It had to be the day that he was late for an important meeting that the guy– the really cute guy that Bucky was 100% sure he shouldn’t have snapped at –accidentally dumped orange juice down his shirt.
[AKA – the Notting Hill AU/meet-cute that no one wanted, but I wrote anyway.]
It couldn’t have been worse timing really, Bucky was already running late for a meeting with his bosses; his lateness not even giving him the chance to do anything other than throw a suit on, grab his bag and sprint for the subway, knowing that he didn’t have time to sit in the New York traffic and deciding to risk being recognised on the train. He knew that his normally styled hair was probably sticking out in five different directions; a quick glance in a car’s wing mirror confirming this, but after running his fingers through it, Bucky decided that it was passable and continued his journey.
Bucky would have made it, only just, but he would have definitely been on time.
Until the orange juice guy happened.
As Bucky rounded the corner to the office block he heard his phone ding and pulled it out to check the message knowing that it would be his agent, Maria informing him that he needed to get his ass into her office and quickly.
That was his first mistake; taking his eyes off the pavement in front of him in favour of peering down at his phone.
He didn’t see the smaller man walk around the corner until he collided with him, feeling liquid beginning to seep through his dress shirt and hearing a small “oof.”
Bucky threw his hands out to steady himself as one of his legs tangled with the other person’s and they both stumbled before Bucky managed to right them.
“Jesus!” Bucky snapped, looking down at his dress shirt, once white but now sporting a luminous orange patch where the other person’s drink had exploded all over him. “Don’t you watch where you’re going?”
“Shit sorry! But you weren’t exactly paying much attention either! Maybe if you looked up from your phone once in a while you’d see what was right in front of you!” The other person retorted angrily and Bucky’s head shot up to glare at him.
The guy was blond, no taller than 5’6 and probably weighed about 90 pounds wet through, Bucky was surprised that he hadn’t gone flying when they’d collided. He too was examining his own shirt, which was equally covered in what Bucky could only assume was an orange fruit smoothie, judging by the takeaway cup that was crushed in the guy’s hand. He looked up to glare at him and Bucky finally got a good look at his face.
Shit, Bucky thought as he found himself looking into seemingly depthless blue eyes.
The guy was gorgeous; his hair styled in an old fashioned, yet modern way. His cheekbones strong and defined despite his size and his lips just screamed to be kissed, but his eyes. Bucky seriously thought that he might get lost in his eyes.
It took him a moment to realise that the blond man was still speaking to him, completely oblivious to his staring and Bucky shook himself out of his stupor. “What?”
The man stopped mid-rant to glare at Bucky again with all the ferocity of a wet puppy. “I said, if you hadn’t been looking at your phone then you would have seen me. I’m sorry about your shirt but I couldn’t have avoided you because you’d walked into me before I had chance to even react.”
“I don’t have time for this, I was already late, but I’m definitely going to be late now!” Bucky griped.
Maria was going to kill him; he definitely wouldn’t be getting this role if he were late for the conference.
“I live just over there, if you wanted to clean up.” The man offered, pointing towards a blue door to an apartment block situated across the street.
“No, you’ve done enough.” Bucky told him, pulling his shirt away from his chest in an attempt to stop it from clinging to him, his chest already sticky with the orange liquid. “I have to go. This is just perfect.”
“Wait, you can’t carry on like that.” The other man protested. “Just, at least let me pay for your dry cleaning.”
Bucky’s reply was cut short as his phone rang, the blond man smirking and throwing a hand up, whether in victory at his point being proven, or annoyance at being interrupted, Bucky didn’t know.
“It’s fine.” Bucky told him, sighing as Hill’s name flashed across the screen of his mobile, swiping the answer button. “Hill, please tell me you have a change of clothes there? Yeah, I’m almost there. Bye.”
The blonde guy looked at him over the large rims of his glasses, one eyebrow raising as Bucky looked down at his shirt again, flinching as he heard the repetitive click of a camera shutter.
“Shit, I have to go.” Bucky crossed his suit jacket over his shirt in an attempt to hide the stain.
“Watch where you’re going from now on, might save you a few embarrassing photos.” The blonde man smirked, full lips pursing in amusement. “And you’re not the only person who’s now late for something important, accidents happen, there’s no need to be an asshole about it in future.”
Bucky’s mouth opened quickly meaning to give the other man a mouthful, not used to people yelling back at him other than Hill or Natasha, especially not tiny blonde men with bedroom eyes, but the blonde had already turned and walked away, unperturbed by the lurking paparazzi photographer across the street documenting the scene.
Well, fuck him, Bucky thought as he watched the man head towards the blue door, decidedly not watching the small curves of the man’s ass as he walked away.
Wouldn’t you like to? Bucky’s brain provided unhelpfully and he shook his head, turning and hurrying towards the office of his agent.
“What the hell happened to you!?” Sam exclaimed as Steve stormed through the door of their apartment, dragging his shirt over his head before he had even reached his bedroom.
“Some asshole on his phone walked straight into me, knocked my drink over us both and then had the nerve to yell at me as though it was my fault! If he had been looking where he was going instead of at his phone screen, we wouldn’t have had an issue. He all but sent us flying. I don’t care how gorgeous he was, that does not give him the right to be an asshole.” Steve seethed angrily, dabbing at his sticky chest with a wet cloth before dragging a fresh shirt on.
“You realise you said asshole twice in that sentence accompanied by the word ‘gorgeous’.” Sam commented, raising an eyebrow and continuing to poke at the eggs he was frying with a spatula.
Steve paused in the middle of dragging his jacket onto his shoulders to glare at him. “He was hot. I was sure I knew him from somewhere but I couldn’t place him and there was a guy taking pictures of him. It was totally weird, but he was an ass. Sam, you should have seen him, brown hair, blue-grey eyes, rugged looking. His hair was stuck out everywhere like someone had run their fingers through it. And don’t even get me started on his lips, they were obscene!”
“You need to stop right there. His mouth and your fantasies are not something I need to know about, ever. Seriously, do not go any further.” Sam held up a hand to cover Steve’s mouth, smiling at the expression on Steve’s face when he released him. “So he was an attractive ass?”
“Yes. Even covered in orange shit,” Steve sighed and Sam almost laughed at his wistful look, “why are the hot ones always dicks.”
“I don’t think Brock is a good baseline for judgement, Steve. That guy wasn’t just a dick, he was down right abusive and you know it.” Sam brandished the spatula at him as he pulled the pan of eggs off the stove and tipped them onto his plate of toast.
Steve felt himself flush, looking down at the counter and mumbling, “I know.”
“So, stop comparing every guy to him. Yes, some people are rude assholes and some are abusive dickheads, but some aren’t. I’m not gay, but I can guarantee that some of us are nice. You’ll find that person eventually.” Sam fixed him with a stern look.
Steve groaned in frustration and stole a piece of Sam’s toast before grabbing his messenger bag and heading towards the door. “This is not about me finding someone else. This is me commenting on some guy being an asshole. I can do that without it meaning I want a boyfriend, Sam. ”
“I know. You’re a not-so-strong, smart guy who don’t need no man. I’ve heard it. I remember it. Just, give people a chance. Even gorgeous guys who are assholes when already late for meetings and then have orange smoothies dumped down their front.” Sam called after him and Steve couldn’t help but laugh, the noise carrying through the apartment as he closed the door behind him and hurried to work.
What did it matter anyway, Steve thought, it’s not like I’m going to see him again.
Bucky ran a hand through his hair tensely. He thought that the reading had gone well, but who was he to know?
He wasn’t suitable for every job that came along, particularly after he had put his foot down and said no to doing another post apocalyptic movie as his next project, which made up 90% of the offers he’d had lately, especially since the addition of his cybernetic arm, courtesy of his friend Tony Stark.
He had been out for over a year after the car accident had destroyed his left arm beyond repair, forcing the paramedics to amputate it at the scene of the accident to avoid him bleeding to death before the fire brigade could even get him out of the car. Bucky knew that his days of rom-coms were pretty much done. Who wanted to see a myriad of scars instead of the smooth, chiselled abs that most actors sported? But he was sick of the dystopian stuff that had suddenly become popular after the sparkly vampire era had disappeared and wasn’t sure he could deal with any more prosthetic zombies for a while.
Natasha had rolled her eyes and called him a princess while Hill had just sighed and glared at him.
This was a superhero film, derived from a comic book and Bucky could have sworn the character had been written specifically for him, metal arm and everything.
Natasha walked out of her office and nudged his shoulder with her hip. “You didn’t have to wait out here you know. I told you to go home.”
Bucky shrugged. “I know, but I just figured I’d wait if you weren’t going to be very long.”
“You don’t want to get the subway home do you, that’s really what it is.” Natasha winked at him and absently fixed a loose strand of his hair. “You got the part by the way. Despite being late and covered in orange juice. Congrats. You just landed yourself a three movie contract and a payday of epic proportions if you want it.”
“Really?” Bucky asked, standing up and beaming at her, watching her face change from controlled seriousness to a happy smile as she nodded, hugging him back when he swept her up and span her around. “Shit, Nat, that is amazing, thank you so much for putting in a good word for me, you are seriously the best!”
“I know I am.” She grinned. “But you pulled that one off yourself, I put in a good word, but they absolutely loved you. The casting director thought that you were perfect for the part, you did good Princess. Now, you can go home and chill and we’ll start on all the paperwork and you can come in and sign them when we’re done. They recommended that you read some of the actual comics though. I know you’ve seen the script, but they thought it might give you a little more insight into the character’s background.”
Bucky nodded. “I will.”
“There’s a comic book store that’s literally across the street from here. It’s called Marvel Co. Clint owns it but he’s not working today.” Natasha told him. “Steve, Clint’s business partner, or Sam should be there instead, just tell them the name of the comics, I’ve texted them to you and tell them to put it on my tab.”
“You have a tab?” Bucky narrowed his eyebrows at her. “Didn’t take you for a comic book girl myself.”
“I married Clint didn’t I? You do remember the wedding right?”
Bucky vaguely recalled some kind of comic book strip as the placemats at the reception, but given that he had been high on pain meds at the time, his attendance at the wedding had been short and sweet before he had been promptly bundled back into a cab and taken home by Bruce, their mutual friend and coincidentally Bucky’s self-appointed guardian at the time. Bucky honestly didn’t know how he would have made it through those few months without Nat, Clint and Bruce and their unyielding support.
“Yeah, I remember.” He agreed. “I think mine had a guest appearance from Mr Bump didn’t it?”
“I believe it did yes. One of the guys at the shop did those for us, Steve. He’s incredible. He’s working today so you can thank him for that when you get there, but it was Clint who got to add in the Mr Bump character. He thought he was real hilarious with that one.” Nat rolled her eyes but smiled fondly.
“It was funny.” Bucky replied. “So, Marvel Co., give the names of the comics, put it on your tab. Do you actually pay for this tab? I’ve never known you to settle a tab in your life, dorogaya moya.”
“Why should I when you make enough money for the two of us?” Nat kissed his cheek before heading back into her office, throwing him a wink over her shoulder. “Now get the hell out of here. You’re making the place look cluttered.”
Bucky snorted, looking around at the pristine white office space with the charcoal grey furniture before glancing down at his wrinkled blue shirt and the orange stained white dress shirt that was hung over his arm. So he didn’t look his best today?
He glanced at his phone, checking that he had received the text from Nat before turning towards the elevator, hoping that the photographer wasn’t still lurking outside.
It only took him a few minutes to locate the small comic book store, a red sign hung over the door read ‘Marvel Comic Book Co’ in big letters, the centres of the letters made up of comic strips with the outline of the letters being a vibrant red. He checked the sign on the door before pushing it door open and glancing around at the rows of low shelves and boxes, all stacked full of brightly coloured comics and posters.
Comics weren’t something that Bucky had grown up with, his Ma barely being able to afford food and a roof over their heads after the death of his father, never mind luxuries and things that weren’t strictly necessities, but Bucky had never felt hard off, she had made sure of that. It had broken his heart when she had died two months before he landed his first major acting job, but he knew that she would have been proud of him.
A bell above the door dinged as he swung it fully open and stepped inside, mouth dropping slightly as he recognised some of the characters from other major blockbusters on the front of a handful of the comics, Iron Man being the most well-known one as well as Batman and Superman. There was a small section in the corner labelled ‘Local Artists’ which held a few proudly displayed comics that had been signed by the creators as well as a photo of one of the artists at a signing event in the shop.
Bucky glanced over at the till as a door that read ‘Staff Only: Enter at risk of lightsaber attack.’ opened and a tall, coloured man sporting a Marvin Gaye t-shirt appeared.
“Hey man, you okay? Looking for anything in particular?” He asked as Bucky walked over to the counter.
“Natasha sent me.” Bucky said by way of explanation, pulling out his phone.
“Ahh, you one of her clients? What am I putting on her tab this time? At this rate she’s gonna owe Clint a new shop.” The man smirked, glancing at the shirt in Bucky’s hands. “Hey, what happened to your shirt?”
“Orange juice happened.” Bucky shrugged in a ‘what can you do?’ gesture.
“I might know something about that. I’m Sam by the way.” The man nodded, giving Bucky a hard once over before extending his hand for the brunet to shake.
“James, um, James Barnes,” Bucky replied, shaking Sam’s hand.
“Ahh! I knew I recognised you! You did that whole Convergence film right?” Sam asked. “So, what can we do for you?”
“Yeah, I did. I need these comics, please.” Bucky mumbled, suddenly embarrassed as he handed over his phone to show Sam Nat’s text.
“Ahh, ok. You’ll need Steve for those. He keeps hiding them because I’m not finished and he says I’ll give myself spoilers. One second.” Sam stepped backwards, opening the door and calling out. “Hey Steve, can you bring out whatever of The Winter Soldier comics we have?”
Bucky heard a reply before Sam turned back towards them. “So, I know you probably can’t say anything officially, but seeing as you’re here and you’re an actor who just coincidentally happens to have a metal arm like the character, I’m assuming that the movies got the go ahead?”
Sam grinned as Bucky shuffled nervously.
“Blink once for yes, twice for no?” he joked and Bucky couldn’t help but laugh.
“The movies got the go ahead, yes. I can say that because the press release will come out later today I think.” Bucky nodded.
“Awesome, I guess I better read faster then.” Sam grinned at him, turning his head as the staff door opened slightly, a voice mumbling as they pushed a large box of comics through.
“Sam, we really need to sort out that corridor, I almost broke my neck twice.” The voice said. “Did you want all of the comics or just the most recent one? I think we have them all but– are you serious?”
Bucky glanced up from his phone as the voice rose in anger at the end of the sentence, stomach sinking as he came face to face with the gorgeous blond man from earlier.
“Um–” Bucky started but was immediately cut off by the smaller man.
“Did you seriously follow me here for your dry cleaning? Look man, I’m sorry about your shirt but resorting to stalking isn’t cool.” The blond told him, placing the box of comic onto the counter a little harder than Bucky thought necessary.
Sam’s wince confirmed this.
“I didn’t follow you,” Bucky said, “I was sent here.”
“Um, yeah, sure.” Steve rolled his eyes sarcastically, folding his arms.
“Okay, before this gets ugly. James, this is Steve Rogers. Steve, I believe you’ve already met James Barnes, unless you managed to throw your drink down more than one person this morning.” Sam stated, clapping a hand to Steve’s shoulder like a parent reigning in a petulant child.
“I didn’t throw my–”
“I’m not Judge Judy. I don’t care how it happened.” Sam retorted. “Now, I’m going to get coffee. Help the man out so that he can go home and shower, poor guy doesn’t look like he’s had the chance to wash off that crappy luminous gunk that you drink yet. Okay?”
He didn’t wait for Steve to reply before continuing. “James, nice to meet you. Sorry about your shirt. Steve, play nice.”
And with that he disappeared into the back of the shop, leaving Steve and Bucky staring awkwardly at each other. Steve still angry and Bucky embarrassed that he had snapped at him.
“Hey, so, um, I’m sorry about this morning,” Bucky muttered uncomfortably. “I was an asshole.”
Steve’s glare softened slightly as he took in the genuineness of Bucky’s apology. “Yeah, me too I guess. But seriously, look up from your phone every now and again and that kind of thing wouldn’t happen.”
Bucky nodded and then grimaced as his phone dinged, causing Steve to roll his eyes.
“Sorry, I don’t get much time away from it. We’re connected,” Bucky joked, brandishing the iPhone and looking at the list of notifications appearing on the locked screen.
“I guess being famous that could be an issue. But, being famous doesn’t give you an excuse to be an asshole.” Steve told him, moving to search through the box of comics, beginning to pull ones out at random and then flicking past the repeats. “So, Tasha wants you to take a look at The Winter Soldier comics? I guess you’re playing him then? The news is everywhere on tumblr, they’re just waiting for the official news from SHIELD themselves.”
“Yeah, Natasha sent me here for them with Clint owning the place.” Bucky told him, ignoring the second question even though he knew that they all would know sooner rather than later.
He wasn’t blowing his own contract before filming had even started.
“I could just call Tasha and ask her you know, she’d tell me.” Steve smirked.
“What is it with you guys? I feel like I should be taken into a room and interrogated about it.” Bucky laughed, watching as Steve chewed on his bottom lip whilst his eyes flicked across the titles of the comics in front of him.
Bucky knew that he was staring, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. The guy was hot. His hands were wiry and hard, fingers long and nimble as he flicked through the comics in the box and all Bucky could think of was how those fingers would feel wrapped around his dick or buried inside him. Bucky had never bottomed before, but he could see those fingers having the ability to take him apart bit by bit.
Shit, he was screwed.
“Here you go.” Steve pushed a pile of comics towards him. “That should be them all so far.”
Bucky was disappointed that there weren’t any missing, giving him the opportunity to come back without actually reaching stalker level. Steve looked at him expectantly and he clumsily reached forward.
“Thanks, um, Natasha said to put it on her tab?” Bucky replied, more a question than a statement.
“Yeah, I figured, Clint can deal with it. I refuse to get between them and another lovers spat. I like living.” Steve nodded, eyes wide with faux innocence as he clutched a closed fist to his chest mockingly, expression breaking as he winked at Bucky.
The brunet laughed, taking the comics with his metal arm and stepping back from the counter, hesitating in the hope of prolonging the conversation without it becoming weird. After the accident, Bucky had only ever been with one person but it had ended badly; them looking to pry into his life and him not being ready to actually be with someone so soon.
Bucky hesitated for a moment, shifting the comics from arm to arm for a moment, hoping for a moment that Steve would just say something, but the blond merely smiled and gestured towards the door.
“Do you need any help carrying them out?” he asked.
“Um, no. No, I’m fine.” Bucky shook his head and cursed himself as he felt his cheeks flame. Of course Steve wasn’t interested in him. He’d been a jackass this morning and anyway, who seriously wanted to date someone with a missing arm? Cybernetic replacement or not, Bucky knew that he was damaged goods.
With a small wave Bucky turned and headed towards the door, stopping when he heard Steve call out. “It was nice to meet you, I am sorry about your shirt.”
“Don’t sweat it.” Bucky threw a smile over his shoulder as he pushed the door open and left.
“What do you mean you didn’t ask him for coffee?” Natasha exclaimed, brandishing a bread stick at him as she licked pasta sauce off of her fingers.
“He just looked so, I don’t know, he looked kinda sad and it was a little awkward and hell Natasha, he was so hot and out of my league! I can’t ask a guy like that out! He’d have laughed in my face and I can only take so much disapproval from the same person in one day. The orange juice incident was quite enough for me thank you; I didn’t need to embarrass myself even more by being rejected! Believe it or not, I do have some sense of self preservation.” Steve retorted, dumping the sauce over the tagliatelle and stirring it before heading over to the table.
“Did you actually meet the same person? James Barnes is barely able to function as a person; it’s a miracle he hasn’t brained himself walking down the street. Orange juice is a relief compared to what could have happened to him. The last time he had an audition, he got so nervous that he tripped over a chair and bust his nose on the end of my desk. He had to do the audition in one of the SHIELD crew hoodies because we didn’t have a shirt that would fit him. I promise he wouldn’t have turned you down and he definitely wouldn’t have been a jackass about it. He was late this morning and that’s the sole reason for him being an idiot with you, honestly.” Natasha plonked herself down at Steve and Sam’s dinner table and spooned some of the pasta onto her plate, not waiting for the two men to join her before tucking in.
“Thanks for your manners Natasha, where did you learn them? The Russian mob?” Sam teased as he and Steve joined her.
“Shut up.” Natasha pointed her fork at Sam before re-directing it at Steve. “And you--–”
Steve held up his hands in a mock surrender.
“–will call James and ask him out for coffee. Hell knows the guy could use some fun.”
“I can’t call him now, that just looks weird. He’s a celebrity, I don’t want to look like a stalker!” Steve shook his head, not usually one to back down, but feeling as though he was out of his depth within this situation.
James was gorgeous, he couldn’t deny it and he had spent the entire encounter wishing that the other man would have asked him out. But he was scrawny, unhealthy and sickly looking, nothing like the type of person that James Barnes would be used to dating. Why would Natasha think that the James Barnes would be interested in him? No one was interested in him, not after Brock. No one had been interested before and Steve hadn’t trusted anyone enough to be in a relationship properly the disastrous ending to his and Brock’s and Steve had only just begun to notice people again enough to be interested in them.
“You did already accuse him of being a stalker today, so maybe you’re due a stalker moment?” Sam teased and Natasha groaned dramatically.
“You accused him of stalking you?”
“Well, yeah! I didn’t know who he was! I just assumed that he’d followed me back to the store to force me to pay his dry cleaning bill!” Steve replied exasperatedly.
Natasha rolled her eyes and ran a hand through her hair, curly today but usually perfectly straight, before pinching the end of her nose. “I give up. I despair of you I really do. Right, here is my phone, it is dialling, if you don’t ask him out for coffee or dinner or something I swear to god I will make your life not worth living Steve. You both need a good time, so have a good time– together.”
She thrust her iPhone at him, the screen confirming that it was in fact dialling ‘James’.
“Shit Tasha!” Steve hissed, pressing the phone to his ear, half praying that the other man didn’t pick up and half hoping that he did just so that Steve could hear that rough, low voice again. Sexy without meaning to be, yet earnest enough to betray the underlying pain that could be seen in the dark eyes.
Please don’t answer, please don’t answer.
“Hello?” Bucky repeated and Steve’s mouth opened and closed quickly.
Natasha waved her hand in a circular motion.
Speak! She mouthed at Steve as Sam’s shoulders shook with silent laughter at the horror on Steve’s face.
“Hello? Tasha, heavy breathing really is rather infantile, even for you, so either start talking or I’m hanging up.” Bucky drawled, voice taking on a sultry, saccharine tone.