You make me feel, the risk of the night.
Stay with me in the Firelands.
Can you tell me? If you love me.
Can you give me, storms and sunshines.
Stay with me in the Firelands.
-Firelands, Tracey Hewat.
Life around Ireland is fairly peaceful. Now, and as it was a hundred years ago. Before the Irish War of Independence. And hundreds of years before that. When people still feared dark Fomoiri, and trickster púcai roamed disguised as merchants on the roads.
That isn’t to say all latent magic has been lost since then. One can still find aos sí fairies in the gardens, or along the coastal roads. Catch glimpses of the creatures that live within the waters, from Glenbeigh to Dingle.
Yet there’s no fear save the crashing waves, when traveling the Ring of Kerry today. No dangers save tripping when visiting the Burren.
It was not always so.
Bucky was pacing. Hidden by short trees outside a lovely garden, and by the dark of night. The only light a frail candle in the window of the cottage to his right. I mean, man, how did he get roped into this? This was not his job.
“Oh Bucky, something’s come up. Just do this one job for me,” He grumbled to himself, in exaggerated imitation of his cousin’s voice, “You’re my favorite. See you in two weeks for Samhain!” Yeah, sure Nat. Except she forgot to mention one tiny little detail.
The short, lithe, blond, drawing by aforementioned window. Drat, drat, and double drat.
See the thing was, this would absolutely not be a problem if Bucky was a bean sí. They did not fall in love, as their other cousins did. You know, all those old tales of unearthly men and women falling for and ferrying off mortals? You guessed it, Bucky was more a gancanagh - like one of those. Except he wasn’t like the others of his kind, and he didn’t seduce women away or fall in love.
And speaking of falling or not falling in love, though Nat was a bean sí, she most certainly had, and was a lying liar of lies. Bucky knew she had run off with that archer for the week, to what was known as Gellért Hill (and in the future would become a tourist spot in Hungary at its capital, which is - you guessed it - Budapest).
So no, Bucky absolutely could not be in love. For two (2) reasons. One, he was a loner and he liked living in solitude, no matter what his sister Becca said; And two, he was there acting as a bean sí, otherwise known as a banshee. Otherwise known as the omen of death.
For Steve, the story was this.
He was ill. The cool autumn air had crept into his bad lungs and struck him with a cold, which was not uncommon for him. He was 90lbs if soaking wet from the downpours which never let up, and his bum ticker kept him struggling all the more. He was lucky to have made it to 12, let alone 19. Adulthood for that time in history. But Steve, ball of tense anger and righteousness that he was, did not feel lucky.
Usually he was angry, fighting off men bigger and stronger than him when they picked on the village girls. Arguing with those who stated he should pursue fighting in battles, if he was so inclined to fight, rather than take care of his mother and draw in his spare time. Seething when the kindly old shopkeeper looked him over and asked him why he didn’t just find a nice woman to settle down with. Asked him to mind his business working in the fields tending crops and pigs. So, yeah, Steve was often angry,
But not as angry as this.
The first night he heard the wailing, he picked himself out of bed, ailments-be-darned, and hauled out two of his biggest pots. Standing in the drizzle and banging them together as loud as he could to drown the awful sound out. He barely heard a surprised squawk from the dark, and barely managed to see a shadow move before whatever it was disappeared. “Yeah, that’s what I thought!” He called, voice deeper than one would expect from such a small person. “And don’t come back!”
It could have been a weird bird, or a grey wolf, but Steve had the awful suspicion it wasn’t. Stalking back into the small cottage, setting aside the pots and then quietly tip-toeing to his mother’s bedside. She lay awake from the commotion, though staring at the ceiling, seeing nothing. He took her hand in his as he knelt beside her.
“Stíofán,” she spoke softly. “Don’t be afraid,” and she smiled, a tired, wan thing, before finally turning her head to look at her son. Laboring to lift her free hand to place upon his head.
Steve wept, and his mother shushed him, smoothing down his hair. “If you cry, you’ll have a coughing fit,” she warned. Of course she knew what that sound had meant, for who could mistake the keen of a death knell? She’d heard it for her own mother. And after all the years she feared to hear that sound for her son and he survived, this time it had to be for her. It wouldn’t be fair, otherwise.
“They can’t have you.” Steve hiccoughed, and then he had to sit. Shifting to have his back resting against the bed as he coughed and coughed. “They can’t-” He said, once the fit subsided, hugging his knees to his chest. “They can’t.”
When morning came, Steve was determined. He had a plan. He was gonna catch the banshee and... and what? Demand they take it back? He didn’t know. So he planted traps around the perimeter, and lay salt around the house. And that night, he stood just inside the door. Wielding a big stick, which was kind of comical.
The wailing started, and Steve burst outside, just as the stranger said “shit, ouch, what the hell!” as he fell over a wire Steve had rigged between two trees.
“Hey! Hey, Jerk!” Steve growled, “Go take your ill omens elsewhere! Everyone’s fine here!” and he hesitantly crept towards where he’d heard the banshee.
Seriously what was with this kid?! Bucky groaned, getting up and rubbing his head. “Hey- hey!” He warned, throwing his hands out once Steve was close enough to make him out. Bucky couldn’t let the boy lay a finger on him. “Don’t come any closer, punk! Or I’ll... I’ll set you on fire with magic!” What the? He cursed at himself under his breath, but Steve stopped nonetheless. Suspicious mortals: 0 (okay, maybe 1, that trap had gotten him), Bucky: uh... 1. Uh oh.
The lesser known fact about banshees? If caught, they have to tell you who is going to die. Though, again, not bean sí, Bucky played by the rules. Fae played by the rules, as much as they worked to get around them. And Bucky could absolutely not tell the stunning idiot just who was gonna die. Although in actuality, Bucky was a tad more worried about being hit by that stick. Then Steve took another step forward in challenge, and Bucky scrambled to take one back.
“You just- stay right there!” Bucky said, slightly panicked. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?” I mean seriously, did this guy have an honest deathwish or something?
Steve cocked his head, resting the stick against his shoulder. “Isn’t that what you’re here for?” He mocked. “Death? Listen, wiseguy, I don’t know who sent you? But we’re all fine here.” And, you know, getting glared down by someone that much smaller than you shouldn’t be that intimidating.
Bucky crossed his arms over his robe. “Well if everyone was ‘fine’ I wouldn’t be here.” He snarked back. He didn’t even want to be there.
They stood like that, standing off, until the mists gave way to a deluge. Steve continued to stand in the rain, looking very much ready to take a swing or throw a punch, even as he began to shiver and sway. Trying to suppress a cough every minute.
Bucky deflated at the sight of Steve struggling. “Look, listen. Nobody’s dying tonight, at least not if you go ahead and get your ass inside.” Seriously, was the guy immune to the concept of self preservation? Bucky thought, feeling protective of the asshole. Nobody had ever really tried to challenge him before, not like this. There was just something in the stubborn set to the guy’s jaw, the fire in his blue eyes, which Bucky could just make out through the dark.
“I can do this all night,” The blond retorted, unbelieving.
When Steve showed no motion to leave, Bucky sighed, pinching his eyebrows. “If I leave will you please go back inside?” He groaned in frustration. Steve just tightened his grip on the stick he held, narrowing his gaze on the hooded stranger. “Pretty please?” Bucky added through his teeth.
Honestly, Steve was freezing, and he was ready to drop. The banshee didn’t sound dishonest... and fae weren’t known to lie. So. “Fine.” He allowed, but he simultaneously swung the stick out until it was inches from Bucky’s chest. Bucky yelped (a very manly yelp) and leaped back. “But we’ll discuss this again tomorrow.”
And when Steve finally turned and made his way back to the cottage after that, Bucky felt relief. And that spelled incredible trouble.
On Day Three Of This Shit, Bucky was sure he had a plan. Bring food. It’s what humans do when someone dies or is in mourning, right? You bring like, pie or something. So step one: bake.
Fae did not bake. Bucky didn’t bake. He lived off Boxty potato pancakes with Bog Butter and food that reminded him of home, like the fish soup Ukha or buckwheat dish Kasha. And the only human who even tolerated him that he could ask for baking advice from was Wilson.
Which is how he wound up in front of Sam’s house, shuffling from foot to foot with his arms crossed. Sam had already taken a look out the window that morning to see who had knocked, and then promptly disappeared back inside.
(Meanwhile, as the sun rose higher, back at Steve’s cottage, Steve opened the door to find a crate on his doorstep.)
“Man, how long are you gonna stand out there?” Sam Wilson groaned, finally opening the door and facing Bucky. Bucky, for his part, just crossed his arms and smiled wryly at his reluctant friend.
“Oh, I’ve only got, a hundred years more left than you? Pal,” Bucky drawled, and when Sam groaned again into his hand, he grinned.
Sam opened the door wider, gesturing Bucky in with a defeated sigh. It wasn’t a good idea to let fae inside, but he’d already let Bucky in once to grant him a favor. A long time ago. And Bucky had never come to collect for it, before. “What do you want?” He asked apprehensively, standing tall and ready to battle wits if the fae was after trouble, but he became quickly confused when Bucky went straight to his cupboards and started searching them instead of answering.
“Bilberries,” Bucky shot back over his shoulder, finally acknowledging Sam’s question. “I need you to make me a pie.”
“You need me to make you a pie.” Sam copied, deadpan. He so hadn’t had enough coffee for this, he lamented as his intruder started gathering wood for the oven.
Steve stared at the box as if it was gonna bite him. Before shaking himself off, because that was ridiculous. Getting to work on prying it open, only to find... four neatly folded wool blankets. He bristled, before leaning into the warmth of the gesture (pun intended). His mama had taught him better than to refuse a gift or be rude in face of kindness, after all.
He was also miraculously shaking off his cold. Though his lungs still rattled and he couldn’t stomach much of the stale, thin bread they had. He saved the most of their food for his mother anyway, so she could have his bread as well. And if he was still getting dizzy, at least it didn’t keep him from going out and trying to earn some money.
That afternoon, he came home exhausted to start a fire to warm the cottage. Piling three of the new blankets on his mother, and saving for himself only one. He’d found work running some errands in the market, and wished to spend the last hour of light sketching. In charcoal, he began tracing wide, confused eyes, shrouded by shadows.
And then he threw the piece across the room. Because how could he... so what if the banshee was kind of endearing. He wasn’t human. Steve rubbed his hands over his face. Even in another situation where his or his mother’s life wasn’t at stake, what business did he have growing fond of a fae? It’s not like he even knew their name! And what would they ever see in him, anyway?
That night he had to set the record straight. His cottage and his mother were under his protection, and Steve would see that it stayed that way. The banshee should just know not to show up again and challenge that. Steve didn’t like bullies.
All of his resolve kinda bottomed out though, when Bucky showed up again in the dead of night.
Bucky had waited this time, until the rains had petered off a bit. Feeling a little guilty for consistently disturbing the cottage’s inhabitants’ rest. This time, instead of wailing - which was tough on the throat, by the way - he decided to sing. His voice wasn’t all that bad, and besides. It was also traditional.
“Shule, shule, shule aroon,” he began crooning. Go, go, go, my love, go quietly and go peacefully, “Shule go succir agus, shule go kewn,” He took a breath, wondering if Steve was asleep or ignoring him. “Shule go dheen durrus-” Go to the door, and- and Steve was there in the doorway. Huh.
“What are you doing?” The blond blinked at him, because Bucky had come closer, standing on the pathway to the cottage now, and Steve could finally see him in his oil lamp’s light.
They stared at each other, each of them seeing the other’s face clearly for the first time. Steve thought, he hadn’t done Bucky’s eyes justice at all earlier. That chiseled jaw, those grey-blue winter sky eyes of course, his messy brown hair. And Bucky just thought Steve was more gorgeous than Aengus, the god of love, himself.
Steve’s hand itched, longing to sit and furiously draw out every feature of the brunet. His unearthly singing had thrown him for a loop, and he was starting to wonder if he’d unfairly judged the guy before. After all, from what he knew of banshees (and after having asked around the market), they only warned people, they didn’t kill. The banshee was probably just doing his job. Steve couldn’t let go of his underlying anger at the situation, but maybe they could at least sit and... talk. And Steve could ask. That was the right thing to do, Steve thought, but then Bucky opened up his mouth, and threw him for another loop.
“Do you like pie?” Bucky asked awkwardly, unable to deal with the blond’s silent staring anymore. They both blinked at each other this time. Bucky wrung his hands. “Because I brought, um, pie.” Mentally, he palmed his forehead. Pie? Why did I bring pie? Why am I talking to him? This is stupid, Buchanan you had one job.
Steve watched as Bucky’s eye twitched, and then he broke down laughing. Bending over and guffawing, because this was absurd. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I like pie.” Before he started coughing violently into his hand. Bucky half reached out, wanting to help, but he couldn’t. When Steve recovered, wiping a tear from his eye, he walked forward and stuck out his hand, which Bucky just looked at. Mirroring the way Steve had looked at the box of blankets earlier. “I’m Steve, ‘s short for Stíofán.” Steve said.
Bucky hesitated, and then did a slight bow. He didn’t want to be completely rude. Steve seemed to get the hint though and shrugged, retracting his hand. For which Bucky gave a small smile in gratitude. “Bucky. It’s er, short for Buchanan.”
“Okay, Buck.” Steve beamed at him, radiating sunshine Bucky wanted to sink into. Offhandedly, Bucky realized that he missed his goats. Spending days on his own in the countryside, not doing this stupid job. Although somehow he thought, going back to his life would be somewhat lonelier after this. Steve, oblivious to Bucky’s melancholy turn, gestured back towards the cottage door. “Do you want to come-”
“No.” Bucky demanded, wildly. A little more harshly than he had intended, lifting his hands slightly. He hated the way Steve’s eyes widened and the way the younger man tensed up. “It’s not wise to invite me... inside.” Bucky admitted, backtracking. “But you can grab a blanket, and we can sit out here? I think the rains are done for the night.”
Yeah, right. About those blankets. “Hey, by the way, thanks for-” Steve began, halting in confusion when Bucky began to growl, steel in his eyes. Ahhhhh, right. Steve forgot that one. And he’d already been mentally kicking himself for the ‘invitation’ rule #1 mistake.
“You don’t thank fae for gifts.” Bucky snapped on instinct, confirming what Steve had just remembered. Yet.... GAahhh, he cried inwardly. This was going terribly. Bucky slunk off to the nearby boulder where he’d left the pie and sat down heavily. “It’s my pleasure, though.” He stated lowly, barely loud enough for Steve to hear. “So don’t mention it.” He added, making sure his voice was as soft as possible. “Really, don’t.”
Steve, who never balked in front of those bigger or scarier than him, took Bucky’s change of nature in stride. He understood now. He should have known better, too. Steve was also starting to suspect he could say one actually hurtful thing and Bucky would topple right over. “I’ll just go get that then, shall I, your liege?” He teased.
“I’ll be here.” Bucky answered, chin in the palms of his hands. He didn’t look up. Wondering how he’d gotten in this situation. Listening as Steve padded away. The wood door to the cottage creaked open, shut, then a few beats, open, shut. Shuffling leather boots through the wet grass. He was gonna kill Nat.
Bucky looked up sharply when he felt a weight drop over him, searching Steve’s blue-as-the-sea off Kells Beach eyes in shock. Then down at the quilted comforter now wrapped around him.
Sarah had insisted Steve take two blankets, when he’d gone inside and hurriedly told her of his guest. She didn’t, as she normally would, insist her son’s guest come inside.
Steve then stood in front of Bucky, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. In his other, he clutched the blanket from Bucky which he’d kept for himself. Holding it to him so it wouldn’t slide off his small, bony shoulders. “I don’t want no arguments from you,” he told Bucky in preemptive warning, before the banshee could gather how to.
Bucky had actually just opened his mouth to argue, but he clamped his mouth shut with a click of his teeth. Despite himself, his lips quirked up in a smile, and there was mirth in his eyes when he said “Yessir.”
Satisfied, Steve sat beside him, careful they didn’t touch. Bucky hadn’t really registered that Steve had left the lantern between the path and the boulder until he was reaching for the basket with the pie, and then he was grateful. He also really hoped Steve liked it, even though Bucky had only mixed the filling and Sam had done the rest. It could taste like hell for all he knew.
Sam had also sliced the pie already, and Bucky had brought a tin plate to serve it, so it was easy to serve. “Not a bad night,” Steve remarked beside him as he did so. It was cold, it was October, it was damp, there were no stars, Steve was a lunatic. But yeah. Alright. Bucky saw how it wasn’t such a bad night, too, as he handed Steve his slice of pie. It was actually bilberry, too, because he had managed to get some after Sam made fun of him for what felt like hours.
Steve took his first bite and the sound he made should have been illegal. Bucky’s face was actually lighting up scarlet as if he’d just heard his mamó curse for the first time. Let’s hear it for pie! Greatest decision, Bucky preened. “How is it?” he asked with excitement.
“Wonderful!” Steve replied honestly, through another mouthful. Manners, Steve. He felt heat rising in his cheeks and it wasn’t his internal admonishment that sounded like his ma, and it wasn’t sickness or windchill. It was a direct response to looking over and seeing Bucky looking at him like he had just made his entire year. Dumbstruck, Steve swallowed and swung the plate over, hitting Bucky in the chest. “Have some?” He offered.
Of course, offering fae sweets is another rule. No, it did not matter that Bucky had made the pie in the first place, once that slice was on a plate and in Steve’s hand as a gift, it was his. And no, it didn’t count as returning a gift, either. Steve was offering Bucky food. And Bucky, well, he couldn’t refuse.
Snatching the plate from Steve, Bucky set it to his chin and brought the slice forward to his lips, taking a big bite. Oh hey, that is good. And he closed his eyes to savor it, before handing the plate back to Steve, who was looking at him with his nose scrunched up and an eyebrow raised.
Definitely not the big bad wolf Steve thought he was two nights ago. Bucky confused him. In a good way, he supposed. Steve shook himself out of it, and took the plate, leaning to set it on the ground. “So, can I ask how long you’ve been doing this for?”
“This?” Bucky parroted, purposeful obtuse. So, Steve was after questioning him. Bucky thought he might try... he’d hoped to have disappeared before that, but... pie. Fae kept their secrets close, but he couldn’t very well use that excuse now that an exchange had been made and all Steve wanted in return were answers.
Bucky got that. But nobody wanted to be told they - or a loved one - were gonna die. Steve glared at him anyway, waving a hand around. “Y’know.” He stated when he couldn’t condense what he meant into words.
Bucky rolled his eyes. Eloquent. “The wailing thing?” He hedged. Sighing when Steve nodded. “Tonight makes three nights?” Seeing the confusion in Steve’s eyes, he continued. “I’m not really a banshee, before you ask, I’m just stepping in for my cousin.” But he might have to make a habit of it, ‘cause she was certainly gonna hear him wailing before he murdered her for this.
Steve had to take a minute to process that. This isn’t even what Bucky did and he had hated him for it. Maybe he hadn’t asked the big question ‘who’ yet because he was a little afraid of the answer. Maybe he just wanted to be in denial, like Bucky was just a nice guy he met who finally wanted something to do with him. But if Bucky wasn’t a banshee, then “What-”
“Gancanagh.” Bucky cut him off, smirking at the indignation on Steve’s face that he’d been beaten to the punch. Bucky’d been waiting for that one, too. “But I don’t like girls, and that whole seducing thing is completely not me.” Which, essentially, made him an outcast. Though he told everyone it was by choice that he stayed on his own. Steve heard it in Bucky’s voice that it made him unhappy. Watched the man’s eyebrows furrow.
“Wait, so the pie wasn’t you trying to seduce me?” Steve approached with levity. Bucky shot him a look of utter confusion, but Steve was staring off into the trees across the clearing. “I’m disappointed in you,” he continued with amusement in his voice, despite his sudden nerves.
What. Bucky thought. Is he trying to cheer me up? And then Steve gave a faltering laugh, to drive in that it had been a joke.
“Right.” Bucky replied, numbly.
The night had drawn on after that, nocturnal animals skittering around as an owl hooted in the distance. Fae and foul alike slunk through the hills of Ireland in the shadows. The two men, still nervous, mostly sat in silence and ate. There were a few false starts to having a substantial conversation, most notably when Steve spoke up to ask about what Bucky could or couldn’t do.
“You can’t actually set anyone on fire, right?” Steve had asked around another mouthful of pie. It was a bad habit the blond had, Bucky noticed.
Having the good sense to look sheepish at the reminder of his threat the previous night, Bucky admitted to his misdirection. “Not without a tinderbox, no not really.” But then he couldn’t think of much else to say.
It wasn’t terribly awkward, at least. Neither wanted to leave, though Bucky noticed when Steve gravitated closer to him on the boulder for his warmth. Their thighs touched, and that was okay, because there were still layers of fabric between them. Bucky shook his head violently when he had the thought that he didn’t want there to be anything between them. It was just... nice. To be sharing someone’s company.
“Hey, Steve.” Bucky spoke up hesitantly.
Steve, startled out of his own thoughts, looked up at Bucky. He too had been enjoying the company and the quiet. So he jolted when Bucky’s voice broke through that, and when Bucky asked him “would you tell me... what your favorite story is?” Steve thought, how lucky he was, despite the circumstances, to be in that moment with such a great guy.
So it went from there that the pair hesitantly talked of harvests, and exchanged funny anecdotes, and never strayed to heavier subjects. Steve didn’t get to ask his biggest question, but that was okay for the meantime.
It wasn’t until Bucky noticed just how much Steve was starting to shiver, that he stood. “I should go,” Bucky informed his new... friend, regretfully. “But I’ll be back tomorrow night.” At the look of trepidation Steve shot him, he quickly added, “I promise, nobody will die before then.”
Steve was unhappy at the abrupt reminder of why Bucky was there. Getting up to stand on the boulder, to be at least more equal in height, Steve looked the fae over. “You promise?” He demanded, pinning Bucky with a fierce look.
It was strange how Bucky was starting to admire that fiery spirit more and more, and fae or not, he couldn’t lie to this human. Newly met, or known forever. “I promise, Stevie.” He told the blond sincerely. He meant it.
The following morning, Steve was contemplative. He was struck with the full realization that he had both misjudged Bucky, and that he... liked him. Steve liked Bucky. But Steve might also be dead soon. Him, or he was starting to realize he already knew, his mother. That’s why Bucky was there. Steve often felt close to death, but he didn’t really feel like he was dying, not when recent events made him feel so alive. But could he forgive someone for being the nail in the coffin of his own mother?
It seemed like Sarah Rogers had something to say on the matter.
“Stíofán, you sit yourself down this instant.” She told him, leaning heavily in the doorway of his room. Mustering as much strength as she had left to do what she should have been doing for days: connecting with her son. It didn’t help that Sarah actually had more energy that day, the deceptive recovery before the end. She had worked as a healer all her life, she knew the tells.
Steve sat heavily on his straw mattress, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hands. When he pulled them away, his cheeks were smudged with charcoal. Surrounding him, drawings of Bucky. He still couldn’t do justice to the man’s eyes. “I don’t know what to do, ma” Steve admitted, which made Sarah smile, as she glanced around the room.
With effort, Sarah made her way to her son and sat beside him, placing a hand on his shoulder. “You don’t let a good thing get away.” She raised a hand to cut Steve off before he could protest. Always with that fight in him... she shook her head. “I am old, and I am at peace.”
Steve just lay his head on her shoulder, mumbling “well I’m not.” But his pain soothed a bit as his mother carded her fingers through his short hair.
Sarah hummed in contemplation. “How lucky we are to have been given time to say goodbye.” Her eyes stung, but she didn’t cry for herself. And Steve, well he was too numb to cry. Then Sarah leaned down conspiratorially and whispered, “how lucky am I to know there’s someone to take care of you when I’m gone.”
It wasn’t easy for Steve to accept the conversations he and his mother had all day. He was drained as night came, and after his mother went to sleep, he went outside again. The pie basket Bucky had left in one hand, although now filled with all the food Steve had to spare. His lantern in his other hand, and blankets hanging over his arms. He looked ridiculous.
Luckily, Bucky wasn’t there yet. For once, there was a clear sky. The moon shone down, and so it was easier for Steve to lay out the blankets on a patch of grass; and the earth was damp, but not enough to soak them through. Next he lay out the food, bread and cheese and a wineskin, and he waited.
Bucky showed up not too long after, dragging his feet. He had hoped he could at least catch a glimpse of Steve drawing again, like he had secretly done the evening before, but there was no light in the blond’s window. Cursing Nat for the umpteenth time that week, he stood beside the house, getting ready to open his mouth-
“D’ya think we can skip the singing and wailing, tonight?” that familiar deep voice spoke up from the side of the house. Bucky did a double take, leaning to see where Steve was- what.
“Uh, Steve?” Bucky answered hesitantly, taking a few unsure steps towards Steve’s whole... picnic set-up??
Steve shrugged helplessly. “It’s a nice night, I thought we could sit and.. talk some more. Save you from going hoarse.”
Bucky’s eyebrow raised at that. “Yeah, right. You’ll just get me to talk myself hoarse anyway.” He huffed, but his lips were turned up in a smile. Plus, food. Bucky couldn’t resist making his way over to sit beside Steve, eyeing the wineskin.
They were silent for a few seconds and then Bucky said “you wouldn’t believe what Sam said to me today,” at the same time Steve said “So I know it’s my mom.”
And Bucky was so horrified, he didn’t react in time when the little shit grabbed onto his bare wrist. Damnit. “Steve, I don’t want to...” Bucky pleaded. He’d hoped for a nice night. Steve had set out an actual freaking picnic. To what, trick him? Which market gossip told him what to do?
“I’m sorry,” Steve whispered. Looking genuinely remorseful. And then that was gone, and Steve was all steel. “It is, isn’t it?”
Bucky tried to say anything else, but what came out was a gruff, “it is.” and he knew he should really yank his arm back, but he couldn’t bring himself to.
Maybe he shouldn’t have been shocked when Steve just nodded solemnly. Letting out a weighted sigh. “Alright,” Steve said. And then he leveled Bucky with a pleading look, and this was it. The part where Steve was gonna ask him to save his mom, and he’d have to say he couldn’t, and- “Can I make it up to you?”
“Can you-” Bucky spluttered, and then he did yank his arm away. “Make it up to me?! I just told you your ma’s gonna-” Bucky choked. “Shit, Steve.” Bucky ranted, clearly Steve had a righteous streak a coastline-wide. And they were on an island. “Listen, you-”
“No.” Steve stopped him. “I’ve gotta make it up to you. It was a dirty trick to make you tell me, at least let me own up to it.”
Bucky’s jaw hung open in incredulity. Then he threw up his arms before hugging his knees. “Fine, Punk.” He groaned. “Tell me about that guy you managed to toss in the mud.” When Bucky looked over, Steve was looking at him in ridiculous gratitude, y’know, considering things. “And pass the damn wine.” Bucky finished.
Luckily the night was saved, after Steve gave a hearty laugh and did just that, passing the wineskin over. “Alright, alright.” He had conceded,
And then Steve Rogers went into the tale of the day he met Mairead. Peggy. It had been a drizzly spring day, and he had been helping old Cormac fix old tools from his field. When Alexander came running by. They were just boys then, and Alexander was always causing trouble. That time, he decided to grab the wheelbarrow right after Steve had fixed the front wheel, and took off with it. Since he was a lot stronger than Steve, Steve couldn’t keep up very well. So he picked up an old wheel laying around and threw it at Pierce’s back.
“You what?!” Bucky laughed. “Did it even manage to hit him?” He could just imagine it, younger, even tinier Steve throwing his whole weight into one throw....
“Okay, shut up. Yes it did.” Steve shot back haughtily. Shoving at Bucky’s shoulder, which caused Bucky to laugh even harder. They were both well into the wine, and Bucky had already eaten (exactly half) of the food (leaving the rest for shrimpy Stevie). “Do you want me to go on or not?” Steve challenged.
Bucky put a placating hand on Steve’s shoulder. Looking into his pretty blue eyes. “I do. I really do,” but he broke down laughing again from trying to say that seriously. When Steve did his signature Steve Glare™ at him, crossed arms and all, Bucky grabbed onto one of his biceps and jostled him. Careful not to use too much strength. “Come ooonnn,” Bucky whined, Steve rolling his eyes,
And then an unwitting smile broke across Steve’s face. “Fiiiine,” He acquiesced. Bucky was cute when drunk. Wait, am I drunk? Steve thought. He stumbled a little as he reached over for the wineskin to wet his throat. Oh, alright then.
So the wheel had hit Pierce’s back, but without force, all the guy had done was grunt and slow out of surprise. So Steve did the next best thing he could think of... force himself into a sprint, and then leap at the larger boy, tackling him into the mud.
“You-” Bucky began, laughing again.
“No!” Said Steve.
“You just, leaped onto him like a flipping monkey ballerina-”
“-I don’t know what that is.”
“And you both went sprawling into the mud?” Bucky wheezed out, and Steve couldn’t help joining in, head pleasantly swimming and body warmed. It was a little ridiculous, in hindsight. And Bucky’s laugh was deep and pleasant. Steve didn’t know when he leaned onto Bucky’s shoulder.
“That’s about the size of it,” Steve said when he could breathe again, and then he was, predictably, coughing. Damn these lungs.
Bucky wrapped his arms around Steve tightly, not knowing what to do as he rubbed circles into Steve’s back. As the blond stilled again, they were both quieter. “And the gal?” he prompted, not mentioning Steve’s asthma attack.
For which Steve gave him a grateful look as they settled back down together. “Never met anyone like her,” he said. “She pulled me up out of the mud, and gave Alexander such a tongue lashing he never looked at me again.” He paused, remembering. “Last I knew she was off to help aide in one battle or another," his cadence was fond. "They won’t know what hit ‘em.”
“No,” Bucky whispered into Steve’s hair in reverence. But he wasn’t talking about Peggy. “They won’t.”
“What, do I look like I can carry him? Bring him in.”
“Not wise to-”
Time passed, Steve felt himself held against a solid chest, radiating heat. Hmm. He tucked his head in tighter, and drifted off again as he heard his mother distantly say “For goodness sake, young man, come inside.”
Steve didn’t rise until the sun was high in the sky. Waking up to find himself in bed, confused. Events from the previous night muddled together. So with a dull pounding in his head, he carefully made his way to his mother’s bedside. She was breathing slowly, staring up at the ceiling, but only seeing sky.
Bucky didn’t come that night.
Or the next.
Bucky didn’t come back at all that week, and then there was only a day before Samhain.
Steve had been numb. Accepting gifts from familiar faces and strangers alike, people who had liked his mother Sarah, and not him. Steve had worn out his anger before she.... He’d thought he’d worn out his sorrow, too.
Instead he just felt empty. Like he was frozen in ice.
So he did what he had to do, he found the only ‘Sam’ within his area of the countryside, and he traveled there. Basing his hunch on one off-hand thing Bucky had said about the man over a week ago. It might be a huge disappointment, but it was the only thing he had to go on. Steve had to try.
Bucky was... he didn’t know what he was. As he punched a tree in anger, its bark cracking and splitting beneath his fist. His goats startled, bleating and scattering from him. Had he faced Steve, after...? No, okay. But stupid Betha the spotted white-on-brown nanny goat couldn’t pin that on him! The guy’s mother had just died! He needed to heal.... Yes, without Bucky!
“Great, now I’m mentally conversing with livestock again.” Bucky groaned to himself. Just as the air shifted in that tell-tale way that signaled someone else otherworldly popping in. Bucky groaned even more exaggeratedly as he realized just who that someone would be.
Nat stepped into his view, flipping her hair back subtly with a hand on her hip. “So,” she said. “How’d the job go?” If innocence were corporeal, Nat would be its mortal enemy. She easily side-stepped the swipe of Bucky’s fist when he lunged for her.
Bucky seethed, fraught with anger. Nat couldn’t help but laugh. “Ah, lastochka. Don’t give me that look. Stíofán was a cute kid, right?” But something seemed off to her, and her eyes widened in slight surprise as she scrutinized Bucky’s homestead. Noticing it barren save Bucky and his goats. “Where is he?” She asked accusingly, narrowing her gaze as she looked back to her cousin.
“His mom died, Nat.” Bucky bit out through clenched teeth. He looked back to the tree he’d just hit, wondering if she’d let him get away with doing it again. Why the hell did she think Steve would be there? With him? While that was a nice thought....
With a deep sigh, Nat rolled her eyes. “You’re the worst gancanagh I know, you know that?”
Steve stood in front of a tall man of darker complexion, hand raised mid-knock. “Uh Hi,” He forced out, carefully lowering his arm as the man looked him up and down. Steve gulped. “I’m-”
“Steve, right?” The man guessed, huffing a slight laugh. “Man, I see why Bucky had it bad.” he muttered to himself. Which was curious to Steve. Although, Bucky had mentioned Sam to him, so it wasn’t totally weird if Bucky’d mentioned him to Sam, too.
Steve indecisively shrugged instead of mentioning that he’d overheard. “I was gonna say, ‘I’m looking for Sam’, but I guess I found him.”
At that, Sam really did chuckle. Seeing Steve show up without the pain-in-Sam’s-side was a little disconcerting. Had to admit it though, the kid seemed tenacious. “Yup, you found me. The one and only. So things go sideways with dark and broody, or did you come to see how handsome I am in person?” He joked, leading Steve inside. Guy looked like he hadn’t slept all week and had been kicked in the gut. Man, Steve could sulk.
Steve was sulking. But Sam seemed like a nice guy, and his house was warm. “Yeah, Jerk took all the stupid with him and didn’t come back, so I’m going to make him come back and face me.” Just so Steve could punch him. Probably.
Sam liked this 'Steve' Bucky had mentioned already. Probably more than Bucky. He nodded his head approvingly, before clapping his hands and rubbing them together. “Alright, c'mon. Looks like we better get started.”
The magic of Ireland can be felt on any given day. Ebbing, and flowing. But never is it so strong as when the veil between worlds lifts, exposing the raw power and beauty of the magical to the world of the mundane. This happens during solstices, and again on Samhain. Samhain can be a dangerous time, throughout Ireland. Anywhere where fae and foe alike celebrate their feasts and holidays.
One has to be especially careful in the lowlands of the Burren.
But there are ways to use the excess magic to one’s advantage, if you know how. It just so happens that Steve had found Sam. Sam who knew how to work magic, of all things.
That’s how Sam had met Bucky, after all.
Many years prior, Sam had stumbled upon magic - a kind which was ancient even then - while trying to save his best friend, Reilly. Reilly had been taken by a glaistig, a woman half-goat, who lured him to her cave. For what, Sam didn’t chance a guess.
In the end, he’d somehow summoned Bucky. Both alike the glaistig in purpose, as well as a herder of goats. Bucky - after swearing up a blue-streak about how the Ukha he’d been stewing would burn - agreed to help. They couldn’t save Reilly, but Bucky had been in and out of Sam’s life ever since.
Sam told Steve all of this, as they gathered the supplies necessary to repeat Sam’s trick.
“Honestly Bucky I was trying to help you. You’re always so alone out here, it’s pathetic. Clint and I can’t always be around to keep you company. I just thought-” Nat stalled herself, pinching her brow. “No, you know what? I was right about this. Just go the hell after him.”
Bucky had been tearing blades of grass apart as Nat ranted, angrily looking around for his goats, who stayed far away from the real banshee. Traitors, Bucky accused. “For the last time, Nat, I’m sure he doesn’t even want to see-”
Nat blinked at where Bucky used to be. Letting the residual wave of unfamiliar magic wash over her. And then, she allowed herself a small, secretive smile.
“me. Nat-” Bucky paused, staring at a crop of trees that hadn’t been there. Huh. “What-?” He uttered in disbelief. He was more confused, however, when somebody of shorter stature tackled him from the back.
The two fell with a unanimous “oof” and Bucky heard mutinous laughter from behind him. It sounded a lot like Sam, Bucky realized when his mind caught up to him. And the magic used to transport him felt a lot like Sam’s.
Bucky groaned. “What. The. Hell.” Why was Sam messing with him now? ‘Least he was free of Nat, which was of some consolation. But when Bucky rose on his forearms and tried to shift the weight of whomever was on top of him, the other party clung on. Almost like a monkey. Almost like Steve in Steve’s story.
“You. Left. Me.” Steve grunted, gritting his teeth while he strained his muscles to keep Bucky pinned, before the man stilled beneath him at his voice. “Now, apologize.”
Bucky’s mind went blank, and he blinked. “Steve?” He vocalized his question, finally. How did Steve... you know what, didn’t matter.
Steve shook his head, waiting a moment for Bucky to continue before leaning down to whisper in Bucky’s ear. “Right. Now add ‘I’m sorry’ in front of it.” what a little shit.
Bucky stalled. A hundred emotions stirring at once, until he collapsed into the ground. “I’m sorry, Steve.” He admitted, though a little flippantly. Having been riled up from Stupid Nat warred with his awe of Idiot Steve.
Mollified, Steve jumped off of Bucky, letting him stand up to face his irate I’m Disappointed In You glare. Bucky gulped. “I made the wrong choice?” He hazarded.
Steve scoffed. “Yeah, pal. You did.”
It was Sam breaking down laughing again that finally ended their glaring contest.
“Nat, come on,” Clint whined, as the pair walked through the field of wild flowers up to Bucky’s cottage. “We should bring a pie.” He walked right into Nat’s back as she stopped in front of him.
Turning around, Nat raised an eyebrow at him, smirking. “Do you know how to bake a pie?” she challenged.
Clint stalled, pausing and opening his mouth, then closing it. “No,” he admitted sadly.
Nat just shrugged at him. “Neither do I,” she admitted, before turning and continuing towards their destination. Laughing internally at her little centuries’ too soon joke.
Clint, realizing she was now many steps ahead of him, hustled to catch up. “Well we should bring something. Baked goods are traditional for funerals and weddings.” At least so he’d heard. Nobody had brought them any-
“Since when were Steve and Bucky ever traditional?” Nat laughed, her head of red hair thrown back.
-thing. Clint realized he didn’t care, watching Nat show that honest, openly happy side she only showed him.
When the cottage came into view, he could see their new acquaintance Sam standing there. Sam was watching as Steve knelt and fed the goat called Betha, while Bucky stood and animatedly talked to him. (If he could hear well, he might have made out the odd word or so about goatkeeping). Sam then turned, and waved, and Clint waved right back.
It was only Nat who saw the billy goat paw at the ground behind Steve, and stopped. Bucky saw and realized a moment too late, and Sam turned at Bucky’s outburst just as the goat ran at Steve’s behind.
Clint dashed up the hill, to where Bucky and Sam were bent over laughing. Steve’s face red as he sat sprawled on the ground. “You’re all bullies.” the blond huffed.
“Aw, he’s just trying to play, Stevie!” Bucky managed to squeak out between peals of laughter. Steve threw a rock at his love's shoulder, which set Sam off again.
Nat made it over to the group shortly after, as Bucky helped Steve up. Together, they all went in to celebrate the couple’s new life, in that cottage on the hill. A life filled with love, and friends, and laughter.