“Or maybe spring is the season of love and fall the season of mad lust. Spring for flirting but fall for the untamed delicious wild thing.”
― Elizabeth Cohen, The Hypothetical Girl
“So what does he do?”
Natasha's hair bounces as she drags Steve across the street. Kicking up few of the puddles as she goes. It’s been a rainy spring. Water gathered in the potholes that the town never has enough money to fix up.
“He’s a mechanic. Does some carpentry in his spare time as well.”
The house isn’t in the best part of town, but still, it’s a respectable enough street. He could live here, Steve thinks. Especially after Natasha points to a two-story colonial-style house further down from where they are standing. The outside is a bit dilapidated, the blue color of the walls faded and cracked but the yard is tidy. The porch, which on a closer look seems a bit lopsided, is overshadowed by two large oak trees, giving the front windows privacy from the road.
Nat had said that the Alpha had just bought the place a few months ago and needed a roommate pretty urgently, something vague to do with the house loan, she’d said. At least that meant that Steve was less likely to get asked to leave if he was being relied upon for income.
Steve really isn’t sure about sharing with an Alpha but he is starting to run out of options. There are only six Omega boarding houses in the city and Steve has been kicked out of four of them.
It’s not that he did any of it on purpose. The first one had been a total accident, he’d missed the curfew by half an hour for a late-night gallery opening next town over and out he went. The second, he’d gotten into a fight with a pushy Alpha in the foyer and again out he went. The third had been another fight, this time in another Omega’s room where an Alpha who had been courting her had climbed in uninvited, and clearly unwanted. The last one had been him letting Nat stay over when she got stuck in the city overnight. She may be an Alpha, but Steve didn’t feel that she should sleep in the bus stop just because of that.
So Steve is fairly sure she is arranging this partly out of guilt.
She’d said that the Alpha was nice. Not that Steve is worried. Usually, Alphas take one look at him and move swiftly on. He would be big for an Alpha. For an Omega, well, he is near on abnormal. Tall, broad on the shoulders and big hands. He could punch a guy’s lights out easy. Has done on a few occasions.
He’d watched in the boarding houses as the other Omegas courted. Little gifts and dates. Alphas walking them to the door and chaste kisses, brief scenting under the watchful eye of the matron at the front desk. It had looked nice.
While he was on the sidelines, big and gormless and unwanted.
He’d been small and sickly as a child, skinny as a rake and short. All of his ma’s friends had said that he’ll make the perfect Omega one day, but because of all the illness, he’d presented late. He’d been seventeen and suddenly growing like a weed, filling into his big hands and feet and suddenly his ma’s friends no longer thought of him as the perfect little Omega.
So Steve isn’t worried about sharing with an Alpha, but as they approach the house Steve suddenly feels nervous.
“You did tell him that I’m an Omega, right?”
Natasha just hums noncommittally.
“He was fine with it, right?”
She hums again.
They’re nearly at the house and someone comes out from the front door, leaning on the porch railing. Waiting to meet them. Tight white t-shirt and jeans, work boots. Long hair tied back, a strange look but not one that Steve minds. He’s maybe an inch shorter than Steve, but stocky, wide and muscled. The perfect Alpha.
Steve is wearing his nicest pair of slacks and a dark navy jumper, wanting to make a good impression. His brown shoes are scuffed but neat enough. Natasha waves from the road and loops her arm around his elbow.
“Okay, I didn’t, but he’ll be fine with it!”
“Oh, come on Nat! Why!”
She just drags him down the path ignoring his protestations, and up the steps onto the porch, still waving cheerily at the Alpha waiting for them.
“James! What kind of shit hole did you buy?”
“Nice to see you too Natchenka. Such kind words from you for my home.”
The Alpha’s voice is deep and soft and Natasha gives him her best shit-eating grin, which he returns. Her arm is still tight around Steve’s elbow, clearly thinking that he might bolt any second.
“This is Steve. He needs your room. He’s very tidy.”
Steve can tell the exact moment when the Alpha realizes Steve’s designation. The smile on his face freezes, becomes tight, but he still puts out his hand. Shakes Steve’s with a steady grip.
“Nice to meet you, Steve. I’m Bucky. Natasha is the only one who calls me James.”
He gives her a dirty look, but there is no heat in it. Now that he is closer Steve can see that the skin of the Alpha’s left arm looks leathery, flat and hard. Sunken in with scars. He shoves the hand into his jeans pocket, hunching it to his side like trying to hide it when he sees Steve looking. His eyes are gray and guarded even when he’s smiling.
“Alright, well, come on in and take a look around.”
He pulls the door open and the hinges creak as they walk in. The hall and sitting room are bare, paint cans and a piled up sheets in the corner. The kitchen and dining room look more lived in with a small dining table for two and an armchair by the window. The kitchen has a decent-sized icebox and nice new cabinets.
Bucky runs his hands over the wooden counter tops. His hands are wide and rough.
“I just finished the kitchen last week. The floor of the dining room needs to be sanded and the walls need a bit of paint.”
The house smells nice. It takes him a while to realize that it's the Alpha’s scent. Steve doesn't really like the way Alphas smell, not really. On a rare occasion, a scent will catch him, something that he will think of as pleasant but never quite like this. This smells like campfires and crisp winter mornings rolled into one. It makes him want to curl up inside it, safe and small.
The thought jolts him out of his musings. He isn’t small and Bucky would probably not want him curled up anywhere near his person.
Instead, he follows Bucky and Natasha out of the dining room. The stairs creak ominously under his feet and Bucky chatters on about his plans to replace them. The upstairs hallway is stripped bare with wood paneled walls still streaked with lingering wallpaper strips. Bucky shows him the bedroom that would be his. It’s nice and big. There is a bedframe and a dresser but nothing else. Smells clean and neutral. The afternoon light from the bay window is bright.
“It’s a bit empty. But you can do what you want with it. I haven’t really spent any time in here, so it doesn’t… you know, smell.”
The Alpha is rubbing the back of his neck, looking slightly embarrassed. Part of Steve wants to tell the Alpha that he wouldn’t mind the room smelling like the lived parts of the house had, but he stops himself in time. Natasha gives him a curious look from the doorway.
When they get back downstairs Bucky drags Natasha into the kitchen and Steve can hear both of them arguing in hushed voices. He wishes that Natasha had told Bucky the truth. It’s hard enough finding somewhere to live without seeing this nice house and a decent room and be told that he isn’t welcome.
Out of politeness, he takes a look at the garden. It’s overgrown and wild but somehow feels safe, homely. It’s green from the rains and a few early spring flowers blooming among the weeds and overgrown grass. Further back there is a shed and what looks like to be a vegetable patch. It might be nice to sit out here and draw in the summer, or sit on the swing on the back porch on a warm evening, maybe.
He shakes himself out of the thoughts again. He isn’t going to be living here.
When he gets back into the house Bucky is waiting, looking nervous, his left hand still buried in the pocket of his jeans.
Steve lifts up his palms up, plasters a smile on his face. Deferring
“It’s okay, I know. Can’t live with an Omega. I get it.”
“Not, that’s not…”
“Don’t worry, I still have two more boarding houses to go.”
He tries for light and funny even with the heavy lump in his chest.
“Jesus Steve just listen!”
The Alpha runs his hand over his head, smoothing his hair down. His voice is sharp, frustrated and Steve can’t help but snap to attention.
“What I was gonna say is that there’s gonna be a lot of building work going on in the house and Nat here said you work from home. I wanted to make sure that you are okay living like this? It’s gonna be noisy.”
He sweeps his arm around the empty living area.
“I know it’s not much…”
He’s looking embarrassed again, which Steve can’t really understand. He would give an arm and a leg to be allowed to buy a place of his own.
“Uh... no, it’s good. I don’t mind a bit of noise. The house is great, really.”
Bucky nods, caution in his every move.
“I mean it’s only me doing the work. Some of my buddies help out sometimes, so it’s not all the time.”
“Don’t worry about it, I’m gonna be doing my own thing. So I can come and go when I want to?”
Steve has to check, but Bucky just looks at him puzzled, head tilted to the side.
“Of course. You’ll have a key, just lock the door at night when you come in if I’m asleep or not around.”
Steve wonders if Alphas actually have any idea at all what it’s like to live as an unmated Omega in the city.
Bucky gives him the rental price and Steve tries to hide his surprise at how cheap it is, even for the area. He gives Natasha side eye, but she just nods like it’s normal and Steve wonders if it’s just another way for the world to be unfair to Omegas.
They shake on it and Steve moves in the following week.
* * *
Bucky loves his house; maybe he’d overstretched himself with the loan a little bit, but it will all be worth it once the house is ready. The bank had been reluctant to lend to him, but the bank manager’s son was also a veteran and he’d given Bucky a chance. Wanted to do something for the boys who’d come home. It had been an opportunity to start over and Bucky isn’t going to waste it.
He’d been planning on getting a roommate, even considered putting an ad out of the local paper, but Natasha had said that she knew someone who was looking for a place. Said he was an artist who worked from home and would be happy to live in Bucky’s part of town. She’d said that he was nice and reliable and assured that they would get along well. What she had failed to mention was that the person looking was an Omega.
It’s not that he has anything against living with an Omega. In theory.
He knows that a lot of them preferred to live in boarding houses until they mated. The church and society seem both to have a lot to say about how they live, but Bucky had never really paid these things much mind. His ma and pa had eloped when their families had disapproved of the match and his younger sisters hadn’t presented by the time he’d left with the draft.
He’d made time with a few Omegas just before shipping overseas. Nice crisp uniform and a sergeant’s stripes impressive enough for the dancehall. After, well, after Bucky certainly isn’t the kind of Alpha any Omega would pick for their mate.
It’s not that war veterans are unpopular, quite the opposite, but a war veteran with a damaged arm, bad nightmares and barely enough money to keep his own house is not. And Nat had brought Steve to his house when it looks like a bomb had gone off. The bedroom with nothing in it, definitely not a place suited for an Omega. If he’d known he would have made sure there would have been nice things in there.
If he is really being honest with himself, if Natasha had told him he would have asked her not to bother to bring Steve around at all.
Steve is exactly the kind of Omega Bucky has no chance with. He smells like the back garden after a rainstorm, like an orchard in the fall. Heady and inviting, and this is when he’s nervous, uncomfortable, looking around a strange Alpha’s house. Now Bucky has to worry what he smells like when he’s happy, contented. Worry about wanting Steve to smell happy and contented.
After they agreed on the rent and a move date Bucky arranges for a new mattress. Gets a decent deal through Dum-Dum, from his furniture store. He makes fun of Bucky for being so fussy when he brings the mattress over the following day. But graciously helps Bucky get it up the stairs and into the bed frame. Dum-Dum also brings along a small bedside cabinet, a mirror, and some curtains. Shrugging as he pulls them down from the bed of the truck and carries them into the house.
“Just some stuff left in the back of the warehouse.”
Bucky flushes, ashamed that he has to rely on handouts and even more embarrassed that he even cares about making Steve’s room look nice. He doesn’t say anything when he and Dum-Dum fix up the curtain rail. After they are done he slaps Bucky on the back and announces that “this’ll do you good, Barnes.”
Bucky tries to not think about that statement too much.
A day later Mrs. Henderson from three doors down takes pity on him and gives him a set of sheets and pillowcases. When he comes to pick them up she also folds in a thick quilt. It’s old but looks well cared for.
“You can put up an Omega without proper bedding, were you raised in a barn, boy?”
Bucky just nods meekly and takes the offered bedding from her weathered hands. Terrified that suddenly the whole neighborhood will know that he has an Omega living in his spare room. Or worse thinking that he is trying something on with Steve.
He makes the bed to the best of his ability and hangs the mirror above the dresser. The room is still quite bare but not as depressing as it was when Steve first came over. He leaves the window open overnight, suddenly worried that all the work in the room would have left his scent behind and Steve would decide not move in.
They had agreed on a Wednesday and Bucky waits nervously the whole day, picking the scars over his elbow and resisting the urge to check on Steve’s room one more time now that it has been aired out.
He can see the taxi cab stopping at the curb through the sitting room window. Steve gets out with two suitcases and a battered-looking cardboard box. Bucky helps him carry the box up the stairs, but only after much arguing that Steve could manage on his own.
Steve stops in the doorway of the room, surprised and looking around owlishly.
“Oh. I was gonna get the stuff.”
Bucky shrugs aiming for nonchalance and puts the box on top of the dresser.
“A buddy of mine owns a furniture store. It’s fine.”
He fidgets with the edge of his t-shirt once his hands are free, not sure what to do now. His left hand is shaking and he tries to shove it into his jeans pocket, missing it for the first few tries. Steve runs his fingers over Mrs. Henderson’s quilt, it’s made of blue and white squares, a checkered pattern. There is a gentle smile on his face and it makes Bucky’s breath catch, uncomfortable in his chest.
He leaves Steve to unpack, hiding in the sitting room behind rows of paint cans, laying down the protective sheets on the floor. He listens to Steve pottering upstairs, his steady footfalls on the creaky floorboards and reminds himself to get them fixed. The turpentine smell of the paints disguises any lingering scent around him.
At first, it's just an impulse at the market the next day. Steve’s just moved in and Bucky can’t stop himself from thinking about the two sad-looking suitcases and a cardboard box forlorn in the room.
So he buys more food than he needs just for one. Definitely enough for two. New season asparagus, potatoes, onions. A nice bit of oxtail and pig's cheeks. Nothing he wouldn't buy for himself. Just more. He also buys a pie, a real nice lattice one. Apple. He wonders if Steve likes apples and then scoffs at himself, everyone likes apples. It’s a nice thing to do for a new tenant.
Steve’s settled in alright. He got a small desk and a chair from the used goods store on the day he moved in and Bucky had felt terrible for not realizing that he would need a desk to work on. He’d tried to make it up by helping Steve carry everything up the stairs and then made everything worse by standing in the doorway awkwardly until Steve had started to fidget.
So, food. As a proper welcome. Getting Steve to eat what he’s bought turns out to be a harder task. He doesn’t want to outright say it, he’s not Steve’s Alpha, he’s not supposed to be providing for Steve. Instead, he makes up a story about having credit with the grocers that had to be used up. Steve gives him a slow, considering look but sits down for dinner eventually.
After three weeks of buying food for two, Bucky has stopped giving excuses and Steve still eats everything he buys. He has to eventually admit to himself that it’s not just about making Steve feel welcome.
* * *
Steve’s happy, happier than he had been since his ma passed away and their house had been sold from under him just because he couldn't inherit. It had started the merry-go-round of friends’ couches and Omega boarding houses.
So he’s enjoying the stability and the freedom of no one watching his comings and goings. He’d tested the waters in the first week. Stayed out till 3am in some underground Omega dive bar with Sharon. Bucky had been asleep when he got home and in the morning there had been eggs and bacon and sourdough in the kitchen for his sore head.
Bucky had teased him good-naturedly about being a party animal and some of the fear had eased in Steve’s chest.
The food buying had been a concern at first. Steve had looked out for possessive Alpha behavior but Bucky had continued to be easy-going and never queried his comings and goings beyond a polite chit chat. Eventually, Steve accepted that maybe Bucky just didn’t want to eat alone. He’d mentioned growing up in a large family and maybe the shared mealtimes reminded him of them.
So, Steve is happy, and at first, it just seems like a nice thing to do. Something to repay Bucky’s kindness.
He’s making lunch for himself anyway so why not put something together for Bucky too. He’s been working in the fourth upstairs bedroom all morning, sanding the floor. So Steve puts together a cheese and bacon sandwich with a few of the leftover tomatoes and boils an egg. Pours out a glass of juice.
Bucky looks bewildered and thankful when Steve takes him the meal. Steve tries not to look, but he can’t help himself. A wide V of sweat gluing Bucky’s t-shirt to his back, the way his arms flex as he moves the tools to the side, making space for the plate. A scent of happy Alpha as he tucks into the sandwich and makes a pleased grunt.
It becomes a bit of habit after that. Taking him lunch when he’s working on the house. Putting something together for Bucky to take to work on the mornings he goes to the garage early. It’s only practical as Steve is making things for himself too. Maybe he sometimes gets up to make Bucky lunch when he doesn’t need to make anything for himself, but no one needs to know about those times.
Later in the spring Steve finds some rhubarb in the back of the garden, clearly planted there by the previous owner. It’s still small but bolstered by the rains and the recent warmer weather. He clears out some of the weeds around it and looks for some rhubarb recipes in the library when he is returning his reference books for the Peterson’s Printer advert job. Not that drawing inkpots is particularly challenging.
He writes the recipes on little cards and puts them in a box in the kitchen waiting for summer. Slowly over the weeks there are more things like that, things of his that make their way to the kitchen or the window sill of the dining room. The ugly little garden gnome that he’d kept all these years from his ma’s little garden now sits on the back porch by the lopsided stairs. He’s seen Bucky right it up after it had been knocked down by a particularly harsh gust of wind.
It’s an ordinary day in late April when everything changes. He’s making a chicken sandwich, leftovers from the roast. The sourdough is already a bit stale but the sauce gives it a bit of a lift. Steve knows how to make staples stretch.
Bucky’s in the sitting room, painting the ceilings. Steve lays the plate and glass of juice and the sandwich on the sheet covered table as always, minding the paint cans and brushes as Bucky descends down from the ladder. Flexes of paint adorn his arms and cover his fingers.
He smiles, looking at the spread appreciatively.
“Oh wow, thank you, Steve.”
Bucky always sounds surprised, no matter how many times Steve brings him lunch. He leans closer, wiping his hands on a rag, looking at what Steve has made for him this time. This is the moment Steve likes best, seeing how pleased Bucky is. For a brief moment he gets to pretend that he has pleased his Alpha. Revel in the happy scent.
“This looks great!”
And then he pats Steve on the butt. His hand is firm and warm and Steve can feel himself flushing at the contact. It’s proprietary and intimate. Bucky suddenly seems to realize what he’s done, yanking his hand back like it’s been burned.
“I’m so sorry! I don’t know why I did that!”
Steve ducks his head, trying to hide his blush and mortification at Bucky’s reaction. At his own blush and the tightness at the base of his spine. Why would an Alpha like Bucky want to touch someone like Steve anyway?
“It’s okay, don’t worry about it.”
“No, seriously, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me. Been inhaling too many paint fumes.”
Steve waves him off, trying to smile and escapes from the room with the excuse of his own lunch. He eats silently in the kitchen hoping that Bucky won’t come and find him. Won’t come over and talk to him and touch him again. Won’t lean over and apologize again with a hand over Steve’s back, the spicy, smoky smell of him enveloping Steve.
He thinks about Bucky’s hand later too, late in the evening, in his own bed. He thinks about the warm hand staying on his ass, sliding over the swell of muscle and in between his legs, fingers pressing up until Bucky would feel his slick.
He thinks about Bucky opening the buckle of his belt and sliding Steve’s slacks down his thighs. Thinks about bending over the canvas-covered table, pushing the paint cans aside. Of how Bucky’s fingers would feel sliding over his hole, of how wet he would be for Bucky.
How Bucky would slide his hand to Steve’s neck, hold him down as he would push in, fucking long and slow, easing his knot past Steve’s rim. He would be gentle, telling Steve how pretty he looked.
He comes with three fingers in his ass and a tight grip on the head of his cock.
It’s a nice fantasy but Steve knows that Bucky would never do that. He seemed horrified enough by just accidentally touching Steve.
* * *
The heady scent of omega arousal floats in the hallway, almost like a solid presence when Bucky comes out of the bathroom. The low whine floats through the wall as Steve pleasures himself. Bucky leans against it, the structure that separates them. Wishing more than anything that he could open that door and join in.
He’d been so careful, never wanting Steve to feel that he expected anything, always thanking him and never taking anything for granted. He’d hoped, wondered that maybe Steve might have started to see him differently, and now he’d managed to treat Steve like some two-bit house Omega.
Suddenly Steve whines, high pitched and needy and Bucky tears into his own room, pressing the door closed. Leaning his forehead against the rough wood.
He's harsh with himself, squeezing the knot and working his hand dry over the head of his cock. Thinking how wet Steve must still be in the other room. Lax and worn out.
He thinks about the lunches and the swell of Steve’s ass. He thinks about going downstairs to the kitchen as Steve is preparing his food. Thinks about falling to his knees behind Steve and pulling down his slacks and underpants. Opening the tight cheeks of his ass and burying his mouth on Steve’s hole. He would be wet already, just from Bucky’s scent in the room.
He thinks about licking that heady slick, pushing his tongue into Steve’s body as he moans and forgets all about making sandwiches. Whining and coming all over himself with Bucky’s tongue in his body. He comes with the heady smell of Steve stuck in the back of his throat, the ghost of that whine rushing in his ears.
He falls asleep on top of the covers, shivering and guilty.
He wakes up in the sitting room, knuckles white and grasped tightly around the dirty sheets, held tightly to his chest. The smell of turpentine and paint. The echo of the ghost pain down his arm and over his back.
A gentle and kind Omega scent in the room, coming closer. Warm hands on his shoulders and he buries his face in the crook of neck and shoulder, breathing in. Apple blossoms and a summer orchard breeze.
A corresponding touch on his neck, a gentle touch of a cold nose and warm cheek on his skin. The balled-up sheets still between them, separating their bodies. He knows he shouldn’t run his nose and lips up the soft column of Steve’s throat, or nuzzle the scent glands just under the hinge of Steve’s jaw. Shouldn’t listen to the soft, startled exhale.
Then the gentle and hesitant reciprocity, Steve’s lips on the skin of his neck and nose wedged into his jaw. The quick, sharp inhale that Bucky can feel against his chest even though the balled-up sheets.
He doesn’t know how long they stand there. In the dark. At some point, Steve must have taken him back to his room and he must have slept because he wakes up with the sunlight in his own bed. Steve’s scent still clinging to his clothes.
Steve doesn’t say anything the next morning and Bucky doesn’t know how to bring it up. So he makes coffee, strong and black. They drink it together in the early morning light spilling in through the new windows in the dining room.
Neither of them say anything at all.