Chapter 1: The Beginning
When Bucky entered the library he was momentarily taken aback by how crowded it was. It didn’t look like there was any free space but damnit, he had a test coming up and both Steve and Sam were being assholes so he couldn’t study in his apartment. Instead he scanned the entire library for just one free seat, not in the mood to sit in a noisy café.
It seemed luck was finally turning though, as Bucky spotted what might be the only free seat left in the library. He hurried towards it, lest someone snagged it before him, and slumped in the seat once he reached it. It was a small table, only space enough for two if neither had too much junk.
Bucky vaguely acknowledged his neighbor but the other didn’t seem to have even noticed him. He was a frazzled guy with several coffee cups standing next to the computer he was furiously tapping at. Shaking his head Bucky focused on his own work. College was brutal and even more so in times like these. You’d think that with a major in mechanics he would have less papers to write than the art major, but noooo. Stevie is free to goof off with Sam, making their apartment unsuited for working. Bucky is not bitter, whoever said so is a lying liar who lies.
The next time Bucky looked up from his work the library was half empty and he decided he was in severe need of a coffee break. Stretching he moped his way to the vending machine. Even if the sludge hardly could be called coffee it did wonders in giving him back some coherency. Until he came back to his table that is.
Frazzled guy seemed to have collapsed from what was probably a long spree of artificial energy and work. Nothing wrong there, give the guy a bit of a break, sleep is important, etc. Except he decided Bucky’s books were a suitable replacement for a pillow. The books that Bucky needed, mind you, were being drooled on by a -oh. By a pretty cute guy actually. Now that he wasn’t glaring his screen to death, Bucky could take in long lashes above heavy bags, smooth skin and soft lips.
Okay, so a gorgeous guy fell asleep on his books. What’s he even supposed to do? What does one do when shit like this happens? Is there a romcom for that? Actually there might be, but Bucky isn’t sure he should be taking advice from romcoms.
Bucky startles as he realises he’s been staring at the sleeping guy for a while, not doing anything. Bucky sighed and took a look around the library. No one was paying him any attention but Bucky still shuffled uncomfortably.
Trying to look the least suspicious he could, he tried to gently pull his books out from underneath the guy. The guy grunted and clutched the books tighter, and Bucky cursed silently. Why him? Why was he always getting into these kinds of situations? Why not Steve? Maybe if the punk had some of Bucky’s bad luck, he wouldn’t constantly go looking for trouble.
Bucky shook his head. Focus! Sleeping guy, books. Right.
Having failed plan A, Bucky moved to plan B. Waking the guy. Plan C was abandoning the books completely but that was out of the question. Bucky needed to ace this test.
First try involved poking the guy’s shoulder and whispering a “psst”. Second try a gentle shove. When both failed he grabbed the guy’s shoulder and shook it.
The guy startled awake, blinking blearily at Bucky with large, gorgeous doe eyes. “Wha’?”
Bucky swallowed. He was so not prepared to deal with a random, cute guy falling asleep on his textbooks.
“Sorry, I need those.” Bucky pointed to his books and Cute Sleepy Guy looked at them. He blinked and then startled again. “Oh wow, yeah sure. Sorry about that. ‘Guess I was more tired than I thought. Here ya’ go.” He handed Bucky his books and their fingers brushed. It was such a cliché but it did funny things to Bucky’s heart.
Cute Sleepy Guy didn’t seem to take offence to flustered Bucky’s stilted vocabulary, luckily, and smiled before packing his things and leaving.
He didn’t seem able to leave Bucky’s mind though.
Chapter 2: Misunderstanding
Once is an accident, twice a coincidence..
Tony was not the type of guy to let chances slip him by. He was spontaneous, to the point of recklessness if you were to believe Pepper or Rhodey. But, point being, Tony doesn’t hesitate to act upon his impulses. So when he happened to see the mysterious, handsome guy from the library again, now in a more coherent state, he wasn’t going to let him get away again.
He didn’t exactly frequent the café on the east side of campus, but he did go there once in awhile. Tony’s fairly sure he hadn’t seen Tall, Dark and Handsome working there before, despite how unaware of his surroundings he could get, he wouldn’t miss someone like him. Long, dark locks tied up in a bun with one strand framing his face -And what a face! Chiseled cheekbones and a light stubble. Not to mention his arms. The white sleeves of his uniform straining against the muscles of his biceps. Well, bicep. TDH’s (Tall, Dark and Handsome) left arm was a sleek, metallic, top of the line prosthetic that Tony himself had designed. And it looked good.
So yeah, mystery library guy practically walked out of Tony’s wet dream and who was he to question that? So he puts on the full Tony Stark Swagger™ and saunters up to the counter. It’s relatively quiet in the café, for a campus café that is, and Tony has already conjured up a dazzling smile by the time he reaches the counter.
“I know the saying is that twice is coincidence, but would you mind if I skip third time and jump straight to introducing myself?” he finishes off with a charming wink.
TDH stays blank faced but that’s okay, Tony likes a challenge.
“I’m sorry about drooling on your books the other day, I promise I’m usually more coherent and way more interesting.”
TDH still looks a bit confused and Tony’s almost worried he doesn’t remember him. Which is ridiculous, he’s Tony Stark!
“It’s.. fine.” It’s a hesitant response but a response nonetheless and not a rejection, so Tony takes it as permission to keep talking.
“But man, rough times, right? Who knew college would be so hard?” Tony pauses to see if TDH wants to add some input but he stays silent so Tony picks up the conversation again. “What are you studying, handsome?”
“Mechanics huh? How come I haven’t seen you before?” Tony’s surprised he hasn’t seen him before and peers at his tag to get his name. James. Doesn’t ring a bell.
“I sit in the back.”
“That so? Still, I would’ve thought I’d notice someone as handsome as you.” James startles, but Tony can’t tell if he’s flustered or uncomfortable. He’s usually better at reading people.
“I’m getting my Masters’ in electrical engineering and physics so you’ll probs see me around. Hell, I basically live in the labs, just ask Pep!”
James looks around the café. “Did you want anything?” And Tony can take a hint.
James does not look impressed. The dryness of that look rivals the Sahara desert. “Yes. That is our primary product and as you can read on the sign above, we have about forty different kinds of coffee. Could you perhaps narrow it down some?”
Tony can’t help smile, where did all that sass come from? “James, buddy, sometimes we must live on the edge. Surprise me!”
“Are you sure about that?” James levels one eyebrow at him. Tony takes that as a challenge.
“No takesies-backsies James, we die like men!” He proclaims, lifting one finger in point.
James snorts but complies. “Sweet or bitter?” Tony ponders. “Make that sweet, I’ve earned it.”
It doesn’t take long for James to plant a cup topped with whipped cream in front of Tony and he’s just about to take a sip when he notices the writing on it.
“Drooly? Excuse you mister, I don’t drool !” He has a hand over his heart in mock offense.
“My books says otherwise.”
“That is a lie! I’ll have you know I’m a very calm sleeper.”
“I don’t know, the snoring got a little disturbing at a point.” James’ eyes has a little spark of playfulness in them and Tony thinks it suits him.
“ Snoring ? Unbelievable!” He mumbles but James cuts him off. “Drink your coffee, Drooly.”
Tony stuck out his tongue at him but sipped the coffee. And holy shit! That coffee!
Forget sex, I want this man to make me coffee for the rest of my life! Tony thinks. Out loud he says: “Wow that has got to be the best damn coffee I’ve had, and trust me, I’ve had a lot. What’s in it?”
James cracks a little smile. “I can’t go giving away all my secrets now, can I?” He even winks and Tony thinks his hearts skips. Skips !
“You have to marry me!” He says in between sips.
“Maybe if you buy me a ring I’ll consider it. Now go sit down, you’re holdin’ up the line.” James says but he’s smiling so Tony counts it as a win.
He takes a table by the window and sets to finish some homework while drinking his coffee. Tony finishes his coffee as the crowd that had started to drizzle in with the lunch hour leaves and he thinks it’s about time to try his luck with asking James out. Of course that’s when everything heads south because when has luck ever been on Tony’s side?
In walks one of the last people Tony wants to see: Steve Rogers. His ex. It’s been a while since they went out and it didn’t exactly end badly, it just didn’t work out between them. Tony was over it, really. But asking out a guy while your ex was in the room was just awkward, even for Tony Stark.
Steve hasn’t noticed Tony but Tony can’t help watch Steve as he walks up to the counter and.. talks to James? They seem friendly, Steve’s laughing and playfully punching James who in return rolls his eyes and ruffles Steve’s hair. All the while they’re sending each other soft, fond looks and Tony thinks he misread the situation totally.
Because James is obviously dating Steve and Tony mistook politeness for flirting, and of course someone like James isn’t single. It shouldn’t be a big deal. James was hot but taken and that happened. It shouldn’t be a big deal except Tony talked to James and he was funny. Tony genuinely wanted wanted to get to know James, had looked forward to it.
Tony shakes his head. Yeah, it sucks, but there’s nothing he can do about it. So he gets up and throws out his cup and leaves. And he doesn’t see the writing on the napkin he was given with the cup.
What was written on the note? Subscribe to find out :)
Chapter 3: The Plan
Bucky is oblivious, Steve is not backing down and Sam is a jerk
Steve’s an ass with a sixth sense for when there’s something to tease Bucky about so of course he knows within 0.5 seconds that something’s up when he enters the café. And he’s pestering Bucky about it, distracting him until he hears the bell from the door chime and that’s when he notice that Cute Sleepy Guy from the library’s gone.
“Was that Tony?” Steve asks and it’s only then that Bucky realises he never got the guy’s name.
“You know him?”
Steve bashfully hunches in on himself which hasn’t had the same effect ever since he stopped being tiny. “I.. used to date him?”
“Are you telling me or asking me- wait you used to date him?” Bucky can feel something inside him break a little. If Steve dated Cute Library Guy (Tony, his name is Tony), then there are suddenly many reasons why Bucky can’t like him. Besides the fact that he just made an ass out of himself and probably scared him off for good.
“Buck, I can see what you’re thinking. Stop. It ended a while ago, we’re over it.”
“But still Stevie, it’s against the Bro Code!”
Steve snorts and rolls his eyes. “Bro Code really? You’ve been hanging out with Clint too much. And also, you just admitted it!” Steve, the absolute punk, pointed his finger in Bucky’s face.
Slapping Steve’s hand away he turned to the counter, trying to look busy. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah you do. You have a crush on Tony.” Bucky dropped the whipped cream dispenser he was holding and felt the heat rise to his face. “Not so loud Steve!”
“Oh who’s gonna hear? No one will hear me saying that you hAVE A CRUSH ON TONY STARK!” He ended the sentence with yelling into the café making all the remaining customers look up.
“You are so dead you little- did you just say Tony Stark?” Bucky could feel all the blood draining from his face. “As in Anthony Stark, son of Howard Stark, heir to Stark Industries?”
Steve was giving him a weird look. “You didn’t know who he was?”
“This is serious Steve! I just chased off the guy who made my arm! How am I gonna show up at maintenance knowing the guy who made my arm probably hates my guts now? Oh god Stevie, my life is over!”
Steve rolled his eyes at him again. “You’re being dramatic Buck.”
“Dramatic?! As if the guy didn’t already have a hundred reasons to be out of my league to begin with, now there’s literally no hope! Honestly, what gorgeous, funny, smart, rich person would settle for a barely not broke, one-armed guy who failed to hold a decent conversation?”
“You’re selling yourself short Buck, I wouldn’t approve of just any guy for you, y’know. And I’m sure it wasn’t that bad.”
“Did you not see the way he stormed out of here without a word? It was that bad.”
“Did you at least give him your number?”
“Well, no.. But I wrote my name on his napkin.”
Steve sent him his patented Disappointment Eyes™. It always made Bucky feel like he’d let down his entire family. “Buck. You have a name tag.”
“Yeah but it says James. I wrote Bucky on the napkin.. And I drew a smiley!” Bucky felt the need to defend his horrible attempt at flirting. Steve just levelled him another stare.
When Bucky failed to react Steve threw his arms up and turned around.
“Hey where are you going? Steve? Steve !”
“I still can’t believe you have a crush on Tony goddamn Stark and you didn’t know! ”
Steve is a tattle tale and he belongs in the Mean Girls movie. Why? Because he told Sam . And now Sam won’t leave Bucky the hell alone, he has been laughing ever since he found out.
“I literally met the guy twice, how was I supposed to know?”
“Because he’s Tony Stark ?”
“It’s not like I’ve met him before! He may be the one making my arm but I’m not important enough to be personally overseen by him.”
“His face is on the cover of some tabloid on a weekly business, Barnes. It is impossible in this day and age not to know who Tony Stark is.” Sam is growing more and more exasperated, looking at Bucky like he just crawled out from under a rock asking about lizard people. Steve is still laughing.
“You know I don’t read that trash.”
Sam sighs and shares a loaded stare with Steve. “Okay then, so what’re you gonna do?”
“What do you mean?”
Sam gives him a look before muttering something that sounds suspiciously like ‘ why me ’. “I mean, what’s your plan for wooing Tony Stark? No offense, but talk about different ballgame.” Sam sniggers but stops when Steve directs a scolding glare at him. No one likes Steve’s scolding glares.
“There’s no plan. Even if I decided to ignore the fact that there’s no way I would ever have a chance with Tony Stark, I still totally blew it at the café today.” Bucky was not sulking, whatever Sam says is a lie.
“Okay, that’s bullshit so here’s what you’re gonna do:” Sam ignores Bucky’s protests. “First, you’re going to get yourself a suit or something because there’s no way you can go on a date with Tony Stark dressed like that.”
Bucky looks over himself feeling a bit offended. He didn’t think there was anything wrong with his clothes. Sure, the leather jacket was worn soft with age but Bucky’s pretty sure that’s called ' vintage' and it’s fashionable .
"Second: You're going to reserve a table at that fancy restaurant with the name no one can pronounce, the one by the dam, because the waiting list is miles long so if you make your reservation now, you might be able to take Stark out in 10 years."
“Okay that’s enough Sam, I’m sure Bucky appreciates your willingness to help,” Bucky doesn’t by the way, but pointing that out would do nothing so he lets Steve continue. “But take it from someone who used to date him: Tony doesn’t care about those things, if it stood to him he would be wearing jeans and worn band shirts every day and live off junk food.” Steve says with a fond, exasperated look. It really doesn’t help Bucky to be reminded that Tony is Steve’s old sweetheart. Really.
“Wait don’t tell me Tony Stark took you out on cheap dates? Like McDonald's?” Sam asks, incredulous.
Steve laughs at that. “Oh no, if you let him, Tony would buy out an entire restaurant just for a date! He’s like that, he always goes over the top with gifts.” Then he trials off, looking a little sad and Bucky doesn't know what to do about that. He’s scared to think that Steve misses Tony.
Steve visibly shakes it off. “Tony’s used to be the one doing the wooing, so before he can book a private jet to Paris or something, you need to ask him out. Casually, on a normal date.”
“Stevie. I could barely talk to the guy today, what makes you think I can ask him on a date? And more importantly, what makes you think he would accept ?”
“Coffee! A sure way to Tony Stark’s heart is coffee and you happen to be a barista. Do your thing Bucky, whip up some delicious coffee, go the labs and invite him to dinner. Simple.”
Bucky really wants to believe Steve who in all his earnestness resembles a giant puppy, but the doubt is still nagging. Despite the fact that Tony seemed to like his coffee, even joked about marrying him- and Bucky still can’t believe he told Tony Stark to buy him a ring, what if that made him uncomfortable? Should he not have answered, or would that be even weirder?
“Bucky, I can see you over-analysing something and let me tell you, this isn’t a choice. You’re asking Tony out and that’s captain’s orders.”
Bucky levels him a look. “I’m not on the team, you’re not my captain.”
“But I am your best friend, and as your best friend I am telling you to stop looking down on yourself and ask Tony out.”
Bucky takes a second to assess Steve. “It won’t be weird? Him being your ex and all?”
Steve just rolls his eyes. “For fucks sake Buck! No. It won’t be weird. Tomorrow, first thing, ask him out.”
Bucky can’t help a swell of affection for the punk he calls his best friend. He might be stubborn as a mule with no sense for when to back the hell down but damnit if he didn’t love him.
“Aye aye Cap’n.”
Sorry about the wait but it is the season of finals. I'm actually shunning my paper for this, I hope you're grateful (just kidding, I breathe for these idiots)
Chapter 4: Sinking Feeling
Basically they're both idiots: Bucky visits Tony and gets an ugly surprise
Tony’s in his lab- technically it’s not his lab, but everyone knows it’s the one he uses so most people stay far away, not counting Rhodey because Rhodey is his sugardrop, Pepper because Pepper fears no man, especially not Tony, and Bruce Banner who was a surprise but a pleasant one. Tony pretty much fell in love with him within the first ten minutes. Bruce is pitifully straight but it’s cool because they’re science bros.
Anyway, Tony’s in his lab, working on his big new project, when James appears. Tony barely suppresses the urge to pinch himself, because as if James wasn’t dreamy enough, he’s bearing coffee. Sweet, sweet nectar of the gods, probably made by James who has proven himself to be worthy of devotion. If this is a dream , Tony thinks, don’t wake me up . But then he remembers that James is a very taken man and suddenly he feels cold. He discreetly stabs himself with the screwdriver he’s holding, but James is still there and still gorgeous. Which means this is real.
Tony tries to think of what he’d done wrong yesterday, because why else would James be here? But that still doesn’t explain the coffee. Last Tony checked, you didn’t bring someone coffee when you came to yell at them. He realises James must’ve come to talk him down after yesterday’s failed flirting. Looking back it was very obvious James was taken, with the way he looked slightly uncomfortable but Tony just thought James was shy. He would’ve never hit on him if he knew he was taken or that he didn’t like it.
Still, he tries to play it cool. “James! Please tell me that coffee is for me?”
James glances down at the cups in his hand. “Oh no this? It’s for the other genius residing in this lab.”
“You wound me James! And here I thought we had something special!” Tony grips his chest in mock offence.
“Don’t worry doll, you’re the only genius in my life.” James honest to gods winks (where did all that charm and confidence come from?) and Tony thinks, for a brief but hopeful moment, that James might be flirting with him. But that can’t be right because James is dating Steve.
It’s with a sinking feeling that Tony realises James must want something. The sweet talking, the coffee, it all makes sense. And that’s fine, Tony tells himself, because James is funny and dating Steve so if Tony can do something for him, to help him, be useful, then he will.
“Is this about your arm? Any malfunctions? Of course not, it’s Stark tech, do you need an upgrade? There’s a newer model I could outfit you with?”
James looks startled. “What- no- I don’t..” He struggles to find his words and Tony worries about coming on too strong. He’s been told he does that.
“Or not the arm? There’s still about a month until the next Starkphone is released but I can get you a prototype-” James cuts him off.
“No, I’m not here for anything like that. I just.. Thought I’d stop by, you left so quickly yesterday I didn’t get a chance to properly introduce myself.” James sticks out his hand and Tony only hesitates a second before shaking it. “James Barnes but my friends call me Bucky.”
Tony can’t hold back a snort, he knows it’s rude but c’mon! “Bucky, really? I’m not calling you Bucky, James. " He emphasizes James' name. "Tony Stark, but you knew that.” He says with his usual flair. “So, coffee?”
James hands him one of the cups and just like yesterday, it is heavenly. It’s more bitter this time, but there’s a hint of something in it that makes it rich and Tony has to forcefully pry the cup away from his mouth when James asks a question.
James huffs a laugh, “I asked you what you’re working on?”
Tony looks down at his project. “Oh this? Get ready to get your socks knocked off James, because I’m about to show you the scientific breakthrough of the century!” He finishes off gesturing to the monitor he was working with.
James studies it for a while. “I’ll be honest with you doll, I have no idea what this is.”
Tony laughs and gives James a quick rundown of his project.
“Wait, so it’s an artificial intelligence? Like in sci-fi movies?!” James leans closer to Tony, there’s an excited gleam to his blue eyes.
“Nerd Alert there James. But yes, just better, because this is real!” Tony tells him cockily. James looks at the monitors with new excitement, before looking at Tony with an admiring look that Tony just can’t deal with. “That’s incredibly. You ’re incredible.”
Tony stutters a bit before sipping his coffee in lack of better things to do. He's not used to people complimenting him so earnestly, with so much glee for his work. This is ridiculous, he thinks, he’s not supposed to freeze up- He’s Tony Stark! He can schmooze and flirt with the best of them! And here this, admittedly gorgeous, guy comes and compliments his work and he freezes? Rhodey will never let this go.
“Actually sugar, I wanted to ask you something” James licks his lips and Tony’s eyes involuntarily follows the movement. “Two of my friends are hosting a party this weekend, and I wanted to know if you wanted to come?”
Tony feels his heart stutter a little. “Won’t- Will your boyfriend be there, too?”
James looks weirdly stunned. “My what?”
“You boyfriend? Steve?”
James looks stricken, as if just now remembering that he had a boyfriend, and Tony really hopes James isn’t a cheater. He doesn’t seem the type but sometimes you can’t tell. “Right, my- my boyfriend. Which is a thing I totally have. Uh sure, he’s also invited.”
There’s a pause and Tony shuffles awkwardly.
“Well, I should probably head out, class and stuff,” James starts backing towards the door. “Later.” He’s gone before Tony can answer.
Bucky practically runs back to the apartment, mind going in circles. Steve and Sam looks up from their card game when he bursts through the door.
“Oh hey Buck, how did it go?” Steve asks, seemingly not noticing Bucky’s state of mind.
“He thinks we’re dating.” Is all he can say.
Sam whistles. “Now talk about moving fast. What’d you do lover boy?”
Bucky feels frustration bubble up because it’s just not fair . “Not Tony! Steve, he thinks I’m dating Steve !”
You could hear a pin drop.
“Oh my god. I take everything I said back, you two clueless idiots deserve each other.” Sam says, laughing like the asshole he is.
“Why didn’t you just tell him that we aren’t dating, Bucky?” Steve asks, like he has any right to be reasonable in the face of Bucky’s distress.
“I panicked! He just sounded so convinced and I panicked!”
“And you haven’t stopped panicking, Barnes. Deep breaths.” Sam says, not even looking up from his cards.
Bucky flips him off before collapsing into the couch. “Why me? I’m a good person, I go to church, I keep Steve out of trouble.” A pillow lands on his face. “Punk.”
“Jerk. Stop moping.” Bucky sends Steve a withering glare. “How about this: I’ll talk to Tony and fix your mess and you can see him again at Nat’s party? And this time actually get his number.”
Bucky chooses to ignore the last part. “You sure? I don’t want to put you in a weird spot, him being your ex and all.”
Steve rolls his eyes. “You need to let that go. Yes, I’ll talk to Tony. It’ll be nice to catch up with him, too.” He smiles sunnily at Bucky.
“Okay.. Thanks Stevie.”
Yup, Steve is the man with a plan
Also, yes of course Tony's project is J.A.R.V.I.S.