Therapeutic

By Shahrezad1

Summary: Darcy manages to convince her new pal Steve to attend a community event in remembrance of the Battle of New York. In the process the good ol' Cap gains some closure and makes a new friend. Steve/Beth, slight TaserTricks. Just a one-shot. :)

Disclaimer: Marvel is too cool to steal from. I own nothing. :)

DEDICATED TO KAYMOON24 (as her interpretation of Beth is really awesome in, "No Day But Today." I just…I can't even really express it. Sorry that my rendition just…doesn't do it justice –helpless shrug and awkward smile-). She made me wanna write, okay? XD –laughs awkwardly-

Also, all those who lived through the Boston Bombings, Oklahoma twister, and everything going on in Syria. –hugs tightly-

~/~/~

"They're having a Hug-A-Thon."

The words pulled him from his self-imposed meditative state, a blank sort of in-between which cut out sounds and sight and mostly memory.

Darcy Lewis, Jane's assistant, repeated the words and made eye contact with him across the laboratory room. The place had all the organization of a zoo under fire, stacks of paper intermixed with half-repaired technology and a light smattering of technical pencils strewn along nearly every surface. Except for his station and hers, really. The young woman, who had taken it upon herself to 'acclimate' him to the world he was now living in, sat at her small desk with nothing but a laptop, bagged lunch and an open coffee cup, the latter half-full and now cold.

His own space was bare for more practical reasons—he, Clint and Natasha took turns guarding the inventors as they worked in the Avengers tower, so leaving personal articles on the desk made no sense (he did have a book, though. Something about a boy wizard Darcy had tossed at him). Although whether their 'guarding' was against outside forces or internal ones he would never know.

Especially as Bruce Banner was a regular contributor to Research and Development. But Dr. Foster seemed to take his presence in stride, even enthusiasm (along with Dr. Reed Richards' periodic appearances and Betty Ross' frequent ones), which made for less stress for the anger-plagued shape-changer and less anxiety for whomever was on watch.

A state which Banner should have never fallen prey to, the result of experimentation in the name of creating another Captain America…

Steve turned away from the thought and its accompanying guilt with determination. He was nothing if not determined.

"A…a Hug-A-Thon?"

She nodded between bites of some sort of sandwich, the juices dripping down her cheeks unchecked until she could snatch up a napkin, "you know, like a massive group…thing?"

Miss Lewis was his opposite in all ways, a fact that sometimes made him marvel, but she seemed to take in his lack of 'modern' knowledge as a personal insult. At first he'd been startled by her demands ('read this' 'watch that' mostly), the petite brunette nothing like the women he'd interacted with over the years (and really nothing like Pepper, Natasha, Jane or Betty, either). But she'd quickly taken on a younger sister role, treating him with none of the careful cheer (or biting sarcasm) of the other members of their crew. She was just…Darcy. And to her he was just Steve, her big brother figure. In light of everything her consistent normalcy was refreshing.

"A 'massive group thing'?" he repeated doubtfully, dryness evident in his tone. The blond folded his arms across his chest as he leaned against the side of his desk, attire a balance between his civvies and full combat gear. Only a bullet-resistant shirt in navy blue, really, and grey arm-issue canvas pants tucked into heavy boots. He'd asked for the change through Fury himself, in favor of a more military-like look when he wasn't sporting the Red, White and Blue. It was comfortable. Familiar. Grounded him and reminded him of who he was and where he'd come from, rather than the persona which had been assigned to him.

The girl rolled her eyes behind heavy glasses, "like an activity that everyone does together. Didn't you old guys have Dance-A-Thons or something?"

"Yeah," he responded carefully, not knowing where this was going and letting his expression portray that.

Her own emotions were exasperated, "well it's like one of those. But for a cause."

"So what's the cause?"

Carefully setting her meal down, Darcy faced him with more seriousness than he'd seen in a long while, "Steve. It's been a year."

"Since…?"

"Since the Battle of New York."

The truth of it hit him like Mjolnir to the gut, freezing his fingers in a clench and flushing him with mixed heat and cold. He'd been trying not to think about any of that…to hold back the memories of his part against the Chitauri the same way he'd compartmentalized his thoughts on the past. But there it was again, all bloody and full color. Nothing like the black and white newsreels he caught himself watching late at night, when he was all alone and part of him yearned for a connection to whom he'd been.

All the glorified assistant did was gaze at him sympathetically, giving him the moments that he needed. When it seemed like he'd finally choked back the emotions he was drowning in she continued carefully.

"We could go. I mean, all those people in one place, it makes sense to help with the security or something. Besides, I never did get closure for what happened in New Mexico—a hug or two makes perfect sense to me. And you could protect me if any guy gets too handsy."

"Right."

~/~/~

The group had started small, a handful of people at the onset which slowly grew as others trickled carefully in. Steve and Darcy were playing it cool on the sidelines, merely observing as what Darcy termed a 'pseudo-flash mob' began collecting. They were both as incognito as was possible for two S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives could be—meaning that she wore what she usually wore and he dressed in a short-sleeved, plaid button-up in blue and khaki pants. The short female had told him he looked like her grandpa until he'd pulled on the bomber jacket and sunglasses.

Then she just called him Tom Cruise…and smacked him when he hadn't picked up on the reference.

Organizers for the event had several large glass containers that people put money in (he'd contributed half of his paycheck, knowing that he wouldn't be using it for anything anyway), the fund aimed at helping those that had lost homes, lives or were dealing with medical costs after the battle. Funeral costs, too, he was reminded of as several individuals accepted black ribbons to pin to their chests. Those who had them were already being given the most attention, hugs pressed tightly round them despite the fact that the event had not actually begun.

Others bore scars that were just as visible, limbs lost or features scarred. The soldier had to turn away as an elderly woman wearing a band of black awkwardly reached across a wheelchair seat to hug a teenager, her legs gone below the knee and wearing an Iron Man T-shirt.

"You doing okay?" Darcy asked quietly, her hand pressed against his forearm as Steve gulped in air. He hadn't realized that he'd stopped breathing. The man took comfort in the realness of it, the sound of her sneakers squeaking a familiar tune, and nodded with none of the anxiety that was clawing up his throat.

"Ye-um, yeah. Yeah, I'm fine."

"'Cause we can leave if you want. I mean, I don't have to be here. I just thought that it might, you know, help."

Instead of making things worse. And a part of her longed to make a connection with others who had had similar a experience to her own, validating and giving some sense to the crazy life she'd been dragged into (all for six college credits, he'd heard her rant about time and again).

Plus this really was a security hazard, Steve recognized with logical understanding.

So he would stay. For both reasons.

"It's okay, Miss Lewis. Go ahead and…," what was that word she liked to use during Tony's parties? "um, mingle."

That got a smile out of the girl. She knocked his shoulder lightly, a hit that might have moved him before his change, then headed off into the crowd. The brunette almost immediately found herself a trio of teenagers and they began hugging enthusiastically, a kind of girlish rock back and forth as they grinned despite the gravity of the situation.

"All right everyone, we just wanted to start this event with a big thank you for coming."

His blue eyes were immediately drawn to the event organizer, her black hair in long cornrow braids and a sad smile on her face. She seemed to recognize the alternating emotions present in the moment, handling the growing group with ease, and he allowed himself to scan the crowd instead. She could handle the public aspect, so he would turn to more important things.

A couple of unrelated tourists watched off to the side, respectfully quiet even if they had their cameras out and were clicking away. Given that they were in Grand Central Station everything was still bustling, commuters only pausing curiously as they made their way to their next destination. But others lingered, ignoring possible responsibilities as business-mind folk and regular people alike gravely joined the group, some accepting ribbons and others dropping dollar bills into the bins.

Then apparently he missed the signal as the masses of people began milling, stopping every few seconds to hug and clasp one another. The man out of time deliberately stood just out of line of sight, merely watching as people like him…people like who he'd once been, shared in their comfort. And Darcy, it seemed, was drawing in friends right and left.

Mostly men, actually, who held on a little too long, it looked like. The political science student's smile was starting to warp into something downright uncomfortable and, frowning slightly, Steve straightened in anticipation of making his way over there…fast.

But something barred his way.

Someone.

All he caught a glimpse of was long blonde hair, delicately curled, and light green eyes before the murmured words and the gentle embrace stunned him.

"You look like you could use a hug," she'd stated quietly, a hesitant smile on her face.

And then…then he felt her arms slowly wrap around his torso, head pressed gently against his heart. The hug was lasting longer than the other ones he'd observed and Steve knew that his heart was racing in surprise. Then his super-senses took over, the scent of her hair a mix of wildflowers and fresh air. She was as warm and soothing as a cup of cocoa, form soft and yielding like a bed after a long day.

Key points burned against his skin, her fingers against his spine, breath heating half the expanse of his shirt. Her form fit against his side like a puzzle piece and without noticing his own actions Rogers' hands fell to the flare of her hips, his broad hands encompassing the breadth of her back.

He felt himself breathe out, and something heavy lifted from his chest as though it had been weighing down upon him for a long, long time. A personal demon causing an ache between his rib cage and dreams filled with explosions and…

But now it was gone. At least for the moment, a kind of mutual empathy encompassing the hold. It was a moment of healing, given to the man who could do anything except perhaps fix himself. By someone so small, she was hardly any taller than Darcy was herself.

Darcy.

Darcy needed help. She was his responsibility.

"U-um, Ma'am, tha-thank you, but I…"

"It's fine," she murmured quietly, pulling back just enough to give them speaking room. Then his eyes widened with familiarity at the soft, rounded features, the feminine lilt of one side of her mouth. He knew her, he'd met her once before and they'd talked. Before… "I just wanted to say thank you. For, you know, everything." Her hand waved slightly in the air, as though encompass his work, past, present and future, in a go.

"Um," he said articulately, mind going back to a diner from a year before. Eidetic memory could be a hindrance, but in this case he was grateful. Although it seemed like he was just as tongue-tied as he'd ever been around women, some experience or no.

Peggy. Steve winced for a moment before forcing his mind to focus.

"You saved my life and really everyone's, and I think I might've been one of the few people who saw you without your mask so I know who to really thank and…" she bit her lip and looked away, yet Steve couldn't manage to follow her lead. Even though Darcy needed his help. Darcy.

"Anyway, sorry, rambling. Um, I just wanted to say thank you. Again. And, you know, good luck with your art. You're really good. What I saw, anyway."

"Thanks," he replied, numb. The waitress ducked her head in shy embarrassment (although he couldn't think of her as just a waitress anymore, wearing a white sundress with eyelet lace and a canary-yellow cardigan. The black ribbon on her shoulder was incongruous when compared to the sunflower in her hair), placing her arms behind her back, and edged away.

"Um, y-you'd better go help your friend."

He nodded and turned to look Miss Lewis' direction and by the time he did his gentle savior was gone, sunflower and all.

As, too, were Darcy's beaus. A man in a tailored suit towered before her instead, green scarf around his neck despite the sunshine and warmth of the building in general. He could have been anyone, black hair slicked back and slightly flaring behind him, but Steve Rogers knew what he was seeing.

He'd recognize the man who'd destroyed New York anywhere. But most especially at an event commemorating the lives which had been lost due to his actions.

Setting his previous distraction aside, Captain America quickly maneuvered his way to his companion, trying his best not to attract the immortal's attention as he dodged hugging individuals. They didn't seem to notice the villain or the girl that said villain was cornering, the two of them talking heatedly under their breath. Then, in a move that left the superhero reeling, he witnessed Darcy tug him into a hug.

No, they had both pulled each other into that hug. A fierce clasp which drew the Captain up short, Miss Lewis's eyes shut just as tightly. She seemed to be whispering words into the Asgardian's ear before pulling him in one last time, and if he didn't know any better he would have guessed that Loki had turned his face into her hair, just the slightest bit.

Followed by the stiffest pull-out he'd ever seen, the two of them holding each other silently at arm's length before the god walked behind a nearby pillar and…disappeared. The human woman was left alone, staring desperately at her feet.

Darcy lifted her eyes to meet Steve's then, recognized the look on his face and sighed heavily. Her feet clunked as she dragged them forward, looking more like a child being sent to the principal's office than a twenty-two year old. He didn't even have to say anything as she came up on him, head barely meeting his chest in height.

He swallowed and was reminded of the girl that had hugged him, the blonde who…

The assistant twitched her glasses and cleared her throat, shrugging slightly as she said, "he just wanted a hug."

"Oh."

Both silently made for the exit, noting that the Hug-A-Thon had already begun dispersing, the jars in the front full and getting fuller as commuters made one last attempt at helping before they continued on. Then as he shouldered his way through the doors his hands closed on something in his jacket pocket.

A piece of paper. Frowning, Steve scrounged it out, the adrenaline of before causing him to nearly tear it in his effort. But he was suddenly stilled just outside the exist, New York's hustle and bustle replaced with the measured calm of still water.

The name, 'Beth,' was scrawled on it as though the writer had been in a hurry, round loops evident even though it was print and not cursive. And below it was a phone number. The waitress had somehow managed to slip into his pocket while he hadn't been looking, so shell-shocked that the super-soldier hadn't felt her do it.

Steve realized with a start that his friend had taken interest in the information as well, eyebrows raised, and with an ironic sort of smile she skipped forward.

"I won't tell Fury about yours if you won't tell him about mine."

"…I'm not sure if that's an equal trade," he said quietly, the moment broken. When Darcy stopped a few paces ahead on the sidewalk in order to look back at him over her shoulder, hands tucked in her jean-jacket pockets and purse strung loosely over one shoulder.

"Isn't it? I mean, all we're doing is just…trying to help each other get through all this, right?"

Well, when she put it that way, "…right."

"Good. Then super-special-awesome secret between friends?"

"I didn't say that, Miss Lewis."

"Oh, c'mon! And it's Darcy, remember," she reminded him sharply, "do a girl a favor, Cap! Please, please, please!"

"Maybe."

"Spoilsport."

~/~/~

AN: Has anyone else seen that deleted scene from the Avengers where Steve meets the waitress for the first time? No? That's okay. :) You can find it on Youtube under the title, "Marvel's The Avengers and Acura RDX Bonus Deleted Scene." Have fun!

Also, in Thor Darcy is apparently twenty (found that out recently). So in Avengers I made her twenty-one, and twenty-two for the anniversary. Yay for details!

This one-shot came to me this morning and I just had to write it out. :) Also, Darcy sounds more than a bit like me and I'm pretty sure that Steve is OOC. Regardless of these flaws, I hope you enjoyed it. ^^