Tall, blond hottie (in a sweater) was back, staring at the wall of new and popular titles with a thoughtful expression on his face. He came in every Tuesday night like clockwork, read through the summaries on the back of a handful of books with his profile turned just enough towards the front entrance that Bucky could see the slope of his nose and take joy in watching those arm muscles minutely flex as he shifted the book in his grasp. Bucky wasn't sure if the guy came in any other nights of the week, but he always listened carefully as his coworkers chatted about the attractive men they saw on their shifts...
That is to say, they all got excited for the once in a blue moon where someone well-read and moderately attractive was in the library. It was such a rare occurrence that they saw firemen during the bi-annual fire drills more often than they saw the elusive attractive reader.
There was no way that Bucky was telling anyone about tall, blond hottie (in a sweater). He was likely to have his Tuesday night shift stolen from under him, and then where would he be?
Well, he'd be bereft of TBH (in a sweater), at the very least.
Casting his eye over, Bucky checked out TBH's ass and accidentally made eye contact with the woman who had been observing him with all the attentiveness of someone who had a thing for librarians and was weighing whether he'd satisfy that thirst or not. Bucky had gotten used to people diverting where they were walking the moment they saw him. This woman almost tripped over her own feet to get to him.
"So what if I want to take this book home?" she asked, dropping a paperback on the desk in front of him with a smile.
"Do you have a library card?" he questioned, regretting every moment that took his attention away from TBH's ass. TBH's visit to the library typically lasted less than 5 minutes, and Bucky had an extreme hate-on for everyone who dared interrupt his pining.
"No..." she responded with hesitation, leaning towards him, a flirty smile starting on her lips.
"Circulation area," Bucky answered in a terse tone, pointing towards the entrance.
"But how do I get a card? Are there rules?"
"Circulation can answer that," he answered, gesturing again and making sure to dismiss her by bowing his head and working on the papers in front of him.
Usually he’d be vaguely amused that her plan had failed because she hadn’t considered asking a question that was part of his job to answer, but not this time. This time Bucky gritted his teeth and waited her out so he could look up again. Tall, blond hottie had a very interesting backside that flexed as he checked out his books. Bucky so rarely got to see it.
She walked away and immediately headed towards the computers instead of the customer services desk. Bucky looked over to see if TBH was still there, but he'd already checked out his chosen book and was headed out the door.
“Nice,” Natasha said from right behind his ear as Bucky watched tall, blond hottie check out his most recent book. He yelped at her sudden appearance, jumping in his seat and knocking over an open case of thumb tacks, because of course if he was going to knock something over, it would be something that could hurt to clean up. Natasha looked down at the floor and then at tall, blond hottie. “It looks like you have a small prick situation.”
If Natasha was anyone else she’d walk away laughing, but instead she just gave him a knowing look, mouth curling up in a vaguely amused expression, before straightening up and heading into the teen area. The teen area was one of those places that constantly needed security to do a walk-through, and that was partially because it was an incredibly good service model to give teenagers their own space but at the same time the library had separated them from lines of visibility and no one liked finding used condoms stuck to the chairs (though Bucky would debate it was probably worse not to find used condoms stuck to the chairs).
Bucky looked down at the mess scattered around him. He did have a prick situation. He couldn’t even deny it. It would be tacky not to.
He laughed to himself as he cleaned up the mess, because Bucky had no problem embracing the hilarity of bad puns.
Tall, blond hottie (in a hoodie and dress pants) had just spent the last five minutes reading a book summary, seemingly distracted by something. Bucky watched him through his eyelashes, sucking on the end of his highlighter as he went through book-ordering magazines. He typically just ordered full lists, but it was always a good idea to have a base-line of familiarity with the section of the collection that he was in charge of. He hated it when he accidentally ordered books he was morally against. Typically, he'd receive them, say "who the fuck ordered this bullshit?" and then see that it was him. 50 Shades of Grey had been a dark time for him, and he didn't envy the person who purchased DVDs.
Though, she was probably one of the people who went to the theatre with a cucumber, because apparently adults didn't own sex toys these days when there were vegetables around. The whole thing made him shudder and despair humanity.
He used to be a nice person.
Then he spent time on the reference desk. It made misanthropes out of the best of them.
TBH (in a hoodie and dress pants - which was fucking adorable, ok? Bucky might be making heart eyes at him) was still staring at the page in front of him, a furrow between his eyebrows. Bucky clamped his teeth on the end of the highlighter, holding it in his mouth as he fumbled through the file cabinet drawer next to him, leaning forward so he could see the man's ass.
Nice. Very nice.
When he sat up again there was someone standing right in front of him and Bucky jumped, momentarily forgetting that he was at work.
"I need to fax this."
"The fax machine is right over there," Bucky answered with a wave of his hand, saying the words with the friendliest tone possible for being interrupted from his TBH time. Some people just needed to be assured they had permission to use the machine and didn’t need him to get to his feet. Very few, but some, would actually read the instructions handily provided once they reached the machine.
That was a lie. Bucky had never seen anyone actually look at the instructions.
"You do it. I don't know how."
And then there were those assholes. "I'll show you," Bucky answered, getting to his feet with a ton of resentment. Some of his coworkers could say 'I'll show you' and sound friendly. Bucky had no idea how they did it. He always just sounded like it was a major imposition.
Because it was.
He used to be a lot better at hiding how he felt about stuff.
Then he spent time on the reference desk. Now he wore how much he hated people right on his face where it would get him in trouble if Peggy Carter wasn’t his supervisor. Peggy gave less shits about catering to the masses than he did, though she was better at deadly service with a smile.
“Put your papers in the top here, face up,” he said in a dead voice. “No, face up. Sideways to fit in the tray. No…” he bit back a sigh and took the papers, neatly fitting them into the tray. The tray was set to eleven inches, and Bucky had zero patience for people who couldn’t see that it matched up in size with the length of a sheet of paper. They got so confused, the poor bastards. “Sideways.”
“Now put the fax number in.” Bucky looked over towards the wall of new releases as he pointed to the number pad on the machine. TBH had finally decided on the book he'd been looking at for the last five minutes and was walking away from the self-check machines. Bucky sighed as he watched TBH leave, wishing TBH would have a card emergency so he could figure out what the man’s name was.
"I don't know what the fax number is," the patron said.
Bucky got a Master’s degree for this shit.
Tall, blond hottie (in a pair of jeans) was standing in front of the self-checkout station scanning the barcode on his card. It didn’t go through on his first try and Bucky was watching with avid interest, because if he continued to have trouble then it would give Bucky an actual, valid reason to get up and go talk to him. He could see Sharon at the circulation desk preparing for the same thing.
They made eye contact like some kind of stand-off over TBH and his tight jeans.
Sharon’s eyes narrowed at him. Bucky stood, bracing his hands on the reference desk counter.
TBH’s card scanned with a cheerful beep and he finished checking out his book. He lifted his head away from focusing on the machine, and for a moment it was like their eyes met across the book display between them.
Then TBH smiled that wane smile of someone who noticed someone was staring at them and wasn’t sure whether to acknowledge, and left.
Sharon smirked at him, but as far as Bucky was concerned, they both lost.
“Why haven’t you told Peggy about tall, blond hottie?” Bucky questioned, his teeth snapping a mini-carrot in half. “I thought that was the type of thing you’d share with your aunt.” If Bucky had an aunt who worked at the library who was more like a sister to him, he might tell her about TBH too.
“Are you kidding?” Sharon questioned, drinking from her smoothie. “What chance does anyone have with Peggy in the room? I’d rather take my chances with you.” She eyed him dubiously. “Your grumpy face puts off a lot of people.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Bucky answered sarcastically.
He used to smile all the time.
“Plus I’m hedging my bets that tall, blond hottie is straight,” she said. “And you don’t have a chance either.”
“Yeeeeeeah,” Bucky drew the word out. “Thanks.”
She waved her hand to say it was no problem, sipped obnoxiously at the last of her smoothie, and dismissed him by picking up her book and shoving the last quarter of her Panini in his direction. Bucky thought the expensive café in the lobby probably would have gone under in the first year if it didn’t have library staff keeping it afloat. Bucky took scraps where he could get them. Sharon might earn a third of what he did, but once you subtracted his high student loan payments, rent, and car payments, she was in a better position financially living at home and funneling most of her wages into college and expensive sandwiches.
She’d learn. Eventually.
“Mooch,” she observed once Bucky’s cheeks were full and he couldn’t defend himself.
“Fluuurg,” he tried anyway, and it was probably a good thing it came out mangled and incomprehensible if the way the Carters had of staring you down like they could end you was any indication.
"He just helped a little old lady into her vehicle," Natasha told him, leaning across the desk to watch as Bucky checked his Facebook with very little concern as to who saw him. Bucky was aware how obvious his crush on TBH was to everyone around him. He almost smiled in greeting at the man the week before and he thought the young student page walking by was going to crash her cart into his desk at the sight of it. "He's too nice for you."
"I help little old ladies,” Bucky pointed out, losing spectacularly to himself in Candy Crush.
"But you never look like you're happy to do it," she retorted. "You always remind them that there's a computer basics class they can take before doing a simple search for them."
"I'm advertising what classes the library offers.” Really, he shouldn’t have to defend himself on that point. It was his job.
She just looked at him, a reflection on the fact that not only did Bucky not fool her, but he also wasn't lying well enough for her to actually give him an unimpressed expression.
"I'm dead inside," Bucky finished.
For some reason this seemed to satisfy Natasha, like she was concerned that he wasn’t self-aware enough to admit that helpless little old ladies and children didn’t move him or inspire him into being good at this whole customer service shtick. Bucky knew he was an asshole.
Bucky didn’t care that he was an asshole.
What Bucky cared about was the possibility that tall, blond hottie was being put off by Bucky’s surly demeanor. Really, by this point, it was all he had going for him personality-wise. Bucky could remember being nice, he could remember the halcyon days in the beginning when he cared about all that.
What a naïve fuck he’d been.
Maybe he could fake it.
Bucky was incapable of faking a smile, even for the sake of his performance review. He was pretty sure he couldn’t fake it for TBH, even if the man came in wearing running shorts.
Even if the man came in naked.
"Hi!" Bucky said in a perky tone and a smile at the little old lady standing in front of him. TBH (in a henley) was about a foot away, and Bucky didn't want to come off as a complete jerk in front of a guy who probably saved small woodland creatures for a living.
Evidently, Bucky was completely ok with faking it. He’d lost his morals a long time ago.
TBH's head swivelled sharply and for the first time he looked directly at Bucky with an expression of...
Well, it was surprised, but it was also something that seemed completely horrified and taken back about it.
Great, Bucky had scared off TBH (in a fucking tight Henley, that asshole).
Perky was not a good sound from him, apparently.
TBH was wearing a white undershirt with a streak of dirty across his stomach, and on most people it would be terribly offensive to see, but on tall, blond hottie it was one of the most beautiful experiences of Bucky's life. Bucky's eyes widened and he sat up quickly from his slouch, blinking rapidly at his own head-jerk. Sometimes he managed to surprise himself. TBH almost dropped his book at Bucky's sudden movement and their eyes met.
"WHAT?" Bucky snarled, swiveling in his chair. "I mean... yes?"
The patron looked at TBH and then back to Bucky. "Never mind," she said. "I'll find it myself."
Bucky looked over to TBH to see why he’d been allowed this one small kindness. TBH was smirking at him, his arms held in such a way that Bucky could see the ridges of TBH's ab muscles through the stretched ribbing of his shirt. Shit. That was probably illegal.
No, like, really. Natasha should probably be warning TBH that he was almost violating their no-shirt no-service policy, but she was leaning against the front entrance looking completely unconcerned by the fact that TBH's abs were displayed in front of Bucky like some kind of ice cream swirl that he just wanted to take a bite out of and then lick back to smoothness.
It was a troubling thought, not because he wanted to bite TBH’s abs, or even because he was thinking about doing it at work. It was troubling because TBH was now observing Bucky closely, and they were making eye contact, and Bucky was actually licking his lips like a starved man.
TBH raised an eyebrow at him and continued smirking, like he was incredibly pleased by something, putting his book down and heading towards one of the catalogue terminals. Bucky watched him with very little subtly as he scribbled something on a scrap of paper and then approached the reference desk.
"Can you help me find this book?" TBH asked, smiling uncertainly at Bucky.
And Bucky was...
Well, he was going between shitting himself in excitement and being disappointed that tall, blond hottie couldn't read the dewey decimal system. They were legit organized by number, how hard could it be?
He'd worked at a library long enough to figure out it was majorly difficult. “Sure,” he said, and it didn’t emerge from his mouth sounding like he was condemning the man to one of Dante’s circles of hell, which was pretty miraculous in and of itself.
Leading TBH into the stacks was an experience, and by experience Bucky meant that he could tell from the three feet of space that TBH put between them that TBH was probably looking at his ass. It happened all the time. This was the first that Bucky actually deliberately put a swagger to his step because he was ok with it.
"To be honest," the guy said, running his hand through his hair and wincing as Bucky handed him the book he was asking for. He stared down at the cover with a frown. "I just wanted to speak to you. I’m sorry. I know it’s weird and you hate that, and I thought I could do it without letting on, but it turns out I can’t."
Bucky stared at him.
TBH looked sheepish, a flush appearing over his cheekbones as he held Bucky’s gaze.
“You wanted to talk to me?” Bucky asked in confusion.
Bucky didn’t used to be intimidating…
“So are you,” he blurted out. “You read, and you’re gorgeous, and together that’s…” Bucky then used his hand to draw a line down TBH’s silhouette.
Bucky then immediately regretted using his hand to draw a line down TBH’s silhouette.
Bucky also used to be smooth. Really smooth. He had elite levels of game back in college. This wasn’t really something he could blame on the reference desk, except in a roundabout way. Reference exposed him to books he then felt the need to bring home, it also left him exhausted and not wanting to go out and communicate with people.
Plus, when he first started and didn’t feel like his soul was being sucked out through the bottoms of his converse sneakers to power the search catalogue, Bucky used to try to balance his party mentality with work and had ended up with someone who saw him doing shots until 3am tattle on him to his supervisor. Peggy had berated them out of her office and then turned to him and said ‘I hope you enjoyed yourself’ in a mild tone. Bucky waited for the other shoe to drop, but that seemed to be all she felt the need to say.
Bucky hadn’t even enjoyed himself, not really. He was getting too old to spend the day hungover at work. The screaming babies were brutal.
He now saved going out drinking for the weekend like a responsible adult. Slowly Netflix and sitting in bars with his friends for a beer seemed like a better way to spend his time. It was the right decision but it felt like the end of an era.
An era where he was smooth with attractive men speaking with him.
“I’m Steve,” tall, blond hottie said, offering his hand. “And I do read.”
“Bucky,” he returned, shaking Steve’s hand and finding a little glimmer of inspiration. “And I’m not that intimating. Do you have time to get coffee with me so I can prove it?”
Steve’s eyes softened as he grinned at Bucky. “Sure. When?”
“Now,” Bucky said, looking at his watch. “I’m entitled to a fifteen minute break, and if you want you can come back to the reference desk and we can chat while I work.”
“That’s ok?” Steve questioned, looking concerned for Bucky’s job. Bucky would laugh at him because the last thing Bucky worried about was how he came off while at the reference desk. He loved his job. He did. But this one part of it?
Not so much.
“It might be encouraged,” Bucky answered with a flirty smile, because if there was one thing he could count on it was that Peggy Carter would have his balls if she found out he didn’t take full advantage of meeting someone like Steve. Peggy had very little interest in marriage, but she appreciated competence like no one else.
Except maybe Bucky.
(He and Peggy should start a club – people who appreciate library users who can do shit for themselves with minimal hand holding).
“Just answer me one thing first,” Bucky said, raising his hand before Steve could start walking towards the café. “Could you have found this book on your own?”
“They’re ordered by number,” Steve answered him with the perfect amount of attitude for his intelligence being questioned.
Sharon scowled at them as they walked out of the security gates. Bucky couldn’t resist giving her a thumbs up behind Steve’s back, because sometimes he could be a child. It was what made him incredibly competent at the other aspect of his job – coming up with new and innovative classes and programs for the library to offer.
He was hella at it. Award winning hella at it.
Speaking of people who could win awards…
Steve was great. Steve was wonderful. Bucky spent almost twenty-five minutes on break before he dragged Steve back to the reference desk. The best part about working the closing shift was that he was basically the supervisor on site, so a 25 minute break? Totally valid.
He didn’t do it on purpose, he got too caught up staring into Steve’s dreamy eyes. Bucky could admit that the man, with his dark, long eyelashes, had incredibly dreamy eyes. He said as much to Sharon after waving Steve through the security gates as they closed, Steve’s number on his phone and a text message already going off in his pocket. Steve probably sent it the moment he walked through the doors, because Steve was a huge dork, and if Bucky wasn’t printing off the day’s receipts for accounting, he’d probably have beaten Steve to it.
“Ah huh,” Sharon said.
Do you find librarians inherently sexy? Bucky texted Steve.
New text from Steve:
I find you inherently sexy.
Good. I’m more than my job and a stupid fetishization of it that isn’t even true.
New text from Steve:
There’s a story here. I guess it depends on whether teachers turn you on.
A teacher? Of course Steve was.
Not because they’re teachers, Bucky answered.
New text from Steve:
In that case, I find your scowl sexy. Dinner tomorrow? What time are you done?
“Wow,” Sharon said as she walked by the reference desk on her way to circulation for her shift. Bucky was filling in for a sick coworker and didn’t even care. “What’s that on your face?”
Bucky lifted his hand to scrape it over his chin. He’d been trying to track down the HDMI cord in the children’s department, so there was a chance that he hadn’t walked away clean of glitter or that fuzzy cotton ball stuff. “Where?” he asked, when his hand came away clean.
“Right here,” Sharon said, using both of her index fingers to do a curving motion away from her mouth, indicating a wide smile. “It’s creepy. Please stop.”
“Steve and I are going out again tonight,” Bucky answered her, throwing a crumpled post-it in her direction. “You should have hedged your bets with Peggy.”
Sharon waved that aside. “No, if I’d known being goofy in love would make you look like you’re not being tortured just for sitting there, I’d have tried to set you up with all my single friends.”
“You’re at least five years younger than me.”
“What I’m trying to say is that I’m happy for you, you…” here she mouthed the word asshole so as to not say it out loud at work. “But that doesn’t mean everyone is. Peggy wants to see you,” Sharon finished with a smirk. “Immediately. In her office.”
“Guess what!” Sharon said loudly right after she turned away from him. “Bucky has a date tonight!”
Bucky sat across from Peggy, raising an eyebrow as she observed him with a cool, detached look. “Sharon got a picture with her phone,” she finally said. “I’m disappointed in you, Bucky. How many months did it take? Eight?”
“You knew?” he questioned, not sure why he felt incredulous. Of course she knew.
“No. Sharon texted me about it last night. There were a lot of exclamation points. I hope you got that man’s number.”
“Of course I did. I’m not completely incompetent.”
“Good,” she responded with a smile, her red lipstick highlighting how dangerous the sharp cut of her lips could be. Peggy was totally intimidating. “The reference desk is not the proper place for a first date, despite the fact that initially getting to know someone is a similar process to the reference interview.”
Great. Librarian humour. She wasn’t wrong – he was trained in asking questions to narrow the topic of discussion so he knew how to best approach locating what the other person wanted. The thing about a first date is that he had to assume that what Steve wanted was him, and the questions he asked were to find out if that was something he wanted to give Steve. “I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that happening again for a while,” Bucky responded.
Steve was on time to pick Bucky up for their date. Bucky was the one running late, which meant that by the time he’d received Steve’s text and left his desk area, Steve had already been waylaid by one of the long-time staff members, someone who disapproved of everything Bucky said or did.
“We met here,” Steve was saying, lighting up as Bucky took the last of the stairs as quickly as possible and lunged towards Steve, hoping to drag him away before every single staff member noticed him and wanted to meet him. Steve looked relaxed enough, standing in front of the reference area, completely unconcerned that his audience of one had turned into an audience of three in the time it took for Bucky to reach him. Bucky scowled at his coworkers. “Usually the books I get from the library are ebooks because of the convenience, but I had to return books one day for my neighbor and she heavily recommended the reference librarian to me. Of course I knew the moment I saw him that she wasn’t talking about Bucky.”
“Gee, thanks,” Bucky said in a sarcastic tone, but he grinned at Steve because he was stupid for Steve and unable to not grin at him, but also because he wasn’t exactly concerned that Steve’s neighbor had tried to encourage him into meeting Peggy, and instead Steve had found Bucky (and kept him). Bucky was pretty secure in the knowledge that Steve was there for him. There was a reason none of the other evening reference shifts had noticed Steve.
“But I didn’t care who she meant,” Steve continued in a soft tone, and there were now five coworkers leaning forward, clinging to every word Steve spoke. It looked like Sharon had told everyone about his date. By the time Bucky got to work tomorrow, everyone would know about this conversation too. “Because I saw Bucky and I had no idea how to approach him. He was in the middle of giving someone a very unimpressed stare until they turned and left. I tried smiling at him and he narrowed his eyes at me, and I was pretty hooked by that point. Came in every Tuesday for eight months before I tried again.”
Everyone turned to look at Bucky. He just shrugged, reaching out to grab Steve’s hand. He tugged slightly, with the intent of pulling Steve away from the nosey, nosey people he called his coworkers, but instead Steve just leaned into his side like they were at a place in their relationship where physical contact was a norm and not the huge deal it was.
“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” old-as-balls coworker responded to Steve, looking directly at Bucky with a meaningful expression of disapproval, like Bucky would take note of her platitude and it would change his entire outlook on life, and the reference desk.
Wow. Golly Gee. Imagine that, all this time all he needed to hear to inspire him was that he could catch more flies with honey, like being sticky sweet so all those flies hovered around him until they stuck was one of his goals in life. Maybe then he’d be like library assistant who had no less than three stalkers who asked for her each time they came in just because she was terrible at getting out of conversations and was always smiling. Natasha had taken to hovering closely whenever the girl was on the floor.
“Nah,” Steve told her, leaning in and brushing his mouth against Bucky’s cheek. “That wouldn’t be Bucky.”
Bucky took advantage of the momentary lapse of everyone staring at the two of them like they were the most adorable thing they’d seen all day and tugged Steve towards the library exit.