The thing about working in a bar in New York City is that you never really know who's going to be next through the door. It could be a businessman, an artist, an Avenger. You never really know. You just stand back and hope it's not Deadpool. So when someone's hunched down over the bar, mumbling to himself, I don't give him a hard time. At first I figured he was a tourist - accent, you know? But after a while I started to wonder, and wondering meant circling a little closer every time I finished serving a drink to someone else.
"I can't say I didn't deserve a slap or the like," the fellow said, setting his empty glass back on the counter and gesturing for a refill. "But no, she had to use magic." It was the first time he'd raised his voice enough for me to hear him clearly.
"Excuse me?" I wasn't sure if I'd heard him correctly, however. Was it the alcohol talking? Or had the rumpled fellow with the short, blond hair and the brown, similarly-rumpled trenchcoat had actually meant that? We weren't that far from Mutant Town, after all.
He stayed hunched over, talking to the glass. I wasn't sure he'd heard me. "Wasn't my fault I went out for fags, was it? But I suppose I've left her hanging too many times, so next thing I know she's snapping 'revossorc' at me and I'm in bloody New York City."
Even working at a bar in New York City, with all the weird clientele you might expect - tourists, runaways, future Broadway stars and failed superheroes - something about him stood out. Maybe it was the fact that he was so casual about it. Hero-types usually talked like there was a line between real life and spandex, never letting one blur into the other unless they were already three sheets to the wind. This guy, though, I couldn't picture him in a costume at all, and here he was talking about magic as nonchalant as if he was the Scarlet Witch.
"Revossorc?" I asked, unable to stop myself. The sounds were awkward in my mouth and the look he gave me was more so. I wondered if he'd just noticed I was there.
"'s how she does her thing. Talks backwards. Doesn't usually take it out on me, though, unless I deserve it."
"It happens," I said, refilling his glass. "Don't think I caught your name."
"Call me John if you fancy me, luv."
"John, then. Thank you. So then what happened?"
"There I am in Times Square, right? Still looking a right mess, and along comes some sodding supervillain-type, tearing up the street. I've met ol' blue eyes and the rest of the Justice League and generally I want no part of that brand of destruction - I ruin my own things well enough, thanks - so I did my best to get out of the line of fire."
"And you got out without a scratch? Pretty lucky." By now I was leaning on my elbows, just listening.
"Luck ain't my thing. Timing, maybe. Time's a little easier to keep control of. You just got to rub her the right way, eh?" He nudged the glass my way and I refilled it again. "So then a fella in a suit of armor-"
"That'd be Iron Man."
"He says something about my energy signature being off and I'm holding my hands up, trying to slide out of there real catlike if I can. Then the big blond one comes over to me and says 'Thou art a newcomer to this plane, then? Verily, the Odinson doth welcome you!'"
He does me the courtesy of only looking a little annoyed that I'm interrupting him. "Thor, eh? God of thunder? I think I've heard of him. Fella name of Gently in a bar once- but never mind."
I have to admit I was a bit disappointed he wasn't going to finish that sentence.
The bar door opened and one of our regulars came in, a guy by the name of Logan. Good tipper, and half the time he makes up the difference for not having a bouncer.
"Hold that thought," I told John, starting on Logan's usual, but after a quick nod, Logan stopped right next to my new patron.
"You Constantine?" Logan asked. John looked him up and down, a little wary.
"Depends who's asking, mate."
"Captain America sent me to round you up, bub. We're going to go see Doc Strange down in Soho. He thinks he's got some kind of Amalgam spell that ought to do the trick."
John shrugged, finished his drink, and stood up. "Guess my chariot awaits." John tossed a bill on the counter and gave me a half-cocked smile. I reached for it before realizing it wasn't green at all. After a moment's thought I sorted out the purple color and the woman's face; it was a twenty pound note.
I slid it back to him. "Keep it. You'll spend it when you get home, buy your lady something nice."
He smiled at that. "Sorry, luv, but you know why I haven't got anything else."
"Sure," I told him. I wasn't completely sure I believed his story, but I hadn't particularly been expecting him to pay once he got started talking. The story was interesting, anyway.
John and Logan both turned away and started for the door, but after a moment, John turned back.
"It's rude to leave a lady hanging," he said, reaching toward me. I didn't recognize the gesture at first, but when his fingertips brushed my ear, I had a sense of deja vu to when my grandfather used to pull nickels from behind my ears.
The gold piece John dropped in my hand was heavy, too heavy to be fake. I did a double-take at it and then looked up just as he and Logan reached the door.
He waved, just a brief motion, and then disappeared out the door.