The guy is back again.
Steve’s been watching him come in; the guy has a head turning look. Tall, broad, handsome, and well dressed. Those would be enough to make him distinguishable, but he knows it’s the same guy for a fact each and every time because of that gleaming prosthetic arm.
Here’s how it goes. The guy comes into the store, he walks over to the produce aisle and finds the freshest, nicest head of lettuce in the whole bin and puts it in his basket. He picks up a few other things too, usually of the junk food variety, but right before he makes his way to the checkout lines he manages to leave the head of lettuce in some random aisle that he happened to be meandering through.
Today that happens to be the frozen aisle.
Steve watches him as he sweeps the floor, sees him get that shiftiness he has before he quickly absolves himself of the lettuce right there on top of the milk cartons. He watches his shoulders shift as he marches down another aisle and heads straight to the cashiers. Steve, on the other hand, is left with retrieving the head of lettuce and bringing it back to its right place.
Well, he doesn’t want to anymore.
So he rests his broom against the wall and rolls up his sleeves before warily maneuvering around the little patch of wet floor he’s been working for the better part of the past ten minutes, and jogs down the man’s path. When he finally gets to the cashier’s lines, all he sees of the guy is a flash of long brown hair and a gleaming arm departing through the automatic doors.
Steve’s taken to calling him the ghost.
The ghost has been at it for about a month now. Steve’s told everyone from produce to management about the man; he’s gotten the same answer each time. That he’s imagining it, or worse, that if he’s this bored with his job maybe he should consider getting back into art.
He tries not to seethe, but he knows he isn’t effective in those regards. So he sighs, walks back through the store, grabs his broom, and moves his ministrations from that wet patch to a skid mark on the floor. Honestly, who the hell has time to leave a skid mark on linoleum floors in a grocery store? For that matter, who has the resources? Steve knows that customary carts don’t leave those sorts of markings but, maybe, he’s wrong and he is going crazy.
Whatever, he knows he’s right about the ghost.
So, he waits.
And the guy comes in right on time the following Monday, just before closing.
Steve watches from behind the customer service desk, smiling when the guy nods in his direction, looking away when the guy peeks over his shoulder, busying himself with something when the guy asks if he needs something, sighing and grumbling when the guy doesn’t go for his lettuce, as per usual.
He turns his attention to more interesting affairs ergo the book he nabbed from the little display about Achilles and Patroclus doing the Ancient Greek bedtime mamba. It’s when he gets to page ten that a pair of big, beautiful hands slaps down atop the desk.
Steve glances up and quirks a smile at the guy. “Need help finding something?” he asks, raising his eyebrows as he slowly shuts the book.
“No,” the guy replies quizzically scrunching his nose and fixating Steve with something like a glare. “No, are you following me or something?”
“Good,” the guy says, running his fingers through his hair. He still doesn’t look settled, but at least he’s not rearing back to punch Steve. Hell, that counts as near camaraderie, given Steve’s history with people in this part of Brooklyn. “I, uh, thought you were stalkin’ me.”
“What?” Steve asks, this time genuinely surprised. “No, I work here.”
“I can see that, short stack.”
Steve frowns. “Jerk.”
The guy’s grin just gets wider. “Punk,” he bites back.
Before Steve can say anything else, the guy walks in the direction of the produce selection, giving him a terse wave over his shoulder. Steve just watches bemusedly, and moderately exasperatedly, and tries to calm himself down.
The guy ends up leaving the lettuce in the soda aisle.
Week after week, month after month, Steve feels like he’s being taunted. He cleans up lettuce leaves from where they’ve slipped into the crevices of shelves, moves whole heads back to where they should go, on one occasion he brings five back in one night. Perhaps the guy’s getting a little bored with his serial-lettuce moving, because he’s starting to get creative.
It’s on another slow night, with just Steve manning the customer service desk, that the guy comes up and talks to him again.
“Hey,” he says, calm as all get out.
Steve glances up and looks back to his lap. “Need help with anything?” he asks out of spite. He knows the guy knows because he chuckles a little, but then he’s spreading those pretty hands over Steve’s desk and leaning in so close Steve can smell the nice, fresh scent of his aftershave.
“You don’t get out much, d’ya, kid?” The guy looks like he’s seriously concerned, but Steve doesn’t care. It’s not like his sex life, or lack thereof, isn’t any of this guy’s business. Hell, these days it isn’t really Steve’s business either. What with managing his work life, school life, and caring for his ma, he doesn’t have much free time for anything.
“I don’t see how that’s your business.”
“C’mon,” the guy says, grinning again. “I’m sure you’d like to meet a Brooklyn girl.”
“I don’t want to meet any girl.”
Steve sighs and leans back in his chair. Honestly, this is why he doesn’t like working the late shifts. Because the weirdest assholes come in, and sometimes those weird assholes ask him weird asshole questions that Steve doesn’t want to answer as he is not a weird asshole. Regardless of his answer, regardless of anything really, this guy should know his place is nabbing lettuce and leaving it where it doesn’t belong.
So Steve answers, “Yeah, a boy. Problem?”
The guy’s eyes go wide, but his smug smile slowly fades from his face tiny increment by tiny increment, until it’s just something like a regretful grimace. He shakes his head carefully, as though Steve’s going to spook away, and bids his goodbyes.
The lettuce ends up with the Valentine’s Day cards.
It’s a week before the ghost makes another appearance. Secretly, Steve’s been hoping he’ll see him again. Mostly he’s downcast because today, of all other days in the year, is the day that’s least likely for the guy to come in. Steve has a personal vendetta against St. Valentine, if only for what the holiday coined after his name has since evolved into.
Steve’s not once, since he’s turned eighteen, gotten chocolates or a bouquet of roses, or even a card.
His ma used to say it was because it took a special kind of person to love Steve Rogers. Nat tells him it’s because he’s too damn butch for “a scrawny twink,” but she sort of digs it. Sam sent pity chocolates once, but Steve didn’t eat them because he’d be giving in to the pity aspect of those pity chocolates.
Point is; Steve’s not good with anything heart shaped, red or pink, or the slightest bit romantic. It’s why he avoids flower shops and getting coffee on February 14th.
The best part of the holiday, however, is that rarely do any people come to the grocery store. The only people who do are stragglers looking to buy crappy half dead flowers on their way home from work, or those too lazy to actually go buy real chocolates. Basically, the only people who even stop by hate the holiday even if they have to celebrate it, and Steve respects that.
So he’s a bit surprised when the ghost stops in and beelines straight to the customer service desk.
“Hey-” he starts, but his words are quickly swallowed when the guy fists a hand in his collar and pulls him half over the desk to press a wet, loud kiss against his lips.
And, okay, Steve will admit to kissing back. A little, at least; it’s been a while, okay? Cut him some slack. He has soft lips, and soft hands when they come up to cradle Steve’s jaw. He angles him up a bit, so Steve has to stand on his toes, but it’s still good. Great, even; he can feel the kiss in his toes. Hesitantly, he cracks open his mouth the slightest bit, and the guy’s tongue sweeps over his lower lip before he’s pulling away altogether.
His hands still frame Steve’s face, though.
“I-” Steve starts, blushing like a madman and spotting an elderly woman watching them out of the corner of his eye. “Uh, you-”
The guy leans forward again and presses a light kiss to Steve’s lips, then to the tip of his nose before he pulls away with a soft smile.
“Bucky,” he says, grinning at Steve like he’s the reason the sun rises.
“Huh?” Steve replies, very intelligently if he says so himself. And he does.
“My name,” the guy says, this time giggling a little. Steve can feel it cool against his warm cheeks. It’s nice. “It’s Bucky.”
“Oh,” Steve murmurs, blushing a bit. “I’m Steve.”
“I kinda figured, dude,” Bucky laughs, nodding towards his nametag. If anything, Steve blushes a bit harder. He pulls back from Bucky’s hold on his face to stare at his shoes and will the blush away; he’s never really liked that particular quirk of his. Regardless, Bucky’s hands land on his cheeks once more and pull him so he’s eye to eye with Bucky. “Want to get out of here?” he asks, giving a tiny grin.
And truly, Steve does, but he doesn’t get out for another two hours. He’s about to tell Bucky as much, but someone replies for him, “He just got off.”
Steve peers over and finds his manager smiling at him, buried in her scarves and puffy coat. Steve forgot that Maria was stuck here too; apparently, upper management loves to make single people work on the single most romantic day of the year.
“Really?” he asks.
She just gives him an impressive roll of her eyes before winking and walking out the sliding doors. He turns his focus back to Bucky after she disappears, feeling a slow grin overtake his features.
“Well?” Bucky asks.
“Well,” Steve echoes. “What’ve you got in mind, oh romantic Mr. Bucky?”
Bucky just raises an eyebrow before walking to the end of the counter and holding out a hand. “I hear there’s a nice bakery not far from here,” he murmurs, and there’s an honest to God blush on his cheeks. Steve can’t help but grin and walk over to entwine their fingers.
“I hear that too,” Steve replies, making sure to grab his coat from under the counter before following Bucky out into the cold, snowy air.
And really, the bakery isn’t all that good. Steve prefers the company.