"... And then, he didn't even offer to move his troll dolls! I had to play with them all over my side of the table!" Steve flailed around in his apartment as he got ready for his Thursday morning combat session, jumping on one foot to pull on his shoe.
"Uh huh," Friday replied.
"You can't just walk into a game late like that! It's rude! Plus I don't even know how he can walk anywhere in those jeans, they're obscene! There are seniors in attendance! Show some respect!" Steve cried, pouring a bowl of Froot Loops for breakfast on Saturday before plopping down heavily on his couch, chewing his cereal forcefully.
"Obscene," Friday repeated.
"He probably cheated," Steve grumbled Tuesday night after getting into bed, pounding the pillow under his head to try to mash it into a more comfortable shape. It wasn't cooperating. "He's probably some sort of swindler, rigging Bingo games and stealing social security numbers when nobody's looking."
"Right," Friday sighed.
"I hate him," Steve pouted on Wednesday morning, squeezing a blob of toothpaste onto his brush.
"With all due respect, Captain," Friday's voice came through tiredly over the intercom in his bathroom, (could an AI even be tired though? She sounded tired), "based upon the ample information you have provided me with this week, I believe you may be confusing your hatred for James with a combination of both jealousy and attraction."
Steve sputtered incoherently, almost choking on his toothbrush as toothpaste speckles hit the mirror. "That's… no. That's not right. You must be mistaken. I haven't really explained that much, so I can see how you would maybe think that, but no. Did I mention his jeans-"
"I have just reviewed over 15 hours of audio of yourself describing James, along with a number of human psychology texts, and can confirm I am not mistaken. He has done nothing to warrant hatred of any sort. Statistically speaking, it is very likely you are both jealous and enamored."
Steve rolled his eyes, spitting into the sink. " What do you even know?" He muttered under his breath.
"Almost everything," Friday replied cheerfully.
Steve didn't have a response for that.
"They're obscene! Offensive even!" Steve flapped his arms towards where James was standing at the other side of the room, surrounded by his Bingo groupies. His legs were encased in a different yet equally skin tight pair of jeans this week, and Steve was feeling… overwhelmed. With hatred.
They were all laughing at something James must have said, all the little old ladies cackling around him as James leaned back against a table, his arms crossed and resting against pecs that stood out prominently thanks to the snug black t-shirt he was wearing. The shirt was obviously well worn, the black faded to almost a deep grey, and the material was so thin that a small hole had developed up near one tanned collarbone. It was tiny, but Steve's enhanced vision picked up on it almost immediately, and his eyes kept wanting to jump back to that spot for some reason. James had a lazy grin on his face as everyone laughed around him, and his muscles flexed smoothly as he reached up to adjust the messy bun his dark, chin length hair was captured in today. Steve wanted to reach out and- Punch him. Yeah.
"Offensive!" Steve repeated. His rage was making him feel all hot and sweaty.
"I am also offended," Ruth agreed calmly from beside him, adding a packet of sweetner to her paper coffee cup. "He's teasing us with those outfits. He should just show up naked next time so I can stop imagining things and die happy, knowing exactly what's under those clothes. Is his Bingo dauber still in his pocket, or is that just him?"
"RUTH!" Steve cried, scandalized, his outburst turning the heads of everyone in the Bingo hall, James included. (James did not in fact have his Bingo dauber in his pocket still, which Steve knew because he had watched him set up his trolls and Bingo area very carefully not even ten minutes before. His star-shaped dauber was ready and waiting at his seat, right beside where Steve had already laid his own cards down previously. Everything going on in James' pants right now was 100% James, but Steve wasn't going to tell Ruth that.)
Since he chose not to answer the question, they ended up standing there awkwardly as everyone stared at them before Ruth finally broke the silence. "I almost added real sugar to my coffee," she fibbed to the room at large, gesturing to her cup. "I'm at risk for diabetes, and Steven just wanted to stop me before it was too late."
The awkward tension in the room started to dissipate, everyone turning back to their own conversations, but James didn't move, keeping his attention firmly locked on Steve from across the hall. It was extremely unnerving, and Steve shuffled around a bit, straightening the napkins on the snack table before pouring his own cup of coffee, his hands feeling useless and clumsy for some reason. He could feel James' eyes on his back the entire time, and Steve was suddenly thankful the caffeine wouldn't affect his enhanced metabolism. He was jittery enough as it was today.
in a moment of saving grace, Myrtle suddenly appeared at the podium at the front of the room, Zinaida at her side, and she greeted everyone cheerfully before asking that they all take their seats so the game could begin.
Steve shuffled hastily to his spot, extremely conscious of James as he sauntered over to his seat beside Steve, sliding down into the plastic chair easily and spreading his legs slightly as he slumped into a more comfortable position. Steve instantly felt bad for every person who ever had to ride the subway with him; his manspreading was ridiculous.
Steve's anger-heat kicked up another notch at the sight.
As the ball cage rolled and Steve waited for the first number to be called, he uncapped his pink dauber and cast an eye towards the trolls that littered the table beside him. James had not been late today so he had had time to set up his space, and the dolls were positioned in an arc around the top of his cards, their weird wisps of hair and jeweled belly buttons taunting Steve with their exuberance. They were placed top to bottom according to the ROY-G-BIV colour scale, and it took Steve entirely too long to piece together that they created a rainbow in this formation.
James, the leather jacket toting, old lady charming, thick thigh having arch nemesis of Steve's life, had a rainbow of 50-something troll dolls above his Bingo cards right now.
A warm and spicy musk hit Steve's nostrils suddenly, and then James was leaning into his personal bubble of space, reaching across in front of Steve to press his dauber to a G-54 Steve had apparently missed while he had been... Gathering intel.
"Wouldn't want you to fall behind," James murmured in his slight Russian drawl, so close to Steve that he could feel the warm puff of his breath against the shell of his ear.
"I don't need your help," Steve whispered fiercely in response, not daring to turn his head even a fraction in that direction.
Steve couldn't see his face, but he heard the smirk in James' voice when he spoke nonetheless. "I never said you did."
He leaned back in his own seat again, facing the front of the room and going back to marking his cards as if nothing had happened, and Steve finally let out the breath he didn't know he had been holding, his brain nonsensically firing random tingles up and down his spine.
Steve was definitely falling behind now and shook his head to clear it, daubing his cards with vigor as he tried to get himself back in the game.
James didn't lean over to help him again, but when he chanced a look in the other man's direction, his full lips still held that infuriating smirk.
Steve stayed for five rounds that particular Wednesday, winning none and watching sourly as James collected another $10 prize.
He gathered his used cards quickly at the end, his body suddenly demanding he get some air after being forced to inhale James' unique scent for the last two hours, and only gave a jerking nod to the Brooklyn Centre regulars before beating a hasty retreat, finally feeling like he could breathe again once he stepped out onto the sidewalk.
He still had his playing cards clutched tightly in one hand when he made it home, and Steve found himself hesitating when he held them over his recycle bin, that red star searing into his vision like a brand.
In the end, all the cards except one made it into the bin, the one with the red star finding a place on his nightstand instead.
Steve decidedly did not think about why.