Two Years Later
Bucky trudged back into the ops center with a quiet sigh. Steve glanced up at him and gave him a once over.
“Go home, Buck.”
Bucky blinked. “What?”
“You’re exhausted. Go home, we got this.”
“Job’s not done,” he retorted quietly.
Steve gave him a sympathetic smile. “Job will still be here in the morning.”
Bucky shifted a little, uneasy. He was tired. And...well. He had ideas for today. Nothing concrete, nothing confirmed, but ideas nonetheless.
“You sure?” he asked, giving in.
Bucky nodded, then left the way he came, intending to clean up a bit before heading home. No need to bring the mess in with him.
Bucky rolled his shoulders, attempting to work the worst of the kinks out of his neck as he made his way home. Hot water could do wonders, but one of the idiots he’d been tracking earlier had gotten the jump on him and got in a lucky punch. His whole side burned with the muscle strain and the fingers on his left hand kept twitching. He clenched his fingers into a fist a few times trying to get it to stop, with moderate success. It was good enough for now - he’d have to have Cameron or one of the other kids down in GearLab take a look in the morning. As for the rest of him, well. The serum would fix it soon enough.
He sighed, feeling the guilt weigh on him. He probably shouldn’t call it a night just yet. Some of the bad guys were still out there. More than a few had slipped away in the chaos of the fight.
The world wasn’t going to end if he took the night off, he reminded himself. Hill was monitoring the situation, Sam was on call. He had done enough for one day.
Sleep did sound pretty good.
He pulled the keys from his pocket and opened the door. He dropped his bag on the bench and kicked his shoes off on the mat.
“Honey, I’m home!” he called, completely without irony. He was allowed to be cheesy in his own home, dammit. Especially when this kind of happiness was so hard won.
The house was eerily silent as he made his way from the entry to the kitchen. Normally, when he got home from a mission, he’d find Darcy there, cooking up a storm. It was her coping mechanism when he was gone, a way for her to productively channel the stress. It helped that he was usually starving when he got back, so none of the leftovers ever went to waste.
“Darcy?” he called. The kitchen was empty, the lights out. He looked into the living room, but it was dark as well. No sign of Darcy anywhere.
It wasn’t late enough for her to be asleep yet - and even if it had been, she usually waited up when she knew he was on his way home. He’d texted her when he left Steve, and she’d responded that she’d be waiting. So that left the question - where was she?
“Mwrp?” The soft purr came from around his feet as the white cat nuzzled his legs. He picked her up.
“Hey Alpine,” Bucky cooed. “Where’s mama, huh? Where’s our Darcy?”
“Mwrp,” was Alpine’s reply.
“So helpful, thank you.” Bucky stroked Alpine’s fur as he continued making his way through the house, looking for his girlfriend.
When he reached the top of the stairs, Alpine began to struggle in his arms, so he leaned down and gently set her down. She nuzzled his hand once more, then happily headed for her favorite pillow, sitting at the foot of his and Darcy’s bed, which showed no signs of anyone having slept in it.
Bucky rubbed his eyes. Maybe she’d run out to the store or Jane had called needing something. There was probably a note somewhere, likely in a very obvious location, and he’d just missed it. He made his way back downstairs to the kitchen, hoping there was at least something in the refrigerator that would be easy to heat up. A flicker of movement just outside the window caught his eye as he went past.
He slowly approached the back door, his guard up. It may have been two years ago now, but the memory of HYDRA’s attempt to infiltrate the base was still crystal clear. He wouldn’t put it past them to try again.
The yard was dark and what shadows he could make out played tricks on his mind. He slowly, silently opened the door to step outside.
The cheer from the crowd of people gathered in their backyard nearly knocked him back into the house. The lights came up slowly, so as to not blind anyone. He looked around. He immediately spotted Steve and Sam, grinning wildly at him. Over on the other side, Natasha and Thor were holding court at a table nearly sagging under the weight of the food spread out.
He saw techs from Darcy’s lab and Matilda from the mess and Kate from the coffee shop. A few people from Ops and some of Bob’s new security recruits were rearranging chairs and tables so they could all sit together. Clint and Helen were laughing as Jane made her way through the crowd with a pitcher of what looked like lemonade, Bob trailing unhelpfully at her heels.
Bucky turned and grinned. “Darcy, what is all this?”
“It’s your birthday, silly,” Darcy said, slipping her arm through his and leading him to the food table. “They all wanted to help celebrate.”
“You did all this?” he murmured.
“Hell no,” Darcy laughed. “Most of this was Bob and Jane. Clint and Nat helped. I just told everyone when to be here and what to bring and then let them all in.”
He stared at her then gaped at the assembled crowd.
Darcy gave him a squeeze, then leaned in close. “They wanted to, Buck,” she whispered. “Your friends wanted to celebrate.”
“Yeah,” he breathed, suddenly overcome at the reminder of how different his life was now from not that long ago.
They stopped at the table, Darcy pulling him in front of a cake with a truly impressive number of candles.
“Nice touch,” he remarked, his voice dry as sandpaper.
Darcy held up her hands, innocently. “I insisted that Matilda was a guest and that we would get the party catered, so she insisted on making the cake. She knows you can’t resist her Devil’s Food Cake.”
“I meant the candles.” There were a little over a hundred candles on the cake by his estimation, which meant that Darcy had likely included enough to light his calendar age.
“I reserve the right to make my own fun, Barnes.”
Bucky faked a put-upon sigh. “Whatever you say, Barnes.”
His girlfriend nudged him. “I’m not a Barnes.”
“Do you want to be?”
Darcy blinked. “Is this you asking?” she shot back.
“Depends on your answer, really.”
Darcy rolled her eyes and faked her own put-upon sigh. “Yeah, I guess I’ll marry you. If it’ll make you happy and I don’t have anything else going on that day.”
Bucky grinned at her. “I promise to give you plenty of notice on the date. How’s three weeks from now?”
“Why the rush?” she asked. “Are we pregnant or something?”
Bucky sniffed. “Maybe I’m just excited and want to start the rest of our lives already.”
Darcy narrowed her eyes. “You already booked the venue.”
“Technically Clint did.”
“Of course he did,” Darcy laughed. “Well, since you have wedding planning well in hand, just remember that you’ll never be able to bat those eyes at me and get away with mis-remembering our anniversary or something.”
“I would never,” he promised.
“Make a wish!” Bob called out.
“Yeah, we want cake!” Clint chimed in, yelling around a mouthful of food already.
Bucky looked around at everyone gathered, this strange group of people that they called friends. Family. All smiling and happily waiting for him to blow out the candles.
Darcy wrapped her arms around him. “You heard them, birthday boy. Make a wish already before someone gets the bright idea to start singing.”
He laughed. Make a wish? What exactly would he wish for? Everything he wanted was already right here.
He leaned in and kissed her, slow and sweet. “I already got my wish,” he whispered.
He glanced around the yard one more time, grinned, and blew out the candles.