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“What the hell was all that?” Bucky’s not fully raving, but he’s getting there. It’s the summer for god’s sake, and coffee shops should not be this full for this long into the afternoon.

Bucky had gotten the job at the coffee shop several years ago, mostly due to the fact that he had practically lived there during college. It didn't hurt that his buddy Clint had been working there as well, so when a spot opened up, Bucky had slid neatly in to the chaotic happiness of barista life.

He wouldn’t call himself a purist exactly, but he’s willing to draw a strong line between a coffee shop and an ice cream shop. Which they are not, thank you, except that they seem to turn into one every summer season. He’d leave, but the tips are good and management puts up with his shenanigans better than most places. Bless the non-corporate business owner.

Clint’s just staring at him, leaning against the back bar. The rush has died down, the place is empty, and Bucky turns away from the messy tables. He just needs a moment.

“Did you see that monstrosity? Like, caramel and toffee nut? With the whipped cream and then asking for a third syrup? Like, I hope he’s not lactose intolerant or else he’s gonna go into diabetic shock when he’s on the can.”

Bucky knows, deep in his heart, that he’s overreacting. But this guy, this dude goes and orders this sugar loaded mess after taking his sweet-ass time and making the line build up eight people deep. The icing on the proverbial cake was that while he was spelling his order out to Clint, he kept glancing over at Bucky, who was ready to just get started on something, even if it meant fucking around with the espresso shots challenge again (His personal best was six before Clint had stepped in).

“I bet he’s never worked retail before, with manners like that. The line’s for picking your order and figuring out the most efficient way to say it. Did you see how fast it all went once he got his ass out of the way? And holy shit, do you think he can even taste anything he even got us to put in there? Like, I get that coffee nuance isn’t for everyone, but you don’t have to scrub your taste buds off with that much sugar just to make a drinkable drink.”

Clint holds up a finger. “Okay, but you order those ridiculous sugary holiday specials. What about that dark chocolate orange mocha you mainlined during December?”

“I got those small, and the flavor is light and nuanced. I make sure of that. Also to better up-sell them to customers. That’s why management loves me.” He bulldozes through Clint’s skeptical look with a blown kiss. “And that has nothing to do with the sugar-filled fuckery I just wasted time on for a dude who didn’t tip. And,no,” he pauses when Clint starts to make a horrified face. “I am not being loud and petty, just loudly accurate.”

Clint just points, and when Bucky turns around, he jumps, finding said Non-Tipping Sugar Dude standing at the counter behind him. Like, right behind him. Close enough for Bucky to hear the guy’s stuttered breathing. Close enough for him to count the faint freckles scattered across his nose. Close enough to see Sugar Dude’s eye widen in concern and oh fuck, Bucky’s staring.

“Don’t think you noticed it earlier with all the chaos, but the door noise maker’s broken.” Clint breaks the abrupt awkward silence, then moves to busy himself with the dishes in the corner.

“Oh fuu…”

“Umm, I got this for you,” Sugar Dude puts the drink on the counter and gently pushes it towards Bucky. At Bucky’s frozen look, he tries to clarify. “I saw your pins and stuff, and thought you might like it.”

Sugar Dude is cautiously reaching towards him, towards Bucky’s chest and he can see how the finger is trembling. He looks down when it stops, hovering over one of his favorite pins. It’s an enamel blue and bronze eagle in a rainbow scarf. When he looks up, he finds Sugar Guy watching him.

“Ravenclaw, right?”

Bucky can only nod dumbly. This is not how things were supposed to go today.

“I thought you might like it,” he repeats, “based on what your friend here told me.” He nods towards Clint. “But I get it if it’s too much for you. The drink or the, y’know. I don’t want to assume or anything,” he pauses, runs his hand through his hair. “Looks like I might’ve crossed that line already though.” Sugar Guy huffs out a hollow laugh, the sound twisting through Bucky’s heart and fuck, why isn’t the floor swallowing him up yet.

Bucky just gapes at the drink, all previous frustration punched out of him. The whipped cream’s starting to melt, sliding down the sides, and out of the corner of his eye he can see that Sugar Guy’s hand is sticky with the white mess as well. He finds he can’t look away from the slow slide, how it starts to puddle on the counter and he startles when the silence is broken by clattering ceramic.

“Oops.” Clint’s looking at them, wide-eyed with arms full of falling coffee mugs. “Little help here?”

Bucky moves to help balance him back out, and soon everything’s safely grounded on the counter. It suddenly seems easier to speak without looking at those eyes staring guiltily back at him.

“So, I wanna, I mean. I’m…” he turns around to face an almost empty spot. The drink’s still there though, although most of its toppings have migrated to the counter. Set just far enough away to escape the oncoming whipped cream tsunami is one of the store’s business cards. Bucky moves towards it but doesn’t want to pick it up:

I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable, that wasn’t my intent. -S

Bucky takes a sip of the drink. It tastes like everything he had hoped it would.

 

===

 

Bucky’s never been nervous at work before. Not like this.

Sure, when he flips the whipped cream canister, he holds his breath until it’s back in his grip, ready to shoot, but that’s normal nerves, work nerves. They don’t even count anymore.

But this. This is some middle school bullshit nerves, the way his heart skitters in his chest when a tall silhouette catches the corner of his eye. When he almost mixes his apology with an order confirmation and the poor woman is left staring at him.

“Not enough coffee yet, funnily enough,” he manages to get out, and thankfully she understands.

He loses track of how many shifts pass in that same manner, but it’s enough to where even Clint has stopped giving him shit for it (which doesn’t help the nerves situation). He keeps himself busy, working through inventory and practicing new drinks.

Bucky realizes that, much like reverse-image search, the same can be done with food and drink ingredients.

 

===

 

It’s a slow afternoon when he sees Sugar Dude again. Despite all of his over-thought out plans on how to face him again, it’s when Bucky’s leaning against the counter, daydreaming out the windows, that Sugar Dude walks by, idly glancing in the open door.

Bucky’s sucked-in gasp turns into a cough, and when he looks up Sugar Dude is walking towards him. Oh no.

“Hey, are you okay? I heard the choking…” Bucky’s distracted by the ridiculous blue-ness of the man’s eyes, only followed by the level of concern he’s looking at Bucky with. Bucky can only nod his head, trying to reassure himself as much as Sugar Dude. Which...

“You bought me butterbeer,” Bucky states. “Without knowing anything about me.”

“Your name is James,” Sugar Guy nods towards Bucky’s name tag. “I’m Steve. And I did double check before going through with it. ”

“I’m glad to meet you, Steve,” Bucky can’t help the grin that lights up his face. “But please, my friends call me Bucky.”