February 6, 2017
“You like her.”
“Who’s that?” Barnes didn’t look up from the e-reader Steve had given him for Christmas. It was much nicer than the cheap piece of shit he had stolen back in 2015. It also fit in his pocket, which made it easy to carry around the Tower and use wherever he found a good perch. Like his current one that looked down on the main lobby and had excellent sight lines of both the front doors to the building and the little tables outside the coffee shop.
“Are you being coy? Is this an old man thing, the coyness? You’d be adorable if it weren’t for that face.”
Barnes sighed, keeping his eyes on his book. Dresden was this close to cracking the hexenwolves. Just past the edge of the screen he watched Darcy and Doc Vivas exit the coffee shop with their drinks and take a seat at one of the cafe tables. The Doc rolled her red suitcase up next to her chair. “What the fuck do you want, Wilson?”
“Just tryin’ to help out a friend, man.”
At that innocent statement, Barnes did lower his reader to stare at Wilson. He was sipping his own drink, twirling a pair of sunglasses, looking like he hadn’t a care in the world. Barnes had seen better.
“Okay,” Wilson broke into a wince, “not even I could say that with a straight face.” Barnes snorted and went back to his book. He hadn’t trusted the FBI agents from the first page they were introduced. Darcy threw back her head and laughed, the sound discernible even through the moderate traffic in the lobby. The Doc was smiling into her cup.
“So, since I was like fifteen, I’ve had this fantasy about Dwayne Johnson-”
“-where he teaches me the People’s Elbow- do you know about The Rock?”
Sam, despite being a pushy asshole sometimes and having deplorable taste in music, had been a good counselor to Barnes. Helped him work through a decent fraction of the megaton of shit he had in his head. That being said, there was no way Barnes was going to open up about the month in 2014 he had spent living in the basement of a rail station, stealing their wi-fi and trying desperately to convince himself he was alive and living in the twenty-first century and not strapped to a table somewhere hallucinating a HYDRA-designed interrogation scenario. He had seen every episode of Doctor Who, Katherine Hepburn’s entire portfolio of work, and enough old news clips to realize that no one could possibly make up that shit about Bill Clinton. Yeah. He knew about The Rock.
With a blank face, Barnes raised one eyebrow. Wilson barked out a laugh.
“Yeah. Maybe a month before the Accords, I was eating lunch with my cousin in Miami and the waiter comes over, says another table wanted to buy our meal. And I look over and there is Dwayne Johnson with his kids.”
There was a man in line in the coffee shop that had glanced over at Darcy and the Doc three times. The guy grabbed his drink and then stood by the door, staring at a newspaper rack and the window over it that reflected the two women. Too obvious to be a threat. Probably just looking for a date, Barnes told himself. It did not ease the tension creeping into his muscles. If Wilson noticed, he must have chalked it up to his own unending dialogue, because he summed up.
“I thought I was going to freak out, wondering if it was too dorky to ask for an autograph. Turns out one of his kids loves the Falcon, and Johnson is a fan too. He wants me to tell him about my workout routine. Wants to know if I can show him my core moves.”
“Why? His kid need a weightlifting recommendation?”
“Oh. Was that a joke? Sorry. I’m just not old enough to get this dad-humor thing you have going on.”
The man was shuffling closer to Darcy’s table. Barnes slipped his e-reader into his pocket and slid to the edge of his seat. The mezzanine was two stories above the lobby floor. An easy drop for him. “Point?”
“Fantasy is fine. Healthy, even. But we all need to keep in mind that, no matter how much we build up something in our minds, we’re still just dealing with real people. And real people, real interactions, almost always trump fantasy. Because you get to live them.” Darcy was shaking her head at the man, smiling, but in a tight, fake way that she only used with people she didn’t like. The coffee guy went to lean on the extended handle of the Doc’s suitcase, and Barnes saw one bright red high heel flick out under the table. The suitcase rolled away and the man stumbled, spilling his coffee all down his front. His expletive was recognizable even by Wilson, who paused to look over.
Seeing nothing too worrisome, he continued, “Are you picking up what I’m putting down here, Barnes?”
The man stalked away to the nearest restroom, his face heated with embarrassment. Darcy and the Doc stood and slowly made their way to the front entrance.
“Your love for a celebrity is reciprocated. Again, congratulations.”
“No, Barnes. Pay attention here. Because this is some Ph.D. level shit I am giving you. Gratis. Stop stalking the woman and ask her out.”
“I don’t think Steve would appreciate that.”
Darcy hugged the Doc tightly, her grin wide.
“What?” Wilson rolled his eyes. “Sure. Keep deflecting. Because that solves problems.”
“I don’t have a problem.”
“When was the last time you got laid?”
Barnes didn’t respond, just kept an eye on Vivas as she handed her suitcase to the SI town car driver and then slid into the backseat. Her red shoes flashed in the sunlight before the door closed.
“Exactly,” Wilson continued, satisfied with himself. “You like her. So do something about it.” He stood and began walking away, leaving Barnes with a half-empty bottle of water and a nearly finished novel. His parting shot made Barnes suck in a breath. “Don’t you think you’ve been punished enough?”
“Sam,” he called out in a low voice. Predictably, Wilson turned, surprised by the use of his first name and the serious tone. “You know WWE isn’t real, right?”
“Shut your mouth, Bucky Barnes.”