Everybody's bathing in Holy Water,

Ain't enough going around,

Raise their cups, wipe their crowns

You're sitting on a gold-stained alter

Jungle Youth | Young the Giant


Prologue | Close Encounters of the Star Kind


On her first day working at Warner Bros. Latte—the atrociously named café on the Warner Bros. lot—Darcy Lewis, young and naive as she was back then, served her first famous customer. She can remember every single detail about the encounter: For Los Angeles in May, the temperature was oddly cool and there was a biting wind in the air that caused her to arrive at work wearing a scarf; her cat, Sergeant Tibbs, had left grey smatterings of fur on her only pair of black trousers, so she had tied her white apron low enough that customers would be blind to her legs; her boss, Loki, had yelled at her for being on time for her shift and not ten minutes early.

Also, there was a rumour that a certain really very famous actor was going to be on the lot that day for some reshoots he had to do.

James Buchanan Barnes. Romanian-born, American-raised.

Handsome and supposedly charming, James Buchanan Barnes had been the talk of the town practically since he was an infant after "starring" in his first film in which he played his real-life father's son in the Academy Award winning movie Winter Baby. A lover of movies, Darcy was thrilled by the idea that there was a possibility of her breathing the same air as the young actor, who, by that time, was 25 years old.

Giddy with unbridled excitement and sweating profusely with nerves, Darcy had entered the cafe to the smell of roasting coffee beans and hope for a bright future. Who knew at that point which famous actors or producers or even measly boom operators would walk in, spot her, and hand her an audition. She was ready to give out her details to anybody who seemed remotely interested. Of course, most of the people she was working with were struggling actors, and Loki had told her that the majority of them had been working alongside him—also a struggling actor—for many years. But she was confident in her abilities. She hadn't travelled all the way from San Fransisco only to be run out of town by the crippling fear of failure.

She was going to break out of her shell in Los Angeles. Come into her own and make a name for herself. That was why she had signed up for all of those acting classes and taken part in those silly, lovable community theatre plays. Because, like that old Shakespeare guy had suggested, she was more than prepared to have some greatness thrust upon her. It was high time her amazingness be witnessed by the world.

An hour into her first shift as she worked the register—which was old and really confusing (according to Loki it was all a part of the charm of the place)—the bell that hung above the front entrance to the cafe rang out. Darcy still was unused to the sound and she jumped when it reached her ears, head jerking up towards the door. A body was walking towards her. Dressed head-to-toe in black—black jeans, t-shirt, shoes, baseball cap, sunglasses—the figure wore an almost animalistic snarl. He (definitely a he, she had no doubt) carried himself towards her with a smug cloud surrounding him.

Darcy had seen enough movies to recognise the lower half of the person's face as he stood before her. The dimple in his chin kind of gave him away. It was James Buchanan Barnes. In the flesh. Clipping his fingernails on the countertop as he stared at the menu above Darcy's head.

A sickening tempest of worry and apprehension clashed inside of her. She was not prepared for this. Yes, there was a small portion in the instructional video she had been sent when she got the job that discussed very briefly what to do when an actor walked into the café, but all of the tips from the video leaked out of Darcy's ears. She had no clue how to handle this situation. Did she have enough time to escape into the back and call Loki up to deal with one of the most famous actors in Hollywood? He seemed very focused on the menu board. He probably wouldn't even notice if she disappeared and was replaced by a freakishly tall male.

But, because it was just her luck, the moment she felt ready to run away and force Loki to take her place, James Buchanan Barnes lowered his sunglasses and stared Darcy right in the eye. The soft blue of his eyes, the tenderness and the warmth she found in them, contrasted the harshness of the rest of his body. And just like that she was starstruck and completely unable to move.

She had the nagging suspicion she was supposed to say something. Darcy blinked repeatedly, hoping the words would come to her. "Uh, right," she said lamely. Her voice was small and shaky. She winced. "What can I get for you?"

James Buchanan Barnes' lips curved in a half-smile. He was totally laughing at her. "You guys keep changing the menu," he pointed out. Briefly, his eyes flicked back up at the board. "Every time I'm in here, it's different."

What did she say to something like that? That video certainly had no tips about making smalltalk with the elite and beautiful.

"I'm new here," she said, hoping that was enough of an explanation for him.

James Buchanan Barnes nodded, seeming to accept her answer. "I'll just have a small, black coffee."

"Got it." Darcy punched buttons on the register, but nothing happened. Her face heating, she tried again to no avail. "I mentioned that I'm new, right?" she asked, going for it again.

"You did," he conceded.

There was that hint of laughter in his voice again. She was making such a fool of herself.

On the fourth try, the register dinged and opened. Darcy sighed with relief and turned her attention back to James Buchanan Barnes. He was almost smiling at her. God, her insides had entirely atrophied.

"$2.50," she said, throat shaking. Wait, was she supposed to give it to him for free? She was, wasn't she. "Never mind," she corrected quickly. "No, it's on the house."

James Buchanan Barnes took out his wallet despite her pleas. "I insist," he said, pulling out a tenner.

Darcy's quivering, sweaty hand grabbed at the note. She put it in the register and started counting out change.

"Keep it."

Darcy looked up, confused.

"The change," he explained, walking away, "keep it."

Nodding like an idiot, Darcy dropped the coins she had gathered and shut the register. James Buchanan Barnes took a seat at one of the bar stools near the entrance as Darcy prepared his drink. She could not believe what had just happened. Had he been flirting with her? Part of her felt he had been flirting. God, she wondered just how red her face was. Forget her face, her entire body. She bet she looked like some big-breasted tomato.

Oh, no wonder he had been flirting. She was used to guys paying her more attention because of her large chest. Why should it be any different with famous guys?

But she hadn't spotted him staring at anything below her neck.

Darcy, he's rich and famous. He flirts with everyone. It's basically half of his job to schmooze.

That made sense. James Buchanan Barnes made a living starring in films. To promote those films, he had to embark on press tours which included the dreaded interview clock in which journalists and YouTube stars alike rotated, asking the same questions over and over. He had been brought up in a world where he had to be nice to everybody. Even terrified baristas.

Good on him for remembering his manners.

Placing a strip of cardboard around the cup of small, black coffee, Darcy went around the counter and headed towards James Buchanan Barnes. As she walked, she was momentarily distracted by the bell dinging. When she recognised one of her coworkers coming back from their fifteen, she returned her attention to the task at hand. Unfortunately, she was a bit too late. James Buchanan Barnes had stood. Darcy gasped, seeing what was about to happen, knowing she could do absolutely nothing to stop the catastrophe.

Darcy Lewis, in all of her glory, collided with James Buchanan Barnes. Coffee flew in the air and landed over the two of them, dousing them in scalding liquid.

"Shit!" Darcy exclaimed. "I am so, so, so, so"—

—"Save it!" James Buchanan Barnes was angry. The sharpness of his tone nearly knocked Darcy to the floor. He growled as he bent to pick up the coffee cup. Crushing it in his hands, he shoved it in Darcy's chest. "Refund," he ordered. Darcy stood there, dripping and even more red than before. "Now!"

Hot, raging tears bubbled, but Darcy would not cry. Not here. Not in front of everybody. Especially not in front of fucking James Buchanan Barnes.

Retreating from the scene, she chucked the coffee cup in the bin and walked carefully towards the register. Obviously, the old machine felt sorry for her: it opened on her first try. She grabbed at the ten dollar bill, having to stop herself from squashing it in her fist, and walked back to the actor. He was drying himself off with some napkins. Only they were cheap and useless and were doing a good job of leaving white lint on his black clothes.

He grabbed at the note. "I should have you fired," he seethed.

"I don't think I need your help to get fired," she spat in response.

James Buchanan Barnes' eyes—which had entirely lost their softness from earlier—blossomed in surprise. Darcy bet people rarely talked back to him, but she was not one to go down without a fight.

The meathead actor was at a loss for words. He grumbled something unintelligible before straightening his jacket and storming out of the cafe. There weren't many other patrons that morning, but the three people sitting at various spots around the room all stared at her with their mouths hanging open.

Darcy was about to run into the back room and have a good cry, but she spotted James Buchanan Barnes' pristine leather wallet. Groaning, she snatched it and ran to chase after him. She caught up to him a few feet away from the café.

"You forgot this!" she called to him.

He swerved around, face contorted in rage. He snatched his wallet from her. "I'm not going to thank you."

"I'm not looking for any phrase that could be taken as gratitude. Don't worry."

"Good, because you're not going to get one."

"I didn't ask for one, so I don't really care."

There were no more words said between them. They turned on their heels and went their separate ways. Him in the direction of fame and glory, her in the direction of misery and minimum wage.

Darcy recalled this encounter every so often. Her coworkers loved to bring it up. The day Darcy Lewis verbally sparred with two-time Academy Award nominated actor James Buchanan Barnes. It was practically a historical event at Warner Bros. Latte. They all insist she won the exchange.

Loki hadn't fired her. She told him what had happened and offered him her apron, but he had laughed and refused to let her go. Three years on and they were now the best of friends. Roommates, even, along with another girl who worked at the café, Jane. They were all struggling actors grasping for any audition they could find.

Following her encounter with James Buchanan Barnes, Darcy had learned to not treat famous people any differently from other customers. Yes, she still had to offer up their orders free of charge, but other than that, they were regular people. It made her laugh how quickly she had become jaded. No longer were these actors rare butterflies that needed to be treated with the utmost care and affection. They were regular citizens to Darcy. Every so often, one would be thrown by her nonchalance and ask to see her manager, but Loki, no matter the person asking for Darcy's removal, would never fire her. And that was pretty damn great.


That's all I remember,

Then everything's black