Title: Cranberry
Author: Elizabeth Breeze (Muse Dae on Fanfiction, SomeAssemblingRequired on Tumblr & AO3)
Word Count: 1139
Pairing: Darcy Lewis
Post Date: July 30th, 2012
Disclaimer: I do not own Darcy Lewis, Pepper Potts, Natasha Romanoff (Romanov, Romanova, Black Widow), or Jane Foster


On Darcy's twelfth birthday, her mother told her they were going to do a very grown up thing.

Naturally, Darcy thought she was getting a credit card.

Awesome!

Instead, she got lipstick.

Fucking lame!

("I blame my mother, and her buying me lipstick at twelve, for my almost obsessive need to wear make up," mutters Darcy to Jane, as she applies eye shadow and liner in the crystalline mirror that Pepper hung in her room. Jane doesn't notice as Darcy dabs the welling tears from her eyes, and even if she did, Darcy would argue until the bitter end that she had just gotten liner on her waterline.)

On Darcy's thirteenth birthday, she didn't want a party. She didn't want a day out with her friends, or a cake, or even a pile of presents like most kids. Instead, she wanted a day of shopping and fun with her Mom, with one single stipulation: she got one tube of lipstick.

And so it became tradition. Every year, on Darcy's birthday, she would wake up bright and early, put on her favourite outfit of the moment ("Mom never let me forget that year when I was 14 and tried to leave the house in lime green fishnets and a bright pink corset…Shut up, Jane!"), and went downstairs to cook up breakfast with her mom.

An hour and a half later, they would hop in the car, just the two of them, and leave her father and three siblings behind as they went off for their Mother-Daughter day. Those days, she maintains, hold her favourite childhood memories, because coming from a family of six, with two high-powered people as parents, Darcy had few memories where she was able to monopolise her mothers time.

Her very first shade was a soft, natural pink, aptly named "Natural." She wore it every day, because it didn't really change the colour of her lips, but instead just made them a bit more shiny and, in the mind of a twelve year old, a lot more pretty!

When she was thirteen, she talked her mom into buying her "Dusty Rose," a pinker shade that reminded both of them of the roses that Dad planted in the backyard. Or, rather, it reminded them of the roses in the morning light, right after a rainfall. She got her first kiss when she was wearing dusty rose, and she still remembers Tommy Parkman, a 14 year old basketball player, turning bright red when his friends pointed out that he had lipstick on his mouth during lunch.

Fourteen and fifteen added "Autumn Red" and "Raisin" to her ever-growing collection of make up. The two vibrant reds set off her lips against her dark curls and porcelain skin, and made her feel like a 50's movie star. And while her dad never really loved that his daughter had lips as red as an apple, her mother thought it was the cutest thing. ("Even though, at fifteen, the last thing I wanted to be was cute.")

Even though she didn't realise it when she bought "Rose Glaze," sixteen was the first year she went to Prom, with a cute junior boy called Liam Jackson. She vividly recalled her mother helping her get ready for the big day, and the long, intense discussion over which lipstick looked best with her dress. The rose glaze, they decided, set off her eye shadow and the subtle pink threads in her dress.

Seventeen was her favourite. "Cranberry" was very, very Darcy. It wasn't red, but it definitely wasn't pink either. It was a shade all its own, unique against the rest of the reds and pinks and beiges in the palette this year.

Cranberry was also the last.

x . x . x

It was dark, darker than it should be at 5:30 on a spring evening. But it was raining, and visibility on the road was less than three hundred feet. That night is permanently lodged in Darcy's mind as the worst birthday—no, the worstday of her entire life. She remembers every single detail.

She hasn't forgotten the rain, or the way the trees were swaying just a little too strongly in the wind, or that the radio was flickering in and out, static-y and annoying behind the laughter and endless chatter that flowed between Darcy and her mother.

She also hasn't forgotten the squeal of breaks failing, or the terrified look on her mothers face, or the way that the brights from that pick up truck looked right before it ran a red light and slammed, 65 miles per hour, into her tiny, 1997 Sentra. ("It was kind of like…eyes, in the darkness. Except cold, and empty, and broken…")

She hasn't forgotten the scream that she didn't realise she was holding, or how her mother grabbed her hand and yelled, "I love you, Darcy. I love all of you," before that sickening crunch of metal on metal, and the stomach spinning lurch of her car flipping once, twice, three times before hitting an electricity pole on the edge of the road.

And she hasn't forgotten the cold feel of her last tube of lipstick clutched in one hand, and the soft skin of her mothers hand in the other, or how her mother looked at her, and how she looked back through the haze of blood that had splattered on her face, and how her mother had squeezed her hand tightly, one last time, before coughing up blood onto the sideways steering wheel and letting her head fall onto it.

She hasn't forgotten the blaring of the horn when her mothers head the wheel.

And after six years, there ended Mother-Daughter birthday days.

("She was…at the scene. The other driver, he fell asleep at the wheel and just…veered right into us. It was an accident, and he was never the same afterwards, or, at least, that's what I heard."

Her lips quiver as she looks at the tubes in front of her, barely glancing at Jane, or Pepper, or Natasha as she picks up a tube and shakes her head.

"I haven't worn lipstick since I was seventeen," she mumbles, putting it back.

"Darce…"

"No. I don't want…pity, or anything."

"I was just going to say…maybe it's time for a new tradition?"

She felt an arm around her shoulder, and another on her waist, and one hand covering hers, as the three women she now considered family came forward in a surprising show of emotion to comfort her, even though she would swear up and down that she was fine.

Maybe, she muses, as she picks up another tube, it is time for a new tradition.

When she walks to the counter to pay for her lipstick, a smile ghosts her lips as 'Cranberry' shows up on the cash register.)