Merry Christmas, Bucky Barnes (for Lara aka AgentPeggieCarter)
Merry Christmas, Lara! This ended up sort of pre-relationship, and it is possible for it to go either way, or both, I guess, depending on how you see it going, but hopefully this is something you’ll enjoy!
Merry Christmas, Bucky Barnes
“Thanks again, Miss Lewis. I know this probably wasn’t how you imagined spending your Christmas Eve.” The Captain’s effortless way of blending sincere gratitude and regretful apology was almost painful to Darcy. She purposefully surrounded herself with people that communicated with cold hard facts or overblown, dramatic expressions that were more sarcastic and superficial then containing any actual emotion. Cue her typical response to feeling uncomfortable around other people’s emotion: irreverent humor.
“It’s fine, Cap, really. You’re just saving me from my annual Christmas morning hangover and probably an awkward walk of shame as well. Actually, I should be thanking you.”
Steve did his best not to frown with disappointment at the young woman as he cleared his throat. He was about 80 percent sure she was kidding anyway. That seemed to be Darcy’s thing. Besides, she really was doing him a favor. It would be bad manners to be judgmental about her life choices, or about the way she joked about intimate things in a way that he found inappropriate. It wasn’t like she was the only person he knew that was like that. She was simply a product of her time, it seemed.
“Well, I just wanted you to know how grateful I, uh…” Steve stuttered off when Darcy waved one of her delicate hands in his face.
“Seriously, don’t mention it. So, you really think he’ll show up?” She accepted the glasses from the Stark Industries tech guy and placed them on her face. They were more expensive and fashionable then her own glasses, and this pair came with the added feature of being able to digitally transmit audio and video feed back to the surveillance van.
“I think so. If he’s starting to remember anything from his past… well, hopefully that will draw him here.” He held up a tablet that displayed a collage of photos, both from the time before, and from now. There where stills from video taken in DC as well as surveillance photos taken around the world in the last 18 months. “You have his face memorized, right? He could have altered his appearance since Amsterdam.”
Darcy chuckled and pushed the tablet away. “Trust me, Cap, I’ve done nothing but study his pretty mug since you asked for my help three days ago, and even if he’s wearing an epic disguise, I doubt I’ll ever be able to forget the shape of those thighs. Meow!” she growled playfully making kitten claws at Captain America, thereby sealing her in his mind as a shameless flirt, as well as a few less flattering things, probably.
Steve began to seriously doubt Miss Lewis’s ability to be serious and helpful, and was sort of regretting asking for her help in this matter, except that he didn’t really have anyone else to ask.
He needed someone unfamiliar to Bucky and un-threatening in general. Darcy was both those things. He just had to trust Thor’s recommendation that she could handle this sensitive situation.
“Just keep your head up and your eyes moving, and remember, I only want to check on him, make sure he’s taking care of himself and not injured or anything. There’s no need to draw his attention or put yourself on his radar. I don’t think he’s dangerous to civilians, but if he notices you watching he might think you’re from HYDRA or…”
Darcy cut the rambling captain off again. “Yeah, no worries, Cap, you explained all of this in the briefing. This isn’t my first rodeo, you know.”
Steve’s eyebrows drew tight over his eyes in repressed surprise and confusion.
Darcy noticed his expression and giggled nervously. “Okay, technically, this is the first time I’ve done the whole ‘official undercover reconnaissance’ thing, but this is far from the first time I’ve stalked a guy without tipping him off to my attention.”
“Uh…” Steve gaped, a bit at a loss for how to respond. “I just don’t want you to put yourself in unnecessary danger.” He finished lamely.
“Got it. Well, just in case, I’ve got my Taser. If he gets fresh, I’ll light him up like a seasonally decorated pine tree.” Her grin could only be described as cheerfully menacing.
Steve recognized that she was mostly giving him a hard time, though he was sure she did have her Taser secreted somewhere on her person, under her many layers of winter wear. Still, his head started to fill up with images of all the many ways that this could go badly. He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes against the horrific mental film reel. “Maybe this is a bad idea…”
“What!? No way, Cap. You already dragged me out here to the wilds of Brooklyn on a dark and rainy Christmas Eve. I’m doing this thing. It’ll be fine. You just need to relax. Your super spysassin friend can probably sense your up-tightness from a mile away.”
“It would probably help me relax if you could at least pretend to take this seriously,” Steve growled out in irritation. It was the first time Darcy had ever seen even a crack in his uber-polite mask of professionalism.
She sighed and let her face shift to sympathetic concern. She reached up and grabbed his shoulders forcing him to look her in the eyes.
“Steve! I’m sorry, okay. I get it. This is really important to you. He’s really important to you, and since you’re really important to the rest of us, you can trust me. I’m not going to screw this up, okay? I just get a little loopy when I’m nervous, so, sorry for that. I’m good now, see? Serious face activated.”
Darcy gave him her best Son of Coul impression.
He didn’t think her making that face was the reason why, but he found himself feeling somewhat reassured in spite of himself.
“Thanks. And I’m sorry, I am up tight. This is just…”
“It’s a big deal. Copy that, Cap.”
Darcy gave the stern-faced man one last pat on the curve of his shoulder and a reassuring smile, and then she turned to open the door in the back of the van. “Wish me luck, Cap?”
“Good luck,” he whispered solemnly, then attempted to return her reassuring smile.
She gave a little half wave, climbed out onto the shiny, wet pavement, and shut the door behind her.
Darcy had never been a spy. She wasn’t a terribly good liar, either. She had, however, played all the supporting actress roles (think leading lady’s best friend and/or the comic relief) in every high school play since her sophomore year, and placed 1st in dramatic monologue and 2nd with her duet partner Manny Vargas at state her senior year with the speech team.
She took a calming, centering breath and put on her character.
For this evening’s performance, Darcy Lewis would be playing the role of ‘semi-bored, going through the holiday motions to stave off seasonal depressive disorder, single for Christmas three years running and pretending not to hate it, white girl from Brooklyn’.
She’d had a drama teacher once tell her to draw on things she knew personally to help bring out the truth of each character. So, that’s what she was doing. Her acting skills were really only necessary for the 'from Brooklyn’ part. She’d never actually been here, before tonight, though Steve had gone over maps of the area for hours with her the day before.
She suspected she could find the church from her current location with a blindfold on and both hands tied behind her back. Although, that would be dangerous, so she wasn’t going to attempt it, what with holiday traffic and whatnot. Still, she knew she wouldn’t have any trouble finding her way around.
She walked purposefully down the street, but slowly enough that she didn’t look rushed or draw undue attention to herself. Steve and the surveillance crew had dropped her off almost a mile away from the church where she was hopefully going to make visual contact with the winter wonder-man, but she’d worn her good walking boots, so the distance wasn’t really an issue. What was an issue was the nearly freezing rain that was drizzling from the sky.
She pulled her umbrella from her purse, pulled her hat down around her ears, her scarf up around her chin and kept going.
20 minutes later she rounded a corner and could see the spires of the old church over the rooftops of a narrow row of townhouses and the skeletal remains of the streets many deciduous trees. She personally thought the trees would have looked much more festive with a string of lights decking each bare branch, but she supposed that was impractical. People in her home town tended to go overboard and put holiday decorations on everything but the stop signs and traffic lights, so maybe she was biased.
As Darcy got closer, she began running her eyes back and forth over every shadow and likely hiding place, trying to be as subtle as possible. There were a few people out on the street tonight, but not as many as she’d feared. Apparently, the weather was keeping people inside. All the better for her, she figured, though she kind of wished she was inside, curled up with a peppermint hot cocoa and a classic Christmas movie- like Die Hard or Reindeer Games.
She looked both ways before stepping off the curb and crossing the street towards the church. It was on the corner with a stone and wrought iron fence around the outside. Across a large stretch of fence was a plastic banner announcing their holiday service hours.
There had been a family thing at 4, which she figured would be over by now, and a music festival/choir thing at 10 which wasn’t for a couple hours. She reached the gate and turned in, following a long sidewalk down the side of the large red-grey sandstone building.
Near to where the church doors were, a smallish courtyard opened up, with several benches ringing the area which was probably very lovely during the warmer, greener times of year. She was just considering the best place to sit and wait when she spotted him.
He was parked on one of the benches, farthest from the door, his head bowed slightly over his hands, which were folded in front of him. The rain was pouring down over his hair and dripping off the soaked strands onto his shoulders and chest and thighs. He was positively drenched.
She didn’t think she’d ever seen a sadder sight on Christmas Eve.
She turned and walked back to the fence, her heart pounding and her adrenal glands working overtime. She’d seen him. That was what Steve wanted, right? For her to see him so he’d know that he was okay? Except he didn’t really seem okay to her. Physically, maybe, she hadn’t really taken the time to look that closely, but her first impression from her quick little glimpse had defiantly been “Depressed and Homeless Vet.” Which she supposed was probably super accurate.
The layout of the churchyard made it impossible for her to observe him without being super obvious about it. Captain Rogers would probably just want her to leave. She should leave.
Except… she didn’t think she could leave him just sitting there in the rain and looking like he’d just found out everyone he’d ever known or loved was killed. Though come to think of it, that was actually pretty close to the truth, too.
She couldn’t just leave him.
She started whispering, knowing that Steve would be able to hear every word, though he wouldn’t be able to respond. She wasn’t wearing an earpiece because they weren’t sure about Barnes’ super hearing abilities.
“Okay, Captain, don’t freak out, okay? Just sit tight and stay where you are and I’ll be fine. Don’t worry. Unless he actually attacks me or gets all violent. Then do worry and come save me. Or if I use my safe word. Which is Snoopy, FYI.” She’d reached the fence and turned back around once more.
“Okay, Lewis,” she muttered to herself, “You can do this.” Hell, he’d probably seen her and taken off already anyway, right? He was still there, though, head still bowed and dripping rainwater like a lost little puppy left out in the storm.
She walked fairly slowly, making her destination obvious and none of her moves were sudden. When she reached his bench, she sat down and angled her umbrella so that it covered as much of him as she could without leaning over him.
He hadn’t moved from his spot, but it was pretty much a given that he knew she was there.
“That is a seriously epic brood you have going on there, dude, which I can appreciate, but I’m worried you might scare away any nice, church-going folk that wander by,” she said after a moment of tense silence, keeping her voice bright and light. She’d never really done well with silence.
She heard a soft snort and saw his eyes turn towards her, peeking through his hair. “Figured Rogers would send a stranger and a civilian. Didn’t count on you being a pretty dame, though.”
“Yeah, well, he figured I had a better chance of getting closer to you, since I’m all ‘not a threat’ and all,” she shrugged, trying not to look too closely at the pretty part. “You should tell him all about how you aren’t going to do anything to hurt me, though, so he doesn’t decide to make with the bull/china shop routine.”
He looks over at her, narrowing his eyes at her face before leaning around to look her right in the face. Or the video surveillance glasses, whatever. “Its fine, punk. As long as you stay clear, I’m content to just sit for a bit.”
“Cool,” she said with a smile and relaxed some of the bunched up muscles in her shoulders and back.
He nodded, leaning back, and they sat in silence for another minute or so. She was trying to think of something else to say when he asked, “You his girl?”
That shocked her enough to have her barking out a sudden laugh. “Uh, no. All the no. I barely know him. I’m a friend of a friend kind of acquaintance. Actually, between you and me,” she said, voice lowered and leaning a bit closer, “I don’t think Captain Rogers likes me very much.”
He snorted again. “He always look kind of constipated and/or confused when you’re around and constantly say the wrong thing?”
She shrugs again. “Close enough, though I think I’m the one who’s always saying the wrong thing around him. I’m too much about the verbal shock and awe. I think I make him uneasy.”
“I wouldn’t take it too personally. Stevie never was much when it came to talking to women, especially not a gorgeous gal, like you.” He said it so casually, like it was just the facts.
Just the facts, ma’am.
“Uh, thanks?” she said and uncrossed and re-crossed her ankles underneath her. “I reserve the right to call bullshit, though, pending further social interaction.”
“Fair enough,” he muttered and went back to looking at his hands.
Another moment of silence passed, though the tension seemed to have eased somewhat, sliding from fraught into merely awkward.
“So, I have to think, what with you just sitting here, exactly where the good Captain expected you to be, that a part of you wanted to get caught. You thinking about granting the guy’s Christmas wish and coming in from the cold? Literally and figuratively?”
“Nah,” he said, sitting back and slouching a bit on the bench. “I figure if I let him catch sight of me, still free and mostly whole, every once in a while he doesn’t chase me quite so hard. Call it a compromise of sorts.”
“He gets to know you’re sort of safe and you get some breathing room. I get it,” she said, shifting the umbrella to cover them both better. “Makes sense to me. That way you don’t have to be the one to deal with the guys disappointed puppy eyes. You’re welcome, by the way.”
“You make him sound like such a chore,” he said with a little bit of a smirk on one corner of his mouth. “Why’d you agree to help then, if it’s such a bother?”
“It’s not that much of a bother. Besides, telling Captain America no is not a super power I possess. I was sort of his last resort, anyway. Everyone else he knows is either highly recognizable or highly dangerous, or both. Also, I didn’t have any plans and this sounded fun,” Darcy declared dryly, hoping she sounded more optimistic than sarcastic.
When he raised an eyebrow and nodded at the stream of rainwater pouring down the edge of the umbrella and onto her shoulder she figured she’d failed to convince. She gave another shrug. “I’ve had worse Christmas Eve’s.”
He just shook his head and looked disgusted with the world. “Stevie should have offered to take you out, dancin’ or something fun, instead of sending you in to check up on me.”
Darcy laughed a little at the image of her and Steven Rogers at a club, grinding on the dance floor. “That would definitely have ended in tears, maybe even bloodshed. Though, I would pay money to see the Captain’s face when he’s introduced to what passes for dancing now-a-days.” She held onto the mental image and smiled into the rain. “Trust me, I think this is the much better option.”
“Hey, I ain’t complaining,” he said with a bit of a flirty smirk and she could see, under all the hair and baggage the handsome, charismatic man he’d been before. “I feel like I certainly got the better end of the deal.”
Inside the church the organ began playing ‘O Holy Night,’ the sounds muffled, but still distinct enough to make out, and Darcy found herself relaxing even more and maybe even enjoying herself a bit, though her face was cold and her nose was probably doing its best Rudolf impression.
They sat in an almost companionable silence for a few more minutes before she noticed the temperature had dropped enough for her to see her breath and the rain was looking more like sleet then rain. She snuggled deeper into her coat and realized that, with his soaked through clothes and all that it was a miracle he wasn’t shivering visibly.
She made a spur of the moment call and unwound her scarf from her neck and pulled off her hat. They were grey and navy stripped and black, respectively and she figured they were manly enough to suit him. Not that beggars could be choosers or anything.
“Here,” she said and held them out to him.
“No way, doll,” he balked and leaned away. “You put those back on. Don’t want you to catch your death.”
“Nuh- uh,” she argued, shaking her head. “I’m pretty sure you need these more than me. I get to go home after this and take a nice hot bath and curl up and in my bed with a hot chocolate and central heating. Do you have anything like that?”
He hesitated, looking like he was very seriously considering putting up a fight about it, but she put on her stubborn face, the one she used when Jane was shooting for a full 24 hours in the lab, and was pleased to see him caving.
She shook the knitted items at him again and he finally took them from her. “Thanks, doll,” he added grudgingly and she smiled in satisfaction.
“You are welcome,” she replied cheerfully as she watched him pull the hat on over his still soggy hair and wrap the scarf around his neck. “I have lots more at home, so don’t think you’re putting me out or anything. My nana is a knitting freak. She’s always sending more stuff then I could possibly even wear.”
He nodded again and tucked his hands in his pockets and hunched in on himself a bit. She was afraid she’d crossed some unspoken line by offering him charity, and now he was closing himself off.
Or maybe he was just cold.
The organ music coming from the church had changed to ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ and she had to fight not to hum along, not that she thought he would mind. It was just sort of an embarrassing thing to do in front of a near stranger.
Given world enough and time, though, she imagined they could be friends.
“So, are you good, though? I mean, since I’ve risked the Captain’s wrath and approached you even though he told me specifically not to; I figure I shouldn’t waste this opportunity.”
He gave her an old, mildly confused look and she rambled on. “What I mean is: is there anything you need that I can get for you on short notice? Or is there any message you’d like passed on to your buddy. He’s sort of a captive audience at this point, so you might as well.”
While he considered that, Darcy noticed a group of people coming up the sidewalk, choir members, she guessed, if the churchy looking robes poking out from under their coats were any indication. A couple of them glanced briefly to where the two of them sat, but mostly they just walked up the stairs and into the church. The music got louder while the door was opened and it made her Christmas spirit, which was usually half a sleep, perk up and start to purr.
“I guess if I could tell him anything it would be… I just want him to know that he doesn’t need to keep coming after me. I can take care of myself, and it would be nice, for a change if I didn’t have to dodge him and whatever’s left of Hydra. I just want some space, like you said. I just need some peace and quiet to get my head on right and then… I don’t know. Then we’ll see, I guess.”
His voice was steady, though his speech faltered a bit in a couple places. When he was silent again for two whole minutes she figured that meant that was it.
“Think there’s any chance he’ll listen?” he asked, turning to eye her and letting his mouth hitch up at the corner again.
“Honestly?” she asked, eyebrows shooting up and voice jumping and octave, “No, probably not. I mean, he might give you a few weeks head start, but- well, I think you’re too important to him for him to really ever let you go. I get the impression he can be kind of a stubborn ass, like that.”
He snorted again. “You sure you ain’t his girl? Sounds like you know him pretty well to me.”
“Nah, I’m single and ready to mingle, no man can tie me down.” She declared and then internally winced and marveled at her ability to sound both pathetic and perverted at the same time.
Luckily, he didn’t seem to notice, just chuckled lightly and shook his head like he couldn’t believe such a thing was possible- which made her feel very flattered, and quite possibly delusional.
A few more choir people showed up. The music that flooded the courtyard when the door opened this time was ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’
They’d pretty much exhausted their talking points, but they both seemed reluctant to end the conversation and walk away. After the silence started to drag on and on and more and more people started showing up, he asked her, “You planning on going in?” and nodded towards the church.
“Who me?” she asked, a little startled. “No. My mother was Jewish and my father was Wiccan. I’m pretty sure that qualifies me for instant combustion should I cross the threshold.” It was a joke she’d used in the past to thwart religious pestering, with mixed results. He actually laughed, though, which made her smile back. It was quiet and a bit rusty, but it seemed genuine enough. She was marking it a win.
“What about you?” she queried gently. This place obviously meant enough to him for him to park himself in the freezing rain on Christmas Eve.
He shook his head, though. “I’m pretty sure the same can be said for the world’s most prolific assassin.”
She braved nudging his shoulder gently at his self-deprecation. “I don’t know. Isn’t Christmas all about love and forgiveness for Christians?”
He lifted one shoulder, but didn’t say anything more, and she didn’t push.
“Well, I should probably go soon,” Darcy admitted reluctantly after another lengthy silence. “Captain Rogers is probably getting ready to burst that vein in his forehead, and I’d hate to have his pretty face all purple and bruised for Christmas.” She tried to keep things nice and light with the joke, but in her chest her heart was sinking.
He only nodded and leaned over to rest his elbows on his knees once again. She stood slowly, wavering in her resolve as the rain started pelting him again. She stepped close enough to get her umbrella back over him and he looked up at her.
“Do you have someplace to be tomorrow?” she asked and felt her finger’s tighten on the umbrella’s handle.
“About a 1000 miles from here, at least,” he answered, a bit sadly.
“Is that ‘cause you want to run? Or ‘cause you think you have to?” Darcy inquired; her eyes narrowed, but carried on before he could answer. “Because if it’s really the first one, then that’s one thing, but if it’s the second then- well, maybe you shouldn’t.”
He raised an eyebrow at that and studied her face cautiously. “You got a better idea?” he asked after a second.
“Sure. I mean, I could hang an extra stocking on my fake mantel and fix up an extra mug of cocoa. No patriotic boy scouts allowed. What do you say?” She smiled slyly and held her breath.
She was super nervous all the sudden. She didn’t think she should be this nervous.
When he actually took a moment and looked like he might even be considering it, she felt her pulse jump in her throat. He did eventually shake his head no, and she felt the keen edge of disappointment, though she thought she hid it pretty well.
“Maybe next year, doll,” he said, looking back up at her with a hint of that flirty smirk on his face and she thought it was her own small Christmas miracle that she resisted a swoon.
“I’m gonna hold ya to it, Barnes,” she said and gave him back as good as she got.
“Okay, it’s a date,” he said and winked, actual facts winked at her.
Be still her heart.
“And hey, don’t let the Cap give you a hard time, okay? You’re just a sweet kid doing what you thought was right and being kind to an old hard case. He should take it easy on you, if he knows what’s good for him,” he finished with a mild scowl.
She laughed, pulled off the glasses, and held them in front of her so she could look right into the camera. “You hear that, Cap? I’m not to be trifled with!” She put them back on after sending what she hoped was a confident smirk to the men in the van and looked back down at her new assassin protector. “Thanks for that. I know he’s all bark, but still. Puppy eyes, Barnes, puppy eyes.”
“I’m familiar,” he said quietly, and a bit sardonically. “Good luck?”
She nodded, “Thanks.”
Darcy new she should turn and leave now, just walk away. Any second now…
“Can I give you a hug goodbye?” she blurted. “I feel like you need a hug, and I think you should let me hug you.”
He looked genuinely shocked for a second, then considered for a painfully long moment before standing and holding out his arms. “I’d have to be a hell of a schmuck to turn down an offer like that from a dish like you.”
She wrapped her arms around his waist then, careful not to smack him with the umbrella and squeezed him tightly. It was cold and his clothes were soaked through and getting her mostly dry coat wetter by the second, but when he lifted his arms and laid them across her shoulders she pressed her face into his slightly moldy smelling jacket and secretly decided it was the best hug she’d ever shared. That was saying something, too, because everyone knew that Thor gave great hug.
“Merry Christmas, Bucky Barnes,” she whispered.
“Merry Christmas, doll,” he sighed back.
Darcy released him reluctantly and stepped back. Then, with a final smile, she turned and walked away. She didn’t look back. She figured he’d just be gone anyway, and she didn’t know how that would make her feel. Better just to leave it like that.
She only got a few blocks before the surveillance van pulled up and parked just ahead of her on the street and she braced herself for Cap’s disappointed face. Mostly empty threats from his ex-hydra assassin, back–from-the-dead bestie aside, she figured she was really in for it.
When the tall, blonde man climbed from the van and approached her, though, all he did was smile at her in wonder. Then, before she could open her mouth and ruin the moment, he reached down and pulled her against his chest in a grateful hug.
“Thanks for taking care of my friend,” Steve whispered into her hair, and that was it.
When he released her and leaned back, holding her at arm’s length and smiling at her she couldn’t help but blurt out the first thing that popped into her head.
“Hallelujah, it’s a Christmas Miracle!”