When asked what it had been like working with Bucky Barnes, the Howling Commandos would say that it made it easier that he wasn't a stereotypical omega. He didn't coddle them, or submit to them, or complain about the lack of creature comforts. He was big, adaptable, cussed, spat, laughed openly and fought brutally. His swagger and confidence, they said, made them forget he was an omega, especially since the first heat suppressants were finally available for soldiers. He did check up on them, keeping a finger on the pulse of the crew, and was quick to pick up on when something was wrong between people, but that was rare, and the betas of the crew were like that as well. It was only his unwavering loyalty to Captain Steve Rogers that reminded them that he was an omega.
Rogers and Barnes, they said, were as discrete as they could be, but it was plain to anyone that they would probably get bonded after they left the Army. Not before; the mission was the priority then. Among the Commandos, Barnes was Rogers' second in command, not his mate. But every once in a while they would catch a glimpse of the alpha-and-omega attraction at work. Rogers praising Barnes, a gentle smile, and Barnes answering with a shy smile and a faint color in his cheeks, tilting his head away a little - not quite baring his neck, but close. No personal space between them. Very pointedly NOT looking at each other when one or the other had cause to remove some clothes.
"They were fucking adorable," Jim Morita would say, rolling his eyes. "I would have told them to kiss already, but I'm pretty sure they did when we weren't around. Either that or Barnes got a leech on his neck every few weeks."
When pressed for a specific story, the one they liked to tell most was the time Bucky Barnes wore a dress to fight Nazis.
Their spy returned to where she had stashed them in her father's barn. "The man you are looking for will be at the Duke's ball tonight. He is leaving tomorrow morning with an armed retinue, tonight is the best chance to get to him."
"At a ball?" Dugan said. "We're not exactly dancing types."
"Well tomorrow there will be tanks."
"We can take tanks," Rogers said thoughtfully.
"Not without explosives," Falsworth said. "We're out, remember? Had to leave our truck of supplies fifty miles back?"
"This is not that hard," Barnes said. "Getting into a ball is hardly deep cover. Just dress nice and walk in."
"They'll be asking for invitations, Buck," Rogers said.
"So I'll fall in with a group as they approach the door. Steve, they won't look twice at one more omega."
Rogers' brow furrowed. "But. You'd have to wear a dress."
"I'm not dense."
"You kinda are, sometimes."
"Steve, I swear to God. Hey, you got a dress that'll pass for a ball?" This last addressed to their spy friend.
She looked him up and down. "Not that will fit you. But my sister has a seamstress friend. Come with me, I'll see what we can do."
The Commandos joined back up with their spy and Barnes that evening, preparing to take two cars to the ball - one a nice car they'd, ahem, borrowed, to deliver Barnes to the front door, and the other a getaway truck. They all competed with each other, in the coming years, to give the most elaborate description of Barnes in a dress.
He was a big guy, nearly six feet tall and broad shouldered, with the kind of lean, hard muscle that comes only of relentless physical work in harsh conditions on scant rations. So the dark blue dress the seamstress had put him in was designed to soften those hard lines. The satin begged to be touched, with its soft sheen and gentle drape. There wasn't a lot they could do with short hair, but they'd managed to feather it enough to look more pretty than practical, and the familiar dark hair on his arms and legs and chest were gone. He would tell them later the horrors of body hair removal in the 40s. The heels were short, but heels they still were. Clean shaven, eyebrows plucked thin, makeup expertly applied by someone who knew what they were doing. A small white clutch purse, ropes of small pearls around his neck and two more in his ears. Even his nails were done, and who knows what measures they'd gone to for Bucky's hands to look like the hands of a beautiful omega with a pampered life.
Barnes held his head high and met their stares with a level gaze. "Well, go on, gawk all you like," he said, "but this is getting me into the damn ball, so don't you dare laugh."
Rogers summed it up for them when he said, "Baby, the last thing anyone's thinking about is laughing at you."
They realized then a terrible truth: Barnes didn't think he was pretty.
"And that was a goddamn crime," Dugan would say, leading the story down a rabbit trail, "because that son of a bitch was a major bombshell. He thought we'd laugh at him? Hell, if Steve hadn't been there, any one of us would have jumped him. But I don't think anything in the world would convince Buck of his own beauty, because he wasn't an OMEGA kind of pretty, you know? He wasn't soft and small and graceful and delicate; he was a powerhouse. A real tank. And with the standards for omegas in that day? Man, it must have sucked."
Someone else would steer the story back into a narrative. They waited just off the road until a car with multiple people came through, and their car pulled in just beside it. They couldn't have asked for better timing. An alpha got out with five omegas around him. Barnes tailed in with them, eyes down, fingertips holding up his skirt, looking every bit part of the retinue. He'd been right, in that no one asked for his invitation, but wrong that no one gave him a second look. Everyone in that place was giving him second and third looks.
Which they knew because they were now watching through binoculars. Or rather, Steve was watching through binoculars, not letting anyone else use them. Muttering things like, "Yeah, you better run," and "Don't you fucking touch him" and "Buck you idiot he's probably dosed that drink - oh good you're not actually drinking it. Good boy."
Then Barnes was lost to view, and Rogers fretted, looked through binoculars, fretted some more, paced, looked through the binoculars. Then -
They all jumped at Barnes' sudden reappearance behind them. He'd shucked off the dress and was now in the pants and undershirt he'd had on under it, feet bare, face wiped free of makeup, jewelry in the clutch bag and tossed into the truck. His nails were still painted, though.
Rogers didn't have time to do all the hugging he wanted to do, because a cry broke out in the manor - their target's body had been found. They piled into the truck and were away before anyone even knew they were there.
"Never saw Barnes made up like that again," Dugan would say wistfully. "Slinky ass dress, looking like a goddamn ocean goddess or something."
"We didn't even get a picture," Morita would sigh sadly. He was always the one to wrap things up, and break the fourth wall of the interview. "So all you omegas out there sad that you can't be a delicate little waif? Own your beauty, and channel Sergeant Bucky Barnes, murder walking his way through a Nazi ball on heels, with a shiv in his little white purse."