Darcy bit down on her bottom lip and released the green ‘button’ on her phone screen that would connect her to the communication app she’d designed for Wade.. It was a simple enough app, she’d made one for the Avengers too. X-Force just seemed to use it more.
This mission wasn’t supposed to be this complicated. It was supposed to be a quick job. One and done. Break in, steal the intel, sneak out.
But of course, it didn’t go that way, because the universe hated Darcy Lewis. Hate, hate, hate, capital H.
Okay, maybe it didn’t hate her, but it certainly loved fucking up things that were supposed to be easy and then laughing at her while she scrambled.
She probably shouldn’t have tried to do this alone. She was technically a field agent, but mostly, everyone wanted her for tech. And the intel she’d stolen was about that. But field agenting was something she was still green at. But Cable had needed the intel, and everyone else glazed over when she started talking about dismantling the firewall, so. Here she was.
“What is it, Monkey?” Wade’s voice responded.
“ Wade ,” she replied.
“Use our code names, dearheart.”
“WADE. This is a private channel. No one’s hacking in, I promise.”
“Still not right, but I can tell by your tone that things aren’t exactly peachy keen, so I’ll let that slide. My code name is Rainbow Smash, in case you forgot.”
She hadn’t. But he was right about the’ no time’ thing. “Look. I got the intel Cable asked for. That part was easy.”
“Okay, I sense a but in the future. Or a, however . Probably a but.”
“It’s a but . These idiots came back from wherever the hell they were and now I’m stuck in this vent because if I shimmy out the way I came in, I’ll not only alert everyone in this building with the resulting rumble, I’ll probably get mowed down by assault rifles before I can even squeeze out of the vent.”
“Where are you now?”
She looked around, her surroundings not helping in the slightest, so she pressed against the smartwatch on her wrist, swiping through all the screens until she found the infrared map. “Directly above the barracks. No one’s there currently, but they will be in a few hours. And the longer I stay put, the more likely this vent will give way and I’ll fall into AIM barracks on my ass.”
“Damn those AIM bastards for needing a tight ten and a half every night…” Wade muttered. “Listen. We’ll get you out. Just sit tight. I’ll send someone in to get you.”
“Right. Because another person in the vents is what we need.”
“Look, you can’t go crawling over their heads and risking them hearing you unless we got a clear shot out. Plus. Two is better than one.”
“Only if one of the two is Cable,” she countered.
“So you’re sending Cable?
“Did I not say noted ?” he asked.
Darcy rolled her eyes. “ Yes . But that doesn’t always mean you’re doing what I asked.”
“I will do what’s best for you, Monkey.”
She sighed. “Give me an approximate wait time.”
“Okay. I’ll chill for seven, and if no one’s here, I’m calling you back.”
“I’d expect nothing less.”
She exhaled and lay her head down on her folded arms and started to count four hundred and twenty Mississippis.
Approximately three-hundred-ninety Mississippis later
“Incoming, Monkey,” Wade’s voice rang in her ear.
“Cable?” she asked hopefully.
“Nah. But I got you the next best thing.”
She raised her head off her folded arms, watching as a very familiar face crawled around the corner in the vents. But it wasn’t Cable.
“Axel!” she exclaimed, frowning as her ex continued army crawling towards her.
She got back on her comm. “Wade. WADE! I asked for Cable.”
“Sorry to disappoint you,” Axel replied, his voice on a slight delay in her ear as well.
“Why are you on my comm when you’re right there?” she asked.
“Oh right. I kind of have everyone on the same channel. Or Bedlam did. I don’t have admin access anymore,” Wade replied.
She would facepalm, but she was kind of in an air vent, so she sighed heavily. “Who else is here?”
“Hiya Darce!” came Domino’s bright greeting. “Cable’s also here, but he’s not talking. Typical.”
“I would if I had something to say,” was his terse reply. “Shatterstar’s here too, pick on him instead.”
“Only in spirit, I couldn’t fit in Doppinder’s cab,” was the curt response.
She pressed her lips together in frustration. “Wade. I asked specifically for Cable.”
“Zeitgeist is the next best thing.”
Hardly. She turned her gaze to Axel’s. She almost couldn’t look at him. Pain bloomed right over her heart and she swallowed back the lump in her throat. This wasn’t funny. This was raw and painful and the worst timing of ever for her to have to face him again.
“I don’t mean to be rude,” she began.
“Cable couldn’t fit through the vents, so I’m here,” Axel said sharply. “I’m pulling you out because I don’t want you to get shot to pieces. Can we please put our personal shit to the side for the next half hour?”
“Yeah,” she mumbled, embarrassed to be so perfectly called out for all the right reasons. This was work. Not some awkward night at Sister Margaret’s where they caught each others’ eyes and slunk to opposite tables, Darcy taking Cable and Domino, mostly because Cable was already sitting across the room from everyone else.
“Awesome,” Axel said with a cool smirk.
“Aww, you guys…” Wade cooed on the comm. Both Darcy and Axel chose to ignore him, as did everyone else in the comm group chat
Axe switched to business mode immediately. Which Darcy was still in charge of her brain enough to admit was totally hot. “Follow me around the corner and they’ll pull my cord, yank us both out slowly.”
“How did they not hear you?” she asked.
“I crawled in over the laundry room. There was a load in the dryer, so they couldn’t hear me crawling. Won’t have that luxury on the way back, so it’s good they’re dragging us.” He shot her a quick smile that faded immediately. Almost like he’d forgotten for a second that they weren’t in flirty banter mode.
“Heya Darce. Bedlam here…” The lower voice immediately shocked her until she remembered that they were all here. All of X-Force. Why Bedlam hadn’t piped in during her impromptu roll call, she didn’t know.
“Sure, what is it, B?” she asked, slowly moving around the corner.
“I’m out here on the roof with the pulley. Just letting you know that we gotta drag you slowly so the cord we attached to Axe won’t snap.”
“I’m not that heavy, am I?” Darcy joked.
“What? No! Not in the slightest, but this is a different sort of weight than it’s used to. Just wanted to let ya know… … You’re not big. You’re not. Not what I meant.”
Axel snickered a little, stopping when Darcy shot him a look. “What? You’re not.”
“It’s fine, let’s just get a move on, okay?” she replied.
A bead of sweat dripped down her forehead as she followed Axel around the corner. It was an awkward squeeze, but she finally made it.
“Okay. grab my hands,” Axel said, holding both out in front of him.
“Just making sure, but… you’re feeling alright, aren’t you? You’re not hungover, or nauseated, or claustrophobic or anything, are you?”
He shot her a look. “If I was, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he said. His tone taking on a much softer tone that called back to something Darcy wasn’t ready to revisit just yet. The break up was too fresh.
She simply nodded tersely and held out both arms towards him. He gripped her gloved hands tightly
“We’re ready,” he said.
Slowly, they began to inch forward. Backward for Axel, but down the vent, regardless.
Bedlam had been right. It was slow. Achingly slow.
“D, you alright, baby?” Bedlam’s voice came into her comm and she nodded before stopping herself and actually replying out loud.
“Doing fine. I don’t weigh too much for the cord, do I?” she teased, even though her heart wasn’t in it, what with being dragged slowly through the vent by her ex and all.
“Darcy… you know that’s not what I meant. You’re a good healthy weight.” He paused before continuing, “We’ll have both of ya outta there soon.”
“Umm…” A decidedly more timid voice joined in. “Is there any way I can mute you guys?”
Axel frowned, tilting his head as he tried to recognize the voice. “Peter?”
Darcy groaned in protest. “Wade. Is Peter with you guys?” He had to stop bringing him to dangerous places like this.
“ No , actually…” Wade replied.
“I’m at my nephew’s bar mitzvah,” Peter replied.
“Why do you have your comm with you?” Bedlam asked, sounding slightly perturbed.
“Well. After Darcy set it up for me, I didn’t want to mess it up, so it just… pairs to my headset automatically…”
“Well, just unpair your headset,” Darcy said. This was actually something she knew how to fix. “It should send the call back to the app on your phone, and you can disconnect.”
“Oh great. Thank you!” Peter sounded relieved, so they all waited a few moments, Axe and herself slowly inching down the vent the whole while. A snail was probably faster.
“Uh oh…” Peter’s voice sounded distinctly more echo-y. As did the background noise. Which very quickly became numerous groans of anguish.
“What is uh-oh?” Darcy asked.
“I might have… sent the group chat to the DJ’s Bluetooth speakers…”
“Disconnect from the speakers,” Darcy exclaimed. “Peter. Just disconnect from--”
At that moment, she and Axe stopped moving. Since they weren’t moving fast to begin with, it wasn’t jarring, but he grunted out a sound that vaguely registered to her as pain, so she abruptly snapped her attention to him.
“I’m caught on something,” he said. “Stop pulling.” He released her hands and slipped his arm down his side, rummaging around before ceasing all movement entirely. He exhaled loudly. “Shit.”
“Language!” Peter chastised. “You’re still on the DJ’s Bluetooth… I’m so sorry, these are my coworkers… that last part was for the bar mitzvah guests,” he explained. “But really, if you could all watch your language.”
“We’re kind of in deep doo-doo, here, Peter,” Darcy hissed.
“Thank you. Just like that. Thanks, Darcy.”
“For the love of--”
“It’s my tact belt,” Axel concluded, looking back at Darcy. “Something’s snagged.”
“Great. Take off the belt and we’ll go,” she said.
“Not that easy, I can’t fit it through the loops with everything attached to it. I also can’t reach where I’m snagged, so…”
She sighed. “So I need to? Is that what you’re so eloquently refusing to ask me?”
He made some sort of movement that was probably supposed to be a shrug. “Well yes. I can’t quite bend that way. You’re smaller.”
“You are ,” Bedlam piped in, happy to finally be able to save his ass from his combined weight statement before. “You’re so much smaller and--”
“Shut it, both of you. Left or right?” she asked, nodding once when Axel jutted his head to the left.
Darcy let go of his hands, inching forward until she could hook her chin over his shoulder and reach down to where he was snagged. She couldn’t see what she was doing, but she could definitely smell his cologne and aftershave and laundry detergent. It made her eyes water, but not in a ‘jesus-christ-stop-wearing-so-much-product’ kind of way. It was more of a triggered memory kind of thing, and she didn’t like this in the slightest.
“Okay, I think I found where to unpair the speakers,” Peter said.
“Glory be,” she deadpanned. “I was waiting with bated breath.”
She felt Axel snicker a little, but she didn’t really want to think about him at all. She just wanted this to be over. And the sooner she could swear again, the better.
“Uh-oh. Again…” Peter lamented.
“What now?” Axel asked.
“Instead of unpairing, I think I hit the stream button. Now we’ve got video streaming on the digital projector on the stage…” Peter replied.
“Video of what, exactly?” Darcy asked.
“Zeitgeist’s helmet has a cam on it,” was Bedlam’s response.
“So you’re seeing what Axe is seeing?” Darcy asked. “Which is what? Dark tunnel?”
“Well, considering my head is on your shoulder, I’m looking down your backside…” Axel said.
“Turn your head immediately!” Darcy said, sliding her hand around to finally unhook whatever it was from his tact belt.
“I wasn’t doing it on purpose,” Axel said softly. “Promise.”
“I don’t care if you see it. This is just work, right?”
“Right,” he said with a short nod.
“But Peter’s nephew’s bar mitzvah doesn’t need to see it. Peter, turn off your phone and leave it off until you leave again.”
“I’m so sorry, Darcy,” Peter sounded sincere. He always did, but she couldn’t be anything but terse right now.
“I know, babe. Just… turn it off completely, should unlink you from everything.”
“Peter has left the chat,” a robotic voice informed everyone.
She slid the items out of Axel’s tact belt and into her hand. She scooted back and handed them to him. It looked like ninja stars, but knowing Axe, it was likely some kind of poisonous lethal weapon of some kind. Or else it was food disguised as a weapon. “Here. Put that somewhere else.”
Waiting for them to start getting tugged again, she reached for his hands as they began to gently move down the vent once more.
Darcy avoided Axel’s gaze until they reached the end and he slid out the vent and got out of her way. They were at the opposite end of the roof. There was a small drop, but nothing she couldn’t handle if she was flipped around.
Which she wasn’t, so she waffled, frowning a little until Axel reached up and plucked her from the vent and into his brief, but lingering embrace.
Bedlam was there, unhooking his cord/pulley system from Axel and the outside of the vent. He snapped the whole thing back into a small box and gestured to the side of the building. “We’ll have to rappel down the side of the building there. Doppinder’s got his cab waiting out front.
“Are you kidding? He’s just idling out there? I thought he dropped everyone off!”
“The others are with him. Cable and Domino. Wade.”
“So Domino’s keeping everyone safe and Wade and Cable are just…” she trailed off.
“Superfluous, yes,” replied Bedlam.
“Well, if Domino’s there. It’s a shame y’all didn’t think to send her into the vent,” Darcy joked. “She would have fit and maybe some of her luck would have rubbed off.”
Bedlam shifted awkwardly, glanced over at Axel, and gestured to the side of the roof. “I’ll set in the grappling hooks. T-minus two minutes.”
Darcy watched him leave, frowning a little. “That was weird. I guess he’s in a hurry?” she said, taking a step towards him, but stopping because Axel had grabbed her hand.
“Look, I might as well tell you. I volunteered to go in after you.”
She frowned. “Why? It would have been easier if--”
“You know I’m a control freak. I wanted to know first hand that you were alright. I couldn’t have just… sat down there in the cab and listened. Wade had to send me.”
“I would have been fine--”
“ I wanted to save you, okay?”
“You didn’t save me. You assisted me.”
He smirked. “Fine. I wanted to assist you…” He trailed off. “Long story short, I want to be the one you call when you need help, okay?”
“You kind of lost that perk when we decided I couldn’t call you for anything else.”
“ We nothing. You decided that.”
“Bull. You’re the one who said you were dangerous,” she countered. “Too dangerous, if I recall. That whole bullshit superhero excuse that is so old it should be called the Steve Rogers.”
“I know what I said. I regret it and I’m sorry. But you were the one who ended things.”
“Because you kept Steve Rogering me into non-committal booty-call purgatory! Do you know how many nights of sleep I’ve lost over you?”
“No, tell me. I’ll make up for each one.” He raised his eyebrows a little, his tone monotonous and droning.
She laughed. “Ass. You know I don’t lose sleep for anything.”
“But I understand the sentiment. I’m sorry if being my non-committed booty-call made you feel anything less than wonderful.”
“This past month’s been a whole lot less than wonderful, Axe.”
“Look, I know. It’s been hell for me too. I want to do this the right way. I want to be the one you call for everything. Doesn’t matter what. You made too many cookies? Call me. You’re lonely and you don’t want to fall asleep alone, call me.”
“What if I need tampons?”
“Call me,” he said, chuckling a little.
“Um. Hi. Ms. Lewis? Mr… Geist? Just letting you know, you were talking way longer than two minutes,” Doppinder said over the comm. “Not to interrupt, but the meter is running…”
“Oh my god,” Darcy reached into her pocket, scrambling to disconnect from the app on her phone. Axel did the same, but everyone had already heard. “Doppinder’s on the comm?”
“He’s why Wade doesn’t have admin privileges anymore,” explained Axel. They both turned and ran towards a very impatient Bedlam.
They all three rappelled down the side of the building and made a break for Doppinder’s cab. Slipping into the backseat, Axel squeezed between Bedlam and Cable. Darcy hopped into Domino’s lap, her legs stretched out over everyone else’s.
Wade reached for the handle beside his head as Doppinder peeled out and turned around.
Domino glanced over at Axel after a long quiet moment. “Will you pick up tampons for me, too?”
Axel shrugged. “Text me a picture, so I know which ones to get.”
Darcy’s mouth quirked up a little. She was so gonna kiss his brains out later.
Wait. She didn't have to be so PG, she could swear again...
Eh. You know what I mean.