When a baby first opens their eyes, the only colours they see are black, white and grey.
Well, technically, if you want to be super specific, they only see tones of black, white and grey. In this universe you're born only being able to see the blacks, whites and greys of the world.
This universe has been designated a soulmates universe; a universe where two or more peoples' lives are intrinsically tied together.
But with more than 7 billion people in the world, left to their own devices, humans could spend countless lifetimes without finding their soulmate. That would greatly set more energy of the universe off-balance, so Fate decided to give humans a hand.
When you're born, you see the world in shades of black, white and grey. If you visit the same place that your soulmate has been, you'll see the room in colour. If it's an outdoor space, a small part of it will be in colour. But unfortunately, there's no telling how long ago they visited there. It could have been days, weeks, months or even years - the colour doesn't fade.
And then once you have a proper face-to-face conversation with your soulmate, the world slowly breeches into colour, and it’s like the colour was always there.
Steve sighed as he pushed the door and walked into the small coffee shop he'd been going to for the past four and a half years.
It was not a good day. He was absolutely exhausted, even though it was only nine in the morning.
The work seemed to be piling up for him. He had about a dozen cases to work on for the following week, and he had meetings set up for his nonprofit organisation, Growing Out, who help kids in urban cities get back in touch with nature. Plus, he promised Sam and Bucky he'd babysit their kids, Elijah and Julia, so they could have a date night. There was no way he was cancelling that - they hadn't had a break in months, and they more than deserved it.
The only thing getting him through the week was this coffee shop. It had such a unique blend of coffee beans that just couldn’t be recreated anywhere else, plus the flavours were out of this world. He had been coming here religiously for the longest time, even bringing Sam and Bucky here on occasion. Turns out it wasn’t the best idea though. They couldn’t stop gushing about the gorgeous flower arrangements that were scattered around the shop.
It wasn’t that big of a deal, but it just reminded Steve that he still hadn’t found his soulmate. He was 24, and usually, by this time, people had at least a glimpse of the world in colour, a preview if you like. But for him? Nothing. And with basically having two jobs, it’s not like he could go visit other places very often. Knowing his luck, his soulmate probably lived in Australia or something.
He walked up to the counter, smiling as the owner, Dorothea, caught sight of him.
“Steve, honey, how are you, my darling?” Dorothea calls out, moving out from behind the counter to give Steve a hug.
Steve chuckles as she pulls him into a hug, almost falling over with the force of her hug.
“Dorothea, I literally saw you yesterday.”
“Doesn’t matter! I know how busy you are these days. I’m lucky you come in at all!”
“You’re right about that. I’m so tired I could probably sleep for a week,” Steve laughs.
“Lord knows you need it. Now will it be your usual? To go?”
“I think I need to stay out of the house for a while, I’m starting to feel like I’m in a cage. I’ll have my usual, but to eat in, if that’s not too much trouble.”
“Oh of course, it’s never too much trouble. I’ll be right out.”
Steve nodded and headed to the little nook he had decided was his space, since he’s never seen anyone else use it. Dorothea came out five minutes with his cappuccino, as well as his goat’s cheese, pesto and tomato focaccia. He thanked Dorothea and paid her, before getting out his laptop and started working. It was going to be a long day.
7 hours and several coffee refills later, he finally closed his laptop with a sigh. He had basically sat in that chair all day, working. It had been productive though, he had gotten through all the case notes he needed for the following week, as well as the design portfolio for Growing Out’s next project.
At least now he could relax for the night.
Well, as relaxing as it could be whilst babysitting two kids under the age of three.
He thanked Dorothea, cleaning up his mess and packing away, before heading to Sam and Bucky’s house.
Tony sighed as he watched the holograms of the designs he’d created for the new green-energy engine he planned to use in cars knit itself together.
It had not been a good day. He was absolutely exhausted, being the owner of a Fortune 500 company was tough, and even though he had handed CEO-ship to Pepper, he was still responsible for the company, not to mention he was head of R&D.
“F.R.I.D.A.Y, be a dear and start the coffee machine, would ya,” he calls out.
"Boss, there is no more coffee in the machine."
"Ugghh seriously? Or are you just telling me that to get me outta the lab?" Tony squints suspiciously at one of F.R.I.D.A.Y's cameras.
"I would never Boss," she says, sounding so smug he's proud of her.
"Hm. All right. Guess I will get outta the lab. But I'm watching you."
"I would expect nothing less, Boss."
Against his better judgement, Tony decided to ditch the car and just walk through the city. Spending so much time in the Tower, he felt disconnected from the city he spent so much time in. Hell, he can't remember the last time he just walked through the city without an end goal in mind to do with SI.
He still needed a caffeine hit, so he started walking, hoping to find a café or coffee shop that was still open at this time of night.
It seems like Fate is on his side, and he stumbles upon a quaint little café called The Vanilla Bean Café and it smells amazing, so he's pretty much following nose as he walks in.
What he sees throws him off completely.
The café is absolutely bursting with colour, he's sure he's imagining it for a second, but he glances back outside, and it's still grey, which now pales in comparison.
The flowers are what he focuses on, a symphony of colours, working harmoniously together.
Tony walks up to the counter, almost feeling like he's walking in air.
The woman behind the counter greets him like an old friend, putting him at ease instantly.
"Good evening dear! What can I get you?"
It takes him a second to respond, to which she smiles knowingly.
"Seeing colour for the first time?"
"How can you tell?"
"Your expression," she smiles. "I've had the pleasure of seeing a few people seeing colour for the first time in this café. Everyone has the same expression of wonder. It's incredible to see. Anyways, what can I get you?"
"Uh, can I have a large espresso macchiato?"
"Of course! Would you like anything to eat? You look like you could use a snack."
"You know, why not. I'll have a blueberry muffin."
"And will that be eat in or takeaway?"
"I think my friend will kill me if I spend any more time in the lab," Tony jokes. "I'll have it eat in uh…"
"Call me Dorothea dear."
"Thank you Dorothea."
"Why don't you have a seat and I'll bring your order over."
Tony scans the café, looking for a tucked away spot. The last thing he needs is reporters hounding him whilst he's taking in colours for the first time.
He spots a spot that is tucked away behind some plants, so he heads over. Dorothea brings over his order not too long after, and he takes a moment to just take in his surroundings as he drinks and eats. Honestly, it's the most relaxed he's been in ages. He's not worried about work for once, in fact he's not thinking about it all.
He spends a while thinking about how to get in touch with his soulmate. Frankly, for the longest time, he didn't think he had a soulmate. When he was younger, he spent every moment he could out and about, hoping he could see somewhere in colour.
But as he got older, he stopped hoping. He was now 28 years old. Maybe his soulmate lived in a country he would never even think about visiting. That would be just his luck.
But he has a piece of paper in the inside of his suit jacket, and a pen. So he drains the rest of his coffee, and begins to write.
To my soulmate,
This is the first time I've seen the world in colour. I'm hoping you've been here?
Here's my number - so call me maybe :)
Underneath, he carefully prints his number. He's debating signing off using his iconic sign-off - T.S. but that's risky. Someone who isn't his soulmate could find it.
Instead, he signs off with a simple Tony before tucking it behind a potted plant. Hopefully his soulmate finds it.
He waves goodbye to Dorothea, who gives him a cheeky wink and heads back to the Tower. He should shower and get some rest. He'll go back to the café tomorrow.
Steve wakes up fairly late the next day. He was at Sam and Bucky’s place until well after midnight, seeing as it was the weekend, and he didn't have to go into work the next day.
He gets up and goes for a run, just like every day, before showering and heading to the café. He's not planning on eating in; he's decided to take the day off, grab a drink and head to the lake, maybe do a drawing.
Doesn't work out that way though.
He freezes as soon as he walks in. The café is an explosion of colour. He can finally see the flowers Sam and Bucky have been raving on about, the photos on the wall of soulmates who have met here in colour. It's absolutely incredible.
"Steve honey!" Dorothea exclaims. "How are- oh. First time?"
Steve just about manages to nod, completely overwhelmed. Dorothea takes it all in her stride, leading him over to his usual spot and handing him his regular order. She pats him on the shoulder before heading back to the counter.
Steve, on the other hand, takes a moment to just breathe. He certainly wasn't expecting this, not today. He wonders by just how much he missed his soulmate; he left the café quite late, and Dorothea closes it not too long after. For all he knows, he could have left and his soulmate could have arrived just after.
His eyes rake the café again, and he spots a folded up piece of paper behind potted plant which certainly wasn't there yesterday. Could it be his soulmate?
He takes the letter and unfolds it, heart hammering.
To my soulmate,
This is the first time I've seen the world in colour. I'm hoping you've has been here?
Here's my number - so call me maybe :)
Underneath the note is the phone number. It looks like it's been scrawled in a hurry.
Tony. He doesn't want to assume, but looks like his soulmate is a man. He's never really been one to get hung up on the gender of his soulmate, for him, it was more about how they made him feel.
He wanted to feel happy, safe, comfortable in the relationship, that's all that matters.
He can't call his soulmate without consulting Sam and Bucky first. What would he even say?
He basically runs to their place, knocking on the door, hopping from foot to foot before Sam opens the door. He bolts into their house, causing Bucky to jump up from the sofa.
"Woah, woah, where's the fire?" Sam chuckles.
"I saw the café in colour!" He bursts out, causing Sam and Bucky’s eyes to widen.
"Which caf- Oh, Dorothea's café? The Vanilla Bean Café?" Bucky asks, to which Steve nods excitedly. "Steve that's great! Did your soulmate leave anything for you?
In response, Steve pulls out the note. "He left me his number. His name's Tony."
"That's great! Why don't you call him?" Sam said enthusiastically.
"But what do I even say?" Steve whined.
"He's your soulmate, Steve. I don't think you can mess it up too bad. Besides, if you're really nervous, you can always text him."
"No, I think I'm gonna call him." Steve decides, and moves to their office for some quiet.
He takes a deep breath, before dialling the number on the note.
It rings a couple of times, before someone picks up.
Steve shakes his head before replying. "Hi, Tony? This is going to sound really weird but did you happen to visit The Vanilla Bean Café yesterday and see it in colour?"
The person on the other end of the line lets out a chuckle, before replying.
"I did actually. Did you find my note?"
"Wow, I didn't think I'd get a call this fast. Um, I guess the next step is do you want to meet up?"
Steve's heart does a flip, and he waits a few seconds before replying.
"I think it is. I guess the only appropriate place to meet up is the café?"
"Of course. I think Dorothea is rooting for us. Are you free tonight at seven?"
"Great. See you then!"
They hang up, and Steve does a little dance. He heads back out to the living room, where Sam and Bucky are waiting expectantly.
"Well?" Bucky says impatiently, causing Steve to laugh.
"We're meeting up at the café at seven," Steve beams. "Oh my gods what do I wear?"
"Steve, calm down," Bucky placated. "I met Sam for the first time wearing a dog suit. I'm sure whatever you wear will top that."
"You're right. I'm gonna go."
"Good luck!" Sam yells as he leaves.
Steve rushes home, and immediately heads to his closet. He eventually, after panicking for a solid 20 minutes, decides on a maroon sweater and an Aviemore suit trouser.
Meanwhile, at the Tower, Tony is also panicking, whilst Rhodey, the traitor, is laughing at him.
"Platypus! You gotta help me! What do I wear?!!!" Tony whines.
"You've been to a million and one galas. Why is this any different?" Rhodey laughs.
"This isn't some stupid gala, I'm meeting my soulmate! I gotta make a good impression!"
"They're your soulmate, I'm pretty sure you'll make a good impression regardless."
"Ugh, you're no help whatsoever. I shoulda asked Pepper."
Tony eventually decides on a Tackma Rose Fill Tee and jeans, along with a simple black blazer on top. He glances at his watch; he has to leave, otherwise he'll be late.
He makes it to the café exactly on time, and takes a breath to steady himself. He only just realises he doesn't know what to expect in the slightest. Not even a name. He really hasn't thought it through.
He heads into the café anyway, and spots a tall, handsome man in the spot he left his note. Well, this was it.
He walks over to the man, and taps him on the shoulder.
"Hi, are you the person I'm supposed to meet at seven?"
The man gets out of his seat and turns to face him, and he stumbles slightly as he takes in Tony.
"That would be me!"
They both almost simultaneously look outside and see the neon orange sign of the shop opposite the café, and turn back to each other, smiling brightly.
And that is the start of their love story.
Dorothea smiles as she watches the young couple talk and fall in love.
Another soulmate couple for the wall.