“Well,” Darcy said slowly, staring up at the ceiling, “that’s a hole.”
Bob sighed. “Yep.”
“Are we going to tell anyone about it?’
Bob shrugged. “Do we...need to?”
“Probably?” How the hell should Darcy know, really? She’d only transferred to the base a week ago when Jane needed someone she could trust in a location with reliable wifi to receive and catalog her results. It really wasn’t on her to know the ins and outs of proper protocol when a small explosion took out the kitchenette ceiling. That’s why she called Bob in the first place.
He squinted at the ceiling. “Okay...who?”
Darcy gave him a look. “Dude. I just got here.”
Bob shrugged again. “You know more people than I do.”
That might be true, but that was more because Darcy was nosy than anything else, so she didn’t let his claim deter her. “Maybe you’d have a larger social circle if you stopped wearing your HYDRA uniform.”
Bob’s shoulders slumped. “But it has so many pockets.”
“I have no sympathy for you on that front,” Darcy muttered, unconsciously running a hand over the sad excuse for “pockets” in her jeans. She couldn’t fit her phone in one, let alone anything else that would be useful.
A beep from Bob’s watch drew their attention. He squinted down at it.
“Oh shoot. How do I do this thing again?”
Darcy leaned over to look. “You press this button here and then the message should project into the air above the watch. Why we can’t just display the message on the face like a normal watch, I don’t know, but hey. It’s Stark tech.”
Despite Darcy’s warning, Bob jumped back with a yelp when the message projected above his watch.
“Oh shoot. They’re back.”
Darcy paused. “Is...that a bad thing?”
“No!” Bob replied quickly and then glanced up. “But there is a hole in the ceiling.”
Darcy leaned over the counter again and peered up through the hole in the ceiling into the lab above. “Someone has to have construction superpowers, right?”
Bob’s watch beeped again and he opened the message. His eyes grew wide. “We’ve gotta go. We’ve gotta go, right now.” He grabbed Darcy’s wrist and pulled her down the hallway.
“Where are we going?” she asked, doing her best not to drag her feet, but Bob was surprisingly quick when he needed to be.
Wait. Darcy dug her heels in, pulling Bob to a stop. “Explain.”
“There are injuries! We need to go!”
“Okay, fine - but why us?” Darcy had a sudden, sickening spike of panic. What exactly had she exaggerated on her resume again? It had been awhile since she’d looked at it. She hadn’t claimed any kind of specialized first aid knowledge, had she? Not that regular first aid would help any of the Avengers, especially if they had a weird injury like getting turned into a sentient pile of goo or something.
“That’s true. You probably don’t need to go.”
He smirked at her. “But don’t you want to?”
Darcy grinned at him. “You just get me so well.”
Darcy slowed her pace as they entered the hangar, letting Bob rush ahead to do whatever it was that he was going to do. She wasn’t unfamiliar with the hangar, but it also wasn’t somewhere she’d spent a lot of time in the week she’d been at the base. She backed up a little, putting the wall at her back and did her best to will herself into invisibility as she watched the team offload from the Quinjet. Teams of people swarmed the jet, working on offloading equipment and reseting so it would be ready to take off at a moment’s notice the next time the Avengers were needed.
The Black Widow - Natasha, Darcy reminded herself - was slowly descending the ramp, helping a limping Clint Barton down and taking most of his weight. She deposited him into the wheelchair Bob had quietly left at the end of the ramp, muttering something to Clint that Darcy couldn’t quite catch.
“You’re going to medical, Barton,” Steve Rogers said, his tone leaving absolutely no room for argument. Natasha pushed the wheelchair away from the Quinjet and towards the corridor without comment. As Steve stalked down the ramp, Darcy could have sworn she saw a slight hitch in his step. Apparently Captain America was in need of a trip to medical himself. He wandered in that direction, so Darcy didn’t make her presence known to call him out on it.
The teams slowly faded away, their jobs complete or quickly finishing up. Darcy marveled a little at the speed of it all. Sure, there were about a hundred people - and even more robots - working in the area, but it was all so coordinated that almost everyone disappeared back into their own section of the base just as quickly as they’d arrived.
As quiet settled over the hangar once again, Darcy noticed a flicker of movement inside the Quinjet. It was slow and labored and eerily silent. It was too quiet for a cleaning bot - those things had an unfortunate tendency to bang into the walls. She’d banned them from the lab almost immediately upon her arrival - who knew what havoc they’d wreck on Jane’s duct tape masterpieces that still did the majority of her data collection? The movement had now stopped for so long that Darcy had to wonder if she’d imagined it.
Then the Winter Soldier stepped laboriously out of the Quinjet and stumbled down the ramp, clutching his side.
“Holy shit,” she muttered and before she could think too hard about it, rushed to go help him.
To his credit, he didn’t make any attempt to stop her from reaching him. Then again, he froze entirely when she reached his side, so maybe he just hadn’t gotten that far yet. Darcy hoped for the former, but braced for the later.
“Dude,” she muttered as she slipped an arm around him to help support some of his weight. “Why the hell did you wait so long to come down? There were like a thousand people here a minute ago.”
His eyes were wide as he stared at her, but he didn’t reply.
Darcy glanced down at his side - the side now pressed against her as she supported him - and grimaced at the blood now staining her own sweater. She looked up into his wide eyes, still staring. Still not saying anything.
“Is all of this...yours?”
He shook his head.
“Is...any of it yours?” If this guy wasn’t actually injured, she was going to feel like a real asshole. Poor dude probably just wanted to finish a report and then get cleaned up in peace and instead she practically slide-tackled him off the jet ramp.
“Some,” he replied. His voice was soft and unsure.
Darcy huffed. “Okay. Not sure how you avoided Captain Tightass’s orders to get yourself to medical, but you’re not avoiding mine. Let’s go.”
“It’s fine,” he replied. “You don’t-”
“No arguments, buster.” Darcy started leading him slowly towards the corridor to medical. Bless whoever dreamed this place up and stuck medical close to the hangar. This was going to be the longest walk of her life. The Winter Soldier was not light.
Darcy mentally cursed. The guy had a name - she really shouldn’t refer to him by his call sign in her head.
Also, he was a highly trained super assassin. She should probably introduce herself before he got it into his head to question her and her motives.
“I’m Darcy, by the way,” she offered. “I run the lab. Or I will anyway. I just got here last week, I’m still getting set up.”
“I know who you are.”
“Oh.” He didn’t seem all that keen to offer up any additional information or contribute further to the conversation, but Darcy was no quitter. “So...what can I call you?”
His eyes flashed at the question, his expression a little startled - almost as though he hadn’t considered that she’d want his name in return. Darcy pushed back the sudden recollection of what she’d read in her briefing packet and on the internet in the wake of the SHIELD file dump a few years again. Surely, he was doing better - someone was looking after this guy, right? He was just tired and in pain and wasn’t thinking clearly.
“Bucky,” was the eventual response, in that same soft tone as before.
“Good to meet you, Bucky.” She grimaced a little at the sight of the doorway to medical. It was still so far. “We’re about halfway there,” she said instead, trying to remain upbeat.
“You don’t have to help me,” he murmured.
“Well, you can’t do it alone,” Darcy reasoned.
“Oh yeah, you were doing so well before I showed up,” she retorted, raising her voice just a little. “You’re currently not operating under your own power, so you’re stuck going wherever I take you.” She grinned at him to soften her words. “Deal with it.”
He looked down at her for a long moment, then nodded.
Darcy decided to push her luck and tease a little. “Good. Glad you agree. Since I wasn’t giving you a choice.”
She felt more than heard his quick exhale and looked up at him, afraid that she’d jostled him in some way that hurt him. But his lips had twitched into something slightly softer than the grimace his face had settled into the entire slog across the hangar.
He was laughing at her joke.
They finally reached the door, forcing Darcy to put aside her triumph for a moment so she could maneuver him inside. The immediate entrance was bustling and Bucky tensed up next to her. She directed him into the side hall as quickly as they could manage, getting them out of the flow of people.
There was a volunteer refilling a cabinet in the room across from where they’d paused and Darcy waved to get her attention.
“Hey! Little help?”
The volunteer turned to her, her eyes widening when she saw who Darcy was with. She hurried away without a word, glancing back over her shoulder once before disappearing around the corner.
“Hey!” Darcy called again, then scowled. “Miscreant,” she muttered.
She turned to Bucky, who looked resigned. “I’m...sure she’s getting someone for us.” She could probably sound more convincing if she believed it herself, but that kid was moving to get away from them.
Bucky turned sad eyes to her. “I can get by. Thanks for the help.” He gingerly disentangled himself from her side and grimaced at the state of her sweater. “I’ll...pay for your dry cleaning or something.”
Darcy glanced down and shrugged. “I’m not worried about that at the moment, I’m more worried about you. You barely made it in here with my help - I’m not abandoning you to the whims of the medical wing.” She jerked her head in the direction of the empty bed in the room across from them. “Come on,” she urged. “I’ll look at it myself.”
“You don’t-” Bucky stopped immediately upon seeing Darcy’s silencing glare.
No part of her brain did a happy dance at discovering that superpower. Nope. None at all.
She helped him onto the bed and nodded at him. “Think you can show me where the problem is?”
His lips twitched again into that sad approximation of a smile, then started pulling at his gear to reveal a deep wound in his side.
Darcy felt her anger rise.
“Bucky Barnes, you have been shot.”
“I don’t care if you don’t think it’s a big deal, it is. And when we know each other a little better we will be having no small amount of words about it.” Darcy turned her glare to the recently refilled cabinet and started searching for the appropriate kit. She found what she needed in the third drawer she checked and laid it all out on the tray next to the bed before turning back to him.
“You gonna run off if I go to find someone who’s actually qualified to handle this?”
Bucky merely shrugged again and Darcy took a deep breath to keep from rolling her eyes at him.
“Fine. Your arm falls off, don’t come crying to me.” Bucky just stared at her until she realized her mistake with a groan. “That went better in my head,” she continued, by way of apology. “You have any better idea of what I need to be doing here?” At his nod, she smiled brightly. “Great! You can walk me through it then.”
He did, quietly directing her through the process of patching him up. It went way faster than she expected and she only felt a little lightheaded when she actually thought about what she was doing.
All things considered, it was a success.
She smoothed down the tape holding the gauze to his side. “All done. Right?”
He nodded again. He had to be getting a neck ache at this point.
“You should probably lay down or something.”
“Thank you,” he murmured in that soft voice he’d been using with her all day.
“No thanks needed, Buckaroo. Anyone would have done it.”
His eyes pinned her in place with a soft look that matched his tone. “No they wouldn’t.” Before she could contemplate the implications of that, he shrugged again. “I’ve gotten pretty good at patching myself up though, so.” He pushed himself off the bed and limped to the door, looking much better now that they’d dug the bullet out of his side. He turned back and gave her one last, stiff nod, then left.
Darcy looked around the room, taking in the mess they’d made while cleaning up his injury and rerunning the last hour or so in her mind.
He’d been left alone on the Quinjet, even though he’d been injured.
No one on the ground asked after him, even though they would have known he’d deployed with the rest of the team.
The volunteer who ran at the sight of him.
“I’ve gotten pretty good at patching myself up though.”
The more she thought about it, the angier she got until a single, shining solution appeared in her mind.
“Buckle up, Bucky Barnes,” she muttered. “I’m going to be your new best friend.”