Disclaimer: I own nothing and all mistakes are mine.


Chapter 1

"It's the devil I love,

And that's as funny as real love.

That echo chorus lied to me with its,

Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on."

Hold On, Hold On – Neko Case

Brooklyn, New York – Rumlow/Lewis Apartment

"Are you done in there yet? It starts in twenty minutes – "

"Just a second, babe," Darcy managed to get out as she caked on the foundation underneath her left eye. Thank the gods it's Halloween, she thought bitterly. There was another bruise blossoming along the line of her jaw, but her hair would cover that.

He'd just been so stressed lately and she knew it. It wasn't like she tried to egg him on or anything; her personality was just so defiant and sassy. And it set him off almost every time.

"Where's dinner?" Brock asked as soon as he walked in the door of their too-small apartment and stripped off his bulletproof vest. His hair was disheveled and he looked a little worse for wear, but there was danger in his eyes that nearly caused her to flinch. "I called you when I left headquarters so you could at least start it."

"I seriously got home like ten minutes ago. I wanted to put my feet up." She wiggled her red-painted nails propped up on the coffee table in emphasis. "I figured we could order take out or oh! That new Thai place off Fifth has a good – "

His hand slammed into the wall next to the coat rack, shaking the inhabitants slightly. "How hard is it for you to be domesticated? I ask so little of you and you brush it off like a game. No wonder this is your longest relationship."

"It's only been so long because you won't let me leave."

Apparently, that had been the wrong thing to say because in a few quick strides, Brock was over to the couch and hauling her up by her arm. "Oh yeah? I won't let you leave? Sweetheart, we both know you have no where else to go." He shook her so hard that her teeth rattled and she was vaguely happy that she wasn't an infant. "With your little Janey away, the only people that would miss you are your coworkers at the shitty diner you call work."

He dropped her near as fast as he'd picked her up and stalked into the kitchen, muttering over his shoulder. Delicate fingers instantly went to her arm and she massaged the quickly bruising skin gently.

Why couldn't she just keep her mouth shut?

"Move."

Darcy instantly moved from in front of the mirror, pulling down her sleeves and rushing from the bathroom before he could stop her. Having another bruise would just be harder to hide.


October 31, 2011 – Manhattan, New York – Stark Tower

"If you keep frowning, your face is going to stay like that," Natasha hummed from behind the bar. His glass filled as he gave her an exasperated look.

Steve hated these things. He hated mingling with people and dealing with the hype of being who he was. Captain America had no problem getting up in front of people and giving a speech or two. Steve Rogers, on the other hand, was absolutely terrified of crowds and would rather be locked away with a sketchbook.

When Tony had said that he was holding a Halloween soirée for the members of SHIELD and STRIKE, the Avengers were apparently included in that list. It was non-negotiable and snuck into the damn contract he'd signed when he agreed to be apart of it.

"I really don't want to go, Tony."

The other man looked up from the robot he'd been tweaking. "Don't really have a choice, Capsicle. I could have Pepper bring up the fine print of your contract if you want."

"Contract?"

"To be an Avenger? It said something about not refusing public appearances…" he trailed off.

Steve groaned. "Fine. But I'm not wearing a suit."

He'd worn a suit. One had been delivered to him that morning with a note from Tony blatantly saying to wear it or die. So, he'd shaved his face and thrown it on only to be tossed into the fray of everyone wanting to meet a national icon. He was so pissed that Bucky was on a mission and able to get out of it.

"And can you stop staring at her?"

Steve blinked, realizing he had indeed been staring at a curvy brunette across the room that seemed nearly as uncomfortable as he did.

"I didn't mean to," he replied honestly, taking his glass and swirling it around in his hand. "How much longer do I have to be here?"

Natasha smirked. "Until Bruce gets here so I can't be left by myself."

He gave her a mocking look. "He doesn't trust you to not be swept off your feet by a STRIKE guy?"

"Oh, he's not worried about that. He's more worried I'll let my judgment get the better of me and shoot someone with the gun hidden under the bar."

"Judgment?"

She shrugged slightly. "Being a spy has its perks." She pointed at an older graying man across the room, "He's embezzling money from a side business and his partner has no idea." She pointed to a younger man that had a large smile on his face, "He's here with his mistress, thinking that his wife won't find out." She sighed and her hand disappeared under the bar while a darker look came across her face. "And the woman you've been staring at is in a bad situation."

The blond stood in a second, his hand instantly going for his shield. As if he'd had it when he didn't.

"Sit down, you idiot," Natasha hissed, grabbing his arm with her free hand and forcing him back down. "I didn't say that so you could run and be her knight in shining Armani."

"What's wrong with her?" It was a struggle to stay in his seat, but he managed once the redhead let him go.

"Well, besides the makeup caked on and the way she keeps making sure her hair is practically covering her face, she's holding herself almost defensively. And she hasn't left her date's side."

Steve's blue eyes observed her quietly. The hunch of her shoulders, the downcast eyes. He watched her flinch when the man next to her handed her a drink.

He knew that man. He was the STRIKE team commander. And world class douche bag.

"She's with Rumlow," Natasha murmured, letting the hand that was holding the gun under the bar wander back up to the top. Thankfully gun-free. "I heard he had a live-in, but I assumed her to be… not that."

Honestly, that girl looked like a handful. Both literally and figuratively. She had the kind of curves that were painted on warplanes when he was young. Well, younger. And her hair was curly and riotous and he wondered what it would feel like to run his fingers through it. But those lips were what nearly made his knees weak; plush and painted a bright red that matched the wine she was drinking.

"You're staring again."

"He's staring at who?"

Steve turned and held his hand out. "How're you doing, Bruce? It's good to see you."

The older man chuckled and gave Natasha a soft kiss when she leaned over the bar. "Culver keeps me busy, but I'm glad to be home for a while."

"Missed you," the redhead sighed.

"Missed you," he replied, gratefully accepting the drink she shoved at him. "So, who're you staring at?"

"Rumlow's girl," Natasha answered, jerking her chin towards the brunette.

Bruce's eyes narrowed before widening. "Darcy Lewis? I haven't seen her since…since I helped Dr. Foster with an algorithm for her bridge."

"You know her?"

The doctor gave Steve a strange look. "She was Dr. Foster's assistant in London. Very smart, very sharp. More of the type that would scratch your eyes out and then dare to ask why you're blind."

"Natasha has a theory – "

"It's not a theory." The redhead was adamant. "She's clearly a battered woman. Back me up, Bruce. Clint would if he wasn't as home with Laura."

Bruce watched how Darcy moved and interacted, not liking at all what he saw. "I'm…going to go speak with her. It's been awhile and…"

"I'm going with you," Steve said immediately, standing as well.


"God, can you try not to get drunk?" Brock hissed down at her when he handed her another glass of wine.

Darcy glared up at him. "I haven't even drank anything! The plant behind me is more hydrated than I am!" Truthfully, she felt bad for watering the plant with wine that probably cost more than her apartment, but she was not adding alcohol to the shit fest that was sure to happen tonight.

"You're wearing that?"

Darcy looked down at the modest dress. It was black and hugged her hips, giving her a cleavage a lift that she knew her fiancé liked. "I thought – "

"God, you look like you're asking for it. What are the guys going to think?"

"That you're lucky?"

He scoffed. "You're the lucky one. Lucky I picked you, anyway."

Brock growled and grabbed her arm, moving her where he wanted. "Just put a smile on your face. It looks like we're being graced by the Avengers. And if you say anything to make me look stupid, you'll pay for it tonight."

She swallowed at the sound of his threat and meekly nodded, keeping her eyes down.

"Darcy! It's so wonderful to see you!"

Wide blue eyes blinked up and she saw Dr. Banner approaching with a tall, blond god of a man. Captain America, her mind supplied helpfully.

"I-it's great to see y-you, too," she managed to stutter out, her hand reaching shakily for his and holding it briefly before Brock knocked it away in favor of his own.

"Brock Rumlow, team commander for STRIKE," he said, shaking the other man's hand firmly. "We're working on her stuttering problem. I was under the impression that you were helping Dr. Ross at Culver for the rest of the year."

Dr. Banner looked between the two before he gave a forced smile. "When the love of your life calls you home, you listen. Especially when she could strangle you with her thighs."

"But what a way to go, am I right?" Brock laughed, throwing his arm around Darcy, ignoring how she staggered under his weight. "Sure was nice of Stark to throw a nice shin-dig."

"It's for charity," Darcy said quietly, visibly wincing when he turned his gaze on her.

"I know what it's for," he replied stiffly, tightening his arm around her. He grinned when she squirmed uncomfortably.

"So, Darcy, what have you been up to? I know Jane is off-world for the time being."

The brunette nodded. "I've been finishing up my degree and working at a little diner in Brooklyn. Student loans aren't going to pay themselves," she joked hollowly.

"She's got it in her thick skull that's she's got to pay for them herself, but I'm always here to help," Brock said instantly. "Equality and whatnot."

"Of course," the blond nodded, keeping careful eyes on Darcy. "Steve Rogers, ma'am. A pleasure to meet you." He held his hand out and was instantly blocked by Brock.

"She doesn't like touching strangers," he said by way of explanation. His smile was tight and his fingers were digging into her shoulder. "But, it's nice to meet you, Captain. I've heard many things."

"All good, I hope."

Darcy wanted to cringe. Tonight was not going to be a good night.


"Report?" Natasha asked when the men made it back to the bar.

Bruce scratched his chin, his eyes worried as the crease between his brows became more prominent. "That's not the Darcy I remember. She's…I'm afraid you're right, Nat."

Steve cursed when the glass he was holding shattered.

"Keep your cool, Rogers. It's not like she's yours."

"It's the principle of it. No woman should have a man lay his hands on her in a violent way." His eyes scanned the room again, panic blooming in his chest when he realized they were gone. "Did you see them leave?"

Natasha's eyes snapped up and she shook her head. "Balcony, maybe?"

"You check there, I'll get the hallways."

Steve stalked out of the party, trying to listen for her. He had no real reason for involving himself in this girl's affairs, but somehow he knew it would get much worse if he didn't intervene somehow.

"What the hell do you think you're doing? Flirting with Captain America? Are you fucking kidding me?"

Steve flattened against the wall, listening closely to Rumlow as he spoke. He was just a wall away.

"I-I wasn't! I swear I wasn't. I d-didn't say anything to him!"

"No, but you batted your eyes at him, didn't you?" Steve heard a thump and a sharp intake of breath. "I shouldn't have brought you here. You think you're so damned special don't you? Just gagging for it when I invited you into my bed."

"B-Brock, p-p-please."

"I was hoping I'd get closer to that god your best friend is dating, but she left you, didn't she? Everyone leaves you, Darcy. Everyone. Not even your parents stuck around for you."

There was a strangled sob and Steve closed his eyes, willing himself to stay still.

"Pull yourself together. Meet me back out there."

Steve ducked into a bathroom and held his breath as Rumlow passed him. He waited a few seconds before he slipped out of the room and followed the hallway. He wasn't expecting to see Darcy sitting against the wall with her knees pulled up to her chest.

"Hey, are you okay?"

Her head shot up and she swiped the tears that had gathered under her eyes away. "I-I'm fine. Thank you."

His brow creased and he crouched down to her height, flinching when she recoiled from him with such fear that he swore he could smell it. He flexed and unflexed his hands to keep from touching her. "Do you want me to call someone?"

"I-I have t-t-t-to be getting back," she mumbled, getting up quickly and nearly knocking him over.

"You deserve better, you know," he whispered up at her. From his vantage point, he could easily imagine how glorious it would be to worship her. To make her come apart and see a smile on her face that he just knew belonged there. Gap-toothed and free.

She deserved more.

"No o-offense, Captain America, but y-you don't know m-me."

Steve watched as she strode away with her head held high. That was the woman he wanted to see, not some scared girl cowered in fear.


"Stop crying!"

Darcy whimpered, trying her hardest to become one with the wall at her back. When Brock raised his hand, she squealed in terror, ducking her head against her chest as she waited for the blow. It rocked her to the side, her head disoriented and her cheek stinging as if it was on fire.

"You had one fucking job! It was to be the perfect little wife-to-be in front of all my colleagues. Guess what, Darcy? They're all laughing at me! I can't control you!"

His large hands wrapped around her forearms and pulled her from the wall just to force her back against it harder that time. So hard her teeth rattled in her head. His hand wrapped around her throat and gave a squeeze that left her wheezing as he ground out, "You're such a little whore. Don't think I didn't notice those eyes you made at Captain fucking America, either. You wanted to go home with him, didn't you? Wanted him to make you feel special?"

"N-n-no! I love y-you!"

"You've got a funny way of showing it," he spat, throwing her up against the wall one more time for good measure before he walked away.

Darcy sunk to the floor, once again with her knees against her chest. Her throat was throbbing and tears welled in her eyes despite the tracks already making their way through her makeup.

This time, there wouldn't be anyone there to comfort her.

But when was it going to be the last time?

She'd read about women who stayed until it was too late. About how their bodies were found and their significant others locked away. Brock was too smart for that. He'd find a way to make it look like an accident, or worse, her own doing.

She wasn't sure how long she stayed in the entryway of her apartment after Brock slammed their bedroom door, but hinting at the sunlight that was beginning to filter through the small window above the sink, she'd bet it was long enough.

She chanted softly, "Hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on…"