There's something about a motorcycle. Darcy's loved them ever since the first time she saw one parked on the pavement, sitting there all shiny and pretty and definitely somebody's baby. Her mother tells a story, occasionally, of how when she was on placement for six months and far from home, the supervisor told her and everyone they'd be learning two things that had nothing to do with their course while they were under her thumb – and Carrie Johnson had learned how to sew, and how to ride a motorcycle.
Which just meant that when Darcy wanted to get her motorcycle license, her mother had no room to make any objections. She did, however, insist on all the safety gear. It made her look like a goth astronaut, and was absolutely hell in summer. As soon as Darcy moved out of her mother's house, she sold the massive, armoured and padded over-trousers. She kept the jacket until the armour in it started rubbing holes in the lining, and then she got a leather jacket. Not armoured or padded, but kinda quilted-ish. It was from the men's section, and would go over her jumpers if she was that cold, but wouldn't make her boil ever.
Darcy also owned lots of jeans, and had exactly zero shoes that didn't cover her ankle.
Of course, she learned to drive a car too. It was just practical. Cars were good for getting to places dry on rainy days, for wearing a skirt anywhere, and for travelling in company. Also, long distances were more comfortable in a car than on a motorcycle. It really didn't matter how hot it was, driving for half an hour at fifty miles an hour would see fingers going numb and getting stiff from the wind-chill and tight grip on the handlebars.
Darcy didn't actually own a motorcycle. She ghosted her hands about an inch above the shiny metal of other people's motorcycles and cooed. She stared longingly at the beauty of them. She actually owned a motor-scooter. It wasn't some pathetic thing though, okay? It was two-hundred and fifty CC, and okay that's not a touring bike, but it was still big enough for a big, sprawling city, even one with hills like San Fran, which was where she'd been living when she bought it. The key difference between a scooter and a bike (apart from how you sat on them) was that the scooter was equivalent to an automatic, where as with a bike you had to change gears manually.
With your foot. As if doing it by hand weren't hard enough.
Point was, Darcy liked motorbikes. She liked them so much that one dorm mate in college had predicted that she'd get done for public indecency because of it one day, and another had suggested she name her "scooter-bike-whatever 'crotch rocket'" (and had referred to it as such ever since, despite Darcy's protests).
Another thing Darcy liked? She liked a guy who knew what he was doing when it came to fixing shit. Her dad had been that kind of traditional home handy husband. He'd been trained as an electrician when he'd been in the army during 'Nam, but had also taught high school shop classes once upon a time. Wood shop, metal, motors. Alfred Lewis had even taught his little girl how to change the oil on her scooter for herself, so she didn't have to go to the mechanic every roughly-twelve-months and pay money for someone else to do it for her.
So, there was Darcy Lewis, twenty-ish years old (no, she wasn't saying exactly, she liked to make people guess), a political science major with no job prospects (but she'd known that going in, she'd chosen based on her interests, not because she was all fired up about getting a job, even taking the economic climate into consideration), but otherwise completely capable of taking care of herself.
And anybody else, for that matter.
Speaking of which.
Darcy stared, silent and slack-jawed at the man who was on his back underneath the absolutely gorgeous motorcycle that was perched on a skinny, fold-out, aluminium platform and up on its centre stand. He had a rag in one hand, a toolbox by his hip, smudges of road-ash on his face (no doubt transferred there by dirty fingers), and was tightening something deep within the bike with his metal hand.
He was, incidentally, wearing a shirt that had clearly once been bright red (before it had been washed so many times it had faded to a 'dusky red', because no, that wasn't pink, but it was definitely faded red), sleeves rolled up to his elbows, and the shirt-tails actually tucked into the jeans he was wearing around his waist. Instead of around his knees like the truly pathetic I-think-I'm-so-tough idiots that walked the streets these days.
Darcy did not want to see a guy's underwear unless she was sharing his bedroom and cupboard.
He even wore a belt, and boots with the laces done up properly.
That he was humming along to the music that was playing from the radio, which was tuned to the station that played the 'golden oldies', and had a nice voice to boot...
"Marry me?" she asked.
Beneath the motorbike, the guy's head swivelled so he was looking down his chest and up at her – much more sensible than popping up, because then he'd have hit his head.
Okay, that had been a rugged jawline she'd seen before, but those were absolutely killer blue eyes – this guy was ticking all the boxes. He could fix stuff, had a nice singing voice and good taste in music, knew how to wear clothes and was damn attractive on top of that. Now, if he could give hug as well as her papa could...
"That's a bit forward for not even having been introduced," he pointed out, his voice just a little rumbly but not quite as deep as a true bass. He rolled out from under the bike, stood up, and oh he was tall too. Well, definitely taller than her. By a head at least, which meant – if hugged – she'd be able to tuck her head into that little dip between shoulder and pectoral.
Tick, tick, tick!
"Darcy Lewis, nanny to absent-minded genius scientists, student of political science prior to graduating college," Darcy presented herself, and stuck her hand out for him to shake.
He wiped his hands, both of them, on the rag. Got most of the smuts off too. Then he wrapped her little hand in his big, warm, slightly-calloused (flesh) one, and shook it gently, though his grip was properly firm. (Another tick!)
"James Barnes," he answered. "Army Vet in recovery."
"Some reason you're doing maintenance on your bike out here in Central Park, Mr Barnes?" Darcy asked with genuine curiosity and a smile as she let the handshake go.
"I might have some issues with claustrophobia," he explained a tad sheepishly, as he wiped at his hands with his rag again. "There's some paranoia too, but this part of the park generally gets only one or two people through it at this time of day."
"I get that," Darcy said, accepting. "My daddy was a soldier in Vietnam. He can't sleep when it's raining without taking sleeping pills. Um..."
"You like coffee?" he asked.
"Live on it," she answered promptly.
"I found a nice place over on Third that does great coffee," he offered, "and I just finished fixing my ride. If you don't have a problem with riding a motorbike... Let me get cleaned up a bit, I could treat you?" he offered, with a quick gesture to the nearby public restroom.
"First up, I don't mind a bit of road ash and engine oil. Second, I'm not wearing a skirt today, so if you've got a spare helmet, I'm good with that proposition," she agreed easily.
"Doll, that wasn't a proposition, that was an invitation," James corrected her with a devastatingly charming smile. "After I've taken you to a movie, a fancy dinner, and we've gone dancing, then we'll see about a proposition."
"I like the sound of that," she admitted happily.
"It's a date then," James declared, his voice a firm, smooth murmur. "Give me five to get cleaned up."