Disclaimer: I own nothing.


You Gotta Be: Part I

"Listen as your day unfolds, challenge what the future holds.

Try and keep your head up to the sky."

You Gotta Be - Des'ree

September 19, 1984 – Independence, Kansas – Military Recruitment Center

"License?" The woman scrutinized it, her brows puckered as she looked over the small brunette in front of her again. "And you're sure you're eighteen?"

"I'm pretty sure I know my own birthday, lady."


March 5, 1986 – New Orleans, Louisiana – Military Airbase

Darcy Lewis was a hell of a pilot and a hell of a distraction for all red-blooded males in the airfield. And she took full advantage of it. Not to mention she could fix her own bird.

"Socket wrench."

Darcy idly handed the doctor the mentioned tool and squinted at the soft blue light peeking from beneath the heavy machinery.

"There's some people I want you to meet," the woman continues, wiping her hand across her face and leaving a thick oil smudge on her cheek. "Some of the best flyers I've ever seen. Besides you, of course."

"That's what I thought."

And damn if that wasn't the truth. Darcy trumped everyone in her class with her skills, leaving them all in her dust. So, when Dr. Wendy Lawson asked her to come aboard a top-secret project that involved mechanics and flying, Darcy had signed every NDA that they threw her way.

It took two years to get through basic and obtain her degree in engineering – she was an overachiever that survived on coffee – and she had no intention of letting all that hard work slip away.

Dr. Lawson was an inspiration to her. An idol. Darcy had never met her mother, but she liked to imagine that she would be like Dr. Lawson. Courageous and strong and so so smart because Darcy definitely didn't get her brains from her alcoholic father. The father that beat her bloody more times than she cared to admit.

"Carol and Maria are great flyers in their own right. Maria's looking to retire and Carol's ready to bridge out to commercial since the military isn't letting women fly combat – "

"Yet," Darcy added, packing away her tools. She had dreams of dogfights and higher flying and, goddammit, she'd get there.

"Right you are, Lou. It'll happen."

She grinned. "C'mon, Goose. Let's get some dinner. Want some chicken?"

The orange cat meowed in response, happily following the brunette back into the hangar.

"I never thought she'd like other people."

"I'm not just other people, doc."


The day ended when Darcy face planted onto the small cot she had called her bed for the past four months while working with Dr. Lawson.

Louisiana was known for being humid even during the best of weather and that summer was shaping up to be no different. Sweat made her worn band shirt stick to her skin and her curls were plastered to the back of her neck.

It had been pure luck to rent out a shoebox – read shed – in the bayou, seeing as the owners wanted about twenty bucks a month. Who needed air conditioning – or heat – anyway? It was hers. She had found it and paid for it and she didn't need people taking care of her anymore.

If Darcy was being completely honest with herself, she knew that she had more to do. Skating by on military pay and pity food from her boss was only bund to get her so far. She had no friends, no transportation other than a beat up Honda bike and she didn't even own a fridge.

But she made it.

She got her wings, her degree, and kick ass job that allowed her to be as free as she wanted.

Almost.

Sighing, she rolled over and punched her pillow a few times to make it comfy before shutting her eyes.


April 11, 1986 – New Orleans, Louisiana – Military Airbase

"Ugh, I love you, doc," Darcy sighed happily as she accepted the large mug filled with coffee. It burnt her throat, but she smacked her lips anyway. "Way to my heart, I swear."

Goose jumped on the counter next to her and nudged her hand, earning a fond smile.

"They're coming down today, the girls I told you about."

"So, I get to take my bird up and show 'em how it's done?"

Dr. Lawson threw her head back and laughed. "They'll be flying in separately and using the west hangar. The Captain wanted to get them adjusted to the base. So," she shrugged, a smile tugging at her mouth. "The higher up don't need to know if you're testing something for me or not."

"Deception," the brunette smiled. "I like it, doc. I like it a whole lot." She pouted for a second. "I'll be the youngest again, huh?"

"Not all of us can be eighteen, Lou."

"I'll have you know I'm – "

"You lied on your enlistment form. Don't worry, you weren't the first soldier and you certainly won't be the last."

She sulked, running her fingers through orange fur. "Yeah, yeah."

"Buck up, buttercup. They might be flyers, but you're the second brain behind all of this." The older woman grabbed her toolbox and waved Darcy out of the little lounge of their hangar. "Lawson and Lewis – saving lives by – "

"Ending wars one at a time."


"Are you a bottle blond or is that natural?"

Carol glanced over at the small woman holding the comically large tool in her hand. Was she even a pilot? Or just a lab monkey?

"Dunno. Are you just sarcastic or a real bitch?"

Maria groaned beside her. "Please don't mess this up, Danvers. I swear, I will kill you."

The blonde pursed her lips. This was the prime gig – a job with flying that was close to home and allowed Maria to spend time with her daughter uninterrupted. Somehow, she knew Maria was serious and she didn't want to be on the business end of her fury.

"I like you," the girl decided, smirking when the darker woman let out a breath of relief. "You girls any good with science?"

Maria perked up from the small table that Darcy had insisted go in their 'lab'. "I'm a physics major, if that helps."

"Perfect! I'm an engineer and Doc's got all the cool gadgets. We're trying to fit this," she pointed to an odd cube shaped thing. "Into this."

"An engine?"

"It would go really fast," Darcy supplied helpfully.

Carol crept over to where the two were huddled over pages upon pages of notes and numbers that looked like complete gibberish.

"What formula are you using? Do you have any protos? But, wait…not all of it goes in there, right? More like harnessing the energy?"

"Exactly! Damn, you're smart. Yes, only harnessing. Otherwise, it would be way too much. My bird is modified – "

"So, you do fly."

They both looked up and Darcy cocked her head. "Duh. Fastest flyer on this side of the states, anyway."

Carol narrowed her eyes. "And you've already graduated?"

"Wings are on my bomber."

"Call sign?"

"Only ever had Ace."

Maria chuckled. "That's a shit call sign. You sure it wasn't Rookie? You're young and if you're as good as you say you are – "

"She's better," Dr. Lawson said as she dropped her own notebook next to the girls. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to meet you earlier. When work calls…" she trailed off and wiped the grease off her hands. An orange cat jumped onto the table before settling in Darcy's lap and purring contently. The doctor sat at the other side of the table and smiled tiredly. "I see you've met my partner Darcy. She's as smart as they come and handy as all hell in a tight spot. Your birds make it in okay?"

"Long flight from Boston. Carol needs hers looked at – "

"Maria – "

"I can look at it. First thing in the morning," Darcy volunteered.

At Carol's look of disbelief, Dr. Lawson spoke up. "Darcy services almost all the planes of the field. She'll fix yours up."


May 17, 1986 – New Orleans, Louisiana – Rambeau/Danvers Residence

Two weeks of working together and Carol had unofficially adopted Darcy as her snarky little sister.

Three weeks had Darcy meeting Maria's daughter, a tenacious two-year-old, names Monica. And, hell, if Darcy wasn't smitten, taking the toddler whenever she was able.

A month? Well, a month had Darcy joining the girls for nightly dinners at their little farmhouse just south of the city. It was like she was a part of a real family.

But every night, she kick started her bike and made the short trek down to the bayou to her own little shed that had been slowly being filled with personal things instead of military basics.

A few messy colored pictures were tacked up on the walls, a couple threadbare shirts that been thrown her way by Carol – who was helplessly unaware that they were not the same size – and even Maria had made sure that she had a warmer blanket for the colder months ahead.

"Are you sure you won't stay?"

Darcy blinked up from the warm cup of cocoa resting between her palms and gave Maria a tired smile. "I'm sure. I've got my own home, y'know."

"That shack doesn't count."

She sighed. "It's a home and it's mine." Her voice quieted, thinking of all the times she had gone without. "I've never had something that was just mine before, and it may be shitty, but it's mine." She set down the cup and batted halfheartedly at a lightening bug that was pestering her space.

"Darcy…Monica, Carol, and you mean the world to me. I don't know how you managed to worm your way into my heart, but I'm glad you did. If you aren't going to look after yourself, at least let me do it." With a huff, she sat down next to her on the wooden steps outside the door, slinging her arm over the younger girl's shoulders. "Stop messing with that damn firefly!"

Darcy stopped, her palms cupped around the little bug. "It's a lightening bug."

"You're lightening."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," Maria smiled. "New call sign. And it's gonna stick."

"Whatever."


May 30, 1986 – New Orleans, Louisiana – Military Airbase

"Doc? This isn't adding up."

Dr. Lawson looked over her shoulder at the equation. Her lips moved wordlessly as she analyzed before she pointed to a variable. "That should be over there."

Darcy cursed. "Dammit."

"I need your help tomorrow. You and the girls. I've finished the third prototype for PEGASUS."

Blue eyes widened. "Seriously?"

"I'll have you swap the engines out tonight."


June 5, 1986 – New Orleans, Louisiana – Military Airbase

Darcy hadn't really had a friend before, let alone two.

The closest she felt to compassion before meeting Carol and Maria was having Dr. Lawson. Carol would crack jokes with her and stay up until the sun rose while Maria would always be waiting with a shoulder to lean on when she couldn't keep herself together anymore.

Somehow, for Darcy, her family became two pilots that mother henned her within an inch of her life, an overactive two-year-old that called her Lou-Lou, a boss that treated her as an equal, and a cat named Goose that followed her around like a puppy.

It was the oddest thing to love and be loved in return.

"Hey, Lightening! I'm ready to see how well you handle your bird!" Carol's voice echoed from the entrance of the hangar.

Darcy snickered and shook her head. "Not sure you can handle me, Avenger."

The story of how Carol got her call sign wasn't nearly as exciting as Darcy would have thought.

"She used to be Cheeseburger," Maria admitted with a grin, ignoring the blonde's squawk of indignation. "She avenged a bucket of fries at a fast food joint – "

"They left them for dead!"

"You ate them off the floor," Maria deadpanned. "All of them."

Carol smiled, popping a fry into her mouth and then pointed to her chest. "Avenger."

"Stop your yappin' and let's get these birds in the air!" Maria yelled, grabbing their attention. "Doc really wants this funding to go through, so we're flying for practicality, not fun. Hey – are you guys even listening? This is a big deal!"

Carol rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, we heard you, Photon. Get the birds in the air and fly nice and commercial."

"I don't know about you, but California sounds real nice. Especially with the cold creeping up on us."

If the prototypes were successful – and the government actually took notice – they were be relocating to sunny California. With beaches for days and Disneyland and blue, open sky –

"It's a desert, Lou. Don't get too romanticized by the idea just yet."

Darcy sighed, tying her hair up with an elastic as she glanced over at Dr. Lawson. "But it's better than a swamp."

"You choose to live in the bayou. There's a perfectly good house with an empty room that's waiting for you," Maria inserted. With a harsh tug, her jumpsuit zipped the few final inches and she glanced behind her as she made her way out of the hangar. "Birds are in the field, girls. Let's get a move on."

Carol grinned. "Higher, further – "

"Faster, baby!"


July 2, 1987 – Mojave Desert – Undisclosed Location

"Why is it so hot?" Darcy whined, laying her cheek down on the metal table in front of her, wishing it would be anything but warm.

California was beautiful – what she had seen before being whisked away to another lab with more security than Fort Knox – but she was really tired of the same desert landscape with the same desert lizards and the same dry heat that made her curls plaster themselves to her skull. Carol and Maria felt the same way, but the flying made everything worth it.

They were able to fly in a way that they weren't back home. The desert was an endless runway and, as long as they didn't create too much of a distraction, they could fly and race until their hearts were content.

Two weeks had been enough for the trio to rent a little house outside of Los Angeles that was close enough to a bar that they could drink and play pool – and sing off-key karaoke – without feeling bad about walking home. No designated driver, no car. Or bike, in Darcy's case.

"Because we're closer to hell," Carol answered, slumped beside her. "We are so going to Pancho's tonight. I bet I can whoop your ass at pool."

"I can still drink you under the table, Danvers. You better watch it."

Maria looked up from her equations and furrowed her brows. "You have an unhealthy relationship with tequila, my friend."

"Eh, you say unhealthy, I say practiced."

"No one should be able to put away that much alcohol, let alone tequila. Have you looked in the mirror? You're tiny! Where does it go?"

Carol snickered. "Maybe that's why her tits are so big."

"Carol!"

Darcy giggled. "It's a possibility. It's a hell of a hiding spot for a flask, though."

"Suit up." Maria stood and shuffled the papers in her hands. Eying them critically, she bit her lower lip. "I'll sit this one out. I need some on-the-ground observations. Doc should have a few new protos soon, too. So, let's break in the ones we have for now."

Darcy didn't bother with a jumpsuit; instead deciding to tuck her well-worn t-shirt into her denim cut offs and grab her glasses from her duffel. A quick glance at her shoes proved that they were tied and she made her way out of the lab and into the hangar. "Let's go, Goose!" She called over her shoulder, smirking when she heard the pitter patter of little paws behind her.

Anytime she dared leave the cat behind, she would give her the evil eye until the next time she went up in the air. Better to take the damn cat up then deal with untied shoelaces.

"You sure that cat's not yours? I know Doc says its hers, but – "

The brunette scooped Goose up in her arms and shot Carol a grin. "Might as well be. She's been following me since Doc offered me a job."

"Enough talk – let's go!"


Maria watched the two planes fly circles around each other, each one pulling back just enough to keep nose to nose. She hated to admit it – and never would in front of Carol – but Darcy was quite possibly the best pilot she had ever seen, inside and outside of the academy. She out flew the guys on base with every drill they ran and managed to have them all panting after her. And, much to her dismay, following the trio to the bar on nights they had off.

She made notes as she watched each of the engines, carefully eyeing how fast they accelerated and how long they could keep the acceleration up for.

Grabbing the radio, she asked, "Lightening, speed up and do a lap around Avenger. See if she can keep up. Over."

"You got it, Photon. Accelerating in ten. Over."

Darcy easily did three laps around Carol before the latter's plane managed to get to the same altitude, but there was definitely a struggle that Maria noted easily.

"Avenger, pull forward. Go west and then ease back."

"Roger."

Darcy soared north and the planes flew away from each other before she lapped back and swooped underneath Carol. Upside down.

Maria sighed. It was going to be a long day.


July 22, 1986 – Near the Mojave Desert, California – Pancho's Bar

"Taco Tuesday!" Carol crowed as she pushed open the worn bar door and shuffled inside.

"More like Tequila Tuesday," Darcy added as she shoved her aviators on top of her head, trapping the curls that kept threatening to break free.

Maria smirked, slipping her pager in her pants pocket. "I only have the sitter for a few hours. So, taco and tequila me!"

Tacos were ordered and shots consumed as Darcy managed to coerce the bartender into allowing an impromptu karaoke night, making the other girls groan.

"I did not agree to embarrassing myself," Maria said, downing one of the shots laid out in front of her. "It's packed for a Tuesday. Why did I agree to this?"

"Because you looooove me," Darcy sang, queuing up the music. "And Carol would never let you sit it out. Besides, we only have a few hours before you turn into a pumpkin!"

The dark-skinned woman glared. "I think you mean parent, but I'll let it slide."

Darcy sat at the bar and watched as her friends sang – very loudly and very off-key – but it was a new normal that she was happy to be a part of.

Normal.

It had been a long time coming, but she finally was able to admit to herself that that was what this was. Working, going out, having fun. A stable life that kept her grounded when she wasn't in the sky. Often she wondered if that was what she was missing in Kansas. She was only sixteen when she had forged her ID and enlisted just so she could get away from the horrors that awaited her at home, and, damn it all, she never even looked back.

Her reality was finally more than her dreams.

"Need another?"

The brunette blinked away her thoughts and turned her head to meet a fidgety looking man that was a little too close. Brown hair was a little too long and his blue eyes much too calculated for sitting in a dimly lit bar.

"M'name's Jimmy."

Darcy squinted at him. "I haven't seen you here before."

"Needed a new place."

"Get kicked out of your old one?"

He looked down, smothering a grin. "Just didn't like the birds there, is all."

"Well," she said, downing her shot and giving him a once over. "The only birds I care about are the ones I can get into the sky. You military? Don't think I didn't notice that sweet prosthetic. Metal, huh? Plastic ones are a little overdone, anyway."

He seemed to shutter in on himself, seemingly worried about something. He mumbled quietly, nothing she could pick up before he asked. "You fly?"

"Better than the best, dude."

"Come on, pretty baby, kiss me deadly!"

Darcy looked up at her girls making fools of themselves and smirked. "You fly?"

"No." It was short and assertive and she backed off a little before he stumbled out, "More of a field guy, myself."

"Army?"

"Yeah."

She pondered. It wasn't every day that an army guy ended up around the base that wasn't supposed to be there. Especially when they were good looking with no sign of attachment. That she could see, anyway.

"Never really liked the army. I went through basic before branching out to air force, but it was tough – "

"You work on the base near here?"

Red flag. Why was he asking her about that? Only secure personnel were supposed to know –

"I'm headin' up there for security. Guess you guys need some more muscle."

"Yeah, I guess so." She visibly deflated, taking a breath of relief. A smile overtook her lips and she flirted. "Maybe I'll see you around, Jimmy."

"You never told me your name."

"It's Darcy."

He swallowed and smiled, showing off his straight, white teeth. "Nice to meet you, Darcy."


August 15, 1987 – Mojave Desert – Undisclosed Location

"Can you please stop staring at his butt?"

Darcy looked away from where Jimmy was walking out of the lab and managed to close her mouth from where her jaw had dropped open. How embarrassing.

"It's a nice butt," Carol added, winking when Darcy blushed. Only when Maria gave her look did she relent. "He's not my type, though. I prefer them with blond hair and muscles and – "

Darcy smacked her head against the metal table and sighed. Jimmy had been coming around a lot more, bringing her coffee and, occasionally, flowers. It was sweet, really, and the girls loved to tease her about it.

"Oh, Darcy-Lou! Your boy toy left you a dozen daisies! And half a cup of coffee!"

Darcy peeked out from underneath her bird, a scowl on her face. "Half a cup? Are you sure that you didn't drink the other half?"

"I plead the fifth."

"Dammit. Give me my coffee, woman!"

"Doc wants us in the air in ten. You up for it, Lightening?"

She glared at Maria. "When am I even not up for it, Photon?" Sighing, she picked herself up and mentally shook herself. "I rewired all the engines last night, anyway. They should be good to go."

"We'll make sure you get back on the ground, Lou. We know you have a date with Jimmy and his butt."

"Carol!"

Darcy sighed dreamily. "It is a nice butt."

"How about you both gets your butts in the air, huh? Chop, chop!"


"Wow," Darcy breathed, looking her date up and down in appreciation. He was wearing a pair of jeans that really did things for her and a plaid button down that hugged his chest in a way that she wanted to. He was…something out of her old romance books that she used to read, really. "You clean up nice."

Jimmy grinned and tugged the end of her braid playfully. "Could say the same for you, doll. Look at ya." He made a spinning motion with his finger and she dutifully complied, spinning in place so the jacket she was wearing flared out a bit. "Pretty as a picture."

"In combat boots and an old jacket."

"Semantics," he grinned, slinging his arm – the flesh one – over her shoulders. "I didn't really have anything planned, y'know. Thought we could – "

"Walk around base and eat the dinner you set up in the hangar?"

He ducked his head. "Can't keep a damned thing from you, can I?"

"I'm smart like that."

"Too smart," he agreed, pressing a kiss to her temple. "C'mon, it's gonna get cold if we wait any longer."

Darcy hesitated. "You…covered it, right? Goose really likes chicken."

"Dammit."

He, indeed, did not cover the dinner.

And Goose had a tummy full of human food.


November 3, 1987 – Mojave Desert – Military Personnel Barracks

Darcy had been having a nice dream. A dream where she was flying higher than she had ever flown before. The wind whipping through her curls and the largest smile painted across her face.

Until suddenly she was yanked out of the dream with a metal bar forced against her windpipe and a heavy body straddling her midsection.

She blinked up in the darkness, trying hard to remember where she was.

"Jimmy," she rasped, seeing the outside light glint off of his blue eyes. "Jimmy, it's me. It's Darcy – Lou. C'mon, babe, snap out of it."

He blinked down at her before he threw himself across the little room that he called his own. He was breathing hard through his nose as his hands held his head. Rocking back and forth, he muttered to himself, much like the first night she met him.

Moving slowly, and always remaining in his line of sight, Darcy made her way to him, slipping to her knees to be the same level as him.

"Babe? It's okay. It's November third of 1987. You're at a military base in California. Okay? You're safe. No one's gonna hurt you."

He whined pitifully, tugging at the ends of his hair. "Hurt you, hurt you, hurt you…" he kept mumbling.

"No, Jimmy, you didn't hurt me. I'm okay, see?" She guided his hand to her face and held it there. "I'm okay."

"They're gonna make me hurt you," he whispered, drawing his thumb along her delicate cheek bone. "I don't want to. I…I love you."

Her heart stuttered and she gave him a shaky smile. "No one's going to make you do anything, I promise. C'mon. Let's get back into bed, okay? And no funny business."


November 4, 1987 – Mojave Desert – Undisclosed Location

The morning had been hard. Jimmy was gone when she finally woke up and she had rolled onto her side, hoping to absorb any of the warmth he had left behind, but it was clear he had been gone for a while. So, she managed to rouse herself from his less than comfy bed and wiggle into last night's clothes that were not nearly as clean as the day before.

Coffee was scrounged up before she braved leaving his room, catching the glances of a few personnel that knew she was banging him, but they couldn't be more wrong.

Jimmy had a real bad case of PTSD, hence the night before, and they had only managed to talk about it once. However, last night was just the most recent event to grace the four walls of his room. He had managed to flip Darcy off the bed multiple times, hold a gun under her jaw, and, well, knives were strictly off limits now, as well. Same as any sort of intimate relations.

But she didn't blame him. It was a diagnosis, a reason for why he did what he did. And she wasn't going to kick him to the curb because of it. Hell, she loved him, too. Not that she had the guts to say it, even when he had. The mere thought that he would remember was not something she would entertain.

"Darce, are you okay? Oh, hell, I didn't – I mean – I can't – "

"It's okay," she managed to get out once the shock wore off. It was their first night sharing the same bed and he had hesitantly agreed, wanting to keep her safe. But she was stubborn. "I'm fine. See? I'm okay." She rubbed her hand down his back when he seemed to relax. "You got a bad case of PTSD, don't you?"

"Shell shock," he corrected her gruffly. "Nothin' I can't handle."

"It's called PTSD. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There's a diagnosis and everything." She paused and kissed his arm gently. "It's okay to not be okay."

"Morning, Lou," Dr. Lawson greeted her as she walked into their lab. "I've got Goose sorting through your notes. So far, she's shredded the ones she didn't like."

Darcy snorted. "Damn cat."

"She's smarter than your average cat."

"You don't need to tell me," the brunette said. Hefting the cat into her arms, she moved her to the chair and sorted through the papers that the cat had nominated to keep. "Seems like she's on the nose."

There was silence before the doctor spoke up. "You may want to wear your hair down today." She gestured at her neck when Darcy looked up. "I know what soldiers are like after they've seen combat, but the girls might not be so understanding."


November 7, 1987 – Mojave Desert – Undisclosed Location

As usual, it took Jimmy a couple days to reconnect himself after an episode and she tried not to take it so personally. She didn't have PTSD, but she had seen enough soldiers return from tours to know that his case was more than severe. Everyone had their dark days, but it was like he was living in them.

"Jimmy?" She timidly knocked on his door, precariously balancing two coffees in her hands. The door swung open and she gasped at what she saw. "Oh, babe. C'mere."

He moved out of her reach and invited her inside. As soon as she set the coffee down, she wrapped her arms around his middle and tried to push the tears back. He looked rough. His hair was dirty and tangled, his beard scruffy. Dark rings hung under his eyes and she just knew that he hadn't slept since the incident.

"Let's get you in the shower, okay? I'll help with your face, too."

He didn't give her a verbal reply, but he began unbuttoning his pants and she took that as a green light. Slipping into the small bathroom, she turned on the water and adjusted the temperature before laying out a clean towel he had tucked underneath the sink.

"I think it's warm enough – oh."

She was definitely not expecting to turn around and see her boyfriend completely nude. And, Jesus Christ, he was built like a goddamn Adonis. His fucking muscles had muscles! And the accidental glance she made south? Her thighs ached just thinking about it.

"I'm…I'm just…gonna wait…out there," she managed to squeak out as she fled.

Once her ass was firmly planted on his bed, she let out a shaky breath. Nude men were not her forte. Christ, she was still a virgin. And what he was packing was a little more intimidating from what she had studied in health class.

Somewhere, Carol was laughing at her, she was sure of it.

When he came out with his hair dripping and the towel tied around his waist, she had hoped that her jaw hadn't fallen open, but the audible clack of her teeth when she shut it made her realize it was a false hope. He handed her a razor and shaving cream before sitting next to her.

"Are you sure you want me to – "

"I trust you." It was merely a whisper, but it sounded like a gunshot in the room. Her chest felt tight as she nodded.

Carefully, she spread the shaving cream onto his jaw, making sure he was covered liberally before she took a deep breath and brought the blade to his skin. She dragged it upwards, over his jaw, and higher before cleaning the blade and starting all over again. When she was finished, she wiped his face clean and pressed a soft kiss to his lips.

"Lou…" It took him only a couple seconds to wrap his fingers around her waist and pull her back against him, kissing the daylights out of her as the towel and razor fell to the ground. Pulling back, he rested his forehead against hers and sighed, "I love you, baby. I…I don't want them to take you away from me."

"Who's gonna take me? I'm not letting it happen." She shook her head and smiled shyly. "I…I love you, too."

A tear fell and he held her tighter. It was the sanest he felt in nearly fifty years.


December 16, 1987 – Mojave Desert – Undisclosed Location

A blue, glowing phial sat on the metal table of the lab. Darcy had no idea what it was, but Goose was making her nervous from walking right next to it. Repeatedly.

"I swear, if you knock that over, I'm going to skin you alive."

Goose merely looked at her and swished her tail, knocking it over completely.

The brunette dove for it, somehow knowing that it was important. But it slipped through her fingers and shattered on the cement floor.

"Dammit!" She groaned, scooping up the pieces and cursing when she managed to cut herself on the jagged edge.

The world went a little fuzzy after that.

"Goose?"

The responding meow turned into something long and drawn out and her eyes were so tired now.

"Get…Doc…"


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~Grace