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Blossom like sunshine, nectar sweet as sin, the devil's drink has me pulled in

Chapter Text

Blossom’s so fair, dowry’s worth the whole orchard

 

 

The apple blossom of Little Brooklyn and Olde King Roger’s Homestead was the sweetest, most delicate blossom you’d ever find in all of the land. The apple that bore from that blossom was the crispest, with the brightest flavor. The cider fermented from that apple was strong and pure and good enough that all of Brooklyn could depend on that one product for their livelihood. King Roger’s Homestead and Brooklyn devoted their lives to the cider, the fruit, and the blossom.

 

One year, however, was enough to ruin them.

 

The harshest winter in recorded memory came and it hit Brooklyn the hardest. The delicate apple blossom they depended upon suffered the most in the winter, and because the blossom suffered in the winter, the village suffered in the spring. The blossom was damaged, so it bore no fruit. When it bore no fruit, no cider could be brewed. No cider was brewed, and the Homestead could not afford the food that paid the villagers’ wages. The village devoted all their land to the orchard, only home gardens produced vegetables for food. What they needed was grain, wheat, but without the cider, the apple, the blossom, the Homestead could not buy that wheat.

 

They did have stores, of course, and the landlords of the Homestead did everything they could to feed their village. But the stores didn’t last very long, not with so many mouths to feed. The year before, the village Omegas had been fortunate. Not a single babe was lost. In the year after, once or twice, it was mentioned. All mentions were shut down, but the truth doesn’t always spare us. With famine growing, those children were all hungry. The adults gave them all they had.

 

It wasn’t enough eventually.

 

In the year of the bitter frost, the Homestead was run by the Lady Sarah, the widow of the Lord Squire Joseph. Her son, Steven, was the first to pass his bread to the next. All of Brooklyn knew that it wasn’t Lady Sarah and Steven’s fault that there was no food and no ill will was held towards them. Steven was barely more than a boy himself, only 20 years old and already stepping into his father’s shoes. Brooklyn shook their heads and raised their glasses of watered down cider to the son of the late lord, poor child.

 

Steven was the village’s last hope. The land was worth quite a fine dowery, and Steven, just four years prior, had presented as an Omega. The apple blossom of Brooklyn would bloom again in the spring. Before winter came again, the village needed their Omega prince to catch a husband.

 

And of course, riding from the far North, an Alpha had the fair Omega prince of Brooklyn and King Roger’s Homestead in his mind.

 

“Milady, milady!” Samuel Wilson cried as he ran into the hall early one autumn morning. “The Dread Conqueror James Barnes has set out for Brooklyn!”

 

Lady Sarah went white. Steven rose from his seat, mouth hanging open. Madam Margaret Carter and Doctor Abraham Erskine, also attending, grasped each other’s arms.

 

“He’s coming with horses and a hundred men,” Sam told the stricken Lady of the Manor. “But that’s not all, he comes with bread and wheat!”

 

“Bread?” Lady Sarah repeated in a whisper.

 

“Stores of it!” Sam promised.

 

“I may faint,” Doctor Erskine whispered.

 

Lady Sarah crossed herself. Sam fell into a chair, panting as he caught his breath. Steven clenched his fists and looked at the floor. This would be the husband that they were waiting for. Not the husband he had hoped, however. Barnes wasn’t called the Dread Conqueror for nothing.

 

*

 

“Absolutely not!” Sarah gasped. “I will not hand my son over to a Viking pirate!”

 

“Mother, this is our only option!” Steve insisted. “There is no other way we could convince Lord Barnes to let Brooklyn and the Homestead stand!”

 

“By passing you over to that beast of a man?” Sarah hissed. “I will not have it! I will not see my son made another petty concubine!”

 

“Mother, I’m prepared to face Barnes –” Steve tried.

 

Sarah grabbed her son’s shoulders and brought him close. “No,” she said quietly. “No, you will remain here, you will become Lord of the Manor, you will marry an Alpha of your choosing! Of your love!” she concluded sharply, then took a breath, paused, and touched Steve’s face. “I want you to marry for love,” she murmured.

 

Steve reached up and held her wrist, holding her hand to his face. “I know,” he answered just as softly. “I want to marry for love as well.”

 

Then he pulled her hand away from his face and instead pressed it between both of his own. Sarah took in a little gasp and Steve nodded while she just shook her head.

 

“The Omegas in our town will marry for love,” he said. “I will do my duty to them.”

 

“I won’t see you join Barnes’s harem!” Sarah hissed again.

 

“Isn’t it my choice?” Steve asked. “Can’t I choose to spare our people by letting Barnes take me away?”

 

“As a trophy!” Sarah whispered, distraught. She snatched her hands away from Steve’s and cupped his face, pulling him in. “My son,” she murmured in a broken voice.

 

Steve cupped her face, too. He brought their foreheads together and smiled tightly at his mother.

 

“It’s for the best,” he said.

 

“No,” Sarah hiccuped. “I won’t let it happen.”

 

“You’d have to let me go eventually,” Steve reminded her.

 

“To someone you loved!” Sarah insisted. “Someone who loved you! To Peggy or – or –”

 

“I’ll still love Peggy,” Steve told her gently. “And Peggy will still be here for you, I know it.”

 

“Not my son,” Sarah whispered.

 

Steve lifted his head and kissed her forehead. “I’ll be alright,” he promised. “I’ve already asked for Doctor Erskine’s help. If I can give Barnes a son before a year’s end, he won’t be able to cast me aside ever.”

 

Sarah threw her arms around Steve’s neck and yanked him in. Tears leaked from her eyes and soaked into his hair. Steve held her as tightly as he dared. She was frail. The winter had damaged her just as much as the trees; the true apple blossom of Brooklyn, Lord Joseph used to call her. Sarah was dying, they already knew.

 

Steve could only hope that her sickness took her in her sleep soon if Barnes took him away. It was both selfish and selfless of him. He knew he’d never see her again after and he’d much rather she passed in her sleep than his loss weaken her like Joseph’s death had done.

 

“Promise me you’ll stand your ground,” Sarah whispered into Steve’s hair.

 

“Like the apple tree,” Steve promised her. “My roots will never be forced from the earth.”

 

Sarah squeezed him one last time. Then she pulled back and kissed his forehead, tears salting her kiss. Steve slipped from her arms, smiled tightly once more, then turned to go. Doctor Erskine moved forward, having entered with Sarah’s medicine during the conversation, and as he brought Sarah her herbs and tea, Steve left his mother’s chambers.

 

He went to his own, where Wanda and Pietro, his Omegas in waiting, were already waiting. Wanda pulled Steve into a hug the second he entered, her arms tight.

 

“You got Mother’s courting robes?” Steve asked her, voice muffled by her hair.

 

“Yes,” Wanda answered. “And her wedding gown.”

 

Steve pulled back and wiped his own tears. “I doubt it’ll come to that,” he admitted. “We all know Barnes’s preference.”

 

“Just in case,” Wanda pleaded.

 

Steve hesitated. Pietro moved forward and gripped his arm.

 

“If you bear him a son, he’ll be motivated to marry you,” he pointed out. “You’ll need to be prepared.”

 

“Fine,” Steve agreed. “But do the other robes first.”

 

Wanda kissed Steve’s cheek, then she and her brother brought him forward and Steve stepped onto a small stool. He removed his trousers and tunic, then stood in his shorts and undershirt so Wanda could begin fitting him to Lady Sarah’s fine dresses and robes from her courting days. Steve stood mostly still while Wanda did this. He raised his arms and lifted his feet when told, put on what she gave him, took it off again at her behest. He’d hoped once that he’d never need these.

 

Peggy arrived by the time Wanda finished getting everything she needed to alter the clothes. Steve, dressed in his usual and meager trousers and tunic, waved her in. She immediately hugged him.

 

“I wish it didn’t work out this way,” she murmured.

 

“I know,” Steve answered, burying his nose in her hair and trying to memorize her soft, Alpha scent before he lost it entirely. “I wish it didn’t, either.”

 

Peggy pulled back and smiled, though it was weak. “Still,” she sighed. “I’ll take care of your mother.”

 

“Thank you,” Steve told her. “You don’t know what that means to me.”

 

Peggy squeezed his arm, nodding a little. “I do, a bit.”

 

Steve pulled her into another hug. “I’m sorry,” he said.

 

“Don’t be,” Peggy told him gently. “We would’ve bickered every day of our wedded bliss and you know it.”

 

“Would’ve been fun bickering,” Steve mumbled.

 

Peggy let out a soft laugh and squeezed him. “It would’ve,” she agreed.

 

Eventually, they let each other go. Steve sat down in one chair and Peggy the other. Pietro set a tea tray on the table between them, then moved behind Steve’s chair and leaned on it’s back, absently beginning to play with Steve’s hair. Steve reached up and laced his fingers through Pietro’s, just to keep contact with him. He’d grown up with Pietro like a brother, Wanda a sister. He’d miss both of them dearly.

 

“I’ve gotten the last raven from my contacts,” Peggy told Steve, starting their tea. “Barnes’s harem is all women, though some of them are Betas. The woman that runs his house at the moment is called Natalia; they say he took her from Siberia as a spoil of his first successful war.”

 

“I’ll have to best her,” Steve mumbled. “Barnes will have to like me best of all his concubines if my plan’s to work.”

 

“That’s what I’m worried about,” Peggy admitted, putting down the teapot. “Last year, a clan not far from us was taken by Barnes. The chief offered his Omega son to Barnes.”

 

“More competition,” Steve sighed.

 

“No,” Peggy said quickly. “Barnes refused him.”

 

Steve sat upright, grabbing the arms of his chair. Peggy nodded.

 

“Barnes took an older sister,” she said. “The boy stayed behind.”

 

“But –” Steve started, chest tight.

 

“He has no Omega men in his harem,” Peggy told him.

 

“He has to take me!” Steve gasped, jumping up. “If he doesn’t – Brooklyn –”

 

Peggy got up quickly, grabbing Steve’s hands. “You will try,” she said, “you will offer politely and in a way befitting your station. Barnes is known for being a benevolent ruler, he’s never harmed any of the people taken into his kingdom!”

 

“Unless they were resisting him,” Pietro pointed out.

 

Peggy sighed. “We’re not resisting,” she said.

 

Steve dropped back into his chair. “I’ll try,” he sighed. “But – But if he refuses me –”

 

“I could go,” Wanda said abruptly.

 

“No,” Steve said immediately. “No, no, Wanda, sweetheart –”

 

“We could pretend that I’m your sister,” Wanda insisted. “There’d be no risk that he’d refuse me.”

 

Steve got up quickly and grabbed Wanda’s arms. “Sweetheart,” he sighed, “no. I know you’re only trying to help,” he said, “but this is my burden to bear.”

 

Wanda’s eyes were wide. Steve pulled her into a hug.

 

“He won’t refuse,” he whispered. “He can’t.”

 

*

 

Two weeks later, they’d run out of the last of their rations. Steve gave his rations for the day to another family, preferring to go hungry if it meant another child could eat.

 

Then, not a day too late, Barnes’s convoy was spotted on the horizon. The people gave praise. Lady Sarah promised them there would be no bloodshed, just food shared among them all and a quiet change of power. None of them would notice the difference.

 

Steve began to wear his mother’s old robes. He washed his hair with rosehips. Doctor Erskine, with a heavy sigh, gave him tea for fertility. Steve drank it morning and night.

 

Barnes arrived in the city with a hundred men on horses, yes, but there were wagons filled with bread and grain and salted meat and fish. Steve and his mother stood on the balcony of the manor house, watching as the Dread Conqueror and Warlord Barnes himself got down from his horse and began helping unload crates of potatoes and barrels of wine in the village.

 

“I want your plan to be a last resort,” Sarah told Steve in a tired voice. “The value of the land may be enough.”

 

Steve took his mother’s hand and squeezed it. “It may be,” he said, though he didn’t believe it for a moment.

 

There was clearly enough food for the whole village to last through the winter. Most of Barnes’s men remained in the village, but ten and another wagon followed him up the road to the manor.

 

Sarah and Steve waited on the steps. Sarah refused her cane for the first time in months and Doctor Erskine stood worriedly nearby. Pietro and Wanda waited just behind Steve, Peggy stood by with her cousin Sharon and all the warriors that her family could muster. Steve held his head straight and high, hands folded in front of him. His heart was beating a war drum in his chest.

 

The warlord slipped off his horse. He wore no crown, and from what Steve had heard, never let anyone address him as a king. He wore a helmet, no different than the men behind him, and when he removed it, his shoulder-length dark hair clung to it for a moment as he lowered it to his hip. Distantly, Steve thought that his face was handsome. His eyes were pale, his jaw square, nose strong, a cleft in his chin. He looked like a warlord.

 

“Welcome,” Sarah broke the silence. “We are beyond delighted for your kindness, Lord Barnes.”

 

“I had the food and money to spare,” Lord Barnes answered her, and he smiled, his teeth straight and white. Steve wanted to find malice in that smile. He couldn’t.

 

Lord Barnes handed his helmet to a soldier standing next to him, took off his gauntlets and handed them over as well, and then stepped forward, hand held out before him.

 

“My lady,” he greeted. “It’s an honor to meet the woman behind Olde King Roger’s cider.”

 

Sarah looked down at his hand. Steve jerked his gaze towards her, teeth clenching to hold back a hiss of scorn. His mother looked at Barnes’s hand for a long moment, too long to be anything but rude. Then she held hers out and set it in Barnes’s, clapping her palm to his in an unbefitting gesture from her position. Barnes, however, shook it firmly.

 

“I would offer you a feast in welcome,” Sarah began, “but as you know, we don’t have the means for a feast.”

 

“Then I will provide the feast,” Barnes told her, smiling once again. “I would hope we would be celebrating regardless.”

 

“Yes, I hope to wish you well,” Sarah answered. “I have mustered no military forces to oppose you. You may take our land as you please, I only ask that you permit my people to keep their homes and let them continue to work the orchard for you. They know it best.”

 

Barnes smiled, almost apologetic. He brought his other hand up and covered Sarah’s hand with it, tilting his head down.

 

“My lady,” he said, “you have no military presence to fear from me. Your lands are your own.”

 

Steve sucked in a breath. Sarah just blinked at the warlord. Pietro grabbed Steve’s shoulders, as though to steady him, while Wanda even grabbed his.

 

“But –” Sarah started, “the food –?”

 

“Only a gesture of goodwill,” Barnes said.

 

Steve wanted to accuse him of falsehood. He wanted to say he heard a lying tongue behind Barnes’s lips and that he ought to be ashamed of his conduct. He could not. He heard only honesty.

 

“It would be the act of an honorless man to steal land from a starving people,” Barnes declared. “I would hope I have some honor in me yet.”

 

“Your kindness is unprecedented,” Sarah said in almost a whisper.

 

“I do hate to see children suffer unnecessarily,” Barnes said. “But I must admit one ulterior motive.”

 

Steve almost felt relieved.

 

“If you wish a cut of our profits next year –” Sarah began.

 

“No, forgive me, my lady, but that is not what I came for,” Barnes cut her off.

 

Steve steeled himself. His trunks were already packed.

 

“What is it, then?” Sarah asked, her tone sharp.

 

Steve grabbed his mother’s hand, squeezing it. Sarah reversed his grip and squeezed it in return, much harder.

 

Barnes gave Sarah one more smile, but then his gaze lifted and shifted. His pale eyes turned on Steve and his lips curled in a much different smile for the briefest of seconds. Steve sucked in a breath, but then Barnes was returning his gaze to Sarah.

 

“I came to ask for an alliance,” Barnes suggested.

 

“I know how you form your alliances,” Sarah answered swiftly; Steve jerked to turn on her but she grabbed his shoulder, stilling him. She glared at Barnes now. “If you think that I will sell my son for a few barrels of wine and bread,” she spat, “you are sorely mistaken.”

 

Barnes paused for just a moment. His eyebrows lifted and his tongue parted his lips to sweep across one. Then he chuckled a little.

 

“My lady,” Barnes said, “I offer you and your people food purely because you need it. As for your son,” he continued and Steve took his breath back in.

 

“Then you think that out of some weak gratitude I will just give him to you?” Sarah demanded. “You have no children, James Buchanan Barnes of the North, and I will not waste your time mincing words: You may not have my son for you harem!”

 

Barnes, in face of Sarah’s angry words, just smiled.

 

“But perhaps you would give your blessing for his hand in marriage?” he asked.

Chapter Text

Flower blooms a apple-blush-pink



Steve wasn’t sure he heard right. He blinked dumbly at Warlord Barnes.

 

“I had hoped that I would endear myself to you in coming to your aid,” Barnes continued to speak respectfully to Sarah’s justifiable rage. “I do not wish that you consider the food I brought your people as a formal gift of courtship, please, take it with no debt on either side.”

 

“Do you merely ask for marriage because I refused to let you take my son as a common whore?” Sarah demanded.

 

“Of course not, my lady,” Barnes answered immediately, “and please, I offer my sincerest apologies that you were lead to believe that I would disrespect you or your son in that way. I came here with the intention of asking for your son’s hand in marriage.”

 

“You did?” Sarah repeated, now baffled.

 

“Your son was said to be as beautiful as Brooklyn’s sweet apple blossoms,” Barnes said, and his lips lifted in another smile, then his eyes moved and Steve was startled by the intensity of his gaze.

 

Barnes gave pause, long enough that Steve’s heartbeat picked up again. Then he spoke again.

 

“But no blossom could compare,” he said. “Not even the most perfect of untouched flowers.”

 

Steve felt his cheeks heat up; he blushed right to the roots of his hair, pulled back from his face by Wanda’s best braids. Barnes’s gaze somehow intensified even more as his gaze just shifted enough that Steve was sure he saw him blush that far. Barnes’s lip lifted at one corner by a hair.

 

“I’ve never been gladder to have my expectations so far exceeded,” he concluded.

 

Steve was glad he wasn’t speaking, because he was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to. He’s not used to this kind of attention. He hasn’t had any suitors but for Peggy and with Peggy, they’d been friends, she’d never flirted with him. Far from it, Peggy’s preferred method of affection highly similar to wrestling. He’d never been so blatantly complimented by an Alpha like Barnes has done.

 

Steve was even more startled and touched by how pleased Barnes looked to see his blush. How thoroughly delighted he seemed that Steve was visibly affected. How he looked proud of himself. Steve wasn’t sure he knew what to feel about that.

 

“Flattery, Lord Barnes,” Sarah said, “will get you nowhere.

 

Steve, perhaps a little dazed even, wasn’t quite sure his mother was right.

 

“Of course not, my lady,” Barnes answered quickly. “But, so you know that I am serious in my offer –”

 

He turned and waved. Two of the soldiers turned and climbed into the wagon, then climbed out again with a chest held between them. They carried it the short distance and let out their breaths when they dropped it at Barnes’s feet. Barnes personally bent and released the locks of the trunk, opening it.

 

Gold gleamed in the overcast sky looking over their shoulders. Steve’s eyes widened.

 

“I’m prepared to meet any of your conditions for your son’s hand,” Barnes continued once again. “I have, also, innovations to share with you that could, in the future, prevent the devastation last year’s winter caused your harvest.”

 

“My son is all I have left,” Sarah admitted quietly.

 

“I would not take him from you,” Barnes said immediately, “I would be prepared to remain here or to bring you with us.”

 

“You’d do that?” Steve blurted out.

 

Barnes flicked his gaze to him again. Steve froze up, his face suddenly flushing just at Barnes’s pale eyes meeting his. Barnes smiled again.

 

“I would,” he answered. “I do not wish to render resentment from you, my sweet.”

 

Steve flushed all over again. Barnes’s smile turned to something dark, then, something almost – almost exciting.

 

“I would hope to garner your affections, even,” Barnes added.

 

“But you must have my blessing first,” Sarah interrupted sharply.

 

Barnes’s gaze lingered on Steve’s for a moment. Steve compulsively bit his lower lip. Barnes lifted his eyebrows slightly, almost nodding to Steve, then he looked back to Steve’s mother.

 

“Of course not, my lady,” he said. “And should you refuse my offer, I will respect it.”

 

He touched his chest, his heart, and inclined his head.

 

“I will respect it,” Barnes repeated, “but you should know, my affections for your son are genuine and if I were made to turn away, I would do so with my tail between my legs.”

 

“You are unused to defeat,” Sarah responded blandly.

 

“I admit, I am not,” Barnes answered. “I would from then on drink your homestead’s brew with grief.”

 

“You think you know grief –” Sarah started, but Steve grabbed her arm and she stopped suddenly.

 

Steve leaned in and whispered in her ear.

 

“Take it,” he begged her. “I’ll be fine.”

 

His mother looked at him sharply, her eyes wide. Steve nodded. Sarah turned away from Barnes entirely and took Steve’s hands again, holding them to her breast.

 

“My baby,” Sarah murmured. “My only son.”

Steve nodded.

 

Sarah looked back at Barnes. Steve hesitated to follow her gaze almost, but he did. Barnes was smiling, but he did not look smug. Steve wasn’t sure if that meant well for him, or at all.

 

“I will give you my blessing,” Sarah finally said.

 

“My lady, you have no idea how happy –” Barnes started.

 

“On my terms!” Sarah added quickly, sharply again.

 

“Of course,” Barnes replied.

 

“The orchard and all its fruits, all of them,” Sarah began, “belong to the whole of Brooklyn, not just my husband’s house. The people must be permitted to stay in their homes, this generation and those beyond, and they must be permitted to keep the orchard and brew the cider.”

 

“They know it best,” Barnes answered.

 

“You may do what you like with your gold,” Sarah added, looking at the chest almost distastefully, “I care not for wealth. My second condition is that you allow the marriage to take place by our customs.”

 

“I can agree to that,” Barnes told her.

 

“And our customs demand that a marriage bed be occupied by only two people!” Sarah snapped. “You will be faithful to my son and you will not partake of your –” she spat the next word and Steve winced “– harem again!”

 

“Of course,” Barnes agreed.

 

Sarah looked skeptical still. “You will keep your marriage vows,” she said, “or believe me, James Barnes of the North, you will know grief.”

 

Steve looked at his mother sharply, silently rebuking her; there was no need for threats. Barnes’s expression became schooled and he looked at Sarah for a long moment.

 

“Your terms are honorable,” Barnes said. “I will abide by them.”

 

Sarah put her hand back out. Barnes shook it, pumping it firmly and releasing it. Sarah grabbed at Steve’s arm, leaning on him. Steve supported his mother, heart beating rapidly in his chest.

 

“Then,” Sarah began softly, “I give you my blessing.”

 

Barnes smiled again. “I will be glad to call you mother,” he said.

 

“I should hope I will not regret calling you son,” Sarah answered venomously.

 

“Let’s move this inside,” Steve spoke up again. “We will need to discuss the arrangements.”

 

“Gladly,” Barnes said with another smile, his eyes on Steve.

 

Steve licked his lips, his mouth feeling dry. Barnes looked at him, a darkness in his eye that Steve had seen plenty of recently.

 

Hunger.

 

As they moved inside, Steve’s mother and the Warlord Barnes beginning discussions of the combining of their houses, Steve said a silent prayer to the gods. Hunger was not something he’d considered when he met Barnes, not even in taking fertility potions. Hunger was not something he’d even thought to wonder of.

 

Steve had no illusions to what Barnes hungered for. He’d thought he’d dread it, as the Warlord’s name.

 

But when Barnes let his gaze drift to Steve’s, it felt almost like a hushed secret. When Barnes’s lip curled up on one side, it felt almost like a promise. When Barnes looked at him with hunger, Steve almost felt his belly rumble.

 

With hunger.

 

*

 

The wedding was arranged rapidly. Barnes had brought more than enough food to last through what was left of winter and seeds for the spring. The orchard would blossom again in the early spring, very close to the last frost, but Barnes taught them the innovations he had promised. Using the simple cauldron, Barnes’s physician, an Alpha by the name of Bruce Banner, taught the Brooklynites to boil water at close intervals along the orchard. The heat of the fire and the steam would prevent the frost from touching the blossom and the cauldron full of water would help keep the fires contained.

 

The cupboards and cellars were filled again. They had plenty of cider, unsold from previous years, and Steve’s people drank and made merry with Barnes’s soldiers in the next few weeks to come.

 

Weddings were to be held on feast-days only. Barnes arrived just after An Dàmhair began, so Sarah declared that the wedding would take place on Samhain; heralding the New Year with a new marriage would bring good luck to everyone, particularly to Steve and his Alpha. Winter was the best time of year to plant the seed of the womb, as they said. It would blossom well after Beltane and be born by Am Fohgar.

 

Steve normally loved the feast days of Samhain. He loved the sights and the smells and the cheer that was spread around as they thanked their gods for the year in past and asked blessings for the year to come.

 

This year, it was his wedding day. He hasn’t seen much of Barnes since he arrived, not since Barnes had leveled that look of lust on him. His wedding day neared and Steve grew both nervous and anxious with the anticipation. He had little experience with sexual matters, had hardly even been given the opportunity to familiarize himself with his own hand. His wedding night would prove whatever hunger Barnes held in his eye.

 

“Are you sure you want to keep taking this?” Doctor Erskine asked Steve nervously as he held back the cup of nettle tea.

 

“Yes,” Steve insisted. “I need the security.”

 

“He does say that he truly desires you,” Doctor Erskine reminded Steve. “I worry that if you bear a child so young, you may not survive it.”

 

“What we need is something tangible to bind Lord Barnes to Brooklyn,” Steve reminded him in turn. “His culture puts much less importance on the ties of marriage, you know this. A son is the only thing that will keep him loyal to our people.”

 

“But you –” Doctor Erskine started.

 

Steve covered the doctor’s hands. “I do not outvalue my people,” he whispered fiercely. “Do you understand?”

 

Doctor Erskine sighed. He nodded and released the mug. Steve took it and stepped back, sitting down in a chair by the fire. Wanda perched herself on the arm of the chair and began gently stroking Steve’s hair as he began to drank the bitter tea. Doctor Erskine bowed once to him, then turned on his heel and made his way out. Pietro followed him, making sure the door shut behind him, then turned back and joined Steve and Wanda in sitting down on the footstool.

 

“Pity sugar makes it useless,” Steve muttered under his breath.

 

Wanda smiled down at him and continued to stroke his hair. Deftly, she plucked the ribbon binding his hair in its loose braid and began to comb it out.

 

“You need a trim,” she remarked.

 

“Are the ends splitting?” Steve asked.

 

Wands shook her head.

 

“Then leave it,” Steve decided. “I could use a few inches for the wedding braids.”

 

Wanda slipped off the arm of the chair and moved behind Steve, slipping her hands into the roots of his hair. Steve took a long gulp of the nettle tea, then sighed as he swallowed and leaned his head back into Wanda’s hands. She scratched her nails along Steve’s scalp and Steve let out a long groan.

 

“Save that for the Dread Conqueror,” Pietro quipped.

 

Steve turned bright red, he was sure, and kicked Pietro off the stool. Pietro fell off laughing and clutching at his stomach and Wanda huffed as she pulled Steve’s hair out through her fingers.

 

“You two act like children,” she said in a somber tone. “Pietro, you should not encourage our prince to behave so immaturely!”

 

“He only has a night left before he’s married!” Pietro argues, rolling onto his side to grin cheekily up at his sister. “Surely that’s as good an excuse as any to behave childishly?”

 

Steve smirked and wormed his foot out of his slipper just a little, then lifted his leg and flung his shoe off in Pietro’s direction. It hit him square in the face and Pietro fell back again with a squawk of surprise.

 

“Hmm,” Wanda mused calmly, “perhaps you’re right.”

 

“Fiend!” Pietro shouted, grabbing the shoe and throwing it back in Steve’s direction, but missing. “You went walking in the stables earlier!”

 

“I didn’t step in anything,” Steve told him calmly.

 

Pietro yanked his sandal off and threw it at Steve, as well. Steve slapped it out of the air and away from him. Pietro glared.

 

“I hate you,” he said.

 

Steve just smiled at him.

 

“Break it up,” Wanda told him. “Pietro, you really should be going to fetch our evening tea.”

 

“Stevie has his tea,” Pietro countered.

 

Steve looked down at the dark green liquid in his cup and grimaced. Wanda waved a hand at Pietro.

 

“Go get our tea,” she said. “Neither you nor I need to be sharing Steve’s nettle drink.”

 

“Nor want to,” Steve muttered.

 

Pietro pushed himself up with a huff. “Alright,” he agreed. “But only because I could do with something to eat.”

 

“Go!” Wanda encouraged her brother as he started for the door. “Tarry not!”

 

Pietro waved a hand behind him. Steve shut his eyes again and leaned back into Wanda’s hands. She had picked up a brush by then and was combing out his hair, her hands ever gentle. When he was young, Sarah had combed his hair at night. After he’d presented, Wanda had been given to him to brush and braid his hair morning and night. She did very well; she brushed out his hair and then shook it, scratching her nails into his scalp, and it left him relaxed even with the heaviest of stresses on his shoulders.

 

Tonight was only a little different. Wanda brushed out his hair and carefully applied rosewater and sweet oils to his scalp and behind his ears.

 

“Are you afraid?” Wanda asked softly.

 

Steve left his eyes shut. “I thought that I would be,” he murmured.

 

“And?”

 

“I don’t think I am,” Steve said carefully. “Doctor Erskine was right; Barnes must truly want to have me if he went to so much effort to come here and restore our stocks for no cost.”

 

“Even if he wants you, you can be afraid,” Wanda pointed out.

 

Steve nodded lightly. “But I don’t think I am,” he repeated. “He – He looked at me, when he first arrived. It was…” he hesitated, searching for the right word. “Stirring.”

 

“Stirring,” Wanda repeated, her voice amused. “Truly?”

 

Steve flushed again and dropped his gaze to his tea. “Hush,” he scolded. “Don’t talk back to your prince.”

 

Wanda tugged hard on a lock of his hair. Steve bit his lip suddenly to hold back his squeak of surprise.

 

“You’re no spoiled princeling,” Wanda said happily. “And I’ll talk back to you all I like. Are you excited, then?”

 

Steve kept his gaze lowered, but he blushed more. He nodded once.

 

“I would be,” Wanda sighed. “He does look like such a strong Alpha. He must fuck like a beast.”

 

“Wanda!” Steve gasped, jerking around in his chair to gawk at her and ripping his hair out of her hands in the process.

 

Wanda just shrugged, smiling. “You won’t deny it.”

 

Steve blushed all over again. Wanda smirked and prodded his cheek.

 

“Aren’t you supposed to wash my feet with oats and honey or something?” Steve accused her to avoid being reminded anymore that the next day was his wedding.

 

“I meant to do that after tea,” Wanda quipped. “But I suppose I can do it now.”

 

“Why don’t you?” Steve asked. “So you’ll tease your prince no more!”

 

“I’ll tease my prince all I like,” Wanda countered, smirking still. “After tea, I have a gift for you, as well.”

 

“You didn’t have to give me anything,” Steve said, straightening in his chair.

 

Wanda patted his warm cheek. “I wanted to,” she said. “Besides, it’s a practical gift and I spent no money on it, I assure you.”

 

“Oh, good,” Steve sighed, falling back in the chair again. “I’m not worth your hard-earned labors.”

 

“Oh, hush,” Wanda scolded him, crossing to the doors. “I’ll be back!”

 

“I’ll be here,” Steve muttered, slumping in the chair.

 

Wanda waved as she opened the door and slipped out. Steve brushed his hair out of his face and watched it run between his fingers; it was down to his shoulders by then. He figured Barnes would want him to look and feel as much like a normal Omega would. Long hair wasn’t much of a consequence; he liked having it long enough for Wanda to shake it out and braid it.

 

Staring at the all, Steve wondered if Barnes would allow him to bring Wanda and Pietro with him to – to wherever Barnes’s fortress was. As far as he knew, it was somewhere in the heart of Viking land. He hadn't studied geography much farther beyond the borders of his continent. Barnes had offered to bring his mother along. He wasn’t sure if that hospitality extended to his Omegas in waiting.

 

A knock sounded at his door. Steve started, sitting upright in his chair, then he just stared at the door for a second. The knock sounded again and Steve sat up more properly, clearing his throat.

 

“Enter,” he called.

 

The door opened slowly. Even more startling than the knock had been in the first place, a small figure dressed in dark leather armor slipped into the room. Steve jumped up, grabbing the lamp from the table as the panic of being faced with a stranger in his bedroom filled him.

 

It proved to be a woman; a woman with pale skin and dark red hair tied back under her hood. Steve opened his mouth to shout the alarm, but the woman pressed a finger to her lips and strode right past him, looking behind the wooden screens that covered his dressing area.

 

“Hey!” Steve spluttered, tearing his feet from the spot and backing away from her towards the fire and the sharp iron poker. “You shouldn’t be in here!” he accused. “If I shout for a guard, he’ll be here –”

 

“He won’t,” the woman interrupted him. “I got rid of them. But you needn’t worry, I’m only making sure you’re alone.”

 

“That does not reassure me!” Steve retorted angrily, hand landing on the grip of the poker.

 

The woman calmly walked around the screens again and flipped up the bedskirt to look under the bed frame. Steve gawked for a second.

 

“He is alone,” she called out.

 

The door pushed open a little more, the half angled away from Steve, shielding the newcomer from sight. Steve was not at all content with what was happening and he did grab the poker, sticking it into the fire to get it hot for whoever thought they could just march into his bedchambers without so much as a –

 

Barnes walked in.

 

“Thank you, Natasha,” he addressed the woman in leathers. “Wait outside.”

 

She nodded and walked past him out of the chamber. Steve’s heart hammered in his chest. Barnes turned after her and shut each half of the door with a steady hand, until they clanged shut and latched with a resounding clang.

 

Barnes pivoted on the spot in a few steps and met Steve’s gaze. He smiled pleasantly.

 

“You really shouldn’t be here,” Steve blurted out. “We’re not supposed to see each other until – until –”

 

“The nuptials?” Barnes offered, raising an eyebrow and a corner of his lip. “I am aware.”

 

“If you think –” Steve started, getting angry now, but Barnes raised a hand.

 

He smiled still politely as he took a few steps nearer. Steve’s grip on the poker had relaxed, but as Barnes stepped around Wanda’s armchair, he renewed it and tensed.

 

Barnes sat down, folding his hands in his lap. “Your virtue is safe,” he said, smiling up at Steve, and then one corner lifted a little higher. “For now,” he added.

 

Steve gulped. Barnes’s lips curled again in that manner that Steve had come to associate with his carnal hunger.

 

“I came to clear something up,” Barnes began. “I wanted to reassure you.”

 

“About?” Steve requested, raising his eyebrows.

 

“Your mother did insist that I disband my harem,” Barnes said, still smiling as though this were quite an ordinary conversation. “I mean to abide by the marriage vows of your custom, but I cannot disband the harem.”

 

“Why?” Steve asked.

 

“Because it isn’t truly a harem,” Barnes explained. “The woman that checked this room for me, her name is Natasha Romanoff –”

 

“I have heard of her,” Steve interjected.

 

“Have you?” Barnes returned pleasantly. “She’ll be pleased.”

 

“She’s the chief of your concubines,” Steve added. “Which, you’re meant to swear to not bed again tomorrow.”

 

“See, that’s where the falsehood lies,” Barnes continued. “Natasha is no concubine. She’s an assassin.”

 

Steve almost dropped the poker, in addition to his jaw. Barnes just kept smiling at him.

 

“Most of my harem are actually assassins,” he told Steve. “A few are midwives, alchemists, a handful are witches. Like your mother?” Barnes added, lifting his eyebrows inquisitively.

 

“How –” Steve gasped incompletely.

 

“She wears magic,” Barnes said. “As do your servants, the boy and girl always with you, what are –”

 

“Wanda and Pietro,” Steve interrupted. “How do you know that?”

 

“I have charms to detect magic,” Barnes explained, then glanced down and pulled from under his tunic a cord, which proved to be an amulet. “Like this. They simply make me aware of any magical doings around me.”

 

Steve thinned his lips. “I see.”

 

“Do you have any ability?” Barnes asked.

 

Steve clenched his jaw as he considered the question, then he shrugged. “A little,” he admitted. “Not as much as my mother. Is that why you wanted me?” he asked sharply.

 

“No,” Barnes said quickly, smiling again at Steve in that way that made his spine shiver. “I assure you, my sweet, my desire for you is purely out of lust.”

 

Steve definitely shivered. All over, a shudder that he wouldn’t have been surprised if Barnes was able to tell. He blushed, as well, and Barnes looked pleased as his gaze dropped to Steve’s cheeks, and then lower.

 

His neck, likely. Steve was suddenly reminded that his hair was unbound and, hastily, shoved the poker back into its holder and tugged his hair back to twist it and shove it into the neckline of his tunic.

 

“Your people put importance on hair,” Barnes noted. “Have I harmed your virtue already just by seeing it loose?”

 

Steve glanced at him, blushed again, and wondered if he really needed to answer. Barnes simply smiled.

 

“I have,” he murmured. “I’m glad I chose such a late hour to speak to you.”

 

“Your point about your – your harem?” Steve asked sharply.

 

“Yes,” Barnes sighed, his smile dropping. “I cannot disband it. Those women are truly my last line of defense, as well as my secret agents in enemy territories. I will be honest, I have bedded some of them, and some of them I have only had use for in my bedchambers. I will not dishonor you, however.”

 

“How can I believe you?” Steve demanded abruptly, suspicious even though he knew Barnes was being honest; he could sense no dishonesty, but his mind insisted that he not trust Barnes. The skeptic in him, he guessed.

 

Barnes let out a sigh and leaned back in the chair, putting his feet up on the stool. “I chose to disguise my strongest warriors as concubines because I’ve found that Alphas always underestimate Omegas,” he commented, his gaze level with the fire for a long moment, then he smiled again and lifted it back to Steve. “Just like I’ve underestimated you.”

 

Steve just looked at him for a second, shaken. “I beg your pardon?”

 

Barnes dropped his feet and pushed up. He stood and his boots thudded against the floor even with the cowhide rug under them. He crossed to Steve’s chair and the small round table next to it and he picked up the cup of tea sitting there. Steve schooled his features as Barnes lifted it, gave it a sniff, and then faced Steve to raise his eyebrows.

 

“Nettle tea,” he said. “For fertility?”

 

Steve sucked on his teeth for a second and decided to say nothing. Barnes looked down into the cup, then smiled as though amused and put the cup back down. He straightened and stood in front of Steve, a good head taller than him, with his hands folded in front of him and his lips curled at the corners.

 

“How long have you been taking it?” Barnes asked. “Since I came or since you heard I was coming?”

 

Steve just raised his eyebrows. “I don’t know what you mean,” he said flatly.

 

“No one drinks nettle tea for the taste,” Barnes countered. “I have been honest with you, my blossom, won’t you return the favor?”

 

Steve just blinked up at him for a moment; trying to decide if he resented being called blossom or if it was adding to the tightening in his gut that came just from Barnes standing so close.

 

Barnes let out his breath and released his hands to push his hands into the pockets of his tunic. He looked down at the stone between their feet, inhaled, and then raised his gaze to again smile politely at Steve.

 

“I don’t need an heir yet,” he said softly.

 

“But you do need one,” Steve answered despite his earlier silence; he held his head level and refused to look up, to show his throat. Barnes was not yet his Alpha. “You will need one eventually and I need security.”

 

There was no emotion discernable in Barnes’s eyes. He stared at Steve for a long moment, and then his hand lifted. His fingers folded, all but the index, and before Steve could block it, he slipped that finger under his chin. Barnes lifted his face and Steve bit his tongue holding his breath.

 

“Is that why you’ve been drinking fertility potions?” Barnes asked in a murmur. “You’re afraid that I won’t keep you?”

 

Steve clenched his jaw and didn’t move.

 

Barnes raised his other hand and brushed a knuckle against his cheek; it was cool against Steve’s skin, and suddenly Steve was hating how easily he blushed. Barnes knew he was getting to him.

 

“Darling,” Barnes murmured, “I intend to keep you. For as long as you’ll let me. I do not want heirs from you, not yet. I only want you.”

 

“I hardly know you,” Steve whispered.

 

“I know,” Barnes agreed, his mouth lifting again. “If you are afraid, my sweet, I will not ask you to enter my bed until you believe you’re ready to, even though we’re to be wed tomorrow. I want you to trust me, do you understand?”

 

Steve drew in a breath and, nervously, drew in his lower lip between his teeth. Barnes’s gaze dropped right away and Steve yanked it out, feeling his cheeks heating under Barnes’s knuckles yet again. Just looking at him, Barnes’s pupils widened a little.

 

“My mother wanted me to marry for love,” Steve blurted impulsively.

 

Barnes’s gaze lifted again, meeting his. His smile turned mournful and he nodded.

 

“I would have liked to court you,” he said. “I admit, I would have enjoyed seducing you with gifts and wit. I originally meant to come for you in the spring, when your mother declared you eligible for marriage, but the famine here hastened my plans.”

 

“If I said I wanted to postpone the wedding,” Steve replied hastily, and Barnes raised his eyebrows. “If I called it off, right now, or tomorrow morning –”

 

“I would wait,” Barnes agreed easily. He smirked again. “And now I am worried, my little flower.”

 

Steve swallowed, his mouth dry. Without thinking, he flicked his eyes down over Barnes’s broad chest in his fine tunic, to his strong legs in his breeches and boots. He drew in a breath, and then Barnes’s thumb nudged at his chin and he looked up again, blushing worse at having been caught.

 

“I have a feeling you won’t,” Barnes murmured.

 

Steve shook his head jerkily.

 

Barnes smirked again. He touched his knuckle to Steve’s cheek again, then leaned in. Steve sucked in a breath, bracing himself, but Barnes didn’t connect their lips. His lips pressed to Steve’s cheek, just where he’d touched his knuckle, and kissed him slowly, almost cautiously. Steve’s eyes fluttered shut as he inhaled sharply again and Barnes’s heady scent filled his nostrils.

 

Barnes let his lips linger on Steve’s cheek. Slowly, he pulled back, but then he stopped again, his face tucked into Steve’s, and the hand on his chin shifted to instead cup his cheek. Steve shivered, his eyes fluttering, as Barnes paused to take a deep breath near his neck.

 

“I am looking forward to tomorrow,” Barnes murmured softly, his voice right in Steve’s ear. “If you should choose to rest your head on my pillow in the evening, I would be quite pleased, my sweet.”

 

Barnes drew back. Steve swallowed, mouth still dry, and found he had no words. Barnes just smirked at him.

 

“I’ll see you at the wedding,” he said. “Sleep well, my blossom.”

 

Barnes withdrew his hand and stepped back. Steve fell back against the stone wall behind him and held his breath as Barnes turned, then paused.

 

“Oh,” he added, turning back. “Pet?”

 

Steve’s eyes widened at being addressed like that. Was he going to say no? No.

 

Barnes smiled again. “My friends call me Bucky,” he said. “I’d prefer that be the name you call out in the night.”

 

Steve sucked his breath back in and froze. Barnes – Bucky – just walked out without a glance back. Steve held his breath until the door shut again, and even after that, he took shallow, rapid breaths, sucked them in and held them for a second before letting them out.

 

The door opened again. Steve jerked, sucking in a whole breath, but only Pietro and Wanda entered. Steve let the breath back out, somehow disappointed.

 

“Steve?” Wanda said, halting partway into the room. “Are you alright?”

 

Steve considered that question for a while. “Fuck no,” he exhaled eventually.

 

Pietro rushed forward and almost tossed the tea tray onto the footstool to grab Steve’s hands and peel him away from the wall. Wanda darted over as well, dropping a crate onto the ground, and helped Pietro guide Steve into his chair.

 

“What happened?” Pietro demanded. “Why are you so pink?’

 

“Barnes,” Steve mumbled.

 

“What?” Wanda gasped.

 

Steve actually pointed at the door. “Barnes showed up and came in here and we talked,” he said quietly.

 

“What!” Wanda repeated, but louder.

 

“He did!” Steve insisted. “He’s got fucking assassins and they got rid of the guards and he snuck in here to tell me that his harem is actually a bunch of assassins so he can’t get rid of them!”

 

Wanda and Pietro blinked at him. Steve nodded insistently. They glanced at each other.

 

“You believed him?” Wanda asked slowly.

 

“Oh, given that one of them actually came in here to make sure I was alone first,” Steve added, “yeah, I did. No, he was telling the truth.”

 

"You're sure?" Pietro asked. "You might not have been paying the most attention, given -"

 

"He was telling the truth," Steve insisted.

 

Wanda and Pietro, again, exchanged glances.

 

“He knows my mother can use magic,” Steve continued. “And that you two have some. And that I’ve been drinking nettle tea.”

 

“Oh,” Pietro muttered.

 

Steve fell back in his seat and swept both hands through his hair. “Yeah,” he exhaled.

 

“Your hair!” Wanda gasped.

 

Steve glanced at her, then nodded, sitting forward and pulling it free of his tunic. “He saw,” he said quietly, then, surprising himself, he smiled and laughed a little under his breath. “He – he knows we put importance on braids and things, he asked if he’d taken a little of my virtue already just by seeing my hair loose.”

 

“What?” Wanda gasped a third time.

 

Steve nodded quickly.

 

“Did you tell him?” Pietro asked quickly.

 

Steve just shrugged. “I didn’t say no,” he murmured.

 

“Steve!” Wanda hissed, grabbing his wrist with both hands and shaking him. “You should have turned him out!”

 

Steve just shrugged. “It – It was kind of exciting,” he admitted.

 

Pietro clapped a hand to his face. “Great,” he muttered, “he’s smitten.”

 

“I think I’m allowed to be,” Steve defended himself, “I am marrying the man tomorrow.”

 

Wanda shook her head. “You’re lucky no one caught you.”

 

“I think that was why he sent the assassin before him,” Steve mumbled, leaning back and touching his cheek with a reverent hand.

 

“I wish I’d taken Cook’s offer for the brandy,” Pietro announced, pushing up and grabbing the tea tray from the footstool. “Wanda, move his green shit.”

 

Wanda grabbed the mug of nettle tea. Steve grabbed it from her, raised it to his lips to drink, and then paused.

 

“What?” Wanda asked.

 

“Barnes,” Steve said quietly. “He told me – He said that he didn’t want us to – to –”

 

“What?” Wanda pushed.

 

Steve flushed hot again. “He said I shouldn’t lie with him until I was ready,” he admitted. “And that he doesn’t need an heir until then, either.”

 

Wanda raised her eyebrows. “That’s different,” she mused.

 

“Maybe it was a bluff?” Pietro suggested.

 

Steve shook his head. “He was telling the truth,” he said. “I would’ve known if he was lying.”

 

Wanda exhaled. “You would’ve,” she agreed. “So, do you not want the nettle tea?”

 

Steve shook his head. Wanda took it and put it on the tray with everything else. Pietro shrugged and poured Steve a cup of fragrant black tea instead.

 

“Whatever His Highness says,” Pietro said, handing him a cup.

 

Steve took it and settled back in his chair, looking at the fire, but lifted a hand to touch his cheek again. Wanda and Pietro exchanged glances, giggled, and took their own tea to their seats; Wanda in the chair and Pietro on the stool.

 

“He kissed you,” Wanda accused.

 

Steve jolted. “What?”

 

“He kissed you!” Wanda repeated in a gleeful tone. “That’s why you’re so pink, he kissed you!”

 

Steve, presumably, turned pinker; his face got hot again, at least. Wanda and Pietro burst out laughing.

 

“It was just on the cheek!” Steve said loudly over their guffawing. “And anyway, he was breaking the rules just by being in here, a kiss on the cheek didn’t make much difference!”

 

“Sure,” Wanda giggled.

 

Pietro drew a heart with his fingers. Steve looked away, sure he was burning up.

 

“I saw the room he’s been put in,” Wanda spoke up.

 

Steve perked up, looking at her. Wanda gave a knowing smile and nodded.

 

“It’s in the south wing,” she said. “The bed’s a little bigger than yours. More pillows.”

 

Steve bit his lip again, his heartbeat picking up.

 

“The fire’s next to the bed, too,” Wanda added. “And there’s a lovely bearskin rug in front of it. Quite nice on the knees, I’ve heard.”

 

“Wanda!” Steve gasped, flushing all over again while Pietro almost fell off the stool cackling.

 

“What?” Wanda asked, raising her eyebrows. “I was just saying, as I’ve got to wash your feet in a minute, it might be nice to have a bearskin rug to kneel on.”

 

“Oh, gods,” Steve whispered under his breath, covering his face with a hand.

 

“I hope you’re ready for tomorrow,” Wanda added, her tone more serious now.

 

Steve lowered his hand, cupping his tea again. He nodded, then smiled as he looked into the fire again.

 

“I’m ready,” he said softly.

Chapter Text

Petals so pretty, gotta pick it quickly



Wanda woke Steve with the dawn. He’d hardly slept anyway and he was glad that he could, at last, get up. Pietro had his breakfast already and Steve ate it with them by the fire; tea and bread with fresh butter and cheese from a goat. After breakfast, Wanda and Pietro took him to the baths. His mother was waiting there, smiling but nervous. Steve tried to do his best to reassure her.

 

“You just promise me you’ll stand your ground,” she said, “and I know you’ll be alright.”

 

“I promise,” Steve answered.

 

There was more rosewater. Steve bathed in it first, then he had to soak in a bath of goat’s milk and honey. He thought it was a waste of milk and even more so the honey, but his mother insisted; it was tradition. After that, he got to bathe in plain water at last, and the soap he used was only perfumed with lavender.

 

Wanda combed his hair and after returning to his chambers, they had lunch, Steve sat in his dressing gown while his mother, Wanda, and Pietro worked together to braid his hair. He sat in front of a mirror and he watched as the three of them wove his hair with gold rings and beads, delicate wood sorrel, wood avens, ramsons, and dog violets. There were two braids that started at his temple; one went back over his ear and then fell loose to his shoulder, the other met in the back with its opposite, joined with hair from his forehead, and became three separate braids. Beads separated the hair from his forehead into three sections before they joined the two braids from his temple at the back of his head, and along the two upper braids, there were special rings that his veil would be fastened to.

 

“You look so handsome,” Sarah murmured as Wanda finished the last braid.

 

Steve smiled at her and reached up to take her hand. She raised it and kissed the back of it, then just held it. Wanda rested her hands on Steve’s shoulders, smiling at him in the mirror, and Pietro leaned against Steve’s other shoulder with a hand on his arm.

 

“I should get dressed,” Steve said quietly.

 

Sarah kissed Steve’s hand one more time. “Yes,” she agreed. “I need to prepare myself. I’ll leave you with your capable companions.”

 

“I’ll see you soon,” Steve promised, squeezing his mother’s hand.

 

Sarah squeezed it back and smiled down at him. She rose, touched his cheek one more time, then turned and left. Steve rested his hands in his lap and watched her go, while his heart began a nervous pitter-patter in his chest.

 

“Steve?” Pietro prompted.

 

“Yeah,” Steve answered, nodding quickly. “I’m ready.”

 

He got up from his stool and walked around the screens to slip off his dressing gown and shift. Wanda and Pietro lingered on the other side of the screens as Steve could normally get himself dressed without help, and he was glad he didn’t need their help, because the first thing he had to put on was not something he wanted to be seen in.

 

Though Steve could tell, he was meant to be seen in it. By his new Alpha. Under the robe he would wear for the ceremony and feast, he would normally wear a shift like he’d just taken off; perhaps something longer and heavier if it was cold out. Tonight, Wanda had laid out a gown made entirely of delicate lace.

 

Steve picked it up and ran a hand over it. The pattern resembled the sorrel he wore in his hair. It was stitched with quartz, too, that made the center of each flower glitter in the light. The softness and clear white color of the lace made it plain that it was brand new. He knew Wanda had been sewing furiously over the past two weeks to tailor his mother’s old wedding robe to his size, but he hadn't realized she’d made this as well. Steve would’ve felt overwhelmed by her effort if he didn’t know she could use magic to aid her.

 

Still, it added to his already growing apprehension. Steve slipped the lace on and pulled it down over his hips until the skirt fell around his ankles. It was wide and would bunch up under his robe, probably to give it the volume that a petticoat had, if he’d had one. The sleeves covered his hands and Steve slipped his fingers and thumb through special holes in the lace, then flexed his hands and examined them. There were conveniently placed flowers just on the back of his hand, with glittering quartz to catch the eye. Barnes – Bucky would notice. Steve swallowed and smoothed the lace out over his ribs and stomach, glancing down his body to his groin visible through the lace.

 

“Gods save me,” Steve whispered.

 

Steve hoped Bucky would like it. He’d probably seen Omegas in much more provocative or suggestive clothing; there was no guarantee Wanda’s lace would impress him. He wanted Bucky to like it.

 

Looking over his shoulder in the mirror, Steve’s heart picked up and raced for a second just thinking about how much he wanted Bucky to like it. To like him. He thought of Bucky’s intense, dark gaze, “my desire for you is purely out of lust,” and how his lips had lingered on his cheek. Steve shivered despite the warmth reaching from the fire in the grate and impulsively started chewing on a nail, tearing it to a jagged edge before he remembered to do better.

 

Steve turned around jerkily, scratched his jagged nail against the stone to even it up a little, and grabbed his robe. He released the buttons in the front, running from the bottom hem to the high collar, and pulled it on. Stepping back in front of the mirror again, he did up the buttons again in reverse, examining himself again. His robe was a soft blue, traditional for weddings, and brocade decorated it in lighter blue embroidery. The bodice was tight to his chest until his ribs, where it was divided with a belt before it fell to his ankles in a straight line. The sides were slit up to the knees, allowing him more room for to stride. The collar covered his neck almost to his jaw, but the corners where the buttons met were rounded. Wanda had added gold embroidery to the sleeves, distinguishing the cuffs from the rest of the sleeve.

 

Steve pulled his hair out from the collar and let it fall over his shoulders, just barely brushing them. He had nothing left to put on; he was meant to be barefoot, a symbol of his vulnerability as a maiden Omega or some similar horseshit. Well, Steve thought it horseshit on principle. He didn’t want to consider what he really thought of it. He took a deep breath, tugged on the lace under his robe, and stepped out from behind the screens. Pietro and Wanda stood up as Steve neared them.

 

“How does it feel?” Wanda asked.

 

“Perfect,” Steve assured her. “Uh, the lace –”

 

“It wasn’t my idea,” Wanda cut him off, though she was smiling.

 

“I thought it might give you an edge,” Pietro said with a smirk.

 

Steve let out a snort. “It might,” he agreed.

 

Wanda picked up his veil and unfolded it some. “Do you want this now or do you want to wait until it’s time to go?”

 

Steve sighed and took it from her, just looking at it for a moment. It had been his mother’s, like the robe. It was also lace, made of the same pale blue thread the embroidery on his robe was, but much thicker, enough that he wouldn’t be able see through it. He wasn’t meant to see through it. Once he left his chambers, he’d cover his face with it and he’d have to rely on Wanda and Pietro to guide him to the Great Hall and the ceremony and he would have to be blind until the evening.

 

Tradition required it. Tradition dictated that he be blinded by his veil until his Alpha removed it, after the feast, in his Alpha’s bedchambers. Bucky had given Steve the option to return to his own room in the evening, so he supposed that he could take it off himself.

 

Bucky would lift it, Steve decided. He was excited, not anxious.

 

“Do you think we have much longer?” Steve asked.

 

“Perhaps an hour,” Wanda said.

 

Steve moved past her and Pietro and lowered himself into his chair, then shrugged and held the veil out again. “I won’t cover my face until it’s time to leave, but you could put it on me now.”

 

Pietro took it and moved behind him. Wanda followed him and together, the two of them carefully attached the lace to the rings in Steve’s braids. When they dropped it, its weight pulled on his head a little. Steve held his chin level with intention.

 

“We could play a game of Fidchell? ” Pietro suggested.

 

Steve shrugged. “I don’t really want to.”

 

Pietro looked pointedly at Wanda. Wanda sighed and shrugged.

 

“Why not.”

 

The two of them got the game out of the cupboard. Steve ended up not paying attention to them as they set it up and began a match as he stared into the fire. Pietro had put fresh logs on it when they’d returned for lunch and it was going down to brightly glowing coals. Steve kept a fire going in his bedchambers year-round. It hadn't died since he first moved out of the nursery into this room and it had been lit for his first night here several years ago.

 

It would go out sometime tonight, likely. The nursery had had a fire in its grate from the moment he was born to the night he left it. Both were symbolic, he supposed. Like his bare feet and his veil.

 

Time passed quickly; Steve hardly paid attention. The next thing he knew, a knock sounded at his door and Pietro was getting up to answer it.

 

“It’s time,” Steve heard Doctor Erskine’s voice.

 

Pietro glanced over his shoulder. Steve let out his breath and reached back to lift his veil. He covered his face at last, obscuring his vision for the rest of the night.

 

“Ready?” Wanda asked somewhere in front of him.

 

“Yes,” Steve answered, sticking his hands out. “Where are you?”

 

Wanda grabbed his hands. Steve stood, a little shaky for being blind, but Wanda grasped his elbow and guided him gently away. Pietro grabbed Steve’s other hand, cupped his elbow like Wanda was doing, and Steve let the soles of his feet shuffle over the stone as they guided him.

 

“Everyone is assembled,” Doctor Erskine commented in front of him. “We will enter at the top of the hall, by the dais.”

 

“I remember,” Wanda answered. “Will Barnes go through the crowd like a normal wedding?”

 

“Yes,” Doctor Erskine said, “he agreed to do everything according to our traditions, except the ceremony will be officiated by a priest from his temple, since Steven will have to take Barnes’s gods.”

 

“I won’t be admitted to Tír na nÓg, then,” Steve murmured under his breath.

 

“Well,” Doctor Erskine sighed, “I’m not sure about that. Tír na nÓg is your birthright, I would say.”

 

“I’m sure your afterlife will be fine,” Wanda assured Steve.

 

“Of course,” Steve said, bolstering himself. “Of course.”

 

“Maybe you could still pray to Danu and the Dagda,” Pietro added. “Secretly?”

 

Steve nodded a little. He was blind anyway, so he shut his eyes as Wanda and Pietro guided him and prayed silently to the Dagda and Arawn just then, asking that they entreat with Bucky’s gods to allow him to see his family in the life after death.

 

He heard the crowd before long, then just as quickly he could smell it. According to the plan, Doctor Erskine lead Pietro and Wanda and Steve, in turn, through a door near the throne. Steve knew an altar had been set up in front of the throne and the priest would be standing near there.

 

Hands still on his elbows, Pietro and Wanda guided him to the altar where a cushion was waiting for him. Steve let go of Wanda’s hand and stuck his arm out, feeling for it, as Pietro held onto his arm while he bent his knees.

 

“Left,” Wanda murmured.

 

Steve found the cushion and dropped his weight onto his hand and then his knee, then let himself fall to the side and land on his hip. Pietro tugged his veil straight and Wanda pulled on his robe and the lace shift under it until only his toes stuck out from under them. Steve felt the eyes of the crowd on him, even blind, and hid his hands under the veil in hopes that they wouldn’t notice the beads of quartz glittering against his skin.

 

“Darling,” Sarah’s voice reached his ears, and then her hand landed on his shoulders. “Are you ready?”

 

Steve looked in the direction of her voice and through the thick lace, saw her vague shape. He nodded and reached up, taking his hand from under the veil, to grasp his mother’s hand and squeeze it.

 

“I’m ready,” he assured her. “I’m okay.”

 

He heard her take a deep breath. She squeezed his shoulder, then her shadow fell over him and her lips touched the top of his head, pressing one of the rings in his hair into his scalp.

 

“I guess it’s time?” Steve asked her.

 

“Yes,” Sarah answered. “It’s time.”

 

Her touch left him and Steve let his hand fall back into his lap. He took a steadying breath, reminding himself that he wouldn’t lose her in cleaving himself to an Alpha, and shut his eyes, preferring real darkness to the shrouded vagueness he could see through the lace. He was ready.

 

“Welcome, all!” he heard the priest’s voice and the chatter of the crowd cut out in that instant. Steve took in a sharp breath. In the silence, he could hear his blood pulsing in his ears.

 

“Today we witness the binding of two souls!” the priest called out. “In the traditions of the Gaelic people, the bride waits here, and he cannot see!”

 

Steve felt the urge to look over his shoulder, but held still.

 

“The bride will wait here for his groom!” the priest continued. “The groom must forge his path to the altar and prove that he is true in his intentions! Now, let the groom make his way to the altar!”

 

Steve pushed himself up onto his knees, preparing to stand. At the opposite end of the hall, he heard the doors clang and groan as they were opened. The crowd shuffled, turning to face the other way, and then Steve heard a single pair of footsteps make their way into the hall. Immediately, they stopped again. Bucky would have to force his way through the crowd, to prove he was determined to be married. In the back of his head, Steve wondered if any of his people would do more than just stand in his path, if any resented that the Dread Conqueror was taking him. Someone could quite easily knife Bucky as he pushed his way through the crowd if they wanted to. Steve, belatedly and numbly, hoped no one did.

 

Steve heard the footsteps resume, then shuffling again. The villagers of Brooklyn would be trying to pull Bucky back, to trip him, to get him turned around or confused. If they managed to push him back out to the doors leading out of the hall, the whole wedding would be called off and Bucky would be cast out of Brooklyn in dishonor. Or he would be if this was a normal wedding. Steve was sure Bucky would get through, though. He wanted Bucky to get through.

 

The villagers couldn’t talk to Bucky and Bucky couldn’t talk to them; Steve only heard the weight of bodies pushing and shoving, footsteps slamming or touching the floor, grunts and other exclamations as the crowd jostled and fought. The commotion got closer and closer and Steve could sense his mother standing right behind him, the final barrier between Bucky and the altar. And Steve.

 

And then the pushing and shoving and heavy breaths stopped. Steve heard his mother draw in a long breath and could imagine her standing tall.

 

“My lady,” Steve heard Bucky’s soft voice.

 

Sarah said nothing. Steve heard Bucky’s footsteps come right up to them, his heart started going even faster, and his mother let out a sigh. Then she stepped aside.

 

Steve’s heart was thudding hard in his chest. He clenched his fist in his lap, eyes wide open now, as Bucky’s footsteps walked right up to him. Blind, Steve couldn’t get up without help and he couldn’t get to the altar. A shadow fell over him and Steve felt heat at his back.

 

“You have passed,” the priest said, to Bucky. “You may claim your bride.”

 

Steve braced himself.

 

Heavy hands landed on his shoulders. Steve sucked in a breath, and then Bucky’s right hand moved forward and Steve froze. The hand, broad and calloused enough to catch on the lace, moved around his front and wrapped around his throat. Steve held his breath, eyes shot wide open. Bucky cupped his throat, casually, calmly. Steve held still, heart thudding, as he felt Bucky’s aura merge with his and Bucky touched his nose to a spot just above his ear. Bucky inhaled then and Steve shivered at the sound in his ear. For a moment, neither of them moved.

 

Then, just as calmly, Bucky moved his left hand to Steve’s elbow and gripped it.

 

“Stand,” Bucky murmured right in his ear.

 

Steve fumbled to touch the ground and push up. Bucky’s hands guided him, and as he stood, the hand around his throat moved back to his shoulder. Steve finally let his breath out and sucked a new one in.

 

“Good boy,” Bucky murmured. “A step forward, my sweet.”

 

Steve bit his lip hard to keep silent, trying not to breathe so hard. He pushed a shaking foot forward and Bucky followed him easily.

 

“Step up,” Bucky told him. “Left foot.”

 

Steve lifted his left foot and moved it forward. He planted it on the edge of the dais and shifted it forward until his heel was stable and stepped up. Bucky followed him, still just at his back.

 

“Forward a few steps,” Bucky said. “Good boy.”

 

Steve’s knees, ankles, and hands were all trembling. He pushed his feet forward one at a time, without lifting them and hoping he didn’t stumble. Bucky stayed just at his back, not even a step behind him.

 

“Stop,” Bucky murmured and Steve felt his lips brush the veil near his ear. “Good boy.”

 

Steve shivered from the base of his spine all the way up. He felt very hot under the lace.

 

“You approach the altar of Freyja,” the priest announced. “Before her eyes and the witness of all those gathered, you will swear yourselves to one another in the handfasting ceremony sacred to the Gaelic people.”

 

Steve reached out and his hand was caught in another; Steve now felt the callouses himself, the heat in Bucky’s hands, the strength even as Bucky held his hand gently. Steve shuffled on the spot to turn and held out his other hand and Bucky caught it as well. They faced each other, though the veil separated them.

 

“As physical instruments of the oath you will make today, you will exchange rings,” the priest said.

 

The priest walked up to them and Steve felt him tap his hand; he let go of Bucky and held his palm out and the priest placed a heavy ring in it. Steve gripped it, then worked it into his fingers and held it out for Bucky.

 

“With this ring, you bind this Alpha to you,” the priest said softly.

 

Steve held the ring firm and Bucky pushed his finger into it. Steve gripped his hand after and pulled it up, then clumsily aimed for what he guessed was the ring through the lace and kissed it. When he let go, Bucky touched his cheek through the veil for a moment before dropping his hand. Steve heard the priest passing Bucky the next ring, and then Bucky let go of his left hand.

 

“With this ring, you bind this Omega to you,” the priest continued.

 

Steve held his hand flat and let Bucky push the ring onto his hand. Bucky took his hand after and lifted it and pressed his lips to the ring. Steve joined their hands again after Bucky lowered it and Bucky squeezed his hands. Steve squeezed Bucky’s in return.

 

“The oath you make today is holy and good,” the priest told them. “You hereby swear fealty and fidelity to one another. Your rings represent this oath and to remove them will revoke your oath. Do you swear?”

 

“I swear,” Bucky said first.

 

“Do you swear?” the priest asked, this time in Steve’s direction.

 

“I swear,” Steve answered.

 

“According to the bride’s tradition, you may speak more of your vows,” the priest said.

 

Bucky would go first. He cleared his throat.

 

“You are blood of my blood and bone of my bone,” Bucky said, “I give you my body, that we two might be one. I give you my spirit, ‘til our life may be done. I swear by peace and love to stand, heart to heart and hand to hand. Mark, oh gods, and hear me now, confirming this, our sacred vow.”

 

There was a beat of silence. Steve swallowed and took a breath, steadying his voice.

 

“I take you my heart,” he started, and hoped he wasn’t too quiet, “at the rising of the moon, at the setting of the stars. To love and honor, through all that comes. Through our lives together, in all our lives, may we be reborn, that we may meet and know and love again, and remember.”

 

He finished and felt Bucky pull his hands in a little closer. The priest cleared his throat, then a second time louder and started again.

 

“Freyja and Odin and all the gods in Valhalla see this, your oath. Blessed be this union with the gifts of the east, the west, the north, the south. May the road rise to meet you and the wind ever be at your back. May you fill your halls with the voices of your children and may you see your children’s children. Ever may your hearts beat as one and may you never see a day apart from this moment on. I call upon the power of Freyja to witness and spread the news of your binding to all the Nine Realms!”

 

Steve jolted at the feel of a rope on his wrist, but steadied himself and held still while the priest tied their hands together, wrist to wrist.

 

“You are bound,” the priest announced. “You are wed. All, say hurrah at the joining of the Lord Barnes and Prince Steven of the house of Rogers!”

 

“Hurrah!” the hall shouted.

 

Steve let out his breath while the priest pulled the rope free. He let go of Bucky’s hands and reached under the veil to look at his ring; in the shadows, he recognized his mother’s ring. He touched it and guessed that his father’s ring sat on Bucky’s finger now. Joseph hadn't been burned with it.

 

He felt Bucky’s hands take his elbows and then Steve was suddenly being tugged forward. He let out a yelp and collided with Bucky’s chest as Bucky’s arms wrapped around him. Steve barely had time to grab onto Bucky’s waist and realize that he was bare-chested, before Bucky lifted him off his feet and into the air. Steve yelped again and scrabbled for something to hold onto and ended up grabbing a set of leather pauldrons covering Bucky’s shoulders; Bucky swept him up and into his arms and tossed his legs out only to grab them again under his knees. Steve clung firmly to Bucky’s pauldrons, startled and unsettled at the loss of the ground under his feet.

 

Bucky, his voice right next to Steve, let out a long whooping cheer that was answered by several echoes in the hall. Steve scrambled to kick the hem of his robe off his knees and back over his shins, feeling exposed with just lace to cover his skin.

 

“We feast!” Bucky shouted to the hall.

 

“Hurrah!” the hall shouted again.

 

“Bring in ale and meat!” Bucky yelled on. “Let the bards gather, fill this hall with music!”

 

“Um,” Steve started, feeling nervous. “Please don’t drop me?”

 

Bucky laughed. “I won’t drop you, little prince,” he promised, much quieter. “Can I take off your head covering now?”

 

“No!” Steve said quickly, grabbing a stronger hold on Bucky’s pauldrons. “Not – not here, not until –”

 

“Oh, I see,” Bucky answered.

 

His grip changed and Steve squeaked as he grabbed on tighter and Bucky cupped his back near his hips instead of his shoulders, pulling him upright and closer. Steve felt a little more secure, but also a lot more vulnerable. He suddenly understood the significance of keeping his feet bare and his vision obstructed. He was completely at his Alpha’s mercy.

 

“Your veil must stay on until morning?” Bucky asked in a soft voice.

 

“Until we’re alone,” Steve muttered, feeling his face going hot.

 

“Will we be alone tonight, blossom?” Bucky asked him, even softer.

 

Steve gripped Bucky’s pauldrons with white knuckles. His heart was pounding.

 

“Yes,” he said.

 

Bucky pulled him even closer in. “When?” he almost whispered.

 

“You – you have to stay at the feast,” Steve stammered. “At least an hour. I should go now.”

 

“Why must I wait?” Bucky asked, sounding amused. “Will you be doing something?”

 

“No,” Steve mumbled. “It’s – uh, it’s tradition, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean –”

 

“Mean what?” Bucky pressed.

 

“It’s supposed to be so other Alphas have an opportunity to steal me,” Steve blurted. “It’s just the tradition!”

 

“I don’t want you to be stolen from me, my blossom,” Bucky murmured, his voice so close to Steve’s ears that he had to be holding Steve right to his head.  “Why would I want to give anyone the opportunity to do that?”

 

“You’re supposed to send your sister or your mother to guard your room,” Steve added quickly. “To fend rivals off. But it’s just tradition, if a rival can sneak past all the guards and steal the bride and the groom doesn’t do anything about it, they deserve to have the Omega more than the groom.”

 

“Really?” Bucky mused. “I have no sister or mother with me.”

 

“Your assassin could go,” Steve blurted.

 

“Natasha?” Bucky questioned, then he laughed. “You would be well guarded with her at the door, I suppose. I would much rather take you to my room myself.”

 

Steve bit his lip and instinctively squeezed his thighs together. He would much rather Bucky take him to his room right now, too.

 

“It’s tradition,” he mumbled.

 

“I did agree to do things your way,” Bucky sighed. “Do you want to stay at the feast?”

 

Steve shook his head. “An hour after Natasha takes me out of the hall,” he insisted.

 

“Is that eagerness I hear in your voice, pretty?” Bucky asked in a low chuckle.

 

Steve bit his lip hard. He hesitated, then nodded.

 

Bucky’s grip tightened, yanking him even closer.

 

“I’ll be counting the seconds,” he murmured.

 

“Me, too,” Steve confessed in a whisper.

 

Bucky lowered him onto his feet. Steve held onto him for a second, feeling unstable, and Bucky’s hands spanned the small of his back, warm and present and unyielding. Steve shivered and almost let his head fall back.

 

“I’ll send you now,” Bucky murmured. “Natasha!”

 

There was too much noise and commotion in the hall for Steve to hear footsteps now. He took the flimsy excuse and pressed to Bucky’s chest, resisting the urge to let go of his pauldrons and map out the planes of his chest with his hands.

 

“My lord,” the assassin’s smooth voice answered Bucky’s summons.

 

“Escort my bride to my chambers,” Bucky told her. “And stand guard outside the room until I get there.”

 

“Am I keeping him in or others out?” Natasha replied immediately, startling Steve.

 

“Others out,” Bucky retorted, sounding unamused by her comment.

 

“Fine,” Natasha said. “Come on, then.”

 

Steve shifted his feet on the spot to look in the direction of her voice.

 

“He can’t remove the veil,” Bucky added. “Guide him.”

 

Steve heard her sigh and stuck a hand out hesitantly. It was grabbed and Steve reluctantly let go of Bucky to follow the tug Natasha gave him.

 

“There’s a door right over there,” Steve said, pointing in what he hoped was the right direction. “By the throne.”

 

Natasha pulled him around and started walking him on. Steve kept his feet on the floor to avoid tripping over anything. She opened a door, pushed him through, and then it shut and the noise from the hall cut off.

 

“Why can’t you take the veil off?” Natasha immediately asked.

 

“Because,” Steve replied stubbornly. “He has to do it.”

 

“It’s not because you aren’t actually the prince?” Natasha pressed.

 

“I am actually the prince!” Steve returned, offended at the suggestion. “We wouldn’t try to trick you like that!”

 

“I wouldn’t put it past you, nettle-drinker,” Natasha answered darkly.

 

“I am actually who I say I am,” Steve countered, offended. “And I’m sure Bucky is sure that I’m the prince.”

 

“Are you?” Natasha drawled.

 

“He took in my scent,” Steve told her. “Last night and during the ceremony.”

 

Natasha just hummed at that. Steve huffed.

 

“Left,” Natasha said emotionlessly.

 

Bucky’s bedchambers were on the floor above. Steve lifted his veil forward just enough to see the stairs under his feet and from then on kept it held away from him enough to see the floor. They walked to the south wing, like Wanda had told him the night before, and Natasha stopped him to open the door.

 

“Can you take me inside?” Steve asked.

 

“You can’t even take it off when you’re alone?” Natasha asked. “I won’t tell.”

 

“That’s not the point,” Steve retorted.

 

“What is the point?” Natasha asked.

 

“It’s a symbol of innocence,” Steve muttered. “Bare feet, blind.”

 

“Disorientated?” Natasha suggested.

 

“Vulnerable,” Steve corrected. “And it’s a point for the Alpha to get.”

 

“That you’re not capable of defending yourself?” Natasha pressed.

 

“That’s not the point!” Steve insisted. “I don’t need to prove to myself that I can defend myself!”

“Are you going to prove that you can defend him?” Natasha asked anyway.

 

“No,” Steve said. “I don’t need to.”

“So you don’t get to defend anything,” Natasha drawled.

 

Steve let out a frustrated noise. “Can you lead me to a chair or something? My knees are hurting and I want to sit down.”

 

“Here,” Natasha sighed. “Over here.”

 

Steve stumbled a little, then he felt fur under his feet and Natasha grabbed him by the elbows to guide him around, then pushed him. Steve dropped into an armchair and he stuck his legs out, massaging his knees.

 

“I don’t need to prove that I can defend anyone because I don’t need to prove anything,” Steve told Natasha in a frustrated tone. “I’m blind and barefoot because I’m going from childhood to adulthood and my Alpha has to understand that I’m vulnerable because of it.”

 

“Aren’t there better ways to communicate that you’re a nervous virgin?” Natasha asked blandly.

 

“It’s traditional,” Steve retorted stubbornly.

 

“If you say so,” Natasha sighed.

 

“It’s also traditional that you leave me alone in here,” Steve added.

 

“So someone can come through the window and do away with you?” Natasha asked, still emotionless.

 

“That window won’t open,” Steve pointed out wearily. “If we’re in the room I think we’re in. Even if we’re not, we’re too high off the ground for someone to come through it. And bride-stealing is really bride-escaping.”

 

“Escaping?” Natasha questioned.

 

“It’s for arranged marriages,” Steve explained, rubbing his knees. “If the bride doesn’t like the groom, they can sneak out or sneak an Alpha they do love in and if they can get away with it, they can stay with the Alpha they’d rather be with. It’s the same reason the groom has to fight his way through the crowd to get to the altar, if he’s not worthy, the bride can arrange to get rid of him.”

 

“Oh,” Natasha said.

 

Steve waved a hand. “I’m not going to try to escape,” he pointed out. “So, could you leave me alone?”

 

At first, Natasha didn’t say anything. Long enough went by that Steve wondered if she had actually left. Then he heard her let out a breath.

 

“Alright,” she said. “Have fun on your own.”

 

Her footsteps retreated. Steve fell back into the chair, then reached under his veil and rubbed at his eyes.

 

An hour. Steve could easily count the seconds by the beat of his heart, though it could be faster. It was quiet in the room at least; he couldn’t hear the feast happening in the Great Hall. He let out his breath and lifted his skirts to reach his knees. They ached from kneeling, even on a cushion. Slowly but steadily, he massaged his tired muscles and sore joints.

 

There was a fire nearby and the rug beneath his feet was thick and soft. Steve recalled Wanda’s gossip that Barnes had been placed in the castle’s finest room, with a massive black bear’s skin and a wide bed just by the fire. Steve dropped the hem of his robe and lace shift, then plucked at the edge of his veil. He was curious, and no one would know. He lifted it just a little and peeked out from under it; he sat in a leather chair, the fire to his left, and wooden screens blocked the view of the rest of the room to his right. The bed was just in front of him, and much bigger than the bed in his room.

 

What used to be his room. Steve lingered his gaze on the bed, his stomach twisting with butterflies. He pulled his feet in and squeezed his knees together, sitting up straight in the chair. His gut was filling with arousal. Knowing that soon, that arousal would be met with an Alpha, made the butterflies go faster and his face warm up under the veil. Steve wondered what Bucky would want of him. If he would be gentle or rough, impatient or curiously explorative. He didn’t know if he wanted one or the other, either.

 

Steve had very little experience with sex; not just because he was a virgin and not because he was chaste, but as the opportunities to play with his body had been few and far between so far in his life. He had been brave enough to finger himself only once or twice and any masturbating had been quick and overshadowed by the fear of being caught, a fear that did not heighten the experience. The most he knew? His body reacted to touch rapidly and sticking even just one finger inside himself had been heaven.

 

“Gods,” Steve whispered, thinking about how much more than one finger he would receive tonight.

 

He tugged the veil right and tried to sit comfortably in the chair. He pulled his legs up beside him, then turned and put his back to the arm of the chair, then swung his legs around and tried it in the other direction, only to slide his feet back and his hips forward to rest his head on the opposite arm. Tucking his arms under his neck, he tried to be still and not think too hard about the seconds passing. He failed and sat up to try sitting the exact same way in the other direction. It was only a little better.

 

Steve gave up. He slipped out of the chair, lowering himself to the floor and pushing his hands out to feel the ground in front of him. The veil swung forward and Steve could see enough ahead of him to push out and lie down on the rug. With the fire to his back, his left arm under his head, he could consider himself comfortable enough. He shut his eyes, pulled the veil away from his face with his free hand, and took some steading breaths. It wouldn’t be much longer, he reasoned.

 

The time ebbed away. Steve waited, consciously keeping his breathing even and slow, and no matter how much his eyes longed to simply fall asleep, his mind and belly were kept excited by what he was waiting for.

 

And then the door opened.

 

Steve sat up immediately, holding himself up off the ground with a hand and keeping his breath in. Slow, heavy footsteps rang across the stone chamber. He heard metal jingling, like chain mail, and the swing of heavy material moving in stride. They rounded the screens blocking off the bed and area by the fire, and then Steve heard a slow inhale. It was immediately followed by a low whistle.

 

“Are you my Alpha?” Steve voiced, nervous and excited at the same time.

 

“Oh, pet,” he heard Bucky answer, soft and amused, “I promise that if I weren’t, I’d be dead by morning.”

 

Steve took in a sharp breath; his body was already reacting. Just to Bucky’s voice, Steve felt his asshole clench on itself.

 

“You see, my blossom,” Bucky continued, and Steve heard his footsteps near again, “your Alpha is very, very, very protective of what belongs to him. Of who belongs to him.”

 

Bucky stopped just in front of Steve. He stopped again, doing nothing that Steve could hear, just standing there. Steve, tentatively, lifted a hand from the ground and reached out in front of him.

 

His fingertips brushed fur. He turned his palm inwards and followed the touch, his hand curled around a boot. Steve felt upwards and found metal, ridged and heavy. The plate covered the boot in the front and as Steve felt upwards, he found leather and fur wrappings holding it there. And then his fingers dropped off the boot and he found skin.

 

Steve couldn’t help but gasp. As soon as the noise was out of his mouth, a hand grabbed his wrist and he was being pulled up. Steve grabbed onto the body in front of him and Bucky crushed him against his chest, arms unyielding as they pulled him in and hands firm as they covered his back. Steve was trembling. His cock was getting hard and he felt a little blurt of slick drop out of his hole.

 

“Am I finally allowed to lift your veil, my sweet blossom?” Bucky murmured.

 

“Yes,” Steve whispered.

 

Bucky let go of his back with his left hand. Steve took in a deep breath and Bucky picked up the edge of his veil. Slowly, he lifted it. Light flooded Steve’s face and he blinked hard, disorientated again by having sight again after so long being in the dark.

 

But Steve blinked away the brightness. Bucky pulled the veil back and let it fall behind his head. Steve looked up at his face, his eyebrows drawn together in the middle and his lips turned down, and nervously bit his lip.

 

“Why are you frowning?” Steve asked quietly. “D–do I not please you?”

 

“Oh, pet,” Bucky sighed, his hand lifting to cup his cheek and his frown changed into a smile. “No, my sweet. Much the opposite.”

 

“Wh–why frown, then?” Steve asked again clumsily.

 

“Are you sure?” Bucky returned. “Do you want to be here, truly?”

 

Steve nodded quickly. “I want to be here,” he promised. “With you.”

 

Steve caught Bucky’s hand touching his cheek and pulled it to his lips. He kissed his ring, then looked up, holding Bucky’s hand to his lips still. The blacks of Bucky’s eyes were wide.

 

“I want to be with you,” Steve repeated quickly.

 

Bucky smiled more. He turned his hand and stuck out his thumb; he brushed it across Steve’s lower lip, his gaze aimed downward. Steve, daringly, opened his mouth and ducked his head to take his thumb between his lips. Bucky’s arm at his back tightened and he let out a soft breath. Steve hollowed his cheeks and rested the flat of his tongue under the length of Bucky’s thumb, rolling it to suckle gently.

 

“Odin has blessed me,” Bucky murmured. “Gods, your beauty rivals Freyja’s, I would swear to it. Pull your tongue back, lick at the pad of my thumb, blossom.”

 

Steve pulled his tongue back quickly, curving it back to sweep it over the tip of the digit. Bucky let out a groan and pushed his thumb deeper into Steve’s mouth.

 

“Have you sucked cock before, pet?” Bucky asked.

 

Steve looked up, eyes widening, and shook his head. He went to release the finger from his mouth and Bucky quickly caught the back of his head, holding it in place.

 

“I mean no offense, my sweet,” Bucky told him, “you’re just such a natural.”

 

Steve swallowed saliva, his face flushing. Bucky dropped his hand back to the small of his back and pulled him in closer, flattening their bodies together. Steve felt almost breakable pressed against Bucky’s chest and the feeling only made him hotter.

 

“Would you like to suck my cock first?” Bucky asked softly.

 

Steve hesitated, still sucking on the thumb in his mouth as he thought. He’d heard crude humor about cocksucking before, eavesdropped a few times to the guards discussing the act with each other, and he’d certainly fantasized about it before, about receiving and giving. He nodded.

 

Bucky grinned at him. Steve shivered as Bucky pulled his thumb free and set his hands on Steve’s shoulders. He pushed and Steve went down, quickly dropping his gaze as he fell to his knees.

 

Bucky wore fur and leather tasset over his thighs, like a kilt, held to his waist with a wide studded leather belt, the pauldrons Steve had held onto earlier, and boots with plate greaves. His forearms were clasped in leather bracers, and his stomach and knees were bare. His chest was broad, each muscle defined and thick, and dark hair covered his belly and breast.

 

Steve gulped. Bucky smirked down at him, touched his face with a hand, then reached behind him to release the belt holding his tasset in place. Steve looked down, eyes wide, and wondered if Bucky wore the armor just like a kilt.

 

Bucky removed the tasset, folding it in front of him. Just in front of him, blocking Steve’s view effectively. On either side of it, though, he could see Bucky’s thighs spread shoulder-width apart, just as hairy as his belly. Steve swallowed dryly again, clenching his hands into fists on his knees.

 

“Do you know how pretty you look on your knees, blossom?” Bucky asked in a low voice.

 

Steve glanced up and shook his head.

 

“You’re gorgeous,” Bucky added. “Lick your lips, pet.”

 

Steve forced his mouth to water and pushed his tongue out, wet by saliva, and swept it across his top and bottom lips.

 

“Good boy,” Bucky murmured. “Do you want it?”

 

It. Steve nodded quickly, heart pounding. Bucky smiled more and transferred his armor into one hand, then leaned to the side and put it down on the chair.

 

Steve’s gaze snapped instantly to Bucky’s groin. His eyes widened and he gasped, overwhelmed by the sight of Bucky’s heavy cock. It hung between his legs against a thick patch of hair, longer than Steve’s whole foot, and the foreskin was drawn back just enough to show Steve the wet tip.

 

Steve swallowed again, daunted by the size. Bucky gripped the base just below his flat knot and lifted it a little, his lips curled into a smirk as he looked down on Steve.

 

“Are you sure, pet?” Bucky asked softly. “You don’t have to touch it if you’re nervous.”

 

Steve bit his lip and glanced up, then just shrugged. He lifted a hand, hesitated, then touched Bucky’s thigh, resting his palm there as he took it all in. He’d seen only a few cocks in his life; primarily it had been his own and the rest had been stolen glances at the Alphas in the village. He’d never been close enough to realize how big an Alpha’s cock was.

 

“Would you like me to show you how to touch it?” Bucky prompted. “Or would you just like to watch me touch it?”

 

“C–can I watch?” Steve asked quietly, looking up again.

 

“Of course,” Bucky answered. “Come closer, pet. Lean on me.”

 

Steve shuffled on his knees to rest between Bucky’s boots. Bucky set a hand on the back of his head and gently pulled him in, against his knee. Steve leaned on him, eyes fixed on his cock. It was inches from his face; he could smell Bucky strongly, the arousal at the tip of his length and the pure scent of his body from his balls.

 

“You do please me,” Bucky said in a soft tone, hand still resting on the back of Steve’s head. “You have no idea how much the thought of you pleases me. The moment I laid eyes on you, my sweet apple blossom, I knew I would find no pleasure from anyone else ever again. After we met, I had to excuse myself from company to get myself off to the thought of claiming you, pet.”

 

“You did?” Steve questioned, looking up quickly. “What had I done?”

 

“Aw, sweet,” Bucky chuckled. “You blushed when I looked at you.”

 

Steve, on cue, felt his face flame. Bucky grinned and reached over to brush at his cheek with a thumb, the thumb Steve had been sucking on.

 

“So shy,” he murmured, “so innocent and beautiful. You are everything I had dreamed of and more, Steven.”

 

“Would you call me Steve?” Steve requested quickly. “Or – or Stevie?”

 

“Stevie,” Bucky agreed, smiling again. “I will call you whatever you like, my sweet virgin.”

 

Steve shivered and dropped his gaze again. Emboldened, he darted forward and licked the tip of Bucky’s cock.

 

Bucky let out a sharp groan and Steve sucked on the taste of his arousal on his tongue. Bucky pushed his fingers between a few of Steve’s braids, gripping his hair, and Steve stuck his tongue back out to get another taste. It was bitter and salty on his tongue, like tea brewed far too long, but not unpleasant. He lifted both hands and grabbed onto Bucky’s thighs to steady himself as he tipped his head to the side and let the broad head of Bucky’s cock slip into his mouth.

 

“Suck on it,” Bucky said quickly, his voice heavy with his breath. “Use your tongue, pet –”

 

Steve followed the instructions. Bucky groaned above him, fist clenching in his hair, and his stance widened as his hips pressed closer to Steve’s face. Steve grasped his cock with a hand and tried to stroke it, but their skin stuck together. His hand needed to be wet. Or Bucky’s cock did. Steve dropped the head from his mouth and licked a stripe up his cock instead, letting his mouth water and saliva coat Bucky’s skin.

 

“Yes,” Bucky groaned, “gods, you’re a natural at this, Stevie.”

 

Steve glanced up; Bucky was watching him, his eyes dark. Steve flushed and looked away quickly, focusing again on the cock in front of him. He grabbed onto it with both hands, lifting it, and put the head back in his mouth to suck on it. He played with it for a while, making it get hard in his hands, and Bucky kept flexing his hand in his hair.

 

“What are you willing to do tonight?” Bucky asked in a rough voice after several long minutes.

 

Steve looked up again. He didn’t want to stop sucking, didn’t want to come out of what was happening to think about anything, but then Bucky tugged on his hair. Steve groaned, his eyes fell shut and he pushed Bucky’s cock deeper into his mouth until it hit the back of his throat and he gagged a little. Bucky tightened his fist, pulling on his hair, and Steve just whimpered and tried to fit as much of Bucky’s cock into his mouth as possible.

 

“Pretty,” Bucky interrupted him, still rough. “I need to know how far you feel comfortable going tonight.”

 

Steve reluctantly pulled his mouth off Bucky’s cock. Releasing it, saliva strung between his lips and the tip and, fascinated, Steve licked it up.

 

“Stevie,” Bucky groaned, “stop.”

 

Steve let go and pulled back. Bucky’s cock stood up on its own now, pointing directly at his face with just a few inches between it and his nose. Steve looked up, breathing hard.

 

“How far do you want to go tonight?” Bucky asked again.

 

Steve bit his lip and shrugged. Bucky released his hair and instead touched his cheek, his rough skin somehow gentle.

 

“We’ll only go as far as you feel comfortable,” Bucky said. “Do you know what you’re comfortable with?”

 

“I –” Steve started, flushing. “I think?”

 

“I want you to be sure,” Bucky told him firmly.

 

Steve nodded quickly. “I want – I want you t–to be inside me,” he admitted, his face flaming at his desire and his damned stutter. “I want you t–to finish in – in me.”



Bucky smiled at him. “I will happily do that.”

 

“I want to be yours,” Steve blurted out. “So – All the way.”

 

“You’re sure?” Bucky pressed. “I can wait to mate you, Steve.”

 

Steve shook his head. “Tonight. I want it tonight.”

“I can’t undo it,” Bucky reminded him.

 

“I know,” Steve promised. “I want it now. Before I leave home.”

 

“I won’t make you leave your home anytime soon,” Bucky told him, frowning now.

 

Steve shrugged again. “I want it tonight,” he insisted. “Cl–claim me,” he requested softly, “ple–please.”

Bucky pushed his hand back into his hair. Steve let his head drop back, shivered, and Bucky curled his hand into a fist slowly, pulling on his hair.

 

“Mine,” Bucky murmured.

 

“Yours, Alpha,” Steve whispered breathlessly.

 

Bucky tugged up. Steve darted to his feet, grabbing onto Bucky’s pauldrons as his head rushed with lightness, but Bucky tugged him in regardless and crashed their mouths together. Steve melted against him. Carefully, he rolled his hips into the lace covering his skin.

 

“Mine,” Bucky growled into his mouth, hands tugging on his hair.

 

Steve nodded quickly. “Please –” he whispered incompletely, tugging on Bucky’s pauldrons.

 

Bucky grabbed a fistful of his robe. “Is this important or can I just tear it off you?” he asked roughly.

 

“Don’t tear it!” Steve said quickly.

 

“Okay,” Bucky agreed. “Hold still.”

 

Steve let Bucky pull back. Bucky reached up first and carefully released the lace covering from his hair, then set his hands on Steve’s shoulders and looked down his body. Steve, flushing constantly now, reached up and undid the first button at his throat. Bucky quickly moved his hands to the buttons and began releasing them, one by one.

 

And just as quickly, he paused. Steve bit down on his lip as Bucky just stared at his throat for a moment. His fingers moved and brushed against the neck of the lace.

 

“What is this?” he murmured.

 

Steve reached down and plucked at the lace skirt under his robe. “M–my shift,” he stammered quietly.

 

Bucky released a few more buttons and stopped again. “Gods,” he whispered.

 

“Do you like it?” Steve asked coyly.

 

Bucky started releasing buttons again, hastened now. He got halfway down Steve’s chest and stopped again, grabbing the two halves of the robe and shoving it off his shoulders. He stopped and, again, just stared with wide eyes. Steve reached up and released a few more buttons himself, then pulled the sleeves over his hands and freed his arms one by one from the robe. Then he pushed it down and just stepped out of it.

 

Bucky’s gaze dropped again and he inhaled sharply. Steve was hot all over, from his ears to his chest. His cock was rubbing against the lace. The quartz almost cut at his skin now.

 

“Do I like it?” Bucky whispered softly. “Water is wet, my sweet.”

 

Steve reached up and grabbed onto Bucky’s pauldrons again, feeling unsteady. “Hold me?” he begged impulsively.

 

Bucky grabbed his waist and tugged him just a little, bracing him. He was still just staring down at Steve’s body, wrapped in lace and quartz beads.

 

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Bucky told him.

 

“Don’t rip it,” Steve warned him.

 

Bucky turned him sharply then. Steve was prepared for it this time when Bucky scooped him up off his feet and all but tossed him into his arms. Bucky turned on his heel, toed off his boots, and then walked Steve over to the bed with a long stride. Steve held onto his pauldrons, light-headed, and Bucky put him down gently on the bed before climbing on top of him. Steve sucked in his breath, met Bucky’s gaze, and didn’t move.

 

“You are exquisite,” Bucky murmured, then kissed him sharply.

 

Steve well and truly moaned. Bucky grabbed his hands and pinned them above his head with one, the other grabbed his hips and pulled him closer. Steve instinctively let his thighs separate and his legs open, knees lifting around Bucky’s hips. Bucky pressed against him and Steve whimpered at the feel of the heavy cock lying against his stomach.

 

“I can smell your wetness, pet,” Bucky said, breaking the kiss. “You smell delicious.”

 

“You’re delicious,” Steve blurted.

 

Bucky grabbed his jaw and pushed his head back. Steve whined, baring his throat willingly, and Bucky swiped his tongue over the scent gland in his neck; it was warm against Steve’s skin, distinctively cooler than his scent gland. Bucky licked him twice, three times, then tucked his nose against his jaw and inhaled sharply. Steve whimpered, his spine twisting with arousal.

 

“Have you played with yourself before, pet?” Bucky asked softly.

 

Steve shook his head. “Nn–not often,” he said.

 

Bucky let go of his jaw and instead grabbed his hip again. “You’re tight, then,” he murmured. “I’ll be gentle.”

 

“Please?” Steve whispered, keeping his head thrown back.

 

Bucky gathered lace in his fist. “Take this off?” he asked.

 

“I–if you want to,” Steve stammered.

 

“Do you want it off?” Bucky pressed, letting go of his hands to grab his jaw again.

 

Steve met his gaze again and just laid there, panting. Bucky hovered above him, gaze as unyielding as his grip. After a second, Steve nodded.

 

“It itches,” he tried to explain.

 

“You want it off, you want it off,” Bucky told him. “Whatever you want, blossom, I’ll give it to you. Whatever,” he repeated firmly. “Do you understand?”

 

Steve nodded once. “Okay,” he whispered.

 

Bucky pushed back and sat up, pulling up the hem of the lace shift. Steve lifted his hips off the bed as Bucky pulled it that far, and then sat up after the fabric passed his ass so Bucky could pull it off his head. Bucky shook it out, folded it hastily, and then tossed it onto the footboard of the bed to get it out of the way. Immediately after, he looked back down at Steve and splayed a hand over his ribs. Steve shivered against the cool air.

 

“Perfect,” Bucky murmured. “Better than a dream.”

 

Steve flushed; looking down, he could see his blush extending to his erect nipples. Bucky followed the color with his eyes, then slid his hand up and brushed a thumb against Steve’s nipple.

 

Steve jolted, his entire body curling with the flash of pleasure. Bucky grinned and touched both his nipples, using two fingers on each, and Steve whimpered and squirmed under him, rubbing his ass back against the bed covering.

 

“Are you enjoying this, pet?” Bucky asked in a low, pleased tone.

 

Steve nodded quickly, biting his lip hard.

 

“My sweet,” Bucky continued, leaning over him again, “so pretty, such a lovely boy. Will you let me taste you, hmm?”

 

“T–ta–taste me?” Steve stuttered, eyes widening.

 

Bucky grinned, then grabbed one of his knees and pushed it back. “Taste you, pet, yes. I want to see if your slick is as sweet as it smells.”

 

Steve just nodded hastily, out of breath. Bucky grabbed his other knee and pushed it back as well, then spread them apart. Steve felt his hole be exposed to the air, everything open to his Alpha’s gaze. Bucky smirked, looked up and winked at Steve, then leaned down and licked a wide stripe from his tailbone up. Steve threw his head back and moaned, overwhelmed by so much sensation. Bucky dug his tongue in, pressing it hard against Steve’s hole, then licking stripes across and around it. His tongue swirled, swept over his skin, and repeated the process. Steve could only grab onto the backs of his knees and hold them back, gasping for breath and whimpering on the exhales.

 

With Steve holding back his own knees, Bucky’s hands were free. He quickly took advantage of that, spreading Steve’s ass open with his calloused palms. He stiffened his tongue and wiggled the tip against Steve’s hole, then flattened it and swiped it up. Steve rocked his hips back and forth, whimpering, trying to intentionally let his hole relax, but every time Bucky dragged his tongue over it, it tightened on its own.

 

“You are delicious,” Bucky growled. “Damn sweet, pet, damn sweet.”

 

He sat up a little and swiped a finger over Steve’s hole. Steve gasped, threw his head back and pushed his ass back. Bucky spat onto his hole, rubbed it in with his finger, then leaned in and licked him again, following it with his finger. Steve tried to lift his head to watch, but the strain was too much effort when he could just lie there and moan. Bucky’s tongue finally breached him, then his finger pushed in and Steve’s brain almost failed completely with the overwhelming sensation of how much thicker Bucky’s knuckles were, how the callouses rubbed against his walls, the hair on his finger scratched at his rim going in and threaded his walls beyond that. Bucky’s tongue swept around his rim, his finger crooked inside Steve, and Steve’s eyes rolled back in his head. Bucky hit something in him that made stars shine in his eyelids. Everything was too much, he couldn’t take more.

 

“Fucking perfect,” Bucky growled.

 

Steve let out a fast, loud whine, clenched down on Bucky’s finger, and spurted onto his stomach. Bucky lifted his head, eyes wide, and then grinned and grabbed onto Steve’s cock to milk him through the orgasm. Steve whimpered as the pleasure turned to pain and Bucky let him go, only to lick his stomach clean of the dribbled cum.

 

“Such a good Omega,” Bucky purred then.

 

Steve threw his head back again, whining, and arched his spine to push his chest out and rock his ass onto Bucky’s finger. Bucky licked his hole one more time, then brushed a second fingertip against his rim. Steve focused on relaxing, panting, and shuddered as Bucky carefully fit the second finger inside his body.

 

“My pretty little virgin,” Bucky murmured, “does it feel good to be touched the first time?”

 

Steve nodded hard, still gasping. Bucky kissed the inside of his thigh, the stubble on his upper lip scraping Steve’s skin, and Steve tensed at a new jolt of sensation. Bucky glanced up at him, grinned, and bumped his cheek against his inner thigh. Steve whined. Bucky turned and bit at the soft skin gently; Steve clenched on his fingers and whined and pulled his legs open more.

 

“You came on just one of my fingers,” Bucky said then, “imagine what it’ll feel like when it’s my cock filling you up, my sweet.”

 

Steve couldn’t imagine it. He was already overwhelmed and already wanting more of it. Bucky pumped his fingers in and out of his hole, just two, and kissed along the line where his thigh met his ass. He rubbed his cheek into his skin, Steve whined, and Bucky did it more, scratching him, biting him, kissing him, occasionally returning his tongue to lick around his hole. Steve’s cock struggled to harden again, pleasure coursing through his every vein.

 

“You’re so quiet,” Bucky noted. “Have you got anything to say, pet?”

 

Steve shook his head. Bucky chuckled.

 

“You can say my name,” he encouraged. “It might get my cock in you faster.”

 

“Bucky!” Steve said quickly. “Bucky, ple–please, please?”

 

“There you are,” Bucky chuckled again, “good boy, pet.”

 

“Bucky,” Steve whined obediently. “Pl–please?”

 

Bucky kissed his thigh one more time. “I’m going to fit four fingers in you first, my sweet,” he admitted, “your pretty virgin hole needs time to open up, doesn’t it? You don’t want it to hurt, do you?”

 

Steve shook his head quickly. Bucky chuckled a third time.

 

“No,” he murmured, “sweet virgin, you don’t want it to hurt. You want it to feel good.”

 

Steve nodded, agreeing, then bit his lip. “Mark me?” he asked hesitantly. “Please, Alpha?”

 

“Like this?” Bucky teased, then nipped at his soft flesh inside his thigh.

 

Steve whined and nodded, pulling at his knees to give Bucky the space.

 

“You want me to bite you?” Bucky kept on, grinning at him. “Go on and tell me what you want like a good little virgin, Stevie.”

 

“Bite me,” Steve answered in a gasp. “Wh–wa–want your teeth, Buck, please!”

 

“Good boy,” Bucky purred, then turned his head and sunk his teeth into Steve’s inner thigh.

 

Steve whined loudly and tensed and relaxed his thighs. Bucky sucked on the spot he’d bitten, rubbed his stubble against it, and bit another spot. He kept going, and as he did, he teased the tip of a third finger against Steve’s rim. His tongue swept up his taint, he kissed Steve’s ballsack, and bit at his other thigh. Steve was trembling, his fingers were numb, and his scent gland was throbbing; like it knew an Alpha was going to bite into it soon.

 

“Not much of a virgin anymore,” Bucky murmured against his skin. “You’re almost ready to make it official, pet.”

 

“Mm–m–more,” Steve stammered, digging his fingers into his knees and wincing as his tongue tripped around the words. “S–sorry –”

 

“Shh,” Bucky answered, “your voice is cute, pet, it’s as endearing as your blush.”

 

Steve just blushed and bit his tongue. Bucky smiled at him, then looked down and ran his tongue up Steve’s taint again. Steve went back to whining, let his eyes roll back and his neck go limp. His arms were shaking from the strain of holding up his legs; he would have to drop them soon.

 

But soon, Bucky was working the third finger into him. Steve redoubled his grip and let his arms go slack, locking his elbows, as Bucky easily slid his finger in and began pumping all three in and out. His thumb rubbed at Steve’s rim, he kissed his mouth up Steve’s thigh to the inside of his hip, and then he started licking Steve’s cock.

 

Steve whispered vague sounds resembling the letter B and pushed his hips up. Bucky kissed his stomach, chuckling, and sucked on the side of his cock. His pinky was now massaging Steve’s rim, and once Bucky fit it inside him, Steve would finally take a full, Alpha cock.

 

“How do you feel, pretty little virgin?” Bucky purred. “Does it feel good?”

 

Steve nodded, out of breath. Bucky licked his cock again, Steve jolted, and Bucky kissed the underside of his sack before returning his mouth to his rim and sucking on it instead.

 

“I wonder how long it’ll take for your hole to get used to being played with,” Bucky mused, his breath hot on Steve’s skin. “Of course, I intend to have you as often as I can, my sweet. Once I get my cock in you, nothing else will satisfy my knot.”

 

“Knot,” Steve repeated breathlessly. “Gods, o–oh, gods!”

 

“Yes, sweet,” Bucky chuckled, “I’m going to knot you. I’m going to bury my cock in your sweet virgin hole and I’m going to fill you up with my pleasure, lock it inside you with my knot.”

 

Bucky’s words took a second to process in Steve’s head, but as soon as they did, he found new breath to moan aloud, his hands tightened on his sweat-slippery knees, and he clenched down on Bucky’s fingers; just three fingers, more than anything Steve had ever taken, and it was already not enough, he wanted more. He wanted to be knotted.

 

“Nn–knot me,” Steve stammered. “Ple–please, Bucky, knot me!”

 

“Patience, sweet,” Bucky answered, “you need to take another finger first.”

 

Steve whined about it. “B–buh–Bucky!”

 

“I’m here,” Bucky replied, kissing his sack, “I’ll give you what you need, pet.”

 

Steve kept whining. Bucky’s fourth finger traced around his rim, and then it was in him. All four pumped in and out, fucked in and out, and Steve’s fingers finally lost their grip on his knees. He dropped them and his arms fell limp to the bed. Bucky caught one, his left leg, and his right collapsed over Bucky’s shoulder.

 

“Sweet virgin,” Bucky chuckled, “don’t worry, you’ll develop some stamina.”

 

Steve was too focused on the feeling of Bucky’s fingers fucking him to muster the patience to reply with snark. He dropped his left leg to the side, letting his thigh stretch, and Bucky ran his hand up it to his ribs.

 

“Sit up,” he said.

 

Steve lifted his head, then pushed onto his elbows. Bucky leaned over him, pushed his fingers into his braids and curled his hand into a fist as he brought their mouths together. Steve groaned at the honeyed flavor on Bucky’s tongue and Bucky tugged lightly on his hair. Steve’s groan cut into a whimper and Bucky broke their kiss to laugh softly.

 

“Do you like that, my sweet?” he asked, tugging again on Steve’s hair. “Does it feel good?”

 

Steve nodded hastily. He reached up, his hand shaking, and cupped Bucky’s face to bring him back in. Bucky kissed him for several more seconds, then his fingers abruptly retracted and pulled out of Steve’s body.

 

Bucky dropped beside Steve before Steve could voice any complaint. He kissed the corner of Steve’s mouth, then gave his hair one more tug.

 

“In my lap, pet,” he ordered.

 

Steve pushed up and swung his leg over Bucky’s hips. He flushed, but straddled him, sitting on Bucky’s stomach and grabbing onto his pauldrons. Bucky pulled him down by his hair, kissing him again, then his other hand grabbed onto and squeezed his hip.

 

“Put my cock in you, blossom,” Bucky murmured softly.

 

Steve nodded. He straightened up, reached back and looked over his shoulder to see what he was doing. Bucky’s cock stood upright between his legs, just behind him, and Steve just bumped his ass into it at first, still cautious. Bucky let go of his hair, instead, put both hands on his chest and brushed his thumbs across his nipples. Steve was distracted for a second, whining, and Bucky grabbed his waist to squeeze it.

 

“Get my cock in you,” he repeated, firmer. “Don’t be shy, pretty virgin.”

 

Steve glanced back and met Bucky’s gaze. Bucky smirked at him, then winked again. Steve, naked and dripping slick and spit, still blushed because of it.

 

“That hole of yours is hungry,” he said. “Fill it up.”

 

Steve nodded again. He looked back over his shoulder, eyes wide as he looked at the broad head of Bucky’s cock, now exposed with the foreskin drawn back, and picked up his hips to slot it against his ass. He was careful, ginger, and slowly fit the tip against his hole. It felt bigger than it looked and Steve hesitated, just rubbing the head against himself.

 

“Don’t be shy,” Bucky encouraged him again.

 

Steve faced forward again and bit his lip. Slowly, he started to sink down.

 

It felt so much thicker than it looked. Steve’s hole started to stretch too fast and he stopped, wincing. Bucky cupped his waist and squeezed, taking his other hand and kissing his palm.

 

“Take your time,” he added. “You have the rest of our lives to learn how to take my cock.”

 

Steve gave a slow nod. He pulled back half an inch, then slowly sank down another inch. He took an inch, lifted half that, then sank twice as much. Bucky’s eyes never left his, hooded and black, and Steve thought he might never be able to take him all the way to the knot. He felt behind him, clumsy, and Bucky curled his lips into a satisfied grin as Steve still pulled off a little to take more.

 

“My virgin Omega,” Bucky murmured. “Not a virgin anymore, hmm?”

 

Steve shook his head; he was still out of breath. Bucky pinched his nipple and Steve whimpered, biting down on his lip as he strained to keep himself from just dropping down and taking the whole thing in one go.

 

“Gods, you’re tight,” Bucky added, one hand dropping to cup Steve’s ass, pulling one cheek away. “Pet, lift up and turn around, I want to see you taking my cock.”

 

Steve nodded again, pushed up and held onto Bucky’s cock as it slipped out of him. He put his weight on his knees, leaning forward, and Bucky grabbed his hair to tug him down into a fast kiss, before patting his cheek and giving his shoulder a squeeze. Steve bit his lip, his hole clenching, and he carefully shuffled around to put his back to Bucky, then again grasped his cock and let it find home in his body.

 

“Gods,” Bucky exhaled, “that hole is mine, Stevie, you understand? It’s only for my cock, never anything, anyone else, do you understand?”

 

“Vows go both ways,” Steve threw over his shoulder, “dumbass,” he added with a roll of his eyes.

 

Bucky laughed. He abruptly moved and Steve found himself being tugged back against Bucky’s chest as Bucky sat up, wrapping his arms around him and pulling him in. Steve turned his head even as Bucky grabbed his jaw to pull him back into a kiss. Steve moaned a little and Bucky pushed his other hand, palm flat against his skin, down his body to between his legs. His rough fingers brushed against Steve’s rim and Steve whimpered, falling back against him.

 

“You’re mine,” Bucky murmured. “Every part of you.”

 

Steve nodded, happy to agree. Even if vows meant nothing to him, he doubted anyone could ever tempt him away from Bucky, not when Steve was feeling so good and had only half his cock inside him.

 

“My virgin,” Bucky repeated, as if he still couldn’t believe it. “Sweet blossom, all mine. Can you take more?”

 

Steve nodded again and started letting his weight carry him further down onto Bucky’s cock, still taking him slowly. Bucky slipped his hand from between his legs again, instead spread it over his belly, his fingers pressing down in places. Steve glanced ahead, looking down at Bucky’s hand, and Bucky gripped his jaw again to pull his head back, bringing their lips together again. Steve whined into his mouth, rocked a little on his cock, and Bucky growled, dropping his hand from Steve’s jaw to instead, just like he’d done during the wedding, cup his throat.

 

Steve let his head fall back against Bucky’s shoulder, the beads and rings in his hair pressing hard into his scalp, and sank more onto Bucky’s cock with a shuddered gasp, breath hitching as he inhaled. The hand at his stomach pressed down again, and suddenly Steve could feel it; he could feel Bucky’s hand putting pressure on the cock inside him and his body gave out. He dropped completely, took the rest of Bucky’s cock all at once, and sucked in a hard breath as it filled him so full so quickly. Bucky let out a low, growling moan, his hand pressed harder and Steve whined as he felt the pressure, Bucky’s hand and cock together overwhelming him.

 

“That’s it,” Bucky murmured, voice rough, “that’s how you take my cock, pet, that’s perfect.”

 

Steve whined again. Bucky kissed his jaw, then swept his hand up from his throat to his jaw. Steve ducked his head again and grabbed one of Bucky’s fingers into his mouth, sucking first and then biting lightly at the pad of it. Bucky bit his jaw in return, nibbled on his ear, and then his hips tensed under Steve. He thrust up and Steve gasped, mouth falling open. Bucky gripped his jaw with his open mouth, held him in place, and thrust into him again, hard and slow. Steve whimpered, mouth forced open, and tried to match Bucky’s movements, though he was clumsy.

 

“Bounce on it,” Bucky growled into his ear. “Rock your little hips, blossom, take it slow.”

 

Steve reached back and grabbed onto Bucky’s pauldrons again, bracing himself, and tightened his stomach to pull his body back, then he let go and rocked forward. Bucky kissed his jaw again, lips parting to bite at his skin, and Steve did it again, faster.

 

“Good boy,” Bucky growled, letting go of his jaw to cup his throat again, “good boy, you’re learning so well, sweet blossom.”

 

“Bucky,” Steve whimpered, eyes rolling back in his head, “more, m–mm–more, want you t–to knot me –”

 

“Oh, sweet,” Bucky chuckled, his voice right in his ear and Steve was shoved just a little closer to the edge of coming again just from that, “I’m just getting started.”

 

Steve whined. Bucky wrapped his teeth around the lobe of Steve’s ear, tugged and sucked on it, then pulled him somehow closer and kissed down his neck. His lips were on the wrong side, though, Steve’s scent gland was under his elbow, hot and throbbing with every brush of Bucky’s skin on it. He whined and rocked back and forth faster, chasing the pleasure filling him recklessly.

 

“You’ll have this whenever you want it,” Bucky said in Steve’s ear. “Your sweet little ass on my cock, anytime you want it in you, filling you, I’ll keep you stuffed with my cum constantly, pretty little apple blossom, how does that sound?”

 

“Yes!” Steve whined. “Yes, pl–please, w–w–want it now –”

 

“Keep moving that pretty hole, then,” Bucky encouraged him, “keep going and I’ll fill you up, come deep in you, knot you. Is that what you want?”

 

“Yes!” Steve repeated. “Y–ye–y–yes, B–Bucky, please!”

 

“So sweet,” Bucky growled, “overwhelmed, pet? Is that what’s got you stammering? My cock in you?”

 

“Y–yes,” Steve answered, stammering. “Mm– I – I’m sorry –”

 

“Shh,” Bucky cut him off, “said it was cute, didn’t I? Hush, pet, keep rocking in my lap, be a good boy.”

 

Steve nodded, biting his lip. Bucky kissed his jaw, then lifted the hand from his throat and fingers played at his lips. Steve opened his mouth, lifting his head, and sucked two of Bucky’s fingers into his mouth, immediately biting down on his knuckles. Bucky kissed his ear and nuzzled his scratchy cheek and jaw over his neck and Steve tried to rock faster.

 

“Good boy,” Bucky murmured, “such a sweet boy.”

 

Steve was panting hard. Bucky abruptly pulled his fingers out of his mouth, then switched hands and gave him new fingers. Steve sucked on these, then whimpered as Bucky pulled his head away and switched sides of his neck. Bucky immediately kissed his scent gland and Steve pulled his head back to bare it, to offer it up. Bucky parted his lips over it and sucked on it, then as Steve did his best to rock quickly on his cock, he tensed his thighs and started to thrust up into him. Steve squeaked, then groaned and tried to match his pace.

 

“Good,” Bucky growled, “keep going, pet, keep fucking yourself on my cock.”

 

Steve whined around Bucky’s fingers. He was close to running out of stamina, but he was even closer to his second orgasm, and chasing it made him twice as eager even while his body started to strain. Bucky’s grip on him was tight, his fingers were probably leaving bruises, and Steve didn’t even care. He wanted more. He wanted to feel Bucky’s cock spurt inside him, hot and wet, claiming him from the inside out. The hand on his belly, adding pressure, made his mind turn to the nettle tea. He would still be fertile, even with skipping it that morning. When Bucky knotted him, it could take root. He could fill up with Bucky, permanently, have his mark on his neck and his child in his womb. Steve suddenly wanted it.

 

“Stevie,” Bucky panted, “are you close? Can you feel my knot filling up?”

 

Steve found a second wind.

 

“Want your knot!” he blurted out. “Fill me up, make me yours, put your seed in me!”

 

“I want you to come first, pet,” Bucky said in his ear, “come for me and I’ll knot you.”

 

“Want you to fill me,” Steve whined, “bite me, fill me, want to have your baby in me.”

 

“Oh, you want that?” Bucky purred, sounding surprised. “You want me to breed you, sweet blossom?”

 

“Yes!” Steve gasped.

 

Bucky’s teeth scraped his scent gland. “Come,” he growled. “I’ll fill up your virgin little hole and breed you, pet.”

 

Steve gasped one more time, ground his hips down, and Bucky thrust up into him at just the right angle. He finally tipped over the edge, obedient to his Alpha. His eyes rolled back, his movements stuttered to a stop, and Bucky’s teeth scraped his scent gland one more time. He let his head fall back and to the side, half-whispered Bucky’s name, and then Bucky was biting down.

 

Steve jolted as he felt the bite distantly at first, still wrecked by his orgasm, and then it swelled and exploded in him. He burned up with the feeling, Bucky mating him, claiming him, and he went completely limp. Bucky let go of his throat, and then Steve was on his elbows and knees and Bucky was fucking into him with wild abandon. Steve arched his back, whined, and Bucky let out a loud, long growl. His hips sped up, and then Steve felt distant pleasure in his chest, Bucky’s spilling over through the bond, and that took him from afterglow to coming a third time all at once. At the same time, Steve felt hot cum spurting inside him, Bucky groaned, and his knot locked into him.

 

Steve was shaking. Bucky easily lifted him off the bed, stood him up on his knees, and gathered him against his chest. Steve let his head fall back onto Bucky’s shoulder and blinked up at him slowly. Bucky cupped his jaw and kissed him, Steve parted his lips and just let Bucky claim him. He could feel the bond in his chest, purring with delight, Bucky’s pleasure filled his heart and his body. He smiled under Bucky’s aggressive kiss, happily limp.

 

“Gods, you’re good,” Bucky whispered against his lips.

 

Steve reached up and patted Bucky’s cheek. “‘S the virginity,” he mumbled.

 

Bucky laughed and hugged him tightly. Then he was twisting sideways and they were falling backwards and Steve landed on his chest. Bucky yanked the blankets out from under them, then over them and Steve realized that he had been cold before because he was perfectly warm then. He smiled absently and reached up to feel the tender punctures in his skin into his scent gland. He could never have imagined that being mated, taken by an Alpha, would feel this good.

 

“Odin has blessed me,” Bucky said quietly, both arms locked around him. “You are a gift.”

 

Steve turned his head to the side and nudged his nose against Bucky’s neck. “Danu blessed us,” he answered, just as soft. “But sure, Odin, too.”

 

Bucky chuckled again. He kissed Steve’s forehead, then picked up his left hand and raised it to kiss his ring. Steve tucked his head against Bucky’s neck, sprawled on top of him, and let his breathing slow.

 

“You want to sleep?” Bucky chuckled. “I thought I might knot you again.”

 

“In the morning,” Steve mumbled. “Got the rest of our lives, right?”

 

Bucky laughed and kissed his forehead. “Do you want your hair loose?”

 

“Oh, yeah,” Steve realized. “Do it for me?”

 

“Gladly,” Bucky agreed, hand already in his hair.

 

Steve was asleep before Bucky pulled the last bead free. He was quite ready for the rest of his life to happen, if he had Bucky with him. And to think he’d been anxious that Barnes wouldn’t desire him.

 

*

 

The far north was always cold, Steve learned. His mother liked to complain about how much it snowed, but her health had actually lifted after leaving Brooklyn for Bucky’s stronghold in Scandinavia. Doctor Erskine suspected her illness might have been caused by something in Ireland’s air.

 

And being a Viking warlord’s consort taught Steve the values of appearing to have absolutely no interest in the conversations taking place. Alphas did, indeed, underestimate Omegas wherever they went, and many of his husband’s rivals were downright idiots; Steve hardly needed magical ability to detect falsehood when so many of them lied so badly.

 

“I have no choice but to surrender to you,” Justin Hammer, lord of the West Marshes, lied to Bucky. “I will order my troops to lay down their arms and join your forces willingly. I give you this wine, our finest cask, as my first tribute to you.”

 

“I prefer cider,” Bucky answered Hammer in a bored tone, “but I’ll take it.”

 

Hammer bowed and waved forward two men, who carried a large barrel of wine.

 

“I am sure you will enjoy it,” Hammer promised.

 

“Possibly,” Bucky replied.

 

“I wouldn’t,” Steve spoke up, after being silent and frankly pretending to be asleep for the past hour of heated negotiations between Hammer and Bucky. “It’s poisoned.”

 

“Well,” Bucky said, huffing.

 

“How dare you suggest –!” Hammer spluttered.

 

“Silence!” Bucky cut him off angrily. “Speak one more word to my Omega and not only will I behead you, but your sons as well!”

 

“The Omega speaks lies!” Hammer shouted.

 

“Well, if it’s not poisoned, have a drink with him,” Steve suggested.

 

Hammer opened his mouth and said nothing. Steve waved a hand, then lay back across Bucky’s lap and rested his hands on the swell of his heavy stomach.

 

“For this offense, you will be put to death,” Bucky told Hammer succinctly. “Any of your people that resist my forces will be killed and your sons will be castrated if not executed as well. Your daughter will be spared.”

 

“My daughter would rather die than join you!” Hammer spat.

 

“I would rather join your harem,” Hammer’s daughter announced.

 

“You –!” Hammer gasped in horror.

 

“No,” Steve declared, pointing at the girl.

 

“You will join no one!” Hammer shouted, abruptly drawing his sword.

 

His daughter screamed and went to duck, but before she needed to, a knife embedded itself into Hammer’s nose. The fool dropped his sword and collapsed.

 

“Someone clean that up before it leaves a stain,” Bucky announced, pushing Steve up into a sitting position. “Barton, round up his sons.”

 

“As you say,” Clint answered, bowing before turning to go.

 

“And the girl?” Natasha asked, stepping out of the shadows to retrieve her knife from Hammer’s face.

 

Bucky looked back at Hammer’s daughter, then looked at Steve and raised his eyebrows. Steve shrugged, then stuck his hands out. Bucky grasped them and pulled him up, immediately taking his waist and setting a hand on his bump.

 

“Take her to the tower for now,” Bucky told Natasha. “Treat her as a guest but keep her under guard.”

 

Natasha crossed to the daughter and took her arm, guiding her away as though gentle. Steve pursed his lips as Hammer’s daughter glanced back over her shoulder longingly at Bucky. Bucky didn’t even notice.

 

“How do you feel, blossom?” he asked in a soft voice. “The baby?”

 

“As fine as we were the last time you asked,” Steve replied sarcastically. “But I’m hungry now.”

 

“Round up the cook!” Bucky shouted to a servant. “And someone get rid of that bad wine!”

 

“As you say, my lord!” several Vikings answered.

 

Bucky held Steve’s hand and his waist as he helped him step down from the throne’s raised dais. Steve held onto his back and stuck his feet out far in order to see them over his swollen stomach.

 

“I’ll take supper in my rooms,” Bucky told another servant. “Tell the cook to make sure the meat isn’t bloody, for Odin’s sake.”

 

“Yes, sir,” the servant answered promptly before running off.

 

“You’re such a sweetheart,” Steve told Bucky. “Do I get to have supper in your rooms, too?”

 

“Hush,” Bucky scolded him, “you know what I meant.”

 

Steve rolled his eyes. “I think my ankles are swollen,” he decided, stopping and turning to face Bucky. He stuck his nose in the air. “You should carry me.”

 

Bucky chuckled and shook his head. “As you say, my sweet,” he murmured, and bent to sweep Steve off his swollen ankles.

 

Steve, highly amused, settled his head against Bucky’s shoulder and crossed his ankles, which he’d had lifted on the arm of Bucky’s wide throne all day.

 

“Nice of you to spare his daughter,” Steve commented.

 

“Well, I wouldn’t want anyone executing my daughters,” Bucky replied smartly.

 

“You’re such a sweetheart,” Steve repeated, patting Bucky’s cheek.

 

Bucky chuckled and pecked his lips. “I love you, pet,” he murmured.

 

Steve shoved Bucky’s face away from him with a hand, though he smiled. “I love you, Alpha,” he answered quietly.

 

“My lord?” Wanda’s voice caught up with them. “Shall the children join you for supper?”

 

“When have they not?” Bucky asked her, turning around and stopping to let her catch up. “Of course they should!”

 

“We did say Eilísh and Varin were to go to bed without supper,” Steve reminded him.

 

“We did?” Bucky questioned, looking at him with a frown.

 

“I did,” Steve corrected, rolling his eyes. “They put frogspawn in Hammer’s cup?”

 

“Well, he put poison in my wine,” Bucky countered. “I think the frogspawn was deserving and quite clever on their part.”

 

“Will you say the same thing when they put slugs in your breakfast in the morning?” Steve countered again.

 

Bucky frowned yet again. “Fair,” he mused.

 

“What if they had tea and no bread?” Wanda suggested.

 

“That’ll do,” Bucky decided. “Were Bragi and Niamh involved with the frogspawn incident?”

 

“They were not,” Wanda answered.

 

“They can have supper, then,” Bucky said. “Are they in the nursery, still?”

 

“They are, my lord,” Wanda said. “Pietro and Lady Sarah are still with them.”

 

“Oh,” Bucky added, grimacing. “I suppose Lady Sarah should be invited.”

 

Steve glared at Bucky. Bucky looked at him, still grimacing. Steve crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows. Bucky still grimaced, but looked back at Wanda.

 

“Invite Lady Sarah to supper,” he said. “But if she doesn’t want to, don’t press her.”

 

“As you say, my lord,” Wanda answered smartly, bowed and began for the nursery, raising her eyebrows at Steve as she left.

 

“Imagine the Dread Conqueror being afraid of his mother-in-law,” Steve sighed pointedly.

 

“Your mother is a witch,” Bucky countered, resuming his stride. “It’s well deserved.”

 

“Doesn’t help that she enjoys your fear,” Steve added.

 

“She does?” Bucky asked, sounding horrified.

 

Steve laughed and pressed a kiss to Bucky’s neck. “I’m joking, love. It only amuses her.”

 

Bucky shook his head with a huff. “I swear, the children get their frogspawn and newts from her.”

 

“Eilísh gets her frogspawn from the nursery pond,” Steve corrected. “The newts are attracted to her.”

 

“Odin save me from Celtic witches,” Bucky muttered.

 

Steve pinched the same spot he’d kissed. Bucky winced and had the grace to grimace apologetically.

 

“Odin save you from this Celtic witch,” Steve told him with a firm nod, “if I decide you’re better off sleeping by the fire with the dogs tonight.”

 

“Pet,” Bucky sighed plaintively.

 

Steve turned his head and stuck his nose in the air. Bucky just sighed again.

 

“Celts,” he muttered.

 

“Vikings,” Steve retorted.

 

Bucky turned a corner and put Steve’s back against the wall and braced him there, grabbing his jaw. “Omegas,” he murmured, a smile curling his lip.

 

Steve wrapped his arms around Bucky’s neck, grinning. “Alphas,” he agreed.

 

Bucky kissed him. Steve let him, happily held up by his strong arms and the stone at his back. They could delay supper for a few minutes. Steve could be hungry for a meat other than boar's. Not that Bucky ever minded.