Bucky really doesn’t mean to eavesdrop. It wasn’t even unusual for him to be at the cafe this late, just around closing; he’s met Steve here after work plenty of times, usually to go grab dinner and study when he got off work.
Today, though, Bucky walks in and Steve isn’t at the counter like he usually is. He’s greeted instead by Tony, who, after all these visits, he’s come to know fairly well. God, Bucky knows more about Tony Stark than he cares to or should, really. Stevie’s been mooning over Tony basically since his first day at Espresso Yourself, the small coffee shop Tony owns. Because of course Stevie couldn’t just fall in love with a coworker, no. It had to be his boss to top it all off.
They have conversations at least once a week that go something like this:
“Why don’t you just tell him, Stevie. The worst he’ll say is he doesn’t feel the same way. You only live once, punk.”
Steve had scoffed. “Did you just YOLO me? You’re almost ten years too late for that, jerk. And the worst thing that could happen is he doesn’t feel that way about me and I have to work with him all the time. I can’t handle that, and I need this job.”
“You ever think he makes the schedule that way on purpose?”
Steve always insisted it was a coincidence.
So, now, Bucky sits in the back of the coffee shop, waiting for the music to go off and the lights to dim, but even as seven o’clock approaches, none of these things happen. He starts to wonder if Steve might have gotten off early and forgot to tell him, when he hears him, voice soft and unsure, behind the counter.
“Hey, uh, Tony, can I talk to you about something?” Steve’s saying. Bucky freezes. He can’t be…
“We’re already talking, Steven,” comes Tony’s reply. Bucky can almost hear the smile and wink that goes along with it; it’s no wonder Steve’s got it so bad, Tony flirts like he breathes.
“I’m sorry if this is weird or I’m reading things wrong, but I just… I’ve been thinking…” Oh god, he’s doing it, he’s really telling him right now.
“Oh no,” Tony interrupts. “You’re not quitting on me are you? I can adjust your schedule if you want? I need that smiling face and giddy optimism to get me through the day. You’re more crucial than coffee, Steve, and that’s coming from me.” This from the guy Steve insists doesn’t like him. Come on.
“No! No, I’m not quitting, I mean not yet, anyway. I wanted to tell you I’ve uh… kind of been having feelings...for you. Lately. I didn’t want to make it weird, but… you only live once, right?”
Bucky’s torn between cheering and yelling. Steve’s really up there using his line after giving him shit about it. Not to mention, he could use another cup of coffee if he’s going to keep sitting here, but now is clearly not the time to ask. Hell, Steve doesn’t even know he’s here.
“You...? For me?” For once, Tony seems to be unable to find something witty to say in response.
“I—yes.” Steve sounds more resolved and sure now. There’s no going back.
Too long, Bucky thinks but doesn’t say.
“Six months?” Steve replies, bashful once again.
“Six months? That’s, I mean, that’s the whole time you’ve worked here!” Tony sounds incredulous in a way that’s actually kind of adorable. “And you never said anything!”
“I know, but we work together! You’re technically my employer... I didn’t want to cross a line or make it weird and then have to see you every day.”
Tony’s quiet for a minute, then: “Y’know, Pepper didn’t think I should hire you?”
Oh shit. Where is this going? Bucky swallows. He really hadn’t signed up for this much stress when he came in to wait for Steve.
“After your interview, when you insisted there was some insane link between the patience needed for painting and the patience you need for making coffee, and therefore because you had experience with art, you’d make a good barista… I might have talked about you for the rest of the day, and Pepper insisted that I couldn’t make employment decisions based on the fact that you were, uh, cute and dateable.”
Tony blows out a breath. “So…”
Bucky hears Steve take a few steps, surely moving closer to Tony, then, quietly: “Six months, huh?”
They’re quiet for a few minutes after that, and Bucky really feels like he’s intruding on the moment, but it’s not like he can go up there now and interrupt.
“Oh,” Tony says finally, and Bucky tries not to notice that he sounds vaguely out of breath. “Bucky’s here. Corner tables like always. I feel like we should give him a free scone or something.”
Steve’s face is red when Bucky finally makes his way up to the counter, sheepish. They’re standing close together, smiling, and Steve’s hand is tucked in Tony’s like he can’t believe his luck. Bucky smiles, he really is happy for him. He’s going to give him hell later, but for now, he just flashes him a smile.
“You only live once, huh Stevie?”