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Monday In A Cafe (All You Did Was Look My Way)

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Companion piece to this post Hot Coffee Shop Guy AU

~~~

It starts, as does so many things in Bucky’s life, with Steve.

Or, more accurately, with Steve relentlessly badgering him.

“Staying locked up in here’s not healthy for you Buck,” Steve tells him, face set in a familiar mulish expression.

It’s the same expression that’s been a constant in Bucky’s life ever since he’d helped Steve pull himself out of that dumpster when they were seven.

After much thought over a number of years Bucky’s pretty much come to the conclusion that Steve used to be an actual honey badger in a past life.

They’re both small, vicious, and completely ready to throw down at any given point and time no matter how big their opponent is.

It fits.

“I’m fine, Stevie,” Bucky groans, head pressed against the back of the couch and his right arm thrown across his eyes.

“You’re not fine, Buck,” Steve presses as he props his long fingered, paint spattered hands on his thin, bony hips and glares down at Bucky.

Bucky doesn’t even have to look to know Steve’s glaring, it’s implied in his tone of voice.

And his general personality when he’s not getting his way.

Fine isn’t staying locked up in your apartment for weeks on end,” Steve keeps going even as he kicks out lightly with one booted foot.  “Feet down, you heathen,” he says as he knocks Bucky’s feet off of the coffee table

Bucky’s feet off of Bucky’s coffee table, in Bucky’s own apartment.

Like Steve isn’t the same little fuck who Bucky’s caught drinking paint water from a clearly labeled cup more than once.

But no, that’s fine, that’s just an artist’s forgetfulness.  That’s charming.  But let Bucky put his feet on his own coffee table and suddenly he’s a heathen.

It’s just par for the course of Bucky’s life that he can’t even get any basic respect out of his best friend in his own home these days.

“Stop acting like I don’t go places,” Bucky tells him.  “I go places all the time.”

“Therapy and grocery shopping don’t count.”  Steve insists.

“Bullshit,” Bucky grumbles, “they both fucking count.”

“Buck,” Steve suddenly sounds sad, the little manipulative fuck.  “Come on, I’m worried about you.”

God Stevie, fine,” Bucky finally groans as he moves his arm and levels his best baleful stare in Steve’s direction.  “What do you want out of me now, huh?”

“I want you to get up, take a shower, and get out of this apartment with me for a bit.”  Steve tells him mercilessly.

“And go where?”  Bucky asks. “I’ve got one friend stateside and that’s your scrawny ass.  So where, exactly, are you so determined to make me go?”

“Don’t be like that,” Steve protests.  “You’ve got more friends than just me and you know it.  What about Clint and Natasha? Or Sam? Or even Thor and Loki?”

“First of all,” Bucky raise a finger up, “Barton barely ranks as a human friend.  He’s more like Natasha’s really large pet. Second,” Bucky raises up another finger, “Natasha doesn’t have friends.  She has marks and potential marks.  And enemies. Can’t forget those.”

“You’re ridiculous,” Steve rolls his eyes, “What about Sam then huh?”

“Wilson is your friend, not mine,” Bucky reminds him.  “And one of these days I’m gonna throw him off the bridge at the park just to see if he really can swim.”

“You two are gonna end up getting arrested one of these days,” Steve points out.

“Your point?”  Bucky asks because Steve’s right, Bucky knows he’s right.

But the thing is, Bucky doesn't really care.

If he ends up getting arrested in the process of humiliating Wilson it will have been worth it.

Plus Bucky can always just pull his dog tags out of his shirt, wave his prosthetic around, smile as sweetly as possible, and pretend to be confused.

People get kind of tetchy about arresting one armed vets for some reason, although, to be fair, people, even cops, get squirrely about missing limbs in general.

Bucky thinks it’s because they’re never sure, exactly, how they’re supposed to handcuff him.

Either way it’s worked for him before and he’s sure it will again.

“My point, asshole,” Steve says, “is that you can’t keep acting like I’m the only person in your life.  Hell Loki and Thor have both invited you out pretty much every week this month and you keep saying no.”

“You must actually want me to get arrested if you want me sit through another one of Loki’s shitty French dramas or listen to Thor wax on about Jane,” Bucky points out.

There’s a moment of silence.

“Fair,” Steve agrees with a grimace.

Because Loki really does have shit taste in movies.  Hell Bucky actually speaks French so he knows there’s better shit than the trash Loki keeps picking.  And if he has to listen to Thor go on about Jane anymore he’s either going to go insane or ask her to marry Thor himself.

Neither of those two options sounds at all appealing.

“Look,” Steve finally sighs, “just … just come to the shop with me.  Bring your laptop, sit down, have a drink or four or a muffin or whatever.  Just, get out of this apartment Buck. Cause I, we, are all worried about you.  You haven’t been the same since …,” Steve cuts himself off with a grimace, “we just don’t want to see you waste away in here.”

Bucky is, as always, far weaker to Steve’s genuine worry than he should be.

And to the guilt over the loss of Bucky’s arm that Steve can’t seem to shake despite the fact that it is, very clearly, not his fault.

But then Bucky using his military pay to help out with Steve’s art school tuition has left Steve feeling as if Bucky’s entire enlistment was his fault anyways.

It’s something they’re still working out between the two of them.

“Fine,” he finally grumbles, “I’ll go but I’m not staying long and I’m not making it a habit.”

“Baby steps,” Steve agrees with a happy grin.  “Better than nothing.”

~~~

Espresso Yourself is a nice shop, Bucky admits that readily enough as he trudges in behind Steve, laptop in his bag and left glove pulled on securely.

Natasha’s a deft hand as a barista and Clint, her human shaped appendage, makes up for basically all of himself by making actual magic in the kitchen.

Well that and shockingly good latte art when he fills in behind the counter.  Even if he has been doing nothing but dogs for months now in his one man effort to wear Natasha down into letting him get a puppy.

Bucky's got the insider information that he’s gonna be really happy come his birthday in a few weeks.

Steve gets him settled quickly enough at a table with one of Natasha’s special drink blends made just for him and one of Clint’s double fudge cupcakes.  They sit there together for a bit, chatting back and forth about Bucky’s newest book and Steve’s new piece.

It’s nice, relaxing and familiar.

Then, about fifteen minutes in, Steve promptly abandons him when his agent texts him about the gallery meeting they’ve been angling for.  There’s some show being put on by some upper-crust tech CEO with more money than god that Steve’s work would, apparently, be perfect for.  He’s been hashing things out with the woman in charge for months now.

Bucky waves him off and promises to stay at least long enough to finish his drink.

“He’s been worried about you,” Natasha says as she slides up to his table with another thick dark drink made just for him and a platter of cookies Bucky very much did not order.  But they’re Clint’s dark chocolate chunk recipe so he’ll allow it.

“Stevie worries too much,” Bucky says as he snaps a hand out towards the platter and shoves an entire stolen cookie in his mouth before Natasha can stop him.

Natasha makes an agreeing sound, pats him on his head, and walks back towards the counter.

She leaves the entire platter of cookies though and Bucky can’t help but feel as if he’s being bribed to stay.

It works but that’s hardly the point.

~~~

Bucky’s half way through the platter and has his laptop open in front of him as he one hand types when his entire world gets thrown off kilter.

The bell at the front door jingles and Bucky, instincts and reflexes still as sharp as ever, automatically looks up and zeroes in on the sound.

And that’s when he walks in.

He’s shorter than Bucky by a pretty good amount and slender, lean in a way that speaks of strength instead of weakness.  He’s all fluffy black hair with an immaculate but interestingly flashy goatee, sweet golden bronze skin, and he also happens to be rocking a three piece suit that looks like it cost more than Bucky’s rent.

He’s absolutely gorgeous.

And what makes it better is that when he strides up to the counter, his suit pants pull tight against an ass that makes Bucky actively sit up and take notice.

Bucky watches, trying his best not to be too obvious, as the man gives Natasha his order, one black coffee with two shots of espresso from what Bucky can hear.  The smile he gives her afterwards is enough to make Bucky feel vaguely weak in the knees even from the side.

Then Gorgeous, as Bucky abruptly names him in his head, slides a bit further down the counter and reaches for his wallet.  He pulls out what Bucky’s pretty sure is a crisp hundred and stuffs it in the tip jar Clint decorated to look like a bulls-eye.

And then he turns and looks directly at Bucky.

Staring into big doe eyes from across the way Bucky resists the urge to bring his hand up to grip at his chest.

Because that split second is all it takes.

One look and Bucky is officially gone.

~~~

“See something you like?” Natasha slithers up to his side after Gorgeous chugs at least half of his drink in impressive time as he leaves.

“He a regular?”  Bucky can’t help but ask, too far gone to even care that Natasha is, likely, going to immediately text Steve about this.  Hell since her phone’s already in her hand she’s probably actively texting him about it right now.

Bucky doesn’t actually care because he’s pretty sure he just saw his future husband.

“You really do live under a rock don’t you?”  The look Natasha gives him is narrow eyed and searching before she smiles just a bit, and shakes her head.  “His name’s Tony, or at least that’s what he gave for his order.”

Tony,” Bucky hums as he resists the urge to find a pen so he can doodle Tony Barnes and little hearts on his napkin like he’s back in grade school.  “It suits him.”

“Yeah,” Natasha shakes her head, “you’re pathetic.  It’s actually kind of cute.”

“Think he’d mind a winter wedding?”  Bucky asks. “That way I could wear gloves?”

“Absolutely pathetic.” Natasha repeats as she goes to turn away.

“Keep it up and we won’t name any of the kids after you,” Bucky calls at her retreating back.

Natasha gives him the finger and doesn’t even break stride.

~~~

“So,” Steve says as soon as he pushes his way inside Bucky’s apartment later on that evening, “Natasha said you’re getting married.  Dibs on best man and you’d better let me paint the wedding portrait. I might actually be able to capture what little bit of a good side you got.”

“You’re hilarious,” Bucky cuts back.  “Keep your shit up and I’ll make Clint my best man and I’ll make sure your seat’s outside.  By the bathroom. Where you belong.”

“Rude,” Steve says as he strips off his leather jacket and collapses down onto Bucky’s couch.  “So tell me more about your husband to be.”

“His name’s Tony and he’s gorgeous,” Bucky sighs as he slumps back down on the opposite end of the couch, laptop balanced on his knees.

“Yeah Natasha said that’s what you’d say,” Steve pokes him in the rib cage with one sharp, spindly finger.  “More information would be good.”

“Why?”  Bucky asks as he swats Steve’s hand away from his side.  “I’m the one marrying him, not you.”

“You don’t know anything else about him do you?”  Steve cuts right to the chase.

“No,” Bucky admits sullenly.

“Nat’s right,” Steve sighs.  “You are pathetic.”

Bucky can’t actually protest that either way at the moment.

“Well,” Steve finally says.  “On the bright side I guess this means you’ll be getting out of the apartment more right?”

There’s a moment of silence.

Son of a bitch,” Bucky grumbles because they both know it’s true.

Bucky’s gonna have to go to the shop if he wants the chance to see his future husband again.

Beside him Steve laughs delightedly.

Bucky feels zero remorse for hitting him with one of the throw pillows Thor had bought him.

~~~

Sure enough the next day finds Bucky back in the shop around the same time and at the same table he’d had the day before.

Natasha, running the register, looks unbearably amused and smug to see him.

Bucky ignores her and pretends like he’s not watching the door with sniper like intensity.

Unfortunately Gorgeous Tony doesn’t show up.

Bucky’s more disappointed than he wants to admit.

It doesn’t stop him from going back the next day.

Or the next.

He’s been getting more work done sitting in the shop than he wants to admit plus Natasha’s been giving him free cookies, and Steve looks happier by the day.

So, overall, it might actually be a win that Bucky’s pretty much adjusted his entire schedule on a whim.

Go figure.

~~~

Then, almost a week after seeing him for the first and only time, the bell above the shop door rings and Bucky looks up just as Gorgeous Tony walks back into his life.

And, Bucky notes helplessly, he looks just as good as he had the first time.

Maybe even better if that’s at all possible since this time he looks well rested and calmer.

Bucky, caught off guard after being ready to give up hope of ever seeing Gorgeous Tony again, is struck dumb.

So instead of saying anything, instead of mustering the courage to approach him, he just sits in the corner and stares like a fucking creeper.

Gorgeous Tony doesn’t stay long, just gets his order, shoves some bills in the tip jar, and strolls out, throat working as he chugs his drink.

Bucky just watches him go as he brings his hand up to frame that ass with his fingers and sigh wistfully.

From behind the counter Natasha stares at him judgingly but, again, Bucky doesn’t care.

~~~

Tony Spotting™ becomes one of Bucky’s new favorite past times as he settles into the shop everyday, laptop in tow as he plows through his newest manuscript.

Bucky won’t admit it but Steve was right.  Being out of the apartment for more than just therapy and food has done a lot for both his mood and his productivity.

That being said writing is still semi-slow going because his arm is good for a lot of things but the finger articulation isn’t exactly great for typing so he’s mostly going about it one handed.

But the ten to fifteen seconds of eye contact he gets with Tony almost every day is worth it.

Steve finds the entire thing beyond amusing right up until he finally sees Tony for himself a month or so in.

Bucky’s finally shed his glove and moved to short sleeves in honor of the quickly rising heat and the vague hope that Tony won’t be off put by his prosthetic like some people are.  He’s sitting at his usual table, the one with the good view of the door and the counter, when Tony comes in right on time.

Bucky can’t help the small appreciative hum he gives off when he sees the dark three piece suit with red accents Tony’s wearing today.

“Lover boy here?” Steve perks up from across the table where he’s been bent over his sketchbook.

“Lower your voice or I’ll make sure you never speak again,” Bucky hisses sharply as he kicks out at Steve beneath the table and raises his hand to get Natasha’s attention because he needs another drink.

“Calm down he can’t hear me from here,” Steve says as he snaps his book closed, picks up his tea, and turns in his seat to look towards the counter.  “Now let me see my future brother-in-law.”

“Dark suit, ass crafted out of dreams, and standing by the counter obviously,” Bucky says because he not so secretly enjoys ribbing Steve when he can.  It’s an important part of their relationship.

Steve, mug of tea raised up, takes one look at Gorgeous Tony and promptly chokes.

Tony turns towards the sound, brows raised in curiosity, and Bucky feels his ears turn red at the tips as he reaches over and pats Steve none too gently on the back.

Standing at the counter behind Tony, two cups in hand, Natasha’s also staring at them obviously unimpressed.

“Stop dying you little fuck,” Bucky hisses low and vicious, “you’re embarrassing me in front of my fiance.”

“That’s your dream husband?”  Steve half whispers, half screams as he looks between Tony at the counter and Bucky.

“Yeah,” Bucky cuts a look in Tony’s direction and does his best to keep his expression from going dopey and soft when they make eye contact again.  As it is he can practically hear the cartoon hearts in his own voice. Hell if the way Natasha rolls her eyes at him from behind Tony as she puts the drinks down at the edge of the counter is anything to go by there might actually be cartoon hearts.  “Ain’t he perfect?”

“Oh he’s … he’s something alright,” Steve sounds caught between incredulous and dazed.  “You sure all you know is his first name?”

“Unfortunately,” Bucky says as he continues staring at Tony, more than a bit lovelorn.  “Don’t matter though, cause his last name’s gonna be Barnes eventually.”

Bucky sees Steve open his mouth to say something else out of the corner of his eye but just then Natasha makes a small lunging motion towards Tony who’s picked up one of the two drinks.

She’s too late though, Tony’s already chugging the drink without a pause, head tipped back and throat working in a way Bucky knows he probably shouldn’t find attractive but does.

Behind the counter Natasha’s staring at him in what looks like a strange mix of horror, awe, and what could be a hint of fear.

And that’s when Bucky realizes what’s happened.

Tony had, obviously, grabbed the wrong drink.

Instead of whatever he’d ordered Tony had gotten his hands on Bucky’s specially formulated drink.

All Bucky can do is watch, awed, as he finishes the thing off only to turn to a slightly flustered Natasha with a curious expression.

“Wrong drink,” Natasha says flatly as she holds out Tony’s actual order.

“Ah,” Tony says, looking bashful enough to make Bucky’s entire chest seize up.  “Sorry darling, I’ll pay for it.”

Tony does and then he shoves even more money into the tip jar before he looks over at Bucky one last time, grabs his actual order, and finally heads for the door.

Bucky’s left behind, uncomfortably flustered, as he watches him leave again.

“He just chugged my entire special dark blend quad espresso in forty-five seconds flat without flinching,” Bucky finally sighs dreamily.  “I’m gonna have his babies, Stevie. His beautiful, caffeine proof babies.”

“Pretty sure that’s not how that works, Buck,” Steve, staring at Tony’s retreating back with a mix of horror and incredulity, also somehow manages to sound unbearably amused and vaguely disgusted all at the same time.  He’s talented like that. “And honestly I’m not even sure how either of you are alive after drinking that shit, it’s toxic.”

“All you drink is tea, so you and your leaf water don’t get an opinion.  Besides, don’t try to crush my dreams you little shit,” Bucky says as he reaches over the table and swats halfheartedly at him.  “I’m gonna marry that man.”

“Kind of hard to marry the guy if you don’t actually talk to him.”  Steve points out like the killjoy he not so secretly is.

It is, Bucky’s realized over the years, one of Steve’s superpowers.  Right up there with stubbornness and living through almost every allergy known to man.  And a few Steve probably discovered himself.

“I should’ve drowned you when we were kids,” Bucky grumbles as he curls his hands around his cup, grimacing lightly at the now long familiar but still irritatingly loud grinding of his prosthetic.

“Truth hurts, Buck,” Steve cuts back unsympathetically from beneath blue tipped bangs.  “I’m all for you finding a husband but you can’t do that without actually talking to him first.  I mean, what’s your game plan here? You gonna Care Bear stare St-Tony into marrying you?”

“You never know,” Bucky shrugs, only half jokingly, “it could work.”

~~~

It doesn’t work.

Or at least if it is working it’s working bit by bit on such a slow basis that Bucky can’t really tell the difference.

Because months of eye contact and longing sighs pass and Bucky still can’t seem to gather the nerve to actually talk to Tony.

Natasha and Clint both mock him mercilessly as does Sam.  Loki had laughed, opened his mouth to say something, and then been abruptly dragged off by Natasha when he’d found out.

Steve’s been surprisingly decent about it all but Bucky’s also seen him sliding money to Natasha that he’s pretty sure is going into the pot he’s not supposed to know about.

The one dedicated to when, exactly, he’ll finally get the guts to talk to his future husband.

That or give up the ghost and go on one of the blind dates Thor keeps trying to set him up on to help him get his mind off of Tony.  At least Natasha seems to have stopped her matchmaking attempts for the time being.

Well her matchmaking outside of the shop because Bucky’s not oblivious to all the pointed looks, loudly held conversations, and attempts to push Bucky further in Tony’s direction.

He’s been resisting because he wants to do this on his own time and in his own way.  Tony’s the first person he’s felt any interest for, even on a purely physical level, since he lost his arm.

So this … this needs to be handled just right no matter what they say or how they pick at him for being overly dramatic.

Or, as Clint says, a ‘fucking heart-eyed creeper in the corner'.

Honestly Bucky can’t help but wonder if any of them really remember that before he lost his arm he was a sniper by trade.

And that means he’s got patience to spare.

Plus, as Steve should remember, even before his stint in the military Bucky had always been more than a bit loyal even to minor crushes.

So yeah, he’s a bit preoccupied with Tony at the moment and that … that’s probably not going to change.

Which may or may not be a good thing in this situation.

Because, in the end, Steve’s actually right.

Again.

He’s never gonna move passed the starring stage and get anywhere with Tony if he doesn’t at least talk to him.

But that, Bucky has found, is a bit easier said than done, all things considered.

~~~

At least it is ... right up until it’s not.

Because Steve, skinny, belligerently kind Steve, has an asthma attack.

Right at Bucky’s table.

Right after Tony has walked through the door and just placed his order.

Bucky sees the warning signs as soon as they happen and he moves with an instinct and smoothness born of long years of friendship and more than one terrifying hospital trip.  He’s got his bag open and is out of his seat and sliding around the table the second Steve starts to really wheeze and slumps out of his chair.

He guides Steve down to the floor carefully, going down behind him until he’s got Steve’s back pressed against his chest.  The emergency inhaler that everyone in their group carries is in his good hand as he pushes it up towards Steve’s mouth, taking deliberately deep breathes that will be easier for Steve to match.

“Come on buddy,” Bucky says, careful to keep his voice even and calm.  A hint of panic from Bucky will only make Steve worse, they know that from experience.  “Two puffs and then I’m gonna need you to breathe, Stevie. Nice and easy now, okay?”

Steve just nods his head, clutches at Bucky’s hand and the inhaler it’s holding, and does his best to breathe.

Bucky, intent on making sure his best friend isn’t turning blue in the face anymore, ignores the commotion in the shop and the sound of footsteps coming closer.

“He okay?”  A rich, smooth voice asks from the side.  “You need me to call it in? Or maybe a ride to a hospital or something?”

Bucky looks up then and finds himself staring directly at Tony who’s watching the two of them, brows furrowed, phone in hand, and eyes dark with concern.

Natasha and Clint are there too, standing just beside Tony, both with their own inhalers in hand, but for a split second all Bucky can focus on is Tony.

He really is beautiful.

Bucky shakes the thought off quickly enough because Steve and getting him to breathe is far more important at the moment.

Thankfully Steve’s already beginning to find a steady breathing rhythm, the extra strength inhaler doing its job with relieving ease.

Which means this wasn’t, despite how it may have appeared, actually a severe attack.

“I think he’s good,” Bucky finally remembers Tony’s questions as he feels Steve trying to match the rhythm of his breathing.  “Wasn’t so severe. I’ll get him back to his apartment once he’s steadier. Some rest and he’ll be okay.”

“Sure you don’t want that ride?”  Tony asks softly.

“That’s real sweet of you, doll,” Bucky cuts a small smile up at Tony whose eyes widen abruptly, “but we’re gonna be here a while.  Don’t want you to be late, wherever it is you gotta go with that fancy suit.”

Ah,” Tony clears his throat slightly, “alright, if you’re sure.  I hope he feels better.”

And then, much to Bucky’s confusion, Tony turns on his heel and scuttles out of the shop, freshly made drink left behind on the counter.

Bucky doesn’t let himself linger on that though, instead he focuses on getting Steve evened back out and then, once he’s steady, all of their stuff bundled up so he can get both of them home.

Attacks, even the less severe ones, always take a lot out of Steve so Bucky needs to flag down a cab and get him home as soon as possible.

The only thing is, when Bucky steps out of the shop with Steve pressed close to his side and Natasha and Clint yelling at him to call them later behind him, there’s a cab already idling at the sidewalk.

The cab ride’s not long but Steve and Bucky both must look worse for the wear because the cabbie refuses to take their fair.  Hell once Bucky looks up he realizes the man’s meter isn’t even running. And when Bucky questions him about it all he does is grin and tell him he had some luck today and that he was clocking off early anyways and they weren’t far off his route home.

It’s a kind gesture that actually helps Bucky feel a little less tense as he follows Steve into his building.

Sometimes the world really can be kind.

~~~

“You know,” Steve rasps about half an hour later from where he’s laying sprawled across his hideous but outrageously comfortable plaid couch, “that would have been a perfect time to really talk to him.  I mean I let you look like a hero and everything, jumping to help out a sick friend. Would’ve been a good in.”

“Next time I’ll let you suffocate while I hit on the guy of my dreams okay?”  Bucky snips back easily enough. “Now stop talking before I smother you with a pillow and save us both the trouble.”

“You’d be lost without me,” Steve flaps a hand dismissively at his threat.

“I’d be on a date with my fiance right now if I didn’t have you to worry about, you little fungus,” Bucky denies easily, even as he sits down and pulls Steve’s feet into his lap.

They both know he’s joking anyways so it’s all good.

~~~

Another month or so passes after Steve’s attack.

And after much waxing poetic about how sweet and ready to be help Tony had been that day Bucky thinks he might actually be ready to talk to him outside of a crisis.

There’s also the fact that if he doesn’t do something soon Steve might actually try to strangle him.

He wouldn’t really be able to reach Bucky’s throat but, again, Bucky’s not willing to take that chance.  Steve’s vicious when he’s determined and he’s almost always determined about something.

Plus, if he’s being honest, Bucky really does feel like it’s time so it’s less about finally giving into the peer pressure and more about finally being actually ready.

So. determined, Bucky puts his game face on and gets ready.

After an extra long shower and scrub down he puts on the red Henley Natasha bought him, the one she says makes him look edible.  Then he dries his hair and lets it stay down from its regular little bun so that it hangs around his jaw line.

He even takes the time to shave his scruff down to more attractively stubbled levels before he heads out to the shop.

Nerves jangling more than he likes to admit Bucky orders a drink, something filled with enough sugar that even Clint blanches when he drinks it, and settles in to wait.

And then wait some more.

Because, for the first time in closer to a year than Bucky wants to admit, Tony doesn’t show.

Disappointed Bucky slinks home that afternoon with zero work done and more than a bit sugar high.

But he’s still determined so he tries to cheer himself up with the fact that there’s always tomorrow.

~~~

Only tomorrow comes and for the second day in a row Tony’s a no show.

In fact the only person besides the few regulars that Bucky sees is a stern looking black man in an Air Force uniform who strides into the shop, takes one look around and immediately zeroes in on Bucky’s table.

Bucky, caught off guard, automatically stands and salutes as soon as he sees the man’s rank.

He might not have been Air Force himself but he’s still gonna be respectful.  Spent too many years in the service and had his ass saved too many time by other branches to not be all things considered.

“Unit and specialization?”  Air Force asks briskly without even bothering to introduce himself.

“107th,” Bucky instantly volunteers, “sniper, Sir.”

Bucky feels as if he’s seen this guy somewhere before but he just can’t put his finger on where.

“Hold still for a second,” Air Force orders as he brings a sleek looking phone up between them.  Bucky freezes, slightly wide eyed, as the other man takes his picture.

Air Force lowers his phone, fingers flying across the screen, and offers zero explanation as to what’s going on.

Behind the counter Natasha actually looks ridiculously amused for some reason.

“Sir?”  Bucky finally speaks up after the silence drags on for a long moment, “what’s going on?”

“You’ll be seeing me soon,” Air Force announces, “and you’d better hope it’s under good circumstances.”

And then he turns on his heel and walks back out of the shop.

Bucky’s left standing behind him, brows raised high in confusion, and pretty fucking sure he just got threatened.

And he, for once, has absolutely no idea as to why.

~~~

Steve, the little bastard that he is, finds the entire thing hilarious for some reason when he shows up at the shop an hour or so later.

“You’re so clueless that it’s honestly kind of sad,” Steve tells him as he sprawls in his chair, huge mug of tea settled to the side and a platter of lemon muffins piled high in front of him courtesy of Clint.

Bucky opens his mouth to defend himself only to snap it shut when the door the shop abruptly slams open.

Everybody in the shop jumps just a bit but Bucky’s frozen, eyes wide and breath caught in his throat.

Because, standing there in the door after two days of being a no show, is Tony.

Only he looks nothing like the Tony Bucky’s gotten so used to seeing.

Gone are the regular three piece suits and perfectly coiffed hair.

Instead Tony’s in a pair of ratty old jeans, some sneakers that have seen better days, and there’s what looks like motor oil streaked across one of his cheeks.

Bucky's pretty sure he feels faint.

There’s also he realizes a second or so later, something large and awkwardly shaped tucked under Tony's arm.

Something that looks, strangely enough, a lot like a arm.

But before Bucky can even blink Tony’s making a beeline towards his table.

“I’ve been awake for fifty plus hours,” Tony announces as he slams his bundle down onto the table between Bucky and Steve’s muffins and drink.  “You’re gorgeous, and I built you an arm because I’m pretty sure I wanna marry you. So, wanna get hitched?”

Bucky has a split second where he’s pretty sure he’s died and gone to heaven as his mind blue screens.

Yes!” He yelps without even realizing he’s opened his mouth.

And then the next thing he knows Steve is kicking him beneath the table as he practically dies in laughter.

“I-I mean no,” Bucky scrambles to recover some small shred of dignity or composure, “I mean … I … oh god kill me now.”

“No take backs, handsome,” Tony announces gleefully, face split in a wide, delighted grin.  “We’re gonna get married and make gorgeous robotic babies together. I’ve decided, you’ve agreed, now all that’s left is the details.  And finally getting your name.”

“I’m Bucky,” Bucky manages to find the will power and brain cells to say, “Bucky Barnes.”

“I’m Tony,” Tony announces, “Tony Stark.”

And then Bucky’s entire brain promptly derails itself yet again because he knows that name, everyone knows that name.  But then Bucky’s never paid much attention to the tabloids so it’s no wonder he hadn’t connected the dots before now.

Hell if he'd known he was crushing on the Tony Stark he probably would have given it up pretty quickly because Tony Stark is the definition of out of his league.

It turns out not to matter much either way though.

Because, apparently, Tony Stark is very, very much in his league.

Because Bucky's not the only one who’s been staring.  Tony’s been looking and watching awfully hard as well.

So his little crush is, by some miracle of fate, entirely requited.

And, as it turns out, the arm Tony built for him fits like a dream with only a few minor tweaks.

Bucky’s first official date with his fiance the day after the final fitting is also a rousing success.

Just like SI’s new line of affordable prosthetic limbs and parts ends up being a rousing success.  The same line of prosthetics that Tony and his terrifying Pepper Potts end up smooth talking Bucky into becoming the face of,

And that's a move which, in turn, helps send his own book sales through the roof thanks to the exposure and people's curiosity turning them in his direction.

None of that matters though.  Bucky would give it all away because it's not important.

What's really important to him, what really matters, is the fact that, somehow, in the end, Bucky gets Tony.

And then, two years later, and still blissfully happy, Bucky gets down on one knee in the middle of the shop and in front of all of their friends, and asks Tony a very specific question.

Tony, to Bucky’s everlasting relief and delight, says yes.

So, in the end, Rhodes, the terrifying Air Force Colonel who still gives Bucky the ‘I’m watching you” eyes occasionally despite them bonding over the service and a mutual adoration of Tony, is Tony’s best man.

Steve who, alongside the entire rest of their friend group, apparently knew Bucky’s Gorgeous Tony was Tony Stark the entire time and never said anything is, of course, Bucky’s.  He's unbearably smug about it but Bucky can't even blame him.  He owes Steve a lot after all. 

And Tony’s clumsy little robot kid DUM-E is the ring bearer.

Bucky loves all of Tony's creations but there's a specail soft spot in his heart for DUM-E.  The clumsy little bot is, as it turns out, the other person to whom Bucky apparently owes his happily ever after.  It was thanks to his ill timed fire extinguisher attack that Tony was running late that first day and ducked into the shop at all.

Life, Bucky finds, is damn strange sometimes but is also so damn good.

All because, one Monday morning in a cafe, Bucky made eye contact with the man who turned out to be the love of his life.