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Chapter 8

"And if I knew heartbreak was coming,

I would've set out running.

Across the muddy river,

And the smokestacks on the bank."

Set Out Running – Neko Case

Manhattan, New York – Stark Tower

Darcy woke up alone. But that wasn't how she had fallen asleep. Steve and Bucky…they had been there, too, hadn't they? Shuffling into awareness, she rolled off of the couch and wiggled towards her room.

"And here I thought you were human."

"I prefer inch worm, thank you," she snarked, wiggling closer by putting her knees beneath her and pushing forward.

Natasha smiled, pleased that the stutter had yet to appear. There was only a slight cringe when she realized Darcy was worming towards the door in the redhead's cashmere blanket. Sighing, she said, "They went to go get breakfast. I demanded they let you sleep a while longer."

The brunette sushi roll moaned. "Mmph. Food."

"I requested waffles and extra syrup."

Darcy moaned louder and flopped onto her back. "You're my favorite. I love you."

"Feeling's mutual, myshka. Did you want to shower before they return? Or is being a worm more desirable?"

"Don't knock it. Worms have it good."

"Until they get eaten by a bird."

Darcy gulped. "Th-that's true."


"Take a shower, myshka, and I'll have your boys meet you when you're done. You have an appointment with your therapist later. Don't forget."

She sighed. "Yes, mom."

If only she knew how right she was.

Manhattan, New York – Stark Tower

Breakfast was good, not awkward as she had feared it would be. Her therapy session went good, too. But her nerves were shot, frayed around the edges.

In her head, she decided that she was going to talk to Johnny, give them both some closure to what had happened. Explain that she just couldn't move backwards.

It was going to be so hard.

"Want some company?" Bucky's voice asked, shaking her from her thoughts.

When had she ended up in the lounge?

Giving him a shy smile, she said, "I'm on my way to talk to Johnny."

A simple sentence had Bucky shuttering up his feelings in a second. The easy grin he had was gone and his eyes were more guarded. Did he really think she was going to leave him?

"I need to say goodbye," Darcy clarified, watching as he relaxed minutely. "D-Do you and Steve w-want to grab dessert later?"

He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "We actually have a…thing. But, we'll make sure someone's here with you. Okay, princess?"

Humming in approval, she got on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek before ducking out of the room.

Manhattan, New York – Stark Tower

"It's today."

Steve nodded jerkily. He checked and rechecked that his shirtsleeves were buttoned properly and his shirt tucked in. Using his Captain America image to get what he wanted was dirty pool, but that fucker deserved it.

Darcy was holed up with Storm while he, Bucky, and Natasha – Bruce, too if he arrived in time – were going down to SHIELD for Rumlow's trial. It had been a long time coming and Steve was more than ready to hear the verdict. Especially with how much evidence Barton had squirreled away.

Natasha was hoping for castration.

Bucky would settle for the death penalty.

Steve wanted him six feet under.

It was hell watching his feisty dame go through hell and back, but he wanted to be by her side every step of the way. Him and Bucky.

Christ, the brunet had already got a damned ring.

"I want the bastard to fry."

Steve sighed. "As long as he's not near her again. She won't need to be afraid anymore."

"She won't have a reason to be afraid when she's sharin' her bed with two Brooklyn boys."

Manhattan, New York – Stark Tower

It was a struggle to try and control her breathing. The scent of the snickerdoodles she had baked did nothing to calm her down and part of her hoped that Johnny wasn't in his suite. But she was pretty sure God hated her. Specifically since the door opened just as she raised her hand to knock.


"H-Hey," she stammered, hoping it was nerves and not the stutter making a comeback. She'd been doing so well so far. "Can I c-come in?"

Johnny gave her a nod and moved aside before following her back in. His suite was way smaller than Natasha's. Even smaller than the one she'd been gifted when she moved in. Just a room with a bedroom and a tiny bathroom. It was…cozy.

"Do you want something to drink? I assume it's not a social call."

Words were hard. It made it even harder when he knew what she was going to say, who she was going to choose. Hurting him wasn't something she wanted to do twice.

"You have to go back to Sue, you know," she said quietly. "I'm sure she's worried sick."

"Wanting to marry you was a pipedream, wasn't it?"

"Yeah." She swallowed. "A pipedream for two kids in Long Island that just wanted someone to love them."

A breath shuddered through him and he nodded. "Saw a pretty girl and I wanted to snap her up. The neighborhood wasn't the best and I didn't want you to get hurt. I thought…I thought if you were mind that I could protect you better. And you disappeared and that shit with – "

"St-Stop." She didn't know what would happen if he said his name. Flames wouldn't do well in an enclosed space. "I loved you – "

"I loved you, too. Fuck, Darce, I still do! But I can be man enough to walk away if that's what you want." His eyes flashed and his voice deepened as he promised, "But I'll kick their asses if they hurt you. You don't need to be hurt again. You understand that, right?"

"I know," she whispered. She didn't need to be reminded. It was a work of effort to unclasp the chain from her neck and offer him the ring he had given her so long ago. "I want you to have it – "

"Keep it," Johnny cut her off, a sad smile on his face. "It belongs to you. Always has."

It wasn't really a conscious decision when she barreled into his arms, but it felt right. Like saying goodbye and I love you all at once.

New York City, New York – SHIELD Headquarters

"I'm gonna kill 'im."

Bucky kept repeating the phrase under his breath as the recording of Darcy retold the last two years of her life. The hell she had been forced to live through.

Every time her voice caught or a sob broke free, his arm would recalibrate in the hope that he'd get to wipe the floor with the sorry excuse for a man that was on trial.

"And he-he forced h-himself inside m-m-me and r-raped m-me – I-I-I can't – "

Darcy's voice cut out again and her tears, along with Natasha's soothing tone, replaced it. Knowing and knowing what happened to his girl was infinitely different and, in a way, he wished he hadn't attended the trial at all. Bucky would rather be at home, swaddling her in as many blankets as she could stand. Keeping her safe with Steve.

It was gut wrenching, but completely necessary.

When the recording was finished, there was a beat of silence in the courtroom.

The thing about SHIELD trials was that one Nicholas J. Fury resided as the judge and he was completely disgusted that a man as slimy as Brock Rumlow managed to climb through the ranks, reporting to HYDRA, without anyone noticing. Without anyone from an organization that was literally founded to stop the Nazi scum noticing.

So, when Fury's voice barked a gruff sentence, it was with great pride that Steve and Bucky stood, watching as Natasha followed the cuffed man out.

"Death sentence," the brunet shook his head. "I'm pretty sure he deserved more pain than that."

Steve smirked. "Didn't you see Natasha? She's not planning on letting him go quietly."

"Let's get back to the tower, jerk. We got a girl to romance."

Manhattan, New York – Stark Tower

"They told me what happened."

Natasha was exhausted. More so than she should have been.

Before returning to the tower, she had cleaned her knives thoroughly and changed out of her blood soaked clothes. Dishing out the retribution she felt Rumlow deserved was bound to be exhausting, but it had been as satisfaction filled as she had hoped. Watching him writhe on the floor as she forced her blade into his jugular had been cathartic.


The redhead closed her apartment door behind her and glanced at the little brunette sitting on her couch in a bundle of blankets that she was sure the soldiers were responsible for.

"He won't hurt you anymore, myshka. I promise."

She went to the couch and wrapped her daughter in her arms, holding her tightly as Darcy sobbed against her shoulder. Natasha wasn't sure if the tears were from stress or relief, but it was good she was expressing feelings at all.

It took a better part of an hour to get her calmed down, but when she did, the redhead knew she had to come clean. Lies were something that needed to be left behind after all the change that had come and was still coming.


Darcy sniffled, "What?"

"I know you had a rough time growing up, little bird, but – "

"That's in the past – "

" – but I'm sorry. I didn't have any other choice. Between the KGB and HYDRA, I had a choice to make. I didn't even know I could get pregnant with everything I was subjected to in the Red Room, but it happened against all odds." Natasha breathed in a shaky breath and cupped the brunette's delicate jaw. "I wanted to keep you safe. And then the damned car accident and – and – "

"You're…you're my mom? You're, like, three years older than me!"

She nodded stiffly. "It's the serum. A bastardized version like the Sergeant has. I age much slower than I should, but the truth remains the same. You're my daughter, Darcy."

She had a mom. A mom that had wanted her, but had had to keep her safe. That gave her away to ensure her survival.

"Natasha," she wailed, launching herself at the other woman and holding tight.

"I've got you, myshka. I'll never let anything hurt you ever again."

Manhattan, New York – Stark Tower

It had been almost a month since Darcy's world had started to right itself. Her stutter had practically evaporated into nothing and, while she still jumped on occasion, she was becoming more relaxed around the tower and even in the city.

Of course, it helped that she had Steve and Bucky at her sides at almost every moment that they could spare her. And if both weren't available, they somehow had worked out a schedule to ensure she was never quite alone.

Natasha watched over her like a true mother hen and the brunette found herself coming to terms with the life that she had had up until that point. She understood why her mother had done what she had done and she was more than content to try to make up for lost time when the redhead wasn't busy getting it on with a certain green scientist.

Jane had sent letter via Heimdall that all was well in Asgard and she was saddened to hear of what had happened and tried to convey her sympathy through a letter that didn't quite cover it. But she had a Norse God to hang off of, so Darcy didn't really blame her.

But, as much as her life was starting to fall into place, neither boy had even tried to make a move on her. That was, until they had each gotten a stern talking to about boundaries from her mother.

"Hey, honey, you wanna grab dinner?"

The brunette was scribbling away at a schedule she had drawn up for Tony – the man was hopeless without plans – and she didn't even hear what the blond had to say.

A Miss Pepper Potts had recruited her for science wrangling and she eagerly took up the job, grateful to be of use once more. Not that having a ridiculously large steady paycheck hurt anything.


"Hmm?" Her blue eyes looked up and met Steve's nervous face. "What?"

"Do you want to go into the city and grab some dinner? With me? And…Bucky?"

Darcy bit her lip and looked down. "Is this a date? You know there's three of us, right?"

Steve turned an adorable shade of pink and desperately tried to stumble over his words. "I – well – you see – "

"She's givin' ya a hard time, punk. She knows exactly what this is." Bucky's voice was lit with amusement and she watched as he made his way over to them with a sinful smile on his face.

It was about damn time.

Steve looked puzzled. "Honey?"

"You didn't exactly invent the idea of a threesome, Stevie," she smiled, shooting an email to Tony and closing her laptop. "Besides, I think the both of you will be able to handle me. I used to be quite a pistol, you know."

The brunet barked a laugh. "Believe me, we've heard all about it. Barton has loose lips when it comes to his partner in crime – "

"I help him put jelly in Tony's suits one time – "

" – and we're countin' on it. See, Steve is reckless most of the time, but havin' you around makes him a little more grounded. And, well, I figured if you had both of us chasin' after you, it might keep us all a little more level headed."

Darcy grinned. It was a dream come true, really. The thought of two boys taking care of her while she took care of them and helped the Avengers not fall apart was a good one. One that she knew led to a life she would be happy living.

"Well, I'm free for…the foreseeable future. If you wanted to make this a little more permanent."

"Nothing we'd like more, honey."

Bucky smirked and helped her out of her chair, spinning her in a small circle and pulling her against his chest, Steve coming up flush against her back. They each kissed her on the cheek and she blushed down to the roots of her hair.

"How about pizza?"

"That sounds perfect."

And it most certainly was.

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