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Just About Half-Past Ten

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It’s perfectly nice weather when Bucky gets off the train and walks to Barnes & Noble to buy Becca’s birthday gift.

It’s still fairly nice, if suddenly ominously cloudy, when he steps out of the store, stuffing the book into his briefcase. Commute and a pressing errand done, and he still has over twenty minutes until his meeting; what timing, Barnes, his ma would be proud.

But as he reaches Madison Avenue, Stark Tower a mere block away, the skies open with a whoosh, and he barely manages to duck under the construction scaffolding perched over the sidewalk. Thunder rumbles overhead, and Bucky frantically checks every compartment of his bag for an umbrella he knows is there.

It’s not. He does find some loose glitter, though, and a lipstick he wore for Pride and had thought he’d lost, plus a spare MetroCard he can’t remember buying.

He also gets a crystal clear flashback of leaving the umbrella under his desk to dry yesterday morning, and never picking it up again.

Bucky bites his lip, contemplating a mad dash through the rain to clear the last block. His clients would probably understand if his appearance was a little watered down, since the weather in New York sucks on a regular basis. But he’s got his best suit on and his laptop and Becca’s book in the briefcase, and it took him twenty minutes this morning to get his hair under control. Running into the downpour would very likely end up in a complete disaster.

Maybe the rain will stop in a minute; it’s a summer storm after all.

Five minutes later he’s still under the scaffolding, dodging leaks, and the weather isn’t giving any sign of easing up.

“Fuck,” he mumbles under his breath, checking his watch. He has exactly thirteen minutes before the presentation, but it’s cutting way too close for his liking.

“Hey,” someone says with a light touch on Bucky’s elbow, and when Bucky looks up (and up, Christ, the guy is tall), there’s the most glorious beard he has ever seen up close next to him.

It’s perfectly groomed and looks really soft to touch, and Bucky’s fingers are twitching with the urge before he can register the rest of the guy. The beard is growing on a very nice face that’s attached to a very nice body, and Bucky stops himself just in time to make it look like he was merely checking the guy out and not full-on ogling.

(He wants to ogle. Holy shit does he want to. He hasn’t seen anybody work the white t-shirt and dark jeans combo so well in his life, and he lives in fucking Williamsburg.)

“Hey,” Bucky says, stupidly. And because the stranger has really pretty eyes and extremely warm smile, and because Bucky swears his insides turn into vanilla pudding for a minute, he blurts out the first thing that comes to his mind. “Is it raining men?”

Beautiful Beard huffs out a surprised laugh. “Nope, came out of the store behind you.” He’s got the kind of voice that makes Bucky want to turn around and bend over the newspaper distribution box next to them. “Noticed that you’ve been waiting out here for a while. No umbrella?”

Bucky grimaces, rubbing his cheekbone self-consciously. “No, forgot it at work. I have a meeting in ten minutes so I was praying for the rain to stop.”

Beautiful Beard makes a commiserating sound, then lifts his hand to show the tall umbrella he’s carrying. “Where are you heading? I can walk you.”

“Really?” Bucky isn’t proud of the way his eyes widen and his voice goes a little breathy with relief. “Just to Stark Tower, I got this close and then got stranded.”

Beautiful Beard laughs, then fucking offers Bucky his arm like an old-time gentleman, because the light is just about to change. “Let me help, then.”

Bucky takes the offered arm and clutches his briefcase close to his stomach with his free hand to keep it dry. The umbrella is gigantic, easily covering Bucky and most of Beautiful Beard, and if the fit is tight on his side, it’s only because of his stupidly broad shoulders. Bucky wants to wrap his legs around them.

There’s water running in streams down the street, and Bucky prays for his good loafers as they cross the street and approach a growing puddle in the curb.

“I’m Steve,” Beautiful Beard says as he puts his free right hand out to steady Bucky, helping him to step over the puddle. Bucky’s pretty sure that Steve takes most of his weight in the process and doesn’t even blink an eye about it. He’s clearly strong as hell, muscles bulging under his shirt, and-- look, Bucky’s poor gay heart wasn’t made to handle this shit, all right?

Charming, considerate guys who could bench press him and who look like they stepped out of an Armani ad are rare breed and absolutely dangerous, and for a second Bucky absolutely believes that Steve really dropped from the sky with the downpour.

“I’m Bucky,” he says to cover how he’s suddenly at least twenty degrees warmer under his collar.

“Bucky,” Steve says warmly, like he’s tasting the name, and this time Bucky’s whole body turns into pudding. “You work for Stark Industries?”

“Nah,” Bucky says. A guy dashing through the rain past them throws him a dirty look, and Bucky looks smugly back; Steve’s the exact kinda guy every twunk in New York hopes to get escorted by, and he’s enjoying every second. “I’m with an architecture firm downtown. This is just a client meeting.”

“Yeah?” Steve’s expression brightens even more, if possible. “You’re an architect? I wanted to be one when I was a kid. Never got around to it, though, because of the war.”

“Oh,” Bucky says. Fuck, if he’d known that military boys were this hot and courteous, he would have accepted his Marine friend’s blind date setup offers ages ago. “It’s never too late?” he offers lamely as they cross Park Avenue and reach Stark Tower. “If you’re out of the service, you can always try the G.I. Bill.”

Steve grins brightly, but there’s something soft in his eyes, like he’s torn between fond and amused. “True,” he says as they step under the awning in front of the main doors. He doesn’t put the umbrella down, and as Bucky looks up at him, it feels like they’re in their own bubble, untouchable by the world outside.

“Thank you,” Bucky blurts out. “You really saved me, hope you didn’t go too much out of your way.”

“Nah,” Steve says. “I’m just next door.”

Then he cups Bucky’s jaw carefully with his big, broad hand and brushes Bucky’s cheekbone with his thumb, and Bucky promptly forgets how to breathe.

“Glitter,” Steve says as he pulls back and shows his hand. It’s the same glitter that was in Bucky’s bag and which he apparently accidentally rubbed on himself like a goddamn amateur. But Steve’s looking down at Bucky like he never wants their odd rain walk to end, and Bucky feels himself go red as a fire truck, realizing that he’s still holding onto Steve’s arm and standing way, way too close.

He swallows, willing his flush to go away, and reluctantly lets go. Steve’s still watching him with that same, open expression, and Bucky’s about to open his mouth and say… well, probably something he shouldn’t - but then he happens to glance at his watch and realizes that he has four minutes to get through security and make it to his meeting.

“Shit,” he says, panicked, “fuck, I gotta go,” and frantically fishes his business card case from his breast pocket, shoves one into Steve’s hand. “Here’s my card, um, call me if you want to, um, talk about architecture or make out or something. Jesus, I’m sorry, you’re really hot, so, uh, thanks again, bye.”

He flees through the revolving doors and to the reception area as quickly as he can, brick red and mortified. But when he braves a glance back on his way to the elevator, Steve’s still standing outside, looking down at Bucky’s business card and smiling from ear to ear.


“I’m so sorry I’m late,” Bucky says as the assistant shows him into the meeting room, three minutes late. At least his awkward blush has gone down in the time it took to reach the 65th floor. “The weather took me by surprise.”

A senior executive waves a hand at him, looking sympathetic. “No problem, Mr Barnes. Please take a seat, Morris will bring coffee. We’re still waiting for some people before we can begin, including Mr Stark. ”

“Mr Stark is here,” Tony says as he breezes into the room. He pauses to shake Bucky’s hand, tilting his head. “You know, Barnes, I just heard the most interesting thing from JARVIS.”

Bucky cocks an eyebrow, accepting the handshake. He’s been on this project for a couple of months, now, and mostly gotten used to Tony’s quirks. “Something that my security clearance allows me to know?”

Tony grins like a shark and flings himself into the closest chair. “When I asked if you’d arrived yet, JARVIS informed me that you’d just strolled up to the Tower on our dear Captain’s arm. Vintage charm appealing to you?”

Bucky blinks as he sits down and starts pulling his laptop out. “What?”

Tony leans his chin into his palm and stares at Bucky across the table. “Since when has Cap been your Prince Charming, Barnes? How could you keep something this big from me, I thought we were friends.”

Bucky frowns, opens his mouth. “He wasn’t --”

Bucky closes his mouth.

A tall, buff guy called Steve, helps a stranger in need, had to give up a dream career for an unspecified war.


Tony’s eyebrows are steadily climbing towards his hairline. The executives in the room are either rolling their eyes at Tony or resolutely ignoring them both.

Bucky clears his throat. His professional credibility is taking a real nosedive, thanks to Tony. “He’s not my Prince Charming,” he mumbles.

“But you hope he would be,” Tony says with a gleam in his eye, clearly delighted. “My god, this is the best thing that’s happened to me in weeks. JARVIS, tell Steve that Barnes’s meeting ends at twelve o’clock sharp.”

“Oh my god,” Bucky says and covers his face with his laptop, because he can feel it heat up again in mortification. “Can we just-- look at the plan for the second floor, and forget about this?”

“Of course, of course,” Tony says and takes a long, loud slurp from his coffee. “It’s perfectly alright to let Steve into your second floor, you know. He’s got a really great stamina.”


When Bucky gets out of the - thankfully otherwise professional - meeting, Steve’s waiting for him in the lobby.

“Hey,” Bucky says, because he’s a dumbass who told Captain America that he wanted to make out with him, and doesn’t regret it at all.

Okay, just a little. He’s a social disaster.

“Hey,” Steve says, grinning, and brandishes his closed umbrella. It’s still raining outside. “Are you free to grab some lunch? We could, you know, talk about architecture. And maybe make out, or something.”

“You’re never gonna let me live that down, aren’t you?” Bucky asks, muffled by his hands. “In my defense, I was in a hurry, you are really hot, and I didn’t know who you were.”

Steve tugs Bucky’s hands off his face and smiles at him, offering his arm. “I liked it,” he says. “And you’re gorgeous, so wanna get out of here?”

It should be cheesy, but from Steve’s mouth it sounds hundred percent genuine, and Bucky gives up and laughs, shaking his head in defeat.

“Lead the way, Gene Kelly,” he says, and takes Steve’s arm.