Title: Raises His Cup And Sips His Tea
Fandom: Avengers ‘Verse (Agents of Shield/Thor)
Category: Angst, Crossover(ish), Friendship, Hurt/Comfort
Characters/Pairing: Leo Fitz, Darcy Lewis & Coulson and Simmons
Warnings: Language, Talk of Death
Spoilers: For the end of S1 of Agents of Shield.
Summary: They told her it would be a job in a lab. They lied. But helping Leo Fitz up from the bottom of an ocean may just turn out to be the best job she could ask for.
Word Count: 6,951 words.
Date Written: 2014 - 2016
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Marvel, the all powerful Marvel. Not me. Except this story.
Feedback: Bring it. dodger_sister / TheArtofDodger@comcast.net
Beta’d: By my girl, my amazing boo, wolfrider89
Author's Notes: Once upon a time, so long ago that I can’t recall how it started, vikingprincess and I were having a conversation about Fitz and Jemma and Fitz’s recovery and we decided what he really needed was Darcy Lewis in his life. Not in place of Jemma, but somewhere in between. She told me to write it. I told her to write it. And neither of us wrote it for like three years. But now…I finally did it! Boom. And yeah, some of this caretaker stuff is from personal experience. So, there’s that. The poem was found on the internet, credited to the poet.
Dedication: For vikingprincess, my hard-stone rock who is always at my back. You are my very own slice of Darcy Lewis! Happy Birthday(s), babe! I love you!
Summoning a waterfall
He fills the sea
Commanding sweet hail
Into its milky depths
His steely trident
Churns up a maelstrom
Raising a soaked raft of leaves
He casts it from the sea
And laying aside his trident
Raises his cup and sips his tea
Darcy wasn't sure what she was supposed to be doing here.
"He is your number one priority," she'd been told, when she'd arrived.
She'd also been told it was a job in a research facility. And that she'd be getting paid. Technically those were both true, but she still felt mislead somehow.
Because now she was sitting next to a bedside, watching the rhythmic line of a heart monitor and the slow drip of an IV bag. When the IV beeped at her, she went and got a nurse. She kept the patient's lips wet with ice cubes and memorized his chart, everything they gave him, everything they did.
It was all she could think to do.
Sometimes they would wheel him out for testing and once when they brought him back, she asked, "He's not brain-dead, is he?"
All she got in return was a disgruntled noise.
She read to him from her favorite books; Firebrand, Bold In Her Breeches, World War Z, 10th Kingdom, and held his hand while she watched TV.
"Who are you, Leopold Fitz?" she wondered to herself, and one day she asked it out loud, "Who are you, Fitz?"
And then, right then, this man she didn't know, but felt attached to anyway, squeezed her hand.
"How's our patient?" the doctor asked, pouring more cream into his coffee.
Darcy looked up - quite a ways, as the doctor was at least ten inches taller than her - and squinted at the man. "Monosyllabic," she said and went back to refilling her giant soda cup.
Truth be told, this was the first time the doctor had ever spoken to Darcy. Usually their only interactions came when he would tell a nurse to dismiss Darcy from the room. Or, in less polite terms, 'get her out of here.'
Now he was suddenly referring to Fitz as 'their patient' and it irked Darcy for reasons she couldn't explain. A lot of things irked Darcy around here, though not the least of which was how they had even gotten her name in the first place. It's not like she was out there applying for caregiver jobs. Or SHIELD jobs, for that matter.
The only upside to all this was that she really liked Fitz a lot. Not that she'd known that in the beginning, when he'd been unconscious, but everyone else who came into the room just poked and prodded at him and Darcy figured he needed somebody by his side who didn't treat him like a guinea pig.
And that's why she had stayed.
"Well, progress is progress," the doctor said then and walked away with a brisk, important stride.
Darcy doubted he was as important as he thought he was.
Fitz was sitting up when she came back to his room, the walls white and glaring, but at least no longer filled with the beep-beep of monitors everywhere. Fitz was white and glaring as well and Darcy flopped down in the seat beside his bed and sighed.
"What'd the team of 'experts' say this time?" she asked him.
She could see Fitz struggling around the words for a moment, a second in time, and then, "Malarky," came spitting out of his mouth.
Darcy snorted. "So a bunch of bullshit," she said and Fitz gave her a small smile.
All of his smiles seemed small to her and she wondered if they had always been that way or if that was something new since the accident, an inability to smile big and bright when he was still trapped, for the most part, inside his own head.
'Not an accident,' she reminded herself, because she never wanted to downplay what had happened to him. She had managed to finagle enough information from glimpses of charts and gossip from nurses to put together that this had been done to Fitz, on purpose, by someone he had trusted. By a friend. That he had been meant to die, trapped forever at the bottom of the sea. And yet, somehow, he was here, trapped in this bed, in this place, in his own head.
Darcy hoped that wouldn’t be true forever.
"You wanna lay back down?" she asked him. He really did look pale, but maybe that was normal. She hadn't known him before, but she sometimes wished there was someone around here who had.
Fitz shook his head.
"Okay then. So cards or soap operas?"
Fitz mulled it over - either the question or the answer - before saying, "Stories."
Darcy wasn't sure if this meant TV or a book, but she knew this was the closest to the word he wanted that Fitz was able to get right now, so she held out the TV remote and the copy of the book she had been reading to him and let him choose.
It only took him a second, because he knew what he wanted, he just could never find the words for it. Fitz tapped the remote and looked at her sheepishly.
"I promise not to tell any of the hot nurses that you like soap operas," she said and winked at him.
Fitz looked like he wanted to say something more, but instead he sighed and laid his head back against the pillows.
"Days of Our Lives then," Darcy said, and though it wasn't a question, Fitz nodded and let his eyes fall shut.
Darcy tipped her recliner back and did the same.
She came into his room, pushing a wheelchair she’d rummaged up for him from floor two. Fitz set down the pad and pen he had been scribbling with - Darcy glanced at it, but it all looked like gibberish to her, though most of Jane's science had looked that way to Darcy too, so maybe it wasn't gibberish, she wouldn't know - and glared at her.
"No," he said firmly and Darcy knew he had the word right, just by the look on his face.
"I haven't even made the suggestion yet," she cried in exasperation. She was finding him way more defiant than she had expected when he'd been in a coma.
"No," he said again and pointed at the wheelchair.
"What? You use this all the time for the staff," she said.
"Not you," he told her and his face suddenly turned bright red. It took Darcy a moment to realize he wasn't having a blood pressure attack, but instead was blushing.
"Dude, get over yourself," Darcy said. "It's not a baby stroller, it's a legitimate piece of medical equipment," she told him and then, "Get your ass up and get in this thing."
Fitz glared at her again, but the effect was mostly lost on her, considering she thought it was adorable, especially with the way the back of his hair was sticking up in every direction and how the crease of his pillow was pressed into the skin of his cheek.
He struggled to push himself up and Darcy waited until he held out a hand and indicated that he wanted help, before she grabbed his wrist and pulled him into an upright position on the bed. Fitz put a hand to his temple, pressed his fingers there and Darcy let him settle before offering him an arm. Fitz waved her off and pushed himself to his feet, then pivoted around slowly until he was able to back up into the chair. Darcy could see the strain of his leg muscles, even through the cotton pants of his white scrubs, the way his legs shook under the weight of his body.
Fitz was paler than usual when he settled into the chair, so Darcy fussed with her phone for a moment while he took deep breaths in and out.
"Ready?" Darcy asked, after a beat.
"Maybe," Fitz answered and gave her a small smile, something almost like mischief in his eyes.
Darcy cuffed him on the back of the head and felt his chuckle through the palm of her hand.
It felt nice and good and Darcy smiled back at him.
It was warm outside, a cool breeze spreading the smells of summer around the courtyard, mixed with the chirping of birds in the trees overhead. There were two nurses and an orderly on their breaks at the far end of the enclosed area, but Darcy wheeled Fitz to the other side. She figured he had enough of those types of people on the inside.
Fitz turned his face up to the sun and Darcy sat on the bench next to him and did the same.
"Smells much better out here than in there, right?" she asked him and Fitz nodded.
"Clean. Polished," he said and Darcy nodded as well, completely in agreement on that.
"Sterile, man, like shiny metal soaked in bleach bombs," she told him. "Hate that smell."
"Hospital," he told her and scrunched up his face.
"Seems like your recovery would go faster if you were in some sort of entertainment lounge draped in velvet and being waited on by strippers."
Fitz shook his head. "No strippers."
"Naw, man, these strippers are using the money to put themselves through grad school and get their PHDs in like astrophysics or something."
Fitz laughed. It was a short abrupt noise, through his nose and catching in his throat, but it was a laugh nonetheless and Darcy grinned over at him.
"They'll read to you from your sciencey books while in their underwear."
Fitz didn't say anything for a minute, but his mouth was moving softly and Darcy waited for it, like she always did. The words were in there and they would come when they were ready.
"Better than you," he said at last and Darcy's head whipped around so that she could gape at him.
Three words in a row was a new record and Darcy couldn't even find it in herself to be mad that those three words were an insult to her science skills, however lacking they may be.
"I read your science books just fine, jackass," she said in mock-affront and punched him in the arm, possibly harder than she meant.
"Ow," he said and rubbed at his arm, fingers curling over the muscles there. "Testy."
"Oh, you want testy?" Darcy asked him. "I'll show you testy," and she made as if she were going to punch him again.
Fitz reached out and splayed his fingers across her face, his pinky taking slightly longer to uncurl than the others, and then pushed her back with his palm.
"Simmer," he said and then dropped his hand into his lap and turned his face back up towards the sun.
"You simmer," she muttered to herself, but turned her own face up as well and tried not to think about how there was no sun at the bottom of the ocean.
There was a man standing outside Fitz's door, staring in through the hallway window. Even from a distance and from behind, Darcy could tell who it was.
The man who had stolen her iPod.
"Agent Phil...something," she said, trailing off at the end.
"Yes, Agent Something, that's what I tend to go by," he answered, turning his head just enough so that she could see the smile on his face. "Or Coulson. Most people just call me Coulson."
Darcy stared at him for a moment, watched him watching Fitz. The room curtains that faced the hall were wide open, despite the fact that Fitz hated when they were, and Fitz was asleep in his bed.
"You a friend?" she asked Coulson and gestured with her morning coffee towards the sleeping man.
"Something like that," he said. "I hope."
"Hmmm," she said and stepped up next to him. "Why is it that I can tell an agent from the hospital staff simply by the fact that SHIELD agents all refuse to answer anything with a straight reply?"
"Spies," Coulson said and Darcy turned her head to stare at him, caught off guard by a monosyllabic answer coming from anyone other than Fitz. "How is he?" Coulson asked her, without taking his eyes off of Fitz.
"Why don't you go in and see for yourself?"
Coulson sighed, shoved his hands into the pockets of his suit pants. "Maybe next time," he said at last and turned, headed off down the hall.
"Guilt?" she called after him.
Coulson turned, shrugged his shoulders at her. "He was my agent. It was my job to keep him safe."
"Okay," Darcy said and nodded. "Just one more question."
Coulson stared at her, his face blank and passive.
"Who's job is it to keep you safe?"
She was leaning against the wall next to his room when she saw him coming around the corner. He was supporting his weight with a standard black cane and Darcy thought maybe they should bedazzle it, just to give the damn thing some life. Something around this white-washed facility ought to have some life, after all.
Fitz was being followed by an orderly, a tall, dark-toned man in green scrubs, with an unpleasant scowl on his face. Darcy wondered what Fitz had said to piss him off today.
He always seemed surly after his speech therapy appointments. To be fair, he seemed surly after most of his appointments - physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, standard testing and of course, the daily poke and prod.
Honestly, she couldn't blame him, though it would be nice to have his face light up when he saw her, at least once in awhile.
"Not today," Fitz said, as soon as he caught sight of her.
"Not today with my bubbly enthusiasm or my witty sarcasm? Or not today with life in general? Or..."
"Sleep," Fitz spit out, then, "Tired, I mean. Tired, Darcy."
"It went that bad, huh?"
Fitz just mumbled something unintelligible and reached for the door handle. He wobbled a little, off-balance, as he leaned into the door and the orderly stood there with his arms out like he was going to catch Fitz if he fell.
Darcy would never do such a thing. Fitz was never grateful for it and he knew how to ask for help if he needed it. The rest of the time, she just let him fall on his face and get himself back up again. He seemed to like it that way.
Fitz pushed his way into his room, but he didn't attempt to shut the door behind himself, so Darcy took that as an invitation and followed him in.
"I've got this," she told the orderly and shut the door on him before he could protest.
"Maybe you should try it without your..." Fitz said and waved his cane around in the air.
"Did that jackass say that to you?" Darcy asked him and suddenly wanted to hit someone. Or have a God of Thunder come down and at least threaten to hit someone. "Maybe he should try getting dropped to the bottom of the ocean and see if he wants to walk without his cane."
She stopped as soon as she realized what she'd said and looked, appalled, at Fitz. Fitz just looked tired. He pushed his shoes off and flopped back onto the bed.
"Maybe this whole place should just be dropped to the bottom of the ocean," he said in disgust.
"That bad of a day, huh?" she asked him.
"If I'm going...uh..." and he made an expanding circle with his hands and said, "baazzzmmm, well, then everyone is going with me."
"Only if I get to light the fuse," she told him, dryly.
Fitz pushed at his covers, to no avail, since he was laying on top of them.
"Oh, for crying out loud, just ask for help once in awhile," Darcy said in exasperation and yanked his covers down for him.
"You ask for help once in awhile," Fitz muttered and Darcy scowled at him, though not without recognizing the progress.
Fitz wasn't just talking in full sentences today, he was doing it after what had apparently been a very trying session of therapy, so she'd take the wins where they could get them. Even if he was still kicking stupidly at his covers.
"Move," she said and shoved him over, slid in next to him and yanked the covers up over them both.
"What are you..." Fitz asked, trailing off at the end as Darcy reached over him to grab the TV remote.
"Buffy reruns on FX for like three hours in the morning."
"...doing in my bed?" Fitz said, a belated ending to his question.
"Buffy reruns on FX for like three hours in the morning," she repeated.
Fitz stared at her for a moment like she had grown three heads and then sighed, long and weary. "Okay then."
"Damn straight," Darcy told him and leaned her head against his shoulder. "Buffy is always okay then."
"But that's not even..."
"No," Fitz said, holding up both his hands. "Let me explain."
Darcy was sitting at the foot of his bed, legs tucked up under her and Fitz was at the head of the bed, mirroring her position. The windows were open and the breeze from outside was trickling in and the room actually looked sunny and inviting for a change.
"It's like the, um, the theory of..." and Fitz trailed off, stumbling over his words and raised his hands in the air, flapping them about.
"Flappy bird?" Darcy guessed, just to see him scowl at her.
Fitz made his hands smaller and flapped his fingers this time and said, "The theory. Word."
Fitz pointed at her in confirmation.
"The butterfly theory...effect!"
Fitz nodded and then scowled and added, "Not the movie."
"Naw," Darcy said, all cool, because this was science she knew something about. "The chaos theory."
"Yes!" Fitz said and lit up bright at her. It was a beautiful thing, if Darcy was being honest with herself.
"I learned about that from Jurassic Park," she told him proudly. "It would have been better if the car hadn't been moving though."
Fitz scowled at her again, like he always did when she tried to understand science through vague movie references. Which was, at least partially, why she did it.
"So, one little difference, one choice the other way, and bam, a different universe."
"But, see that's where I get confused. Because Asgard is a different universe, right?" Darcy asked.
"No, like, yes, but..." Fitz said and made that face he made when he was trying to figure out a way to explain the things that were in his head. "This is like multiple alternate universes, existing at the same time in different space," and he threw his hands up and wagged his fingers in the air on the word 'space'.
"Oh," Darcy said, "So like the Star Trek reboot then."
"Stop that," Fitz told her.
"But it helps me understand science!" she told him, which was true, in that Darcy related a lot of her life to movies and music and any other form of pop-culture media she could consume.
"Fine," Fitz grumbled at her. "Yes, like the Star Trek reboot. You can have Jim Kirk who knew his dad or Jim Kirk whose dad died when he was a baby, all at the same time. Like..." and he stumbled on it, mouth forming over the words he wanted, "like, so many, all, universes, like, forever…word..."
"Infinite," she supplied him.
"Yes, infinite universes with infinite versions of you."
"And in one of these versions I am Batman?" she asked him skeptically.
"But Batman is fictional, Fitz," someone said from the doorway and Darcy jerked her head around to see they were being watched by a woman, standing in the doorway, listening in.
The woman wasn't wearing scrubs or a lab-coat and she didn't have a clipboard in her hand and Darcy had never seen her before, but she was cute, petite, soft hair and softer eyes and a British accent lacing her skepticism about Fitz's theory.
"The best stories are inspired by real life, so maybe Batman isn't completely fictional," Darcy quipped back at her and turned to grin at Fitz, hoping for agreement from him.
But Fitz had gone as white as the glaring bright walls and his eyes were rounder than Darcy had ever seen them, even the day he'd woken up screaming and it had taken him five whole minutes to realize he wasn't trapped down below still, that he was safe and alive and not alone.
"Fitz?" she asked tentatively and reached out to take his hands, hold them tight against the tremors that had racked up through his body at the sight of this woman.
"Hi," the woman said, sheepishly.
"Jemma," Fitz croaked out and he sounded broken and raw.
'Jemma', Darcy thought and then it clicked. This was her. This was the woman he had almost died for.
"How are you?" Jemma asked him, taking a cautious step into the room, as if she wasn't sure if she was welcome. Darcy wasn't sure if she was either, so she unfolded herself from the bed and stood there, slightly blocking the path between this woman and Fitz, who was still staring at her with wide, pale eyes.
"I'm wearing pants," Fitz answered, dryly.
Darcy knew it was part sarcasm and part the truth, because she had gotten tired of seeing him in those white scrubs and gone out and gotten him some clothes. And it was always a huge relief when she came in the mornings and saw that he was feeling well enough that day to actually put on his jeans, instead of the pajama bottoms - covered in cartoon insects - that she had brought him.
"Right, good, yes," Jemma said and then cast a suspicious eye on Darcy,
"Oh, hi," Darcy said, suddenly aware of the awkwardness in the room. "I'm Darcy Lewis. I'm a...friend of Fitz's."
"Jemma Simmons," the woman said, holding out her hand. "A friend of Fitz's as well, I suppose."
"You and Fitz worked together, right?" Darcy asked.
"Well, I'd say a little more than that," Jemma answered and Darcy could feel the defensiveness radiating off her.
"Right," Darcy said and cast a look over her shoulder at Fitz.
He hadn't moved from his spot on the bed, but his eyes had stopped bulging out of his head and some of the color had returned to his cheeks. He still looked stumped for words though and in a different way than usual.
Still, he nodded at her and Darcy knew to take her leave.
"Okay then, I'm going to see if the boys in the lab have left any of those mini muffins," and she flashed Fitz a smile and added, "If so, I might bring you back one."
"You will," he said softly. "You're a sucker."
"Ppfftt," she said and grinned at him, then gave a half-wave to Jemma and slid past her, out the door.
Darcy only glanced back once - at the man who had been willing to die and the woman who hadn't been willing to let him - before shutting the door on them both.
The woman - Jemma, Darcy reminded herself - was gone when she got back to Fitz's room.
He was laying on the bed, facing away from the door and when she entered, she heard him sigh, long and low, like a rush from his lungs.
"I could have done without any of that then," he said, defeat in his voice.
"How's that?" Darcy asked and set the mini-muffin she had brought him down on the nightstand.
"Pity. Guilt. Grief. I could do without all of it."
"Hmmm," Darcy said and Fitz punched the bed, hard, leaving a dent in the white crisp mattress beneath him.
"Don't do that, I hate when you do that," he told her. "Just say it. Whatever it is, just say it."
"I always say it, Fitz. You know I do," she said, perching on the edge of the bed and lightly knocking her knee into his back. "I was just working on the phrasing."
"Work faster," Fitz muttered and shoved his face into his pillow.
"Maybe it's none of the things you think it is," she told him at last.
"Then what is it?" he asked and rolled over, so she could see it then, the wet splotches on his cheeks and the red rims around his eyes, the traces of so many emotions still raw on his face.
"Love, Fitz. Maybe it's love."
He turned away again, pressed his face back into his pillow and said, "Maybe we both should have left that at the bottom of the ocean too."
"He needs to science," Darcy said.
"Well, I don't think..." the doctor began.
Darcy couldn't remember this one's name. They all blended together in her mind. This was the newest one though, and he was young and seemed approachable and she thought she might have better luck with him than the other blowhards around the facility. Turns out that he was just as oblivious to the fact that his patient was a human being as the rest of them seemed to be.
"Don't think, just do," Darcy said and it was low and deep, like the threat she meant it as. "You do the body, I do the mind. That's what I get paid the medium government salary for."
"If you think he is depressed, we can get a psychiatrist..."
"He needs. To get. Back. In the lab," she told him, punctuating her words as she went. "Please, let him work, let him exercise his mind, give him something to do."
The doctor gritted his teeth and glared at her.
"Don't make me call Coulson and tell him you won't give his beloved agent any toys to play with."
That was maybe a low-blow and a little cheap - never-mind the fact that Darcy had no actual way of getting in touch with Coulson. She wasn't even sure if secret agents had cellphones. But she had bluffed her way through so many things in her life and it had worked out well for her so far. Mostly.
"I'll see what I can do," the doctor told her, begrudgingly.
"Atta boy, doc," Darcy said and slapped him on the arm.
He did not look amused, but honestly Darcy didn't give a shit.
The thing was, ever since Jemma's visit, Fitz had been pretty depressed. He didn't want to go to his therapy sessions half the time and when he did go, he was barely participating in his care.
"Get him back on track," Head Doctor had told her.
"Oh, now you acknowledge I have a job around here," she had quipped back, sarcasm dripping off her lips, though truthfully she had already been trying to get him back on track.
She couldn't stand to see him like this, like nothingness, like empty nothing in the shell of a pale young man with sunken eyes and all his life left somewhere in a compression chamber.
And Darcy could admit it, she missed him.
Sometimes he was sitting right next to her and she missed him so much.
That was unnerving on multiple levels. She was kind of at her wit's end here, completely out of her normal Darcy-ideas, so science had better do the job and save the day for them both.
Fitz tried to drip the solution into the specimen container for the third time. And for the third time, he missed.
The eyedropper shook in his hand and his fingers couldn't squeeze when he needed them to and the solution was wet on the counter, laying there like a reminder that he was missing a piece of himself as much as he was missing his mark here.
"You do it," Fitz grunted at her and shoved the eyedropper in Darcy's direction. "I'm bloody useless."
"Why? Because you can't do it perfectly on your first try?"
"I can't do it at all!" Fitz hollered and threw the eyedropper across the room, watching it shatter where it landed.
"You know, I doubt Nancy Kerrigan got right back out and did a double salchow on her first attempt after Tonya Harding had Nancy's knee bashed in," Darcy said, as calmly as she could while resisting the urge to clean up after him. She wasn't his damn maid, after all.
Fitz just stared at her for a long moment with an incredulous look on his face and then he raised an eyebrow. "Really? That's the best analogue you've got?"
"I don't do sports metaphors," Darcy said, glaring at him for even considering it, even if she had dated a hockey player once.
Fitz sighed, then went over and began cleaning up the little bits of shattered eyedropper from the floor.
"I don't belong in a lab anymore," he told her.
"Then where do you belong?"
Fitz shrugged. "Nowhere, I guess."
"So, you're just quitting on life then?" she asked him, hopping up on the lab counter to sit. "Seems like you put an awful lot of work into yourself for someone who would have rather just stayed in a coma."
Fitz flashed her a look that said she was crossing onto unauthorized territory, but Darcy had learned when to follow that look and when not to.
"I personally like you better awake and stuff, but whatever."
Fitz leaned against the counter and scrubbed a hand over his face. "Maybe just on science," he said. "Can I quit on science?"
"I don't know, can you?"
Fitz clenched his jaw, looked off at the wall for a long moment and then said, "I hate you, you know."
"I know," Darcy said, happily.
"Now get off my bloody workstation," Fitz told her and shoved at her, just enough to send her sliding gracefully to the floor.
"I'll get you another eyedropper," she told him, trying her hardest to contain her grin of triumph.
Fitz muttered something under his breath, but Darcy chose to ignore it. It was generally the best course of action.
At any rate, Fitz took the new eyedropper when she offered it to him and started over again.
"He had a visitor already," Reg said as Darcy signed in at the front desk.
She looked up at the desk clerk, who held out a cup of warm half-mocha latte for her, and raised an eyebrow.
"Fitz? My Fitz? Had a visitor?"
"Good looking one, too," Reg told her with an approving grin.
"That ass Coulson?"
"Naw," Reg said with a shrug, looking down at the sign-in log in front of him. "Some British chick. Simmons," and he turned the log so Darcy could see the signature.
'Simmons,' Darcy thought. And then, 'Jemma.'
She took the offered coffee and headed towards the elevators, holding in the need to run.
The last time Jemma had visited, Fitz hadn't handled it very well. So this was either going to be the last thing Fitz needed or the exact thing Fitz needed. Darcy wasn't sure which, but she was about to find out.
The lights were off in Fitz's room, the curtains drawn on both the hallway and the outside windows, and Darcy could just barely see the lump that was Leo Fitz, laying in the bed, still and silent. He was huddled under an enormous amount of blankets, his back turned to the door, and just the top of his head visible in the dim light.
"Go away," he muttered at her.
"Like really go away or like crawl under the covers and be quiet kind of 'go away'?" Darcy asked.
When Fitz didn't answer, she decided it must be the latter - at least that's the option she liked best and she figured that he'd forfeited his rights when he didn't answer - so she set her coffee down on the side table and crawled into bed with him. She slid under the covers, pressed herself against him, arm across his side, palm flat on his chest, feeling the beat-beat-thump of his heart under her fingertips.
She remembered when she'd first arrived here, not knowing this man in the slightest, and yet somehow compelled to watch the heart monitor, the synthetic mechanic beep-beep-beep the only thing that told her he was still alive. She'd spent days willing the monitor to change, just one little beep, off pattern, just one little sign of anything, daring it to show her this stranger would soon wake and be known to her.
There was a long stretch of silence now, nothing but the occasionally soft patter of feet echoing down the hallway, and then Fitz snuffled, pressed his face into the pillow and said, "I would have died for her, you know."
"I know," Darcy said, pushing down the urge to say, 'I'm glad you didn't.' It wasn't what he needed to hear right then.
"Every time I look at her face, I'm reminded of that. I made that choice. I would have died for her."
"I know," Darcy said again, pressing herself against him, chest to back, feeling the beat-beat-thump of his heart now through her whole body.
"I would have died for her," he said again, like a mantra now.
"I know," Darcy said. "But she wouldn't leave you down there."
There was a noise like a choked off sob and Darcy squeezed her arm tighter around him.
"I'd die for you," he said then, half whisper, half broken breath.
Darcy flung a leg over his own, pushed herself up on top of his side, pressing against his hip, his shoulder, her head against his cheek.
"But I wouldn't leave you down there," she said and then Fitz finally, finally, let himself cry.
His tears tasted like saltwater on her lips.
"There is more that goes on here than just the two of you," the doctor was saying, all pursed mouth and furrowed brow.
Darcy couldn't for the life of her remember this one's name, but he was younger than the last. Worse bedside manner, though. Definitely better eye candy, but Darcy wasn't counting that for much at the moment.
"It was an accident," Fitz said, but it came off more a question than a statement.
"I was assured," and the doctor looked straight at Darcy when he said the word 'assured', "That you were ready to get back in the lab. That you were capable."
"Science isn't an exact…science," Darcy told him, biting back a grin.
There was still soot in her hair, but she figured it would just make the doctor's voice go all squeaky again if she started fussing with it, so she stood still.
"We had to evacuate the entire floor! That explosion was..." but the doctor stuttered off then and threw his hands in the air instead.
"It really was an accident," Fitz said, eyes squinted up in something that looked like humility.
"Won't happen again, Doc, " Darcy said.
The doctor glared at her and pointed a finger. "See that it doesn't." He stomped off then with an air of importance he probably didn't deserve, though Darcy thought that about most of the doctors here.
Fitz made an obscene gesture at the man's backside as he strode off down the hall.
"Wanna blow something else up?" Darcy asked Fitz then, wiping away a smudge of ash from her cheek.
"I have some ideas," Fitz told her.
Twenty-seven stethoscopes went missing from the ward and the burning barrel in the back lot smelled of smoking rubber.
Fitz was waiting for her outside his room, pressed against the wall, hands behind his back, balancing on the balls of his feet.
He was grinning too, from ear to ear, like a child on Christmas morning, waiting outside his parents' room for permission to dive into the presents stacked perfectly under the tree.
Or like an evil scientist with a deliciously naughty plan, Darcy would take either one.
"What's up, baby butt?" she asked, with raised eyebrows.
Fitz stood up straight, tugged the front of his black t-shirt down and grinned at her.
"I'm getting out of here."
"What?" Darcy asked.
"I'm being sprung. Guess Coulson sent for me."
Darcy's mouth fell open. This was good news, of course it was, but it was also the kind of thing she figured she'd be told about first. Though, if they deemed him ready for release, they probably deemed a caregiver or body-man or whatever she was, unnecessary at this point.
"I don't..." she started, stuttered out and then gave up altogether and flung herself at Fitz, arms wrapping around his neck.
He brought his own arms up, cradle the back of her head in his hand. "Fuck all, I'm gonna miss you," he muttered into her hair.
"Not if I miss you first," she said against his shoulder, warm and solid beneath her.
"Maybe Coulson could get you a job on the bus?" he suggested, hope and sarcasm in equal measure.
"Ha!" she barked out, the noise louder than she had expected, and shoved him back into the wall.
"I got you something," he said then and grabbed her hand, tugged her along behind him into his room.
"How'd you get anything?" she asked. "You never leave this base."
"Bribed an orderly," he said and began rummaging through his bedside drawer.
"With what?" she asked, but Fitz didn't answer and Darcy was left to ponder the possibilities for a long time after.
He handed her a small box, a silk ribbon tied around it in a bow. Darcy smiled at him, before tugging it open and lifting the lid.
Inside was a small, silver pendant shaped like trident, hanging from a silver chain. It sparkled in the sunlight coming in through the windows and Darcy held it gingerly in her hand, like this gift might disappear at any moment, the way Fitz almost had himself, down there at the bottom of the blue, blue waters.
"She pulled me up," he said softly. "Saved me," and he turned Darcy around, brushed the hair from her neck to clasp the chain there. "But so did you. You pulled me up, Darcy Lewis. I'd be drowning still, without you."
Darcy clasped her hand over the trident at her throat, tears filling her eyes, unbidden. "I don't think that's entirely true," she said softly.
Fitz turned her then, took her face in his hands. "Trust me. I know what it feels like to die. And I know what it feels like to live."
Darcy opened her mouth to say something then - though what she had literally no idea - but Fitz just shook his head at her.
"I'm saying 'thank you', Darcy. Shut up and say ‘you're welcome.’"
Darcy swallowed around the lump in her throat and then let it out in a long, slow breath.
"Can't shut up and say you're welcome at the same time," she said at last and Fitz just grinned and kissed her, soft and warm and alive, for the very briefest of moments.
Her mother had once told her that all the best things in life were fleeting.
There was a helicopter waiting, still and silent, on the landing pad. A woman dressed in all black, with shining black hair and an air of impatience about her, was standing next to it.
Fitz was facing Darcy, hands stuffed in his pockets, duffel at his feet. He was looking anywhere but at her face.
"Well, Scarecrow," Darcy said and crossed her arms over her chest.
"You'll miss me most of all?" Fitz asked, eyes sliding to meet her own.
Darcy made a noise like a lawnmower caught on a rock and said, "You're the only one around here I'll miss."
"That's not true," he told her with a knowing smile. "You'll miss Reg at the front desk too."
"Well, yeah, okay," Darcy conceded and grinned at him.
Fitz let out a breath of air and reached for her, slid his arms around her waist, Darcy's head coming to rest on his chest, as if it should have been there all along.
"Take care of yourself, okay, Fitz?" she said and didn't try to cover the way her voice choked off at the end, cut off over the sound of his name.
"Won't have you to do it for me, will I?"
Darcy huffed against him and pushed back, looked him straight on. "Do better than last time, yeah?"
The look that flashed across Fitz' face, momentarily, briefest of things, was all steel and rock.
"Fitz!" the woman shouted and Fitz's hands curled at his sides.
"Guess that's my cue," he said and bent to pick up his duffel, slinging it over his shoulder. "I'll see you around, Lewis."
Darcy grinned at him, bright and full, and said, "Not if I see you first, Leo."
She watched him walk away, the pilot reaching out as he passed her, one hand on his shoulder. The smile she gave him was real and the way Fitz leaned into her touch was familiar.
Darcy reached into her back pant pocket and ran her hand along the plane ticket there, a one-way trip to Arizona. Jane was set to meet her at the gate.
Fitz was going home, to his team, to his family.
It was time for Darcy to do the same.