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It’s 4am and all he wanted was a mind-jolting shot of Mickey’s blackest but the sign on the door says ‘Open at 6’. Like 4am isn’t good enough.

“Well, Mickey ,” Bucky hissed, “Not all of us work Wall Street hours, you know.”

He turned and glared at the dark, cold and bleak street. It’s quiet and there’s one streetlight on across the road, but not much else could make this place look friendlier.

“Fine,” he grumbled and shifted his laptop bag on his shoulder. He’d been hoping to get in at Mickey’s and run through the last of his work, get what he could done before his 9am deadline. Why did he always do this? Why was he incapable of just meeting reasonable timelines? He sets them, for God’s sake! But he’d run out of instant coffee hours ago and he was tired. He’s got no one to blame but his own sorry self, really.

He trudged across the street, aiming for home. What was one more night of no sleep? He felt a yawn crack free of his chest, and he covered his mouth with the back of his hand.

He passed by the main drag that led out down to the highway and paused.

The 24-hour supermarket had one of those oversized, ridiculous signs that glowed so bright, even Jupiter would squint in this direction.

If he recalled correctly, there was a coffee station inside. By the auto shop. Right?

Bucky chewed his lip, the sickness that is caffeine withdrawal sucking him under. He really would need more if he had to stay up and finish his revisions.

“Ah, fuck it,” he groused and hurried down the street toward the humming, glowing, throbbing neon sign with the oversized smiling sun at its helm.

He passed through the automatic shushing doors and made his way down the expanse of the cashier area. A few employees were chatting together and even fewer customers idled in the many, many aisles.

The coffee station wasn’t much to write home about, which was why Bucky hadn’t bothered with it much before. Plus the coffee was more putrid waste than potable, but whatever , beggars couldn’t be choosers.

Someone had made a sad attempt at painting this wall of the store, in hopes it would look like a café, perhaps for waiting husbands left to desiccate by their free-spirited wives? There were a few metal-rod tables and chairs along the wall. Some were actually occupied, but only by lone souls, lone wolves, lone cowboys. There were decals of fake plants on the wall and a sad welcome sign painted above the ledge where the automatic coffee maker clung on for dear life. It was a big industrial sort of thing that offered macchiatos, hot cocoa and even coffee, wow!

Bucky smirked as he eyed the thing. He tugged at a paper cup, pushed it into place and jammed the most worn out button. The machine hummed and gurgled to life. He pulled out a few scant coins and slipped them into the weary slot provided.

The beast hummed louder and began brewing hell-water.

While he waited, Bucky scanned the store.

You couldn’t get much more Americana than this: bright and fluorescent, yet thrumming with aching sadness. It was a helluva place.

The coffee machine sputtered and popped.

“Might want to step back. She burns,” a voice murmured, making Bucky jump.

Bucky wasn’t a small guy, not by anyone’s standards. He was big and worked out because it helped him sleep, but that doesn’t mean he’s okay with strangers talking to him. He was a decrepit cave person on purpose. He’s built up a good hermitage at home, only allowing a few chosen friends to make eye contact and such.

And now some guy is talking to him in a supermarket? The gall.

He turned, ready to string together some fake-ass laugh or whatever the normal folks expected.

He blinked.

The guy.

He’s.

He’s gorgeous.

We’re talking tall with shoulders out to here , soft-looking blonde hair in a generic high and tight, and long legs and thighs thick enough to strangle Bucky good and proper.

“Hi,” Bucky blurted out, his earlier annoyance dissipated.

The man smiled at him. Wow. Wowowowowow wow.

Bucky’s brain is on the fritz. It’s been a long time since he’s met anyone worth looking at twice, nevermind forever. And forever is what he’s willing to give the piece of fine bison right here.

“Hi,” the guy said and he was still smiling. No one ever smiles like that anymore. Like they care, like they want to be happy forever. Who is this dork?

Bucky looked around. No one else is paying the guy any mind. Savages. Uncouth heathens.

“Hi,” Bucky said, turning back to tall, blonde and beautiful.

The guy somehow managed to show more teeth. His eyes were very blue and very pretty, with dark lashes and oddly heavy eyebrows. They made him look thoughtful somehow, like he’d been pondering things for ages.

“Hi again,” the man said. He tilted his head, “Your coffee’s ready.”

Bucky blinked, “My what?”

The guy pointed at the big monster-drink-maker. “Your coffee?”

Bucky looked at the small paper cup sitting there, steaming. Then his eyes widened, “Oh shit! Right. Yeah, yeah, my coffee.” He laughed awkwardly and fumbled to get the cup up and out, hissing when the cup bent under his attentions and some of the liquid splashed out. “Ah, shit.”

“Careful,” the other man said, leaning in. “Shh, hold on, pal.”

The man gently pulled the cup free from Bucky’s fingers and set it down on the formica ledge before picking up some stray napkins and handing them to Bucky. “Here.”

Bucky felt his cheeks warm and he frowned down at his stupid fingers, wiping at the hot coffee mess on his hand. Nicely done, champ.

“Let me get you a lid,” the guy said, reaching over and fiddling with the flimsy plastic receptacle.

Bucky was having a helluva moment, really.

“Thanks,” he murmured when the man offered him his drink back.

“You need sugar?” the guy asked gently.

“No,” Bucky said, sharper than necessary. Then he huffed, annoyed at his own quick mouth,  “Actually, yes. I’ll have three.”

The guy’s brows rose slowly, but he didn’t comment. He just leaned over and scooped up three sugar sachets that Buckey hastily jammed into his jacket pocket.

“Why’re you helping me with my coffee?” Bucky blurted, shifting his laptop bag strap.

The man paused, then shrugged.

Bucky looked at him properly, this great big beefy dude with a kind face. “Do you work here?” he asked.

The man shook his head, “No, I, uh,” he scratched at his chin, then down his neck. “I was passing through. Just got off, uhm, a job.”

Bucky squinted. This man was too good at playing coy.

“So you just hang out ‘round dirty supermarkets after work?”

The guy laughed, a warm, dry sort of sound, “No.” He pulled out something from his jacket pocket. “I needed one of these. I think.”

Bucky blinked at the small plastic-encased thing.

“Oh, a card reader?” Bucky blinked. “Really?”

The man nodded. “Uh huh,” he said like some kid from the block. “Boss says I need it to…get my work?” Definitely didn’t sound too sure.

Bucky eyed the gadget. It wasn’t unlike any other he’d seen. “Okay, cool,” he said.

He should probably be getting back to his own job, the one that paid his bills and kept him fed.

He just stood there instead.

The man didn’t budge either.

Bucky brought his coffee up for a taste. Yep. Total crap.

“So–“ the guy said.

“What kind of work–“ Bucky blurted.

They both stopped, then started.

“No, you go–“

“Sorry, what were you–“

God, what a mess.

“Hi, I’m Bucky,” Bucky put out a hand.

The man took it, fingers calloused but gentle. Bucky appreciated it - he hated it when dudes felt  the need to grind knuckles to show some lie of dominance in a world where it really, really didn’t matter.

“Steve,” the guy murmured.

“Well, hi, Steve,” Bucky said and hoisted his slipping strap higher. “Nice to meet you.”

Don’t ask him to come home with you. Don’t ask him if he’s into dicks. Don’t fucking fuck a stranger! Bucky’s internal dialogue rarely wins.

“So you need to read your work huh? You got all your work on a SD card? That’s interesting. You a photographer or something?” Bucky wished his mouth would stop flapping, but Steve was smiling at him again and he wanted to bask in it some more before trudging back to his own horrible existence.

The guy, Steve , blinked at Bucky. “Uh, what?”

Bucky frowned and indicated the card reader Steve was still holding. “You got an SD reader. Usually for cameras?”

“Uh,” Steve looked at the item in his hand. “Sure?” He chewed his lip. “Honestly, my colleague told me to just buy the one with the blue label and the big ’S’ on it.”

“Oh,” Bucky paused. “Okay.”

Way to ask boring and inane questions, Bucko.

Steve dug into his back pocket, pulling out a tiny little thing that was dwarfed in his gigantic hand.

“This is what I’ve got…for homework.”

Bucky leaned over and eyed it. The gadget was definitely a memory card, but not one Bucky’d ever seen. It had been modded to fit a standard SD slot, but with finer, thinner detailing.

“That’s new,” Bucky said.

Steve shrugged. “I guess?” He rubbed at his chin, then over his mouth, shifting on his feet. And Jesus , he looked kind of sheepish and confused there for a second. Like this miniscule interaction with Bucky was enough to frazzle him.

Bucky waited a moment before jumping in.

“You don’t know what that is, do you?” he said, sipping at his coffee like the dudebros in the movies.

Steve, the blonde babe from who-knows-where, smiled. “No, I don’t,” he laughed. “In fact, I was hoping I’d never have to find out, except my … boss told me I need whatever is on here tonight and I’m shit outta luck.”

Bucky grinned. He could be Steve’s lucky charm.

“You really don’t know what it is? You know what you bought?”

Steve held up the other item, the reader. “I thought I could just google it when I got home?”

“You live near here?” Bucky blurted, hoping against all hope, even though the desperation in his voice was a little terrifying to his own ears.

Steve shrugged, “Not really. Like I said, passing through.”

“Oh,” Bucky nodded, then remembered where he was: in a supermarket at ass-crack o’clock with coffee burns on his fingers, talking to a totally hot, totally not creepy stranger.

He looked down at his coffee and considered his options. Not that he should have any options at this hour, but how could he see into the future? He couldn’t have known this beefcake would materialize out of his naughtiest fantasies.

What he should be doing, is going home with his sour-ass drink and finishing up his client work before 9am.

“I could help you,” he said instead. “I live like, two minutes away. And I have a ton of other card readers, in case yours isn’t the right one.”

Steve blinked at him for a few seconds, probably determining just how much crazy he was willing to go home with.

“I promise I’m not like, a serial murderer, or a mass murderer.” Bucky laughed and raised both hands. “I think there’s a diff–,” His bag slid right off his shoulder in a bid for freedom, and he sloshed more coffee onto the faded linoleum.

“Oh jeez,” he muttered, shaking out his fingers. He let his bag rest on the floor because, well, he might as well give up on this whole interaction coming out in his favour.

A chuckle made him look up.

Steve was definitely smothering his laughter with a big hand. “Sorry, sorry,” he blurted, mouth twisting. Bucky wanted to scowl, but the guy was...really cute.

“It’s just,” Steve went on, “I don’t think you’re a serial killer. And even if you were–”

“Please don’t finish that sentence,” Bucky sighed. “No good could come of it.”

“All right,” Steve stood up, tucking his little SD card into his back pocket. “But I could still use your help, if you’re offering?”

Bucky’s fingers slowed their silly fanning. “You will? I mean, you do?” he blathered.

“Well, I ain’t getting home anytime soon,” Steve shrugged, and Bucky swears there’s a twang of some sort in his words, like he’s not from around here.

“Okay, um,” Bucky said, “Follow me then.”

And that’s how he got some strange dude to follow him home, just like in the fairytales. His mother would have a screaming fit if she knew. So she’ll never know.

Once out on the street, Bucky realized what a bizarre agreement he’d just fallen into.

Steve was asking all sorts of questions, like whether Bucky was from the neighbourhood (yes) and if he was always up at this hour (usually) and wasn’t there anyone waiting for him (Hah! No.).

He seemed honestly quite nice, if a bit odd. He asked a lot about the history of the houses they passed (info that Bucky was not able to provide because he never went to architectural college and was therefore a total moron compared to this guy).

They trudged up the road, Bucky finally giving up on his coffee and tossing it into an overflowing trash can.

“The cornicing is so clean on this one,” Steve was saying as they passed some old crusty house.

Bucky cocked a brow, “Cornicing? Really? You may have hit my one weakness. Dudes who talk cornices. You’re really turning my crank there, Steve.”

Steve turned back to Bucky and blinked. “Your crank?”

Bucky snorted, “Yeah, you’re really greasin’ my wheels with that kinda talk.”

Another blink. Bucky’s smile faded.

“Oh, wait,” Steve said slowly, “I’m sorry I just realized. Are you gay?”

Bucky frowned. Here it was already: the weirdly awkward niceness of the straight dude who now thought that Bucky’s sexuality somehow compromised their ability to get along.

“Uh, bi, actually,” Bucky grumbled.

Steve watched him, “Okay,” he said. “Though it’s none of my business. I’m sorry I asked.”

“Hey, don’t get all affronted with me, pal,” Bucky eyed him. “I’m not here to–”

Steve’s hands went up, “Whoa, hold on there. I wasn’t being sarcastic. I swear.”

Bucky’s mouth flapped for a moment before he shut it.

“I actually did mean that,” Steve dipped his head, his brows raised high on his forehead. “It’s not my place to be askin’ such a personal question of a guy I just met.”

Bucky frowned and kept walking, “So why’d you ask then?”

Steve sucked on his teeth for a bit. “I...I’m not sure. I’m not very good with...pick-up lines. I tend to miss them. And when you talked about a crank of all things, I think I just hopped ahead a few squares.” He smiled at Bucky again, “I’ve never heard that word used that way before so I was only half understanding.”

“No shit,” Bucky said. He halted. “I live here.”

Steve twisted, turned about in place. He looked up at the old house sandwiched between its prettier sisters. “Oh,” he nodded. “That really was only a couple minutes.”

“Well,” Bucky said, digging in his jeans for his keys. “Now you know I’m a huge, flaming queer, you still want my help?”

Steve grinned. “Well, I dunno, Buck. You about ready to sweep me off my feet?”

Okay, so hearing his name said like that definitely had Bucky perking up.

He snorted to cover it, “Pfft, pal, I am way too overworked to sweep my own apartment, nevermind your ass off your damn feet.”

“Well all right then,” Steve said, and held an arm out. “Lead the way, Cinderella.”

Bucky headed up the front steps. “I think you got your folk tales mixed up there. I’m Prince Charming.”

“And who am I?” Steve said, following.

Bucky paused while he unlocked the door. “Hmmm, you can be Chip from Beauty and the Beast.”

“Do you mean from that animated film?”

“Yeah, of course, which other one could I mean?” Bucky answered, putting his shoulder against the sticky door. It shunted open.

“Pardon me for assuming you meant the original French version.”

“Oh, a real smart-ass, you are,” Bucky countered. “Get inside.”

“So, based on the animated film, you think I’m the innocent child that was turned into a teacup?”

Bucky waved him in. “Uh, yeah. Did I stutter?”

 


 

Twenty minutes later,  the two of them were slumped on the floor, wedged in between Bucky’s ratty sofa and the coffee table, staring at Bucky’s laptop. Bucky had tried to explain away his lack of adult furniture but lost energy halfway through his tirade about never getting paid and having bastard clients shirk their responsibilities to small guys like him.

“Why this computer?” Steve asked, watching Bucky tap at the keyboard.

Bucky was chewing on an extra long twizzler, something that Steve had turned down after taking a sniff at the bag.

“Because, pal,” Bucky said around the red candy dangling from his teeth, “ This, ” he held up the small chip card, “ain’t normal.”

Steve blinked and shifted his weight, somehow managing to look even more squished in the tight space. “It’s not?” he queried.

“Nah, man,” Bucky sighed, “It’s been modded a helluva lot. Did you think I wouldn’t notice?” he eyed the little card again. “This is fancy tech.”

“Okay…” Steve said.

“And that’s why I hauled out my PC,” Bucky said, chewing and sucking up the last inch of his twizzler. “Cuz there’s no way some rando software bug’s going anywhere near my mac.”

“Ah, okay,” Steve nodded. He held up one of the gadgets Bucky had hauled out from wherever the old laptop had come from. “And this guy?”

Bucky blinked over at the item. “Multi-card reader. I don’t think the one you bought is gonna work.”

Bucky snagged the reader  and inserted its cable into one of the laptop’s many slots. “And your little card goes in here…” he murmured, showing Steve. “And...voila!”

The two of them waited for the drive to populate.

“This your work, then?” Bucky asked. He nudged the laptop closer to Steve and let him take charge.

“Yeah,” Steve murmured and clicked into the first folder. A bunch more items appeared, all labeled in strange random sequences. He scrolled through, probably looking for something Bucky wouldn’t know to identify. He paused halfway down the screen and double-clicked file hsoto.jpeg.

All that opened up was a photo of a woman giving the V sign to the camera. A really pretty woman with bobbed red hair and a wicked smile.

Steve began zooming into the image, struggling to get his fingers just right on the touchpad. For a guy who didn’t know an SD reader from an SD card, he could at least handle basic digital file manipulation.

“Whatcha lookin’ for?” Bucky asked.

“Um, a code,” Steve murmured. He zoomed in further and further, right up to the woman’s index finger nail.

A code? What the hell kind of work did Steve do? And how BIG was this dang photo?

Steve zoomed in even closer. The pale peach pixels were materializing, splitting, separating into...

Bucky blinked, “Oh wow, is that...are those numbers? Are those coordinates?”

“Do you have a notepad and pen, please?” Steve asked.

“Uh, sure,” Bucky struggled to get to his feet and wished again that he’d cleaned his apartment before letting another human inside.

“Here,” he threw a notepad with roses printed in the corners at Steve, who caught it deftly. Bucky followed that up with a half-dry sharpie.

Steve was writing down a series of numbers that were digitally embedded in a goddamn jpeg of all things. Those were definitely coordinates.

“Are you a spy?” Bucky slid back in beside Steve, who had the worst scrawling handwriting Bucky had ever seen.

“No,” Steve responded calmly.

“So why are you writing down coordinates to a place in Midtown, from a picture of a sexy woman in black leather?”

Steve looked up, alarmed.

“If it’s some sex bovine club or something, it’s okay. We’ve all been there.”

Steve seemed more confused.

Bucky sighed, “I know it’s Midtown because I was a boy scout and my troop got lost on the day we tried to swing an orienteering merit badge. My ma had to come pick us up because a Subway driver found five stupid, sick kids crying on the street corner, surrounded by candy wrappers.”

“Uh,” Steve breathed.

Bucky laughed, nudging Steve’s shoulder with his own. “Kidding about the sex club. None of my business. But you are a spy, right?”

“No, I’m not,” Steve huffed, folding the paper up into a tiny rectangle and slipping it into his jacket’s hidden inner pocket.

“NSA?” Bucky prodded. “CIA?”

“No,” Steve said, clicking further through the mass of random files. He double-clicked one labeled z- :-(.exe.

“Whoa, wait, hold up!” Bucky cried as a piece of gnarly coding opened up and began systematically deleting whatever items were on screen, including all of Bucky’s folders. He tapped at a few keys. “AGH, my stuff!”

Steve’s eyes widened, “Oh God, what did it do? What’s happening?”

“It’s wiping my system!” Bucky wailed, banging on more keys. “Damnit! Wait! No!”

The two of them watched as the software, the virus, whatever it was, chewed up all the data left on Bucky’s drive. Windows flickered and jumped and his speakers wailed, buzzing sharply before the screen went black.

“Oh no…” Bucky hummed. Then he sighed.

“I’m...sorry?” Steve said ruefully. “I usually don’t…my colleague always does this. On our work computers. I think there may be some sort of extra … things that know this isn’t an approved laptop. Sorry?”

Bucky rubbed at his face. “Like I said, Steve, this is what my PC is for.”

“Oh…” Steve chewed on that. “So … you’ve seen that happen before?”

Bucky turned to him, “No. Never. I was kidding, mostly.”

Steve made a face, “Shit. Uh. I can buy you a new one?”

Bucky barked out a laugh at that absurd notion. “ What? No, God, jeez. I invited you into my home three minutes after meeting you. I clearly have interpersonal safety issues already, especially when it comes to hot guys from outta town. If that’s all I get out of your not-spy adventures, then I’m probably lucky.”

Steve blinked at him.

“What?” Bucky frowned. “You look lost.”

Steve’s mouth opened, then shut, then opened again, “You think I’m hot?”

Bucky blinked right back. What?

Had...had he said that out loud? To Spy-Steve? Of course he had, why not? Why the hell not?

Steve must have seen the horror rise in Bucky’s face, because he rubbed at his nose like a kid, switched his tune, and shrugged. “Either way, thanks for your help, Bucky. I wouldn’t have been back home before morning and you saved me a bunch of time. And I’m sorry about your computer?”

“Uh, sure, no problem,” Bucky said. He flailed for a moment, then pulled Steve’s SD card out of the reader. “You still need this?”

Steve smiled in a way that was so smooth and sweet, Bucky’s heart did a belly flop in his chest. How was this probable-spy so coy?

How was John McClane over here not oozing any of that Bruce Willis threat behaviour? How was this maybe-cyber-criminal vigilante not setting off any warning signals inside Bucky’s brain? The guy came outta nowhere at a superstore after midnight, was cute and adorable with Bucky for exactly zero seconds and was now ensconced in Bucky’s private (but still pretty shitty) apartment after systematically killing one of his two working laptops.

Steve took the SD card, his fingers grazing Bucky’s. He stared at the little thing, then snapped it between his index and thumb, just like that.
“No, I won’t need it,” Steve murmured, placing the two bits on Bucky’s coffee table.

Bucky stared.

“You are so a spy. Oh my God, I have an international man of mystery in my home. This is awesome. Who snaps SD cards instead of reusing them? Spies!”

Steve frowned, “Wait, I can reuse–?”

“You’re a terrible fuckin’ spy, Steve!” Bucky exclaimed, throwing his head back in a laugh.

God, he was so tired! Probably sounded like a lunatic.

Steve put his head in his hands as best he could in the cramped space. “I’m so bad at this,” he muttered before glancing up. “Look, Bucky, I’m going to be honest here. I’m not a spy. I don’t work for the government officially.

Bucky opened his mouth, but Steve cut him off with a raised hand.

“Wait,” Steve said. “I do appreciate your help, though I probably would have figured it out eventually. So thank you for trying to assist a complete stranger. I realize now that I might have been pushing my luck here. I just … never come across nice folks much anymore.”

Aw, he thought Bucky was nice! Well, that illusion ought to  be shattered any moment now.

“Hey,” Bucky murmured, nudging Steve’s shoulder. “What got you to talk to me anyhow?”

Steve looked at Bucky, “I don’t know. I thought...you…” he trailed off.

“Is it ‘cos I’m cute?” Bucky waggled his eyebrows. Nothin’ like awkward humour to cover a terrible conversation. “You can say it’s ‘cos you think I’m cute, Steve.”

Steve smiled, paused then said, “Yes, you are very cute, but that’s not what made me talk to you. I think…” he sat up straighter and twisted his head, considering his next words. “I think I’m just tired. And you were a friendly face.”

Bucky stared back at those pretty eyes and wondered what fantasy planet this guy had come from.

“Ever since I came out the ice, it’s just...it’s been hard,” Steve sighed, rubbing at his hands. “People just aren’t the same. Not what I expect. I’m a bit behind, I guess. Well, a lot behind.”

What the ever-loving fuck was he on about? “Ice?” Bucky murmured. “What ice? Are you, like, a recovering addict or something? Is that slang? Oh shit, are you an escaped convict?

Steve’s mouth twisted to the side in a half-smile. “Oh come on, you don’t have to pretend anymore, Bucky. You can say it.”

Bucky frowned, “Huh?”

“You wouldn’t seriously have invited me to your home if you didn’t recognize me, would you?” Steve chuckled, amused by whatever his brain was cooking up.

Bucky’s eyes flicked aside, then back to Steve.

Steve’s smile faltered.

“Am...I supposed to recognize you?” Bucky said slowly, horror dawning on him. “Shit, did we fuck?”

“What?” Steve startled. “No.”

“I mean, you’re definitely my type , dude,” Bucky blathered, scrolling through his shitty memories for any guy who maybe, perhaps was Steve. He’d have to have been ‘meh’ in the sack if Bucky didn’t remember him...but then Bucky did used to drink a lot in his clubbing days - Steve could have slipped under the radar. However, Bucky had serious doubts that this guy would be forgettable in bed. “You’re not ringing any bells, or my bell, haha.”

Steve looked as confused as Bucky felt, like they’d been grasping at different straws.

“You...don’t recognize me?” Steve blurted.

“No?” Bucky shrugged.

“But you invited me home! I’m a complete stranger! Why would you do that?” Steve cried. “Who does that?”

“I do!” Bucky retorted, confused and as lost as ever. “Because I’m shitty, Steve!”

“So you didn’t think I was maybe synonymous with trust and the American way?” Steve said, frowning.

“What the fuck?” Bucky said, “You’re crazy.”

“I’m Steve Rogers!” Steve barked back. “I thought that was obvious.”

“Steve Rogers?” Bucky blurted, “Am I supposed to recogni–”

He paused, brain chugging a few steps behind his mouth.

Flashes of stars and stripes and valour and army montages crashed into him. News reports about the Battle of Manhattan, of superheroes and aliens and destruction filled his eyes.

A man in a garish red and blue getup on social media. A bunch of weirdos in costume and a big green blob–

“Holy FUCK,” Bucky gasped, eyes clearing. “You’re Captain America!”

“Finally,” Steve looked heavenward.

Bucky got to his feet in a rush, banging his knee in the process. “You’re Captain America!” he repeated.

“Shhh,” Steve hissed, also standing.

“But–but–” Bucky babbled. “You’re hot! Like, super crazy hot! Like, wet-dream-inducingly beautiful and handsome and brave and moral and oh my God I’m saying all of this out loud to Captain America!” Bucky squeaked on every exhale.

“Hey, it’s okay, it’s okay,” Steve laid a hand on Bucky’s arm.

“I thought you were, like, an old fart! Or at least like my dad, or something,” Bucky wheezed. “Not this!” he waved a hand at Steve’s person, all six foot two inches of muscle.

Steve’s hand had moved from Bucky’s arm to his back, rubbing between his shoulder blades, which was both helping and also not helping.

“I can’t believe I invited Steve fucking Rogers home with me, like he was some piece of ass ,” Bucky hissed. “I deserve to go to jail.”

Steve chuckled, “It’s, ah, it’s not a bad thing, Bucky. It’s refreshing.”

“If you were a woman, this would be like, the grossest thing ever,” Bucky countered. “I’m a monster. I should become celibate as punishment.”

“Please don’t,” Steve said, “It’s fine. Bucky, come on. You’re good. You’re nice, you helped a guy out. If anything, it makes you seem even nicer knowing it wasn’t Cap you were being nice to. As if you were being very genuine.”

Bucky covered his face with his hands, “I need to process this.”

“Okay,” Steve murmured, still rubbing his big warm hand on Bucky’s back.

They stood like that for a moment before Bucky uncovered his face and looked at Steve properly.

He should be apologizing profusely for ever implying anything ever in the face of America’s greatest national icon. He should feel bad and he should probably pack up his things and move to Colombia. His family could live out their shame in peace.

But Steve was smiling at him. And Steve was standing really close. And Steve (Captain America!) smelled really nice.

And Bucky was a weak, delicate flower of a man. Sure, he weighed upwards of two-ten on an average day and could dropkick most people into Hell’s Kitchen, but he was still just a smart-ass from Brooklyn who struggled to eat healthy and wash his face most mornings.

“You …” Bucky cleared his throat. “You wanna hang out for a bit?” he said.

He felt like he was asking a kid in the playground to be his friend.

Steve smiled that soft smile of his and Bucky punched himself internally for not assuming that such a perfect face could only be attached to the most perfect human on earth.

“I can stay for a bit,” Steve answered. “Are you hungry?”

Bucky’s eyes lit up.

Steve grinned. “I’ll order us a pizza. Let me get this, and you get back to your work, okay? You did mention something about that.”

Bucky gawped like a frog, then nodded, trying desperately to hold back a blush.

He could not be crushing on Captain America. That was plain ridiculous and wasn’t allowed.

But also, he was going to enjoy every last second of this morning. Screw his clients to hell and back, he had a friggin’ historical artifact to woo before his time was up.