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Time for Home

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"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is time for home."

- Edith Sitwell

 


 

The sound was muffled by the snow, the flakes coming down in thick waves as the late evening shifted permanently into the dead of night.

 

Steve lifted his head from where he’d been staring into the flames of the fire, his knees cracking slightly as he rose from a crouch and replaced the fireplace poker back in it's holder.

 

He almost ignored it; there was no one around for miles and the snowstorm had been on the radar for a full week. Surely no one would be out in this mess, much less on the private road of his severely off-the-grid cabin.

 

Something nagged at him to go outside though, to investigate, the same sense of unease deep in his belly that had warned him when a floor was about to collapse in a burning building, or when there was one more person trapped in a twisted car wreck. That feeling had kept him out of bed and wandering the small cabin aimlessly tonight, when he normally would have found himself asleep hours before. That feeling had also saved his sorry ass more than once, so Steve knew better than to go against his gut these days.

 

A quick glance out the window confirmed what he already knew instinctively; whiteout conditions to the point where he couldn't see the end of his own driveway anymore.

 

Still, that muted thump stayed with him and he grabbed his largest fireman’s flashlight before donning his parka and his tallest pair of winter boots, the snow still slipping inside and melting into his socks the moment he stepped outside and into the high banks.

 

He waded through the snow uncomfortably, cursing his choice of forgoing his ski pants as soon as his jeans touched the snow and started chafing wetly against his skin.

 

Just a quick look around to satisfy that lingering sense of wrong, he thought, and then he could go back to the house and slip into bed like nothing had happened.

 

He saw the skid marks before the car, oddly enough. Long, deep trenches cut into the snow where a vehicle had lost control and spun before slamming into the steep ditch at the end of his driveway, headlights still shining uselessly against the literal sheets of snow coming down.

 

Steve's feet were moving before he could even register the full scope of the accident; the shattered windshield, the smashed in front end of the car. All Steve was looking for was motion from within the vehicle itself, a sign of life, and he was coming up empty on that account so far.

 

He was at the driver's side door in a heartbeat, clearing snow off of the already frosting window and shining his flashlight inside. The powerful light did it's job, illuminating the interior to show one occupant, the driver, a male, slumped over the wheel of the car, a nasty looking cut dripping blood from his forehead.

 

Steve tried the door handle only to find it still locked before he pounded a fist on the side of the car, his voice and actions getting swept away in the furious wind of the storm, the driver still not opening his eyes.

 

Cursing under his breath he sprinted back to the cabin, his heart thumping steadily and his mind narrowing in that way it did whenever he was on a call. Protect, protect, protect.

 

He threw open the door to the cabin and ran to his hall closet, his spare emergency bag and giant first aid kit neatly tucked away until his time off ended.

 

He grabbed his window punch and his thick gloves and was back outside in a flash, sliding slightly on the ice forming in the driveway as he darted back to the car.

 

The dark-haired stranger was still unmoving, slumped over the wheel of the car, and Steve wasted no time in hurrying around to the passenger side door, pulling on his gloves and breaking the glass cleanly out of the window. He leaned through the open window to throw the lock before getting inside the car, his nose twitching and his now-soaked jeans squelching uncomfortably against the rich leather seats.

 

He breathed a slight sigh of relief as he found a pulse on the man's neck, but it was short lived as the man's temperature made itself known against his fingertips, the open windshield letting in an alarming amount of freezing wind and snow in such a short span of time. Steve needed to get him inside now.

 

He released the seatbelt the man had thankfully been wearing and used the key fob dangling from the ignition to unlock all the doors, before turning the still running car off and darting back around to the driver’s side, breath puffing out in a white cloud as he moved.

 

Steve hesitated here for a moment, years of training telling him to not move the man until he could confirm any possible neck or spine injuries, but the imminent threat of hypothermia soon overrode his sense of caution in this area.

 

Steve moved as gently as possible, getting the man situated in his arms in a bridal-style carry before carefully walking back up the ditch and driveway, his urge to run tamped down as the snow slipped and slid dangerously under his feet. He was surprised by the impulse at all, as he was usually calm and collected under pressure, but something about this man, the way his scent, even muffled by his clothing, was hitting Steve's nose, making him want to move faster, to take risks if that meant getting him help sooner.

 

It was a long walk back to the door but he let his logic overrule his alpha instincts and kept up the slow and steady pace until he reached the cabin.

 

After a brief but awkward fight with the front doorknob, Steve was finally, finally, placing the unconscious stranger on the couch in front of the fireplace and throwing his own winter gear off hastily as he ran back down the hall for the first aid kit and his stockpile of spare blankets.

 

Steve said a silent thank you to the thousands of hours he had poured into his EMT certification, grateful as always for his first aid experience from his time in the Army and his years with the fire department as well. Both situations required a level head and a steady hand, and he put his skills to work now, disinfecting his hands, snapping on a pair of disposable gloves, and taking a steadying breath before moving in to assess the stranger.

 

First things first; figure out the extent of the damage and deal with the most life-threatening injuries immediately.  

 

Steve gently pushed back the dark mass of hair that had fallen over the stranger's face, revealing chiseled features and full lips. A strange lump lodged itself in his throat as he took in the man's beauty, and Steve forced his attention on to more pressing matters as soon as he caught himself staring. He grabbed his penlight and gently pulled the man’s eyelids open, startled by the intensity of the crystalline grey irises that were revealed. Both pupils dilated evenly with the brightness and reduced back to baseline as he then moved the light away, a positive sign that made Steve’s shoulders slump slightly with relief. There wasn’t much he could realistically do about the unconsciousness, so Steve continued on with his assessment for now.

 

The man had suffered a black eye and the aforementioned forehead cut, but the blood flow had already reduced significantly, which likely meant it was a mostly superficial wound. Steve grimaced as he looked down the rest of the man’s body, small shards from the windshield piercing his skin through his clothing in places, and one large gash noticeable under his left collarbone. His left arm hung at an odd angle, likely broken, which was particularly poor news considering Steve didn't have the ability to take an x-ray at the moment.

 

The man was dressed in a thick scarf along with a soft, but disturbingly ugly, mustard yellow sweater, soaked through from the snow, no coat in sight, his pale skin frigid to the touch. Steve didn't hesitate to use his emergency scissors, cutting through the fabric of the scarf and sweater along with a simple white t-shirt underneath that had been plastered to the man's torso, the scent of paper, fresh coffee, and cool air becoming more prominent with each layer removed. He smelled like someone had left a window cracked open in an old bookstore in the middle of December, like the comfort of snuggling up with your favourite novel on a winter morning. It spoke of home, and security, and a sleepy kind of intellect that was hard to pin down, and Steve wanted to bury himself in it, finally understanding why his protection instincts had been screaming at him since he had opened the car door.

 

This man was an omega.

 

Steve shook himself into focus and continued cutting away the clothing, exposing scars that littered the man's chest and back as the rest of the fabric was removed, aged and healed to the point that there was no way they were caused by this accident, but alarming nonetheless.

 

Steve glanced back up to the man’s face, taking a closer look at the black eye he had noticed earlier.

 

His stomach churned as he now paid attention to the yellowing around the edges, the telltale sign of an injury that was already trying to heal. Whatever had gone on here, the black eye had happened prior to the car accident. That, mixed with the smattering of old injuries on his body, painted an ugly picture.

 

Steve felt his fists clench and he sat back on his haunches for a moment, attempting to pull in a calming breath, the omega's scent inadvertently helping him find his center. Domestic dispute calls had always turned his stomach, but particularly when the violence was against an omega, and he fought down the unhelpful surge of anger rising in his throat. There was nothing to be done for it at the moment, and he needed to keep moving.

 

Wet jeans, boots, and socks were the next to go, Steve silently relieved that no other hidden injuries, fresh or otherwise, were unearthed as the layers came off. The man's black boxer briefs were luckily only slightly damp from being pressed against his wet jeans, and Steve sent a tiny mental thank you out into the universe for not having to fully strip an unconscious omega who had recently escaped an obviously vulnerable situation. This night was already crazy enough as it was.

 

Steve quickly grabbed the blankets he had fetched earlier from the closet and began heaping them onto the man, covering his right arm, legs, and feet in warm, fluffy softness. With the omega’s torso and left arm still exposed, Steve cleaned the gash under his collarbone first, removing pieces of glass and disinfecting the area before adding a few necessary stitches and covering the wound with gauze. A few more cuts along the man’s torso required bandaging, but thankfully the damage seemed fairly minimal considering the shape the car had been in. He set the arm next, doing his best to align the bones correctly by feel alone. He had worked on more severe injuries with a lot less overseas, and although he wasn't completely satisfied with his options, Steve was fairly confident he had gotten it right as he splinted the arm into place and wrapped it up snugly. Hopefully the stranger would regain consciousness shortly, and Steve didn't want him throwing it back out of place accidentally before he could explain what had happened.

 

The forehead cut was last, having stopped bleeding some time ago, leaving a messy but unthreatening mess on the omega’s face and hair. Head wounds were always nasty bleeders, but this one was shallow, his first impression that it looked worse than it actually was proving correct. He carefully wiped blood away with a warm, damp towel, running it over high cheekbones and a sharp jawline where red had dribbled down.



Steve's adrenaline high was beginning to falter, the extremely late night and sudden stress finally catching up to him, so he rechecked the omega’s pulse and temperature one last time, his overtired alpha brain particularly happy to find both in a normal range now, and finished bundling him up with the blankets. Steve flopped back onto the floor in front of the fire, having just enough of his own physical awareness left to pull his thinnest blanket over himself before falling into a heavy sleep, leaving the rest of the night up to fate.

 

He had done all he could for now.  

 


 

Bucky awoke to the smell of the forest, a green and fresh and airy aroma mixed with the smokey comfort of coals burned low in a fire, keeping a home comfortable and warm.

 

He burrowed further into his blanket nest, practically purring as he pulled the multiple blankets tighter around himself, oh so soft and warm and smelling strongly of a good alpha, notes of Autumn and rainwater and spicy ginger cookies that he wanted to submerge himself him.

 

Brock had never smelt this good.

 

Because.

 

Because Brock didn't smell like this. Brock smelt like damp city streets and second-hand smoke, not this earthy comfort combination of nature and heat.

 

Bucky lifted his head and took in his surroundings, wincing slightly as the light hit his eyes.

 

He was currently lying on a worn down but sinfully comfortable couch in what appeared to be a small but homey cabin. It was basically one large room, a grand fireplace, some overflowing bookshelves and the couch making up the living area, with a small kitchen and dining table towards the back of the cabin. There was a doorway off to the side of the living area, presumably the bathroom, and a set of stairs off from the kitchen, leading up to an exposed loft which held a bedroom set.

 

That was it. That was the entire house.

 

The oddest fixture in the room though, by far, was the very large sleeping alpha who was currently passed out in front of the fireplace, one measly looking blanket thrown haphazardly over himself and not even a pillow in sight.

 

Bucky frowned and sat up slowly, his body suddenly aching all over, but his five (he counted) pillows supported him easily as leaned back and considered his situation.

 

He wasn't worried, oddly enough. He wasn't sure what exactly had happened either, but bringing his right hand up to his eye to feel the tenderness still lingering there, he figured he was probably better off anywhere than back with Brock Rumlow.

 

The alpha on the floor snuffled in his sleep, rolling over to face Bucky and revealing the handsome features of a man about Bucky's age, if not a little older. He had golden hair that led down to a soft looking beard, a perfectly imperfect nose that looked like it had taken a hit or two in its lifetime (typical alpha male, of course) delicate pink lips, and a body that belonged on the cover of a romance novel. Jesus. Just the eyelashes alone on this man…

 

Bucky's left arm caught fire as he tried to shift his position more to get a better look, and he couldn't help the whimper that escaped him, his eyes watering slightly with the pain.

 

The alpha’s eyes snapped open at the sound and the man was suddenly on his knees in front of the couch, his arms outstretched, as if to touch Bucky without actually touching.

 

“Can I,” the alpha's voice was a little rough with sleep still, deep and thick and very, very masculine. “Can I see your arm again? I want to make sure it didn't shift in the night.”

 

Bucky wordlessly held out his left arm as far as he could, the man taking it oh so carefully in two large hands, his dexterous fingers feeling gently along Bucky's arm where the pain lived.

 

“Are you a doctor?” Bucky finally managed to find words, and they caused the alpha to look up from his ministrations, his blue eyes crinkling slightly at the edges as he gave a tired smile.

 

“Firefighter actually, but I'm trained as an EMT as well.”

 

“Ah.” Bucky clicked his teeth, looking around again. “That seems like a fine job. So why have you kidnapped me then?”

 

“Kidnapped you?” The alpha sputtered, carefully resting Bucky's arm back in his lap, apparently satisfied with its alignment. Bucky had the feeling that if he hadn't been injured, the man would have dropped him like a hot potato instead after that accusation.

 

“Yes, I've obviously been kidnapped. Otherwise I would be at the hospital if something had happened.”

 

“The nearest hospital is two hundred miles away, and visibility is shit with this storm,” the alpha grouched, a line forming between his brows. “I saved your life when you crashed into my ditch last night.”

 

Bucky hummed skeptically as he took in this information. “You still could have called an ambulance,” he persisted.

 

“There's no phone here, nothing to call with.”

 

“No…” Bucky looked around the small cabin once again, feeling horror descend. “No phone? What about your cell phone?”

 

“I don't have it with me. I left it in the city before I came here.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Why what?”

 

“Why did you come here?”

 

“For a vacation.”

 

“You came to a place with no phone for a vacation?”

 

“Is this really important right now?” The alpha questioned, the line between his brows deepening even further with concern. “Does your head hurt? Do you remember your name?”

 

“Where is your TV? Your computer? What is your wifi password?” Bucky asked, ignoring the man's questions.

 

“There are none of those things here.”

 

“None of… well. I must have died in this so-called accident and gone to Hell, because that's the only explanation for this. This is my punishment. I knew eternal damnation would be tough, but no phone, no wifi-.” A flash of light was suddenly in front of his face, a tiny penlight wielded by the strange alpha thoroughly blinding him.

 

“It must be worse than I thought,” the alpha murmured to himself. Bucky swatted the light away and sat back with a huff.

 

“It's not my head!” Bucky exclaimed. “It's the fact that my 'rescuer ,’” Bucky inserted the necessary air quotes here, one handed because his left arm still hurt like a bitch, “doesn't even have basic amenities in their home!”

 

Again ,” the alpha ground out, eyes narrowed, “you're very welcome that I saved your life. It was no problem really. I'm only sorry my lack of internet will now be the death of you.”

 

“You don't sound sorry at all,” Bucky sniffed.

 

“Ok, well, I think-” the alpha stated shortly, finally rising from his knees. He seemed much larger now, more powerful as he towered over Bucky, and Bucky felt a surge of fear spike through him. The alpha’s nose twitched and his sentence dropped off as he looked at Bucky with a mix of confusion and curiosity, Bucky automatically baring his throat submissively.

 

The alpha’s gaze softened and he knelt in front of the couch again slowly, his head tipping to the side for a moment to reveal the column of his own neck, thick and tan despite the winter season.

 

Bucky inhaled a deep breath of surprise. No alpha, much less one he had literally just met, had ever submitted to him before, yet here was this man, this stranger, willingly on his knees with his neck exposed.

 

“I’m not going to hurt you.” The alpha spoke with a low voice, sincere and serious in the quiet cabin. “I promise, I will never touch you without your permission. You’re safe here. I did not kidnap you, and I will take you wherever you need to go once the storm lets up enough for us to be able to drive out of here, although I’d recommend the hospital first, personally.” The alpha’s lips twitched at that, a rueful smile, and Bucky felt himself start to relax again. “I don’t know if you saw the weather reports before you got in your car, but this is predicted to last for at least a week. Until that time, we’re going to have to stay together. No wifi, no phones, no TV.” A wider smile made itself known this time, and Bucky couldn’t help but grin back a little at the easy teasing. “I’m not asking you to trust me yet, but I promise, you have no reason to fear me.”

 

“Are you going to be giving any more long-winded speeches during our stay together?” Bucky asked with a small smirk.

 

The alpha laughed, a rich, pleasant sound, his straight white teeth flashing through his lips. “Probably. That a problem?”

 

Bucky studied him with a critical eye for a long moment before rolling his eyes. Now that he had a chance to really take the man in, he seemed to be much more a puppy than a wolf. “I suppose I’ll survive it,” he finally answered, extending out his right hand. “Bucky Barnes.”

 

The alpha grinned, meeting the grip. “Steve Rogers.”

 

“Nice to meet you Steve,” Bucky grinned back. “Now where have you put my clothes?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

It had been three hours since Bucky had woken up, three hours, and Steve was already about to lose his goddamn mind.

 

“It was my Fendi sweater Steve! Fendi! Doesn't that even mean anything to you?” Bucky held up the remains of his cut up sweater with his one good arm from where he was positioned on the couch, shaking it in agitation.

 

Steve was done apologizing for this nonsense.

 

“It was ugly anyways!" He stated, finally letting the truth set him free. Feel it. Freeeeedom! “It's mustard coloured, and ‘fabulous’ isn't even spelt right on it. Why is there an upside down F after the first normal F? It doesn't even make sense!”

 

“Because it's art!” Bucky sputtered, still waving his tattered flag of a sweater. “It's Italian virgin wool!”

 

“It's ugly," Steve repeated with a huff.

 

Things admittedly hadn't been going great so far.

 

After they had both freshened up, Bucky in a clean pair of Steve's clothes which made Steve's alpha brain a bit too happy, the first hour had involved basic explanations. Steve recounted his series of events to Bucky while Bucky nodded along, not quite believing his story but finally taking him at his word for now. If Steve had to hear Bucky's “if you say so,” one more time in response to Steve's assertion that he did not in fact kidnap him (“you're not even a kid, Bucky!”) Steve was going to walk out into the storm and never look back.

 

Bucky's side of the story was quite sparse in comparison, (“I was trying to drive home and got lost.”) but Steve hadn't pushed and Bucky had looked relieved when he had let it go.

 

Bucky took the news of his injuries well, almost too well, which was a can of worms Steve didn't particularly want to open just yet. His almost nonchalance regarding his injuries along with the scars on his body led Steve to believe Bucky had been hurt often, and Steve could only hope that whatever home he had been trying to drive to had been in the opposite direction from whomever had permanently marked his body.  

 

The second hour had been breakfast, Steve giving in and making waffles when Bucky had deemed all cereal to be “gross,” and then Steve had revealed the damaged beyond repair sweater, which is when things really went off the rails. That had been 45 minutes ago, and Bucky was still complaining about it.

 

That cold icy abyss right outside was looking pretty sweet right now.

 

“How about a book?” Steve interrupted Bucky's never ending monologue about designer labels with the suggestion. “Or I have a pack of cards you can use. You could play Solitaire. Maybe do something other than yell at me for a change?”

 

Bucky's face became positively pouty at that. “I still don't understand how you can have electricity but no television. No movies. Netflix. Nothing. Are you that far removed from society?”

 

“If you're asking if this cabin is off the grid, yes.” Steve smirked. “The electricity is run by solar panels on the roof, the water is from a well, and the heat is from the fireplace, so we're completely independent here. The lack of TV is on purpose. This is supposed to be a space for getting away. For peace and quiet.” He stressed.

 

Bucky's pout deepened. “That sounds terrible.”

 

“It can be,” Steve admitted, “but the benefits outweigh the cons most times. You can get a lot done here when you have no distractions.”

 

“And what do you have to get done?” Bucky asked, leaning back comfortably into his pillows.

 

Steve set down the dish towel he was drying the breakfast dishes with and moved towards the couch, sitting only inches away from Bucky's blanket covered feet. Bucky didn't pull his legs in at all, so he had to kind of squeeze himself into the small space left between his feet and the armrest. He hesitated before answering, but ultimately decided fuck it, he was going to keep working even if Bucky was here for another few days. “I write. I'm writing,” Steve stumbled, “a book. I'm trying to write a book.”

 

Bucky raised a skeptical eyebrow. “You, a big strong alpha, can write?”

 

Steve felt himself shut down, and he rose up from the couch and headed back to the kitchen to finish cleaning up. He should have expected this, honestly, and kept his mouth shut.

 

“Hey, no, wait, I didn't mean it like- agh!” Bucky exclaimed from the couch, collapsing back after he had tried to push himself up using both arms.

 

Steve was back by his side in a heartbeat, hands reaching out to touch but stopping before they made contact.

 

“Can I,” he indicated to Bucky's arm and Bucky nodded, looking perplexed as he held his arm out in invitation.

 

“How did you mean it then?” Steve asked quietly, voice a low rumble as he checked Bucky's splint.

 

Bucky had the courtesy to look ashamed at least. “I just. I don't know. You don't look like the literary type.”

 

Steve smiled tightly, knowing the expression wasn't reaching his eyes. “It's a good thing I didn't always look this way then, huh? I would have never even learned to read.”

 

“Steve, I didn't mean-”

 

“You should get some rest Bucky.” Steve interrupted, rising to his feet again and stalking to the bathroom, closing the door behind him as gently as he could. He wanted to slam it, so badly, but he didn't.

 

This storm couldn't end soon enough.

 


 

Bucky sat on the couch, utterly confused, listening to Steve shower and thinking about what had just occurred.

 

Brock had always made fun of Bucky's education, calling his Master's degree in English a waste of time, and his family's business stupid and useless. He'd thought maybe it was just an alpha thing, to not like books and literature. But… his great grandfather had been an alpha, and he had been one of the founding members of the company. And Steve seemed fairly insulted by the idea that he couldn't be a writer because of his designation. Maybe it had just been a Brock thing after all.

 

The water stopped running and Steve appeared a moment later, still a little drippy from the shower and with a towel wrapped around his waist.

 

Bucky's prepared apology died on his tongue as Steve glanced over with a blush, murmuring a quiet “sorry” before darting up the stairs and pulling some clothing out of his dresser. The railing of the loft versus the angle of the couch meant Bucky couldn't see below Steve's waist as he changed, but he did get to witness the moment Steve removed the towel and used it to dry his perfect upper body before pulling on a tight white t-shirt. Steve's junk was just blowing in the wind up there right now, and Bucky was all the way down here. Such a shame.

 

Steve was heading back down the steps a moment later, grey sweatpants looking deliciously low slung around his waist.

 

Bucky felt the hot zing of arousal buzz down his spine, and Steve's head shot up immediately, nostrils flaring slightly in a way that shouldn't have been hot but totally was. Also, shit.

 

“Grandma, Grandma, Grandma, baseball,” Bucky whispered to himself, squeezing his eyes shut.

 

Steve cleared his throat and Bucky had no choice but to look back at him. Steve's cheeks were pink behind his beard, but that was probably just from the heat of the shower still. No biggie.

 

“Are you ok?” Steve looked concerned, and would probably run off to fetch his torturous pen light again soon if given a reason, so Bucky had to answer quickly.

 

“Peachy!” He smiled wide, before remembering his mission. “But also not peachy. I need to apologize.”

 

Bucky nodded towards the seat at the end of the couch, and Steve walked over to slot himself back into the space he had taken before Bucky had fucked up, fixing him with an expectant look. Steve looked a little cramped, but then Bucky noticed he still had his feet up, and Steve was still keeping his promise of not touching him, even on the foot, without Bucky's permission. Huh. Bucky pulled his knees up to his chest, giving Steve room to spread out, and he earned a smile for his efforts, his stupid little omega heart fluttering happily for making his alpha happy and comfortable. Except Steve wasn't his alpha. No. Obviously not.

 

Steve was still waiting for him though, so Bucky shook his head and started again. “I'm sorry, for what I said before. I think I've gotten some bad information in the past about alphas and pursuits of the mind. I didn't mean to imply that you're an idiot, or that you can't write a book. I was disrespectful, and I'm sorry. I'd actually really like to hear about your book, if you're open to telling me.”

 

Steve gazed at him for a moment, weighing his words with a soft expression. “Apology accepted,” he agreed easily, “but no book talk for now. I was thinking I should maybe check on your car instead. Did you have any belongings inside?”

 

“My car? My - Oh! Steve! The car! My cell phone is in the car! Oh you big brilliant lug, you!” Bucky hurriedly pushed back his blankets and got to his feet, keeping his left arm cradled in close to his body.

 

“Hey, didn't you just give me a speech about respect?” Steve sassed, his expression giving away that he didn't take the 'lug’ comment seriously.

 

“I called you brilliant Steve, take what you can get, alright? Now let's go get the car!”

 

“Hold up,” Steve stated, looking like some kind of crazy hot bouncer or cop with his arms all folded. “ I'm going to check out your car. You are going to wait in the house. It's freezing outside, it's still snowing, and if you slip and fall on your arm, you'll be in a much worse situation than you already are. Therefore, you will be staying inside.”

 

“Are you done speaking now?” Bucky asked.

 

Steve nodded, his face going a little frowny.

 

“Great,” Bucky acknowledged. “This essay is entitled, 'What I Did on my Winter Vacation,” by Steven Emelio-”

 

“-That's not my middle name.”

 

“-Rogers. This Winter I stayed inside,” Bucky began in a nasal voice, “because it was very cold out.”

 

“I don't sound like that.” Steve huffed.

 

“The outside is too cold, and it is winter-”

 

“This is getting old Bucky.”

 

“-and there is ice, and snow -”

 

“Please stop.”

 

“-and I am a fall risk, because I am a one hundred year old man-”  

 

Steve sighed.

 

“-so this is why I, and everyone around me, stayed inside on my winter vacation. Ahh!” Bucky shrieked as a coat hit him in the head.

 

Bucky didn't care though.

 

He was going outside.

 


 

It wasn't as simple as just walking out the door, as Bucky had expected it to be.

 

So maybe Steve had a little bit of a point. It actually was like, really, really cold, and snowy, and slippery. And Bucky's left arm was tucked inside Steve's big warm firefighter jacket, which Steve had zipped up to his chin like a little kid. So if he did fall (and did he mention it was really slippery?) there would be no way to catch himself.

 

“This,” Bucky said, testing one booted foot on the ice below the porch steps, “was maybe a bad idea.”

 

Steve, bless him, didn't take advantage of what could have been a very appropriate ‘'I told you so’ moment. He just rolled his eyes and rounded the corner of the cabin for a minute, coming back with a long wooden toboggan with a rope lead.

 

“Stevie,” Bucky grinned as Steve set it on the ground in front of him, “are you going to pull me?”

 

Steve was going to have an optometric emergency if he rolled his eyes any more today.

 

“Just get in the sled.”

 


 

Bucky could still make snowballs with his one hand, and Steve winced as another one clipped the back of his head.

 

How was this only their first day together? They hadn't even had dinner yet!

 

Steve turned to give his ungrateful passenger another piece of his mind, but stopped short when he caught sight of Bucky riding along on the sled.

 

He was bundled up in Steve's firefighter jacket, Steve's alpha instinct overly pleased that he was providing for his omega like this, keeping him warm and protected from the elements with his clothes. Bucky was completely dressed in Steve's clothing today, even down his underwear, and Steve couldn't help but wonder if they would continue to smell like Bucky, his unique scent of paper and coffee and cool breezes, even after he was gone. Steve's alpha brain grumbled a bit at the thought of Bucky leaving, which was stupid, because Steve couldn't wait for Bucky to leave.

 

But for the moment Bucky was here, and he looked adorably carefree, especially considering the situation. He was wearing the light blue wool hat and scarf that Steve's mom had knit him before she had passed, and his nose and cheeks were peeking out over the edge of the scarf, pink with the cold as the snow swirled around them. His grey eyes were alight with mischief as he tried to scoop enough snow for a snowball with one gloved hand, leaving sporadic little trails in the banks beside the grooves of the sled runners. He also apparently wasn’t watching what he was doing, because he lobbed his newly created snowball without noticing Steve had turned around to watch him. The throw was a good one and caught Steve right in the face, Bucky’s scent turning to fear and filling Steve’s nose so quickly that he almost sneezed.

 

“Oh my god, Steve, I’m so-”

 

Steve cut him off with a burst of laughter, wiping at his face with a gloved hand and making sure his own scent stayed light and happy. Bucky’s cloying fear smell immediately cut off, turning curious with a touch of optimistic amusement.

 

“Good aim Buck, but maybe try hitting below the neck next time. This is my moneymaker.” Steve gestured to his face and wiggled his eyebrows, making Bucky snort in an entirely unattractive but completely endearing way. His scent was even more mellow now, relaxing back onto the carefree scent of a few minutes ago and Steve jerked the toboggan lead in retaliation for the snowball, causing Bucky to have to grab the sled rail to hang on.

 

“Hey!”

 

“Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it Buck!” Steve laughed as he turned back around and continued to pull, jerking the sled around at random intervals. He didn’t need to see his face to know Bucky would be wearing his cute little sourpuss expression right now.

 

They came to the end of the long driveway a few minutes later, Steve only falling on the ice once on the walk, which had Bucky shouting “Karma!” and cackling like a loon. Steve’s good mood sobered as Bucky’s car came into view though. He hadn’t really taken the time to look closely at the car last night, and he felt his throat constrict at the scene before him now. The silver BMW was a messy heap in the ditch, looking far more sinister than Steve had recalled. He could see now that the car had skidded and spun quite a ways before veering off the road, the front end hitting the bottom of the ditch first, rocking the driver’s side into one sloping side of the ditch before settling back on all four tires. Bucky would have been thrown right into his door, his seatbelt thankfully holding him mostly in place, but obviously his arm hadn’t been at a good angle when the crash had happened. His own body weight likely broke it when he was jerked to the side.

 

The windshield was as he remembered it, splintered in from the impact, and a good heaping of snow had made its home in the cab of the car now, blanketing the steering wheel and dashboard.

 

Bucky inhaled sharply beside him and Steve turned to find he had risen from the sled and was standing close to his side now, looking down the hill at the wreck with an ashen face.

 

“You all right?” Steve asked, his throat still feeling oddly tight.

 

Bucky nodded faintly. “Not a kidnapping then,” he said distantly.

 

“No,” Steve chuckled, but there was no humor in it, his eyes still glued to the mess in the ditch. “Not a kidnapping.” He cleared his throat and finally pulled his gaze back to Bucky. “Where was your stuff?”

 

Bucky blinked a few times before finally looking away from the car and meeting Steve’s eyes. “I had my cellphone in the center console, and a bag in the back seat.”

 

Steve nodded, about to tell Bucky to stay where he was, but he didn’t look like he was even thinking of stepping closer, so Steve went ahead and started down the slope of the ditch, using his hands to keep from losing control as he slipped and slid down.

 

He took a closer look at the BMW once he reached it, noting the tires were low profile and sporty looking, definitely a horrible choice for the current weather conditions. Steve glanced back up the hill through the swirling snow towards Bucky, the muted daylight piercing through the storm making his black eye shine a sickly yellow/green. Steve could only imagine Bucky hastily packing a bag and hopping in his sports car in the middle of the storm, driving recklessly away from whatever demons haunted him, and Steve had to fight down the bile in his throat at the thought of whoever had made this happen. Steve wasn’t a violent person by any means, but he wouldn’t waste five minutes alone with the fucker that had raised a hand against Bucky, causing him to almost die alone in a ditch.

 

Steve shook any thoughts of revenge from his head for now, needing to get what they came for and get Bucky warmed up again soon. A few minutes of rooting around in the car produced both the phone and a black leather overnight bag from the back seat, Steve shaking the snow from it as he carefully climbed back up the ditch.

 

The snowfall had increased significantly again since they had left the cabin and Steve was eager to get back soon, wanting to keep Bucky away from whatever nasty memories the sight of the wreck invoked.

 

“All set?” Steve asked, passing the items off to him once he reached the top of the hill.  

 

“Yeah.” Bucky’s voice was a little rough sounding, but his eyes were clear when he met Steve’s. “Thank you for pulling me out of there.”

 

“It’s alright,” Steve replied. “Sorry about your car though. It looked expensive.”

 

Bucky shot him a sharp grin, finally looking alive again. “It doesn’t belong to me. And it was.”

 

Steve couldn’t help but smile back, his grin equally razor-edged, feeling a little wolfish and a lot satisfied by that response.

 

“Good.”

 

Chapter Text

 

“I think your rice is defective,” Bucky frowned, prodding at his cell phone in the little tupperware container Steve had provided.

 

“I’m pretty sure your precious phone sat in a snowbank all night,” Steve retaliated, doing something over at the stove that smelled delicious. “A whole field of rice wouldn’t save it now.”

 

“Pessimist,” Bucky muttered, poking his phone again. “You can do it little guy! Heal for me!”

 

“How about instead of speaking to the phone rice,” Steve smiled from his place across the kitchen, “you come and stir the dinner rice instead?”

 

“First of all, Steven, I am speaking to the phone, not the rice. Secondly, I do not cook.”

 

“Hmmm,” Steve hummed lowly, the noise doing a funny tingly thing to Bucky’s nerve endings.

 

“What if,” Steve began, and Bucky was going to be rolling his eyes in a minute, he just knew it. “What if we didn’t call it cooking. This is just called stirring. You know how to stir, right?”

 

Bucky let his eyeballs fall into their predestined roll, but still accepted the spoon from Steve, moving the rice around carefully.

 

“So how come you need your phone so badly? Are you really that attached to it?”

 

Bucky considered the question for a moment, not sure how much to tell. Steve was really nice and everything, and he was very pretty to look at, and he didn’t touch Bucky without asking, and he saved him from imminent death in a car crash and all, but he was still kind of a stranger, and Bucky wouldn’t really be here for that long anyway.

 

“I wanted to see if anyone noticed I’m missing yet,” he finally answered truthfully.

 

“Of course.” Steve looked a little chastised, oddly enough. “Your family must be worried.”

 

“No,” Bucky cleared his throat. “They won’t know I’m gone yet. We’re not, um, close, anymore.”

 

“Oh,” Steve said lightly, “sorry. Your friends then?” Steve gave him a trying smile and Bucky tried to return it, knowing he was failing pretty miserably.

 

“Sure, Steve. My friends.”

 

The crease of concern was back between Steve’s eyebrows now, but he didn’t press for more information, and Bucky let out a sigh of relief. Steve was really good at knowing when to back off. Instead, he saddled up to the stove beside Bucky, bringing his comfy nature scent of autumn and fresh rain and gingersnaps with him, smiling down at Bucky’s pot of rice.

 

“Looks good Buck. Ready to eat?”

 

Bucky smiled back, feeling the sincerity in it this time. “Yeah.”

 


 

“Steeeeve!” Bucky's voice, yelling his name for the millionth time that night, was like nails on a chalkboard, and Steve sighed as he set down the pieces of wood he had been stacking by the fireplace.

 

The sun had finally set on their first day together, and Bucky had requested a shower. Steve had gotten the usual bathroom stuff laid out on the counter and left him to it, but upon noticing the built-in bathtub, Bucky had wanted a bath instead. So Steve had filled the bath, tossing in a fizzy bath bomb that his friends Natasha and Clint had left behind (it was purple so it was probably Clint's) when they had borrowed the place for a weekend away this past fall. He left Bucky with the instructions to “call me if you need anything,” and so far Bucky had “needed” a glass of water, a book, a hair scrunchie (Steve didn't know what that was but knew he didn't have one once he had asked) and an extra washcloth.

 

Living alone outside in a cave somewhere was looking better by the second.

 

“Whaaaat?” Steve couldn't help but grouse back.

 

“Steve, I can't wash my hair! Because of my arm!” Bucky whined, voice ringing through the cracked open washroom door.

 

Steve closed his eyes and prayed for patience. This man.

 

Steve sighed and headed to the bathroom, wondering absently when death would come for him.

 

Bucky was lounging in the tub, a vision of relaxation when Steve went in.

 

Steve was rather proud of the cabin, designing and building it with his friend Tony over the course of a summer about five years ago, but the bathroom was the room he had really taken his time with. The cabin itself was extremely efficient and insulated, and with the large fireplace heating the small space easily, every room was toasty warm. The bathroom air had a comfortable heat to it, and the large circular window overlooking the back field and forests made sitting in the oversized tub picturesque as well as comfortable. Overall, the cabin was fairly simple, lots of natural wood, exposed beams, a high ceiling and wide windows, but the bathroom was where he had splurged a bit, his own little oasis in the middle of the forest.

 

Bucky had complained about the lack of TV, but watching the snow blow and the trees sway through the large window set behind the tub was more than enough entertainment for Steve.

 

Bucky was staring out that window now, the lights dimmed so he could see out better, but he turned his head when he heard Steve enter.

 

“I can't wash my hair,” Bucky repeated with a pout, his cheeks pink with warmth. Steve's eyes tracked his mouth for a moment, ruby red like he had been biting at his lip, before forcing his eyes away. Despite his distaste for the man, there was no doubt that Bucky Barnes was a beautiful omega, especially in the bath.

 

He pushed the thoughts away before any hint of arousal could be found in his scent, and nodded roughly to Bucky before approaching the tub. “So what do you need me to do?”

 

Bucky looked at him like he had just asked what colour the sky was. “Wash it?”

 

“Can't you just wash it like you normally do, but just use one hand instead?” Steve asked, but he was stepping forward anyway, knowing he didn't have it in him to refuse.

 

“It takes two hands to properly massage the hair oil in Steve. Obviously.” Bucky's snarkiness was grating on his nerves, but he fought down his frustration and looked to the counter where Bucky had dumped the black leather bag Steve had retrieved from the car. It had been full of… hair products. Fancy shampoo bottles in blacks and greys, an expensive looking bottle of aftershave and cologne tossed into the mix as well. Steve could have banged his head against the wall.

 

“Let me get this straight,” Steve turned to fix Bucky with the glare he used when he came across kids in the woods playing with matches. “You ran away from home in the middle of the night in the midst of a snowstorm, in a stolen sports car, and all you packed before you left was hair products? What are you, a nine-year-old girl? You didn't even have a winter coat on when I found you, but you brought your hair oil?”

 

Bucky nodded serenely. “It would appear so.”

 

Steve did let his head hit the wall now. “This is a dream.” Thunk. “This is a dream.” Thunk.

 

“If you're about done over there,” Bucky interrupted calmly, “I'm going to need you to oil my hair now.”

 

Steve nodded, pulling away from the wall, and went to oil Bucky's hair.

 


 

Steve wasn't sure what had happened, but ever since Bucky had gotten out of the bathtub last night, Steve helping him with his hair and then hightailing it out of there as soon as it was done, Bucky had been a nightmare.

 

It was as if he was trying to push Steve's buttons. Steve had forfeited his one and only bed to Bucky, opting to take the couch to let him have the loft, and Bucky had complained about the pillows, the sheets, the sound of Steve's breathing, grumbling loudly from upstairs the previous night until he had finally fallen asleep.

 

He was like a demon the next morning, emptying the bag of brown bread onto the floor because he only ate white, breaking his mug by 'accidentally’ elbowing it off the table, and scraping his silverware across his plate obnoxiously while eating his eggs. The kicker came when he had finished his meal, leaving his messy dishes on the table for Steve to clean up, only to wander over to the woodpile Steve had stacked the previous night, looking to make sure Steve was watching, and then pushing the whole pile over with his right hand, his defiant grey eyes never leaving Steve's.

 

Steve was done.

 

“What the fuck is wrong with you today!?” He yelled, stalking over from the kitchen where he had been trying to scrub Bucky's plate clean. He had scratched it so badly with his silverware that Steve was going to have no choice but to throw it out.

 

“Me?” Bucky shouted back, having the audacity to look just as angry as Steve felt. “What the fuck is wrong with you!?”

 

Every fiber of Steve's body was on fire, his alpha instinct screaming at him to grab this ungrateful omega and force him down, to make him submit and realize who was in charge here. Steve clenched his fists, fingernails gouging into his palms, but he didn't move any closer to touching Bucky. In fact, he took a step back.

 

Bucky's eyes widened before they narrowed even more, anger intensifying. Steve took yet another step back and Bucky went ballistic, anger turning into rage, and Steve finally clued in as to what was going on.

 

As Steve moved to put even more distance between them, Bucky stalked forward and slapped Steve hard across the face before trying to forcibly lift his arms with his one good arm, trying to make Steve raise a hand to him.

 

“Bucky,” Steve murmured quietly, all the anger drained out of him.

 

“I don't understand you!” Bucky cried, rage finally turning to tears as Steve continued to keep his hands at his side. His face stung like crazy, but he didn't even lift a hand to prod at the damage. There was something more important going on here.

 

“Bucky,” Steve said again, trying to project as many calming pheromones as possible. “Bucky.”

 

“Why won't you hit me!?” Bucky screamed in his face, and Steve sank to his knees at that, tilting his head to the side.

 

“I promised not to touch you, and I won't,” Steve answered calmly and quietly, meeting his eyes.

 

Bucky collapsed down beside him, tears streaming down his face, and wrapped his one arm around Steve's body. Steve didn't think it was breaking his promise to hug him back, so he wrapped his arms around him too, and held on tight.

 


 

“What made you think you needed to test your boundaries with me?” Steve asked carefully as he checked Bucky's splint and stitches later that night before bed. Bucky was happily burying his face in Steve's favourite pillow, and Steve was relieved to see that the bed-related complaints had just been a part of the meltdown.

 

The rest of the day together following their screaming match had been a blurry mess, Bucky crying and napping and looking thoughtful on the couch, while Steve maintained a healthy distance, trying to be a source of calm stability however he could.

 

“I started to consciously think about it when you told me I couldn't go outside with you. Sometimes Brock wouldn't let me leave the house, and I wanted to see what I could get away with.” Bucky answered quietly, his eyes still a little puffy looking and red around the corners.

 

There had been a lot of 'Brock wouldn't let me’ statements made today, and Steve was both proud of Bucky for opening up and simultaneously horrified by the ways Bucky had been controlled. 'Don't contact your friends and family,’ ‘don't leave the house without me,’ and ‘don't bother getting a job,’ were just a few of the 'don’ts’ Bucky had mentioned today, and they shone a whole new light on the level of dependence Bucky had been forced to have on Brock.

 

“But when you wouldn't take advantage of me in the bathtub,” Bucky continued, “that made me mad. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, and thought that had to be it. I just wanted it to be over, the waiting, and you didn't take the openings I kept giving you.”

 

“You mean you didn't actually need a hair scrunchie for your bath?” Steve pressed his hand over his heart, mock offended.

 

It got the result he wanted, Bucky letting out his first little chuckle of the day. “No. I mean, I'd never say no to a good scrunchie, but I was just trying to rile you up, especially when I was basically asking for it in the tub. And you still didn't do anything.”

 

Steve felt his horror rise at that. “But you weren't asking for it!” Steve objected, looking Bucky in the eye. “You could have been standing naked in front of me while insulting my mother, and you still wouldn't have been asking for it!”

 

Bucky smiled, a small, fond thing. “And that's what makes you a good guy Steve.”

 

“It's just basic human decency,” Steve grumbled as he pulled the bed covers up to Bucky's neck and tucked him in for the night. “And please tell me this means you actually packed more than hair products before you left. That stunt with your cosmetics bag was just to provoke me, right?”

 

Bucky said nothing, pretending to already be asleep, his lips curled up like a satisfied kitten. As Steve crept out of the loft and down the stairs though, he could start to get the smallest sense of paper and coffee and a fresh cool breeze, along with a happy, thoroughly amused scent, and Steve couldn't help but smile at that.

 

Bucky was a hell of a lot smarter than he'd thought.

 


 

As he stared into the trunk of the wrecked car the next day, Steve considered whether or not he should reexamine his previous night's stance on Bucky's level of intelligence.  

 

Bucky had indeed packed before he had left Brock's place. One suitcase held actual essentials, clothing and snacks and the winter coat that Bucky had taken off before getting into the driver's seat originally. The other suitcase held money.

 

Lots and lots of money.

 

“Oh, don't give me that face,” Bucky sassed as Steve loaded the sled up with both suitcases. It was a tight squeeze with Bucky riding again today, but he made it work. “This was my ticket out!” Bucky stressed. “Plus, that money was already stolen before I stole it, so it doesn't even matter! The thefts cancel each other out!”

 

“That…” Steve considered, “doesn't make me feel any better. It quite possibly makes me feel worse. And the law definitely doesn't work that way.”

 

Bucky rolled his eyes, his grin unapologetic. “Just pull the sleigh Rudolph.”

 

Steve sighed and pulled the sled.

 

Chapter Text

 

Bucky had heard before that the truth could set you free, but he had never really believed it until he and Steve had yelled in each other's faces and Bucky had been able to unload some of the things that had been weighing heavily on his chest, like when the fuck Steve would finally show his true colours and this winter wonderland fantasy would come to a screeching halt. It had turned out that Steve's actual colours were red, white, and blue, like some sort of apple pie eating good samaritan, who rescued kittens from trees and probably watered his neighbour’s plants while they were away. Bucky had been waiting for the other shoe to drop, frustrated with anticipation to the point that he had purposely tried to provoke Steve, but there hadn't even been another shoe to begin with. Steve was just… being Steve.

 

It had felt good, really really good, stealing the cash out of Brock's wall safe and taking off with his car, but it hadn't felt good quite in the way it had once he had told Steve some of the details about life with Brock. Bucky felt the way he expected people feel after being absolved of their sins at confession. It was wonderful.

 

It was as if Steve's cabin was a judgment-free zone, and Bucky was basking in the freedom of it. Steve didn't care if he wore sweatpants or leather pants or sleep pants, he didn't care how his hair was cut and he didn't care if Bucky hit him with snowballs. Steve cared, about things like Bucky's health and safety, if he was comfortable and happy, or if he was eating enough, but he didn't care about the small things, and that made him pretty cool.

 

Even when confronted with the suitcase of money, the estimated value of which Bucky was keeping to himself lest he give Steve an aneurysm, Steve only gave Bucky an ‘I can't believe you did this’ face, not a face of disapproval or disappointment, before taking him home and shoving the money under the bed for safekeeping.

 

Everybody and their mother knew that the bed was like the first place to check when looking for stolen money, but Steve was a precious summer child and boy scout, so Bucky didn't bring it up. The judgment-free zone went both ways.

 


 

It was their third day together, and the weather didn't look any better than it had for the previous two days. It was still snowing like crazy, the wind whipping the white flakes around and the ground still completely frozen over with ice, and Bucky couldn't help but feel as though they were living in a snowglobe.

 

After Bucky had admitted to the suitcases in the trunk and they had gone back to retrieve them yesterday, they had spent the rest of the afternoon and evening just hanging around the cabin, Steve typing away at his book on an honest to goodness typewriter ( Jesus Christ, Steve) while Bucky had inspected the small cabin from top to bottom, looking for something to do. He had finally settled for reading a book, and later beat Steve at a game of Rummy, Steve's bruised alpha pride grumbling good-naturedly at the loss.

 

Today Bucky felt like he was positively bouncing off the walls. Brock's place had practically been a mansion, and the cabin was approximately 1/1000 the size of it, by Bucky's very professional estimate.

 

Steve was currently fiddling with his little battery radio, trying to find a weather station. Bucky knew that cabin fever must have been setting in for him too if he was resorting to using technology.  

 

Steve finally found a weather update, the radio host announcing the date before stating that the whiteout conditions would continue on for at least another 72 hours, if not more, and that a bunch of boring weather records had been broken. Apparently a lot of people didn't have power either, and Bucky was suddenly thankful for Steve's weird ‘end of the world’ habit of stockpiling food and relying on solar panels. Steve had argued that he wasn't prepared for the apocalypse, he was just prepared, but tomato/tomahto in Bucky's opinion. Steve was a big old nerd either way. (But Bucky did appreciate the food and electricity.)

 

“Wait a minute.” Bucky sat up from the couch, where he had been trying to count the knots in one particular wood beam on the ceiling. “Did they just say it's December 24th?”

 

“Oh, yah, I guess.” Steve scrubbed the back of his neck.

 

“Steve, it's Christmas Eve!” Bucky stood up now, moving to the window to squint out it uselessly before turning to face Steve. He looked a little too subdued for Bucky's liking, so Bucky bounced on the balls of his feet for a minute, trying to get his excitement to take. Steve finally cracked a cute little smile, which was a good start. “We should celebrate!”

 

“How?” Steve, ever the grumpy Gus, asked a little skeptically, but he didn't look totally against the idea so Bucky kept up his excitement.

 

“We need a tree. Oh, we can cut one! You're a fireman, you've gotta have an ax lying around somewhere.”

 

“Bucky, you don't need to be a fireman to own an ax. How do you think I get the wood for the fire?”

 

“You don't pull it apart with your bare hands? I've seen those biceps, Alpha.” Bucky had meant it as a joke, but Steve was turning bright red, his usual autumn/rain/ginger cookie scent turning a little embarrassed, but also… pleased? Steve had liked Bucky noticing his arms and calling him Alpha. Hmm.

 

“I can. I mean, if you want. I can get you a tree. We need more wood brought in anyways.” Steve finally stuttered out. “And I'm not telling you to not come with me, but I don't know if I can pull you and a tree home,” Steve stated apologetically.

 

“No, it's ok,” Bucky said, the wheels in his head already turning. “You get the tree and I'll get things set up here. Meet back for dinner?”

 

“Yeah,” Steve nodded, his embarrassment finally fading and a small, pleased smile taking over his face. “Sounds good.”

 


 

When Steve came home a few hours later, the scene he walked in to was definitely one he had not been expecting.

 

Every kitchen cabinet door was open, something in the oven smelled delicious, and Bucky was sitting at the dining table, bent over something and muttering to himself. His head popped up as he heard the door click shut, and suddenly Bucky was yelling “don't look don't look don't look!” before darting up the loft stairs with something.

 

He came back down a little breathless and with a flash of silver glitter on his cheek. Steve kicked off his boots and walked into the living room, gesturing to Bucky's face.

 

“You have glitter…”

 

“Here?” Bucky swiped his cheek, but it was the wrong arm for that side and it didn't accomplish much.

 

“No,” Steve moved forward and soon they were almost touching, Steve's chest maybe an inch from Bucky's. He lifted his hand. “May I?”

 

Bucky inhaled and nodded, and Steve reached out to wipe the specks off, his thumb grazing Bucky's cheekbone lightly. Bucky's skin was smooth and warm under his thumb, and Steve felt his heart thump wildly when he finally pulled his hand away.

 

“There.” Steve's voice sounded quiet and rough to his own ears, and Bucky's eyes fluttered, his dark lashes dusting across pale skin for a moment before he breathed out.

 

“Thanks.” Bucky's voice sounded equally strained, his scent turning warm and wanting. Steve took a step back, giving them both space to breathe, and Steve couldn't help but blush when Bucky took a deep breath, looking shy but quietly pleased when he no doubt noticed Steve's own scent of attraction.

 

“Dinner smells good,” Steve finally broke the lingering silence, and Bucky smiled wide at that, his grey eyes glinting in a way that could only mean trouble.

 

“Only ‘ good’ Steve?” Bucky was all sass now, mischievous smile spread wide. “Great Grandma Barnes did not slave over a hot stove for hours to teach me her famous chicken and dumplings recipe, just so fifteen years later Steve Rogers could say it smells 'good.’”

 

Steve was absolutely in trouble tonight. “Bucky, the smell in this room right now is one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

 

Bucky winked cheekily, but Steve didn’t miss the blush that kissed his cheeks at the double meaning. “That’s more like it.”

 


 

“Ughhhh. Steveeeee. I’m so full. Oh my god.” Bucky slumped further against the backrest of the couch, lying his good hand across his belly. “I’m such a good cook.”

 

Steve laughed from beside him but didn’t deny the fact. “And so humble too! But yeah, about that. You told me you couldn’t cook! You’ve been holding out on me.”

 

“Hey!” Bucky objected, letting Steve take his dinner plate to the sink. Bucky had cooked, so Steve was on dish duty. Also, dishwashing with one hand took forever. “I said I didn’t cook, I never said I can’t.”

 

“Tomato/tomahto.” Steve shot back with a grin, and Bucky couldn’t help but laugh. God, Steve was so perfect sometimes, and he didn’t even know it.

 

“Did you want to decorate the tree next?” Steve asked as he finished up with the dishes. “I think I have some old ornaments in the cellar.”

 

Steve did have ornaments in the cellar, and string lights, and a few other little decorations, older but obviously well loved.

 

“How come you had all this stuff down here? Were you not planning on decorating this year?” Bucky asked as he watched Steve finish stringing the lights around the tree. They had set it up beside the fireplace, it's fresh pine smell and full, dark green branches making Bucky feel very Christmassy already.

 

Steve hesitated a moment before answering the question, and didn't look at Bucky when he did. “No, I wasn't planning on it.”

 

“Is it because you're stuck in a snowed-in cabin with a beautiful but talkative stranger?” Bucky elbowed Steve in the ribs, and Steve finally cracked a small smile. “I mean, I do feel bad that I'm stealing you away from your family this year, but we can still celebrate together, right?”

 

Steve's smile got a little dimmer at that. “You're not a stranger Buck. And you're not pulling me away from my family, so don't worry about it.”

 

“Oh, sorry, are you not close with them?”

 

Steve met his eyes, finally finished with his section of lights. “No, uh, it's just. There is no them . It was just me and Mom growing up, and she passed away when I was 19. I haven't really celebrated since then.”

 

“Steve,” Bucky set down the strand of beads he was stringing and moved closer to the alpha, wrapping his arm around him tightly in a one-armed hug. Steve tensed up for a moment before relaxing into the embrace, tucking his nose ever so slightly into Bucky's neck. “That's very shitty.”

 

Steve laughed quietly against Bucky, his voice sounding both amused and sad at the same time when he spoke. “It is shitty.”

 

“Well for now you're stuck with me, but I promise, next year at the Barnes family Christmas, we'll go all out. There will be so much fucking family cheer, you'll long for your orphan Christmas before the first carol is sung. Sound good?” Bucky asked, running the fingers of his good hand through the short blonde hairs at Steve's neck. Steve had very soft hair.

 

“Yeah Buck,” Steve nodded against his neck before pulling back with a small laugh, a smile on his face. It didn't reach his eyes though, and Bucky was going to ask what was wrong when Steve spoke instead. “Sounds good.” He turned his attention to the tree again and eyed Bucky's bead strands critically. They were… lopsided to say the least.

 

“I think you need some help here.”

 

“I have one working hand Steve, give me a break!”

 


 

Bucky crept carefully down the loft stairs later that night, the glow of the tree lighting his path and illuminating Steve in a brush of warm light as he slept peacefully on the couch. The dim glow made his hair look even more golden now, his face a little more youthful and peaceful as he slept. Bucky stood for a moment and took the image in before moving on to his mission.

 

He carefully taped their stockings to the mantle of the fireplace, pieces of paper he had cut out into sock shapes and glued the edges of to make a little hollow in the middle. He had decorated them with some red and green markers he had found in Steve's kitchen junk drawer, and written their names in glitter at the top, some glue and the loose body glitter from his cosmetics kit coming in handy for such a task. (Also for when he needed to look sexy as hell for a night out.)

 

He slipped his presents into their respective stockings and then crept back up into bed, smelling the tree and the last traces of dinner and happy alpha, Steve, surrounding him as he burrowed further into Steve's bed.

 

Steve would never have another lonely Christmas again, Bucky vowed to himself. Not while he was around.

 

Chapter Text

 

Christmas day dawned bright and cold, the snowfall temporarily stopped but the ice and snow on the ground still overwhelming.

 

Bucky awoke to the smell of Steve, autumn and rain and gingersnaps, with the bonus addition of coffee, and cracked one eye open to see the large alpha, still dressed in his PJs, trying to sneak back downstairs after depositing a large insulated travel mug of the strong smelling brew on his nightstand.

 

“Too early.” Bucky mumbled, and Steve stopped where he was, turning to look at the Bucky lump under the covers.

 

“Sorry Buck, didn't mean to wake you.” Steve whispered.  

 

“Too early.” Bucky repeated, holding one edge of the blanket up in offer. “Come back to bed.”

 

Steve hesitated at the top of the stairs, his indecision apparent on his face.  

 

“Steve. Hurry,” Bucky mumbled, his sleepy brain making him revert to caveman speech patterns.  

 

Steve finally got with the program and came back over to the bed, slipping easily into the empty side under the covers.

 

Bucky immediately glommed on to him, throwing his good arm across Steve's chest and keeping his broken left out of the way.

 

“Better.” Bucky sighed. “Good Christmas.”

 

“Can I, Buck?” Steve's voice was barely a whisper, but Bucky heard and hummed his consent. A moment later Steve's large hand was gently carding through Bucky's hair, smoothing away all the tangles that had developed in the night.

 

“Good,” Bucky murmured again. He could feel the answering rumble in Steve’s chest where they touched, practically a purr of happiness from the alpha, and Bucky slipped back to sleep, feeling warm and safe.

 


 

When Bucky awoke the second time that day, Steve was still passed out beside him, their arms and legs entwined under the blankets together. Bucky had his nose stuck in Steve’s neck, and he couldn’t help but stay there for a moment, breathing in the unique flavours of Steve’s designation, that organic scent of forest and home. He nuzzled his nose in further for a minute, truly scenting him, before catching himself and pulling away. Regardless, Steve stirred at the light touch, thankfully not offended that Bucky had taken this liberty, but instead kicking up even more scent of happy alpha. Bucky gave in to his desire to stay there, knowing Steve was ok with it, and as he buried his face back in Steve, letting their scents combine into something distinctly them, something harmonious, Bucky couldn’t help but feel like this was the start of something new.

 


 

They stayed in their pajamas after getting up, following the age-old tradition of Christmas present opening in comfy clothes.

 

Steve, like some kind of adult, insisted they eat breakfast before opening their paper stockings, but had thoughtfully rolled out dough for cinnamon buns at the ass crack of dawn when he had been up, so Bucky couldn’t really complain. Traditionally, omegas were the ones who tended to be skilled in the kitchen, and Bucky did admittedly have his talents there, but Steve took to cooking like a fish took to water, and Bucky was more than happy to grind those traditional designation roles into dust, especially when it resulted in sticky sweet buns of goodness first thing in the morning. Steve’s cinnamon buns were 10/10, would eat again.

 

Bucky got the honour of handing out the stockings afterwards, Steve raising an eyebrow and laughing at Bucky’s glitter and marker decorating skills, but he still held his stocking gently, careful not to crush it, when Bucky passed his over.

 

“We have to open them at the same time,” Bucky explained with a grin, “because they're a matching set.”

 

Steve looked highly amused, but nodded anyway, both of them tipping their stockings into their laps when Bucky counted down from three.

 

“Ta-da!” Bucky exclaimed as Steve's present fell into his lap.

 

Steve held it up for a closer look before bursting out laughing, actual tears forming in his eyes. “This is the ugliest thing I've ever seen, and I'm including the Fendi sweater,” Steve said once he could breathe again, wiping his tears of laughter away with one hand.

 

It was a friendship bracelet, comprised of dry macaroni, nuts, bolts, washers, and a few buttons, with everything strung together into a loop by a piece of fishing line.

“Help me put it on.”

 

They got the bracelet tied to Steve's wrist together, the pasta clanging into the metal pieces when Steve moved his arm around.

 

“Do mine, do mine!” Bucky exclaimed, passing his to Steve so he could tie it around his good wrist. “Now we match!”

 

Steve stared at his wrist with an expression of both horror and fondness, his happy alpha scent giving away how delighted he actually was. “This is my junk drawer on a string.”

 

“This, much like my beloved Fendi sweater, is art, Steven,” Bucky sniffed.

 

“Well regardless, thank you for this very… original gift.” Steve grinned. “I'll treasure it always, especially if I get hungry for six dry pieces of macaroni, or need to tighten something down in a pinch.”

 

Bucky, a man of the people and humanitarian extraordinaire, chose take the high ground and ignored Steve's sarcasm. It was Christmas, after all. “You're very welcome. You did sorta save my life, so it was the least I could do.”

 

Steve assessed his new bracelet with a faux frowny face and squinty eyes, like the sight of it physically hurt him. “That's very true. This is absolutely the least you could do.”

 

Bucky may have been a humanitarian, but that didn't mean Steve didn't deserve it when Bucky beaned him in the head with a throw pillow.

 

The Christmas spirit could only do so much.

 


 

Steve had “things to do” outside after they opened their stockings, so Bucky kicked around the cabin for a bit, reading a couple pages from a fantasy series on Steve’s bookshelf before setting it down with a huff. He wouldn’t mind reading right now, but the plotline sucked in this book. He heaved himself off of the couch and went snooping back over to Steve’s bookshelf for something better when he spotted the thick stack of paper that was Steve’s novel sitting by the typewriter.

 

Steve was still outside, so maybeee a little peek wouldn’t hurt. Steve hadn’t said he couldn’t, and hadn’t hidden it away, so maybe he wouldn’t even care if Bucky looked. Bucky grabbed the papers and settled down in front of the fireplace with a blanket and a pillow, snatching a pencil off the desk at the last minute as well. Maybe he would just make a note if he caught any spelling mistakes or anything. He was an English major after all, and maybe Steve wouldn’t mind too much.

 


 

Steve dusted his hands off on his jeans before pushing the cabin door open, his gift for Bucky secure in his coat pocket. He had started it yesterday while out getting the tree, but hadn’t had time to finish it completely to his satisfaction. Another hour to add in the fine details though, and he was pretty satisfied with his work.

 

As he caught the first scent of the inside of the cabin though, all thoughts of gifts fled from his mind. Despair and sadness and longing permeated the air, and Steve didn’t even take his boots off at the door first, rushing in with the need to find Bucky.

 

Bucky, who was sitting on the floor in front of the fire, Steve’s typed novel in his hands and tear tracks on his cheeks.

 

“Steve,” Bucky sniffed, looking up from the pages when he noticed his presence. “Is Sebastian going to be ok? Christopher has the serum now and is looking for him, but what if he’s too late? What if they never get to confess their love for one another?”

 

“You're reading my-”

 

“And what are they even doing to Sebastian? Torture? He’s gonna be so pissed that Chris followed him to the war once he wakes up, I swear to god if he doesn’t-”

 

“Bucky!”

 

Bucky lifted his grey eyes to Steve’s blue and blinked for a moment, looking like a sad little owl. “Yes?”

 

“Are you ok?”

 

“No Steve, I am in the midst of a crisis right now!”

 

“Bucky,” Steve sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Are you physically ok, and only upset about the book?”

 

Bucky blinked again, looking a little confused. “Yes?”

 

“Huhhhh.” Steve groaned and flopped down onto the rug beside Bucky, kicking off his boots and shrugging out of his jacket, leaving them in a heap by the fire. “You do not make my life easy Buck.”

 

Bucky reached out a hand and started stroking Steve's head soothingly, running his fingers through the soft gold strands as he spoke. “But it's not so bad, right? Me being here?”

 

Steve tilted his head up to look Bucky in the eye, careful to not dislodge his hand. “It’s more than not so bad. It’s good Bucky. Really, really good. I’m glad you’re here. I promise.”

 

Bucky’s smile was reserved as he tried to keep his emotions under wraps, but his scent bloomed with Steve’s declaration, filling the cabin with the smells of happy and safe and belonging, and Steve wanted to wrap himself in it, to have Bucky be his and smell that way always.  

 

“Well… good.” Bucky mumbled out finally, a little shy but obviously very pleased with himself. “But you still have to tell me what happens to Sebastian and Chris.”

 

Steve wiggled around to get more comfortable on the rug and Bucky snuggled in close so they could look at the penciled in notes he had made so far. Then Steve opened his mouth and started to talk.

 


 

The rest of the afternoon was passed in front of the fire, sitting close and sharing notes and ideas about Steve's novel. It was essentially complete, Steve having the rest of his draft stashed away in his desk drawer, as he had only been rewriting a few pages in the middle he had been unhappy with.

 

Bucky was extremely pleased to see that Steve, despite being an alpha, was open to his constructive criticism, agreeing easily with a few simple suggestions about formatting, and a way to make the dialogue flow better. Bucky shouldn't have been too surprised by now though, he supposed. Steve didn't really fit any traditional alpha stereotypes beyond physical appearance. And Bucky was not complaining about that trait at all .

 

It was coming on dark once they finally finished and Steve rose from the floor and stretched his arms above his head to crack his spine before looking down at a still seated Bucky.

 

“I think my ass is asleep from your hard floors,” Bucky complained, and Steve rolled his eyes before taking his good hand and pulling him to his feet. As soon as Bucky was upright though, Steve dropped his hand like it was on fire, taking a step back with a terrible look on his face.

 

“What's wrong?” Bucky questioned, feeling unease ripple through him at Steve's distress.

 

“I didn't ask. Oh Bucky, I'm so sorry.” Steve looked completely ashamed and hung his head, his unhappiness plain on his face.

 

“Waa- oh,” Bucky realized. “You touched me without asking.”

 

Steve nodded, looking mortified.

 

“Steve, you're never going to hurt me, right?”

 

“Never, not if I can help it,” Steve promised with a whisper.

 

“I think then,” Bucky strode forward, taking one of Steve's hands in his own, “that you don't need to ask for permission anymore. I like when you touch me.”

 

Steve's blue eyes were wide with surprise. “Really?”

 

“Yeah,” Bucky shrugged a shoulder, trying to show it wasn't a big deal, even though it actually was. “I trust you.”

 

Steve's throat bobbed as he swallowed, but his voice was steady when he spoke. “I trust you too.”

 

“Ok then,” Bucky smiled. “Wanna make dinner together?” He asked.

 

“Yeah Buck,” Steve grinned back. “Sounds great.”

 

And when Steve set one large hand at the small of Bucky's back to guide him into the kitchen, Bucky's only regret was not asking for this sooner.

 

Chapter Text

 

Steve felt like his body was possessed, his limbs no longer under his control with the freedom Bucky’s consent allowed him. He wasn’t going to abuse it, not at all, but now that he had free reign, the ability to touch and stroke and feel without hesitation, he felt like every movement was drawing him to Bucky, the tide being swayed by the moon, magnetic and undeniable.

 

A touch to the small of his back. Their hands brushing as Bucky handed the spoon for the marinara sauce over to Steve for a taste test. Bumping hips companionably at the counter as Steve shredded cheese and Bucky breaded chicken. All of it felt sparked and electric, significant, and Steve was completely addicted.

 

“I’ve never had chicken parmesan for Christmas dinner, but I think this is going to become a new tradition.” Bucky practically moaned as he scooped another forkful of chicken and pasta into his mouth later. His lips were tinted red with the marinara sauce and Steve suddenly wanted to lick them, to see what other flavours that tempting mouth held.

 

Steve chuckled, trying to push down his desire and keep up his end of the conversation. “Sorry I didn’t have a turkey in the freezer, but I think we did alright.”

 

“Turkey is overrated anyway,” Bucky smiled, still eating with almost childlike enthusiasm. It amazed Steve how Bucky was able to shift personas so quickly, one moment being the rich city boy of designer sweaters and fancy cars, and the next moment seeming like he could have grown up down the street from Steve, scraping by with nothing but a quick wit and a large helping of charm.

 

They cleaned up together before Bucky settled in with more of Steve’s novel to edit and Steve hopped away for a quick shower. The bathroom was warm with steam when he finished, the ever-present snowfall still giving the world outside the large window a perfect snow globe effect, and Steve was filling the large tub up before he knew it, adding in another bath bomb and lighting a few candles he had stashed away to set around the tub.

 

Despite the difficult memories associated with the last bath, Bucky had still seemed to enjoy the soak itself when he hadn’t been using it to act out, and Steve felt he would probably appreciate another one tonight. Steve’s alpha instincts puffed up proudly as he set out a large fluffy towel and checked the water temperature again, making sure the bath wasn’t too hot for his omega.

 

His omega. Steve swallowed, feeling the tender emotion of that term lodge in his throat. It had thrown Steve off kilter when Bucky had mentioned next Christmas, the Barnes family Christmas, as if they were still going to be seeing each other, much less spending major holidays together, once this whole ordeal was over. Steve had gone from wanting this forced companionship to end in an instant to wanting this snowstorm to never cease, to never have to face his real life, his job, outside of this cabin again. They were trapped in a perfect bubble, and Steve didn’t want to wake up alone when it burst.

 

He tried to force the thoughts of the future aside for now, not wanting the melancholy of his situation to overwhelm what had been his best Christmas in years. He had thought he’d been doing fine, living his life alone, ignoring the concerned looks from his friends as he accepted fewer and fewer invites out, the warnings from his Captain as he ran into fires more recklessly and took more chances than he had any right to.

 

Indications of Depression, the form had stated when Steve had caught a glimpse of it on Fury’s desk before being dismissed for his mandatory leave of absence. Not following orders, a risk to the team, Fury had summarized, giving him a look with far too much compassion in it from across his desk.

 

Steve wasn’t so sure about depression, but he couldn’t deny that he had been taking more risks than usual lately, moving before he thought things through, following his gut instead of his orders.

 

“You trying to get yourself killed?” Sam had chastised after a particularly close call at an apartment complex fire one night before his dismissal. Steve wasn’t, and he knew it like he knew water was wet. He knew he didn’t want to die, but at the moment, he hadn’t quite been sure what he was living for either. Steve was just existing, bobbing along like a directionless piece of flotsam caught in the ocean.

 

The bathroom grew quiet as the bath bomb stopped fizzing, and Steve shook himself before he rose from beside the tub and went back out to the living room. He hadn’t known then what his purpose was in the world, what his anchor was as he drifted around after his retirement from the Army. The fire department helped a bit, as he knew he was doing good, saving lives, and he had his novel to tap away at, its presence in his life a surprisingly joyful spark in the darkness, but at the end of the day he had still felt so hollow, like he was pouring himself out into the world but had nothing to fill himself back up with. Now though, he had an omega, Bucky, in his living room, in his life, and for the first time in a long time, that seemed like more than enough.

 


 

Bucky glanced up from his stack of papers as Steve came back into the living room, the now familiar smell of the alpha, autumn and rain and gingersnaps, mixing with the clean scent of Steve’s soap as he moved next to Bucky.

 

“Your first present is in the bathroom.” Steve winked with a cute little smile, and Bucky felt his cheeks flush for a moment, just the thought of the alpha giving him a gift doing funny things to his insides.

 

“I swear to god Steve, if you purposely didn’t flush the toilet…” Bucky joked and Steve’s face turned bright red, the objection already on his lips at the thought.

 

“No! Oh my god, no!” He laughed, that rich sound filling the room and heating Bucky up from the inside out. “God, no.” Steve squeezed his eyes shut and tried to compose himself for a minute before cracking an eye open to glance at Bucky. “Toilet humour though, really?” He jokingly chastised. “Bucky Barnes, of eight hundred dollar sweaters and BMWs, would stoop as low as to make a poop joke?”

 

Bucky grinned, all teeth. “My comedy has many layers.”

 

Steve rolled his eyes. “Alright onion boy. Do you want your gift or not?”

 

Bucky couldn’t exactly say no to that.

 


 

The bath was delightful, warm and fragrant and almost romantic feeling as Bucky relaxed in the tub with the candles flickering around him. The lowered lighting of the room granted him a gorgeous view out the window, the stars and moon just visible through the seemingly endless haze of snow.

 

There was only one problem, and Bucky knew he’d have to address it sooner or later.

 

“Steve!” he called from the tub, and Steve popped his head into the room a moment later, looking much more pleasant than the last time Bucky had requested his presence while he bathed. “I know this is a ridiculous mirror to our previous bathtime fun,” Bucky smiled, the memory of their fight somehow seeming a little more amusing now, “but I actually can’t properly wash my hair with one hand. I wasn’t really kidding then.”

 

Steve nodded and the rest of him came through the doorway, Steve’s eyes flickering over Bucky’s body as he took in the scene.

 

Bucky could only imagine how he looked right now, skin soft from the bath and flushed pink with heat, his pecs and arms visible above the purple-tinted bathwater. Steve’s eyes seemed to linger on his chest for a moment before meeting his eyes, the blue of Steve’s irises drowned out by black in the dim light of the room. Bucky felt his heart quicken at the sight and could only imagine Steve looking at him like that in another setting, his pupils blown wide as he pressed Bucky down onto a mattress from above, as he pushed into him and made him see stars.

 

Bucky felt his dick pulse under the water, felt the warmth of slick start to gather, and he resisted the urge to moan out loud or move his hands to relieve some of the mounting pressure below.

 

Bucky licked his lips and gazed back at Steve, who was now staring at the water as if he could see through it if only he concentrated hard enough.

 

Steve nodded again and finally moved closer to the tub, picking up the shampoo from the edge and pouring some into his hands. The quiet in the bathroom was palpable, and Bucky’s chest felt heavy with anticipation as he waited for Steve to touch him.

 

Steve’s hands were large and gentle as they ran through the strands of his hair, massaging the shampoo in with a careful press of fingers and pressure. Bucky tipped his head back and couldn’t help but moan now as Steve’s fingers slipped down the back of his neck, massaging away lingering knots in his muscles with the slippery slide of the shampoo. At the sound of Bucky’s groan Steve’s scent shifted, the smell of arousal and longing filling the bathroom around them, Bucky’s own scent of pleasure and excitement kicking up and combining with Steve's into a perfect mixture of want.

 

Steve’s fingers traced a little lower now, over to where his neck met his shoulder, and Bucky couldn’t help but shiver as he imagined Steve dropping his mouth there, biting down and marking Bucky as his for life. Steve inhaled a gasp as he sensed the arousal that coursed through Bucky’s body, and he moved a little quicker now, rinsing his hair out with slightly shaky hands before speaking for the first time since entering the bathroom.

 

“Anywhere else?” Steve asked, cautious and low in the dim of the room.

 

Bucky nodded, not able to find the words just yet, but Steve seemed to catch his meaning, and he grabbed a soft cloth from beside the tub, lathering it up before sliding it over Bucky’s chest.

 

The water was warm but Bucky’s nipples pebbled and peaked at the attention, and when Bucky gazed at Steve with half-lidded eyes, he could tell the alpha’s attention was entirely transfixed on the dusky pink buds.

 

Bucky leaned back further in the tub, pushing his chest out slightly, and Steve chased the curve of his pecs with the cloth, every movement focused and intent. Bucky felt the pulse between his legs increase the more Steve teased, and only realized he had fully shut his eyes once he opened them at the sound of Steve letting out a shaky breath.

 

“Buck,” Steve whispered in the quiet of the room, “you need to tell me to stop now.”

 

Bucky shook his head, pressing further into Steve’s touch. “I want it. I want you.”

 

Bucky watched his throat bob, Steve’s Adam’s apple prominent in his thick neck, and Bucky wanted to lick it, wanted to put his lips on him and bite at one of the most vulnerable parts of him until all he could taste was alpha.

 

“It’s so soon,” Steve replied, licking his lips as though he was feeling the same draw to Bucky’s own throat. “You don’t know if you can trust me.”

 

“You’re not a stranger Steve,” Bucky met Steve’s eyes with an echo of his sentiment from the day before. “The only reason we’re stopping now is if you want to. Don’t do this just for me.”

 

“No,” Steve’s pulse was rapid but his tone was concrete, no doubt in his words when he spoke. “I want you too.”

 

“Then touch me,” Bucky breathed, and Steve dropped the cloth, all illusions of bathing gone now as he slid his hand down Bucky’s chest and abs, hand submerging into the water and meeting with Bucky’s flesh right where he wanted him most. Steve enveloped his cock in one large hand and stroked slowly, mapping the lay of the land before moving towards his hole, Bucky’s slick gathering before being swept away by the warm bathwater.

 

Bucky arched his back and lifted his hips, allowing Steve more access as he worked blindly, hand disappearing into the twilight purple of the bathwater as he stroked the furl of Bucky’s entrance, Bucky groaning as Steve slipped the tip of one thick finger inside him.

 

“Bed,” Bucky groaned, “we need to get to the bed.”

 

Steve hummed lowly in agreement and stuck both arms in the water, soaking his t-shirt as he lifted Bucky easily from the bath and balanced him with one arm as the other grabbed the towel to drape over him, staving off any lingering chill as Steve carried him out of the bathroom and up the loft stairs to the bed.

 

“Alpha,” Bucky breathed, and Steve was there, right there on top of him, all he had wanted since laying eyes on him.

 

“I’m here,” Steve whispered before his lips finally came down, meeting Bucky’s own in a searing kiss. “I’m right here.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Holding Bucky felt like holding a lit flame as he writhed and pulsed hotly beneath Steve on the bed, nipping and kissing at Steve's neck and shoulders as Steve added another finger to his entrance, stretching him and making him groan.

 

Steve had lost his clothes somewhere along the way, their skin touching and cocks sliding together under the blankets now as they continued to explore each other's mouths and bodies.

 

“Steve, I'm ready,” Bucky panted from where he was splayed across the bed with his eyes hooded and his mouth swollen ruby red, his white teeth flashing as he bit and pulled enticingly at his own bottom lip.

 

Steve leaned down to finish the job for him, nipping at his lip before licking his way back into that talkative mouth for another long kiss. Bucky made a keening noise as Steve pulled his mouth away but kept his fingers moving, Bucky’s body struggling to stay put as he adjusted to Steve’s digits inside him, his natural slick easing the way.

 

“I know sweetheart,” Steve answered his cries with a low voice, steady and even next to Bucky’s own erratic breathing, “but the only thing going in you tonight is my fingers.”

 

Bucky let out a choked sounding sob at that, and Steve tightened his grip on his cock as he continued to thrust his fingers in and out.

 

“I need, I need…” Bucky cried desperately but Steve held firm, meeting Bucky's eyes as he kept a steady pace with his hands.

 

“I know what you need Buck, and I'm gonna make you feel so good,” Steve promised, “but I also need you to trust me. There’s no rush.”

 

The tension stringing through Bucky like a bow finally released, and Bucky's body went lax against the mattress as he gave himself over to Steve. “Yes Alpha,” he whispered.

 

“Good boy,” Steve praised, and Bucky practically purred at the approval, his scent kicking up with even more arousal as Steve tightened his grip slightly on his cock to show his pleasure at the title being used. Steve had never really experienced the appeal of his alpha status being used in this setting, but the word sounded oh so sweet falling from Bucky’s lips that he couldn’t ignore the pleasure that filled him at the sound.

 

Steve leaned down into the dip of Bucky's throat, dragging his teeth across the area where his neck and shoulder met, where a mating bite would go if he were to sink his teeth in and break the skin.

 

“Gonna take you out after all this,” Steve whispered as he increased the pace of his hands. The breathy little cries escaping from Bucky's chest held a hint of laughter now, his scent entirely aroused but also amused and fond as Steve breathed him in.

 

“You gonna woo me Stevie?” Bucky somehow managed a wry smile to accompany his breathless words, his trademark sass shining through even as he pushed back against Steve with all he was worth. “Gonna treat me right Alpha?”

 

Steve's hand tightened forcibly at that, and suddenly Bucky was coming over his fist and chest, crying out and thrashing on the bed. Steve kept up his movements until Bucky whined from overstimulation and Steve let go to move to the other side of the bed, staying close while giving Bucky the space to breathe.

 

Both on their backs now, their eyes met across the pillow. Bucky's chest was still heaving, his lips swollen, hair a mess, and cheeks flushed into a rosy red. He was perfect. Steve leaned over for a kiss, keeping his blue eyes locked on to Bucky's grey ones as he finally answered the outstanding question. “Damn right I will.”

 


 

“You didn’t come,” Bucky whispered later, when Steve had cleaned them up and they were cuddled together under the blankets. They were both still naked but there was a comfortability to it, no expectations attached to the press of skin occurring under the sheets.  

 

Steve pressed a kiss to Bucky’s temple and snuggled in a little closer, keeping Bucky’s broken arm carefully out of the way as he held him tight.

 

“I got everything I needed tonight,” Steve replied easily, giving in to the urge to reach a hand up to smooth over Bucky’s unruly dark hair. “Do you feel good?”

 

Bucky hummed in contentment and burrowed deeper into Steve’s side. “Best Christmas ever.”

 

“Oh!” Steve popped up and Bucky let out a dissatisfied grunt, a pout quickly taking over his blissful expression. “One minute, it’ll be worth it.” Steve laid another kiss onto Bucky’s lips this time before darting out of bed, unconcerned with his nakedness as he descended the loft stairs and hurried over to the coat rack. His gift for Bucky was still in his jacket pocket, and he retrieved it quickly before starting back up the stairs and gliding back into the warmth of the bed.

Bucky was still laid out easily beside him, looking more curious than perturbed now, and Steve pressed the small object into Bucky’s good hand where it lay on top of the blankets. “Merry Christmas Buck.”

 

Bucky turned it over in his hand, the wooden bird fitting perfectly in his palm. Steve had carved it from white pine, the softness of the wood allowing him to set in the feather-light details that took it from just nice to beautifully realistic. The small bird looked like it could lift its wings at any moment and take flight.

 

“Steve,” Bucky's voice was almost as breathless as it had been only a half hour before, but for an entirely different reason now. “Did you carve this?” Bucky stroked along the pudgy bird's head with one gentle finger, obscurely reminding Steve of Princess Jasmine as she tended to the birds by the fountain before releasing them. Bucky was not a true prince as far as Steve could tell, but he carried himself with an almost royal air, an endearing and sometimes frustrating mix of confidence and entitlement. Steve couldn't deny he was smitten with it.

 

Steve nodded at the question and Bucky grinned wide as he continued to inspect the bird. “It's a house sparrow.”

 

“It is.” Their grins were a matching set now, Steve entirely too pleased that Bucky had been able to identify the species without any added colour to provide a hint. “I figured you have a lot in common, you know?”

 

Bucky raised an inquisitive eyebrow, and Steve repositioned to move Bucky into a more comfortable position before continuing, doing his best to keep a straight face as he spoke. “House sparrows are loud Buck, always yapping away about this and that. They can live pretty much anywhere, and usually just show up out of the blue and eat all the food they can find before nesting down wherever they see fit, even if they disturb some other creature in the process. Did you know they're actually considered a pest to most people because they just show up and take over?”

 

Bucky's brow was adorably furrowed at this, his lips slipping back into the well-practiced pout that Steve was more than familiar with now. “There had better be a 'but’ coming up soon Steve,” he groused, simultaneously amused and cranky.

 

“But,” Steve continued with a smile, giving Bucky a small jostle to remind him this was all in good fun, “I can't help but care about them. They can empty my bird feeders in a day and chirp until my ears want to bleed, and I still look forward to seeing them every morning, flapping around and looking after their families. They're tough little guys, brave, doing what they need to to survive. They stick it out and live their lives on their terms. They make me happy.”

 

Bucky was silent for a long moment, the pout smoothed away into something more concentrated and thoughtful now. Steve let him have the silence, grazing his fingers up and down lightly across Bucky's arm as he waited.

 

“I'm not anything special Steve,” Bucky said at last, and no, this was not the reaction Steve had wanted at all, but he let Bucky continue regardless, his counter-arguments ready to go when needed. “I'm not brave, or tough, or anything like that. Do you know how many bags I packed before I actually left this time? A dozen at least, over the past three years. But I never actually left until now. That's cowardice if I've ever heard it.” Bucky chuckled humorlessly and Steve squeezed his arm gently in a show of silent support.

 

“He hit my face this time,” Bucky gestured to the remnants of his black eye. “It didn't matter that he broke one of my ribs a year ago, or my ring finger before that. Maybe I'm just vain enough that my face was the final straw. You can't call that bravery.” Bucky burrowed his face into Steve's neck, scenting him and taking a moment to compose himself. Steve continued to keep up his gentle touches, letting Bucky take the time he needed to get his thoughts in order.

 

“The only time he touched me in the end was to hurt me,” Bucky met Steve's eyes as he pulled away from his neck. “In the beginning there was sex of course, always a little rough, but I liked it. I…” Bucky hesitated, and Steve nodded at him to continue, doing his best to keep his expression neutral. “I asked him to hit me. Spank me, that is. I liked it.” Bucky squeezed his eyes shut and Steve could feel all the words he wanted to say bubbling up inside him like a volcano ready to erupt. He forced them down though, focusing instead on keeping his scent calm and soothing, creating a safe space for the omega. “After a while the sex stopped, or at least on my end it did. He still got off on pushing me around, but he never touched me that way after the first year when it had still been my idea.”

 

Steve hadn't been sure what had gone on between Bucky and the other alpha in that respect, and he was suddenly immensely grateful that not only had Bucky been spared from any horrifying sexual abuse, but that Steve had trusted his gut and had held off on his own pleasure earlier. Just having the image of Bucky blissed out and sated underneath him was enough to keep him satisfied for the next hundred years or so anyway.

 

Steve mulled everything over for a moment, grateful that Bucky seemed content to return the favour of time for quiet contemplation.

 

“How did you feel every time you packed your suitcase?” Steve decided to start with.

 

Bucky raised a surprised eyebrow at him but answered the question honestly. “Scared shitless. Why?”

 

“Being afraid of something but doing it anyway is literally the definition of bravery Bucky. Every time you even thought about leaving, you showed courage. Is there a reason you didn't leave those other times?”

 

Bucky looked down at the bird in his hand, his thumb still moving gently over the carved surface. “The first few times, I was too close to getting caught. I wasn't sure what Brock would do if he caught me, and I didn't want to find out. After that…” Bucky swallowed, his eyes turning a little glassy. “By that point it had been over a year since I had spoken to my family. I wasn't sure if I had anywhere to go back to, so I talked myself out of it. I didn't like getting hit, but being homeless would have been worse for me.”

 

“Oh Bucky,” Steve sighed softly into his hair, doing everything he could to keep his own emotions in check at the confession. Steve curled around Bucky even further as he mulled these new facts over. “So you literally bided your time until you could steal a suitcase of money and a sports car before making your big escape? Alright there, James Bond.”

 

Steve was gratified that his lame joke got the chuckle he had been hoping for, the weight of the conversation lifting slightly with the added brightness of Bucky's laughter. “When you put it that way,” Bucky smiled, eyes crinkling at the corners with delight, “I guess it was a little badass.”

 

“It was extremely badass and incredibly brave. You saved yourself Bucky. That's no small thing.”

 

Bucky's smile was smaller now but immensely pleased, a shy type of contentment settling beautifully onto his face at the compliment.

 

“Just because you agreed to certain scenes in the bedroom didn't give him the right to do any of this to you,” Steve continued, unable to even force Brock's name from his lips. “You're amazing, and smart, and strong, and so undeniably special, and you didn't do anything wrong at all. None of what happened to you was your fault. You know that, right?”

 

Bucky smiled his quiet smile and met Steve's eyes, his unique coffee/book/fresh air scent kicking up happily around them. “I think I may be getting there.”

 


 

The rest of the night was lighter, easier after that, sweet nothings being whispered in the dark as their blankets and combined scents surrounded them in warmth and safety.

 

When Steve woke up the next morning beside Bucky, his limbs splayed out like a starfish, hair erratic, head at least 85% on Steve's own pillow, and his mouth sporting a grin at least a mile wide, Steve couldn't help but feel as though they had just turned to a fresh new page in their story together.

 

Chapter Text

 

Everything was different after that, and Bucky felt it like he could feel the warmth of the fireplace seeping into his bones, or the rasp of Steve's beard between his thighs where Steve had gently nipped and nuzzled earlier before giving Bucky a pre-breakfast blowjob that had him seeing stars.

 

Bucky had woken up this morning feeling like Steve had finally found the light switch in the black room of his soul, illuminated and bright like he hadn't felt in years. Steve, who was willing to feel around in the scary deep-dark of Bucky's messed up emotions, until turning on the light.

 

Bucky rolled over in bed, smelling the sizzly salty goodness of frying bacon wafting up from below. Steve was humming something terribly off tune as he clanged around in the kitchen, the odd unintelligible lyric slipping in here and there as Steve apparently remembered random words. It sounded horrible and wonderful, and as Bucky glanced at the carved little bird perched on his bedside table, he couldn't find it in himself to squash down the hope that bubbled up at the idea that maybe, just maybe, he could start every morning just like this, with Steve, forever.

 


 

“So I was thinking,” Steve started in his semi-serious voice, just as Bucky shoveled another fork full of waffles in to his mouth at the breakfast table. Bucky rolled his hand holding the fork in a soundless bid to continue, he was listening, and Steve sent him a fond look across the table, his scent blooming with contentment and slight amusement, as he raised an eyebrow at Bucky's chipmunk cheeks. Bucky swallowed down the too-large mouthful and dabbed primly at the edges of his mouth with his napkin to make up for his apparent lack of table manners. Steve rolled his lips into his mouth, likely biting down on a laugh, the bastard, before composing himself and carrying on.

 

“I was thinking about what we should do when we get out of here. The radio said this morning that we're getting a break from the snow, so we just need the roads to get plowed now. Since we're so far back from the main road it usually takes a few days for the plows to get to us, but it's on the horizon at least. I was wondering,” Steve paused for a moment, treading carefully with his next thought, “after we visit the hospital, which is our non-negotiable first stop once we hit civilization, whether you wanted to look your family up.”

 

“Oh.” Bucky hesitated with a piece of bacon halfway to his mouth before chomping down in thought. “I guess we could. But I don't know…” Bucky trailed off, unsure of how he even planned to end that sentence, but Steve, as always, faithfully bailed him out.

 

“I mean, there's no pressure. Just if you wanted to check in with them, let them know you're ok. It's been three years now, right?”

 

Bucky nodded, his next piece of bacon sticking in his throat oddly at the thought. Three fucking years he had lost to Brock Rumlow.

 

“So you can at least check in if you want. Or not, it's completely your choice. Either way, I have my apartment in Brooklyn, so we can stay there for a while, shake off the cabin fever for a bit. Maybe go on that date I promised you.” Steve winked from across the table and Bucky couldn't help but laugh before devouring another bacon strip. What a doof.

 

“As far as the family check-in goes, I'll have to get back to you on that,” Bucky finally decided, and Steve nodded along sagely, understanding as always.“But I wholeheartedly agree to this date. Where would you take me?”

 

“Bowling,” Steve answered immediately, finally cutting into his own waffle.

 

“Bowl- Ew! No! Steve! Why?” Bucky recoiled at the thought. Public bowling. Gross.

 

Steve smirked from across the table, the smartass. “'Cause I wanna see you in a pair of shoes worn by a thousand other people, putting your fingers into ball holes that have been touched by countless other hands. I may even spring for a greasy slice of pizza on a paper plate for you to eat at a permanently sticky table, if you're really lucky.” Steve grinned wide at this, a wistful look appearing on his face, as if he was already on this supposed ‘date.’  

 

Bucky did shudder now, taking the last piece of bacon off the serving plate to help soothe himself after that detestable imagined scenario. He would be the bigger man though, and not rise to the obvious bait, even though his brain was screaming at him to burn the very idea out of Steve's mind. “You're lucky you're cute Steve Rogers.” Bucky finally responded as he blew a dramatic kiss across the table. “Now eat your bacon before it gets cold.”

 

Steve mimed catching the kiss and sticking it in his pocket, an action that had Bucky's eyes threatening to roll into the stratosphere, before pointing a lame ass finger gun in Bucky's direction. “It's a good thing I like house sparrows,” Steve grinned, “because you ate it all.”

 

Bucky briefly reconsidered his wish of together forever after that, but decided in the end that putting up with Steve's dorkiness was still more than worth it.

 


 

The day stretched on from there, lazy and domestic as they settled into their routine. Steve chopped and brought in wood while Bucky tidied up inside, getting a stew going for dinner in the crock pot before they met in the living room to continue editing Steve's book together.  

 

It was coming along nicely, only another few chapters left to go when they finally set it down for the day, Bucky stretching out on the couch with a crossword and his feet set in Steve's lap for a rub. Bucky read the questions out and they answered quite a few together, with Bucky secretly filling in bullshit answers for the ones that completely stumped them both.

 

It was easy, so easy, just to fall into the domestic bliss of it all, the routine and comfort of the cabin and Steve, that when Bucky heard the plow truck drive by that evening as they ate dinner, days earlier than either had expected, he couldn't help but wish for another storm.

 


 

“It looks slippery,” Bucky stated as they peered out the window together the next morning, the warmth from spending the night together in bed still wrapped around Steve's bones.  

 

Steve hummed, neither agreeing with or disputing the statement.

 

“And we have the book to finish,” Bucky added, gnawing on his lip. His scent was off-kilter, and Steve let out a deep exhale before leading Bucky away from the window to start making breakfast together.

 

“So maybe another day here would be a good idea.” Bucky continued anxiously.

 

Steve pressed a kiss to his lips and started cracking eggs for omelettes, pressing down on the strange bubbling of anxiety rising in his own throat. “Another day here sounds good to me.”

 

Bucky's relieved smile told Steve that had been the right answer.

 


 

The day passed fitfully with Bucky noticeably more quiet than usual, more reserved as he moved around the small cabin, his usual uncontainable energy dialed down in the wake of what lay before them.

 

Nothing was going to necessarily change once they made it into the city, but it felt like the end of an era regardless. They had something special here in their own little world, cut off by the ice and snow, and Steve couldn't help but wonder how things would be once they got back to reality, to traffic jams and jobs and bills, to the daily grind of everyday life. He wasn’t worried necessarily, but rather felt as though he was walking up a staircase in the dark, never quite knowing when that last step would level out and he’d be tripping over air. There was a feeling of trepidation to it all, but it was simmering under the surface, not easy to grasp or understand, and Steve didn’t know what to do with the feeling.

 

When Bucky flopped down beside him on the floor though, the final pages of Steve’s novel in his hands and a small smile curving his lips, Steve did his best to brush these worries from his mind and focus on the here and now; Bucky’s head in his lap, the heat of the fire, and the comfort of the home they had made together.

 


 

Steve pushed into Bucky later that night, completed novel pages strewn to the side as they moved and bucked together in front of the flames, the roar of the fire doing nothing to drown out the sounds of their hearts beating as one, the smell of the smoke hardly noticeable over the musk of them and sex and want and need.

 

Bucky cried out and moaned and sobbed Steve’s name when he came, and Steve took it all in, every sound, every taste, every thrust, and as he cried out himself, filling Bucky up with himself, his scent, he fought every inch of his body’s demanding howl to bite down on Bucky’s neck, to mate and claim, to keep.

 

He pressed a kiss there instead, gentle and loving, a wish and a vow, and promised himself that this was not a goodbye.

 


 

Bucky looked out the window at the clear road the next morning, freshly plowed and salted, the sky powder blue and clear. He felt Steve press up against his back, nuzzling his nose into the dip of his throat and shoulder, the low rumble of belonging emanating from the alpha’s chest making his knees weak, and Bucky memorized the sensation, breathed in Steve and his scent and the moment, and tried to clear his mind of everything but this.

 

It was undeniable though, the slightly rigid set of Steve’s shoulders and the clear winter sky making the truth apparent now.

 

It was time for them to go.

 


 

Packing was weird.

 

Somewhere along the way, Bucky had traded wearing his own collection of brand name sweaters for Steve's soft knits and flannels, setting aside his skinny jeans for Steve's slightly too-big sweatpants that hung just a little too low on his hips. Bucky's fabrics were soft because of quality, cashmere and supple leather and silks, while Steve's items were soft from what appeared to be a few too many spins in his old washing machine. Steve's thin grey t-shirts felt right though, smelled right, and Bucky didn't question it to slide one on under a black and red plaid flannel before zipping his bag up.

 

Steve was outside clearing a path in the driveway to the truck, and Bucky took the opportunity to linger around the cabin collecting his things, touching the wood walls and fiddling with that one stubborn kitchen cabinet drawer that Steve always gave the evil eye to before breakfast. It was off its track just a slight bit so Bucky reset it, making sure it glided smoothly before moving on.

 

His macaroni junk drawer bracelet was hanging out on the coffee table still, and he slipped it into his pocket before wandering over to Steve's desk. Steve's finished novel was sitting there in a stack, carefully collected and set aside after their editing-session-turned-romp in front of the fire last night, and Bucky hesitated for only a moment before slipping it into his bag, replacing it with a tall stack of cash and a hastily scrawled note, using his carved sparrow as a paperweight to top the whole thing off. He didn't really like the idea of leaving it, but either things would work out and he would eventually get it back, or they wouldn't, and well, he probably wouldn't want it around then to remind him of what a piece of shit he was.

 

He could hear Steve stomping the snow off his boots now, so he grabbed his bags and went to meet him outside, not wanting him to come in and see the desk yet.

 

They settled into the truck together, Bucky lost in his own head until a weird clanging distracted him from his thoughts. Steve had reached over to work the gearshift and it was then that Bucky noticed his matching macaroni bracelet was tied around his wrist, the nuts and bolts hitting the macaroni with a stupid sounding click-clack whenever Steve moved his arm.

 

“You all set?” Steve asked, waiting for a response before daring to put the vehicle into motion.

 

Bucky leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to his lips, feeling the first glimmer of hope that things might actually work out in his favour.

 

Bucky smiled and turned his face towards the still-rising winter sun. “I'm ready.”




 

The drive into the city wasn't an overly long one, only about three hours total, but they stopped halfway through so Steve could refuel the truck and they could stretch their legs. There was no real rush in getting to the hospital, and although Steve wasn't exactly dragging his feet, he didn't have to urge to get there very quickly either. He was getting anxious now to make sure that he had set Bucky's broken arm correctly, but every mile they drove further away from the cabin seemed to add an extra pound of weight to his shoulders for some reason.

 

Bucky was obviously feeling it too, fidgeting in the passenger's seat and running his friendship bracelet through his fingers like a rosary.

 

Steve paid for the gas inside, and threw the little plastic shopping bag he had gotten in Bucky's lap when they got back in the truck. Bucky let out a wet sounding laugh when he pulled a brand new scrunchy out of the bag, and although his smile was wavering around the edges, it was still the best smile Steve had seen from him all day.

 


 

The hospital parking lot was surprisingly empty, and they sat in silence for a moment once Steve turned the truck off.

 

“I think I want to see my parents after this,” Bucky broke the silence with his decision, and Steve squeezed his hand in support before they exited the truck cab and headed towards the ER together. “Will you take me?”

 

“Yeah Buck,” Steve pressed a gentle kiss to his lips. “Anything you want.”

 


 

Steve leaned against a wall by the registration desk as Bucky checked in, not able to hear his conversation with the nurse but close enough that Bucky could signal him over if needed.

 

He watched the nurse type and pull a sour face at her computer screen before smoothing her expression into a neutral mask, and Bucky's own expression went oddly nervous for a moment. Steve figured maybe their wait time was going to be longer than he had anticipated based on the parking lot.

 

To his surprise Bucky was immediately ushered off down the hall, Bucky flashing him a cocky ‘damn right I'm first,’ grin, whatever was worrying him thirty seconds ago seemingly no longer an issue.

 

Steve smiled back with a nod and pointed to the waiting room to signal he'd be there, and Bucky gave him one last look, eyes bright and happy, before he was directed around the corner by a stern looking orderly.

 

Steve only had time to glance at which celebrity dog had worn it better in an old issue of Pulse Gossip before the police were rushing in and he was face down on the ground, his hands getting cuffed behind his back.

 

Chapter Text

 

As Bucky gave his name to the registration nurse at the desk, he couldn't remember the last time he had been so nervous. The nurse's weird expression wasn't helping him much either, but as she entered him in and then told him he could be seen right away, Bucky felt a surge of relief flood his body. He was in the clear.

 

The past 24 hours had felt like a bit of a dream sequence, as if he had been stuck in purgatory between his real life and the time he and Steve had spent together at the cabin. Bucky had no regrets about what had happened between them last night, he had more than enjoyed it, but he couldn’t help but remember the edge of desperation that had hung over them and knew that Steve had felt it too. It was as if they couldn’t quite figure out where they stood with each other once the threat of returning to civilization loomed over them, and he was relieved they had more time to get to know each other now, to see if their relationship really had legs to stand on. Based on the gentle kisses Steve had pressed to his neck the previous night, Bucky was hopefully optimistic about it.

 

He flashed a smile at Steve, feeling the weight of the last few days melting off his shoulders, and Steve gave him a fond smile back before indicating he'd be waiting for him. Then with one last look, Bucky was off to get his arm checked out. Easy breezy lemon squeezy.

 

Except maybe not so easy, because after waiting in the exam room for a few minutes, he was finally greeted not by a doctor, but by a security guard.

 

“It's ok, you're safe now James,” the guard said, and Bucky was still trying to wrap his head around what the fuck he meant before it all came tumbling down. “The police have been called and the man who abducted you will be removed from the building shortly. Are you able to provide a statement to an officer before receiving medical attention, or do you need to be seen immediately?”

 

Bucky sucked in a breath and let his head fall into his good hand, trying to get a grip on himself and not just curl up on the floor to hyperventilate for a while. This was exactly why he should have given a fake name, Jesus fucking Christ he should have known better .

 

“I was not abducted and you do not have permission to touch a hair on that man's head.” Bucky gathered himself and stood tall, not letting this piece of shit guard tell him how it was gonna be. Bucky was a Barnes, and Bucky Barnes was gonna tell him how this was gonna go down. “I swear to God if anyone touches him, I'll have my entire team of lawyers so far up this hospital's ass that even the fucking janitors won't be able to walk straight for a week.”

 

The guard blanched and was about to stutter out a reply when his radio crackled, interrupting them.

 

Steve had just been taken into custody.

 


 

 

It was a little like a bad TV pilot, Steve thought absently, as he tested the handcuffs one last time before deciding yes, he was absolutely cuffed to an interrogation room table at the police station, complete with one-way mirror and funky smell.

 

If only his Ma could see him now.

 

They had read him his rights earlier at the hospital, but with some overly aggressive alpha's knee pressed into the small of his back and his main concern being Bucky's well-being, he honestly couldn't say he had heard what he was being held for.

 

He had asked for a lawyer anyway, because while he wasn't sure exactly what they were charging him with, he was pretty damn sure he didn't fucking do it, and if TV cop dramas had taught him anything it was to always ask for a lawyer. It had already been, by his estimate, at least three or four hours since he had been removed from the hospital though, so it was hard to say what was going to happen next.

 

Suddenly the door swung open and a female alpha entered the room holding a file folder, her familiar scent making Steve's nose twitch until he identified the smell.

 

“Detective Hill,” Steve gave a sheepish half wave from the table where he could only slightly raise his hands.

 

Maria's head snapped up and her jaw dropped, and Steve would have patted himself on the back for startling the unflappable Maria Hill if his goddamn hands weren't chained to the goddamn table.

 

“Rogers,” Maria greeted, schooling her face back into her usual unreadable expression as she slid into the chair across from him. “First I'm forced to stare at your ugly mug in the Army every day for four years, then I have to see you around New York, pointing your little water guns towards every goddamn car crash and fire this side of Brooklyn. I still haven't forgiven you for when you firefighters kicked our asses at last year's charity softball game, you know,” Maria paused for a grin. “And now you have the balls to show up in my interrogation room. You're gonna give me a headache soon,” Hill winked slyly. “What's new?”

 

“Oh, you know,” Steve shrugged, leaning back and attempting to look as relaxed as the situation allowed. “Not much. I'm taking some time off right now. I've been thinking of maybe replacing the kitchen counter in my apartment. My building went up in the '70s and it's never been updated. I'm possibly gonna have a house guest soon, and he has good taste, so he might like the upgrade. Otherwise, just being held against my fucking will for an unknown reason. You know. A normal Tuesday.”  

 

Maria lifted an eyebrow. “Uh huh. So why does it say in this file that you kidnapped James Barnes?”

 

Steve sighed. “That would be a great question if I knew who the hell James Barnes was.”

 

Maria slid the file across the table, a missing persons flyer presenting itself as the first page in the stack. Bucky's picture stared back at him, his wide smile flashing and eyes bright in the photo.

 

“Bucky,” Steve swallowed.

 

“James Buchanan Barnes,” Hill intoned. “His family reported him missing just under a week ago after his significant other contacted them to see if he had been in touch. There were signs of a struggle at his house and a car was stolen. A safe was also opened and money was taken, but Barnes’ significant other has not been cooperative with more information in that area. To top it all off, Mr. Barnes just happened to show up at a hospital today with visible injuries. Know anything about that?”

 

Steve clenched his fists, fighting to keep his temper at bay. “Bucky ran away from his ex because the struggle was Brock beating the shit out of him, just like he had been doing for the past 3 years. Bucky took the car and got in an accident outside my cabin, which is where we've been snowed in for the past week. Today was the first day the roads were clear enough to pass.”

 

“And the money?”

 

Steve sat back in his chair, deadfaced. “What money?”

 

Maria grinned the grin of a shark swimming in chum. “Mmmhmm. Ok. Thanks Rogers.” She stood up and fished a key out of her pocket, unlocking his cuffs with a small click. “You're free to go.”

 

Steve couldn't hide his surprise at that one. “Just like that?”

 

Maria smirked. “Just like that. I'll confirm your story with Barnes, but I didn't spend that much time in the desert with you watching my back just to doubt you now. Plus you both stink like lovesick puppies. Just don't leave the country, yah?”

 

“Guess I'll have to postpone that trip to Paris,” Steve sighed mournfully and Hill snorted at his shitty French accent. “But hey, thanks. Two questions before you go.”

 

Maria nodded. “Shoot.”

 

“Any idea where I can find my supposed abductee?”

 

Maria grinned, amusement flashing across her face. “He's in the lobby, screaming his head off about how he's gonna sue us all to kingdom come.”

 

Steve nodded. That sounded about right. “Ok, so second, why on earth would anyone want to take him? No offense, but I mean, it's Bucky. He can be very… loud.”

 

Maria's eyebrows lifted at that. “I don't know about your Bucky, but James Barnes is a goldmine for ransom money, considering his family owns such a successful business.”

 

Steve blinked, not getting the hint.

 

“Barnes,” Maria stressed. “As in Barnes and Noble? The mega-popular chain of bookstores? His family is worth millions.”

 

“Oh,” Steve said, flopping back into the hard metal chair. “That makes sense.”

 


 

“... And I swear to god, I will have a grass-fed milk-it-and-make-cheese motherfucking COW if he is not released in the next five minutes!”

 

Steve couldn't help but smile at how Bucky's raised voice permeated the walls of the police station as Hill escorted him back down the hall. Maria eyed Bucky for a moment before turning to Steve with a straight face, her twinkling eyes the only thing giving away her joy at the scene.

 

“Congratulations Rogers. He's very spirited.”

 

Steve grinned. That was one way of putting it.

 

Bucky was literally wagging a finger at some poor cop now, the rest of the waiting room patrons looking like they were going to have a collective heart attack at any moment, so Steve figured now would be a good time to step in.

 

“Bucky!”

 

Bucky's head whipped around and Steve could hardly blink before he had an armful of omega, Bucky's body radiating both tension and relief with Steve's release.

 

“Hey Buck,” Steve murmured into the crook of his neck, scenting him as Bucky did the same. He smelled like worry and fear and defiance, his usual coffee/book/fresh air scent buried below his obvious distress. Steve stroked his hands soothingly up and down Bucky's spine until his body sagged a bit and Steve was able to pull back and see his face.

 

“Steve,” Bucky's expression was one of devastation, his entire body radiating unhappiness. “I'm so sorry.”

 

“It's ok Bucky, we're ok,” Steve whispered, wiping away stray tear tracks with his thumbs. “You didn't do anything wrong.”

 

Bucky's red-rimmed eyes shot him a skeptical look and Steve leaned in for a chaste kiss, mindful of their audience. “I mean it. But let's not do this here. Are we good to go?” He asked, directing the question at Hill.

 

Maria nodded. “I still need to take James’ statement, but I can hold the dogs off for now if you come back first thing tomorrow morning. Your boy still needs to get his arm checked out first.”

 

Steve nodded his thanks to her and grasped Bucky’s hand tightly.

 

“Let's go Buck.”

 

They had a lot to talk about.

 

Chapter Text

 

They didn’t really talk on the short cab ride back to the hospital - the truck was still parked in the hospital lot, the keys still in Steve’s pocket - an unspoken agreement between them to wait until they were alone before delving into what was surely going to be a long talk.

 

The feeling between them was more relaxed than either had expected though, and Bucky assumed it was because there was really nothing left to lose at this point. Steve knew he was not just a Barnes now, but a Barnes and Noble Barnes, so it was just a matter of time until Bucky found out whether Steve was willing to stay and deal with his nonsense or not. Waiting for the hammer to drop should have felt stifling, like a noose tightening around his neck, but the relief of not having to worry about his identity coming out seemed to override any existing anxiety the situation had produced. It was a little freeing, honestly. It was not to say that he was at all ok with the idea that Steve may have reached his limit of bullshit quite some time ago though, even before the handcuffs had been pulled out.

 

Bucky had always expected that the first time handcuffs and Steve would come up in the same scenario, it would have been in a more intimate setting, with Bucky’s arms secured to the headboard ideally, but that dream had gone down the drain pretty damn fast this morning.

 

The one thing he still couldn’t figure out though, was why he cared so much. Sure, Steve was amazing and beautiful and funny in a dorky kind of way, not to mention that he had literally saved Bucky's life, but it had hardly been a full week yet and Bucky was already having dreams about things beyond kinky handcuffs, like white picket fences and 2.5 kids and a dog type dreams. It was amazing and alarming that he felt so close to love after such a short span of time; three years with Brock hadn’t stirred a single feeling up the way five minutes alone with Steve did to him now. He knew it had to mean something, he just didn’t know what.

 

Bucky pushed these thoughts aside for now as the cab pulled up to the hospital. He supposed he didn’t really have to worry about this stuff until he and Steve had their talk anyway. Maybe Steve would turn tail and run and that would be the end of it.

 

As they approached the automatic doors of the ER though, Steve put his hands in the air as if he surrendered, back rigid as if he was bracing for an attack, a shit-eating grin on his face as they stepped through the entrance, and Bucky couldn’t help but bark out a laugh. He punched Steve in the arm and smiled. It was possible they still had a fighting chance.

 


 

“I think I’m gonna stick close this time if you don’t mind,” Steve joked as they checked in at the registration desk for the second time that day. Bucky stuck his tongue out at him and gave his name to the nurse, a different one on shift now thankfully, which avoided any awkwardness.

 

They were sent to the waiting room like everybody else this time and ended up in an exam room an hour after shooting the shit together, doing magazine quizzes and reading each other’s purposely vague horoscopes, later badly guessing at the Wheel of Fortune answers that played on the muted TV in the waiting room. It was fun, which was insane. It should have been awkward and weird and even boring, but it wasn’t. Steve was loose-limbed and witty, throwing his head back and laughing when Bucky purposely blew easy answers when it was time to solve the puzzle, as if the horrible events of the morning had just been a bad dream.

 

In the exam room the doctor, Helen Cho, poked and prodded Bucky’s arm once she arrived, her soothing omega scent putting Bucky at ease despite the chore of explaining everything that had transpired so far as she took his history.

 

“It looks pretty good,” she finally admitted, and Bucky immediately sensed Steve’s alpha chest puffing up with pride at the statement. “I’ll refer you for an X-Ray to confirm, but it feels like it was set correctly. You said your mate bandaged it?” She asked, jutting her chin towards Steve.

 

Bucky felt the blood pool in his cheeks as he stammered out a response. “Yes, but he’s uh, he’s not my mate.”

 

“Oh,” Dr. Cho sat back, “I apologize. Your pre-mate then.”

 

Bucky felt more than saw Steve throw his hands in the air before bopping himself in the forehead, letting out a satisfied “of course!” like the mysteries of the universe had just been revealed to him.

 

Bucky blinked. “A pre-what?”

 

“A pre-mate,” Dr. Cho repeated calmly. “It’s when an alpha and an omega who have experienced a traumatic event together establish a bond, similar to that of mates who have been together for quite some time. It’s a survival instinct developed to ensure pairs continue to mate and care for each other despite adverse conditions. Alphas and omegas are more likely to survive high-stress situations if they are bonded, so while this phenomenon is rare today as there are not as many threats to survival, it does still happen on occasion. Your combined scents give you away, as pre-bond pairs emit mated pheromones.”

 

“Oh my god,” Steve was still groaning in the corner before flopping down beside Bucky in the spare chair and taking his hand. “I fucking knew something had to be going on. Jesus Christ, I didn’t even think of this.”

 

“As I said, it’s quite rare in modern society,” Cho acknowledged him with a nod. “Most people who are not medical professionals are completely unaware of the existence of pre-mates. It’s not as if many alpha/omega pairs are running around dodging wolves and natural threats anymore,” she smiled. “It’s likely the stress of the car crash and caring for an injured omega triggered it in Steve. For yourself James, you had just left an abusive situation and then suffered an accident. Steve caring for you and then you recropicating any type of care would have solidified the bond on both sides. Did you provide for Steve in any way that an omega traditionally would have during your time together? Cooking, making a nest, that type of thing?”

 

“I cooked,” Bucky choked out finally, “and I slept in his bed. Made him a present. Decorated his house for Christmas…” Bucky trailed off, not wanting to mention anything as intimate as him submitting to Steve washing his hair or the sex they had ended up having.

 

Dr. Cho nodded. “That would have been more than enough.”

 

“Is it,” Steve started before clearing his throat and trying again. “Is what we’ve been feeling purely a biological response then?” He asked a little desperately. “Is it just our designations acting up?”

 

Bucky perked up at the question, feeling similarly unsettled that this had all been one big evolutionary joke.

 

Thankfully Dr. Cho smiled and shook her head. “The pre-mating wouldn’t have worked if you weren’t a compatible pair. If you have been feeling affection towards one another, I can assure you it’s genuine, it’s just at an accelerated rate. Nature wants you to speed up the reproduction process, that’s all,” she said with a wink.

 

“Jesus Christ,” Steve choked out.

 

“I don’t. I. Ah.” Bucky sputtered.  

 

“Shall we go for your X-Ray now?” Cho asked.

 

All Bucky could do was nod.

 


 

“So,” Steve blurted as they got back into the truck a few hours later. The X-Ray had come back clean, and Bucky had gotten a bright pink cast on his arm, along with the stitches for the cut on his chest removed. “We're ah, mates, I guess. Pre-mates.” Steve scrubbed the back of his neck.

 

Bucky nodded, staring out the windshield. It was getting dark now, this long-ass day finally coming to an end. “Yep. That's. That's a thing. We are that.”

 

“It's kind of a relief,” Steve admitted, and Bucky met his eyes as he carried on. “I mean, I thought I was going a little crazy. I really like you Buck, like, more than I should probably. The time at the cabin, it was…” Steve trailed off, looking a little lost for words.

 

“It felt right, didn't it.” Bucky filled in.

 

“Yeah,” Steve smiled, “it really did.”

 


 

They ended up checking in to a hotel for the sake of convenience.

 

Steve hadn't been back to his apartment for several weeks now, and had cleaned his fridge and pantry out before leaving. They were both ravenous by the time they left the hospital, and Bucky claimed he needed ‘'room service and a bubble bath, like, yesterday,” as soon as they were back on the road. Steve had to admit that sounded pretty great. He felt like he had just run an emotional marathon in the span of a day.

 

Steve let Bucky pick the hotel, because Steve didn't really care where they stayed and Bucky cared probably a little too much, which meant ending up in a five star room with a spectacular view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

 

Bucky had flashed some scary looking completely black credit card at the check-in desk, and now they were sitting on the large king sized bed together, bellies full from dinner, a comfortable but expectant silence settling around them.

 

“My name was flagged at the hospital, obviously,” Bucky finally began. Steve adjusted a pillow behind his back and gently took Bucky's uninjured hand, settling in for what was no doubt going to be a long talk. “Brock waited for me to show up after I left, but when I didn't he contacted my parents, figuring I had run home to them. They reported me missing when it became obvious I was really gone for good.” Bucky met Steve's eyes, looking desperately sorry about everything, and Steve gave him a soft smile and a nod, encouraging him to continue. “They had me listed as abducted, because they searched Brock's house before he had gotten things cleaned up, and saw some stuff had been broken after our last fight, not to mention the missing money and car. Brock obviously wasn't going to own up to what he had done, and turning the police away at the door would have been way too suspicious, so he played up the ‘rich boy goes missing’ angle and let then think I was taken. The evidence of the fight plus me checking into the hospital with a broken arm made them consider my kidnapper to be dangerous, which is why they basically tackled you at the hospital when the registration nurse notified security.”

 

“I was wondering what I did wrong,” Steve chuckled, and Bucky squeezed his hand in a silent apology before continuing, his upset shifting to anger now, a rising tide against his battered shoreline.

 

“Literally nothing. You've done nothing wrong Steve! You did the opposite in fact, you saved my fucking life, and they threw you in jail like a piece of garbage!”

 

“It really wasn't a jail,” Steve stated calmly, “more like a windowless pit of self reflection,” he joked.

 

Bucky's wide eyed stare told him this was maybe not the best time for humour, and Steve cleared his throat before continuing. “It was really ok though. I mean, I'm not super fond of being accused of kidnapping twice in one week, but I caught a break with an old Army buddy turned detective thankfully. There was no harm done in the end.”

 

“What about me lying to you?” Bucky's voice was small now, his gaze not meeting Steve's.

 

“When did you lie?” Steve asked, and that caught Bucky's attention, him looking over curiously at the question. “Maybe there was a little bit of deceit by omission, but you didn't lie to me directly, ever, as far as I know. I mean, you woke up and literally accused me of kidnapping you, which was weird then but makes sense now. You told me your family owned a business and you went to school for English, and I just never asked anything further about it. You wear insanely expensive clothing and even said that while you can cook, you don't, which means you probably grew up with a chef in the house. You have an entire leather suitcase devoted to hair care. You weren't exactly hiding your wealth. Am I wrong?”

 

Bucky shook his head, a hint of a smile curling his lips. “No,” he murmured.

 

Steve pulled Bucky closer on the bed and snuggled into him. “So let's just call it even, ok? You could have been more transparent and I could have put the clues together better, but that didn't happen and now we're here. We were probably half-blinded by our pre-bond too, not really questioning things because they felt so natural. You know?”

 

“Fuck Steve,” Bucky buried his face in Steve's neck and breathed deep, reigning in his emotions. “How are you so fucking perfect?”

 

Steve shook his head, feeling the weight of his own lie burning like a hot coat in his stomach. “I'm not perfect Buck, not at all. And that's definitely something you need to understand before you decide if you still want me in your life, pre-bond or not.”

 

Bucky pulled away from where he was nuzzling at Steve's throat to look him in the eye. “Bullshit. Nothing is going to change that.”

 

Steve gave him a sad smile before picking at the duvet with his free hand. “I'm pretty fucked up Bucky. And I lied to you. I'm not on vacation.” Steve let out a long breath. “I'm on a mandatory leave of absence right now.”

 

“What?” Bucky fully sat up on the bed now, not pulling away but rather adjusting himself for a better view of Steve's face. “Why?”

 

“Stress, for one thing,” Steve found a loose thread and started plucking at it fitfully. “I was in the Army for quite a while, and never really took the time to breathe once I got out. I saw some messed up stuff overseas, and while the fire department is less overwhelming, I'm still around a lot of unpleasant things on a daily basis. I've been taking a few too many chances at work lately. Had a few close calls, ran into a few unstable buildings against orders. That kind of thing.”

 

“It sounds like you were being a hero, being selfless,” Bucky was quick to jump to Steve's defense.

 

Steve shook his head, finally meeting Bucky's eyes, needing him to understand. “Not selfless Bucky, selfish. It's selfish to put my team at risk by being unpredictable, by doing whatever I want, damn the consequences. That's not heroic at all.”

 

Bucky frowned at this and settled back down beside Steve, resting his head on Steve's chest. Steve breathed in the smell of his shampoo mixing with Bucky's own unique scent, and tried to take it as a good sign that Bucky wasn't pulling away from him.

 

“I'm not,” Steve paused, having never admitted this particular thought to himself but knowing it was true regardless, “I'm not sure I'm going to go back, even if I pass my psych evaluation. I think I might be done.”

 

Bucky leaned up for a kiss, slow and steady and right there. “It's ok Steve,” he whispered, and Steve could have wept at the understanding in his voice. “We'll figure it out.”

 

And pre-mate or not, that was really all Steve had ever wanted to hear from him.

 

Chapter Text

 

“Just so you know, this has very quickly gone from an erotic treat to an assigned chore,” Steve groused as he worked the shampoo through Bucky's hair later that evening.

 

Bucky rolled his eyes and lifted his pink cast a little further away from the water to rest it more comfortably on the edge of the tub. “Oh stop Rogers, you think I can't smell your alpha brain having an orgasm over this? You fucking love it.”

 

Steve grumbled something unintelligible and likely not very complimentary, but didn't outright deny the fact. He just scrubbed Bucky's scalp a little harder, which was the complete opposite of a reprimand and they both knew it.

 


 

When Steve pulled Bucky into his arms in bed that night and wound his limbs around him like some sort of koala-octopus hybrid, Bucky couldn’t help but admit to himself that he really loved it too.  

 


 

Steve raised an eyebrow at the spread of food laid out on the room service cart that had appeared in their room as he stepped out of the bathroom after a shower the next morning.

 

“I didn't know what you wanted, so I got you a bit of everything,” Bucky muttered, cheeks going pink but expression notably sour. “Don't even say it Steve. I swear to god.”

 

Steve strode forward and wrapped his arms around Bucky, giving him a gentle squeeze before running his nose along Bucky's jawline and throat, scenting and marking him as his own. “My beautiful omega, so good at looking after me,” Steve murmured into his ear.

 

Bucky's knees absolutely did not go weak from the alpha's praise. They. Did. Not.  

 

“It's the pre-bond Steve!” Bucky exclaimed, giving him a shove. “I can't help it!”

 

Steve grinned, moving towards the food and taking a large bite out of a strip of bacon. “The pre-bond only enhances what's already there,” he pointed out, gesturing a little wildly with the food in his hand. “You like me.”

 

“Oh my God Steve.”

 

“You like like me. You want to feed me breakfast.” Steve’s smirk was full of alpha overconfidence now, and as he took another massive and slightly savage looking bite of meat, Bucky absolutely wanted to do something to him, but feeding him breakfast wasn’t high on the list anymore. Punching him in the face and riding him until his cock fell off were currently tied for first place. “I hate you.”

 

Steve’s grin only grew wider. “Whatever you say, Buck.”

 


 

The police station was busier than expected for 9 a.m, but they were able to find Maria at her desk rather easily, her work area immaculate compared to the desks that surrounded her. She gave an approving nod at Bucky’s cast, her face smooth and professional, the expression of utter calm and control making Steve feel oddly at home. They had spent a large amount of time together in their unit overseas, and Maria’s ‘get shit done’ face was one he was extremely familiar with by now. Steve had often wondered in his Army days if he would have been in love with her if he had been straight, but had eventually decided that she was too good for him regardless. Also, she scared him just a little bit, but he was going to stick with the not-playing-for-the-same-team excuse before admitting that one to her. Her level of competence was both attractive and terrifying in equal measure.

 

“Steve,” she jabbed a finger at his chest and gestured to an uncomfortable looking chair beside them, the metal handcuff bar locked to the side of her desk making it obvious this seat was geared more towards criminals than honoured guests. “Stay.”

 

Steve plopped into the seat with a sigh, resting an arm on the desk. “Despite the numerous times you have referred to me as a golden retriever, I’d like to remind you that I am not, in fact, a dog.”

 

“You’re not a dog Steve,” Maria’s smile was wicked, “you’re a growing boy. You’re just a puppy still.”

 

Bucky snorted out something that was between a cough and a laugh at that, and Steve shot them both a glare before shooing them away with a hand. “You gonna stand there all day Hill, or actually do some work for once?”

 

Maria stuck her tongue out at him in a very adult move, and gently guided Bucky away from the desk. “If you have to pee while we’re gone, make sure you put down a puppy pad first Steve. I don’t want to have to rub your nose in anything when I get back.” She turned and began walking away, Steve only daring to shoot her a silent middle finger once her back was turned.

 

Bucky took the entire exchange in with obvious delight before nodding towards Steve and following Maria’s retreating form. Steve sent him a parting smile before pulling open Hill’s bottom desk drawer and rifling through it until pulling out a small bag of candy and one of the cheap guilty pleasure romance paperbacks she always kept hidden within fifty feet of her workspace. For all of Maria’s posturing, Steve was glad to see some things hadn’t changed.

 

 


 

“First stop, coffee,” Maria smiled as she guided Bucky over to the break room. “We keep the crappier stuff out front for the masses, but you deserve the royal treatment for being mated to Steve.”

 

Bucky grinned. Maria was an alpha and it showed, but he was surprisingly at ease with her considering they had only met the previous day. Her past with Steve and her ability to call out his general Steve-ness made Bucky feel like she was not only someone he could trust, but also someone he could really come to like.

 

They doctored their drinks and she led him into a consult room, one of the soft ones that were likely used for breaking bad news to people, rather than an interrogation room as he had expected. Bucky settled on the comfy couch, Maria in the chair across from him, her notepad and a pen appearing from her pocket and ready to go when needed. She sipped her drink easily before settling in and meeting Bucky’s eyes with a steady gaze.

 

“Is he treating you ok?”

 

Bucky blinked. He hadn’t been expecting this line of questioning. “Yes,” he replied after a beat, happy to be able to answer and know it was the truth. “More than ok actually.”

 

Maria smiled, small but there. “I understand that your pre-bond wasn’t exactly a conscious thing, and know that it was can be a bit of a shock if it’s unexpected. Are you comfortable staying with Steve, or would you like to discuss some options for alternate accommodations? It wouldn’t mean being in an omega shelter either,” Maria added quickly, as if that were an issue. “There are a variety of options and resources open if you need them.”

 

Bucky felt his disbelief rise at the offer. “It’s… it’s Steve,” he finally said, as if that were an answer.

 

Maria nodded once, acknowledging his remark. “Yes, and Steve is a wonderful person, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have very quickly gone from one alpha to the next without much say in the matter,” she responded easily, no judgment present in the statement. “You are in control of your own life James, and that means it doesn’t matter how nice Steve is, or that he’s your pre-bonded alpha. What would you like to do?”

 

Bucky sat back and thought for a moment, Maria giving him an encouraging smile for not answering carelessly.

 

“I want to stay with Steve,” Bucky decided after a few minutes. “I want to contact my parents, and I want to press charges against Brock Rumlow.”

 

Maria’s shark grin was back, the air around her simmering with alpha pride and approval, and Bucky was very pleased that that look was aimed not quite at him, but more at what she was now going to be able to accomplish with Bucky’s permission. “I’d very much like to help you with that James.”

 

Maria’s pen was poised over her notepad. “Tell me about Brock.”

 


 

Bucky and Maria returned to her desk two hours later, Steve’s butt numb from the chair, the candy gone and the romance novel halfway complete.

 

Bucky looked weary but pleased, and Steve couldn’t help but brush up against him once he was close, the pre-bond and his own sense of possession needing to erase the scent of another alpha away from Bucky’s skin.

 

Bucky seemed to have the same idea, and they tucked their noses into each other’s necks for a long moment silently before grinning at each other and linking hands to face Hill. It was smooth and natural, Steve not realizing he had felt a little on edge without his mate until he was back beside him. The pre-bond was demanding in a way he had gotten used to, much like Bucky, Steve thought wryly.

 

Maria gave them a knowing grin before addressing them together. “James would like to continue to stay with you Steve, if you have no objections,” and Steve nodded his head at this, squeezing Bucky’s hand to let him know this was more than ok with him, “but he will contact me the instant he feels unsafe or unhappy. Won’t you James?”

 

Bucky nodded, sheepish but honest. “Yes ma’am.”

 

Maria nodded her approval. “Good. Steve, you will kiss the goddamn ground this man walks on or face my wrath, do you understand me?”

 

Steve bobbed his head quickly, knowing he would wake up with a horse-in-the-bed, Godfather type situation if he crossed her. “Absolutely.”

 

“Great. James,” she was back to addressing Bucky now, “I will let you know how we progress with the charges against Rumlow as they develop. We may need you to come back in the future depending on how things go, but you’ve provided an extremely helpful commentary on his illegal activity, and I’d like to thank you for that. I’m sorry for what you’ve experienced at this hand, but I intend to make him pay for it.” Her scary smile was back, and Steve was forever grateful he had never gotten on this alpha’s bad side. She would not be merciful.  “Steve, I am not able to accept gifts or bribes from citizens, so as a friend, I expect that the next time I see you you’ll be holding a large pack of gummy worms and three new Harlequins that you’ll be looking to unload. Would I be wrong about this?”

 

Steve shook his head. He was no stranger to this system. “Are you ever wrong Maria?”

 

Hill’s grin was wide and warmly terrifying. “It was good to see you Rogers.”

 


 

The sun was warm on Bucky’s face as they emerged back into the parking lot of the police station, the cool air hitting his lungs in a refreshing way after being cooped up inside for so long.

 

“She’s fucking terrifying,” Bucky finally spoke, squinting into the brightness as he tried to remember where they parked.

 

“She sure is,” Steve agreed.

 

“I think I’d be in love with her if I wasn’t gay,” he mused, “but she’d probably devour me in bed.”

 

Steve just laughed and grabbed his hand, leading him back to the truck with a smile. “Don’t I know it.”

 

Chapter Text

 

The stolen desk candy hadn't lasted long, and with Bucky being Bucky, Steve figured their next move should be grabbing some lunch.

 

“I put out a fire two blocks over once, and there was an amazing taco truck right around the corner,” Steve explained as he guided the truck out of the police station lot and into the slow moving New York traffic. “I think it's usually parked there around lunchtime on weekdays.”

 

Bucky blinked at him, lips twisting to the side in distaste. “A truck. A food truck. A moving vehicle from which to purchase hot food.”

 

Steve nodded, doing his best to clamp down on his smile. “Yeah, like one step up from a hot dog cart,” Steve confirmed. “It's delicious.”

 

“A hot dog…” Bucky visibly recoiled, as if Steve had casually mentioned dining out of a dumpster instead. “I can't even finish that sentence Steve. First of all, hot dogs are an abomination. Do you know what even goes into a hot dog? And then to purchase it on a street corner…”

 

“It's street meat!” Steve defended. “It's a New York staple! Have you never eaten a hot dog from a cart before?”

 

“Steve,” Bucky looked dead serious, meeting his eyes as they waited for the light to change. “I've never even eaten a hot dog.”

 

Steve had to forcibly resist the urge to slam his foot on the gas in shock. “What did you say?”

 

“I've never eaten a hot dog before,” Bucky repeated loudly, as if volume was the issue here.

 

Steve threw his blinker on and took them around the next turn, their destination immediately changing. “This ends today,” Steve was adamant.

 

Bucky's grey eyes went wide and he was suddenly gripping the passenger side door as if he was considering bailing out into traffic. “Steven Rogers, don't you dare,” he threatened.

 

“We're getting hot dogs!” Steve proclaimed with a grin, “and you're gonna love them.”

 


 

“I don't… but…” Bucky paused, taking another massive bite of his dog and getting spicy mustard all over his face in the process. “It's all the gross meat parts,” he finally whined, “it shouldn't be this good!”

 

Steve shook his head before swallowing another bite of his own sauerkraut laiden bun. “Don't think Buck, just eat,” he encouraged.

 

Bucky looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding once and taking another obscene bite, his audible moans and pleasedfedhappyomega scent making Steve's inner alpha want to start something entirely inappropriate for their current setting, the middle of the sidewalk. “Keep it in your pants there, Bucky,” Steve whispered as another groan of pleasure was let loose.

 

“It's too good,” he moaned, closing his eyes for another bite, fingers saucy and lips red bitten as he continued to chew.

 

Steve couldn't tell if this had been a victory or a horrible idea, so decided to call it a draw for now. As long as Bucky was happy, that was really all that mattered in the end.

 


 

“I got the phone number for my parents,” Bucky finally admitted as Steve pulled them into the parking lot of his building later that day.

 

They were back in Brooklyn, and the familiar sights and sounds were giving Bucky mixed emotions. They had only been at the cabin together for less than a week, and he had lived in New York for his entire life, but returning here felt like finally visiting a place he had only ever seen in a movie or on TV before. It was familiar, but in a detached way, like the memories associated with it weren’t quite his own. They weren’t all bad emotions or reminders necessarily, Bucky had always felt very happy and at home here, but it all felt just a little off. He couldn’t help but feel that he was beginning to see a division between pre-crash Bucky and post-crash Bucky, and the gap between them was bridging wider and wider with every passing day. Oddly enough, he didn’t feel this was a bad thing. It just took a little getting used to, the newness of it all, like walking in a different pair of shoes. He just needed to wear them in a little before they felt comfortable. It was just an unusual feeling that his shoes these days were more likely to be casual sneakers metaphorically plucked from a chain store rather than thousand dollar loafers designed specifically for him. It was even more unusual that he really didn’t mind the difference as much as he thought he would.

 

Steve hummed in acknowledgement while grabbing their bags out of the back seat. “Did you want to call them tonight? My phone is inside, or we can go back out later and get you your own.”

 

“I kind of just want to collapse for the rest of the day,” Bucky admitted, “but maybe tomorrow. I’m not really sure what to say yet.”

 

Steve’s face was soft as he linked his free hand with Bucky’s, leading him towards the building. It was a moderate sized place, obviously built in the late sixties or early seventies, well tended to but desperately behind in the times. The wood paneling and carpet in the foyer should have been warning enough, but post-crash Bucky was actively trying not to judge this current book by its ugly cover quite yet.

 

“They filed the missing persons report Bucky,” Steve reminded him gently as he poked the button for the elevator four times before the button lit, indicating the car had finally been successfully called. “I’m sure you could call and tell them that they all have bad breath and they’d still welcome you back with open arms.”

 

Bucky let out a chuckle, eyeing the burnt orange shag that lined the bottom of the elevator with suspicion as they were lifted to their floor. It looked like it could come alive at any moment. “Tomorrow,” he decided as the car came to a halt. The shag in the hallway matched the elevator, and Bucky cringed internally as he set foot on it.

 

Steve’s door was an unassuming walnut-type laminate thing, fitting in with the decade of the building, and he had to fight with the lock for a few moments before the door opened. “It sticks,” Steve explained needlessly as he finally turned the knob, the open door letting out a waft of pent up apartment air that was a little stale, with Steve’s unique alpha notes buried underneath. So that proved it then. Steve actually, really and truly, lived in this building.

 

“Home sweet home!” Steve declared, flicking the lightswitch and spreading his arms wide in a completely dorky yet welcoming gesture.

 

“It’s…” Bucky coughed. “I’m speechless,” he revised. His answer was honest at least.

 

Steve narrowed his eyes, obviously not quite convinced by Bucky’s reaction. “It’s the countertop, isn’t it?” He questioned, kicking off his boots and moving further into the room. Because that was it, a room, with only one visible door that led to the smallest looking bathroom Bucky had ever seen. “I knew you would hate the countertop.”

 

The countertop in question was an issue. It was sea foam green, sitting loudly and proudly on the few cabinets that made up the kitchen area, ( kitchen being a generous word here) but it was more the combination of that with everything else that was making Bucky’s eyes want to pop out and hide under the bed. The kitchen cabinets themselves were painted an offensively bright yellow, with the wall behind everything composed of a floral motif wallpaper that absolutely boggled the senses. To Bucky’s great relief, the floor was not shag in here. It had been updated to a pale wood that was actually quite nice, but only really served to prove just how outdated the rest of the apartment was. Steve’s furniture was tasteful as well, eclectic but homey and comfortable looking, and he had obviously done what he could with the place, but it was kind of like putting an orangutan in a dress and trying to pass it off as a lady. No amount of decoration could hide what was underneath.

 

“The countertops are certainly something,” Bucky agreed. “Why do the cabinets look like a mustard bomb went off?”

 

Steve lifted an eyebrow, obviously perplexed by the question. “I thought you liked mustard?”

 

“On tasteful designer sweaters, and apparently now hot dogs, Steve,” Bucky stressed. He took in the rest of the room, eyeing Steve’s bed in the corner and the comfortable looking couch, placed, thank the lord baby Jesus, in front of a decently sized flat screen TV. Bucky flopped onto said couch with a sigh, resigned to his new living situation. The couch was soft and smelled like the autumn/rain/ginger cookie scent that was undeniably Steve, and Bucky buried his nose in it, already missing the tasteful rustic-chique of the cabin they had left behind. That place had seemed so small at first, but it was light years ahead of this mess of a building.  

 

“Why do you live here?” Bucky asked finally, his voice a little muffled as he refused to move his face away from the couch cushion.

 

“Because it’s my home,” Steve answered, coming to flop beside Bucky on the couch. He was putting out happy alpha vibes, likely from having his pre-bond mate in his living space, and Bucky felt a little surge of pleasure from that, finally sitting up to cuddle into his side on the couch.

 

“I mean why don’t you move? The cabin is nice.” Bucky rephrased his question, poking Steve in the thigh to punctuate his thought.

 

“The cabin is nice,” Steve agreed with a smile, obviously happy that he was providing satisfactory nests in multiple locations. “Which is why the apartment is not as nice. A lot of money went into building that place.”

 

“But why don’t you move somewhere nicer hereeee?” Bucky stretched the word, hoping Steve would finally understand his confusion.

 

Steve quirked an eyebrow up. “Just how much do you think I make a year?” Steve prodded, amusement plain on his face.

 

Bucky squinted up at the ceiling in thought for a moment. “Six hundred thousand dollars,” he ballparked.

 

Ok, so maybe Bucky had been a little off, but Steve laughing until he cried was over the top, even compared to Bucky’s usual dramatics.  

 

If that hallway carpet didn't rise up and kill Bucky in his sleep, this pre-bond would certainly be the death of him.

 

Chapter Text

 

When Steve blinked awake a few hours later, the sky outside the windows was just starting to dim, the street lights flickering on here and there as the early winter darkness settled in.

 

They had evidently fallen asleep on the couch together, Bucky still passed out on his shoulder and mouth breathing loudly as proof.

 

“Buck,” Steve wiggled his arm to jostle him a little and Bucky smacked his lips a few times, probably dealing with a severe case of dry mouth right about now, before he blinked his grey eyes open slowly.

 

He immediately looked towards the kitchen, frowning slightly in what Steve assumed was resignation towards the still magically unchanged colour combination of his cabinets. Steve could admit that the colours were… loud, to say the least, but there was a cheerfulness to the whole design that couldn't help rubbing off on you after a while. Bucky would eventually come around. At least he had thrown out the white wicker furniture that had come with the place and replaced it with more modern choices when he had moved in. Bucky would very likely have set fire to the building otherwise.

 

“It's getting a little late so we have a few choices to make for the rest of the day,” Steve said softly once he had Bucky's groggy attention fixed back on him. “We still need to figure out dinner, and I was hoping to grab some groceries tonight. You can either come get food with me, or wait here, or there's a mall right by the grocery store, with a Target and a cell phone place. I thought you might want to grab a phone and pick up a few things to make yourself feel more comfortable here. If you want,” Steve added hastily. “You're absolutely welcome to anything in the apartment, but it might make you feel more at home if you have a few things to call your own.”

 

Bucky blinked blearily for a moment, obviously trying to get his thoughts and his vision to line up. “You want me to go shopping… without you?”

 

Steve shrugged a shoulder, attempting to look nonchalant about it. He knew Bucky hadn't been out by himself in far too long, and while he didn't want to push, it would be a good start for him to begin making his way back to independence.

 

“I could, I could do that,” Bucky stumbled, looking much more alert. “I like shopping,” he added, seemingly excited at the prospect now, “and this apartment needs help.”

 

Steve leaned over for a chaste kiss, keeping his eye roll to a minimum. “You don't say.”

 


 

“Uh, I think, I.” Bucky felt sweat prickle his forehead, his hand tightening unconsciously on the interior door handle of the truck.

 

“There's no rush Bucky,” Steve's voice was gentle in the dim light of the truck cab. They had been sitting in a parking space in the lot of the mall for the last five minutes, Bucky not even able to open the car door, his own annoying scent of fear stinking up the small space. “Maybe we can grab your phone together, and see how that goes. Then if you feel good, you can go on by yourself, but you'll have a way to call me if you need me.”

 

Bucky swallowed thickly, bobbing his head as he felt some of his fear dissipate. “Yeah, that sounds good,” he agreed.

 


 

Bucky had his new phone in his pocket, his wallet filled with cash, and a purpose in mind, so stepping into a department store alone shouldn't have been so scary, but somehow it was.

 

Steve had left him in front of the Target with an encouraging kiss, hug, and the promise to be back in an hour to pick him up. That didn't stop Bucky's skin from feeling clammy though, his own cloying scent of stress surrounding him despite the alpha's many reassurances.

 

He scrolled through his embarrassingly short contact list again, reassuring himself that a call to Steve was just a press away. He had also added his parents’ number, with no intention to call today, and Maria's work and personal number at Steve's encouragement. He must have given Maria a heads up, because when he texted a simple ‘ Hey, this is Bucky,’ to her personal cell, she had responded with a string of emojis so long and complex that Bucky couldn't quite register their meaning, but the overall message had the feeling of joy, so he guessed she was ok with him contacting her. There had been a surprising number of unicorns included, which could really only be a good thing.

 

‘I'm shopping for Steve's apartment,’ he replied to her, feeling a little awkward but not wanting to stop texting quite yet. Steve was excellent company, but having a social circle of one was kind of lame, and Maria seemed cool, especially for an alpha.

 

More emojis came as a response, then finally, actual words. Kind of. 'Get smtng to dstrt frm Stvs ktchn,’ was close enough to a real sentence.

 

Bucky grinned. She had obviously visited the apartment before. ‘Will do!’ He shot back, sliding the device back into his pocket and feeling a little lighter despite himself.

 

Bucky had never been in a Target before, but the place seemed simple enough. He grabbed a cart and got to work.

 


 

Steve sat in the mall parking lot, drumming his fingers anxiously on the steering wheel and trying not to glance at the clock for the eighteenth time in the last thirty seconds. It was fifteen minutes past their agreed upon meeting time, and Steve was starting to feel mildly hysterical.

 

He pulled his phone out and tapped out a short text to Bucky, having restrained himself until now for fear of being called something along the lines of a helicopter mom (or worse) by the omega.

 

Bucky was literally a grown adult, currently shopping in a Target alone, which is what average, grown adults did every day. He was fine. Probably.

 

'Everything ok?’ Steve texted calmly. He was chill. Chiller than chill. Ice cold, even. He was not overreacting.

 

'Need help, aisle 16,’ was the rapid reply, and Steve was out of the truck like a shot, pounding into the store and almost bowling over a friendly looking beta family in his rush to get to the right section of the store, extending his alpha senses as much as possible to try to grasp any inkling of fear or pain or distress coming from his omega.

 

He skidded around the last corner only to find Bucky, his pre-mate, his (almost) life partner, perfectly fine and well as he struggled with one arm to push along two carts at once, both absolutely filled to the brim with stuff.

 

“I need help!” Bucky huffed, and Steve's knees almost gave out with relief, moving one of the carts to the side as he pulled Bucky in close to his body and tucked his nose into his neck, his usual omega scent a little stronger than normal, books and air and coffee, with just a hint of sour frustration muddying the mix.

 

“Steve,” Bucky grunted out, obviously aware that they were causing a scene by now, but his eyelids still fluttered in pleasure despite his embarrassment, his cheeks looking a little pink. Scenting so obviously in public was a little taboo, but Steve couldn't give half a shit right now. Bucky had scared the bejesus out of him.

 

“Fucking hell, Bucky,” Steve rumbled into his neck before pulling back to meet his eyes. “You scared me. I thought you were hurt! This is just like with the stupid novel all over again. We need to develop some sort of ‘I'm actually in mortal danger’ code word.”

 

Bucky just blinked owlishly at him for a moment. “You're a very strange alpha, Steve,” he finally stated. “Did you know there's a whole section here that just costs a dollar?” He suddenly asked.

 

The abrupt change in topic threw Steve for a loop, but he was trying to go with the flow. Bucky was in charge of this shopping endeavor. Steve took a deep breath and willed his still rapid heartbeat to slow. “Yes, I am aware of that.” Steve eyed the heaping carts with a wary eye.

 

Maybe shopping should be a team effort for a little while longer.

 


 

Steve eventually talked Bucky down to one cart of stuff, sorting through his selections together until they had a manageable and actually useful assortment of items.

 

The alpha in Steve was pleased to note that most of Bucky's choices had consisted of different pillows and blankets, comfy items that would make a perfect nest for his omega, and they kept a majority of them in the cart to actually purchase. Things like inexpensive salt and pepper shakers and a container of pens were put back for now. Steve couldn't find it in himself to say no to the fluffy slippers shaped like dinosaur feet that, while cute, looked almost impossible to walk in, so those stayed in, as well as a few books and movies. It was a good little haul once they had pared everything down together, and Steve bumped their shoulders together companionably on the way out, trying to project his happyproudalpha feelings as much as possible to his mate.

 

Bucky just grinned back, looking pleased as punch with himself and still a little pink in the cheeks, despite their rocky start. It was a good look on him, independence, and the confidence that came with a job well done rather than the entitlement of a last name. Steve hoped to see it on him more often.

 


 

Steve slipped the blankets and pillowcases into the wash when they got home, wanting to banish the scent of other people off the fabrics that were supposed to be just for Bucky, just for them. Steve couldn't help but feel like he couldn't get enough of that air/book/coffee scent that was Bucky lately, something possessive growling in him that was unexpected and new. Even the scenting in the store had been out of character, despite how frantic Steve had felt. He could usually control himself better than that. He counted back the weeks and knew the suppressant shot from work would keep him from entering a rut for at least another month, so at least it wasn't that.

 

He pushed the thought aside for now and went back into the apartment from the laundry room to find Bucky lying on the couch, his cumbersome new slippers adorning his sock feet.

 

“A new home base doesn’t disqualify you from dinner duty, you know,” Steve bantered playfully as he started putting the groceries away.

 

“Steeeeeeve,” Bucky whined, pout on full display as he pressed himself even further into the couch, eyes wide and puppy-sad. “I just exhausted myself shopping, and now you want me to cook for you too? Who am I, Cinderella?”

 

Steve started rinsing some lettuce off under the tap, more than used to the dramatics by now. Those puppy eyes wouldn’t work on him today. No sir. “I did all the grocery shopping, and I’m still hard at work over here! Besides, you plus glass footwear sounds like an accident just waiting to happen.”

 

“That’s because you’ve never seen me in my heels, Stevie,” Bucky cooed, and Steve fumbled with the head of romaine before it dropped into the bottom of the sink, his cheeks heating at the image Bucky had just conjured.

 

Steve cleared his throat, focusing on recleaning the lettuce and willing down the pink in his cheeks before being able to meet Bucky’s eyes again. He set the lettuce on a cutting board and walked over to the couch before speaking again. “Is that right?”

 

Bucky was sitting up now, a healthy scent of arousal, excitement and interest flowing from him. “That’s right,” he affirmed, rising from the couch, “I’m incredibly grace-” he took a step towards Steve, the wide feet of his new dinosaur slippers catching on the coffee table, his arms pinwheeling for purchase in the air uselessly as he tipped towards the floor. Steve rushed forward and caught him before he could hit the ground, Bucky warm against him where their fronts pressed together, his heartbeat thumping a little wildly in his chest.

 

“Graceful, you mean,” Steve whispered, his lips brushing the shell of Bucky’s ear as he brought him back to standing straight, their torsos still touching.  

 

Bucky nodded, voice coarse and equally quiet when he spoke. “I’m very poised.”

 

Steve rumbled in his chest at that and he was suddenly thankful that he was still close to Bucky, as his knees sagged slightly in response to the sound. Steve wrapped his arms around him, unable to look anywhere but his lips as Bucky’s arousal scent kicked in again tenfold, the apple-bitter scent of embarrassment only slightly noticeable under the waves of desire.

 

“I’d really like to kiss you now, Buck,” Steve breathed, and Bucky was nodding before he could even finish the sentence, their mouths meeting in the middle and opening easily to one another as Steve guided them down onto the couch together, Bucky straddling his lap. Bucky immediately started grinding down onto Steve, punching a breath out of him as their cocks brushed through their jeans, Bucky letting out a whimper at the contact.

 

“Fuck, Bucky,” Steve groaned as he pushed his hands up under the omega’s shirt, his skin smooth and warm to the touch. Bucky broke their kiss for a moment to lean back and pull his shirt up over his head, getting it wrapped up in his pink cast and letting out a huff of irritation at the disruption. Steve couldn’t help but chuckle softly, freeing him from his shirt before kissing the grumpy cat look off his face.

 

“‘S’not funny,” Bucky grumbled, his sour sounding words a contrast to the dopey-happy look on his face.

 

“You’re adorable,” Steve praised as he peppered kisses along Bucky’s bare throat and shoulders now, his inner alpha almost howling with pleasure that his omega was exposing his neck so freely, brushing his lips along the line of where throat met shoulder, where a mating bite would live someday if they both agreed to it. “You’re beautiful and funny and smart and so fucking demanding, and I’m so happy you’re mine, my perfect omega,” Steve whispered into his skin.

 

Bucky buried his face in Steve’s neck and Steve held him, his hands continuing to run up and down across the bare skin of his back as Bucky worked through his words.

 

He finally leaned back a few moments later to meet Steve’s eyes, his grey irises glassy and shiny with emotion. “I’m so glad you found me Steve.”

 

Steve felt a lump of tenderness rise in his throat, the feeling of adoration and belonging infusing his body and soul, but his weighted emotions were swept away swiftly as Bucky once again ground his hips down into Steve’s, the smell of slick and precome now heavy in the air.  

 

“Show me I’m yours, Alpha,” Bucky whispered, and Steve growled, lifting his omega into the air, Bucky kicking off his slippers and wrapping his legs around Steve’s waist before he was carried to the bed.

 


 

The romaine was a little wilted when they got around to eating their dinner two hours later, but neither of them could find a reason to complain.

 

Chapter Text

 

“I don’t know why you were so intent on dragging me out of bed for this place,” Bucky sassed as he ran a finger over a long scratch on the table top, the veneer of the diner’s table damaged and worn from use and time. Steve had insisted on going out for brunch this morning, and while Bucky was always down for socially acceptable breakfast drinking, this place seemed less than ideal.

 

“I thought you were familiar with books,” Steve replied nonsensically to the complaint. Bucky quirked a brow and Steve took the hint he had obviously been waiting for, a too-pleased smirk gracing his face with his supposed cleverness. Bucky kicked him playfully in the ankle under the table for his antics; Steve’s goofy crypticness didn’t need any encouragement.   

 

“Books and covers,” Steve elaborated finally, his stupid smile as tenacious as ever. “You’re judging.”

 

Bucky frowned and flexed his thighs, the vinyl of the booth creaking embarrassingly as he shifted his weight. “This seat is sticking to my ass, Steve. There are no limitations when it comes to judging something that comes into such intimate contact with my derrière.”

 

Goofy shifted to wolfish, the amused glint in Steve’s eyes turning sharp as he opened his mouth to retort with something very likely inappropriate for their current setting, when a man approached their booth, removing his sunglasses to expose friendly eyes that highlighted his charming gap-tooth grin.

 

“Steve?” The man, a beta, questioned, and oh lord, with just that one word Bucky knew. If this wasn’t a setup, Bucky was the Queen of England.

 

Steve blinked for a moment, startling back to the present, and turned to face the man, rising from his seat for a huggy back slap greeting that only familiar dudebros could accomplish flawlessly.

 

“Sam!” Steve gushed, fucking gushed, and Bucky resolved to have a sit down grownup conversation with Steve later about how to maintain any sort of cool points while in public. Blessed though he may be in the looks department, their departure from the cabin had only served to accentuate what a dork Steve could be in the real world.

 

“What a coincidence, running into you here,” Sam smiled, his obviously rehearsed performance presenting as slightly more authentic than Steve’s. “Who’s your friend?”

 

Bucky rolled his eyes and slid, with some effort, no thanks to the vinyl, from his side of the booth to join Steve on the other side of the table.

 

“As I am not a barbarian, I will play along, for you.” Bucky shot a pointed look at Steve, who was indeed looking pink and sheepish beside him now. Bucky stuck a hand out towards Sam, who shook it with genuine enthusiasm before sliding easily into Bucky’s recently vacated spot. Perhaps there was a trick to these seats that only regulars were privy to. “Bucky Barnes.”

 

“Oh, I like him,” Sam grinned, eyes twinkling with amusement and a familiar fondness directed at Steve. Steve’s ears had gone red now as well, and Sam looked like he was a moment away from cooing at the adorable picture Steve made as he was effectively ganged up on. Bucky decided he was probably going to like Sam soon enough too. “Sam Wilson.”

 

“Ok, ok, so this was premeditated,” Steve confessed as the waitress approached their table. Steve and Sam rattled off their orders easily, obviously familiar with the establishment, as Bucky quickly perused the menu, laminated pictures and all, before deciding on the blueberry waffles. (The picture did look appealing, he was loath to admit.)

 

The waitress wandered away, promising their meals would be along shortly, and Steve picked the thread of conversation back up, looking a little apologetic, but with a set of determination to his shoulders now. “I thought maybe we should expand your social circle a bit.”

 

“And the secrecy?” Bucky questioned. He wasn’t upset, per se, more confused as to why Steve thought he would need to attempt a set up like this.

 

The adorable blush was back, but Steve met Bucky’s gaze when he spoke, ernest and straightforward despite his embarrassment. “I didn’t want you to feel like I’ve been setting up playdates or coercing friends for you,” he admitted. “Sam is a good friend of mine, and I think he could be to you too, but I didn’t want you to think any possible friendship development was only because I strong-armed him into it.”

 

“Gonna tell you right now Barnes,” Sam piped up, meeting Bucky’s eyes, “nobody tells me who to be friends with. If I like you it’s because I like you, and no tree trunk arms are gonna change that.” He directed a significant look towards Steve’s biceps, where his muscles versus his shirt were currently toying with the laws of physics, and Bucky couldn’t help but let out a bark of laughter at that, Steve’s expression easing significantly as the tense moment passed. “I’ve known this boy since the third grade, so I’m immune to the whole ‘puppy dog in a God’s body’ vibe he’s got going on. I can’t be bought.”

 

Their food was delivered a moment later, and Bucky cracked a smile at Sam as he dug into his meal, the waffles landing like precious little clouds of perfection on his tongue. Books and covers, indeed. “You probably have a ton of embarrassing stories about Steve then, huh?”

 

Steve slapped a hand over his face and groaned as Sam beamed at him from across the table, his grin splitting his face into a picture of absolute delight. “Where do you want me to start?”

 


 

They left the restaurant two hours later, Bucky armed with another contact in his phone, the solid foundation for another friendship, and an arsenal of pre-pubescent Steve stories that tickled him to no end.

 

“I wanted you to hit it off, not form a mutiny,” Steve groused good-naturedly as they walked home together, tugging Bucky close by their joined hands before swinging an arm around his shoulders. He tucked his nose into Bucky’s neck, unabashedly scenting him despite being out in public, and rumbled happily at the omega’s pleasantly heady scent.

“Tree trunks,” Bucky agreed belatedly, turning his head to drop a kiss on the arm encircling him, and Steve sighed, happy and exasperated.

 


 

The afternoon found them lounging around at home, Bucky absentmindedly turning his cell phone over in his hands, in the midst of an internal debate about contacting his parents, as Steve futzed around the apartment, wiping away the dust that had accumulated when he had been away and generally getting underfoot during Bucky’s Deep Thinking time.

 

“Can you crack a window Steve?” he asked as Steve fluffed one of their newly acquired pillows for the billionth time, “it’s hot in here.”

 

Steve shot him a quizzical look as he set down the pillow and moved on to smooth out the folds of another soft blanket, the couch and bed looking positively cozy after his efforts. “It’s the same temperature as it always is in here Buck. You feeling ok?”

Bucky let out a small groan, flopping back further onto the couch and sinking deeply into the cushions. They smelt strongly of Steve’s alpha pheromones, and Bucky felt the sudden urge to bury himself in them and never come out. “I’m fine,” he finally concluded, “just stressed about my parents I think.”

 

Steve made a commiserating sort of sound in his throat and abandoned his blanket efforts to snuggle in next to Bucky, the omega immediately turning to tuck his face into the alpha’s neck and breathe him in. “How about you get into bed,” Steve suggested quietly, the vibrations of his words rumbling through Bucky pleasantly with their close contact, “and I’ll make you something to eat, and we can just watch movies and waste the rest of the day away together. Sound good?”

 

Bucky nodded, the sensation of his cheek rubbing against the warm skin of Steve’s neck too overwhelming for actual word formation, and reluctantly pulled away, moving over to the bed and shucking down to his boxers before dropping down onto the mattress and planting his face on Steve’s pillow, inhaling deeply. It wasn’t as good as the real thing, but it came close to satisfying the itch that had settled under his skin over the past few days.

 

He dozed fitfully as Steve moved quietly around the kitchen, the alpha gently rubbing his back to bring him back into focus an unknown amount of time later. “Chicken noodle soup,” Steve nodded to a tray laden with food, some fruit, crackers, and a glass of water accompanying the bowl, as he helped Bucky sit up against the headboard, his voice sounding a little gruffer and deeper than usual. Bucky allowed himself to be moved and positioned to Steve’s liking, the weight and gentle coarseness of Steve’s large hands feeling like a balm against his heated skin. Bucky let himself drift as Steve brushed his hair out of his eyes and brought a spoon to his lips, Bucky accepting the offer easily, swallowing with his eyes closed.

 

Steve audibly exhaled and Bucky blinked his heavy eyes open, trying to break through the fog in his mind and the warmth of his body to focus on the alpha. Steve was staring down at the spoon in his hands like he had never seen it before, a crease forming between his brows.

 

“Bucky,” Steve started, the weight of his name from the alpha’s mouth causing a shiver to lick up his spine, “is there a chance you could be going into heat? Your scent has been different, stronger,” Steve paused, licking his lips as he cast about for an explanation, “and I’ve felt possessive lately, like I can’t keep my hands off of you. We’ve been nesting,” Steve glanced at their lovingly compiled mountain of comfort items, “and now, you, you’re…” Steve trailed off, waving the spoon vaguely in Bucky’s direction, the flames teasing at Bucky’s skin lighting up even more under the obvious attention of the alpha. “You’re being way too agreeable right now,” he finished with a strained laugh, the humor sounding a little pained. “You’re letting me spoon feed you and you’re not even making fun of me for it.”  

 

Bucky took a moment to sort through Steve’s words, squinting his eyes as he wracked his brain for his heat schedule. “I shouldn’t be due yet…” he finally said softly, but Steve was right, all the signs were there, and his body was going haywire, electric sparks jumping and pinging as Steve stroked one broad palm along his bare arm. “Feels good though,” Bucky slurred, head feeling hazy again, and Steve’s chest rumbled, the alpha’s autumn scent peaking up as he brought another spoonful of soup to Bucky’s lips, followed by an apple slice, a cracker, a sip of water, methodically working through the meal as Bucky slipped further and further down.

 

“Just rest Buck, don’t worry,” Steve whispered, tucking him in and pressing a kiss to his forehead, and Bucky listened to his alpha, closing his eyes and letting himself drift as Steve’s voice faded in and out of the background, soft concern lacing his words as he spoke quietly on the phone.

 

Steve slid into the bed beside him sometime later, his muscled chest pressing comfortingly against the heated skin of Bucky’s back, and Bucky finally nodded off, safe and content in the sweeping waves of an approaching heat and the arms of his alpha.

 

Chapter Text

 

Steve waited for Bucky to slip off into a deep sleep before sliding back out of the bed, the pheromones the omega was releasing and the hot touch of his body under the covers a little too much for Steve to handle right now.

 

Dr. Cho had very calmly talked him through their current predicament earlier on the phone, and Steve tried to channel some of that controlled composure now, breathing deeply and attempting to will away the throb of arousal currently making itself known in his crotch.

 

The pre-bond had likely expedited Bucky's heat, Dr. Cho had explained easily. Steve, still a month away from his own cycle, was luckily on suppressants and would thankfully avoid going into rut from the mere presence of his omega in heat. That didn't mean it was going to be easy for him, but it would mean that at least one of them would have a clear head through this.

 

“Keep him warm, make sure he's fed and hydrated,” Dr Cho had directed, “and don't leave him alone. The first heat after a pre-bond is established is always more severe to increase the odds of conception. He's vulnerable Steve, and he needs to be able to trust you.”

 

Steve didn't know how those words could sound so professional while still sounding vaguely threatening, but sure enough, they did. It was safe to say that every person Bucky had come into contact with so far had become instantly smitten with him, and he had already amassed a small army of people willing to go to bat for him at a moment's notice. The result of this meant that Steve was basically on the receiving end of daily shovel talks now, but he couldn't say he minded. Bucky deserved an entire horde of loyal friends and allies after all the shit he had been through.

 

The aforementioned omega moaned in his sleep, rolling over into Steve's vacated but still warm side of the bed, and Steve had to touch himself now, palming his cock through his underwear with a quiet groan. His suppressants would help, but they didn't make him immune to the scent of desire pouring off the omega in waves.  

 

Steve sent a small thank you out into the universe for remembering to buy condoms along with their recent grocery order, and shuffled his way off to the bathroom to take care of himself before Bucky woke up. He was determined to make their first heat cycle together a perfect experience for Bucky, and with the way Bucky was already unconsciously frying his nerve endings, Steve figured taking the edge off now wouldn't be a bad idea.

 


 

A cool hand was pressing against his boiling forehead and Bucky leaned into it, his body a human torch of flame and sensation. He was gently propped up against an alpha chest, the same cool hands, Steve, guiding a fresh water bottle to his lips and urging him to drink. Bucky did, albeit a little sloppily, but the water that ran past his lips and down his chin felt chilly and refreshing rather than messy and uncomfortable. Bucky made a noise of satisfaction at the sensation and the response was a rumbling sound of approval from behind him, an alpha pleased with his omega. Bucky felt a fresh wave of slick slip out from between his thighs, because Steve approved of him, he was the omega, and oh, wasn't that something.

 

Bucky had spent his last countless heats alone, holed up in one of the sparse spare bedrooms of Brock's house with nothing but his own hands to try to quell the fire that licked painfully along his veins and made it hard breathe. Brock had thought his heats were nothing more than a disgusting inconvenience, Bucky turning into even more of a slut than usual, and had not allowed him in their bed until the worst had passed. Bucky had done what he could by himself. He couldn't get a toy because he wasn't allowed out alone, and Brock monitored all his spending accounts, so he had done his best unaided but always ended each heat feeling wrung out and a little ill, as if he had just been through a bad bout of food poisoning and not a naturally occurring biological phenomenon.

 

It hadn't been the 'loving week with a trusted alpha’ his teachers had talked about in the omega health class he'd been forced to take when he presented, but he had survived it, and knew it could have been worse. At least he had been alone, which was infinitely better than being subjected to unwelcome company.

 

But today he wasn't by himself, he was with Steve, his alpha, and Steve wouldn't hurt him. Steve saved him, fed him, washed his hair and made him laugh, and wouldn't touch him with anything less than total compassion and care.  

 

The alpha was capping the water bottle and setting it aside, stroking his long fingers across Bucky's bare arms and ribs once his hands were free. “Thank you Bucky,” he murmured, Steve's hot breath ghosting over the shell of Bucky's ear. “You're being very good. Can you try to let me know the next time you want more to drink? I'll keep reminding you, but I want you to tell me if you need it.”

 

“Just need you, Steve,” Bucky moaned, a flash of arousal surging through him as he let the praise and the touch of the alpha wash over him. He felt Steve's chest rise and fall sharply behind him, Steve taking a deep breath before letting it out slowly.

 

“I know Buck, and you have me. But try to tell me if you get hungry or thirsty. Can you do that?”

 

Bucky nodded, eyes fluttering as Steve's hands roamed over the sensitive flesh where his neck and shoulder met. “Yes alpha.”

 

“Good,” Steve whispered again, giving a gentle squeeze to the nape of his neck, and Bucky felt himself melt even further into a boneless jelly, his wet boxers sticking uncomfortably to his skin now. Bucky shifted his lower body to try to get away from it, but the rocking of his hips sent another burst through him, and he whined in his throat, wanting to chase that feeling until the end of time.

 

“Let's get you more comfortable,” Steve was murmuring again, shifting out from behind him, and Bucky mourned the loss of contact at his back until the alpha was positioned over him instead, hands resting on his waistband.

 

“You ok with this Buck?” Steve checked in, and Bucky nodded, letting his eyes open to take in the alpha above him, clad in only his own boxer briefs, his acres of exposed skin looking delicious in the dim light of the room. Steve's eyes were dark and dilated, the blue swamped by black, and his scent was heady, rain and autumn and ginger cookies overwhelming Bucky's senses in the best possible way. It mixed perfectly with his own scent of books, coffee, and fresh air, and the combination was so satisfying Bucky couldn't help but lick his lips, as if he could taste it in the atmosphere if only he tried hard enough.

 

“Ok with everything. Want you Steve,” Bucky finally spoke, his tongue feeling cumbersome and heavy in his mouth, but the effort was worth it when Steve's grip tightened subtly, the alpha more affected than he was letting on.

 

“You tell me,” Steve stated, the first direct order the alpha had ever issued the omega, “if you need to stop, or slow down, or don't feel good for any reason. Physical or mental. Do you understand Bucky?”

 

Bucky nodded again, the words sinking down deep and making something in his chest relax even further. “I understand. I will.”

 

“Such a good boy,” Steve praised again, the words lighting the omega up from the inside out, sparks of pleasure and joy shuddering from the the tips of his fingers down to his toes. “Do you have a praise kink Bucky?” Steve asked then, one eyebrow quirked with fond amusement. The alpha obviously already knew the answer, but seemed to enjoy teasing the words out, so Bucky tried his best to focus on forming a response.

 

“Yes alpha,” he whispered, feeling his face heat in an unusual surge of self-consciousness, “I want to be good for you.”

 

Steve breathed deeply again, regaining composure before leaning down to press a firm kiss to Bucky's lips, opening his mouth and deepening it for a few long moments before pulling away with a soft smile. “You're always good for me Bucky.”

 

Something inside Bucky knew that that was actually a bit of a lie; he was pretty sure he was not always the most agreeable person to live with, but the omega didn't care about facts at the moment. He just ate those sweet words up and let them put his mind even more at ease. His alpha said he was good, so therefore he was good, and that was all that mattered right now.

 

Bucky tilted his hips as he felt the alpha begin to slip his boxers down, his hard cock relishing in the freedom the removed clothing allowed as it curved up towards his belly.

 

“Buck,” Steve whispered, the alpha's already naturally deep voice dipping even lower with desire and awe. “You're so wet.”

 

Bucky felt his blush resume tenfold, a curious sensation as he was generally extremely confident, but being fully displayed before his alpha like this, laid out on his bed with nothing to hide, made him feel bashful and shy suddenly. There was a deep pleasure in the feeling though, uncommon as it was. He wanted Steve to notice these things and call him out on them, not quite embarrassment, but not far from it either.

 

His scent must have shifted at the comment, Steve picking up on it, for he swiped two fingers through the slick that had mingled with the beads of precome that had been steadily dripping down his shaft, the combined mixture glistening shamelessly on his inner thighs. Steve popped his fingers into his mouth without hesitation and Bucky's body absolutely ignited at the sight of Steve licking his juices off of his own digits while moaning around them like it was the best thing he had ever tasted.

 

“Fucking hell Steve,” Bucky swore as Steve removed his fingers from his mouth with a pop, and proceeded to then lick his kiss swollen lips, his pink tongue trying to catch any stray drops that hadn't made it in. The sight was too much for Bucky, his cock red and aching with the pent up need to release, and he couldn't stop, couldn't feel anything but the overwhelming sense of pleasure rolling through him as he came untouched, the first orgasm of many, his cock spurting out wet and hot over his abs and thighs as his hole clenched around nothing, Steve's expression turning absolutely wolfish at the sight.

 

Steve’s entire being was suddenly screaming 'alpha’ in a way it never had before, his body large and imposing, ready to take what was his, but his eyes still reflected the man Bucky knew and cared for, his gaze full of adoration, an almost reverent quality shining through. Bucky wasn't afraid of the shift, could only feel even more comfort and desire knowing Steve was here, looking after him in every possible way, and happily let himself drift and feel, moan and cry out, as his alpha pulled orgasm after perfect orgasm from his omega body, just the way it always should have been.

 

Chapter Text

 

The small bathtub was slow to fill, the plumbing in the old apartment building less than stellar compared to that of the cabin. Bucky leaned back against Steve as they waited, steam beginning to fill the air, his usually strong legs feeling more coltish and noodle-y as the minutes ticked by.

“I think we need a new rule,” Bucky stated, Steve perking up attentively behind him to listen. They were a couple of days into his heat, Bucky unsure of exactly how many, and the intensity had been wearing off a bit, allowing him more moments of coherence as time went on. “All future heats need to take place at the cabin.”

 

Steve grinned and tested the water temperature with his elbow, causing Bucky to grumble about him not being a baby before Steve helped him into the tub, moving to sit on the edge once Bucky was settled. There was only room for one person in the bath, one of the countless reasons the cabin was still leaps and bounds better than the little apartment. Even the bathroom itself was a tight fit for two when you got Steve’s shoulders involved, and Bucky was making sure to let Steve know it.

 

Unfortunately, Steve had some sort of endless capacity for apartment related complaints and effortlessly absorbed them all, his stupid smile growing with each one. It was like he was some sort of malcontent-consuming plant, and Bucky’s growing list of grievances only made him stronger. It was mildly infuriating, his very own Little Shop of Horrors.

 

“Suddenly Stevie,” Bucky sang (beautifully), in a winning attempt to capture the flawlessness that was Audrey, Steve grimacing and also quirking his head cluelessly at the random outburst. He was obviously not a fan of the theatre.

 

Rather than explain himself, Bucky leaned forward in the tub indicating Steve should start on his back. Steve picked up a loofah and got to work, the lightly scented bubble bath clearing away the sweat and mess from their time together without overwhelming Bucky’s still potent omega-in-heat scent.

 

“I think I’ve been responsible for 95% of your hygiene since we’ve met,” Steve quipped, letting his confusion dissipate without commenting on Bucky’s dazzling singing skills which, while rude, was also understandable. If Steve questioned every move Bucky made they’d still be waiting to open their awesome Christmas stockings, and that just wouldn’t do. Steve being able to take things as they were and accept them easily was high on Bucky’s list of Favourite Steve Qualities. (‘Abs’ and ‘snark’ were also up there too.)

 

“Do you even remember how to wash your own hair at this point?” Steve continued, moving the loofah around in pleasant little circles. Bucky shot him a withering gaze, Steve the Houseplant only growing happier with the sass, and Bucky morphed his death glare into a fond eye roll. It was best not to feed the beast.

 

“Steven Grant Rogers,” Bucky began, because full names were important when being taught important life lessons, “I am still grievously injured.” Bucky waved his pink cast, which had been resting easily on the side of the tub, as undeniable proof, “and I am in heat, which is as good as being ill. As my alpha, I think you’d be happy to provide this service for me. It’s not as if I’m making you wash my feet with your hair in an attempt at worship.”

 

Steve, the prince of heartfelt, sincere reactions, didn’t laugh at Bucky light attempt at humor. His gaze grew soft instead, his gentle loofah-ing become even more of a caress.

 

“You see me as your alpha?” He questioned with a blush, switching his scrubbing attentions to Bucky’s chest and arms.

 

Bucky leaned back in the tub and felt his face heat at the slip, having only genuinely referred to Steve as such in the throes of heat, and a few times jokingly. He nodded though, as it was the truth. Steve was his alpha, bonded or not.

 

“Oh.” Steve’s handsome face somehow became even more beautiful as he considered this revelation, continuing to wash Bucky with a dreamy look on his face. Steve was undeniably alpha in terms of physical appearance, but was capable of a charming boyishness every so often that had Bucky more than once wishing he had met Steve as a child instead. He couldn’t help but wonder what little back-alley brawler Steve had been like, sticking up for the underdog against bullies twice his size. Bucky had whittled away countless hours daydreaming about what their lives would have looked like if they had met back then, or even in more normal circumstances, at the library or in a coffee shop. That sort of speculation did him no good though, only making him feel slightly saddened over the ‘could-of-beens’ that never would be. At least they had still found each other somehow.

 

“I think,” Steve was saying now, a thoughtful look on his face, “that as my omega, I should probably introduce you to alternate methods of cleansing.” He set the loofah aside then, reaching down suddenly to pull the plug in the tub.

 

“Hey!” Bucky exclaimed, secretly pleased Steve considered him his as well, but obviously not finished with his wash yet. Steve paid him no mind, literally lifting Bucky out of the tub and carrying him back to the bed, water droplets sprinkling the floor on their journey over. The air outside the bathroom was a little chilly, but as Bucky’s body gently hit the mattress he could feel the next wave of heat wash over him and he moaned, his body suddenly flooding with warmth and demanding he present for his alpha.

 

“Gonna finish cleaning you up Buck,” Steve’s voice was rough and low, and Bucky had no idea what he was talking about until Steve kneeled comfortably behind him, Bucky anticipating his cock at his still open and needy entrance, and flushing tomato-red when he felt Steve’s tongue begin to lap at him instead.

 

“Steve!” Bucky cried out, scandalized, and Steve lifted his face away, meeting Bucky’s eyes when he twisted around to gape at him. Steve lifted a hand to swipe at his glistening mouth, a fucking filthy gesture in Bucky’s mind, because that was his asshole and Steve’s mouth, and holyfuckingshit!

 

“Is this not ok?” Concern was sweeping over Steve’s features now and Bucky shook his head, not entirely sure what his own gesture meant.

 

“Yes, I mean, no, but. Steve,” Bucky breathed, trying to compose himself, “that’s my asshole.”

 

“Bucky,” Steve’s concerned look dissolved into an entirely too-sexy smirk, Bucky’s body heating even more as he took the image in. “Has no one ever rimmed you before?”

 

If Bucky’s body was molten lava then his face was equivalent to the surface of the sun, and he shook his head because no, this was totally 100% unexperienced territory for him and Jesus Christ on a cracker Steve.

 

Steve’s clear blue eyes darkened with the admission, but his words were patient when he spoke. “Do you want me to stop?”

 

Bucky shook his head again because nope, Steve’s mouth on him was heaven on earth, but getting over the shock of the whole thing was taking a minute.

 

“Can you tell me Buck?” Steve asked kindly, not an alpha order but a gentle request. “I don’t want to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.”

 

Bucky swallowed and then licked at his dry lips, trying to get enough liquid back in his mouth to form words. “I liked it,” he said quietly, “but it's new to me. No one's ever done that to me before.”

 

“Then we'll take it slow,” Steve said, like not completely devouring each other in a heat-fueled sex week was a walk in the park. “Just let me know if you need me to stop or change anything.”

 

“Ok,” Bucky agreed, voice shaking slightly, and Steve maintained eye contact as he if could human-lie-detector the situation and make sure everything was actually alright. He must have eventually come to the correct conclusion that Bucky was ready and willing to proceed, as he nodded one to himself and lowered himself back down to gently part Bucky's cheeks, his mouth diving back in with a thorough passion that had Bucky gasping and clawing at the sheets immediately.

 

Steve had a few days worth of stubble growing and it rasped over Bucky's sensitive skin like nothing he had ever felt before, the rough sensation combined with the smooth glide of Steve’s tongue over one of his most intimate places almost too much for Bucky to comprehend. His heat, which was still strong but not as overwhelming as the previous days had been, had relaxed to the point that his orgasm wasn’t held by a hair trigger anymore, and he gritted his teeth to hold off on the urge to let go, unwilling to abandon this feeling just yet.

 

His cock was steadily dripping onto the bed, and he knew his hole would be doing the same if not for Steve lapping his slick away like he was enjoying an ice cream cone on a summer’s day. Steve was making these yummy little noises in his throat and Bucky had to whine in response, the throb in his cock demanding attention even more now. Steve pulled back slightly, giving one long lick before moving away for a moment, and Bucky relaxed his grip on the bed sheets, turning his head to ask Steve if he was finished, when Steve suddenly leaned back in, his tongue breaching Bucky’s rim to delve deep into his hole. Bucky’s breath was punched out of him and he almost choked on his spit as he came suddenly, hard and urgent, moaning wantonly as he rode the crest of his orgasm, his cock spurting and slick flooding out from between his thighs.

 

“Steve,” he gasped, but he couldn’t hear the words in the air, his lips moving soundlessly, only the sound of plastic crinkling and their combined heavy breathing filling the room, until Steve flipped him over suddenly, sinking into him with one smooth thrust, fucking him through his orgasm.

 

Bucky cried out again, this shout audible and ringing in his ears as Steve pumped his hips solidly a few times before he came into the condom with a grunt, Bucky clenching down on Steve’s shaft and coming again, his softening cock spurting out only a small dribble of come, the back to back orgasm too demanding for more.  

 

Steve buried his face in Bucky’s throat, mouthing over the dip of where his neck met his shoulder as they came down from their combined high, and Bucky felt the sudden urge to tell him to do it, to bite, to make their pre-bond real, a commitment just for them and a mark for the world to see. He bit his tongue, knowing making a drastic decision during a heat could only be a bad idea, but the thought sat with him, more real than it ever had been before, that he could have this, Steve could be his forever if he only asked for it. Bucky was used to asking for what he wanted, demanding it really, but this. This was something new, something that should not be flippantly sought.

 

The alpha rumbled in his chest and stirred, coming back to reality, and levered his weight off of Bucky from where he had partially collapsed, pulling out and tying the condom off in one efficient movement. Steve flopped back down onto the mattress when he was done, his big body boneless and graceless, and he cuddled up to Bucky immediately, turning to meet his eyes once he was settled.

 

“Everything ok?” Steve asked quietly, his low voice not breaking the spell in the room.

 

Bucky nodded, feeling oddly emotional as a universe of potential unfolded in front of him, images of a house with a white picket fence, his belly swelling with his alpha’s, his mate’s pups, as a little horde of dark-haired kids with bright blue eyes ran and jumped around in the grass together, and he swallowed around the lump in his throat before linking their fingers together. He planted a kiss on Steve’s own neck, where an omega mate would bite their alpha back, and Bucky smiled when he answered, knowing it was the truth.

 

“It’s perfect.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Two days later Bucky woke up free of the insatiable lust that had been plaguing him for the better part of a week, his body cool and relaxed in the gentle light of the morning. His heat was finally over.

 

He stretched out on the bed, testing his limbs for stiffness or aches and happily finding none before rolling over towards Steve, grimacing when his arm brushed against a particularly crunchy section of the sheets. Gross.

 

Steve was completely passed out beside him, lying on his stomach with his head turned to the side. His mouth was open, a little pool of drool forming beneath it, and his lips fluttered slightly every time another loud snore escaped his body. Steve could never be considered unattractive , but this was probably the most unflattering version of him Bucky had witnessed so far, and there was something oddly endearing about it. Bucky pressed a kiss to his unruly blonde head and headed for the shower, detouring at the last minute to fill up and start the coffee maker before getting on with his task. If he gave Steve a mental middle finger when he started shampooing, because fuck you Steve, Bucky could wash his own damn hair from time to time, nobody but him needed to know.

 

Steve was standing at the kitchen counter when Bucky returned, blinking slowly as he stared off into space and looking decidedly rumpled, his hair still messed up and a coffee cup forgotten halfway to his lips. He seemed to remember his drink once Bucky's reappearance startled him back into awareness, taking a sip and wincing at what was probably a newly burnt tongue before scrubbing a hand across his face.

 

“Just give me five to get it up again Bucky. I swear to God, the next time this happens we've got to try to synch it to my rut somehow. I think I have penis fatigue or something. My dick's been used so much this week, it feels like-”

 

“Jesus Christ, Steve, no! It's over, my heat is done!” Bucky burst out before that entirely unnecessary sentence could be completed.

 

Steve blinked in the sunlight again, blue eyes raking over Bucky with more focus now. “Oh, that's good then. That was a lot of of sex.”

 

Bucky rolled his eyes. “Yes Steve, it sure was.”  

 

“It was very good,” Steve gave a cheeky grin, setting his coffee down and looking a little more awake, “but like, a lot. I think I have friction burn on my balls, they-”

 

Steve gave a yelp as Bucky shoved him into the bathroom and closed the door, holding the handle for an extra moment so it couldn't be easily opened again. “Don't come out until you’ve washed your tired penis and your filthy mouth!” He yelled to the alpha through the thin wood.

 

“An honest relationship is a healthy relationship!” Steve shouted gleefully from the washroom as Bucky began stripping the dirty sheets from the bed, but he heard the shower start and Steve eventually shut up, so he figured that counted as a win.

 


 

Steve watched as Bucky flipped his phone over in his hand again and again, a gesture that had become an increasingly familiar habit since the device had been purchased.

 

They had spent their morning getting the apartment back in order and hitting the grocery store to restock, their week spent wrapped up in one another completely diminishing their supplies. It was easy and domestic, a slow slide back to reality after the intensity of the heat, and was exactly what Steve expected a regular weekend would be like if he and Bucky were mated for real. Comfortable sleep-ins followed by good-natured ribbing as they worked on making their home a proper den. It was blissful in its simplicity, and Steve never wanted it to end.

 

As the day had gone on though, Bucky had become increasingly fidgety, obviously anxious about the still unmade phone call to his parents.

 

“No time like the present I guess,” Bucky sighed, meeting Steve's eyes with an attempt at a smile.

 

Steve nodded and tried to look as reassuring as possible, projecting as many positive alpha pheromones as he could muster. He squeezed Bucky’s thigh from where he sat beside him on the couch, a silent message that he was here, for better or for worse.

 

Bucky took a breath and hit the call button to dial his family’s home.  

 


 

The driveway was long and curved, sweeping around a large fountain that still flowed freely despite the freezing temperatures outside. That should have been Steve's first clue as to what they were about to walk into, but he was still too caught up in his own thoughts to really put the pieces together.

 

When Bucky had finally gotten up the nerve to contact his parents, his phone call had been picked up by some sort of assistant (or butler maybe? Steve didn't know who rich people actually hired, because this was real life and not a movie), who had asked him to book an appointment. An appointment. With his parents. After being cut off for three years and then fucking missing for over a week.

 

Steve's fists had clenched with the news five hours ago and still had yet to relax.

 

Bucky didn't seem to find this unusual, accepting a dinner opening for that evening with grace and then darting off to his side of the closet to rummage through his clothing, fixated on finding the perfect outfit before spending 45 minutes styling his hair.

 

The resulting Bucky looked very much like the omega Steve had pulled out of the wrecked sports car, the one he had, slightly cruelly at the time, suspected had more credit cards than brain cells. That's not to say Bucky was no longer attractive, he positively exuded sex and sin in that leather jacket, but it was such a forced image Steve couldn't help but internally cringe.

 

This wasn't the Bucky that crafted junk drawer friendship bracelets or smeared hot dog toppings across his face as he unapologetically enjoyed his meal. This Bucky was dressing to perform.

 

Steve himself was outfitted in tight, dark jeans and a black cashmere sweater Natasha had gotten him last year and he had forgotten he owned, Bucky pulling it from the depths of his dresser with a slightly apologetic look on his face. Steve didn't mind being told what to wear if it made Bucky feel more in control of the situation; it was more the necessity behind the act itself that had him uneasy. Steve couldn't conceive of parents who would give a shit about fashion when their child was about to be reunited with them, but Steve tried to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was reading to deeply into something as simple as clothing.

 

Bucky was restlessly tapping his fingers on the seat of the truck as they rounded the final curve of the driveway and the house came into view, house being a loose term. It was a mansion to the very definition of the word, large and impressive and entirely too much for what Bucky had explained early on was only a family of four. Three stories stretched above their heads, floor to ceiling frosted windows covering much of the front of the house, with actual marble pillars flanking a front door that was acres taller and wider than any front door had a practical right to be. The Barnes family probably paid a hundred bucks in heat alone every time that monster swung open, but Steve supposed such things were insignificant when you were literally worth millions. He couldn't help but feel a little bad for the planet at the sight of it though; that door was probably responsible for at least one melted ice cap since its installation.

 

At Bucky's direction he parked the truck in the designated ‘visitor’ section of the driveway, secretly relieved the household cars seemed to be stowed away in the massive garage attached to the house. His truck was only a few years old and well cared for, but he knew it would only be one more obvious degree of separation if it had to sit beside whatever Bucky's parents drove.

 

They sat in silence for a moment once the ignition was off, Bucky chewing on his lip in thought. “My parents,” he started, then stalled, seeming to need a moment to consider his words. “They've always been really busy, and don't really show affection the way other parents might.”

 

Steve nodded, guts twisting despite not entirely knowing where this conversation was going. He had a rough idea though, and it left a bad taste in his mouth.

 

“They love me. They do,” Bucky continued, and Steve wasn't sure who he was trying to convince more, “so maybe don't judge them too harshly if they don't react the way you're thinking they will.”

 

Steve fought down the tendrils of distress that brushed against him, trying his best to keep his face and voice neutral. “They haven't heard from you in three years Bucky. How could they be anything less than overjoyed?”

 

Bucky's responding attempt at a smile was tight and didn't reach his eyes, a grimace in the shadow of a modern-day castle. “You'd be surprised.”

 

Chapter Text

 

They waited at the door hand in hand, Bucky's grip tight and a little clammy as the bell chimed within the house. They were greeted a moment later by someone who was obviously a member of the household staff, her crisp black uniform and Bucky's unfamiliarity with her giving her position away.

 

They were led through the opulent foyer to a sitting room and told to wait, Steve taking a seat on one of the uncomfortable couches while Bucky wandered around, taking in the furnishings with an unreadable expression. The room itself had a classic timelessness to it, all rich wood, ivory paint, and golden accents, and it made it impossible to tell what year it had been decorated in. Steve wondered how things had changed since Bucky had last been here, or if they had at all. He seemed overly unaffected by the whole situation now, which was a tell in itself how much this was getting to him.

 

After approximately ten minutes spent in increasingly oppressive silence, Steve having long given up in trying to sit still and currently pacing, a woman who could only be Bucky's mother swept into the room, her dark coloring and wide mouth almost an exact match to her son's.

 

“James!” She exclaimed, as if she had just walked into the smallest surprise party known to man, somehow sounding flattered and surprised all at once. She was done up head to toe in an ivory pantsuit, her lipstick matching her nails and heels matching her accessories, the whole look fitting in with the house in a way that was far too perfect to be coincidental. She appeared younger than Steve had expected, but a closer look revealed that was likely more thanks to talented surgeons than to her birth year. Her makeup couldn't quite hide a seemingly permanent flush to her face or the bags under her eyes, and Steve didn't know what to make of that yet, but he didn't like it. Something niggled at the back of his mind at the sight.

 

She drew Bucky in close to her for a quick kiss on the cheek before holding him at arm's length to get a better look, her lip colour not leaving a mark on his skin. They noticeably did not scent each other despite Bucky's long absence and the fact that he was still technically her unmated child. Completing a scenting would have been entirely acceptable and even expected given the circumstance, so it was a noticeably odd thing to avoid.  

 

“You've lost weight,” Bucky's mother stated, taking him in, and Steve's stomach, formerly residing in his throat, plummeted. “It looks good on you James,” she added, patting his cheek lightly. “No more puppy fat.”

 

Bucky cleared his throat, pulling back far enough that her hand fell away. “Mom, this is Steve Rogers,” he held out a hand and Steve jumped to take it, squeezing Bucky's fingers in solidarity while simultaneously trying to pick his jaw up off the floor at her choice of first words. “Steve, this is my mother, Winifred Barnes.”

 

Steve held out his free hand for a shake but was blatantly ignored, stuffing it into his pocket after an extended moment of awkwardness. He was close enough to Winifred now that he could tell through the layer perfume that she was an omega, and Steve's heart clenched knowing she had presumably been the main role model for Bucky in that sense.

 

She had already moved over towards the bar cart at the end of the room, mixing up an unidentifiable clear drink with a practiced, if slightly unsteady hand. Steve eyed the fine tremble with a sinking feeling, suddenly aware that there were more than a few major issues in this household, and Bucky's father and sister hadn't even arrived yet. Fucking hell.

 

Winnie downed her drink just the way Steve now anticipated, hard and fast like a lifeline, her permanent flush now making sense, before pouring another and moving towards the sitting area to settle. Steve towed Bucky along with him when he remained motionless, that blankly indifferent mask still affixed to his face, and Steve wanted nothing more than to pick him up and run him out of there, to take him back in time, or hell, back to the cabin even, when this whole mess hadn't been on the radar yet.

 

Steve sat close to Bucky, leaning into his side for a moment with a whisper. “Do you want to leave?”

 

Bucky jerked his head to the side minutely, the hand still clasped in Steve's giving a brief squeeze. Not yet, he seemed to say, but thank you. Steve nodded and sat back, letting Bucky take the lead.

 

“Where's Becca and dad?” Bucky finally broke the silence, Winnie's ice cubes clinking around in her glass the only other sound in the room. Steve was fairly certain his last prostate exam had been less uncomfortable than this.

 

“Rebecca is on her way over, as she no longer lives with us. She left right after you did, James,” Mrs. Barnes replied dryly, somehow letting the words hang as an accusation. “Your father is still at the office,” she continued. “He wants to expand internationally, and it's keeping him more occupied than usual. He'll be along shortly, but left this for your driver in the meantime.” She set her tumbler on the glass coffee table before reaching into her blazer pocket, extracting a small slip of paper which she handed to Steve.

 

It was a cheque for the amount of five thousand dollars, the line for the recipient's name still blank.

 

“For James’ safe return,” she explained.

 

Steve felt all the blood rush to his face as Bucky stiffened beside him, too shocked to be insulted. The slip of paper suddenly felt much too heavy in his hand, and Steve threw it onto the coffee table beside the drinking glass. “No, no, thank you, but no.” He shook his head. “That's not why I'm here.”

 

Winifred shrugged and leaned forward, fetching the cheque and her glass nonchalantly, pocketing one and sipping at the other. “Suit yourself.”

 

The overwhelming tension was thankfully cut as a young woman strode into the room then, her neutral beta scent a breath of fresh air in the cloud of Bucky's discomfort.

 

“Becca,” Bucky exclaimed softly before he was off the couch like a shot, wrapping around and simultaneously being wrapped up in her.

 

Bucky's older sister was small in stature but she held herself confidently, and Steve would have been wholly convinced she was an alpha if not for her scent saying otherwise as she was enveloped in Bucky's hug.  

 

“Missed you Buckaroo,” she murmured into his ear, and Steve felt something in his shoulders relax as Bucky stuck his nose in her neck, Becca welcoming the scenting despite her not sharing the biological need for it. She just stroked his hair and whispered to him, and Steve vowed to visit his mother's old Catholic church next Sunday to thank the powers that be that this woman existed in Bucky's family.  

 

They released one another after a long moment, and Bucky stepped back, his eyes glistening. He kept a hold on one of her hands and gestured to Steve with his broken arm, Steve right at his side a moment later.

 

Becca was a natural beauty whereas her mother's was all forced, and Steve's second attempt at a handshake today was finally successful, Becca meeting his hand with a firm grip and his eyes with a curious gaze.

 

“Steve Rogers. It's a pleasure to meet you,” Steve added, because honestly, it really was. Becca's appearance at this little shindig was how Steve suspected people felt when their house was on fire and the fire trucks finally started pulling up; intensely relieving, to say the least. He just wondered if too much of the metaphorical house had already burned down to be able to salvage anything.

 

“Rebecca Barnes, but you can call me Becca,” she replied with a smile. “I'm guessing you're not just here dropping Bucky off?” She asked with a little grin, eyeing their close proximity.

 

An adorable blush rose to Bucky's cheeks and he moved even closer to Steve, Steve throwing an arm around his shoulders protectively and having to resist the urge to scent him purely for added comfort. He settled for taking one deep breath and letting it out slowly, Bucky's coffee/bookstore/breeze scent feeling a little lighter in the air now, no longer thick with unease.

 

“Steve is my mate,” Bucky said point-blank, a shy smile taking over his face, and it sent a little sizzle of electricity up Steve's spine, the 'pre-’ of 'pre-mates’ noticeably absent from his explanation. Steve couldn't tell if it was just to simplify the evening, not wanting to get into the whole pre-bond dilemma they had accidentally found themselves in, or if he just wanted to present them as a more united relationship in front of his family. Either way, Steve approved of the choice.

 

Becca's eyes went bright at Bucky's words, and she collected her brother into one more quick hug at the news. “We are going to talk about this later,” she directed to Bucky, but she was smiling when she said it so Steve figured she wasn't out for blood just yet.

 

She pulled away when Winnie cleared her throat, the group of three turning to the Barnes family matriarch in unison. “If you're about done,” she stated, her disapproval palpable, “dinner is being served in the dining room.” And with that she turned on her heel and strode out.

 

“On tonight's menu: our souls,” Becca mock-whispered behind Winifred's back once she was out of the room, and Steve was suddenly thankful he hadn't been offered a drink yet, because he surely would have spit it out at that.

 

Bucky shook with muffled laughter beside him, punching Becca playfully in the arm before turning to Steve, looking both amused and a little queasy. Steve could relate all too well in that sense.  

 

“You ready to get this over with?” Bucky asked, and Steve leaned in for a quick kiss and a grounding nuzzle, Bucky's eyes fluttering at the sensation before Steve pulled back to take his hand, wrapping a confidence he did not feel around himself like a cloak.

 

“Anything for you, Buck.”

 

Becca watched them with a soft expression before clapping her hands together once, visibly gathering her own iron core as if she was about to walk into a battle and not a good-old-fashioned family dinner. “Let's get this nightmare started.”

 

Chapter Text

 

The dining table was long and slightly medieval looking, Steve's mind instantly going to old storybook illustrations of a reluctant princess on one end and a beast of a man on the other, trying to find common ground in an impossible situation. Eventually in this story the couple would come to love one another despite their differences, sitting kitty-corner for their meals in the end, the empty expanse of the table between them just a distant memory at their happily ever after.

 

Steve was fairly certain this evening wouldn't have a fairytale ending, and the only similarity to the sprawling French countryside from the ‘days of old’ here was his lingering suspicion that there was probably a guillotine lurking around in some wing of the house, ready to deal with unruly guests at a moment's notice.

 

(Steve knew he was being slightly dramatic in his imaginings, but being lost in his own thoughts was preferable to his current reality, so he took the escape while he could.)

 

The reality was that they had only just begun their first course, a soup as a starter, which was a shame in itself, because it meant that there would be multiple courses served tonight, only extending their time with the Barneses. Steve would much rather drop the formality, scarf down some spaghetti, and take his desert and the bill to go please, but unfortunately it was not looking like this would be the case.

 

The only bonus was that he was seated across from Bucky, allowing them to trade in some silent expression-led conversation as Winifred spun a long tale about the origin on the room's chandelier as they began their meal. As much as he would have liked to sit beside Bucky for the sake of close contact, he had been happy the omega had been able to see his face as Steve took his first spoonful of the soup, because it had literally been the brightest spot of their visit so far. Bucky's face had gone pink as he held in a laugh at Steve's muted internal flailing as the soup burned its way through his sinuses and up into his eyeballs, and his look of pure amusement was the best thing Steve had seen all night, even if it was at the expense of his poor taste buds and throat. It was a fucking pepper soup, and Steve was so absolutely done with this rich person shit already, Jesus Christ.

 

Steve had gotten himself and his watering eyes under control by the time Winnie's story came to a close and another awkward silence descended over the table, Becca picking up the thread a moment later with slightly morose expression. Steve knew they were headed for difficult topics now, and he flipped a foot out towards Bucky under the table, the small jostle of their feet colliding making the corners of the omega’s mouth twitch up from where they had settled back into an unreadable flatness.

 

If Steve had been forced to describe the non-expression at gunpoint, he would have once pegged it as an aloof confidence, almost an arrogance, but he knew better now, knew the facade was just a mask in the face of a difficult situation. He absently wondered how many times Bucky had worn that particular look while he had been with Brock, or how many opportunities he had been given to practice this unaffected mantle in front of his parents. It made Steve unconsciously grit his teeth, and only a small kick back under the table roused him from his thoughts, Bucky giving him a searching look from across the wood surface. Steve was suddenly aware that his scent had likely spiked with anger and he tried to turn his mind away to happier thoughts, grounding himself on the gentle pressure of Bucky’s ankle against his as he tuned back into the conversation.

 

“... And we were so relieved when the police station called saying you hadn’t actually been missing,” Becca was in the middle of saying, and Steve turned his attention fully to her as she continued. “I know you had been too busy to call me while you were traveling, but when I asked, mom said that you hadn’t checked in for a while, and I got worried when your phone kept going to voicemail. I’m sorry if I overreacted Bucky,” she apologized, looking ashamed, “but I was just concerned for you. I should have known you were just holed up with your alpha for the holidays.” She punctuated this with a cheeky wink, her remembered distress ebbing as her face brightened. “I’d turn my phone off too if I was celebrating with this guy for a week,” she added with a nod towards Steve, his face heating at her casual appraisal. He knew she didn’t mean anything by it, but the blood in his face didn’t seem to get the memo. He was a bit confused by the travel remark as well, but Becca didn't look finished so he kept his mouth shut for now.  

 

“So how long has it been for you now, four years together?” She questioned with a smile towards Steve and Bucky, the pair blinking in confusion until she continued, aiming her attention at her brother. “I was away at school when you met your alpha, and you had already moved away together by the time I came home,” she expanded. “I was a shit sister for not trying to reach out more, but I was so busy with law school, and you were never in the same time zone it seemed.” Becca looked down at her bowl for a moment before meeting Bucky's eyes. “I feel terrible that we lost touch for so long, but I would love to hear some of your stories and find out where exactly you two visited in that time, now that you're home.”

 

Bucky's spoon clanged as it hit the edge of his bowl, his mouth hanging open in shock. Steve obviously couldn’t see his own face, but he would have bet his cabin that he mirrored the omega’s expression perfectly. He felt like one of those animatronic fish, except his batteries had run out while his mouth had been in the midst of a song.

 

“Is that… is that what they told you?” Bucky looked to his mother, betrayal plain on his face as he waited for an answer. Winnie met his eyes smoothly, no remorse visible whatsoever.

 

“You left with Brock, darling, and your calls came less and less until they finally stopped. Your father and I assumed you had finally made the decision to take the alpha's bite and move on from us. It's not my fault for trying to shield your sister from your abandonment. I was just looking to protect her.”  

 

Bucky's mouth worked for a moment but no sound came out, the acid scent of distress filling the air, and Steve quickly jumped into the fray to try to save the emotionally drowning omega.

 

“He wasn't with me, Becca, or traveling,” Steve stated in a low voice, looking to Bucky for permission to go further. Becca’s head was swiveling between the three of them in frowning confusion, and Bucky gave a small nod, looking pained and overwhelmed, so Steve continued. “He was stuck in an abusive relationship with an alpha who was systematically cutting him off from everyone. He was in New York for most of the time, just unable to contact you. He finally had the chance to get out in December, which is when we met.”

 

Bucky had his eyes closed tightly across the table now, suppressing a mix of emotions, and Steve couldn't stop then, couldn't let Bucky's story end without sharing just how amazing his mate truly was.

 

“He had a great plan to get out and start over, and it would have worked if the weather hadn't gotten in the way, which is where I came in. He has so much fire in him though, I bet he would have figured something out even if we hadn't met. He's a fighter, your brother. Gave me hell for the first few weeks, and shit, he still does today,” Steve couldn't help the Brooklyn accent that slipped out with his passion or the grin that stretched his mouth despite the situation, remembering the firecracker spirit Bucky possessed in those first few days. He was so brave and stubborn, loud and wonderful, and Steve would never forget it.

 

“He saved himself,” Steve ended with, softer, and Bucky's liquid gaze met his across the table at the change in tone, “but I'm selfishly glad it didn't work out perfectly for him, because I never would have met my mate if it had.”

 

Bucky was close to crying, silent and subtle, but the tears were resting there and ready to spill, his grey eyes alight with both a sadness and a tender warmth through it all, and Becca wasn't fairing much better, abandoning her soup to move towards her brother and wrap him up in another fierce hug. Steve couldn't hear everything they were whispering to one another in choked voices, but he thought he heard Becca get out an apology as Bucky just shook his head, no apologies needed. She hadn't known, and they both knew she would have done something if she had.

 

Winifred looked on with a downturned mouth, Steve not sure what to make of her assessment of the situation yet. “I always knew you shouldn't have taken up with that Brock Rumlow character, he was too ambitious for you. Didn't your father and I warn you off of him while you were in university? And you didn't listen to us then, did you? Just look what you ended up getting yourself into. You really should have known better, James.”

 

Bucky pulled away from Becca and seemed to shrink in on himself, suddenly no more than a boy disappointing his mother for a countless time. “I know. I’m sorry.”

 

Steve felt fire rush through his veins, and would have flipped the massive table in outrage had Bucky not caught his eye first, his whole being radiating sadness and shame, his eyes looking for any escape that didn’t end in a fight. Steve felt himself deflate, his fury at Winifred still a turbulent mess within him, but Bucky was moments away from having a breakdown, and Steve fought harder than he knew he could to push down on the urge to cause a scene, to yell and scream and throw fists to protect his omega. To fight back and lash out was the stereotypical alpha way, and it was painfully obvious that that was all that Bucky had known in his life. Steve raising his fists or his voice now would make him no better a man or an alpha than Brock, even if his fury wasn’t directed at Bucky but in defence of him. Besides, people like Winifred wouldn’t change, they didn’t have the room for it. Her damaging traditionalism, her victim blaming, her carelessness, had probably been driven down deep into her psyche and was now taking up all the space where reason and compassion should live, infecting her life and her children as she passed this overwhelming wrongness along like a virus. Steve knew Bucky though, knew those bright spots where goodness and joy and understanding lived were still there, able to be shaped and changed, and Steve was here now, able to make sure they stayed pure and clean. That’s what he would focus on now, as much as his inner alpha longed to turn this dinner into a bloodbath. He couldn’t change Winifred, wouldn’t waste his breath trying, but Bucky could still be saved, could still someday believe he was worth love and respect, that his designation didn’t make him worth any less. He could help him keep his dignity, help him learn to love himself.

 

Bucky looked a moment away from just laying down and becoming one with the floor, another object to be walked all over, and Steve shoved his chair back suddenly, his body moving and his mind catching up only a moment later. “I need to see you outside.”

 

Bucky looked startled, flinching back slightly even though Steve hadn’t raised his voice, and obediently followed his alpha back through the foyer and to the front driveway, the cold hitting them solidly without their coats in a well-needed break from the stifling intensity of the dining room.

 

“She’s wrong,” Steve stated once they were alone, cupping Bucky’s jaw and lifting his chin, the omega’s usual paper/coffee/breeze scent hidden under layer after layer of shame and regret. There was no fear there thankfully, Bucky knew by now that Steve would never lay a hand on him in anger, but he still looked like he expected round two of humiliation to spring up at any moment, to be yelled at for making idiotic choices and getting himself hurt.

 

“She’s wrong,” Steve repeated, meeting liquid grey eyes with determination. “She’s the stupidest, meanest woman I’ve ever met, her house is ugly and cold, and I hate her Buck, I fucking hate her. The only good thing she ever gave the world was her kids,” Steve said in a rush, “and she is so, so wrong Buck. Nothing that happened to you is your fault. I promise you, I’m literally begging you to understand,” Steve’s knees buckled and he knelt in the snow, the dampness soaking into his pants as he wrapped himself around Bucky’s legs before looking up at him, imploring him to listen, to know. “You were taken advantage of by an abuser looking for a victim. This was not your choice, and you are not responsible for it. You didn’t do anything wrong Bucky. I’ll tell you a million times if I have to, I just need you to believe me.”

 

Bucky huffed out a breath and just looked at Steve for a minute, tugging on his shoulders a moment later in fond agitation. “Get out of the snow Steve.”

 

Steve stood up, ignoring the clinging bits of white melting into his pants, and wrapped Bucky up in a hug, nosing at his neck and brushing a kiss along his jaw, needing to be as close as possible. The tip of Bucky’s cold nose tucked against the column of his throat a moment later, and something in Steve unwound at the mutual scenting, Bucky just taking a few moments and collecting himself there.

 

He pulled away a short time later, his voice quiet but more sure now. “I… you’ve made me feel it Steve, not just today, but since we met, that it wasn’t my fault. Lately, I thought I believed it too. You’ve gotten into my head, in a good way,” he admitted, his face softening slightly into something warm looking, the ghost of a rueful smile. “It’s one thing to tell yourself that you didn’t want something, that it was all Brock’s fault, but to hear my mom blame me…” He trailed off, looking so full of sorrow that Steve could hardly bear it. “It felt like I was right back where I started in an instant. All the progress I made, everything you had said even minutes before about us, it all just got swept away with her judgement. How do you get over that, make it not hurt anymore?” His voice broke on the end and he buried his face back into Steve’s neck, just breathing as he worked to compose himself.

 

That was possibly the saddest question Steve had ever been asked in his life, and he squeezed his eyes shut for a moment as he considered his words. “I don’t know Bucky. I wish I did, but I don’t. But we’ll figure it out, wherever we need to do so you can move on, so it doesn’t cut so deep. Therapy, distance, time. We’ll move to the Bahamas and get you an emotional support tortoise.” Bucky huffed a strangled laugh at this and Steve mentally high-fived himself for elevating his mood even a little bit, “but no matter what, I’ll be here for it. I promise.”  

 

Bucky nodded, grey eyes still wet but brightening now, bolstered by some kindness in the midst of this hellish day. “Thank you.”

 

“We don’t need to go back in there you know,” Steve stated, adamant. “We can just get the truck and leave right now.”

 

Bucky shook his head, surprisingly composed now, and seemed to draw an invisible chain mail over himself as he straightened his back and set his face into a determined expression. The unaffectedness was back, but it wasn't flat this time, wasn't a passive mask. This was castle walls and a moat, archers and knights, protecting a precious kingdom. “I won’t lose touch with my sister again just because my mother insults me. I want to get Becca's phone number at least, plus I’m not abandoning my pea coat,” Bucky sniffed a little, swiping at his pink nose with his sleeve. “It’s lined with Peruvian alpaca wool.”

 

Steve chuffed out a laugh, rolling his eyes as he leaned down to kiss Bucky firmly on the lips, putting every emotion he had into the moment, the omega’s eyes sparkling when he finally pulled back for a breath.

 

That was the Bucky Barnes Steve knew and loved.

 

Chapter Text

 

The first thing Bucky noticed when they re-entered the foyer was the noise; it would have been impossible to ignore anyway, given how loud both his mother and sister were yelling, and it was almost nostalgic in its old familiarity. He hadn’t heard that clash of raised voices since he had lived at home with his parents and Becca, the family unit all under the same roof, for better or for worse. It had never been a home the way Steve’s cabin, or even the apartment now felt like a home, comfortable and warm and lived in, but it was still where he had grown up, had birthdays and Christmases and sporadic moments of joy. There would always be a bitter-sweetness to this place, Bucky knew, and as he listened to the fray in the dining room, Steve a solid presence beside him, he had a sudden moment of clairvoyance that this would be his last time in this house. It had been out of his hands and all he had wanted when he had been stuck with Brock, the wish to be able to just click his ruby red heels together and go home, but standing here now, he knew he was done. There would be nothing left for him here after today.

 

He looked at Steve, strong and golden, his mouth set in a rigid line and his alpha pheromones radiating a fierce protectiveness, and the thought didn’t hit quite as hard as it once would have. Bucky had a future beyond these walls now, and it was standing right beside him.

 

Ignoring the noise for now, he tipped his head back and looked to the grand chandelier hanging above the entryway, the large teardrop crystals gleaming in the warm yellow of the bulbs, and let his vision soften and the spots of light melt together like a kaleidoscope, until it was just a blurry mixture of prismatic luminosity. He breathed deeply for a moment, in and out, a goodbye to this chapter of his life, before blinking to clear his vision, coming back to himself and Steve, taking the alpha’s hand and squeezing it once in reassurance.

 

“Whatever happens in there, I can handle it now,” Bucky whispered, meeting Steve’s eyes. “I know you’re going to want to charge in and defend me, but you were right to hold back before. You trying to defend me won’t make a difference to them. Let’s just get what we want and get out.” Steve didn’t say anything, just nodded and squeezed back, but that was enough.

 

The first thing Bucky was hit with when they walked into the dining room was that his father, George, was now present, likely having entered from the garage on the other side of the house. He was still dressed in his work suit, the crisp charcoal material highlighting the streaks of grey that had appeared at the man’s once black temples. The grey shook Bucky more than the sight of the man himself; Bucky’s original alpha, his father, finally showing a chink in his armour, a mere mortal just like everyone else. Bucky had spent years placing his father on an invisible pedestal, among gods and kings alike, the man never satisfied with, yet always expecting, a sacrifice. Now the facade fell away sharply and Bucky was left looking at a man who he now knew was more a dictator than a leader, an iron fist instead of a guiding hand. He recognized his own nose, his chin, the shape of his eyes reflected back at him, but knew that was where the similarities ended, with more emotional differences between them than there ever were commonalities.  

 

He was the spitting image of his father but he had never been good enough for him, an omega son to an alpha with an empire. All it had taken was one car crash to finally begin to understand that this difference in dynamics may not have been Bucky’s fault.

 

His mother and Becca seemed to finally take notice that they had collected an audience and their arguing petered off into an awkward quiet. They both looked to George and then Bucky, mother and daughter unnervingly in sync despite how at-odds they were with each other, and Bucky had the feeling this was going to be it for Becca too. The moment held a feeling of finality for both of them.

 

George met Bucky’s eyes, taking him in in a quick head-to-toe appraisal that would have once left Bucky fidgeting, desperate for approval. He stood tall now, Steve at his back, and George’s usually critical gaze turned flinty, recognizing the surge of rebellion in his son’s stance. His eyes turned to Steve then, and Bucky’s breath caught in his throat as the attention shifted away from him. Bucky had endured years of harsh words and disapproval, and knew that after his moment with Steve outside, he wouldn’t let his family’s poison touch him again. Steve though. Steve was his mate, his heart outside his body, and there was nothing bulletproof about that.

 

Bucky’s father kept his gaze locked on Steve when he finally broke the newfound silence in the room, but the words were meant for Bucky and hit with a wallop when they were flung.  

 

“From one alpha's cock right to the next, James. I don't know why I expected anything else from you.”

 

The quiet in the room that followed was deafening, Bucky only aware of the sound of his own breathing and of Steve shifting restlessly behind him, a caged lion pacing behind bars. A quick glance at the alpha confirmed that Steve was barely containing himself, his knuckles clenched white and the tendons standing out in his neck, but he continued to heed Bucky’s words and remained silent, knowing this was Bucky’s fight.

 

Mindful of what he was fighting for, the omega turned back to face his father, his pulse thundering under his skin. He had to forcibly unlock his jaw from where his teeth had unconsciously clenched together, his whole body tense until he focused his muscles into a semblance of relaxation. He slipped into the unaffected mask he had perfected years ago as easily as slipping into a silk shirt, his knocking knees firming up, his fear transforming into swagger.

 

Winifred had moved to stand by her husband as the father and son sized each other up, and Bucky approached them confidently, hands stuffed into his pants pockets to hide their tremble.

 

“You are not forgiven,” Bucky stated the fact calmly, proud of his voice for remaining low and even as he addressed his parents, “and as soon as I walk out that door, you will be utterly forgotten. Anyone who ever loved you made a mistake.”

 

He turned on his heel and went to step away, ready to walk out of his childhood home forever with his mate and sister, blazing a trail into the metaphorical sunset, but he was Bucky fucking Barnes, and since when did he ever do things by halves? Bucky felt the saliva gathering in his mouth quickly, and he turned suddenly and spat into his father’s face, his spit hitting his cheek and dripping down sluggishly to mar the collar of the alpha’s crisp suit jacket.

 

Then Bucky was moving, grabbing Becca’s wrist and turning tail, all his bravado gone, replaced with the need to not get his ass severely handed to him. “Steve!” He screeched, “get the coats!”

 

They pounded back through to the foyer as a unit of three, Bucky’s leather shoes still damp and squeaking against the polished floor as he ran, Steve almost mauling the coat rack in his haste to grab their things.

 

They were in the driveway a moment later, the truck lights flashing to indicate Steve had used the key fob to unlock the doors, and they skidded through the freshly fallen snow to the vehicle, Steve in the driver’s seat as Bucky and Becca threw themselves into the passenger side, with Bucky squished securely in the middle.

 

The truck roared to life and Steve gunned the engine, exiting the curved driveway and blending in to traffic on the busy New York street, the mansion firmly behind them in more ways than one.

 

Steve was the first one to let out a breath, his cheeks pink with adrenaline and his mouth stretched in a fierce grin, the exhalation turning into amused laughter as he met Bucky’s still-wide eyes. Alpha pride and adoration filled the cab of the truck with a cotton candy scent, sticky-sweet clouds with sunshine and rainbows on top, and Bucky grinned back as he fully registered what he had just done. The laughter caught and Becca started cracking up beside him, a satisfying look of joy and gratification on her face as she threw an arm around her brother’s neck and pulled him in for a quick hug, Bucky not needing a scent marker to know she wholeheartedly approved of his choice.

 

As he sat sandwiched between his two favourite people in the world, headed towards home, Bucky allowed himself to fully live in the moment, basking in the love and support of his alpha and sister, and in the pride of accomplishing something he had never dared to do before.

 

Bucky Barnes was a lot of things, but he would never be a victim again.

 

Chapter Text

 

With a sense of unspoken agreement, the three remained in relative silence for the duration of the trip home once their overall amusement at the absurdity of the situation wore off. Steve kept his hand on Bucky’s knee throughout, unwilling to break that small line of contact, as insignificant as it was. He expected that everything would catch up to them by the time they made it back to the apartment, and he wanted to be ready to emotionally catch Bucky if he crashed. A touch was the least he could do right now.

 

As Steve had predicted, the siblings were more subdued once they reached Steve’s assigned parking spot, Bucky’s face looking tired and slightly downcast as the truck rumbled to a stop.

 

“You guys go ahead,” Becca suggested with a quick glance at Bucky before meeting Steve’s eyes meaningfully. “I just need to make a phone call, then I’ll join you.”

 

Steve nodded his thanks silently, grateful they would be getting a few minutes alone, before rattling off his apartment number to Becca as he took Bucky’s hand and walked them towards the building’s entrance.

 

The familiar mustard cabinets greeted them cheerily as they entered the apartment, and Steve finally let out the breath he felt he had been holding all night, happy to be back in his own territory with his mate. The familiar sights and scents automatically soothed his frayed nerves, and he nudged Bucky towards the bathroom, knowing a hot shower would be the best thing for the omega before they got started with what was sure to be a difficult conversation with Becca.

 

“Gonna wash my hair for me Stevie?” Bucky joked quietly as he closed the washroom door behind them. His smile didn’t quite meet his eyes, but the attempt at humour was valiant nonetheless.

 

Steve knew they didn’t have a ton of time, but Bucky needed something, needed him, to warm him up from the inside out again, to bring some light back into those pale grey eyes after the absolute catastrophe they had just faced.

 

Bucky had just willingly walked away from his parents and everything that relationship had provided to him, burning every bridge and then pissing on the mess of ashes that had remained. The consequences of this were enormous, and it was only understandable that despite his lack of contact with his family over the past few years, Bucky would be feeling unmoored right now. He needed reassurance, and Steve was helpless to resist.  

 

“Yeah Buck,” Steve rasped, surprised by the grit in his own voice, ignoring the joke and pulling the omega close by their still attached hands, tucking his nose into Bucky’s neck and breathing deeply. Bucky smelled like a muddle of different scents, sadness and shame, redemption and anger, with loss and pride warring for the most power, as paper, coffee, and a fresh breeze remained nestled quietly under the surface. It was confusing to smell, and Steve couldn’t imagine how Bucky was dealing with it all, seeing as the combination made Steve feel slightly off-kilter just by proximity. He reached over to start the shower, keeping a hand on Bucky all the while.

 

“I was so proud of you today,” he murmured once the hot water was flowing, gently stripping Bucky of his jacket and sweater before moving down to unfasten his designer jeans. Bucky’s cock was half hard, but Steve ignored it for now, knowing he wouldn’t be turning this into something sexual unless Bucky made it clear he wanted it. This moment was all about warmth and comfort and care, and it didn’t need to be more than that. “You were so brave, so strong when you stood up to them. You’re incredible Buck. Just amazing.”

 

Bucky shivered slightly as Steve pulled his briefs down and the still-cool bathroom air fully hit him, but he seemed content to let Steve move him to his will, his trust fully in the alpha’s hands. Steve knew what a privilege that was, and promised himself for the millionth time to treat it like the gift he knew it to be. The trust of Bucky Barnes was as good as gold in his opinion, if not better.

 

Steve quickly removed his own clothes before leading them into the small shower together, the limited space keeping them pressed tight together, skin against reassuring skin. He kept up the lines of praise as he gently washed the omega, reminding Bucky how perfect he was, how lucky Steve was to have him, the disapproval and negativity from the day rolling off his skin and down the drain the more Steve touched and spoke. After about ten minutes Bucky’s body had noticeably relaxed, the lines of his shoulders softening and his face looking slack and pleased, his lips curving up as he pressed them against Steve’s cheek once the water was off.

 

Steve dried him off carefully, Bucky’s fingertips ghosting little touches against his bare skin as Steve worked the fluffy towel over them both. He ruffled Bucky’s hair up a bit more than necessary and finally got a small laugh in return, Bucky swatting Steve away with his good arm when he attempted to create a messy mohawk on his head.

 

“Let’s stick to me making the style decisions in this relationship, hmm?” Bucky sassed playfully, and Steve felt last remaining tendrils of ache that had surrounded his heart release at that.

 

They dressed quickly in comfy sweats and sweaters, Bucky choosing an old NYFD hoodie of Steve’s, with Steve even having the time to get a pot of tea going and Bucky settled on the couch before Becca joined them, walking confidently into the apartment and quirking an eye at the kitchen cabinets as she entered.

 

“Steve thinks they’re cheery,” Bucky answered the unasked question with a small grin and a roll of his eyes, and Steve flopped down on the couch beside him a moment later, jostling him a little more than necessary in faux retaliation.  

 

“They’re vintage, Buck,” Steve defended lightly, settling the omega a little more comfortably under his arm. Bucky burrowed into his side at the invitation, scooching around a bit until he was satisfied with his placement, Becca looking on with amused affection in her eyes as she sipped her own cup of tea from the armchair.

 

“I’m glad you found each other Bucky,” Becca smiled, her mouth only half lifted as if she was unable to fully discard all the unhappiness that clung to the day. The ‘after all you’ve been through,’ remained unspoken, but it was felt by all regardless. “This day has already been a shit show,” she continued, and Steve bobbed his head, because yeah, that was one way of putting it. “So can we just run the course with it and talk? I want to know what happened, Bucky.”  

 

Bucky exhaled and nodded, meeting his sister’s eyes, still the bravest one in the room despite the fact that life had dealt him the worst hand of the bunch. “Yeah Becs. I’ll start at the beginning.” He shifted his gaze to Steve, and gave a tentative smile, his nervousness apparent. “You deserve to know.”

 

“There’s no judgment from us Bucky, you know that,” Steve affirmed quietly, and Bucky nodded, staring unseeingly at the coffee table now as he got his thoughts in order.

 

“I met Brock in college,” he started after a deep breath, the first words out seeming to release the rest of the pent up story. “I had always lived at home until I went to school, and the years before that,” Bucky paused, looking down at the mug clasped in his hands for a moment, “well, they weren’t ideal.”

 

Becca nodded in agreement from her chair, her practiced expression giving nothing away, but Steve could put enough together based on the events of today. ‘Not ideal’ was likely the understatement of the century.

 

“Becca had decided to postpone college for a few years since she couldn’t decide on a major, so we managed the best we could together, and once I left for school I thought things would be better,” Bucky continued.

 

A glance at Becca showed her mouth was set in a thin line, as if she was gnawing on her lips from the inside. Steve wondered how much of her postponement had been major related, and how much had actually been in an attempt to protect her younger brother from their parents. Bucky didn’t seem to pick up on this, obviously believing that his sister had been telling the truth, but it was a fairly transparent excuse when it was all laid out in front of them. Steve already knew he wouldn’t be bringing that particular train of thought up regardless of how sound the assumption was; the guilt Bucky would have felt would have been overwhelming if he had known.

 

“Once I got to school though, I realized things weren’t as simple as I thought they’d be. I, well,” Bucky blushed faintly, glancing at Steve before looking away quickly, “I didn’t always look like this. I was chubby. Shy. I liked books and computers more than sports and exercise, and I didn’t really have any social skills. I lived in my own head a lot more than in the real world for most of my life, and it was a hard habit to break out of. I liked college, liked learning, but I didn’t have any friends, or the confidence to talk to people. And I don’t… I don’t do well alone.”

 

Steve felt his arm tighten slightly around the omega’s shoulders, not wanting to interrupt but needing to show some sort of support. Bucky smiled tightly and leaned into him a little more at the sensation.

 

“I was in the library one day and Brock just walked up to me and asked me to have lunch with him. He was in a business and financial track, and although we didn’t have any classes together I had seen him around a few times. He was popular, hard to miss really, a big alpha with a bunch of guys always hanging around him. He played on the rugby team, so he was with his crew a lot.” Bucky shook his head slightly at the memory, obviously feeling like he was getting off track. “Anyway, he basically… buttered me up.”

 

The flush was back on Bucky’s cheeks, the omega obviously embarrassed about the whole situation. “He told me I was pretty. He spoiled me with expensive gifts and weekend trips, and just kept inviting me places. I was flattered, seeing as no one had ever done those things for me before. No one had ever paid that kind of attention to me until he did, and it went to my head after a while, made me cocky; quiet little Bucky Barnes on the arm of the most popular alpha in school. I was naive.”

 

Bucky shrugged, frowning at the thought of his younger self. “I know now that he likely found out I was a Barnes and sought me out specifically to get a place with the company, probably to try to run it someday. It didn’t work though. He put in a lot of time and money with me, years actually, and when we graduated he asked me to move in with him. I agreed because I loved him, but once we went home to have him meet mom and dad, I think he realized his mistake.”

 

A small smile took over Bucky’s face at the memory, the grin bitter and absolutely devoid of joy. “He didn’t know my parents hated me until it was too late; he was in too deep with me. Mom and dad had always wanted an alpha, someone strong to run the business, and they ended up with a weak little omega who always had his head either in a book or in the clouds. They never forgave me for my designation, and had already made alternate plans for who would take over once they were gone. Becca and I had an inheritance in place, but we weren’t getting the company in the end. Brock absolutely freaked once he found out, and that was when everything changed. He stopped doting on me, and started snapping at me randomly, for things that I had nothing to do with. He blamed me for everything that was wrong with his life. My parents didn’t want me back and I thought we were in love, so I stuck it out for as long as I could, but it just kept getting worse. I think he tormented me as a punishment for not getting a stake in the company.”

 

Steve could feel his chest getting tense, his upset increasing with every additional detail Bucky recalled. Bucky lifted his head and shot a concerned look in Steve’s direction, his scent obviously giving away his distress. “I’m here now you know,” Bucky reminded him, voice and eyes softening. “It all worked out.”  

 

Steve nodded, but his throat felt tight when he spoke. “Shouldn’t have happened to you Buck. You didn’t deserve any of this.”

 

Bucky’s responding smile was genuine this time. “I know that now.”

 

Becca seemed similarly affected, clearing her throat roughly before going ahead. “Is that when he started cutting you off from us?”

 

Bucky nodded, his attention shifting from Steve to his sister. “I already didn’t really talk to mom and dad anymore, but he started getting more controlling as time went on. Since he didn’t have a future as a Barnes and Noble executive he started getting into some sketchy financial deals, insider trading I think, and it got out of hand. I guess he got his sense of power back by controlling me, so he kept me around.”

 

Becca’s face was ashen, her expression hard. “Did he…?” She grimaced, not able to ask the question Steve had once felt sick himself over.

 

“No,” Bucky stated, and Becca’s shoulders relaxed minutely. “He treated me like a piece of shit, not worthy to stick his alpha cock into, which was a relief really. He did eventually get physical though, which is when I started trying to get out. My chest and back are scarred in places,” Bucky admitted, and Steve’s jaw ticked with the memory of cutting off Bucky’s sweater and finding the bruises and marks underneath on that fateful December day. It felt like years ago, with all they had been through. “But the first black eye was when I knew it was time to go. Can’t damage the main attraction, after all.” He gestured to his face with a flippant hand, not letting the seriousness of the conversation dig its spurs in any deeper.

 

“I had known the combination for the safe for a while, but I had to wait for a time when I knew Brock had stashed a decent amount in there, plus a time when he was away. I knew he had a meeting coming up one evening, so I got my shit together and left. The weather sucked, and as we all know now, I ended up getting turned around in the snow before getting well acquainted with Steve’s ditch.”

 

“Best worst day of my life,” Steve nudged Bucky and the omega laughed, bright and sincere, the heaviness of the story dissolving away with the moment.

 

“Jesus Christ Bucky,” Becca scrubbed her hands over her face, still absorbing the weight of Bucky’s tale. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know. I thought we both had a chance to get out once you left for school, and just, the freedom of it...” she swallowed, obviously trying to gather herself. “I should have tried to check in more at the end. The last time we had really spoken, I knew you had taken up with a well off alpha and had moved in together, but then things dropped off from there. I got wrapped up in my own life, in school, and when I couldn’t reach you I caved in and asked mom and dad. They told me you were traveling, you were busy, a bunch of stuff that was now obviously bullshit. The last time I asked, I think mom had been drinking more than usual. She let it slip that they hadn’t heard from you, and I ended up reporting you missing when I realized you were impossible to track down. When the police found you they said you had been snowed in with an alpha, but safe, and that you would contact us when you were ready. When I got there today I just assumed it was the same guy, and that things had been ok, since it was just a misunderstanding. I’m so sorry Bucky.”

 

Bucky slipped from his place beside Steve and moved towards his sister, dropping down on his knees and wrapping his arms around her waist where she sat. “It’s not on you, you couldn’t have known. Plus it was better than just assuming Steve was my Uber driver, or worse, my rescuer who was only there to collect a reward.” Bucky laughed, a little wetly, the sound full of emotion. “That was a bit of a low blow.”

 

“The five thousand dollars was a kick in the face too,” Steve chipped in, Bucky pulling away from hugging Becca to look at the alpha. “I’d need six grand, minimum, before I’d pull your ass out of another snow bank.”

 

“Fuck you, Steve,” Bucky grinned, grey eyes damp but glimmering with amusement, and yeah, that smile? That was the best reward Steve ever could have hoped for.

 

Chapter Text

 

The conversation shifted to brighter subjects after that, Becca catching Bucky up on what she had been up to in their time apart, including her absolutely killing it at law school, and now working for a prestigious firm in the city. Bucky was outrageously proud of his sister for choosing her path and sticking to it; Becca had been the driven one, Bucky always far more restless, and he was beyond happy that she had turned her aspirations into reality. She deserved the best in life, and he was glad she was making it happen for herself.

 

They were fortunate that their parents had allowed them to follow their own interests in terms of school, provided they somehow contributed to the bottom line. Just because they weren’t inheriting the company didn’t mean there had been no expectation to work for them eventually, and with Becca becoming a lawyer and Bucky deciding on an English track, it would only benefit the family in the end. His parents had been steering him towards a business path once his undergrad in English was complete, but he had always preferred language and literature itself, imagining his days spent between the stacks, recommending books and discussing plot and character arcs with interesting customers. It would have been outrageous for a Barnes to be working on the floor at any of their stores, their name demanding nothing less than a position in the corporate office where his father worked, but Bucky had always loved the atmosphere the stores had created; the perfect mix of modern comfort and literature, art and music, making the stores feel more like a home than his family’s mansion ever did. Say what you will about his parents, but George and Winifred Barnes knew how to run a company, and their design department was top notch.

 

It was past midnight when Bucky finally glanced at the clock on the TV’s box, Steve slumped heavily beside him on the couch and Becca’s eyelids drooping, their cups of tea long since emptied.

 

“Time to call it a night?” Steve questioned blearily, scrubbing one large hand across his face, his beard ruffling up a bit at the motion. The action made him look endearingly young, and Bucky smiled, leaning in for a chaste kiss before standing to stretch his limbs out.

 

“I think if I stay any longer I’m gonna melt into this chair and never leave,” Becca stood as well, rolling her neck to work the kinks out, “but you haven’t seen the last of me, Bucky Barnes,” she added with a teasing tone and finger wag, the not-a-threat hitting Bucky right in the heart. He had his sister back, and yes, he was absolutely not passing up the chance to see her again. They were too many years overdue, but this night, terrible as it had been at points, was a great start.

 

“Can I grab a minute alone with Becca, Steve?” Bucky glanced at the alpha, one eyebrow quirked. Steve grinned and nodded, his sleepiness making him look even fuzzier around the edges than usual. Bucky wanted to wrap himself up in those arms and never let go.

 

“I’m going to grab a shower before bed.” He stole another quick kiss from Bucky before turning his attention to Becca, pulling the beta into a hug that engulfed the tiny woman and made her let out a peel of laughter, delighted by Steve’s easy affection. Bucky couldn’t hear what Steve whispered to her as they hugged, but Becca’s face sobered into a blend of both melancholy and fondness, her eyes looking a little shiny as Bucky watched from over Steve’s shoulder. She squeezed Steve a little tighter before letting him go, Bucky able to catch the thank you she replied with since he could see her lips move, and then the moment broke, Steve stepping back and smiling softly, nothing in his expression betraying the emotion behind their small conversation.

 

Steve smoothed a hand briefly down the side of Bucky’s throat before retreating to the bathroom, the final act of scenting and gentle possessiveness making something settle, warm and deep, inside Bucky’s chest.

 

This was how family was supposed to make you feel.

 

“He’s a good alpha,” Becca stated once Steve was out of earshot, the water in the shower starting despite the little bathroom interlude they had taken before Becca had joined them in the apartment. Bucky appreciated that Steve was making himself scarce for the moment but remaining close all the same, the alpha seeming to pick up on what Bucky needed before he could even figure it out for himself. Bucky suspected it had to do with the mating bond, and he wondered, not for the first time, what it would be like once the bite had taken place and the mating bond was solidified. Steve would be just a pulse of emotion away, a tug on the thread that connected them, if the stories Bucky had heard were right. The thought was both overwhelming and comforting, but he pushed it aside for now, focusing back on Becca instead.

 

“He is,” Bucky finally replied, knowing his expression was probably betraying just how schmoopy Steve made him feel. Despite his openness tonight, Becca was still his sister, and one too many fond expressions would no doubt end in some good-natured ribbing, so he tried to school his face back into something less affected, only mildly succeeding based on her resulting smirk.

 

“Are you in love with him?” She asked point blank, and Bucky paused then, because that was the million dollar question, wasn’t it. They hadn’t said it yet, hadn’t actually agreed to the mating, but every action, every touch, and laugh, and tender moment between them could only mean they were traveling in that direction. Bucky just had so many bags packed for the trip, bags that Steve shouldn’t have to help him carry, and that was what made him hesitate.

 

“It’s not as simple as that,” Bucky decided on, because it was the truth.

 

Becca nodded, seeming to pick up on the mass of complications that surrounded their relationship, and Bucky was relieved when she didn’t press the issue, instead coming over to hug her brother, arms tight around his waist.

 

“I’m glad you’re back,” she murmured, the words slightly muffled by the press of her lips against his shoulder. “I missed you.”

 

Bucky swallowed the lump in his throat, blinking away the tears that had suddenly sprung up in the corners of his eyes. "Me too, Becs.”

 

They separated, Bucky helping Becca collect her things before an idea sprang to mind, Bucky rushing over to his suitcase and unearthing the stack of paper he had shoved in there what felt like a lifetime ago. Steve’s novel had survived the trip with only a few creases to show for it, and Becca looked at it questioningly as Bucky handed it over, her eyes widening slightly as she took in the author’s name on the cover page.

 

“I know we were likely blacklisted as soon as we left the house tonight,” Bucky considered, “but I also know you’ll still have connections somewhere. Would you be able to get this in the right hands, get someone to take a look at it?”

 

Becca nodded slowly, already half-absorbed in reading the first page. “As a Barnes recommendation, or anonymously?” She quirked a brow, finally glancing up at him.

 

“Anonymously,” Bucky was firm. “Just get it to a publisher’s desk and let them take it from there. I don’t want our name attached in any way, just the chance for it to be seen and judged. Fairly,” he added. “If it gets rejected, it gets rejected. I don’t want any Barnes family influence touching this.”

 

Becca grinned fiercely, her inner lawyer coming out to play and reading between the lines. “It’s not going to get rejected, is it?”

 

Bucky shook his head, matching her smile. “It’s one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve ever read, and I’m not just saying that because Steve wrote it.”

 

“Does he know you’re doing this?”

 

Bucky rolled his eyes, and Becca relented, obviously seeing her mistake. “Ok, ok, so no. Stupid question. I’ll make sure it ends up where it needs to be, and fate can take it from there.”

 

“Thank you.” Bucky went in for one more hug, subtly inhaling his sister’s neutral beta scent one more time, and then Becca was out the door, plans already in the works between them to have lunch together next week.

 

Steve exited the bathroom a few minutes later, scrubbed pink and looking moments away from falling asleep on his feet. “Bed,” he groaned, pulling Bucky over to the mattress and flopping down lazily on top of him, projecting more of a sleepy puppy vibe than a sexy alpha one, despite only having his boxers on.

 

“You’re too heavy, Steve,” Bucky complained, playfully and ineffectively shoving at the big alpha body on top of his.

 

“You’re too heavy, Bucky,” Steve sassed back mushily with his eyes closed, snuggling his face further into the omega’s neck before murmuring something about bad soup that Bucky couldn’t quite piece together.

 

“Ok, Steve,” Bucky replied fondly, giving up and carding his right hand through Steve’s unruly blonde hair, still slightly damp from the shower. “Ok.”

 

The alpha muttered something completely unintelligible then, settling even further onto Bucky’s body and beginning to snore lightly a few minutes later. Bucky gave one more half-hearted shove before resigning himself to his fate, his own eyelids becoming heavy a few minutes later, the weight and warmth of Steve on top of him grounding him and keeping his mind quiet.

 

Bucky may have lost some of his family tonight, he considered hazily before dozing off, Steve’s damp breath hitting the column of his neck at an even pace, but found family could be just as important, if not better.

 

Steve snorted in his sleep and his whole body jostled, his knee coming dangerously close to permanently damaging Bucky’s junk as he shifted around.

 

It turned out, found family could be just as annoying as a birth family, too.

 

Bucky kissed his alpha’s ridiculous head and then followed him into the land of the dreamers.

 

Chapter Text

 

Exactly one week after the total catastrophe that was the Barnes family dinner, Bucky experienced another personal catastrophe, this one almost as equally harsh and unavoidable.

 

“Don’t make me do it,” he whined, looking down at the bowling ball with a frown, his fingers hovering just outside the grimy ball holes. He was already wearing the shoes of a thousand other feet. These finger slots were asking too much of him.

 

“Do it!” Sam bellowed drunkenly from his seat at the little scoreboard device, hoisting his half-empty beer in the air. Bucky wasn’t sure what number he was on, but he was getting hilariously sloppy already, scoring a dismal 72 points in the last game played.

 

Bucky had been content to continue sitting tucked in beside Steve when the alpha wasn’t taking his turn, simultaneously ogling his ass and cheering him on when he was, but the drunker everyone got, the more they encouraged Bucky to take a shot. They, this evening, included Sam, Maria, and Becca, along with Steve’s friends Natasha and Clint, all of them varying levels of drunk as Steve, only one beer in, just watched the chaos and grinned. Smug as he was about fulfilling his long-ago made promise for a date activity, he still tenderly whispered tips into Bucky’s ear, making him blush as he saddled up behind him for a practice throw down the lane once Bucky got over his fear of the germy finger holes. The embarrassing alpha whoop of pride Steve let out when Bucky eventually played for himself and smoked the competition was well worth the pound of Purell he applied afterword, and Steve continued to beam at him over his also promised greasy paper plate pizza slice. (It was admittedly delicious.)

 

Between the thrill of the win, the small army of ridiculous friends (Bucky had friends!) , and the steady glowing delight radiating from his alpha, Bucky couldn’t remember the last time he had felt this good about himself.

 

They ended up calling cabs for everyone in the end, barring themselves, as Steve and Bucky were both still well within the legal limit, and Clint snatched Bucky’s cell phone quickly before he and Nat left, punching his number into Bucky’s contact list and handing it back with the promise to hang out soon, with or without the alphas.

 

Clint was an omega too, with a wicked sense of humor and a surprisingly goofy personality, and Bucky legitimately looked forward to spending more time with the man. They had got on like wildfire, and Steve had looked genuinely concerned at the possibility of their future friendship at a few points in the evening, particularly when Bucky had told a joke that had caused Clint to snort beer out his nose, Steve’s right arm unfortunately catching some of the spray.

 

Steve looked deeply pleased when he drove them home later that evening, but was noticeably quiet after the commotion of the bowling alley, Bucky suddenly realizing the alpha had been more lost in thought than usual over the past week. It wasn’t just tonight. Something was up.

 

“Everything ok?” Bucky questioned once they were situated back at home, Bucky washing his hands at the kitchen sink to remove those last traces of bowling germs and pizza grease.

 

"Come and sit down with me Buck," Steve patted the seat beside him, and as Bucky sat he got the distinct feeling that this was going to be one of those life-altering moments for some reason.

 

He was proven right a few minutes later.

 

"I had so much fun with you tonight, but I need to talk to you about some things, and I want you to listen, really listen, and to try to trust me, so you understand what I'm saying before you respond. Can you do that for me?" Steve's blue eyes were serious, fixed intently on Bucky's face, and he swallowed, nodding shallowly.

 

"You're kind of scaring me here, Steve, but I’ll try,” Bucky agreed tentatively, and Steve gathered his hands in his own, running his large fingers in nonsense patterns across Bucky's knuckles and the soft skin on the inside of his unbroken arm, the gesture soothing but not quite enough to put Bucky at ease.

 

“When we were at your parents’ place the other day, your father said something about you going right from one alpha to the next, and I haven’t quite been able to let it go,” Steve confessed. Bucky felt his throat begin to close up, his eyes starting to itch in the corners because this was it; Steve wouldn’t want an omega who had been used up and tossed out already, pre-mates or not. He deserved someone pure, someone worthier than Bucky as a mate, and tonight had been nothing more than a last hurrah, a going away party for an oblivious guest of honour.

 

Steve must have sensed, either by scent or expression, that Bucky was already spiraling, for he suddenly pulled him over into his lap, sticking his nose into his neck and scenting him, his sense of possession coming through loud and clear.

 

“Thought I told you to trust me, Bucky,” Steve chastised gently as he pressed a soft smile against his neck, the familiar ribbing setting Bucky even more at ease now. Steve wasn’t breaking up with him. He was ok.

 

“Not my fault you’re terrible at starting conversations,” Bucky cracked a small grin, forcibly pushing down his anxiety. He punched Steve teasingly in the chest with his good hand before rolling his wrist in a carry on motion.

 

Steve took a deep breath. “I think you should move out for a while.”

 

Bucky opened his mouth to reply that NO, that was the stupidest idea he had ever heard in his life, when he caught Steve’s eye, Steve silently reminding him to listen like he promised he would not even five minutes ago.

 

Bucky sighed and relaxed even further into Steve, soaking up the alpha’s comforting scent. “Tell me your reasons. You have a speech prepared, don’t you?”

 

Steve grinned, impish and proud, and Bucky received a kiss on the cheek for his awesome not-jumping-to-conclusions efforts. “Maybe.”

 

“Get on with it then,” Bucky rolled his eyes, and Steve lit up, obviously excited to have the chance to be heard in full.

 

“Ok, so, your father is an asshole and that won’t change anytime soon, but he was right in the sense that you haven’t had any time as an adult to just be on your own and figure yourself out. I think if you moved out for a bit, you could finally have the chance to really get to know what you want out of life, with no alpha getting in your way.” Steve’s blue eyes were sincere and radiated honesty when he spoke, his next words coming out so earnestly it almost made Bucky ache.

 

“You’ve come so far Bucky, and you’re so incredible, so strong. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of you. But in the end it’s not about me being proud of you. It’s you being proud of you. I think you need that Buck, and hell, you deserve it. You deserve to know that you can wake up one day and have every choice be in your hands. If you don't get the opportunity to try living life completely on your terms, how are you ever going to know that I, that we, are really what you want? This is the time to give it a shot, and you can't pass it up.” Steve smiled then, so bright, his blue eyes glistening with the night’s happiness.

 

“You were lit up tonight, and that feeling you had when you finally got over your inhibitions and bowled on your own? When you won? You can keep feeling that way, with every bit of independence you gain back. You need that moment in life where you have your own shitty apartment, and your own shitty yellow cabinets, and yah, they're so ugly they hurt your eyes, but they're yours, and yours alone. You were so close to getting out before we met, and I don't think you should stop here. You should finish what you set out to do, just so you know, deep down, that you did it. Don't let me be the thing holding you back,” Steve pleaded.

 

“I'll still be here in six months, or a year, or however long you need, but once we bond for real, this opportunity won't. We won't be able to separate again without really feeling the loss, and you’ll lose your chance to know that kind of freedom again. I'm not leaving Bucky, and even though this, I will be here for you. I will always, always be here for you, but that type of independence is not something I can give you in the future, and I don’t want my mate having any regrets,” he ended softly. “I want you to be happy, the way you were happy tonight. I want you to find a happiness that doesn’t begin and end with just me.”

 

Bucky didn’t know when he had started crying, but Steve was gently wiping his face with his sleeve then, smiling somewhat sadly but looking hopeful all the same.

 

“You want to mate with me?” Bucky asked with a sniffle.

 

Steve groaned, his slight melancholy slipping away into that fond, dopey look Steve always seemed to wear around him. Love, Bucky’s brain finally supplied. That was a look of love.

 

“Of course you fixate on that part first. You know I do Buck,” Steve confirmed, shaking his head at the obviousness of it all. “I’ve never wanted anything more. You fit right in. There were so many scenarios that had to line up for me to meet you, and that’s always been the complicated part, but knowing you’re it for me? That’s easy. I want you, always.”

 

“Jesus Christ, Steve,” Bucky half-sobbed, planting a messy kiss in the general area of Steve’s lips. “I want you too,” he whispered back, the alpha’s scent blooming with joy at his admission, his arms tightening around Bucky as he rubbed his scruffy cheek all over Bucky’s smooth one, making the omega laugh wetly.

 

“I’m gonna smell like you for days,” Bucky fake-complained, wiping at his eyes with a slightly shaky hand.

 

“Good,” Steve grinned, his inner alpha proud of his claim.

 

“And what if I say no to moving out?” Bucky questioned with a sniffle, sobering slightly.

 

“Then we forget this conversation ever happened, and we order some Chinese food and watch a movie, and someday you’ll tell me when you’re ready for the bite. And then we’ll be mated.”

 

“Just like that?”

 

“Just like that,” Steve nodded.

 

“Can I think about it?” Bucky asked, grey eyes meeting blue.

 

Proud alpha pheromones filled the room, Steve looking so entirely pleased with that question, with Bucky taking the time and space to decide something so monumental.

 

“Absolutely, “ he grinned. “Look at you, all grown up.” Steve joked lightly, jabbing Bucky gently in the rib.

 

“Pshaw,” Bucky brushed away the compliment with a wave, but inside, he knew that Steve was right.

 

Bucky Barnes was finally growing up, and that realization felt even better than a bowling win.

 

Maybe Steve was on to something.

 

Chapter Text

 

"I have some demands," Bucky stated loudly, poking Steve in the side with what felt like a small dagger. 

 

Steve groaned and rolled over in bed, scrubbing his hands across his face and squinting in the light of the bedside lamp. He glanced at the clock. 3:45am. Jesus Christ. 

 

"Whaa?" He questioned blearily, trying to wake up enough to focus. Had he fallen asleep in the middle of a conversation? He didn't think so. 

 

Bucky was propped up against the headboard beside him, a pad of paper in his hands as he gnawed on the end of, yes, a pencil.  A dagger pencil. 

 

"Demands. For when I move out." Bucky clarified. 

 

"Oh," Steve sat up, feeling a little more alert now. He had finally shared his idea a few days ago, and although he admittedly could have gone about it better, Bucky had been taking it with a surprising amount of stride. 

 

"It's not just for you," Steve had reiterated yesterday as they had continued to discuss the pros and cons, as they had been doing on and off since that emotional night. "Everything happened so fast with the pre-bond, it was all I could think about. But I still have a job and my own shit to sort through," he had met Bucky's eyes imploringly. "I think this would be a healthy thing for both of us."  

 

Bucky had nodded, looking thoughtful with this change in perspective, and now had apparently come to a conclusion. At three-something in the morning. Still, it was progress. Steve was happy about that at least. 

 

"Number one," Bucky read from his paper, apparently ready to dive right in. Steve moved over to be closer beside him, listening intently now. "We agree that this is not a communication blackout. We still get phone calls, texts, and visits to each other, and we get to spend the weekends together, in a sleepover capacity," Bucky punctuated with a stab of the pencil in Steve's direction. Steve managed not to flinch, but it was close. "We spend weekday nights sleeping at our own places, not including Fridays." 

 

Steve grinned, amused by the amount of thought Bucky had already given this. "Yes, agreed. You've been talking my ear off since you regained consciousness, I don't think I could change that now. Plus I'd miss you too much." 

 

Bucky stuck his tongue out at him but couldn't hide the pleased scent that filled the air, obviously happy Steve was on the same page. "Good. Next item," he continued, "I don't want you spending your money on me anymore. If we're doing the independence thing, we're doing it full tilt. I have my escape money still, and I'll lean on that until I figure myself out. It's what I was going to do before I met you anyway." 

 

Steve bobbed his head. "Sounds good." 

 

"Number three," Bucky read, "we can call this little separation quits at any time if someone isn't handling it well, but I think six months would be a good timeline. I wanna mate with you Steve," Bucky took his hand, squeezing tight, "and I don't want to wait forever." 

 

Steve tilted his head, considering. "I think that should work. It's enough time for you to get established and have some time apart, but not so long that we would start straining the limits the pre-bond. Yeah," he nodded, agreeing. "Six months is perfect." 

 

"Great," Bucky put a little checkmark beside another concluded matter. "Last and final demand: You will have no say in what my kitchen cabinets look like." 

 

Steve made a sound like a dying whale, flopping over Bucky's legs on the bed. "But Buckyyy!" He whined, "cabinet colour selection is one of my special skills! That's like asking a fish not to swim!" 

 

"No!" Bucky denied vehemently, but Steve could see him starting to crack around the edges, a smile threatening the false-seriousness of his expression. "You have terrible taste and are banned from making decor decisions. This will be my place, and it will not be a century behind in style." 

 

Steve huffed, playfully defeated. "I suppose I have no choice but to give in to this demand, as cruel and unusual as it is." 

 

"That's right," Bucky smirked, triumphant in his victory. "You want to see an independent Bucky who sticks up for himself and takes no shit? Well congratulations, you're getting him." 

 

Steve laughed. He couldn't argue there. 

 


 

“I still think this place is too nice to be your first apartment,” Steve muttered as he maneuvered another box through the doorway of the apartment, squinting up at the living room’s skylight as if he were a vampire. His dramatics earned him an amused chuckle and eye roll from the apartment’s new occupant, Bucky turning back to open the last box after shooting Steve a cheeky wink from his spot on the floor. 

 

Bucky had signed the papers for the apartment two weeks after their early morning discussion and a whole lot of real estate browsing, and had been flopping around like a fish ever since, making lists and directing Target runs like there was no tomorrow. It was a type of organized chaos that Steve now associated with the omega, but with every decision made, every towel picked out and every box packed, Steve became more and more convinced this had been the right choice. Bucky was already thriving off of the high of doing something for himself, of having a goal, and as much as Steve knew these next six months wouldn’t necessarily be the easiest, he also knew that was exactly the point. Bucky had lived a hard life so far but he had still been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and as much as he was undoubtedly going to argue the point, he would soon get to learn that he would not in fact “perish from embarrassment” when having to buy his own toilet paper. (“But this cashier knows what I look like now Stevie! I can never shop here again!”) Steve had gotten him a copy of Everybody Poops as a housewarming present, causing Bucky to scowl and attempt to use the book as a weapon, which was actually not the worst reaction ever to a gift he had given. Getting Natasha a scented candle for Christmas three years ago had been a mistake. Steve shuddered at the memory. 

 

“You’re just jealous that my place is better than yours,” Bucky sniffed, sliding his small collection of books proudly onto their new bookshelf before rising. “But that’s the beauty of a sublet, Steve. A short lease, already furnished, walking distance to everything. It’s a great fit! You’re gonna miss me, and you’re taking it out on my beautiful apartment!” 

 

Steve saddled up beside him and buried his nose into Bucky’s neck, sighing quietly as he gave into the scenting. “You’re not wrong,” he admitted after a pause, arms wrapping Bucky up tight. “I’m gonna miss you stinking up my place. I’m gonna miss the way you never stop talking, and the way you shrink my clothes in the dryer, and the way your hair gets caught in the drain and floods the shower. I’m gonna miss your smile.” Steve nipped playfully at Bucky’s neck, making the omega squeak out a surprised laugh, easing the suddenly melancholy moment. 

 

“Steve,” Bucky sighed into the name and nuzzled closer, squeezing back as much as his healing arm allowed him to. The cast would be coming off soon, Steve remembered absently. 

“Gonna miss you too. But it’s for the best.” 

 

Steve’s smile was small but true. “It really is.” 

 

“I’m gonna sleep in the middle of the bed tonight!” Bucky was triumphant as he pulled away to fluff one of the pillows still waiting to be taken into the bedroom. 

 

“You already do that anyway!” Steve argued, rolling his eyes.   

 

“You’ll miss meeeeee,” Bucky sing-songed as he made his way into the bedroom, swaying his hips a little and darting a glance behind him with a raised eyebrow. 

 

Steve was no fool. 

 

He let out a small growl and went to go help christen the new sheets. 

 


 

“I should go,” Steve stated for the sixth time a few hours later, Bucky’s meager collection of possessions now unpacked and dinner settling comfortably in their bellies after a few rousing rounds of sex in the new bedroom. 

 

“Yeah,” Bucky agreed half-heartedly, but he did actually go to get up this time, Steve pulling himself up from the couch a beat later. 

 

Steve wandered over to a bag he had left sitting in the entryway and pulled out a small bundle, looking a little hesitant before offering it over to Bucky. 

 

It was a T-shirt Bucky had seen Steve wear to sleep a few times, the alpha’s scent of autumn, rainwater, and ginger cookies saturating the soft fabric. Bucky had to resist the urge to bury his face in it and never come out. He felt his throat get a little tight at the gesture, knowing this was actually goodbye, at least for now. 

 

“It’s not forever,” Steve reminded him quietly, seeming to read his mind. Maybe Bucky’s scent had given him away. “We can have dinner together tomorrow if you want, go on a date. I pick you up, give you flowers, the whole package. We’re still in this together, Buck,” he added softly, threading their fingers together. 

 

Bucky bobbed his head, still feeling a little choked up. He swallowed around the lump in his throat before responding. “That sounds nice. How about you come over? I’ll cook you dinner.”

 

Steve’s eyebrows shot up, looking a little amused, but his slightly glassy eyes and downtrodden scent gave him away as being more affected than he let on. “Yeah? What are you gonna cook?”

 

“That’s for me to know, and you to find out,” Bucky winked with false confidence. He had no fucking idea why he had offered to cook, but damnit, he was gonna make something amazing now. 

 

“I’m looking forward to it,” Steve’s expression eased a bit, turning fond before settling into something slightly more serious and a little twitchy. Bucky had never seen Steve be as close to nervous as he was now. “I have one more thing I want to do too, before I go. But I want you to promise me you won’t respond to it until we move back in together, if you still want to once this is all done.” 

 

“Oh my god, are you proposing!?” Bucky felt the blood drain from his face as his temples began to sweat. He hadn’t had a manicure in months! His nails would look like razor wire in their ‘just engaged’ photos!

 

“Ahh!” Steve held up his hands like he was about to defend himself from an attack, his face now as white as Bucky’s. “No, no, not proposing. Yet,” he added with a small grin, his pale cheeks suddenly flooding with colour. “I know you’ve never said this to anyone, so I don’t want you to say it to me until the end of this little experiment of ours, and only then if you really mean it. Bucky,” Steve stepped closer and cupped Bucky’s jawline in his broad hands, thumbs smoothing reassuringly over his cheeks. “I love you.” 

 

“Oh.” Bucky blinked, feeling like he had just been dealt a blow to the head. Steve’s smile was calm and knowing, unoffended with the knowledge that ‘I love you too,’ was very much not on the tip of the omega’s tongue right now. 

 

Bucky squinted in Steve’s direction. “You couldn’t have just gone easy on me and proposed, could you?” He pouted. 

 

Steve leaned forward and kissed him gently on the forehead, grabbing his coat and moving out the front door in one swift movement, his dopey smile still plastered to his face. “Nope.”

 

“I would have said yes!” Bucky yelled after him as he exited down the hallway to the building’s stairwell, shaking a fist at both Steve’s retreating back and the heavens themselves. I love you. Jesus Christ. 

 

Steve turned and grinned, smug and fond, calling out before he disappeared down the stairs. “I know!” 



Chapter Text

 

Bucky buried his nose in the soft fabric of Steve’s gifted sleep shirt, the absence of the alpha manifesting almost as a physical ache in the pit of his stomach.

 

Steve had been gone practically forever, basically a lifetime, and Bucky didn’t know what to do with himself. He was adrift in a sea of loneliness, a dog without a bone, a castaway with only a T-shirt Wilson to keep him sane. 

 

It had been a century, an era, an eon. It had been-

 

“Twenty-three minutes,” Bucky spoke out loud to the empty apartment, taking another scent hit off the shirt while glancing at his watch. “Twenty-three minutes of solitude. Hmm.”

 

Bucky tapped the watch then held it up to his ear. The gentle tick-tock seemed to be in working order, and Cartier didn’t mess around when it came to reliability, so that could only mean one thing.

 

“I can't do this!” Bucky jumped up from the couch, pacing in the space between it and the coffee table. “This was obviously a very bad idea.” He ran a distracted hand through his hair, flopping back onto the couch in a huff a moment later. He reached for his phone on the coffee table, touching the contacts icon with a slightly shaky hand.

 

“Steve, you beautiful fool,” he cursed in a hushed voice, “why must you have such stupid ideas. I can’t be alone.”

 

Steve, Steve, Steve. 

 

Bucky’s thumb worked to scroll to the S section of his contact list, the task slightly more difficult now than it had once been, when he had no one but the alpha to call. 

 

Becca. Clint. Maria. Natasha. Sam. 

 

He paused in his scrolling efforts, the momentum of the app sliding Steve’s name into view a second later, after all the others. 

 

As crazy as it was, Bucky considered, eyeing the names preceding Steve’s on the list, maybe he wasn’t really, truly alone anymore. Sure, he was alone physically, but there was a list (a small list, but still) of people who actually gave a shit about him these days. People who weren’t even paid to be nice to him. 

 

Astounding. 

 

He moved back up in the list and opened the thread under Clint’s name, trying not to overthink his message. He and the omega had been texting back and forth sporadically over the past few weeks, but it had been a few days since they had last talked. 

 

‘All moved in!’ Bucky texted, not feeling the exclamation mark but adding it anyway. Fake it ‘till you make it, and all that. 

 

‘Yaaas!!’ came the immediate reply, ‘bringing 7 layer dip and Moana on Thursday, be prepared!!!’

 

Bucky smiled despite himself, falling into the ease of making plans and getting lost in debating Disney princess merits. Before he knew it, he was scrubbing at his eyes, another glance at his watch showing two hours had passed almost imperceptibly. Good job, Cartier. 

 

He moved through his nighttime routine without much thought, the bed feeling cavernous and far too open once he crawled between the sheets and settled into the middle, unwilling to break his earlier promise to himself. 

 

He hadn’t changed the sheets after he and Steve had fooled around earlier, and he nestled into their combined scent now, his heart feeling a little hollow without the heat of Steve’s arms around him, without the gentle puff of breath on his neck as Steve slipped quietly into sleep.

 

His phone buzzed on the nightstand beside him, jolting him from the slippery slope of melancholy and making his throat feel tight as the alpha’s name lit up the screen. 

 

“This isn’t cheating, right?” Steve questioned without preamble, his voice quiet in Bucky’s ear once he accepted the call. 

 

Bucky’s responding chuckle was a little strained, a little sad, but he swallowed and pushed past the lump in his throat, determined not to cry. “No, no, I think this is allowed,” Bucky couldn’t help but smile slightly at the restraint of their own self-inflicted rules. “It’s our first night, and we said calls and texts are allowed.”

 

“I miss you,” Steve stated without hesitation, and Bucky sagged into the bed a little further, a weight coming off his shoulders with the knowledge that he wasn’t the only one struggling with this. 

 

“I miss you too,” Bucky whispered back, taking another smell of the pillow Steve had been rolling around on earlier. The sheets still smelt slightly of sex and sweat, and while normally that would have been a little gross hours later, right now, with Steve’s voice in his ear and his scent in his nose, Bucky could only feel a little sad, and a little turned on, surprisingly enough. 

 

Bucky was no stranger to a depressed jerk-off, his time as a nerdy highschooler followed by his practically celibate relationship with Brock making him very well aquainted with his right hand, but with Steve on the other line, maybe he could overcome the depressing part for a change and take advantage of this separation. 

 

“What are you wearing?” He jumped in. No sense in wasting time. 

 

“Umm, my grey sweatpants with the hole in the knee?” Steve was sounding more confused than unhappy now, which was somewhat of an improvement, but Bucky was aiming higher. 

 

“No, Steve, you big meatball,” he couldn’t help but laugh at the innocence of the alpha. “What are you wearing?”

 

“Ohh,” Steve breathed into the phone, finally clueing in. “Uhh,” the sound of shuffling fabric filled the line for a moment. “Nothing, now.”

 

Bucky grinned into the receiver. That, he could work with. 

 


 

Bucky squinted, the light from the sun filtering through the curtains… that he had forgotten to close. 

 

“Damnit,” Bucky swore under his breath, heaving himself out of bed. He had slept surprisingly well after his call with Steve, the memory of their foray into phone sex followed by the alpha whispering sweet nothings into his ear until he dozed off making him smile, despite the harsh wake-up. 

 

Now that he was up though, he may as well get his day going. 

 

“Groceries, groceries,” he muttered to himself, stuffing a strawberry Poptart into his mouth. He and Steve had gone shopping to set him up with the basics, but Bucky had promised to make a killer date meal for tonight, and what he had in his kitchen wasn’t going to cut it. The grocery store was only a few blocks away so he set out on foot, hoping dinner inspiration would strike once he got his eyes on some food. 

 

He stopped short a few steps down though, the window display of a small bookstore making him pause on the sidewalk, a bell jingling above the door as he pushed his way through the threshold. 

 

“Hey, umm. Hi,” Bucky greeted as an older man popped up from behind the counter. He was muttering something to himself and had a pen tucked behind each ear, with a third in his hand. 

 

“Do you have a piece of graph paper?” The man asked, looking a little wild around the eyes. 

 

Bucky spread his empty hands. He very obviously did not. “Uh, no. But I think,” he leaned down, moving a haphazard stack of books off of a few shelves until he uncovered a few loose pages, “I think you’ve got some, well, everywhere.” He glanced around the store. It was a literal mess, no rhyme or reason to the layout at all, stacks of books of every genre covering every surface that was not covered in papers, including some of the floor. Bucky cringed. Those poor, poor books, getting disrespected like that. 

 

“Did you know that your window display is like, three years out of date?” Bucky asked the man, swiping a finger across a tiny bare patch on the wooden counter in front of him. Eww, so dusty. “End of Watch came out in 2016. Soooo… yah.” Bucky glanced one more time at the front window, the yellowing ‘New Release!’ sign highlighting the display strung with cobwebs and looking like it hadn’t been touched in exactly that amount of time. 

 

The man was heavily involved in whatever he was drawing on the graph paper now, but he grunted in acknowledgment of Bucky's observation. 

 

Bucky leaned on the counter a bit in an attempt to see over, his curiosity getting the best of him now that he knew the (presumed) owner didn't really give a shit. 

 

"You've got Becoming back there," he noticed, eyeballing a cardboard box of new releases. The box top had been opened but nothing had even been pulled out yet. These books were fresh. "You may want to consider making the swap. It's really popular right now." 

 

The man grunted again, scratching something out on the paper and then writing more below. Bucky could hardly make out the chicken scratch from what he could see of the page, but it looked like some sort of mathematical formula. The dude was obviously smart, but not very focused on his shop apparently. 

 

"'K, so… I'm just gonna… bye!" Bucky turned and exited the store, but one more glance at the window outside had him hesitating again. 

 

He had all day to get groceries and knock Steve's socks off with some sort of eleven-course meal. He could spare twenty minutes. He could do it for the books. 

 

He turned back, bell jingling once more as he moved through the doorway, not hesitating this time to step behind the counter and grab the box of new releases. The owner moved to the side to give him some room, but didn't otherwise comment or look up. 

 

Fair enough.

 

There was a feather duster back there too, and a bottle of glass cleaner, so Bucky grabbed those as well, loading up his supplies and heading over to the window that would continuously haunt his dreams if he left it as it was. 

 

He moved the copies of End of Watch to a side table and then thoroughly dusted the area, sneezing occasionally at the moats of dust that puffed up with his every movement. The window itself would have to be tackled next. 

 

He pulled down the yellowed 'New Release!' sign and then went in search of some paper towels. All the book stacks on the floor meant it wasn't a clear path to the back room, so Bucky had to move through the maze of the store, the wood floors creaking pleasantly under his feet as he wandered. The shop had good bones, high ceilings, and sturdy dark wooden bookcases that contrasted nicely with the pale walls. It just needed a little elbow grease to be a showstopper. 

 

He eventually made it to the back, locating a small supply closet stocked with paper towels and a few other cleaning tools, and coming across a few more books on women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Malala on his way back. His new display would probably be in place for the next hundred years or so based on the last one, so he may as well put some effort in and promote some kickass feminists at the same time. 

 

He cleaned the display window dutifully, but then the other windows in the shop looked horrid by comparison, so then he did those ones too. 

 

He was halfway through actually setting up the different books he had selected when the (presumed) owner came over with a brown bag from a sandwich shop down the street. Bucky selected a turkey on rye and sat on a stack of boxes while the man took the only stool behind the counter, finally looking up from his equations long enough to introduce himself. 

 

His name was Erik Selvig, he was a beta, and he was infinitely more interested in astrophysics than he was in running a bookstore. He had bought the building and opened the shop years ago when he had emigrated from Norway, but had since pursued his true passion, letting the shop fall to the wayside the deeper he got into his research. 

 

“The mortgage was paid off years ago,” Erik shrugged a shoulder, glancing around the messy shop as he spoke, “so I am not concerned about sales anymore. I make my money as a professor. Now I just use it as a quiet workspace. I share an office at the university.”

 

Bucky bobbed his head. “It’s like your own private library in here, I get it,” he responded, tossing the sandwich wrapper in the trash and moving back over to the window. He went back to work and they slipped back into a comfortable silence, Erik once again focused on his papers but glancing up at Bucky from time to time. 

 

Bucky hummed and hemmed and hawed over the new display, finally settling on a style that was unique enough to draw customers in from outside, without looking too out of place with the shop’s overall aesthetic. It felt good to get his hands on some books again, and he ended the day dusty but satisfied, wiping his hands on his pants as he stood back and admired his work. 

 

Erik came up beside him and studied Bucky’s display, moving back to the counter in silence a long moment later. He opened the cash register and pulled out a small stack of twenties, thumbing five out before handing the money over to Bucky. 

 

“We open at nine tomorrow.” Erik’s face was passive but his eyes glimmered with opportunity, and Bucky took the cash and the mostly unspoken offering with a genuine smile and thanks. 

 

He did a little jig on the sidewalk once he got outside, his hard-earned money feeling like a brick of gold in the pocket of his now dirty designer jeans. He had a job! 

 

Steve was already at his apartment and standing at the stove when he got home, and Bucky practically threw himself at the alpha as soon as he was through the door, jumping up to wrap his legs around Steve’s waist as he stuck his nose into his mate’s neck. 

 

Steve let out a whoosh of air as Bucky essentially squeezed the life out of him, but scented back just as eagerly, his eyes soft and fond when Bucky finally leaned back and met them. Love love love love love. That was a look of love, he reminded himself. Steve loved him. The thought was still almost too big for his brain. 

 

“I got a job!” Bucky cheered for himself as Steve finally lowered him to the ground, turning back to the stovetop and stirring something that smelled delicious. 

 

The alpha grinned and started plating the food (stir fry, good choice Steve!) and they sat at the table together, knees bumping and feet playfully kicking, Bucky still riding the high of his accomplishment. 

 

“I didn’t even really mean to,” he babbled, digging into his meal. “I was just walking by on my way to get groceries for-” he cut off looking from his food to Steve’s face, the alpha doing a very poor job of looking disapproving at Bucky’s forgotten promise of a home-cooked dinner. 

 

His terrible acting cracked just seconds later and Steve laughed out loud, leaning across the table to kiss Bucky soundly on the lips. 

 

“I missed you,” he grinned, mouth sweeping softly against Bucky’s own, “and I’m proud of you, Buck.”