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I jumped, I fell, I hit the ground [But here I am alive]

Chapter Text

“So we can take the world back from the heart-attacked
One maniac at a time we will take it back”
“The Phoenix” - Fall Out Boy

Darcy opened her eyes to darkness. At least she thought it was darkness. She blinked a couple of times and was able to finally see pale light filtering through the cracks of….wherever she was.
And that’s when she realized her whole body was in pain. Not terribly awful pain, but that annoying pain you get when you’ve fallen asleep on your arm and it goes numb and then you get those pins and needles.
She tried shaking out her limbs but quickly realized there was no room. She pushed her hands out and felt stone. And metal. She traced her fingers over some raised metal…and realized it was an Audi symbol. Darcy jerked her fingers back and was considering her options when she heard voices. Voices she recognized. Specifically one very deep male voice.

“Thor! What the hell is going on?! Why am I here….where is here? What the actual fuck? Tony? Anyone?! Can anyone hear me?”

The voices stopped abruptly.

“Darcy?”

“Lightning sister! Where are you? Are you well?”

“Um..” She paused. “I think I’m under someone’s car. I think it might have been fancy before, you know, it was turned into a heaping pile of slag. And rocks. Lots of rocks.”

Darcy waited as she heard more voices and then movement. A couple smaller rocks tumbled onto her head.

“Hang on Darcy! We’ve got you!”

“Be still Darcy, Steven is going to uncover you.”

“Steven? As in Steve Rogers? Like Captain America? For real? Hey! Watch the merchandise!” Darcy cried as more rocks tumbled down.

“Wait!” Shouted a female voice “You could crush her!”

“Not crushing Darcy would be excellent. Really excellent. Being rescued by America’s favorite star spangled son would be even better if I don’t end up…you know, dead.” Hysteria had edged its way into Darcy’s voice. She had officially reached panic babble stage and if she could move then she probably wouldn’t be talking so much or so fast.

There was a whizzing sound and another voice, one she didn’t recognize. “I’ll help. I can throw a net under that stuff if she will lift it.”

“Who is that? Is there someone younger than me now? And another girl? That’s super cool. Can we get me out now? Cause that would be even cooler. Or is it even more cool? I am so not an English major. Don’t major in poli-sci kids….you’ll get attacked by robot aliens, almost kidnapped by dark elves and have your beloved ipod stolen by asshats in all black and also Norway. With no wifi.”

“Darcy,” Steve had leaned down to try and see her, she got a glimpse of blue eyes. “Cover your head. Bucky and I will pull you out when it’s clear. You’re going to be okay.”

“Wait. I really am being rescued by….eep!” Darcy yelped as the debris was lifted, exposing her to the light. She flung her arms over her head and face.

Wanda’s red glow extended from her hands to the pile that had been pinning Darcy into her small pocket of space. Steve reached in and grabbed her, sweeping her into his arms. Darcy wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face into his chest. Peter had thrown the webbing and Wanda released her power. The pile crashed through the net and slammed into the ground, sending dust over everyone.

Clint leapt down and spun Steve so he could look at Darcy. His fingers checked her face and neck which, apart from some bruising and a few superficial cuts, was intact. She looked pale, filthy and exhausted.

“Oh hey Clint. When did you get a haircut? And why’s it all dark and gothy? Are you wearing leather pants? I’m so glad you’re not dead. Unless we’re all dead. Are we all dead? Because being this version of being dead sucks, there’s no white light and everything hurts and oh…I think I’m gonna pass ou….” Darcy’s eyes rolled back into her head and she went limp in Steve’s arms.

Steve started yelling for a medic and Sam dropped to the ground next to him. Steve knelt and tried to adjust Darcy in his arms so Sam could look her over.

“She’s alright. Pretty sure it’s just exhaustion and shock. I don’t see anything major. My guess is she got….dusted like the rest of us but she was here when it happened.”

The implication hung in the air for a moment.

“So she came back to where she left from…which was here. Right as it was blown to hell.” Clint’s voice was raspy, probably from the smoke and from the grief that had etched years into his face.

Thor stopped. “That means Jane….she might be here too.” He started running, calling for her, his voice growing more and more frantic. Clint called after him, leaping into the air and grabbing Sam as he took flight to help search. The two of them went the opposite of Thor calling out for Jane, for Fury, for Maria Hill. Wanda was right behind them, her own power helping hold Peter aloft until he could grab something to swing from.

Steve looked torn in wanting to help and holding Darcy.

“I’ll take her.”

Steve turned to see Bucky standing next to him. “Go on. I can hold your girl and keep her safe.”

“She’s not my girl. She’s one of Stark’s. Literally.” He glanced over to see Tony standing shakily, mostly being help up by Rhodey and Pepper. He nodded and flashed them a thumbs up and the trio began making their way towards more stable ground until Bruce stopped them and gently picked up Tony, cradling him in his good arm.

“You mean…she’s…” Bucky looked back at the group and then back to the girl in Steve’s arms.

“Stark’s oldest daughter. She doesn’t know….well, anything that’s happened. At least, I don’t think she does. I’m still kind of unclear on how that whole thing works. You can explain it later. Thanks Buck. Take her down to the medics for me?”

Bucky nodded as Steve transferred an armful of woman into his arms. Bucky winced as she shifted and curled into his chest. She mumbled something as she adjusted.

“Yeah…to the medics.” Bucky watched Steve take off. He looked down at the woman who had her fingers curled into the fabric of his jacket

“My hero…” she mumbled.

“Sorry doll, the hero just left. You’re stuck with me for now.” He pulled her a little closer as he made his way towards one of the Wakandan field transports.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

“So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn't know I was lost”
“Wake me up” - Avicii

For the second time in 24 hours, Darcy awoke to dim light and that pins and needles pain. She groaned and tried to roll over but her left hand was refusing to move. Darcy opened her gritty eyes to find it neatly secured to the bed rail and an IV line flowing into the vein in her wrist.

“Ugh, what the hell?” Darcy yawned and winced. She was pretty sure her mouth tasted like something had died in it and her breath could kill anyone within 20 feet.

“Thirsty?”

Darcy jumped and looked to her right to see Clint leaned back in a chair. Dark circles made his eyes look hollow and he was skinnier then she remembered. The tendons in his neck stuck out when he swallowed from his coffee cup. He was wearing all black, some kind of tactical gear in a design she had never seen before. His bow was propped up next to him against the wall and next to that was what looked like a sheathed sword. His hair was greasy looking and matted down against his face. He looked battered and beaten and haunted.

“Jesus, Clint.”

“Nope. Just regular Clint.” For a brief moment, Darcy saw her friend before the shadows fell over his eyes again.

“Where am I?” She squinted as she looked around. This wasn’t the medical ward at the compound. It seemed like a fancy hotel room but medical equipment neatly hidden in cabinets. Her IV pole was not your standard metal dealie with wheels, it was actually hidden up in a cabinet near her bed that also appeared to where the oxygen port was. Darcy’s nose itched from the nasal cannula prongs in her nostrils. The window was covered by heavy embroidered drapes keeping out most of the light. The ambient light in the room was provided by a simple globe light on a table near Clint. Even the bed was far nicer than any she had been in before.

“Wakanda.”

Darcy’s mouth dropped open and it took several tries before she was able to form coherent words.

“I’m sorry, I must have a head injury. I could’ve sworn you said Wakanda. It’s not nice to play jokes on the hurt girl. Seriously, where are we? And what happened? Did I get kidnapped? Or did I accidentally drink Tony’s good tequila again?”

Clint opened his mouth to reply as Sam Wilson came into the room with a pretty dark skinned woman in blue medical scrubs who smiled at Darcy as she passed to go check a chart that was in the cabinet with her IV and oxygen.

“Hey pretty girl. You finally awake?” Sam dropped down in the chair closest to Darcy’s bed. Clint stood, nodding at Sam.

“I’m going to get some air. You got this?”

Sam smiled at Darcy before waving Clint off. She watched him limp from the room and then looked back to Sam.

“Why will he not answer me? And why does he look like Hulk kicked the shit out of him? Sam, I’m seriously about to go into bitch panic mode. Am I dying?”

“No miss. You are not dying. In fact, you are healing at an accelerated pace unlike I’ve seen except in two cases…” the nurse trailed off. She gave Sam a look as she exited. “I will speak to your doctor immediately.”

Darcy blinked and lifted her blanket to examine her legs. They were still pretty banged up but her bruises looked days old. She winced as the itchy nerve pain flared again and she dropped the blanket.

“Sam, I’m begging you.” Darcy pleaded. “Tell me.”

Same took a deep breath before he started. “Thanos got the stones. He snapped. Most of us ended up as dust in the wind, kind of like that awful Kansas song. Only Cap, Tony, Bruce, Nat, Clint, Thor, Rhodey… Oh, and some cyborg chick and a space raccoon survived it. That was five years ago. Clint went crazy and started going all ninja on a bunch of Cartel and Yakuza guys. Scott was trapped in the Quantum Realm and escaped totally on accident. They went back in time to get the Stones again. They got them all…but Nat and Clint had to go and get the Soul Stone….” He pauses and then continues. “They made another Gauntlet. Bruce snapped. That’s when we all came back. Including you. But you came back to where you dusted from which was the Avengers compound. And then it was attacked by Thanos from the past who somehow got here because time travel is insane…”

“And then we kicked Thanos’ ass! And it was awesome. And then Mr. Stark did the snappy thing again and all the bad guys went dust and then you started screaming and we tried to get you out and Wanda said we’d smash you so she lifted up all the rocks and Tony’s car, which he’s super mad it got blown up, and then CAPTAIN AMERICA JUMPED IN AND SAVED YOU AND IT WAS SUUUPER DRAMATIC.” Interrupted the voice of a teenage boy. Darcy turned to the voice and found a kid hanging upside down from her ceiling with a massive grin on his face. She squeaked and he stuck out his hand. “Hi, I’m Peter Parker. Your dad is my boss. Well, kind of. When I’m not in school. Which might be blown up. I’m not sure. He made me an Avenger! While we were in space to save Mr. Dr. Strange.”

“Kid, you’re going to give her a heart attack. And a headache. And I cannot handle both of you in the same room. Shuri is looking for you, she wants to try some new experiments and wants your help.” Tony Stark came rolling into the room, pushed by Pepper. His left arm was wrapped against his body and he looked frail but his voice was strong.

The teenager dropped down and hustled out of the room. “Nice to meet you Darcy! See you around!”

Pepper parked Tony by the bed and leaned over to kiss Darcy on the forehead. “I’m glad you’re okay. I’ll come back and get him in a little bit so he doesn’t make you crazy or convince you to do something crazy. Because you may be two different types of idiots but you're both idiots. But you're my idiots.”

“Hey. Now, I would never involve her….at least not until she’s well.”

Sam squeezed Darcy’s hand before following Pepper out of the room and he closed the door quietly behind them.

“You know, a lesser man would be jealous that his daughter gets more attention than his heroics that saved…well, the entire universe.”

“So in other words, your ego is more bruised than your face and you’re jealous?”

“Insanely so.” Tony picked up her hand and pressed it to his lips. “Scared the hell out of me. I thought I’d lost you for good. I didn’t have anyone to bitch at me. Besides Pepper. And it’s not the same. She doesn’t sass me back, she just tells me no.”

“I’d say I missed you right back…but I don’t remember a damn thing. I was working in the lab, DUM-E had knocked over a jar filled with metal shavings and it had shattered. Jane was in her lab sleeping off a science binge so I was cleaning them up. And then I heard screaming. I went running towards the astro labs…and then it’s a giant blank until I woke up under your Audi. Pretty sure it was the silver one.”

Tony winced. “I loved that car. And that stupid robot… If you had been in the astro labs…you wouldn’t have survived Thanos’ attack. Congratulations, you being an incessant pain in my ass and refusing to stay out of my labs even under threat of death saved your life.”

Darcy chewed on her thumb nail thoughtfully. “So…a little birdie told me that I was saved by Captain America. And that I’m healing all super soldier fast.”

Tony frowned. “Stupid bird. I was trying to, you know, ease you into the facts without overloading your system.”

“Really? Because it’s like the future, I’m apparently a mutant and I passed out in Captain America’s arms and no one got a damn picture of it. I think “easing” me into this is a no go.” She scratched at her arms. “And what is up with Clint? He started listening to The Cure while I was gone? And why is there some kid hanging out claiming to be an Avenger?”

Tony adjusted himself in his chair. “This is going to take a while.”

“I got nothing but time.”

 

In another room, several men stood watching Tony and Darcy talk via monitor screen. T’challa crossed his arms over his chest as he studied the pair. Steve stood next to him and Bucky sprawled on a chair behind them as he tried to not look too interested. Clint leaned against the wall next to him. Bucky couldn’t help but see the similarities in Clint now versus himself while on the run after he broke free of Hydra. Clint and Bucky had spent the last 16 hours keeping watch over Darcy as she slept off her ordeal. Clint had been there because he saw her as a little sister and Bucky didn’t think he could handle losing her, especially after Natalia. No. Nastasha. Bucky sometimes forgot she went by that now and it used to make her grimace ever so slightly when he used “Natalia” by mistake. Bucky was more curious. He had known Darcy only by sight before…everything. He hadn’t even known she was a Stark. But he had to admire anyone who could fight through everything she had endured.

“So, you say she is healing as fast as me? As us?” Steve gestured to Bucky as he spoke.

“Yes. The tests were repeated multiple times just in case there was a human error. Same results each time. Her cellular repair speed is six times faster than the average human. It’s almost as fast as yours. But there are some….anomalies that will require further study. There is an unknown protein showing in her blood as well.”

“An unknown protein? What does that mean?”

“We are not sure. This is an extremely rare circumstance that our technology cannot identify something like this.” The Wakandan king glanced back at the young woman on the monitor who had broken down into tears before showing Steve the abnormal lab results.

“Um. Is your screen broken?” Bucky asked, causing T’Challa and Steve to look up abruptly.

“What the fuck is that?” Swore Clint.

“I..I do not know.” T’challa seemed shocked. “She is showing strange readings for her vital signs but nothing life threatening.”

"We tell no one, not even Stark, until we figure this out."

Bucky stared at the screen where Darcy seemed to be bathed in a pulsating glow softly as she wept.

Chapter Text

“I ain't a cold hearted man, won't give you false hopes

But I ain't made of stone

Got limits, I'll get weak if you get too close”

    “Sleeping on my Own” - Geoffroy

 

“NO!” 

Darcy sat up, gasping. She shoved the sweaty mass of hair off her face as she tried to slow her breathing. Nausea rolled through her as she tried to battle the vertigo. She didn’t quite know what she had been dreaming but she knew it was bad.

Really bad.

She pulled a hair band from her wrist and yanked her hair back off her neck and into a knot on her head. She slid her feet to the floor and shuffled her bare feet towards the window. The staff had allowed her to change from the hospital gown into a pair of soft rust colored yoga pants and a matching tank top. She had been told they were “Courtesy of the Queen Mother” along with an entire bag of similar clothing, all in soft fabrics and muted tones that complimented Darcy’s fair skin and dark hair. It had been delivered by the young Wakandan Princess, Shuri, and her constant companion, Tony’s ward, Peter. Peter technically had family, an Aunt, somewhere but with all the chaos with the reversal of the Snap, they had not been able to locate her. Instead, he remained with them in Wakanda as its infrastructure had better weathered the last five years. Darcy felt an affectionate ‘little brother’ vibe towards the young man and she adored it when they visited, bringing funny stories about their experiments and torturing Tony. Since Darcy was limited to her abilities to be her father’s number one pain in the ass she often sent the two of them on missions to harass him in her place.

Darcy pushed aside the heavy curtains and stared out over the lights of Birnin Zana. She had been moved from the hospital wing of the palace to a quieter cluster of rooms on the side of the palace. She had never seen such a place and had spent part of the last week sitting on her little balcony watching the contrast of lights of the city versus the fires of the mountain tribe. She was only able to do this in the evenings or early mornings before the light got too much for her. She was still struggling with adjusting to being…not dust. The others seemed have done a much better job but Darcy figured it was because she was one of the few regular non-super people around. Jane had been located, she had not reappeared where she left from, instead finding herself in the middle of the New Asgard fishing village. Thor had left with Bruce as soon as they got word of Jane to make sure she was whole and healthy and Bruce was curious as to why she landed thousands of miles from where she vanished from. Darcy had sent a letter with Thor but there was no reliable way to speak to them as of yet other than the complicated holo system that was located in the labs of the Princess. Darcy hadn’t been allowed to roam freely yet, mostly because she wasn’t strong enough to handle long walks and this place was capital ‘H’ huge.

She had had multiple companions to keep her company besides Princess Shuri and Peter. She even had spent time with her half sister, Morgan, who had been born while Darcy was…away. She enjoyed the little girl’s company and actually found it almost easier to be around someone who had no memories of before. Morgan had no expectations of her. She just wanted a sister. The two of them would color and Morgan would tell Darcy all about their home back in the US. She even told Darcy she would share her room when Darcy came to live with them. 

Darcy didn’t have the heart to tell her that that would probably never happen. The idea of living somewhere so remote? It made Darcy feel like she was going to break out in hives. “Are there any Starbucks nearby?” She had wondered before switching her train of thought to “Is Starbucks even a thing anymore?” She would never admit she had briefly mourned the idea of never having her beloved pink drink again.

The others? Not so much. Tony had come by several times but he had his own recovery to focus on. His left arm had been badly burned and even with the Wakandans incredible medical technology, he still had a ways to go healing wise plus he would need physical therapy to force his fingers to work. Pepper refused to allow him to pester Darcy for more information about her time after the Snap. Not that it mattered, she still had no memories. 

Steve treated her like a breakable doll. He would come by and bring her books, all fiction, nothing recent. She could tell her was concerned and bless his star spangled heart, she kind of loved him for it.  

Clint was…gone. He may have been present in body but his mind, his heart were no longer here. It hurt to watch him grieve. She literally felt an ache deep in her chest any time she would try to touch him. Her own mourning for Natasha was more private. She hadn’t known her too well but the Russian spy turned hero had always been quietly kind to Darcy. She grieved more for Clint. She couldn’t help but be a little selfish and wish she had her friend back. She did finally bully him into a shower. Now he haunted the halls, a living wraith in black tac gear. She noticed the other day that a delicate silver arrow necklace was around his neck. When he saw her looking, he immediately hid it under his shirt. She didn’t ask, she didn’t have to.

 

Darcy slid the door open and stepped out. She closed the door behind her and moved to lean on the railing. She closed her eyes and took a slow deep breath, trying to shake off the last revenants of the nightmare and her racing thoughts about her friends, her family.

She was still trying to calm herself when a large, warm hand grabbed her bicep.

“Holy fuck!” she yelled and jerked her arm away as she turned around, the momentum making her hit her back against the railing. This time, two hands grabbed her arms and pulled her away from the bars.

Standing in front of her, in only a pair of black sweatpants, was the hottest guy she’d ever seen in person and that list included Thor and Captain America. His hair was rumpled and his face was partially shadowed by both a bruise across his cheekbone and a couple days worth of beard. His torso was nothing but smooth skin and hard muscle with the exception of his  left arm. Even that….Darcy swallowed hard. It was completely sexy in a strange way. The metal glinted dully in the darkness but the hands on her arm was warm and she could feel the metal plates shifting on her skin. 

Darcy’s brain felt like it went offline and started a hard reset, leaving her speechless. His eyes were an incredible shade of blue and currently filled with concern. For her.

She tried to recover, resorting to her usual defense mechanism of smart ass and sass. 

“Well, hello solider.” she tried to smile all flirty like but she was concerned it came across borderline creepy. “Do you come sneaking on the balconies of all the girls?” 

Bucky snorted. “Yeah, ‘cause that’s a great way to have those Dora Milaje stab you to death.”

He still hadn’t let her go, but instead led her to a chair and gently pushed her down. “Seriously though, are you alright? I heard screaming. I saw you out here and jumped across from my room.” He let go of her arms and gestured to the balcony to the left of hers.

The idea of shirtless Bucky Barnes jumping to her rescue was a little more than she could accurately process at…dark thirty and without the air of coffee. 

“So, that’s the second time you saved me, huh? A girl could get used to that. Especially shirtless.” Darcy looked up at him with the mantra of “Look at his face, not his chest. Look at his face, not his chest.” bouncing through her head. 

Bucky flushed, she could see it even in the dim light. “Just been raised right. You hear a dame scream, you go runnin’ to make sure she’s alright.” 

“Your Brooklyn is comin’ out there Sarge.” Darcy’s heart was slowing down and she was grateful to find herself on ground she could handle- teasing handsome men. The last tendrils of the nightmare seemed to vanish into the night as she smiled slowly at him. “You sure you didn’t leave some pretty girl behind and now she’s going to come slit my throat in the night?”

Bucky opened his mouth to answer when Darcy’s door slammed open and a breathless Steve Rogers came through. “Darcy! Are you okay? Someone said you were screaming and…oh, hiya Buck.”

Bucky gave Steve a little salute before heading towards the now open door to the hall. “And on that note, I’m going back to bed. See ya Darcy.” He winked at her as he slid his prosthetic arm over her shoulder.

Steve watched him go and then looked at Darcy and then back towards her room. “Um..so…was Bucky..” He jerked a thumb towards the French doors Bucky had exited through. “Was he..ah, the reason you screamed?”

Darcy stared at Steve, adorably rumpled in pajama pants and a short sleeve shirt that had his symbol on it. She made a note to mock this later but currently she needed to address the fact that Captain America just asked if she and Bucky were getting to know each other…like that.

“Are you seriously asking me if I was just fucking your best friend?”

Steve winced at her language. “Well, not exactly like that….”

“First of all, Captain America or not, you do not get to ask a lady a question like that. I don’t kiss and tell nor do I talk sex with you before coffee unless you’re asking me to get naked with promises of worshipping me like the goddess I am.”

There was a choking laugh from the balcony to her left and Darcy thought she could smell the acrid scent of cigarette smoke. 

“I’m sorry Darce… was just worried for you and then I see Bucky in here and he’s half naked…”

“And it was a lovely distraction from my nightmare. Now, go back to bed Steven, unless you’re offering to stay with me. Which, if you are, you’re going to be required to be shirtless. Them’s the rules of my balcony.”

Steve sighed heavily. “Good night Darcy.” he said as he headed out of her room.

“No goddess worship huh?”  Bucky’s voice drifted from the darkness. If Darcy squinted she thought she could make out his silhouette and the pinprick glow as he inhaled on his cigarette.

“Sadly no, I’ll be retiring to my bed chamber alone.” Darcy said as she pushed herself up from the chair. 

“Damn shame.”

“What did you say?”

“Good night Darcy."

 

********************************************************************

At the same time that Bucky was rescuing Darcy, Clint sat bolt upright, his chest heaving as he grabbed for the necklace around his neck. Sweat soaked his hair and clothing as he pushed himself from the single bed he had claimed in a small chamber near the servant’s quarters. He collapsed to his knees and would have vomited if anything had been in his stomach. He knelt there, panting and holding the necklace so tightly that the little arrow’s point pierced his skin. That small pinprick of pain brought him back to the present. Clint leaned back and collapsed against the side of the bed as he cried alone and silent in the dark. 

Chapter Text

“It kills me not to know this
But I've all but just forgotten
But the color of her eyes were
And her scars or how she got them”
- “Savior” - Rise Against

 

The first thing Darcy noticed was that her legs were wet. She blinked and looked down. She was kneeling in water but it was so warm that it felt like a bath. That’s when Darcy realized that she wasn’t in Kansas….or Wakanda anymore.

The air smelled….heavy and thick with the smell of some exotic spice. Sandalwood maybe? Everything seemed to be tinted the deep orange red of the last evening before the sun vanishes beyond the horizon when you’re on the ocean. All around her was water. It wasn’t deep…when she stood it came to just above her ankles. There was no land except the silty mud under her bare feet. She looked down and noticed she was wearing a strange white shift dress. It looked like she was an extra in some Victorian romance novel. As she turned in a slow circle, she startled when she found herself facing Natasha.

Natasha stood in front of her using her hands to signal….something. The motions looked vaguely familiar but she couldn’t place them. Natasha looked frustrated and looked around before grabbing Darcy’s hands. She began to tap out a rhythm onto her hands. She repeated the sequence over and over, growing more and more impatient as she did. She looked into Darcy’s face and began to mouth something as she pushed into Darcy’s palm.

“Clint. Find me. Clint.” mouthed Natasha.

Darcy tried to grab at Natasha’s wrists only to have her turn into Jane as Darcy had grabbed her outside the astrolabs only to watch her friend crumble into dust as she screamed.

“Darcy!”

Darcy’s eyes flew open and she found herself staring into Bucky’s face. He was shirtless again and his hair had been scraped back into a messy ponytail. His hands were on her shoulders and she had grabbed his wrists.

“What…?” Darcy tried to shake her confusion as she pieced together what was real and what was dream. “Bucky? Did we have sex? Was I good?”

“Jesus Darcy. I’m not that much of a bastard.”

Darcy blinked up at him. Her eyes were still heavy with sleep and the circles under them were dark. “I’m confused. And you’re in my bed. Shirtless. A girl can hope.”

“Christ doll” swore Bucky “When was the last time you slept?”

Darcy tried to shrug off his hands. “Um, I don’t know. Uninterrupted? Not since the first night here after you rescued me.”

“That was nine days ago.”

“Trust me. I’m well aware. Though I’m starting to really enjoy this whole “Saved by half naked Bucky” thing.”

Bucky released her and rocked back onto his knees. He glanced down at the bed and frowned before looking back up at her. “Darce….why are your legs wet?”

***********************

Clint found himself slammed into consciousness from where he had dozed off. Only his natural agility had kept him from falling from the top of the garden wall he'd been laying on. He'd been dreaming of Nat, that fateful day on Vormir before he lost her. Before she pulled out of his grip and fell...He felt like he was losing his mind. He felt like he couldn't remember the thing that made her Nat. His fingers went to his side where a scar from Sokovia still ached when it was cold. He wondered if one day he would forget how Nat's skin felt. Or how her nose wrinkled when she laughed really hard. Or how her left eye was a slightly different shade of green from her right. He looked around to see what had woken him when he heard the scream again. He looked up to see Bucky leaping onto Darcy's balcony again. "Shit, not again" he swore as she took off at a run for the stairs.

************************

“Look, I don’t really even remember the dream. I know there was something…important but it’s like it’s locked up.” Darcy’s finger tapped on her mug as she spoke.

Steve leaned against the wall opposite the little couch where Darcy sat wrapped in a blanket. Bucky was behind her, almost protectively. He had damn near growled when everyone had come rushing into her rooms, drawn by her screams. Only Steve, Clint, Tony, and Bucky remained. The only person who looked more exhausted than Darcy was Clint. Tony was entertaining himself by spinning in circles in his wheelchair. Pepper still hadn’t allowed him to walk for longer than a couple minutes at a time.

“Anything at all Darcy. Something very strange is going on.” Steve rubbed his hand over his face.

“Everything about Darcy is strange Capsicle. This is nothing new. You’ll have to be more specific.” Remarked Tony as he spun lazily. His left arm still wasn’t 100% so he took breaks by using only his right.

 

Darcy frowned as she thought. Tap tap tap went her finger. “There was this smell. It was…spices. Like being in the spice aisle only times like a hundred.” Tap tap tap.

“What spices?” This was Bucky who had, sadly, put on a hoodie but remained barefoot. He yawned so big that his jaw popped. He dropped down on the sofa next to Darcy and even pulled her to lean against him. She looked a little surprised but snuggled against the flesh and blood arm of the sleepy super soldier.

Darcy shrugged. “Paprika maybe? Caraway? It was weird. Not something you smell here. Kind of exotic.” Tap tap tap went her fingers.

Clint was watching her….more specifically, her hands.

Darcy noticed him staring and stilled her hands. “What?”

Clint moved and knelt down in front of her. “Do it again.”

“Do what? Have a nightmare?”

Clint shook his head. “Your hands. I think you’re trying to spell something.”

“Good luck with that. She can barely spell when she texts. I’m completely stumped.” Tony snorted.

Darcy looked at him. “You’ve finally lost it. It’s the end times. You’ve admitted defeat.”

Clint had been watching her hands which had started moving again. “Holy fuck Darce. You are using Morse.”

“What? I don’t even know morse code. Hell, I doubt even the old men over here even know it.”

“Hey! I do too!” cried Steve, indignant.

Clint pulled out a piece of paper and drew out a pattern.

“-… ..- -.. .- .—. . … - / -… .- .-. - —- -.”

Tony glanced at it. “FRIDAY, you seeing this?”

“Yes boss, would you like a translation?”

“She doesn’t have too,” Clint swallowed hard and looked up at them. “I know what says. But I need to know why Darcy knows this code. Because the only other person who would use it….is Nat.”

Darcy’s mouth fell open and even Tony was stunned speechless.

“But what is it?” Steve looked down at Clint where he was still knelling in front of Darcy.”

Clint swallowed again and looked back down at the dots and dashes on his paper. “It says ‘Budapest, Barton’. It’s mine and Nat’s code for a pick up after a mission. Even Fury doesn’t know it. So how does Darcy?”

Steve sighed. “Clint. Nat is gone. You know what the rules are for the Soul Stone. He told you that is can’t be undone. Nat died on Vormir to save us all.”

“That doesn’t explain why Darcy knows Nat’s pick up code! There is something else at play here Steve.” Clint was on his feet and in Steve’s face. Steve have Clint beat in muscles but the archer was a couple inches taller and practically vibrating with anger.

 

“Um guys? Hate to interrupt but we have a situation over here…I’m doing my best night impression over here. ”

The amber glow of Darcy’s hands reflected off their faces.

Chapter Text

“Late at night I could hear the crying

I hear it all, trying to fall asleep

When all the love around you is dying”

 

Darcy sat on her little balcony, finally alone after an incredibly early morning and a day filled with more questions than answers. The inside of her left elbow ached from the blood draws. She wrapped the blanket around her shoulders as she slid down in the chair. The blanket had been on Bucky’s bed, he’d brought it over to her after her less than sexy wet dream this morning. It was soft and it smelled faintly of him. Darcy wasn’t even going to try and lie to herself by saying it didn’t make her lady parts a little tingly to think about shirtless Bucky under this blanket. Twilight was descending into night around her and she saw the lights of the city twinkling below her. The others had other duties to attend. Cap, Tony and Rhodey were doing some kind of teleconference with Bruce and Thor in New Asgard and what she thought was a talking raccoon. She had considered asking but figured she really didn’t have the brain power to spare to handle the answer. Bruce had run some basic blood work on Jane and had found that she had the same unknown proteins in her blood but she had far less. They still didn’t know what it was or where it came from. T’Challa had suggested maybe it came from after effects of the Snap. The same proteins showed in his blood but in minute traces. They were still waiting on the results from the others who’d been affected.  

 

Behind her Clint slept deeply for the first time in days. He’d been ordered to take a sedative and sleep or the others refused to help him investigate Darcy’s dream. He’d argued but ultimately agreed to take the drug only after Darcy’s tests. He’d refused to leave her side. Clint and Darcy had always had a close friendship, more like family. He’d been the one who finally told her that she wasn’t an orphan, that Tony Stark was for birth father. He’d been there for here every time she started to fall. So now she found herself in the caretaker role. She badgered him into sleeping in the extra bed in her room so she could watch him. Every once in a while he would moan or roll over but he stayed asleep. 

 

Darcy sighed. “There is something seriously wrong with me. I’m lusting after a man I can never have and I’m also doing said lusting while I’m slowly turning to a glow worm.” 

 

“Who can’t you have ?” Asked a voice from behind her. 

 

Darcy startled, feeling a small pop of pride that she didn’t scream. Standing behind her holding a tray of something that smelled amazing and what appeared to be a thermos was the man in question. He was dressed simply in tactical pants and a hoodie, both black. His hair was tightly braided back from his face leaving the sharp lines of his cheekbones and blue of his eyes. A smile curved his lips that left Darcy with more than a little tingle in her pants. Darcy swallowed hard and put a smile on her face.

 

“Is that coffee? Please tell me it’s coffee.” Darcy reached towards him and made grabby hands.

 

“I’m not sure if I’m offended or amused that you’re far more excited to see coffee than me.” Bucky chuckled as he handed over the thermos.

 

Darcy didn’t answer as she was currently nose deep in the thermos. “Oooh it smells so good. Wait. How did you know how I like my coffee?”

 

Bucky gave a half shrug as he placed the tray of food on the small table next to her and then dropped down in the chair opposite her. “Little birdy told me.”

 

Darcy eyed the food disdainfully. “I take it the little birdy also told you I don’t like vegetables that much.” She made a sad face at him.

 

Bucky put his hands up in the air in surrender. “Hey, I had zero to do with the food choices but…” With his left hand he reached into his hoodie pocket and pulled out a small wax paper bag. “I did bring you cookies.”

 

Darcy gave a small cheer and flashed him a wide smile.

 

“So, what chump would ever consider saying no to you?” Bucky kicked his booted feet up on the railing. “Are you talking about arrow boy in there?” He jerked a thumb towards Clint’s sleeping body.

 

Darcy nearly inhaled her coffee and coughed as she choked. 

 

Bucky smirked at her. “Problem there Doll?”

 

Darcy glared at him. “Do you call all the girls around here that?”

 

“What? Doll?”

 

She nodded as she poked at the green beans on her plate. 

 

“Nah. It’s just a word I like to use on pretty girls.”

 

Darcy raised an eyebrow at him. “Pretty girls huh? Clearly you must have lasting brain damage from your time as the hottest member of the Howling Commandos.”

 

Bucky returned the raised eyebrow look at her. “Hottest member eh? I’m going to need that in writing so I can flaunt it in Stevie’s face. Told him I was much better looking than him.” He leaned over and dangled the cookies in her face. “C’mon doll, eat your veggies so you can grow up big and strong like Captain America. And you never answered my question about Barton.”

 

Darcy snorted and snatched the cookies. She felt very aware that he was so close that she could smell his body wash and even feel the heat radiating off him. She pushed the tray aside and snuggled into the blanket while holding her cookies and coffee. “First of all, shut up. Second of all, ew. Clint is my friend, my brother. There are absolutely no sexy thoughts about him, ever. Also, even if there was, AND THERE IS NOT, I’d have to compete with Natasha and that’s not even a fair fight. That’s a total knife to a gun fight example. So, no, it’s not arrow guy.” She managed to stick out her fingers from her cocoon and make little air quotes.

 

Bucky seemed intrigued by her statement. “I’m not sure I follow with the “knife to a gun fight” but I think I get the gist of it. And what are you doing to my blanket?”

 

“Shut up. It’s my blanket now. Possession is nine tenths of the law. Besides, you’re practically a furnace so it’s not like you need it.” Darcy wiggled from the chair onto the ground so she could properly snuggle. She tucked her legs under her as she watched the city light up. 

 

There was shuffling behind her and Bucky dropped down next to her. His long legs were stretched out and crossed at the ankle as he leaned back on his hands. She eyed him warily and when he smiled innocently. She sighed and handed him a cookie.

 

He leaned over and kissed her chastely on the cheek. “Thanks doll.”

 

Darcy was so grateful for the darkness, as it hid the scarlet stain on her cheeks as she blushed fiercely. 

 

"I figured I'd keep you company for a while. I know the dark, the night is the hardest."

 

She nodded. "It has been hard. All of this."

 

He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her next to him. "You're not alone Darce. I promise. If you need me, I'll be there. I'll keep the dark away."

 

Darcy felt tears burn at her eyes as she leaned her head onto his shoulder.

 

************************************************

 

Elsewhere in the palace, Tony sat in his wheelchair as he stared at a couple screens. Steve stood behind him with his arms crossed and T’Challa stood regal and relaxed next to him. Bruce’s face appeared on a screen next to the one Tony was studying. 

 

“Tony I don’t know what to tell you. The blood results are…insane. Jane’s seem to have equaled out and she isn’t multiplying the protein but she also isn’t losing any. Darcy’s, however, her numbers have continued to rise. Jane hasn’t shown any of the….visual effects like Darcy but she seems to be healing at an accelerated rate and she’s consuming vast amounts of food. She is also reporting very vivid dreams but none about Nat.” He paused as he consults his notes. “There is one thing you should know.”

 

Steve moved forward to reply “What’s that?”

 

Bruce sighed and removed his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Jane was able to accurately provide information that allowed us to locate a missing child.”

 

T’Challa leaned onto the desk. “You are saying that Dr. Foster is having prophetic dreams?”

 

“I don’t think prophetic is the correct word. Maybe…I don’t know. It’s almost like she was able to find the child while she slept and then tell us where to find her.”

 

Tony sat up. “Maybe it’s an after effect of the Soul Stone. Some kind of…empathy? I don’t understand why Jane and Darcy are so influenced but we are going to find out.”

 

A chime sounded on a screen to Tony’s right. He waved over a sensor and Rocket’s image flared to life. 

 

“Ratchet! Nice to see you. How’s space?”

 

“Dark and quiet. It’s boring as hell. How ya doin’ Stank?”

 

Tony sighed. “Never going to live that down….remind me to kill Rhodey.”

 

“I am Groot!”

 

Rocket shoved Groot out of the view. “So anyways, I was looking into that stuff you asked me about?”

“And?” 

 

“She was right.There is signal coming from Vormir. It shouldn’t be possible because that place is a black hole of suck but I checked and double checked. Nebula is going to scout and make sure it’s not a trap but…”

 

Tony leaned his elbows on the desk. “I thought this shit was supposed to be less complicated after we reversed the snap.”

 

Steve rubbed a hand over his face. “This shit is just getting started.”

Chapter Text

“Found you when your heart was broke

I filled your cup until it overflowed

Took it so far to keep you close

I was afraid to leave you on your own.”

   -"Without Me" - Halsey

 

 Clint woke in darkness and silence. His eyes went to scan the room, finally placing it as Darcy’s room in the Wakandan palace. It was the first time he’d woken up without a nightmare chasing him in weeks. He looked towards the window and saw that it was that soft darkness right before dawn. Clint swung his long legs to the side of the bed. He was dressed in a pair of sweatpants, borrowed from Captain America himself. Unfortunately, Clint was several inches taller than Steve which left him in a pair of almost capri style pants. He stood and stretched, his long rangy body protesting at this from years of abuse. 

That’s when he noticed he wasn’t alone. 

Clint had a throwing knife in his hand before he fully recognized the features of James Buchanan Barnes sitting with his back against the headboard of the other bed with a lump he believed to be Darcy curled near him. Bucky lifted his right hand to his lips to make a “shh” motion before slowly extricating himself from Darcy’s grasp. Her head was on his thigh and her fingers were bunched in the fabric of his pants. She was cocooned tightly in a blanket and only her fingers and head could be seen. Bucky slid her head onto a pillow and she made little grumpy noises before quieting back down. Clint stood staring at the other man, his stance was seemingly relaxed but, in truth, poised to attack like a coiled viper. He flipped the simple knife in his fingers. Bucky held up his hands and then nodded his head towards the balcony. Clint waited and then followed him, grabbing a hoodie that was on the foot of his bed. He pulled it over his head as he stepped out into the cool pre-dawn air. He pushed the door shut his with foot and then leaned on the doorway. Bucky had settled into a chair and was lighting a cigarette.

“What the fuck are you doing with her?”

Bucky’s face flashed anger and then it faded into resignation. “Barton. It’s not like that.” He exhaled smoke and ran his darkly colored prosthetic hand through his hair.

“What? Not like Natasha? Or, as you call her, Natalia.” the venom dripped from Clint's voice. 

Bucky winced. “I guess I deserve that."

Clint pushed himself to his full height and crossed his arms over his chest. He stared down at Bucky, his eyes flinty. “So what is it Barnes? She your latest conquest? Heard that the Winter Soldier may have been erased but your preference for pretty brunettes is back in full force. Redheads only a thing for the Winter Soldier? Darcy’s not a toy! She’s not…”

“Barton.” Bucky’s quiet voice caught Clint off guard and he stopped, still glaring at the other man.

“She’s not Natali…Natasha. This isn’t the Red Room. I…I’m not him anymore.”

Clint blew out a breath and ran his hand over his face. “I..I thought I was past that. I’m sorry Barnes. I’m not exactly at my best.” He waved a hand at his malnourished frame and gaunt face.

Bucky snorted. “Over that my ass. You’ll never truly forgive me Barton and that’s alright. I deserve your anger. I’m sorry I hurt her over and over again. But I’m not sorry I let her go and you caught her though. She deserves someone…good. You’re an asshole but you’re the asshole she needs.”

Clint looked over at him. He studied Bucky’s face before he seemed to unclench a little. “You talk about her…like she’s not gone.”

Bucky’s face remained blank. “I do.”

“You know what happened on Vormir. What that red faced bastard said. They keep telling me to let it go. I already let here go once and she chose to stay. She’s left me before but she’s always found her back to me. I let her go this time…and now she’s supposedly really gone. I don’t know if I’ll ever get her back. I didn’t want to let her go…it should have been me. I feel like she’s haunting me. Like phantom limb pain.”

Bucky’s gaze traveled past Clint and into the room they’d just vacated before focusing back on the archer. “You done yet? That’s a helluva pity party you’re throwing over there. You realize if she was here she’d be kicking your ass, yeah?” Clint looked like he was going to swing at him so Bucky continued. “You’re right, I’m talking about her like she’s not gone because I don’t think she is. I’m not a smart man, they don’t keep me around for my brains. I leave that shit to Stark and Banner. But I know there is no way that girl in there,” he gestured to Darcy’s sleeping form “could know that damn code. It's not like they teach Morse code in school. And there is more.”

Clint waited for a moment before prompting “And that is?”

“We got word from space…fuck, that’s still weird to say. But Nebula and Rocket….they checked in. Rocket found a signal coming from Vormir. It’s similar to the one Darcy dreamed. But this one…” Bucky paused to drag on his cigarette before continuing “It’s her code from the Red Room. It’s her extrication code.”

Clint’s face went through emotions so fast that Bucky couldn’t even judge which one would ultimately win.

“They’re looking into it. Nebula was headed to Vormir as of 2300 hours. We should know something soon.”

“She’s not dead.”

“Barton, I think you’re still insane but I think you’re right on this. No one else can know those codes. If she’s not dead, then something has her. You know that means we will have to go get her. Both of us. Back to Vormir. Fuck, maybe back in time. This whole thing...it's fucking crazy.”

Clint regarded him for a moment. “To get her back, I’m willing to do about anything.”

Bucky’s attention was drawn back to Darcy as she stirred in her sleep. Clint’s keen eyes watched him and he raised his eyebrows when Bucky looked back at him. 

“What?”

Clint reached down and stole a cigarette from Bucky’s pack and lit it before Bucky even realized he had stolen the lighter. He pointed at him and then at Darcy. “You never answered me. What’s your interest in Darcy?”

“She’s beautiful and smart. What’s not to like?” Bucky shrugged noncommittally. 

 

Clint waited. 

 

“She…fascinates me. She’s been through hell and yet she’s able to focus on everyone else. She badgered you into a shower and sleep. She bosses Tony around with a smile and he even listens to her. Sometimes. Steve thinks she’s this precious thing. She hides her fear behind this…layer of sass and smart mouth. She swears like a sailor but apologizes when Stevie is around. She’s fucking terrified but she’s worried about offending the delicate ears of Captain America.” Bucky shifted and looked towards Clint. “And she’s worried sick about you. I asked her if you two…were a thing.”

Clint choked and coughed. He whacked himself on the chest a couple of times as he wheezed. “Me? And Darcy?!”

Bucky nodded. “She had a similar reaction. I just wanted to make sure…I figured if you found out I went after two of your women then I’d wake up with an arrow in my forehead.”

“That can still be arranged. You going after her? Darcy, I mean.”

“Maybe. If she will have me. I’m more than a little fucked up. I come with a lot of baggage. And Steve looks at her like she hung the moon. I can't compete with Captain America. I’m also like…75 years older than her.”

“Old man.”

“Fuckhead.”

“I see you’ve been learning creative swearing 101 from Darcy.”

Bucky flipped him off and Clint actually chuckled. “You’re done for. She’s already got you under her spell.”

Bucky looked back at Darcy who was now sitting up in bed, her face turned towards them. Her smile was almost as bright as the day dawning around them. “Something like that.” He murmured as he smiled back at her. 

Chapter Text

'Will you make it sound so pretty even when it's not?
Didn't choose but it's the only one we've got
And sometimes I get so tired
Of getting tied up in my thoughts
You're the only one that often makes it stop"

   - "Hurts 2B Human" - Pink (featuring Khalid) 

 

Darcy sat on the end of a table in the medical ward, her socked feet swinging. Tony sat, in a normal chair now, in conference with one of the Wakanda doctors as well as Bruce via teleconference. Jane had shoved Bruce out of the way (which had been AMAZING in Darcy’s opinion to see the tiny scientist shove the…now bigger, greener version of Bruce)when she heard Darcy’s voice and the two of them were able to catch up briefly before the serious people took the connection back. They had drawn more blood and were comparing the levels of whatever to the levels of whatever from yesterday. She had woken up to see Bucky and Clint having an intense dick measuring conversation on her balcony but they had refused to tell her what had been so important. The testosterone had been thick in the air and she had left them still half glaring at each other. But she’d been waylaid on her way to breakfast by the scientists, including her dear old dad, and she couldn’t figure out a way to weasel out of the tests. Now she was stuck here. She was bored. And hungry. And in serious need of a shower. 

Darcy huffed a sigh.

No response.

Darcy huffed again. 

Nada.

This time Darcy sighed deeply and flopped back as if dead. 

Tony glanced over at him and arched an eyebrow at her. “Are you quite finished?”

“Nope.” She popped the ‘p’. 

Tony exchanged a glance with Bruce before rolling his eyes. “Scram. You’re interrupting the grown ups working.”

“Yay! I’m out!” Darcy practically skipped out of the room. 

“Yeah. No doubt that she’s yours Tony. Apple, tree.”

“I mean this in the most sincere way, shut the fuck up Bruce. Put that big green brain to work.”

 

********************* 

Darcy managed to find her clothes, ditch the hospital gown and make her way to her room before anyone else could drag her away. Her balcony was empty now as was the bed that Clint had been sleeping in. His gear was still here though and Darcy took that as a good sign. Seeing the angry, grieving archer prowl the halls with both a sword and his bow strapped to his back was a little freaky. His boots were gone though and Darcy figured he was still probably wearing the borrowed pants from Steve so the idea of Clint in capris wearing combat boots amused her greatly.

Darcy yawned and kicked off her sandals and made her way into the bathroom which was HGTV worthy of amazing. Her shower was actually a separate room with gorgeous rock inlays on three sides and a glass door. Shuri had shown her how to operate the controls which had a multitude of settings for water pressure, temperature and even where it came from. She set it up for the waterfall mode which had the water fall from an overlarge center shower head. She stripped down and was enveloped in steam as she opened the door and entered. 

Bucky knocked as he stuck his head into the main room. “Darcy? You here?”

He tilted his head and heard water running so he made his way towards her bathroom. The main door was ajar and the air was humid and fragrant with sweetly scented steam. He opened his mouth to call again when he saw her. Bucky’s mouth hung open for a minute before he was able to remember how to close it. Darcy was turned in profile to him. And with the exception of steam and soap, he could see the outline of everything. Every curve of her body was on full display. She was built like a damn pinup girl. Bucky groaned and palmed his rapidly hardening cock. He staggered a little bit and bumped into the marble counter with his hip.

“Ow! Fuck!”

Upon his exclamation, Darcy turned towards the voice. She ran her hands over her face and then tip toed towards the door. She got an eyeful of super sexy super soldier rubbing his hip with one hand and trying to hide a raging hard on with the other. 

“Well, hi sailor.” She purred.

Bucky looked up guiltily before grinning at her. “Wasn’t a sailor. The outfits were dumb. That’s soldier to you pretty lady.”

Darcy leaned so that her palms pressed against the glass but the rest of her was just out of clear view. “Do you say that to all the girls who catch you spying on them?”

Bucky smirked and adjusted himself before leaning back against the counter, his muscular arms crossed over his chest. “Wasn’t spyin’.”

“Pretty sure you were.” She gestured to him. “Unless you just randomly walk around with your flag at half mast.Or is it full mast?”

Bucky scowled. “Are you just goin’ to make fun of me? I’m the one with the advantage here. You’re naked. I’m not.”

“You are correct soldier. So are you going to join me or you going to get me a towel?”

Bucky appeared to be considering the offer when his phone went off. He picked it up and did an excellent job of killing it with his eyes. “Duty calls. Rain check?”

Darcy pouted prettily. “Aw boo. You’re no fun. You sure I can’t tempt you?”

“Doll, you have no idea how much you tempt me.” He crossed the room and put his hand on the glass next to hers. 

“Tease.”

Bucky barked a short laugh before he snatched the door open. Darcy almost stumbled out but a strong arm caught her around the middle. “You shouldn’t call names…” Bucky dipped his head and pressed his lips to hers. He nipped at her bottom lip before he stood her back on her feet. Darcy swayed a little as he smiled at her. “Now that’s a tease.”

He wrapped her in a towel, kissed her hard one more time and then was gone.

Darcy blinked at her reflection in the massive mirror. “Did I just dream that?”

Her reflection looked back at her but had no answer. 

 

***********************

Two hours later….

Darcy found herself a secluded courtyard before she allowed her emotions to finally take over. She plopped ungracefully onto the seat of a fountain. She took a long slow breath and let it out as she dipped her fingertips into the water. She trailed them and watched the little multi color fish dart in and out of the ripples. This whole thing had her brain on spin cycle. She missed Jane fiercely. She missed her messy office off of the labs at Avengers HQ. It had had the best view of the running track where Steve, Sam and Bucky would run and race each other. It was worth it being stifling hot in the afternoons to be able to watch them run shirtless in the mornings. Her feelings about Tony were mixed. They’d never had a normal father/daughter relationship- she’d been an adult before Clint had finally told her that all her “scholarships” hadn’t actually been scholarships but the financial guilt of an absent dad. She hated seeing him hurt. Seeing him be at less than 1000 miles an hour was hard. She didn’t like all the grey in his hair. She loved Pepper, she’d been a maternal figure since Darcy had first shown up in Stark Tower after the battle of New York.

She adored Morgan, her mother had never had any other children so playing older sister was fun. She had spent many hours just being with Morgan. They’d joined Peter and Shuri more than once on an adventure through the palace including riding these little motorized scooters down the main hall until they got busted by T’Challa who had sighed heavily and made comments about unsupervised children. Shuri had made a comment about someone named Nakia and asked if he had called her lately. He’d found something important to see to and hurried off. 

She was grateful for the distraction. Clint had been sequestered in the communications room with Bucky and some guy named Scott. They were talking to people she’d never met but who were from outer space and were helping look for Nat. Darcy shook her head. Space people. Talking raccoons and trees who played video games. More superheroes. 

Darcy looked down into the water. She frowned at her reflection. Her hair was out of control and yanked into her trademark messy bun that she called her “pineapple”. She shoved a couple pieces of hair back into the bun when she felt a weird sensation crawl across her skin. She looked at her hands and saw they were glowing. 

“Oh hell, not again!” Darcy jumped up to call for help when she realized the buzzing was making its way up to her head. She pressed her hands to her face and sank to her knees on the ground….which was no longer the paving stones of the courtyard but wood. 

“What the…?” Darcy lowered her hands and found herself at the back of a stage. The lights were blinding her and she winced and tried to block them out. She pushed to her feet when she saw the figure. A small woman or tall child. Dressed in a black tutu and pointe shoes. She was about 15 feet in front of Darcy. She began to spin, her feet thumping on the floor. Darcy realized it was the same pattern from her earlier dream. The dancer stopped and she looked over her shoulder. Darcy saw her profile. 

 

It was Natasha.

“Are…we dead?”

Natasha smiled a small smile and shook her head.

“But you can see me.”

A nod. 

“But you can’t talk to me.”

Natasha shook her head again.

“Can..” Darcy paused “Can you see Clint?”

Natasha nodded slowly, her face crumpling a little as two tears fell prettily down her cheeks. 

“Can..can we come get you? Bring you home?”

Again, she nodded. 

Suddenly there was a loud crashing sound and Darcy shrieked and covered her ears. Natasha looked around and fear began to show across her beautiful face. That is when Darcy began to feel truly scared. She’d never seen fear on Natasha’s face. Ever.

Natasha ran at her and her arms changed as her Widow’s Bites seemed to grow out of her skin. She grabbed Darcy’s arms and mouthed “I’m sorry” as she lit Darcy up.

Darcy knew nothing after that but blue lightning and burning. She screamed. And screamed. 

And then it was dark and quiet with only the sound of someone weeping and the thudding of her own heart. 

 

***************

 

Clint and Bucky sat side by side in the communications room when the power seemed to surge and then back to normal. 

“What the fuck was that?” Clint looked at Bucky.

“That….did you all…” Rocket’s little hands were flying across his keyboard on his end. “The signal. It was just there. And Wakanda just lit up like a flare.” 

Behind him, Nebula was watching another screen. “Did…did Steve return all the stones?”

Bucky nodded “Yeah, that’s been done. Why?”

She looked directly at them, her dark eyes boring into theirs. “Because the activity we’re seeing is almost identical to when the stones are used. Or…”she paused, “if you compare it to the archival footage…it’s the same as when the Soul Stone was created on Vormir.”

“That’s impossible.” Clint leaned forward on the desk.

“She’s not lying.” Said Rocket. “Even I’m seeing it.”

There was a chime as another screen lit up with Bruce’s green face. “Clint. Where is everyone?”

“Um, I don’t know. Why?”

“Because everything just went…weird here. Jane had a seizure and she threw Thor across the room. Now she’s…well, look.” He turned the camera to pan over to where Jane was upright and floating in the middle of the room. Her arms were out to her sides and her eyes closed. She was completely surrounded in a pulsating crimson light.

There was a shout and pounding feet as people ran past the room. Bucky heard Steve’s voice and heard the panic in it.

Clint was already on his feet and Bucky right behind him. “Shit. Darcy.” 

The two men raced to the door and were gone as Bruce was calling to them “Guys? I really...um..don't know what to do here. Hello? Anyone?”

Chapter Text

Be careful making wishes in the dark

Can't be sure when they've hit their mark

And besides in the meantime I'm just dreaming of tearing you apart

I'm in the details with the devil

So now the world can never get me on my level

I just got to get you out of the cage

 

  • “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up) - Fall Out Boy

 

Darcy stirred and opened her eyes. She was back in the medical ward. She felt like her head was full of cotton, kind of like a mild hangover. Otherwise though, she felt fine. No bruises or cuts. Why was she here again? She tried to sit up when she noticed that her room seemed to be…protected by a pale blue shimmering light. She finally managed to sit up when she saw her own body. Her skin glowed with amber colored symbols. She gently traced over one on her left forearm with her right hand. 

“We don’t know what they say. Yet.” 

Darcy whipped her head to the right and saw Tony sitting next to her bed. He looked exhausted. There were no windows in the room and her watch was nowhere to be seen so Darcy had no clue what time was. She rubbed absently at her left wrist as she opened her mouth to ask about it.

Tony tossed a plastic bag on her bed. She picked it up and examined the contents. It took her several moments to identify the contents from the charred pieces.

“Is…is this my watch?”

“It is. It burned right off of you. Along with with your clothes. When we found you, you were completely naked with the exception of these new tattoos and the ashes of anything you were wearing.”

“What…what happened?”

Tony rubbed the bridge of his nose. “One would think that the weird shit in my life would stop surprising me yet one would be wrong. And here lately, almost all of my weird shit revolves around you.”

Darcy rolled her eyes. “Says the man who regularly emails with a talking raccoon and a blue cyborg woman.” 

Tony didn’t rise to the bait. “Lewis.”

“Stark.” Darcy corrected. 

“Semantics.” Tony waved off her protest. “The latest weird shit involves you and Foster.”

Darcy’s heart leapt into her throat. “Is Jane okay? What happened?”

“Down girl. I’m getting there.” Tony picked up a coffee mug next to him and attempted to drink. He frowned into it when he saw it was empty. He discarded the mug on the table and pressed a button on the tabletop. A speaker crackled to life. 

“Yes, Mr. Stark?”

“Please tell His Royal Highness that my daughter is awake. And if fresh coffee and food could be brought that was be excellent.” Tony responded. Darcy’s eyebrows nearly hit her hairline at the polite tone. Normally Tony would use any excuse to poke at T’Challa. Things must be far more serious than Darcy could have imagined.

Tony turned back to her. “Now where was I? Oh right, that moment when we got a distress call from New Asgard because Jane also lit up like a roman candle at the same time you were doing it here. But you were amber. She was red. We also got alerts to two others doing exactly the same thing….just one was green in New York, the other was… “he paused as someone opened the door and entered.

The young woman who entered looked frail but Darcy knew this was deceptive. Wanda Maximoff was anything but. She carried a tray of food, complete with an entire pot of Wakandan coffee. The smell made Darcy’s mouth water. Wanda smiled at Darcy as she passed off the tray to Tony. She was dressed simply in jeans, black tank top and a long faded green army jacket. 

“May I?” She gestured to Darcy’s bed.

Darcy nodded as Wanda reached a hand and the red essence from her hand lifted and brought over a cup. 

“You must have water first. We have to make sure your system can handle simple things before things like coffee.” Her voice was softly accented and reminded Darcy of her Bubbe Lily, the older woman who had babysat for her as a child. 

Darcy opened her mouth to object and Wanda shook her head. “Trust me. I know this better than most.”

Darcy looked at her in confusion. “What is happening?”

Wanda crossed her ankles neatly and held her hand out, palm up. “Your hand please.”

Darcy drained the cup and set it on the small rolling table next to her and gingerly handed her hand to Wanda. Wanda’s eyes seemed to glow red briefly as she looked Darcy’s arm over. 

“You said that the symbols appear all over her body? All in this color?”

“Yes.” Tony had slid his glasses on as well as an ear piece and Darcy could hear the tinny sound of someone talking to him. “Same as the others.”

Wanda looked into Darcy’s eyes. “I know you are very confused. But you need to trust me. Are you able to do that?”

Darcy’s hand trembled in Wanda’s but she nodded slowly. 

“And that’s my cue…” Tony stood up and put his hand on Darcy’s shoulder. He squeezed slightly before he turned to leave. “I’ll be right outside. Wanda knows what she’s doing.”

Darcy nodded mutely as Wanda pushed the girl back on her bed. She reached out like she would touch Darcy’s forehead but instead the power of the Scarlet Witch uncoiled and whispered across the skin before Darcy’s eyes changed to pure black and she went limp. Wanda concentrated as she looked within Darcy’s deepest psyche.

Outside her room and looking through the hidden window were three men. Tony crossed his arms over his chest. 

“You seeing this Banner?”

“Yes Tony. It’s exactly what we are seeing on Jane here.”

“What about New York?”

Steve, who was to Tony’s left answered that one. “Same. Female. Similar age. But green.”

“We heard anything from Ratchet yet?”

T’Challa shook his head. “They have not reported in yet. I am to understand they had to travel a distance to both locations. I will go to my sister and see if she has heard anything. Dinner is ready when you are ready to dine.” He moved smoothly down the hall towards Shuri's lab.

“And then there was you.” 

Tony looked behind him where Vision stood. He was in human guise, dressed in jeans and a sweater. The golden stone in his forehead pulsated softly. His eyes were on Wanda as she slowly moved her hands, her own eyes unseeing as she gently shifted through Darcy’s memories. 

“And then there was me.” Confirmed the blonde man, his eyes never leaving Wanda. “And no, I still don’t know what happened and yes, I am still quite concerned about that. But I can only believe that it was the stones. Or, more accurately, the stone within Darcy Lewis.”

“Stark.”

They all turned to look at Tony, even Vision.

“It’s Stark. Not Lewis. After…the Snap, I had it changed. I didn’t want to have to grieve my own daughter without my name.”

“My apologies. Darcy…Stark.”

Steve immediately found the wall very fascinating and Vision turned his attention back to Wanda. “She’s finishing up.” He pushed past them and into the room. He winced at the sensation of passing through the protective shield around Darcy’s room and reached for Wanda as she slumped. He swung her into his arms and carried her out. Steve was waiting with another chair and a bottle of water. She accepted it graciously as Tony re-entered the room. 

“The idiot twins are skulking around at the end of the hall. Might want to let them know what’s going on before they starting breaking shit or each other” he called over his shoulder.

Pepper had come up during the commotion and she squeezed Wanda’s shoulder as she entered behind Tony. The two of them posted themselves like sentries, one on each side, both holding a hand of the young woman they both called daughter. 

Wanda finished the bottle of water and Steve handed her a second wordlessly. She looked up at him. 

“How much do you need to know?”

Steve paused as he noticed the so called “idiot twins” loitering down the hallway. He shoved aside the jealousy that Clint and Bucky were basically joined at the hip as the last few days had found them constantly together between hovering over Darcy or harassing Rocket and Nebula about anything new on Natasha.

“As much as you feel is pertinent.” 

She turned to fully face Clint and Bucky. “Are you going to continue to eavesdrop like naughty children or will you join us like adults?”

The two exchanged a look before making their way over to the group. Both of them looked into Darcy’s room before pulling their attention to Wanda.

Clint leaned down and pressed a kiss to Wanda’s temple. “I’m sorry kid. I have better manners than this.”

Wanda eyed him critically. “You look like shit. Natasha would be very angry with your behavior.”

Clint flushed and looked away. 

“As far as I am able to see, Darcy has become a living vessel of Soul Stone power. Not unlike what I am able to do or how Dr. Foster is able to hold the…Aether? Is that what they call the reality stone?”

Steve nodded and she continued. 

“What I am not sure of is the how. I don’t know how she was even exposed to the power, much less came to hold it. I do not know how she was able to…revive Vis. It’s technically an impossibility.”

“Ten years ago, I thought there was only one god and he didn’t have a hammer. Or that there were no such things as aliens, good or bad.” Steve pointed out.

“This is true.” She looked back into the room as she drained the second bottle. “She’s incredibly powerful. Dr. Foster probably is as well. They will have to learn how to harness it or it will kill them. I’ve seen it before. Death by madness is not a pretty thing. I rested her mind, she needs to sleep. Her body is healing quickly because the power is trying to tear it apart but without proper rest and food and training…” she trailed off. 

Clint looked back at them from where he had been watching Darcy sleep. “I think it might be my fault.”

There was a confused silence. 

He continued, “When we were on Vormir. That Nazi shithead. He told us about the sacrifice. We were also told we had to concentrate on why were sacrificing, Who we were protecting. What lengths we were willing to go to protect those we love.”

Steve looked baffled and awkward. “Are you saying you’re in love with Darcy?” Bucky clenched his fists and gritted his teeth but said nothing.

“What? No!” Exclaimed Clint. “She’s almost younger enough to be my daughter. She’s family. My family. We don’t have any blood ones anymore so the two of us, we became family. Us and me and Natasha. So when we…when Nat and I were trying to jump…I told her I was doing it for her. For her and Darcy. She told me…she said she was doing it for me so it meant she was doing it for Darcy too. She wanted to make sure we were okay…”

This time the silence was heavy. 

Wanda wiped away tears. “She gave herself for the Soul Stone…and since she couldn’t wield the power…it transferred to Darcy. Because that’s who she was thinking of. Darcy and you.”

“Which means Darcy can bring Natal…Natasha back. Lie she brought him back.” Bucky jerked a thumb at Vision. 

“In theory, yes.” Vision looked into the room where the one woman who could possibly save countless lives lay fighting for her own. 

 

*********************

Wanda had spoken in length with the Wakanda doctors, explaining how Darcy must remain sedated for the rest of the day. Her body desperately needed the respite.

Clint and Steve were off to the side speaking with Vision while Bucky was alone at the window. 

“She thinks of you.”

Bucky spun around to find Wanda standing next to him.

“What?!”

“She thinks of you. She feels safe with you. You’re like…a tether. You are keeping her grounded. The others? They knew her before and they worry. You worry, but you also treat her like a…normal person.”

Bucky looked back at Darcy. “I’m the last person who is going to judge what is normal and what is not. Spending decades as a brainwashed Soviet assassin will do that to a guy. Also, talking trees.”

Wanda laughed softly. “Your treatment of her will be important. You need to stay true to you. And to her. Vision was so important to me. He treats me like a person. Like a woman. Not like a weapon.”

“No one deserves to be treated like a weapon.”

Wanda put her hand on his Wakanda made arm. “This we both know better than most.”

Tony and Pepper emerged, both looking drained. Wanda moved from Bucky and put her arm around Pepper. “Come with us. We are going to go eat. You must stay strong for her. She cannot worry about you. James will stay with her.”

Bucky nodded and soon he found himself alone outside her room. He slid through the door and gritted his teeth as the shield identified him and allowed him to stay. The shield would have shocked the hell out of him and thrown him into the hall had he not been previously cleared. He stood next to Darcy for a moment before he leaned over to kiss her forehead and then he sat, both his hands clasped over one of hers. He bent his head over their joined hands as if in prayer.

 

Behind him, Darcy stood. She was discorporate and bathed in the light from the Soul Stone's power that lived within her. Tears ran down her face as she reached for Bucky.

Chapter Text

“Trust me you don't have to be so lonely

When caught in a snare

Closed off you're unaware

There's so many people that care for you

We care for you

We want to pull you out, through and through

We're here for you”

 - “We Care” - Osatia

 

 

“So it’s confirmed then?”

Steve looked back to the communications station where Rocket and Nebula stood in holo form.

“Yes.” Nebula gave a sharp nod as well.

“So the Tesseract’s location was…where Asgard used to be?”

Rocket answered this time. “Correct. And it has since vanished. Just poof.”

Steve frowned. “I’m pretty sure I know where it is, but that’s not my main concern. And the Power stone?”

“Quill has it. He’s the only one I know of who can handle it solo. And even he is struggling. Mantis is helping.”

“We have to figure out how to contain this energy.” Steve rubbed his temples.

“There is always the option to channel the power and assist them in managing it.” Shuri sat in front of Steve, her hands flying across keys as she compared notes with Bruce and Tony who were in their respective labs. All three were on many sleepless hours looking for an answer.

“The answer lies with Wanda. We have to figure out how she manipulates it.” Tony mumbled as he gulped coffee.

Shuri considered this. “What if we are able to contain the majority of the power and allow them to use a fraction at a time?"

Bruce scrubbed a hand over his face. “That could work…”

Shuri nodded. “I will begin at once. I can use my notations from when I attempted to remove Vision from the Mind Stone. I should be able to come up with a working solution within 24 hours.”

“The sooner, the better. The power in those stones is not stable and we don’t need it going to anyone else if it kills the bearer.” Nebula said.

Tony slammed his fist onto his desk. “My daughter is not dying from that fucking stone. I’ll assist. We need to find it faster than 24 hours.”

 

*****************

 

Darcy opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. She could hear someone breathing next to her so she took a guess who as she spoke.

“I really got to quit waking up with you next to me and I’m not naked.”

There was a choking sound and then Clint leaned into her view. “I’m going to guess that wasn’t meant for me.”

Darcy blinked at him. His eyes were clear from the fog of grief and there was a hint of the old Clint. Especially as the smirk lit up his dimples. 

“You’re an asshole.”

“So I’ve been told. I’m sorry Barnes isn’t here to hear that but you can be assured I’m going to tell him. I made him go sleep a couple of hours ago. Even a super soldier can’t push much past 72 hours.”

Darcy struggled to sit up and Clint leaned over to help her. Her head swam a bit before it settled. “72 hours?”

“Yeah. They kept you sedated. Your body was coming apart at the seams like a bloody rag doll.”

Darcy blanched. “Graphic.”

Clint shrugged. “You didn’t though.”

She self consciously ran a hand over her arms which still had what looked to be gold ink tattoos over them. “So now what?”

Clint kicked his booted feet up on the end of her bed. She made a face at him and swatted them away. He smiled innocently and held up a small bag of her favorite candy.

“Gimme!” She made grabby hands and he actually laughed as he passed over the taffy.

“Princess Shuri is working with Bruce and your…Stark to figure out how to control that power before it shreds you. Jane too.”

“Jane!” Cried Darcy, the candy falling to her lap. “Is she okay?”

Clint nodded slowly. “She’s having to be kept completely sedated. You, Quill and the little sorcerer from the Bronx are handling it best. The Tesseract is missing. Cap hasn’t confirmed it yet but we all suspect Loki has it.”

“I thought he was dead?”

“When you mess with time…things happen.” Was all he’d answer.

The door banged open and Bucky stood there sheepishly. “Sorry, I meant to knock. Not quite awake yet. I forget sometimes…” He waved his prosthetic. 

“Im going to find more coffee and see if I convince Spiderboy to play ‘Dodge the Arrows I shoot at your head’ for a little while.” He stood, planted a smacking kiss on Darcy’s mouth and laughed at both her expression of shock and Bucky’s glower of jealousy.

She made a rude gesture at Clint’s back but then turned her smile on Bucky. He grinned back and stole taffy as he sat. 

“Hey! That’s mine. Only people who are mostly naked except for tattoos and nearly died get it.”

Bucky leaned up and grabbed the bottom of his t-shirt lifting it just enough she got a glimpse of rock hard abs. “I can meet the naked but you’ll have to find out for yourself about the tattoos.”

Darcy swallowed hard, the candy feeling stuck in her throat. She coughed and Bucky dropped teeshirt and handed her a cup of water. “Jesus. Don’t die Doll or your daddy will kill me for sure. And I can’t ask him if I can take you to dinner if we’re both dead.”

Darcy stared at him, speechless.

“What? Do I smell bad?” He lifted the collar of his shirt to sniff it.

“You…you want to take me to dinner?”

“I want to do a hell of a lot more than that but I figure with the current situation we will start with dinner…if you want to.”

She eyed him suspiciously. “Why are you being so nice? And not mentioning…” she waved a hand at herself.

Bucky shrugged. His shoulder and arms muscles bunched up under the thin material of his shirt. Darcy prayed she wasn’t drooling. 

“I figure everyone else is doing enough panicking for me so I’ll focus on making you smile. And if I can score a dinner date with you…then it’s a win/win.”

Darcy bit her lower lip before moving down the bed to sit across from him. She wore only a thin hospital gown. Her bare feet dangled before she let them rest on top of his boots. 

“I’m game. Besides you owe me.”

Bucky arched an eyebrow at her. He flexed his feet and bounced her feet on his boots. “I owe you?”

“Yes. I may be some kind of living soul stone but you still were spying on me in the shower and got to see a whole lot more of me than I’ve seen of you. That’s worth at least a pizza.”

Bucky laughed. “So you’re tellin’ me that because I accidentally saw you in the shower that I owe you pizza?”

Darcy nodded.

Bucky leaned forward and brushed his lips over her ear. “Doll, you’re worth way more than pizza.”

Darcy blushed and shivered at the feel of his breath on her ear and the heat of his body. “Am I?” She leaned back only to look in his face. 

He reached up and gently moved a strand of her hair away from her lips. His eyes stayed on them though. She tilted her head and rested it in his palm. Bucky licked his lips and leaned close enough to gently press his lips to hers. 

And Darcy leapt onto him. She landed in his lap, her legs straddling him. Her hands were in his hair, her mouth on his. He put his hands under her ass and pulled her closer to him. She grabbed for the bottom of his shirt and yanked it over his head. She sighed as she looked him over. She ran her hands down his chest and then arched her back before leaning back down to kiss him hard.

The two of them were still locked together as the door banged open. 

“Hey Darce…holy shit!”

Bucky leaned back from Darcy’s mouth, his blue eyes hazy and pupils blown wide with lust. “Now Captain America, would you kiss your mother with that mouth?”

Darcy snorted with laughter. 

Steve stood in the doorway with a handful of papers that were sliding from his hands to the floor as his mouth hung open.

“Punk, if you don’t stop walkin’ in on me I’m goin’ to fire you as a my Wingman.”

Sam strolled up behind Steve and snickered. “Why hello Darcy. Barnes.” He poked Steve in the arm. “You good man?”

Clint followed behind Sam and started a slow clap. “About damn time you got him shirtless. Was starting to really worry about you Darcy.”

Darcy hid her face in Bucky’s neck as he laughed.

Chapter Text

“Didn't I tell you I hear what you say?

Never look back as you're walking away

Carry the music, the memories and keep them inside

you

Laugh every day

Don't stop those tears from falling down”

-“Stand in the Light” - Jordan Smith

 

 

“What are the chances I could…you know, end up blown up? I really don’t want to wake up dead.”

There was an unladylike snort of laughter from the Princess of Wakanda as she was carefully positioning a gorgeous multifaceted cut gemstone in a metal holding claw. Peter reached out and caught it as it slipped and gently placed it back. Darcy leaned over to examine it. 

“Ooo, it’s so pretty!” She cried.

“I’m so glad you approve.” Tony remarked drily as he stood next to a holographic image of Bruce as they checked and re-checked some kind of magical formulas. Darcy had learned long ago not to ask as it was not for mere mortals to understand. Or at least that’s what she been told.

“The risks for this…procedure are greatly outweighed by the rewards.” Peter looked at Shuri before he looked at Darcy. 

“To put it in normal people terms: you’re not going to wake up dead. Probably.”

Darcy mumbled something about genius people and their SAT vocabularies as she settled back into the chair. She self consciously ran her hands over her arms and tucked her bare legs under the blanket. The soul tattoos glittered in the light and she wasn’t still totally used to it.  

Tony rolled his chair over to her, swabbed her forehead with alcohol and gently placed a thin band of metal around her head. His brown eyes focused on her blue ones as he squeezed her shoulder. That small gesture gave her more confidence than anything anyone could have said. 

“So what exactly is going to happen?” Steve was standing next to Bruce, his arms crossed over his chest. He had the whole “concerned dad” look going on…if dads were super hot super soldiers in jeans and tight t shirts. 

Bruce cleared his throat and ran his hand over his head. In the background Darcy could just barely make out Scott Lang who had flown to Norway to assist Bruce. Bruce would be doing the same procedure on Jane to contain the Reality stone. “With the exception of the Tesseract/Space stone, each bearer of a stone’s power would be transferring part of the power into a holding stone of the appropriate color. Jane’s will be a ruby. Yours is a Sphalerite.”

“What’s a sphalerite?” Darcy asked. 

“Its a zinc sulphide stone. Very rare. The fire or light dispersion is greater in it than in a diamond. We got this one from Brazil.” Shuri gestured to the orange stone which caught the light and flashed.

“You know, it’s hard being around you super people sometimes. I’m so out of my league.”

She glanced at the window in the wall to her right. She was technically in a MRI scanner room that had been revamped into a space that would be safer, in theory, for everyone during this experiment. 

She could make out the silhouettes of Clint and Bucky beyond that window. Both of them were lurking on the fringes of the chaos around her. The two of them had been near inseparable lately, having left early the morning before on some super secret mission and not returning until late last night. Neither of them would tell her anything. All she knew is it involved bullets because both of them were sporting new bandages.

“Everything is in place. Let us clear the room.” Shuri clapped her hands and the Wakandans who had been assisting quickly exited. She and Peter exchanged a look and they went into the small room where the controls were all stationed. The pocket sized communicator that they were using to speak to Bruce was carried with them. Only Tony and Steve were left in the room. 

Steve came to her first. “You don’t have to do…anything else. Okay? We aren’t going to risk you for a chance at something that may not even work.”

Darcy glanced back where she could see the hard lines of Clint’s face, his eyes closed. He and Bucky both were clearly exhausted but refused to rest once they’d heard that Tony and Shuri were ready to try to contain the stone’s power. 

She shook her head. “I have to try Steve. I would never stop wondering ‘what if?’ And it would break my heart to watch him die waiting on her.”

“Darce..”

“You’re not going to change my mind Steve.”

“She’s not. She’s got that damn Stark stubborn streak. Both my daughters got it. Don’t know why they couldn’t take after their patient mothers.” Tony leaned down to kiss her temple. “No waking up dead. Morgan will never forgive me because Pepper will kill me and we’ll have to haunt them.” He pressed the small box into her hand as well as making sure the bracelet for the stone was firmly clasped around her wrist. 

“So what exactly are we doing here?”

“You, Capsicle, are doing exactly nothing except look handsome and concerned. The rest of us who haven’t mastered that look will be using strictly controlled gamma waves to push the stone’s power from her body into that stone.” He gestured before continuing. “And yes, gamma waves are what created Jolly Green but we are professionals. And we know mostly what we’re doing. I mean, it’s never been tried but it’s sound in theory…”

She bit her lip and gave them both a watery smile and a thumbs up. “Really, I’m good. I got this. Go.”

Steve looked unsure but Tony unceremoniously shoved him towards the protection of the control room. Behind them the heavy door clicked shut and the bolts locked remotely. Darcy swallowed hard and looked up at the ceiling before movement caught her eye. She turned to see Clint’s face in the window. He pressed his hand to the glass before he moved away for Bucky to look in. He mimicked Clint’s gesture but he held her gaze for a couple of beats longer. Finally, he moved away and the lights dropped down and a dark screen covered the window, obscuring any view of them. The MRI machine had been recalibrated to push the gamma rays instead of radio waves. She could hear it warming it, the thump thump of the machine as it began to spin. 

Darcy thumbed open the box and looped the silver necklace around her wrist next to the wide band that Tony had placed there. She heard a click as the IV in her wrist emptied the medication into her body. She closed her eyes and slowly began to count backwards from 10.

 

*************************************

 

On the other side of the wall….

 

“Vitals are staying within the normal range.”

“Gamma levels are still in the lower percents Mr. Stark.”

“Push them 20%.”

Shuri’s normal laughing face was serious with concentration. Her dark eyes scanned the numbers across the screen,  Peter at her side helping when he could. The two of them murmured over data and made adjustments as needed to keep the gamma rays within the MRI machine. 

Tony’s face was strained as he watched on the monitor screen. He’d watched Darcy slip the necklace around her wrist and he felt a thump against his chest wall. It was hard for him to believe how much he could love someone that he barely knew but was so much a part of him. He glanced down at the picture of Morgan and Pepper he’d stuck to the console and made a mental note to have another made. This time with Darcy.

“Tony? How are your readings?” Bruce’s voice sounded tinny from the little box they were using to communicate. Some kind of alien tech but it allowed them to talk even with the thick walls of the protected room.

“Holding steady. Pushing now to 35%.”

Bruce was silent before replying. “We’ve reached 60% and the Aether is moving from Jane into the stone. No complications.”

“50% Mr. Stark. Vitals are still within normal limits.”

“Keep going unless I say stop.”

There was a commotion on the other end of the line. “It’s complete! Jane’s readings are now back to a range that’s acceptable for life!” Thor’s shouted cheer came across the line before it went dead. 

Tony banged the little box on the counter and frowned. “Damn thing was supposed to work no matter what.”

“Tony!”

Steve’s shout brought his attention back to the monitor where Darcy’s unconscious form was pulsing with light.

“No worries Cap. The light show was to be expected.” Tony glanced at a readout before looking back to him. “It’s consistent with the procedures on all the other bearers.”

“Sir. Something…isn’t right.” Shuri’s frown deepened as she scanned the wave forms on her screen.

“She’s right Mr. Stark….her readings…they’re all over the place. They don’t make sense. Hey is she getting brighter?” Peter leaned closer to the window trying to peer through the screen.

The light from Darcy exploded with a deafening roar and the screen went to a static feed. The thick window cracked into a million starbursts but didn’t shatter. Sparks flew from the machinery and screens shut down or cracked like the window. Steve pushed past the techs and began pulling on the door. The handle bent but the door didn’t budge. Tony was slamming his hands on the keyboard while yelling for someone to figure out how to get that damn door open. Bucky shoved his way into the control room and began pounding on the window with his prosthetic fist. 

 

****************

 

Darcy opened her eyes to only the sound of water lapping around her ankles. She looked around and found herself in the same place she’d been the first time she’d encountered Natasha. She grabbed her wrist and found the silver chain was still wrapped around it but the once empty band now had the orange gemstone firmly fused into it. 

“Darcy Lewis.” 

Darcy spun and shrieked when she caught sight of the…thing behind her. Draped in yards of black fabric and only a red grinning skull was seen within his hood.

“Holy shit. You’re real!"

Darcy was pretty sure he would have frowned at her if he'd had the ability to show emotion.

“Why are you here?”

“It’s none of your business.” she said primly.

“Everything that happens here is my business.”

Darcy glanced back down at her wrist before she held it up. “I’m..um…the stone bearer. I want to claim someone back.”

“Impossible. Once the trade is made it is permanent.”

“Yeah and they said the Cubs would never win the World Series or that I would have a purpose other than sassing Tony Stark but here we are.” Darcy pulled the silver chain with the tiny arrow dangling from it off of her wrist and held it up. 

“Natalia Alianovna Romanova. The stone was returned to you in the timeline and yet you keep her here. I want her back. And since I have the stone and you don’t…pretty sure that means you’re my bitch. Bring her to me. Now. I won’t ask again. I’m pretty curious to see what I can do with this.” Darcy took a slow deep breath and pulled hard on the energy she felt swirling around her. She’d had a long talk with Wanda about how she was able to do this but Darcy still wasn’t sure of the mechanics. When she noticed her hands glowing as well as all the tattoos on her arms….

“Hell yes! I got it right.” She caught herself and grinned slowly at Red Skull. “I’m waiting.”

She heard Natasha before she saw her. Slow, deliberate footsteps. Finally, as if appearing through magic, Natasha emerged from the thick air behind Red Skull. She had her head down, her hands bound in front of her with chains the same color as Darcy’s stone. Darcy moved towards her, noticing with a small thrill that Red Skull moved away from her as she approached. She reached down and used her glowing hands to shatter the chains. She then opened the clasp of the necklace and secured it around Natasha’s neck. Natasha finally looked up at her, her eyes brimming with tears. She grasped Darcy’s hands tightly. Darcy nodded at her before throwing a “See you later shithead!” As she thought of Clint. Of Bucky. Of her family.

 

Of home.

Chapter Text

“If heaven and hell decide that they both are satisfied
And illuminate the no's on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside you when your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark”

“I will follow you into the dark” -Death Cab for Cutie

 

 

With a loud crack the glass finally gave way under Bucky’s metal fist and he began yanking the glass out of the metal frame.

“Barton!” He yelled, clearing the rest of the glass.

Clint appeared, coughing at the smoke from the electrical equipment. He waved it from his face. Steve has behind him, both of them sweating and red faced. Steve’s hand was swollen and bleeding from beating on the metal door.

“I can’t get through here. Neither can Steve. Too broad. You can though.”

Bucky had barely finished his sentence when Clint easily cleared the metal frame and dove into the smoke filled room. They could barely see him in the darkness of the room but could keep track of him based on his swearing.

“She’s not here!” Clint’s voice cracked, his search becoming more frantic.

Tony, who’d been furiously trying to override the door lock, stopped suddenly. “What do you mean she not there?”

“I don’t know! Get me a light! I can’t see a fucking thing in here.” There was a crash of metal against the far wall.

A flashlight was produced and handed through the window to Clint. The beam illuminated the now empty room. The bed that Darcy had been lying on was thrown to the side by Clint’s kick. Everything in a five foot radius of where she had been was scorched black. But there was no sign of Darcy.

 

*******************


Darcy blinked at the suddenly darkness. Reluctant to let go of Natasha’s hands, she released only one and turned to look around them. It seemed they had landed on a rocky dark plain. Darcy looked up and made a freaked out noise. “I don’t think we’re in Wakanda anymore. Does Earth have an extra moon after the Snap?"

“Do you know where we are?” Natasha’s voice sounded rough from disuse. Her pale skin was more deathly white. Even her lips looked bloodless. She raised her free hand to her neck where she brushed her fingers over the tiny arrow.

“I was honestly hoping you did.”

Natasha shook her head. Her long red braid had blonde ends. She looked like a washed out version of herself with the exception of her hair. “It feels familiar. I feel like I’ve been here before.” She looked past Darcy to the stone steps going up behind them.

“You’re on Vormir. It’s the home planet of the Soul Stone. It brought you here after you claimed Natasha back from the Soul Stone.”

Both of the women startled and spun to face the speaker.

A tall man with an elegant goatee stood there. He wore a long crimson cape over robes of blue. His hands were steepled in front of him. His dark hair was immaculate with strands of silver in it. A green stone winked from the amulet around his neck.

“Whoa. Are you, like, Tony’s better dressed brother? Or are you just facial hair bros?”

The man sighed sufferingly. “No. I have no relation to Mr. Stark. I’m not actually present, I”m actually on Earth but I left an alarm to notify me if someone came here. You’re speaking to me through…never mind the details. I’m using it as a guide now that you’ve arrived. We thought you or one of the others may end up here and wanted to make sure you could find your way home. Think of me as a directional sign.”

Natasha shifted. “You’re Strange. You were the bearer of the Time Stone.”

“Hell yes he’s strange. He’s like a Time Lord with better facial hair. So are you like our ‘Exit here 1 mile ahead’ sign? ”

He sighed again. “You must be Darcy, Stark’s daughter. You’re both insufferable. My name is Dr. Stephen Strange. Would you like to come home or no?”

“Yes please or I’m sure someone is going to break reality looking for us.”

“We had already broken reality to defeat Thanos. Now you are part of the correction.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “Although, this may be breaking it again. I’m not sure where we stand on that currently. No one has ever returned after being consumed for the creation of a Soul stone.” He pulled his hands apart as gold sparks flew and she could see what looked like Wakanda on the other side of a mirror.

Darcy was about to ask what he meant when she saw the portal move to underneath them and they fell down through it towards Wakanda.


*********************


“Tony!” Pepper’s voice cut through the chaos.

“Not now honey! Trying to save the day!”

“Yes now! Something is happening outside…you need to come!”

Peter stuck his head in. “Mr. Stark! It’s a Mr. Dr. Strange portal!”

The men all stopped and exchanged a brief look before they all pushed and shoved each other out of the room. Bucky and Steve may have been super soldiers but Clint was taller and far more agile. He leapt and pushed off the wall to get ahead of them.

They cut down several hallways as they followed Peter and Pepper who had gotten a head start. All them came rushing out onto a balcony that overlooked the fields where the Battle for Wakanda had taken place. A sorcerer’s portal had opened and with a flash of amber light, two figures dropped from it onto the ground. One of them collapsed immediately and the other was able to turn towards the palace and raise an arm before falling next to the first.

“Darcy.” Tony had caught up to them and he leapt from the balcony. He wore a single glove with a repulsor and as he fell he slowed himself with it. With another blast he catapulted himself towards the figures.

“Get on!” Shuri and Peter pulled up to the balcony with a small transport barge and after everyone climbed on she pulled away and gunned it for the field.

Tony landed next to the two figures and his heart skipped a beat when he noticed one was a brunette and the other a redhead. They lay on their sides, facing each other. Their heads were touching, their hands interlocked and their bodies bowed out only to touch at the feet. He dropped to his knees as he gently pushed Darcy onto her back. As he ran his hands over her arms looking for injuries he noticed the brilliant orange stone in the bangle. She had a scrape on her forehead from the fall but looked otherwise unhurt.

Darcy partially opened her eyes and winced. “So bright. Daddy?” Her voice was sleepy and childlike.

Tony blinked back tears as he nodded. “Yes baby. I’m here. I got you.” He gently pushed hair out of her face. He could hear the transport landing but before it set all the way down he heard the thud of boots and Clint came sliding across the ground, stopping next to Natasha.

“Nat! Oh god. Nat.” Clint cradled Natasha in his arms. She didn’t respond but she did grasp the front of his shirt and buried her face into his chest. Clint buried his face in her hair as he wept.

Pepper knelt down next to Tony and put her hand on Darcy’s cheek. “Oh sweet girl. We need to get them inside. You too.” Pepper put her arm around Tony’s shoulder as she helped him stand. “You can’t carry her. You’re still recovering yourself.”

“I got her.” Bucky leaned down and effortlessly tucked her into his arms. He pulled her close and carried her back to the transport barge while Steve went to get Clint. Clint refused to let her go but allowed Steve to help him into the barge. He sunk to the floor, Nat still wrapped his arms. Her lips were moving but no one could hear what she was saying but Bucky knew it was Clint’s name over and over as if in prayer. The two of them were locked in their own world where only they existed. Bucky looked down at Darcy in his own arms. Her dark lashes fanned across her pale cheeks, dark circles under her eyes. He sat next to Clint, adjusting Darcy as she wrapped her arms around his neck. She murmured his name as the barge jostled them slightly as it took to the air. He put his hand on her cheek and she turned into it and pressed her lips against his palm.

“Did you save the day?” She mumbled. “Did the good guys win?”

Bucky glanced over where Clint held Nat who had sat up enough to press her forehead to his, both with their hands on the face of the other.

“Yeah.” He said. “The good guys win this time. But you’re the one who saved the day.”