Taken to School
February 27, 2017
“How did it go?”
“Why are you asking me? I was out of town. On purpose. Which you knew.” There was a pause on the line. “And why ask at all? As if you didn’t already know exactly what happened.”
“Trust but verify.”
Another long pause. “I can’t decide if that is a reasonable response, or the scariest fucking thing I have ever heard you say.”
A huff. “Really? In Karakesh-”
“I once faked the death of a South American drug lord without his knowledge using a piece of gum and an empty shotgun shell.”
“Was the gum used?”
“Only by me. Does that make a difference?”
“I’m not sure.” In the background, a high pitched scream was quickly silenced. “No worries. Trainees.”
“Sounds fun. So, you were telling me how it went?”
A long sigh vibrated through the phone. “Civil. No one died. No punches were thrown. Tony decided that Vivas should move to New York full-time and Vision has asked if there is such a thing as a, and I cannot believe I am saying this, ‘boy’s night’. Pretty sure Pepper is going to have the elevator decontaminated after what Steve and Darcy did in there. That enough of a report for you, or did you want a written memo?”
“This will suffice, thank you.” A high pitched scream was quickly silenced on the other end of the call. “No worries. This cave is abandoned. You never did tell me how you convinced Pepper to stage a brunch.”
“Sam,” Pepper smiled warmly and the man was once again surprised by how genuine she was, “Friday told me you wished to speak privately. What can I do for you?” She stood to take his hand, shaking it firmly and then leading him to a seating area in her office.
“Pepper, please,” she reminded him.
“Of course, Pepper. It is about Barnes and Tony.”
“What did he do?” Pepper was suddenly all business. “Is the damage localized or-”
“No, no, nothing like that,” he assured her. “But I think they both need a push to move beyond the current cold war environment. Right now, we are sitting on a powder keg, and without a positive change in the dynamic – well, I think the next time those two get into a fight we’ll be lucky if a suit and an arm are the only casualties.”
“I see what you mean. In fact, I had been thinking the same thing, but I wasn’t sure if it was my place. What would you suggest, Sam?”
“Something simple, with just team members and maybe family. It wouldn’t have to be everyone, and they don’t both have to stay the entire time, but if they could have at least one non-mission related interaction without anyone throwing around accusations or fists, it would be a tremendous step in the right direction.”
“I have just the thing. I can make sure Tony shows up and behaves himself. I am reluctant, however, to try to compel Sergeant Barnes to attend.”
“Oh, you just have to invite him. He’ll show.”
“You’re that confident in yourself?” She smiled, not unkindly, but knowingly.
“Not me, ma’am.”
“No,” he repeated. He certainly wasn’t going to admit that he had only had to ask. It would ruin his spy cred. “I did not tell you. How did you get Barnes there?”
ChemicalQueen: Do you think it is safe to post this on Craigslist? *picture of light fixture*
If you want to sell it, I will do that for you. Do you not like it anymore? Wasn’t that in your first apartment?
ChemicalQueen: Yeah. It’s broken.
I always liked it. It felt homey.
ChemicalQueen: Do you think so? It does have nice lines, but too small for over the new table.
Over your bathtub? *Link*
ChemicalQueen: …..Those pictures are amazing! Now I just need to buy one of those bath tray things for a glass of wine and a book. And send the kids and their father to Abu Dhabi so I can take a bath without interruption. And get the chandelier fixed.
Have the man of the house do it. Cheapest labor you’ll find – no one else will work for legal favors.
I found this *picture sent*. Do you want me to get it for you?
Gakusei: It is the same color as Vision’s cape! Maybe if I wear that, he’ll get the idea.
Like a letter jacket? It’s an American thing.
Gakusei: I have seen movies. I am not stupid. But he might be.
Have you talked to him about it?
Gakusei: Loads of embarrassment and zero romance. Yes. Exactly what I was looking for in conversation with him. How did you know?
Gakusei: Do you think that would work?
Gakusei: Maybe if someone else did it.
Don’t ask me.
Gakusei: I’ll find someone else. And buy the jacket. I’ll pay you back.
I dropped by Jane’s lab, as you requested. She seemed very intent.
LaserKitten: Didn’t even look up? Or didn’t focus? Either way, I’m running out of ideas. She’s in a funk.
I think she would need to be held captive for a minimum of twenty minutes with another person before forming a relationship would occur to her.
LaserKitten: If for no other reason than because she’d need a boost to reach the air vent to escape. But yeah, I catch your drift.
LaserKitten: Ideas have been spurred.
LaserKitten: Don’t think I don’t see what you did there.
Gakusei: That blond idiot! How does D put up with him!
I imagine the sex helps.
Gakusei: Don’t even bring it up! You are sprinkling salt into my open sores.
That is not how that idiom goes.
Gakusei: Whatever. It is worse now. He invited everyone to the theatre room to watch Hellraiser with us. What is this movie, even? Man with needles in face is not entertaining! Sitting next to Carla from the kitchen would be delicious-
Is she bringing caramels? Caramel apples?
Gakusei: Both. And toffee popcorn. I think I have gained three kg just thinking about it. But she is not the person I want holding my hand during movie! What did that vyrokok say to him!
I am sure he meant well. Have his old friend deal with him. What is it D says about the two fossils?
Gakusei:…I think I have solution. See you soon.
“I never talked to Barnes. It must be a happy coincidence.”
“Natasha…” Sam took a deep breath and then laughed. It was deep and rich and full of an appreciation that warmed her chest and made her want to smile inappropriately. She did not, of course. She was working, after all. But she wanted to.
He went on, “Do not ever change. I mean that. Not ever.”
“There is no one approaching this floor, Sergeant Barnes.”
“Thanks, Friday,” Barnes said softly. “Do you hear something? I think I hear something in Wilson’s place.” He casually leaned on the door lever behind him, carrying his gym bag over his shoulder. He put his weight onto his metal arm. With a snap, the door opened.
“Sergeant Barnes,” Friday said, and he could swear there was a note of sarcasm in her lilt, “I must inform you, as Director of Security for the Yinsen Foundation, that there has been a breech in one of the residential units assigned to an Avenger.”
“What unit would that be, Friday?” Barnes pushed open the door.
“Staff Sergeant Wilson. Shall I alert Tower security?”
“Nah. I’m right nearby. I’ll look into it myself.” He strolled into the entryway and found a small studio apartment that was a mirror image of the place Steve had one floor up. Wilson had more stuff in his, but it still managed to look neater. To his right was the small kitchenette, and on the counter – a gleaming new toaster. Barnes quickly unplugged it and switched it with an identical model from his gym bag. Except the one from his bag was dusted inside with pink-grey powder and smelled – to his sensitive nose – like dead cat. He then counted to sixty and stepped back out into the hall, pulling the door closed behind him.
“Everything looks good, Friday. Did you catch anything on camera in Wilson’s apartment that might explain this broken door?”
“I do not have permission to record in Staff Sergeant Wilson’s apartment, Sergeant Barnes. As you know.”
“Oh, right. Well, please put in a maintenance request.”
“What reason should I list?”
He smirked, looking to the camera he knew was at the end of the hall. “Natural attrition.”
“Very good, Sergeant.”
*vyrokok – idiot