Inlaws v. Outlaws: Around the Water Cooler
November 14, 2016
“D- Ms. Lewis has made all the arrangements. We just have to get there and she promised Tony would have someplace ready for us to stay while we attend the meetings. It’s- I don’t know how to thank her, Nat. I’m going to get their lives back.” Steve’s voice was quickly taking on that hard edge that dared anyone to try standing in his way. Nat repressed a sigh. She had preferred the admiring, interested tone he used when he complimented Darcy. She kept one eye on Wanda who was picking up their order of sweet treats and tea and used her peripheral vision to sweep the little shop again. The sunny day had most of the patrons taking their food outside, leaving Nat with more than enough room to feel comfortable.
“And once that’s done, Ross is next. I won’t stand by anymore, Nat. For what he’s done he-”
“Getting a bit ahead of yourself there, Steve.” Her mild comment brought him up short, and she could almost see the way he held his breath and closed his eyes, working to get his composure. Wanda subtly popped the pale-green apricot daifuku into her mouth. Nat narrowed her eyes. Apricot was her favorite, and from Wanda’s too-innocent expression she knew it.
“I know. I just…”
Across the ocean, through her phone, and Steve could still turn on the pleading act like no one she knew. It was puzzling for her. When he was trying, he couldn’t manage it to save his life, but when he didn’t mean to the man could tug on heartstrings she was certain had been cut decades ago.
“This could fix it. I need-” abruptly, he cut himself off. “Buck’s agreed to go with me to the meeting. Ms. Lewis said I should bring at least one other person with me, to show that all of us who broke with the Accords are in agreement. He’s not excited about seeing Tony, but he’ll do it. And I know that we can make this right. Once we sit down face-to-face-”
Natasha only listened with half an ear. This was what Darcy had been warning her about. Three emails, two cryptic and laughably vague voicemails and a handful of texts. She was certain the newest resident of Stark Tower had gotten that number from Laura, and was interested to find out how. Nat had been busy with Wanda and a few dozen Malaysian human traffickers, so she hadn’t responded yet. Steve’s revelation certainly pushed things into a new category of urgency.
The Winter Soldier and Tony Stark in the same room. Only Steve could begin to think that might end well.
Natasha held her phone between her shoulder and ear and pulled her tablet through her purse. She thumbed through the decrypted, passive-aggressive messages from Tony. With the other hand she took a skewer of dango from the tray as Wanda sat down.
Cary: Going to grace us with your presence at work today?
Cary: If you’ve found someone else, let me down easy. You know how jealous I get.
Cary: Bring me some mochi.
“-wanted to,” Steve was saying. “But I told him those guys wouldn’t all fit in the new safe house. Do you think-”
“Is this Steve?” Wanda asked pointing to the phone with cornstarch dusted fingers.
Clint had sent a text as well.
FarmerBrown: The chicken is in the pot.
FarmerBrown: It never gets old watching Sherwood stammer.
FarmerBrown: Can’t wait for reunion. Like antebellum porn.
Natasha quirked an eyebrow and offered her the phone. “Ask him about Stark’s new assistant.” Wanda quirked her own eyebrow but took the phone and complied. From across the tiny table Nat could hear Steve’s soft reprimand and a hint of sigh.
“She’s not an assistant. Ms. Lewis is -”
Natasha scrolled through the last message from Darcy.
575-555-0001: Do not let him do this. It could ruin everything. Only you can endure Mr. Righteous and Mr. Sarcastic at the same time.
She hadn’t thought her presence would be helpful at the upcoming talks in Canada. The Russians would be attending, and they still felt there was unfinished business with the top graduate of the Red Room. The Chinese would be there, and the delegate they were likely to attend still thought she was a geisha who was killed in an act of passion. And her relationship with Canada was…complicated.
Natasha knew there would be more than enough tension between Tony and Steve without her getting into the mix. She had been relying on Steve’s interest in Darcy and Darcy’s almost eerie connection with Tony to keep things civil. Or better than civil. Non-violent. If Steve was insistent on bringing Barnes into the mix – and Steve was nothing if not pig-headed – then Darcy might not be able to handle things alone. Natasha had tremendous respect for the young woman, but everyone had their limits.
“Wanda. Please tell our friend to go for a run. It will relieve stress. And that I have ordered him new clothes. He will wear them.” Wanda grinned and relayed the message while Natasha sent a group message to one of her resources and did another visual security sweep.
FedEx bringing sample. Find out everything.
The reply only took a few minutes. Impressive, given the time difference.
Dave: On it, boss.
Luis: Anything for you, ninja lady. I’m real tight with the delivery guy. He and my abuela’s cousin were in a band together, back before they crossed the border, they opened once for Cream, and… (1/23).
“He said to thank you for the clothes, but that he can shop for himself.” Wanda rolled her eyes. “Barely.”
“It is better to know these things and simply take care of them.” Natasha took back her phone and put it and her tablet away, reaching for another dango.
“You don’t know everything, lysytsya.” Wanda checked her tea to see if it was steeped. “Maybe someday someone will surprise you.” She reached for another daifuku.
“You have apricot filling on your cheek.” Natasha sipped her tea while Wanda sputtered and tried to wipe away non-existent evidence of confectionery theft. A convertible driven by a young Japanese man, traditional tattoos revealed by his folded back sleeves and the unbuttoned collar of his shirt, pulled up outside. “Get a to go box. And a dozen matcha mochi. Our ride is here.”