Budget Week: Tommy, et al
February 16, 2017
Half of the heads around the table turned to stare. The other half were looking anywhere else, as if hoping that might give them the appearance that they hadn’t heard, didn’t know that guy, and oh-gosh-I-actually-have-things-and-stuff-to-do-right-now-so-sorry-must-dash. Darcy womanfully repressed the urge to bang her face against her own tablet. Tommy continued talking, completely oblivious to the tone of the room.
“A significant other would really soften her image, make her more approachable. And if we set aside funds for it, we could ensure that they went on some nice dates somewhere public – secluded, but not pretentious. I’m not saying we should hire an escort or something – the opposite. Her choice, any man – or woman…actually,” Tommy paused, and Darcy prayed harder than she had ever prayed before that he would shut the fuck up. Or have a spontaneous seizure and hit his head on the floor – falling unconscious. Or dead. Dead wouldn’t be entirely bad.
“A woman might be better. Makes her more relatable and checks some boxes with the LGBTQ community that we are really missing right now. I think Portia de Rossi is single, and demographic surveys suggest-”
“I’m gonna stop you right there, Tom.” Darcy held up her hand, and then continued holding it there while she tried to find the phrasing that wouldn’t be construed as making the workplace an unsafe environment. “This idea…is jump starting a lot of avenues for me.” Like the one where I get charged with intent to solicit. Also, the one where I stab you in the mouth. Repeatedly. “Definitely a lot to think about there.” Like how minority populations are more than poll numbers and how Natasha will destroy Tommy if he suggests her image needs ‘softening’. “Let me noodle on that for a while, say until-” Hell freezes over or Jane takes up needlepoint, whichever comes last. “-next quarter, after the budget is finalized. I think we have enough goals for this year that we can wait to possibly revisit a,” Darcy could feel the words coming out of her mouth and taste the bitter oil of stupidity they left behind, “Consort Display line item next year.”
Tommy nodded, disappointed but understanding, and Darcy quickly decided that she could wrap up the rest of the general budget herself.
“Okay, people. Good job today. Go ahead and get things prepped for tomorrow and then take off early if you want. One more day and then budget week is over.” There were smiles and thanks and one lonely woo among the crowd as they filed out of the conference room. As soon as the door closed, Darcy did let her head fall onto the table.
“If I may, Ms. Lewis?”
“Go ahead, Friday.” Darcy waved at the ceiling. “Let me have it.”
“I have been attempting to extrapolate the outcomes of potential scenarios from the behaviors and interactions of the individuals I monitor, and I am…unable to determine why you retain the services of Thomas Woodbridge.”
“Oh, really?” Darcy sat back in her chair, taking the last swallow of her cold coffee and grimacing through the taste. Whatever Friday had to say was sure to be interesting, so she wanted to be awake for it.
“He is socially awkward, unable to speak to most of the Avengers and fleeing the room when he encounters Mr. Stark. His co-workers seem to dislike interacting with him and have, on three separate occasions, claimed lunch plans and left the building – abandoning the lunches they brought with them, rather than sit in the breakroom with him. And, if it is not too inappropriate for me to state, I do not think you like him.”
“All of those things are true, Friday. Too, too true.”
“Then why not, as Ms. Potts has put it, help him not to work here?”
“Two things. One. Tommy is a wordsmith. A goddamn genius with spin. He could take a picture of Bucky Barnes stepping on a puppy and with a few keystrokes have the entire internet feeling oh-so sorry for and desirous of helping that brave POW in his efforts to make a friend that they would be sending the man chew toys, dog ownership for dummies books, and offering to give him one-on-one tutorials in ‘companionship’.” Darcy made air quotes and smiled at the thought. For a brief moment considering taking Bucky to an animal shelter – just to see the look on his face when she suggested that the ‘tweeters’ would like to see him with a bosom buddy.
“That,” she continued, “I could get over. He would be hard to replace, but not impossible. This is New York. I could have a hundred applicants just as skilled and drooling to work with the Avengers in here for an interview tomorrow. But, unfortunately – or fortunately for him, I guess, Tommy has one other useful skill.”
“I am afraid I do not understand, Ms. Lewis.”
“He’s a taste maker. A trendsetter. Dude has a social media following that makes the Kardashians look like amateurs. I know in person he has all the personality of a four-day-old clam, but through the filter of virtual reality he is apparently very likable. When he put out that thing about Sam having a nice pair of boots, Sam got a quarter of a million followers within twenty-four hours on Twitter and the company that makes the boots sold out in three days. In every country. They called to see if he’d be a spokesman for them.”
There was a long silence. Darcy had begun to clean up her area, assuming that Friday was done with the conversation, when the AI spoke.
“If I am understanding correctly, you continue to employ someone who is excellent at his job but unable to work with people because Sam Wilson now gets free footwear.”
Darcy grinned. “Pretty much. Really,” she set her empty mug and half eaten bagel in the bin for housekeeping services to take care of when they came by to clean, “my biggest complaint isn’t even the nervous hand wringing when Steve comes by or the bizarre and suicidal-adjacent suggestions re: Natasha’s love life.” She gathered up her tablet, phone, and discarded blazer and started for the door. “I hired him almost four fucking months ago and that ungrateful little snot hasn’t put my fabulousness on instagram even once. Where are my free shoes, huh Friday? Where?”
“Is this, then, a termination-level offense?”
“You bet your sweet server banks.”