That’s it. That’s Steve’s word. You’re supposed to meet upwards of eighty thousand people in the course of a lifetime, and that’s all Steve gets.
There’s nothing else. No time, no date, just the first thing said to him by his soulmate seared in neat black letters across the middle of his wrist.
You know how many people say ‘hi’ as a way of introducing themselves to someone they’ve never met?
A lot. A lot of a lot.
Every time there’s a new barista at his local coffee shop, for a start. Every time he gets gas, or goes to the store, or generally tries to engage with society like a regular person instead of locking himself in his apartment and binge-watching S.O.U.L.M.A.T.E.S on Netflix.
Way back when, before thirty came and went, Steve would meet every 'Hi' with an enthusiasm that, if not entirely without effort, could at least be considered genuine. Now, he just about manages politeness and the sudden flare of maybe, please, is it you? presents itself more as a dull ache than a thrill of anticipation.
Knowing his luck, the person he’s meant for is in exactly the same boat and a kneejerk response of ‘hey’, or ‘how are you?’ or worse, ‘hi’ on their own wrists has meant they’ve both been and gone from each other’s lives.
Steve’s probably met his soulmate ready, and he’s never going to know. Most days, the thought doesn’t bother him too much. Most days, he only thinks about it every time he sees a new face and has to battle longing with cynicism. At the end of the day, he can go home, curl himself around his dog and just… not think about it.
There have been seven ‘hi’s’ today already and it’s not even noon.
There’s another new face behind the counter and Steve needs to buy himself a Nespresso machine because rosy cheeks round into a smile and overcaffinated perkiness greats him with a friendly “Hi!”and he can't do this much longer.
He runs his hand over his face, weary from the same conversation said verbatim. He tugs the sleeve of his shirt up to his elbow and fixes on what he hopes passes as a friendly smile. “Hi, yeah, sorry to be rude, but you’re not the person I’m supposed to spend my life with, are you?” It sounds ridiculous no matter how he phrases it.
The barista blinks. Perkiness melts into compassion. She rolls her own sleeve up and flashes him the words ‘Fuck me, the weather is shit today isn’t it?!’ on her wrist.
“Not seen one like that before,” Steve says, rolling his sleeve down. “Guess you can’t miss that one.”
She shoots a fond look at the lanky redhead foaming milk. “Nope!” she says. “Still. Hi. That’s rough, I’m sorry.”
“It’s fucking bullshit is what it is,” Steve grumbles. “Hi. Like, fuck my whole fucking life, right? Fuck the guy who designed this system. Hard. With, like, a cactus or a pineapple or a pineapple cactus because who the fuck decided ‘hi’ was all I needed to find the love of my life? Fucking dumbass move. Everyone says ‘hi’ and I can’t fuck everyone, can I? That’s not how this shit works and I am sorry, I am totally ranting at you, not cool, I’ll just have a black coffee and a-“
A hand wraps itself around Steve’s arm and pulls him sharply around. Caught mid rant, and suddenly faced with probably the most attractive man he’s ever met, Steve’s brain fails to operate itself properly.
The man, who still has one hand on Steve’s elbow, looks at him with pale, adoring eyes, and kisses him.
It’s a fleeting, floating little thing. A butterfly kiss, really. Lips barely touching.
Steve’s jaw is somewhere around his knees. He manages to swallow, dumbfounded.
And the man who kissed him, who has tears in the corners of his eyes and the softest smile Steve has ever seen, says, “Hi.”
The barista answers for him. “Oh my god!” she squeals.
A leather jacket is hastily removed and thrown over the back of the closest chair, and then white cotton is shoved up from wrist to elbow.
Unlike Steve’s paltry ‘hi’, there’s a whole monologue tattooed on smooth, lightly tanned skin.
“I’m Bucky,” the man says, still and welcoming as Steve raises hesitant fingers to touch the cursive words inked on beloved skin.
“Steve,” he says, unbelieving. “Wow, I swear a lot.”
“I like it,” Bucky says. “Meant I knew I’d be able to find you someday.”
Someday. Thirty two years of maybes, and someday is finally today.