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Bucky didn’t understand why Steve was taking him to a charity dinner until he saw the name on the charity: Maria Stark. It didn’t surprise him that this outing was yet another part of Steve’s obsessive stalking, or that he’d never had any intention of doing something nice for Bucky, taking him somewhere he might enjoy just for his own sake. He was used to it. Very used to it. “Stevie, do we really have to do this? I mean, isn’t it better if you do it alone?”

“No way!” Steve said, with a too-bright smile. “Why would I go to some fancy dinner without my best pal?” Bucky sighed, deciding to just grin and bear it. Maybe if he was here, he could stall Steve’s murderous plans a little longer. It seemed fundamentally wrong somehow to slaughter a person at their own mother’s charity dinner.

Bucky spent the first portion of the evening pretending to be Steve’s friend who’d just happened to accompany him here. It was his go-to unless Steve told him otherwise. Pretending not to be a couple was old hat for them. Steve tended to resent it more than Bucky did, but he didn’t possess a lot of common sense when it came to not drawing attention to themselves. Take now, for example: Steve was chatting with a pleasantly plump lady with a toy Pomeranian tucked in her designer purse. Bucky knew exactly what Steve was planning. And so he got up from their table and wandered over.

“Oh, is that your dog? He’s so cute!” Bucky bent forward to coo over the poor inbred little thing, and the dog panted up at him with its long purple tongue lolling.

“This is my registered companion animal,” the woman said, defensively. “He’s a working dog, and travels with me everywhere.” Bucky felt a little sorry for her if she honestly believed this dog was even smart enough to retrieve a stick, much less act as an assist animal.

“That’s amaaazing,” Steve feigned interest. Poorly. His acting read the creepy side of fake. Fortunately (or not), Steve’s sphere of influence was strong. People always fell for him when he had his human mask on.

“Thank you,” the woman replied, as if Steve had just complimented her personally.

“Can I hold him?” Bucky asked, scooping the tiny animal out of her purse without waiting for an answer. He didn’t like the look in Steve’s eye.

The woman turned to him, indignant, but then stared at Bucky for a moment, having forgotten what she was going to say. Steve glared at him behind her back, displeased at Bucky’s interruption. “You’re a cute little guy, aren’t you?” Bucky told the dog, petting its long, soft fur. “You’re just cute. And totally helpless. Let’s get you some water or something.” He turned away with the dog held protectively against his body, searching for an empty place setting to steal the glass of water from it.

“I really love your dog,” Steve told the woman, who’d grown dazed between the two of them showering her with attention. “Can I have it?”

“Well, I er…” Bucky wondered what would happen if he just left the reception hall and flew to some kind stranger’s house to shove the dog at them. Somewhere Steve couldn’t get in without invitation, which was not true for any of their neighbors.

“Gimme that mutt!” Steve hissed from the vicinity of Bucky’s elbow as he held up a glass of water for the dog to drink from.

“Not here,” Bucky told him. “There’s too many people, Steve.”

Steve was just getting ready to snarl a command at him when the guest of honor walked in. It saved the dog, but now there were other complications. “Oh, Buck, look! There he is. Don’t he look handsome in that tux?”

Bucky had to admit he did. Certainly better than Tony had looked drunk and disheveled two nights ago. But it would do none of them any good to agree with Steve outright. “Not bad, Stevie.” Steve’s grin was feral.

“I’m gonna say hello.”

“I’ll save your seat at the table,” Bucky said, trying not to look or sound worried.

“K.”

As soon as Steve was out of earshot, Bucky carried the purse dog back to his owner and put him in her hands. “Leave right now,” he told her, using his command voice. “You’re going to leave this place right now and go home or to a friend’s house. Nowhere public, understood?”

The look she gave him was frightened, but not in a way that was counter to Bucky’s plans. She moved swiftly for the door, and Bucky made sure she reached it unharmed before turning back to observe Steve with his quarry. Only neither Tony or Steve seemed to be in the room any longer.

 

*

 

Pepper broke a heel on the way in. How she managed, Tony could never say. He left her at the coat check with a hot glue gun and a beleaguered convention center staff attempting to calm her down. As soon as he entered the reception hall, Tony was swarmed from all sides.

“Such a pleasure to see you here, Tony!”

“We’re so sorry for your loss.”

“Your mother was a wonderful, wonderful woman.”

“She will be missed.” By the time he’d walked ten yards, he felt he’d run an emotional league.

“Excuse me,” a deep yet boyish voice he’d never heard before asked from behind the ‘sincere condolences’ couple to his left. “Mr. Stark?” A surprisingly short young man stepped out from behind them. Tony made a general practice of sleeping with any man he met who was shorter than himself--it was so rare to find one--but he thought he would have slept with this one regardless. He wasn’t the tallest or the biggest guy in the world, but there was just something about him. It wasn’t just the strong chin or chiseled cheekbones, the delicate fair skin or plump cherry lips, the artist’s hands, long-fingered and graceful. He had blue eyes Tony thought for sure he could drown in, and a perfect smile--how could a smile be so perfect?

“Yes?” He found himself producing his own charming smile in response.

“Steve Rogers.” Steve stepped forward, offered one of those artist’s hands for a handshake. “It’s such an honor to meet you in person,” he was saying. “I’m a great fan of your work.”

Tony had to respect a man with taste. He shook Steve’s hand, surprised by how cold it was. “Always have time for a fan,” Tony lied, slipping an arm around Steve’s waist and guiding him through a corridor that seemed to have opened in the crowd out of nowhere. “What can I do you for, kid? Autograph? Want to pick my brain to watch the gears turn? It’s quite a show, not that I’m one to brag.”

“Oh, never,” Steve smiled, conspiratorially.

Tony’s grin widened, and he found himself wondering if this little cutie was up for a quick one in the men’s room. He wasn’t expected to speak right away, right? “You know, this probably sounds like a line? But I feel comfortable with you, Steve. I feel like I’d like to get to know you better.” He slowly steered them toward the exit.

“I’d like that, too,” Steve said, looking away shyly, almost demurely. Tony wondered if he’d ever received anal before, because he was seriously considering delivering it.

“Something about you,” Tony wasn’t sure why he was rambling, but as was his usual habit, he found it difficult to stop. “I can’t put my finger on it, but I want to.” Tony felt his breath becoming short. “I really want to.”

“I’d like that, too,” Steve said, smirking at him rather wickedly if Tony was any judge--and he was.

They were outside in the hall, moving closer and closer to the men’s room without having verbally agreed that it was their destination when Tony’s plans for a lovely pre-evening fling were trampled on by one Virginia Potts. “I can’t believe you went in without me!” she told him, looking part annoyed, part hurt.

“What did you want me to do?” Tony asked her. “Fix your shoe for you?” He found himself inexplicably holding Steve a little bit tighter.

“Yes!” Pepper gesticulated, outraged. Then, she seemed to notice Steve for the first time. “Oh, hello.” She glanced at Tony. “Are you a...friend of Tony’s?” Tony could tell from the look on her face and her cold demeanor that she assumed this ‘friend’ of Tony’s she’d never seen before was a drug buddy or enabler of some sort. That kind of eliminated the bathroom as a destination.

“Oh, right. My bad. Pepper Potts, meet Steve Rogers. A big fan I just met tonight. Steve Rogers, meet--” Tony’s sentence cut off when he turned to see the mask of rage and disgust his little buddy’s face had become. He froze as if he’d been turned to stone. Pepper looked back and forth between them, apparently seeing nothing out of the ordinary.

 

*

 

BUCKY! Like it or not, when your master called, you came. Well, that was one way to find out where Steve had gone. He rushed to the exit at an inhuman speed, taking a particularly wealthy man’s toupee off in his wake. Bucky didn’t smell blood, but that didn’t mean nothing bad had happened.

He arrived to find Steve squaring off against a tall redhead. Not bad, Bucky thought.

TAKE HER, Steve demanded. And as Bucky moved closer, approaching the group slowly, he understood why Steve was so upset. The woman was covered in Tony’s scent, and vice versa. Not in a way that said they were partners, but in one very specific way. The scent was...localized.

Bucky wasn’t about to kill her, but he could distract her. Fortunately, in this particular case, Steve was powerless to do the killing himself. Female redheads were Steve’s kryptonite. In his damaged mind, each one became his mother. TAKE HER TAKE HER TAKE HER! Steve howled inside his head, impatient.

Bucky came up from behind the woman, as Steve looked to have Tony firmly in his thrall. But Bucky couldn’t think about that. “Excuse me, Miss?” As soon as her attention was on him, Steve swiftly steered Tony away. Bucky watched them go from the corner of his eye, feeling guilty and villainous for enabling it.

“Yes?” the woman asked, and Bucky watched her pupils dilate. She was reacting to his scent without him even putting forth an effort, which made his job easy, but didn’t make him feel any less guilty.

“I imagine you get this a lot, but. I just wanted to tell you how amazing you look.”

“What? Oh.” She looked vaguely startled. “No, I can’t say I get compliments from strangers too often.” She struck a vaguely prudish pose. “I do, however, collect pickup lines. In my business you go to a lot of cocktail parties.”

“How’d I do?” Bucky asked, smiling sheepishly.

She pretended to consider. “Good delivery. But I think the tux is what really sold it.” Her smile was sweet yet confident, an unusual combination in a woman.

“I’d say let me buy you a drink, but I’m pretty sure there’s an open bar.” Bucky did his best to look embarrassed.

“There is,” she chuckled at his attempt, not ungenerously. “But why don’t you get me a gin and tonic anyway? We’ll pretend.”

Bucky was starting to like her, and that was even more upsetting. “You’re not gonna send me back in there all by myself, are you?” he asked, giving her the eyes.

She laughed again, softly. “No, I suppose not.” She took his arm and they walked back into the reception together.

 

*

 

Steve and Tony hit the handicapped stall like a lusty freight train, knocking the door back against the wall with a bang. Tony was half out of his jacket and he didn’t care. He needed Steve to touch his bare skin, touch him everywhere, and clothing was getting in the way of his goal. For a little guy, Steve was ridiculously strong, pushing Tony up against the wall hard enough to make his ribs creak. His kisses were like dynamite, with a slow lead-in that exploded like fireworks in his brain when Steve started to suck on his tongue, still holding him immobile. Tony hadn’t been this close to creaming his pants from a make-out session in years.

While Steve worked on making Tony’s brain melt out of his ears, he worked on the buttons of Steve’s white shirt, not quite ripping it open so that he could slide hands inside, his palms ghosting over the concave chest and protruding ribs, his hunched, bony shoulders, the question mark shape of his spine. There was nothing about Steve that Tony didn’t find attractive. But it was that tight little butt he really wanted to have a closer look at. “Want you,” Tony was panting. “I can have you, right? You didn’t pull me in here just to tease me?”

Steve shook his head no. “Good,” Tony said. “Where should we start?”

Steve didn’t answer. He just slipped down to his knees, dragging his ice cold hands across every inch of Tony on the way down. “Oh god, yes!” Tony gasped, swallowing as Steve opened his belt and slid his pants down over his hips. As Tony’s slacks pooled on the floor, Steve pushed his thighs apart and nuzzled in, his lips pressed against the pulse at his groin. Tony was about to protest when Steve gently bit him, starting to suck a hickey on his inner thigh. “Oh, god!”

It was the most intensely erotic pleasure Tony had ever felt. He could hardly hold himself upright against the wall. His heart started to hammer wildly in his chest. His cock bucked, neglected, dripping precome into Steve’s hair, and all Tony could do was hold on for dear life. “Oh my god, that’s--feels amazing...how do you--?” And then he passed out.

 

*

 

Bucky made sure Pepper was having a lovely time. He convinced her she’d had more to drink than she actually had, and sat her at the head table, advising her to eat some of the food to settle her stomach. Then he excused himself, saying he was going to try to find her a cup of coffee.

The smell of blood was coming from the men’s room. Bucky moved swiftly inside, twisting the hinges so that the door was effectively locked behind him. “Steve, what are you doing?” But it was obvious what he was doing. They weren’t hidden at all on the floor of the last stall, clearly visible under the door from any vantage point in the men’s room.

Intoxicated with feeding, Steve did not respond. Bucky could hear Tony’s heart still beating, but more faintly than he was comfortable with.

He ripped the door off its hinges. “Not. Here!” He blasted Steve with psychic energy, desperately trying to get his attention. They’d never be able to cover this up if Steve left the guest of honor a corpse in the men’s room just outside the reception hall of his own benefit.

Steve turned to hiss at him, his lips ringed with blood. “Save it for later, pal,” Bucky told him calmly, kneeling down to put pressure on Tony’s wound before he bled out.

“But he tastes so good!” Steve whined, wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his tuxedo.

“I bet he does.” Bucky wasn’t sure exactly how he felt about the smell of Tony’s blood. Repulsed. Guilty. Hungry? “But you go any further and he’ll be taking a trip to the hospital. You don’t want him getting pumped full of donation blood, do ya?”

Steve made a disgusted face. “No!”

“Okay then.” Bucky bent to lick Tony’s wound closed, only because he didn’t trust Steve to do it. The taste of Tony’s blood in his mouth was like regret, bitter and melancholy. Bucky wished he’d never known it.

Steve crouched in the corner, sulking and washing his face like an angry cat. “You never let me have any fun!” he accused.

“Draining him dry before sex?” Bucky chided Steve very gently. “That ain’t your style, pal.”

“No,” Steve agreed, reluctantly.

“That how you planned it?” Bucky asked, putting Tony’s clothes back together.

“No,” Steve admitted unhappily.

“So what happened?” He picked up Tony’s prone form and propped him against the wall while he tried to fix his hair.

“He wanted to have sex with me,” Steve whined. “That’s my favourite.”

“So, what?” Bucky glanced back over his shoulder. “You got over-excited?”

“Yeah,” Steve said, frowning like a child who’d been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“So it’s okay if I do this, right?”

“Yeah,” Steve admitted. He crept up behind Bucky, running greedy fingers through Tony’s ruffled hair. “Ain’t he so pretty, Buck?”

“Sure,” Bucky agreed, pretending not to care. “So why not leave him alive for a little bit longer?”

Steve thought about it. “Well...okay. In another month, he’ll grow more blood, and then I can do it again.”

Another month? Could it be he’d actually bought Tony so much more time? Bucky was afraid to get his hopes up. “That’s true,” he told Steve, trying to sound encouraging.

“Okay,” Steve seemed to decide, standing up. “Buck, you take care of it. No plasma.”

“No plasma,” Bucky promised, but he honestly wasn’t sure he could keep Tony alive without sending him to the hospital tonight.  

“I’mma go eat that fat lady and her dog,” he announced casually, kicking the door down to leave. Bucky didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure he could without telling on himself. While Steve went to find his quarry had flown, Bucky picked up Tony and carried him outside for some fresh air. The nearest terrace was tiny, but Bucky flew with him up to the roof, where there was no one to see but pigeons.

Every vampire Bucky had ever known had possessed a special power apart from the standard undead bag of tricks, each unique to the vampire who owned it. Steve had an unusually strong glamour. Sam’s power was supersonic flight. Peggy’s had been the ability to hit any target, no matter how small or how distant, so long as she could see it. Bucky’s was healing. It wasn’t a particularly strong power, and quite useless in his daily life, but then it also ran counter to everything he was.

Bucky used his power now, cradling Tony in his lap, and examining his life force with non-physical eyes. It was weak, neither fading nor rising, as if undecided whether its continued existence was worthwhile. Bucky pressed his lips against Tony and blew on the flickering flame, gently encouraging it to grow stronger, to burn more brightly. He sang it a wordless siren song, drawing the spark that was Tony away from that distant light at the end of the tunnel like a snake charmer, cleverly luring him back to this world.

When it was finally done, Bucky sat back, exhausted.

“You kissed me back to life,” Tony said, blinking up at him.

Bucky was mortified. He’d had no idea Tony would wake up so soon. Maybe he’d done an even better job than he’d thought. “No I didn’t,” he told Tony calmly. “You’re dreaming.”

Tony blinked around at their surroundings, groggy enough to believe it, but stubbornly needing proof. Bucky was still deep enough in his sphere of influence to read that much. “Here, I’ll show you.” Bucky stepped to the edge of the roof with him, hovering high above the steady stream of headlights below.

“Don’t drop me!” Tony flailed, throwing his arms around Bucky’s neck. “I don’t like this dream. Stop, I wanna get off!”

Bucky gently shushed him and pushed off, floating away from the roof of the hotel gently, like a balloon. “Okay, you’re right,” Tony gave in. “I’m definitely dreaming. I give, are you happy? Now get me back on solid ground!”

“We can’t stop now,” Bucky told him. “You’re not back in bed yet.”

“Back in bed, sure. Alright.” Tony shut his eyes tightly, and Bucky flew them back across the park. He pressed Tony’s palm to the pad on the front door of the Park Avenue house, and carried him inside much as he’d done that first night.

“Sir,” the computer voice started up as soon as they’d crossed the threshold. “Sir, your intruder is back. Shall I repel him?”

“He can’t answer,” Bucky told it, hoping it honestly was not a real person. “He’s very ill.”

“Shall I call for an ambulance?” the computer wanted to know.

“No,” Bucky told it, still uncertain to whom or what he was speaking. “Just a few days’ rest and hydration should do the trick. But if he doesn’t wake up on his own tomorrow, call a doctor.”

“Very good, Mr. Wilson.”

Bucky had been carrying Tony up the stairs, but now he paused. Then he shook his head and continued on. He didn’t want to know how the computer had guessed his name. It was just as well not to correct it. There were several bedrooms to choose from upstairs. Bucky picked the one that took up most of the third floor, because it smelled the most like Tony, and tucked him into the enormous bed there. “There’s no place like home,” Tony muttered. “There’s no place like home…”

“There, there, lie quiet now.” Bucky kissed his forehead and pulled the blankets up to Tony’s chin. “You just had a bad dream.” He tried to get up to go, but a vice grip suddenly closed on his wrist.

“Kiss me one more time,” Tony asked. But it was a mild request, that of a child who wakes in the night from a bad dream.

Bucky sighed. “You’re going to get us both killed.” But he bent to kiss Tony, briefly, one last time.

Bucky had just gotten to the door when Tony spoke again. “When are you coming back?”

“I don’t know.” But he couldn’t look back. Bucky knew the answer. Shutting the door softly behind him, he remembered he hadn’t texted Sam today. He pulled out his phone, turning it back on.

Still alive. Pet the dog for me.

The reply came almost immediately. He says fuck you. Bucky smiled, starting to descend the stairs. Then a second text came. Everything okay? He sighed, not really knowing how to answer that question. It wasn’t okay. He’d just saved a man’s life, knowing he would be killed at a later date. What did that make him? Tony’s eyes had been so trusting just now. But Bucky would be just as guilty of his murder as Steve when the time came. Right now all Bucky wanted to do was go home and climb into bed.

“Leaving so soon, Sir?” Bucky had forgotten the computer was watching him.

“I did what I came for,” he said, reaching the bottom step and heading for the door.

But the computer didn’t seem finished with him. “If you don’t mind my asking, why did you leave that message this morning?” Was that just this morning? To Bucky, it already felt like years ago. And if the computer knew it was him, did that mean Tony knew, too?

Bucky sighed. Things used to be so simple. “Because he’s in danger,” he said, keeping it brief.

“From whom?” the computer wanted to know. “From you?”

“No.” But that wasn’t really honest, either. “Yes.” His shoulders sagged. “It’s hard to explain.”

“I have an IQ of 3000, Sir. Care to try?”

“I can’t,” Bucky said, shaking his head. He opened the door reluctantly, as if he were forcing himself to leave. “Just...don’t let him invite anyone into this house. I know it sounds crazy, but just. Trust me. Please. If you have to, lock him in at night. If you want him to live. It’s not a joke.” Clearly Tony had disregarded the bulk of his warnings, having gone out tonight in spite of the message. Maybe the computer had more sense. It certainly seemed to care about his welfare, which was nothing Bucky had ever heard of outside of science fiction stories.

“I see.” The computer didn’t sound convinced. Bucky kicked himself for trying. But he had tried.

“Goodnight,” he told it.

“Goodnight, Sir.” Bucky made sure the door locked behind him. He took a deep breath of the night air, smelling Steve back in the direction where he’d left him.

He returned to the benefit to find Steve sitting in Pepper’s lap, his head pillowed on her chest. She was stroking his hair, gazing down at Steve with a beatific look of serenity. At least he hadn’t harmed her. Well, not really. “He’s safe in bed,” Bucky told him, sitting down next to Pepper.

“James.” She turned to him with an inebriated smile. “Your friend’s been telling me about your adventures. He’s so small. I wish he was my son.” This would be a truly odd thing for her to say if Bucky hadn’t heard it a score of times before. Steve wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in Pepper’s cleavage, crying softly.

Bucky reached for the nearest glass of alcohol on the table, the remainder of Pepper’s gin and tonic, pounding it. “I promise you can hold him in your lap and cuddle him any time you want,” he said, vaguely wishing he was dead.  

“I’m so happy,” she said, sounding high, vague, disconnected from reality.

Bucky wished he could say the same.