Unlikely Singularities – Chapter 35


The Ring: Tomato Can Fight

November 21, 2016

Barnes waited until Darcy – she had argued that if they were going to embarrass Steve together then they should be on a first-name basis – gave him the nod before he opened the door to the little room where Steve and Natalia were waiting. Stark had left to go over some last-minute details with his lawyers, so he wouldn’t be there. Darcy had insisted on that – and had an intense conversation with the attorneys that was way over his head, and Barnes admitted that he didn’t even try to change her mind. It was Steve who had wanted to clear the air with Stark as soon as possible. Steve who had decided Barnes should do so at the meeting.

Barnes appreciated the logic behind it. It was better not to go into battle with things left unsaid, but he was also relieved. As much as he wanted, needed, to say some things to Stark, he also was dreading it. And it wasn’t as if Steve was a great example for good timing. That punk had never met a fight that could wait or an argument that might be better had elsewhere. It was a damn miracle he had lived long enough to get a body that could cash the checks his stupid mouth was always writing.

Good morning, Natasha,” Darcy swept in behind him and Barnes watched Steve carefully. His face was a polite mask of greeting, but his fingers were practically digging a hole through the leg of his pants – they were smoothing down the fabric so hard. Gotcha, punk. Barnes didn’t like being stuck in a building full of government officials – he hated being scanned at security. He really hated that he was armed only with a few non-metal knives and his prosthetic. But winding up Steve made things more bearable.

Captain,” Darcy continued. Barnes didn’t actually see the wink, but he knew it was there from the swing of her hips and tiny parting of Steve’s mouth. She pulled a travel mug from her huge bag and filled it with hot water and a tea bag before also extracting a lurid green drink. “Make sure Tony get this, would you? He gets antsy without his overdose of kale.”

Of course, Da – Ms. Lewis.” Steve cleared his throat and smiled, but it was a tight, almost nauseated thing. Barnes had a brief flash of memory of little Stevie Rogers hiding behind a trash can at school, some girl – he couldn’t remember a name – screaming bloody murder around the corner ‘cause the skinny kid had seen her in her underthings. Took a good day and a half for Steve to lose the glazed look off his face. Ah, to be young and in love, Barnes thought wickedly. Steve had done a decent job of shrugging off the ribbings from Barton and Wilson since the fire in Los Angles, but that smile told Barnes everything he needed to know. It was a good thing he liked Darcy, because he figured he’d be seeing a lot of her if Steve had his way.

Course, it was his job – his duty – as a friend to make sure Steve didn’t have it too easy.

You need help with that, doll?” Darcy was loading up a plate with a variety of expensive looking breakfast treats and juggling two disposable cups of fragrant coffee. Steve narrowed his eyes at Barnes behind Darcy’s back. He knew better than anyone when and where Barnes had used that nickname before. Probably better than Barnes himself did. “My hand ain’t so great for it,” he continued, barely keeping his grin smothered, “but I’m sure Steve’ll help you. He’s got a real delicate touch.” If anything, Steve’s glare grew hotter – enough so that Barnes was idly glad that Erksine hadn’t figured out that laser eye thing like in the old superman comics. Still, Sarah Rogers had drilled manners into her son like a Texan looking for oil. And he never could ignore a pretty face.

Ma’am,” Steve offered, hand out, then immediately winced. Natasha and Wanda had teased him mercilessly about his outdated language. He mostly didn’t use it anymore – which spoke to how unsettled he must be that it slipped out. Barnes smirked at him. Steve gave him the stink eye.

Darcy turned and waved Steve off, sliding her own mug into her bag and creating a dangerously tiered situation with a thick metal serving tray, the two cups of coffee, and the plate of baked goods. “Thanks, but you have more important things to do. Please try to stick to the notes I emailed you, and Natasha or Susan will text me if you need me.”

Barnes tried to think of a subtle reference to Steve’s needs, but he couldn’t find the balance between suggestive and innocent before the man opened his mouth again.

Susan?” Steve’s forehead was wrinkled in confusion. Barnes wanted to smack the back of his head. Who in their ever-lovin’ mind brought up another dame while they were talking to one as good-looking as Darcy? Steve. That’s who.

Tony’s legal counsel. Looks sort of like a bloodthirsty burnt sienna grandmother.”

I thought that was Paula?”

Darcy snorted at Steve’s mistake. “Yeah. Don’t let Tony introduce you to people. He never remembers names unless he wants to. So. Good luck with the dignitaries, and try not to start any more international conflicts than you absolutely have to.” She blew a kiss toward Natasha who nodded in response and then, finally, the suggestive smirk was back on Darcy’s face. Barnes might have a lot to be thankful for, but his life in a new century had lacked variety for entertainment. Darcy Lewis was aiming to remedy that.

Now, I have to go thank slash bribe some administrative personnel. If you’ll excuse me.”

Barnes tensed as a set of double doors opened wide and the Canadian Prime Minister entered with several other people that Barnes recognized from the preparatory files Darcy had sent out. Steve wasn’t in danger of anything other than irritation and blue balls, not necessarily in that order, so Barnes smiled and faded into the background, taking Darcy with him. He winked at her so she’d know they were the correct distance away to enact their plans. Only Steve, and maybe Natalia, would be able to hear them.

Darcy tucked her arm around Barnes’ metal elbow like they were stepping out together. He managed not to freeze up this time. “Barnes darling, I’ve had a marvelous time. While we wait for the grand poo-bahs to finish waving their dicks around, you must tell me everything embarrassing about young Steve Rogers.”

“Maybe I don’t remember,” he murmured. His eyes slid between the gorgeous dame and the blush that was crawling up the back of Stevie’s neck. Punk was walking away with the Prime Minister, but not far enough yet that his sensitive ears could miss her voice.

“Even better. Tell me a story, gorgeous, and don’t skimp on the details.”

Barnes couldn’t recall everything about their shared youth, a lot of the details were still blank and things would come to him suddenly when he wasn’t trying to remember anything. But he had his head screwed on well enough to know that Steve Rogers had done plenty that he wouldn’t want spread around town – especially that he wouldn’t want whispered in the ear of a girl he was sweet on. Steve was nervous for the meetings and tied up over the situation with Stark, he deserved a little distraction. And Barnes would readily admit that he mostly just wanted to watch his friend squirm.

Yeah, he thought with a snicker, you think about what you’ve done, young man.