Bucky was doing okay, he really was. Sure he only had one arm and yeah okay maybe working in a flower shop wasn’t exactly his dream job but really, he was fine. He had Natasha beside him, a constant rock of support as he tried to navigate unfamiliar civilian life.
Besides, flowers weren’t so bad. There was something soothing in the daily routine of rotating their stock, separating the colors so the shop was a bright, rainbow of colors. He would never admit it to anyone besides Nat, but he even kind of liked getting to bring out his creative side and make various bouquets and arrangements for their grab-and-go area.
If pressed, Bucky might even say that he actually enjoys helping the women and frazzled husbands that stream in and out on a fairly regular basis. It was nice to break out the old Barnes charm and he’d be lying if he said he hadn’t gotten more than one phone number scribbled on the back of a receipt.
Yeah, Bucky was doing fine, except- except for when he came in. Every Thursday, during their mid-afternoon lull he came in, a soft smile always tugging at too pink lips and soft golden hair flopping over one eye. He would browse through the arrangements, occasionally caressing a velvety petal with long artist’s fingers.
Bucky wasn’t sure who he was buying them for but he always bought at least a dozen, bringing them up to the counter, his ridiculously blue eyes sparkling. Bucky wasn’t sure who he was shopping for but every week he found himself feeling jealous of that care and precision he took. What it must be like to have someone in your life that put that much thought and concern in to the simple act of buying flowers.
He was tiny, almost scrawny even, weighing no more than a hundred pounds on a good day, but despite his small size he was beautiful. With soft golden hair messily combed to one side, fringe constantly falling in to his face and tattered jeans that looked so tight they might as well be painted on. He was definitely an artist. His jean jacket was splattered with drips of brightly colored paint, streaks occasionally matting strands of his hair together. The hint of a tattoo crept up the side of his neck, some sort of vine peeking out from the collar of his shirt as if beckoning Bucky closer, to explore the blonde’s body and see where else he might have ink.
This whole thing was ridiculous, Bucky thought with a grumble as he opened the shop one Thursday morning, unable to deny the anxious butterflies in his stomach at the mere thought of getting to see their regular again. Behind him Natasha snickered as he spent extra time fluffing the daffodils, spending more time than necessary on the long pink stems.
Last week the blonde had settled on a mix of pink and yellow daffodils, his eyes crinkling as he watched Bucky wrap them in paper. Where most customers watched him warily, obviously feeling uncomfortable as he pulled out large pieces of butcher paper, to wrap their flowers, delicate even with only one arm, he was completely at ease. He never even looked at Bucky’s shoulder, the loose fabric of his sleeve where his left arm should be. Those bright blue eyes never lingered on the spider web of scars that Bucky tried to hide under his long hair. It was a refreshing change but at the same time, it made Bucky more uncomfortable than anything the other customers did.
Bucky hated how he felt his heart pound every time the guy walked in to the shop. Hated how someone he hardly knew could plague his dreams at night. He didn’t even know the guys name for crying out loud and besides, it didn’t matter. A man buying flowers on a weekly basis was definitely not single, especially when they looked like he did.
Nevertheless, Bucky always felt himself trying to stall as he helped him out, lingering as he wrapped the flowers. Besides having an artist’s eye for color, the blond was also apparently an expert on the meanings of each flower. Really. The fucking meanings of them. Instead of fiddling with his phone or trying some other way to look busy, he would happily explain the meaning of that week’s bouquet to Bucky as he worked and that voice. Bucky had no idea how a guy so small could have a voice that deep but it sent shivers down his spine.
“Happiness, rebirth and eternal life,” Bucky mumbled as he pushed the display of daffodils back in to the window.
“What was that?” Natasha called, her voice clearly suggesting that she knew just what Bucky was talking about.
Blushing, Bucky turned back to the counter, grumbling under his breath about stupid boys who buy stupid flowers. “Nothing Nat.”
The day passed slowly, the hours dragging by until the small lunch hour rush. Finally slowing down, Bucky slumped on to a stool behind the counter next to Natasha and took the sandwich she offered. “You know,” she started, “I can handle the rest of the day by myself if you wanted to take off.”
“Fuck you Nat,” Bucky grumbled, taking an angry bite of his sandwich as his friend cackled beside him.
“You know you could ask his name or something,” she said once she finally caught her breath.
Feeling a blush creep up his neck, Bucky picked at the wrapper of his lunch. “Fuck off Nat, I don’t see you with anyone.” It’s not that he didn’t want to talk to him; no Bucky wanted nothing more than to find out every tiny detail about the man who kept him awake at night. It was a hopeless cause though and he refused to invite for heartache in to his life.
“If I saw someone worth going after I would do it,” she replied matter-of-factly. “It’s not my fault the pickings are slim. You sure you’re still gay?”
Bucky rolled his eyes and knocked his shoulder in to hers as the bell on the front door chimed. “Yes Nat, I’m positive that I like to take it up the ass.”
Normally stoic when faced with such bold faced statements, Natasha began to giggle, her shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter. Arching a brow, Bucky looked over his shoulder to see who had walked in on their conversation. Oh shit.
He had walked in, his hands shoved in the front pockets of his jeans, the smile tugging at the corner of his lips that suggested he had heard everything and wasn’t that just perfect. With a soft groan Bucky wrapped up the last few bites of his lunch and shoved it at Natasha before brushing at his shirt to make sure he was crumb free. Yeah, maybe he had dressed a little nicer today than he normally did and sure, maybe he had checked his hair in the mirror about an hour ago just in case, but he didn’t have to know that. Shooting one last glare at Nat, who was still snickering behind him, Bucky took a deep breath and made his way around the counter. He did have a job to do after all.
“Hey,” Bucky said, hating the soft, vulnerable way his voice sounded. “Can I help you find anything today?”
The smile that he turned in Bucky’s direction should really come with a warning label because Christ, it was heart stoppingly beautiful. “I’m not entirely sure what I want today,” he started, his fingers dancing across the velvety stem of a sunflower. “Do you have any Cherry Blossoms in?”
It took Bucky’s brain a second to catch up with what he had asked, his eyes to busy watching those damn hands doing absolutely sinful things and fuck, pull it together Barnes! Bucky cleared his throat and cave a curt nod before turning to lead the blond across the store, pointedly ignoring Nat who was beaming at him from behind the counter.
“Is it for a special occasion?” Bucky found himself asking, desperate to hear him talk about anything, he just wanted to hear the deep timbre of his voice.
“Oh nothing particularly special no,” he replied and dammit, Bucky could hear the smile without even looking. “I’ve never thought that flowers are only for special occasions, they can really brighten up even the most ordinary of days.”
Bucky hummed, his stomach clenching uncomfortably as once again he realized that there was no way someone so special was single. “Yeah, that’s uh- a good way to look at it,” he started. “It you know- helps our business plan and stuff.” Mentally Bucky cursed, what was it about this little punk that had him stumbling over his words like a damn teenager?
His gaze was fond as he picked up a delicate branch of cherry blossoms, turning the soft pink petals in inspection. “These are gorgeous.”
Yeah, so are you, Bucky thought with a sigh.
“What was that?” He turned, a smile tugging at his lips once again and shit, had Bucky really said that out loud?
Better think of something quick moron, Bucky cursed at himself, running his hand nervously through his hair. “Just uh- can I wrap a couple up for you?”
Bright blue eyes danced in amusement but thankfully he seemed to have decided that he was going to let Bucky’s little outburst slide. “I’d love a couple. What do you think, would four look complete?”
Bucky nodded, thankful that they were back to something that at least remotely resembled his comfort zone. By now he could talk plants and bouquet arrangements with the best of them. Talking to pretty boys however, well, he was apparently still having a little trouble in that area. “Yeah, it looks perfect, however what would you think about adding a few carnations just to round the whole thing out?” Bucky laid the stems out on the counter before running to grab a few soft pink stems, just a shade darker than the other blossoms.
“It looks perfect,” he replied, watching Bucky as he moved around the counter and for a moment, well for a moment it almost sounded like he was talking about something other than the plants.
Shaking it off Bucky turned, giving Nat’s stool a kick as he passed by her to pull out a sheet of brown paper and some lavender tissue. There was no way that he was talking about Bucky, besides no one in their right mind would use the word ‘perfect’ to describe Bucky Barnes.
“Feminine beauty and love,” a voice said behind him.
Bucky started, almost dropping the papers as he turned. “Um- what?”
He smiled that same soft grin that pulled lazily at those perfectly pink lips and made his eyes crinkle. “Cherry blossoms are known to represent feminine beauty and love in the western culture, however, in Japan they symbolize the transient nature of life.”
Oh yeah, Bucky thought fondly as he neatly arranged the stems in the center of the paper, he was all about the things flowers represented. “What do the carnations mean?” Bucky found himself asking.
“Well in general carnations are used to represent love, but more specifically, the pink ones mean motherly love.”
“Oh, that might be a little weird then,” Bucky muttered, assuming that these were going to his girlfriend, motherly was probably not the sentiment he was going for.
He arched a brow, his lips curving in to a smirk that suggested he knew something that Bucky didn’t. “Steve by the way,” he replied, handing over a few bills. “Steve Rogers.”
Bucky blinked heavily, once, then twice as his brain tried to catch up again. Oh, he was Steve. Oh. Steve. Somehow that name sounded like the perfect fit for the man in front of him. “Um, Bucky Barnes,” he stuttered, passing him, no Steve, back his change.
Steve turned that heart melting smile on him and Bucky suddenly felt ten pounds lighter. Tucking his bouquet gently in the crook of one arm, Steve tucked his wallet back in to his pants. “Nice to meet you Bucky.”
In what felt like an instant Steve was leaving, turning left out the door and making his way down the street. “Nice to meet you too Steve,” Bucky whispered, enjoying the way his name felt rolling off his tongue. “Steve.”
The next week Bucky waited anxiously for Steve to come in, getting antsy as the clock ticked slowly past two. Normally Steve had shown up by now. Maybe he wasn’t coming. Maybe he’d broken up with his girlfriend and didn’t need flowers any more. Maybe he-. The door chimed as it swung open, breaking through Bucky’s rapidly devolving thoughts.
“Hey Steve,” he called, once again ignoring Natasha’s soft giggles from behind him as he felt a weight that he hadn’t realized he’d been carrying lift off his chest. Just the presence of the gorgeous blonde seemed to make the whole shop brighter.
“Afternoon Bucky,” Steve replied, long fingers running through his hair as he pushed it back out of his eyes. Beneath his paint splattered jacket he was wearing a white t-shirt that scooped down in to a low v-neck. Bucky had to remind himself to breath as Steve approached the counter. He could see the soft shading of Steve’s tattoo peeking out from under the edge. Vines curled up from his back and looped down over his shoulder stopping just above the deep dip of his collarbone and fuck, how Bucky wanted to trace that path with his tongue.
Natasha gave him a small kick from where she was going over their accounts behind him, startling him out of what was rapidly becoming a wildly inappropriate thought. The worst part was, the first thought he had after snapping out of his previous fixation was to marvel over the fact that Steve had remember his name. God he really had it bad.
As Steve began to browse through their selection Bucky rounded the counter, lingering awkwardly a few feet behind him, not entirely sure where the line was between friendly and awkward. “ Anything in particular today?”
Steve hummed softly as if considering Bucky’s question. “I was thinking something red or orange to signal the changing season.”
Immediately Bucky knew which flower to recommend, leading Steve across the store to the various hues of hydrangeas. He wasn’t sure why, but he loved the large poof balls. While they weren’t necessarily the fanciest flower available Bucky found them charming, pretty without being pretentious; kind of like Steve.
“The hydrangeas are my favorite,” Bucky mumbled, trying not to be ashamed about having a favorite flower. He did work in a flower shop after all. “The orangey-red color is perfect for fall arrangements.”
“Sounds perfect,” Steve replied immediately, his smile bright as he pulled a handful of flowers free, bringing them up to smell, his eyes fluttering softly and yeah, Bucky needed to walk away now.
“Heartfelt emotions,” Steve called, following Bucky back to the front counter, gently laying the stems down on the gold tissue. “A perfect choice.”
Bucky swallowed, his mouth suddenly feeling dry as Steve watched his every move. “’M glad you like it,” he mumbled.
Handing over a few bills, Steve smiled, shooting Bucky a wink over his bouquet before he turned for the door. “See you next week Buck.”
A week later Bucky felt his stomach turn in anticipation as he watched the clock. It didn’t matter how much Natasha teased him on a daily basis and no he wasn’t going to analyze how much time Steve had been featured in his dreams at night thank you very much. All he knew was the ten minutes that Steve spent in the shop each Thursday had become his favorite part of the week.
“I see your lover boy walking up,” Natasha teased, swatting Bucky in the rear as she passed behind him where he was trying to keep himself busy sorting receipts. When Bucky glowered at her she smirked and shot him a wink.
“Heya Buck,” Steve called as he swept through the front door, using his hip to push it open. He held a cup from the coffee shop just down the block in each hand, steam curling out of the small openings. “It’s getting pretty chilly out and I uh- well I stopped to get a coffee and then thought you might maybe be in need of a caffeine fix and well-uh, now I realize that it’s probably a little creepy to bring you this. I also don’t exactly know how you take your coffee-shit, or if you even drink coffee so I got a black coffee and a latte and well, if you want one then, yeah.”
Steve tapered off, his mouth turning down in to a self conscious frown, his feet shifting awkwardly as if he was considering running away. The whole scene was so touching and sweet that Bucky couldn’t help the small giggle that built up in his throat. Steve really was too much. “I love coffee,” he said, breaking through the awkward tension.
Steve looked up at him, relief washing over his face and his shoulders dropping as he relaxed. “Oh thank God. I promise I didn’t think about how this could be weird until I got here and shit, I’m making it weird again. Let me start over. Hiya Bucky, how are you today? I brought coffee, would you like a latte or some black coffee?”
“The black coffee sounds great, thank you.” Bucky accepted the warm cup, the heavenly scent of coffee overwhelming him for a second. He took a sip, moaning softly as the hot liquid warmed him slowly from the inside. “Perfect.”
Steve coughed, turning and running a hand through his hair, looking flustered as he took a sip from his own cup. Behind them Natasha snickered to herself, looking over next week’s order forms and shaking her head. Really, how oblivious could two grown men be?
“These are breathtaking,” Steve said, changing the subject as he ghosted his fingers over an arrangement of peonies. About half of the buds were still closed while the rest were in varying degrees of bloom. The expensive flowers were incredibly popular and for good reason. Their delicately interlocking petals were beautiful and their array of pastel hues offered a variety of choices when they could get them.
“What do they mean?” Bucky teased, pulling a few stems free and heading back to the counter with them.
Steve followed, his eyes sparkling in the afternoon light. “Peonies are used to represent compassion, a happy life and good health.”
“All good things,” Bucky mumbled, gently wrapping the flowers as slowly as he could without being obvious. “Whoever she is, I’m sure she’ll love them.”
Steve arched a brow but didn’t say anything as he handed over his money, opting instead to take a sip of his coffee.
“You know, you could uh-stay a bit and finish your coffee,” Bucky started, picking at the edge of the counter as he did his best to avoid eye contact. “You know, if you want, so you’re not trying to juggle a cup and flowers.
“I wish I could.” Steve looked sincere as he glanced down at his watch, his brown furrowing slightly. “God, I wish I could but I’m already running late since I stopped for coffee. Rain check?”
Bucky nodded, his heart pounding at the idea of spending more time with Steve, even if he did have to wait a week for it. “Yeah, rain check,” Bucky promised, raising his own cup in a salute.
Steve looked relieved as he smiled, grabbing his flowers and cup and hurrying out the door as though he really was running late for some appointment. At that Bucky remembered that Steve was rushing off to give flowers to someone else, someone who was clearly very important to him. Someone who was not Bucky.
“So, coffee?” Natasha quipped.
Letting out a sigh, Bucky ripped off the extra receipt a little harder than necessary. “Shut up, Nat.”
“What’ll it be today Stevie?” Bucky called as the blond walked through the door a week later.
A chill was settling over the city as the leaves began to turn. Steve had a thick woolen scarf wrapped around his neck, and while Bucky found himself missing the tattoo, Steve looked undeniably adorable when all bundled up. “It’s fucking cold out,” Steve grumbled, rubbing his hands together.
“It’s only October,” Bucky teased, enjoying how comfortable he felt around him. “It’s gonna get plenty colder before the year is done.”
“Yeah, yeah, doesn’t mean I have to like it.” Steve was incredibly cute when he pouted, the tip of his nose flushed red from the chill.
“Fair enough,” Bucky agreed, heading out on to the floor.
Once he warmed up, Steve moved over to the array of roses that Bucky had just put out this morning, only poking himself once on the sharp thorns. “I think I might do an assortment today.”
Bucky hummed, his mind going hazy as he watched Steve’s long artist fingers brush across the velvety petals and yeah this was beginning to be a problem. His mind was making it far too easy to connect the idea of those delicate hands brushing over a very different part of his own anatomy. Cursing his traitorous mind, Bucky tried to focus on the present. His mind could stay in the gutter and replay fantasies over and over later, but he should actually pay attention when Steve was actually there.
“Anything in particular?” Bucky smiled when his voice came out strong and steady, not betraying the stubborn arousal that refused to leave him alone.
“I’m thinking a blend of gardenias and the lavender roses.”
Bucky hummed as he moved to pick out a few gardenia stems from across the shop while Steve grabbed his favorite roses. “White and purple, those will look nice together.”
Laying down his pick on the counter, Steve smiled, a mischievous glint in his eyes as he watched Bucky. “What can I say; I just like what these represent. It doesn’t hurt that they’re beautiful as well.”
Bucky felt his stomach churn in anticipation as he pulled the ribbon tight around the bundle of flowers. “And what exactly do these represent?” Where they flirting he wondered, his mind racing. It had been years since he had last tried to flirt with anyone but damn, it sure felt like it now.
“Well lavender roses in particular stand for love at first sight while the gardenias area symbol for secret love.” Steve’s voice seemed to have dropped almost an octave lower as he spoke, leaning against the counter so that he was only about a foot away. “They’re along the same line though, don’t you think Buck?”
Not trusting himself, Bucky nodded briskly, passing over the bouquet along with Steve’s change. Yeah this was definitely flirting and now that Bucky had realized it he felt himself clam up under the pressure.
“See you next week Buck,” Steve called as he pushed the door open. “And remember, you still owe me a chance to finish our coffee!”
Bucky’s mind never stopped reeling as the days crept by. He wasn’t sure what Steve had been trying to imply last week or if he had been implying anything. It turns out seven days is more than enough time to run through every possible scenario, more than once.
It was still a little early to be expecting Steve and Natasha had run out to make a delivery so the shop was empty, silent except for the soft music playing from their computer. Bucky hummed along to the music as he flipped through their newest catalog of plants they could order. It would never cease to amaze him just how many types of plants there were.
The door crashed open a few minutes later, the bell jingling loudly as he heard someone curse. Looking up Bucky panicked. Natasha had an arm around Steve’s waist as he pressed the edge of his scarf to his nose. There was a new hole in the knee of his jeans and what looked like a cut over his cheekbone. Suddenly Bucky was back in combat mood, his mind racing and eyes darting around to find the enemy.
“What the hell happened?” Bucky hollered, hurtling over the counter before he could think.
“James you can walk around like a normal person,” Natasha scolding, her expression fond. “I found Stevie here making some new friends in the alley down the block.”
Steve grimaced as Natasha pushed him down on to one of the stools before rummaging in the back room for a few clean cloths. When she came back a minute later she had two dry ones and one damp one, offering them to Bucky.
“What happened?” Bucky asked again, this time softer as he began to fuss over Steve’s wounds.
“It was nothing,” Steve grumbled, the sound muffled from the scarf still pressed against his nose.
“Here let me.” Bucky took away the now soiled scarf and passed Steve a clean towel, tilting his head forward slightly. “It was clearly something Steve.”
“I don’t like bullies,” Steve answered as if that explained everything.
Shooting Nat a questioning look, Bucky tried again. “I’m gonna need a little more than that pal,” he prompted, frowning when Steve hissed in pain as he dabbed gently at the cut on his cheek.
Letting out a sigh, Steve began to describe how he had been on his way to the coffee shop when he had heard a group of guys picking on a young woman no older than twenty. “She clearly didn’t like it, but they wouldn’t listen to her. I don’t like bullies so I interjected and well, as you can see they didn’t take too kindly to that.”
“He doesn’t know when to stay down,” Natasha teased as she piled some ice cubes in the center of another cloth.
“I had ‘em on the ropes,” Steve grumbled, taking the offered ice pack and pressing it to his cheek when Bucky was finished cleaning it.
“Sure you did,” Bucky smiled, the butterflies in his stomach coming back in full force. Steve really was something else; it was just too bad that he was unavailable. Bucky hadn’t felt this comfortable around someone besides Nat in years. “Do you need me to call someone for you? Your wife or girlfriend or something?”
Steve smiled as he shook his head. “I’m not married and I don’t have a girlfriend.”
Bucky perked up slightly, his heart pounding with anticipation. “Okay, do you have a boyfriend you want me to call for you?”
Again Steve just smiled, a brow raising slightly as his lips curled in to a knowing smirk. “Don’t have one of those either.”
Somewhere behind him Bucky heard Nat snicker but it failed to register. What exactly was Steve trying to say? “Then who are you always taking flowers to every week?”
“My mom is in the hospital a few blocks over. I go visit her every Thursday afternoon,” Steve explained, his grin growing wider as he watched realization dawn over Bucky’s face.
“Oh shit, I’m sorry but wait a minute, I thought you were with someone,” Bucky interrupted, his mind still stuck on the single thought that Steve was single. “I mean you put so much thought in to buying them and look at you.”
Nat’s laughter grew louder and soon Steve was laughing along with her. “I like flowers Buck, it doesn’t automatically mean I’m in a relationship.”
Bucky leaned back against the counter, dropping the dirty rag to run a hand through his hair. His mind was spinning and his heart was pounding. Was he ready to take this next step? He’d been home for over a year, a functioning member of society for the last 8 months. What was more, he had been smitten with this little blonde punk for the last three months. Yeah, he was ready to take the plunge if Steve would have him.
“Oh,” he whispered. “So what flower would you give me now?”
Steve seemed to ponder his question for a minute before the slow grin spread back across his face. “Well, they do say that tulips are often used to symbolize a declaration of love.”
“Oh,” Bucky stuttered, cursing his lack of eloquence at Steve’s statement. “Oh.”
Leaning forward, Steve brushed his fingers against Bucky’s. “Are you gonna ask me out now or what?”
Tangling their hands together, Bucky smiled, the weight in his chest lifting. “Steve Rogers, would you like to go out to dinner sometime?”
“It would be my pleasure.”