapping into place. He offered Darcy his hand and waited until she was tucked close before taking flight. Darcy waited until they were on a rooftop closer to the approaching army to even attempt to squint through the downpour. Her braid was plastered to her head, and she envied Tony’s suit for the protection it offered against the rain.

“Third Cohort, army is advancing your way.”

“Copy that, Centurion,” came the cheerful reply. Ash, she realized. Waiting ahead with the Third Cohort and a small, carefully selected group of Greek campers.

“Centurion?” Tony asked quietly. They stood at the edge of the rooftop and watched as chaos monsters waded through the ankle-deep water in the streets.

“Leader of a cohort,” Darcy explained absently, eyes on the army. “I led one with Shay for a couple years, and the title is honorary even after you leave Camp Jupiter.” Though Ash was probably just using the title to be a little shit.

“The Romans, right?”

Darcy nodded. “They’re the demigods' main fighting force- the cohorts are well trained for huge battles like this. They’ll hold the line while the Greeks do what they do best.”

“Which is?”

She grinned at him. “Mayhem.”

“Scouts are using their tech now,” Ash called over the earbud.

“It’s working,” Natasha, blocks away, reported. “The army is splitting up. The monsters don’t seem like they can help it.” And they wouldn’t be able to- the natural instinct to hunt stray demigods would dissolve any ranks the army had established.

Weaken the opposing force, Darcy thought in satisfaction. Step one.

“And this next part is…?” Tony asked. A unit of monsters, mostly chaos agents, marched onwards twenty feet below.

Darcy smiled in anticipation. “Sniper alley.” Even as she said it, archers from building rooftops and windows stepped to the edge and fired a volley of arrows into the group of chaos monsters below. They screamed in rage and pain, only to be met with another round.

None of them could advance without taking another blow, without another wound opening up around Imperial Gold-tipped arrows. Flares of sunlight from Apollo’s children briefly blinded the monsters, giving Hecate’s children time to use the Mist and send them blundering into traps left by Hephaestus’ offspring.

The unit of monsters fractured apart quickly. Small groups of demigods appeared out of Jane’s portals to attack on foot, disappearing into the portal again before the monsters could retaliate.

“Guerrilla warfare,” Tony said, impressed. “Nicely done.”

Aphrodite’s children used charmspeak to lure monsters into traps, pairing up with Hermes’ kids as they used sneak attacks to cripple the fighting force. Ares’s kids could turn anything into a weapon as one of their gifts, and they led the brute force attacks closer to the main body of each fractured unit of Eris’s army.

Athena’s children fought as well, though many were positioned to oversee the fight and report to Darcy so nothing slipped through the cracks, as well as Aya, who was stationed closest to the Empire State Building. Their brief dispatches to Darcy told her that the same thing was happening all over the city, all of her teams dismantling the chaos army.

The demigods moved fast and light, striking and retreating before the monsters could retaliate. It was crucial to destroy the chaos agents before they met the awaiting Roman army- monsters that large and strong could tear through their lines if they weren’t careful.

Jane appeared below, right in front of the remaining monsters, and opened a portal below the feet of three of them. They fell into emptiness, reappearing fifty feet away in a tangle of limbs. Thais, Adrian’s brother, held them captive in a Circle while Jane set the monsters on fire with a flick of her wrist.

“God, remind me not to piss her off,” Tony muttered.

Darcy was too busy to laugh. The army advanced towards Mount Olympus, even fractured and broken as it was. Demigods began herding them into portals that Jane opened; somewhere in the city lightning struck with a boom as Thor fought.

Delay the army, spread it thin, and then take it apart. Her plan was working, but not as fast as she’d hoped. And then, far below, the Minotaur stepped onto the streets. She wasn’t too concerned- until the red-brown fire drake also slithered around the corner and bellowed a challenge.

Her blood chilled. “Get me down there,” she ordered, instinctively checking her armor again. Aegis tightened on her wrist as adrenaline surged through her veins.

“I’m not putting you down in the middle of that,” Tony protested. He blanched when the fire drake let loose a stream of blue-white flames and turned the falling water to hazy steam. Across the wide street, Ash and four other demigods stood on the rooftops and strapped on harnesses.

Darcy drew her sword. “I’m not asking, Stark.” There was a pause, the moment stretched thin between them. He stared at her through the suit, the previous day’s revelations rushing back to the surface. “You don’t get to tell me what I’m capable of,” she said quietly. “I’ve been fighting these things for years without anyone’s protection.” She pointed at the demigods shouting as they attempted to hold back the monsters. “Those are my friends, and they need me. So take me down there, or I’ll have to find a riskier way.” She'd jump from the damned rooftop if she had to.

Tony cursed, low and vicious, but yanked her to him and launched off the roof. He set her on the ground before the oncoming monsters and took flight. “I’ll cover you from up here,” he told her tightly. She nodded, eyes steady on the Minotaur.

“Fall back,” Darcy ordered the others. “Make sure the drake doesn’t set buildings on fire, and if he does evacuate the civilians immediately. Remember, they’re the primary concern.” She glanced up and around, checking the Empire State Building only a few blocks away. Eris would make her move soon, but Darcy couldn’t leave her fighters yet.

Tony was shooting rapidly at charging chaos agents, reducing them to pieces with the blasts from his suit. “The drake’s moving fast, Darcy,” another of Athena’s children said over the comms. “We need a diversion.”

Shay’s voice interrupted her response. “Got you covered.” She suddenly exploded out of a third story window above, falling with the shattered glass and straight onto the fire drake’s back. Her spear went through the drake’s shoulder and she held on desperately when it screamed and thrashed.

Ash and the others leapt off the rooftop. Darcy’s heart skipped in fear until she saw the thick ropes tied to their harnesses. They swung to the side, shooting arrows into the rearing fire drake. A flash of blades and they dropped to the ground, advancing as a unit to help Shay.

Darcy jerked her eyes back to the Minotaur when it roared a challenge. “Oh, good,” she said, mouth dry. “He remembers me.” A warm presence at her back made her flinch.

“Thought you could use some help,” Steve said, breathing hard as he grinned down at her. His face and suit were covered in soot and scratches, and Bucky looked no better behind him. He noticed her dismayed attention and shrugged. “We may have walked into the front lines by accident.”

“Accident, my ass,” she muttered. Steve grinned, unrepentant.

The Minotaur had hesitated at the new arrivals, taking in the two men standing tall at her side, the daggers in Bucky’s hand, Steve’s shield, her shield. But then it raised its twin swords, each the full length of Darcy’s height, and seemed to lose its hesitation.

The fire drake screamed, still putting up a brutal fight, but Darcy couldn’t risk looking away from the Minotaur, even when the other demigods shouted over the comms. They’d drawn the drake away from her, splitting the two monsters apart. She’d just have to trust that they could handle their own fight without her.

“He’s back from Tartarus faster than expected,” Darcy said as the Minotaur stalked forward. “And stronger for it, apparently.” She glanced up at them. “Spread out. He’s faster than he looks, so stay clear of those swords. We just have to do enough damage that he turns to dust and returns to Tartarus.”

“You got it, doll.” Darcy raised her shield, letting the magic of the god-weapon warn the monster. He didn’t slow. Darcy braced herself, knees bent, and caught the monster’s first strike on her sword.

She moved fast, ducking beneath its raised arm and stabbing it in the back. The responding blow glanced off of her shield and nearly made her arm go numb. But Steve was there, his own shield flying into the Minotaur’s face and ricocheting into Bucky’s waiting hand.

Bucky slammed the shield into the Minotaur’s arm. It dropped its sword with a bellow, only to scream when Darcy sank her own sword through its thigh. The leg buckled, wavered. Bucky tossed Steve the shield and caught the Minotaur’s fist in his metal hand, gritting his teeth against the monster’s strength.

Steve hit the wounded leg with his shield, and the Minotaur fell to its knees- just in time for Darcy’s swing to take its head off. There was a pause, a heartbeat of utter stillness, and then its body crumbled into dust.

Bucky and Steve looked up when Darcy did, alarmed to see the fire drake thundering down the street towards them. It was bleeding heavily, missing an eye and coughing thick black smoke. Shay’s bow was looped around its head, the string constricting the glands that provided the drake’s flames. She held on tightly, bow drawn to its limits as she pulled further and further back, bracing a foot against its neck for leverage.

Marley stepped out of a portal only three feet from the charging drake. It didn’t have time to slow, let alone stop. The daughter of Ares braced her spear and stabbed it straight through the heart.

The drake’s death thrash sent Shay tumbling hard, but she rolled immediately onto her feet to stand beside Marley, breathing hard as the drake turned to ash. She grinned over her shoulder at the three of them, armor dented and scratched to hell. “Told you we had it.”

“I believed you,” Darcy called. She rolled her shoulders, wincing at the protesting muscles and deep bruises forming beneath her armor. “I need to get reports-” Everyone ducked instinctively at the deep boom echoing through the streets. The sky turned a pale, sickly green.  

Darcy looked around, worried. “Eris, that's gotta be her.”  

“Darce,” Ash shouted. “Some of her army broke through! They’re heading for the Roman legion!” Their last line of defense before Mount Olympus.

She stared sightlessly at the ground, focusing hard as other reports flooded in through the earpiece. The remains of Eris’s army were marching on. The list of the demigods’ wounded was long, and many had retreated to the infirmary set up in Stark Tower.

“What do you need?” Bucky asked, a port of calm in the storm.  

She took a breath. “Get me to Mount Olympus.”  They’d have to fight their way through the rest of an army to get there- unless... A shriek of repulsors came from overhead.

“I got you,” Tony said. He swooped down from above and caught her around the waist. And Darcy prepared to face the goddess of chaos.

Chapter Text

Darcy caught sight of Reyna and tapped Tony on the shoulder. “Wait, set me down here!” He swooped obediently to the ground, landing behind the lines of the army that guarded the Empire State Building. The Roman units stood in clean lines, shields braced for impact, swords and spears held at the ready in preparation for the approaching fight. Archers stood calmly at the back of the lines, bows nocked but not yet drawn.

“Eris?” Reyna asked, flicking her eyes to the nasty color of the sky. She had her helmet tucked beneath one arm, the other hand resting on the sword at her belt. She looked like a warrior straight out of legend, fierce and unyielding.

“I think she just broke into Mount Olympus,” Darcy said breathlessly. “I’ve got to get up there. But the rest of her army is coming, and fast. I wanted to warn you.”

“You know I have an earbud, too, right?” Reyna studied her for a moment. “Trust us to do our part, Darcy. This isn’t our first war and it certainly won’t be our last.”

“I know, I just…”

“Have control issues?” Reyna suggested, but then her face softened. “I know what you’re afraid of. I understand.” She glanced down the street, noticed through the rain that the monsters were now in sight. “Legion, close ranks!” She shouted.

“But?” Darcy asked quietly, knowing her friend would have more to say. And maybe needing the Praetor’s confidence before she found her own fight with Eris.

"But?" Reyna winked and drew her sword, backing away, moving towards her soldiers. “But we are the Twelfth Legion Fulminata, the last of the Roman army!” She shouted for the benefit of said army. Darcy watched as they heard her voice, her words. Backs straightened, shoulders squared, their momentum building under the sound of their Praetor’s voice. “We took an oath to protect and defend, down to the very last of us.”

Far above, another boom sounded. Eris’s influence- insanity, chaos, pain- swept over them, but the Roman faces were hard, their eyes fierce. Reyna moved to towards the front lines even as Eris’s presence intensified, pressed down on them. “We fear no gods, and certainly not their monsters.” She drew her sword as Eris’s army charged. “We will hold the line.”

Her chilling war cry was echoed by the Roman demigods, their voices echoing deep and ominous throughout the streets. They faced down the charging monsters without an ounce of fear. Reyna glanced over her shoulder at Darcy, eyes bright with the thrill of the approaching battle. “We’ll buy you the time you need, Darcy. Go. Finish this.” She turned to face the battle. “Legion, cuneum formate! Advance!”

Darcy ran into the Empire State Building as the Romans met Eris’s army with a roar and a clash. “Wow,” Tony said from beside her. “She’s really good at speeches. I’m all fired up.”

She rolled her eyes though her heart was in her throat at the sounds of the battle outside. They strode through the lobby- it was empty, all the unconscious humans moved to a safer place during the battle. Just in case the Romans failed. But she wouldn’t think of that, not now. Not when she had work to do.

Darcy pressed the button for the elevator. Tony's helmet opened so he could peer skeptically into it when it arrived. “This really works? An elevator to the home of the gods?”

“Their magic had to adapt somehow.” Darcy stepped into it and turned to smile weakly at him. “Thanks, Tony.”

He reached out suddenly to stop the closing doors. “You actually think this will work?” His quiet, earnest concern made her feel better, somehow.

“I have to hope that it does.” She took a deep breath. “And, uh, if it doesn’t... Well. We’ll all be dead, probably.“

“Then I’m glad I got to know you, kid. And I’m, uh, proud of you.” He shifted on his feet, awkward in the face of her emotional smile.

“Me, too. Good luck, Tony.”

“You, too, Darcy.” And he left to go join the fight.

The elevator ride was a horribly uncomfortable pause in between the battle. She’d always laughed in the movies during similar scenes, but it seriously sucked from this side of things. All of her charged energy, the dreadful anticipation of the upcoming fight, the terrible music driving her slowly insane. She glowered up at the overhead speaker.

Then the doors opened to Mount Olympus and she found herself abruptly wishing for the quiet safety of the elevator again. Darcy swallowed hard and moved cautiously forward. There was a path leading to the enclosed throne room, the true center of the gods’ power. The path was lined with enormous marble statues of the gods themselves, because Tartarus really would freeze over before the gods stopped erecting monuments to their own egos.

But there was excessive damage to many, as if Eris hadn’t been able to resist lashing out at the disapproving faces staring down at the approaching visitors. Darcy eyed the smirk on Ares’s statue and wished Eris had gone for his face.

Voices from inside the throne room made her hesitate in the entryway. Eris, smug and victorious, gloating as she circled the far side of the throne room. But there was Zeus, booming out an argument, a challenge, offended beyond reason that a minor goddess would dare defy him.

Darcy genuinely couldn’t decide who she disliked more. Regardless, she had a job to do. She stepped inside.

Eris was strolling around the circular throne room. She dragged her long nails across each passing throne, leaving deep gouges in each. Spiderweb cracks along the floor caught Darcy’s attention, leading back to a hearth that had only a few dimly glowing embers remaining. Physical damage reflecting the internal conflict that broke Mount Olympus apart, causing enough damage that the gods couldn’t risk direct involvement in this fight, not without giving Eris more power. She'd planned for this, though, had kept the gods out of the broken throne room. 

But to see the actual damage... The cracks were mildly concerning, she decided with a surge of worry.

Zeus alone sat on his throne, the rest of the gods dealing with their realm’s own Eris-inflicted damage or cooperating with Athena’s command to leave. Better that the gods weren’t here, she’d argued, because their home was fractured and there was no remaining certainty that they would be able to defeat Eris, not even if they worked together for once.

Darcy had to agree, seeing the vibrant green glow to Eris’s skin. She positively radiated power. Even Zeus, with his home damaged and abandoned, wouldn’t be able to hold her back. Only his ego could have kept him here, his inability to see his own approaching defeat.

Zeus noticed Darcy’s arrival immediately. The only acknowledgement was a dismissive raised eyebrow before his attention returned to Eris. But Eris had seen her, too, and froze in her tracks at the sight of Darcy. Her physical form was shorter than Darcy had expected, the manifestation of the chaos goddess only a few inches taller than Darcy.

“You,” she seethed. Her pale green hair floated through the air around her head, smooth as silk and falling to her waist. Her skin was like cracked marble, green light leaking through odd, glowing veins.

“Me,” Darcy agreed. “How are your pals Deimos and Phobos?”

Eris’s rage was tangible. “Recovering. Does Zeus know your mother gave you the power to kill a god?” She flicked her eyes to Zeus, smug. His face showed pure shock before it grew thunderous.

“He does now, so thanks for that,” Darcy grumbled. She refocused on Eris. “But I think he has bigger problems right now. After all, you are standing in his throne room.”

Eris smiled, revealing a mouthful of pointed teeth and a red, barbed tongue. “I am. And, despite your best efforts, I stand here stronger than the King of Olympus. The feeling is…” she inhaled, eyes drifting shut in pleasure, “... intoxicating.”

“Right, yeah, I guess you’re still feeding off of the battle down there.” Darcy cocked her head, considered the goddess. Zeus watched them both carefully, uncharacteristically quiet. “What’s the plan now? You fight Zeus, maybe win, and then you’re Queen of Olympus? You know it can’t last.”

“Can’t it?”

Darcy shook her head. “No, it can’t. Even with your influence, the world won’t fall to war and chaos.”

Eris snorted. “You think people are better than that? Demigods? Humans?”

“I do,” Darcy said honestly. “Maybe it’s naive or idealistic of me, but there are good people in the world. Smart, kind, compassionate people who won’t let this world fall to that. I won’t let the world fall to that.”

Eris softened, the picture of condescending sympathy. “You’ve already lost, Darcea. I am standing victorious in Mount Olympus with only a weak fool left to try and stop me. Once he falls I will reign in Mount Olympus and no one will be able to stand in my way.”

Darcy double checked the distance between them before she winced theatrically and said, “About that.”

On cue, the vision of Zeus wavered. Eris’s attention snapped towards him, watching in astonishment as he flickered in and out of sight before disappearing entirely.

Loki lounged casually on Zeus’s throne, the picture of boredom.

Eris was too stunned to move. “I found another trickster,” Darcy said with a shrug. “A better one.” Loki’s mouth curled up at the stunned disbelief on the goddess’s face. Darcy took a moment to enjoy it, too.

Then Adrian stepped into sight from behind Zeus’s throne, followed by Hestia, Kaori, and Thais. Darcy felt the concussive force of the Circle snap into place, trapping Eris within the center of the throne room. Their eyes glowed a deep, warm red as they combined their magics to maintain her prison.

Darcy smiled from the outer edge of the Circle. “You were expecting me, so confident you had worked out our plan, so positive that I’d go head to head with you.” She watched as realization settled across Eris’s face, the knowledge that she’d overplayed her hand and lost, badly. “You were arrogant, and assumed that I would be, too.” She gestured to Hestia’s children. “You forgot to consider the others. You know, the ones you called unimportant? Insignificant?”

“Rather stupid, considering your understanding of Hestia’s own significance,” Loki drawled, seemingly unable to resist stirring the pot. He sighed. “You’ll learn eventually, I suppose. Humans are incredibly resilient. And annoying.” He considered briefly. “Mostly annoying.”

“No one asked you,” Darcy said sternly. “Hush.” He sneered at her but subsided.

“Who-”

“Oh, right.” Darcy waved a hand distractedly in Loki’s direction. “This is Loki, Son of Odin and Frigga, Brother of Thor, and all around pain in the ass. I borrowed him from Asgard. Apparently the Norse trickster gods are way more legitimate than the Greek ones.”

“You brought a foreign god into Mount Olympus?” Eris breathed. “Zeus will have your head.”

“Uh, Zeus will do what he’s told,” Darcy said, unconcerned. She looked pointedly at the Circle. “Considering I’m the reason he didn’t lose everything. Oh,” she told Loki. “You might want to get off of that, though. Zeus will lose his patience at some point and will probably try to fry you.” She was honestly stunned he’d agreed to let Loki sit there in the first place.

Loki’s lip curled, but he stood and gracefully sauntered down the stairs to the throne. He paused outside the Circle, studying it closely. “Hm. This is fascinating magic. Truly impressive,” he told Hestia, who smiled.

“Well, this was… informative,” Loki said, looking around the throne room with interest. “It’s oddly reassuring to know that other gods have family arguments. Betrayals, coups, and the like. But I have better things to do.”

Hecate appeared and sent him an unimpressed look. “Not a chance,” she told him. Darcy had to smile- part of the agreement had included Hecate’s magic leashing Loki to her in order to prevent any further trickster meddling. The goddess would ensure he remained on his best behavior until Thor escorted him back to Asgard, where he would return to his probation.

Loki shrugged as if he’d never intended to facilitate more mischief between the Greek deities. He glanced at Darcy as Eris shrieked in fury. “A better trickster?”

She scowled at him. “I only said that to piss Eris off, don’t let it go to your head.”

“Of course. Well, this has been wildly entertaining. Should you ever wish to visit Asgard…”

“I’m not helping you unseat your father’s place on the throne.” Darcy crossed her arms and leveled him with a unimpressed glare. And then she recalled that Odin once called Jane a goat and generally disrespected her friend’s entire existence. “...Probably.” Loki appeared satisfied with that.

Other gods were returning to the throne room. The swell of power made Darcy wince and inch towards the door, but she crashed into her mother before she could escape. Athena smiled down at her.

“My daughter,” she greeted. “I am so proud of what you have accomplished today.”

“Thanks,” Darcy muttered. She eyed the door longingly over Athena’s shoulder.

“Fear not for your friends. Apollo and I destroyed the rest of Eris’s army, though your friends hardly needed our assistance.” Athena sobered. “Darcy.” She glanced up, met her mother’s solemn gaze. “In regards to our earlier conversation.”

“Do we really have to-”

“Your lives are fleeting compared to ours,” Athena continued as if she hadn’t protested. “But we care, Darcy. Of course we care. You are all reflections of us, and your courage and integrity make us proud.”

She swallowed as her mother continued. “I am sorry,” Athena said slowly, as if the words were difficult to speak, “If I have made you feel otherwise.”

Darcy ducked her head. “Thank you.”

“Darcea Athana,” Zeus, the real Zeus this time, boomed.

“Fuck.” Darcy shared a commiserating glance with Adrian, who stood with his siblings at Hestia’s side. He subtly cocked his head towards the small, shimmering space behind him- one of Jane’s portals, she realized with relief, in case they needed a quick exit.

Athena guided her to the center of the throne room, close to where Eris still raged within her prison. The goddess was a furious flash of light and sound as she barreled around the Circle, seeking a weak point and not finding one.

Darcy looked up at Zeus, seated on his throne. The cracks in the floor had sealed over, though faint lines remained that marked the former wounds.

“It appears,” Zeus said reluctantly, “that the gods of Mount Olympus owe you for your service.” The other gods settled into their own thrones, watching impassively. “The great demigods are traditionally offered a reward for their heroic actions.”

“It wasn’t just me,” Darcy muttered. Athena’s hand tightened on her shoulder.

“Don’t push it,” Athena said under her breath. “This is a lot for him, admitting he was wrong. Now, shh, let me enjoy it.”

Darcy stifled a laugh and listened obediently to the rest of Zeus’s speech. And then they were all looking at her, expecting gratitude for the offered reward. Which… really rubbed her the wrong way. Her mother’s fingers pressed into her, as if she knew what Darcy was thinking.

“Thank you,” Darcy said carefully. She opened her mouth to refuse the reward- nothing good ever came of a god’s generosity- and then stopped. Flashes of her life in the foster system went through her mind, Quinn and Mia and all the other demigods trapped within a human system with no way out. “I, uh, would not prefer to become a minor war goddess, though I appreciate the offer.” Eternity under Zeus’s rule? No fucking thank you.

Darcy looked at Adrian, found him smiling warmly at her. Bolstered, she faced Zeus. “I would like to ask for something else, though.” Zeus bristled.

“Careful,” Athena advised softly, but she sounding like she approved.

“I spent my life in and out of human homes. When you-” she cut off when Athena made a low noise of warning and quickly rephrased, “My mother was forbidden from interfering, and I suffered greatly because of it. And I know that there are many others like me, lost in the system or with human parents that aren’t aware their child is half god.”

“And your request is?”

“I…” Darcy wet her lips, found her courage and with it a sense of assurance. This was right. This was a way to fix their broken system, a way to rescue demigod children before they met Quinn’s fate. “I ask that all the gods, including the minor ones, help locate and identify these lost children. Before their 11th birthday,” she added. “Before they suffer because of it.”

Zeus considered her. “And should the gods alert you specifically? Are we expected to personally transport each child to the relative safety of your little camps?”

Dick, Darcy seethed, but she kept her voice even. “I ask that the gods alert me-” Adrian cleared his throat. “Or Adrianos, or…” She didn’t want to sign her entire family up for this without their approval, without any way of knowing that the gods wouldn’t make their life miserable.

Hecate stepped forward. “I will assist Athena’s daughter,” she offered. “The gods may alert me directly if they choose and I will in turn collaborate with Darcy and her partners to ensure the safety of their demigod children.” She smiled at Darcy’s grateful expression.

“I accept the terms of your offer,” Zeus told Darcy. “All of the gods will obey as I command it.” His brothers eyed him dangerously. Darcy decided to move things along before they escalated.

“Thank you. The demigods will return to Stark Tower for now, so…” She looked for Hypnos in the crowded room.

He inclined his head. “I will wait to awaken the city until the demigods are hidden from sight.”

They could always blame the mess on the Avengers and another supervillain attack, she supposed. “Thank you. And… I’m sorry about your child. Truly.” Hypnos nodded and looked away.

“While I agree with the reward for Darcea, I would like to kindly remind you, brother,” Poseidon said tightly, “that you may be King of Olympus, but you do not command us all.” Hades agreed, unaffected by the anger on Zeus’s face.

Time to go, then.

Athena herded her to the portal. Kaori and Thais waved and jumped through, but Darcy paused beside Adrian. “Eris?”

“She will be punished,” Athena reassured her. “And severely.” She smiled at Darcy’s mistrustful expression. “I swear it. If you’d like, I can bring you the news of her punishment when it is decided.”

Darcy wanted to drag herself home and into the shower, not to mention the plans she had for Steve and Bucky once she got them behind closed doors. At the mere thought of them, Aphrodite perked up from across the room and wiggled her fingers with a wide, approving grin. Darcy hurriedly looked away from her.

“Maybe send a note first,” Adrian suggested, amused. “She might be in a… compromising position.” Darcy elbowed him.

“Fine,” Athena said, voice fond. “I will dispatch an owl so you may alert Hypnos when you’re ready for the city to wake. I will find you later.”

“Thanks, Mom.” Darcy watched Athena rejoin the gods, feeling the first true sparks of pride for her mother. Adrian hugged Hestia, drawing Darcy’s attention. “Wait, what about-”

“Zeus apologized,” Hestia told her softly. “While we waited for you to save Mount Olympus. He would never do it in front of the other gods, much less a demigod. But I am reinstated, and I have you to thank for it.” She touched Darcy’s cheek with gentle fingers and smiled. “Thank you, Darcy, for all you have done for us.”

She ducked her head, cheeks warming. “No problem.”

“Come on,” Adrian urged. “Let’s get out of here before they realize we’re still here.”

“Loki-”

“Hecate has him, and will hold him until Thor returns,” Hestia said. “He has little power here, in our home.”

“He probably has more than you think,” Darcy couldn’t help but argue, but Athena glanced their way and nodded as if she’d heard. Reassured, Darcy let Adrian drag her through the portal and into the upper floors of Stark Tower.

She looked around, breath catching until she found the faces of her friends and family. Shay laughing with Marley and Ash, Aya smiling shyly as Thais chatted with her, Adrian making his way over to the injured demigods. Percy and Annabeth leaning against each other. Reyna, who met her eyes and lifted her water in salute with a victorious grin even as Kaori flirted shamelessly with her.

Mia, streaking across the room at top speed to crash into Darcy, who immediately fell to her knees to hug the little girl. She chattered away at top speed, Luc and Amelie unoffended by Mia’s abrupt abandonment.

“- and Jane set a bunch of stuff on fire, it was so cool-”

Darcy grinned helplessly. “Where is Jane?”

“With Thor. And Mr. Tony. They’re busy cleaning up, but I’m supposed to tell you to come downstairs.”

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“So Mr. Steve can kiss you, probably.” Mia wrinkled her nose. “And Mr. Bucky. Do you kiss them both? Do you like it? Kissing sounds really gross.”

She laughed. “It kind of does.” She hugged Mia tightly again, unable to resist. “How about you take me to them and we see what we can do to help? You don’t have to stay for the kissing part of it.”

“Okay. And then can we get ice cream?”

“Why not, kiddo? We did win, after all.”

Chapter Text

Bucky glanced up as Mia tramped morosely into the kitchen, home from school for the day. She set her purple backpack on the table and hopped onto the chair next to his, legs kicking as she huffed and leaned against him.

“How was school?” He asked, smiling when she reached for his hand. Mia was endlessly fascinated by the prosthetic and he was entirely unable to resist giving into her- every time, for anything she wanted. He and Steve had a very hard time telling Mia no. It exasperated Darcy to no end, as if she was any better.

Mia shrugged. “Okay.” She sounded distinctly annoyed.

Steve turned away from the stove where he stood with Ash, cooking dinner. “Only okay? How’d your story go for the creative writing assignment?”

Mia made a face. “I wrote about the fight with the Minotaur.” They nodded- everyone had helped her with it, after all. “But I got a B+ because the teacher said it was ‘too unre’listic.’ What does that even mean?”

Ash laughed, unable to help it. She scowled at him. “I’m sorry, Mia. That’s just… so typical. You’re getting the genuine demigod experience, honey.”

“I can’t wait for camp again, this is dumb,” Mia grumbled. Then she perked up. “Do you think I can go with Natasha next time?” Bucky traded looks with Steve. They were still figuring out their place in the family dynamic, still settling into yet another pair of parental figures for Mia. Well, less parental and more familial, Bucky admitted to himself. Mostly they were just two more people who loved her without reservation.

“I don’t see why not, if she only goes for a weekend,” Steve said tentatively.

“That’s what Shay said, too,” Mia agreed. Amused, Ash patted Steve on the shoulder when he looked relieved. “But someone has to go with us. For protection.”

Bucky’s mouth tugged up at the hint of wheedling in her tone. “We can do that.” He was rewarded with a bright, excited grin.

Darcy and Tony entered the house just then, Jane trailing behind them with her nose buried in her portal-creation control device. Darcy was gesturing wildly, explaining some vague reference from Camp Half-Blood. Tony watched her with something between fear and wonder, like he was terrified of fucking things up. Like he couldn’t believe she was actually his kid.

It went a long way to repairing any lingering animosity between him and Tony. Team dynamics were always somewhat unstable with all of the big personalities and high stakes fights, but Darcy brought something to the group that settled them all.

Common ground, maybe. She was the heart of them, something precious to everyone. He was just glad she hadn’t decided to start fighting with the Avengers yet- demigod affairs kept her busy enough.

Actually, demigod affairs kept them all busy. New York was still recovering from the battle, which had been explained away as a supervillian attack. People remembered the storm and getting to cover, and thankfully nothing after the fact. The world wasn’t ready for demigods to come to light- probably wouldn’t ever be.

But the Avengers were certainly a good explanation for the relatively minor city damage and the mass confusion. New York was resilient as ever. Most of the citizens weren’t even fazed by the event. Easy to shrug off the events when you were unaware of the gods fighting a thousand miles over your head, Bucky supposed.

Mia beamed at Tony. She was enchanted by the superhero and tended to follow him around asking rapid-fire questions without pausing for breath. She was equally fascinated with him as Darcy’s father, too. Steve had laughed himself sick at the expression on Tony’s face the first time she’d asked if he was her grandfather.

“Hi Mr. Iron Man sir.”

“For the last time, kid, you can call me Tony,” he said with an exaggerated exasperation that made her giggle every time. He watched her affectionately as she turned to Darcy and started her campaign for traveling to the camps with Natasha.

Darcy listened, hiding her amusement as Mia laid out an extensive, logical list of reasons she should join the Russian demigod on her frequent trips between the camps. She let Mia finish, considered for a long pause while Mia squirmed in anticipation, and then grinned down at her.

“I already talked to Nat about it, kiddo.” She ruffled Mia’s hair. “She’s going to Camp Half-Blood this weekend to help train them-” and to help kids in the Hephaestus and Hecate cabins work out a way around the technology issue- “and already said you can come with her.”

Mia cheered. “Steve and Bucky said they would take us. Can we leave now? I don’t have to go to school tomorrow.”

“You most definitely do,” Ash said with a fond grin. “But nice try.”

Mia hopped off her chair to go make her case to him. "What if I just leave a little bit early?" 

Darcy slid onto Bucky’s lap and kissed him. He wound an arm around her waist, contentment warming his chest, and closed his eyes when she ran her fingers through his hair. “I say we drop Mia off for the weekend and see if we can talk Hecate into taking us to her realm.”

Steve dropped into the chair beside them. “I like the sound of that. Hey, doll.” Bucky’s arm tightened around her waist when she leaned over to kiss Steve. “Good day?” He murmured against her mouth.

She glanced at Tony, who was arguing with Jane about something way over Bucky’s head. But Darcy smiled, shy and fond, at the sight of him. “Yeah. Tony’s been really great. I wouldn’t have made it this far without his help.”

“I don’t know about that,” Steve said, hand resting on her thigh. “You would have found a way without him.”

“Probably,” she admitted. “But his influence goes a long way.” She rested against Bucky’s chest. “We’re almost ready. A week, maybe two, and it’ll be finished.”

“You just tell us when,” Bucky promised, “and we’ll be there.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Steve agreed.

~*~

Darcy’s life changed so drastically after the Second Battle of New York that sometimes she had to remind herself that it was all real, that once the dust settled her world didn’t fall apart the way she’d quietly expected it to. Optimism wasn’t her forte. It was hard to maintain, but Bucky and Steve loved her, and her relationship with Tony was growing, and she slowly, slowly stopped expecting the ground to fall out from beneath her, for the other shoe to drop.

But her support system had doubled in size, and her mother was proud of her and actually spent time with Darcy, time that wasn’t interrupted by lectures on expectations and responsibilities. They just... talked. It was as baffling as it was appreciated. She’d never had a great relationship with Athena, but things were changing.

Darcy thought part of it was that she had finally embraced her parentage, had let go of that lingering resentment, finally accepted who she was instead of fighting it. She made peace with her past, the people she’d loved and lost, and moved forward with her life.

And as much as it pained her to admit it, Aphrodite had been right. She led an exciting life, and Bucky and Steve were only a part of it. A great part of it, she thought through the haze of sleep.

Dawn cracked open the sky, early light filtering into the bedroom of Steve and Bucky’s apartment. Noises had roused her, soft groans and wet sounds that had heat pooling between her legs before she was even fully awake.

She cracked an eye open. Steve was on his back beside her, watching as Bucky bit his swollen lower lip and fought to stay quiet. His fingers were biting into the skin and metal of Bucky’s wrists as the other man pressed slowly into him.

Steve watched him flex his hips with lidded eyes, Bucky moving at an achingly slow pace designed, she assumed, to not wake her. Bucky bit off a groan when Steve lifted his hips into the next glacial thrust. “Quiet,” Steve ordered firmly. His chest was flushed red, his own cock hard and leaking precome against his belly.

She must have made a sound because they both turned to look at her. Darcy skimmed off her sleep shorts and shirt, wriggling around until they were piled on the floor with Bucky and Steve’s. Steve grinned at her, then sucked in a breath at the next snap of Bucky’s hips.

“Hey, Darce,” he said, voice husky. He watched her hand slide down her belly and between her legs, eyes going dark when she moved her fingers over her clit with a sigh. “No, come- fuck!” Bucky picked up the pace, one hand dropping to grip Steve’s cock. “Come here,” Steve choked out, reaching for her.

She let him pull her across the bed with that inhuman strength, biting her lip when he positioned her so that she was straddling his face. Arms looped over her thighs and pulled her firmly onto him.

Darcy braced herself on the headboard, gasping and choking on her breaths as Steve buried his face in her cunt. He licked into her, one hand sliding around so he could press into her with two thick fingers.

She rode his hand and face at his direction, coming twice before he let her go to fall back on the bed, breathing hard. Bucky leaned down to kiss her taste off of Steve’s lips, licking across his mouth as he fucked into him.

Steve arched his back, hands fisted in the sheets as Bucky looped an arm around Steve’s knee and held him open. Darcy leaned in to kiss Bucky, hot and wet and open-mouthed before pulling away. She wrapped her mouth around Steve’s cock and sank down, swirling her tongue around him. Bucky adjusted his angle until the head of his cock pressed insistently against a place that had Steve’s legs shaking, his voice cracking.

Steve nudged her in warning, and though she appreciated the heads up, she didn’t move, letting him come down her throat. Bucky groaned, braced his hands on the bed, and fucked Steve hard until he spilled inside of him.

He collapsed on top of Steve. Darcy was pulled up the bed until she was curled into Steve’s side, and they all fought to catch their breath. Darcy traded slow, lazy kisses with Steve until Bucky pulled out of him and disposed of the condom.

Bucky threw himself onto the bed on her other side.

“Well. Good morning,” she said. They laughed.

“We didn’t want to wake you,” Steve explained. “You were workin’ late last night.”

“This isn’t exactly an ordeal to wake up to,” Darcy said dryly. Steve’s hands were exploring now, riding over her waist and hip and dipping between her legs. He rolled them until he was hovering over her and her eyes widened at the hardening cock against her leg. “Already?”

“He’s really pent up, I don’t know why,” Bucky said, an arm thrown over his eyes. “I’ve already gotten him off twice this morning.”

“Just am.” Steve ducked his head, pressing kisses to her neck, scraping his teeth over the swell of her breast, catching a nipple in his mouth. She arched into him, moaning, and nodded at his wordless question when he met her eyes.

He slipped into her easily, a long, slow press that stretched her wide and stole the air from her lungs. Her nails dug into his back as he flexed his hips against her. “I can’t say I’m not enjoying it,” she gasped out as he fucked her steadily, still dropping kisses along her collarbones.

Steve kissed her deeply, tongue matching the pace of his hips until she was lost in the dual sensations. Bucky moved at some point, leaning down to mouth at her breasts. His hand gripped Steve’s ass, sliding down until he could slip a couple fingers into his entrance.

Steve made soft, needy sounds against her neck that had her clenching around him in no time. Something about the desperate noises from him, the one who was always in control, made her all hot and bothered. He fucked her through another orgasm before he came inside her, panting against her neck.

Darcy traced her nails up his back, humming in contentment. She liked the heavy, solid warmth of him pressing her down into the mattress, Bucky’s wandering hands and mouth, the soft light of the room that made all of this feel like a dream.

“I’m going to sleep for a little longer,” she said on a happy sigh. “Feel free to wake me up when you’re ready to go again.”

“You got it, doll,” Steve said, low and amused. She was smiling as sleep claimed her again.

~*~

Darcy looked around the crowd, heart drumming in her chest with nervous anticipation. She smoothed her hands down her dress and took a bracing breath.

“Here.” Tony handed her a flute of champagne, dressed in a suit and wearing a tie with small black cats on it- Mia's contribution. It made Darcy smile, some of the tension fading from her body. “Quit freaking out.”

“I’m not freaking out.”

Jane appeared at her elbow. “You’re definitely freaking out.”

“You got this, kid,” Tony told her gently. “You’ve worked your ass off for this. We’re proud of you, Darce. What you’ve done here is incredible, and I’m glad you let me be a part of it.”

“What he said, but with less feelings,” Jane agreed. Tony rolled his eyes when Darcy laughed.

“Thanks, Tony.”

“Wow, that actually worked?” He eyed his glass. “What’s in this?”

“Can’t pretend you don’t have emotions now, Stark,” Jane said. “We’re onto you.”

Darcy tuned out their bickering, familiar with it after weeks of working with them on this project. She looked around the crowd, eyes falling on Shay and her mother, a doctor that drove up from Maine to visit her daughter, Ash standing with his own mother and Valeria.

Percy and Annabeth gathered with Reyna, Frank Zhang, and Hazel, all listening to Kaori explain something that involved a lot of wild hand gestures. Hazel’s half-brother Nico, a son of Hades and just as powerful as- if not more than- Percy, followed his boyfriend Will around as the son of Apollo flitted through the crowd to talk with everyone he knew.

Aya and Thais chatted with Marley. Luc and Mia darted through the crowds, chasing Nyx around, and Darcy smiled to see Sam and Amelie totally hitting it off. Pepper and Thor were two tall, gorgeous bookends on either side of the social worker Darcy had been working closely with. Her two worlds coming together, Darcy thought with a glow of warmth.

She saw Clint being hauled over to the group by Shay for introductions, looking wildly around for Natasha’s help. That made her frown- Natasha had arrived, she recalled, but she hadn’t seen the Russian demigod in a while.

A quick search found her at the outskirts of the crowd, face smooth and emotionless in the way Darcy had learned to recognize meant Natasha was uncomfortable. They’d talked about the gods of Russia and the difference in demigod lives there, so Darcy knew Natasha resented her mother being the goddess of winter and death. Like she couldn’t escape her fate, was destined for horrible things.

“You know,” Darcy said, sidling up to Natasha and watching the crowd with her, “I did some research on Russian deities.”

“That doesn’t sound like a good use of your time.”

Darcy elbowed her. “Don’t be rude.” She watched Natasha out of the corner of her eye. “Did you know that your mother is also the goddess of rebirth? It’s barely mentioned, hard to find, but I confirmed it with a couple scholars in Russian folklore and literature. It seems she prefers winter and death, but that’s not all she is.” Not all you are, she tried to emphasize.

Natasha was quiet for so long that Darcy worried she’d overstepped. Except- no. Her friend needed to hear this. “Thank you, milaya,” she said softly. Natasha squeezed her hand and went to join Clint, looking as though a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

“Darcy, it’s time.” She jumped when Bucky appeared behind her, silent as a ghost. She let him lead her back to the front, deposit her next to Tony, and waited until he’d rejoined Steve at the front of the crowd to speak.

“Hello, everyone.” She felt Tony’s support at her back, joined by Jane and then Adrian, who had left to check on the protective Circle around the property. “Thank you for coming.” Gods, she hated public speaking. “Most of you know me pretty well-” other than the few benefactors and government officials scattered throughout the crowd- “so you know what this means to me. I want to thank Tony Stark and Pepper Potts for their support in this venture, as well as Dr. Jane Foster and Adrian Cortez.”

She looked around, noted the kind faces of demigod parents she’d met and helped along the years. People who stuck by their strange god-children, who loved them despite the chaos and insanity that they brought to their lives.

Too often the human parents weren’t up to raising a demigod child. Some kids were like her, dumped at the doorstep to become someone else’s problem. Others had parents that grew to resent them, that couldn’t understand why they kept getting expelled from schools or struggled to sit still for even a couple minutes.

Too often these kids ended up in the human justice system without the knowledge or support they needed to survive. It was a dark fact that haunted Darcy for years- and now she could finally do something about it.

Steve and Bucky watched her warmly. She met their gaze, let them steady her before she gave into the overwhelming urge to cry.

“The support from you all is the reason why this ever happened, and I can’t tell you what it will mean to the kids that need this the most.” She saw a dark head bob through the crowd and let herself believe, just for a moment, that he was here with her.

“That said, I would like to welcome you all to the grand opening of the Quinn Davis Home for Fosters, a place of love and safety for those who need it most.” Love and safety- the things she’d never had, growing up. The things she had needed the most- and that she could now provide for others like her.

The safest place in the city now, with Adrian and Thais and Kaori ensuring their protections held. Tony’s funding, Jane’s technology, and their combined ingenuity. Ash’s mother and Valeria’s gentle guidance, the Avenger’s protection, and the demigods who would help raise and protect the young demigod children who’d been abandoned.

Her family had turned this dream of hers into a reality, had given her a gift that she could never repay. But that wasn’t the point of family, Darcy thought as Adrian and Tony started to give tours of the sprawling foster house.  

Family was what you made it, who you chose, and the ones who loved you without reservations or expectations. She’d grown up without one, lost the one person she’d loved as family, had stumbled into a family by accident, and now it had grown bigger than she’d ever dreamed.

Steve and Bucky joined her, Mia riding on Steve’s back as Shay and Ash showed their parents around the house. At the edge of the property stood Hecate and Athena, a brief flash of the goddesses there to support her, and then they disappeared again.

Tony called her name from the doorway. “C’mon, kid. This is your show.”

Bucky pressed a kiss to her hair. “It is.”

Darcy smiled, took Steve and Bucky’s hand, and pulled them with her. “Let’s go, then. We’ve got a house to fill.”