Steve is fully aware that he doesn’t look like the kind of guy who has ‘Florist’ on his business card. He knows he isn’t the stereotypical ‘florist’ people have in their heads when they walk into his shop. He knows this because people tell him all the time. He tries to be cool about it – but honestly, it gets a little annoying hearing it every day. More than once. The only thing that actually keeps him sane is that there is a sex shop right next door and the couple that own it probably get more double takes than he does. Not because of anything kinky – but because Jemma looks like she’d faint at the sight of a dirty magazine and Leo stammers and blushes when he meets new people. Their English accents throw people too.
He’s pretty sure that they get annoyed too, when people question them about their suitability for the job they have. Or stand in their shop holding a bouquet of discounted… his mind blanks, he’s got no idea what would be discounted in a sex shop… condoms or something – and look at them, mouths opening and…
“Are you sure you’re the florist?” The man asks. He’s got some serious facial beard-scaping going on, and Steve is pretty sure a man who obviously spends more time than necessary measuring the points of his beard really shouldn’t be questioning Steve’s life choice.
“Yes.” He manages, rather than opening his mouth and let out a tirade that will lose him a sale and probably get him a shitty Yelp review. New York has a lot of florists – it’s more cut throat than people imagined – and he couldn’t take the risk. “I’m a florist.”
“Moonlighting as a stripper?”
“Moonlighting as a florist.” He grinds out. The man blinks a few times, looks him over once more, and shrugs.
“Alright, okay, whatever – moving on.” He puts the bouquet on the table and nods at them. “I may or may not have mortally offended my assistant, uh… CEO… my wife.” He points. “Wrap these, stat.”
“Is this for your wife, your CEO or your assistant?” Steve asks, looking at the blooms. They were nice, of course – all his flowers were nice – but they were discounted for a reason. The reason being they were on the turn.
“All of them.” A pause. “Uh, she’s all of the above.”
“How offended is she?”
“And the discount bin is the solution?” Steve said. Okay, maybe he shouldn’t be sassing a customer, but fuck it, the dude was wearing a watch that looked like it cost more than Steve’s education, so he could probably afford to splash out a bit on his wife. CEO. Whatever.
The man looked at the bunch of flowers on the counter and frowned, eyes darting around the shop. There were a lot of flowers, nice ones, big ones… ones that had deep meanings and ones that were just pretty.
“Point.” The man said, nodding. “Right, throw me together something expensive that says… I’m really sorry I didn’t tell you I was dying.”
Steve paused. Wait – what? “Uh, flowers will not cut that.” He said, looking the man over. He didn’t look sick or anything, but that didn’t mean anything. Dying? “That’s not a flower thing.”
“I got her jewellery too.” The man shrugged. “And like, 10 pairs of shoes. The flowers are... uh… zhuzh? You know. Of course you know. It’s your job to know.”
Steve blinked, but the man was walking around the shop looking at the flowers in their happy little water buckets. “Something classy, she’s classy, you know – and too good for me. Uh, wears a lot of white. Pointy shoes. She’s a red-head, nothing that’s gonna clash with that. Preferably something that’ll get me laid.” A pause. “Something that’ll make her smile.”
“Does she know about flowers?”
“All women know about flowers.” He said, waving a hand dismissively.
Steve found himself gritting his teeth again. “The meaning of flowers.”
The man paused. “Probably? She knows a lot of stuff. I mean, not as much as me – but you know, no one does.” He paused. “Look, as long as they look nice, I don’t care. Classy. Nothing trashy like these.” He pointed at the tiger lilies in their bucket.
“Those aren’t trashy.”
“They’re getting this orange stuff everywhere. She wears white.”
Steve took a deep breath. “I’ll put something together.” He said, stepping out from behind his counter.
“Jesus, were you made in a lab or something? You got some tattoo with a trademark stamped on your ass?” He looked like he was going to say more, but his mobile phone rang, distracting him. “Stark? He’s not here. No, this is his answering machine.” He said, walking around the shop. Steve blinked. Stark. Tony Stark was in his shop. Oh god, why didn’t he recognise him right away? The man had his face on every magazine at least once. Steve looked out of the glass fronted shop and glanced up. Sure enough, in the distance and dominating the skyline was the Tower. Stark Tower. Where Tony Stark, richest man in America, lived. Okay, he might not be the richest man in America, but Steve was sure he was in the top 10. Near the top. Which meant that he was buying flowers for Pepper Potts.
The Pepper Potts.
Steve might start hyperventilating.
Because he was a loser and had no social life to speak of, he may have imagined bouquets for people. He already knew that if Leo ever bought Jemma flowers, what he would pick, and why, and how to arrange them. He knew what flowers to pick for the young man too – just a hobby that got him through those quiet afternoons when no one opened the door to his shop. So he blinked, nodded at the back of Tony freaking Stark, and got to work. White could mean innocence which everyone knew, but it also meant purity of thought and elegance, so he carefully selected his blooms, avoiding roses. He’d read somewhere that she wasn’t a fan of roses and her wedding bouquet had been completely without the blooms. Adding some red tulips (because red was love and devotion, but red tulips were the floral equivalent of a plea for honesty) into the centre of the display, he thought the whole thing looked pretty good. When he looked up from the twine, Tony Stark was looking at him.
“Yeah, okay, man, you know your stuff. That looks good. Sincere.” He dropped a handful of notes on the counter, grabbed the flowers and was out of the shop before Steve could even process what had happened.
Instantly, he picked up the phone and dialled.
“This is the Bus,” A soft English voice said. “Adult emporium, how can I help?”
“Jemma, it’s Steve.”
“Oh, hello Steve. Fitz, it’s Steve!” in the background he could hear the ‘Steve?’ and then: “Yes, Steve. Next door Steve. Honestly, Fitz, Steve the florist.” Another pause. “Sorry, how are you?”
“Tony Stark just came in and bought flowers for Pepper Potts.” Steve said, looking at the notes on his counter. “And paid like… $200 dollars for a $40 selection.”
“The Tony Stark?”
“Oh! Fitz, Tony Stark was just next door!” In the distance, a muffled crash. “He’s such a fan boy,” followed by, “What, no – Fitz! Pick those up before you go!” A sigh. “He’s about to burst through your door. And he’s left 15 boxes of assorted butt plugs on the floor.”
Steve lived in one of the apartments over the shop. The area wasn’t the best, but it was fairly close to one of those ‘gentrified’ parts and Steve was holding out hope that the sprawl of wealthy professionals would eventually reach them. Because most of the store units came with little box apartments in the building, he not only worked next door to Jemma and Leo, but he lived next door to them too. Across the hall was Clint – he owned the building, wore nothing but sweatpants and was generally reliable when it came to fixing the plumbing or heating. Sam lived above him, he worked at the VA and always had a smile. Steve was sure the nightmares he could sometimes hear filtering down to his apartment meant that the man was also a veteran and not just a volunteer. There were a few others who Steve would know to say ‘Hi’ to in passing, but none of them were very close.
Jemma and Leo were probably the closest to him, and he was pretty sure that was only because they worked next door to each other as well.
His apartment was made up of three rooms, the bedroom, the bathroom and what could (if you were feeling especially generous) call a ‘great room’ – the living area and the kitchen stuck together. There was hardly any space, but the rent was dirt cheap for New York and Clint wasn’t the kind of landlord to care if the rent was a couple of days late – Steve counted himself lucky. The bathroom didn’t have a bath, just a shower unit, a sink and toilet – and the glass case of the shower was just big enough for him if he didn’t move about too much.
It was home though, and if he sometimes sat on his couch and had no idea what to do with himself at the end of the day, no one needed to know.
Tuesday’s were slow, every week without fail: Tuesday’s were a drag. Steve used the time to sort out his finances, browse through the catalogues that he was sent showing off the latest blooms, and wires – high tech gel beads and good old fashioned oasis foam. Keeping the shop open on slow days was more of a personal choice – if he didn’t, he’d end up doing exactly the same thing only upstairs. He’d much rather sit behind the counter and get on with things. Also, Tuesdays were the day that Jemma sometimes popped in and her work stories were way better than his.
They were gone through – some adult convention in Jersey. They’d packed up boxes of ‘goodies’ and Steve had loaded up the trunk of their little car. Cardboard boxes labelled ‘Condoms & lubes’ and ‘bondage lite’ which Steve had been slightly worried about when it seemed to ‘clink’ rather ominously. Jemma had laughed at his expression. “Oh, it’s just a few things for the beginners.” She’d smiled. “Soft ropes, half gags, that kind of thing.”
“We’re expecting the place’ll be full of the 50 shades crowd, no point in taking stuff they’ll just hurt themselves with.” Leo had added. “Been good for sales, but a really terrible example of BDSM.”
“I’ve not read it.” Steve advised. “S’not my thing.” Going on the soft look that Jemma was throwing him, he was pretty sure he must have been the colour of a beetroot.
“Fitz is the same,” She nodded. “But you know how it is – can’t sell the stuff unless you know your stuff.”
“It’s okay every now and then.” The younger man nodded, and Steve excused himself from the conversation.
He heard them laughing as he walked away and shook his head, blushing harder. They’d mostly stopped teasing him, but they still enjoyed making him blush every now and then.
But with them both gone, and the shop quiet as a grave, Steve kinda felt at a loose end. He’d worked out his taxes a month early and the forms were all sent away – his new stock would arrive the next day and he’d even organised his ribbons and organza stash under the counter. With another 7 hours to kill, he wondered if he should start swapping out the slightly drooping blooms into the discount section before his new stock arrived to replenish the buckets – when the door opened.
The man was young – maybe a year or two younger than him – with dark hair swept into a slightly old fashioned side part. It reminded Steve of how his mom would flatten his hair for church on Sunday mornings. Steve perked up – he was super cute, even if he didn’t buy anything, a cute guy was miles better than sitting doing nothing.
“Hey,” The man said, before Steve could get out his own welcome. “Look, I need like… 200 roses.”
Steve paused. He had roses. He just didn’t have 200 of them. “Um,” He managed, but the man was already stepping forward.
“I’ll pay anything. Anything, okay?”
Steve noticed he was wearing a nice suit – a very nice suit – with a white rose in his buttonhole. The hair, the rose and the suit could only mean one thing. “Wedding?”
“Oh god, man – everywhere is fucking closed!” Blue eyes, Steve noticed. Dark blue, and his deep navy suit was almost exactly the same shade. “I’m so screwed.”
“I can give you the stock I have,” Steve told him, “But I don’t have anywhere near that amount of roses. Delivery is tomorrow.”
The very attractive man whined, before his whole attention was taken by the phone that had started ringing in his hand. “Oh Jesus.” He hissed. “She’s calling.”
Steve was pretty sure the phone wasn’t made of live snakes, but that was how the guy was looking at the ringing rectangle in his hand. He looked like all he wanted to do with throw it clear across the room, but eventually swiped his finger over the screen, lifting it gingerly to his ear. “Hey Nat,” He said, sounding completely whipped. Steve shouldn’t have been able to hear the voice on the other end of the line, but he could make out a shrill voice, words like ‘ruined’ and ‘wedding’ and ‘perfect’. The whole time, the expression on the man’s face became more and more distressed.
“Nat, baby, I swear, I’m gonna fix it, I swear.” He was saying, soothing. “I’m in a florists now. Yeah, I found one. I know, I know… No, I got it, you just relax, okay?” A scream on the other end of the line, and then silence. “Mmm-hmm. I know. Okay, gotta go, okay? I won’t be long.” He hung up the phone and looked at Steve. “I will pay you anything.”
“I don’t have 200 roses.” Steve started, but he was cut off again by the phone ringing.
“Barnes.” A pause. “Jesus fucking Christ, Stark, I don’t have the time for this bullshit; I’ve got Natasha freaking the fuck out at the hotel.” Another pause. “Yeah, I mean – some hole in the wall place. I dunno, man – the dude is arguing with me.” Another pause, this time resulting in ‘Barnes’ giving him a very slow once over. “Uh, yeah, I’d say that. 100%.” A pause in which Steve could feel himself go red – Barnes was obviously talking about him. “You would know, you asshole. Just keep Banner from freaking out or we might as well cancel the whole fucking thing.” A pause. “How the hell would I know? You’re his best man!” A pause. “Meditate or something.” A vicious jab to the screen ended the call, and ‘Barnes’ looked at him pointedly. “Tony thinks you’re the shit.”
“I met him once.” Steve said – he wasn’t really sure what he should say. “That doesn’t change the fact I don’t have 200 roses.”
A hand waved. “Tony says it doesn’t have to be roses. Look, the florist we hired showed up with vases for the tables, okay? Only they – for some god unknown reason – didn’t remember the fucking flowers to go in the vases. I’ve got 20 tables and no fucking centrepieces.” He looked at Steve. “This is my best friend’s wedding.” He looked around the shop. “You’ve got loads of plants. Can’t you make something up? 20 tables? Come on, man – do a guy a favour.”
“Do you have one of the vases?” Steve asked, because he probably should throw something together at short notice, but he needed to know what he was getting in to.”
“Yeah, got them all in the car.” The man said, diving out the door.
The vases were bigger than Steve had hoped, but if he was really careful – and used a lot of filler – he might be able to put together some almost uniform displays. “It’s not going to match her colour scheme.” He pointed out, grabbing some moisture beads and throwing them into the vase.
“Man, I don’t care if it’s red, white and blue – she’s just gotta see plants on the tables.” He watched Steve pull some buckets from the back – green leaves to bulk out the flowers. “I’m Bucky Barnes, by the way.” He said, after a few moments. Steve nodded, focused on the job. It would have to be easy enough to put together, if he needed to make 20.
“Just a florist?”
Steve paused. “Just a florist.”
Bucky, obviously realising that he’d put his foot in his mouth, grinned apologetically. “You’re a pretty big guy – I run a security firm. Most guys built like you aren’t ‘just’ one thing. Ex-corps?”
“Nope.” Steve said, grabbing some wire wrapped ivy for stability. “Just a florist.”
“How’d you get into that?”
Steve motioned his head to the picture behind him. His mom had loved flowers – all types of flowers. “Mom worked in one of those big interflora places.” He said, “She wanted her own place, but…” A shrug. “I got my business degree and got this place.”
“Man, I’m not dissing being a florist.” Bucky said, “It’s one of those kinda cool professions. I know a million lawyers. I didn’t know a single florist.” He grinned at Steve. “Now I do.” He paused as Steve grabbed one of the buckets of tulips. He didn’t have 20 of one colour, so he was gonna have to mix it up and hope people weren’t looking too closely. “I mean, I don’t see a ring… so I’m gonna assume you are a single florist?”
Steve very nearly tripped over his own feet, which got him a wolfish smile in response.
Bucky stopped flirting with him when his phone went again, and when he returned Steve had half the vases complete. “Right, I’m gonna take these and come back for the rest.”He said, looking more stressed than he had earlier. “Uh, Sorry for the short notice, man, and thanks – you just saved my skin.”
It wasn’t Bucky who came back. A man who introduced himself as ‘Happy’ took the rest of the vases and paid Steve way too much – an envelope busting with notes. The shop looked like it had been raided – there wasn’t a full bucket in the place, only a few sad blooms sitting in murky water. His fingers were freezing, but considering how much he’d just been paid, he wasn’t going to complain about that. Flipping the sign to ‘closed’ and locking the door, he started on getting the place cleaned up, carrying buckets through to the back and washing them out thoroughly, throwing the leftover stragglers into the trash and generally making sure the place was spotless. His most profitable Tuesday ever had left him with an almost empty shop – once he realised that his regular delivery wasn’t going to cut it – he grabbed the phone and called his supplier, upping his order.
“Brooklyn in Bloom.” Steve said, grabbing the phone which was already ringing when he opened up his unit. The flowers that arrived the night before were all lined up in their metal buckets, cheerful, bright walls of every colour he could name.
“Hello, is this Steve?” A female voice said, an older woman, if he was any judge.
“Yes ma’am.” He nodded, grabbing his pen and pad. “How can I help?”
“I was at the Banner wedding yesterday.” She said, “I adored the table display – can you deliver something similar this afternoon? A larger selection in oranges and yellows.” A pause. “No lilies or chrysanthemums.”
Agreeing to the choice, he jotted down the address and payment details, smiling. He had a few newer flowers that he’d never had before and he was only half way through the lavish arrangement when the phone rang again.
“Brooklyn in Bloom.”
“Is this Steve? The one who did the flowers for the Banner wedding?”
“Brooklyn in Bloom.”
“Ah, is this the place where Natasha got her table displays?”
“Brooklyn in Bloom.”
“You did the table displays for the Romanov-Banner wedding, right?”
By noon, Steve was starting to panic. He had 9 deliveries to make and the phone still would not stop ringing – he’d had drop-ins too, his brand new stock wall had some bald patches already. He could close up for lunch and deliver then, but that would leave the phone un-manned. He looked at the arrangements in the back, and tried to work out what he should do, when the door opened to a cheerful ‘ding’.
Before he could even turn, a male voice said: “Man, you look frazzled.”
Steve spun around. Bucky was standing at the front of the store, looking at the display wall with interest. “You got your 200 roses today, hm?”
“Yeah.” Steve agreed. Bucky was wearing a pair of black jeans and a grey sweater that looked like it might have been cashmere, looking warm and snuggly – and Steve was wearing his faded blue jeans and a moss green apron with ‘Brooklyn in Bloom’ printed on the front, a wet stain on his crotch where he kept leaning forward into the buckets and arranging the wet stalks on his knees. He pulled off the apron quickly, nothing more attractive than a guy who looked like he’d just pissed himself.
“Did you know there is a sex shop next door?”
“Uh, yeah? Jemma and Leo run it.”
“They’re at a convention.” Steve found himself saying, and he would have said more, but the phone started ringing. Picking it up, he gave a grimace of apology to the attractive man standing in his store. “Brooklyn in Bloom.”
“Is James there?” A female voice said, “He’s not answering his phone.”
Bucky, who had obviously been listening in, suddenly started making frantic waving motions with his hands, mouthing ‘NO!’ very obviously.
“Um, I think you might have the wrong number?” He hedged, and got a snort down the line.
“You’re Steve, right?” She asked, sounding interested. “Hot Steve with the flowers?”
“Uh,” He could feel the blush on his face, heating up. “I’m Steve, yes. Just Steve though.”
“Well, just Steve, I wanted to thank you.” Her voice was amused, and dry. “I was a bit of a mess yesterday, so I wasn’t quite myself, but you really came through. Everyone was talking about the flowers – so thank you. For helping out at my wedding.”
Ah, the bride, Steve realised. Miss Natasha Romanov who married Bruce Banner. He might not have known who she was if it hadn’t been for the endless phone calls through the morning.
“Thank you,” He said. “Uh, it was my pleasure.”
“Well, I’ll let you get back to work.” She said, “Tell James he’s a creeper. He’ll know what I mean.” And the line clicked off.
Steve put the receiver down. “You’re James?”
“I’m Bucky. Only Tasha calls me James. What did she want?” He looked very comfortable in Steve’s shop, despite looking like he’d just stepped off the cover of Vanity Fair.
“She called you a creeper.”
Bucky grinned. “Yeah, well, she might have a point. You wanna g-”
The phone rang again. “Sorry,” Steve said, picking it up. “Brooklyn in Bloom.”
“Ah, Steve?” A male voice. “Stripper florist Steve? It’s Tony.”
“Still not a stripper.” Steve managed. “How can I help you, Mr Stark?”
“Get Pep some flowers, yeah? She threw a shoe at my head this morning. You deliver? Of course you deliver. Send them to the Tower.” The line went dead.
It was only the stupidly attractive man in his store that stopped him from hitting his head off the desk out of sheer frustration. “You okay?”
Steve managed a smile. “Just busy today. Very busy.” At Valentines and Mother’s Day, he knew he was going to be busy, so he could ask someone for help – he normally asked Jemma’s friend Skye to do some cash in hand work, doing deliveries while he made up bouquets. But he wasn’t expecting a random Wednesday morning to hit him so hard. “I’ve got 10 deliveries to make already and the phone won’t stop ringing.”
“Where’s your driver?”
“You’re looking at him.” Steve said, looking at Bucky. “Um, are you looking for more flowers?”
Bucky shook his head. “Just wanted to say thanks for yesterday.” He grinned. Steve liked that grin. A lot. “So, thanks.”
When he left, Steve cut his losses and closed the shop so he could deliver the flowers. He pulled on his moss green parka with the logo on the back and packed his van and found himself being ushered into more marble floored apartment blocks than he’d ever stepped into his whole life.
The delivery to the Stark Tower though, was quite interesting. Mostly because he was slammed into the floor by three armed security when he walked in with the wrapped up flowers. “Careful!” He yelled, as he hit the floor, blooms arching into the air and caught very gently by a guard.
“This a bomb?” He was asked, gun aimed at his head.
“It’s a floral arrangement for Pepper Potts.” He told the floor. He certainly wasn’t going to try moving. “Mr Stark called me.”
“Sure he did,” One of the men said. “How about we just check that, huh?”
“Tell him Steve brought the flowers.”
A few very tense moments later, the pressure on the base of his spine was lifted. “Very sorry, sir.” One of the guards said, helping him get to his feet. “Mr Stark thanks you for the delivery and the short notice.”
He didn’t even get paid for those. He figured that the $200 that he’d thrown on to the counter the first time covered it though.
A couple of weeks later, things had quietened down. Not as much as he expected, he had new ‘steady’ customers that called him with a regular order once a week, and he had been holding interviews for a part-time assistant, with on the job training. He couldn’t afford a full time person, but he certainly couldn’t be expected to run the place on his own any more. Twice weekly his flower orders would arrive, and he found that he just didn’t have those quiet, lazy afternoons any more.
He weirdly missed them, although he did appreciate that he actually had a little extra money in his savings.
“Brooklyn in Bloom.” Peter said down the line. Steve had been showing Peter how to work the register and take card payments. He was young and had his licence, so he could drive the little van Steve owned to deliver the orders. Pretty smart too – he’d asked about online orders (something Steve didn’t have) and had a lot of good ideas. Steve liked him a lot, and felt like he was trustworthy, although he wouldn’t be leaving Peter to lock up just yet. “Ah, no, this is Peter. Parker.” Peter said, looking over at Steve. Whomever was on the end of the line was talking, and Peter looked confused. “Uh, no? I work here.” A pause. “Hold the line please, I’ll get him.” He covered the receiver. “It’s Bucky? He wants to talk to you.”
Steve blushed, but held out his hand for the phone. “Steve.”
“Hey, Steve!” A cheerful voice down the line said. “So, I’ve got this thing, and I was wondering if you were free? It’s on Saturday.”
“Sure,” Steve said, grabbing the pen from the counter and clicking it down, legal pad pushed towards him from Peter. “Sounds great.”
“Yeah?” Bucky sounded surprised. “Yeah, okay, awesome!”
“What kind of thing are you looking for?” Steve asked, writing the date down. “We can order in anything special if you’ve got a colour scheme you want to stick to.”
Silence down the line, and for a moment Steve thought he’d been cut off – until the line clicked back. “Sorry about that.” Bucky said, “Um, I gotta go, work…”
“Sure!” Steve smiled. “Just give us a call when you’ve got a little more time to discuss what you’d like.”
Steve was pretty sure he heard something that sounded like Bucky swearing under his breath, but that might just be because his work was getting in the way of his thing. His event.
The next day Steve was eating his lunch (a sandwich that Peter had picked up on his way to work) when the door of the shop ‘dinged’ open. Swallowing quickly, he’d only managed to half hide his food when…
“Hey, man, don’t worry, just me.” Bucky was wearing another soft looking sweater – dark blue this time, and a pair of navy jeans. He looked amazing.
“Sorry,” Steve said, folding up his lunch into the little bag and pushing it under the desk. “Peter is out doing deliveries, just catching a bite.”
Bucky grinned. He had a really nice smile. “So I heard you got tackled to the ground by Stark’s security?”
Steve blinked. “How…?”
“He uses my guys, and we were having lunch yesterday.” A pause. “Well, I was having lunch, he mostly just talks and waves his hands around. Anyway, he tells me that my guys are on a hair trigger – nearly shot his florist.” Bucky waved a hand over his body. Steve was trying not to notice it was a really nice body. “So obviously, I wanted to make sure that you were okay, you know? Offer to buy you lunch to make up for it.”
Steve blinked. “Uh, I wasn’t hurt.”
“Peter won’t be back for another hour.” Steve said, feeling a little confused.
“Ah, that sucks.” Bucky grinned, like he was happy to hear it. “Dinner then?”
“Uh,” Steve managed. He must have nodded because Bucky grinned wider.
“Awesome. I’ll pick you up at 6? Here?”
Steve nodded again.
“It’s a date.”
It’s a date. Steve thought. Did he mean it was a date date? He’d been utterly useless after Bucky left, mind running away ahead. Maybe he was just being polite. A date though. He’d called it a date. People don’t say date unless they mean a date. His wardrobe didn’t have date clothes. He had a single suit that he had worn to his mother’s funeral, it didn’t fit him in the shoulders any more, but he didn’t want to throw it out, or jeans. Jeans. Bucky wore jeans when he’d show up at the shop, but his jeans were nice. The kind that hugged his muscular thighs. The kind that made his ass look amazing. He picked up his phone.
“Leo, it’s Steve.” He said, trying not to sound too stressed. “Uh, is Jemma there? I’m having a bit of a wardrobe… thing.”
“No, wear the darker jeans.” Jemma was saying, “They look less casual.”
“But the shirt doesn’t go with the jeans!” Leo argued, while Steve sat on his bed and watched them. He’d stopped having a panic about what he was going to wear almost the instant they arrived in his tiny apartment and started arguing between themselves.
“Yes, he can pick another shirt.” Jemma said, “The dark jeans are less casual.”
“But he doesn’t even know if it’s an actual date or not.”
“Honestly, Fitz,” She said, handing Steve the jeans. “No one says ‘it’s a date’ if they don’t mean it’s a date. And it’s dinner.”
“The shirt is nicer than the jeans, and he’ll be sitting down.” Leo said, holding out the shirt. “No one’s going to see his legs.” He paused, and glanced at the pile of clothes that were scattered over Steve’s bed. “What about the red shirt?”
“Oh, yes, the red shirt!” Jemma said, “With the sleeves rolled up to his forearms.” When it looked like Leo was going to argue that, she held up her hand to stop him. “That is not open for negotiation. It’s a scientific fact that it increases attractiveness in a partner.”
Steve got dressed in his tiny bathroom because his neighbours were still bickering good naturedly between themselves in his bedroom. He rolled his sleeves just like Jemma had told him, and he ruffled his hair into something a little messier like Leo suggested, and from what he could see in the small mirror, he didn’t look half bad. If Bucky hadn’t meant it like a date date, Steve wasn’t overly dressed, and if he did then at least he wouldn’t be too underdressed. When he walked out of his bathroom, Jemma and Leo were sitting on his bed (which had been cleared of all his clothes – he just knew they’d be neatly hanging in his closet) looking at him expectantly.
“Oh, that’s nice. Very handsome.”
“Yeah.” Leo agreed. “If you like tall, broad… muscular…” His voice trailed off and his wife patted his knee gently.
“We brought you a bag!” She said, when it was apparent Leo wasn’t going to finish what he was saying. He’d noticed that they’d brought something with them, but he’d been far too preoccupied with his possibly a date to pay too much attention.
“Oh?” He managed.
“It’s got all the good stuff, condoms, lube, a couple of nice rings.” Leo said, perking up. Jesus, Steve had almost forgotten that they ran a sex shop. Adult Emporium.
“We weren’t sure about plugs so we went for the smaller ones – oh!” Jemma said, bouncing on the bed with an almost childlike excitement that was at odds with the current conversation. “We got some samples from our convention – some prototype toys that we’ve thrown in to spice things up a bit!”
Steve nodded. They were both looking so happy that he didn’t want to tell them that there was no chance he’d ever be able to manage to look in the bag they’d brought without bursting into flames.
“Thanks.” He managed, and got twin smiles in return.
It was a date. It was so obviously a date. Bucky arrived on foot and they walked to the restaurant – one of Steve’s favourites, and (it turned out) also one of Buckys favourites too.
“Oh, man, I wanted to be the one to introduce you to the pizza here.” He bemoaned, grinning at Steve. “Gotta find some other way to impress you, huh?”
Steve had blushed. He was a blusher, he couldn’t help it – and Bucky seemed more than happy to be the one causing his bright red complexion. “This is better than lunch, aint it?” He said, after a joke that caused Steve to half snort a pizza slice through his nose.
“Yeah.” Steve agreed. Bucky’s answering smile was open and genuine.
“Tony Stark is in the front shop!” Peter hissed at him one day, bursting through the door into the back. “Tony Stark!”
Steve, who’d been in the middle of arranging a selection of warm pink and deep purple tulips, nodded. “He’ll be here for this.” He said, nodding at the display. “Just tell him I’ll be a few more minutes.”
“Tony Stark!” Peter said, and ran his hands through his hair, making it stick up at all angles. “The Tony Stark! He asked me if I was a stripper too.” A pause. “Are you a stripper?”
“I’m not a stripper!” Steve yelled, and couldn’t help the smile when he heard Tony laughing on the other side of the door. The guy might have all the subtly of a rock, but he wasn’t mean with it, and Steve found himself liking him more and more. It didn’t hurt things that he normally had a couple of orders a month and tipped like a drunk king.
When Steve went through to the front, Tony was holding a black paper bag that clearly said ‘The Bus. Adult Emporium’ in silver lettering on the side. When Steve raised his eyebrow, Tony winked.
“Hey, the flowers work! Gotta be prepared. I was gonna buy something for you, but the very helpful young gentleman next door told me you already had the full range.” He gave Steve a deliberately exaggerated look up and down. “Looks like Buckster Barnes wasn’t kidding, huh?”
Steve really wished he wasn’t a blusher.
Steve was sitting on his couch wearing nothing but his rattiest sweatpants, when Bucky unlocked the door to the apartment. “Honey, I’m home!” He called out, and winked at Steve. He was carrying a sports bag that Steve knew was going to be filled with all the dirty laundry from his trip. “Just so you know, it’s still too fucking cold in Russia, and I still hate it.” He dropped the bag at the door and in two steps he was climbing on the couch that was way too small for both of them, but neither of them cared much. “I kinda missed you.” He said, between kisses.
“I kinda missed you too.” Steve said, grinning. “You wanna have a shower and then order something to eat?”
“I wanna have a shower and climb you like a fucking tree.” Bucky mumbled into the skin of his neck where he was sucking an incredibly impressive hickie – paused and shrugged when his stomach gave an angry grumble. “I mean, I could eat.”
Steve laughed, and gave his boyfriend a playful shove. “You smell like airports and stale air.”
“You smell like flowers.” Was the half grumbling reply. “No grown man should smell like flowers at 2am.”
“No grown man should have to wait for his boyfriend to show up at 2am, because ‘if you’re sleeping it’s weird for me just to come in’.” Steve pointed out, as Bucky got to his feet. “However, there is pizza in the oven and no one used the hot water for hours, so knock yourself out.”
“You certainly know the way to a mans heart.” Bucky grinned, heading towards the bathroom and the promise of hot water. “I’m gonna marry you one day.”
“Uh-huh.” Steve agreed, getting to his feet and padding towards the oven to ensure that the pizza would be warm by the time Bucky was dry.
“I don’t see why you have to live over the shop though.” Bucky was saying, feet kicked up on the counter as Steve and Peter worked on setting up the last delivery of flowers. “I mean, my place is nice. It’s bigger. I’ve got a bath, Steve. A bath big enough for like... three people.” He glared at the roof and (Steve assumed) the tiny bathless bathroom in the apartment over their heads. “I miss my bath.”
“I’m not saying I have to live over the shop.” Steve argued. “I’m saying living above the shop is easier.” He could almost hear Bucky’s argument forming. “Easier to open up and close at the end of the day.”
“Peter does both! Tell him, Pete!”
“Peter is part-time and you know it.”
“Oh god, please leave me out of this conversation.”
Both men paused for a second and nodded at the younger man. The same argument had been going on for months.
“How about a trial?” Bucky said after a moment. “You stay at my vastly superior apartment for... a month. See how it fits, and then... then if you hate it, I’ll move in with you here.”
Steve didn’t hate Bucky’s apartment. He didn’t. He just... Didn’t love it. At all. Everywhere was glass and chrome and it was decorated in white and black and it was just...
“You hate it.” Bucky said, one night as they curled up in bed. The bed was nice, the bedroom was nice. In the dark. Because when you turned the lights on, the black walls and white carpet and 90’s power-decor was just... Steve hated it.
“Yeah. I’m really sorry, Bucky.”
“Meh.” The other man shrugged, squeezing closer. “I wanna live with you, Steve, I don’t care if it’s here or your shitty dump of a place, or coldest Russia. I wanna be with you.”
The much awaited gentrification Steve had been praying for stopped two streets away. The prayed for foot traffic never really took hold, considering they were north and the whole city was south. The bonus, however, was the brownstones that had a complete overhaul - less than a 15 minute jog away from his store.
“It’s four bedrooms, two ensuits, a fully modernised kitchen, a study and the building comes with it’s own gym.” Bucky said, pulling Steve by the hand up the stairs. “The building is pet friendly and it’s near to the shop.”
And it was decorated in warn, netual tones – no black, white or chrome anywhere to be seen.
“I love it.” Steve said, with a smile.
“Fucking yes!” Bucky crowed. “I told you I’d find a place.” He paused. “Our place. A place for us to live together.”
“So,” A man with white hair and a smile Steve just didn’t trust said to Bucky. “How did you two meet?”
“You remember Natasha Romanov?”
“Can’t say I do.” The man sneered. Steve got the feeling he was lying.
“Well, she worked with you a few years ago, Pierce. Red hair?” Bucky looked at the older man and smiled sweetly. “Anyway, she was getting married and I needed 200 roses, and I found Steve’s shop.”
“And Steven’s... a florist?” Weird how the word sounded distinctly distasteful in the old man’s mouth, like even saying it was below him.
“Yup. Best one in New York.” Bucky grinned. Steve had known him a long time. He knew that grin wasn’t as friendly as it seemed. “But we’ve held you back long enough, mingle, Alexander. Thank you for coming.”
“Why did you invite him to our wedding if you hate him so much?” Steve asked, as they walked away.
“Because I hate him enough to want him to see me fucking happy.” Bucky smirked. “Best day of my life, and he’s a miserable fucker who couldn’t say no to the invite cause pretty much everyone else is here.”
Everyone else was right. The Barnes-Rogers wedding was apparently ‘the’ event of the year, going on the guest list, and Steve was lucky that Bucky had made sure he knew everyone beforehand – because the sheer amount of people was a little scary. Peter was there, with his girlfriend Gwen, both talking to Tony Stark about science, which was all Steve really understood about their conversations. Steve was pretty sure he was going to lose his part-time employee to Stark within a month. He’d be mad if it wasn’t for the fact that Peter was obviously better suited to Stark Industries than a florist in Brooklyn.
Jemma and Fitz had looked a little lost in the crowd until they met Natasha and Bruce – Bruce looked calm and unruffled as usual, they got on shockingly well – and were having a rather animated conversation and Steve knew from experience (and the shocked but intrigued expressions of the people around them) that joining that conversation would cause him to burst into flames.
Bucky, who’d obviously noticed where he was looking, grinned wickedly. “I don’t understand how a man who will try anything once - or twice,” He winked. “A night, can still blush like a beetroot whenever someone so much as whispers ‘anal beads’ in your direction.”
“Jesus, Buck!” Steve hissed, colouring and casting a quick glance around to make sure no one heard. “You can’t just say that!”
Bucky laughed, a warm rich sound that had a few heads turning to smile at them indulgently. “Christ, I love you, you fucking 90 year old man.”
“I’m only three years older than you, jerk.” Steve shot back, and when his husband laughed again, Steve was swept up in it too.
The snuck out a few hours later, wanting to avoid the probably completely embarrassing spectacle Tony had planned. No one said anything, although they weren’t quite as subtle as they thought.