Disclaimer: I own nothing.
May 23, 1936 – Brooklyn, New York
The soft click of her heels made a sharp noise against the pavement. Her purse was slung over her shoulder, glad that she'd decided to leave her suitcase in her room in Russia, knowing that she had enough clothes stashed at Steve's house to get her by.
Darcy hadn't let her boys know that she was coming home. She didn't have a grand reveal planned or anything like that. She wasn't sure if she'd just show up at the market or the docks where she knew that Bucky had picked up extra work and Steve helped out occasionally. Maybe at Steve's house. Darcy wanted to surprise them, but she was exhausted.
Dawn was waking up the sleepy city of Brooklyn and she spotted a newsie on the corner that she used to sell her own papers at. Reaching into her purse, she pulled out a quarter and handed it to the small boy. "One, please."
"Ya got it, ma'am," the boy said, taking the coin from her and handing her a paper. "So, ya get – "
"Keep the change, kid. Get yourself a candy bar or somethin'."
Seeing the joy on the boy's face made her wonder what her face had looked like when the man had told her the same thing so many years ago.
The paper made its way into her bag and she hurried to the 7th Street bakery for a bag of bagels and the largest cup of coffee that they had. It was obscene the way she moaned as she gulped down the scalding liquid, causing more than just a few glares from women outside the small bakery.
Her feet led her to the rundown neighborhood that Steve called home. It was late enough that Steve's ma would be awake and she knocked quietly on the door just in case. When the door swung open, she wasn't ready for the face-full of blonde hair she received, but she hugged the woman back tight.
"Oh, Darcy! You came home!"
She laughed. "Of course, Mrs. Rogers. I'm on break from school."
Mrs. Rogers pulled back, holding her by her shoulders and giving her a once over. "You look good. Strong. Are they working you too much?"
"No more than how the docks are workin' Bucky."
She clicked her tongue in annoyance and shuffled the girl into the apartment, shutting the door behind her. Being fussed over was something that always made Darcy uncomfortable, but she dealt with it if it meant that Mrs. Rogers would be happy. She was a natural fusser – having to raise Steve was definitely the reason.
"The boys should be home soon. They're normally here for dinner. Did you let them know you're coming? Oh, I'd wager they're excited. Steve just goes on and on about how well you're doing. They love the postcards! They keep them tacked up in Steve's room for now. Well, their room. Bucky's practically moved in! Has to get up so early for the work at the docks, poor dear."
It went on and on. Darcy gave small 'oh's' and 'really's' when Mrs. Rogers let her get a word in. Otherwise, she was content to just sit and listen to all the things she'd missed while she was gone. It was natural to putter around the kitchen and help with making dinner – spaghetti, Bucky's favorite – and she relished in the attention. Cooking wasn't something she did a lot of in Russia.
"You always knew how to make the best garlic bread," Mrs. Rogers sighed, standing by the stove and smiling. "I can never make it like you and, believe me, the boys ask for it often."
A key in the lock drew both their attention and Darcy looked over her shoulder.
"C'mon, punk. Ya know ya've gotta carry that damned inhaler with ya when you're helpin' me."
Darcy spotted the inhaler on the counter and wordlessly got to her feet, picking it up. She handed it to Bucky and smiled.
"Thanks, Darce. Now, c'mon, Stevie." He held the inhaler up to Steve's mouth, and puffed twice. A frown appeared between his eyebrows and his head whipped back around. "Darcy?"
"Hiya, Buck – ooh!"
Her feet were out from under her and she was crushed against Bucky's chest, all the air was forced from her lungs as he held her as close as he could.
"Stop hoggin' her!"
Her mouth was too busy against Bucky's to breathe and he kissed her into a pile of goo. Hands were on her hips and she knew it was Steve and it felt like everything was finally right in the world once more. The ache she'd been feeling in Russia was finally soothed and she wanted nothing more than this moment to never end.
Strong hands cradled her hip and she smiled into the kiss. They'd been at it for hours, but it didn't seem long enough, real enough.
"I missed you, baby," Bucky said against the skin of her shoulder, causing her to arch her chest against Steve. "Been forever."
A breathless chuckle escaped her. "Forever? How are ya gonna live when I'm travelin' with the opera house?"
"Travelin'? Ya got it, honey?" Steve asked, pulling his lips back. A smile lit up her face when she nodded and she was sandwiched tightly between them in a hug. "I knew ya could do it."
"It's a five-year contract," she said quietly, feeling them tense on either side of her. "But – listen Buck – I'd be established as a dancer. Prima Ballerina, Stevie! I can retire after my contract's up. And then I can be at home with both of ya losers."
"We may be losers, but we're your losers, doll."
She smiled and wiggled onto her back between them. A pile of blankets on the floor had become their bed – nest, Darcy had dubbed it – and she stared up at the dingy ceiling.
So much had happened in such a short time. The opera house wanting her had snuck up on her if she was being honest – although, she knew that Dr. Zola had put in a good word – and being away from her boys for another five years…that was a hell of a long time.
"You know I love you both, right?" She asked quietly. It felt like it wasn't said enough sometimes. Like maybe they'd forget her when she was away.
A rough hand slid down her naked front, stopping right below her belly button, nearly spanning her hips.
"And we still love you," Bucky murmured, his lips finding her collarbone with ease. A tilt of her head and he was kissing the underside of her jaw reverently.
Steve kissed her temple, his left hand lying over Bucky's. "Five years, doll. And then we're draggin' ya home. We got plans, y'know."
"Plans?" She grinned, wiggling her hips a bit.
"A nice house," Bucky rasped, licking a stripe down her throat. "A few kids."
She giggled. "Ya just wanna knock me up, doncha?"
"Maybe a little."
"Seein' ya carryin' our babies? Fuck, Darce," Bucky shook his head and groaned low and long. "I wouldn't be able to keep my hands off o' ya. I'd protect ya no matter what."
Closing her eyes, she enjoyed their attention, still riding the orgasmic high that they'd lulled her into. Having a baby would be different, but they'd grow up with so much love. More than Darcy had.
"Five years." She sighed, a smile ghosting along her mouth. "Five years and we'll have all the babies ya both want. A houseful! It…it'll be everything I've ever wanted."
"Sure we can't convince ya to start tryin' for those babies?" Bucky wagged his eyebrows at her.
July 17, 1936 – Brooklyn, New York
It came fast and without a lot of warning. One day Mrs. Rogers was fine and the next she was confined to the tuberculosis ward at the hospital. It was dismal for July, much hotter than they were used to, but the weather didn't have empathy.
"You have to look after him when I'm gone," Mrs. Rogers had said, reaching out to touch Darcy's cheek softly.
It was easy to determine that she was the only one allowed in the quarantined ward. She'd told Steve and Bucky about the antibiotic shot she'd received before leaving for home and, well, Steve couldn't afford to be exposed to the sickness and Bucky had needed to work at the docks, so she'd managed to strong-arm herself into Mrs. Rogers' room.
Darcy gripped the woman's hand tightly. "I promise. I…I'm gonna take care of him real good. I love him so much, Mrs. Rogers – "
"Call me Sarah, Darcy," she smiled tiredly. "I think you've earned that right."
She nodded, tears sliding down her cheeks. "We haven't told anyone yet, but we're gonna get married. Gonna have a baby."
Mrs. Rogers' eyes got big. "You're pregnant?"
"Oh! No, not yet. After we get married. I just…I want you to know that I plan on stickin' around for a long time. Stevie…he's my guy. I'm gonna make him happy."
"You're the daughter I never had. I want you all healthy and happy. That includes Bucky. Take care of them, Darcy."
Darcy stood next to the empty bed with tears in her eyes. Mrs. Rogers was like a mother to her, a mother that always was there no matter what she needed. She was her family.
Darcy looked up, realizing the doctor was speaking to her. Wiping away her tears, she nodded, "Yes?"
"How would you like to – "
"A Catholic burial, please. I…I contacted the church a few days ago. They'll come and pick her up."
Bucky was completely lost. The two most important people in his life were literally falling apart at the seams. Darcy was trying to help Steve, but they were both lost. Both hurting.
"Do ya…do ya want somethin' to eat?" He asked pitifully. He'd always been shit at taking care of people, but he figured that was a good enough place to start. The funeral was supposed to be tomorrow and he knew Darcy wasn't going to sleep, Steve either if he could help it.
"'m not hungry," she said softly, scrunching her knees tighter against her chest. She and Steve were both on the couch – albeit opposite sides – and Bucky sort of stood in front of the coffee table, not quite sure what to do.
"Darce – "
Brown curls tumbled around her face as she shook her head. Unfolding her limbs, she got to unsteady feet and shuffled her way into the small kitchen. Food was the last thing on her mind, but Bucky was right. And if she didn't eat, she'd at least make sure Steve did. Weight was something that he definitely didn't need to lose.
Watching Steve crumple to the ground when the doctor had told him that his last remaining parent had died was the most heartbroken scene she'd ever witnessed. Trying to comfort him had been harder. The blond had clung to her like she was the only thing in his universe, but it would never be enough. She couldn't fill that gap and she knew that.
Peanut butter and jelly was the only thing that she could think to make. It was mindless and a chore that she'd completed a dozen times over. It didn't take any focus. And Darcy didn't really have any focus to spare.
Hands on her hips made her jump so hard that she dropped the knife on the counter with a clatter.
"Don't, Buck," she whispered with a sigh. The third sandwich had found its way onto the plate she'd pulled out of the cabinet. "Are you hungry? Wanna sandwich?"
"Ya need to eat. And get some shuteye while ya still can."
Her hands shook before she steadied them by pressing them against the counter. "How am I s'posed to go back? You and Stevie…I can't leave you…"
Bucky settled his chin against her shoulder, his warm breath puffed against her cheek as he spoke low. "You're gonna go back to Russia and dance your heart out and then come back to me. To me and the punk."
She turned and spotted Steve leaning raggedly against the doorframe. His eyes were red with grief and his cheeks wet with tears. It made her heartache. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she took a few steps away from Bucky and held out her arms to him. "C'mere, Stevie."
Her arms were full of sobbing man before she could comprehend it. She struggled to keep him upright and was relieved when Bucky's arms wrapped around her to keep on her feet. The brunet was slowly ushering them into Steve's room and down into the nest just a few moments later.
Flat on her back with the weight of the world on her shoulders, surrounded by the men that meant everything to her. Steve's head was piled on her chest, his tears soaking through the shirt – Bucky's shirt – that she'd haphazardly pulled on that morning while Bucky was curled around right side
"I'm stayin'," she said resolutely. Her hand stroked his blond hair away from his face, wishing that she could take the pain from him.
Steve whined pitifully, shaking his head. "No, honey. I…I can do this. I can get by on my own – "
"The thing is, ya don't have to," Bucky sighed, his right hand squeezing the one that Steve had left on Darcy's hip. "We're with ya to the end of the line." His lips brushed Darcy's temple and she sighed happily. "But, you're gonna have to make due with me. 'Cause I'm not lettin' our girl give up her dream."
"Buck – "
"Ya know I'm right, baby. This is a once in a lifetime deal. I'll take care of the punk and you'll get your cute behind back here as soon as you're done," he nodded to himself.
The blond let out a broken laugh. "Jerk."
Darcy's eyes drifted closed in a cocoon of warmth. Whatever the next day would bring, they'd face it.
July 18, 1936
"Sarah Rogers was a pillar of our community, a pillar that will be greatly missed."
She couldn't feel her hands between how tight her boys were holding them. The front row of the church was cleared out save for them, not that there were many people in attendance anyway. A few of Mrs. Rogers' friends from work, a couple neighbors, the Barnes. Father Maltin was doing a fine job of the service despite the turnout.
Darcy looked to the right and nudged Steve softly. "Did you want to say anythin'?"
"I don't think I can," he responded thickly, not bothering to try to keep his tears at bay. "Maybe Buck – "
"I'll say somethin'," she said softly, rubbing the back of his hand with her thumb. It was spur of the moment, but she'd had something planned at least. A little speech to let them know why there were here. What was missing now that Steve's ma was gone.
It was harder than she thought to disentangle herself from Steve and Bucky, nevermind walking up to where the priest politely relinquished his spot behind the altar. She was never happier that she'd chosen sensible flat shoes and a simple black dress, with her luck she would've tripped over anything fancier.
With a slight cough to clear her throat, she looked up at the small crowd, her lips a bit cracked from crying. "For those of you that don't know me, m' name's Darcy. I've known Mrs. Rogers for a while now. And…well, let me tell you, she was the kindest woman I've ever met." She paused and met Steve's blue gaze. "Without her, I never would o' graduated. She believed in me, sacrificed her time and sleep for me. I…I owe her quite a debt that can't ever be repaid now."
She sniffled and swept her fingers underneath her eyes. "If you all wouldn't mind, I'd like to sing a hymn for her."
Bucky was the first one to stand, gently tugging Steve up with him. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes followed and before she knew it, their heads were bowed save for Steve that had his eyes on her. She could feel the weight of his grief and she wanted to take it all from him, let him heal.
"Some glad morning, when this life is o'er, I'll fly away." Her voice was soft, but it seemed to carry in the church and she was grateful. "To a home on God's celestial shore, I'll fly away."
"I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away," Bucky's voice joined her as she held back a gasp at how the bass in his voice complimented hers. "When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away."
Darcy smiled. "When the shadows of this life have gone, I'll fly away. Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I'll fly away."
"I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away. When I die, hallelujah by and by, I'll fly away."
"Just a few more weary days and then I'll fly away," Darcy sang, her voice brimming with emotion. "To a land where joy will never end. I'll fly away."
August 7, 1936 – St. Petersburg, Russia
Darcy hadn't wanted to come back. She would have much preferred to stay in Brooklyn, making a human pretzel out of herself with her boys in the…sexcapades they'd been becoming quite efficient in.
Leaving had been difficult – difficult meaning practically downright impossible. If Bucky hadn't nearly pushed her on the plane, she'd still be at home. Still be wrapped up in their arms, safe and content.
But, nevertheless, she raised her arm above her head and sunk into a seamless pose as the other dancers around her followed her lead. Her pointe shoes did nothing to dull the ache in her toes, but she gritted through it, unwilling to show weakness. It was surprising to know that she had an understudy upon her return. A girl older than she was, with an unhealthy obsession with practicing.
So far, she'd written a single letter home, sending it in a kiss-covered envelope – she'd broken out the expensive lipstick for that – and she hoped that her boys wouldn't be too embarrassed when it was delivered. She slept and danced. That was her life now. Well, temporarily. If temporarily was five years, that is.
It wasn't until she was sitting on the hard floor of the studio that she'd realized there had been more of an audience than she thought.
"How are your headaches, Miss Lewis?"
Darcy rewrapped the ribbons of her pointe shoes and gave Dr. Zola an uneasy smile. "I haven't had any. Thank you – "
"Not at all," he said, waving away her thanks. He pushed his glasses up his nose and looked her over curiously. "You might want to check that for a sprain. No use in working yourself so hard. A sprain is…bad for the show, no?"
"It's not a sprain," she said, a hint of annoyance in her voice. "Just a little sore."
He nodded. "Come by my office when you have time. I'd like to look at it. I would hate for your show to be stalled by something that can be fixed."
August 11, 1936 – Brooklyn, New York – Rogers' Residence
"I can't remember!"
Bucky groaned, smacking his forehead against the wood of the kitchen table. Turning his head, he saw Steve turning off the burner and plating up the eggs he'd scrambled.
"Well, how the heck am I s'posed to remember? It was…Lord, it was six years ago, Buck! Seven for you." Steve sighed, setting the plate on the table between them before taking a seat. "I saw the light…I don't know."
Bucky knew better, but he didn't really want to think about the bad thing he was about to do. It went against everything they'd built up, all the trust.
They were nestled in the nest. Steve burrowed against Darcy's back while she was piled on his chest, her curls itching his nose. Her hand was plastered against his breastbone, the steel of her bracelet cold against his bare skin.
His fingers had reached out of their own accord – really, they did – and he'd unclasped her bracelet with a flick of his wrist. Using the crack of early morning sunlight that filtered through the curtains, he read the words circled around her right wrist.
I saw the light.
What an odd thing for words to say. Oddly poetic and wholly something Bucky had never thought he'd said. Ever. Most likely something Steve hadn't said either.
Before he could think anymore about it, she shuffled in her sleep and he was quick to slide the bracelet back onto her wrist and click it shut.
"I shouldn't've looked," Bucky moped, staring at the eggs as if they'd personally offended him. "I broke her trust – "
"I don't like that ya looked, Buck, but it's good to know." Steve stuffed a forkful of eggs into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "We really gotta remember. She said my words, Buck, and she said yours, too! Just gotta dig into out heads and see if we can remember."
August 21, 1936 – St. Petersburg, Russia
Darcy stared up at the small building with trepidation. She hadn't wanted to get her ankle looked at, but Mrs. Riesa had insisted upon it. She insisted a lot, actually.
So, Darcy had made the small trek to the clinic, hoping to get it over with, with as little fanfare as possible.
"Darcy Lewis for Dr. Zola, please," she'd said to the slight receptionist behind the desk after she'd entered the office. The other woman merely blinked at her before holding her arm towards the open door to her left. Which, of course, Darcy scurried through without any hesitation.
A door at the end of the corridor was open and her small heels clicked against the linoleum as she made her way inside, hopping up on the metal table covered with a crinkly sheet.
Dr. Zola walked in barely a moment later with a clipboard in his hand. Beady eyes looked her over before he sat in the lonesome chair on the other side of the room. It was uncomfortable.
"How are you feeling Ms. Lewis?" He asked after a beat, his pen poised in his hand after he slid his glasses up his nose.
She nodded. "Fine. Mrs. Riesa wanted me to have my ankle looked at in a little more detail, I think – "
"Of course, of course." He waved away her explanations, focusing on his paperwork. "If you don't mind, I'd like to fill out your chart a bit more. Now," he clicked his tongue. "I see that you are an orphan, yes?"
She cringed. "Yes. I was adopted – "
"I see," he wrote a few things down and looked back up at her. "Any diseases that run in your biological family that you know of?"
"Uh, no – "
"Not an issue."
She squirmed. "So – "
"And in your application to the academy, it states you are…unattached?"
"Uh," she fidgeted. It wasn't true, but not untrue. "I have a fiancé back home."
Dr. Zola's eyes snapped to hers. "Ah, congratulations, then. I will add him to your file at the academy just in case. His name…"
"Barnes. James Barnes."
She wasn't sure why she'd given him Bucky's name, it just popped out. Maybe it was because she felt that Steve needed to be protected, especially after he lost his ma.
The rest of the exam consisted of him groping at her ankle in a clinical way. He'd taken her pulse, measured her blood pressure. All the normal stuff, she'd assumed. It wasn't until he retrieved another syringe, not unlike the one she'd been stuck with before she traveled home, that she began to worry her bottom lip between her teeth.
"Just a booster shot. Like the one I gave you before," he said, noticing her hesitation. "You'll be traveling a lot. No need to get sick."
She swallowed and nodded, extending her arm towards him expectantly. There was a sharp jab and a slight burn that extended through her arm and into her chest. She wheezed slightly, her vision blurring just a smidge when she tried to focus on the doctor.
"What…" Her voice was slurred, like she was drunk without a drink. Her head was full of cotton.
"Please relax, Ms. Lewis."
His voice echoed in her ears and her back hit the wall behind her as she slouched. Her eyelids were heavy and she struggled to keep them open.
"Allow the serum to work."
"S…se…serum?" It took what felt like an hour to get the word out in its entirety.
"Yes, Ms. Lewis. You're…going to be much different from here on out."
November 18, 1936 – Unknown Location
"Hey! Let me outta here! You can't keep me here forever!"
The dull thud of her head hitting the metal door was the only thing she heard. She was beginning to lose track of the days. Sleeping didn't help, of course. Sometimes, she'd wake up to some bread and water, other times her stomach growled so loud that she wasn't sure she could focus on anything else.
The room was probably about eight by ten feet, every surface covered in metal. There was a small metal bench – enough to be big enough for Steve to sleep on, maybe – and she'd been provided with a threadbare blanket that reminded her of the ones from the orphanage. There were no windows, only a door that had a small slot that sometimes had a tray fitted through it for food. In the right corner was a small toilet, with running plumbing, thank the Lord, and a small vanity next to it sans mirror. It wasn't like she really wanted to see what she looked like anyway. She could feel the tangled mess her hair had become and no amount of finger combing would save it.
Sometimes, she woke up in a different place. She assumed the water was drugged – she wouldn't dare drink what came out of the tap, it was brown – since large gaps of her memory was missing.
Often, she'd be strapped to a chair when she awoke, small jolts of electricity making their way into her skull. There would always be a blindfold over her eyes, something covering her ears. When she would try to scream, there would be something shoved in her mouth to muffle her cries. The crooks of her elbows were almost always sore. When she was in her room, she'd look them over, see the smattering of purple and black marks like she'd been injected with something.
When she was allowed to hear, she'd hear them say the same things over and over again between shocks. It was in a different language and she'd wanted to say it was Russian, but sometimes her brain was so scattered she wasn't sure.
Kamen. Sem'ya. Ogon. Chernila. Rassvet. Grom. Lenta. Shestnadtsat. Tsirk. Platit.
It didn't make sense. Nothing made sense.
There were good days and bad days, sometimes worse days. Sometimes it felt like weeks had passed when she finally woke up again; the bruises would be gone, her hair would be brushed, the scabs on her temple had healed over. Little things that made it seem like she was losing her mind.
Maybe she was.
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