As promised – not too long between updates!
Bonus Hulk POV in this chapter!
Ugh. What freight train had hit her?
Darcy swam up out of a dark pit, head pounding, cottony mouth, everything hurting, the world dipping and turning around her. She pried her eyes open, sure by the way it felt that she had imbibed entirely too much alcohol and was collapsed in her bed. Then she had to blink and look around again.
She was in the back of some type of cargo van, sprawled on a dirty, stinky, stained mattress. Oh yuck. She didn't want to know what had caused the stains and really, really, hoped they weren't fresh. No wonder she felt like the world was dipping and turning around her. The van was in motion and from what she could feel, they were moving quite fast. That was probably smart on their part, since they'd just kidnapped Hulk's girlfriend.
Big Green would be going crazy. That thought (and strangely not the thought of being kidnapped) had Darcy's stomach twisting into knots. Bruce would blame himself and would try to break things off with her, for her own good. Or he would flee.
Bile rose in her throat. Darcy flipped up on her side and leaned over the edge of the disgusting mattress. Her stomach convulsed once, twice, and then she was puking. It burned the whole way out, making her eyes water. And then again, as her twisting stomach decided it didn't want anything in it.
When the stomach was emptied, she dry heaved for a little, but finally got it under control. Her mouth now felt like a garbage disposal and she was still queasy. Darcy slowly sat up, hands braced on the filthy mattress, head hanging, taking low shallow breaths. Okay, being drugged and kidnapped officially sucked.
She took stock of things, peering out from under her hair. There didn't seem to be anything in the back of the van except for the dirty mattress she was sitting on. There was no side door, and the windows in the rear doors were sealed over. The inside door handle had been removed. There was an inner wall between the cab and the cargo space, so she couldn't even go crazy on the driver and hope that the van would wreck. They had prepared for this, whoever they were.
She had left her bag in the covert ops van. That really sucked, because she'd feel a lot better with her taser in her hands.
The van lurched and bounced violently, throwing Darcy face first into the filthy mattress. She tried not to breathe as she propped herself up again. They needed to stop or she was going to keep puking.
Strangely, she wasn't worried about Hulk getting hurt, even though he'd been suffering through a hail of bullets when she last saw him. Hulk was indestructible. Or at least no one had found anything to hurt him yet. But she was very afraid of how he would react to her kidnapping. Coulson and Sitwell probably felt pretty shitty and stupid too. The whole battle thing had been a setup to draw out the Hulk tamer. Even S.H.I.E.L.D had easily fallen for it.
She was fuzzy headed still, and that was a little bit of a blessing because Darcy didn't want to think about what could happen to her. She had an active imagination, and she'd overheard enough from Clint and Natasha to know that she wouldn't be able to deal with anything that involved pain. If they wanted information, she'd blurt it out at the first hint of torture.
Her rogue mind started supplying vivid pictures of what could be done to her, and Darcy leaned over to puke again. The smell of the puke was enough to make her heave again. Ugh. This was miserable. She wanted to be rescued right now. Please.
As long as they were traveling, things were okay. Sure, they were probably getting further and further away from help, but at least no one was in the back with her…doing things to her.
Oh god. Darcy squeezed her eyes shut, wrapping her arms around herself and keening quietly while rocking back and forth. Tears ran from her eyes and dripped off her chin. She couldn't take this. Big Green needed to come busting through the back of the van right now. Right. Now. She stared expectantly at the doors, waiting, hoping…
It didn't work, and she broke into wracking sobs. Darcy curled up on the filthy stinking mattress and cried until she couldn't breathe. She knew, knew, that Big Green would rescue her. Whether that came before or after bad things happened…she didn't know.
Emotionally wrung out, Darcy drifted into a fitful sleep.
A shuddering jolt woke her abruptly. Darcy shrieked as she was thrown from the mattress, crashing into the wall of the van painfully. That hurt. She braced her hands against the wall, and straightened her legs to brace against the mattress, providing a temporary relief from bouncing helplessly around in the back of the van.
The van was being driven fast, recklessly, with no regard to its passenger. She idly wondered what was going wrong, and hoped it involved a big, green pursuer.
The tiny bit of rest, and the purge of tears, seemed to have rejuvenated her. After all, she had some lessons in self-defense from Hawkeye and the Black Widow. Even Coulson had provided some training so that she was able to defend herself. Maybe she wasn't a certifiable badass like they were, but if she got the chance, she might be able to break free of someone and run. Coulson had insisted on running as a requirement of her training. So he had turned her over to a high level S.H.I.E.L.D agent who was a sick and twisted individual, and they ran at least three times a week. In the beginning, Darcy had spent a lot of time bent over her knees, huffing. At first. But gradually, over the course of several months, she was able to knock out a mile with no problem. The most challenging part of that training had been the sprint drills. No one thought she would be running a marathon to get away, but she had to be fast and able to maintain that speed over a reasonable distance.
Darcy took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. She felt more in control now, like she really was the Hulk's girlfriend, and not some sniveling victim. She never wanted to be that, which was why she started carrying a taser.
Time seemed skewed, because surely she hadn't been a kidnap victim for that long, but since every breath was breathed in anticipation of what would happen next, it seemed like forever. The frantic drive wasn't making time pass any faster, either. It sucked that Tony wasn't around, because he was the only one really suited for pursuit. Thor's flying involved too much hammer work. The others were relegated to regular pursuit, unless they'd snagged one of the jet things. Then again, if they'd done that, the chase would already be over, and Darcy would be safe, trying to convince Bruce not to break up with her. And Hulk's methods of pursuit were a bit more…aggressive. Given the reckless, frantic feel to their trip, Hulk was definitely in pursuit.
Darcy couldn't wait until he caught up to them.
Hulk bored. Need more smash. Small pests. Not worth Hulk's time.
No metal man. Miss metal man.
Small pests run. Need more smash.
Pretty! Pretty here! Come for Hulk? Come for Banner? Pretty!
More small pests. Lots of small pests. Shoot Hulk. Team in danger.
Many pests shoot Hulk. Protect team. Not strong, like Hulk.
Smash pests. More fun.
Pretty? Pretty fall. Who? Who catch Pretty? No take Pretty! Hulk's!
Pretty! Team? Hulk smash! Pretty! Bring back Pretty! Team?
Rocket not stop Hulk. Sting. Not hurt. Smash little pests.
Pretty! Pretty in van. Drive away. No! Hulk's!
Hole. Hole beneath Hulk. Fall. Covered. Pretty!
Smash! Smash to get out. Get to Pretty! Jump? Too much covered. Smash more.
Pretty! Where Pretty? No see Pretty.
"Hey big guy. You okay?"
Spider pretty. Not hurt. "Pretty?"
"They took her. Cap is in pursuit."
"Don't know yet, big guy. Cap'll stay in touch."
Smash! Smash! SMASH!
"I know. We'll get her back. Hawkeye! You still have eyes on that van?"
Stick man come down. "Lost 'em, Nat. Even my eyes can only see so far. Cap's on their ass, though. How ya doing, Big Green?"
"Yeah, as soon Cap pins down a location. We won't lose her. Damn amateurs. They threw sheer numbers at us. And probably lost about half their men when you started throwing cars at them."
Where? Where Pretty?
"It's okay, big guy. Calm down a little, okay? Where you going? Coulson, do we have a direction? Big guy is going after his girl. It would be helpful to point him in the right direction."
Not-dead man angry. "We have a lock on Captain Roger's locator. Take this. It'll track him for you. Barton! Romanoff! Take the van."
"That's the best we got, Coulson? It's slow as shit."
"You're chasing another van, Barton."
Not-dead man scary smile. "They went that way with Darcy."
Hulk SMASH them. Take back Pretty.
Apparently, it had never occurred to Darcy's genius kidnappers that Hulk would come after them. Aggressively. As in 'you took my woman' aggressively. Judging from the panicked, high pitched shrieks, they weren't prepared to handle it. Well…Big Green could be intimidating most of the time.
She was practically being shaken apart in the back of the van, and just hoped that the wild chase wasn't hurting anyone. The pursuit had escalated. She heard gunfire, along with what sounded like a motorcycle engine, so could only assume that Clint, Natasha, or Steve was in immediate pursuit. But she'd also felt the shuddering mini-explosions of Big Green landing from his awesome jumps. He was close.
She was grinning with manic delight at the sounds of panic coming from the front of the van. Served them right. Hulk was going to rip them apart. She couldn't help but feel a bit smug about that. It wasn't a nice way to feel, but she didn't care. It hadn't been nice to kidnap her with the intention of using her against Hulk.
It would likely come to a destructive end. This van couldn't take this type of abuse for long before something broke beyond repair. Dying during her rescue wasn't an option, so Darcy tried to think of how she could minimize damage to herself if the van flipped, or drove into a Hulk, or had a tire blown out.
She looked around again, just to be sure she hadn't missed anything that could be used. Sadly, the only thing she saw was the gross mattress. It was old enough, and soft enough, to be used for cushioning. It was just the idea…yuck. She didn't want to touch it.
The van bounced about two feet into the air, and Darcy lost her bracing grip. She was tossed across the cargo hold and into the far wall. Ouch. Ouch Ouch. Fine. With a deep breath, she plopped herself onto one end of the floppy, gross mattress, and pulled at it until it folded in half with her in the center. She held on to both edges of the mattress, holding the folded top half down against her.
Just in time, as the van sloped down violently, and the protesting shriek of torn metal filled her ears. Their forward movement abruptly stopped. The folded mattress shot forward, colliding with the blocked off front of the van. Darcy barely managed to retain her grip on the edges but did, feeling a little squashed with the impact, but not shredded or broken.
With another shriek of protesting metal, the front half of the van was torn off. Darcy spilled out of her folded mattress onto the ground, right at Big Green's feet. He was practically frothing at the mouth, in pure rage mode. If she had been the focus of his anger, she would be peeing herself right now. Instead, his eyes fell upon her, and the snarl on his face eased into an expression of such relief that Darcy wanted to cry.
"Hey big guy," she greeted in a rusty voice.
He casually threw the front half of the van (with its screaming operators) over his shoulder. "Pretty."
"I am so glad to see you," she told him, and burst into tears of relief.
Hulk, it seemed, didn't know what to do with a crying woman. It made Darcy laugh at the same time she was crying. He stood over her with wide eyes, practically wringing his big hands in distress, looking from side to side. She took pity on him, and wrapped her arms around his tree trunk leg, holding on for dear life.
She raised her head from where it was buried against Hulk's leg. Apple Pie was standing close, sweaty, dirty, yet highly relieved. "Yes Captain?" She was proud that her voice only wavered a little.
"Are you all right?"
"A little banged up, Captain, but I'm okay."
He started forward. "Let's get you checked out by medical. They're en route."
The snarling growl from Hulk stopped him in his tracks. Darcy leaned back a little so she could look up. Big Green wasn't about to relinquish her to anyone right now. His fists were clenched so tightly together she was surprised his fingers weren't shattering, and his face was locked in a warning snarl.
"I think it can wait, Captain."
"Noted." He pivoted on one blue booted heel and went to check on the fate of the van's drivers.
Darcy leaned back in against her savior, still holding on to his leg ridiculously tightly. It grounded her. His blazing warmth let her know she was safe.
Darcy smiled against his leg, tears still leaking from her eyes, breath still chuffing. "I'm okay, big guy," she reassured in a watery voice. "Just a little emotional right now."
"Home," he told her, and scooped her up with one hand. Darcy was snuggled in against his chest moments later, and sighed in relief as she felt the wind rushing by them. They were jumping. Away. Away from the evil bad kidnappers who had probably been pulverized. She didn't care.
Tony apparently had put in an outside entrance to the Hulk-proof level, and Hulk knew where it was. Darcy would be impressed about that later, when she stopped shaking. The winter air was cold when jumping through it, even with her own personal Hulk heater. Well, and there was the whole being kidnapped thing. She was still trying to process that.
Once inside, it was blessedly warm. Big Green didn't let go of her, but flopped down on something and leaned back so she was snuggled into his chest. Darcy clung to him like a leech, letting his warmth seep into her. She practically purred when big green arms wrapped gently around her. Gradually, the shaking subsided, and the gentle rumble of Hulk's breathing lulled her to sleep.
She woke slowly. The first thing that registered to her confused brain was the smell. She stank. She smelled like that stupid mattress. Thoughts of the mattress led to thoughts of being kidnapped, which led to a slight panic attack.
Darcy was almost hyperventilating when two strong, bare arms wrapped around her. He didn't say anything, just squeezed her tightly. She appreciated that. She didn't want to talk about it right now.
Eventually, she raised her head to look around. They were still in the Hulk proof level. Bruce was sprawled on top of…some kind of giant bean bag? The lack of clothing told her that he hadn't moved since he had first flopped down on it, as Big Green. She was curled up on top of him, still completely clothed in her dirty, stinky clothes.
Bruce's eyes were a little haunted. "Are you okay?" he asked, voice a little hoarse. His hands were warm and comforting against her back.
Darcy nodded. "Mostly. Just…a little freaked still. I…I was imagining all kinds of things."
Bruce's eyes flashed green. "They weren't going to get the chance to hurt you."
"I noticed. How long? I was out for some of it."
His jaw clenched. "It was a couple of hours. Steve went after you right away. Hu-the Other Guy was pinned down by gunfire. Clint and Natasha stayed to help take out the gunmen, and when that was over, the Other Guy went after you."
Darcy exhaled shakily. She was thirsty, stinky, and starting to get hungry. "I need to shower," she told Bruce, sitting up, hands braced against his chest.
His hands didn't leave her back, and his eyes didn't leave her face. "That's a good idea. My rooms, or yours?"
She didn't want to be alone. She desperately did not want to be alone. "I honestly don't care, as long as you stay with me." Darcy's gaze was sharp as she looked down at him. "You are staying, aren't you?"
He glanced off to the side briefly, then focused on her again. "Tony would be very disappointed in me if I didn't." His hands slid around to her waist and squeezed. "This…never should have happened. It was careless. We should have pulled out as soon as we realized that we weren't really needed. But we didn't. So we learned a lesson, and so did S.H.I.E.L.D." A frown pulled at his mouth. "You missed Tony's public outburst. You remember that terrorist that's been on the news, the Mandarin? He blew up a building and Happy got hurt. Reporters got to Tony as he was coming out the hospital, and he challenged the guy. Tony's itching for a fight, I think."
She could deal with his Tony fixation. It helped keep him steady, even when Tony wasn't there. "Pepper needs to keep a closer eye on him." She scooted down Bruce's legs until her legs could reach the floor. He sat up as she moved further away, hands still at her waist. He was dealing better than she thought he would. "How did you find out about the Tony thing? You've been down here."
"Jarvis," Bruce answered, allowing her to pull him to his feet off the bean bag chair. "I woke a bit before you, and needed something to take my mind off things. So Jarvis played the news for me."
Darcy almost, almost, snorted in derision. "The news to take your mind off of things? Hmm…somehow, Bruce, I don't think that works." She had to take a moment to admire the view, because her mind needed to be taken off of things. "Did I ever tell you that I like this look on you?"
Since the remnants of his pants had slid off his legs when he stood up, Bruce was standing in front of her completely naked and a little sheepish. "Yes you have. Several times. C'mon. Let's get you into a shower." One of his hands fumbled out to take one of hers. "I won't leave you alone."
Darcy had the feeling that she was going to be stuck to him like glue for a while. Or vice versa.