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the Kept Boy

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enter the harlot and the landlord

 

Steve’s sitting on the floor of a dusty old warehouse, idly picking at a tear in his nylons, bored out of his mind and watching a couple of nobodies scrap it out in a bare-knuckle fight. He’s only there to look good. His boss, his pimp really, has a hand on his hair but doesn’t do anything, which is disappointing. Steve loves having his hair petted, even if it’s by a complete and utter moron like Brock Rumlow.

 

The fight doesn’t interest him. The warehouse is clouded with the scent of sweat, blood, liquor and smoke. The ramshackle ring is just a chalk circle, and Rando Alpha #1 is about to knock Rando Alpha #2 out of it. Neither of them are important and while Steve’s sure he’s blown Rando #2 before, he doesn’t know their names. He keeps idly picking at his nylons, waiting for something interesting to happen or for somebody to come up to Rumlow and buy a favor off him. That favor being Steve. He’d much rather be somewhere getting fucked than watching this fight.

 

Rumlow’s having a business conversation with some other rando, which Steve cares about just as much as the fight. He’s still not petting Steve’s hair, and Steve is still salty about it. He looks longingly at his phone, plugged in behind Rumlow’s chair, but it’s still charging and the cord isn’t long enough to reach to where he’s sitting. He looks back at the fight with a bored sigh and props his temple against Rumlow’s knee.

 

Next to him, Darcy lays down on the floor and puts her head in his lap. Steve automatically begins finger-combing her hair, because at least he understands that if you’re going to touch an Omega’s hair, you’d better pet them.

 

“Bored as shit,” Darcy whispers.

 

“Same,” Steve says back flatly, then does the dance move to follow her line.

 

“Quiet,” Rumlow snaps.

 

Steve rolls his eyes. Darcy raises her eyebrows. They have a silent conversation of how long is this fucking night going to be and I have no fucking clue, and Steve sighs again.

 

Brass Fang runs the illegal fights and Rumlow runs Brass Fang. Steve and Darcy work for Fang, and normally on a Friday night they’d be standing on some random street corner in platform stilettos, but Rumlow heard rumors that the head of the Seyrbakov crime family was going to show up to tonight’s fight and decided he wanted his two best assets on display. To show off. Like they are his pets and he is a collector of exotic animals posing for his portrait. Steve thinks this is complete bullshit and imagines that Barnes will not be impressed in any way by a man who’s keeping two of his hookers off the streets to sit by his boots, earning exactly zero dollars. He also thinks that the head of the Seyrbakov family isn’t going to even bother scuffing his shoes to attend an underground fight ring run by a gang as small time as Brass Fang. The gang barely controls a neighborhood. The Seyrbakov family runs the whole of New York City; minus Staten Island, but who gives a shit about Staten Island?

 

At least by Darcy putting her head in his lap, Steve can’t rip his nylons any more than they already are. And if he unfocuses his eyes and lets his head relax against Rumlow’s knee, he can get some fucking sleep. Rumlow hasn’t even said if he’s paying them for tonight, which would be just like him.

 

The fight ends and Rando #2 is hauled off half-unconscious. Steve’s sure he should probably know Rando #1’s name by now since he’s won the last six fights, but he doesn’t really care. Darcy is already asleep and Steve’s on his way there. The both of them can sleep with their eyes open; Steve can even sleep standing up. It’s a skill they learned while standing on random street corners waiting for somebody to proposition them.

 

Instead of picking at his nylons, Steve starts picking at the frayed hem of his shorts. They hardly cover his ass and the waistband stops just under his pierced navel, which is exposed by the mesh crop top he’s wearing. His bandeau keeps slipping down his chest under the top, and it’s not something Steve would normally wear; Rumlow picked it out. Steve thinks he looks like a country groupie and regrets everything. The only things of what he’s wearing that Steve genuinely likes are his spiked boots, the lace choker around his neck, the silver hoop in the cartilage of his right ear and the faux-plugs in his lobes. Darcy’s dressed similarly, but she’s wearing a bra instead of a bandeau since she, unlike him, has tits to fill a bra. His arms and the gold tiger tattoo of Brass Fang's symbol on his wrist are exposed by the crop top, which is mesh to begin with, so Steve is freezing. It’s November and the warehouse isn’t heated, which makes Rumlow’s a dick on top of being a moron. Fool’s wearing a jacket and full-length jeans, and Steve and Darcy are stuck wearing mesh and nylons.

 

Steve glances at his phone again. It’s nowhere near a high enough charge to be worth unplugging it. Rumlow’s palm lifts off his head and then drops back down, but he’s still not petting him. Steve thinks he’s a jackass. He liked John Garrett, the last guy in charge of Brass Fang, a hell of a lot better. Even with his all his faults and failings, Garrett never made any of his Omegas sit at his feet.

 

A new fight starts, but it's over just as quickly as the loser gets punched hard enough that he goes sprawling at Steve’s toes. The guy goes up on his elbows and spits out blood and what looks like a tooth. Steve wrinkles his nose and pulls his feet away, worried the loser got blood on his boots.

 

The fella that was talking business with Rumlow finally leaves, and Rumlow redirects his attention to the ring. He begins to absently stroke Steve’s hair and Steve mouths Finally at Darcy, who’s still asleep.

 

“Any sign of Barnes?” Rumlow asks Grant Ward, who’s standing next to them.

 

Ward shakes his head. Steve yawns.

 

The doors of the warehouse burst open then. Ward yanks a gun and Rumlow sits up, his fist curling on Steve’s hair and making him yelp in pain. The fight stops and those gathered around the ring scatter; dropping their drinks, blunts, cigarettes, whatever they’re holding, then half of them draw guns, too. Steve throws Rumlow’s hand off of him and prods Darcy awake, but given the lack of men shouting POLICE, he doubts it’s the cops.

 

It isn’t the cops. Steve strains to get a look at the doors while Rumlow sinks back in his chair, then the crowd gathered parts and Steve doesn’t have to strain anymore. Darcy prods him in the knee, but it isn’t necessary. He’s looking.

 

Five people are walking up to Rumlow now. Steve recognizes the Alpha in the lead by reputation and newspaper clippings only. As he approaches, it’s as if time slows down, just so Steve can watch his coat sway in the breeze of his stride. The cigarette smoke parts to reveal the shine of his hair. The large factory lights swaying just to accentuate the curve of his cheeks and jaw under the shadow of the hat pulled low on his brow. He’s dressed finely; black trench coat falling to his ankles, polished dress shoes stirring up the dust of the warehouse floor, tailored suit hugging his body in a way that makes Steve lift an eyebrow in interest. The other three men are relatively unimportant, but the Omega, spinning a knife over her knuckles, Steve recognizes as Natalia Romanoff, the second in command of the Seyrbakov family.

 

In the lead, then, is the infamous James Barnes. He’s handsome, Steve thinks, in a casual, I’m in charge of the Russian mafia sort of way. His hair is slicked back and falls just past his jaw, which is lightly stubbled, just bridging the line between carelessly gorgeous and wild. His eyes flash yellow and then green in the old lights, and even the gray at his temples makes him look refined rather than aged. A celebrity mob boss, he exudes an aura of power, prestige, old and dirty and bloody money, the American dream.

 

That aura is pressed into the hand-stitches of his tailored suit. It’s oiled in the gleam of his leather coat. It’s laced into the shine of his very shoes. It fills the whole damn warehouse without even trying, in the way only men with that kind of power and money can succeed in doing. Rumlow’s attempting to mimic that aura by having Steve and Darcy lie like leopards at his feet, but James Barnes does it with his hands in his pockets.

 

“Evening, Barnes,” Rumlow greets.

 

Barnes sweeps off his hat and nods to him, though the motion manages to become almost condescending as he gives Rumlow a smile like he’s greeting a child. “Evening,” he echoes. Steve thinks his voice sounds like molten chocolate. “Lovely place you have here.”

 

By the bored tone of his molten chocolate voice, Steve assumes he doesn’t mean it.

 

Rumlow does not stand up and Barnes does not look impressed by the hookers on display. He doesn’t even look at Steve or Darcy.

 

“What can I do for you?” Rumlow asks. He waves a hand and Ward puts away his gun. The rest of the gang members follow suit. Barnes does not look as though the guns even bothered him in the first place.

 

“Just here to get a piece of the action,” Barnes says with an easy roll of his shoulders. “You’ve got a nice thing going here.” He gestures to the ring behind him. “Been a while since I had time to take the night off to enjoy a little Roman sport.”

 

“Glad to bring you back to the ring,” Rumlow tells him.

 

Barnes gives him a definitely condescending smile.

 

“New fight’s just about to start,” Rumlow says anyway, clearly ignoring Barnes’s attitude. “Let my man Ward here know if you want to make any bets.”

 

Ward tightens his jaw in a way that makes Steve think he’s not happy to be reduced to a bet collector.

 

Barnes glances over his shoulder at the ring, then shrugs and pulls a billfold from the pocket of his suit. He counts out a few Bens, then holds them out to Ward. “On the little guy, whatever your odds are,” he says in a tone that betrays how little he actually cares if he wins or loses; a few hundred dollars means nothing to him.

 

Ward takes the money wordlessly and heads to find the actual bet collector. Barnes looks at Rumlow and raises an eyebrow expectantly.

 

“Stevie, go get our guest a chair,” Rumlow says.

 

Steve tightens his jaw in a way to indicate that he’s not happy being reduced to a go-fetcher. But he rises to his feet, brushes the dust off his hardly covered ass and the backs of his nylons, and goes in search of a chair. Darcy sits up when he leaves. Steve makes his way towards the bar, grabs a folding chair, then walks back to Rumlow and sets it up.

 

Barnes still does not look impressed and even less so with the folding chair. After all, Rumlow’s sitting in a wide, studded leather armchair. Barnes looks at the folding chair, then at Rumlow and raises his eyebrows. Steve does, too, glancing between his pimp and the most dangerous man in the entirety of New York.

 

Rumlow works his jaw, then stands up, kneeing Darcy in the back in the process, who scrambles to her feet and away. Rumlow smiles tightly and stiffly offers the armchair to Barnes.

 

“Thank you,” Barnes says, like he doesn’t mean it.

 

He shrugs off his trench coat and removes his hat, knocking snow off the brim. One of the lackeys takes both and steps aside, as Barnes turns and sits in the leather armchair. He flexes his fingers on the studded arms, leaning back and lounging in the chair to make himself comfortable in the way Alphas do to make themselves look bigger and tougher. Normally, Alphas look like douchebags when they do this. Barnes looks like he's mocking the suspicious eyes watching him just by daring to be comfortable.

 

His three lackeys file around to stand behind the chair and Romanoff stands beside him, flipping her knife with a bored expression. Barnes sets his hands on the arms of the chair, leaning back casually and assessing the fight with disinterest.

 

Darcy goes to stand at Rumlow’s shoulder, who’s now sitting in the folding chair. Steve goes to sit down again, to resume his napping position against Rumlow’s knee, but Barnes is abruptly looking at him.

 

His gaze sweeps up and down Steve’s body, lingering on the tears in his nylons. Steve stands still, acting unconcerned, but there’s something almost predatory in Barnes’s gaze that’s making his breath catch in his throat.

 

“This is Steve,” Rumlow says, holding his hand with a casual wave, but he fails to hold back the smug pride that he always gets when introducing him. “Steve Rogers.”

 

“I’ve heard of him,” Barnes says casually.

 

Steve’s heart skips a beat, shook. Barnes has heard of him? James Barnes has heard of Steve? Since fucking when?

 

“Only male Omega for sale in New York,” Barnes continues. 

 

Steve is no longer shook. He doesn’t take kindly to being talked about as if he’s a dog or a piece of furniture, even if it’s by the most dangerous man in New York. He's not afraid of Barnes and he's not going to be so blatantly demeaned like that, he's a hooker, not a slave. Steve crosses his arms and gives Barnes a dirty look.

 

“My time is for sale,” he corrects.

 

Rumlow gives him a fast, warning look, but Barnes’s expression remains cool. Unruffled, unaffected, uncaring, it's impossible to tell. Until his lips curl slowly at the corners, and he raises a hand to crook a finger beckoningly.

 

"Why don't you come over here, Stevie?" Barnes asks in a soft, level tone.

 

Steve’s heart skips a beat again; his arms slip from their position crossed over his chest. He almost takes a step forward. Barnes never falters in his come hither smirk. Steve no longer knows what's happening. 

 

“He’s not working tonight,” Rumlow says quickly.

 

Steve’s only there to make Rumlow look good and be bored, after all.

 

“Even better,” Barnes says. He pats his thigh, still smiling.

 

Rumlow gives Steve another warning look. One that says sit at my feet and Steve decides that Rumlow’s a worthless jackass, and he's especially not worth annoying the head of the Seyrbakov family.

 

He moves forward, and Rumlow smiles until Steve passes him. Barnes’s smile turns smug as Steve sets a hand on his shoulder; he leans back in the chair and Steve carefully perches himself on Barnes’s knee. Rumlow’s face turns murderous, but when Barnes looks over at him, he hastily schools his expression. Steve curls an arm over Barnes’s shoulder and leans on his chest like he belongs there. He is all too happy to do anything that makes Rumlow so pissed and yet unable to punish him for it.

 

It’s not like Rumlow can actually risk angering James Barnes, no more than Steve can. Rumlow’s only a small time drug peddler and pimp who runs an underground fight ring. The Seyrbakov family has been gathering land, money, and power in New York since Prohibition times, and now that Barnes is in charge of it, he owns half the city. Barnes keeps a firm grip on all illegal imports, exports, the drug trade, weapons smuggling, has police chiefs and the mayor even on his payroll, and Steve thinks he's on Interpol’s watchlist.

 

Rumlow is nothing despite his leopards. Steve might not be afraid of him, but Barnes is quite literally the most powerful man in New York.

 

He’s also warm. Steve, making a quick decision to risk overstepping his bounds to take advantage of Barnes’s body heat, curls his legs over Barnes’s spread knees and presses close to his body.

 

Barnes doesn’t even seem to notice. He turns to watch the fight, his expression bored, and Steve props his temple on his fist to go back to napping with his eyes open, acting as indifferent as Barnes himself. Darcy catches his gaze and raises her eyebrows briefly. Steve flicks his upward, then lets his eyes unfocus.

 

A hand sets itself on his thigh. Steve glances down briefly, and Barnes sweeps his thumb under the frayed hem of Steve’s shorts, just before the crease of his thigh and his torso. Steve’s not very affected by the motion, until he looks at Barnes’s face.

 

His expression is still bored, but his gaze is sweeping over Steve’s body with calculated evaluation. There’s definitely something predatory in it that manages to catch at the bottom of Steve’s spine and make him shiver.

 

“I see why you’re popular,” Barnes murmurs.

 

Steve says nothing. Barnes raises his hand and grips Steve by the chin, forcing him to look him in the eye, then sweeps a thumb over his lower lip. Over his shoulder, Steve can see Rumlow looking at the fight with that angry set to his jaw, but he’s watching from the corner of his eye, and definitely pissed. So Steve, to piss him off more and please Barnes, parts his lips and ducks his head to suck Barnes’s thumb into his mouth.

 

Barnes makes no noise or motion and Steve swirls his tongue in a practiced move over the pad of Barnes’s thumb. He takes care to drag his tongue piercing up the length of his thumb, then sucks it farther into his mouth, hollowing his cheeks in the process, down to the knuckle until it hits the back of his throat. Barnes pulls his thumb out then, leaving a ring of bright red from Steve’s lipstick down the length of his thumb. Steve lifts his gaze, looking at Barnes through his lashes, then purposefully licks the trail of spit off his lower lip.

 

Barnes’s expression has not changed any, but his pupils have dilated a little.

 

“I see why you’re very popular,” he says, tone still level.

 

“Do you know, I thought you’d be taller,” Steve tells him boldly.

 

Barnes’s lip curls at a corner. Rumlow’s gripping his own knees with white knuckles, and anything that irritates Rumlow pleases Steve.

 

“Funny, everyone says that,” Barnes says. His hand returns to Steve’s thigh, then curls farther inward.

 

“Do I meet your expectations?” Steve asks with a light smirk.

 

Barnes tilts his head, as though he’s considering it, and his hand slides up the inside of Steve’s thigh until his thumb presses to the crotch of his shorts.

 

“I’ll have to see,” Barnes says eventually. Then he looks away, face still bored, to watch the fight again.

 

Darcy meets Steve’s gaze with wide eyes. Steve flicks his eyebrows up once more. He’s careful not to betray the thudding of his heartbeat, his racing mind, the disconnect between himself and the fact that this is reality, that right now he’s relaxing in James Barnes’s lap as though he belongs there. As though this isn’t a man who’s notorious for his skill with a gun, for his short temper and how he prefers to solve problems by shooting people rather than wasting time with conversation. Or how he's infamous for how he’s evaded imprisonment for the past ten years since rising to the head of the Seyrbakov crime family above even the late Aleksei Seyrbakov’s sons, who promptly vanished into thin air after attempting to kill him nine years ago. Steve is not going to allow Barnes to know that he is duly afraid of him, or especially that he’s intrigued by the something predatory in his gaze.

 

Steve tucks his head in the nape of Barnes’s neck like he belongs there. It’s his profession, to become comfortable and seductive in his ease in anyone’s arms, much as crime is Barnes’s.

 

Barnes leaves his hand where it’s barely touching Steve’s crotch, and Steve isn’t going to let him know, either, that he’s more than completely fine with it. He rests his head against his arm, curled around Barnes's neck, and lets his legs hook over the arm of the chair and turns his disinterested gaze on the ring again. Steve relaxes in Barnes's lap, comfortable and seductive in his ease, like he belongs there.

 

 

The fight ends and the little guy wins, the previous champion spitting out blood after he’s knocked out of the ring. Ward comes by and gives Barnes his winnings. Barnes takes it, counts out the bills, then almost distastefully tucks the thick wad of cash into the waistband of Steve’s shorts, like it’s chump change he doesn’t want rattling around in his pockets. His fingers brush the bare skin of Steve’s midriff and makes Steve shiver slightly.

 

“Is that a down payment?” Steve asks, not moving to touch it and ignoring his body's reaction to Barnes's fingertips brushing his skin in favor of suspicion. It’s a thousand dollars or maybe more, and if it’s for favors, that means he has to give two thirds to Rumlow.

 

“Consider it a tip,” Barnes answers easily.

 

“I haven’t even done anything,” Steve says, a little surprised. A tip means he can keep all of it, and his rent this month is definitely going to get paid.

 

Barnes raises an eyebrow and looks at him from the corner of his eye.

 

“You’re keeping my lap warm,” he says eventually. “It’s enough for now.”

 

Steve clenches his jaw and swallows, leaning away. Barnes’s hand moves suddenly, cupping Steve’s groin, and Steve hastily swallows a startled gasp. Barnes hums, like he’s debating something internally, then squeezes lightly. Steve doesn’t move. He isn’t sure what’s happening, since he’s not supposed to be working tonight and he is sure Rumlow would actually hit him if he lets Barnes do whatever it is he’s debating internally, but he’s equally sure it wouldn’t be a good idea to say no to James Barnes. He might not be afraid of either of the Alphas, but that doesn't mean he's an idiot. Rumlow will rough him up. Barnes, frankly, might kill him.

 

Then Barnes moves his hand up, until it’s curled around Steve’s stomach, and Steve exhales carefully.

 

“Have you ever fought in the ring?” Barnes asks Rumlow conversationally.

 

“Plenty of times,” Rumlow boasts; it was how he won the lead of Brass Fang after Garrett was arrested a year ago. He’d fought Ward for it and come out on top rather quickly.

 

“How about you ‘n’ me go a round?” Barnes suggests, turning his attention on Rumlow with a smirk curling his lip. “Just for some fun,” he adds, flicking up his eyebrows.

 

Rumlow’s jaw tightens. Steve glances between the two of them, at Barnes’s easy smirk and Rumlow’s evaluating, darting eyes. He's seen Alphas challenge each other before, but he's never seen an Alpha make making a challenge seem so derogatory the way Barnes has just done. Barnes had challenged Rumlow like he knows Rumlow will have no chance of winning and he only wants to laugh at his failure.

 

“Why not,” Rumlow says. He waves a hand at Ward, who goes to clear the ring for them.

 

Barnes’s smirk does not change.  He pats Steve on the thigh, Steve stands, and Barnes rises to his feet. He slips his suit jacket off his shoulders, then glances once at Steve. Barnes seems to think for a second, then holds out the jacket to Steve.

 

“Here,” he says casually, “you look cold, doll.”

 

No shit, Steve’s fucking freezing. He takes the jacket without hesitation and pulls it around his body, hugging himself in it. It falls almost to his knees and is warm from Barnes’s body; it smells heavily of him, too. Barnes smiles at him, laced with something a little predatory. Despite his newfound warmth, Steve finds a shiver going down his spine. He can't help but feel like Barnes had planned this somehow, as ridiculous as that would be. Steve doesn't even know why Barnes is gracing the scum and lowlifes of Brass Fang and its allies with his presence in the first place. Barnes just smiles at Steve, like he's satisfied by the sight of Steve being dwarfed in his jacket, then turns his attention away.

 

Rumlow strips off his shirt while Barnes removes his scarf, takes off his waistcoat and unbuttons his dress shirt with a bored ease. It leaves him in a white wife-beater and his slacks, while Rumlow is only wearing jeans. Steve can’t help but admire the pull of the undershirt over Barnes’s shoulderblades, how his arms are now exposed and his biceps ripple as he moves. Barnes takes off his rings and watch, then turns back to Steve, that same casual smirk curling his lips.

 

“Keep an eye on these for me, Stevie,” he says, then tucks a finger past the snap of Steve’s shorts to tug him forward. He drops them into the pockets of the jacket and withdraws his finger, tapping the underside of Steve’s chin as he does.

 

The gesture is a little jarring, but Steve looks up at Barnes through his lashes. He curls one corner of his lip up, knowing that it’s a look that never fails to get Alphas tugging their cocks out. Barnes’s smirk flashes predatory again and Steve pulls the jacket around his body tighter. The air between them feels electric, like there’s a charge ready to jump from Steve’s exposed skin to Barnes, who only looks amused. Steve starts to wonder what it would take to impress him. He wants to find out.

 

“We doing this or are you just going to flirt with my hookers?” Rumlow snaps.

 

“Patience,” Barnes drawls, but he turns away from Steve to face Rumlow again; Steve crinkles one nostril, his eyebrows tightening, at the loss of Barnes's attention. “Kid like you ought’a learn some.”

 

Rumlow’s really pissed now. Barnes runs a hand over his hair, then strides confidently to the ring. Rumlow follows, with the exaggerated swagger Alphas use to make them look tougher, but he just looks like a douchebag and he still looks like a boy next to Barnes.

 

“I’m assuming you don’t know Queensbury rules,” Barnes remarks.

 

“Nope,” Rumlow answers, squaring up.

 

“Good,” Barnes says, then swings.

 

This is a fight Steve has interest in. Barnes’s aura of power and money is magnetic, plus, anything that involves Rumlow getting the shit kicked out of him is fascinating to Steve. So he pushes his arms through the sleeves of Barnes’s jacket, the silk lining still warm against the bare skin of his stomach and back, and watches the growing brawl. Rumlow fights like a troll, focusing on throwing his weight around and beating his opponent into submission, but Barnes is light in his movements and quick to duck under Rumlow’s guard. Rumlow’s no slacker, but it’s clear who the winner’s going to be before the fight even gains steam.

 

It takes five minutes and Barnes knocks Rumlow out of the ring. Rumlow lands at Steve’s feet, spits blood, and Steve wrinkles his nose when a fleck hits the toe of his boot.

 

“That was fun,” Barnes says as he sweeps his hair back into place, and he’s not even out of breath. He’s grinning and his teeth flash white despite the old lights, all but one incandescent gold canine that gleams twice as precious.

 

Rumlow jerks upward, snarls and tries to swing at Barnes once again but he ducks and trips him. He clucks his tongue as Rumlow goes sprawling in the dust again. This time, he doesn’t jump back up, because Barnes crouches beside him and presses a gun seemingly drawn from nowhere into the back of his head. Steve’s breath catches in his throat. The whole warehouse seems to be holding their breath.

 

“You’ve been doing quite nicely for yourself,” Barnes says casually, pulling back the hammer of his revolver.

 

Rumlow goes very still under his gun. No one moves.

 

“I’ve ignored you and let you spread your wings,” Barnes tells him in a tone that’s both polite and demanding. “But now it’s time you paid homage to your landlord.”

 

Steve’s very glad for the jacket hanging to his knees, because these shorts are indecently tight and never has a threat made him pop a boner before. Maybe it's the sheer power in Barnes's attitude, or the way he seems irritated with the fact that he even has to make this threat in person, or that he holds the gun almost lazily like he palms the handle of it as an absent-minded habit. Then again, Steve’s never seen James Barnes in the flesh before. He’s sure, with Barnes’s magnetic aura, he’s not the first.

 

“Hear me?” Barnes asks in a level tone, pressing the gun into Rumlow’s head.

 

“Hear you,” Rumlow spits into the dust.

 

Barnes gives a satisfied nod and straightens up. He uncocks the gun and tucks it back into his ankle holster, then brushes off his hands and walks out of the ring to pick up Rumlow’s discarded shirt and wipe the blood off his knuckles with it, before dropping it into the dust of the warehouse floor. He doesn’t look at Steve, but takes his shirt and waistcoat from the armchair to don them again. Another working Omega and the EMT who’d come to patch up the worse-off go to help Rumlow up, but he waves them off and spits blood onto the ground again. Barnes buttons his waistcoat, then finally looks back at Steve. His expression is bored again.

 

Steve goes to take off the jacket and Barnes catches his shoulder.

 

“Keep it,” he says. “You’ll freeze otherwise.”

 

Steve flicks his eyebrows up. Barnes reaches into the pocket, though, and withdraws his watch and rings. He slips them back on, never breaking eye contact, then reaches out and grasps Steve by the jaw. His fingers are calloused, rough, and electric. Steve feels almost like there's no one else in this warehouse but him and Barnes, the tension between them has him zeroing in on Barnes's gaze; which says something, because Steve's ADD as fuck.

 

“I think you’ll have to exceed my expectations another night,” Barnes says calmly, then bends to kiss him.

 

Steve melts under Barnes’s mouth, the hot intrusion of his tongue and the roughness of his five o'clock shadow and the smooth glide of their lips, but it’s over before he can properly enjoy it. Barnes straightens up, that predatory glint in his eye as he wipes the lines of his lips with a thumb and forefinger to clean off the red left on his mouth by Steve's lipstick. Steve sweeps his tongue across his lips. Barnes curls his lip in a smile, picks up his trench coat, shrugs it on, and walks off. Romanoff and the three other lackeys follow instantly. The wind slams the doors shut behind them, and the warehouse is left in complete and total silence for a moment.

 

“Son of a bitch!” Rumlow curses loudly.

 

The silence is broken and the warehouse bursts into talk; swearing and yelling and whispering, as quickly as the silence was ushered, it's broken, and Steve stands there swaying on his feet. Darcy darts over to Steve and grabs his arm, her eyes bugging out of her head.

 

“What the fuck?” she gasps.

 

Steve shrugs dreamily.

 

“Fucking James Barnes!” Darcy goes on. “He fucking thinks something of you! Dunno if he likes you or he’s gonna kidnap you one morning and no one’ll ever see you again, but he's thinking something about you!

 

Steve just shrugs again. He probably wouldn’t mind being kidnapped by Barnes.

 

Rumlow’s still spitting mad. His yellow teeth are bloody, his titanium capped canines, not even remotely precious, are shining under the blood, and his cheek has a large bruise blooming already. He grabs Steve by the hair, way tighter than Steve normally likes, and hauls him forward to leer into his face.

 

“The fuck did he say to you?” he hisses. His breath already stank of beer and cigarettes before the fight, but now it smells like blood, too, and it's nauseating.

 

“Nothing,” Steve snaps, clawing at Rumlow’s hand fisted in his hair. “Not a damn thing!”

 

“You’re not going to meet him later –”

 

“No, fuck no," Steve insists angrily, "the guy’s a creep, let go of me, asshole –”

 

Rumlow tightens his grip and Steve cuts off into a yelp. “You belong to me,” Rumlow spits in his face. Steve winces at the blood and saliva hitting his cheek. “You belong to Brass Fang. Hear me?”

 

“Hear you,” Steve echoes Rumlow’s own words bitterly.

 

Rumlow shoves him away and Darcy catches him. Steve pushes onto his own two feet and levels a glare at Rumlow; what he wouldn't give to see that bastard dead.

 

“Night’s over!” Rumlow shouts to the warehouse at large. “Get out!”

 

The crowd gathers to collect their winnings and Darcy and Steve haul ass out before Rumlow can call them back. Darcy pushes Steve into her car, then jumps into the driver’s seat and guns the engine without even putting on her seatbelt.

 

Steve slumps against his seat and laughs. Darcy shoots him a concerned look, but Steve laughs anyway. He presses a hand to his lips, still burning from Barnes’s kiss, and grins madly.

 

“You’re insane,” Darcy tells him.

 

“I got plans,” Steve announces, ignoring her statement. She is right, though. He’s completely mad. “I’m gonna seduce James Barnes.”

 

“You’re insane!” Darcy says.

 

“I know,” Steve agrees. He laughs again. He’s perfectly happy to pay homage to his landlord, so he’s going to seduce James Barnes or Barnes is going to buy him and either way he’s going be happy about it. He liked the predatory something in Barnes’s gaze and he wants to see it again.

 

Darcy’s phone rings and she tosses it to him without looking. Steve’s laughter fades.

 

“It’s Rumlow,” he says.

 

“Answer it!” she snaps. He sighs, but swipes his thumb across the screen.

 

“Darcy Lewis’s phone,” he says.

 

“You two, HQ tomorrow at nine,” Rumlow snaps, then hangs up. Steve drops the phone from his ear, looking distastefully at it.

 

“What’d he want?” Darcy asks almost warily.

 

“We gotta report to base at nine in the morning,” he says.

 

Darcy groans. It’s almost three now. Steve slumps in his seat, the adrenaline from James Barnes's sudden entrance to his life fading rapidly to be replaced by how much he fucking hates Brock Rumlow.

 

“Crash at my place?” Darcy offers.

 

Steve nods, then yawns. Her apartment is closer, anyway; he's exhausted.

 

He pulls the bills from the waistband of his shorts, then. A quick count reveals that Barnes had casually tucked twelve hundred dollars into his jeans, all for keeping his lap warm. Steve grins to himself and shoves the money into the bandeau around his chest, leaving out one Benjamin to hand to Darcy.

 

“What’s this for?” she says, glancing at it before pushing it into her bra.

 

“Your birthday,” Steve mumbles, settling into the seat.

 

“My birthday was two months ago,” Darcy points out.

 

Steve shrugs again. "Then it's because you're a good friend," he says. Darcy shrugs and doesn't argue.

 

He borrows a shirt and loose shorts from Darcy to sleep in, then after washing his face, he crashes onto her bed and is asleep before she gets out of the shower.

 

She shakes him awake what feels like five minutes later. He groans and presses a hand to his eyes, but sits up.

 

“Come on,” she calls, much too loud for this early on a Saturday, “you can buy Starbucks this morning.”

 

“Fine,” Steve grumbles. He sits up and rubs at his eyes, then stares at nothing while Darcy strips out of her pajamas and begins to dress. He shakes himself, then slips off the bed and heads for her bathroom. “Do I have clothes here?”

 

“You took ‘em home last week,” Darcy calls back. “Toothbrush, though, yes.”

 

Steve finds his toothbrush and brushes his teeth quickly. Then, for a moment, he just stands there, looking at his own lips in the mirror.

 

He can still feel the ghost of Barnes’s mouth on them.

 

Darcy pushes open the bathroom door, wearing a black pencil skirt over bright pink leggings and just a bra that does little more than accentuate her cleavage by how her boobs bounce just walking in. She's spilling out of it, too, and actively trying to get her breasts to fit better in the old bra with a grimace on her face.

 

"Tits out for Harambe," Steve says.

 

Darcy snorts. She hipchecks him, then goes to put in her contacts. Steve grabs a bottle of foundation from the shelf over her toilet and dabs it on, setting it with powder after she takes the bottle from his hands. He leaves it at that, adding a little mascara to his eyebrows to make them look thicker because Darcy’s too cheap to have actual eyebrow filler, then touches up his lashes while Darcy applies lipstick and eyeshadow. They have no boundaries anymore, and Steve yanks the shirt he’d borrowed over his head as he walks out to go digging through her closet. Most of her stuff won’t fit him, but he’s not going to wear last night’s nylons and mesh shirt.

 

He steals an old pair of jeans that more than likely belong to Darcy's ex Jane and a cream colored sweater that hangs off his shoulders, then tugs on socks from her dresser and puts on his boots. She comes back out, yawning carefully, and goes looking for a shirt. Steve wants to rub his eyes again, but blinks hard in favor of messing up his makeup.

 

When Darcy heads for the door, Steve follows, stealing a coat in the process. She doesn’t bother protesting or maybe she doesn't even notice.

 

“Where’s my phone,” Steve abruptly panics in the car.

 

Darcy plucks it out of the center console. “I got you, boo,” she says with a smirk. Steve sighs in relief and snatches it from her, powering it on to mobile order from Starbucks.

 

They get to the warehouse at ten to nine, and Rumlow’s already arguing with Jack Rollins and Ward.

 

“Why are we here?” Darcy asks Jessica Jones, who shrugs carelessly. She looks drunk or high, but then again, she always does.

 

Someone completely unimportant wanders over and tries to stick his hand up the back of Steve’s sweater. Steve smacks him away and shows him his middle finger until he glares and storms off. Darcy meets his gaze and rolls her eyes.

 

“– do we really want to risk pissing off the Seyrbakov family for your fucking pride –”

 

“You’re suggesting we bare our throats without a fight?”

 

“It’s the Seyrbakov family!”

 

Steve covers a yawn with his palm. Darcy curls her arm around his waist and drops her head onto his shoulder, vaguely sipping at her drink. Steve thinks she’s nuts for wanting a frappuccino in November, since his latte is currently keeping his hands warm in the drafty warehouse.

 

“This was bound to happen sooner or later –”

 

“John Garrett never would pay up to Barnes –”

 

“Garrett’s in the slammer, Ward, so shut your mouth!”

 

“We’re not paying up!”

 

The wind rushes into the warehouse as the doors open and Steve hisses as it cuts right through the weave of his sweater at the open front of his coat to bite at his skin. He hugs his coffee closer to his body and turns around to face the doors, which have been flung wide open.

 

Rumlow and Rollins quit arguing. James Barnes gives them a polite yet somehow simultaneously disdainful smile as he strides up.

 

“Morning, fellas,” he calls, hands in the pockets of his slacks under the same black trench coat. Steve’s heart is suddenly hammering in his chest. “Let’s talk business.”

 

Natalia Romanoff flips her knife. She’s the only one behind her boss, but Steve’s sure that there are more men somewhere in the shadows. Barnes and Romanoff stride forward, both of them loose and unconcerned in their movements as they approach. More importantly, Barnes doesn’t look at Steve. Most importantly, Steve pouts because of it. He’s had a taste of Barnes’s attention, and now he wants it on him at all times.

 

“You got a lotta nerve –” Rumlow starts

 

Barnes starts snapping his fingers as soon as Rumlow begins talking and Rumlow cuts himself off, his face flaming red in anger. Barnes gives Rumlow a smile like Rumlow's a particularly dense child. Rumlow's face turns even redder with more anger.

 

“I think you’ll have noticed that I own this building,” Barnes says, gesturing to the warehouse around them. “I own the building next to it. And the one across the street. I own the whole damn neighborhood. So, I don’t think I have much nerve to talk rent to my tenants.” He glances over his shoulder, to his second and holds out a hand. “Do you, Natasha?”

 

“Nope,” Romanoff says simply.

 

The knife flashes in the air as she flips it. The metal spins, light flashing white on the silver, and she catches it by the blade without looking. Similar to her boss, she exudes an aura of power and prestige, but where Barnes’s aura has an automatic warning to shut your mouth sewn into it, Steve feels sure that the knife in her hand would be embedded in its victim’s skull long before they saw it coming.

 

Barnes nods to her appreciatively. “In fact, I own pretty much the whole city,” he continues. He pushes his hands back into the pockets of his coat, raising his eyebrows at Rumllow. “You, though," he adds, "you’re pushing drugs on a few blocks. That makes you…”

 

He pauses, as though thinking, then shrugs. “A cockroach, perhaps. Nothing more.”

 

Rumlow’s jaw is tight. Steve is glancing between the two Alphas, like everyone else in the room excepting Romanoff, who calmly flips her knife continually.

 

“But what you are,” Barnes says, stepping closer, “is a pain in my ass. You’re pushing cocaine and whatnot too close to the local schools.”

 

Steve’s jaw is tight now, too. He hadn’t known Rumlow was selling to kids.

 

“So, I want you to change your territory,” Barnes finishes. “And you’re gonna pay the rent you owe me.”

 

“We owe you nothing,” Rumlow spits.

 

Barnes shakes his head, tongue clucking again, like he’d done last night before he’d drawn a gun on Rumlow.

 

“Don’t make me mad,” Barnes warns.

 

“We don’t owe you shit,” Rumlow insists, striding forward to confront Barnes. “We don’t gotta listen to you. We don’t gotta do nothing –”

 

The gun is in Barnes’s hand before Steve sees him reach under his coat. The shot echoes throughout the warehouse, and Barnes rubs at his temple with his empty hand as though it’s a mere irritant, but everyone else jumps. Darcy claps her hands over her mouth and Jessica swears more coherently than Steve’s ever heard her speak in the six or seven years he’s known her. Everyone jumps, swears, gasps, or something else, everyone but Romanoff, who hardly blinks. She flips her knife once more, the silver glinting in the light of the high windows. Rumlow sways slightly, then falls forward onto his face.

 

Barnes has shot him between the eyebrows. Barnes steps up to Rumlow’s slumped body and turns his limp head with his shoe, clucking his tongue again. Steve's breath is frozen in his chest, his eyes and mind fixed on the dark red pool beginning to spread outwards on the dusty warehouse floor. Steve's thoughts shift from Barnes to not even eight hours ago, when he had bitterly wished Rumlow dead and not for the first time. He doesn't want to think of Barnes as some sort of angel or genie, but his wish came true and the timing is remarkable.

 

“Didn’t I say not to make me mad?” Barnes sighs. He looks up, at Rollins and Ward, then gestures with the gun in his hand. “I warned him, yeah?”

 

“Yeah,” Rollins and Ward agree hastily.

 

“So who’s his second?” Barnes asks, pointing the gun casually between the pair of them.

 

Ward immediately points to Rollins, as do half the other guys in the warehouse. Rollins stands up straighter.

 

Barnes smiles, nodding, then fixes the gun on Rollins. “Quit selling your stuff by that school,” he says, like he’s talking to a toddler, “and pay your rent.”

 

Barnes cocks the hammer of his revolver once more. He quits smiling, and Steve can see why he’s the most dangerous man in New York. It’s alluring, like his magnetic aura, and Steve is entranced by the smoke curling off the gun, the lack of concern he has for the man whose brains are slowly seeping out of his head by his feet, the danger of it all. He feels the ghost of Barnes’s mouth on his lips and he wants it more.

 

“Fifteen percent,” Rollins offers.

 

Barnes hums, as though debating it internally. He flips the gun in his palm, much like Romanoff flips her knife. He spins it on a finger, then aims it at Rollins once more, who doesn’t move.

 

“Forty,” Barnes says. “And that’s from all your profits. I’m in a generous mood,” he adds with a condescending smirk.

 

“Fine,” Rollins spits out. “Forty percent.”

 

Barnes gives a nod, then pushes the gun back under his coat. “Glad we understand each other.”

 

He turns away and Romanoff waits for him to pass her before following him, knife flipping through the air before she catches it by the handle and sheathes it under her coat. Steve’s heart is pounding in his ears and Barnes’ hasn’t even looked at him.

 

At the door, Barnes abruptly pauses. Steve take in a hopeful breath, though he doesn't dare move. Barnes turns back, snapping his fingers like he's just remembered something, and Rollins stands a little straighter.

 

“One more thing,” Barnes says. He strides back in, tapping his chin with a speculative look on his face. “I’m thinking… Fridays.”

 

“Fridays?” Rollins repeats. He and Ward exchange confused glances. Steve frowns a little.

 

Barnes simply nods. "Fridays," he repeats. He drops his hand, then points off to the side. “I want his Friday nights.”

 

His index finger, somewhat blackened by gunshot residue, is pointing directly at Steve. Darcy slowly uncovers her open mouth. Steve’s heart skips a beat.

 

“Friday’s his best night,” Rollins tries to argue. “Sundays.”

 

“I said Fridays,” Barnes says easily.

 

Steve opens his mouth, maybe to say Barnes can have him on any night of the week he wants because he's in charge of his own schedule, but Rollins is already nodding and Steve doesn’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

 

“Fine,” Rollins agrees reluctantly. “You can have him on Fridays.”

 

“Good,” Barnes says. He still hasn’t even looked at Steve. “Eight o’clock. You know where I live. See he gets there.”

 

Then, he finally leaves. When the door bangs shut again, Rollins runs over to Rumlow’s fallen body and rolls him onto his back. He covers his mouth and gags slightly, then straightens up and steps away.

 

Rumlow is very plainly dead, there is more blood pooled under where his face lay than Steve has ever seen in his life and already his skin is turning cocaine white. The blood slowly seeps across the floor, like an affectation of roses blooming in time-lapse on the dusty concrete. 

 

“Shit,” Rollins breathes into the silence left by James Barnes’s wake. “Shit.

 

Steve sucks in a hard breath. Darcy gapes at him. He can’t devote any more thought to Rumlow’s murder, his mind is again consumed by Barnes ordering his Friday nights and not even looking at him.

 

He’s glad he’s wearing Darcy’s clothes, because they’re baggy on him and hide the fact that he's gotten hard. He’s way too into this. The man just shot  Steve’s boss. For no apparent reason. Barnes just flat out murdered Rumlow, Steve has known him since high school, and he can’t even think about that, he’s too focused on the thrum of his blood in his veins. He’s way too into Barnes.

 

“Girls, get out,” Rollins snaps as he gestures to the gathered hookers; he includes Steve in girls and Steve is used to it by then. “I don’t even know why he called you here," Rollins says, "just get out.”

 

They don’t need to be told twice. They practically flee the warehouse, which now is reeking of blood. Steve gets back into Darcy’s car and now it’s Darcy who lets out a hysterical laugh.

 

“You’re doomed!” she gasps. “Oh my god, you’re doomed.”

 

“I’m into it,” Steve mutters.

 

Darcy gapes a little longer at him. “You kinky bastard,” she forces out.

 

Steve smiles a little, sweeping his tongue over his teeth in anticipation already, the metal bar clacking against his teeth. He’s way too into this.

 

He’s now consumed by a different thought. It’s Saturday. He’s got almost a week before he’ll see Barnes again.

 

He goes back to Darcy’s apartment to get his stuff and his car, then drives himself home with the now 11 hundred dollars tucked into a pocket of it. He shoves it into a coffee can to give to his landlord later, and the thought of a landlord makes a thrill run over him, because what if this building’s owned by the Seyrbakov family, too?

 

Then he takes a shower and jerks off fantasizing about what Barnes might be planning to do to him on Friday.