Darcy wasn't really paying attention when she walked into the gym. She was actually searching her phone for a new playlist of workout songs since she'd used the same set three nights in a row now, so she almost tripped over the very big blond man who suddenly landed at her feet.
"Ouch," she said, taking in the bloody state of Captain America's face. "That's gonna be one helluva shiner."
She'd been warned that the Avengers trained hard, but since she hadn't run into anyone the past three times she'd taken her insomnia to the gym, she hadn't been expecting anyone this time either.
But then again, these guys didn't seem to be training. If she'd been anywhere else, or perhaps if she didn't know who they were from Tony's "Welcome to the Avenger's Support Staff" package, she might have assumed that she'd walked into a rather serious physical altercation.
Especially now that both men were staring at her.
They were still wearing their uniforms, so it looked like they'd come here directly from a mission. The Winter Soldier's expressionless glare was actually pretty frightening and Darcy was quite happy for him to stay all the way over the other side of the gym. But the blond at her feet—Captain Fucking America, for fuck's sake—just looked stunned.
"Did I say something wrong?" Darcy asked, wondering if it wouldn't just be wiser to turn tail and run back to her room.
Captain America chuckled and climbed slowly onto his feet. "Sorry. It's just that those are the words my soulmate said to me the day we met."
For a long moment Darcy couldn't breathe, certain that all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the air. Captain America had just replied using her soul words.
Holy shit, she was so totally the luckiest girl alive.
She was soulmate to Captain America.
Okay, deep breath, she knew his name was Steve Rogers, and that he was also an ordinary guy (if one ignored the whole super-soldier-who-survived-seventy-years-frozen-solid thing) so she had nothing to be nervous about.
Yeah, okay, she had plenty to be nervous about, but still, how fucking cool was her life? A new job, a gorgeous, rent-free home in Avengers Tower, and her very own brand new, fantastically gorgeous super soldier.
Who knew Tazing a god could change her life for the better?
"I'm Darcy Lewis," she said, her voice only wobbling a little bit with her excitement.
"Steve Rogers," he said as if she might not know who he was despite the whole Captain America outfit and the fact that she was inside the Avenger's headquarters—one of the most secure buildings on the planet. "It's nice to meet you."
Darcy didn't even see The Winter Soldier move closer until he wrapped his arm around Steve's waist and pulled him in for a hug. "Sorry," he mumbled into Steve's neck. "I'm going for a shower."
Steve grinned, pressed a kiss to The Winter Soldier's mouth and then turned his attention back to Darcy. And, holy fuck, why was she only now remembering that his real name was Bucky Barnes and he'd known Steve since they were kids?
"Sorry," Steve said, rubbing the back of his neck as he watched Bucky leave the gym. "He's not usually so rude, but it was already a bad day when we got the call out." She'd heard the Avengers Assemble alarm only a few hours earlier which at least meant the fighting had been over pretty quickly. Surely that was a good thing for a group of superheroes. "Anyway, I should go make sure he's okay." And then Steve gave her a warm smile. "It's kind of ironic that you saying the soul words he said to me was the thing that deflated his anger. You might just be my good luck charm, Darcy Lewis."
Darcy was pretty sure she was doing a great impersonation of a gold fish the way her mouth was opening and closing but no words were coming out.
Bucky was Steve's soulmate?
And Steve Rogers was soulmate to Bucky Barnes, AKA the Winter Soldier, the ex-brainwashed, ex-Hydra assassin. When Steve had mentioned that it had been "a bad day" he hadn't been referring to anything as simple as burned toast. Fuck, the kind of bad day the Winter Soldier had was far, far worse.
Considering the sort of PTSD the guy was likely living with, it was no wonder he hadn't been in the mood to meet new people.
Even if she really was Steve's soulmate she wouldn't have wanted to get in the way of Bucky's recovery.
Darcy managed a croaky "It was nice meeting you" before pretending to turn her attention back to her phone.
Steve gave her a slightly confused half-smile, nodded his good-bye, and then turned to follow his soulmate out of the gym.
Unable to process what had just happened, Darcy sat down right where she'd been standing and then worked the sleeve of her top out of the way so she could check her soul words.
"Sorry. It's just that those are the words my soulmate said to me the day we met."
Maybe she'd been mistaken and had just thought she'd heard her words, but even as she read them again she knew she was grasping at straws. She'd memorized the words written in flowing cursive script long before she'd even understood what they were for.
As soul words went, they weren't completely horrible. Darcy had gone to school with a girl who'd worn the words "Shut the fuck up" across the back of her neck, so Darcy had always known there were worse things she could have worn on her skin.
But the idea that she was maybe the replacement for a soulmate who had died had always stung. She'd spent years wondering what sort of shiny, perfect memories she'd have to compete with when she finally met her soulmate.
Admittedly when she'd first realized he was Steve Rogers, that selfish, insecure little part of her had gleefully put seventy years between her and his other soulmate, overlooking, of course, that it probably hadn't felt that long to Steve.
And she hadn't factored in Bucky Barnes at all.
Steve wasn't her soulmate. He was Bucky's.
And suddenly the bright and shiny new life she'd started only a week ago, now felt like the beginning of a very, very long nightmare.
Bucky leaned forward and let the warm water from the massaging shower fixture gently pummel the back of his head. It had been a hell of a day, starting with nightmares that wouldn't let him sleep, an argument with Steve, a callout for the Avengers that involved scientists who'd been barely older than high school kids, and a sparring season that had fueled his adrenaline rather than burned it off.
Everything about the last thirty hours had been shitty as hell. It had been the type of day when he almost longed for the clarity he'd had as a brainwashed minion of Hydra. He shook his head, erasing that thought. He was glad for his freedom, for his ability to choose for himself and he never wanted to go back to being a mindless drone, but he missed the focus, the single mindedness that had meant he wasn't sidetracked or distracted from his mission.
He'd been overwhelmed and not coping and had just hit Steve way harder than he'd intended for a sparring session, and then some random woman—with curves in all the right places and lips made for filthy things—had used the same soul words Bucky had said to Steve nearly a century ago.
And somehow she'd unwittingly given Bucky a focal point, a chance to concentrate on a good day in his life, to remember a simpler time and happier days, and it had drained the anger from him almost instantly. Instead of being bombarded by everything horrific he'd experienced in the last seventy years, he'd been reminded of the good things, the people he loved, and all of his reasons to keep going.
His smile widened under the flow of the water around his face. He'd had the insane urge to rush over and hug the young woman, and he might have if he hadn't been watching her face as Steve had spoken his first words to her.
Yet somehow, despite what he suspected, he could only feel relief that Darcy Lewis has stepped into the gym and hopefully into their lives. Steve deserved way more than a traumatized ex-assassin as his soulmate.
Steve shook off thoughts of a certain curvy brunette with a bright smile and big ti— Well, he tried to shake off thoughts of Darcy Lewis and her luscious body but it wasn't quite that easy. She seemed like a swell gal and her timing had been perfect, but right now Steve had to think about his soulmate rather than the new admin assistant at the base.
The shower was still running when he stepped into the suite of rooms he shared with Bucky. Steve wanted to join him, but Bucky had once confessed that standing under a hot shower was one of the few places he felt at peace. Hydra had never allowed him the luxury of privacy or unlimited hot water, so being able to have both helped to remind Bucky that he was no longer under their control. Maybe one day he might invite Steve to join him for a shower the way they had sometimes done before the war, but until then Steve would do everything in his power to make sure Bucky had the privacy most others took for granted.
He was still staring into the fridge wondering what to cook for dinner when Bucky padded barefoot into the kitchen.
"Why don't you go join the others for a meal tonight?"
Steve was a lousy cook but Bucky was too, so they took turns when they had to and they ate with the others every chance they got. Post mission meals with the entire team had become a bit of a ritual.
"Trying to get rid of me?" Steve asked casually, attempting to hide his worry even though he knew Bucky would sense it anyway.
"Nah," Bucky said a little too casually. "Just figured you should go because it's the first mission we've had since the new scientists and their support staff moved in."
"They'll understand. Everyone knows what you've been through."
"Don't need a babysitter, Stevie. At least go say hello then," Bucky said, reaching into the cupboard to grab a can of soup. "I'm just going to have some soup and toast, and then go to bed."
"It's okay, Buck. Honestly they won't miss me."
"But you should go, anyway. You're their leader, after all."
"Bucky, why are you trying so hard to get rid of me?" Steve knew that Bucky's recovery from what Hydra did to him would probably forever be a work in progress, but Steve couldn't help but flash back to some of the earlier, darker days filled with despair and confusion. When Bucky had days as bad as this one had been, Steve found it nearly impossible to hide his fear for his lover's well-being.
But instead of reacting angrily the way he'd done so many times before when Steve had refused to leave his side, Bucky gave him a wry smile.
"She's your soulmate, Steve. She said your words."
Steve shook his head. "No she didn't. They were close, but they weren't exact. You're my soulmate, Buck."
Bucky shook his head. "Steve, she said 'ouch' instead of 'fuck.' That just proves that she's a lady. She doesn't cuss. Steve, she's your true soulmate, not me."
"Stop talking," Steve said, gripping the counter hard enough to leave dents. "You're my soulmate, Buck. End of story."
"I'm not, Steve," Bucky said, smiling a little sadly. "I know you're her soulmate because you said her words back to her." He shook his head and dropped his gaze to the floor. "You never said mine."
Steve was already denying it before the meaning of Bucky's words truly sank in. "You know her words?" he asked in a tiny voice.
"No," Bucky said, moving closer and wrapping his arms around Steve's waist. Steve held on fiercely, unwilling to give up the man he'd loved for most of his life. He didn't care if Bucky's words weren't the ones Steve had said. They'd been each other's home, each other's family for too long to simply walk away. "I saw her face when you said them."
"You're mistaken," Steve said, denying the possibility.
"Then it won't hurt for you to go have a meal with the team and find out for sure."
Steve was very reluctant to do that.
"Only if you come with me," he demanded, fear of losing everything he and Bucky had built together lodging in the pit of his stomach. Even if Darcy was his soulmate, Steve couldn't let things change. He needed Bucky as much as Bucky needed him. "You're mistaken," he repeated as if saying it out loud like a mantra might change the outcome. "Come to dinner and I'll prove it to you."
Darcy tried very hard to wriggle out of the team dinner the Avengers had organized, but Jane had chosen tonight of all nights to decide they needed a break. They'd worked pretty much non-stop since relocating the lab to Avengers Tower and Darcy had spent at least part of that time lamenting their lack of a social life. She could hardly refuse to join the others when she'd been the one pushing Jane to get out and meet the team this whole time.
Her relief to find the room empty of super soldiers lasted all of twenty minutes. She'd already relaxed enough to move away from the exit and meet the rest of the team, so when Steve and Bucky stepped into the room she really had no escape route.
Sam smiled and waved Bucky and Steve over to where he'd been talking to Darcy and Jane.
"Glad you're here," he said, his words said casually enough to them both, but Darcy suspected they were mostly for Bucky. "This is Jane Foster and Darc—"
Bucky cut him off. "We've already met. Darcy is Steve's true soulmate."
The blood drained from Steve's face and he reached for Bucky's wrist, tightening his grip when the man tried to move away. "Buck—" he said, before Darcy's anger rose up.
"What the fuck is your problem?" she yelled, stepping into Bucky's personal space. "You don't ambush people with information like that!"
Darcy was vaguely aware of Jane tugging on her arm, trying to pull her backward, and of the other Avengers in the room moving to step between her and Bucky, but anger continued to tear through her. She grabbed Bucky's jacket determined to drag him with her if anyone tried to move her away.
"I know you've had a bad day, asshole, but that doesn't give you permission to be so fucking rude." She gave Bucky a narrow-eyed look. "You owe Steve an apology."
And yeah, it was only just now occurring to her that she was yelling at the Winter Soldier, a man even superheroes sometimes tippy-toed around. It took a few more moments for Darcy to realize the entire room had fallen silent, and both Steve and Bucky were staring at her completely frozen.
"What?" she demanded, glaring at the two super soldiers in front of her. "What the fuck is going on?"
Steve opened his mouth to say something, but then smiled and bit his lips together. He rubbed a hand over his chin as he turned to Bucky, but no matter how hard Steve tried, he couldn't quite keep the smile off his face.
Finally he gave up and laughed softly. "Well, Buck, that didn't quite work out the way you were expecting now, did it?"
Bucky was still staring at her. After a few more uncomfortable seconds his gaze finally cut away to the man beside him. "I..." He closed his mouth, looked back at Darcy, and then turned to Steve again. "I…"
"Would you like me to tell her?" Steve asked with a wide grin, apparently enjoying the hell out of the fact that Bucky was so off balance. Darcy was prepared to turn her left-over anger in his direction when Bucky finally nodded. Steve grinned and said, "You just said Bucky's soul words."
"I did?" Darcy asked, not sure what to do with that information. "But you said mine."
Steve nodded. "And Bucky said mine over eighty years ago."
"So...um...where the fuck does that leave us?" Darcy asked, confused as hell. She'd heard of triad soulmates before, but they were usually people with two sets of soul words each. Darcy knew she only had one set of soul words, and she was willing to bet that Steve and Bucky only had one set each as well. She gazed at the two gorgeous men in front of her and wondered if the answer was currently staring her in the face. Steve and Bucky were clearly in love with each other, and judging by the hopeful smiles on their faces, were willing to consider adding her to their lives. Could the solution to their soulmate "triangle" really be that simple?
"I think," Steve said, leaning a little closer, "it leaves the three of us with a whole lot to talk about."
Talking was not what Steve wanted right now, but he held onto his patience and remembered his ma's teachings on how to treat a lady. Darcy was Bucky's soulmate, so Steve was going to do this right. He couldn't resist taking her hand, though, when she offered one to him and one to Bucky—it was only polite after all—and then he docilely followed her into the elevator.
He was so fucking relieved when the doors closed on the stunned faces of the other people in the common room. But when Darcy turned to them both and grinned wickedly he forgot about everything else.
Darcy tilted her head to the side, giving them both a long look before saying, "Steve's mine, I'm Bucky's, and Bucky is Steve's. Three points in a triangle, so we all belong to each other." She lifted up to press a kiss to Steve's lips, then moved onto Bucky's, and then pulled them both closer into a sort of three-way embrace. "Are we all caught up?"
"Yup," Bucky said in a very serious tone.
"So then," Darcy said, her grin growing wider, "your place or mine."
"Ours, doll," Bucky said, kissing Steve hard before lifting Darcy into his arms. "Yours, mine, and Stevie's. You're moving in as of right now."
Steve kind of held his breath, waiting for the righteous outrage of a modern woman who refused to be told what to do. He'd learned about feminism, he even understood and agreed with it, but the livid reaction he'd been expecting never came.
"Okay with you, Steve?" Darcy asked with a small smile.
He hesitated, glancing at Bucky before turning his attention back to the luscious woman held in Bucky's arms. "As long as it's what you want. Darcy."
"Is it what you want?" Darcy asked, pressing harder against Bucky as her hand drifted over Steve's stomach. "Are you okay with sharing your bed and your soulmate with me?"
"Our bed, our soulmate," Steve corrected. "And yes, I would very much like for you to move in with me and Bucky."
Darcy lifted up, wrapped a hand around Steve's neck, and pulled him down so that she could kiss him very, very thoroughly.
"And you, Bucky?" she asked breathlessly when they finally came up for air. "Okay if I move in?"
"Fuck, yeah," he said, grinning more widely when Darcy snorted a laugh.
The elevator opened on their floor. Bucky stepped out and then strode down the hallway with their gorgeous, incredible, and sexy-as-hell soulmate held safely in his arms.
Steve opened the bedroom door and then followed his mates inside.
Three hours later, naked, sweaty, and so damn satisfied that she could barely remember her name, Darcy cuddled into her soulmates.
Yep, soulmates, both of them.
She wasn't the replacement doomed to compete with shiny memories of a lost love. She wasn't the standby, the other, or the "do over."
Darcy Lewis was the one and only woman for Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes.
And damn, she was one very lucky lady.