Word Count: 3916
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Also Posted At: AO3
Author's Note: Continuing thanks to my wonderful beta, the lovely 51stcenturyfox!
Summary: "Oh, God," he said, and she knew just enough about Captain America to find this a pretty strongly worded statement on the situation. (Or, Steve and Darcy wake up married in Vegas.)
< Chapter 3
She gave up on the appropriate distance thing pretty fast.
Here's the thing: it was cold. She wasn't latched onto Steve's torso like a barnacle out of sexual frustration - this was survival, pure and simple. She had her arms slipped up under his leather bomber jacket and her thighs wedged up firmly against the back of his, and she could feel the heat that soaked back into her even through the layers of clothing. He was functioning as a living, breathing, heated windshield for her.
She was pretty sure sharing body heat was one of the things you vowed to do when you got married, anyway, right? In sickness or health, in the tropics or in the freezing fucking cold when strapped to the back of your pseudo-husband's motorcycle. It seemed reasonable.
They traveled through a flat, dull brown landscape, weaving through the flat-topped mesas dotted with wiry, angry little shrubs and the faded golden of dead desert grasses. The sun was rising slowly in front of them, wavering indecisively as it hovered over the asphalt. Steve's motorcycle was loud in the still morning, scaring small desert animals off the side of the road and echoing off the rocky hills.
She turned her cheek to lay the helmet flat against his shoulders and tightened her arms around his waist.
They reached the canyon a little after noon.
It was as epic as her younger self remembered, appropriately grand and spilling out to encompass everything they could see from their perch at the thin edge. She pulled her hands up into the sleeves of her jacket, shaking the pink wig back out of her eyes. Steve was staring moodily off into the distance next to her, framed against the horizon like some over-the-top arrangement of American iconography. The only thing missing was a bald eagle flying around his head and maybe a cowboy sitting in front of him, smoking a cigarette with his hat tipped back.
"Hey," she said.
"Hi," he said, and the smallest flicker of a smile appeared on his face as he looked down at her.
They were standing on a lip overhanging the canyon. There were a few stone spires, flat-topped, arrayed out in front of them like stepping stones, growing up from the canyon wall as it sloped down to the thin silver river she could see at the bottom. About a hundred yards away, a large group of tourists were milling aimlessly around the general vicinity of a tour bus. She could hear the faint white noise of muted conversation and the occasional shriek of playing kids.
"Alright, photo op. We need to get a picture of this whole mystical convergence of America thing that's happening." She pulled out her phone and opened up the camera app. "Say cheese, Cap."
He smiled, eyes still solemn, and she wondered how science could make somebody so ridiculously photogenic. She backed up, holding her iPhone out sideways in front of her, trying to find a good shot.
"Could you back up a little? It's kind of hard to get you and the canyon in the same photo when it's underneath you."
He glanced back behind him at the edge of the overhang. "You know, I think I have a better idea," he said, and without any other warning turned and ran full-speed off the cliff of the canyon.
Time slowed down like a scene from a bad action movie as he jumped, and her scream stuck in her throat as his long legs windmilled in the empty air underneath him. If the situation had been comical in any way, she would have laughed at how accurate the Road Runner cartoons apparently were, but fuck. Oh fuck.
He landed, buckling a little at the knees, and time sped up to normal again. His upper body pitched forward but he stayed centered neatly over his feet, arms stretched out to either side like a gymnast, balanced in the middle of one of the flat-topped stone spires dotting out from the edge of the canyon. It was a graceful display of sheer and utter athleticism.
Darcy's stomach started to slowly crawl it's way up out of her toes where it had hidden in sheer terror, and she took a deep breath in.
He pivoted, lowering his arms, and smiled broadly at her. "Better?" he asked mildly, and if he'd been within arm's reach she would have smacked him.
"Oh my god, what are you trying to do, give me a heart attack? Dude. Give a little warning next time."
His smile slipped a little.
She shook her head. "Sorry. Sorry. It's just..." she took another breath, "I guess I forgot you were a superhero for a second and not just a normal guy. And that you can do crazy superhero things. Like, uh, that."
"Oh," he said, and to her surprise his smile widened again.
"But it's cool! Totally cool. Just, you know, took me by surprise."
"Most people don't forget that I'm Captain America," he said, sounding weirdly pleased.
"Uh, well you're welcome for freaking out on you, then. And this is going to be the best photo ever now, so that's awesome." She walked back up to the edge of the cliff and held her phone above her head, angling it downward to show the scope of the canyon behind him, the strata of rock curving off into the distance and disappearing at his feet. He raised an eyebrow as she took the picture, and it was a canny and not-very-Captain America expression. She supposed it was a Steve look.
"So," she said when she was done, "how exactly are you planning to get back over to civilization?"
"Same way I got here."
"Didn't you need a running start to make it out there?"
"Maybe I didn't want to show off that much before."
"Sweet," she said, and stepped back out of the way.
She had stripped the flat sheet off her bed that morning, so they spread it out on their little outshoot of the canyon wall as the tourists in the distance loaded themselves back onto the tour bus. She chopped up a Snickers bar into hors d'oeuvres size chunks, laying them out on their side like sushi, while he unpacked the rest of the small containers of food they had stashed away from room service the previous night.
"So," she said idly, loading up a paper plate with a painter's palette worth of mismatched food, "before science made you all buff and an action hero, could you have made that jump? You know, if it wasn't as far?"
"No," he said absently, putting the finishing touches on a pretty epic looking sandwich. "I wasn't clumsy, but I wasn't very coordinated as a kid either."
She looked up as he took a bite. "Seriously?"
He shook his head no, mouth stuffed full of cold pulled pork.
"Okay, so how does that work? Did you get training after the whole," she was running out of ways to reference this event in his past that there was really no good word for, "Captain America-ing?"
He swallowed and took a swig from their water bottle. "Some. I was told I might take a while to adjust, afterwards - that I would be taller, and I wouldn't know how much force to use when doing simple things. But it didn't, really. It was - it was like this body came with the memory of how it works. I just knew."
"Weird," she said, then decided that sounded like she was saying he was creepy, and amended it with an "...and totally interesting."
"You can say weird."
"Weird, then. Absolutely weird. The weirdest."
"Thanks," he said dryly.
"You asked for it," she said, and swiped a salt and vinegar potato chip from his plate. "So that's part of the whole can't-get-drunk-the-normal-way thing too, right? Does your body turn anything you put in it directly into muscle mass or something?"
He looked down at himself, and it was the strangest look she'd ever seen - there was an odd, contemplative distance in how he examined his own body. "It's my metabolism." He licked his lips. "It's efficient."
"I get the feeling that's an understatement."
"It's very efficient," he amended, with the faintest trace of a smile. "Most of the time that's helpful. Sometimes it's not."
"Yeah, I suppose I can see that. I'm sure it's not pleasant drinking whatever Tony came up with just to get a buzz on."
"It tastes vile," he said. "But I..." Steve shifted on their makeshift picnic blanket, "ah, I," he tried again before stopping, obviously at a loss for words.
She raised an eyebrow. "Everybody wants to get their groove thing on sometimes," she said, carefully.
"It's not..." He picked at the crust of his sandwich fretfully, scattering a few crumbs on the sheet nearby. "I just thought it seemed... normal. The good type of normal."
"Making an epic mistake in Vegas is an American tradition, so well done you."
He lay back, tucking his hands behind his head and stretched his legs out, and hello, there was a whole lot of man happening in front of her. "But it was a mistake," he said slowly.
She decided that two could play at the whole lounging attractively on the blanket game. She curled up on her side next to him, propping her head up on the palm of her hand, and gave the half-eaten sandwich lying next to Steve's prone figure a serious once-over before nabbing it.
"Sure, it was a mistake," she said, taking a large, appreciative bite of the cold pork. "But it's also the reason we're having a picnic on the edge of the Grand Canyon right now, so maybe life has a way of working shit like that out. You're a good person. And you own a kick ass motorcycle. Don't underestimate things."
He turned to look at her, blonde hair scattered every which way around his head, and she resisted the urge to comb the spiky bits back with her fingers.
"I can see why Jane wants to keep you," he said finally.
She shrugged. "Who wouldn't?"
He smiled widely, eyes trained on the sky and his hands wrapped behind his head. He looked even more ridiculously built than normal like that, his shoulders busting out of his t-shirt and his torso tapering down to a waist that was pretty much a caricature of masculinity.
"Are you going to?" he asked.
"Uh, going to what?"
"Continue working with Jane. Work for SHIELD."
She flipped a baby carrot contemplatively, letting it play through her fingers. "I don't know."
"You'd be good at it," Steve offered.
"Maybe. Probably. But," she frowned. "...I just don't know. It's hard to explain."
She shoved half-heartedly at his shoulder. "When did you get so pushy?"
"Since right now."
"Um, okay," she said. "So it's like... I love working with Jane. And what she's doing is astronomically important, like, off the scales awesome. But me, I mostly do things like handle the paperwork and make sure coffee gets made in the morning. Which is totally fine, don't get me wrong, but sometimes I think I'd like to do something... I don't know. Different."
"I don't know how to turn down a job like working for SHIELD, though. Sometimes I think I must be out of my mind to even consider turning it down. And sometimes I wish I could have a job that actually used some of the stuff I've spent the last six years learning. So I'm stuck in this weird jobless after-graduation rut, waiting for the right answer to drop into my lap." She glanced over at Steve. "This must sound awfully new age-y to you."
"You're part of the Greatest Generation. Aren't you supposed to tell me to nut up and deal with it? Get a job and be grateful for it?"
"Do you want me to?"
She grinned. "Um, yes. That would be weirdly awesome."
He propped himself up on an elbow and looked sternly down his nose at her. "Miss Lewis," he started solemnly.
"I like this already."
He arched an eyebrow, continuing on like the total pro that he was. "Miss Lewis, stop being a layabout and get a damned job."
"Oh my god, that was awesome. Hold that thought," she said, and patted around for her phone behind her. "I've got to get a video of this."
"Definitely. This is gold." She opened her phone and flipped it over to video. "You're on, soldier."
He repeated himself, staring steadily into the pinpoint lens of her phone, and she could see the media training he'd had in the way he held himself on camera. What could she say, the man gave good eye contact.
"You're not going to show that to anybody else, are you?" he asked, watching as she saved the video with a cheerful flourish.
"Nah," she said. "I think this falls under the whole can't-testify-against-your-spouse area of legality. Your secret is safe with me."
"And what secret is that?"
"Uh, that you're kind of a goofball?"
He lay back again, a smile playing around his lips.
"So, speaking of jobs," she said, "how exactly does yours work anyway? I mean... so you're a superhero. Is that, like, a 9-5 thing for the most part? Or massive amounts of overtime?"
"I'm more of a... free agent," he said slowly. "For the most part. I live on my own, and I go where I want to go."
"Sometimes." He shifted on the blanket. "SHIELD can find me anywhere on the planet, though, so they can bring back me in on a situation if they need to."
"Aaaand that's a bit more creepy." She looked suspiciously up at the sky above them, brilliantly blue and free of clouds. "So, right now, some SHIELD lackey somewhere is keeping tabs on you?"
"Not exactly. I carry a beacon that they can activate."
"Still a bit creepster. Wait. Does that mean SHIELD knows we're playing hooky right now?"
"No," he said firmly.
"Uh, how can you be sure?"
"They know what my reaction would be if I ever found out they were doing something like that." Steve's lips tightened, and he stubbornly stuck out his jaw a bit, looking impossibly heroic as he gazed off into the distance.
"Fair enough," she said. She supposed it didn't pay to get on the bad side of Captain America. That was a publicity war you were going to lose, every time. "Okay. So it's part-time gig, kind of. In a way. And the rest of the time you just... bum around?"
"Not exactly," Steve said, "but that's a little bit correct."
"Do people recognize you?"
"Yeah. Like, if you walk into a bar, do you get jumped by the hot waitress? Or by kids wanting your autograph or something?"
"Sometimes. Not as much as you might think. The sunglasses help."
"So does that mean you have been jumped by a hot waitress?" she asked, and cheerfully poked him in the arm.
Steve shifted a little, and it was like she was personally witnessing a battle between gentlemanly discretion and personal honesty. "A couple times," he admitted finally.
"Steve, my man, I'm kind of proud of you."
He shook his head, tucking his chin down and hiding what she was pretty sure was a smile.
"But say no more. You're a gentleman, and I'm your secret Vegas-wife-slash-soon-to-be-divorcee. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor."
"That's very thoughtful of you," he said seriously.
She rolled over onto her stomach, feeling the rays of the sun warm the fabric on her back. "It's been such a gorgeous day," she said, feeling strangely tired all of a sudden. "Thank you for inviting me along with you, Steve. Seriously."
He was silent for so long she thought he'd forgotten what she'd said, or maybe fallen asleep, stretched out on his back next to her.
"Thank you for coming with me," he said finally, and his voice was quiet.
"Mmhmm," she said, and closed her eyes.
"You can't be here," she heard a voice say, distantly.
Darcy opened her eyes, squinting into the bright light of the day and blinking rapidly. The man who had spoken was looming over them, silhouetted in black, and appeared to be wearing some sort of brimmed hat. She nudged Steve's shoulder.
"Steve," she muttered thickly, "somebody's here." Her skin was damp with sweat and pink with the beginning of a sunburn.
"I'm going to have to ask you to move," the voice repeated.
She pulled herself to her feet, feeling light-headed and wobbly. Next to her, Steve was already standing and appeared to have the soldier thing where he had the ability to go from sleeping to functioning in milliseconds.
"Is there a problem?" Steve asked, way too alertly.
"Can't be over here," the man explained shortly, and she realized then that the wide-brimmed hat he was wearing was from the park service. "There's a designated picnic area over there." He pointed in the direction that the tour bus had been parked.
"We'll move," she said, rubbing at her eyes. "It's fine, we'll move, just give us a minute."
The ranger frowned at them, his gaze skimming suspiciously over the ruins of their impromptu picnic to Steve's way-too-awesome physique before ending on her pink wig, which had been knocked askew while she slept. She reached up and straightened it, casually patting the ends to make sure none of the hair pinned up underneath had escaped.
She took a deep breath then, and moved over to stand next to Steve. She tucked herself into the side of his body, and Steve's hand came up to wrap around her waist like they were any normal, happy couple out for a day of sightseeing.
"We just got married," she said then, the words slipping out before her brain had a chance to take control and rein them back in.
She could feel Steve's fingers shift restlessly on her hip, digging into the hem of her jeans. "Yes," he said after only a short pause, and to his credit he sounded way more natural than she did. "We're newlyweds." He cleared his throat. He didn't look down at her.
The man pushed back the brim of his hat and gave them the Indiana Jones once-over. She dug her hand into the back of Steve's shirt to hide the lack of wedding ring on her finger.
"Vegas?" the ranger asked.
"We couldn't wait," Steve said, a little bit bashful and a little bit boasting.
"Don't blame you, with your lovely wife."
"Forget me, have you seen this man?" she said, and bumped Steve with her hip. "I couldn't let him get away."
"You're a doll," Steve said fondly, looking down at her for the first time, and suddenly Darcy couldn't feel anything except how fake this conversation was, talking about something that they both hoped would disappear with a minimal amount of fuss and effort. She dropped her gaze. An ant was crawling on their picnic blanket near her shoe, weaving drunkenly along the folds and creases of the fabric.
"We're on our honeymoon," she said, and her voice caught embarrassingly on the last syllable.
"I remember my honeymoon," the man said, eyeing them with a lot more sympathy and kindness now, which meant that at least one small part of her life was working out the way it was supposed to. She'd apparently stunned Steve into silence with the whole honeymoon suggestion, since he was now just standing at attention next to her with a plastic-y Ken smile plastered on his face.
"I'll just leave you two lovebirds to finish packing up," the ranger said, and gave Steve a totally obvious wink and a significant glance in the general direction of her boobs.
"Thank you, sir," Steve roused himself to say, his fingers still digging into her waist.
"Thanks," she said.
"Congratulations to you both," the park ranger said, and dragged a finger along the brim of his hat as he turned away.
They were silent as his pickup truck puttered away down the dirt road. They stayed standing together, frozen like they were posing for some cheap, cheesy portrait of young love, with the Grand Canyon at their backs and little half-empty boxes of food at their feet. She felt hot and uncomfortable under the sticky, midday sun.
"Um," she said faintly. "So that was weird."
"The weirdest," he agreed, echoing her from earlier. She looked up at him, and he cracked a lopsided smile down at her.
"Sorry," she said. "It just sort of... came out of my mouth. Which, that explanation also sounds totally weird. I don't know. Apparently I'm losing the ability to say things like a normal human being. And not say the things that I shouldn't."
Steve was quiet for a minute. "You kept him from looking too closely at us. That's a good thing."
"Sure," she said, and then shook her head. "Thanks."
Steve was silent as he helped her gather up the leftovers and shake the dirt off the sheet, mirroring her movements as they folded the edges together. There was a stiff formality in the way he held himself that hadn't been there for a while, and she kicked herself for making this whole awkward situation rear back up again. Because joking about something in private was totally different than informing a stranger that you were on your honeymoon and play-acting like what you'd done was real.
"Hey." She put a hand on his elbow. "I really am sorry. I don't know why I said that."
"It's okay," he said.
"So we're cool?"
He cleared his throat before answering. "We're always cool, Darcy Lewis."
"I like it, with the slang," she said, trying to lighten the mood again. "Get down with your bad self, Cap."
"Yo," Steve said, and then stopped, obviously searching for more current day slang to throw her way. "Homie," he added, finally.
"I do declare, you're sounding more and more like that Stark boy every day," she said in a faux-Southern accent, fanning herself with her bare hand. "The next thing you know, it'll be cigarettes and pool. Oh. Hey. Do you play pool?"
"Yes, I can play pool," he said, in what she was beginning to recognize was the Steve version of a smug voice.
"...And you're incredibly good at it. Of course you are. I bet you don't even hustle people on it, you paragon-of-a-man you."
"Want to play a game and find out?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Are you hustling me?"
"I don't think there's an appropriate answer to that question."
"Are we going to make a bet?"
"I'm sure we can think of something," Steve said, and to his credit it only sounded a little bit tentative.
"You're on," she said fast, before he could back out of it. "We have to stop somewhere for dinner anyway. You're going down, Steve Rogers. Down to Chinatown."
"Okay," he said, almost smiling again, one hand on the handlebar of his motorcycle. "But we'll see about that."
"Oh, we will. We will."