“ Our bodies were printed as blank pages
to be filled with the ink of our hearts .”
The space next to Steve’s tattoo parlor has been empty for a few months now. It’s a beautiful place, with an antique-like front. It was a Jewelry store before but when the owner died a few months ago, it quickly closed and has been unoccupied since then. It clashes just a little bit with Steve’s own store that is more modern looking, with big windows and art pieces hanging from them. He heard from Tony, who owns most of the buildings on Brooklyn Street, that it was rented by a florist. It made Steve snort because wow , what a bit cliché ; the flower shop and the tattoo place.
Steve watches the renovations unfold for a few weeks, weirdly happy that the new tenant kept the front of the store almost intact, restoring it instead of changing it. They stuck with the old-ish vibe and Steve could already picture the windows filled with greeneries and flowers. It’s going to look really pretty , he thinks. Maybe he could buy a few plants for the shop, it would be nice to bring up a bit of life to compliment the colorful artworks on the walls.
Quickly enough, there’s a sign above the door. It’s hanging there just like it did back in the days and Steve thinks it fits really well with the rest of the aesthetic. It says Brooklyn’s Blossoms in a pretty white cursive font, surrounded by green and golden leaves.
On the opening day, there are quite a lot of people at the flower shop. There’s a huge lilac banner hung across the front of it saying OPENING DAY and there’s a lot of circulation. Even a few people stop by the tattoo shop to look at Steve’s art hanging in the windows, and he sets a few consultations for future projects. He wanted to go in and take a look at the new shop for himself but he had two big appointments that day, both a few hours each and by the end of the day his back and stomach were yelling at him to go home.
Steve is quite pleasantly surprised, though, when about a week later, he finally meets the owner of said flower shop. Well… surprised sure is one of the many strong feelings battling within Steve when he lets his eyes fall on the man in front of him.
First of all, he is gorgeous . He’s tall and muscular with long brown hair tied up at the back of his head. His shoulders are broad and his thighs thick and strong looking. He is clad in a pair of black and ripped skinny jeans doing wonders for his ass and a denim shirt, worn open over a white t-shirt that sports a few dark green stains. There’s a few silver necklaces dangling from his throat, catching Steve’s attention to the beauty of the man’s neck and collarbones. The shirt’s sleeves are rolled up to his elbows, showing a left arm that is covered in tattoos. He is holding a huge bouquet of flowers in his hand as he introduces himself to Nat who holds the front desk.
Steve almost melts into a puddle right there on the dark wood floor of his tattoo shop. He swallows with difficulties when Nat says, “Oh, there’s Steve!” and the man’s beautiful silvery blue eyes turn on him and a bright smile lights up his face.
"Steve!" the man says, walking the few steps separating them and handing the huge bouquet to Steve. "Natasha told me you were the owner? I made this for you guys," he says gesturing to the arrangement of flowers Steve is now holding. He looks down at it, and it's the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. There’s some yellow and peach roses, some hydrangea, and a bright bird of paradise in the middle of it, and it looks like it is sitting on the green leaves. Steve takes a mental note to look up all the meanings of those pretty flowers later. It looks like happiness tied up with a beautiful ribbon.
"You shouldn't have, really, we're the ones who should be giving you a welcoming present," Steve says, smiling the best he can to the man and wishing he wasn’t blushing too much.
"It's my pleasure really, I just love plants and flowers," the man says with a shrug and he looks a bit embarrassed which is the most adorable thing Steve has ever seen.
"I'm James," he finally adds, extending his hand to shake Steve's. "But my friends call me Bucky."
Steve stands there. Unmoving. Staring at James’ —Bucky’s— offering hand, but his own arms are full of bright and fragrant flowers so he just awkwardly walks around Bucky to give them to Nat and turns around to properly shake hands with the florist.
"Sorry... um... yes, Nice to meet you Bucky! Welcome to Brooklyn Street," Steve finally says. Bucky's hands are soft and warm, his grip is firm and strong but also just so… nice? Steve wouldn't mind feeling those hands all over him. He notices thick silver bands around a few of his fingers and leather bracelets on his wrist. Bucky is just lovely from head to toe. Like Steve’s wildest dream as a person. Bucky’s eyes grow bright when Steve instantly uses his friendly nickname and Steve just can’t look away. They are both smiling and shaking hands for way too long before Natasha clears her throat and asks Steve if he wants her to put the flowers in a vase or something.
"Oh! Yes, please do! We have some in the backstore, I think? It would look nice on the front desk."
Nat disappears holding the bouquet in her hands, leaving Bucky and Steve alone in the middle of the tattoo shop. Bucky looks around at the art around the walls, hands now in the pockets of his jeans.
"Those look amazing," he says as he starts walking around to look a bit closer at the frames. They are mostly Steve's artwork but there are also some from Wanda and Carol as well, the two other artists working with Steve.
Bucky turns around with wide eyes when he spots Steve's signature at the bottom of one of the bigger pieces, "You did this ?"
"Yeah," Steve says, feeling suddenly a bit shy at Bucky's praises. He feels his face heat up and he looks down, rubbing nervously at his neck. He is still a bit surprised when people compliment his work, even after years of doing it.
"It’s beautiful! Are you selling them?"
Steve only nods, still staring at the man in front of him and not really believing the fact he is ready to buy some of Steve's art already, they only just met. But there is something so eager, so honest, laced with Bucky’s voice.
"I have to go back to my store now, but I'll definitely come back later to get a better look. My apartment needs a bit of brightness," Bucky says, and he sounds almost disappointed about it. He sends a beautiful smile Steve's way and he adds, "Tell Nat it was a pleasure meeting her, okay?"
"Yeah! Yeah, of course, Bucky," Steve says, unable to fight his own answering smile.
The florist walks out with a last smile and a friendly wave and Steve stands there for way too long looking out of the windows and listening to the echo of the little bells above the door. He is startled when Nat comes back with the flowers now resting in a nice vase filled with water.
"Well, someone got a crush pretty quick," she tells him, her bright red lips stretched in a teasing smirk.
"Oh shut up!" Steve grumbles, walking to his work station and pulling his markers from his messenger bag. Throughout the day, he keeps staring at the flowers, marveling over the fact they just fit so well in the store. Bucky really has a way with them , Steve thinks.
Both Wanda and Carol happily comment on the bright bouquet of flowers when they get in about an hour later. Natasha is more than happy to recount Bucky’s visit to them, Carol had started googling immediately, telling them about the meaning of those flowers: “New beginnings, appreciation and sincerity, gratitude, freedom and joy. Wow that’s sweet as fuck.”
“Is he hot?” Wanda asks, turning towards Steve, wiggling her eyebrows at him.
“Very,” Nat says for him and Steve pretends to concentrate on the tattoo design he is working on, trying to ignore them as best as he can. “But with the way he looked at Steve, I think we’re not really his type.”
“Fuck off, he did not ,” Steve mumbles, adding more bright pink to the peonies he’s coloring.
He hears Wanda quick steps approaching him and when he raises his head, she’s right there in his face, a bright smile on her lovely face. Steve can’t ever get mad at Wanda, she's just.... ugh . Why is she so soft and adorable? She’s also a bit scary. He surrounded himself with quite the bunch of strong independent women. Maybe he should rename the shop to their names or something...
“What?” He asks her with a sigh, shoulders dropping as he looks up at her.
“Did he flirt with you? Is he your type? What was his name? Will he come back?”
Steve can’t help but laugh at her enthusiasm. He lifts his glasses and rubs a hand over his tired eyes.
“No. Yes. Bucky, I don’t know,” he says, admitting with a reluctant sigh that Bucky is his type. Very much so. But to be honest, Steve’s type is just, strong, soft looking men. And that’s just what Bucky seems to be, really.
Wanda skips back to Nat and Carol, as they start giggling and Steve decides he better go back to his drawing, not without shaking his head fondly at them. He loves them so much. He really does, but he would like for them to stop trying to set him up with every attractive man they see. The first one was Sam, who’s a firefighter they often see at Peggy’s dinner but Sam is married already, to a very attractive paramedic named Riley. They could have asked him that before pushing him Steve’s way but no , of course he had to learn that the hard way himself. Sam did become one of Steve’s best friends so, in the end he can’t really be mad at them.
But after that, they tried setting him up with Thor, the very friendly mechanic in their neighborhood. He’s built like a brick house and his laughter lights up the whole room every time he’s here. He looks like he could probably lift a car with his bare hands and as much as Steve’s body was attracted to him, they are far too different to work as anything more than just friends.
Steve gives it to them. The girls did understand very quickly the soft, strong men Steve likes to go for.
At the end of the day, when Steve closes up the shop, he sees a bit of light coming from the back of Bucky’s flower shop. They don’t know each other enough for Steve to knock on the door. He probably won’t open it, anyway, since the little Closed sign is now turned around in the window. Steve doesn’t know why he feels so drawn to Bucky already. He’s not usually shy, but Bucky already plays on his nerves in a way it rarely happened before. If Steve is being honest with himself, he did think about Bucky all day. While drawing, while tattooing clients, and every time he walked to the front desk, met with the bright flowers, he was thinking about him. They only talked for what, five minutes? Ugh. Steve is way too old for hopeless crushes like that.
The next morning, when Steve gets in a bit earlier than usual to get some work done before the girls clock in, he arrives at the same time as Bucky. Next to him stands a pretty brunette with long wavy hair, the very same shade as Bucky’s, but put together in two intricate braids. Bucky spots Steve immediately and calls out his name, face lighting up in a bright smile. The woman also turns around and her eyes also look just like Bucky’s (not that Steve paid that much attention to the man’s eyes, AH!). She is a head shorter than him and looks way more intimidating than he does, but apart from that, Steve’s pretty certain she’s Bucky’s sister.
“Hey, good morning!” Steve tells them, keys dangling from his fingers, as he nervously closes his other hand around one of the straps of his backpack.
“This is my sister Rebecca,” Bucky tells him. “She works with me.”
“Nice to meet you! I’m Steve. I own the tattoo shop,” he tells her, letting go of his bag to shake her hand. She smiles instantly, shaking his hand in return and sending a knowing look to Bucky before telling Steve she’s very happy to meet him too.
“Is there a place for good coffee on this street?” Bucky asks him, while Rebecca busies herself opening the front door. She gives one last wave to Steve before going inside, switching on the lights and getting busy with opening, leaving them alone on the sidewalk.
“Oh! Yeah, you have Peggy’s a little bit down the street. It’s a dinner, with 40’s vibes but the food and coffee are really good. She serves everything really, and she usually opens around 6 in the morning.”
“Thanks Steve, you’re the best,” Bucky says reaching out and squeezing at Steve’s arm softly. His hands are warm and dry, and they are just a bit rough, but in a nice way. Those are hard working hands , Steve thinks.
“You’re very welcome. Tell her I’m sending you, she’ll give you a muffin,” Steve says with a small laugh, still giddy from Bucky’s touch.
“I’ll do just that,” Bucky tells him, voice soft and warm and he looks at Steve just a beat too long, before wishing him a good day and turning around. Steve watches him walk the very few steps between their stores, enjoying the cut of Bucky’s leather jacket, and how his hair is only half up today, soft brown curls falling down to his wide shoulders.
He turns around quickly before Bucky notices he is still standing there looking at him, and he unlocks the front door, almost banging into it, before quickly slipping in. He tries as best as he can to control the erratic beat of his heart. It was just a look, just a smile and he’s already sweating. He turns the light on and gets to the front desk, turns the computer on and he finds himself smiling dumbly as he waits for it to load, looking at the bright flowers and thinking about the feel of Bucky’s big hand against his palm.
Later that morning, while he is at the front desk setting an appointment with a regular client of his, Bucky walks in with a paper tray full of coffee cups, holding a paper bag in his other hand. Steve sends a small smile his way before focussing back on his client and Bucky starts wandering around the store. Nat and Carol are both at their stations at the back, and it’s Wanda’s day off, so it’s just him and Bucky. And the client who’s about to leave, of course.
Steve is excited by her project, but he is also distracted, completely unable to ignore Bucky waiting behind her. When she gets her wallet out of her purse to give Steve his deposit, he almost sighs in relief, he hides it well as he smiles brightly at her, saying how he can’t wait to start designing her wonderful ideas.
“Steve, you’re just the best, I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with that,” she says, waving one last time at him and then she is out of the door.
“Hey,” Bucky says, finally getting closer and putting the coffees and bag on the counter in front of Steve. “I asked Peggy what you guys liked. I brought some for the girls as well... and ,” he digs in the bag and gets a lemon poppy seed muffin out of it with a flourish. “She told me you were quite the fan of those.”
Steve’s mouth waters at the sight of the citrussy goodness. They really are his favorite. He’s going to have a word or two with Peggy, though. She just met Bucky and she’s already telling all of Steve’s deep secrets to him. He grabs the paper cup with his name on it and of course, it’s the way he always takes it, with just a splash of cream and no sugar. Bucky smiles knowingly at him when Steve can’t help but moan in delight as he bites into Peggy’s wonderful muffin.
“Thank you, Bucky,” he says to him, smiling back. He focuses on his coffee, not really knowing what to say to him, as Bucky is just standing there smiling at him. “I’ll give the girls their own once they are done with their current work, they are in the back,” Steve adds, wrapping his hands around his own warm cup of coffee.
“You do that,” Bucky says, leaning down with his forearm against the counter, now on eye level with Steve. He is close, and Steve is surrounded again by the wonderful smell of him. He smells green, earthy, and fresh. He smells alive , Steve thinks dumbly. Here on display is his left arm, filled with ink. Steve can’t help but look down at it. It’s great work. Leaves, flowers and cactuses, like a botanical garden, right there tattooed on Bucky’s golden skin. It looks amazing. He almost reaches out to trace the shapes of it with the tip of his fingers.
“That’s really good work,” Steve tells him, looking back up into Bucky’s eyes.
“Why, thank you Steve. You do great stuff too, from what I’ve seen. Might have looked you up online,” Bucky tells him with a shy kind of smile taking over his lovely features.
Steve feels himself flush under Bucky’s praises and he focuses on his coffee again to avoid telling Bucky stuff he shouldn’t. Like how badly he wants to lean down and lick at Bucky’s neck or that he would die just to feel the roughness of his scruffy cheeks on the inside of his thighs… It’s way too soon for that kind of talk. Steve doesn’t even know if it’s allowed at all. Maybe he could tell Bucky he would gladly put some ink on him instead of the other things he’s been thinking. It could be a great way to know him better.
Before he gets the chance, they are interrupted by Natasha returning to the front of the store with her client, as she explains in great details how to clean up his new piercing and how to take good care of it. Bucky stands back up again and takes a few steps away from the counter to let her work.
“Bucky brought us coffee,” Steve tells her and she turns around and sends a bright smile his way.
“Oh thank you, I needed that.”
Bucky nods to her, and his phone must have vibrated with a message because he takes it out of his pocket and looks at it. He types a quick reply and then tells them both goodbye as he leaves at the same time as Natasha’s client. Steve takes one deep, calming breath and something stutters inside of him when he realizes it still smells like Bucky. He smacks his palm against his forehead and he grunts loudly, looking sideways at Natasha who’s just smirking at him like she can read his thoughts.
“I have such a crush on him,” Steve whines and she laughs at him before taking a sip of her coffee.
Steve sees Bucky on and off again over the next few days. He often stops by in the mornings or afternoons. Sometimes he brings coffee, sometimes he doesn't. They end up talking for quite a while one day at Peggy’s , when they both go for lunch at the same time. Steve feels giddy for the rest of the day after that.
Steve always feels too shy or nervous to stop by the flower shop himself. Once, Rebecca catches him watching through the windows and she gives him a warm smile and she also waves at him to come in. But Steve quickly turns around, embarrassed at getting caught lurking outside the store hoping to catch a glimpse of Bucky.
One morning, Natasha arrives holding a tiny succulent in a pretty white pot and Steve feels jealousy flare in his chest. She makes it look so easy, she just stopped by and got a plant and Steve should have thought about it first.
“Bucky says hi,” she tells him, and she smiles down at him like she just knows how much it makes his blood boil with envy.
She rests the cute little succulent on the corner of their front desk, and whenever Steve looks at it, it’s like it’s taunting him with its little chubby leaves. He’s grumpy for the rest of the afternoon and it seems to amuse Natasha to no end. He sees her murmur to the other girls about it and Carol does laugh with her, but Wanda looks worried about Steve. She brings her tablet and sits next to Steve, doodling on it in silence, just by her presence, she shows that she’s on Steve's side and has he mentioned how she is just his favorite?
Natasha does bring him dinner, as a way to ask for his forgiveness and it’s his favorite sandwich, with extra pickles and a bag of his favorite chips. She can stay… Maybe , Steve thinks, thanking her around a mouthful of soft, delicious bread.
“You could just stop by,” she tells him. “He would love to see you again.” And her suggestion sends butterflies flying around Steve’s stomach and ugh . He hates having a crush. He hates feeling so completely hopeless like that. Why is it all butterflies and nerves and red cheeks and trembling hands? Why can’t he just be full of confidence and charisma like Bucky is? Dropping flowers and compliments and just existing and oozing sex appeal?
The girls all leave a bit after 8:30 that evening, Steve being the one to close up the store. At 9, he gets up and flips the little OPEN sign in the window, turns off most of the lights as well and sits behind the counter to check up the register and count what they took today. He’s counting a pile of 20s for the third time, too distracted and tired to do maths when a quiet knock comes from the front door. He looks up and in the dim glow of the street lights, he sees Bucky standing there.
Steve gets up, unlocks the door again and lets Bucky slip in before locking it up again. He glances up at Bucky and he looks soft around the edges, his hair is a pretty mess from a day of hard work and again, the front of his shirt is stained with greens and browns. Around his neck today, there’s a long silver necklace with the pendant of a red star. There is a silver ring looped in the chain as well. It rests softly in the middle of Bucky’s chest, right between his pecs and it shines under the lowlights of the shop. Steve wants to paint him. He wants to find out all the pretty colors making up Bucky Barnes and just spread them on a canvas for all the world to see.
“Hey,” he says, his voice quiet like he’s tired too, like he doesn’t want to bother Steve. “I saw the lights on and thought I would stop to say hello.”
“Of course, do you want to take a seat while I finish? I’m almost done.”
Steve turns his back to him and tries to calm himself as best as he can. He doesn’t understand why he always reacts so vividly to Bucky’s closeness, to the smell and warmth and look of him. It plays around Steve’s heart and nerves like skilled fingers against guitar strings. Bucky follows him and leans against the counter, playing on his phone while Steve finishes closing up. If he had troubles counting the money earlier, it’s even harder now with Bucky just there, but he gets there in the end.
After Bucky’s fourth yawn in a very short amount of time, Steve looks up with a smile and asks, “Rough day?”
Bucky shakes with quiet laughter as he rubs a hand over his tired eyes.“Yeah, i’m still getting used to my new place, sleep still is a bit...sporadic.”
“Oh I get that, I can’t sleep unless it’s in my own bed,” Steve says with a laugh. He feels his cheeks heating up at the mere mention of their beds. He tries to change the subject, go back to safer grounds but Bucky beats him to it.
“So, um... I forgot to ask her earlier when she stopped by but, is Natasha single?
“Oh. Um. Yeah. Yeah, she is,” Steve says, tone clipped and he sees Bucky’ expression quickly turn into a frown. He doesn’t seem to understand that he just shattered Steve’s heart. He opens his mouth, like he wants to add something, but Steve is faster than him. He doesn’t think he's strong enough to stand here and listen to Bucky ask about Natasha.
“Was that everything? Because I don’t want to throw you out, but I’m actually meeting someone. So I better get going.”
He hopes his voice sounded steadier than he feels. He grabs roughly at his backpack and puts it on, avoiding Bucky’s eyes and he walks quickly to the door, turning off all the lights, toying with his keychain. Bucky looks uncomfortable all of sudden. He looks like he wants to say something else but Steve’s pretty sure his own anger and sadness is as obvious as the moon up in the sky. When they are both on the sidewalk, Steve secures the store’s alarm system and triple checks the door is well locked. Bucky is still there, shuffling from a foot to the other, his hands hidden in the pockets of his open leather jacket. Can't he just leave already and let Steve be miserable in peace?
“Steve…” he tries when Steve turns around to bid him good night. Steve doesn’t want to listen to him right now. He just can’t. He doesn’t want to hear Bucky’s sad excuses, doesn’t want to acknowledge the fact that his poor crush did just that. Crushed him .
“Good night Bucky,” Steve says finally and turns around to get home. He wants to run, but he doesn’t want Bucky to know how much it’s affecting him. Of course , Bucky is into Natasha, who isn’t? Every client, no matter their gender, tries to flirt with her. She’s one of the most gorgeous people Steve has ever seen. It’s no surprise Bucky saw it too. He probably only tried to befriend him so he could get closer to Natasha. It makes sense. There’s no way someone like Bucky would look twice Steve’s way. Deep down he knew it, was scared about it, and yet being confronted to the fact doesn’t hurt his poor heart any less.
The next morning, Steve refuses to act like a sad heartbroken soul. He tries to rationalize, telling himself he barely knew Bucky anyway, it was just some silly infatuation. He puts on his favorite skinny jeans and also his comfiest sweater. He takes great care into styling his hair, and even goes as far as putting some eyeliner on. He is Steve Rogers. He is strong and he is independant and he won’t let a stupid boy, no matter how pretty he is, ruin his day. He makes himself a nice breakfast and also puts great effort into his coffee. Today will be a good day, that’s all.
When he gets to the shop, the girls are already there and, even if he tries to fake it as best as he can, of course they read through him like an open book.
“You okay, Boss?” Carol asks him as he walks past them.
He plasters a fake smile on his face, “Yeah, of course. Just had a bad night.” But he knows by their frowns and concerned looks that they don’t believe him at all.
He sits at his station and gets his iPad and sketchbook ready, puts some music on, connecting his phone to the store’s speakers. He gets lost into his art, as he always does when he feels a bit down. One of his clients wants a huge Pirate Ship, surrounded by wild stormy waves and dark clouds, it will talk the entirety of their back. So Steve colours those clouds full of rain and thunder with dark brushes of colors.
He hears the door bells at some point and his heart squeezes in his chest when he recognizes Bucky’s voice through the soft music filling the shop. Steve stays where he is, staring at the screen in front of him, fingers tightening around his pen. He won’t go to the front, he can’t see Bucky now. It’s Wanda who comes to find him after a few minutes,
“Bucky’s here, Steve. He got coffee,” she tells him, voice full of concern. She speaks slow and soft like she doesn’t want to scare him off.
“I gotta finish this, okay? Tell him I said hi, and thank him for the coffee.”
Steve tries to keep his tone light but he knows his voice sounds a bit strained even to his own ears. Why does he feel so heartbroken over a crush? It’s nothing really. He shouldn’t feel so bad about it. With frustration, he starts coloring the waves, with quick strokes, adding some white and dimension as they come crashing against the boat.
He hears Wanda sigh, sadly, and she turns around. Then, the words coming from up front are hushed, like they are all whispering about him and quick enough, the sound of the door bells ring again as Bucky most definitely leaves.
Quickly enough, Natasha barges in, holding his coffee and a golden croissant, dropping them unceremoniously on his desk.
“Steve, what the fuck was that?”
Steve doesn’t know if he should tell Nat, about Bucky asking about her. Does Bucky want it to be a surprise, when he eventually asks her on a date? Maybe… Mostly, what he doesn’t want is Nat’s pity. He loves her dearly. He loves how strong she is and how she doesn’t take shit from anyone. That’s what he loves about her the most. He hates when her eyes turn all sad on him, and when she says, “ Oh, Steve ,” to him, whenever he is a bit hard on himself. He doesn’t need that today.
“He likes someone else, okay?” He snaps anyway. He feels the emotions rising up again, just like the angry waves he’s drawing “He isn’t into me, and if it’s okay with you, it’s still pretty fresh and I don’t really wanna talk about it okay?”
She sighs, crossing her arms, and he feels the way she’s looking at him, but he doesn’t dare look up. He grabs his coffee and tears into his croissant instead.
“I think you’re dumb,” she tells him bluntly and Steve almost chokes around his mouthful of buttery pastry.
“Excuse me, what? ”
She grabs a chair and sits backward on it staring at him. Steve almost regrets thinking she would pity him because that is far from the mark. She’s looking at him like he just told her the earth is flat, like he just blurted the most stupid shit at her.
“What did he tell you, exactly?”
Steve squirms in his chair, uncomfortable under her questioning gaze. She’s staring at him, waiting, one perfect brow raised up.
“He um… He asked me if you were single…”
“ WHAT? ” She leans closer to him, pure shock painted all over her face. “Why in hell would he ask if I’m single when he looks at you like he wants to bend you over the nearest surface?”
Steve feels heat bloom on his cheeks and all over his face and he hates more than anything the way his stomach flutters just thinking about it.
“Naaaaaat” he tells her a bit flustered.
“It makes no sense, Steve! Come on! You saw the way he looks at you? He barely looks at me! When I went to buy the succulent I swear to God his sister was flirting blatantly with me while all he did was ask ‘bout you!”
Steve only shrugs, he wanted to avoid the subject and here she is yelling at him about it. The best of friends are the ones who won’t let you wallow into your bullshit, though. Real friends are the one to throw the truth at your face when you don’t want to see it.
“I refuse to believe he asked about me for himself, Steve. Maybe it was for his sister, or for one of his friends. Please. Don’t ignore him. I can’t stand the sad puppy eyes he gave us earlier, I almost had a feeling looking at them. A feeling, Steve. Me. You get what i’m saying?”
He smiles at that, genuinely, and looks up at her with grateful eyes.
“Okay, Nat. Thank you.”
Like Bucky felt he needed to stay away, Steve doesn’t see him for a few days after that. He doesn’t know how to feel about that. About how easy it was for Bucky to just stop coming entirely to visit them, to avoid Steve as hard as Steve was avoiding him. It makes him doubt Natasha’s words again, if it were true then he would have tried a little bit, Steve thinks. He’s reminded by his colleagues that he is quite stubborn and when he makes his mind about something, it’s quite scary to go and try to change it.
“You’re intimidating when you want to be, Boss,” Carol tells him with a careless shrug.
His anger and sadness only last a few days, though. It’s when Steve starts to admit he really misses Bucky and that he may have reacted a bit too harshly, that Bucky finally decides to walk back in the store. He’s followed by a blond dude, who’s around Bucky’s height. Both of them look a bit nervous and it confuses Steve even more. The blond one tells something to Bucky with his hands. Sign language , Steve realizes. He knows it. Learned it when he was a kid and his mom got scared about him losing his hearing in the other ear too. It came in handy, even helped him later in school. He understands instantly what blond man asks Bucky.
“ Where is she? ” Again, that feeling of his heart breaking into his chest. He thought… He hoped...
Bucky speaks out loud as he signs back to his friend, “Wait, I’ll ask.”
“Hey Steve,” he walks closer, “is Natasha here? I’d like to introduce my friend Clint to her.”
He says that, with his eyes never leaving Steve’s.
It makes Bucky chuckle, and his cheeks colors at Steve’s simple word. Bucky gestures to Clint to come closer and he does, smiling at Steve and holding up his hand for him to shake. But before Bucky starts signing introductions between them, Steve beats him to it.
“ Hi Clint, I’m Steve, ” he signs.
It makes Clint laugh brightly at that.
“Awesome!” he says out loud and his voice is nice and clear. He turns to elbow Bucky’s sides and says, without any shame, “You chose him well, dude.” Twin blushes suddenly bloom on both Steve and Bucky’s faces but they are saved by Natasha, who finally emerges from the back.
“Bucky! You’re back,” she says and her voice drips fake surprise. She freezes just a little, when her eyes fall on Clint, on the blinding smile he’s directing at her. He looks like one of those comic book characters with hearts in their eyes. Bucky signs and speaks at the same time again, introducing the both of them and Natasha smiles turns almost feral. Her eyes never leave Clint’s even if Bucky is the one speaking, and when she replies, she talks slowly to make sure he can read her lips alright.
“I want a piercing,” Clint blurts and she smiles at him like the cat who got the cream.
“Then let’s go in the back and we’ll get settled,” she tells him. He follows her like he’s in a trance and Steve laughs a little at how fast he went totally helpless for Natasha’s charms.
As soon as they disappear through the black door at the back, Steve turns around to find Bucky’s eyes on him. He seems nervous again, toying at the leather bracelets around his wrist, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. Steve swallows roughly, Bucky’s nerves are making him a bit anxious as well. What is happening? Should he apologize for being rude to Bucky? But it will reveal his big fat crush on him instantly…
“I asked about Natasha for Clint. I knew she was just his type. So, I wanted to try and set them up. I think… I don’t wanna be too blunt here but, I think I hurt you, by asking that? And I am very sorry Steve.”
“Oh it’s fine,” Steve tries to brush it off, it feels like rejection is coming. Again. Like, I’m very sorry Steve but I don’t like you that way. I’m very sorry Steve I gave you false hopes.
“No. I should have asked you on a date before asking if Natasha was single. I get it now, it wasn’t my best move, but... you make me nervous.”
“Excuse me, what? ” Steve says, almost choking on nothing as the words leave Bucky’s lips. His full, swollen, and very red lips.
“Do you want to? Go on a date with me, I mean?” Bucky says and he sounds so uncertain, Steve can’t have that no, no, no. Oh no .
“Do you ?” he says, not fully understanding that Bucky, who looks like a dream, really wants to take Steve out on a date.
“Well yeah? I just asked. I like you a lot Steve.”
Steve has to laugh at that. He likes him a lot? How about Steve who lost sleep over a silly misunderstanding? Steve who thinks he fell in love with him as soon as he got handed the most beautiful bouquet of flowers he has ever seen? Or how Bucky stole tiny but precious pieces of his heart with every coffee and delicious muffins he brought him. He looks up at Bucky who looks even more worried and scared and confused at Steve’s laugh so Steve grabs at his hands. He enjoys the rough feeling of Bucky’s warm hands in his own, rubs his thumbs over Bucky’s knuckles and says, “In what kind of world didn’t you realize that I liked you back?”
Bucky squeezes at Steve's hands as his face breaks into a mind blowing smile.
“Well I don’t know, you kind of left me alone on that sidewalk, in the cold, a few days ago,” Bucky teases him but he doesn’t let go of Steve’s hands, he rubs at them softly, tracing Steve’s fingers tips, the lines creased into his palms.
“You asked me if my best friend was single,” Steve says unimpressed and it makes Bucky giggle.
“Yeah... Okay, that was a bit clumsy, I guess.” At Steve’s serious expression, he sobers up and he brings Steve’s hand to his lips, pressing them against his knuckles. “I’m sorry if I made you sad because I was too much of a mess to ask you out properly.”
“You’re lucky you're pretty,” Steve grumbles but his cheeks are bright red and his heart has been beating an erratic beat since Bucky’s lips pressed against his hand.
“So, Steve Rogers, do you wanna go on a date with me?”
“Yes I do,” he says instantly and they hear wolf whistles and happy screams coming from the back where their friends were clearly eavesdropping. It makes the both of them smile brightly, and Bucky doesn’t let go of Steve’s hand.
The next Saturday, Bucky picks him up in a sleek, black muscle car. The way the engine roars sends goosebumps all over Steve’s skin. They grab some food and then they park the car somewhere calm where it’s only the two of them. Steve learns that Bucky got his passion for flowers and plants from his grandmother. He also learns the way Bucky tastes, and the sounds he makes when Steve tangles his fingers into the long, silky strands of his hair.
Steve learns that you’re never too old for a crush, or to make out in a car like a teenager, with lips sticky and sweet from ice cream. He learns that sometimes, strong, soft men like to be manhandled a little, and Steve falls a bit more in love with Bucky Barnes under the full moon and bright stars.
Later that night, he falls asleep in Bucky’s bed, tracing petals and leaves and learns that Bucky sleeps way better when he holds Steve’s naked body against his own.