AN: The number of reviews, follows and favourites on this fic has absolutely blown my mind. This fandom is amazing, I can't thank you all enough. I really hope you're satisfied with the ending! Also, for the purposes of this story, Coulson lives! :)
'Hey, Cap.' Steve turns in surprise. Tony waves him over as Fury and the rest of the team file out of the briefing room. Tony is headed for the door too, but his progress is slowed significantly by all the swiping and tapping he's doing on his tablet. He barely glances up as he says, 'Got two tickets for the Mets game this weekend. Pepper and I can't make it, thought maybe you and your little lady would be able to use them.'
'Darcy's not my...' Steve glances towards the door and their retreating team mates, lowering his voice. 'We're not ...' despite his best efforts, he knows he's blushing, '... it's not like that.'
'Oh, I just ...' The tapping stops. 'Seriously?' Apparently, this warrants two full seconds of eye contact.
'Why do you sound so surprised?' Steve asks guardedly.
The tapping resumes. 'Don't get your star spangled spandex in a twist. I just thought, you know, going by the way she was sneaking glances at you across the room at the party, and, more specifically, the way she was looking at all those adoring fangirls of yours like she wanted to tase every last one of them in the face, but whatevs. So you want those tickets?'
It takes Steve a moment to realise he's supposed to respond. 'No, thank you. We have other plans.'
'What, surely it doesn't take all weekend to polish your shield?' Tony says absently.
'We're going camping,' Steve answers, ignoring the jibe because he knows now that's just the way Tony is.
Tony snorts, the hand with the tablet dropping to his side. 'But it's "not like that," huh?' He gives Steve a clap on the shoulder and a knowing wink. 'You kids have fun!' he says and saunters out the door.
Steve trails after him into the hall, but keeps his mouth shut because he suspects further denials will only make things worse. Turns out Tony's capable of making things worse all on his own.
'And remember to put a cap on Little Cap, you know what I'm saying?' Tony calls over his shoulder as he walks away, leaving Steve standing outside the briefing room. 'Has anyone filled you in on the sexual revolution? 'Cause things have changed, man. Hey, Coulson!' he shouts as he rounds the corner. 'You want some Mets tickets? You can have them if you give Cap the safe sex talk…"
Steve is blissfully happy when he can no longer hear Tony's voice.
He nearly jumps out of his skin when he realises Director Fury is standing on the other side of him.
'Rogers, got an assignment for you,' he barks, turning on his heel and striding off in the other direction.
'Yes, Sir,' Steve says, hurrying to catch up.
Darcy has just finished stashing a couple of day's worth of food in the cooler in the back seat, and she's about to turn the ignition and pull out of the grocery store parking lot when her cell rings. She fishes it out of her bag and allows herself a goofy smile as she reads Steve's name on the screen.
'Hey! I'm just about to head to your place, what's up?' she asks.
'Hi Darcy. Bad news, I'm afraid,' Steve says on the other end of the line, his voice flat.
Some of Darcy's enthusiasm starts to bleed away. 'Oh?'
'Director Fury's just told me to attend a ribbon-cutting tomorrow morning for some new government facility in Los Angeles. I fly out in a couple of hours.'
Darcy's stomach tightens into a cold knot. Clearly, Captain America's superpowers don't include lying, because that one was terrible.
'If you didn't want to go camping you should've just said.' She's going for cool indifference, but what comes out is more biting than blasé.
'Darcy, it's not like that, I promise. I'd much rather be spending the weekend with you,' Steve says, and okay, he does sound pretty earnest.
'What, so, some random last minute ribbon-cutting crops up on the other side of the country and they have to send Captain America?' she asks.
'You know what it's like, Darcy. When Fury says jump, I don't exactly have a choice,' he says, resigned.
'Yeah, I know,' she concedes with a sigh.
'Can we reschedule for next weekend?' he asks, sounding hopeful.
'Sure, no problem' she says, because what else is she going to say? 'Okay, well, have a good trip and I'll see you when you get back, I guess.' She tries to force a modicum of cheeriness into her voice.
'Thanks. And Darce? I really wish I was going camping with you instead.' He sounds so sincere, it's making her chest hurt.
She decides she better end the call before her voice cracks. 'Me too, big guy. Go catch your flight.'
Darcy drops her forehead onto the top of the steering wheel and sighs.
It's not a big deal. She'll just go home and unpack all the crap she just spent ages loading into the car. It's irritating, but it's fine.
She slouches back in the seat. She's disappointed, but mostly it pisses her off that Steve still needs some down time, and he's not going to get it. Could it really be that important to have him specifically at this event? If it was, surely Fury would have told him about it earlier.
After a long moment, she straightens up, starts the engine and heads straight for SHIELD headquarters.
The doors part and Darcy stalks out of the elevator and down the hall towards Director Fury's office. She can hear that little voice in her head, the one that's demanding to know why the hell she's trying to get herself fired. She ignores it, because she's not even sure she has an answer.
'Don't mention the eye, Lewis,' she mutters to herself. 'Just don't mention the eye.' It was something Coulson had said once, and it was the only bit of advice she'd ever heard on how to deal with Nick Fury. She'd spoken to the director once before, but it was just to make small talk in the elevator. She thought she'd been perfectly pleasant, but all she got for her troubles was a cycloptic glare.
She's never been to Fury's office before, but she expects there must be some sort of intimidating assistant you have to get past before you see the man himself. Some conservatively dressed, tight-lipped woman who will turn Darcy back before this harebrained plan of hers can go any further.
There isn't. There's a desk where said assistant must usually reside, but there's no gatekeeper on duty. Fury must have already left for the day. She's not sure if she's disappointed or relieved. She tries the door handle, just in case. All too quickly, the door is swinging open and Darcy is realising she should have knocked first.
Fury looks up from behind his desk, pen poised over an open file, single eye glowering at her.
'I don't recall you having an appointment, Ms Lewis,' he says coldly, returning to his paperwork.
'Yeah, no, this is definitely an impromptu, spur of the moment, seat of the pants-type thing,' she says, taking a few cautious steps inside.
'And the purpose of this visit?' he asks warily, looking all but convinced he's going to regret giving her the opportunity to open her mouth.
Darcy inches closer to his desk, not too close, though. There might be booby traps. She takes a deep breath and tucks her hair behind her ears. 'Okay, so, um, I don't know if you've noticed, and if you haven't, that would be totally understandable,' she starts, fluttering a hand in the direction of his eye patch.
Darcy has never wanted to kick herself so hard in all her life. She presses on, though, heat rising in her cheeks. 'But, um, I just think Captain Rogers is feeling a bit overworked. I'm not saying you work him too hard, or anything like that—and he didn't say anything, so please don't think that he was, you know, saying anything—' she's babbling and she knows it, 'but I just get the impression he could really use the weekend off and sending him on this trip to L.A. pretty much shoots that to hell.'
The director puts down his pen, laces his hands together on top of the desk, and fixes her with the full focus of his one good eye. Darcy swears her insides are shriveling up. There is no doubt in her mind that this is what it feels like to be a rabbit caught in the sights of a panther.
'Let me tell you what I've noticed, Ms Lewis,' he says in a tone that makes Darcy's toes curl. 'I've noticed a man who works his ass off, who puts his life on the line without hesitation, who asks for nothing in return, and who doesn't deserve to spend his down time being hassled by groupies.'
Darcy is no longer awash with terror. She's bristling with indignation. She squares her shoulders.
'I assure you, sir,' she says drily, 'my intentions towards your super soldier are nothing but honourable.' It's the truth, no matter how she might feel about Steve.
She must still have some sense of self-preservation, because she eases back on the throttle as she adds, matter-of-factly, 'He looks like crap and he needs a break, and you and I both know he'd never ask for it himself, so that's why I'm here asking for him.'
Fury's eye has narrowed. She has absolutely no idea what that means. He's probably already sent some kind of silent signal to Barton, who's about to drop down from behind a ceiling tile and put an arrow through her neck. She kind of wishes he would, then at least she'd stop talking. 'Send me to L.A. if you want. I'll wear a red wig and tell them I'm Natasha, just give Steve a couple of days off.'
Fury scans her dismissively. 'I seriously doubt you could pull that off.'
Darcy crosses her arms over her chest, lets her eyelids grow heavy with condescension and chews on the inside of her lip with something that looks like irritation. Then, in her best approximation of Natasha's deadpan, she says, 'I'm delighted to be here today for the opening of this amazing new facility.'
Fury's face is unreadable for a long moment. He looks down at his desk, and when he looks up again his shoulders are shaking with silent laughter.
'That's very impressive, but that won't be necessary,' he informs her, unable to fully suppress a grin. 'I'll inform Captain Rogers that his presence in Los Angeles is no longer required.'
Darcy's eyes pop. 'Really? I mean, awesome, thanks.'
She's already headed for the door when he says, 'And Darcy, unless you have a death wish, I'd make sure Natasha never finds out you can do that.' It's not a threat, just some sage advice from someone who's known the Russian assassin a long time. 'And knock next time.'
'Yes, Sir.' She flicks him a smile and a little salute as she closes the door. She makes it all the way back into the elevator before collapsing against the wall.
When she finally picks Steve up, he greets her with a relieved smile that no doubt mirrors her own. There's very little of her conversation with Director Fury that she wants to share, so for now she decides to keep it to herself.
Steve throws his duffel in the back and Operation Time Warp begins. The skyscrapers grow small in the rear view mirror to the swinging sounds of Glenn Miller, Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington. It seems the pop culture education has become an exchange, because it's Darcy's ipod they're listening to.
They arrive at their destination with just enough time to set up camp before it gets dark. Steve hauls the heavy canvas tent up on its thick wooden poles like it was as light as a modern day pop-up polyester deal. He doesn't comment on the outdated equipment and Darcy starts to wonder if he'll even notice. She could just point it out, of course, but it's hard to shine a light on one's awesomeness without detracting somewhat from said awesomeness.
She's not so invested in that part of the plan anymore, though. Mainly she's just grateful they're even here at all. She makes them a simple meal over the campfire as the last of the daylight disappears and the crickets begin to chirp. Steve offers to help with the cooking, of course, but she tells him to get himself a drink from the cooler and take a load off. She reckons he's starting to look more relaxed already.
After dinner, Darcy goes over to her bag. Her phone still has reception and it's been hours since she checked Facebook, but she leaves it tucked away in the side pocket. This weekend is about getting away from the 21st century. She cracks out a pack of cards instead.
They play Go Fish and Crazy Eights on a blanket next to the campfire. The warmth of the fire holds back the chill of the night air, the flames over-bright in contrast to the pitch black that circles the edge of their camp. They've snagged a spot well away from the other campers, so the only sounds are the crackling of the fire, the hum of insects and the distant lap of a lake against its shore.
Once Steve has royally kicked her ass at Gin, Darcy leans back on her elbows on the blanket. 'Look at the stars with me,' she says, tugging on his sleeve until he lies back, shoulder to shoulder with her. 'I work for an astrophysicist, so I know, like, all the constellations.' Steve throws her a skeptical look. 'Well, maybe five.'
He listens patiently while she points them out, then the conversation wanders in other directions: crazy things that happened while chasing celestial phenomena with Jane, stories from their childhoods, tales of pranks soldiers played on each other in their down time. Well, the less risqué pranks, at any rate. Darcy bets they got up to far worse, but when she needles him for juicier tales she only gets an overly straight, 'I have no idea what you're talking about,' and possibly an eye twinkle.
'That wick is burning down,' he says at one point, sitting up to adjust the kerosene lamp. 'It's funny, for all the advances over the last seventy years, camping gear sure hasn't changed much...' His voice trails off.
He sweeps his eyes over their camp like he's seeing it for the first time, then pins her with a quizzical look.
Darcy grins. Finally! He may be Captain America, but he's no Sherlock Holmes. She sits up next to him.
'Well,' she tells him slyly, 'I tried to keep things old-school.'
'But...why?' he asks, a soft smile of amazement on his lips.
'I wanted it to feel like home,' she says with a shrug.
'I don't need to go back in time for it to feel like home.'
She would think he was totally dissing Operation Time Warp, except for the way he says it: quietly, like the words are just for her. His gaze is unmistakably warm. Normally she wouldn't maintain eye contact with him for too long, afraid he might read something (the truth, for example) into her gaze. But this time she holds it, even if doing so makes it a little hard to breathe.
'Not anymore,' he adds. One of her hands is on the blanket between them and he covers it with his own. 'You've made the present feel like home more than I ever thought it could.'
This can't actually be happening, thinks Darcy, as her heart does a 'this is actually happening!' dance inside her chest.
Steve looks down at his shoes for a moment. 'You know, there is one thing you haven't brought me up to speed on.'
'Oh yeah? What's that?' she manages to say.
'How to kiss a girl in 2012,' he says, his blue eyes meeting hers again.
'Oh,' she says, trying not to drown in them. 'Well, how about you give it a try and I'll let you know if anything's changed.' Darcy thinks she really deserves some sort of medal for managing to deliver an entire sentence under such challenging conditions. He smiles at that and closes the distance between them.
Kissing Steve Rogers is even better than she's imagined. His kisses are like everything else about him, gentle, but confident, and more of a turn on than they should be. Somewhere in the back of her mind she registers that this is the exact opposite of what she told Fury she was going to do, and that people who lie to Nick Fury probably don't have long to live, but also that it was totally worth it.
Turns out, kissing is one thing that hasn't changed at all.
AN: I like to think that The Scene After The Credits for this story is Steve and Darcy in a sleeping bag together, sweaty and relaxed in each others arms, Darcy telling Steve about her conversation with Fury, much to Steve's amusement.
To every single one of you who read this fic all the way to the end, you have all my love xxoox