The first time the man comes in, the first thing Bucky notices is his look of desperation--a not uncommon look on customers in their little flower shop, especially men. It’s most frequent on Valentine’s Day, Mother's Day, and strangely enough, Presidents' Day (though that one might be coincidence).
The second thing he notices is how incredibly handsome the man is: an elegantly groomed goatee well complemented by rakishly tousled dark hair, a tailored grey suit cut deliciously close to a slim but powerful body, and beautiful, pleading, honey-brown eyes.
Before Bucky can ask the how-can-I-help-you, the man blurts out, “What can you give me that says I know I fucked up, I’m sorry, thank you for fixing it, I don’t know what I’d do without you? I’ve always done shoes for this, but did you know that even a woman who loves shoes can apparently have too many pairs? And I think she may have said something about hydrangeas, which are probably a flower, but for all I know they’re an exotic fruit or something--and either way, I hope she’s not allergic this time.”
Bucky blinks, processing the word vomit and replaying the relevant pieces in his head to start building a bouquet. He heads toward the hydrangeas, figuring the man won’t know what color of hydrangeas his lady likes, and deciding purple will work best with the others he has in mind. “What’s your price range?” he asks.
The man waves a hand dismissively. “I doubt a single bouquet could cost what the Louboutins did last time, and I’d pay an arm and a leg to keep Pep--” He cuts himself off, and Bucky looks over to see the man wincing, eyes focused on Bucky’s face as if to keep himself from staring at the stump where Bucky’s left shoulder ends. “Shit, that was insensitive, wasn’t it? Now I’m gonna have to end up buying apology flowers for the florist.”
He’s heard worse--and let them slide too, although if Stevie hears them it's a different story--so Bucky just grins and jokes, “Yeah, I had an expensive trip to the Middle East, but they gave me a discount and let me keep the leg.”
The man barks out a laugh, and damn, he’s even more attractive when his eyes are sparkling with mirth. “Military discount, I take it?”
“Got it in one. Still waiting on the prosthetic through the VA, but I make do.” Bucky shrugs his armless shoulder as he selects some blue violets, then moves to the agrimony. “You want these in a bouquet or vase?”
“Which do you recommend?” the man asks.
“If you know she has a vase she likes, then I’d go with bouquet, otherwise we have a few vases available,” Bucky points with his chin toward the counter displaying the vase options, “Some are more expensive than others, but if price doesn’t matter to you then I’d recommend one of the ceramic ones.”
The man browses the selection, and selects one painted with delicate green leaves and outlined in gold. “Gonna guess that one’s the most expensive. I’ll take it.”
“...Because it’s the most expensive?” Bucky asks, and brings his last selections--three white tulips and some Stars of Bethlehem--to the prep counter.
“Of course. Right, fine, and because I think Pep’ll like it. Hand-painted?”
Bucky nods. “By my partner.”
“...Partner?” The question is casual.
“Business partner,” Bucky clarifies. “He only works part-time here ‘cause he’s goin’ to art school, gonna be a big-name painter some day.”
“Well, then, I’ll tell Pep this is an investment, she can add it to her curated collection.” The man brings the vase over. Bucky finishes clipping the flowers, secured in a vice he’d set up to let him do this work one-handed. Lucky for him he hadn't gotten into flowers until after he lost the arm; easier to learn fresh with one hand than replace what he'd learned with two. Then he takes the vase and begins the arrangement.
The man’s quiet for a few moments, watching him work, then asks, “So why these, out of all the flowers in here?”
Bucky points to each of the flowers as he explains, “Star of Bethlehem for atonement and white tulips for sincerity. Agrimony for gratitude, and blue violet for faithfulness and devotion. Hydrangeas because you said she liked them--pink might have fit slightly better in meaning, but I thought purple would complement the rest better. What do you think?” Bucky asks, making a few final touches.
The man’s eyes are wide, fixed on the arrangement. “It’s perfect. It’s beautiful, and I can’t believe you got all that from my rambling.”
Bucky smiles. “Well, you may have said a lot, but you knew what your goal was. I hope it works well for your girl.”
“She’s--” the man cuts himself off, shakes his head. “She’s going to love it. Thank you.”
The total price is one of the more expensive single arrangements they’ve ever sold--and Bucky doesn’t realize it until the man is gone, but he leaves a $100 tip.
The second time the man shows up, about a week later, Bucky puts his foot in his mouth the instant the man walks through the door. “Don’t tell me you fucked up again!”
Luckily, after a moment of surprise the beautiful (did he get even more handsome since the week before?) man just laughs. “Not exactly, but I guess that answers my question about whether you remembered me!”
“Hard to forget someone who tips like that,” Bucky teases.
But apparently that’s worse than his opening flub was. The man’s smile remains, but it no longer reaches his eyes. “Right. Of course.”
Bucky shakes his head quickly. “I mean--that’s not why, not really. You’re... a memorable guy.” When the man still looks uncertain, Bucky adds, “In a good way. Really. I’m glad you came back.”
Finally the shining smile returns. “Well, good, because I’m going to need that bouquet again, and I don’t remember exactly what was in it--hydrangea, violets, some white and yellow...?”
“Agrimony and blue violets and white tulips and Stars of Bethlehem,” Bucky fills in easily, already moving to begin the collection.
“Wow, you do remember.” The man sounds impressed.
Bucky shrugs. “It was a fun arrangement to make. But it’s not for an apology this time?”
“Right. She loved it so much last time that I’d rather go with what I know works, even if other flowers might mean something closer to the begging I’m going for.”
Bucky looks at the man, raising an eyebrow. “...Asking her out?”
“No!” the man answers quickly. “No, she’s my PA. And I’m planning to ask her to take a promotion.”
“Which requires begging?” Bucky secretly congratulates himself on continuing the conversation in a normal voice, instead of dancing for joy that the flowers aren’t for a love interest after all.
Of course, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a love interest. That thought dampens Bucky’s joy a bit.
“I want to promote her to CEO,” the man explains.
“That’s... quite the promotion.”
“Well, she essentially already runs the company, she just does it in my name. This only makes sense, really, but I’m afraid she might turn it down, so--flowers. That I know she likes, because you’re a floral Einstein or something.”
Bucky feels his face heat a little, and forces the blush away. “Thanks. So, uh, do you think she’ll wanna use the same vase, or do you want another of Steve’s painted vases?” He tilts his head toward the counter, two of his friend’s latest on display.
The man starts to turn toward it, then stops. “No, you know what I want right now? Your name. Now I know the name of your part-timer partner I’ve never met, but not yours. I’m Tony,” he says abruptly, and holds out his right hand.
Bucky quickly sets down the flowers he’s gathered so he can shake the proffered hand, thrilled that he finally has this gorgeous man’s name. “Bucky.”
“Nice to meet you, Bucky.”
Bucky enjoys the feeling of the man’s--Tony’s--hand, more than he probably should. “Pleasure’s all mine,” he replies, hoping his voice doesn’t sound as rough and creepy as he thinks it does.
When Tony smiles back, cheeks a little pink, Bucky’s heart races.
Oh, crap. He’s crushing hard, isn’t he?
Bucky has no reason to assume Tony will be back any time soon, but as a week passes, he finds himself more attentive to the door, eager and then disappointed every time a customer who isn’t Tony comes in.
Steve, when he’s been in the shop, has been giving Bucky some strange looks, but hasn’t asked about it yet.
Finally, nine days after the last visit (not that Bucky’s counting... okay, yes he is), Tony comes in.
“How’s my favorite one-armed florist?” Tony greets him with a smile.
Bucky grins back, but before he can reply, Steve marches over and glares at the taller man, hands on his bony hips. “You wanna rephrase that?”
Tony’s eyes widen, clearly taken aback by the five-foot, ninety-pound ball of righteousness that is Bucky’s best friend. “Uh...”
“Tony,” Bucky interjects, “This is Steve, my part-time partner. He’s... kinda defensive about my arm. Stevie, this is Tony, he’s a good customer, please don’t fight him.”
Tony glances at Bucky, then looks back at Steve, assessingly. Bucky waits for a comment like, “I could take him,” but instead Tony just says, “Good to have friends that stick up for you. Nice to meet you, Steve, your vases use an ‘aesthetically pleasing mix of natural and bold’, at least according to my as--my CEO,” and he holds out a hand.
Bucky holds back a laugh at Steve’s nonplussed expression, having been ready for at least a verbal fight and instead getting compliments. It takes him a moment to recover, but he manages it in time to return Tony’s handshake. “Thanks, uh, Tony.” Steve shoots a questioning look at Bucky, who just shrugs and addresses Tony.
“So, she accepted the promotion, huh?” Bucky tries not to focus on the warmth he felt at Tony’s easy acceptance of his hot-headed best friend.
“Yes, thank god, or, well, thank your flower-arranging skills, I’m ninety percent sure they influenced her decision.”
If she’s the incredible, capable woman Tony’s described, Bucky’s pretty sure she wasn’t swayed in such a pivotal decision by some nice flowers in a fancy vase, but he’ll graciously accept the thanks anyway. “Well, glad I could help.”
“Me, too,” Tony says, looking into Bucky’s eyes for a long moment before clearing his throat and saying, “Right, so, today’s her first board meeting as CEO, so I figured I’d get her that lovely bouquet again...”
Bucky’s thrilled that Tony continues to need flowers. Every week or so, he comes back in, citing some occasion for which he really needs to get Pepper her favorite arrangement. During his visits, Bucky and Tony chat, about Tony’s latest creation (he’s apparently a genius engineer), or Bucky’s latest Bridezilla customer drama, or any number of things.
Bucky’s still grinning from today’s visit, Tony having just departed, when Steve asks, “When are you going to ask him out already?”
Bucky freezes, glancing over at his friend. “What... what do you mean?”
Steve gives him a look. “Buck, you’ve been flirting with Tony for weeks, you need to either ask him out or move on.”
“I have not been flirting!”
“Horse hockey. You’re interested in him, he’s interested in you, and I can’t figure out why two suave guys like you can’t just ask each other out like grown adults.”
Bucky’s eyes narrow. It’s one thing for his best friend to see through him even though he’s never discussed his massive crush on Tony, but it’s quite another to claim the other man wants anything from Bucky besides his flower arrangements. “What do you mean, he’s interested in me?”
“He’s not coming in here for flowers,” Steve says like it’s obvious. “He’s coming to see you.”
Bucky shakes his head. “Pepper--”
“Cannot possibly want the number of bouquets he’s been getting her. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s not even giving them to her anymore, I bet he’s just hiding them somewhere in shame. Or maybe keeping them nearby, gazing at them while thinking of you. He wants you, Buck, but you’ve gotta make the first move.”
“That’s... you’re ridiculous,” Bucky says.
But now that the idea’s in his head, he starts to wonder.
And the next time he’s finishing up Tony’s usual bouquet, Bucky finds himself blurting out, “Do you really come here to get these for Pepper?”
The man’s beautiful brown eyes widen. “Uh...” He takes a deep breath, seeming to steel himself. “No. At first, yes, but... now I come to see you.”
Joy at Tony’s confession floods through Bucky, so he almost misses the look of fear and vulnerability on the other man’s face. But at the smile Bucky gives him, Tony gives a relieved smile back. “Well, you really didn’t need to keep spending all that money every time just to see me, so... Let me throw in something extra this time, to make up for it.”
Tony’s brows furrow. “You don’t have to--”
“I want to,” Bucky says, as he selects the flowers he wants and starts rearranging the other flowers to accommodate the addition.
“Okay,” Tony agrees, a confused smile playing about his lips. “Thank you.”
Bucky adds the flower to the bouquet. “Linaria bipartita,” he says meaningfully.
Tony meets his eyes, and Bucky knows he understands. “Linaria bipartita,” he repeats, then says again, “Thank you.”
After Tony leaves, a voice from behind Bucky says, “Buck, what was that?”
Bucky turns around, having entirely forgotten that Steve was in the store. He grins at his friend. “You told me to make a move. I did.”
“I told you to ask him out,” Steve protests plaintively. “What if that was too subtle?”
“Tony’s a genius,” Bucky points out, “He got the message. He’ll look it up, and act on it if he wants to.”
Steve crosses his arms. “You mean you didn’t want to risk the rejection if you asked him outright.”
Bucky opens his mouth to protest, then realizes that Steve’s probably right. This way, if Tony really isn’t interested--he admitted he comes to see Bucky, but that could still be platonic--maybe he’ll just stop coming.
The mere thought of that freezes Bucky, almost more than the thought of the gentle letdown Tony probably would’ve given him if Bucky had just asked.
No. No, it’s gonna work. “It’ll work,” he tells Steve, trying to convince himself. “He’ll be back soon, you’ll see.”
Yeah, Tony’s going to go around the corner, look up linaria bipartita on his phone, and come right back to the shop.
Any minute now.
Tony doesn’t come back that day.
The next day, Bucky is on edge, regretting everything about his method of confessing his interest in Tony. Now he doesn’t know if the object of his affection doesn’t feel the same way, or if he hasn’t even looked up the flower’s meaning, or if he just got waylaid by other responsibilities... He doesn’t have any idea when or even if Tony will come back, and it’s driving him crazy. He’s brusque with customers--because they aren’t Tony--and it’s terrible for business but he can’t bring himself to care, and Steve isn’t here to take over for him (or smack some sense into him).
Then, a little after noon, the door opens and it’s Tony.
Tony looks... well, beautiful as always, but a little tired. He’s got a smile on his face, though, and he seems to be holding something behind his back. “Hi.”
“Hi,” Bucky says, unable to find words now that Tony has finally (it’s been all of, what, twenty hours?) returned as he’d hoped.
“I made something for you.” Tony reveals what he’d been hiding: a beautifully crafted bouquet of steel flowers, painted gorgeous shining pearl and jewel tones. The blossoms are clearly designed after the arrangement Tony has been ordering, and include the linaria bipartita Bucky added yesterday as well.
“‘Please notice my love for you,’” Tony says. “That’s the meaning of linaria bipartita.” He hands the bouquet to Bucky, who gently takes it, marvelling at the beauty of the metallic blooms.
“Tony, this is... this is incredible. When did you start crafting metal flowers?”
“...last night.” Tony shrugs. “I... may have worked through the night on it, because I wanted to answer you as soon as possible, and words didn’t seem enough.”
Bucky laughs in wonder at this incredible man’s gorgeous, impressive, thoughtful gift. “I love it.” Part of him wants to add I love you, but even if they’ve both basically said it in the language of flowers, it seems a little too early to voice. But at least he finally has the confidence to ask, “Tony, will you go out with me?”
Tony’s smile turns radiant. “Yes, of course, I thought you’d never ask!”
Three years later, Steve paints a commissioned portrait.
Lying on a blanket, surrounded by flowers--some real, some metal--Tony and Bucky lay side by side. Tony’s hand is resting on the state-of-the-art prosthetic arm he’d designed for his husband. They’re both smiling softly--not at each other, though the love between them is clear in the way they’re leaning into each other--at the baby girl nestled on Bucky’s chest, clutching one of Tony’s fingers as she sleeps, the latest addition to their family: their daughter Linaria.