07:30 SGR departs Coney Island Design & Construction (A- 22)
07:53 SGR arrives Central Tile Company (A-96)
08:22 SGR departs Central Tile Company (A-96)
08:47 SGR arrives 959 74th Street (A- 96)
Natasha was drinking coffee and reading through the latest crop of papers when she looked up to find Barnes standing in the doorway to the bedroom, looking pale. "Hey," she said, "should you be out of—"
"Where is he?" Barnes asked, a little thickly. "Did he go?"
"He went, yeah." She made her voice sound casual. "But should you be—"
"I’m fine," Barnes said, and went, a little unsteadily, to the sofa. "You think he’d go if I wasn’t?"
"No," Natasha said, after a moment. "No, I guess he wouldn’t." She glanced, briefly, at the stack of older papers piled on the sofa cushion next to Barnes, and then said, as casually as she could manage, "Coffee’s up – do you want some?"
"No thank you," Barnes said absently, but turned to look at her anyway. "He went to work?"
"Yeah." She made a face at him. "I thought maybe he wouldn’t since the van’s blocked in, but he just took the motorcycle. On the up side," she added, wryly, "you’ve got a $400,000 car in your driveway. Tony’s surveillance vehicle – you should check it out."
Barnes rubbed the heel of his hand against his forehead; not taking the bait. "Where did he go, 74th Street?"
Natasha sighed. "Yeah. To the Croydens."
"Going to finish their kitchen," Barnes muttered. "Course he is."
"Oh, it’s worse than that." Natasha found herself unaccountably irritated. "He said he's going to give them some money back because—"
Barnes put his hands over his eyes and half laughed. "Oh, Christ."
"—it was supposed be done by Thanksgiving and it wasn’t," Natasha finished. "Minor setback: just a terrorist attack on New York City. Christ, you won’t need the CIA to shut the business down if Steve keeps on—"
"You’re hired," Barnes said wryly, and then, frowning: "Are they shutting us down?"
"I don’t know," Natasha admitted grumpily. "Nobody knows. None of my sources—Nobody seems to know what’s happening."
"Well, I certainly don’t," Barnes said. "I’ve been on a total news blackout, courtesy of you know who." His metal hand dropped on top of the pile of papers, and she realized he’d been aware of them all along; well, of course he had. They were what he’d come out for, like as not.
She bit her lip, considering; Barnes was looking straight at her, maybe daring her to say something. Steve had been pretty insistent about keeping the newspapers out of the bedroom while Barnes was recovering, and he’d yanked the radio and television plugs out of the wall. But…
She shrugged and abruptly gave way. "I think you should look at them," she said seriously. "They’re about you, after all, and…well, they’re pretty interesting if you ask me. I wouldn’t mind having someone to talk them over with. Steve's…too angry to think straight."
"Since 1936," Barnes agreed, and dragged the topmost paper onto his lap.
"No," Natasha said, getting up and going to sit on the other side of the pile of papers. "If you’re going to do it, start from the bottom – that’s the first one." She tugged out a copy of The New York Trumpet from last week and handed it to him. "You guys sure do get a lot of papers. Now I know who's keeping print journalism alive."
"Old habits," Bucky said vaguely; his eyes were already on the headline: "Howling Commando James Buchanan Barnes, Reported KIA in 1945, Sighted at S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters in NYC." Beneath that, in small caps, the sub-headers: "EVIDENCE OF AN EXPANDED SUPERSOLDIER PROGRAM," and "SGT. BARNES, BORN 1917, IS NEARLY 100 YEARS OLD."