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Darcy's wanted to be a lobbyist since she was four years old. 

 

Most people assume she's pretty flighty. She doesn't know why exactly, but she suspects it's probably something to do with her porn star rack and the nine non-required electives she took in college. But she hasn't wavered once in her career path since she demanded her fifth birthday be super PAC-themed, excepting a brief period in seventh grade, when a bad algorithm on a career test had told her she should be in law enforcement. The school counselor made everyone re-take the test a week later and Darcy was restored to her rightful place on the hierarchy as a future office assistant/executive secretary, but she couldn't deny that after that, the niggling suspicion that it would feel good to carry a gun stuck around in the back of her mind. 

 

So she got a taser for college and then she got a concealed carry permit as a graduation present to herself. And then, because she was going to be a lobbyist, even after Thor and London and Thanos and the whole being dead for five years thing, she plomped herself down in a cheap, shitty apartment in D.C. and started waving her resumé around town. When that didn't work, she bought a lot of tight dresses and a push-up bra she didn't need, put on dark red lipstick and started cruising hotel bars looking for senators to rope into a sex scandal. That didn't work either, but those nine non-required electives made her an interesting conversationalist, so by the time she's actually granted an interview, she waltzes into the office armed with enough Capitol Hill dirt to plant a whole new Rose Garden.

 

They're going to hire her. She knows they're going to hire her. She knocked the socks off them with that monologue on how they could usher the Mutant Minors Privacy Act through Congress, and now they're muttering to each other on the other end of this very long table, and when they're done they're going to hire her. She's going to be a lobbyist. She's seconds away.

 

So of course, that's when Phil Coulson walks through the door. 

 

"Hi," he says, and then when the interviewers all stand, "Oh, no need to get up. I'm just here to inform you that Ms. Lewis is on one of our government watch lists. I can't disclose the nature of her crimes, but they prohibit her from being within 500 feet of any government building, including the post office. We don't usually make these visits in person, I made an exception."

 

Shocked silence descends. He smiles mildly. "Of course you should feel free to hire her. It's your decision. This is just a courtesy call. Anyway. Have a nice day."

 

Coulson's waiting for her when security escorts her out onto the sidewalk. Darcy has three quarters of a mind to pull her gun out of her purse and blow his smarmy brains out, but the first thing he says is, "Sorry," which sort of takes all the wind out of her sails. So she doesn't shoot him. Instead she says, "What the fuck, man? Is that, like, how you show affection?"

 

"We need you to come in," Coulson says, in that infuriatingly casual way he has, like they're just talking about the weather. "There's a situation in Eastern Europe."

 

Darcy squeezes the bridge of her nose. She left her glasses at home so she wouldn't look too frumpy for the interview, but she's wishing she hadn't right about now, because she can feel a stress headache coming on, and the fact that everything is slightly blurry isn't helping. "I'm not going to be Jane's lab assistant again," she says. "I'm my own person. I know you don't really understand what that means, working for the great shady megolith, but--"

 

"You and Dr. Foster will both be billed as consultants. Equal rank, equal pay." 

 

Darcy squints at him. "Is that supposed to be some sort of gesture? Like, will I be caffeine consultant? I'm not going back to fetching coffee, even if you want to overpay me for it."

 

"It's not a gesture." Coulson looks slightly uncomfortable. "When it comes to dealing with magic, SHIELD is slightly understaffed. You and Dr. Foster have more experience in this area than all of our other experts combined. We're not equipped to handle this. We need your...consultation."

 

"You were about to say 'help' right there, weren't you?"

 

"No. Don't think so."

 

Darcy sighs. She can see Capitol Hill from here. It's a straight shot down East Capitol Street. The little girl who read debates about campaign finance law with a flashlight under her covers after lights out is throwing a tantrum inside her, screaming and crying--ugly, snotty crying--kicking at her ribcage and begging to be let out. But if Phil Coulson is asking for her help, whatever's going on in Eastern Europe must be bad. If she can help--in any capacity--doesn't she have some sort of existential duty to do so? The voice in the back of her head that's been muttering poisonous words of doubt ever since she got 'law enforcement' on that dumb career test has been getting louder and more persuasive ever since Jane ran over a Norse god with her camper. The concealed carry permit didn't really calm it down.

 

She uses all the body weight she's gained since childhood as leverage to shove her younger self viciously down into a cardboard box, then seals the whole thing with packing tape until she can't hear the wailing anymore. Then she squints at the blurry-far off Capitol Hill and seriously considers yanking all the packing tape back off and marching inside to tell the dummies in the office that Coulson's just a disgruntled ex who's trying to sabotage her. Then she makes a frustrated noise and stacks some other boxes on top of the one her dream of being a lobbyist is trapped in, to make sure it doesn't get out. 

 

Then she turns to Coulson and says, "Okay. But I'm not flying commercial."

 


 

SHIELD, or whatever they're calling themselves these days, do have a Magical Operations Division--MOD for short--but it's really just two guys who got mind-controlled by Loki way back when (which somehow makes them qualified) and Wanda, who occasionally deigns to pop in and make some vague observations about the "energy" of things. Dr. Strange functions more as a perpetual thorn in Darcy's side than as an ally. He tends to show up on the tail end of the proceedings, when they're wrapping everything up, when the bad guy's been handled and they're carting whatever rogue mysterious artifact off to HQ, just to thieve away the fruits of their labors. No help at all.

 

They operate out of the basement of SHIELD's office building in New York. When Darcy and Jane were brought on board, their budget allowed them to purchase two, maybe three pencils a month. By the time they've been there a week--once Darcy's wormed her way into budget meetings she's not supposed to be in and made an unladylike amount of noise about how fucking awful things went the last time the world underestimated magic users (did someone say 'Battle of New York'?), they have enough to cover motel rooms as long as they sleep two to a bed when they're in the field. She takes it as a win.

 

A month in Jane gets poached by R&D, and Darcy's left running things alone.

 

It's not, like, technically the most unqualified she's ever been for a job--that would be when her mom left her tending bar at the fragile age of twelve--but Darcy's in over her head. Pretty soon someone's going to realize she's held together with floss and chewing gum. She hasn't gotten her period in six months because of stress, and while half of her loves the reprieve, the other half is aware of how biologically not great that is. Budget haggling was one thing, but now she's expected to go to department head briefings. Mostly she sits in the back with the assistant department heads and takes a lot of notes on the slideshows and tries to pretend she's qualified to deal with Avengers-level threats. 

 

She chases Coulson down in the hall after one of those briefings--literally chases him, because he sees her coming and starts to walk faster. "Phil!" she calls. "Hey, Phil! PHIL!"

 

He sighs, but stops. "Ms. Lewis. Good morning."

 

"Don't 'Ms. Lewis' me." Darcy leans against the wall, winded from the short jog. "I thought this was supposed to be a consulting gig. Consulting generally means you come in when there's a problem, you help figure out how to fix it, and then you go home. Going home is the operative part here, Phil. You're not supposed to come in to help and end up running the division."

 

Coulson looks like he'd like to roll his eyes heavenward. He doesn't, though. "It's a temporary position," he says reasonably. "Just until we find someone more qualified."

 

"When do you think that will be? Sometime before my 30th birthday?"

 

Coulson sees right through her. "You're doing fine, Darcy. No one's died, the world hasn't ended. In this business that's the best track record you can hope for."

 

Darcy makes a frustrated noise. She finds she does that a lot these days. "Fine. But I need new people. The ones you saddled me with are dumber than my ex-boyfriend."

 

"I'm guessing he wasn't too smart."

 

"Ian? He was a genius, but he was an idiot."

 

"I know the type." Coulson angles his body like he's about to make a dignified run for it, which Darcy takes as the end of the conversation. But before he goes, he says, "There's a list on the secure network of people we have on contract who aren't currently assigned. You can have anyone you want from there."

 

When Darcy logs onto the secure network later that night to check it out, she nearly spits coffee all over her keyboard. She thought Coulson was just brushing the problem off earlier, but this is a serious windfall. The names on this list...she might just be able to turn MOD into a functioning department after all.

 

She calls Clint Barton first and gets told to fuck off by someone she assumes is his wife, Laura. Normally she'd call back for round two, but Laura didn't really seem like the sort of person who took prisoners, and Darcy didn't want to get on the bad side of the Earth's greatest sniper, so she bumped him to the bottom of the list. Next she calls Maria Hill, who hears her out but at the end says, "Listen, here's my advice. Quit. Just quit. Get out now, while you still can. I can get you a job at the CIA."

 

"Tempting," Darcy drawls, "but I can't leave until I get Nick Fury to shotgun a beer."

 

Maria laughs at that. She tells Darcy she's welcome to call if she ever needs advice, but turns down the offer. Tony Stark's on the list, but Darcy figures asking Tony to work with magic would be like asking an oceanographer to help you put out a wildfire, so she skips him. Natasha Romanoff's voicemail message is very Russian and very threatening, so Darcy just hangs up. Sam Wilson's is less threatening. It says, "I don't care who you are. If you are the President or Jesus Christ himself, do not leave me a message. Do not. I am in Tahiti and I am getting some much-needed R&R, so call someone else to save the damn world." Then the beep sounds. Darcy spends a minute saying, "Uhhhh," like a total idiot before she manages to blurt out, "Sorry!" and hangs up.  

 

Probably she shouldn't have started with the high rollers. Oh, well--there's only one name left on her "wildly optimistic" list, so she might as well try it. It's an NYC area code. She dials.

 

"Hello?" says Bucky Barnes.

 

"Hey," says Darcy. "Hi. My name is Darcy Lewis, I run the Magical Operations Division at SHIELD. We're having a bit of a personnel crisis right now, and I was wondering if you'd be interested in joining the team, on a temporary basis."

 

Bucky's quiet for a long minute. Darcy's never really been good at silence, so she hastens to fill it. "I know you're probably tired of saving the world, but we mostly do small-scale stuff. You know, a serial killer here, a demonic summoning there. It's way below your paygrade, but--"

 

"Sure."

 

"--you'd be doing me a big favor, and--wait, 'sure'? You said 'sure.'"

 

"Sure did." He's laughing at her. She can hear it.

 

"Well, okay then. We're in the SHIELD office building in Manhattan, I'm sure you've been here. We're in the basement right now, but I'm trying to get that changed. Can you start...Monday?"

 

"Yeah," Bucky says, like it ain't no thing. "Yeah, that's fine. I just got one question. You don't mind if I bring Steve along, do you? He's been going stir crazy cooped up in the house.”

 

Someone yells SHUT UP in the background of the call, and Darcy gapes. "Steve Rogers?" she asks. "Like, Captain America Steve Rogers?"

 

"The one and only."

 

Darcy manages to shut her mouth. "Sure. The more the merrier, right?"

 

“See you Monday, ma’am.”

 

She summarily fires Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum the next morning. They look at her like she might've had a mental break overnight, which is fair because she fell asleep on her keyboard and typed an infinite number of BBBBBBBBBBBBBs into what was supposed to be a findings report on that magically-charged dog they found teleporting around Central Park last week. She's sure she looks like she belongs in a ward, but it's fine because no matter how ratty her hair is or how unprofessional her pajama pants are or how many pimples she's going to have to disappear tonight, she has coffee. And now she has Captain America and the Winter Soldier. So. Things are looking up.

 

The rest of the day is spent figuring out how she's going to pay Captain America and the Winter Soldier when she can barely afford to buy herself lunch. After the fourth hour of trying to finagle the math so that she can afford ammo and pastrami and her new hires, she reminds herself that what she's wanted to do since she was four years old is con people into giving her money for a good cause, then marches right up to Fury's office, tells his secretary it's about the Asgardian Free Trade Treaty, and bursts into the room without knocking. The director doesn't look surprised to see her--but then, he never looks surprised to see anybody. He very calmly turns off what he's been watching on his holoscreen (women's tennis), moves the cat in his lap onto the floor, and says, "My secretary is fired."

 

"No I'm not!" his secretary shouts, from out in reception. "You wouldn't last an hour!"

 

"If you fire him, I'll take him," Darcy says. 

 

“You can’t have him. Now sit down and tell me who the hell you are.”

 

Darcy plops down on the chair across from his desk. The burst of chutzpah and pure adrenaline that drove her up here has worn off, and now she feels slightly silly, like a kindergartener who’s demanded to see the principal because she wants an extra minute added to nap time. “I’m Darcy Lewis,” she says. “I’m the head of MOD. That’s the Magical Operations Division.”

 

“The what?”

 

“Magical Operations Division.”

 

Fury sighs and rubs a knuckle into his forehead. “Coulson recruit you?” Darcy nods. “I swear to God, every time I blink that man’s started a new division. It’s fucking exhausting. What do you want?”

 

“Money,” Darcy blurts. “I just hired Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes to come in and help out temporarily, but I don’t have enough money in the budget to pay them, so--“

 

Fury throws his head back and laughs. “Oh, God. Don’t pay those idiots. By the time you take damages out of their paychecks they’ll end up paying you. Plus, they’re living large on seventy years of government pensions, they don’t need your money. Take them on as volunteers if you want, but I’d go out and get yourself a couple of junior agents, too. Rogers and Barnes aren’t big on paperwork.”

 

The cat winds its way through Darcy’s legs. She tilts her head at Fury and considers him for a long moment, trying to figure him out. “Are you, like, my mentor now? My Mr. Miyagi?”

 

Fury’s expression hardens. “No. Get the hell out.”

 

Darcy gets the hell out, and then for good measure gets the hell down to the lobby and the hell out of the building, because she hasn’t been home in 56 hours. The commute to Staten Island is reminiscent of Dante’s descent into hell, but Darcy only has to make it approximately every three days, so she copes. Plus, living in Jane’s ex-colleague’s house (that he’s not using because he’s on sabbatical in Argentina) is free and Darcy’s wallet likes free. So she’s standing on the top deck of the Staten Island ferry, her hands shoved in the pockets of her parka, face buried in the faux fur fringe of the hood, freezing her tits off, when she serendipitously runs into her first junior agent.

 

The ferry is just reaching the middle of the bay when the skies open up. Rain lashes against the deck, more punishing than Darcy’s ever felt. The fur of her hood is soaked in seconds, and mixes with her hair to blind her, sticking to her glasses. She shoves her hood back, but that’s not any better. At first she tells herself it’s just a storm, even as people are screaming and running for cover on the lower decks--but then the deck lurches under her feet and massive tentacles of water surge up to take hold of the boat. “What the fuck?!” Darcy shouts, but the tentacles don’t answer, so instead she draws her gun and pumps half the clip into them. Obviously, since they’re water, the bullets just slice right through. Darcy lets her gun fall. She’s the only one left on the deck--or she thinks she is, until she turns and sees a five-foot-nothing Japanese girl walking right up to the body of the water beast. 

 

After everything, after the Coast Guard and the NYPD boats have fished them all out of the bay and delivered them, frozen and huddled in shock blankets, back unto the shores of Manhattan, Darcy finds the girl inhaling a paper cup of hot cocoa. Her goth eyeliner is smeared all over her face, but there’s something vaguely insane in her wide eyes that Darcy recognizes. She guesses you’d probably have to be crazy, to be able to slice your hand open, reach into your own chest and pull a fucking seven-foot magic staff out of your sternum. But hey, whatever works. The girl’s name is Nico Minoru and she apparently just moved back to New York after college and is looking for a job. Darcy barely gets out the fact that she works for SHIELD before Nico’s saying, “Yes. Yes, I’ll take the job. Holy crap, I’m so tired of ramen.”

 

Her second junior agent, she meets because he runs into her in the cantine and explodes vanilla pudding all over her blouse. His name is Gene, he just got back from working at the SHIELD base on the moon, he hasn’t heard any new music in five years and when she makes a joke about cum while they’re trying to get pudding off themselves, he turns bright red. She hires him because she loves a guy she can out-maneuver in the dirty joke department, which is probably a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen, but what the hell. She never wanted this job anyway.

 

So when Steve and Bucky show up on Monday morning, it’s to an outfit that is three (sometimes four, when Wanda’s around) people strong, not just one. It’s almost a real division.

 


 

Darcy has nightmares about the Blip. It’s been a year, but she still has nightmares.

 

They’re not specific, and they’re not technically frightening. When she wakes up she can’t remember what was in them, what she saw that left her gasping in a cold sweat, but she remembers the darkness, the sense endless nothingness all around her, the inability to feel her own body, like her brain was sending signals but her limbs weren’t there to get them, and the silence--so absolute she couldn’t even hear her own heartbeat. If she even had a heartbeat. She thinks she’s dreaming of what it was like to be dead. She can never get back to sleep afterwards--doesn’t want to, because she doesn’t want to go back there, wherever there is--so instead she cranks early naughties Mariah on her clunky old iPod and goes for a run, up to the ferry, across Manhattan and into work.

 

She was in bad shape when she started working at SHIELD, but after one too many close calls with demons let loose from amateur summoning circles, she signed herself up for some voluntary hand to hand courses, started hitting the firing range, and adopted the time-honored tradition of the morning run. It takes two sports bras to keep her boobs under control, which is sweaty and gross, but the women’s locker room in the Manhattan office building is state of the art, so she doesn’t mind having to shower before work. She always makes sure she has a change of clothes in her locker--she learned her lesson the first time, when she forgot and had to wear a SHIELD sweatsuit all day.

 

Sometimes she’ll meet Steve for breakfast. Bucky’s not an early riser, but Steve’s up before five, so they convene at the diner across the street from work and pig out. 

 

Usually Darcy’s self-conscious about the amount of food she can put down, but around Steve her short stack of pancakes and side of bacon looks like chump change. She loves their breakfasts, and not just because Steve’s easy on the eyes. (Though the first time he slides into the booth and says, “Sorry, Buck was wrapped around me like a damn octopus,” she nearly has a spontaneous orgasm.) He tells her stories from his Avengers days, highly classified stuff she definitely doesn’t have clearance for; somehow he manages to do it without sounding like he’s questioning her fitness to lead, without pointing out how much of a better choice for commander he would be. He makes it...helpful. Like a lesson she doesn’t even know she’s getting until it’s over.

 

“I thought that was a zoo,” he’s saying one morning, over their third cups of coffee. “If only I’d known what was coming my way in those Congressional hearings. I swear to God, politics is worse than Coney Island on the Fourth of July.”

 

“Capitol Hill is a cruel mistress,” Darcy agrees around a mouthful of pumpkin spice pancakes, “but she was my first love, and one day I shall return to her.”

 

Steve gives her a skeptical look.

 

“I was a political science major,” Darcy explains, with slightly more dignity. “I was going to be a lobbyist, Steve. I was going to talk crusty old white men into doing my bidding.”

 

“You were? How?”

 

“Hand me the syrup, would you?” He passes it to her. She snaps the cap open. “Like that.”

 

Steve snorts a laugh in that begrudging way he does when he wants you to know he didn’t think your joke was that funny, but he appreciated the effort. “I guess I just don’t really know what lobbyists do. I’ve heard of them, obviously--I lived in D.C.--but...”

 

They started the morning with a riveting but biased recounting of the Avengers’ first encounter with some sort of sea god calling himself Namor, which had warped into a parable about the importance of knowing one’s limits as a mission commander. There hadn’t been anyone else in the diner when they’d sat down, but now they’re joined by businesspeople in smart suits, security guards on the way home from the night shift, kids in school uniforms. 

 

Darcy knows they have about fifteen minutes before they have to head across the street to work, but she’s to make the most of it. She’s never had the opportunity to teach Steve anything before. “Oh, buddy,” she starts, leaning in. “That was such a mistake. Okay, crash course--“

 

She spends the next half hour regaling Steve with the greatest hits from lobbying history. Most people are asleep by the time she hits the great Wikipedia blackout of 2012, but Steve’s actually paying attention to what she’s saying. That’s another thing she likes about their breakfasts--usually she has to put on her push up bra to get people to pay attention to her, but right now she’s got on two sports bras, flatter than she’s been since she hit puberty at age eleven, and Steve’s still listening intently. “It’s not about the money,” she says, as they’re entering SHIELD’S lobby. “Not the money you’re getting paid, at least. It’s about--“

 

“Getting things done in spite of the system, not because of it,” Steve finishes for her. “I guess that’s why MOD runs so smoothly, huh? We’ve got a lobbyist in charge.”

 

Darcy smiles. She almost tells him that no one’s ever understood it like that before, but then she reminds herself that this is not a rom com and she is not his quirky love interest.

 

His quirky love interest is a defrosted Soviet assassin. 

 

Oh, Bucky. It took Darcy a month to get him to stop calling her “ma’am,” and even then it was only because she started telling him he was only allowed to call her that in bed, and it got on his nerves so much (she mostly did it in public) that he caved and started calling her Darcy. He’s an enigma, that one. The consummate ladies’ man who shacked up with his best friend Steve and shushes her when she tells dick jokes in mixed company. Darcy’s beginning to think trying to put her finger on him is a lost cause--as is trying to put her whole hand on him, since he and Steve are so married it’s disgusting. Plus, she’s his boss, and she’s already had to stomp on enough sexual harassment suits from Gene.

 

That’s not to say she and Bucky don’t get along. They get along just fine, especially when they’re traipsing through the backwater wilderness of Haiti looking for rogue sorcerers, like right now. 

 

There are a lot more mountains in Haiti than Darcy thought there were, and her calves are killing her. All that running on flat sidewalks and treadmills hasn’t prepared her for the task of hiking up the side of a steep slope in the middle of the night, slipping on loose leaves underfoot and pulling herself along with handholds on vines that could very well turn into snakes at any moment, what with all the voodoo bullshit that’s been going around lately. They left Steve back in Port-au-Prince to try to get information from the locals, since he speaks French, and Nico and Gene are back at the quinjet because Darcy has learned her lesson about not guarding the quinjet. 

 

Which leaves her and Bucky, trying to find Jericho Drumm, Brother Voodoo, Houngan Supreme, He-Who-Has-Died-Twice, Master of All Reptiles and Lord of Many, Many Names. 

 

“I didn’t sign up for this, you know,” Darcy’s complaining. “I was supposed to be working in D.C. Politics, man. Clean offices, lunch breaks, muffin baskets, kitten heels. Not fucking jungles.”

 

“You’re preachin’ to the choir, babydoll,” Bucky says. He’s up ahead, hacking away at the thick jungle growth with a machete and a tired expression. “I signed up to fight in France--you know, cheese, chocolate, wine, beautiful women of loose morals.”

 

Darcy flicks a beetle off her arm and reminds herself she’s a SHIELD agent, damn it, and SHIELD agents don’t shriek. “Well, at least this jungle has one of your things. It’s got none of my things.”

 

“I don’t see any cheese around here.”

 

“Ah, but if you’ll look to your six you’ll find one beautiful woman of loose morals.”

 

He turns, and she flashes him a smile. But instead of laughing at her joke, he looks concerned. “You don’t have loose morals,” he says, like he’s disappointed. “Your morality’s top-notch.”

 

Darcy snorts. “Sure. That’s why I used to flash my tits around town looking for secrets I could use to influence powerful men into giving me a job. Top-notch morality.”

 

Bucky makes a noise like psh and goes back to hacking. “That’s nothing, Darce. That’s just recon.”

 

He makes it a good 30 yards uphill before Darcy realizes she’s standing frozen, her heart smiling at his words. And isn’t that a stupid figure of speech--her heart smiling. But it is, it’s smiling a dumb, goofy smile, because she never in a million years thought anyone, let alone someone who was born before color television, would think that using her body for personal gain was just good business. She’s always believed that working with what she’s been given is sort of a no-brainer, but the rest of the world isn’t so enlightened. 

 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to use her measurements or her sultry smile to make this slope any less steep. But it’s only a few minutes later when a strange smoke starts to fill the jungle, like heavy fog descending from the mountaintop in waves. They have to stop in place or risk getting hopelessly turned around, but Bucky gets the sense something’s heading their way, so they move to stand back to back and draw their guns. As the smoke thickens it seems to block out the noise of the jungle, so the only thing Darcy can hear is the sound of her own heartbeat, and the only thing she can feel is the sweat cooling on her face and the smoke tickling her nostrils and the steady motion of Bucky’s breathing against her back.

 

Then Jericho is there. And he brings his snakes.

 

When it’s all over and they’ve decided--with the mediation of Dr. Strange, who’s apparently been hanging out with Brother Voodoo for years and never thought to mention it--that they’d rather be friends than enemies, Darcy flops down on a bench in the quinjet and says, “No more snakes. I’m done with snakes.”

 

Steve laughs and flicks her in the knee. “You can’t be done with snakes.”

 

“Why not? If I say ‘I’m done,’ I’m done.”

 

“Snakes have been here since the beginning,” Bucky pipes in. “They ain’t goin’ anywhere.”

 

“Are you talking about Genesis? The Garden of Eden? Because I hate to break it to you, but the Bible doesn’t exactly represent a faithful rendering of reality--“

 

“Course I’m not talking about Genesis,” Bucky cuts her off. “Evolution, Darce. Ever heard of it? Fish came up onto land as snakes, then grew legs, then--everything else.”

 

“You’ve got the spirit,” Nico calls from the cockpit. “But I think you skipped a few steps.”

 

As the quinjet engine rumbles and they take off into the sky, Bucky goes to retrieve the first aid kit from the bathroom. He and Darcy made it out of the jungle with mostly superficial scratches--his are already healing, but Darcy can feel every one of hers throbbing in time with her massive headache. What she needs is a cup of coffee and a soak in some epsom salt, but what she’s going to get is a SHIELD standard-issue caffeine pill and a few butterfly bandages. Bucky passes Steve on his way back into the cargo hold and presses a quick kiss to his lips, like one of those perfunctory kisses you give your spouse when you get home from work. Darcy averts her eyes so she doesn’t get any ideas. 

 

The issue is, she already has ideas. She has a lot of ideas, and very few of them are PG.

 


 

Darcy’s never really been as promiscuous as she pretends to be. It’s a role she fell into mostly by accident in high school--the nerdy girl who hides her killer body under grandma sweaters but can suck dick like a $1,000 hooker. Really she can probably only suck dick like a $50 hooker, and that’s just a wild guess because she’s only sucked like three dicks in her life. She’s only slightly more sexually experienced than Jane, who she suspects made Thor read a lot of pamphlets about human female anatomy before she let him anywhere near her lady parts.

 

So when she overhears Steve and Bucky getting it on in the supply closet at work, she doesn’t do anything drastic like invite herself inside. She just takes a very long lunch break, rushes home to Staten Island, scrambles under her sheets and has a long stress-relief session with her vibrator. And if when she goes back into work she can’t exactly meet either of their gazes, still thinking about those noises she heard through the door and how Steve picked her up and carried her when she sprained her knee on a mission last week, how Bucky rubs his metal thumb over his lower lip when he’s trying to concentrate on a report, still thinking about how she had to come three times just to take the edge off, overheated by the fantasy of their bodies moving with barely-suppressed power between her legs, Bucky’s mouth warm on her stomach and Steve’s hand grabbing her breast--well, that’s no one’s business but her own.

 

Nevertheless she’s suffered through enough sexual harassment seminars courtesy of Gene and legal to know that none of this is kosher. Not fantasizing about her employees (even though they’re technically volunteers), not bringing herself off over the memory of Steve’s rare full-strength smile, not pinning Bucky on the sparring mat and lingering just a little too long astride his hips. 

 

“I’m a mess,” she tells Wanda, over drinks. “A complete disaster.”

 

“Cheers to that, babe,” Wanda deadpans, and pours her another shot. She’s acquired a whole bottle of Sokovian vodka from behind the bar, which is probably going to get them kicked out any moment now, but Darcy’s already too drunk to care, so she just knocks it back. 

 

“I mean,” she says, as the burn settles in her gut, “two guys at once? Two? I can barely handle one, on a good day. And look at them. They’re not normal guys, either.”

 

Wanda drinks straight from the bottle. “You forget that I was in a relationship with a multi-dimensional being created by combining an infinity stone and Stark’s AI. One time he phased right through me while we were having sex. I know absolutely nothing about normal.”

 

“They’re practically married, Wanda,” Darcy laments. “They live in this cute little brownstone in Brooklyn with potted plants and reclaimed wood floors. They wear each other’s shirts and almost never talk in complete sentences because they don’t have to because they’ve been best friends since the 1920s. I don’t think I could’ve picked anyone less available if I tried.”

 

“You could’ve picked Fury,” Wanda says, then snorts vodka out her nose. “Ow. Ow.

 

“You deserve that. Fury? Are you fucking kidding me? I’m never getting rid of that mental image. Ew ew ew ew ew. Do you think he takes the eyepatch off in bed? No, don’t answer that. Ew.”

 

But Wanda just laughs some more. 

 

They do eventually get kicked out of the bar--a dive joint in Brighton Beach--but they just go stumbling down the street and get in line at the first dance club they see. Darcy’s usually the one who has to drag Jane around all night, but with Wanda she’s just along for the ride, pouring bright blue alcohol down her throat and losing her blazer that has her glasses and her SHIELD pass in it and calling HQ to notify them, yelling to them over the phone while Wanda drags her back out onto the dancefloor. Darcy surrenders herself to the crush of anonymous bodies and the heavy beat of the music, Wanda’s hands on her hips and Wanda’s voice in her ear and Wanda yelling YOMAYO! over all the noise, barely audible. Around three in the morning they go outside to hail a cab and notice that neither of them have any money, after which they try to call an Uber, but Wanda’s phone is dead and Darcy’s is telling her she has to update the app but she can’t remember her iCloud password, so she calls Jane.

 

Jane’s maybe the worst driver in history, but she convinced one of the agents a while back to let her have access to the motor pool, because she gets sea sick on the ferry. She rolls up outside the club half an hour after Darcy’s call in a shady-looking black van, rolls the window down and shouts, “Darcy!” Then, when Darcy and Wanda appear, she gets out and says, “You’re driving. I’m so tired.”

 

“I’m so drunk,” Darcy counters.

 

“You’re the worst,” Jane says. “The absolute worst.” But she gets back in the driver’s seat.

 

Darcy wakes up at five A.M. because she fell asleep on her phone and it’s ringing. The vibrations grind against her skull like some sort of metaphor on modern technology and lobotomization. She rolls over, hits someone else in her bed--Wanda--and answers, “What?”

 

Gene’s voice blasts in her ear, “It’s the situation in Eastern Europe.”

 

“Jesus Christ, Gene, stop yelling. Whisper to me. What’s going on with Eastern Europe?”

 

I don’t know,” Gene whispers. “We lost contact with our field station.”

 

Darcy groans. “Great. Just what I needed on a Saturday morning. Book me a quinjet, sexy.”

 

She hangs up and pokes Wanda. Wanda takes a swing at her and burrows deeper into Darcy’s covers, so Darcy pulls her hair and says, “Get up. Duty calls, and you’re coming with me.”

 

Wanda swears she’s just going to run back to her apartment for a change of clothes, but thirty minutes after they were scheduled to take off, Darcy’s standing in the quinjet hangar alone, waiting for her. All the people in college who thought she was flighty clearly never met the Scarlet Witch. Darcy calls Steve and Bucky’s home phone, but no one picks up. No reason they should--it’s a Saturday morning. She sighs, and considers calling Nico, but her junior agent’s had to work the last three weekends, and she deserves the time off. Darcy can handle this alone. Eastern Europe is always easy. It’s probably just a problem with the field office’s secure line, anyways.

 


 

Eastern Europe is a shit show.

 

Turns out the MOD field office stopped checking in because the people who work in the field office are all in hiding. There’s an army of fucking cat people combing the forest looking for them, and Darcy, like an idiot, lands her quinjet on the helipad at the subterranean MOD stronghold, which has been captured and turned into the cat people stronghold. She managed to put down three cups of coffee and some crackers on the way over the Atlantic, but she still hasn’t managed to kick the hangover, so when the first cat person lands on her winshield, cracking it with his claws, she just about pukes all over the controls.

 

Instead, she shoots him in his terrifying cat-man face and takes off again. 

 

Eventually she manages to track down the MOD agents in hiding, call in reinforcements from SHIELD, and restore the cat people to their regular non-magical housecat forms, but it takes the rest of the weekend, and it leaves her with deep cat-claw gashes in her thigh and her side. She stops off at the nearest SHIELD medical facility, in Paris, and basically passes out as soon as her butt hits a padded chair. They stitch her skin back together while she’s unconscious--thank god--prescribe her some standard-issue SHIELD painkillers, the kind that dull the pain but don’t dull her mind, and send her on her merry way. She catches an Air Force hop back across the Atlantic, since she can barely keep her eyes open long enough to pee, let alone fly a quinjet, and spends the whole eight hours dreaming feverishly of her childhood cat, Britney.

 

Part of her is looking forward to getting back to her basement office to file paperwork, if only so she can see Steve and Bucky and know that she’s not going to have to worry about anyone shooting at her for a couple hours. (Because they’ll handle anyone who shoots at her, no problem.) But when she slumps through the door in the change of clothes she keeps in her locker, the only one there is Nico. 

 

“Morning,” she says, swinging her combat boots off the desk. “How was your weekend? You look like shit. Like, worse than shit. Like shit someone stepped in.”

 

“Thanks,” Darcy says sarcastically. “Where is everyone?” She sits down at her desk, and feels how all the muscles in her body rejoice at once to no longer have to support her. “It is Monday, isn’t it?”

 

“Gene went up to the cantine for his second breakfast burrito, and Bucky called in and said Steve has the flu, so neither of them are coming in today.”

 

“Steve has the flu? Can Steve even get the flu?”

 

Nico shrugs. “I don’t know. Maybe it’s a super flu, or something.”

 

“Great. Just great.” Darcy drops her head in her hands. Even with the painkillers, her cat-claw gashes feel like they’re on fire, like her bones are throbbing. “Anything else?”

 

“Yeah. Coulson called, and they need us to come consult on something upstate. Apparently that Spider-Boy kid pulled some sort of cursed amulet off a bad guy.”

 

“I can’t go upstate right now. Call back and tell them to get Strange instead.”

 

“He tried that already, but Strange is in some sort of unbreakable meditation and Wong won’t let anyone disturb him or else something terrible and world-ending will happen.”

 

“Amazing. Fantastic. Okay, you’re driving. I’ll do paperwork on the flight.”

 

The cursed amulet turns out to be stuck to Peter Parker’s forehead, which causes a massive ruckus to be made and a whole round of NDAs to be signed before they’re allowed to take his mask off and look at it properly. Nico, blessing of blessings, recognizes the amulet from some sort of secret magic book that her mom has, so she and Darcy jet back to New York for a brief familial heist and a spot of lunch, then jet back upstate and magick the amulet off Peter Parker’s face. Since Dr. Strange is busy, they even get to keep the thing. By the time Darcy has locked it away in their sparsely-populated artifact safe, it’s almost ten p.m. She doesn’t think she can handle the ferry, so she charges an Uber to the company card and tells the driver to wake her when they get to Staten Island.

 

Tuesday morning is hell. It’s literally worse than coming back from the dead.

 

Darcy manages to get her bandages wet in the shower, then has to go through the daunting experience of changing them herself, since Jane spent the night at the office. She hasn’t seen the wounds since they sewed them up in Paris, but suffice to say they’re gross and looking at them turns her knees into jelly and she pukes three times, which she thinks makes her pop a stitch. She slumps against the bathroom wall, swallows her pride (and a little bit of bile), and calls Steve and Bucky’s home phone.

 

When Bucky picks up she nearly sobs. “Hey, babydoll,” he says.

 

“Hey, Buck,” she says. She hopes her voice sounds steady. “Are you--“

 

Listen, I’m glad you called,” he sounds concerned, and for a moment she thinks he’s going to ask her how everything went in Eastern Europe, but of course that’s insane. There’s no way he would know she even went to Eastern Europe. “Steve’s still under the weather, so I’m gonna stay home with him again.”

 

“Oh,” Darcy says.

 

Her hands are shaking. She threw a towel over her torso to keep from looking at the barbed-wire of her stitches, but she can still see the very end of the gash on her thigh. She wants someone to come over here and take care of her. She wants someone to pick her up off the floor and help her re-wrap her wounds and get her painkillers and watch dumb TV with her on the couch for a few hours until she starts to feel like herself again. She wants Steve to press a tender kiss to her forehead--even if he has the flu--and put an arm around her shoulders and tell her a lot of factually inaccurate stories about time travel. She wants Bucky to press his metal thumb into the dip of her chin and lick into her mouth and then maybe go and make her soup. He makes good soup.

 

But she’s a big girl. She’s the head of a division, damn it. Other agents get hurt all the time, and they’re fine. Bucky has to look after Steve, not her. She’s got no right to demand care. 

 

Darce?” Bucky asks, when she’s been quiet a minute. “You okay?”

 

“Fine, yeah,” Darcy says, digging deep into her well of old lies. “I just wanted to make sure you guys were okay. Take as much time off as you need, I want my team back at 100%.”

 

Bucky laughs lightly. “You got it, babydoll.”

 

Darcy hangs up and spends a minute banging her head against the bathroom wall saying fuck, fuck, fuck. Then she re-bandages her wounds, braids her wet hair, applies her industrial-strength foundation (the one that could hide Tony Stark’s goatee), and goes to catch the ferry.

 

The dynamic duo are back Friday morning. Steve apologizes profusely for having come down with a regular human illness, and rather than play that uncomfortable game where he acts embarrassed and she tries to assure him it’s fine, Darcy just says, “Get a flu shot next year, Steven,” and leaves it at that. Bucky spends the next week giving Steve shit for something he’s calling “The Mod Squad Incident,” until Steve snaps and threatens to reveal what happened on January 17th 1939. After that, Bucky clams up, and Nico makes it her own personal mission to needle the hell out of Steve until he gives up the goods. She lasts 48 hours before Steve reminds her, fondly but sternly, that he used to work with Tony Stark, and that there is no amount of nagging in the world that can get him to crack.

 

On a slow afternoon, Bucky’s teaching Nico how to “flirt with her eyes” so she can get her friend Karolina to go out with her, and Steve’s reading a report he found on a desk. The more he reads, the more his eyebrows come together in confusion. “Hey, Darcy,” he says.

 

“Hmm?” Darcy’s scrolling through an incident report from the field office in Texas. “Yeah, what is it?”

 

He flipped to a page in the report. “I keep seeing this thing mentioned--‘the situation in Eastern Europe’--but it never says explicitly what’s going on. What’s it talking about?”

 

“Victor Von Doom.”

 

“The President of Latveria?”

 

“The very same.” She scrolls past a picture of a bull slaughtered in the middle of a pentagram and wrinkles her nose. “He’s a magic user, a pretty powerful one, and he doesn’t like his neighbors, so we keep an eye on him 24/7 to make sure he’s not about to invade Sokovia with an army of golems.”

 

“Has he tried to do that?”

 

“Not with golems. But he did put up a pretty impressive roster of cat people last month.”

 

“Cat people?”

 

“Cats turned into people. Shit was creepy. Be glad you were on the bench.”

 

“Yeesh,” Steve says somberly. He drops the issue after that, which is good because Darcy’s not sure how she was going to steer around the fact that she’s still got scars from that particular invasion attempt, and her nightmares are now 50/50 Blipping and cat people. 

 

An hour later, the afternoon gets un-slow when they get called in as support in an all hands on deck situation in Nova Scotia. It’s giant robots. Darcy doesn’t know anything about robots, so she gets shunted into the emergency management tent to coordinate with the government of Canada, while Steve and Bucky are sent to the front lines to reunite with their old teammates. They left Nico and Gene to hold down the fort, with Dr. Strange on call because Wanda’s here in Canada too, zipping around the heads of the robots and trying to confound them. 

 

Darcy stops in her tracks outside the emergency tent. It’s snowing, mud frozen in canyons and valleys carved by the robot legion’s passage. The whole ground shakes with the force of their distant footsteps. The tents are set up few miles mile from the fighting, but Darcy can just make out the ghostlike forms of them in the haze of snow, towering as tall as skyscrapers, and the scarlet flashes of Wanda’s magic. She can hear voices, too--she might just be imagining it, but she swears she can hear them calling to each other, Steve and Bucky and the New Avengers. There’s something tight and urgent in her chest. She doesn’t want to be out there, not really, because she knows she wouldn’t be any use to them, but she wants to know what’s happening. She wants to know they’re safe. Instead, she makes herself turn and duck back inside the tent.

 

After the battle, when the robots have been felled and R&D is moving in to scrap the carcasses, Darcy rushes through the pandemonium at the fingertips of one gigantic hand. Medical has set up a few tents and are working to triage and send people who need more urgent care off in the quinjets, and Darcy heard over comms that a few of the Avengers were injured, and she can’t--she has to find--“Darcy!” someone shouts. She turns, and Steve’s coming toward her, blood and mud streaked on his Captain America uniform and snow in his blond hair, but whole, still in one piece.

 

She runs to meet him. He seizes her up in his arms, and she kisses him without even thinking.

 

Steve doesn’t miss a beat. He sinks his fingers in her hair, tugging at the tie in her ponytail, and hauls her in so her whole body is pressed against his whole body, so her feet are barely on the ground. He kisses her, and kisses her, and kisses her, like they’re trading biological information--Are you alright? I’m alright. Are you hurt? No, I’m fine, you idiot, are you hurt? 

 

Darcy thinks it must be an hour before she comes back to her senses and rips herself away, but probably it’s only about ten seconds. She can barely breathe. The chaos of the medical camp comes rushing back in around them, and Darcy finds the presence of mind to ask, “Bucky?”

 

“Fine,” Steve says. “He’s fine, his arm is banged up but Stark’s looking at it. Darce--“

 

“I have to go call Canada,” Darcy blurts, and flees.

 

Granted, it’s not her most graceful exit ever, but she’s never really been accused of making a lot of graceful exits. She runs into Bucky when they grab the same hop back to HQ, and spends a minute being absolutely terrified that he’s about to give her the “back off my man” speech, before he sits down next to her and falls asleep on her shoulder. Steve must not have had a chance to talk to him before he got on the quinjet, then. Oh, well. Darcy leans her head on top of Bucky’s and closes her eyes, resigned to enjoy these last few hours before he never speaks to her again.

 

They say bad things happen in threes, but in Darcy’s experience, they tend to happen in twos. It’s not as catchy, but it’s a much more manageable number. 

 

She thinks her two bad things for this go-around are the giant robots and the Steve kiss, until she wakes up in the middle of the night because all the pipes on her street have burst and someone’s trying to kill her with the water. 

 

The witch calls herself Calypso and is the same person responsible for the attack on the Staten Island ferry the night Darcy met Nico. Darcy gathers that much while she’s straining to hold her breath with her face mashed in the bathtub and a tentacle from her neighbor’s kitchen sink wrapped around her throat, holding her down. Every time Calypso talks, she can hear it like it’s coming from the water itself, not from outside it, which makes her think Calypso must be using some sort of water-based magic. And if there’s one thing she’s learned about water magic, it’s that the best way to get rid of it is with fire-based magic. 

 

She grabs the gun she keeps behind the toilet tank and shoots over her shoulder a few times until she hits something meaty. Calypso’s distracted long enough by the bullet wound that Darcy manages to stagger out into her bedroom, yank open her bedside table drawer, and pull out one of the talismans that Jericho gave her as a gesture of good will in Haiti. She slips it on her wrist, presses her tongue to the braid like he said--it tastes like smoke--and suddenly she’s engulfed in a shield of fire. It blazes a few inches from her skin, but it doesn’t feel hot, so she must be protected by some sort of magic barrier. Calypso sure isn’t, though--she shrieks when Darcy gets too close, and then flees into the night.

 

The water damage is the worst part, really. 

 

Between hacking water up out of her lungs and lamenting the fact that she’s going to have to write expense reports to re-carpet every house on the block, Darcy manages to call SHIELD.

 

Coulson sends out the Discreet Incident Response Team--DIRT. They’re quick about getting everything cleaned up and getting everyone into temporary housing. Darcy’s not a civilian, though, so she’s left to find her own place to sleep for the night. Since the only clothes she has left that aren’t completely soaked ar ein her locker at SHIELD, she decides to go in to work a few hours early. She hides her vibrator in her purse because the idea of it being bagged and brought in to HQ as evidence is mortifying, steals a winter coat from a junior DIRT agent to wear over her soaked pajamas, and goes to catch the ferry.

 

She’s intercepted halfway down the block when a motor pool van screeches to a halt in front of her. Darcy puts up her hand to shield her eyes from the headlights and shouts, “Watch where you’re going, asshole, I’m walking here!”

 

The person she expects to see pop out of the driver’s door is Jane. But instead, the headlights go dark, and Bucky rushes toward her. “Darcy,” he says, desperately. “Are you hurt? I heard over the radio--Jesus, baby, are you okay?”

 

“I’m...” Darcy says dumbly. 

 

She can’t say anything else, because Bucky’s hands are on her, all over her, looking for damage. She realizes she’s shivering. She wasn’t a moment ago, but now that she’s standing still and she’s with someone who can keep her safe, all the adrenaline is leaving her body and all that’s left is fear. “I’m fine,” she says, but she’s soaked and freezing and in the moment before she managed to grab the gun she saw black creeping in at the edges of her vision, the same nothing black that she lived in during the Blip. 

 

“I’m fine,” she repeats, but it’s more for herself than for Bucky. He pulls her into a hug. She buries her face in his chest, clinging to him like she’s heard you’re supposed to cling to tree trunks in tsunamis. Her hands twist in his jacket. He smells like Steve. She just breathes him in, trying to calm down, trying to talk herself into letting him go and stepping away, because she knows it’s not good to start relying on coping mechanisms that are unsustainable. She can’t always have him like this, when she needs him.

 

But he presses a kiss to the top of her head, on her wet hair, and it’s hard to remember why she can’t have him. It’s even harder to remember when he says, “Come on. I’m takin’ you home.”

 


 

Darcy wakes up in a thick burrito of blankets on Steve and Bucky’s couch. It’s the first time she’s woken up peacefully in a while. Yellow morning light streams in through the cream-colored curtains. Soft voices murmur in the kitchen. The smell of coffee wafts in through the cracked door. Outside, the sounds of the city provide a familiar form of comfort, a reassurance that no matter what happened in the dead of night, in the morning the world goes on. There’s a half-eaten bowl of soup on the coffee table. Darcy has vague memories of Bucky cooking for her last night, wound up with enough energy that he probably would’ve gone nova if he hadn’t channeled it into Campbell’s chicken noodle. 

 

She sits up, taking all of her blankets with her. Her cat people scars ache. They’re mostly healed, but she must’ve exacerbated them with everything she put her body through yesterday. She extricates herself from the burrito, and discovers she’s wearing someone else’s clothes--Steve’s or Bucky’s, she has no way of knowing--which she only sort of remembers changing into, with help. The fact that she doesn’t have a headache tells her she must’ve slept past the start of work, and she looks around for her phone for a minute, wanting to check the time, before she remembers it’s in a bag of rice on the kitchen counter. Where Steve and Bucky are. She still hasn’t dealt with the fallout from her Steve kiss yet. 

 

“Well,” she mutters to herself. “Time to face the music.”

 

The music turns out to be a breakfast spread of eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Darcy stands in the kitchen door for a minute, watching Steve and Bucky’s backs as they talk quietly at the stove, wondering how many pancakes she can shove in her purse before they notice she’s up and she has to make a run for it. Then she steps on a creaky floorboard, and the jig’s up.

 

Steve whips around. Pancake batter goes everywhere. “Darcy,” he says. “You’re up.”

 

“I’m up,” she agrees. 

 

He puts down the pan. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there last night. I was still up in Nova Scotia when Bucky called, and I got back here as quick as I could, but--”

 

“You didn’t have to do that,” Darcy says, laughing lightly. It’s not funny, but it’s like some sort of involuntary reaction, laughing. “You’re not, like, obligated to be around when I’m hurt, or anything. I’m not your--we’re not like that. You and Bucky are like that.”

 

She’s supposed to be a fast talker. She’s supposed to be able to spin a yarn so good it would make Obama’s speechwriters weep. She’s supposed to be cool, calm, and collected. She’s supposed to be in charge, damn it, and now she can’t even find the words to adequately tell two of her team members that she understands she can’t be with them, but she doesn’t understand why they have to keep blurring the lines like this. Her skills have left her.

 

Case in point: Steve looks confused. “But you kissed me,” he says.

 

Darcy looks at Bucky, panicked. Bucky sees right through her. “I’m glad you kissed Steve,” he says. “Steve’s glad you kissed Steve, too.” Steve blushes at that, and smiles sheepishly. “And we are ‘like that,’ Darce, to use your words. We’re all ‘like that,’ we’re all gonna want to be there when one of the others is hurt, because we care about each other and that’s what people who care about each other do.”

 

Steve’s nodding. “And even if you don’t want--shit!”

 

The pancakes are on fire. He dives for the stove and turns it off, and Bucky calmly upends an empty pot over the fire like they do this once a week. Probably they do. Darcy stands frozen in the threshold, her mind still replaying glad you kissed Steve, glad you kissed Steve, glad you kissed Steve. 

 

Once the fire is under control, Steve puts his hands on his hips and turns back to Darcy. His eyebrows are singed but his expression is serious. “Even if you don’t want a relationship with us, with both of us, we’re still gonna care about you.”

 

Darcy gapes. “Who says I don’t want a relationship with you?”

 

“Do you?” Bucky asks, cautious like he’s treading on uncertain ground. “Both of us?”

 

“Both of you, yeah,” Darcy confirms. “Both is good. Both is perfect.”

 

“Thank God,” Bucky says, and kisses her. Darcy’s barely awake, but she wakes up really, really fast. Bucky Barnes is a full-body kisser, let it be known--the sort of kisser who wraps an arm all the way around your back and bends at the knees to really get into it and pulls you closer and closer and closer until you’re a single heartbeat away from becoming part of his body. Steve says fuck breakfast somewhere behind them, and then Darcy’s being corralled up the narrow staircase, down an obstacle course masquerading as a hall--filled with stacks of books and laundry baskets and paintings yet to be hung--and into their bedroom. Bucky comes up for air. “Is this okay?” he asks. “Are you okay?”

 

Darcy’s having trouble getting her breathing under control. “Go slow,” she pants. “Just--go slow, please. I’ve only done this like six or seven times, and never with two people.”

 

Bucky’s expression softens. “I’ve got you, babydoll. We’ll go as slow as you want.”

 

Sex with Steve and Bucky involves a lot more laughing than Darcy’s past conquests. Steve gets caught up in his pants, trips and hits the floor like a ton of bricks. Bucky blows a raspberry on the inside of her thigh to make her squirm, and she nearly knees him in the nose. They find the still-healing scars from her last visit to the situation in Eastern Europe, and when she tells them it was cat people they burst out in boyish giggles, and it’s so much easier than whatever heavy revisitation of past mistakes she was expecting. Bucky sinks his metal fingers inside her up to the knuckle, his mouth pressed against her ear the whole time, an endless stream of the filthiest dirty talk she’s ever heard spilling past his lips.

 

She shoves on his shoulders to give him a skeptical look. “What the hell, Barnes? What happened to the guy who shushes my dick jokes?”

 

He smiles devilishly. Steve snorts and drops his head in his hands. “I ain’t no 1940s prude,” Bucky says. “I just think bedroom talk oughta stay in the bedroom, where I can act on it.”

 

With that last, he gives a deft twist of his hand, and Darcy’s eyes roll back in her head.

 

Later--after Steve’s gone sprinting downstairs in search of the condoms they keep in the living room and knocked over her purse, after he’s taken her apart with her vibrator and she’s felt Bucky’s tongue inside and yanked him up by the hair to lick her come off his chin, after she’s run downstairs in one of their t-shirts, grabbed popcorn, and pulled up a chair to watch the show as Steve came once on his own fingers and once on Bucky’s cock, after she’s improved her dick sucking ability by at least $100--Darcy lays loose-limbed and sweaty between the two of them, humming happily to herself, and lets the little lobbyist out of her box. Lets her walk around, cast a judgemental eye, see what she’s done with the place.

 

It was never about carrying a gun, Darcy knows. That niggling voice in the back of her head. And lobbying was never about power, or money, or an agenda. Darcy’s a millennial--she’s emotionally self-aware enough that she knows what’s going on here. It was about feeling safe. It was about getting a gun, getting power, getting money--so she could feel secure, so she could look after herself. Yeah, she liked the lying and she liked the politics and she liked the glamor of it all, but that wasn’t the endgame. This was the endgame. Steve saying something about how they’re gonna get stuck this way if they don’t wash off soon, Bucky laughing and pressing a kiss to her tit and saying he doesn’t mind, potted plants and reclaimed wood floors and a job where she’s in charge of making sure the world doesn’t end. Darcy can take care of herself. She knows she can, she’s done it before. But maybe--just maybe--she doesn’t have to. 

 

She sits up and climbs over Bucky, out of bed. “I’m going to take a shower. I can’t go into SHIELD smelling like I’ve been rolling around in a bunch of mothballs.”

 

Steve shoots her a questioning look. “Mothballs?”

 

“It’s a dig about our age, Stevie,” Bucky informs him solemnly. “We’ve fallen for a cruel, cruel woman.”

 

“Can your shower fit three people?” Darcy calls from the hallway. There’s the immediate sound of two grown men scrambling out of bed like it’s Christmas morning, and she smiles. “I’ll take that as a yes."