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“I agree that it would be a better reason, don’t you think?” Bucky questioned casually, flicking his finger against the front of the counter in front of him. There was a form in front of him with little ticky boxes asking his gender and it felt like Greg was asking a question without coming right out and asking it. “But no, I’m just the asshole best friend who accidentally touched a glowy stick Gandolf the Grey and Oozing was aiming at the Slayer’s head, and here I am.  Slaying.  What was the question again?”

 

“Did you want to join our loyalty club?  Buy 9 magical items and get the 10th free.”

 

“No,” Bucky answered, deeply affronted.  “Ain’t no one got time for that shit.  Didn’t you hear me? I accidentally became the Slayer after touching a glowy stick.  Don’t you know how time-consuming that is?”

 

“I’m sure it’s very time consuming,” the Grihhij Demon nodded voraciously in Bucky’s direction, either agreeing with him or trying to eat his hair as a snack.  Bucky thought that hair was the Grihhij Demon’s food of choice.  It was either hair or skin.

 

He was hoping hair.

 

Though, he was very fond of his hair.  It was finally long enough that he could tie it back from his face.  Slaying with loose hair had been a pain in the ass, but his appearance in the mirror told him it was worth the effort.

 

If Bucky was going to die any day now, he was going to look great while doing it.

 

He didn’t want to have to slay Greg if the demon made a move to eat Bucky’s hair.

 

Not that he thought Greg would eat him.  Bucky might not be a loyalty member, but he was a damn good customer.  Stakes took longer to whittle than he ever wanted to spend holding wood unless it was his dick.  He leaned against the counter while Greg rummaged through the cabinet for the silver tipped bolts Bucky had special ordered.  “It’s not all fun and games.  Do you know how hard it is to do a high kick while wearing skinny jeans?  These things are really tight.”

 

“I didn’t realize you were wearing pants.”

 

Grihhij Demons: not so good at telling clothing from skin.  Bucky made a special mental note about that one.

 

“Well I am and they’re no picnic,” Bucky griped.  He looked down at the form in front of him.  “I do buy a lot of magical items,” he mused.

 

“You do.”

 

“I come here all the time anyway,” he continued.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Does a loyalty membership in a demon establishment come with any terms and conditions, like I can’t shop anywhere else or I owe you my first born?”

 

Greg nodded. 

 

“Well, that sucks,” Bucky admitted, looking down at the paperwork to see exactly what people were promising.  Yep.  Skin.  “Sell many?”

 

“A few.”

 

“Greg, buddy.  I liked this place,” Bucky cajoled, raising his hands as he gestured around him.  “There is zero ambiance.  It is what it is.  It’s going to be tough to find that again when so many of these places are dressed up as a novelty shop, but if you’re going to eat the skin of anyone who breaks this contract with you, I’m going to have to slay you.”

 

“You are an asshole,” Greg answered, and Bucky thought he was scowling as he took out a box of contracts and dumped them in the trash.

 

“I’m glad we understand each other,” Bucky told him.

 

“I was looking forward to eating all your chins,” Greg told him with regret, in what Bucky was sure was a compliment, somehow.

 

“What?” Bucky questioned, bringing his hand up to his face.  Grihhij Demons: not so good at telling clothing from skin.  “You mean my scarf?” he finally questioned incredulously.

 

Maybe it was time to ease back on the Brooklynite in autumn look Bucky sported year round if Grihhij Demons were starting to think Bucky’s scarves were food.

 

~

 

It wasn't so much that Brooklyn was a bastion of hell as it was that New York City at large contained a high percentage of people who wanted to 1. become successful, or 2. disappear. Bucky hadn't met a vampire (or whatever) that didn't either want to 1. succeed in their nefarious plans, or 2. prey on people looking to disappear.  New York City was the perfect place to do both.

 

Then they figured out that the island of Manhattan was expensive to live in, too expensive unless they were well-connected or wealthy vampires, and they harked over to Brooklyn to prey on middle class hipsters and lurk in the poorer areas where people disappeared all the time.  Bucky laughed every time he came across one of those teen novels glamorizing vampirism in Manhattan, because the reality of it was far less glamorous.  Take away all the feeding on people parts and all the evil scourge of the night parts of being a vampire, and what was left was a person with the same faculties they had while alive, and a lot less care for social mores like exchanging money.

 

There were far more vampires living in old mausoleums and abandoned subway stations than there were on the upper east side, that was for damned sure.  They couldn't make it in Manhattan and seemed to immediately think Brooklyn was their answer.

 

Not on his watch.  Manhattan could completely fall to vampire control so long as none of them stepped foot into Brooklyn.  Brooklyn was his.  Barneses had been living there long enough that they went to the first Brooklyn Excelsiors game in 1854.  The Barneses had been in Brooklyn then, and they sure as hell would be in Brooklyn after Bucky was gone and dead.

 

(Bucky had this weird feeling he'd someday come face to face with a long-dead relative risen from the grave.) 

 

(it could happen - that's how long the Barnes family had been in Brooklyn.)


If Bucky was being a total bitter Brooklynite about it, he was a new generation of Barnes.  He'd bought into the idea of hard work and education being the way to succeed in the borough he grew up in, and now he was barely surviving in a Brooklyn with higher rents and more inherent irony.

But then, Bucky was the Vampire Slayer, so his life was defined in ironies.

 

~

 

Bucky worked from home on most days, which suited his schedule as much as possible when protecting Brooklyn from assholes and idiots with mystical powers was already a full time job.  Being a virtual fashion assistant wasn't exactly where he saw himself ending up at age 16, but he already had one calling, he didn’t expect his life to be 100% fulfilling. 

 

He was sitting in front of his computer waiting for a little chime to tell him his services were needed when a story on the news caught his attention.  It wasn't so much the story itself as it was the caption: World War II Hero Risen from an Icy Grave.

 

Bucky turned the sound up, giving the figure on screen a suspicious glance.  The words 'risen from the grave' never meant anything good, especially when mainstream media was talking about it.

 

He recognized the costume first.

 

Captain America squinted against the sun, raising his arm to shield his eyes.  He looked uncomfortable and angry as the camera zoomed in on his face.  "I don't have anything further to say," he snapped at the camera.  "You try to put me off guard by placing the sun directly in my eyes, drop sly insults about my team, and then question me about nuances for politics that have been developing since the Second World War, as though the three weeks since I've woken up are sufficient time to learn almost 70 years of history.  So when I say I have nothing further to say on the subject, I suggest you back up and let me pass."

 

Bucky's feet fell off his coffee table in shock.  "Holy shit," he said to the room at large.  "Captain America is a vampire."

 

Sun sensitivity?

 

Waking up after 70 years?

 

Totally, 100% a vampire.

 

(or, Bucky would concede, maybe a demon).

 

"Cool," he said, again to an empty room where no one could witness the glee he was currently experiencing as he grabbed a notebook and wrote across the top of a fresh page: 

 

Ways to Slay Captain America (if he's a vampire or a demon from hell):

#1, Bucky wrote with a cackle, with a flag pole.

#2...

~

 

Everything was in theory, really.  Bucky wasn't going to go out of his way to slay Captain America, not unless Captain America stepped foot in Brooklyn. Captain America was a national icon, and as far as Bucky could tell, the man actually did save lives.  

 

If one or two people disappeared every time Captain America saved hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of people, where did that come down in terms of morality?

 

Bucky did not want to be the person to answer that.  Captain America seemed to be spending all of his time in Manhattan fighting aliens and hanging out with Tony Stark, so with any luck it would never be up to Bucky to make that decision.

 

Let the Slayer in Manhattan take care of it.

~

 

"The problem with that," Natasha informed him after Bucky told her his solution to the moral dilemma that was Captain America as a vampire, staring down at Bucky's kill-list and making a few annotations in the margins, "is that not only was Captain America created in Brooklyn, Steve Rogers was born here.  Brooklyn might be all that man has left."

 

Bucky crossed his arms over his chest.  "Are you saying that I'm going to have to slay Captain America because he considers this place home and will probably come back?"

 

"When the only four legged creature you've ever seen is a dog, it's hard to identify a cat for what it is."

 

"Both carnivores," he pointed out.

 

"So are a lot of things," Natasha responded with sage wisdom that made Bucky want to punch her in the face.

 

He sighed, running his hands through his hair.  "Are you saying that I might not have to slay Captain America at all because he might have the outward appearance of being my kind of problem, but he might be something new and different and good?" Bucky asked, giving the last word sarcastic emphasis.  “Or old and different as the case may be.”

 

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that,” she told him in a mild tone.  “Your instincts are good, so rely on them."

 

Hers were better.  Bucky's instincts were hard-won through survival.  There had always been a certain edge that Natasha had, back when she was Slayer, that had been so much more.  It was part of the reason, Bucky thought secretly, that slayers were always women.  Women were born into a world where they needed to have an edge of awareness and perception of danger.  Bucky saved just as many people from being mugged and raped as he did from vampire attacks.  He was no longer surprised by what people would do to other people.

 

But he had been, once.  He’d needed to have his eyes opened. That was the difference.

 

~

 

Captain America came to live in Brooklyn two years after Bucky's initial realization, so Bucky pulled on his blackest scarf to help hide his face and went out into the cool autumn air to find the man.  Captain America was nothing if not conspicuous, leaving a trail of good deeds in his wake.  Bucky watched him pay forward a sandwich, help someone with their groceries, stop to play chess with one of the old chess masters in the park (and win jfc), and pause to help put a tricky valve back on a fire hydrant.

 

The last one made the man’s tight shirt so wet it was practically translucent.  Bucky was not the only one who noticed.  Captain America caused a minor fender bender when he turned to observe traffic, and then he made his way over to make sure the occupants of the cars were ok.

 

Slayer sight was a fucking blessing sometimes.  He could see the beads of water from a block away, and he had a sudden sympathy for Grihhij Demons not being able to distinguish skin from clothing, because on Captain America there was barely a distinction.

 

Maybe that was his shtick, Bucky considered.  Lure people in with kindness and a nice face before eating them.  Bucky had never seen a vampire who could actually pull that one off.  It was new.

 

~

 

#4: paint a crossbow bolt red/white/blue

 

~

 

“What is he wearing that’s enchanted?” Natasha questioned, but it was more of an observation, something designed specifically to make him stop and actually consider the answer. “There has to be a reason he can be outside during the day.”

 

That was an excellent point, because as far as he could tell, Captain America was completely unadorned of any gaudy jewellery pieces.  Maybe someone had wised up and stopped enchanting such ugly and obvious bling.  But then, Bucky had gotten a pretty good look at the man’s chest during the Fire Hydrant Incident and so he could say with almost 98% certainty it wasn’t a necklace.  He’d have to get Captain America naked to know for sure that there wasn’t an anklet or a piercing of some kind hidden by his pants.

 

“I don’t know yet,” Bucky answered, and his fingers were quick around the knitting needles in his hands.  Deftness of finger mobility was important in slaying, when the one thing standing between Bucky and death was how rapidly he could weld a stake or put a bolt into his crossbow.

 

Bucky could do both of those things with ease.

 

He could also knit a sweater without really watching his fingers to make sure he didn’t drop a stitch.  Most Slayers were natural at it, but Bucky had some mobility issues that predated his calling.  Putting his hand around things he shouldn’t touch?  It was kind of a thing for him.

 

Natasha’s gaze was so direct, Bucky ended up watching what he was doing anyway, if only to avoid her eyes and the censure in them that he wasn’t thinking this out with more detail.  “What happened to ‘rely on my instincts?’”

 

“Is it your instincts or your stubbornness at this point?” Natasha questioned.  She was reassembling Bucky’s crossbow, movements deft and practiced.  Natasha was the only person Bucky would let close to any of his weapons, and even though he trusted that she knew what she was doing, he’d still have the compulsion to check them over after she left.

 

“Both,” Bucky admitted.  “But remember the Kj’orti demon in 2012?  No one believed that my Slayer Senses were tingling then, either.”

 

“You’re that sure in Captain America that you’re finally saying I told you so for 2012?”

 

“I guess I am.”


~

 

It took Bucky two evenings of watching Captain America run at 3 am to understand the pattern.  It was easy enough to climb onto one of the fire escapes in the alley the Captain used as a shortcut to the park and wait for him.  Despite the warm front that moved in and made the fall air feel like the tail end of summer during the day, it was still cool enough at night that his dark jacket was just as much for warmth as it was for helping him blend into the shadows.  Bucky was good at going unnoticed.  He could hold still for long periods of time until the eye was tricked into seeing him as part of scenery, even in the rare cases where someone saw him move into position.  When Bucky was waiting for his own prey, he could be very, very patient.

 

What the Slayer abilities did was make it so his muscles and joints rarely tightened painfully, rarely cramped or fell asleep.  The Slayer abilities made it so that Bucky could strike in an instant after being inert for extended periods of time.

 

It took about twenty minutes before he heard Captain America approach.  The light quickness to his footsteps, the speed, the lack of the sound of hard breathing told Bucky that it was the right person before he had visual confirmation.  Bucky timed the approach perfectly, dropping down in front of Captain America as he rounded the corner.

 

Bucky landed in a crouch, straightening his posture as Captain America stopped with the suddenness of enhanced abilities.  Bucky crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes, aiming for an intimidating warning. "Brooklyn is my domain," he threatened.  "Someone should have warned you not to mess with the Brooklyn Slayer."

 

Captain America narrowed his eyes at Bucky, his jaw squaring. "I don't give into threats from the mob," he answered, brushing past Bucky to move further into the alley.  He was completely uncowed.  "I recommend not pushing me.  I didn't put up with it in the 30s and I sure as hell have a lot more strength these days."

 

"Mob," Bucky sputtered.  "I'm the Slayer."

 

Captain America's eyes narrowed in response.  "I'm watching you."

 

"I'm watching you first!" Bucky yelled after Steve's retreating back.  Jesus Christ.

 

~

 

#8: With a telephone cord (note: find a telephone with a cord??? Museum maybe?)

 

~

 

"Most of your kind doesn't bother with caffeine," Bucky said, sidling up next to Captain America in line at the cafe he typically frequented when trying to stay awake on evenings after he'd been awake for approximately 56 hours.  Slayer adrenaline could really only account for so much before he started hallucinating.  Was Captain America stalking him in return, now? 

 

It had been a while since one of the vampires had given Bucky a challenge. 

 

"Superheroes?" Steve questioned in confusion.  "What kind of slur are you implying?  Is it because I'm bisexual?" he said the word tentatively, like he wasn't sure about the proper pronunciation or context or had never said it out loud before. "I can assure you that we exist and we drink coffee."

 

"No," Bucky answered immediately in a hot tone before the question really hit him. 

 

Holy shit, what?  Sex with Captain America was actually on the table of life choices Bucky could make?  Most slayers had at least one fail-choice dalliance, but Bucky hadn't really met a vampire who was attractive enough to bypass the grossness of it all in his brain.

 

Until now.

 

Yeah, he could definitely get behind fucking Captain America.

 

But while Bucky was considering that, Captain America's tirade was picking up steam.  "I was told that people might have issue with it.  When I got out of the ice I was led to believe that things were better, but so far I've been disappointed.  The so-called 21st Century is... if I hear one more person explain to me why better than the 40s is a valid measurement for progress, I'll...” he took a breath. “I have better things to do than listen to homophobic rhetoric."

 

"Hey!" Bucky answered, indignant.  "I'm gay and I would never... it's not a slur against your sexuality," which, holy shit, Captain America was bi! Bucky was totally going to not think about that too closely.   "It's because you're a - you know - " Bucky continued, putting his fingers up to his mouth in an approximation of fangs.  "Blood sucker."

 

"I've earned everything I have," Captain America retorted and seemed to bristle with fury.  "Back in my day Brooklyn was a lot cheaper to live in, accounting for inflation, and I work hard to keep living here.  I never took the back-pay money if that's what you're talking about."

 

"Hey," Bucky found himself saying again, hands up to show he was unarmed, even with his wits.  "I ain't talking about money. You're preaching to the choir here.  Brooklyn is fucking expensive these days.  It's because you're a vampire."

 

"You're lucky there are families around or I would punch you for that," Captain America said in a low, furious tone.  

 

Okaaay then.  “No, pal, you’re the lucky one,” Bucky threatened back, looking around the café.  This place hadn’t been frequented by middle class families the last time he’d been there, had it?  Goddamn gentrification.

 

Bucky huffed but stayed in line for his coffee, because hell if he was going to allow Captain America to intimidate him into leaving without a caffeine boost.  Bucky was the one threatening him!  The Captain seemed to bristle at Bucky’s continued presence, standing in a reflective fury that broadcasted his anger at Bucky through the set of his shoulders.  Both of them stood there with sour expressions on their faces for a good fifteen minutes, too stubborn to leave.

 

Captain America got his coffee first, black like his undead soul, his expression a tight scowl when he turned at saw that Bucky was still watching him.

 

What a fucking asshole.

 

~

 

"What evil has been lurking around Brooklyn these nights?"  Sam’s question was mild.  They had a rapport, Sam and him, that went beyond all the times Bucky directed homeless vets to the VA before they became food to a vampire.  Bucky had helped save Sam ages ago, back when Natasha had been the Slayer – of course, Nat had done most of the heavy lifting in that instance, but Bucky had been there hiding behind the counter with Sam as she took out some kind of acidic demon that burned to touch.  He’d been the one who reached out with his left hand and grabbed the tentacle before it had wrapped around Sam’s neck.

 

So Bucky and Sam had a rapport.

 

"Captain America is bi," Bucky blurted out.

 

"What?" Sam questioned, choking on his tea.  "Have you been fucking Captain America rather than patrolling for vampires?"

 

Ha! That was laughable.  The man hated Bucky so much that Bucky had waved at him from across the street the other day and had gotten the middle finger in return.  He’d witnessed a mugger pull a gun on a little old lady in front of Captain America once and the man hadn’t even raised his voice.

 

"No!  He is a vampire! But he's also bi, and believe me I wish that didn't matter to me either, but now I'm considering making him my bad-decision fuck.  Each Slayer is entitled to embrace their dark side every now and again."

 

"Captain America is a vampire?" Sam questioned, and his face did that squinty thing he did when he didn't believe what he was hearing.  Since Sam was a pragmatic kind of guy, that happened with almost every conversation he had with Bucky that wasn't related to sports.  The day they met, Bucky had assumed that was just his face.

 

Bucky shrugged.  "I haven't caught him with his mouth red, so to speak, but how else do you explain his miraculous recovery from the ice?  Either he's a vampire or he's some kind of demon."

 

"Haven't you read the comic books?  A history book?"

 

"Propaganda to hide the truth," Bucky answered with a dismissive wave of his hand.  "He might not necessarily be evil.  That's happened, what?  Once? In the whole time I've been doing this."

 

"He might not be evil?" Sam echoed.

 

"He might not be," Bucky repeated.

 

"I hope he isn't," Sam observed.  "How are you going to get away with slaying Captain America?"

 

Bucky thought the more pressing concern was how he'd stop from trying to get into Captain America's pants if he wasn't an evil scourge of the night.  "Either way I'm going to put a piece of wood in him."  Bucky wiggled his eyebrows.

 

"I know you think you're being clever, but think about it seriously for a moment.  The man is a National treasure. The amount of people who will be up in arms over him disappearing is astronomical.  You'll have SHIELD breathing down your neck, because if they're aware he's a vampire, they definitely know the Slayer exists.  Tony Stark counts him as a close, personal friend.  Brooklyn loves him as his own.  Do you want to disappoint all of Brooklyn?"

 

"All of those hipsters are so over Captain America.  He was cool when it was 1945, but now it’s 2015 so they're over it."

 

All those hipsters?” Sam levelled a sarcastic look in his direction. "How many scarves are you wearing right now?"

 

"Three, but I'm cold so only one is for decoration."

 

Sam put his fingers up to his forehead like he was completely done with Bucky's shit.

 

~

 

"Why can't any of you assholes do this in Manhattan?" Bucky questioned, starring down from the top of a mausoleum in Green-Wood. There was a creepy stone cherub pressing against his calf, and Bucky was absolutely no Michelangelo painting, but he had the avenging stance down to an art-form.

 

(he didn't practice it.)

 

(he didn't.)

 

(a Slayer had to have a good stance with a sword, just saying, for slaying purposes.)

 

(not because it made him look cool.)

 

"Do what?" the nearest asshole questioned, and his hands with coated in...

 

Dirt.

 

"Jesus Christ," Bucky emphasized with a heavy sigh and a roll of his eyes.  "Are you robbing that grave?"

 

"It's two in the morning and I have a shovel," Asshole #2 snarked back.  "What else would we be doing?"

 

"Buddy," Bucky answered.  "You have no fucking idea the shit you could be up to. I should just leave you to your fate, but I'm going to do you a favor and save your dumb lives by calling the cops."

 

"I wouldn't," Asshole #1 said, pulling out a gun and aiming it at Bucky.

 

What was it with people and guns?  Bucky blamed the government.

 

"Are you serious right now?"  Bucky questioned with a sigh.  "Don't make this harder than it has to be."

 

“Dead serious,” the thug answered, and then he shot Bucky.

 

Bucky didn’t really remember moving, working more on instinct and adrenalin than he was forethought, but he could feel the graze in his side scream with every movement he made.  It took a lot less time to disarm two dumb humans than it did to go up against a vampire, but Bucky was also looking to leave the two of them alive, so it took a lot more care.

 

In the end, both of them were tied up next to the grave and Bucky had his hand clamped over his side.  He could feel the blood against his fingers, the body temperature warmth of it making him second guess how badly he was bleeding until the cool air chilled his hand.  He fucking hated being shot.

 

"I gotta ask," Bucky said, holding the handgun steadily at the two graverobbers. Bucky had a secret that wasn’t something he was actually secretive about so much as he very rarely got to show it off in the context of his night job.  Bucky was hella good with projectile weapons.  He said as much to the thugs, but they didn’t seem as concerned by Bucky holding a gun than they should have been.  Bucky could kill someone with his little finger.  He deserved more respect than that.  "Did you need a body part for a spell? Were you resurrecting someone? Something?  What was the aim here?"

 

"We were going to pawn stuff off for cash."

 

Humans.  Seriously.

 

"Here?" Bucky questioned incredulously, gesturing around at the old gravestones around them. "No one here had money."

 

"It used to be a status thing," Asshole #2 pointed out.  "Live on Fifth Avenue and then rot over here on this side of the river."

 

"That makes sense," Bucky mused, playing dumb.  Bucky spent a fucking lot of time in Green-Wood.  Way too much.  He knew that a lot of the bags of bones used to be someone grand, based on their burials.  The richer they were, the more likely they had some vampire squatting in their mausoleum.  What Bucky had meant was this section of the cemetery, where the grave markers were small or absent entirely.  What dumb fucks these assholes were.  "You read that on Wikipedia?"

 

"Yes," the man answered defiantly. 

 

~

 

The thing of it was, as Bucky was holding that weapon and waiting for the cops to show up, his hand pressed tightly against his side as the bleeding eased faster than it would in a normal human, he was almost sure he could feel someone watching him.

 

When he turned to look, no one was there.

 

Bucky being watched was never a good thing.

 

~

 

#14: steal the shield. Decapitation from own weapon. Keep shield?? Paint black.

 

~

Bucky had to twist his wrist, viciously ripping the stake out of the chest cavity.  He hated it when he missed the heart, when he had to retrieve his weapon and try again, because the first time the vampire was always taken by surprise, so used to being at the top of the food chain that it didn't even consider the possibility that Bucky would succeed.  The second time?  The second time was slightly harder, despite the wound he inflicted.  The vampire was more wary and now had the added fuel of anger.  He tried again quickly, not allowing it to have time to regroup.  This time his stake hit home, striking through the ribs and into the heart.  The man disintegrated violently, turning to ash around the stake in Bucky's hand.

 

He wasn't sure if he was more tired than he thought or if that bunch of vampires had been stronger than usual, but his muscles ached from being thrown against the side of a dumpster, the metal taking the shape of his shoulder.  Bucky stood from a crouch, breathing a bit harder than usual.  Stands of his hair had come loose from the top-knot he kept it in, tickling against the side of his face.

 

The poor victim groaned and turned over.  Bucky startled, rearing backwards and almost tripping over the crate he had managed to avoid while taking on five vampires.  There had been times, of course, when he'd gotten there just at the nick of time to save the human being fed on, but with five vampires gathered around the body and the way they seemed to have to work at drawing more blood from the arteries when Bucky had arrived, he'd written the man off for dead.

 

"Fuck," Bucky said with feeling as the man steadily exhaled.  Bucky watched him sit up with the sound of someone used to dealing with pain, fingers going to a jagged, open bite on his neck that was oozing blood down the hollow of his throat and soaking the collar of his shirt.

 

"Shit," the man said, looking up at Bucky with an expression that was far more resigned than panicked as he applied pressure to his own neck wound.

 

And that was when Bucky recognized him.  Slayer sight was fantastic at night, but there was city-dark and then there was back-corner-of-an-alley dark where it was difficult to tell blond hair from brown hair.  Anyone who had ever held a conversation with Captain America would never be able to mistake his voice (or the mullish set of his jaw) when he spoke.  So yes, Bucky recognised him.

 

Fuck and shit was right.

 

"Here," Bucky said, shrugging off his hoodie. He knelt beside the Captain and offered the wadded cotton gingerly, waiting for permission before touching the man. "Let me help with that."

 

Captain America nodded his consent, removing his fingers.  They came away coated in blood, and Steve seemed to be staring at it as Bucky quickly pressed his sweater against the wound.  It looked less ragged than it had a few moments before.  "I can't tell you," Bucky said conversationally, "how often the only thing that's stood between me and death is the fact I'm hard to hurt and heal quicker than normal."

 

Steve's hand came up to help Bucky hold the sweater in place - he was Steve now, Bucky couldn't keep him removed by referring to him as Captain America in his head.  "When you said," Steve started to say and then paused, the words slurring slightly.  "Vampire.  You meant..."

 

"Vampire," Bucky affirmed. 

 

"And you thought I was?"

 

"I still think you're something." Bucky didn't really believe in playing games like pretending he wasn't suspicious of someone.  "But I'm also not going to let you bleed out in the back of an alley."

 

Steve snorted like that was funny, far funnier than it deserved.  "It wouldn't be the first time I've almost died in this particular alley."

 

"You'd think you'd have learned, then," Bucky remarked.  "Can you hold this in place on your own? I want to check your other wounds."

 

Steve's neck had taken the brunt of the attack. The wounds in his thigh muscles had the added protection of his jeans, and the one on his wrist hadn't gone deep.  His thrashing made it more of a graze, and that followed with what Bucky had seen.  He'd wondered why it took five of them to hold the man down when one was usually sufficient. The other wounds seemed to knit in front of Bucky's eyes, blood staining the area around damage that didn't look severe enough for the amount of blood they’d spilled - he'd fought, it was obvious to Bucky's trained eyes, because usually a lot less blood was wasted with a vampire bite. "I wonder if your blood is more of a boost for them," Bucky mused out loud as he used the flashlight app on his cell phone to check Steve's pupils.  "I'd guess the one hardest to slay was probably the one who had the most to drink, but without knowing their baseline strength it's hard to tell."

 

Steve's eyes were watching him curiously as Bucky peeled back the wadded up hoodie to check the neck wound.  It wasn't good, but it was much better than it had been before the pressure.  

 

"The older they are, the stronger," Bucky explained to the unspoken question.  "Do you have someone you trust for me to call?  I can take you to the hospital."

 

"I live around the block," Steve answered in a dismissive tone, getting to his feet.  He swayed a bit, which was so normal it made Bucky jump to attention.  

 

Maybe Captain America was human after all.

 

He was definitely a liar.  Or was at least so used to understating things that he didn’t think much of underestimating how far away he lived.

 

A block? Laughable.

 

More like three and a half.

 

Normally that wouldn’t seem like a far distance, but they were so far from normal.  Steve seemed like the type of person who walked off most injuries, but he'd taken about 10 minutes to recover from the time Bucky found the vampires in the alley to the time when he stood.  If it took someone like Captain America 10 minutes to get to his feet, Bucky was sure that anyone else would be dead.

 

He was also sure that he wasn't going to let a disarmed national hero walk home alone, whether the man was a demon or not.  "Ok," Bucky said, pulling away from the wall he was leaning against.  "Let's go, then."

 

The expression on Steve's face was almost laughable, obviously realizing he was about to caught in a lie.  "I'm not an invalid," he answered with a stubborn expression.

 

"I never thought you were," Bucky responded, only just managing not to roll his eyes.  He totally thought that.  Jesus Fucking Christ, Steve Rogers and that chip on his shoulder.  Bucky barely knew the man and even he understood what was happening.  “Ease my conscience, though, won’t ya?”

 

Steve didn’t seem to be willing to do even that, if the way he walked out of the alley was any indication.

 

Bucky sighed, aggravated.  “Fine,” he hissed, following along behind Captain America like a sad little superhero parade.  Bucky was starting to think that maybe Captain America understood his own limits better than Bucky did, once the man walked three blocks without wavering once.  Then he just… didn’t.

 

Bucky watched as Steve sagged against the wrought iron fencing protecting a basement apartment from street level in the small residential area Steve lived in.  It was like the strings holding him up suddenly snapped.  “Ok,” Bucky said, stepping in before Captain America fell to the ground like a rag doll.  He had no idea if the man even knew Bucky had been following him, but he seemed to still conscious, which was a good sign. 

 

“I’ve been watching you, yanno,” Captain America slurred as Bucky tucked his fingers into the man’s pockets looking for his keys.  Dragging Captain America half a block after going up against five vampires wasn’t as hard as it used to be when Bucky had first started Slaying.  He wondered if his talents aged the same way a vampire’s did.  He’d tried to give them back to Natasha in the beginning, but she’d just laughed and told him she was enjoying her freedom.  Bucky understood that a lot more now that they’d had time to settle into his bones.  It was worrisome, thinking about the implications.  There was a weight to it that he carried around every day that not even his superior strength was equipped to handle.

 

“Have you?” Bucky questioned, snagging the keychain out of Steve’s pocket while keeping the man upright.  He wondered what Steve had seen.  Did he think Bucky a good man?

 

He nodded solemnly in response to Bucky’s question.  “I didn’t understand,” he said in a quiet tone.

 

“That’s ok,” Bucky responded, swinging Steve into his apartment.  He turned on the light, though he suspected neither of them needed it.  Steve remained quiet, but he moved his feet forward when Bucky navigated him through the small space.  Finding the couch was intuitive.  There were only so many places it could be.  It wasn’t because Bucky had been peeping in through windows.  Nope.  “I’m going to get you something to bring your blood sugar up.”

 

“I didn’t understand,” Steve repeated.

 

By the time Bucky was back with a juice box and a bag of trailmix – two things that told Bucky that maybe Captain America needed fast energy boosts at a constant rate – Steve was sitting up and blinking in the strong light.

 

Damn, the man regrouped fast.  “Here,” Bucky said, pushing the snacks at him.  “Or are you still too stubborn to accept help?”

 

Being scowled at by someone drinking from a bendy straw was a pretty hilarious situation.  “Are you sure there’s no one I can call?” he questioned.

 

~

 

 Captain America was watching him fight again, but this time Bucky thought it carried more appreciation than it had any of the other times.  He looked up right after pinning a vampire to meet Steve’s eyes.  “Are you just going to stand there and watch?”

 

Steve shrugged.  “You would, in my position.”

 

That was probably true.

 

"So," Steve started, tugging on the soft cotton wound around Bucky's neck.  His mouth was turned up into a slight grin.  "This seems to be insufficient neck protection from sharp teeth."

 

"It's a scarf," Bucky responded in a helpless manner.  "It's for warmth."

 

"I understand why you need it," Steve responded.  "Your shirt is so thin it can't be sufficiently insulating."

 

Exactly why Bucky needed it.

 

"At least it doesn't look painted on," Bucky retorted.  "I'd tug at your shirt for emphasis in return, but I'm worried it couldn't take the extra stress."

 

Steve hummed in response.  "Are the leather pants also for warmth?"

 

"Those are for protection," Bucky answered.

 

"Or," Steve continued, his mouth curling into a teasing smirk as he walked backwards towards the park entrance.  "Is it because you know how good they are for your legs?"

 

Well, it wasn’t like he knew he’d have an audience.

 

Suspected, sure.

 

Knew? Not so much.

 

"They're for protection!" Bucky yelled as Steve sauntered away.  "Steve, are you flirting with me?  Don't walk away from me when I asked you a question.  Do you know what else these pants are great for? My ass! You should be the one watching me walk away!  You're really missing out!"

 

"Desperate," the vampire pinned beneath Bucky’s knee pointed out.

 

"Shut up," Bucky answered.  "That was flirting, right?"

 

"Defi..." the vampire started to say just as Bucky's stake pierced his heart.

 

~

 

 #34: With my dick.