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Why Piles of Money Unite People in Florida
(In which Steve Rogers is a billionaire and Tony Stark is rich)
One thing you will learn as a writer, if not from experience with your own works, is that stories are like the weather. There’s no way to avoid it, but sometimes it can be fun, especially on the days when everything seems a little more manageable. A few months ago, one such day was sunny and perfect for a walk along Lake Worth’s beach. It was just about noon when Steve finally got around to leaving his warm, comfortable office to get some air after having spent hours on the phone. As he walked out, though, Steve noticed that something felt different. He couldn’t put his finger on what it was, but something seemed… off. He decided he’d take another quick look at where he left his car and then make his way over to the beach.
The sand seemed darker than usual and there wasn’t anyone else around. In fact, the only sound other than the gentle waves crashing against the shoreline was the buzz of a nearby radio station playing soft rock music. The wind rustled the leaves on several trees lining the beach, sending them fluttering to the ground in small clusters while the sun glinted off the water behind him. He took a deep breath and stretched out his arms as he continued walking along the beach. He was still far enough away from where he’d parked to see that the back end of his car was facing away from him and, upon further inspection, he found why. Someone had taken his car keys and thrown them across the beach into the distance.
Steve froze in shock, staring out into the distance at nothing but ocean before he suddenly snapped out of it.
“No,” he whispered quietly, shaking his head as he quickly turned to jog down the beach. As he ran, he reached inside his pocket to grab his cell phone. Before he could even hit speed dial, he remembered that he didn’t have reception. He’d stopped in the middle of the empty beach and looked up to see the sun peering through thick clouds that threatened to block out the entire sky. There was no sign of civilization anywhere and Steve wondered whether this was a good idea. If someone was waiting here, they might try to stop him if they saw him coming and, if they happened to be armed, Steve knew that all bets were off. Still, there was no turning back now and he set off running again towards his car. Once he got closer, he caught sight of one person sitting in the driver’s seat with their face in their hands, completely ignoring what was going on around them.
He slowed down as he approached the car and came to a complete stop in front of the person seated in the driver’s seat. His heart started pounding once more as he recognized who the driver was and, more importantly, how he knew that he should be terrified right now but wasn’t at all. Steve watched as the guy continued staring out at the sea before turning his face slightly to face him.
“Tony?” Steve called softly, causing the man to jolt.
“Shit!” Tony yelled as he scrambled away from the car. He quickly jumped into the driver’s side and slammed the door shut. “Are you insane? You nearly gave me a fucking heart attack!”
Steve smiled faintly and leaned against the hood of his car. “I thought I lost you there,” he said.
Tony shook his head. “I’m still pissed off about the whole thing, but it’s okay. You need anything besides death to keep you awake?”
Steve laughed. “Sorry, Tony, but this time I think it’s the last thing on my mind.” He paused a moment, wondering how exactly he was supposed to explain this situation without sounding stupid or crazy. Instead, Steve decided to go with honesty. “Something’s weird today and I wanted to know what it was,” he explained as casually as possible.
Tony raised an eyebrow and cocked his head slightly. “Well, for starters, it’s kind of early in the morning for your type of weirdness.”
Steve rolled his eyes. “Yes, well, this isn’t just any kind of weirdness. This is serious, Tony. I mean, really seriously serious.”
Tony chuckled and looked over at Steve. “Oh, yeah? How so?”
“Because…” Steve paused briefly, trying to figure out where to start. He let out a sigh, knowing that this was going to be tough. But he also knew that Tony was one of those people who would listen to whatever he had to say even if he thought Steve was crazy. That was something he appreciated. “You’re probably going to laugh at me.”
Tony sighed. “Well, it’s about time, I guess. I already feel like you’ve been talking to yourself, you know?”
Steve frowned. “What do you mean, talked to myself?”
“Like, you know, mumbled under your breath?”
“Yeah, I figured it was a bad habit of yours.”
Steve shook his head. “It’s not that… Tony, what is wrong with you?”
“What?” Tony asked incredulously, looking genuinely confused.
Steve took a deep breath and rubbed his forehead. “Do you want me to spell it out for you? Because I can, I swear.”
“Nah, it’s cool, Cap. Just tell me what’s going on.”
“Okay, well… I went down to the docks yesterday afternoon and we had a bunch of tourists there with their families and they were all standing around in little groups, looking out into the water and stuff, and one of them was saying how beautiful this place looks at sunrise, and then the next thing I know they’re all jumping into the water and swimming out to where it’s shallowest. Then I heard someone shout, ‘Surfing!’ and a few minutes later they came out of the water, dripping wet and laughing. And then…” Steve trailed off, unsure of how best to describe what had happened. Part of him wanted to believe that he hadn’t really seen anything, but there was the distinct impression that he had.
“Wait, what?” Tony interrupted, his brow furrowing. “Did you say they were doing what I think they were doing?”
“Uh, yeah. Like the others. They were all wearing these big rubber boards that they were using to surf, except instead of surfing they were… floating.”
Tony stared at him for a long moment, seemingly unable to speak. Eventually, though, he cleared his throat and spoke in a quiet voice. “That… actually sounds pretty plausible, actually. Why did no one call the police or anything?”
Steve shrugged. “No one told us to leave. Besides, everyone knows that you can’t call the cops on things that don’t involve getting in trouble.”
“I know that, I know that, but there’s definitely something weird going on and, honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you guys were seeing ghosts. After all, you never did find that ghost, did you?”
Steve sighed. “No, Tony, I didn’t find him. At least, not that I ever found.” Tony opened his mouth to respond, but Steve cut him off again. “But don’t you worry about it, Stark. We’ll find him.”
“Who said anything about worry, Harrington? Let’s just forget about all of this and-“
“-Let’s do our jobs instead?” Steve suggested. “I know. I get it. We should focus on finding this ghost first. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t talk and catch a break every now and then, does it?”
Tony looked unconvinced, but nodded his agreement anyway.
Steve glanced up at the sky, watching the sun slowly lower over the horizon. “So, what’re we supposed to do about breakfast? What should we eat first?”
“We can always grab a bite from the restaurant,” Tony offered, “or you can go ahead and pick something up at the diner down on Fifth Avenue. Whatever. Whatever works for you,” Tony added, smiling lightly as he leaned back in his seat. He placed his feet up on his dash and stretched out his legs across the dashboard.
Steve shook his head and turned to stare at him. “Seriously? Do you really think that’s smart? It’s a bit late for you to start eating healthy.”
“Well, I’m not gonna die,” Tony insisted, sticking out his tongue playfully.
Steve rolled his eyes as Tony made some sort of gesture with his hand which Steve assumed was meant to signify food before placing both hands back on the wheel.
They stayed silent for a moment until Tony cleared his throat and asked, “So, you wanna go check out the diner or what?”
Steve grinned and hopped up onto the hood. “Sounds like fun to me.”
As Steve pulled into a parking space on his street, he realized that he had forgotten to text Bucky back. He’d promised him he would stay home when work got busy and Steve was feeling guilty over letting him worry about something like this.
He sighed heavily as he stepped out of his car. He’d have to walk the rest of the way to the diner because he was too lazy to drive anymore.
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