A/N: A story in three parts. Soldiers, death, resurrection, and time travel abound. Enjoy.
He ships out in the morning. He has only six hours left. When those six hours are up, he will be on a convoy with thousands of other men, sailing away from Brooklyn. The hour is late and his time is running out.
He shouldn't be there. He should be in his own bed, or with Steve. He should be drinking his worries away and writing letters to his parents to find if he doesn't make it back when the war finishes.
But she caught his eye at the fair after the girls had to leave, and he found himself walking up to her before he could tell his feet to find their way home. When she smiled as he approached and looked down at the muddy road, he knew he would not be able to leave without talking to her. And with him, talking always leads to so many other things.
. . .
"Darcy," she had said when he asked her name. Her red, full lips bounced as she spoke. She tucked non-existent strands of hair behind her ears before she must have remembered it was all piled atop her head in an intricate swirl. "Do you wear the uniform to impress girls?"
"Is it impressing you?" he asked.
"No," she said, still smiling.
The admission put him off balance, but the teasing glimmer in her blue eyes kept him on his feet. He removed his cap and played with the rim. A nervous habit he picked up very quickly after it was given to him.
Darcy reached for it. She took it from him, her fingers brushing his. A current ran through him. Beneath the sleeves of his coat, his hair stood on-end.
Steve would make fun of him when he told him about that part. "What's your name, soldier?"
"Bucky," he said, watching her fiddle with his cap.
"Your name is Bucky?" she said, and he heard the quiet laugh in her warm voice.
"My name is James," he said. He was trying his hardest not to grin like a fool. He couldn't let her think he had fallen too far under her spell. "But everybody calls me Bucky."
. . .
He rolls on to his back. Staring up at the unfamiliar ceiling, he focuses his ears and picks up on the soft breaths coming from his right. They suffuse against his arm. Coat his flesh in goosebumps. She is asleep. He should probably join her, or maybe he should leave. He has yet to pack his things. Yet to strip his sheets.
There are so many things one must do to prepare for shipping out. More things than he wants to do. He has been waiting for this since the war broke. Long before the United States joined the fight. Scenes of battlefields littered with Nazi blood have been invading his dreams for years. But the reality is a startling contrast to the fantasy.
Bucky Barnes does not want to die. He wants to fight. He wants to win. But he doesn't want those men knocking on his mother's door with a telegram and his dog tags in their hands. He doesn't want his body rotting in a shallow grave in the wilderness of some European country, an Axis bullet in his chest.
He rolls over again. Facing the girl –Darcy– he trembles, watching her face pinch as the mattress shakes.
What would Steve say about this one? He would like her hair. He's always loved the dark-haired girls. And he would like her. Her wit and brass.
Why, he asks himself, reaching up to stroke a line down her nose, did we have to meet tonight?
Slowly, Darcy's eyes drift open. She frowns for a moment, seemingly trying to connect the dots that put him in her bed, and then she offers him a smile so warm his palms grow damp with sweat.
"I could swim in your eyes," he says.
"And I could buy a house if I had a nickel for every guy that used that line on me," she quips, moving on to her side. The blanket shifts, revealing her bare torso. "But thank you," she adds. "You've got a bit more sincerity to you than the others."
They lie in silence, staring at each other, until she says, "Why are you awake?"
And he could lie. He wants to. But his mouth splits open before he can stop it. "I can't sleep," he says. "I'm … scared."
"Scared?" Her eyes have blossomed. She sits up, urging him to do the same. He joins her and takes her proffered hands. "Of what?"
"Dying." He laughs pathetically after he says it and bows his head. Darcy releases one of his hands. Pressing two fingers beneath his chin, she lifts his head until they are at eye level with one another. Concern, the genuine kind, stares at him.
"Death is scary," she says. She drops her fingers.
The residual smile melts off of Bucky's face. "Death is part of the job. Millions of others have already been lost. I can't be scared when I get there. It isn't fair. It's not right."
"But it's natural," she says, her face so close to his that he can see specks of silver floating in her irises. "We're animals – the instinct to survive is powerful. Mankind wasn't built for these wars, Bucky."
She is wonderful. He wishes they had met earlier. Much earlier. If they had time, he feels they could have been great together.
If he comes back, he'll have to find her.
"Help me," he says, letting go of her hand and splaying his fingers against her spine. Shifting slightly, he fits her against him. Their chests meet. Her soft flesh feels like heaven. "Help me forget why I'm afraid."
Darcy leans forward until her mouth is lined up with his. "Okay," she whispers. Closing her eyes, she kisses him.
He will carry this kiss with him over to Europe. It will drive him forward on the battlefields.
Bucky cups the back of her neck and parts his lips, releasing all of his anxieties and fears. Darcy swallows them for him with a soft gasp that stirs the lust that has been sitting idle in his belly all night. He tilts her back until she rests against the mattress and breaks away for a moment, taking in what lies beneath him.
Her pupils are larger than the black moon. Her lips are red and swollen. Her cheeks are flushed with a muted pink. And she is smiling up at him. A discreet sort of smile that burns into his mind and pulls his own mouth apart.
"Kiss me, you damn fool," she says breathlessly.
He obliges, ridding the light between them. And as he sinks into her, her eyes becoming pools of deep water, their bodies rocking together, he forgets to be afraid.
. . .
"I wish we'd met before," she says, standing at the door to her apartment. She wears only a haphazardly tied robe and her hair is a mess, but he thinks she's the most stunning creature he's ever seen.
Steve will have a field day with all of this information.
"I've been thinking the same thing," he says. "If this wasn't my last night, I'd ask you out for tomorrow. We'd see a movie. Go out to eat. Maybe we could go back to the exhibition."
"And in two weeks, I'd introduce you to my mother," she says, "but not my father. He'd kill you before you got a chance to wave a white flag."
"And a week or so after that, I'd take you to my ma." He likes this game. It revs his engines. "And Steve would be with us to stop my mom from asking when we were planning on getting married."
Darcy laughs. She reaches for his chest and placed her palm flat against his uniform, right over his erratically beating heart.
He claps his hand over hers, urging her to look him in the eye. She does, and he almost wishes she hadn't. He can tell she doesn't want him to leave. It makes him want to stay.
"You better go, Bucky," she says after a beat. She swallows and he can hear it. "You gotta save the world."
He leans down and captures her mouth one more time. "I'll be back soon."
"You will," she agrees, dropping her hand away from him when he pulls back. "And I'll see you when you do."
He's heard of this happening. Of soldiers falling in love right before they leave. He thought they were all idiots. Hopeless romantics too foolish to see the girls were going to turn their backs on them as soon as they had the chance. But he understood it now. It left the men with something to fight for when it felt like there was nothing left. If they could make it through, if they could come out of this thing alive, they would have something, someone, to come home to. He would fight for his country first, but when the nights got long and the mud on the bottoms of his boots grew thick, he would think of Darcy. Of their night together. And he would fight again the next day for her. And when it was all over, he would come home to her.
"Goodbye," he says, his throat tight as he backs away from her door and heads for the staircase.
"Goodbye, soldier," she says.
He descends the stairs and steps into the darkened New York streets, the lingering taste of Darcy's mouth on his lips.