Bucky’s head shoots up as the automatic doors swoosh open. As soon as he sees who it is, his head thonks down against his shelf with a groan. It’s Lettuce Boy.
He probably has a real name, a name that Bucky could find out with not-too-much difficulty since Natasha on the express register would tell him if he asked—she was happy enough to tell him his eyes were blue, “a deep, azure blue,” she had said, smirking, letting the words roll languidly off her tongue and clearly enjoying the effect they were having. “A fluid blue. An ocean blue”—a name that’s more appropriate than Boy since Lettuce Boy is inches taller than Bucky and really, really—well, let’s just say muscles like that don’t come from lettuce—but Lettuce Boy is a snarky little name, a betrayal of a name, and it gives Bucky a righteous satisfaction in his gut because that’s how he felt when he realized that his sunshine-haired, ocean-eyed crushtomer and the dickwad who’d been leaving lettuces all over the store were one and the same.
Betrayed. He felt betrayed.
Without really looking, Bucky slides another can of pinto beans onto the shelf. He watches Lettuce Boy from behind his fringe. (“Bangs,” Natasha would say. "Fringe," Bucky whined, brushing it back, “It’s fringe, it’s manly.” And then, “It’s a reason to fire you if it keeps getting in the bulk edamame,” Manager Pierce had swooped by to say, and that was that.) Bucky peers through his hair and wonders what Lettuce Boy would think of his fringe. Would he smile indulgently as he slid his fingers along a strand, tucking it behind Bucky’s ear and leaning in for a soft yet stirring kiss? Or would he march right to the produce section to pick up a lettuce and carry it all over the store like a lumpy green security blanket god dammit.
Abandoning his box of pinto beans, Bucky skitters after Lettuce Boy.
He swings around the produce corner and slides to a halt in front of the tomatoes. The tomatoes need adjusting, right? That one’s gone moldy. And that one. Upon reflection, Bucky thinks Lettuce Boy might be onto something; he wouldn’t buy produce from this store, anyway. But then from the corner of his eye he sees Lettuce Boy reach for a lettuce and all justifications are out.
"Put down that hapless romaine!" Bucky surprises himself by shouting as he lunges across the produce section.
Lettuce Boy raises a slow eyebrow, apparently not perturbed at being lunged at. “…hapless?” He’d been hot before but that expression made him cute, and it isn’t fair that Lettuce Boy is hot and cute, and that Bucky is destroying any chance he ever had, pulverizing it like kale in a Vita-Mix.
"I’m." Bucky sputters. "Very busy with a. Shakespeare seminar. this term. Just—put it down, okay?"
Carefully, slowly, Lettuce Boy lowers the romaine into his basket. He lifts his empty hands. “Okay?”
"No." Bucky pulls the romaine out of Lettuce Boy’s basket and sets it firmly on the shelf with its brethren. "No." Damn, he’d gotten really close to Lettuce Boy to do that. He smelled really nice. "No." And now he’s said ‘no’ a lot of times, so he wrenches his face into a grimace and crosses his arms and says "No, it’s not okay, because you’re just going to carry it around and then leave it someplace, like next to the toilet cleaners or by the—pads or in the bakery like a—fucking unripe loaf of bread, and I’ll have to find it and put it away because Pierce is just looking for an excuse to fire me, and why do you even carry it around, you never buy it anyway.”
"I. Oh." Lettuce Boy looks even more confused. And cute. Dammit. "I guess I always get the lettuce first, and then don’t want other things to. squish it? So I take it out? I didn’t realize I was forgetting it every single week, though." He smiles sheepishly, giving himself a little dimple, and that is hot and cute at the same time and just not fair. His eyes really are blue. Azure. Fluid and ocean-like. And surprisingly warm and—kind. Bucky swallows. He is far too close to forgiving Lettuce Boy his mortal sin.
"You’ve got a—" Lettuce Boy starts, reaching towards Bucky. Bucky breaks out of his dazed stare with a jerk and then freezes again, mesmerized, as Lettuce Boy lifts a hand to Bucky’s face and touches his hair, running his finger down a strand of bang, pulling it gently. out of Bucky’s mouth.
Bucky’s face burns hot enough to boil spinach. He tugs at the soggy strand of hair. A drop of spit smacks onto his shoe.
"Hey." Somehow, impossibly, Lettuce Boy is still standing there. He gives Bucky that lopsided sheepish smile and, under the acute desire to be back shelving beans, Bucky feels something important in his chest wobble. "Do you know if that Starbucks by the checkstand is still open?"
"It closes at 7 but if you ask me to coffee there Natasha will never let me forget it," Bucky says without thinking, and then clamps his teeth together. "I mean. You didn’t. Um. It closes at 7." He shoves the romaine back in Lettuce Boy’s basket. "Here’s your lettuce. Try not to forget it. I will… I’m going. Now. Sorry."
He wheels around, almost collides with a display of croutons, and speedwalks back to his pinto beans. He shoves cans onto the shelf. Furiously. He has never been this invested in cans. He keeps his head down and shelves can after can; he hears the scuff of shoes but he doesn’t look up; the beep of a register but he doesn’t look up; the whoosh of the doors but he doesn’t look up, he doesn’t look up, he doesn’t look up—
"Hey, Bean Boy."
He looks up. Natasha is lounging against the corner shelf, smacking her against-store-policy gum. “Can I call you Bean Boy? Since he’s Lettuce Boy, and I feel like a little produce-based nickname theme is just what this needs to be even cuter, but you’re kinda more canned up with everything, get it?”
"Nat," he groans, leaning his head against the fully-beaned shelf. "I fucked up. I talked to him and I was horrible. He was horrible. How does anyone not realize they forget their lettuce every week? Why do you have that?"
"Hm?" Natasha tosses the rumpled romaine between her hands. "Lettuce Boy left it. Something about not wanting to squish it."
"God," Bucky groans again. "God."
"He does kind of look like one," Natasha agrees. "You’ll have to let me know how he is after your date."
"Yeah, as if—" The lettuce comes flying at him and he grabs it on reflex. A smudge of black catches his eye. Bucky looks down at the lettuce. It’s— "Oh God."
"Find something else to say before tonight, maybe," Natasha winks at him and saunters away.
Bucky stares down at the Sharpie’d romaine for several gaping seconds. Then he whips out his phone and keys in the number.
u forgot ur lettuce