The morning is torture - slow, delicious, wicked torture.

It would seem that declarations of love are tantamount to taking the gloves off, especially when it comes to pushing physical boundaries. Steve learns a few things – one: Darcy is very vocal when pushed. Two: she's also very ticklish.

"This isn't over," Darcy calls from the bathroom. "And just remember, when we get back to New York, there won't be any childish hang ups about my childhood home. That's a whole new ballgame, mister."

Steve grins up at the ceiling. He can't remember a time when he's felt this alive – not even the minutes after being dosed with the super soldier serum can begin to compare.

"Just remember – " Darcy pops her head out of the bathroom. Her hair is all mussed and flat on one side. "You only got to second base this inning, Captain. When I'm up to bat, I may try for an in the park home run."

He lobs a pillow at her, but she's back in the bathroom before the blow lands, giggling the whole time.


"Promise me you'll call when you get home," Muriel says. She's been holding on to Darcy for the last minute, clearly trying not to cry.

"Muriel, I will, chill-" Darcy's trying to be tough, but they all know she enjoys the attention. Steve and Muriel already snuck in a quick pow wow on this while Darcy got dressed. He's more than prepared to do what it takes to break down all the walls built by years of neglect, not that it will be at all miserable showering her with attention. He's also snuck in a quick call to Jane Foster, which took some tap dancing and soul searching, since he didn't know how to reach her directly, nor did he exactly relish the idea of sharing time. After a few rounds of wrong extensions through Stark Enterprises, he's managed to prep her for Darcy's return tomorrow, along with encouraging some very much needed cultivation to a friendship that means a lot to both of them.

"You take care of my girl," Muriel says to him. She's still holding on to Darcy, but her grip is loser, and Darcy pivots, so that they are cheek to cheek. They're both smiling and flushed. Darcy looks better than he's ever seen her, and it has nothing to do with outward appearance.

"I was kind of hoping she'd take care of me," he jokes, which earns him a dirty look from both of the Lewis women. "You'll come up soon?"

"Thanksgiving," she promises. "We'll gorge ourselves and go to the parade."

She kisses Darcy once more on the cheek, then presses her fingers to her lips and turns them to Steve. The gratitude that passes between them is silent, but unmistakable.

Thank you.

"You ready?" He slips his sunglasses on and plops down in the driver's seat. The sun is out, and it's just warm enough to take one last ride with the top down. "If we leave now, we should get home by dinner."

Darcy climbs in the car, the door chunking closed behind her. "Wing battle, round two?"

"I just got feeling back in my lips," he protests.

"I have other ways of remedying that."

He laughs and starts the car, revving the engine once, twice. "What'll you give me if I get us home by four?"

"That would require speeding, Captain."

"But it's for a good cause, right?" He lets the clutch out, tires squealing as they pull away from the curb. "Besides, I'm a good guy, but I'm not always a boy scout."

Their laughter mixes together, high and low, masculine and feminine. It fills the space between, and stays with them all the way.


And that's all she wrote…but since I can't let it go at that… I always intended to make this a character study from Steve's POV on what a relationship and coming to terms with his own baggage looks like. In the course of doing so, I identified a few tangents – either complimenting something mentioned in this story, or things that have been alluded to. I'm going to take a run at fleshing out some of those – some via Steve, but most via Darcy, which will put a slightly different spin on things. Part of the fun of this was seeing Darcy through Steve's eyes, but flipping it is going to be another set of challenges and fun, too.

So anyway, that's TL;DR for stay tuned, there will be some one offs coming (I promised Lucy a few things, I have to make good), and thank you so much for buying in to this little hair brained combo I cooked up. It's been a lot of fun!