Steve sneered at the page of new tattoo options Bucky intended to put in their binder. “Another one?”
Bucky grinned and shrugged as he took the page of designs and slid it into one of the empty sheet protectors inside the binder. “What? Everyday at least five people come in here looking for some sort of floral design. I’m just giving them more options.”
“You’re peacocking, and peacocking terribly at that.”
“Aw, Steve,” Bucky drawled.
Steve held up a hand to silence Bucky. “Nope. Not hearing it. You’ve been flirting with the florist across the street for months now, and basing all of your new tattoo designs on his arrangements—three-quarters of which are pre-selected by the florists’ company, might I add.”
“But he arranges them so much better than the concept photos. He’s shown me the books; I know.”
“Anyway,” Steve pushed onward, “all of your art is just your way of showing off your skills and appreciation for him, but it all goes to waste because you never show it to him. Unless Tony comes in here to get a tattoo, he will never know.”
Bucky sighed. He rested his elbows on the desk and cupped his chin in his hands. “I know, but how does a guy like me get a perfect guy like him? He’s smart, funny, and doesn’t take anyone’s crap. Plus, I watched him create a wedding bouquet and ten smaller table arrangements for the wedding’s after party with just an hour before the bride and groom took off for Vegas to get married. Oh, and he doesn’t just make bouquets. He likes to build things out of scrap metal. He’s a creative genius. He’s perfect.”
Steve shook his head. “You have to tell him how you feel.”
“Not until I can prove to him that I am the best alpha out there. He hates posturing though. He always gets annoyed when he sees an alpha trying to show off his strength.”
“Then don’t use your strength.” Steve slid the binder of designs toward Bucky. “You already have over two hundred tattoos based on his creations. Start by showing him that.”
“Maybe…” Bucky answered.
Tony scooped up a rose from the new shipment and took the stripper to the stem, letting the leaves and thorns fall into the bucket at his feet. He dropped the strippers, grabbed the scissors, cut the stem slanted, then plopped the rose into a bucket of cold water. He’d repeated the process two more times before the shop bell rang overhead.
He looked up from his work and beamed at the lovely sight of Bucky. The alpha was dressed in a leather jacket that showed off his muscular form. In each hand Bucky carried a cup of coffee, and tucked under his arm was a black binder. “Bucky,” Tony cheered. “Please tell me one of those cups is for me.”
Bucky smiled and placed one of the cups on the counter closest to Tony. “New shipment of roses?”
Tony chuckled as he picked up a pink one. “Can you tell?” He sniffed the rose before he stripped and trimmed it. “It’s good timing though. My boss wants me to make more birthday cake designs, and I was worried I’d have to use the last of our roses to do it. It’s bad enough I’ll end up using all of the white daisies.”
“Birthday cake?” Bucky inquired.
Tony dropped another rose into the bucket. “Yeah, I’ve showed you before. C’mon.” Tony led Bucky over to one of the coolers and pointed to a floral arrangement designed to look like a cake comprised of flowers with a rose acting as the candle flame on top. “Basic design. First thing they teach you right after you learn how to make bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres.”
Bucky’s eyes sparkled with delight. “No way I’ve seen this before. I would remember something that looks equally pretty and delicious.”
Tony preened, so happy to have Bucky’s approval.
If only Bucky would ask him out now.
Tony wasn’t an old fashioned omega who believed that only alphas could do the asking. However, he was aware that he was not the most desirable omega, whereas Bucky was the epitome of the perfect alpha. He was a gentleman, kind, caring, funny, and with just enough of a sharp edge to his personality that it got Tony hot and bothered.
Tony knew he should grow some confidence and just ask out Bucky on date, but the thought of asking Bucky out felt as dangerous as looking directly into the sun.
Bucky was just too perfect for him; he’d never get a positive answer from Bucky.
The shop bell rang overhead and a young girl came inside.
“Excuse me,” Tony dismissed himself from Bucky and went to help the girl.
The girl wanted a large bouquet of Gerberas and in at least seven different shades.
Tony only had three colors and there were only about ten Gerberas left.
The girl was visibly heartbroken, and so Tony tried to comfort her just as the bell in shop rang for the third time in the last half hour.
“There is another florist shop about two miles from here. They get their flowers from the same company we do, so they might have what you’re looking for.”
The girl lit up and thanked him profusely as she left, walking past Tony’s boss, who’d just entered the shop.
Once the girl was gone, Tony’s boss, Mr. Stane tore Tony a new one. “We are here to make money, Tony! You can’t be sending away our customers! We could have used the online ordering system to get something delivered to her.”
“But it was a specialized arrangement and the website doesn’t do—”
“You could have picked something similar! Honestly! You’re not even worth your paycheck!”
Tony clenched his fist and bit down a growl. “Maybe you sho—”
Bucky marched over to the register and slapped down his credit card. “I’d like to buy all of the arrangements in your cooler, but only if they are rung up by this fantastic employee, who is the only reason I have been buying flowers from this dump for months.”
Tony choked on his breath. Dear god! Most of the arrangements in the coolers were comprised of roses and lilies—the most expensive of the flowers. Just a dozen roses alone cost around forty dollars. Add in the price for the vase and the baby’s-breath, and it got closer to fifty or sixty. Throw in a few other flowers and one arrangement cost a hundred dollars.
And Bucky wanted to buy them all.
“Uh, Bucky…” Tony started, but Bucky’s brilliant grin cut him off.
“Don’t worry, sugar. The tattoo parlor and my apartment could use some sprucing up.”
“You bought the whole florist shop, didn’t you?” Steve asked as he walked into the tattoo parlor the next morning to find it covered in flowers.
Bucky scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. “His boss had just yelled at him for suggesting a customer go to a different florist because they’d run low on Gerberas and the customer wanted a large bouquet of them. What was I supposed to do?”
Steve pinched the bridge of his nose. “I am not helping you haul all of these flowers back to the apartment.”
“Can you help me water them at least?”
“When is your next heat cycle?” Sam asked from the doorway of Tony’s room.
Tony frowned and rearranged his blankets. His bed still didn’t look comfortable. “Not for another month, I think.”
Sam sighed. “You sure it’s not coming up in the next week?”
Tony stopped what he was doing and finally faced Sam. “Why do you ask?”
Sam crooked his finger at Tony and stepped into the shared space of their apartment.
The living room was filled with flower sculptures he’d been working on, and also a few metal works that he’d managed to sneak in between work and trying to come up with new and inventive floral arrangements. He really wanted to surprise Bucky with a new design; Bucky seemed to really like it when Tony got inventive with the flowers, and Tony loved the appreciation he got from Bucky (his boss always complained about the designs, but as long as they sold within twenty-four hours of creation, Mr. Stane didn’t stop Tony).
It appeared his floral and metal-welding passions had collided in the living room to create elephants and giraffes that were part metal and part flower.
“Okay,” Tony started. “This does look excessive, but I have been known to go on creative sprees in the past.”
Sam shook his head and waved Tony into the kitchen.
Sam picked up the toaster and held it in front of Tony.
A bunch of roses had been stuffed in the toaster.
Tony grimaced. “Roses should always be refrigerated.”
“Okay, there is a slight chance that my heat may be coming on early.”
Bucky took a deep breath and squared his shoulders as he stared determinedly at the door to the florist shop, binder in his arms.
He could do this. All he was doing was showing Tony some of his tattoo designs like he would a potential customer.
He wished his nerves would get the memo.
Taking a second deep breath, Bucky forced himself to enter the florist shop.
A faint, sweet scent tickled Bucky’s nostrils, and suddenly all of Bucky’s alpha instincts were alert and talking.
There was am omega who was about to enter heat nearby. There were still a few more days left before the heat, but until then the omega’s body would be releasing pheromones to attract a companion.
There was only one omega who worked in this flower shop, and Bucky’s heart raced with excitement and fright. The need to demonstrate what a fantastic partner he’d be for Tony was like someone screaming in his head for help.
“These roses do smell sweet,” a male voice said. “But not as sweet as you.”
Bucky sneered as a whiff of alpha pheromones filled the shop.
“Cause I haven’t heard that line a hundred times,” Tony dismissed the alpha.
Bucky followed the voices to the coolers.
“Then it must be true,” the alpha pressed on, grinning like an idiot.
Bucky huffed and stepped up behind Tony, getting so close only a few centimeters of space separated them. He pressed his palm against the glass of one of the coolers, his arm hovering across Tony’s shoulders in a possessive manner. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Bucky said cheerfully.
The other alpha’s eyes snapped to Bucky and he glared.
Bucky grinned twice as strong.
Tony turned, his face glowing with joy at the sigh of Bucky. “Not interrupting at all.” Tony turned back to the other alpha. “Now, about your selection—”
The other alpha huffed and stormed off.
Tony sagged in relief. He rubbed his temple and sighed. “I really hate pre-heats. Heats suck, but at least I legally do not have to go into work during them. Pre-heats though, I have to deal with random creepers coming into the shop and hitting on me.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Bucky said.
Tony waved off his consolation. A tired smile played on his lips. “What can I do for you today?”
Bucky swallowed the lump in his throat. The binder he held burned against his skin. He wanted to show Tony the tattoo designs; his instincts all but demanded it. However, if Bucky showed Tony the designs now, would Tony think Bucky was just trying to sleep with him?
Bucky looked away. “Nothing. Just wanted to check on you.”
“Hey, that’s your tattoo book, right?” Tony pointed at the binder. He made grabby hands at it. “Let me see! Let me see!”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Bucky said.
Tony scoffed. “I don’t care if you draw pin up ladies or men. I don’t care if you draw dicks. You’ve gotten to see all of my work; I want to see yours. Please?” Tony exaggeratedly batted his eyelashes and pouted.
Bucky couldn’t resist.
With a fond yet defeated sigh, Bucky relinquished the binder to Tony.
Tony vibrated with excitement as he flipped through the pages. For the first few sheets he pointed out several different designs that he liked. Bucky offered to give them to Tony for free, but Tony just laughed him off and said he had no idea where he’d put them on his body.
Minutes passed and Tony finally reached the back of the binder where Bucky’s obsession began to leak through.
Tony beamed at the first page based on his arrangements. “Aw, Bucky. This is sweet. Thank you.”
Bucky looked shyly away. “There’s more.” Bucky turned the page for Tony.
Tony’s eyes widened. He flipped to another page.
Tony gaped at Bucky. “Either you like flowers more than I thought or…” Tony’s cheeks turned pink.
Bucky flushed too, and was unable to look Tony in the eye. He rubbed the back of his neck. “I uh…really like you. I mean, you’re cute and funny, and… I must come off like a total creep with that many designs based on your flowers.”
Tony shook his head. “Not to me, but then again I’ve been wanting to date you since you first walked in here months ago, so I may be biased.”
Bucky’s head snapped toward Tony. “You have?”
The pink on Tony’s cheeks turned red. “Is it really that surprising?”
Bucky groaned and dragged his palm down his face. “We could have been dating this whole time.”
“What?” Tony yelped.
“I’ve been wanting to date you for months too.” Bucky grabbed Tony’s hand and squeezed it.
“Why didn’t you ask me out?” Tony demanded.
“Why didn’t you ask me?” Bucky threw back.
Tony shook his head, but the corner of his mouth lifted into a crooked smile. “We’ve been idiots.” Tony squeezed Bucky’s hand back.
“So when do you get off of work?” Bucky smiled. “I’d like to go on a date with you.”