Steve Rogers didn’t care about soulmates. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe it - the evidence was clear and well accepted - he just didn’t care about finding his. Most people he knew asked for a kiss instead of a date: the first kiss between soulmates is a defining moment. If you kiss and you’re not soulmates, the decision becomes whether to leave it alone, or to screw around for a while. Steve’s childhood had been spent being used as a threat or a dare. He was small and sickly, so nobody wanted to be bound to him. Of course, when he’d grown up things had changed. He was tall and broad now, and a day didn’t go by without someone asking him for a kiss. He always refused. Steve had a rule - no kissing until at least the second date. The first date would be to see if they cared enough to go - too many people used soulmates as an excuse to kiss pretty people. The second date was to see if they were interesting. If things went well on a second date, Steve would kiss them with the safety that even if they weren’t soulmates, he could still have made a friend.
Most people didn’t get past the first date.
Steve looked up from his laptop and glanced around the bakery. When he saw Peter waving at him, he smiled and waved back. The man standing in front of Peter scowled, so Steve blew Peter a kiss, just to piss him off. The man in question took his coffee and stalked out. Once he was gone, Peter brought a blueberry muffin over to Steve.
“Thanks,” Peter smiled. “That guy was really pushy!”
“No problem,” Steve smiled back. “And you don’t have to give me free food.”
“Nat’s orders. She said if I don’t see you eat something or you haven’t ordered within 2 hours, I have to make you. She said it’s because she doesn’t want you collapsing in her bakery, but I think it’s just because she likes to take care of people.”
Steve took a bite of the muffin and made a pleased sound. That was enough to satisfy Peter, who went back to the counter. Steve gave a short glance to the sign above the counter, which read ‘Please DO NOT try to kiss staff.’ He’d been coming here for three years, and the number of people who ignored that sign made him angry. He was just glad that he was here most days, and that he was big enough to make most people think twice.
Steve had just finished his muffin when Natasha emerged from the back room with someone Steve had never seen before. When Nat spotted him, she smiled and led the new guy (hot new guy, Steve’s brain supplied) over.
“Hey Steve, this is Bucky. He’s the new baker. Bucky, this is Steve. He’s our resident soulmate.”
“Um, hi?” Bucky sounded unsure, and his fringe fell across his eye as he looked between Nat and Steve. “What?”
“Steve’s an artist,” Nat explained. “He’s here most days. Even though we have a sign up, some people are still assholes and try to push for a kiss. If you’re not comfortable telling them to screw off, or you get scared about how they’re acting, you can always count on Steve. He pretends to be all our soulmates if we need him, and when someone won’t take no for an answer, he makes a halfway decent bouncer, too.”
Steve laughed at the last part and stood up from the table. He was a few inches taller than Bucky, so he tried not to crowd him.
“You’re gonna scare off your new hire,” Steve put his hand out to shake Bucky’s as he mock-scolded Natasha. “It doesn’t happen that often, but if you need me, I’m here.”
“Thanks,” Bucky smiled as he shook Steve’s hand. “What kind of art do you do?”
“Graphic design mostly. I freelance, and right now I’m working on an ad campaign.”
Bucky seemed to realise he was still holding Steve’s hand, and took a step back when he released it. Bucky was blushing, and Nat was smirking.
“We’ve got some paperwork to finish,” Nat broke the moment. “Bucky starts tomorrow.”
“I’ll be here,” Steve smiled.
Bucky made it through half a shift before someone tried to kiss him. The guy was aiming for charm, but his entire presence made Bucky want to go and wash his hands. Bucky glanced towards Steve as the guy leaned closer on the counter. He didn’t want to draw attention. It was his first day, and he wasn’t going to go running to the cute stranger with the nice hands as soon as someone got familiar. He wanted to prove he could take care of himself.
The feel of a hand grabbing his wrist had Bucky rethinking his ambitions.
“Hey, you’re not even listening to me, sweetness. We could be made for each other, y’know?”
“I’m flattered,” Bucky tried to smile and he pulled his arm away from the creep. He seemed reluctant to let go, but had no choice when Bucky had withdrawn his arm so far. “There’s a rule,” Bucky indicated up to the sign, which the guy didn’t even bother to look at.
“So if I came by after your shift, you’d be free to kiss me then?”
Bucky faltered. He didn’t want to be rude to this paying customer, but he didn’t know how to get out of this with grace.
“Hey, babe,” Steve slid up next to the guy, turning a warm smile on Bucky, and Bucky had never been so glad to see someone. “Grab me a scone, please?”
“Sure thing,” Bucky smiled widely at Steve and stepped away from the customer, who was now looking incredulously at Steve.
“Excuse you, pal. We were in the middle of something.”
“Oh, sorry to interrupt,” Steve turned his head towards the guy, his smile artificially sweet. “But, hey, what’s the point of having a baker for a soulmate if you can’t score a free treat while you work?” Steve winked at the guy, and Bucky returned with his scone in time to see the creepy guy’s eyes bulge out of his head. Bucky put the plate down in front of Steve.
“Thanks,” Steve touched the back of Bucky’s hand in an act of seemingly-unconscious tenderness, and that was enough to get the guy to finally leave. Without saying another word, Steve took his scone and went back to work. Bucky watched him unnoticed for a few long moments, before the oven timer pulled him away.
The rest of the week went by without serious incident. Steve had pretended to be Wanda’s soulmate once, and had given Peter a ride home on his motorbike when the young man burned himself. He was just packing up to leave on Friday night; his work on this ad campaign finally finished enough to send to the client for first approvals. Bucky smiled at him as he was heading out the door. They were closing in ten minutes, so Bucky was wiping down and turning off the lights.
Steve made it around the corner to his bike as the last light turned off. He packed away his laptop and waited for Bucky to round the corner. He always waited until whichever staff member was on close had left for the night. It was in his nature to worry. It took almost five minutes before Steve grew concerned. He stood and headed back towards the bakery’s entrance.
Bucky was standing at the closed door, keys gripped tightly in his hand, and the creepy guy from earlier in the week was crowding close. Steve could see from where he stood that Bucky was scared. Steve stalked up to them, trying to make his footfalls heavier than usual, and Bucky’s head shot up at the sound.
“Hey!” Bucky managed to duck around the guy’s arm as he turned to see who was coming. Steve scowled at the creep, as Bucky hurried over to him.
Without thinking, Bucky wrapped his arms around Steve’s waist. Steve’s arm rested across his shoulder in response, and Bucky pressed forward to kiss him.
Bucky’s heart stopped. He hadn’t meant to do that. He was just so happy to see Steve, and to get away from that jerk. He felt a tingle up his spine, and his eyes slipped closed. Steve, who had frozen in surprise at first, was now pulling him closer. The tingle became a buzz, and Bucky’s stomach flipped. Was this it?
Steve’s head swam with the feeling of Bucky. It was like they were alone in the universe. A soft hum crawled unbidden from Steve’s throat, and he couldn’t help drawing Bucky in. He’d never felt like this before. It was almost how his mother had described it. Two souls twining around each other: bursting with energy and light.
When they parted, Steve couldn’t keep the smile off his face at the sight of Bucky’s dumbfounded expression.
“So, uh…” Steve was nervous, but excited. “I don’t usually kiss until the second date. We seem to have skipped a few pages.”
“I’m sorry,” Bucky mumbled, but he hadn’t let go of Steve’s waist. “I was just… You’re amazing.”
Steve laughed, but Bucky’s hands tightened on him, and Steve made sure to pay attention.
“Even before… I know it’s only been a week, but the way you take care of everyone here, and the smile you always have, I… I would’ve gone on a date with you. Two dates. Twelve. If you didn’t want to kiss me ever, I still would have wanted to be with you. I know that sounds corny, but…”
“Hey,” Steve stopped Bucky’s self-deprecation. He cupped Bucky’s cheek and ran his thumb lovingly across his cheekbone. He didn’t say anything more. Bucky didn’t need him too. The shared look of adoration was enough. After a few more seconds of sharing space, Steve reluctantly stepped back.
“Can I give you a ride home?”
Bucky looked up at Steve, his hair once again falling across his eyes, and a light blush staining his cheeks.
“Could I… I’d like to come home with you.”
Steve’s bright grin calmed Bucky’s nerves, and Steve reached out a hand for him to take. They headed back towards Steve’s bike, and Steve admitted to himself that finding his soulmate was actually pretty amazing.