Once upon a time, someone discovered that the Earth wasn't flat. It was a pretty big discovery, really. Not everyone liked it. To this day, there are people that still don't believe that the inhabitants of Earth live on a big round globe. These people are pretty huge idiots, but still, entitled to their incorrect opinions.
Around this same time on planet Earth, soul glows began to disappear. The glowing feeling that developed when you began spending time with your soul mate was an indicator of a good match. It was helpful, but apparently, someone important in the cosmos thought that having words on the skin would be a much better indicator of soulmates.
It didn't matter that more than ninety-percent of the world didn't actually read the written word. Instead of that helpful glow that would appear on the tenth day of being in your soulmate's presence, your mates' first words would be carved into your skin in black lettering.
Humans adjusted and evolved, because that is what they do best. Soul word readers would travel across the countryside, reading words off of people's skin for them so that they would know. And eventually, they began teaching people to read on their own.
It made the Renaissance much better, really.
Then humans realized something inconvenient was happening pretty quickly into the soul words process.
First words were pretty damned similar, all around.
'Hark Who goes there?!'
It was incredibly difficult to figure out who amongst the hundreds who said your common words was your real soulmate. There was no comforting glow any longer. Instead of grasping onto the newly gifted autonomy and seeking out the partners who would be right for them, humans adjusted and evolved again. (They were REALLY good at it, after all ).
They started saying more interesting greetings. Nonsensical even.
'Your mother was a canary and your father a sheep!'
'A horse’s ass can only carry an absolute ass so far.'
'bleeblahbloopity doo doo.'
It was a relief when a child was born with a set of unique words. It gave a person a sense of surety that they would be meeting the person that God had intended for them. There would be no messy trial periods, no unsurety, no doubt.
So when Sarah Rogers gave birth to her wee little baby boy a month early on July 4th, 1918, she was relieved to see the set of words at the nape of his neck.
'You're either an idiot with a death wish or moron with no sense in your head!'
They were unique, which meant this precious babe of hers would grow up and find someone to complete him and to make him happy. And keep him reined in a little, obviously. The Rogers clan she had married into was known for being hot headed and foolishly brave. They needed a strong hand to keep from rushing off cliffs in their pigheaded bravery.
Sarah inspected sweet little Steven as he nursed, wondering if there weren't any other words. She'd known people with more than one mark before. And it wasn't always a sad story about a soul mate dying and being replaced. Just downstairs in the little tenement was a happy trio of people, who were all marked by each other's unique and unusual first words.
She found none on Steve as he nursed. But less than an hour later, as she placed a cloth diaper on his tiny little bottom, she wrinkled her nose in annoyance. Because there on the pale skin of his soft rear end was another mark.
"Oh Steven, if I ever meet this silly person with the foolish first word, I will definitely shake them," Sarah cooed at him while she diapered him properly. She would have to teach Steven to properly greet everyone with unique greetings, so that he could be sure he was finding the right person. Nothing was sadder than a person who didn't have that surety of knowing.
"You're either an idiot with a death wish or a moron with no sense in your head!"
Steve looked up hopefully at the sound of his words, forgetting that he was currently being pummeled in a back alley. He took the fist to the gut like a champ and crumpled in half. The person who had said his words rushed forward and caught the bully of a twelve year old by surprise, then shoved a meaty fist into the bully's face. Steve made an unintelligible noise as his savior plucked him off the ground.
"Gublh," he managed as the air whooshed back into his lungs. "I h-had him on the ropes."
Bucky Barnes grinned as the small little blonde boy said his words. He pulled Steve into a big hug, using every ounce of strength his twelve year old body had into squeezing the remaining air out of an eleven year old Steve's body.
"Well, I'll be darned!" Bucky chuckled. "Didn't know how to pronounce that first word, thought I was gonna get a foreigner or something."
"Nah, Steve Rogers, Brooklyn," Steve managed a smile when Bucky put him back on the ground.
"James Barnes, me and my ma and sisters just moved here from Indiana," Bucky replied. His smile was infectious, full of happiness and joy. He shrugged and said, "Guess you can call me Bucky, you know, since you're my first soulmate."
"First? You gotta 'nother mark too?" Steve blinked up at him.
"Yeah," Bucky nodded. His smile dimmed a bit. He slapped the back of his butt and admitted, "Right here on my ass. It's not a good one though, not like yours."
"What's it say?" Steve wondered, hopefully optimistic that the second mark might mean he and Bucky were destined to find a third soul mate together.
"It's---it's justHi," Bucky sighed.
"Me too!" Steve said excitedly. The heady feeling immediately left him though. "So---that can't be good, though. What if we never find her?"
"Her?" Bucky arched an eyebrow, a smirk blooming across his lips.
"Well, you're handsome for sure, but, girls are nice too, don't you think?" Steve wondered, puffing out his chest a little for good measure. Wasn't nothing wrong with liking people that way. God made the marks, so if he made them for men and men, and men and women and women and women, then they had to be right. His ma said that God thought it was just fine, that's why he made him have two marks.
"Damn right they are!" Bucky said excitedly, wrapping his arm around Steve's shoulders and walking him out of the alleyway. "C'mon, let's get you cleaned up, then we can think of all the stupid things we can say to boring Miss HI."
Darcy Lewis was born with two marks. In her case though, her mother wasn't the one fussing over her moments after birth, searching them out. For her, it had been a NICU nurse a few days later, when she was finally taken off of the machine that had been pumping air into her every moment of her precarious life. Her mother hadn't made it through childbirth, and Darcy wasn't expected to live very long either. It probably had something to do with the heroin flowing through the both of them.
Darcy wasn't quite a ward of the state yet. She was waiting for her Great Uncle Isaac to travel down from Ohio to be with her. He was the only one who could lay claim to her, and at fifty-three years old, it wasn't the most ideal of situations. But Darcy wasn't expected to live very long at all, she'd astonished most of the medical staff for stubbornly staying alive as long as she had.
"You're a tough little nut to crack," Abigail, the NICU nurse whispered softly as she gently caressed the tiny baby's cheek with her gloved hand in the incubator walls. She tenderly lifted very small, thin legs of the girl to wash her and saw the little scribbles at the base of her spine. "Oh, you poor little thing."
"Well...you're gonna survive," Abigail shook her head in disbelief. The children who didn't survive never had marks. "Tough little nut."
Great Uncle Isaac Lewis had lived a really amazing life.
Darcy had been cultivating a book since the age of three about her Great Uncle Isaac's life. He'd been born in Germany, in 1935, completely unmarked. It had been happening a lot with Jewish children in all of Europe. They were born unmarked and it seemed like a great epidemic of sadness had descended in the last fifteen years. It was starting to make sense though, what with the terrifying state of the world.
Then Isaac Lewis had the audacity to survive despite his unmarked status, stomping stubbornly away from the concentration camp where he'd watched so many of his contemporaries fade away. He'd stood, nine years old, pale and underfed and looking like a strong wind could blow him over, and stared up at the liberators.
"What took you so long?" he demanded irately in accented English.
"Sorry, kid," the large, imposing American man with a sniper rifle looked down at him with no small amount of concern. "We got here as quick as we could."
"You alright?" another man, just a little bit larger than the other one, but dressed in a silly looking outfit that made him look like a walking, talking American flag, walked up to them. He knelt next to Isaac and couldn't help but smile at the kid's nerve and guts. "Let's go and get you some medical attention, yeah?"
"You look silly!" Isaac accused as he waved off their assistance and stomped after the rescuers. "How are you fighting a covert war looking like a bright flag waving around out here? Maybe that's why it took you so long!"
"Yeah, maybe," the man with the sniper rifle answered with a laugh. "I mean, Stevie, don't get me wrong. I like the outfit, but maybe we can make it darker to blend in more. Like a nice navy?"
"Shut up, jerk," Stevie rolled his eyes. "Let's get the survivors out and to medical. Looks like some of these poor people haven't eaten in weeks."
"Months!" Isaac corrected him.
The pages in her Issac scrapbook that were dedicated to that part of her great-Uncle's life were covered in stickers of Captain America and Bucky Barnes. She'd heard stories about them ever since she'd turned six months old, and despite the odds, had been released from the hospital under her Uncle's care. He'd tucked her in that first night back in Ohio into her cradle, telling her stories about two men who had tried their best to make him feel better after living in hell for months and months.
Captain America and Sergeant Barnes were soulmates. Darcy knew that. The whole world knew that. And they'd both left the world without meeting their third, or they had met them but never knew. Their tale was used as a cautionary one.
Never say HI when meeting a new person.
Be unique. Be silly. Standout. It was the only way to be sure.
Darcy knew she would definitely have to do that. She was marked with the dreaded greetings at the base of her spine. Her teachers fretted, her counselors worried and everyone tried to make sure she knew how to differentiate herself, so she would never be lonely.
Uncle Isaac told her not to worry. He'd been unmarked his whole life. And that hadn't stopped him from living a full life. He'd had a wife he loved very much, someone whose original mark hadn't been what she thought it would be. They'd run away from New York City together and settled in the countryside of Ohio, sandwiched between the Amish.
And they'd lived life to its fullest. And when Aunt Sadie had passed unexpectedly, Uncle Isaac had mourned, and when he was ready to just give up, he had gotten a call from a hospital in Tennessee, telling him his niece had died after giving birth to a baby that would likely die in a few days too.
And he'd packed up, gone down to the hospital and saw the little girl behind glass walls, full of tubes poking pale skin, desperately trying to live despite what everyone else was saying.
For the record, Uncle Isaac's first word to Darcy had been hello. And her first words had been a squeal of laughter when she was four months old and was allowed to be held by him for the first time.
And Darcy had written in her Uncle Isaac biography scrapbook that meant that the two of them were soulmates. She used extra gold glitter on those pages to make sure everyone would know how special that was.
When Darcy had landed in New York City after London, she and Jane had a job offer from Stark, but most importantly, Uncle Isaac had been waiting for her in the airport. He'd outlived his late wife Sadie's ex-husband, and wanted to come home to the bustling city where he had grown from a child into a man and then met said wife.
"And I want to keep a closer eye on you, you little rascal. Don't think I didn't see you fighting off those aliens!" Isaac scolded. "What were you thinking? Couldn't they a gotten that star spangled idiot to come and help you?"
"Uncle Isaac!" Darcy scolded slightly, smiling though, so Isaac knew it wasn’t so bad.
"Just saying, he's alive again, he coulda taken one of those super jets and helped you out," Isaac shrugged. "You gonna have that alien fella introduce you to him, cause if he does, I want to be there and see if we can't get that outfit darker, still."
"You're incorrigible," Darcy smiled as they walked out of the airport, waving Jane off as the astrophysicist got into a limo with Thor. Darcy and Isaac caught a cab and were driven to a little two story brownstone that Isaac had bought free and clear with all of his savings.
"I do get to meet, Tony Stark though, don't I?" Isaac demanded curiously. Darcy rolled her eyes playfully and Isaac chuckled and shrugged, "So sue me, I like the kid, he's got chutzpah."
Uncle Isaac did get to meet Tony Stark. Darcy took her Uncle as her date to the Stark Industries Valentine's Day Party of 2014. Tony was smitten with the filter-less senior citizen and offered him a part-time job as a security guard right outside of his lab. So Isaac escorted Darcy to work three times a week and chatted with any of the Avengers that were on hand.
"Still waiting to see that star spangled man child," Isaac complained to Clint one day getting the archer to dissolve into raucous laughter.
"Uncle Isaac!" Darcy scolded.
"I'm just saying, kiddo, I got ideas about how he should be dressing," Isaac smirked.
"You're incorrigible," Darcy accused.
"I love you, Uncle Isaac," Clint said seriously, as soon as he was able to form coherent words again.
"I get that a lot," Isaac nodded.
"Uhm---Clint?" Darcy called out. "Clint!!"
"What's going on, kiddo?" Clint ran into Darcy's little work alcove and blinked at the images on the screen. Nick Fury was dead.
And Captain America had killed him?
"Stay here," Clint ordered. "Lock down the tower, Darce."
"Okay," Darcy nodded.
Isaac had wandered into Darcy's workspace as well and nodded at the screen.
"At least he made the uniform darker now."
The next three days were spent in lockdown at the tower. Tony had eagerly given Issac and Darcy rooms months prior, and was happy to see them using them for once. They'd watched helplessly as Steve and Natasha disappeared, then reappeared on a bridge in DC, being shot at by a lot of very determined people.
Tony was working in tandem with Clint, as they tried to pool resources and made the tower as secure as possible. And when they watched in horror as the helicarriers began to shoot each other out of the sky, Tony put a call out to Thor with Heimdall before taking off into the sky in the suit. He'd not gotten there in time, but was the first to find Steve on the riverbank of the Potomac.
Darcy politely ignored her Uncle's wiping a discreet tear away when JARVIS announced that Captain Rogers was alive.
"Still went back to that stupid outfit," Isaac sighed. "Maybe it suits him, though."
Steve had been intent on finding his first soulmate. He thought he would have been in for the fight of his life. He was fully prepared to devote every minute of every hour of every day in getting Bucky back.
It hadn't taken that long.
Bucky had been standing in the same Brooklyn alley way, five weeks after the fight on the helicarrier, staring into the alley for over half an hour. Long enough for JARVIS to get a facial recognition ping from him, and for Steve to make it from the quinjet that had been hovering around Philadelphia.
Steve was silent as he walked down the alleyway, but even his stealthy approach did not go unnoticed by the Winter Soldier.
"You're either an idiot with a death wish or moron with no sense in your head," Bucky whispered.
"I h-had him on the ropes," Steve's voice cracked somewhere in the middle of his repeated words. "You okay, pal?"
"No," Bucky answered honestly. "I---I need help."
"Anything you need," Steve nodded eagerly. "I got a friend with a big place in Manhattan. Do you want to go there?"
"Stark, Anthony Edward," Bucky repeated. "Threat level nine."
"Yeah, Tony. Howard's kid," Steve smiled. "He can help us."
"Alright," Bucky nodded. "Hey---did you---did you meet her yet?"
"No pal, I don't know, maybe?" Steve shrugged. He'd had hundreds of people greeting him with Hi, since waking up. He and Bucky's words had been used as a cautionary tale for multiple generations of people. After the first few days of using original responses back, Steve had taken to just not saying anything at all.
"They used to try to trick me," Bucky whispered. "Made me think I killed her."
"No, Buck, no, you didn't," Steve promised. "Because if I haven't met her yet, then---you didn't."
"Okay," Bucky nodded, eagerly willing to believe the comforting words coming from Steve.
"Let's get you to the Tower, we'll be able to see what you need," Steve said softly.
Sam noticed Issac first. The security guard that was now stationed in front of the hallway that led to Bucky's room on the Stark Towers medical floor looked to be in his seventies. He sat on a stool all day long, dressed in a stiff and proper uniform. He would always wave Sam in, as well as all the other Avengers and trusted doctors. But anyone that was unfamiliar got the stare down and hassled for credentials.
"That's a hell of a security system you got there," Sam said to Stark one day as the man studied schematics of Bucky's arm in the lounge.
"Oh yeah, that's Uncle Isaac," Tony nodded absent-mindedly.
"He gonna make it through his shift?" Sam asked dubiously.
"Rude," Tony squinted at Sam. "He's made it through worse. And he's kind of---repaying a debt here, I think. Ask Darcy to see the scrapbook."
"Who is Darcy?" Sam blinked.
"You haven't met Darcy yet?" Tony looked away from his work with excitement on his face. He knew that Darcy had the dreaded marks of vagueness. He'd gotten it out of her one night after Thor had allowed her to challenge him to a drinking contest. Tony then made it his duty to bring in a great number of age appropriate, Pepper Potts approved suitors to accost Darcy with Hello and Hi, just to see what she came up with in response. "JARVIS, send down Darce, have her bring jello for the invalid."
"And a pop for me!" Isaac called out.
"Uncle Isaac, I have to remind you, that you are not allowed to have POP," JARVIS said patiently. "I will have a tea brought to you that is more appropriate."
"Evil robot genius," Isaac pouted.
When Darcy finally did make her way down, with a decaf cup of lemon zinger for Isaac and a whole reusable bag full of jello cups. Tony nudged Sam to say Hello as instructed but instead, Sam wolf whistled and said,
"Respect the lady, fella," Isaac grumbled.
"Here you are, Uncle Isaac," Darcy handed him the tea, then popped up on her tiptoes and placed a kiss on his temple. She turned to Sam and held up the jello, "Did you request the jello? Tonsillitis?"
"I like things that jigg---"
"Finish that sentence, and you'll be twitching on the ground," Issac warned, holding up the taser Tony had built for him. It was far superior to the one that Isaac had bought Darcy before she went away to college, even if she still used that old thing and declared it the best that ever was.
"You can give the jello to Barnes," Tony sighed in disappointment. He was bound and determined to find Darcy her soulmate. It was the one thing that he and Isaac had a disagreement on.
Her guardian and Uncle was of the belief that soulmate words were unimportant. It was more important to choose who you were meant to be with. Tony thought that was a very nice notion of autonomy, but he also knew that the words wrapped around his ankleGet your drunk ass off of that, and Oh God, I knew I should have taken that position at Microsoft instead, Rhodey and Pepper's words respectively to him, gave him hope in the darkest of times. They were proof that two people were obligated by the universe to accept him and love him unconditionally.
He just wanted Darcy to have the same feeling of unconditional love. Lewis was a good kid, she deserved happiness.
"Sir, we have a breach in stairwell F, starting on the fifty-second floor," JARVIS announced. "It appears there is a jet unloading an attack force, suspected Hydra."
"Shit, Darce, take Isaac to a safe room!" Tony ordered as Sam immediately ran back into the hallway where Steve and Bucky were. "Suit me up, JARVIS."
Darcy dropped the bag of jello cups and reached for her Uncle's hand, intent on getting him to the closest safe room, which was at the other end of the hall. Isaac shrugged her off though, and held his taser in his hand tightly, standing in front of the door to Sergeant Barnes' hallway.
"Uncle Isaac, come on, bad guys are coming," Darcy insisted. "Captain Rogers and Sergeant Barnes will be okay."
"No, kiddo," Isaac shook his head. "I'm repaying a favor here."
"Shit," Darcy cursed as Tony was quickly suited up and made a leap out of the window, intending to go towards the jet and cut off the source of invaders.
"Go on and get to that safe room yourself," Isaac advised.
"You're nuts," Darcy accused, looking around the room curiously. She knew that Clint and Natasha kept weapons stashed everywhere, and sure enough, in the corner vent with the screw loose, there was a crossbow. She dropped to her knees and was doing her best to get access to the weapon when the first hostile stormed into the room.
She focused on unscrewing the vent enough to get to her weapon, even though she heard the telltale zap of Isaac's taser. Thankfully, she also heard a body drop to the ground. And then all hell broke loose. More men came spilling into the little lobby of the medical floor, heavy and jarring footsteps echoing in the small room, making her hands shake in spite of herself. Then she heard another door being flung open.
"GET DOWN!" Sam shouted, pushing Isaac as gingerly as he could to the ground behind his makeshift podium.
The gunfire happened quickly after that and Darcy squeaked out in dismay at the very loud echoing sound of bullets hitting vibranium. The fight broke out around her, and for some reason she seemed invisible in the corner as she finally managed to get the other screw off of the vent panel. She reached in and grabbed the crossbow and the bolts sitting next to them, before turning around and looking for something to shoot at.
Sam was safe behind the podium with Isaac, who was wincing with pain. As careful as Sam might have tried to be, Isaac was in his seventies, and his bones weren't quite as strong as they used to be. Captain Rogers was smashing people with the shield with a sort of strange elegance, when he wasn't using it to---well shield himself from gunfire. And Sergeant Barnes...
Well Sergeant Barnes was fighting. Like a beautiful, deadly fighting fiend. Many jaws were meeting that shiny metal fist, and he had a sort of way of knowing what the other person was about to do before they did it. Darcy had watched Natasha fight before, just the once against a gang of AIM thugs who had tried to get to Jane, but it had been beautiful, and Barnes reminded Darcy of that.
Also, there was a thing that the two World War Two veterans did in the middle of it all, Rogers had let the shield fly, to have it ricochet off of an attacker, and Barnes had caught it on the rebound, smashed it against someone's head,before managing to use it to shield both he and Steve from incoming gunfire.
Darcy sat stupidly with her crossbow in hand, waiting for a chance to be useful. About two minutes into the fast fight that Rogers and Barnes were winning easily, a goon that had not been fully knocked out began crawling toward the podium, his hand reaching for something on his tac gear. Darcy let out a shot and made a mangled noise of horror as the bolt went straight through the guy's sleeve and pinned him to the floor.
"Thanks," Sam called out, reaching for the temporarily immobilised guy and knocking him out before delving into the man's vest and pulling out a wicked looking blade for protection.
Darcy made an attempt to sayyou're welcome, but found that when she opened her mouth she gagged. She turned into the corner and fought against the urge to lose her meager breakfast quickly. She wasn't a pacifist, per say, she had tazed Thor, after all. But she had never, ever hurt another living thing like that before. The bolt had only gone through his sleeve but for a moment, she had thought she had shot him straight through the arm.
She gagged again and felt a hand on her shoulder. She spun around and aimed the crossbolt right in the concerned face of Captain America.
"Hi!" he said quickly, and put up his hands in a proclamation of innocent intent.
"Hi," Darcy said miserably, before gagging again.
"You alright?" he asked.
"Never did that before," Darcy whispered.
"Stevie, a little help!" Bucky called out, whipping the shield Steve's way.
It was really very impressive when Steve didn't even have to look up to catch the thing. He just put a hand up and boom, it was in his grip.
"Get somewhere safe, please," Steve advised.
"Mr. Stark has taken over the jet, Captain Rogers and is piloting it to the landing pad," JARVIS announced. "Approximately a dozen hostile individuals are still en route to you."
Steve nodded before rushing to Bucky again. Darcy started to crawl towards the podium, intent on getting behind Sam and letting him cut or shoot anybody to keep her and her Uncle safe. She was so not down with putting a hole in someone's body. She couldn't even do that summer job her freshman year of college at the jewelry stand down at the mall. What made her think she was capable of putting huge holes in someone with a medieval weapon?
"Darcy!" Uncle Isaac called out. He pointed towards just past Darcy, concern and worry in his eyes.
Bucky was trying to fight for dominance in a stronghold against two attackers. And a third had a baton held high, ready to unleash a charge on the recently former Winter Soldier. Darcy didn't even think, her body was on autopilot as she loaded another bolt, pointed the crossbow and shot, just as Bucky had managed to gain leverage and smash two heads together. He turned and saw the moment the crossbow bolt landed right in the neck of the man who had wanted to shock him into compliance once more.
He looked past the man who was gripping at his neck with one hand and flailing around dramatically with his other. The girl still had the crossbow held up in a now trembling hand, and she was pale as a ghost, her eyes instantaneously leaking tears. She dropped the weapon as he approached her and put her hands up to her mouth, fighting back a gag reflex.
He didn't know much about this strange new world he had come back to. He didn't know much about himself anymore, although he was learning quick, and Steve was certainly helping. But he did know that the fiery little dame kneeling on the ground a few feet away from him had saved him. And he definitely knew that she had seen enough active combat for one day.
He kicked the crossbow and bunch of bolts over to a grateful Sam before bending over and scooping her up, giving her a nod.
"Hi," she managed to breathe before holding her hand over her mouth again.
He gave her a sympathetic smile and nodded. He didn't like enacting violence either, so much anymore.
"Hello," he answered. He stalked to the podium as Steve, wonderful Steve who knew what he needed without being asked, provided him cover. He deposited Darcy behind the podium, with her Uncle.
"Are you alright, kiddo?" Isaac asked softly.
"Mmhmmm," Darcy lied, wiping away at tears. "Is that---did I---is that guy alive?"
"Sure is," Isaac promised, looking up at Bucky warily. “You just barely got him, kiddo. Just enough to startle and scratch him.”
"He'll be right as rain and ready for the pokey in no time," Bucky promised. He smiled as Darcy gripped at his left hand. "I'm gonna need that hand, doll."
"Okay," Darcy nodded, completely shell shocked as Bucky carefully extracted his hand from hers.
She didn't know what happened with the rest of the fight. She just knew that they won. And someone carried her to the other side of the medical floor and placed her in a bed. And then Jane was in front of her, gripping her hand. Darcy blinked and looked around in confusion.
"What happened? Uncle Isaac?!?"
"He's fine," Jane promised. "Sprained his hip, getting the hang of the walker that Tony just built him. He'll be fine."
"And---and Sam and Captain Rogers and...and Sergeant Barnes?"
"Just fine, doll," Bucky opened the door to the room. He gave her a smile he hadn't used in a while before shuffling in with Steve following closely behind. "Are you alright?"
"I'm okay," Darcy nodded. "I---just---I never did that before."
"And you'll never have to do it again," Steve promised. "But thank you, for doing what you did. You really helped us out in a tight spot."
"Did that guy die?" Darcy asked quietly.
"No doll, I told you he didn't," Bucky promised. It was the truth. The thug was being given the finest medical care in the world at that moment in order to stay alive, even though Darcy’s shot hadn’t been fatal, but really, just more of a general annoyance. Or at least that’s what the former assassin believed. "He'll pull through."
"Good," Darcy nodded. She smiled at Bucky and then Steve, relief evident on her face. "I'm Darcy, by the way. Darcy Lewis. I'm not usually so---weak."
"Weak?" Jane asked in disbelief. "Darcy! You took down two Hydra scum! Natasha said she was going to buy you a pony."
"Darcy Lewis? You took down the God of Thunder, the way I hear it," Steve smiled down at her warmly.
"Yeah, I did that," Darcy nodded, her confidence picking up a bit.
"Hell yeah you did. And you hit him with an RV," Jane added.
"HEY, that was you, mostly," Darcy argued, clearly not so out of it that she was willing to let that slide.
Jane shrugged and wrinkled her nose before giving Darcy a big hug.
"I'm going to go get us snacks," Jane announced.
"You're not allowed to use the microwave," Darcy reminded her.
"Okay, then it might take me longer," Jane nodded. She turned to Bucky and Steve and asked, "I assume she's in good hands?"
"Of course," Steve said quickly and Bucky nodded. He sat down in the chair on the left side of Darcy's bed and Bucky took the right. Steve smiled at Darcy and nodded, "I'm Steve, by the way."
"I know, and you're Bucky," Darcy managed a half smile between the two of them. "I heard---a lot about you. From my Uncle."
"Really? Do we know the guy?" Bucky wondered.
"Sure you do," Isaac answered from the door, walking easily into the room with the motorized, streamlined walker. "You both still took too long to get here."
Both Bucky and Steve blinked at Isaac curiously.
"I used to look a lot different, you two schmucks still look the same," Isaac sighed. He rolled up his sleeve and showed them the tattoo that had been branded into his skin that he had learned to view as a sign of strength. It was proof that he had survived.
"Germany, 1944," Steve whispered. "You and Bucky made fun of my suit for two hours."
"It was a silly outfit," Isaac shrugged.
"Uncle Isaac," Pepper called out from out in the hallway. She walked into the room and smiled at the congregation of people. "I'm taking you upstairs to your room. The doctor said you needed to be horizontal before you took the pain pills."
"Tryna get me in a bed," Issac winked at her. "Told Tony and Rhodes they didn't know what they were doing."
"Charming, Isaac," Pepper smirked. "Let's go, young man."
"You alright, kiddo?" Isaac asked Darcy.
"I'm okay, I'll be right up to tuck you in," Darcy smiled.
"Small world," Steve murmured thoughtfully as he watched Pepper gently lead Issac out of the medical world.
"For you, maybe," Darcy snorted. She looked to a thoughtful Bucky and shook her head in amusement. "Small world for time-traveling super soldiers. Not so much for the rest of us."
After that day, it seemed like Bucky and Isaac were in a competition to see who could heal faster. Isaac didn't help matters by taunting the man daily about how Bucky was clearly too old to overtake him. By the start of autumn, Bucky was eating with the rest of the team at dinner time, and then quickly moved out of medical and went into the suite with his soulmate.
Isaac had begrudgingly eaten crow when that had happened before he was well enough to move out of the temporary suite in the tower.
The three senior citizens spent a lot of time together. Darcy had worked out a system with JARVIS to take as many pictures as possible so she could expand on those pages in her Isaac Biography scrapbook. And she began to fret, when her seemingly indestructible Uncle began to show signs of aging, getting tired right before dinner and begging off the movie watching that Steve and Bucky had come over for. She would coddle her uncle and tuck him in soundly before heading back out to the living room and sitting between Steve and Bucky herself as they watched through Star Wars, and Star Trek, and the Lord of the Rings and anything else that Isaac had deemed necessary for his elders to watch.
Eventually, Isaac had begun to demand that Darcy go out on random errands. And he'd call up Bucky and/or Steve and make sure she had a personal super soldier security detail each time.
After a while, Darcy never really wanted to go anywhere unless she had a super soldier on hand to accompany her. It was boring out there in the world without them. She liked that when they ventured out into the city, they were looking around in wonder at all the changes, and were able to tell her what had stood there eighty or more years prior.
She liked taking Bucky on food runs, because the metal hand could hold hundreds, if not thousands of pounds. And he was the braver of the two when it came to trying out new things. She liked to pull Steve out when Isaac would need something from a regular store. Steve had this phenomenal sense of direction, and it didn't matter what store they were in, he always could zero in on the shelf that had whatever her crazy great Uncle had decided he needed.
One fine day in October, both super soldiers had gone out with her without the need for an errand from Uncle Isaac. Apparently, there was a little shop that opened three times a year and sold the best matzo ball soup that had ever been created. But it was hard to find, a legend in the city that no one could point you to. Steve had found it handily, and Bucky had managed to carry back the entire bushel of soup that Darcy had bought.
Darcy had learned to tune out the multitude of people who would approach both supersoldiers and greet them with a simple, Hi. Steve and Bucky never responded. They just waved and moved on.
"Aren't you worried?" she asked one day at the beginning of November as she sat between Steve and Bucky on a park bench, munching on peanut brittle that Isaac shouldn't be eating anyway because of the sugar.
"Worried about what?" Bucky asked around a mouth full of the sweet and salty candy.
"That you'll never find your third?" Darcy questioned. "If you---if you don't respond to everyone with something crazy?"
Bucky blinked at her in confusion.
"Soul mates?" Darcy said slowly, looking to Steve for help and finding the same kind of confusion on his face as well. "If you never answer to the people saying hi to you, you'll never find them."
"I---we---doll?" Bucky blinked at her, utterly confused.
"Oh my god, is that not true?" Darcy's head was swiveling back and forth very quickly to look between the two of them. "Is the world's biggest lie that you two were waiting for a soulmate? We learn about you in preschool, how it's important to be unique in your first words to someone...how you have to---to stand out because if it's just HI, you're in for heartache."
"We already met her," Steve piped in finally, getting around the sluggish blockade in his head.
"What?!" Darcy asked in amazement. "Was it Peggy Carter? Oh my god, how does the world not know about this?"
"It wasn't Peggy Carter," Bucky shook his head. He looked down at Darcy in bemusement and shook his head. "You really don't know?"
"Know what?" Darcy questioned.
"Nothing, it's nothing," Steve insisted. "C'mon, sweetheart, let's go get coffees."
"Okay, Captain Pumpkin Spice," Darcy smiled, reaching for his hand that he extended. She in turn, reached for Bucky, pretending to strain to pull him off of the bench. "To the least busy coffee shop in town!"
"She doesn't know," Bucky whispered as he and Steve lay in bed that night. "Or maybe she doesn't want us?"
"Don't be stupid," Steve huffed out as he lay on his stomach on the bed, his arm heavy against Bucky's chest, his face buried in Bucky's neck.
"I'm not exactly a prize," Bucky looked down at his arm.
"When has Darcy ever shied away from your arm, or anything about you? She’d barely known you two days before she was grabbing to hold your left hand," Steve murmured into Bucky's neck. He placed a sleepy kiss there and snuggled down deeper. "She just doesn't know."
"So---do we tell her?" Bucky wondered. "She said our words. Stark said that we said hers."
"I don't know," Steve said honestly. "Dozens of men and woman tell me hi every day, Buck."
"Don't you dare tell me that you don't know deep down in your bones that Darcy is our soulmate," Bucky insisted. "You can feel it, too. I'm falling hard for her and you are too, I know it."
"Yeah, yeah, I am," Steve acknowledged. Darcy was smart and funny and thoughtful. She exuded kindness like a beacon, calling in all lost and broken souls to her. Soul words aside, he would have been falling for her anyway.
"You know Stark says Isaac is one of those markless," Bucky said thoughtfully. "Maybe she just don't believe in the words. Maybe she's one of those that think free choice is where it's at."
"Maybe," Steve nodded. "And maybe that's not such a bad thing."
Bucky pushed at Steve suddenly so the man was lying on his back. He looked at Steve curiously and shook his head.
"You saying my words don't mean nothin'?" Bucky wondered softly.
"I'm saying that over eighty years after saying those words to each other, I chose to say them again," Steve said earnestly. "And you did too. We were different people and we said each others words to each other out of choice. And there's beauty in that choice that not a lot of people have the luxury of."
"Alright," Bucky sighed. "I understand what you're saying, Stevie. But Darcy is our soul mate. I ain't leaving her out of this, she deserves half of everything I got to give and I want to give it to her."
"Would you want to do that if the words were a fluke?" Steve asked bluntly.
"I---," Bucky furrowed his brow and thought about it with serious consideration.
He was living proof that the love from a soulmate was one of the most amazing forces in the world. But if he thought about it hard enough, if Steve hadn't of had Bucky's words on his skin, that wouldn't have meant that what he felt for him was any less. And the feelings he was developing for Darcy, for that brave, scared woman who made herself sick to protect him before she even knew him from Adam...they were genuine and real. When she held his hand or cuddled into his side, he could feel a warmth from parts he had thought long dead and tortured out of him.
He thrilled in every moment he got to spend with her, same as Steve. He liked the way she would bring each new thing he might have missed in his time away from the real world with so much genuine excitement.
He longed to feel those plush, pouting lips on his own. He wanted her cuddled between he and Steve every night for the rest of their lives. And that wasn't because her hi was written on his skin.
It was because it was her.
"I would want her no matter what," Bucky admitted honestly.
"Good, then we're gonna go about convincing her of that," Steve nodded. "Without resorting to the words."
Darcy had been hinting to her Uncle that they should go back to their little brownstone in Brooklyn for nearly a month by the time Thanksgiving rolled around. But even she had to admit, that she appreciated his hemming and hawing and dragging his feet about the move away when she got to use the state of the art, luxurious kitchen to put together her very involved meal.
She didn't know why her uncle was stalling on their move home. He was completely healed from his run in with Hydra, or namely, Sam's takedown of his hip. She was obviously much better since her run in with violence. Darcy blamed it on Tony. And the supersoldiers.
Mostly Tony, because, when in doubt, it was probably Tony's doing.
But Darcy knew her uncle liked spending time with Bucky and Steve. And more importantly, he liked pushing HER to spend time with Bucky and Steve. Like it was some kind of a chore or something.
She loved spending time with those boys. Her boys. She'd begun calling them her boys some time in the middle of September, after Thor had alluded to them as Darcy's Captain and Sergeant. She knew that Bucky and Steve were forever bonded by their soul words. And she also frequently reminded herself that the two of them were waiting for a third to appear. She didn't believe for one second that they had already met their third.
They were the type of men to believe that the soul mate bond should be honored, after all. Not everyone had crazy, progressive ideas like her and her Uncle Isaac.
Because try as Tony might, Darcy truly believed that she must have met her soulmates already. They were out there somewhere, having already said their simple greetings to her in passing. Her response must not have hit home.
And that was fine.
Because Uncle Isaac was the greatest person in the universe, and he was still living a full and happy life full of friends and family. He'd had a great love, too, soul mate words be damned. Darcy had no doubt that if she got some physical distance from the two men she had idolized since infancy, she would gain some perspective, and the rapidly blooming feelings sitting heavy against her chest would fade and be more gentle with time.
But that would mean she'd have to get Uncle Isaac out of Stark Towers and back into their idyllic little brownstone.
She resolved herself to try again after Thanksgiving. Right after she managed to get all four ovens working with pies and rolls and potato filling and two perfectly brined birds (named Clint and Sam, in honor of their birdiness and not because they refused to let her beat them in Mario Kart anymore).
"Smells amazing, doll," Bucky announced as he walked into the common room with Steve right behind him.
"Does it?" Darcy questioned, her back to them as she worked at gently placing her sweet potato souffle dishes into a water bath in the oven. "Don't even think about it, Steve."
Steve furrowed his brow as Bucky laughed at him. Steve's hand was mid-reach for one of the small little pumpkin pie bites Darcy had made. Darcy finished her work and closed the oven door carefully before whirling around and launching her oven mitt at Steve's head just as he defied her order, taking a pumpkin pie bite and cramming it into his mouth.
She couldn't be mad at him when he groaned out his pleasure and took nearly three steps back from the counter, obviously in the middle of some kind of euphoria. He had his hand over his heart as he chewed slowly and reverently. Bucky watched him in amazement and looked to Darcy hopefully, leaving his question unspoken, but clear as day on his face.
"Oh fine, just one," Darcy smiled indulgently, and laughed when Bucky eagerly popped a pumpkin pie bite into his mouth and had a similar reaction to Steve, but probably with a tad more restrained moaning and groaning.
Bucky obviously had more experience in holding in those kinds of sounds.
"Sweetheart, please can I have another?" Steve wondered hopefully.
"Dinner is at one pm, you have two hours," Darcy insisted. "I put hors d'oeuvres in on the coffee table by the couches. You can gorge yourself on those."
"You didn't make those though, I saw 'em delivered," Steve disputed.
"I promise you, just because I didn't make them, doesn't make them any less delicious," Darcy opened another oven just a crack to peek in on the state of one of her turkeys.
"We'll agree to disagree," Steve said wisely.
"I got the tiny little grilled cheese sandwiches with shot glasses of tomato soup," Darcy walked towards them both and reached for the hands that were creeping towards the little pieces of dessert once more.
"I want more pie," Bucky whispered desperately.
Steve was a lot of things. Super soldier, retired Captain in the United States Army, an absolute bastard to play against in gin rummy. But one thing he prided himself on, was that he was a provider. Even when he was a shrimpy little thing back in the depression, he would always manage to scrape together enough pennies to make sure his ma always had a bit of real coffee for the mornings.
If Bucky wanted more pie, then Steve was going to do his best to get him more pie. Luckily, distracting Darcy wouldn't be any kind of punishment. He held her hand in his and pulled, so that she turned from Bucky. He wrapped his arm around her and swept her off of her feet, her body right up against him in a tight embrace.
"You smell like cinnamon and cloves," Steve remarked, nuzzling his nose in her neck as he held her up and off the ground, her feet dangling a good foot off the floor. "Bucky used to smoke cigarettes that smelled like that during the war."
"Naughty," Darcy scolded, looking back automatically to playfully scold Bucky. She gasped when she saw his cheeks puffed out, chipmunk style. She began to struggle against Steve's hold to stop Bucky from eating ALL of the pumpkin pie, but Steve had super strength and she had spaghetti where her muscles should be. "HEATHEN! I MADE WHIPPED CREAM FOR THE TOPS OF THOSE FOR LATER! YOU'RE NOT EVEN GETTING THE FULL EXPERIENCE!"
"MMPhhf?" Bucky mumbled, with wide hopeful eyes as he grabbed the tray of cooling pies and ran towards one of the fridges, intent on finding the whipped cream.
"No one is going to miss a couple pies," Steve mumbled in Darcy's ear. "You got fifty other desserts and half of them are made from pumpkin."
"Sneaky, rat-bastard no goodniks!" Darcy accused, wiggling against Steve's hold on her. She stopped very suddenly and Steve thought she was done, and then she let out a shrieking "HIYA!"
And then Steve saw stars as the back of her very hard head collided with his forehead, dazing him into dropping her. Bucky's eyes widened and he choked on laughter and a mouthful of pie as Darcy ran for him while Steve stumbled. He still managed to easily out run her, one hand gripping a bowl full of whipped cream with specks of cinnamon in it and the metal hand holding the tray of pies.
"DON'T YOU DARE, BARNES!" Darcy shrieked as Bucky went to put his whole face in the bowl of whipped cream. "JARVIS SEND HELP!"
"That's not fair, sweetheart," Steve accused, rushing into the fray and easily catching Darcy before she could catch Bucky. He lifted her up into a bridal carry, his arms banding around her and preventing her flailing. He had a red mark on his forehead that was rapidly healing, and a dopey smile on his face as he stared down at her as she fumed righteously at him.
"Put me down!" Darcy was caught between outrage and laughter as Steve stared down at her with a stupid smile on his face. The laughter died in her throat very quickly as Steve's smile turned even stupider, softening around the edges as his eyes went half lidded and he dipped his head very suddenly so that his lips slotted against hers in a firm, decisive kiss.
Darcy went a little boneless at it, her heart suddenly hammering in her chest as her eyes drifted close and she kissed him back with a fraction of the want she had been hiding away for her guys. Steve broke away first and Darcy was ashamed to admit that she chased his lips to get another kiss.
"Huh," Bucky breathed out, standing right next to them, his hands devoid of his recently pilfered treats. Steve put Darcy on the ground and Bucky wasted no time in pulling her to him with a gentleness that he didn't even know he was capable of. Darcy was still dazed and pliant and nodded when he gave her a questioning look.
Bucky had always told Steve that kissing dames was nothing like kissing him. But he was obviously kissing the wrong dames, because kissing Darcy was exactly like kissing Steve. Not the physicality of it, because the girl had a way of pressing his bottom lip that Steve had never managed. But the feeling he got deep down, bubbles and fizzing and delightful agitation deep in his gut, that was the same. It was amazing and wonderful and he never wanted to stop kissing her. Unless he got to kiss Steve too, then he'd manage to stop, just so long as he knew he could go back and get her to make that small little sound again.
Steve was a solid mass against her back and Bucky was plastering every inch of her front and she was going to pass out from oxygen deprivation and complete and total bliss in no time. She was the one to pull away, her head swaying with dizziness at everything currently rushing through her. She let out pleased and happy sigh when Steve pushed in so he could kiss Bucky and she watched from her place in the middle greedily, wanting more kisses but not wanting to stop watching either.
She didn't know what had come over her boys. But clearly some kind of dam had broken. She wasn't surprised when the vertical makeout session went horizontal on the couch she had chased Bucky to. Steve had managed to be on the bottom, with Bucky laying half on top of him and half crammed into the back of the couch. Darcy was on Steve's other half, held tight against him by both Bucky and Steve and each kiss became progressively deeper and Darcy could feel her body singing with every tender little touch of their fingers against her, no matter how innocent it was.
She would have to go and get that awful turkey scarf that Thor had excitedly purchased for her, because Bucky was currently painting her throat with hickies while Steve was groaning as plundered the inside of Darcy's mouth with his tongue.
"Christ," Bucky hissed out as his hands squeezed her hip. "You're so fucking soft, it's like a dream."
"Mmhhm," Darcy let out a garbled noise.
"I want you so bad, doll, you got no idea," Bucky mumbled against her neck before moving his lips lower, going for the collar of her shirt with his teeth to bare more skin to paint his mark all over .
"Both do," Steve muttered. "Stay over tonight? Stay with us? Please?"
Darcy made another unintelligible noise as Bucky nipped at her collarbone and Steve didn't give her a chance to answer as he went back to kissing the breath straight out of her lungs.
"JARVIS said you needed assistance?"
Darcy's eyes went wide and she suddenly felt cold as Bucky was forcibly removed from her person, and all his heat and bulk going with him. Natasha glared at Bucky, her hand pinching at a nerve in his neck.
"I'm okay," Darcy croaked out. "False alarm?"
"Are you sure?" Natasha smiled down at Darcy with genuine pleasantness.
"Yeah," Darcy nodded. "Just fine."
"Cool, can I have some of these pies?" Clint announced from the other side of the room, where Bucky had abandoned the dessert in hopes of sweet kisses. The archer took the mini pie and dunked it in the whipped cream before popping it into his mouth.
Bucky wriggled against Natasha's hold and called out in annoyance, "Those are mine!"
"I should check the buns---the rolls," Darcy stammered before hopping off of Steve, who quickly grabbed a throw pillow and threw it over his crotch now that she wasn't covering that part of him.
"Pie good. Need more pie," Clint announced before taking another pie and dunking it in whipped cream.
Even Natasha couldn't stop Bucky from breaking the hold and roaring as he advanced on Clint.
"So...soul mate threesomes...am I right?" Tony asked Darcy with a waggle of his eyebrows.
"Tony!" Pepper smacked him upside the head with a dish towel as everyone but Darcy and Tony worked to clear the demolished dinner from the table and clean up. Uncle Isaac had gone back to his suite already, insisting that he needed to get some sleep before he had to get up at midnight to head out and get the Black Friday deals.
"Seriously?" Rhodey called out from the dishwasher that he and Jane were trying to fill to optimal capacity. "Tact, man, we went over this."
"Blah blah blah," Tony rolled his eyes. "Lewis, soulmate threesomes are clearly where it's at."
"Uhm," Darcy blinked at him, wondering if she was really in some kind of food coma, where words were coming at her upside down and wrong. "What are you talking about?"
"Soul mates...three people. Doing...stuff?" Tony blinked at her, equally as confused.
"Congratulations?" Darcy shrugged. She gave a shrug to an exasperated Rhodey and Pepper. "And apologies to you good people over there for being stuck with this?"
"It's appreciated," Rhodey huffed out a sigh.
Bucky and Steve chose that moment to come back from walking Uncle Issac up to his suite, looking happy and eager to get to work. Tony glared at them before turning to Darcy and asking bluntly,
"Did these two idiots tell you that you guys said each other's words?"
"I tell them hi, all the time, it's a standard greeting for friends," Darcy shrugged. "Why are you being so weird?"
Bucky and Steve were like one unit, taking quick steps to stop Tony from doing whatever he was about to do.
"JARVIS? Pull up the first words these three idiots ever said to each other," Tony demanded.
The holo screen at the end of the table lit up and there was the Hydra incident on screen. Darcy immediately stood, ready to run, not wanting to relive those awful moments again. She didn't want to see herself doing those things. JARVIS must have known, because he played the edited version, showing multiple camera angles as Steve said Hi and she said it back. Then Bucky with his own greeting and her answer.
"You said each other's words," Tony clapped his hands together, as if it was the end of the matter. "Now soulmate threesomes forever. Tell me, is Barnes' butt really as good as it looks, because I have---"
"Doll," Bucky began as Darcy began to take steady steps away from the table, her eyes darting around for an escape route.
"That's just a coincidence," Darcy whispered, shaking her head. "I'm not actually their soulmate."
"Sweetheart, you are," Steve insisted, he reached for her, but Thor quickly interceded, standing in front of the super soldiers as a distressed Darcy made a quick exit.
"Allow her time, brothers," Thor advised quietly. "She has long given up on the idea of a soul match. This is a surprise to her, and she's distressed. Be assured that the glow is there and she feels it as well."
“What?” Steve blinked.
“Nothing,” Jane interjected, giving Thor a shrewd look that told him to zip it. She didn’t want the Asgardian to make things stranger for Darcy, who was seriously looking like she was about to bolt. “Nothing, just, weird Asgardian words.”
“Indeed,” Thor quickly agreed.
Tony narrowed his eyes at Clint, who was still stuffing his mouth at every opportunity he had.
"I thought you said you caught the three of them doing it earlier, soulmate style?"
"Idiots," Pepper sighed. "Meddling idiots."
"You never want to go shopping with me after Thanksgiving," Uncle Isaac remarked as he and Darcy waited in line to get a good deal on electronics. Not that they needed it, anything they wanted, Tony would happily give them. But Uncle Isaac loved a good deal, and far be it from Darcy to spoil that for him.
"What's not to like?" Darcy huffed out. "Long lines. Irate people...look, those people brought a newborn out into twenty-five degree weather at one in the morning. What's so bad about all that? It's a fun time, if you ask me."
"What happened?" Isaac sighed.
He waited patiently as his grand-niece, the scrappy little fighter who had given Death the middle finger at the age of zero and had grown up into a scrappy little fighter who gave the middle finger to anyone who dared to try to hurt what she cared about, chewed at her bottom lip with worry. She was trying to articulate something that she didn't think she could and she finally gave up and shrugged.
"They think they said my words," Darcy whispered. "Bucky and Steve."
"Well, kiddo, they did," Isaac told her gently. "But what's that got to do with the price of bananas?"
"It---it has a lot to do with it," Darcy insisted.
"Sure it does," Isaac shook his head in disagreement with his words. "Those words, little girl, those words have the same weight as they always did. I've told you since you were a tiny little thing fighting to breathe on your own. You didn't have to live for those words then, and you don't have to now."
"Right," Darcy nodded.
"The only thing that matters, the only thing that's right in the world," Isaac said the well rehearsed, often repeated words with a sort of rye reverence, "Is that big, strong, true heart of yours. And if you follow that, words or not...well then, nothing can really be so bad or go so wrong."
Darcy nodded and sighed. "Can we please move back to Brooklyn, Uncle Isaac?"
"Of course we can, kiddo. Whenever you want."
The Avengers had a full call to assemble the very next day, dealing with a potential alien invasion in the middle of a sandy, dangerous desert on the other side of the world. Even Bucky went with this time, as it was an all hands on deck situation.
Darcy and Isaac had been back in their house for a full week before the Avengers could even think about coming back to the States.
Bucky and Steve had spent every spare moment planning what they would say to their girl. She was hurt and confused and didn't put much stock into the words. So they talked softly about how to convince her that it wasn't just the words that drew them to her. They knew that it must be intimidating, coming into a relationship that had already existed for so long. But they'd been incomplete before. Happy, sure, but still missing that last vital piece in their lives, the piece that was decidedly Darcy shaped.
They were terrified to find the suites that Isaac and Darcy had inhabited empty upon their return.
"JARVIS?" Steve questioned as Bucky tried not to go into a full blown panic attack. "Did Darcy say where she was going?"
"She and Uncle Isaac have returned to their home in Brooklyn," JARVIS announced. "She did leave the address specifically for the two of you, three days ago."
"Great...wonderful, can you, can you send that to me?" Steve wondered hopefully as Bucky's breathing finally evened out.
"Indeed," JARVIS acknowledged. "And Uncle Isaac wanted to let you know that today is the first day of Chanukah. And that visitors are expected to bring gifts appropriate for the evening."
"What did your great-sadie always give you?" Steve wondered. Bucky's heritage was a true melting pot, melding irish, italian and hasidic jewish blood into one strapping man.
"Gelt? Isaac can't have gelt cause of his diabetes," Bucky reminded him.
"Welcome to the twenty-first century, Buck, they make chocolate sugar free if you want it," Steve smirked.
Isaac was waiting at the front door for the super soldiers.
“You’re late,” he declared. The limo pulled up in the street behind them and Isaac put on his cap, pulled a suitcase behind him and stepped jauntily onto the front porch. He held out his hand expectantly. “As usual.”
“Sorry, there was a lot of traffic,” Steve explained.
“My gift?” he demanded.
Steve laughed and fished into the bag for a bag of chocolate gelt. Isaac eagerly took it and pocketed it before saluting both men seriously, then pushing past them to walk down the small stoop.
“Where you going, Isaac?” Bucky wondered.
“We lit the candle, my darling great-niece is working herself into a tizzy baking stuff up for the next few nights,” Isaac shrugged. “I’m going to go to my apartment in Stark Tower down in Manhattan, via my personal limo, and I’m going to get drunk with Tony Stark.”
“Isaac,” Steve scolded. “You’re not meant to drink with your---”
“You’re a party pooper no matter what outfit you got on,” Isaac rolled his eyes. “I’m going to give you boys a night in this apartment. I don’t want to hear ONE WORD about what you get up to.”
Steve’s eyes went wide as saucers and Bucky looked at Isaac incredulously.
“You think she’ll want us to stay?” Bucky managed to get out, his voice barely above a whisper.
“Go on, go and talk to her,” Isaac smiled. Bucky walked into the house first, and Isaac patted Steve’s shoulder and muttered, “Glad to see you changed out of your costume, at least.”
“Thanks,” Steve rolled his eyes with amused fondness before watching Happy help the elderly man into the limo. He waved them off before stepping into the brownstone and heading back towards the kitchen, following his nose and the smell of baking bread.
Bucky was standing in the doorway, his right shoulder leaning against the frame, staring into the kitchen. Steve put his chin on Bucky’s shoulder and let out a little huff of amusement at the sight of Darcy, in her baking clothes, which consisted of a small pair of shorts, a ripped up blue t-shirt that had to be at least fifteen years old, and a gigantic red apron that Steve had gifted her on his birthday, his shield prominently in the center of it. She was covered in what might have been either flour or powdered sugar, her face smudged with it along with a liberal coating in the top knot of riotous brown curls on her head.
The counters of the kitchen were covered in racks of cooling treats. Cookies, breads, muffins. Steve’s stomach gave an involuntary growl at the sight of his favorite, chocolate babka, which he knew was difficult to make after having watched her make it countless times in the past six months. For him. She’d always teased him that she was only doing it because it was for him and if she loved him any less she would run to the store and buy it instead.
“God, I love her,” Bucky vocalized what Steve was thinking, his voice quiet, but the words full of feeling and raw with honesty.
“Yeah,” Steve nodded, wrapping his arms around Bucky’s waist and hugging him tight. “Me too.”
“Let’s tell her that, then,” Bucky suggested. “Keep saying it to her until she believes it.”
Steve nodded again, giving Bucky one last squeeze before releasing him and both men began moving into the kitchen, going quietly towards Darcy. Steve got a little mischievous look in his eye and Bucky slapped him on the back of the head.
“Don’t even think about scaring her awake,” Bucky muttered.
“She makes that funny sound when she’s surprised,” Steve pouted. He opened his mouth in a perfect O and tried to recreate the noise. “Wuhwhoo?”
Bucky rolled his eyes and let his right hand gently run up and down Darcy’s back as Steve bent over and gently cooed at her, “Hi sweetheart, you gonna open those gorgeous baby blues for us?”
Despite their best efforts, Darcy jerked into wakefulness and her head swiveled back and forth, and she would have fallen off the stool had it not been for Bucky’s hand on her back.
“Whaa hoo?” she grunted out, blinking in confusion at the smiling faces of Bucky and Steve. Her confusion gave way to sleepy recognition and then a slow and beautiful smile. “You’re home.”
“We are,” Steve nodded. He tilted his head and let his lips brush her temple. “We’re home, now.”
“Hi,” she whispered.
“Hi,” Steve answered back.
Darcy turned to Bucky, whose hand was still gently rubbing lines up and down her spine. He smiled down at her with a sort of peace and surety that felt new to his features, but was certainly welcome. He bent so that his lips landed on the top of her head, and when he licked his lips, he was pleased to see that it was powdered sugar dusting her from head to toe.
“Hello,” Bucky mumbled into her hair.
“Hi,” Darcy couldn’t help but smile.
“We missed you,” Steve told her. “Couldn’t wait to come home to you.”
“I missed you both,” Darcy nodded.
They were silent as Darcy eased herself off of the kitchen stool and uselessly wiped her hands on her messy apron, probably getting more sugar on them than off. She gestured towards the baked goods and said,
“I went a little overboard, feel free to take whatever you want.”
“Yeah?” Bucky arched an eyebrow, taking a step towards her.
“Cheeky,” Darcy scolded him mildly. “I’m sorry I ran, on Thanksgiving.”
“No, sweetheart, we should have tried to tell you earlier,” Steve insisted.
“Should have told you the minute we realized you didn’t know,” Bucky agreed. “But does it really matter?”
“What?” Darcy furrowed her brow.
“Take the words off my skin, and I’ll still love you,” Steve took a step towards Darcy. “Take Bucky’s words off, take your words off, it wouldn’t matter, I wouldn’t---couldn’t give a damn, because I love you both.”
“We love you, Darcy,” Bucky chimed in. “Not because you’re our soulmate, but because you’re Darcy Damned Lewis. I love everything about you. I love that you snore like a freight train when you doze off in movies.”
“When you make us take you home to go to the bathroom,” Steve chuckled.
“Public restrooms are cesspools!” Darcy insisted.
“And our bathroom in the Tower?” Steve retorted.
“I---you know I have a shy...bathroom thing,” Darcy said vaguely.
“Doesn’t matter, cause I love it,” Steve took another step towards her, Bucky doing the same, until they were standing on either side of her, towering above her as she looked up at them with pink staining her cheeks.
“I---I wanted to get away from the Tower, to clear my head,” Darcy said softly. “I thought putting physical distance between us, would be smart. And whatever you were feeling for me, and I was feeling for the both of you would cool down.”
“How’d that work out for you, doll?” Bucky asked knowingly.
“I’ve missed you so damned much,” Darcy admitted. “Ten hours after you guys left on your mission I just---I knew. I couldn’t not have you both in my life. I couldn’t walk away from it. Didn’t matter if I believed in the words or not. I love you. I love you both. And I want to be together.”
Steve closed in first, bending at the knee in order to kiss her, swift and powerful. And the moment their lips separated, Bucky was turning Darcy’s chin and claiming her lips as well. She made that lovely, happy sound and Bucky could feel the joy of it singing through his veins. Steve’s hand found the back of Bucky’s head, and he turned his soulmate’s face away from Darcy’s kiss and replaced her kiss with one of his own.
“Okay, this is very good, all super duper awesome,” Darcy breathed out. “We going to your place at the tower though? Cause we have one too many senior citizens in this house right now to have a truly nice time.”
“No we don’t Darce,” Bucky disputed. “Uncle Isaac hopped in a limo for his room back at Stark Towers. We’re not to tell him to anything we get up to here.”
“And just what do you think we’re getting up to here?” Darcy smiled.
Steve had the good grace to chuckle with no small amount of humility. He leaned in extra close, his mouth against Darcy’s ear as he brought his hand up as if he were going to reach for her waist, but instead went right past her and grabbed a black and white cookie off a cooling rack.
“First your boys are going to stuff their faces,” Bucky laughed as Steve did just that. “And then, your boys are going to do whatever you could possibly want them to do.”
“Hmmm, my boys,” Darcy looked between them as they began reaching for anything within their grasp and stuffing it in their faces. “I do have a few odd jobs around the house that could use doing.”
“Clearing pipes?” Bucky lewdly winked.
“I have two lights out in the upstairs hallway that Uncle Isaac and I can’t reach,” Darcy said seriously. Steve and Bucky simultaneously goosed her and she laughed. “My boys should be able to handle that.”
“Your boys,” Steve nodded, “Will handle anything, for their girl.”
“Good, cause I was lying about that light thing,” Darcy nodded. “But there are things upstairs that need tending to.”
“Bring the babka,” Steve advised Bucky. He grinned before quickly bending at the knee and grabbing for Darcy. She was up and over his shoulder in a millisecond, whooping with delight. “I got the sugar right here.”
“Now THAT would have made a helluva soulmark, Stevie,” Darcy taunted as her hands pinched at his bottom. “Honestly though, who says hi? A fucking idiot, that’s who.”
“Pot, meet kettle!” Bucky called out as he grabbed the babka and then went for a whole tray of the rugelach. “And watch your damned mouth, doll. Santa’s still watching for you to be naughty or nice.”
“I’m Jewish!” Darcy disputed.
“I’m an old man, but I gotta tell you, Santa ain’t exactly non-secular now a days,” Bucky laughed.
“Shut up and get a hustle on, pal,” Steve called out from the top of the stairs. “She’s doing things to my rear end that would make you blush.”
Bucky grinned and followed quickly. And when he said Hello at the door, he eagerly welcomed the apron being tossed in his face. It probably wouldn’t always be declarations of love and easy, amiable conversation, but he knew that the work they would all have to put into making this thing work between the three of them would definitely be rewarded. He treasured their words on his skin, but it wasn’t the solution to everything life threw their way. Being soulmates was a start, but the real enjoyable work came now.
Bucky felt a warmth building low in his belly as Darcy and Steve laughed and teased each other on the bed. The work was going to be plenty enjoyable.