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Sheena recognizes him the first time he comes in. She makes him a caramel mocha with sprinkles, smiles brightly and then gets Carlos to take till for a second so she can go into the back, hide her face in her shirt and do a little dance to a muffled eeeeeeholyfuckeeeeee because she just made a caramel mocha with sprinkles for Captain fucking America, who'd given her a dazzling smile and dropped a bunch of coins in the tip jar. It's enough to make a whole bunch of Starbucks-addicted assholes completely worthwhile for, well, a while.

Then he comes in again the next week. A couple of times. Actually he comes in enough that Sheena figures he has got to live near her store and tries to keep herself from guessing which street, which building, which whatever is where Captain America is living because clearly he's keeping a low profile and she tries to respect stuff like that. He's sweet and polite and a lot more, well, kind of awkward in a super-cute way, in person than he is on old film or in speeches or on TV. He always pays in cash, but he's pretty attached to his smartphone and he dresses pretty ordinary-looking: jeans and t-shirts, cords and button-ups, whatever.

And, well, he's fucking gorgeous. She's not gonna leave that part out.

The other thing she notices, though, is that he's pretty preoccupied a lot of the time. Once she gets over the sheer eeee-inducing squee of making him coffee, Sheena notices he looks kinda tired all the time. She doesn't wanna say anything - it's not like having a stranger prying and noticing him when he clearly wants to keep a pretty low profile's gonna help - but she can't help wondering what could tire Captain America out that way, since it's like, emotional tired. The kind where you put your face in your hands and wish that when you sat up everything would just go away.

And, well, honestly something that could be wearing Captain America out is kind of worrying, but weeks pass and new aliens or secret evil organizations totally fail to show up, so Sheena figures it must be personal. Then she spends some time trying to figure out what kind of personal life could be doing that.

And summer comes on and it gets hotter outside and things get busier and still every once in a while she's calling "Steve" out with a little moment of delight inside. Almost always ridiculously sugary things, except one day really early he comes in and just gets a coffee, no room for cream. There's nobody else in line, so Sheena says, "What, no mocha? No whipped cream?"

"There'll be a lot of sugar in it, don't worry," he says, a bit wry and Sheena thinks he sounds tired. Then he says, "I like the other drinks - obviously," and he smiles a bit and holy shit he's surprisingly gorgeous for a white guy, "but I can't really think of them as coffee. And the day begins with coffee." He raises the cup in a kind of little salute and then heads for the condiments bar.

He does put a lot of sugar in it, Sheena's gotta admit.

 

Pretty soon after that he switches to frapps which only makes sense because it starts getting hot enough Sheena hates everyone who comes in and makes her do anything with any machine behind the counter that produces heat. Which is basically everything. So she kind of hates everyone.

The day that it gets so gross that Sheena's manager texts before opening to tell everyone they can wear tank-tops and just never, ever tell Corporate, ever, is the day Captain America comes in with someone.

By now Sheena's on the fence about whether she should be thinking of him as "Captain America" or not. Like, she's been talking to him as "Steve" for months now, in a barista-customer quick way, except that feels way too . . . something. Except (and she talked about this with her twin brother Dante who is the only one she's ever talked about this with, including her coworkers who she thinks either haven't recognized the man or are keeping it to themselves just like her) that feels almost seriously rude, because like Captain America's not a person, it's a kind of persona, a job, and who likes to be thought of as their job all the time?

Dante suggested "Captain Rogers", but that feels wrong too.

The guy he comes in with is white, even whiter than Captain America is, except he's got dark hair pulled back in a little tail at the back of his head, a black t-shirt (like how, Sheena doesn't understand how he's not dying of heat right there and then), worn out jeans and - and she'll own it's the part she notices first - a metal arm. But Sheena's mama brought her up not to stare at shit like that because that's just fuckin' rude (and her mama would even put it that way, one of the few times she'd curse) so she doesn't.

After she finishes not staring and taking in everything else, though, mostly what she notices is he, like his apparent friend, is fucking gorgeous. She's pretty sure that's wrong, or at least not fair. If Captain America's got a pretty smile and a pretty mouth, this guy's eyes should be illegal - they're huge and blue and amazing.

But the guy moves like he's not comfortable here - not like he's nervous, because he also looks like one of those guys who wouldn't know "nervous" if it bit him, but like everyone's standing too close and he'd rather be somewhere else. And Captain America - well, Steve, okay fine, Steve - Steve's talking like a normal friendly conversation, and the guy might as well be attached to him by an invisible string, always one step behind or beside . . . but he's not really answering, beyond a couple looks and a nod.

Sheena's on the espresso machine, so she can keep watching, and when Steve gets into the line there's like a second where it looks like his friend can't decide what's worse, leaving him there or being that close to people, and in the end he goes and takes the table closest to the back wall, just a little two-seater.

Technically one of the regulars had been closer and heading there, but he'd taken one look at the guy and backed off. Sheena doesn't blame him. If you watch him move, he's that kind of guy.

Sheena volunteers for a program with troubled youth, though, and when she takes a second to look at the guy's face, he realizes he mostly reminds her of some of the girls who are worst off: the ones where Sheena just really wants to give them a hug and tell them she's sorry their parents suck so fucking much, but is kinda pretty sure she'll get stabbed if she tries it. She couldn't tell you why. She can't tell you why she knows with the girls, either, except she's always right and she doesn't have to look at their files to find it out.

It's weird, and it doesn't really take that long for her to think it before Steve's at the counter ordering two fraps, one mocha-peppermint and one just coffee. On an impulse, she quietly makes ventis instead of grandes and puts extra whipped cream on them and since they're the last for a bit and damn do some of the tables need wiping, she slings a rag over her arm and hooks the bottle of disinfectant-spray over her thumb and takes the fraps right out. It's a bit silly and a bit, well, she doesn't even know.

In the end maybe she thinks that if anything could make you tired and preoccupied, having a friend as messed up as one of those girls would totally do it.

It's like Steve's friend knows the minute she's even thinking of walking towards them, and he watches her the whole way, kind of like her brother's cat watching something move. It's a bit intimidating to tell the truth. Steve turns and gives her a gorgeous smile and says, "Thanks," when she gets near, and Sheena shrugs and smiles back as she puts the drinks down.

"I had to come out anywhere, kind of a mess and I wanna get it clean before next wave - you were my last drinks," she says.

She notices the other guy doesn't take his drink from the table until after she's a couple tables away.

She figures out what the specific impulse was, though, because close up she can see he's actually whiter than he should be, and even though he's not a small guy by any stretch his skin's got the kinda stretched look she knows comes from not eating enough. Which means she's totally as bad as her mother, wanting to feed everyone, but whatever.

 

Sheena doesn't expect Steve to come back the same day, ten minutes or so before closing, order just a Calm tea, pay with a ten and put the rest in the tip jar.

And he says, "Thank you," and Sheena decides to treat this like it's normal because really, it is normal, right? He's just thanking her for her little tiny bit of unofficial freebie.

"Well," she says, "it's a hot day, didn't look like either of you needed to worry about too many calories." And Steve smiles out of the side of his mouth just like the movie-stars on all the old movies Sheena's gramma watches, and shakes his head, like that's funnier than she meant it to be.

"No," he says. "No, not really."

"Your friend like his drink?" Sheena asks, moving over to gather up the cream and milk jugs and take stock of what she needs to restock. "Looked like that was the first time he had one."

Steve's smile's a little sadder now, as he fishes the tea-bag out and puts a lid on the cup. "Yeah," he says, "he spent a lot of time where there's not a lot of Starbucks around."

"Wow," Sheena says, lightly, "where, like, North Korea? I mean I think we're even in like Siberia now. Travel the world, see everyone's different Starbucks, you know?" She wipes down the counter.

She gets a kind of 'I don't have anywhere for this to go, and I'm not gonna ask for your number, but talking was nice' kinda smile at that one. She hesitates for a second, and then adds, as he's turned away, "It's usually quietest around here just kind of after the lunch rush, on weekdays." She shrugs when he looks at her and says, "I mean, nobody likes a crowded coffee shop, right? Gets so loud in here."

"Yeah," he says, after a beat, mouth quirking up. "Thanks."

 

Sheena sees both of them in a couple more times, and then it's a few weeks before she sees his friend in by himself, almost always when the place is almost empty. After a while, she gets to thinking that he must wait until it is, and even if he sits at a window watching outside for a bit, he's always gone again before there's more than three other people in the shop, at the most.

He pays in cash, just like Steve, always seems to be wearing clothes that are warmer than they should be by the weather, says almost nothing beyond his order and thanks in a quiet voice that doesn't sound like he uses it a lot, and the name he gives to put on the cup the times when Sheena's not the one on the till and so he gets asked is James.

Sheena pretty much always knocks his order up a size. She really is as bad as her mama.