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NIGHTCRAWLER

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Atlanta, Darcy had come to learn, is a dark place.

Not insofar as the people, who she would freely admit were no different to those in London or Oslo, but the setting had its traumas. A burgeoning city in the South, deeply affected by historical scars; rampant poverty, abuse, drug addiction, all kinds of domestic horrors.

It was with a terrible irony that Darcy found herself the victim of the same blight the cities' natives suffered under, despite having a home far away in Pennsylvania. Atlanta seemed to attract dark things. It was like LA, or what she had seen in her brief holidays there during childhood. But Atlanta hit closer to home. These people were not attracted to the city because of its apparent glamor.

These people had been fooled and forced by their pasts into a growing metropolis that had no care for them.

CNN liked to talk about who to blame for the corruption but from her perspective, behind a camera lens, it seemed the people on the cable networks were just as guilty. Of sensationalism; of selling false dreams and fake prophecies of upward mobility.

On this night, the lens captured sixteen year-old Tyron Williams' cooling, road-burned corpse on the I-95S exit ramp. The bright red and blue of angry third shift LEO burned into her retinas as Williams' soberingly still body scorched her memories. He had been thrown from the back of a van and rolled down the ramp until he was hit by an Uber driver. The driver was sobbing on the side of a construction line, and Darcy was capturing the last moments Williams' would be remembered by.

A regular night.

Licking her cracked lips, Darcy's fingers twitched for a cigarette but fell on the empty pack of Pall Malls. She hated Pall Malls, but that was all she had money for. Olivia hadn't paid her yet and she was already in the hole for her rent.

Backing away from the crime scene, carefully avoiding the accusatory gazes of the cops, Darcy darted back to her shitty Toyota hatchback and wrenched the door shut. Throwing it into first gear, the rattling engine took off, swerving into the merging traffic, racing to the next hotspot.

Atlanta was alive tonight. A buzz in the air had people in an active mood. She side-eyed the strolling teenagers as her car rolled through the hood, carefully surveying the larger groups of rowdy teens.

It was nothing like she had seen when she was still in high school.

Pillsborough was a small city. It had two high schools and her graduating class had been a hundred students. This was a world she couldn't relate to and it killed her, because ultimately, Darcy had become their historian. She had assumed the role of cartographer, carefully documenting what amounted to their life stories in short, cruel snapshots.

Pulling into a semi-vacant parking lot, Darcy had to wonder if any of the kids on the street that night had graduated. She didn't think many of them would, if any. She didn't even think many of them would live to see such a day.

It had sickened her at first. Watching kids kill each other over less than a gram of whatever was selling well. Whatever was hot. But it had sunk in pretty quickly; these kids would kill to stay alive. It wasn't so different to what Darcy now found herself doing. What sort of compassionate, well-rounded person films the last moments of someones life, and then sells it? Whatever small shred of her bubbly personality was left after Oslo had very well vanished by the time she had found herself sleeping the days away in a shoebox shithole on the east-side of Atlanta. There was nothing redeeming left for her.

Darcy made her way down the street. It was bright with the street lights overhead, but cold settled in her bones irrespective of the summer heat. She would catch something good tonight. Maybe enough for her rent payment. Excitement at the small relief that may bring her was quickly replaced by self-revulsion. Before she could dwell, the first shot rang.

As usual, things slowed. Darcy looked up. The teenagers screamed then scattered. Energized bodies tore past her in their efforts to get away. Darcy raised her camera. On the corner of the street stood a woman. Through the zoom of the lens, Darcy could see her face. A young woman. Younger than eighteen. Her face was poorly decorated in alluring blues and reds, but her eyes were blown wide. Slumping against a light pole, the sex worker slid down as the lens zoomed in further on a blooming dark stain. It spread across her chest with dark rivulets spurting up from between her breasts. A car she hadn't noticed until now lurched forward, with it's wheels screaming in place, before it curved sharply around the corner.

Click. Click. Click.

The screaming was distant. At this point it was a peripheral aspect of her job. Darcy knew it wasn't right, that it was damaging, but she needed to eat. She needed-

The kids had all disappeared and there was no one on the street, so Darcy ran across the road, slinking between the beat up cars haphazardly lining the gutter.

Click click click.

The girl.. wasn't dead yet. Shit.

Cursing, Darcy snapped out of her work fugue state and fumbled for her phone. It was cracked and barely usable, but she managed to dial 911 with shaking fingers.

"911, what's your emergency?"

"94th and 12th, outside-" looked up at the abandoned store front before them, "-Pinkman's Fashion. She's been shot in the chest. A minor."

Shoving her phone back in her pocket, Darcy finally met the eyes of the young woman- the girl. Tears rolled down the girl's face as her eyes pleaded with Darcy. Her plush lips opened and closed only to choke out words that died before they were properly thought. The blood, as her camera captured perfectly, was everywhere. Whatever the driver had shot her with, it wasn't a standard sidearm. It might not have even been a handgun, but Darcy didn't know enough about weapons to say anything other than a bullet would be taking the girl from this world.

A shaky arm reached out for her. The camera was now rolling, photos taken, and the recording captured the tears and the fears of the girl. Kneeling beside her, Darcy detached mentally as the camera came close enough to touch the girl's nose. The light in her eyes was dimming, confusion and terror clouding over as she slowly died. It was crystal clear on the little screen in front of her. Olivia would love this.

"Hw?" the girl choked, sliding further down. Circling around, Darcy crab walked along the gutter. She captured the too-slim arms and legs. She captured the cigarette burns. Darcy's camera saw all the signs of abuse, of methamphetamine addiction, and of the girlish panties peaking out from under a cheap lace skirt. Facing the camera back up at the girl's face, Darcy found herself crouched over the now deceased girl's body, their foreheads almost touching as she caught her final few frames.

Stumbling away from the body as sirens met her ears, she realized just how alone she was.

Always so utterly alone.

Darcy could only make sure the film was saved and safely stowed in her bag before she let herself turn, not casting another glance at the unnamed, and legged it. It was a blink of the eye before Darcy returned to being in control.

She continued to prowl with the divisive hopes of both seeing and not seeing anything. The need for cash fighting the need for escape.


Darcy was born Darlena Lee Lewis in a small town in Pennsylvania. It was quirky and neat, with historical attractions and moderately sized economy. Her dad was a carpenter and her mom was a receptionist. Born in the early nineties, Darcy was the embodiment of teen spirit. She had grown up with the Pussycat Dolls, Nirvana, and Smash Mouth. She had idealized the world she would enter once she finally became an adult. Darcy's hopes and dreams were the standard far of middle class America.

In high school, Darcy had been fairly certain she would become some sort of politician. May Lewis, her mom, had taught her about kindness. May Lewis had taught her about Jesus' message, his love for the world, and that a good Christian will always love before they hate. Her dad, Rodney Lewis, had not been as enthusiastically Christian but always encouraged Darcy to follow her mother's teaching. Yet aside from May's instructions on morality, ethical consumerism, and taking the high ground, Darcy wasn't raised in a traditional Christian household. Pillsborough was a fledgling city still pulling itself out of the boom of the 80's hustle, and her parents had been children of the sixties. They were slightly unorthadox that they were quirky, but they weren't vigilantly political enough that it ever stood out.

Darcy grew up comfortable and normal.

So, when college hit, it had been a real eye opener. Her parents were not of the same generation. Her parent's didn't really get it. They encouraged her to get an education and go on to be a working woman. May and Rodney were centrist liberals with very few vocal views, but they had all but demanded she graduate. Unfortunately, they had never been wealthy enough to create a college fund for her, and her grandparents were already long dead on both sides. Darcy would find herself a child of the debt generation. Darcy would become a quintessential millennial, until she applied for that fucking internship. 

Everything had changed. New Mexico, with it's arid heat and dehydrating sun. Thor, with his shiny moon beams and rainbow lasers. Mjolnir and SHIELD(dra). Loki and the unearthly destruction he wrought upon a leveled town.

Then came London and Ian.

Darcy hated Ian.

Jane became both her boss and her confidante. When Thor left, Darcy consoled Jane, who she hadn't realized possessed the emotional range to be so distraught over a man she'd known for barely two days. But she could sort of get it. Thor had that chiseled handsomeness that would have had Darcy swooning if it weren't for a) alien, b) bro-code, and c) fucking alien, hello??

Their encounter with SHIELD was, however, the scarier part of the entire three day debacle. What Jane had hypothesized to be transient weather turned out to be the bifrost, and Darcy suspected that SHIELD had held their suspicions for decades. It had been mere minutes between Darcy reacting to Thor's bellowing, between Darcy tazering him in fear, and Darcy and Erik hoisting Thor into the back of their van before the black SUV's had rolled up. Their van passed too many vehicles to count, which in retrospect meant they had been monitoring the area for long enough that they had agents in the area. The idea that SHIELD had been watching them for god knew how long was enough to turn her stomach. There was so much she didn't know about SHIELD, and that was before SHIELD became SHIELDra, and the Triskellion fell, and Steve Rogers' fought his then unnamed World War Two buddy above the Potomac. There were too many questions that if Darcy thought about it for long enough, they all blurred into a crippling fear. She knew logically and from her PoliSci classes that there were many, many agencies that operate off the books, and she knew that SHIELD was neither the worst or the biggest. Terrible insinuations lurked at every turn.


Had Darcy been awake during regular hours, she would have seen the cracked screen of her phone light up repeatedly. Instead, when her alarm buzzed at 10pm, Darcy was greeted with five missed calls, all from a burner number. 

Disregarding the event as nothing more than scammers operating on the West coast, Darcy ignored the calls and went about her night. 

Olivia had also called. Her voice message was stern and bemused. 

Apparently the footage of both Tyron Williams and the young sex worker had gone viral in online political circles. Olivia demanded more of the sort of nameless violence Darcy tried her best to avoid filming. 

After a quick google search, she learned the sex worker was Kezia Heart. 

Sixteen. 

There was nothing left but to brush it off. Darcy had become accustomed to the act of compartmentalizing for her own mental health and potentially the safety of those around her. 

So while she ignored the disgust that lingered somewhere outside her peripheral consciousness, Darcy allowed herself to be distracted by her roommate, Brandon. 

He was taller than most normal people she had met and often cut an appealing figure to people who didn’t know him. Raised in Germany by American parents, Brandon had also found himself on his ass after being raised in the good life. 

Instead of the debt Darcy carried, Brandon found himself saddled with opiate withdrawal after a bad break up. She felt for him on a strangely semi-sympathetic, semi-empathetic level. Darcy definitely hadn’t been through the same shit Brandon had, but the wake of Thor’s continuously inconsistent visits had left Jane an unsettled mess. Thankfully, according to the media, Jane and Thor were definitely full time and it looked like Thor had taken up partial residence at Avenger’s Tower. 

Brandon’s long term girlfriend had cheated on him and left him with a compromised immune system and drug addiction. 

“Hey,” he waved from the torn up couch. 

“Mornin’,” Darcy grunted. Brandon snorted but didn’t look away from his laptop. 

It was dark inside their one room apartment, the only light coming from his laptop and the few street lights that hadn’t been shot out. Somewhere down the street, a party raged. 

“Anything interesting?” Darcy asked as she searched the dark kitchen for something to drink. The only power in the apartment that worked was a single outlet they had doubled up on, so they at least had a fridge and coffee maker. She would have liked a microwave in the very least but it meant there was never much mess. 

The coffee was already made and waiting. “Ung, bless you.” 

“Mhm,” Brandon gestured vaguely at his screen. “Some political bullshit happening in Vienna. Apparently an embassy was bombed. Avenger’s were on scene, it was over pretty quick. King of Wakanda is dead, though.” 

“Jesus...” Darcy was glad he couldn’t see her face. Brandon had no idea she’d been briefly and very distantly involved in that life and if he knew, he probably wouldn’t tell her anything about the news. She couldn’t bring herself to look at it much anymore, not after she had become closely acquainted with the reality of capturing it on film. And certainly not after London. 

Thus, Brandon was her only source. 

The bright white of a webpage lit his face up, covered in two day stubble with deep bags under his eyes. It must have been a relatively easy day for him given he wasn’t shit faced and staring at the ceiling. 

All was quiet for a few minutes while Darcy scalded her mouth with the only hot beverage she ever had access to. The party on the street had grown rowdier and she hoped they wouldn’t move this way and potentially damage her already beaten to hell car. 

When she felt alive enough, Darcy collected her things and bid Brandon a good night, leaving the only modicum of safety she had behind. 

She had to try harder tonight. She really, really needed the money.


AVENGERS TOWER

High in the sky stands a tower that asserts its dominance over the skyline of New York. Fairly high up is an expansive laboratory jointly used by the three leading scientists of their fields, Bruce Banner, Jane Foster, and the resident rich asshole, Tony Stark. 

Most days could be defined by loud music and the odd flaming explosion, but today was overshadowed by the unusually filthy mouth of Doctor Foster. 

“Seriously, what do you need?” Tony waved a weird looking spanner around. 

“Nothing!” Jane snapped, slamming a bundle of wires on a workbench. “Will you just fuck off for five minutes?” 

Lips pursed, Tony looked her up and down. “You are so lucky that I actually like you, Foster.” 

“Suck a dick!” 

Studiously avoiding acknowledging the bubbling meltdown in the opposite lab, Bruce turned his back to the two firecrackers. 

“Listen, your researching funds allow for interns. Not even one intern. Two. What are you doing scrambling about on the floor like that? What are you even doing? Why won’t you use the equipment made for your research?” 

“Tony,” Jane breathed, turning to face him. “I. Need. You. To. Back. Off.” 

“Do you know me?” his face twisted. “You’re about to blow your top, Foster.” 

“Because of YOU!” Jane screamed, throwing her hands in the air. “YOU’RE WINDING ME UP, YOU STUPID MAN.” 

Tony hands went up in front of him. “Woah, woah. Okay. Jesus, lady, I’m just trying to help.” 

Jane seethed. “AND YET YOU’RE NOT.”

“Nooo, and that’s because you won’t let anyone help you,” Tony rolled his eyes, unfazed by her. 

“I swear to god,” her chest heaved. Jane threw her coffee across the table. It tumbled, spilling cold liquid across her jumbled mess of notes and seeping into her favorite swivel chair. 

Jane screamed at no one. 

Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Bruce opened the door separating their labs. He leaned against the glass wall looking for all the world like he’d rather be back in a slum, treating peoples illnesses for small packages of food. 

“Doctor Foster-” 

“WHAT? WHAT DO YOU WANT NOW.” 

Bruce flinched, casting a look at Tony who merely failed to suppress his grin. Tony never had much of a sense of self preservation. 

“Maybe you should consider the intern option. Clearly your work has-” Bruce struggled to delicately phrase the idea Jane definitely didn’t want to hear. “-grown, yes, grown out of the scope of a single scientist. You’ve.. created a whole new theoretical field of physics and having some menial help on hand would allow you to focus on your talent.” 

Bruce nodded to himself, ignoring Tony’s whispers of “suck up.” 

Catching herself before she truly lost it, Jane sighed and slumped into the coffee-soaked chair. Caffeinated liquid seeped into her pants and damped her ass. 

Blinking at the horrendous sight, Tony searched for Bruce. The bastard had disappeared. Somewhere down the hall, an elevator door shut. 

“Goddammit,” Tony muttered, setting his wrench down. 

“Okay, Foster,” Tony pulled her attention back to him. He leaned against a smaller work bench and rested back on his elbows. “Real talk, no bullshit. You need an intern and you won’t take one. Why?” 

Jane glared at him, refusing to answer. 

“I am trying to help you out, Jane. You look like shit, you haven’t showered in days, and Thor is moping around in the aircraft hanger looking for a reason to fight someone.” 

Giving herself a careful sniff, Jane grimaced. 

“See?!” Tony exclaimed. “You’re falling apart and there doesn’t seem to be a reason why. Which means there is either a great reason why or you’re a complete fucking idiot." Tony rushed to continue when Jane’s jaw dropped. “AND! And, I really doubt you’d hinder your own work for no reason. So spit it out or I’m calling Thor and ratting you out.” 

“You wouldn’t,” Jane grumbled. 

“Uh, yeah, I would,” Tony argued, “Especially when you’re one mistake away from blowing my fucking workstation up because I looked at you wrong.” 

“You always look at people wrong.” Jane’s hands clenched to white. 

Eying her restraint, Tony huffed. “Don’t avoid the question.” 

To Tony’s surprise, Jane deflated into a sad slump. Exhaling heavily, Jane covered her face. “I just.. I do want an intern, okay? It’s just that no intern I’ve had has ever been able to translate my notes into anything eligible, been able to keep up, and still had some intuition on what is needed. I can’t been directing people for eight hours at a time if I’m also trying to figure out a problem. Some solutions just make knew problems and you know that, Tony.” 

Jane ignored his “finally, fuck,” and shrugged, staring at the floor. 

“I hire someone and either they’re great at physics but a) a thief, b) a spy, or c) so absolutely incompetent at self direction that I need a second intern to help the first one out.” 

Tony stared at her. “Then hire a second intern.” 

“The process just repeats itself!” Jane exclaimed, “It’s- it’s- ludicrous! Why are science nerds so.. useless?!” 

“Are you really in a position to be making that assessment?” Tony’s eyebrow quirked up. 

“Yes,” Jane replied solemnly, “Yes, I am, because I’m the worst of them all. But it doesn’t matter because on my own I still manage better than when I have to babysit a college kid.” 

“Then..” Tony looked around, unsure of what the real problem was. “High a non-college student?” He looked at her like she was stupid. 

“No,” she was adamant. “Absolutely not. The one time I did that, she turned out to be a spy from AIM. Months of calculations and data all stolen.” 

Tony remembered when Ursula Perrins had been found out. Looking back, he was ashamed they hadn’t been suspicious of someone named Ursula fucking Perrins. Jane had been distraught at first, thinking her work had been compromised and everything was ruined before she turned into a raging demon and taken Pepper’s offer of legal warfare. 

The situation had resolved itself in due time. 

“That was once. We have new protocols in place for every eventuality.” 

But Jane wouldn’t budge. 

More and more put out, Tony felt his attention wavering. 

“What’s the real problem here?” 

“I just told you?” Jane side eyed him. Hard. 

“No, you told me of past problems, not the thing that’s currently actually, you know, bothering you.” He jabbed a finger in her face. 

Jane swatted it away, biting her tongue before she ripped him a new one again. She was already embarrassed enough. 

“Hurry up.” 

“God,” Jane made a noise in her throat, feeling cornered. After a minute of very uncomfortable silence, in which Tony stared at her with dead eyes and Jane appreciated the view of her-.. slippers, apparently, she caved. 

“I miss Darcy.” The whispered answer almost eluded the billionaire. It took him a few seconds to decode it from the very dangerous wobble in her voice. 

“Darcy? Lewis? Darcy Lewis?” 

Jane nodded up at him, eyes watering. 

“Ahhh, nonono,” Tony’s hands flailed, “This is a no crying zone and you know that.” 

Jane sniffed. 

“Right, Lewis. Your old intern, right?” Tony probed. “I thought she was some kind of arts student, she doesn’t fit the criteria you just laid out.” 

“I know,” she shook her head, “But Darcy was good. Like you have no idea how good. She didn’t know what she was translating but the notes were always accurate down to the smallest details, they were organized and just where I needed them, she took care of all the paperwork that I don’t even know to start with,” Jane’s face crumbled into a sad resemblance of a disappointed cat, “And she knew how to manage my schedule to the point of figuring out the best times for planetary observations. She went from a scientific-dullard to someone who might not know the meaning behind the algorithms but she somehow figured out countless problems that would have had me stuck for months, Tony. Months.” 

“That sounds more like an assistant than an intern,” he pointed out. 

“Yeah,” was her useless reply. 

“So, just... I dunno. Get an assistant.” At her dejected look, Tony rolled her eyes. “Or why do you contact her? The budget can spring for an assistant if it means all this,” he gestured to the molding forgotten sandwiches and what looked terribly similar to a punched wall, “is not going to be an issue.” 

“I can’t,” Jane croaked, losing her battle. At the sight of fat, angry tears rolling down her face, Tony blanched. 

“No, stop, stop that right now, woman,” Tony demanded, looking away wildly. “JARVIS, help. Now.” 

“Doctor Foster,” JARVIS chimed instantly. Thank Odin’s ugly dead beard, Tony backed away slowly. “What prevents you from reaching out to Miss Lewis? Records indicate she is not deceased. Did you have a falling out?” 

Sniffing back her snot and rubbing her sleeve all across her face, Jane felt her cheeks flame, knowing what a mess she looked. She hoped Tony wouldn’t tell anyone. 

Tony was definitely not mentioning this to a soul, more out of fear they would accuse him of doing something indecent. Hiding behind a broken telescope, he peered at her. 

“Of sorts,” Jane huffed. “Yeah. No. I don’t know. After London, I just didn’t have the money to keep Darcy with me and I couldn’t ask her to stay on and get a job at the same time. So we parted ways.” 

Falling silent, Jane continued to sob quietly. 

“That is unfortunate, Doctor Foster, however this does not stand to reason why Miss Lewis would not be an option.” 

“No, it doesn’t,” she agreed, “but then.. then I was offered this position for research by Ms Potts and.. and..” 

Tony stared at her, thinking hard. “She was your friend more than she was an assistant.” 

Jane nodded, blearily staring at her now soaked flannel shirt. 

“And you forgot about her,” he summised. 

“No!” the tiny astrophysicist outburst startled Tony, who backed up further. “No! I would never forget about Darcy,” she insisted, “But .. I did.. sort of forget to...” 

“To what?” Tony was intrigued now. The annals of friendship only being accessible to him via Rhodey for the majority of his life, and given his new found bonds with the Avengers, the regular sort of friendly quarrels they engaged in were relatively foreign to him. 

“I forgot to actually talk to her,” she whispered. “I got so caught up in what I could finally do with this grant money that I never texted or called her. Months had passed before I realized it and by the time I tried to reach out, her facebook page had been deactivated and she’d changed her number.” 

It was silent for a moment, only punctuated by the low hum of computer terminals, as the two social stunted scientists avoided looking at each other. 

“Doctor Foster, should you wish it, it is well within my means to locate Miss Lewis for you.” 

Jane swallowed, chewing on her lip. “But that doesn’t change the fact I basically ignored her existence for a year.” 

“Perhaps not,” his AI replied, sounding more human that he had heard before. Tony blinked at the gentle inflection. Something to look into. “However, in my assessment of human relationships, it appears there is a not inconsiderable chance that Miss Lewis would be overjoyed to hear from you. Her circumstances for anonymity may not be related to this social transgression.” 

Jane burst into a renewed round of sobs as Tony winced. Maybe he had imagined the inflection. 

“Please consider it, Doctor Foster. There is no reason to assume until you know for certain.” 

“Okay, thanks J,” Tony cleared his throat. “Just.. think about it. It’d take like, two minutes max, to find Lewis.” 

Jane didn’t look at him so he just begged whatever gods hated him the least that she’d heard, and quickly fled the labs. 

Jane continued to sob for some time.


1:07AM 

ATLANTA 

Darcy grimaced, wiping sweat off her face. It was humid, the air tasting like car fumes and fetid garbage. In a dark, musty alley, she crouched. She felt like an absolute monster and the contents of stomach clearly agreed, dripping down from parted lips. The worst part was her shaky constitution had nothing to do with the cold body on the ground beside a dumpster but her body easing itself into withdrawal like a car slamming into a brick wall. 

Darcy recalled when her high school friend Max had discovered the delight of the Bum Fights Krewe. It was MTV in the days of Paris Hilton and spring break wet t-shirt contests. It was also the days where her parents would go on road trips and Darcy would have sleep overs with her friend, whose own parents were.. somewhere else.

Max hadn't been a big MTV fan like Darcy was, but he'd been a die hard Johnny Knoxville groupie and that somehow lead him to watching MTV in the early hours of the morning. Probably around now, she figured, as she pushed off the grimy building and collected her camera from it's seat on a wet cardboard box. 

Bum Fights were apparently a big thing in LA but Darcy figured it was an issue everywhere.

Except, in the instance she had carefully documented on her camera, this wasn't a fight but a murder. Someone had found this man, this homeless soul, and beaten him until Darcy only knew he was a man from his beard and huge, holey shoes. 

Bum Fights had been giving a vagrant a quarter to punch another homeless person, or a piece of KFC to get TRASH tattooed on their foreheads. It had absolutely sickened her at the time, Max not grasping why it was wrong, arguing they had agreed to do so, which yes, that was true, but- 

Here, alone, stomach rolling.. it was inconceivably worse. 

She briefly wondered where Max was these days before stumbling down the alley and towards her car. 

It was shaping up to be another terrible night. 

She had been.. lucky.. to capture some 'quality' footage.

A few car crashes, one in which a drunk mother was just screaming.. just wouldn't stop screaming, a little car seat broken into foam and wood against a street light... 

Another in which a gas station attendant had been stabbed with a chair leg, for a pack of cigarettes. 

She loathed the nicotine craving that had overcome her. 

Throw it all in with the shakes, the itchy skin, the pounding head. Darcy felt a deep sense of shame for having spilled her stomach so close to this man's final resting place but it had been so sudden that she couldn't contain it. 

Cradling her head in her hands, Darcy sunk into the driver's seat. 

She had spent the first few months crying about it. She had felt terribly about what she was doing, despite knowing she wasn't the murderer or the drunken mother or the occasional violent rapist- she knew that, yes, but it didn't stop the shame. 

If Darcy knew she would be filmed so impersonally in her last moments, or grieving such a loss, or simply captured at her lowest; she had never been particularly self conscious, because others expectations were usually irrelevant, but it felt perverse and prying. Like someone taking advantage of, dare she say it, a child. There were no real words to describe her self hatred. 

But if she were asked, if she ever could admit what she had been doing the past year, she would probably confess the worst part of being likely cursed by the devil himself was that she simply didn't want to die. She needed to survive, like the kids selling drugs and killing, except she was an adult and she had come from relatively stable means. It shouldn't be but it is, and because of that she would never forgive herself. 

Darcy had considered a women's advocate shelter, even returning to her parents, but there was still the shame. 

More importantly, if she went to her parents, she would be endangering them, what with HYDRA and AIM, and a women's shelter would broadcast her location in some type of government database. She or someone innocent would die. 

So, this was all she had. A room without her name on it, an unregistered car, and a paycheck that came in cash. 

Simple. 

Sick. 

Darcy threw up on herself and then sobbed. 

She was still alone.