Steve blew out a heavy breath as he stepped out of the elevator. After checking in at the front desk and being told to wait, that his name would be called in a few minutes, he took a seat and fidgeted with the tie around his neck, shrugging his shoulders in the one-size-too-small jacket he had borrowed from Bucky.
When he had sent in his resume earlier that week, he thought for sure they’d laugh and respectfully decline. He never thought he would score an interview at Stark Industries, with none other than Anthony Stark, a man who Steve found incredibly sexy. Sure, they had never met face-to-face before, social and economic circles and all that, but Tony had graced many magazine covers and had more newspaper articles written about him than the current sitting president.
How Steve was going to get through the interview, sitting across from the very man he had dreamed about kissing - and so much more, if he was being honest - without making an utter fool of himself, he had no idea. He was about to find out.
“Mr. Stark is ready for you,” his leggy blonde, secretary announced.
After smoothing the tie against his chest, Steve stood and followed her into the office, mumbling a thank you as she shut the door.
Tony; the man, the myth, the legend , glanced up from the paperwork his pen was scrawling over and gave Steve a smile that sent his stomach spiraling. “Please, come in and have a seat.”
Can I sit on your lap?
Even though his legs felt like jell-o and the fact that he was no doubt blushing from the route his mind had gone, Steve made his way across the large and decadently-decorated room. Sitting down in the plush leather chair, Steve pressed his hands against his thighs, wiping off the nervous perspiration that had started.
“Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, Mr. Stark,” Steve managed to say, his voice cracking only the slightest.
Tony gave Steve a reassuring smile. “You wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think you’d be able to get the job done.”
The compliment made Steve’s chest burn, in a good way. “Tha- that means a lot to me, Mr. Stark.”
Tony set down the pen, turned off the computer monitor, and flipped over his cell phone, turning all of his attention to Steve. “So, Steve… can I call you Steve?”
You can call me anything you want.
Steve cleared his throat before answering. “Yes, sir.”
“Sir,” Tony mused, chocolate eyes glittering. “I like the sound of that.”
God, I’m not going to make it. I should leave.
“Steve, like I said, your resume is quite impressive. I noticed that you worked for a friend of mine, Nick Fury.”
Steve shifted in his seat. “For two years, that’s correct.”
“He gave you quite the recommendation,” Tony informed Steve.
“Is… is that not something he normally does?”
Tony chuckled. “You worked for him for two years, you tell me.”
“Nick Fury was a bit of a hard ass, true,” he blurted out, slapping a hand over his mouth immediately. “Shit, I… I’m sorry.”
Way to blow the interview, moron .
Tony was laughing hard ; leaning back in his chair, head thrown back, hand slapping against his thigh. “Jesus, that’s… that’s the best thing I’ve heard.”
Steve let out a nervous chuckle as he, once again, shifted in his seat. “You uh, you’re not… he’s not going to find out, is he?”
“Not if I have anything to do with it,” Tony assured Steve, laughter still clinging to his voice.
“Oh, thank God,” Steve sighed, scraping a hand over his face.
Tony leaned forward, forearms resting on the desk. “You haven’t blown the interview, if that’s what you’re worried about, Steve.”
I’d like to blow you. Jesus, what was wrong with him?
“Yeah?” Steve peered at Tony, bottom lip trapped between his teeth.
Tony cleared his throat. “In fact, I’d like to offer you the position. That is, if you’re comfortable working beneath me.”
Oh, God, yes. Any position you want, sir .
Steve’s cheeks and neck burned. “More than comfortable, sir.”
Tony stood and buttoned his custom-made Tom Ford suit jacket, circled the desk, and held his hand out. “Welcome aboard, Steve.”
The prompt for this was: “Hey, I’m your neighbor. I know we’ve never spoken before but I just got broken into and feel unsafe. Could I possibly stay over with you just for tonight?”
Keys in hand, you exited the elevator and immediately felt a change in the air. The lights above were flickering and the ones at the end of the hall, right outside your apartment, were out, shards of glass littering the floor. It felt as if there was a hummingbird trapped in your chest as your legs acted on their own accord and carried you down the hall. The knob was hanging by a screw and the slightly ajar door creaked as you pushed it open. Reaching in, you flicked on the lights and gasped at the state of your apartment.
The fridge, freezer, and cupboards were opened, their contents spilling onto the floor and counters. The couch cushions had been cut open, the stuffing ripped out and tossed around the room like confetti. Every book had been pulled off the numerous shelves, their pages ripped and tattered as they lay on the floor.
Tears blurred your vision as you cautiously walked to your room, arms wrapped around yourself. The drawers of your dresser were open and your clothes were strewn on the floor. The small closet door was open, every article of clothing tossed out, the boxes you kept momentos in were opened and thrown aside. Your bed was completely unmade, the mattress and pillows slashed. The stuffed bear your father had given you had been decapitated, its stuffing ripped out.
With bile rising in your throat, you dashed out of the apartment and down the hall, where you pounded on the door as you cried. Fear made the back of your neck tingle and you kept looking over your shoulder, fully expecting to see whoever had destroyed your home.
Eddie, your very quiet and ruggedly handsome neighbor, opened the door, eyes narrowed from having been woken up. “What’s goin’ on?”
“Oh, thank God, you’re awake,” you murmured, pushing your way into his apartment.
“I am now ,” he groaned, standing there, staring at you as if you’d grown a second head. “Please, do come in.”
From the roots of your hair, to the bottom of your feet, you were shaking. Even your teeth were chattering, clattering together. “I’m sorry, I just… I’m your neighbor and I know we’ve never spoken before, but my apartment was just broken into, everything was destroyed, and I… I don’t feel safe there,” you rambled, words tumbling together, getting jumbled up. You swallowed around the knot in your throat, probably your heart, and wrung your fingers together in the hem of your shirt.
“Wait, what happened?” Eddie growled as he shut the door.
“I… I… I came home from work and my apartment… someone broke into my apartment,” you cried, shoulders shaking, stomach twisting and turning.
“Are you okay?” he queried, standing in front of you. “You’re not hurt?”
You shook your head and sniffled. “No, I… I’m fine. Nobody was there, though I don’t think it happened that long ago.”
“What makes you say that?”
You gave a half-hearted shrug. “I dunno. The food from the fridge hadn’t started smelling yet.”
Eddie ran a hand through his hair. “Did they take anything?”
“I don’t… I don’t know,” you answered, shaking your head. “I didn’t really look.”
“You should call the cops,” Eddie gently instructed you.
You snorted and rolled your eyes. “Have you ever called the cops for anything, Eddie? Especially in the middle of the night. I’ll call them in the morning.”
“You got a point,” he agreed.
“Can I stay here?” you asked hesitantly. “I’ll stay on the couch, please. I… I can’t stay at my place.”
Eddie smiled and nodded. “Yeah, of course you can stay here, but you’re not sleeping on the couch.”
“Oh, okay?” you murmured, confused, worried. Was he pissed about having been woken up? You wouldn’t blame him if he was.
“I’ll take the couch,” he informed you. “Let me change the sheets on the bed, and then it’s all yours.”
Your hand shot out and grabbed his. “You don’t have to do that.”
“My mama didn’t raise an idiot…” his voice trailed off and his expression grew pinched. “I… I don’t know your name.”
With a soft smile, you told him your name. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
Turning your hand over in his, he brushed his thumb over your knuckles. “Likewise.”
The prompt was: “You broke your foot and I brought you to the hospital.”
Pissed off and head buzzing from the alcohol, you stormed out of the bar and down the sidewalk toward the parking lot. Grumbling under your breath, you went about fishing the keys from your purse. You were so lost in your own bad mood that you weren’t paying attention as you stepped off the curb.
Raw and unyielding agony erupted in your foot and ankle as the bone cracked. It danced up your calf like lightning, sparking white-hot through the muscle and tissue. You landed on your side and palms, biting back shouts, gravel digging into your skin, ankle bent at an angle. Your stomach rolled and tears stung your eyes as you scanned the parking lot. It was dark, late, and the fluorescent light was flickering like it wanted to be a part of the disco era.
Sucking in a series of ragged breaths, you tried pushing off the ground, but the searing pain in your foot and ankle quickly drove it home that you weren’t going anywhere by yourself. Your purse had bounced on the ground, spilling its contents as it went. Spotting your phone, you stretched out and managed to snag it with a low grunt. You had just swept your finger across the cracked screen when someone ran over.
“Jesus, are you alright?” Whoever it was sounded genuinely concerned for your well-being as they dropped down.
You shook your head and reached a shaking hand down your leg. “I… I think it’s broken.”
The new arrival hissed at the sight before him. “Yeah, I think you’re right. Look, I’m going to pick you up and get you to the hospital. Is that alright?”
Your affirmative answer was a long groan laced heavily with pain and hot tears streaming down your face.
“Okay, sweetheart,” he murmured, more to himself than anything. He crouched down next to you and hooked an arm under your knees and curled the other around your waist. “On three. One, two, three.” Gnawing on his bottom lip, he stood, stumbling slightly, but he didn’t drop you or fall.
Another groan spilled out of you as your arms looped around his neck. You were unashamedly crying as he maneuvered his way through the parking lot, to his blue truck.
“My… my purse,” you stammered after he set you inside the cabin.
“I’ll get it,” he assured you. “Buckle up.”
He was gone for fifteen seconds, maybe less. Your purse dropped to the seat next to you as he took his spot behind the wheel. Keys jingled mutely as he shoved one into the ignition and urged the engine to life.
“Sorry,” he needlessly apologized. “It’s been acting up.”
You waved away his words as a pulse of nausea threatened to consume you. “It’s fine.”
Your unnamed savior winced in empathy when he failed to avoid a pothole as he pulled out of the parking lot. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” you assured him, grimacing. “It’s not your fault the city refuses to fix them.”
He gave a wry chuckle at that. “I’m Frank, by the way. Frank Adler.”
You offered your name through gritted teeth. God, it was hot. Sweat gathered on your clammy skin and you had the urge to rip off your clothes just so you could try and cool down.
“Do you mind if I open the window?” you asked, hand hovering over the knob.
“Of course not.” He reached back and slid open the window behind the bench seat, then rolled down his window. “Almost there.”
With your eyes closed and temple pressed against the door, you gave a grunt. This was definitely not how you envisioned your night going. Going out, having a few drinks, maybe snagging an attractive guy, sure. Getting shot down and snapping your ankle, nope. Not even on the radar, but there you were, at the mercy of a guy you suddenly hoped wasn’t a serial rapist or murderer.
You looked at him from the corner of your eye. Even through the haze of pain surrounding you, it was difficult not to appreciate how attractive he was. Thick dark blond hair, even darker blond, maybe even ginger beard that couldn’t hide his strong jaw, pink tongue that kept darting out to wet a plush bottom lip. Wide shoulders and bulging muscles barely hidden beneath the white t-shirt and blue and yellow plaid button up. Long fingers wrapped around the steering wheel and -
“You alright?” Frank wondered.
“Huh? Ye- yeah. I was just -”
Wondering how your beard and lips would feel on my skin.
“I never thanked you. So, thanks.” Your skin felt like it was on fire.
Frank gave a soft smile. “You’re welcome.” He turned on the signal and crept into the parking lot of the hospital, over the speed bumps, and pulled into a parking spot not far from the emergency room doors. He cut the engine and basically jumped out of the cab, pocketing his keys as he went. You had just reached for the handle when the door opened.
You grabbed your purse and held it against your stomach with one hand. “As I’ll ever be.”
“Just like before.”
When you leaned forward, Frank’s hand slid along your back, his other under your knees, and pulled you out of the truck. You curled an arm around his neck, fingers gripping his shoulder tight as pain danced under your skin.
“Um, can you -” He nodded at the open door.
Releasing your purse, you reached out and shut the truck door. With a gruff thank you, Frank turned and carried you quickly into the hospital.
Upon seeing Frank carrying you, your foot swaying, a grimace of anguish settled deep into your features, several nurses blanched.
“You gonna stand there and stare, or you gonna help?” Frank barked, fingers digging into you.
One nurse rushed over and grabbed a wheelchair while another picked up the phone and paged the on-call doctor. Frank lowered you into the wheelchair and was poised to say something, but you were whisked through a series of automatic doors and into an examination room.
Despite the poking and prodding, the x-rays and burn of morphine in your system, you promised yourself to look up Frank Adler.
The prompt was: “I saw your number on the wall of a bathroom stall and called it as a joke but holy hell your voice is hot.”
“I dare you,” your redheaded friend, Tasha, giggled. “I double, triple dog dare you.”
“No.” You shook your head, adamantly refusing to do what she wanted. “I won’t.”
She rolled her eyes and blew a raspberry loudly. “You’re no fun. You know that?”
You pointed to the bathroom wall with your eyebrow arched. “I don’t need to call some random guy just because it says for a good time, call Bucky . I’m not that hard up.”
“When was the last time you had sex?” she deadpanned.
Scoffing, you turned your attention to your reflection and wiped away a smudge of eyeliner. “You know when.”
“Exactly! His name was Brandon and I know for a fact that you did not have a good time.”
“Thanks, Tash,” you muttered sardonically.
Her hand was on your shoulder. “Hey, I’m just trying to make sure you’re gettin’ the attention you deserve.” Her red brows bobbed up and down playfully.
“You know someone wrote that because they’re either slut shaming him or because he’s exactly the opposite of a good time,” you noted, turning to face your friend.
She blew another raspberry and it made you want to slap her. “Orrrrrrr, they wrote it there because he’s hung like a horse and he’s the best fuck they ever had.”
“Natasha,” you screeched, playfully smacking her arm.
“You won’t know until you call.”
“No, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to call,” you pointed out. Grabbing your purse, you gave yourself one last look and nodded. “Good enough.”
Tasha was giggling as she followed you out of the bathroom and into the bar, still teasing you about how you should call the number, how it would do you some good to get some good di-
“I’ll have a whiskey, double, neat,” you informed the bartender, setting your purse on the dark wood as you took a seat, Tasha next to you.
She ordered the same before asking to use some of your lipstick. Without waiting for an answer, she dug inside and pulled out the tube of crimson, rubbing it against her lips a moment later. After putting it back, you noticed something else in her hand.
“No, Tasha,” you grit out, lunging for your phone.
She opened the phone and started dialing. “It’s for your own good,” she giggled, holding the phone out of reach.
“I swear, I’m going to kick your a-”
Natasha pressed the phone to your ear just as a gravelly voice said, “Hello?”
“He- hello?” you stammered, a blush spreading across your neck.
“Who’s this?” he wanted to know.
You gave him your first name and continued to glare at a very happy with herself Natasha. “Who’s this?”
“You called me, doll,” he chuckled in a way that made chest tighten. “You tell me.”
Another chuckle washed over you and you fought to hold yourself together.
“What can I do for you, doll?” he purred.
The words came tumbling out before you even had a chance to stop them. “I saw your number on the wall of a bathroom stall and my friend called it as a joke, but holy hell your voice is hot.”
Bucky laughed, hearty and rich, and the sound of it washed over you. That was when you realized you weren’t only hearing it through the phone. The sound was coming from inside the same bar you and Tasha were patronizing.
“Are… are you at the Red Star?” you breathed, eyes scanning the room.
“I am,” Bucky confirmed. “Are you wearing a little black dress?”
You snorted in a very unladylike fashion. “Maybe.”
“Turn around,” he murmured darkly.
Your body acted on its own accord, following his direction, and turned slowly in a counter-clockwise direction until a set of stormy blue-grey eyes made you gasp.
“At your service, doll,” he purred, deeper than before, raising a glass of whiskey. “At your service.”
The prompt was: “You got into a fight and climbed through the first open window you found to hide and now you’re bleeding out on my couch. What do I do?”
It was late when you heard it, a sound that didn’t belong, and it was coming from your living room. You sat up in bed with a gasp, fear lancing through you, turning your blood to ice. San Francisco was supposed to be safe. There weren’t supposed to be people breaking into your apartment.
When something heavy landed on the floor, followed by a gritty curse, you knew something bad had either happened, or it was about to. You slid out of bed, grabbed the stereotypical item of home defence - a baseball bat, and crept across the room. Thankfully, the bedroom door had been left open, so you didn’t have to worry about it creaking and alerting the intruder of your presence.
There, in the middle of the living room, was the perpetrator.
“Son of a bitch,” he ground out, shoving himself off the floor. “How did that get there?”
You flicked on the light. “What the hell do you want?”
The man spun around and jumped back, eyes wide, shock etched deep into his features. “Me? What about you?”
“What? You’re in my apartment!”
“Am not. You’re in mine,” he insisted, eyes darting around, taking in his surroundings. “Or, maybe not.”
“No shit, Sherlock,” you bit out, bat raised, ready to swing at a moment’s notice.
The intruder grimaced and groaned, a hand pressing against his stomach. “Can I just… sit down for a second?” He didn’t wait for an answer, just stumbled across the room and dropped onto your couch.
“Hold on,” you murmured, the bat lowering. “I know you. You’re… that guy on the news.” You snapped your fingers loudly. “Eddie Brock!”
“That’s me,” he said flatly, clearly unamused.
“What are you doing here?”
Eddie grimaced as he shrugged. “I was trying to sneak into my apartment.”
“Yeah, right. You don’t live here,” you snorted.
“Fourth floor,” he informed you, holding up four bloodied fingers.
You still weren’t convinced. “How come I’ve never seen you before?”
“Dunno. I’ve lived here five years. Don’t believe me? Call the super.” Eddie’s head fell back as he groaned.
“What happened, Eddie?” You stepped closer, worry eating at you.
“Got jumped,” he huffed. “They didn’t like the questions I was asking.”
Eddie’s lower lip was split, there was a gash on his left cheekbone, the skin around it red, purple, raised. A bruise was blossoming on his chin, his knuckles were raw, and his shirt was torn and bloodied. Without another word, you turned and ran into the bathroom and grabbed the bottle of peroxide, gauze, bandages, tape, and cotton. When you dropped to your knees and started tending to his wounds, he looked at you curiously.
“What are you doing?”
“Helping you,” you snorted. “What’s it look like?”
First, you took care of the oozing cut on his cheekbone. You cleaned the wound, gnawing on your bottom lip as you concentrated, then placed three butterfly bandages over the length it.
“It may need stitches if you’re not careful with it,” you muttered.
“I’ll try and be careful.”
Your fingers brushed over the bruise on his chin as you carefully cleaned the split in his lip. “This one’s not so bad. It’ll scab over like a bitch, though.”
“You sound like you know what you’re doing,” Eddie noted, aqua eyes flicking over your face.
“I’m a nurse,” you informed him, disposing of the bloodied cotton. “Now, take off your shirt.”
Eddie’s eyes go wide, a full circle of white around the irises. “What? Why?”
“Because, Eddie,” you say flatly. “You got into a fight and climbed in the first open window you could find, and now you’re bleeding out on my couch.”
“Oh, yeah,” he says dumbly.
“Take off your shirt,” you repeat, already standing up to retrieve the iodine, needle, and thread from the bathroom.
The prompt was: “This guy is hitting on me and I’m uncomfortable so you came up to help me out and now we’re friends.”
Why? Why were guys at the club so sleazy? Their dark eyes dragging over your curves, slick promises dripping off their tongues like venom, twitchy fingers seeking you out. Ugh, it was frustrating. Just once you wanted to meet a nice guy that didn’t talk about how good he could make you feel within the first three minutes of meeting.
Okay, okay. The club wasn’t the best place to meet that kind of person, but you had tried everything else and failed. Blind dates, dating apps, speed dating; anything and everything in between. Nothing worked. You were undateable.
Case in point.
Long and greasy-haired, faux leather jacket wearing, smudged eyeliner, chipped black polish on his nails, Markus was currently trying to convince you that eating Keto was the best thing since sliced bread. It had worked miracles for his friends and family.
“I’ve lost thirty pounds,” he bragged, patting his stomach.
“Good for you,” you said, and you meant it, but right then, you wanted to get the hell out of there. “I’m sorry, but I -”
“And my maman , you should see her.” He dug in his pocket and pulled out his phone.
You hummed, lips drawn between your teeth, casual interest dripping off of you. “Yeah, wow.”
“I’m telling you, mon bébé , it’s going to change -”
There he went again, on a tangent. You rolled your eyes and finished the drink in your hand. With a weary sigh, you signaled for the bartender, requesting a refill. You breathed a sigh of relief when he poured you a double.
“What do you say?” Markus inquired.
You choked on the whiskey. “I’m sorry, what?”
His index finger was tracing over the back of your hand to the inside of your wrist. “I live just down the block.”
“I… no, I’m not -”
“Come on, bébé ,” he purred, or tried.
You rolled your eyes. “Stop with the phony French accent.”
He had the nerve to look surprised. “It’s not fake!”
“Whatever, you’re making me uncomfortable and I’d like you to leave me alone.”
Markus huffed and grabbed your wrist. “Nah, you don’t get to change your mind just like that.”
“Dude,” you snarled. “I said no from the beginning.”
Markus’ eyes left yours, drifting to someone behind your right shoulder. “The fuck are you?”
“I’m with her,” the new arrival announced, arm heavy on your shoulders. “You okay, baby?”
Without missing a beat, you curled your arm around his waist and settled your cheek against his shoulder. “Now that you’re here, I couldn’t be better.”
Markus sputtered, eyes flicking back and forth. “That’s not… no, this isn’t…”
“I think you better leave,” your ‘boyfriend’ growled, thick fingers digging into your shoulder, and not in an unpleasant way.
Rolling his eyes, Markus spun around and stormed out of the bar.
The air you were holding rushed out of your lungs. Your arm slipped free, as did his as he moved to stand in front of you.
“Sorry for barging in like that. You just looked really uncomfortable.”
“No, I was,” you confirmed. “Thank you for stepping in like that.”
He gave a lopsided smile and held out his hand. “I’m Peter, Peter Quill.”
“Nice to meet you Peter.” You shook his hand and told him your name. “Could I buy you a drink?”
“You don’t have to.”
You were already signaling for the bartender. “Please, it’s the least I can do. You saved me.”
Peter sidled up next to you and nodded. “Alright, but just one.”
“Nah,” he chuckled. “I just want to make sure you’re not going to take advantage of me.”
That got you laughing. Rich, hearty, head tossed back, hand over your heart, until your stomach and sides hurt.
“God, I miss that,” you sighed, wiping away the tears that had fallen.
Nodding, you leaned on your elbow and reveled in the anxious happy little butterflies in your stomach. “Yeah. No one’s made me laugh like that in, well, forever.”
“That’s too bad,” Peter commented, mirroring your stance. “You should be laughing every damn day.”
“You gonna stick around, make sure I accomplish that?”
Peter was smirking. “Damn right.”
The prompt was: “We’re in the same elevator and it broke down so now we’re stuck in here until someone gets us out.”
“I don’t believe this,” Steve grumbled under his breath, pacing back and forth in the elevator, a hand dragging through his hair.
The man he was stuck in the elevator with gave a rough chuckle. “It’ll be just fine.”
“Says you,” Steve bit out, anxiety bubbling in his chest. “We’ve been trapped here for -”
“Not even five minutes.”
“That’s not right.” Steve glanced at his watch, confused. “Wait, it’s… it feels like it’s been longer.”
The man with caramel swirled in chocolate hair looked up at Steve from the floor. “They’ll be here as soon as they can. I’m James Barnes. Most people call me Bucky.” He was trying to distract Steve, take his mind off the fact that the two men were stuck in an elevator, forty-five floors up. Okay, maybe he was trying to distract himself, too.
Steve shook the proffered hand and swallowed loudly. “Steve Rogers.”
“You’re with Stark & Potts, right?”
“Yeah,” Steve murmured, feeling himself falling into the stormy eyes of Bucky. “I’ve been with them for almost five years now.”
“God, are they as scary out of the courtroom as they are in it?” Bucky blurted out.
Steve chuckled and shook his head. “They’re like your average married couple.”
“I bet their arguments are -”
“Epic,” Steve finished, dropping to sit down across from him. “And you, you work with Romanoff and the twins, right?”
Bucky nodded. “Nat, Pietro, and Wanda, yes. I’m a private detective.”
“Sounds exciting. Do you enjoy it?”
“Sometimes,” he answered, shrugging out of his black leather jacket. “It’s a lot of confirming who’s having an affair, who’s lying about being injured, that sort of thing. But it pays the bills, so I’m not complaining.”
Steve’s brows drew together. “We used you once, right?”
“Yeah, it was uh, last year?”
“Oh yeah, the uh,” Steve started snapping and squeezed his eyes shut, “Lang case. Feds were convinced he was skipping out on house arrest.”
“That’s the one,” Bucky confirmed. “That one was hard.”
Steve’s head tipped to the side. “How’s that?”
“Lang’s a good guy, he was just trying to see his daughter.”
“You know him?”
Nodding, Bucky squeezed the back of his neck. “He’s got a buddy named Luis that’s datin’ my sister, Becca.”
“God, I remember Luis,” Steve laughed. “Couldn’t get him to shut up if you paid him.”
“He’s got some good stories, though.”
Steve had just pulled in a deep breath when the elevator shifted. “What’s that? What’s happening?”
“I’m sure it’s nothing,” Bucky assured Steve and reached for the black phone hidden inside the wall.
“Something’s going on,” Steve gasped, panicking, shoving himself up and pacing once again. “It’s gonna fall and we’re gonna die.”
More loud noises came from above the elevator and Steve thought his heart was going to pound out of his chest. His skin went clammy and pale, and his stomach started twisting to the point that he was sure his lunch was coming back up.
“I… I can’t breathe.”
Bucky shot up from the floor and grabbed Steve’s hands. “Breathe with me, Steve. Come on.”
There was a loud bang and the elevator bounced, only a couple of inches, but to Steve, it felt like a hundred feet.
“We’re gonna fall.”
“No we ain’t. But if you don’t start breathin’ right, they’re gonna need to call an ambulance.” It was a bad attempt at a joke.
Steve’s breathing was coming in rapid bursts and his pupils were blowing wide. Panic was settling deep into his bones, surging through his blood, sending currents of electricity through every atom and neuron. He was going to die. He was convinced of it. And then Bucky’s hands were on his face and they were kissing. Well, Bucky’s lips were pressed firmly against Steve’s while Steve stood there, too panicked and confused to know what to do.
In a split second, everything changed. Steve wasn’t worried about dying, he was afraid Bucky was going to stop kissing him. The panic dissipated and Steve melted into Bucky, hands gripping Bucky’s hips, pulling him close, their mouths slanted, tongues moving together, Bucky’s hands on Steve’s ass and digging into the back of his neck. It had been a hell of a long time since Steve had been kissed, and kissed well, that it was easy to forget everything happening around them.
Bucky had just pinned Steve to the wall, thick thigh between his, hands ready to rip open the expensive shirt when the phone rang. Growling in disappointment, Bucky tore himself away and answered it.
Steve ran a thumb over his kiss-swollen bottom lip and fought back the urge to rip the phone from the wall and let Bucky finish what he started.
“Two minutes? Sounds good. Thank you.” He hung up the phone and gave Steve a searing look. “They’ll have the door above open in two minutes.”
“Is that what the noise is all about?” Steve asked, voice thick and heavy with need.
Bucky hummed, bottom lip trapped between his teeth, dark eyes roving over Steve’s frame. “Two minutes isn’t a lot of time.”
Steve stepped into Bucky’s personal space and gripped his ass tight. “Plenty can be done in two minutes,” he teased before capturing the brunette’s lips in his.
The prompt was: “I can’t afford this apartment on my own so my friend introduced you to me because you’re looking for an apartment as well and now we’re roommates.”
Clint was pinching the bridge of his nose, eyes squeezed shut, muttering about how badly he didn’t need a headache right then. He had been scouring the want ads for the last three hours, searching, scouring for a roommate, someone who could move in before the start of the next month; in four days.
“It’s not gonna happen,” he gruffed. “You’re going to get kicked out of your amazing studio apartment and then you’ll be homeless.” The red pen he had been holding flipped out of his grip. More like he threw it, and landed on the floor.
“Hey, man,” Steve, his best friend and coworker, chuckled. He bent down and snagged the pen from under the chair and handed it over.
Clint rolled his eyes and sighed as he took the proffered pen. “Hey. What’s goin’ on? I thought you were headed out with Peggy.”
“That’s not until later.” Steve sat down and turned the marked up newspaper around. “No luck?”
“I’ve been spending all of my free time looking,” Clint huffed, annoyed, bordering on pissed. “I’m gonna lose the place, Steve. I fucking love that place.”
Steve gave an empathetic smile. “What if I told you I could help?”
Clint stared at Steve, eyes narrowed, arms crossed. “How do you plan on doing that?”
“I have this friend, well, Peggy has a friend that’s loo-”
“No,” Clint argued, shaking his head.
“What? Why not? You don’t even know her.”
“I don’t -”
“And it’s not really any different than moving in with someone from a newspaper ad,” Steve scoffed. “Added bonus, she’s a friend of Peggy’s. Instant reference.”
Clint was tired, felt it deep in his bones, the kind that maybe a week of sleep would help, maybe . That was the reason he was being short and unreasonable and grouchy with a capital grrrrrrr .
“Alright, I’ll meet her.”
You were nervous. God, why were you so nervous? You weren’t going on a date or anything, you were meeting someone that was in the same boat as you; about to lose your apartment, desperately needing a roommate just to make rent. Plus, it wasn’t some stranger, not really. Clint was Steve’s best friend, your best friend’s boyfriend.
Sucking in a deep breath, you knocked on the door and waited. It didn’t take long, maybe thirty seconds before the door swung open.
“Hi,” you said with a grin, offering him your name.
“Come on in.” Clint stepped back, to the side, giving you plenty of room.
The first thing you noticed was how open it was. Steve had told you it was a studio apartment, he had just failed to mention how incredible it was. Floor-to-ceiling windows, dark decor despite the light flooding in, guitar and piano in one corner, large and overstuffed chairs surrounding a large screen television and overflowing bookshelf in the other.
“My bedroom is on that side,” he informed you, pointing to his left. “The other is over there.”
Your eyes flicked to his right and your feet followed. The bedroom was easily twice as large as the one you were currently sleeping in. Same windows, room-darkening curtains pulled to the side. It was mostly empty, save for a king size mattress with slate grey and black bedding, and a chocolate dresser in the corner.
“It has its own bathroom, too.”
“Shut up,” you practically shouted before jogging through the open door. Shower, jacuzzi tub, toilet, and a sink with more counter space than you thought you needed.
“What’s the catch?” you asked him as you emerged.
“Place this nice and you’re asking for less than what I’m paying now. There has to be a catch.”
Clint shook his head. “No catch.”
“It’s not haunted?”
“No,” Clint snorted.
Your eyes narrowed. “You’re not up all night having friends over and partying?”
“Not my scene.”
“You’re not a drug dealer or anything?”
Clint cringed. “Can’t stand the stuff.”
“Then what’s the deal?” you huffed.
Clint pulled in a shuddering breath. “It was my parents' place. Well, their parents, really. We sort of got grandfathered into a price, and as long as a Barton relative lives here, the price never changes.”
“Seriously?” There had to be more to it than that, right?
“Seriously,” he repeated with a nod. “It’s written into the lease.”
“Then why are you having problems with the rent?”
Clint chuckled at your blunt question. “I got laid off six months back and then my roommate of four years got married. The severance package is almost gone, and even though I start a new job in a couple of weeks, management isn’t happy about not getting paid a month late. Besides, I… I miss not having someone else here.”
Okay, that tugged at your heartstrings a lot. You completely understood where he was coming from. Your mind was officially made up.
“I’ll take it.”
Clint had been trying to avoid getting his hopes up, but couldn’t stop the smile from tugging at his lips. “Yeah?”
“On one condition.”
“Tell me how you got grandfathered into a lease for a massive studio apartment for less than $2000 a month.”
Clint motioned for you to follow him into the living room. “So my friend, Tony, his father Howard…”
The prompt was: “I’m a rock star and you’re a groupie but you’re the only one I want.”
Tony Stark, aging founder and frontman for one of the hottest rock bands from the 80s and 90s, was well and truly burnt out. The Iron Men had been touring across the globe non-stop since they signed a deal with SHIELD records, putting out hit album after hit album. Drugs, drinking, overdoses, court-mandated rehab, trashed hotel suites, and women.
By God, the women. They came out in droves; revealing clothing, scandalous promises, willing to do anything to not only meet the band but to do to the band. Outlandish requests, obscene and raunchy acts, anything and everything the band could have wanted, they got.
2008, Atlanta, July.
The air was heavy, thick with monja blanca, plumleaf, and cigarettes. Humidity clung to everything. It crept indoors, dampening everyone inside the stadium, but that didn’t stop the wave of bodies from moving around. Hands thrown up, backs arched, feeling the music in the marrow of their bones, shitty lyrics and all.
Tony spotted her during the encore. It was difficult not to. Straddling the shoulders of some guy, shirt held up, tits exposed, cheeks ruddy, bottom lip trapped between perfect teeth. The sight made his cock swell, and fifteen minutes later, he had his face buried between her legs, sweet nectar on his tongue as she came, fingers tangled in his hair.
2009, Minneapolis, December.
Fuck, it was cold. The snow; thick. The wind; bitter. The weather prediction; twelve to eighteen inches of snow. The concert was cancelled, the airports were shut down. They were stuck, trapped in a hotel that too closely resembled every other hotel they had stayed at. But for Tony, the experience was top notch.
She had found him at the bar, slim fingers across his shoulders, nails catching on the seams of his shirt. “Wanna go up to your room?” she purred, voice like smoke and whiskey.
Five minutes later, she was straddling his thighs, thighs squeezing, chanting, “Tony, Tony, Tony ,” like it was a prayer.
2011, Denver, March.
He was beginning to think she was stalking him, not that he minded. Not when the reward was so goddamn sweet. Speaking of sweet…
She was choking on him, swallowing him down, nose buried in the wiry curls around his cock, moaning and humming, balls in her palm, fingers ghosting over the tight skin, nails scraping. Tony’s fingers were in her hair, holding it out of the way, using it as leverage, controlling how fast she moved, fucking her face until she couldn’t breathe. Her neck bulged, tears streaming out of her eyes, skin flushing, sweat-slicked and bitter as he came, pulsing on her tongue, spilling down her throat.
2012, Sacramento, November.
Thanksgiving, and they were playing a fucking gig?
Dinner was served late in the evening, almost midnight. Turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, vegetables, and pie; apple, pumpkin, lemon meringue, chocolate cream. That’s what she tasted like that night, lemon meringue; sweet, tart on the end of his tongue as he lapped her up, thrust his tongue so deep she saw stars.
They lay there, chests heaving, sweat-slicked skin glistening in the moonlight, hands clasped, minds buzzing. He had just spilled himself so deep inside of her he was surprised it wasn’t oozing out of her pores. Yet, he wanted nothing more than to slide between her legs, push into her velvet heat, get drunk on her moans as he swallowed them down.
Was this burning deep in his gut, uncomfortable twisting, deep pangs, love or lust?
2013, Austin, March.
She’s been travelling with the band for almost a year. Not in a car behind the bus, crashing in a rest stop or cheap motel, but with the band on the bus, in Tony’s bed. She didn’t know it, but Tony got a ring. Diamonds, emerald, silver band, blue box. Tiffany’s. Expensive. Fucking worth it.
He asked her to marry him at dinner. Steaks, medium rare, no sauce, potatoes, salad with dressing on the side. Down on one knee, he pulled out the box and opened it, surprising himself with how nervous he was, heart thundering in his throat, voice cracking.
“Yes,” she cried, dropping down and hugging him, kissing him fierce. Tony had never been happier. Not even when he signed his name on the dotted line of the record deal.
They spent the rest of the night on the floor, in front of the fire, tracing each other’s dips and curves with their tongues and hands.
The prompt was: “We’re caught in a storm so you asked if I wanted to go inside and get some coffee in the meantime.”
When it started raining, you weren’t surprised. You’d watched the weather channel before leaving the house. Umbrella in hand, lilac nylon above your head deflecting the drops, you made your way to the bus stop.
The man with chocolate and caramel swirled hair gave a warm smile as you approached, nodding in greeting. The two of you never said anything, just acknowledged the other’s presence before you buried your nose in the book of the week, earbuds in, music on. It wasn’t that you didn’t want to talk to him, you did. The man was drop dead sexy, but no matter how hard you tried, words were the hardest thing for you to string together.
He flipped up the collar of his jacket when the rain fell harder, landing on the nylon above your head with a thwack that made you flinch. Then came the lightning, crackling through the clouds, sizzling the ozone, white-hot, blinding.
“Shit,” he grumbled, tugging a hat out of his pocket.
You felt bad. He didn’t have an umbrella and the bus wasn’t coming for another ten minutes. You briefly thought of offering to share yours, but there was no way in hell his shoulders would fit.
A crack of thunder, bone deep, in the very pit of your soul, and you screamed. The skies opened up and drenched the city below. The forecast had been wrong. It wasn’t going to rain. It was going to be a fucking deluge. The streets were going to flood and the subways would probably close.
You squeaked when a hand closed around your elbow and tugged to get your attention.
“Let’s go inside the diner,” stormy eyes suggested. “We can warm up, get a cup of coffee, wait for the rain to stop.”
Your moving feet were the only answer you gave. You jogged after him, across the street, ducking into the diner with a gasp as thunder chased you. Paper towels were thrust into your hand, which you happily accepted, thanking the waitress before she disappeared.
“So, coffee?” you panted.
He ran a hand through his hair after removing the sodden cap. “Definitely.”
You sat in a booth, watching the rain as it fell in sheets, distorting the appearance of everything. A text had been sent to your boss, letting him know you’d be late, but there was also a chance that, if the rain didn’t let up, you’d be missing work entirely. It was beginning to look like the latter. Which was completely fine with you.
The stranger had introduced himself after ordering two cups of coffee. His name was James, “But everyone calls me Bucky,” and he actually worked in the same building as you. Two floors down, as a journalist.
Hydra Exposed! Thousands file a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company after proof of inhumane testing was brought to the public’s attention.
“I think that was my favorite one,” you admitted, reveling in the warmth of the coffee in your stomach.
“Really? How come?”
“Hydra always gave me the creeps,” you answered, one shoulder bobbing up and down. “I figured there had to be something going on behind the scenes. Everything seemed too… perfect.”
Bucky leaned over the table. “It’s my favorite, too.”
“I didn’t think you were supposed to have favorites,” you teased.
“I try not to, but pieces like that…” the breath caught in his throat as he sat back. “What they were doing was wrong, and I needed to do whatever I could to expose them.”
You smiled softly and covered his hand with yours. “You did good, Bucky.”
Bucky blushed at the compliment. “People deserved to know the truth.”
“We sure do.”
“While we’re on the subject,” he murmured, turning his hand over in yours. “I’ve been wanting to ask you something for quite a while.”
Butterflies erupted in your stomach and fluttered up to your throat. “Oh? What’s that?”
“Would you go out with me?” he blurted, a nervous smile pushing wrinkles into his skin.
Your mouth went dry and it felt like your chest was on fire. “I’d love that.”
The prompt was: “We don’t know each other, but apparently we’re dressed as one of the biggest ships and everyone at comic con is trying to get us together.”
“You stole Clark’s glasses,” someone shouted as they ran up to you, sheer joy in their features. “He’s in the merch room! You have to return them.”
Giving them a smile, you told them you’d do your best, but Clar- Superman was busy and moved around a lot.
“That’s the twentieth person to say that,” you sighed once they left, straightening out the front of your outfit.
You were dressed as Lois Lane from Superman . A white button up shirt was tucked into a tight black pencil skirt, matching black vest, name tag on a lanyard around your neck, curled hair pulled back into a professional updo, a pair of sensible kitten heeled shoes, and a pair of black glasses resting on your nose.
It didn’t bother you, the urging of the people that one of the most famous ships in comic book history be made complete. You had been a part of comic con for so many years, it was hard to remember a time when you weren’t interested in it. Planning and creating your costume, your talent increasing every year. You thoroughly enjoyed it.
This year, however, you had gotten an extremely late start, and didn’t get to build the extravagant costume you had your heart set on. You ended up choosing Lois because it was easy, you had everything in your closet, and because you didn’t feel like having everyone’s attention on you. You figured there would be a thousand and one Lois Lanes, and you were right. You just hadn’t figured that they would all be dressed as Lois Lane from the Christopher Reeves era. Your Lois was from the latest movies with Henry Cavill.
Same with the Clarks. Most of the ones you had seen were Christopher’s version. There were very few Henry versions, and none that you had seen were amazing. Nothing like what the people running up to you were talking about.
“Alright, I’ll see if I can find him,” you told the latest person, a Doctor’s companion.
“To the TARDIS,” she announced, hooking her arm in yours and pulling you with her.
You couldn’t help but laugh at her exuberance and allowed her to lead you away. When she stopped in front of an honest to goodness TARDIS, you spotted the textured and skintight deep blue and crimson costume you’d been dying to see.
“Yes,” the companion giggled, clapping her hands. “That’s him.”
You were curious, brows drawn together, head tipped, walking cautiously toward the hulking man dressed as a god. Someone close to him said something, alerted him to your presence, to the presence of ‘Lois’, and he spun around. Wide eyes searched hundreds of faces before landing on yours, and the smile he gave, God, it warmed you to your toes.
“Lois, my darling,” he called out, raspy, smoky, alluring, and then he was bounding over, the throngs of people parting like the red sea.
He towered over you, hazel eyes flickering, lips pulled into a playful smirk before he wrapped you in his arms and lifted you up. “I have been searching for you everywhere! I thought Lex had taken you once again.”
“He sure as hell tried,” you said, forcing yourself to stay serious, in character.
You were set on your feet and he tucked some hair behind your ear. “I can’t lose you, Lois.”
Weirdly enough, stranger or not, your heart started fluttering. “You won’t.”
The prompt was: “It’s Halloween and you’re wearing a costume that matches mine. You’re officially my new best friend.”
Halloween was probably your favorite time of the year. No. It was your favorite time of the year. It was the one night you could dress up and pretend to be someone else. Given Halloween was your favorite ‘holiday’, it was fitting that your favorite movie was Beetlejuice. It might sound cliche to some, but every year you dressed up as Miss Argentina. The costume took a lot of work and was a bitch to wear while using the bathroom, but you loved it.
You sauntered into the party, already in full swing. People were dancing to the loud, pulsing music, chattering over the beats you could feel in the pit of your stomach, drinks in their hands.
Natasha, your best friend, wearing a glittery, curve hugging, slit up to her pelvis dress, latched an arm around your waist and purred, “Helloooooo, Miss Argentina.”
Nat always gave 200% dedication to her costume, and this year, she did not disappoint. “Hello yourself, Jessica Rabbit,” you chuckled. “You’re lookin’ good.”
“So are you,” she purred, lilac gloved hand on your hip. “You know, for a dead person.”
“Hey,” you scoffed. “I rock the dead pageant queen look.”
“You sure as hell do,” a very gravelly male voice admired from behind you.
You and Nat spun around and the sight before you made you gasp. Never, in all your years of dressing up, had you seen someone decked out as Beetlejuice.
“My, my, my,” you hummed in admiration, eyes drifting over the wide shouldered man in front of you. “The dead man of my nightmares.”
Nat slapped your ass before disappearing into the crowd to find her date.
He grabbed your hand and raised it, pressing a series of loud kisses against your knuckles. “You’re lookin’ good enough to eat.”
You giggled. Yes. You honest-to-God giggled. A blush crept up your neck and colored your cheeks, bright enough that it could be seen under the green makeup, turning it lavender.
“I’m Steve,” he murmured, dropping the facade for a moment.
You gave him your name with a wink. “Want to get a drink?”
“Absolutely.” He gave a toothy grin and held his arm out for you to take.
You slipped your hand into the crook of his elbow and gave it a squeeze. “Lead the way.”
The prompted was: “We have a mutual friend who decides to play seven minutes of heaven and we’re paired up. So what do you want to do for the next seven minutes?”
Seven minutes in Heaven. It was a game that teenagers played at parties, not thirty-somethings with jobs and mortgages. Right?
Wrong. According to your friend, Nat, anyway.
She was having a housewarming party, all of her friends were invited, including the bad ass biker with long chocolate hair, stormy grey eyes, and greyscale tattoos decorating his arms. You’d never been introduced to him, not for lack of trying, but you were too nervous, he was too intimidating, and you were convinced your hormones couldn’t take it.
So, Nat did what she did best. She meddled.
“Alright, gather ‘round,” she purred, empty whiskey bottle in hand.
It was almost midnight, practically everyone had gone home. Ten people remained, and oddly enough, there were five men and five women. They grumbled about sitting on the floor, but did as they were told. Well, except for the biker. He was leaning against the wall, one foot kicked over the other, arms crossed.
“What’cha doin’, Red?” he gruffed.
“We’re gonna play a game,” she answered. “Steve, move over. I need grumpy pants over there visible in case he gets picked.”
Steve chuckled and scooted closer to Wanda, their knees bumping together. “Sorry,” he murmured.
The shy librarian blushed furiously and tucked the hair behind her ear. “S’okay.”
“Now,” Nat barked once everyone was seated. “We’re gonna play Seven Minutes in Heaven.”
Nine people groaned, yourself included.
“We aren’t teenagers, Nat,” you needlessly pointed out.
“And it appears that several of you,” her eyes shot over to Wanda, then Steve, then yourself, “haven’t gotten any since then.”
“Hey,” you protested loudly, then blushed. “It hasn’t been that long.”
“Might as well be,” she teased. She set the bottle on the floor. “You go first.” She was talking to you. One red eyebrow arched, a smirk on her wine-stained lips.
You were shaking your head. “I’m not playing,” you scoffed. You took a large drink of your wine and glared at her over the rim.
“You’re playing,” Nat said flatly. “We’re all playing. Including you.”
“Uh uh,” argued the tall drink of water against the wall. “I ain’t some horny teenager.”
“Nah, man. You’re just some horny biker,” Sam laughed.
“Fuck you, bird brain,” he sneered.
“Boys, boys,” Natasha laughed, hands held up. “You’ll have your chance.” She turned her attention back to you. “Spin.”
With a heaving sigh and a roll of your eyes, you leaned over and did as she commanded. The bottle slipped on the carpet a bit as it spun and spun, a blur of clear glass, black label, white lettering, swirling together like a vortex until finally, it stopped.
You hadn’t realized you were holding your breath until you raised your eyes to the person it was aimed at.
The biker stood and ran a hand through his long hair. “Come on, doll. Let’s get this show on the road before she starts throwing punches.”
You laughed as you stood because you had no doubt in your mind that Natasha would do just that if you didn’t get moving.
“Once that door shuts,” Nat said, pointing a crimson-painted nail at the closet door, “it doesn’t open until your seven minutes are up.”
“Yeah, yeah, Red,” he muttered. “We know the rules.”
You stepped inside the deceptively spacious closet and turned on the light. When the door closed, you jumped, spinning around to face the man whose name you still didn’t know.
“Bucky,” he said, as if he were reading your mind. “My name’s Bucky.”
A nervous laugh bubbled in your chest as you gave him your name. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Can you believe she actually did this?” he asked, eyes flicking over your face.
“Actually? Yeah, I can. It’s Nat. She’s never been one for subtlety.”
“How long have you known her?” His head tipped to the side in curiosity.
You blew out a heavy breath as you thought about it. “We met in grade school so, almost thirty years now.”
“I was in grade school with her, too.” He was looking at you as if he were waiting for you to figure it out, to put the pieces together.
You narrowed your eyes as you sorted through your memories. “Wait, you… no way. You’re James Buchanan?!”
“Yeah, doll,” he laughed.
“Little Jimmy?” you laughed. “Fuck, you grew up!”
Bucky rolled his eyes at the stupid nickname. “God, I hated that name.”
“Hey, you weren’t as small as Stevie out there, but damn, you look good .” The words were out of your mouth before you could stop them, and once they were, you clapped a hand over your mouth. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I said that.”
Smirking wickedly, eyes flashing, Bucky stepped into your air space. “I remember you used to wear pigtails.”
“And you used to pull them every day.” You took a step back, your mouth was dry, and it felt as if the room’s temperature had risen at least five degrees.
His wide chest was almost touching yours as he stepped with you. “You threw dirt at me.”
“You used all the blue paint.” Blue was your favorite color, everyone knew that, even in the second grade.
“You took my lunch.”
“You put a dead lizard in my bag.” You hadn’t found it until it started smelling.
Your back was against the wall and his nose was brushing against yours as he took the last step. You were trapped and there wasn’t a thing you could do about it. Not that you really wanted to. Your heart was fluttering in your chest, your hands were clammy, and your stomach was twisting into all sorts of delicious knots.
“You drove me crazy,” he murmured, and then he was kissing you.
You grabbed the leather collar of his vest and moaned as he pushed his tongue into your mouth, devouring the sounds you were making. His hands were in your hair, tugging the strands, maneuvering your head however he wanted it, blunt nails biting into the skin. You melted into him, giving in to your teenage fantasies.
James may not have been the stereotypical high school stud and he may have picked on you relentlessly, but he had a kind soul. He never purposefully hurt anyone, he was wickedly smart, he stood up to the bullies that made Steve’s life a living hell, and he treated his mother and sisters like queens.
His calloused fingers travelled under your shirt, skimming the skin at the small of your back and it made you shudder. You pulled back and gasped at the humid air and looked up at him, watching as his pupils flexed, your thumb tracing over his bottom lip.
“Time’s up,” Nat announced, banging on the door.
The prompt was: “I’m lost in IKEA. I need your help.”
Going to IKEA was not your idea of fun. It was Nat’s. She had a wedding registry to fill out, and damn, was she going to town. The device in her hand beeped, flashing red whenever it scanned a code, entering the item into her registry.
As her maid of honor, it was your duty to tag along, to suggest, to deter. It was most definitely not your duty to complain, but the longer you were there, the grumpier you became. Until something grabbed your attention. More like someone.
He wasn’t much taller than you, maybe five feet ten, messy dark blonde hair, and he was wearing jeans, a grey t-shirt, and a long sleeve evergreen Henley. It wasn’t so much his looks that made you stare, it was how much fun he was having. You’d never seen such glee on someone’s face before. Well, you had, on the faces of the children that were playing in the ball pit at the entrance.
First, it was the multitude of blankets and pillows that grabbed his attention. He would run up to them, touching, feeling, getting an idea of how thick they were. Then he’d maneuver them onto a staged bed, building a… wait, was that a nest? He’d climb in, pulling a large comforter over himself, and not fifteen seconds later, an IKEA employee would run up and shoo him away.
Next you spotted him in the outdoor cooking department. He was filling a grill with charcoal and chunks of applewood, no, cherry. When he pulled a box of matches out of his pocket, you slapped a hand over your mouth. No, there was no way he was going to… and he did. He tossed a lit match into the grill, taking a step back at the flames that erupted.
A very stressed employee rushed over with a fire extinguisher. “You can’t keep doing things like this!”
“Must’a used too much lighter fluid,” he said, wearing a wide smile. “Lesson learned.” With a wink, he spun on his heel and tore off towards the kitchenware.
Curious, you abandoned your friend and followed the pyromaniac. At one point, you completely lost sight of him, but a heavy sound clued you in.
You rounded the corner just as he hurled a butcher knife through the air. It sunk into a thick wood cutting board that had been mounted on the wall. He gave a pump of his fist before chucking another knife at the makeshift dart board. The blade landed in close proximity of the other, the blades resting side-by-side.
He had just raised his arm to throw another one, when the very same employee that kicked him out of his nest and put out the fire, came running over.
“Knock it off, Clint,” the long-haired brunette demanded.
Clint, the man you had been following just laughed and threw the knife. “You’re gonna have to catch me first, Buck.” He tore off, sneakers squeaking on the floor, around a corner and up the stairs.
“Asshole’s gonna get me fired,” the employee grumbled, yanking out the knives with a grunt.
Stifling a giggle, you scurried past to see what trouble this Clint guy was going to get into next. You were extremely curious, as well as excited. It was the most fun you’d had in… wow, you didn’t even know.
You lost sight of him in the children's bedroom furniture section. Disappointment made your chest clench, but then it felt like someone was watching you. You scratched the back of your neck and turned around, searching for whoever it was.
“Hi, I need your help,” the troublemaker named Clint said, appearing almost out of nowhere, effectively scaring you. “I uh, I’m lost.”
You had a hand over your hammering heart. “You are? You looked like you knew where you were going before?”
He narrowed his blue-green eyes. “Have you been following me?”
“What?” you gasped. “I… I mean, maybe?”
“Honestly?” you snorted. “Because you were having so much fun.”
Clint smirked. “It’s a lot of fun. You want to join me?”
“Hell yeah.” The words were out of your mouth before you could think to stop them.
“First thing’s first. We have to find a Fyrkantig.”
Your brows pulled together. “What the hell does that mean?”
“I have no idea, but we have to find it.”
The prompt was: Coffee shop
Coffee. You needed coffee. STAT. It was the only way you were going to make it through the day. You’d woken up with a hangover, which you hadn’t really even earned, what with only one glass of wine with dinner, you slid and fell in the shower, and to top it all off, your second-hand (more like third) Keurig quit working. If you didn’t get some coffee soon, you were going to break down crying.
The line was almost to the door. Of course it was.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” you grumbled, running a hand over your face.
“You alright?” the man in front of you gruffed, looking at you over his shoulder.
“Peachy,” you scoffed, rolling your eyes. “It’s just… I need coffee.”
He chuckled and shifted on his feet, hands shoved deep into his pockets. “Don’t we all.”
Your head was pounding, blood pulsing in your ears, stomach grumbling. “And a muffin.”
“Didn’t eat breakfast?”
You would have shaken your head had your brain been behaving. “Coffee seemed more important when I woke up.”
“Been there, done that,” he commiserated. “I’m there right now, actually. You have a shitty date last night, too?”
You glanced up at him and lightly scoffed. “Who said I had a shitty date?”
“No one,” he answered with a shrug. “I was going based off my reasoning for being hung over and grumpy.”
“Someone as ruggedly handsome as you had a bad date?”
When the man in front of you chuckled, rich and thick, you knew you had given a voice to the question instead of thinking it. You squeezed your eyes shut and shook your head.
“I’m sorry. My filter must be broken.”
“If it helps, I was thinking the same thing about you.”
You stood up straight and placed a hand over your heart. “You think I’m ruggedly handsome?”
Turning to face you, his eyes went wide and he started sputtering.
“I mean, that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
“No, I.. what I meant was… Jesus, that’s not what I meant to say.” He pushed a hand through his hair and blew out a breath.
With a hand on his elbow, you assured him, “It’s okay. No harm, no foul.”
“Let me buy you a coffee and a muffin to make up for my blunder?” he offered.
“I don’t know. I was taught not to accept gifts from strangers,” you hummed, narrowing your eyes in faux suspicion.
He chuckled again, a small smile tugging at his lips. “I’m Eddie Brock.”
“Nice to meet you.” After giving him your name in return, you hooked a finger in the front of his jacket and tugged. “And who’s this little one?”
Eddie flushed and held a finger up to his lips. “His name’s Venom.”
“Venom, huh?” You peeked inside and scratched the head of the dark-furred puppy. “He doesn’t look very venomous.”
The puppy licked your fingers and tried jumping out, but Eddie pushed him back in.
“In a minute, bub,” he cooed, fingers scratching under the puppy’s chin.
It was ridiculous how much your heart was fluttering at the sight of a grown ass man fawning over a puppy, but there you were.
“What can I get started for you?” the barista asked, interrupting your thoughts.
Eddie tugged the jacket over the puppy before turning around. “Two large americano’s and two blueberry muffins.”
You shoved your wallet back into your purse. “How’d you know what kind of coffee I like?”
“Wild guess,” he answered as he paid.
You grabbed the bag of muffins and one of the coffees while Eddie gripped his, and then, the puppy barked.
The barista rolled her eyes and grumbled, “Damn it, Eddie. We’ve talked about this. You can’t bring him here.”
“Come on, man,” Eddie pouted. “I can’t just leave him outside! Besides, who’s he hurting? Nobody.”
As if knowing people were talking about him, Venom’s head popped out and he barked again.
“What was that?” boomed a voice from the back room.
“Go, go, go,” Eddie laughed, nudging you with his elbow.
You turned around and ran out of the coffee shop, Eddie on your heels.
The prompt was: “You just broke up with your s.o and I just broke up with mine and now we’re both lonely on a couples cruise. Do you want to hang out?”
Even though you and your boyfriend of two years had broken up, you still went on the couple’s cruise you’d purchased earlier in the spring. Why? Because the tickets had been crazy expensive and the company refused to refund even a portion of the cost, let alone all of it, so why not make the most of a shitty situation.
Three days into the week-long cruise, you’d taken every question that had been thrown your way, answering honestly. The man who you thought you were going to marry had cheated on you with your best friend, and oh man, the threats of castration and mutilation that followed made you laugh. These people didn’t know you, yet they were ready to maim, murder, and destroy for you.
The entire atmosphere definitely lifted your spirits. That was until one night after dinner, there was a couple’s dance, and for some reason, the guy in charge wouldn’t stop hassling you.
“Everyone should participate.”
“Is it mandatory?” you shot back.
“Well, no, but -”
“Then leave me alone.”
“Miss, you should -”
“May I have this dance?”
A hand appeared in front of you and you sighed in annoyance as you raised your gaze. The man standing there wasn’t much taller than you, a couple of inches, maybe. He was lean, wearing an impeccable suit, one that you had no doubt had been tailored to fit him. He had a dark goatee, grey hair sprinkled throughout, molten chocolate eyes that sparkled with mischief, and a head full of caramel-colored hair.
You had seen him around, always surrounded by a group of people, laughing, drinking, having a grand old time. He was the center of attention with his stories of grandeur and decadence, living a life that you could only dream of.
Confusion flickered in his eyes, but he recovered quickly. “May I have this dance, please ?”
You looked over at the table he had been sitting at. “Why don’t you ask your wife?” The words were slightly bitter on your tongue.
The cruise employee that had been pushing you to dance mere moments ago, disappeared with a mumbled apology.
“That’s not my wife,” he tried assuring you, smirking.
“Fiance, girlfriend, whatever. I’m not in the mood to be anyone else’s second choice because they’re unhappy or bored.” You glared at him as you stood, spinning away a moment later. You had just reached the entryway when a hand cupped your elbow.
Mr. Dark Chocolate Eyes was in front of you. “I’m not married or engaged or even dating.”
“Yeah, right,” you scoffed, yanking your arm away and rolling your eyes. “Then why are you on a couple’s cruise, and who is the woman with you?”
“Why are you on a couple’s cruise when you’re single?” he shot back, eyebrow arched playfully.
You gasped and glared at him. “That’s not… You don’t… this isn’t about me.”
“But it is.” His voice had dropped, low and seductive, rich, thick, honeyed. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you.”
Disbelief simmered in your chest, tightening it. “You don’t even know me.”
“I want to,” he murmured, stepping close, hand reaching for yours. “Let me.”
“What about -”
“Pepper is my secretary,” he informed you. “I went through a horrible break-up and Pepper decided that going on this cruise would help take my mind off of things.”
“So she came with?”
“Well, I am still working,” he chuckled ruefully. “Would it help if you met her, if she confirmed everything?”
“Actually, yeah,” you answered. “Knowing your name would help, too.”
He grinned and bent at the waist. “Tony Stark, at your service.”
You curtseyed and provided him with your name. “It’s a pleasure.”
Tony offered you his arm as he stood at your side. “Come, my lady. We have a Pepper to pester.”
An amused snort left you as he whisked you into the room and over to the table where a very leggy redhead sat.
“Oh, thank goodness,” she sighed. “I don’t know what I would have done with him if you hadn’t said yes.”
“What?” you gasped, surprised and nervous at the same time.
“She thinks we’re married,” Tony informed Pepper.
Pepper’s eyes went wide and she started laughing, not in a malicious way, but in a highly-entertained way. “Oh, oh honey, no. He’s too high maintenance for me.”
“Well, that’s a little disconcerting,” you noted, reaching for a glass of champagne from the tray a server was holding.
“I have a feeling you can handle it,” Pepper said with a wink.
“Now,” Tony purred after the champagne was gone. “How about that dance?”
You set the glass on the table. “Lead the way, Mr. Stark.”
The prompt was: “I told my kid you looked hot and now they’re telling you and I'm embarrassed but you think I'm hot, too.”
Fifteen children, including your daughter, were running around, screaming, shrieking, and laughing, high on sugar, and it made you want to tear your brain out of your head. Thank God you lived a couple houses down the road and there was wine.
“You have the patience of a saint,” you said to your friend, Peggy. It was her son’s birthday, and it appeared that every child in the neighborhood had shown up.
Peggy laughed and shook her head. “I just keep telling myself that it’s only one day. I can handle one day.”
Steve came up behind her and pressed a kiss to his wife’s cheek. “You got this, babe.”
“Thanks to you,” she purred, red nails scraping over his arm, lips skimming against his ear lobe.
“Get a room,” you scoffed playfully, winking at your friends.
“We are in a room,” Steve shot back, sticking his tongue out.
Just then, the front door open, and Grant, Steve and Peggy’s son, about lost his mind.
“Uncle Bucky,” he screamed, shrill, ear-piercing. Steve smacked his wife on the ass before leaving to greet Bucky.
“Jesus kid, only dogs can hear you,” you grumbled, wincing.
“My man,” the tall, chocolate haired, new arrival greeted his ‘nephew’.
Your daughter came running over and hugged your leg. “Mama, I firsty.”
“Where’s your cup?”
Looking up the length of your body, arms wrapped tight around you, she shrugged. “I no know.”
“Alright, no big deal. Let me get a new one.” You tried moving, but she was still holding tight. “Baby girl, that means you gotta let go.”
She giggled and shook her head. “No, mama. You walk wif me.”
“Wi th ,” you corrected your five year old gently before spelling it out. “You’re getting too heavy, baby.”
“Big, mama. I get big!” Still, she gripped you.
Peggy was smiling in empathy as she filled a cup and held it out for your daughter. “Here you go, sweet girl.”
“What do you say?” you prompted your daughter.
“Tanks,” she giggled, her hands gripping the red plastic cup.
More screaming grabbed your attention. Bucky picked up Grant, tossed the child over his shoulder, and started smacking him on the butt.
“Thirty spankings,” Bucky cackled as he strode through the house.
“NO! No, I’m six. Only six,” Grant protested weakly, giggles bursting out of him.
Maybe it was the fact that you’d been single for almost three years, or the fact you and Peggy had shared a bottle of wine, but there was something about Bucky that made your entire body clench as heat coursed through it.
Dark jeans clung to his thick legs, a red Henley stretched to accommodate his wide shoulders, chocolate and caramel hair was pulled back, tied into a low bun. His stormy grey eyes locked on yours as he walked through the kitchen, and you could swear that all of the oxygen was sucked from the room.
“Fuck me,” you murmured. “He’s gorgeous .”
“I mean, he’s no Steve,” Peggy teased. “But yeah, Bucky’s a good looking guy.”
“How come you never -”
“Introduced you?” she interrupted. “Honestly? He wasn’t in the right headspace.”
You gnawed on your bottom lip as you watched Bucky and Steve catching up, drinking a beer, chasing the children around the backyard. “The war.”
“That and the fact he had been held hostage by a group of radicals. They did things, sweetie, and when he came back, he wasn’t the same,” Peggy informed you sadly.
“And now?” A thrill of unease shot through you. If he was unstable and surrounded by a bunch of screaming, out of their minds, crazy children, what would happen?
Peggy’s hand was on yours. “He’s fine. He’s been seeing a therapist for several years and he’s part of some great support groups.”
You hadn’t realized you were holding your breath until then. “That’s a good thing.”
“A very good thing,” she agreed. “So, you know, if you wanted to maybe ask him ou-”
“Mama, mama,” your daughter called, running in from outside. Once again, she latched her arms around your leg and buried her face into the denim. “He coming.”
Bucky burst into the room with a growl. The growl morphed into a laugh when you and Peggy jumped. “I’m sorry, I was searching for a little girl. Perhaps you’ve seen her.”
You reached down and ran your fingers through your daughter’s sweaty hair. “It’s not this little girl is it?”
Her shoulders shook as she started giggling.
Bucky hummed as he approached. “I don’t know. I can’t see her face.”
Only when you nodded did he bend down and grip your daughter tight, pulling her away from your leg. She screamed bloody murder, but she was smiling the entire time.
“It is you,” Bucky announced, fingers digging into her sides, tickling her until she couldn’t breathe.
Your daughter collapsed onto his shoulder, her chest heaving, sweat trickling down from her hairline, and whispered something into Bucky’s ear.
When she pulled back, Bucky’s eyes bore into yours. “She did, huh?”
“Yes,” she giggled mischievously.
“What did I… what?” you stammered, curious and a bit worried.
Bucky leaned in and whispered into your daughter’s ear before sending the giggling child your way. You bent down and listened to her harsh whisper.
“He finks you hot, too.”
The prompt was: “The cinema for this movie is full and the only one left is a couple seat so I took it and now we’re sharing a couple seat together.”
You watched as the people piled into the theater, happy couples, holding hands, sharing kisses, grabbing asses. You rolled your eyes and groaned inwardly. Just because there was a rom-com playing at the same time as your movie selection didn’t mean the couples had to come out in droves and drive you crazy with their public displays of affection.
Had you just been dumped? Yes. Were you bitter? Yes. Were you annoying yourself with just how bitter you were? Also, yes.
With your popcorn and soda, you headed into the theater. It was dark, the row of lights on either side of the ground and the ads on the screen acting as the only light. You stood there, at the end of the first row for a minute, waiting for your vision to adjust. Once it did, you let out a resigned sigh. The theater was almost full. Great. The last thing you wanted was to sit next to a stranger, especially during something scary.
Having paid almost $30 for the movie and concessions, you couldn’t leave. You were in it for the long haul. So, you swallowed down your disappointment and anxiety, ground your teeth, and headed up the stairs. Five rows up, six seats in, there was an empty one. You apologized to the people that had to move their legs as you hurried by. You dropped into your seat, wincing when your elbow connected with the person sitting next to you.
“Shit, sorry,” you gasped, turning to the person you just struck.
“It’s alright,” the guy assured you. “Just warn me next time you’re about to hit me.”
You chuckled nervously and agreed. “I’ll try to keep that in mind.”
He leaned over and snagged some buttery popcorn from your tub. When you made a sound in the back of your throat, he smiled wide. “Consider us even.”
“I guess?” Shaking your head, you tucked your popcorn on the other side and waited for the previews to start.
You really hoped the awkward exchanges were done. You didn’t feel like having to report him to the theater for making you uncomfortable. Although, you hadn’t exactly told him how you were feeling, and you weren’t technically uncomfortable. A little unsettled by his forwardness, but not uncomfortable.
During the previews, he reached into his jacket and pulled out a bag of M&M’s, ripped them open, and held them out. “Have you tried these with popcorn? It’s delicious,” he whispered, leaning in.
“Really?” Your taste buds were confused at the mere mention of it.
“Yeah, lemme show you.” He grabbed your popcorn, his face inches from yours as he practically draped his body over yours, and stole the bucket from your grip.
You shifted in your seat and watched curiously as he dumped the chocolate into the bucket and gave it a good shake.
“Give it a try,” he encouraged you after taking a handful.
You cautiously followed his lead and snagged some of the popcorn/chocolate mix and pushed it into your mouth. The buttery, chocolate, sweet, salty concoction hit your taste buds and pulled a moan from you that you hadn’t been expecting. You were thankful for the dark theater so he couldn’t see the flush coloring your skin.
“My God, that’s incredible,” you praised, hungrily reaching for more.
“Told you.” The man was practically preening as he watched you devour the snack.
The tub remained propped between the two of you, knuckles and fingers grazing as you both reached for more. The first couple of times it happened, you apologized, but he shrugged it off. By the time the movie started, the popcorn was gone, and you had to fight the urge to go get some more.
“We’ll have to get a bigger popcorn next time,” he teased with a wink during the opening scene.
Caught up in the moment, you quickly agreed before turning your attention to the movie.
The first jump scare got you good . You jumped and made a gasp/scream. Your hand shot out and gripped his tight, nails scraping against his skin as your eyes squeezed shut.
“If you wanted to hold my hand, all you had to do was ask.” His gravelly voice was low, close to your ear, and you’d be lying if you said you didn’t appreciate it, despite the situation. He gave your hand a gentle squeeze as you yanked it out.
“Sorry,” you mumbled, crossing your arms, determined not to do it again. But you did. In fact, it happened several more times, and each time it happened, he squeezed your hand and teased you.
During the movie’s climax, you honest-to-god buried your face in his arm and gripped his bicep so hard he sucked in a breath through his teeth. He set a hand on your knee and murmured, “It’s alright,” into your hair. “It’s almost over.”
All you could do was nod and sit there while the grisly scene unfolded, the music doing little to ease the anxiety that was making your chest ache. Your breathing was ragged and you were pretty sure you were going to either pass out or have a heart attack.
Just when you thought you couldn’t take anymore, the man you were clinging to squeezed your thigh. “You’ll wanna see this part.”
You didn’t move away from him, just turned your head so you could see the movie’s protagonist exact her revenge on the psycho that had slaughtered her friends and family.
“See? Not so bad, right?” he wondered as the credits started rolling.
You sat back and let out a shuddering breath. “I… I’m sorry. I don’t know what got into me. I’m usually much better.”
“It’s all good, sweetheart,” he purred.
The lights came up and it was the first time you were able to actually see him, and damn, he wasn’t what you expected. He wasn’t the stereotypical version of sexy, what with the scar through his right eyebrow and his crooked smile, but there was something about him that made lust simmer in your gut.
You wiped your sweaty palms against your thighs and introduced yourself. “Thank you. For the M&M’s and for literally holding my hand.”
“Wade Wilson, at your service,” he said, standing tall and bowing grandly. “So, where to now?”
You looked at him curiously as you stood. “What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s our first date,” Wade stated matter-of-factly. “We watched a movie and held hands. I’m thinking dinner. What do you say?”
“I could eat.”
“Hell yes,” he cheered.
The prompt was: “We’re both stuck in the airport because our flight is delayed and it’s extremely deserted at 2am. Do you wanna walk around?”
“Do you know how much longer it’s going to be?” you tiredly asked the airline employee.
She gave you a sympathetic smile and shook her head. “I’m sorry, I don’t. The storm seems to have stalled. All air traffic has been delayed or cancelled.”
You ran a tired hand over your face and yawned. “Okay, thank you.”
With a sigh and your shoulders sagging, you made your way across the waiting area and dropped into your seat, groaning at the pang of exhaustion. The muscles in your legs and back burned as you stretched out, arms over your head, back arching over the chairs. Since your eyes were squeezed shut, you didn’t know anyone was there until you smacked them in the chest with your arm.
“Oh, God,” you exclaimed, twisting in your seat. “Are you okay?”
The man you had unknowingly hit turned and gave you a tired smile. “I’m fine.”
“You’re not just saying that?”
He turned in his seat, his elbow propped up on the chairs. “I’m not just saying that.”
You relaxed and blew out a breath. “I didn’t even know anyone else was waiting here.”
“I thought everyone had left in search of better sleeping arrangements, too.” He glanced around, finding several people tucked against the wall, jackets used as blankets or pillows, desperate for some rest. “Have they said anything about the storm?”
You shook your head. “Only that it appears to have stalled.”
He squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Great. Just great.”
“Right? I have a wedding I’m supposed to be at in -” You glanced at your watch and sighed. “Twelve hours.”
“I’m sure you’ll make it,” he assured you.
You looked at him and deadpanned, “In the UK. This was a connecting flight from California.”
“Oh, well, that makes it more difficult.” He chuckled ruefully and held out his hand. “I’m Frank.”
You introduced yourself and shook his hand. “Sorry, again, for hitting you.”
“It’s fine, I swear,” Frank said with a smile that definitely should not have made your stomach flip. “Hey, you wanna walk around?”
“It’s two in the morning,” you needlessly informed him.
Frank stood and stretched his weary limbs. “Yeah, but walking around might help pass the time.”
You glanced nervously at the airline employee, her complete attention on the laptop in front of her. “Nothing’s open.”
“I don’t want to buy anything. It’s just a walk. You don’t have to.”
You briefly wondered if this Frank guy was a serial killer that hung out at airports and waited for an extremely delayed flight before making his move.
Frank chuckled and shoved his hands in his pockets as if he had read your mind. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
Grabbing your phone and purse, you stood stiffly. “Sure, why not.”
The prompt was: “I met you yesterday and we hung out together for a while because you’re really nice and turns out you’re a celebrity because my face is all over tabloids now and people think we’re secret lovers.”
A steady stream of texts and missed calls made Bucky want to scream. He was half-asleep when he reached out and turned his phone off, or so he thought. The next time it rang, he snarled and ripped it from the table.
“Dude,” Steve shouted excitedly. “Why didn’t you tell us you had lunch with Y/N?”
Bucky rolled his eyes, not that Steve could see. “What are you talking about? I’ve never even seen her in person.”
“Uh, yeah you did. Yesterday.”
“Uh, no I didn’t,” Bucky snapped.
“She swore you to secrecy, didn’t she?” Steve laughed. “Not that it would have worked. There’s pictures of you guys everywhere .”
With a groan, Bucky sat up and pushed a hand through his messy hair. “I have absolutely no idea what you’re goin’ on about, brother.”
“Check your damn phone.”
Bucky disconnected the call with a grumble and started scrolling through the messages he’d received. Most of them were from Steve, some were from Sam, others were from Clint and Natasha, all of them wanting to know how it was to sit down and have lunch with Y/N, Oscar nominated actress and humanitarian.
“What’s goin’ on?” A quick search of her name on Google brought up pages of results. He clicked on the most recent one.
Actress Y/N Y/L/N was spotted downtown yesterday afternoon dining with a local. Y/N is in town researching a role in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film. The duo dined on smoked walleye, a seasonal favorite for the locals.
Bucky’s eyes went wide as he took in the high quality photos. Then he started wondering where the hell the photographers had been. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary yesterday. The woman he met had been gorgeous and incredible, sure, but it wasn’t her , was it?
“Why else would there be pictures of you on a celebrity gossip website?” he muttered to himself.
Shaking his head, he scrolled through his contacts. She had typed in her number after lunch, telling him to call her, that she’d be in town for a few more days before traveling back home. He held his breath as he connected the call.
“Uh, yeah, hi?” Bucky slapped himself on the forehead. “This is, I’m the guy you had lunch with yesterday?”
“Bucky, hi.” He could hear the smile in her voice, the genuine happiness. “How are you?”
“Honestly?” Bucky stood and pushed a hand through his unruly hair. “I’m confused as hell.”
“Because I didn’t tell you who I really am?”
Bucky swallowed around the sudden knot of anxiety. “Are… are you Y/N Y/L/N?”
She gave a soft hum. “That’s me. I’m sorry I lied yesterday. I just -”
“Hey, you don’t have to explain anything to me,” Bucky assured her. “My phone has been ringing off the hook all morning.”
“Sorry,” she lamented. “I didn’t even see them yesterday.”
“It’s okay. You don’t need to apologize. I’m just… surprised.”
“Let me make it up to you?”
That piqued his interest. “What did you have in mind?”
She gave him the name of the hotel she was staying at. “Tell them you need to see Velma. They’ll know what to do.”
“I love Scooby Doo. What can I say? So, will you come?” she practically purred.
“Yeah,” he answered breathily. “I’ll be there.”
“See you soon, Bucky.”
God, he loved the way she said his name. “See you soon.”
As soon as the call disconnected, he was calling Steve. “I have another date with Y/N!”
The prompt was: “You take the same bus as me every day and eventually we started sitting together and you always tell me funny jokes and I'm starting to like you.”
If anybody had asked you a couple weeks ago, you would have said you hated taking the bus. Oh, you understood the part you were playing by riding in one vehicle with more people than you ever cared to be around in a given day, but that didn’t mean you enjoyed it.
Your books helped. They kept your attention, prevented you from turning your head and getting an eye full of something you’d rather not have witnessed. They kept you from butting into someone’s conversation, even unintentionally. The only thing they didn’t do was deter one man from trying to talk to you.
He was a few inches taller than you, always had a cup of coffee, a pair of sunglasses perched on his nose, and ninety percent of the time he wore black jeans and boots, and a dark purple shirt. Most of the time, he kept to himself, drank his coffee, listened to the music in his earbuds, but every day, without fail, he sat next to you.
You didn’t mind. It was a mode of public transportation, after all. But you couldn’t help but wonder why he never sat in one of the empty seats. He had never made any lewd comments or looked at you inappropriately. As far as you were concerned, he was a normal, respectful human being.
“How do you make holy water?”
You were so focused on the scene unfolding in your book, that you barely heard him.
“How do you make holy water?”
Blinking rapidly in confusion, you looked at your seat partner. “I… I’m sorry, what?”
“How do you make holy water?”
“Um, I… I’m not sure?”
He cracked a small smile as he said, “You boil the hell out of it.”
You didn’t get it, not until the bus squealed to a stop, and he descended the steps. Only then did you start laughing. “Oh, my God. Boil the hell out of it!” You were laughing way too hard for such a lame ‘dad’ joke, but you didn’t care.
The next day, you came prepared.
“Did you know the first French fries weren't actually cooked in France?” you asked him, one leg bouncing.
“I didn’t,” he answered, gruff, tired, unamused.
“They were cooked in Greece. Get it?”
He nodded and chuckled half-heartedly. “Huh, good one.”
Hey, he may have sounded unenthusiastic to most, but you had made him laugh. Sort of. You opened your book and got lost in the story until the bus approached his stop.
“I'm reading a book about anti-gravity.”
“Oh? How is it?”
He leaned over and said, “It's impossible to put down.”
You snorted in a very unladylike fashion and bumped his arm with your elbow. “Nice.”
The next day, he started things off. “The fattest knight at King Arthur’s round table was Sir Cumference.”
“How do you figure?”
“He acquired his size from too much pi.”
Math humor made you laugh ridiculously hard, and that joke was no exception.
When you were done, you asked, “Why can't you hear a pterodactyl go to the bathroom?”
“I’m almost afraid to find out.”
“Because the pee is silent.” Okay, you were officially laughing too hard at your own joke, but it was okay, because the man next to you, the one that had barely cracked a smile this entire time was laughing with you.
The next morning, he handed you a cup of coffee before pulling out packets of sugar and cream. You never got a chance to thank him.
“What does a zombie vegetarian eat?”
Your answer was a shrug as you poured in two sugar packets.
A laugh burst out of you and you had to clap a hand over your mouth. “I wasn’t expecting that.”
“Me either,” he murmured, glancing at you from the corner of his eye.
“What did the pirate say on his 80th birthday?”
He shrugged his shoulders.
“What's the best part about living in Switzerland?”
You turned sideways in your seat and tucked one leg under the other. “What?”
“I don’t know, but the flag is a big plus.”
“Oh, it is,” you laughed. “What time did the man go to the dentist?”
“Wait, I think I know this one,” he said, snapping his fingers as he tried figuring it out.
You waited for a minute before answering. “Tooth hurt-y.”
He laughed despite saying, “Damn, I knew that one.”
The next morning, you brought coffee, even though you were sure he would be bringing his own. To your surprise, he didn’t have a cup in his hands.
“I was running late,” was his explanation.
“Good thing I was thinking ahead.” You handed him the cup and said, “How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?”
His shoulders shook as he laughed. He pushed the sunglasses up to rest on top of his head and looked at you. “What noise does a 747 make when it bounces?”
You were so lost in the blue-green of his eyes that you didn’t say anything.
“Boeing, Boeing, Boeing.”
And that made you laugh, hard. Not so much because of the absurdity of it, but because of his inflection and how he bobbed his head along with each syllable. You were wiping the tears from your eyes when he introduced himself.
“Nice to meet you Clint.” You reciprocated by telling him your name.
“Pretty,” he commented.
A flush swept across your skin. “Thank you.”
The prompt was: “My best friend is getting married to your best friend and we’re meeting for the first time and you’re actually hotter than I imagined.”
Bucky hated weddings. Well, he could appreciate the union of man and woman, professing their unyielding love, and all that, but the gigantic show that went along with it? No, thank you. So, when Steve proposed to Peggy and asked Bucky to be his best man, he begrudgingly accepted. Not only did he have to go and show his support, he had to help plan things and participate. Fantastic.
That all changed at the rehearsal dinner.
Leaning against the bar, Bucky was grumbling under his breath, cup of whiskey in his hands, ice clinking against the glass. “Can’t believe I gotta make a speech.”
“That’s what the best man does,” someone very feminine pointed out. “Correct me if I’m wrong.”
Bucky’s mouth went dry as he turned to see who the new arrival was. Curves covered in red silk met his eyes, and suddenly, every single throbbing inch of him loved weddings.
“I think you misunderstood,” he said with a smirk. “I said I can’t believe I get to make a speech. I’m lucky.”
She gave a disbelieving hum. “Was that what you said?”
“It was,” he insisted. “Can I buy you drink?”
“I hear it’s an open bar.”
After the bartender poured their drinks, she turned to him, offered her hand and name. “It’s been a pleasure.”
He took her hand in his and brushed a kiss to her knuckles. “The pleasure’s all mine.”
“Thank you for the drink, Bucky.”
“How did you -”
She was laughing, rich, thick, alluring. “You really think Peggy didn’t warn me?”
“I don’t -”
Steve’s arm was around Bucky’s shoulder. “I see you’ve met Peggy’s maid of honor.”
She pushed up to her toes and kissed Steve’s cheek. “Good to see you again.”
“What’s happening here?” Bucky wanted to know.
Y/N curled her finger under Bucky’s chin. “Easy, tiger,” she purred.
“We’re just having a bit of fun, Buck,” Steve assured his best friend. “Had to get you to loosen up somehow, right?”
Bucky shrugged out of Steve’s grip. “That’s playing dirty.”
“Like you’ve never played dirty,” Y/N playfully chastised.
“I don’t know wha-”
“Now, now,” she murmured, running her nails over the length of his tie. “Don’t lie.”
Bucky cleared his throat as he shifted on his feet. Was anyone else getting hot? He wanted to pull Y/N against him and see if she felt as good as he thought, and yet, he wanted to turn around and drink himself silly.
Steve laughed heartily and clapped Bucky on the shoulder. “I’ve never seen him speechless. Bravo, Y/N.”
As Steve departed, she finished her drink and placed it on the bar before slipping her hand in Bucky’s. “Come on, Buck. Let’s show ‘em how to have a good time.”
The prompt was: “I sent a selfie of myself to the wrong number but you responded and you’re really hot.”
Italics are text messages.
Bucky always hated getting a new phone. Everything was different, the shortcuts weren’t where he had them last time, and he swore the keyboards got smaller with each new upgrade. That was his current predicament. Once home, he had taken a selfie - yeah, yeah, don’t judge - and sent it off to his friend, Clint, complaining about the phone.
Or so he thought.
I think you’ve got the wrong number.
Bucky looked at the number, and sure enough, he had miskeyed two numbers. He muttered under his breath and sent an apology.
Shit, I’m sorry. I hate to use the new phone excuse, but it’s true.
I can see that lol.
Bucky pulled a beer from the fridge, popped it open, and drank most of it as he ventured across the room to the couch. He dropped down and debated whether or not to keep texting the stranger.
Well, I hope I didn’t bother you.
You didn’t. I can actually relate.
Oh, how’s that?
Bucky kicked off his shoes and propped his feet up onto the table as he waited for the response.
I got a new iPod the other day and I’m still not used to it.
Feeling slightly emboldened by the beer he chugged, Bucky quickly typed two words.
The picture that came through fifteen seconds later made Bucky’s stomach twist lazily, then he was laughing, hard. The guy on the other end was no doubt handsome and built, but he was also a giant goofball.
Oh, my God. That’s… I don’t even know what to say lol.
Got you to smile, though, didn’t it?
Sure did. Thank you.
Bucky wiped a hand over his face, brushing away the tears that had escaped from his boisterous laughing. He was about to finish off his beer when his phone chimed.
I know we don’t know each other, but do you want to meet up for coffee some time?
Without even thinking about it, Bucky answered.
That would be great.
The prompt was: “I'm an artist and I drew you because I thought you looked pretty. You saw it and you thought it was really nice and we started talking and I may have a small crush on you.”
Steve sat in the corner booth every day, in her section, ordered coffee and a blueberry muffin, and sketched in his book. At first, he sketched the interior of the coffee shop. Then it was the patrons. And now, he was drawing her. Page after page of the waitress/barista filled his book. Some pages held more than one version of her; different features on her face at different times of the day.
Was it considered creepy? Probably. God, he hoped not. He was just enamored by her, couldn’t get her out of his head. So, rather than approach her like a normal human being, Steve sketched, and sketched, and sketched some more. Sometimes, he sketched until all time was lost, until it was just him and his pencils, and her .
“I’ve always been curious,” she said quietly as she filled up his coffee for the third time. “What’s got your full attention, Steve?”
His head flew up. “Nothing,” he said a little too quickly, slapping the cover of the book closed. “Nothing at all. Why?”
She looked over her shoulder before sitting down. “You’re in here every day, for hours , and you’re always sketching.”
“Is that not okay? Do you need me to leave?” His heart started skipping around. Please don’t make me leave.
“No, no, Steve,” she laughed. “You don’t need to leave. But seeing you all alone, every day makes a girl wonder.”
“Wonder about what?”
She reached over and managed to open the notebook, taking in the sketch he’d been working on. “Why you’re drawing me.”
“I think you’re pretty.” The words were out of his mouth before he could even think of stopping them.
A blush colored her cheeks. “I’ve never had anyone sketch me before. You’re really good.”
It was Steve’s turn to blush. “Having such a beautiful subject makes it easy.”
She snorted as she laughed. “Stop it.”
“Would you uh, like to go out with me sometime?” he asked softly, unsure of how she would react.
“Not for coffee,” she teased with a wink as she stood.
“Definitely not for coffee.”
She picked up the carafe. “I’d love to.”
The prompt was: “My best friend doesn’t believe I'm a sex god so now I'm here. Could you write a fake number so I can convince them I'm capable of hitting on someone? Wow you wrote your actual number.”
You’d been watching a rather boisterous group of men for almost thirty minutes now. They were tucked into a booth, devouring the food as if they were starving, and going through pitchers of beer as if they were going out of style.
Okay, fine, you weren’t only watching them because they were loud and borderline obnoxious. They were hot. All of them. There wasn’t one semi-good looking male among them. Like, how does that happen? It shouldn’t. It wasn’t fair to the rest of humanity. Either way, they’d caught your attention and you were enjoying yourself.
One in particular had captured your attention more than the others. Even in the dim lighting, you could tell how silky his long hair was, how sharp his cheekbones were, how intense his eyes were though their color remained a mystery. You were four booths over, too far to even hazard a guess.
He caught you staring at him and gave a devilish smirk that made you blush. Your stomach flipped lazily, a thrill of getting caught zipped down your spine, and your heart skipped. You dropped your gaze to the previously-ignored cellphone in your grip and turned it on, quickly opening Facebook in an attempt to focus on something other than him . It was going well, too, until you felt someone standing at the booth.
You looked up and swallowed heavily. It was him .
“Hi,” you croaked.
“Hi,” he said warmly, a playful spark in his eyes. “How’s it goin?”
“Good,” you answered after clearing your throat. “You?”
He looked over his shoulder and nodded at his friends who were staring . “Not bad, not bad. Say, I uh,” he took a deep breath and looked down at you, “I know this is going to sound weird, but -”
“No,” you deadpanned, barely holding back a smile. You were evil, but it was so much fun to play with the sex on legs standing before you.
“Oh, I uh, I’m… I’ll go,” he stammered, his face falling.
You clapped a hand over his and started laughing. “I’m kidding! I’m sorry. Don’t go.”
“Yeah? That was… not nice,” he chuckled ruefully.
“I’m sorry,” you lamented sincerely. “I just… I’m not used to guys coming up to me like this unless it’s to play a prank or something.”
“Why would anyone want to play a prank on you? You’re stunning .”
You rolled your eyes and waved away his compliment. “It’s dark in here and you’ve been drinking.”
“You been watchin’ me?” he teased, winking a dark eye, smirking like a prowling cat.
Heat licked at the back of your neck as you flushed. “I uh, I mean -” He was laughing, hearty and rich, and it made you want to roll around in the sound of it. Weird, huh?
“So,” he grunted as he dropped down into the seat across from you. “My friends don’t believe I'm a sex god.”
Whoa. That made you blanch. “Uh, what?”
“I’m not trying to get you in the sack,” he assured you, though you had your doubts. “But they’re convinced that I can’t get your number.”
“I… I mean, what?”
“You don’t have to give me your actual number. Could you maybe just write a fake number so I can convince them I'm capable of hitting on someone?”
It was then you noticed his leg was bouncing and he was cracking his knuckles nervously. He really was nervous about coming to your booth.
“Tell me your name first,” was your stipulation.
“Bucky,” he answered after clearing his throat.
You held out your hand. “Give me your phone.”
Wearing a wide smile, he dug in his pocket and retrieved the slim phone. You took it after he opened the contacts and, even though you weren’t 100% sure why you were giving it to him, entered your phone number and name.
“There you go.”
“Just because I’m curious, did you give me a fake number?” he asked as he stood.
You shrugged and peered up at him. “You’ll have to text me and find out.”
“I’ll do that.”
It was almost one in the morning when your phone chimed.
The prompt was: “I told my kid you looked hot and now they’re telling you and I'm embarrassed but you think I'm hot, too.”
Parent teacher conferences were Clint’s least favorite part of being a father. Give him a toddler melting down, an epic temper tantrum, kicking and screaming any day of the week. Sitting there and getting told where his son needed to improve upon? No thank you. Not because Clint thought his son was the perfect child, but because what parent wants to hear their child is failing? Nobody. And if they do, then there’s something wrong with them.
“Daddy, am I in trouble?” asked Greyson, eyes wide.
Clint ruffled his six year old son’s hair. “Absolutely not.”
“Why are we here? It’s not a daytime. It’s nighttime.”
Seven o’clock was indeed late to a six year old. “Your teacher and I just need to talk for a few minutes. It’s okay.”
“Sorry, Mr. Barton,” his teacher rushed, jogging into the room. “Sadie was having a hard time.”
Clint stood on formality and shook his head. “No apologies necessary, Mrs. -”
“Miss,” she corrected him, rounding her desk. “Miss Y/L/N.”
When she tipped her head, a worried expression pinching her features, Clint realized he had been staring. He cleared his throat and held out his hand.
She smiled softly as they shook hands. “It’s nice to finally put a face to a name.”
“You, uh, you, too,” he stammered as he sat down.
What is wrong with you? Get it together.
She tucked some hair behind her ear before finding Greyson’s folder. “Let’s get started, shall we?”
Damn it, she’s gorgeous.
“Ye-, yeah. Let’s.”
“I want to start off by saying that I absolutely love having Greyson in my class.”
At the mention of his name, Greyson curled in on himself and rested his head on Clint’s thigh.
“He’s a good listener,” she went on. “And he gets along amazingly with the other children.”
Clint rubbed his hand against his son’s back. “See, Grey? I told you. He thought he was in trouble,” he informed the woman he couldn’t stop staring at.
“Aw, buddy,” she cooed, leaning over her desk to try and get him to look at her. “We talked about this, remember? You’re not in trouble, okay?”
“Promise?” Greyson sniffled, looking at his teacher through his insanely long eyelashes.
“Promise,” she confirmed with a wink.
The boy lit up like a Christmas tree and sat the straightest Clint had ever seen. “Can I go play?”
“Only if you’re quiet and clean up when you’re done,” was the stipulations his teacher gave.
“Okay.” Greyson shot out of his chair and ran across the room.
“Can you teach me how to do that?” Clint’ chuckled. “I’d love to have him listen that well at home.”
She smiled sympathetically at the single father. “I understand it’s been rough, but you should know, Greyson has adapted very well. He’s shown no signs of aggression, no major outbursts in class So, whatever you’re doing, it’s working.”
Three years ago, Clint’s wife was in a car accident. Drunk driver, head-on collision, dead on impact. Greyson was in the backseat, rear-facing car seat, so he didn’t see a thing. But he heard it, and he felt it, and nobody, let alone a two year old. Physically, Greyson was unscathed. However, the sudden stop had… scrambled things up a bit inside his head.
“You said no major outbursts?” Clint asked for clarification, his throat tight as memories washed over him.
She looked over her shoulder and hummed. “Mother’s day is hard for him,” she confessed. “So is Christmas, Thanksgiving, and her birthday. He has a hard time focusing on the work”
Tears blurred Clint’s vision. “He hasn’t said anything.”
“Which is why I’m telling you about it now.” She grabbed a series of papers, thick and heavy, and handed them over. “He’s been drawing, as a part of his therapy.”
A rainbow, coming out of a menacing cloud.
Riding in the backseat of a misshapen car, Clint at the wheel.
Sitting in the middle of a tree house.
A dog, running in the backyard.
All of the pictures had an angel, shaded in white and silver, watching over whatever the picture portrayed.
“Do you mind if I uh, if I keep these?” Clint managed to ask, voice cracking.
“Of course. Now, how about we dive into it?” Her tone was lighter, a trick she had used on her kids when trying to divert their attention from something tragic.
Clint wiped a hand over his face and set the drawings onto the chair Greyson had abandoned in his quest for toys. “I’m ready.”
Thirty minutes later, Greyson was holding Clint’s hand and they were headed out of the room. “I did okay, daddy?”
“You did great, bud,” Clint praised his son, smiling down at him.
Greyson tugged on Clint’s hand, which prompted the duo to stop walking. “Miss Y/L/N is really pretty,” he blurted out.
“She sure is, Grey.”
“I like it when she wears purple.” Greyson giggled and yanked his hand free. He ran across the room and wrapped his arms around her waist, whispering something into her ear. Whatever he said made her blush. Her eyes flicked over to Clint as she smiled.
“Whaaaaaat’s goin’ on?” Clint wondered as Greyson released her.
“Nothing,” she all out giggled, standing and straightening the plum skirt against her thighs.
Clint arched his brow as Greyson tucked his smaller hand in his. “Why don’t I believe you?”
Greyson was still giggling, a hand over his mouth, shoulders shaking. “I told her. You think she’s pretty.”
“Damn it, Greyson,” Clint groaned, hanging his head. “I… I’m sorry, Miss -”
“Call me, Y/N,” she said, an entirely different kind of confidence radiating off of her.
Clint’s heart skipped a beat. “Alright.”
The prompt was: “I stole your wallet and you caught me but I have a valid reason I promise.”
He had to find her before it was too late. She couldn’t open her wallet and find the strip of paper with his phone number on it. He wasn’t ready for it. Not yet.
Peter ran down the sidewalk, heart in his throat, shoving people aside as he searched for her. God, he couldn’t remember what color her jacket was. Beige? Brown? Black? Wait, that was it. Dark brown, reminding him of the grounds he scooped into the coffee pot every morning, and afternoon, many, many times. The life of a barista, right?
She had been coming to the small shop every day for over a month, and every day, Peter fell a little bit more in lust with her. No, that wasn’t right. He didn’t want to bang her. He wanted to know her. He wanted to find out why she wore a silver arrow necklace, he wanted to see her eyes sparkle when she laughed, like, really laughed. He wanted to pull out the chair for her at a restaurant, open doors for her, walk by her side with his hand on the small of her back, or her hand tucked in his. He wanted to comb his fingers through her hair and manipulate it into a braid. What? He knew how to braid, and he was damn good at it, too.
Peter caught sight of her at the next crosswalk, waiting for the light to change. Her purse was on her left arm, coffee in her right hand, and she was distracted by the lady standing against the building, strumming her guitar and singing. Wanda had a lovely voice, but Peter couldn’t focus on that. He had to get that stupid slip of paper back.
Sam thought he was being funny, hiding Peter’s number between two bills, her change from that morning’s purchase. “Maybe she’ll call you and you can stop drooling every time she comes in.”
“You did what?!” Peter screeched.
“Gave her your number,” he laughed. “Said, for a good time call - hey, man, I can’t do this myself!”
Peter tore out of the coffee shop as if the devil himself was on his heels.
Swallowing down the anxiety in his throat, Peter surged forward, grabbed her purse, and shoved his hand inside to grab her wallet.
“I’m sorry,” he mumbled when a scream burst out of her. “I just need -” Dollar bills fluttered to the ground as he searched for the paper. “Where is it?!”
“Are you looking for this?” she demanded to know, glaring at him, slip of paper wedged between her fingers.
He lunged for it, but she moved her hand away too fast. “Please. I just… he shouldn’t have given it to you.”
“So, you’re Peter.” Her tone had changed, as did her demeanor.
Peter picked up the bills and hurriedly put them back. “Yeah.” After placing the wallet inside, he handed over the purse. “I… I’m sorry. I just -”
“You’re lucky I recognized you. I almost tased you,” she admitted, pulling out a taser from her pocket.
“You uh, you recognized me?”
She laughed and made his heart stop beating. “Of course. You’re the cute guy from the coffee shop.”
“Did you just… you think I’m cute?” he stammered, unsure of what to do with his damn hands.
“Can I tell you something?” she asked, stepping close enough that he could smell her spicy perfume. “I asked him for your number.”
The prompt was: “We work the night shift in the same museum and we never really talk but one day you came up to me and asked if I wanted to take a tour. You’re actually amazingly knowledgeable about history.”
You’d worked at the museum for almost five years. Maintenance/janitorial, night shift. It was the perfect schedule for you since you weren’t huge on crowds and you were a night owl. You didn’t even mind cleaning toilets. It was better than a lot of other jobs out there. The eye candy was an added bonus.
James call-me-Bucky Barnes was the night shift security guard, one of two. Steve Rogers was the other security guard, Bucky’s friend, both on and off the clock. What you knew of him were things you’d overheard him discussing.
He liked coffee, black. None of that frilly sugary creamer, thank you. Rock music from the seventies were his jam, particularly AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. He did appreciate Metallica, but that was as far as he was willing to go. Sports? Meh. Maybe football, though he did seem to know some weird facts about hockey. He could draw. Not as well as Steve, but the man could hold his own with a pencil.
You admired him from afar. Long hair tied into a bun due to the dress code. Tattoos on his arms covered by a dark long sleeved shirt. Again, due to the dress code. Wide shoulders, tapered waist, thick thighs, piercing eyes, gruff voice. He was funny and smart, kind-hearted and good-natured. He was -
Your vision snapped into focus, finding the very man of your dreams standing before you. “Uh, hi?”
Bucky’s smile faltered only the slightest. “How are you tonight?”
“I uh, I’m fine,” you managed to reply. “You?”
“Not bad,” he answered coolly, thumbs tucked into the front of his belt. Not that you were looking. Nope.
“So, I should go clean the restroom,” you blurted out.
“You just did,” he pointed out, chuckling.
A flush colored your neck and cheeks as you forced a laugh. “I did, huh? Well, I will, uh, leave you to it.”
“Would you mind taking a tour with me?” Bucky hooked a thumb over his shoulder at the newest display.
It was all about the second World War, and he seemed really interested in it. You’d be stupid to turn around and walk away, right?
“Sure.” You hope you didn’t sound as desperate as you felt.
He waited until you were next to him before he started walking. As soon as you entered the room, Bucky was talking, pointing things out for you to look at. He proudly told you little known facts and stories that weren’t on any of the displays, and you found yourself standing closer to him, reveling in the deep rumbling of his voice as he spoke, the way it would lift when he got excited.
It was toward the end when he asked, “Did you know that the youngest person to serve in the US Armed Forces was twelve years old?”
You gasped. “Seriously?”
“His name was Calvin Graham,” Bucky divulged. “He was wounded in battle and given a Dishonorable Discharge for deceiving the Navy about his age. An Act of Congress later restored the benefits due him as a veteran.”
“How do you know so much about this stuff?”
He chuckled ruefully. “My great grandpa fought in the war. Oh, the stories he told me.”
“I would uh, I’d like to hear them some time.”
“You would?” Bucky’s arm, well his shirt, brushed against yours as he moved closer.
You peered up at him. “I really would.”
The prompt was: “I'm shit at parties and you’re the host who saw me uncomfortably stranded at the side so you came over to talk to me.”
It wasn’t that you disliked parties. You absolutely hated them. You weren’t talking about birthday parties or gatherings for friends that hadn’t seen each other in a long time. No. You were talking let’s-show-off-how-much-money-I-make-by-throwing-extravagant-over-the-top-parties parties. Those were the parties you’d rather chew off your fingers than attend.
So, why were you in attendance at said party? Simple. You had no other choice. Your boss said you needed to be there. You knew better than to ask why. Your boss had a way of making everyone feel like they were nobody, that if they didn’t comply, they’d get fired. It was completely illegal, but nobody ever said anything.
You were hanging out by the bar, thank God there was a bar, nursing another whiskey, and rolling your eyes as your boss told the same lame ass story he’d told a million times.
“Not enjoying yourself?” some guy crooned as he stood next to you.
“Gee, how could you tell?” you scoffed.
Mistake number one. You looked at the new arrival and found yourself falling deep into his molten chocolate gaze.
Mistake number two. The new arrival wasn’t just some guy trying to hit on you. It was Tony Stark, head of… well, everything . He was your boss’ boss’ boss’ boss, and you had just insulted him.
“I… I mean -”
“It’s okay,” he laughed, rich, rumbling, decadent. “It’s a bit much. Even for me.”
You greedily swallowed the amber liquid, wincing as it burned your throat and chest. “A bit much? It’s over the top.” Again, with the words that made him balk.
“You’re brutally honest, aren’t ya?”
“It’s one of my finer qualities.”
Tony laughed again, louder than before, wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. “I like you. I could use someone like you.”
“Dear God,” you rasped. “You’re shameless.”
“Preaching to the choir, Y/N,” he said with a wink. “But I meant on my team.”
Your eyes bulged and you started coughing. “Open mouth, insert foot.”
Tony leaned over and harshly whispered, “It’s one of my finer qualities.”
The prompt was: “I saw you panicked and asked you if you needed help and turns out you’re running from someone and now I have a runaway in my house.”
The man you had barreled into fifteen minutes ago ushered you into his apartment. Your teeth were chattering, skin covered in goosebumps, hair and clothes sticking to you from the rain. He said his name was Eddie, that he could help you if you needed it, and boy, did you need it. You just didn’t tell him why .
“Bathroom’s over there,” Eddie said, a dry shirt and sweats in his hands. “You can dry off and wear these, if you want.”
You tried smiling as you took the proffered clothes, but you were pretty sure it looked more like a grimace. Once you were locked inside the small bathroom, you stripped out of your clothes and draped them over the tub. You grabbed a clean smelling towel from the hook on the door and dried off before pulling on the dry clothes. They were too big, but they were dry, so you weren’t complaining.
“Thank you,” you muttered when you emerged. “I uh, put my clothes on the tub. I hope that’s okay.”
Eddie had changed and his hair was sticking up in all sorts of directions. “It’s fine,” he assured you with a small smile. “You want some coffee? Or tea? I think I have tea. Hot chocolate?”
“Coffee would be great. Thank you.”
He strolled into the kitchen and started a fresh pot of coffee. “Make yourself comfortable,” he called out.
You grabbed several files and notebooks off the couch and set them on the table before dropping down, legs crossed, tucked under yourself. There were newspaper clippings and an open - but very asleep - laptop on the table, and a picture of Eddie with a blonde woman. She had a diamond ring on her finger and they looked very happy.
“She’s pretty,” you hummed when Eddie handed you a mug of steaming coffee. “Won’t she mind you got a stranger here, wearing your clothes?”
“Ah, yeah,” Eddie muttered, turning the picture over. “We broke up.”
Guilt churned in your stomach. “Sorry. I didn’t know.”
“It’s okay,” he said sadly, letting you know that it was very much not okay. “It was my fault.”
“What’d you do?” You had no right to ask him that. “I’m being nosy.” You apologized again and took a cautious sip.
Eddie shrugged and settled into a spot on the other end of the couch. “Got too wrapped up in a story. It was dangerous and… she could have gotten hurt.”
“So, she left?” you snorted. “That’s dumb.”
“To be fair, my inability to listen got her fired.”
“That makes more sense,” you chuckled ruefully.
Eddie peered at you over the rim of his cup as he took a drink. “You gonna tell me happened tonight?”
It was your turn to shrug. You dropped your gaze to the hem of the borrowed shirt that reached your knees. “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know what happened, or you don’t know if you’re gonna tell me?”
Another shrug. “I don’t know.”
Eddie sighed and nudged your knee. “Are you in trouble?”
“Sort of,” was your soft answer.
“Okay, that’s better than you don’t know,” he tried joking. “What kind of trouble are we talkin’?”
You mumbled something Eddie couldn’t understand and ran a hand through your damp hair.
“Say it again,” he said flatly. “You know, so I can hear you.”
Another mumbling rendition of your answer emerged and Eddie huffed, arched an eyebrow, and glared at you.
“Woman, I swear to -”
“I have evidence that Mayor Tompkins has been skimming money.”
Eddie’s eyes went wide. “I uh, I mean, wha- what kind of- how much?”
When you told him a rough estimate, he started coughing. He shoved off the couch and strode into the kitchen where he drank some water.
“You… you’re sure?”
“Better be,” you snorted. “I busted my ass to hack his files.”
“So, you weren’t just scared of the thunder tonight when you ran into me.”
You shook your head.
“Who’s chasin’ you?” Eddie’s eyes darted around his apartment, noticing his lack of security.
“The kind of people you don’t walk away from.”
Eddie rubbed his forehead and blew out a heavy breath. “Okay. It’s okay. They… we lost ‘em, right?”
You shrugged and drank your coffee. “I don’t know. I think I lost them around seventh.”
“I need to call someone,” he said abruptly.
“Who?” you asked, following him into his bedroom.
Eddie’s phone was in his hand. “A friend of mine. His name’s Vee. He’ll know what to do.”
The prompt was: “We’re caught in a storm so you asked if I wanted to go inside and get some coffee in the meantime.”
“Shit,” you hissed, ducking under the meager protection of the plexiglass booth at the bus stop.
It started to rain the second you stepped out of the office. More a drizzle, really, which was why you decided to risk it and not go back into the brick building. Fifteen feet from the bus stop, the sky opened up with a crack of lightning that set the clouds ablaze. You were momentarily fixated. The burning scent of ozone, damp earth, crisp drops of water against your skin, soaking your clothes.
Speaking of your clothes. Your shirt was cream silk. You crossed your arms over your chest and ran for the bus stop, cursing the sudden change in weather, and your forgetfulness. The jacket you had worn this morning? Draped over the back of your chair. In your office.
“Miss?” a rough voice broke through your mental flogging. “Take my jacket.”
You narrowed your eyes as you took in the person, no, he was all man, before you. Tall, almost towering at well over six feet. Shoulders as wide as a door frame. Crisp blue eyes, full lips.
Jesus, get it together.
“Uh, no thanks,” was your curt answer, not because you didn’t appreciate the gentlemanly gesture, you did. But, in the confined space, you could already smell his cologne, and being wrapped in something the stranger had just been wearing might push you to do something way outside of your comfort zone.
“You’re shivering, and my jacket is dry,” he offered once again, holding out the black trench.
He gave you a sweet smile, right corner of his lips tugging higher than the other. “I’m sure.”
You accepted the proffered jacket with a shaking hand and held your breath as you slid into it. “Thank you,” you sighed, working hard not to roll your eyes in pleasure. It was warm, so very warm, as if he had just pulled it off of his wide frame.
“You’re welcome. I’m Steve, by the way.”
You shook his hand and returned the greeting. “I normally have my jacket with me.”
Steve waved his hand and said, “It’s alright. I tend to run warm anyway.”
I bet you do .
“Silver lining for me,” you chuckled, wiping some rain from your forehead.
Steve peered out of the booth. “I can hardly see anything.”
You pulled out your phone and checked the radar. “It’s only going to get worse. I wonder if they’ll suspend bus activity.”
“Wouldn’t doubt it,” Steve mused. “Hey, there’s a coffee shop right behind us. What do you say we run in and warm up? Ride out the storm inside.”
“That sounds great.”
The prompt was: “We’re both unwillingly at summer camp so now we’ve teamed up to try to break every rule together.”
Summer camp wasn’t anything new for you. You’d gone every summer from the ages of ten to eighteen. Once you graduated high school, you thought for sure you’d put summer camp behind you. Yeah, not happening.
Your parents were going on vacation. Overseas, all summer long, without you. You tried convincing them you were old enough to stay home alone, they could trust you, but they’d already made the arrangements. You weren’t just going to camp, you were going to be a counselor at camp.
Kill me now .
Three hours in and you wanted to stick a red-hot poker in your face. The kids were absolutely crazy; running around and screaming, jumping all over the place. You weren’t going to survive one day, let alone two months.
“Makes you want to jump off a cliff, am I right?” Clint, one of the other counselors, grumbled.
“I can’t believe my parents are making me do this,” you grumbled.
He gave a rumbling chuckle. “I have it on good authority that they only keep the well-behaved ones.”
You looked up at him with an arched brow. “Do tell.”
“My buddy, Sam, he worked here last summer,” he divulged, a smirk coloring his words. “He made it his mission to break every rule in the book.”
“And? What happened?”
“They caught him climbing the flagpole, at three in the morning.”
You barely covered your mouth as you snorted. “Doing what, exactly?”
“Replacing the camp flag with Mrs. Johnson’s underwear.”
A laugh punched its way out of you. “Oh, God. I remember that. That was Sam ?”
“Yeah,” he confirmed. “He’s been banned from the camp.”
“And Mrs. Johnson had to take a leave,” you added, eyes tearing up.
Clint inched closer and dropped his voice. “So, you wanna get kicked out?”
Anticipation burned in your gut. “Hell yes.”
“Alright, here’s what I think we should do.”
The prompt was: “You look like my favourite celebrity. I'm so sorry for acting like a crazy person in front of you. I'm so embarrassed.”
Riding the subway in Brooklyn, you never ever thought you’d meet a celebrity, especially Sebastian Stan.
At first, you sat there and scrutinized the man, telling yourself there was no way he’d be there. In fact, he shouldn’t be there. According to Instagram, he was in France, filming a movie with Jessica Chastain, who you were insanely jealous of at the moment. I mean, come on ! He just looked so damn good. Anyway…
Wearing sneakers, dark jeans, a white t-shirt, and a hat pulled low to cover his eyes, he sat fifteen feet away from you, and it felt like you were going to implode. He was looking through his phone, not paying attention to anything, any one around him.
Should you say something? Get up and go ask him for his autograph and a picture? No, no. The last thing you wanted to do was bother him, especially if he was on vacation. No, you could admire him from afar, right? Yeah, definitely. Until he caught you staring at him.
Your cheeks burned and your stomach leapt up to your throat. “Shit,” you muttered to yourself, eyes falling to your hands. “Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look.” Your eyes flicked up and found him smiling gently.
The train lurched to a stop at that moment. You stood on shaking legs and watched as he stretched, tall and inviting. Your mouth went dry and your brain refused to function. He was standing in front of you, eyes full or concern, hand on your elbow, gently leading you onto the platform.
“Are you alright?”
“I thought you were hysterical in Hot Tub Time Machine ,” you blurted out. “A punk ass, but hysterical.”
Confusion washed over the face of the man in front of you. “I… I’m sorry, what?”
“And The Covenant ,” you rasped, officially caught up in the moment. “So bad, yet so good.”
“I’m… I think you have me mixed up with someone else.”
Panic blossomed, hot and heavy, in your chest. “You… you’re not Sebastian Stan?”
A small smile curled his lips. “No. My name’s Bucky, Bucky Barnes.”
“Oh, God.” You covered your face with your hands as hot tears of extreme embarrassment filled your eyes. Once they were gone, you emerged and pulled up a picture of Sebastian on your phone. “I’m so sorry. You just, you look exactly like him.”
Bucky peered at the picture and shrugged. “I mean, I can see it a little bit.”
“Are you kidding?” you gaped. “You could be his twin. Anyway… I uh, I should probably go. I’ve embarrassed myself enough for one day.” You shoved the phone into your pocket and started backing away.
“What’s your name?”
“What’s it to ya?” you shoot back, cocky, playful, a complete one-eighty from mere moments ago.
Bucky arched a brow and smirked. “Thought I’d reach out to this Sebastian guy, warn him about you.”
“You wouldn’t,” you gasped.
“Lemme just pull up Instagram.”
You lunged for the phone in his hand and practically screamed your name. “Please, no. Don’t tell him that .”
“I’m kidding, doll,” Bucky laughed heartily. “I just… I wanted to ask if you’d like to get a cup of coffee… or lunch with me?”
“Are you asking me because you think I’ll say yes because you look like Sebastian Stan?”
“Are you going to say yes because you think I look like Sebastian Stan?”
“No,” you shot back.
“Okay, then,” Bucky said. “So, coffee?”
You leaned back and pretended to think about it. “Coffee.”
The prompt was: “We’re in a new class roster and we only know each other so we grabbed seats together and now we’re stuck together for the rest of the year.”
You literally walked into Bucky in the quad, on the way to class, spilling his coffee all over the front of his shirt. He said he didn’t mind, that he needed to wash it anyway, but you felt bad none-the-less. You offered to buy him a new coffee as a form of apology, smiling shyly as he accepted, shooting you a playful wink.
He surprised you by walking with you to class. “Fury’s my professor this semester.”
“Mine, too,” you gasped in surprise.
“I heard he’s a real stickler.”
“Shouldn’t be that bad,” you said as you stepped into the giant classroom.
Bucky nudged you with his elbow. “Wanna sit next to me?”
You tried to fight down the butterflies in your throat. A semester seated next to a hot guy? Abso-frigging-lutely. “Sure, why not.”
Once the two of you were seated next to each other, Professor Fury cleared his throat.
“Comfortable?” he asked. Without giving anyone time to answer, he continued, “Good, because the seat you’re in now is the seat you’ll be in for the whole semester. I don’t care if you have a fight with your neighbor, you break up with them, or the sight of them makes you sick. You’re staying there. It makes things a whole lot easier on me.”
You swallowed heavily as Bucky leaned over. “Not that bad huh?”
“Only if you got a problem with me,” you teased.
“Oh, doll,” he purred. “I definitely don’t have a problem with you.”
The prompt was: “We’re in the same elevator and it broke down so now we’re stuck in here until someone gets us out.”
When you were done with work, you normally took the stairs, but today, you’re feet were aching too badly to endure the fifteen flights down. True, you could have taken off the heels, but you still would have had to walk, and honestly, your calves were cramping and your lower back was tight. You just wanted to get home, take a long hot bath, and drink a glass of wine.
You got into the elevator and went to push the button for the garage, but it was already lit. “Oh,” you murmured in surprise. You were the only one that you knew of that worked so late.
“Long day?” asked the god-like man standing in the corner.
“So long,” you answered, blushing immediately after you realized what you said and how it could have been misconstrued. “I haven’t seen you before.”
“I’m Steve Rogers. I work on the twenty-third floor.”
You gaped as you turned to face him. “Rogers, as in Rogers & Stark?”
“The one and only,” Steve chuckled shyly, a hand squeezing the back of his neck. “What about you?”
You gave him your name. “I’m nobody, just an admin.”
“From my experience, you’re the heart of the operation.”
A flush colored your skin and you prayed he didn’t see it. “Stop it.”
“Seriously,” he insisted.
“I don’t… I’m not,” you stammered nervously, not used to getting any kind of recognition.
The elevator squealed loudly and jerked to a stop, sending you and Steve to the floor in a mess of limbs and a scream erupting from you.
“You alright?” he wondered, hands on your back as you were sprawled over his chest.
You jumped back, using his chest for leverage, and plastered yourself to the wall. “Yeah, I’m fine. Uh, thanks for catching me.”
Steve chuckled as he sat up, smoothing a hand down the front of his shirt. “You’re welcome.”
You reached over and started pushing buttons on the panel, murmuring to yourself. “Come on, come on.”
“I don’t think that’s going to make it go,” Steve teased, fingers tugging on the door labeled phone .
A groan escaped as you slid to the floor. “I just wanted to get home and relax.”
Steve gave you a sympathetic smile before communicating the issue with whoever was on the other end of the phone. He wasn’t on it long, but when he hung up, he was wearing a scowl.
“The soonest they can get someone here to look at it is an hour.” He sighed and sat down across from you. “Looks like your relaxation will have to wait.”
You cursed and smacked your head against the wall. “Of course.”
“It’s not so bad,” he said, crossing his long legs at the ankles.
You snorted and rolled your eyes. “We’re stuck in an elevator. How is it not so bad?”
Steve reached into his bag and pulled out a deck of cards. “I kick ass at Gin Rummy.”
“Oh, you think so, huh?” You sat up and crossed your legs under you. “Deal me in.”
The prompt was: “This guy is hitting on me and I'm uncomfortable so you came up to help me out and now we’re friends.”
Surprisingly, the bar wasn’t full. Maybe because it was only Tuesday. Whatever the reason, you were glad for it. You weren’t in the mood to deal with anyone , let alone wade through a crowd just to get a beer. Too bad the other patrons didn’t get the memo.
“Hey, pretty lady,” he greeted, breath laden with whiskey.
Without looking at him, you shook your head. “Not interested.”
“Baby,” he continued, dangerously close to touching you. “You don’t even know me.”
“Don’t wanna,” you said flatly, eyes straight ahead.
He waves a hand at the bartender, who sets a bottle of beer in front of you. “I got you a drink.”
“I didn’t ask you to.”
“Why you gotta be such an ungrateful bi-”
“There you are,” someone exclaimed, rushing over, pushing away the drunk patron. “I thought we were meeting at the restaurant.”
You swallowed around the knot of confusion and looked at the new arrival. He wasn’t very tall, maybe an inch taller than you. He had mocha eyes, chocolate hair, and an expertly-trimmed goatee.
“I uh, so- sorry for the confusion,” you stammered, smiling awkwardly.
He gave you a wink before turning around. “Thanks for keepin’ an eye on my friend.”
“Wha-? No, I… she’s not… I was -”
“You ready to go see that movie?” your savior asked, setting down a crisp bill on the slightly tacky bar.
You quickly finished your drink and nodded. “Been looking forward to it all day.”
“Name’s Tony,” he announced once the two of you were outside.
You gave him your name. “Thank you for that. You didn’t have to get involved. I could have -”
“I have no doubt you could have handled yourself back there,” Tony praised. “I’ll admit, I did it for purely selfish reasons.”
Your eyes went wide and you took a step back. “What?”
“No, no,” he chuckled. “Nothing nefarious, I promise.”
“Then what do you mean?”
“You’re gorgeous,” he blurted out. “I had just worked up the courage to come up and talk to you when knucklehead back there decided to get involved.”
A sly smile tugged at your lips. “The offer to see a movie still open?”