Cliques, Pricks, and Schticks
February 24, 2017
Laura Barton stopped, mid-bite of schezwan beef, when Jane Foster sat down with a huff and a dangerous clattering of lunch tray, utensils, and soda. A slightly overweight young man followed behind her, carrying a bowl of cut fruit and a cell phone. He set down the fruit next to Foster, snatched his hand away as if afraid it might get stabbed, and spoke in a low voice into his phone.
“Yep, she’s sitting down now…Yes…Yes, with people, er, a person. I’m sorry, Ms.-”
“You win, Darcy,” the astrophysicist said loudly, cramming four ravoli into her mouth and talking around them. “You’ve lured Kyle to the Dark Side.” Red sauce dripped from her fork to her shirt as she pointed menacingly at the younger man. “I know where your loyalties lie, now, Kyle. This will be reflected in my review of your work.”
Laura re-evaluated Kyle’s chances of getting stabbed. His eyes widened and as he speed-walked away he could be heard speaking into the phone, “She won’t really put this in my review, will she Ms. Lewis?”
“Isn’t that your assistant?” Laura ventured after a few moments of watching the wholesale slaughter of innocent ravioli.
“Traitor. Oh, um,” she looked around, then down at the ravaged meal on her tray. “Excuse me, I don’t believe we’ve been introduced. Jane Foster.” She held out a slim hand.
“Laura Barton. Do I dare ask what that pasta ever did to you?”
Jane sighed. “Nothing. Darcy – Darcy Lewis,” Jane paused to make certain Laura knew who she was talking about. Laura nodded. Any story that started with Darcy had to be good. “She came to visit earlier in the month, and somehow got the idea that I wasn’t getting enough social interaction. So she’s been on this campaign to get me to meet people and do…stuff. Kyle’s betrayal was the last straw.” Jane speared some asparagus, then wrinkled her nose. “Barton?”
Laura waited for the inevitable question about Clint.
“The Laura Barton that patented soy nitrogen stabilizer?”
It was Laura’s turn to blink. “Yes. How did you-”
Jane leaned forward with a grin, “Darcy told me about you. Said you were brilliant. And also that you enjoy a good Hedy Lamarr reference.”
“Good answer. Do you eat here for supper too?”
“Ah, no. I usually try to get home to eat with the family.”
Laura paused for a minute to make sure Jane was serious. She didn’t seem to be joking.
“She does not joke.” Wanda sat down next to Jane, munching on a caramel apple. “I know you are thinking that she cannot possibly not know who you are married to, but our Dr. Foster does not always pay attention in class. I have been training with her for weeks, and still she does not remember what time we begin.”
“I always paid attention in class, Wanda. And where did you get that? I didn’t see that on the menu. It looks delicious.”
“It is delicious. It wasn’t on the menu. And a spy never reveals her sources.” Wanda crunched down again, allowing her enjoyment to reach levels that attracted attention from a few other tables. A group of SI lab rats assigned to Avengers projects stared.
“But a really good spy,” Laura interjected, having heard this same excuse from Natasha, “knows when to trade information.”
Wanda sat back and carefully looked over Laura, then Jane. “What do you have?”
“What do you want?” Jane’s eyes tracked a slow drip of caramel like a meth head watching anti-histamine sale signs. Terrible negotiator, Laura thought. I should introduce her to Clint.
“I want you to be ready when it is time to train. During all of March. And to give it your full effort, no more of this whiny, I-am-so-dangerous baloney sandwiches.”
Laura filed that statement away to tell Clint later. He worried that Wanda would never get over her own fear of her powers. It seemed she was making good progress. Jane was nodding seriously.
“And,” Wanda continued, “You will babysit the Barton children tomorrow night. From four until ten p.m.”
“Done.” Jane reached for the apple, ignoring the unfinished vegetables on her plate. Wanda gestured to the kitchen.
“The Chef is Carla. She likes to feed skinny people. But eat this first,” she nodded to the tray. “Carla can tell when food has been wasted. And she is…unforgiving.”
Jane began shoveling ravioli into her mouth again. Wanda went back to her apple. Laura pointed an accusing finger at the Sokovian.
“You sly little witch. You agreed to babysit in exchange for explaining to Vision about Netflix and Chill! I had to trade Clint a footrub for that!”
Wanda dropped her apple core on Laura’s nearly empty tray, a look of horror on her face. “What! Vbyy mene zaraz! You were supposed to do that yourself! Oh, God, Clinton is still mad at me for the shorting sheets – which I did not even do! Who knows what he told Viz. We were supposed to do this tomorrow night. Friday helped me to pick the movie. Now this will go badly. Argh!”
“The solution is simple.” Jane patted at her mouth with a napkin, ignoring – or oblivious to – the red stain on her Smokey the Bear shirt. “Clint has asked me to rewire a chandelier and-”
“He said he was going to do that,” Laura snarled. “After I did the…thing. He wanted.” She couldn’t believe her husband had weaseled out of a task. Well, she could believe it, she would have tried to get out of it too. And Jane would probably do a better, safer job. Clint sucked at electrical work. But she reserved the right to act angry and get him to contritely offer to do something else. Maybe build a patio.
“So,” Jane went on as if she hadn’t been interrupted. “I will fix your light in exchange for Clint watching the kids tomorrow. The three of us will watch something with male nudity and kickass women at my house and drink and eat caramel apples.” She stopped and gave Wanda a hard look. “Does your source make these to go?” Wanda nodded. “And I will call Darcy and have her talk to Vision. Explicitly. And with good tips.” Her eyes narrowed and she glared at the vegetables on her tray. “She owes me.”
“Darcy Lewis?” Wanda asked, as if there was any other.
“Darcy Lewis,” Jane confirmed.
“Oh, well. This is better plan then.”
Laura was going to get an adult-rated movie, alcohol, new friends, a working chandelier, and probably a patio out of the situation. Yeah. It was a better plan. She was so glad that Jane Foster had sat down at her table. Best lunch group ever.
Vbyy mene zaraz – Kill me now