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catch me, I'm falling (for you)

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Darcy had always had a rather rocky relationship with gravity. Ladders were not her friends, balance was not one of her inherent skills, and she had an unfortunate tendency to trip over air. Once she was old enough to read, and understand, her soulmark, she resigned herself to a life of little accidents: You alright, ma’am? That was quite a fall.

Klutziness was so ingrained in her make-up that it had made it into her soul. Joy.

Her words were written in very cramped lettering, right in the crook of her left elbow, a placement she always wondered about, especially after she broke her right arm. She managed to do it twice, in fact. Once, in a game of Red Rover gone horribly wrong when she was eight, and again when she tripped over her extremely low, age-appropriate, first-and-last pair of heels at the Fall Formal her junior year.

Upshot was that she became reasonably ambidextrous, mostly out of necessity.

Still, her history was the reason for the (long, but arguably necessary) disclaimer she was in the middle of giving her aunt: “…so, really, I am all about being helpful around the house. I will clean, I will cook, I will wash things, whatever, but it’s probably a good idea to find a few places to stash a couple of first aid kits around the house.”

“So, what you’re saying is, you’re a walking disaster zone,” Aunt Jo said.

“They’re very self-contained disasters? No others are usually harmed in me making an ass of myself.”

Jo chuckled, “I’m not all that worried about it, Darcy. I might ask you to pitch in around the house a little, but I know you’re here to do the job-shadowing thing, and I expect that’ll take up most of your time.” She shook her head, “First aid kits, huh? I’ll see what I can do. You just head on up to Dana’s old room and settle in.”

“She won’t mind?”

Her aunt snorted, already turning and heading further into the house, “She’s extending her ‘study abroad’ semester to a full year, she’s got no reason to mind.”

Which…wasn’t technically an answer to her question, but she guessed it was enough.

Darcy’s cousin Dana was sort of a linguistic nerd, a fact readily apparent in her decorative decisions: posters for all sorts of foreign films, scattered books in dozens of languages, and a stack of Rosetta Stone boxes almost as tall as the desk they sat next to. She was a little sad that her cousin would, apparently, be completely missing her visit. They had fun discussing their mutual interests in culture and sometimes politics when they were together, so it was a bit of a bummer.

She dumped her bags on the bed and turned to look out the window. Her aunt and uncle lived in a nice suburb of D.C. – close enough to the action that she could just make out the silhouettes of some of the big, important buildings, far enough away that they weren’t looming over the –

Who in the hell was THAT?

Just a little ways away, in the next yard, there was a guy - she was going to go out on a limb and assume he was one of the neighbors – prepping to go on a run. He was tall, black man, broad-shouldered and fit, with hair cut military-short, wearing a sleeveless gray tee and a pair of shorts that were doing all sorts of interesting things while he stretched.

Darcy was suddenly very happy Dana was out of town. She was sure that there was no way the guest room could have as good a view.

Sexy Running Man must have good instincts because he suddenly turned and looked right at her. Darcy made a squeaking sound and jumped away from the window, out of sight, before realizing that he had probably just assumed she was Dana – they were about the same height, with similar hairstyles (‘long’ was totally a style) – and was being, you know, neighborly. She was an idiot.

“Smooth, Darcy, really smooth,” she muttered to herself, turning back to her bags to begin unpacking. She wasn’t sure whether she ought to hope that her Aunt Jo was on good terms with Sexy Running Man, or that they were the sorts of neighbors who did the nod, smile, walk away thing. “Job, you’re here to figure out what kind of a job you might want, after your contract is up with Jane,” she reminded herself, “this is a short interlude in your life, not the best time to take up dating.”

Ogling, however, was totally an option – if it could be done subtly.

Darcy didn’t stalk Sexy Running Man, that would imply that she was actively seeking him out. She didn’t, she just sort of…paid attention if he was outside and she was outside, which, to be clear, didn’t happen all that often. She was pretty busy shadowing various lower-level government employees through a program she was half-certain SHIELD had gotten her into (‘Pathways’ was a weird name that made her think of awkward meetings about her future plans with her high school counselor). She had taken up some of her cousins’ chores, though, since her aunt and uncle were letting her live with them rent-free for six weeks while Jane was off on some world-tour of science, explaining all the ways she was right, and everyone else was wrong.

Mostly those chores involved keeping the house relatively uncluttered (which was something she would have done anyways, as an anti-tripping preventative measure) and weeding the garden. The gardening was fun, a nice, relatively mindless, chore that she may have timed to coincide with Sexy Running Man’s pre-run stretching ritual.

She noticed that she wasn’t the only person on the street with a reason to be outside at that time of day. Darcy had taken to offering solemn nods to some of the other neighbors she was starting to recognize, in acknowledgement of their silent bond over the hotness that was Sexy Running Man.

Today, though, she had a slightly different task, one that she was looking forward to with a certain level of trepidation. Her uncle, who had missed the speech about Darcy’s tendency to be gravity’s bitch, had asked her to remove a blockage from one of the gutters because it wasn’t draining into the garden correctly. This was a task that involved a ladder, and, by extension, a great deal of apprehension on Darcy’s part. She was so preoccupied with her task that she couldn’t even appreciate the sight of Sexy Running Man. At least the ladder was of good quality, nice and sturdy and not prone to wobbles – thank god – but her plan to remove the blockage (whatever it was) with one hand while using the other to balance was… a pipe-dream (hah!).

Apparently the gutter had been the home of a bird at some point in the last several months. The nest had partially disintegrated at this point, just enough to get halfway down the pipe and become extremely, exasperatingly, dangerously stuck.

“Motherfucker,” she muttered, gingerly taking one hand away from its position gripping at some conveniently placed molding so that she could use both hands on the nest, “why – won’t – you - move!

She really should have known better, not let her frustration get the better of her, because her last tug not only removed the nest, it overbalanced her enough that she was falling off the ladder before she could say, ‘Fuck you, gravity!’

The fall was short, the landing tough. Darcy took a moment to appreciate her luck: her head had just missed hitting the rocks that bordered the edge of her aunt’s garden, not that the ground was anyone’s definition of soft, but unfortunately her arm was not as lucky. She stared up at the nice blue sky and wondered to herself, ‘The right arm, why is it always the right arm?”

Suddenly, Sexy Running Man was crouching beside her, his face (and darn, he was just pretty all over, wasn’t he?) blocking her view of the sky. He looked worried, and he made ‘worry’ look good: “You alright, ma’am? That was quite a fall.”

Darcy stared up at him, dazed with pain. “I think I broke my arm. Again.

His grin was way too bright and happy for this situation: “Been wantin’ to ask if that’s some kind of habit of yours for years.

Well, that was on odd state - oh my god! “You,” she said, “it’s you!”

“Yeah, it’s me,” he reached out a hand and gently brushed her hair back, fingers lightly pressing against her skull, which, ow. “Looks like you hit your head, too, the ground isn’t exactly soft here. We better get you to the hospital.”

“No ambulance, I hate ambulances.”

Sexy Running Man-Who Was Also Her Soulmate raised his eyebrows at her, “I think we’re gonna need to have a talk about what it is you’ve been doing that makes you familiar enough with ambulances that you have opinions on them.”

“I have opinions on everything,” Darcy informed him, hissing in pain when he started to help her get up. “Whoa,” she swayed a little as she tried to stand, the edges of her vision going gray and faded. “I – “ she licked her lips and tried again, “I am currently of the opinion that I should probably not try to walk anywhere. Um. Help?”

Sexy Running Soulmate was chuckling at her (definitely an ‘at you’ not a ‘with you’ moment, though she couldn’t say she blamed him), “Want me to carry you to my car? I can drive you to the hospital.”

“Want you to, no. Need you to, probably.” She squinted at his arms, “You don’t look like you’ll drop me.”

“I promise not to drop you,” he said solemnly, eyes twinkling at her in a way that made her feel like she was being laughed at again, but nicely? “My name’s Sam, by the way,” he told her, very gently wrapping one arm around her ribs while the other went behind her knees.

“Darcy,” she told him, hooking her left elbow around his neck, and hey! “I always wondered about that,” she muttered.

“What?” he asked, he was swiftly carrying her towards his garage and did not seem to be having any trouble with her weight. Cool.

“Your words are on my left arm, but I keep breaking my right,” she explained.

“Darcy…just how often have you broken your arm?”

“I don’t know if I want to answer that question.”

“I’ll ask you again after they’ve given you some pain meds,” he told her, leaning her up against his car while he grabbed his keys. “And then we can have a nice, long talk about your extensive relationship with ambulances.”

She blinked up at him, finally noticing the way the corners of his mouth had started to go a little tight. “Hey, hey, no,” she told him, left arm too busy trying to brace her right for her to pat him on the shoulder, though that look on his face made her want to give him a hug or something. “I am not now, nor have I been abused. I am one of those people who, when they say they fell down the stairs or walked into a door, actually fell down the stairs or walked into a door.

Sam did not look entirely reassured. He helped her into the passenger seat and got her buckled in (very safe, she approved), then moved over to the driver’s seat. She waited until he’d started the car and pulled out into the road before she tried to explain her really, truly, pathological clumsiness again.

“Really, I’m ok, I promise.” She wiggled in her seat a little so she could watch him while he drove, hoping he’d distract her from the pain, because ow, she hadn’t forgotten how much this hurt, but you’d think she’d be sort of used to it by now. Not so. “My arm hurts, so I guess I should say I’m ok, except for the arm.”

“And the concussion,” he muttered.

“I’m concussed?!” she asked excitedly, “I’ve never been concussed before!”

Sam had his not-laughing-at-you face on again, “It’s just a guess, Darcy.”

“Are you a good guesser?”

“Well, I never would have guessed my stunning new neighbor was my soulmate.”

“Stunning?” she grinned, “You think I’m stunning?” She pondered this while glancing around, they were at a red light, and she could see signs indicating that the hospital was close, “Well, I’m definitely stunned, in the hit-my-head sense and in the holy-cow-Sexy-Running-Man is my soulmate sense.”

Sam was grinning now, looking extremely pleased, “Sexy Running Man?

Darcy had the feeling that, sooner or later, she was going to regret letting that little nickname slip. Oh well, that would be a problem for future!Darcy, the lucky bitch who would be 1) not concussed and 2) pain-free. Still, maybe she should do damage control? “Well,” she explained patiently, “you are a dude, you go running every other day, and you are hot like lava.”

He grabbed her left hand and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. “I really hope that this isn’t just the concussion talking.”

“Why would it be just the concussion?” she asked, confused. Her hand was all tingly and she was pretty sure she was blushing. “I’ve been calling you Sexy Running Man in my head for weeks, since I didn’t know your name. Now I can call you Sam. Wait, Sam what? What’s your last name?”

They were pulling up to the emergency room parking area now; Darcy was impressed when Sam managed to find a space close to the doors. “It’s Wilson,” he told her, turning the car off, “My name’s Sam Wilson.”

She nodded and waited for him to come around to her side to help her out. “I’m Lewis,” she told him. “Well, Darcy. Darcy and Lewis. Darcy Lee Lewis is my name, but don’t ever call me Darcy Lee, or I will smack you.”

“Noted,” he said, lifting her.

“Darcy Lee Wilson,” she muttered to herself, and then shrieked when he stumbled. “You said you wouldn’t drop me!”

“I am not going to drop you, woman!”

“You almost tripped!”

“You startled me!”

Darcy gave him a concerned look, “I’m a very startling person. You’re gonna have to get used to that.”

He grinned, and held her a little closer, “Lookin’ forward to it.”

The emergency room was pretty busy, so Sam settled in one of the chairs with Darcy sitting sideways in his lap. “I could sit in a chair of my own, you know,” she told him crossly, “I’m having trouble standing, not sitting.”

“What if I just like holding you?”

“Oh!” Darcy licked her lips, “Well, I guess that’s ok. Are you always this forward, or is it just ‘cause I have a concussion and might not remember it?” That was a concussion side effect, right? She was pretty she’d read about spotty short-term memory being a concussion thing.

“Darcy,” Sam said, and something about the way he called her name had her doing her head-injury darnedest to focus on his face and the attentive expression on it, “there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be a helluva lot more forward when you’re no longer concussed.”

“Oh,” she said eloquently, “there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be on board with that.”

It was the gentle ‘ahem’-ing of a nurse that brought the two of them out of their mutual reverie.

“Hi,” the nurse said, smiling at the two of them, “I’m here to do your intake, now, what seems to be the issue?”

“Concussion and a broken arm,” Sam said firmly. “She needs her head looked at.”

“I’ve been told that a lot,” Darcy sighed.

The nurse looked like she was stifling laughter, apparently that was going around. “Well, before we bring you in for x-rays or anything like that, miss, we need to know if there’s a possibility that you might be pregnant?”

“Nope, none.”

The nurse glanced from Darcy to Sam and back again, “Are you sure?

That made Darcy pause and look at Sam, “I’m pretty sure that, concussion or no, I’d remember if I’d had sex with him. I mean, he doesn’t look like he’d be forgettable.”

The nurse could no longer hold back her laughter and Sam had his eyes shut, as if asking for patience from a deity – she recognized that look. “We just exchanged our first words today,” he clarified, reaching up and pulling his shirt down to show the nurse Darcy’s, I think I just broke my arm. Again. printed just below his clavicle.

“Ohhhh…” Darcy murmured, reaching up to run her fingers over the slanted cursive, “so that’s where they are.”

The nurse was smiling at them like they were a box of puppies, “And yours, dear?”

“On the arm I haven’t broken,” she explained. “Hey,” she turned to Sam, “you should sign my cast, when I get it, that way you’ll have written on both my arms.”

Going by the nurse’s expression, they’d just been upgraded to ‘box of puppies and kittens sleeping together.’

The rest of their emergency room experience was a bit of a blur for Darcy. Partially because she kind of knew the drill, by now, partially because somebody finally gave her the good drugs (yay!), and partially because of her concussion, which they decided was mild enough she could go back home with no worries. She had to admit, though, that she hadn’t had so many nurses and doctors grinning at her since her eight-year-old self had tried explaining the deathly danger of ‘Red Rover.’

Aunt Jo got to the hospital just as Darcy was about to be released. “Sweetie!” she called, dashing over, “The neighbors told me what happened, and your uncle has a whole lot of explaining to do…” She didn’t seem surprised to see Sam, but the arm he had wrapped around Darcy’s shoulders while he sat beside her on the hospital bed warranted a raised eyebrow. “It was very nice of you to bring her here, Sam,” she said in a tone that very clearly communicated What are you doing touching my drugged and injury-impaired niece?

“I – “

“He’s my soulmate, Auntie Jo,” Darcy interrupted, “small world, huh?”

Jo started laughing – seriously, was there something in the air today? – “Oh, Darcy, only you.

“She said she had strong opinions on ambulances, so I drove her here,” Sam explained.

“At no time between meeting and reaching the hospital did we have sex,” Darcy put in, frowning as she added, “the nurses didn’t seem to believe me at first.”

Jo looked very amused at Sam’s deer-in-headlights expression. “She has a slightly better filter when she’s not injured. Slightly.

“But ninety percent of the time – “

“She speaks her mind every time,” Jo finished, and that was an Anchorman reference, wasn’t it? This was why her family was fantastic. Well, this and the free rent and the randomly-living-next-to-her-soulmate thing.

“Darcy,” Sam said, turning back to her, “I think your aunt wants to take you home.”

“Okay.”

“And when you’re no longer concussed, I’d like to take you on a date…?”

“Okay, not sure why that was a question. I mean, duh, of course I want to date you. You’re Sexy Running Man, and you're my soulmate.”

“I am going to have so much fun giving a toast at your wedding,” Aunt Jo declared gleefully.