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“I am not grumpy, Natasha!” He wasn’t. He just wasn’t in the mood for company, Natasha’s attempted matchmaking, Clint rummaging through the fridge in his fur, or the discussion he knew she wanted to have about said attempted matchmaking.

“You always get grumpy before the full moon. And you get extra grumpy when it’s close to your-”

A rumbling growl cut her off and she reached over and pinched the pointed tip of his ear between her thumb and forefinger. A yelp followed and she gave him a small smile when he glared at her while rubbing his ear. 

“Rude.” At least she hadn’t scruffed him. That would’ve been embarrassing. He knew from past experience. Mostly it was from their childhood when she hadn’t yet been in complete control of her Alpha instincts. He couldn’t count the times she’d scruffed him when he’d been off trying to do things little Omegas weren’t supposed to have done. She had gotten ahold of herself eventually though and especially now since she had her own Omega to dote on she didn’t dote on him or try to protect him nearly as much as she used to. It was still annoying though. Before she’d been bonded to Clint she had satisfied her Alpha instincts by doting on him whether he needed it or not. She had always shown up randomly with food or nesting materials, sometimes both, and bundled him up on the couch to snuggle while watching Netflix. She never went in his bedroom though. She knew it wasn’t proper for an Alpha to be in an unbonded Omega’s den. Not that she would have done anything but snuggle him to death anyway, but still.

He heard something fall and shatter and whipped toward the kitchen to see Clint looking pitifully at a broken jar of boysenberry jam that he had knocked out of the fridge. Bucky only rolled his eyes at the wolf with the still healing scratch on its nose and knew its fur covered up a multitude of other injuries. Like a black eye and bruised ribs. Natasha had always wanted someone to baby and take care of, even while pretending not to, and she’d found them in Clint. He was accident prone, always hungry, and could usually be found getting beaten up by members of the Russian mafia. He could even sometimes be found in dumpsters with another wolf named Matt. Bucky didn’t know what the hell was up with that, but Matt was blind so maybe that had something to do with it. Either way Foggy needed to keep a better eye on him, especially if he was going to be running around with a disaster like Clint.

Clint nosed around the jam and Natasha stomped a foot on the floor to get his attention since he couldn’t wear his hearing aids while shifted. “No, you can’t still eat it. I refuse to take you to the emergency room for having swallowed glass.” Bucky thought he heard her mumble again under her breath but wasn’t sure. He knew Clint was a mess and a half on a good day, but hopefully he hadn’t ever actually swallowed glass. It honestly wouldn’t surprise Bucky if he had though.

Bucky watched Natasha go into the kitchen, reach into the fridge for a package of raw chicken, and then tear it open and sit it on the floor for her Omega. Clint pounced on it like he was starving and Bucky watched with a frown as Clint scooted the tray across the floor in his vigor while Natasha cleaned up the mess from the broken jar of jam while he pretended not to be jealous.

He wasn’t jealous of them exactly. He was jealous because he wanted what they had. He wanted an Alpha. Wanted someone to love him and protect him even though he was perfectly capable of protecting himself. He just wanted it from an Alpha that didn’t try to do it just because he was an Omega. Biological imperatives only went so far as an excuse. He didn’t mind Natasha doing it as much because he’d known her since they were pups. It still aggravated him though. It never seemed to bother Clint but that was probably because Clint needed protecting more than even he realized. Seriously, without Natasha Clint would probably be dead in a dumpster somewhere. Most likely Matt would be in that same dumpster with him, too. Still, Bucky wanted what they both had. 

Natasha returned after cleaning up Clint’s mess and sat next to Bucky again, eyeing him warily. He knew she was expecting him to argue more, but he wasn’t going to. He didn’t need to. He wasn’t grumpy no matter how close it was to the full moon or to his heat. He still had a couple weeks to go to the herbalist to get the tea that would turn his heat from a nightmare into little more than a few cramps and a headache. He’d rather have minor cramps than want for an Alpha that wasn’t there. Even as advanced as their toys were getting now they were still next to useless during a heat. Vibrators could only do so much at that point.

“Would you at least consider talking to me about it?”

“No.”

“James.”

“I refuse.”

“Please.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Okay. Grumpy pants.” He growled at her again, swatting at her hands when she tried to pinch his ear again.

“I am not in the mood, Natasha! That doesn’t mean I’m grumpy!”

“You get PMS just like Clint does. You can’t help it.”

“I do not have pre-moon syndrome!” Seriously, Jesus, she needed to not. It wasn’t his fault. He blamed his ma for that. She’d always had PMS bad. His sisters had been lucky and it didn’t bother them at all.

Natasha pulled him into her arms and he held his breath to keep from breathing in the calming scent he knew she was putting out. Stupid stuff would knock the fight out of him in a heartbeat and it wasn’t fair. He wanted to be left alone to be grumpy in peace and he’d go talk to the new herbalist she had found him later. He had time.

“You have to breathe at some point.”

He growled at her while stomping his feet on the floor to get Clint’s attention and the goofball rushed over and squeezed between them with a needy whimper, forcing Natasha to let Bucky go. Bucky scratched behind his ears in thanks and knew that even though Clint provided a good distraction Natasha would not give up on her not so subtle matchmaking attempts.

***

Knowing didn’t prepare Bucky for the nightmare that was Natasha breaking into his apartment while he slept, though technically it wasn’t breaking in because she had a key, and crashing in his living room with Clint so they could both pounce on him first thing in the morning. He groaned when he walked into the living room to find Clint, in his skin for once, wrapped around Natasha like a black and blue octopus. He did have the black eye Bucky thought he might. It was faded a bit from what he could tell, a few days old at least. He needed to stop fighting so much. Although, knowing Clint, he had accidentally walked into the wall on the way to get coffee after first waking up.

“Hear me out before you start snarling, okay?” Bucky rolled his eyes when Natasha wormed out of her mate’s hold. “He’s a really great guy.”

“You said that about Brock and he was a total jackass.” Their half a date had been a disaster from start to finish when Bucky had thrown his wine in the Alpha’s face and then stormed out of the restaurant. Dude had been an arrogant douche nozzle from the minute Bucky had been escorted to the table until the minute he had left. Brock had been one of those Alphas who were the most Alpha to ever Alpha, or at least thought they were. It was fuckin’ annoying and then he’d turned out to be some Hydra douchebag anyways.

“That was terrible judgment on my part. I actually checked this one out this time.”

Bucky huffed and made his way into the kitchen to make some coffee. It would, if not wake him up enough to deal with this, wake Clint up so he could distract Natasha.

“James, Bucky, please just go on this one date, okay? I’ll quit trying to set you up if this guy is a loser.”

He narrowed his eyes at her while scenting the air and realized she was telling the truth. Or she at least believed she was telling the truth. He’d find an Alpha all on his own and even if he didn’t he’d be okay. He didn’t need an Alpha, he just kind of wanted one. His mother would’ve told him it was his biological clock ticking, but he knew she just wanted grandbabies. And since his sisters were just barely in their twenties and didn’t plan on giving her any anytime soon, she’d start nagging him sooner or later. He didn’t even want pups. Not for a while anyway. 

Natasha pouted at him and he groaned. Maybe the guy would be decent this time and even if he wasn’t it might get her off his back. Probably this one date wouldn’t hurt anything. Unlike the last four because Natasha had horrible taste in men, except for Clint. “Fine, but this is the last date I let you set me up on. And he better be the most perfect Alpha to ever Alpha or I’ll bite your face off. Like, Captain America levels of perfect, okay? And it’s got to be after my heat and the full moon. I’m not in the mood for dating right now.” Why the hell had no one come up with some kind of herbal concoction for PMS yet? PMS was bad enough on its own, but because the world hated him, his heat was lined up with the full moon like some kind of evil sorceress was going to use his cycle for a spell instead of planetary alignments and star signs.

“You got yourself a deal.” Natasha spit in her hand then held it out to him and he grimaced, that was so gross, and then spit in his own and reached out with a shudder to shake her hand and seal the deal. It was so, so gross.

The coffee maker gurgled its last gurgle and he turned away to pour a mug for himself then grabbed the large travel mug he kept on hand for Clint so he wouldn’t drink straight from the carafe.

“You gonna tell me about him or let me be surprised?”

“Well-”

“Oh! I wanna do it!” Bucky turned to see Clint jump up from the floor, trip over the coffee table, fall into the couch, bounce off the back, and then jump across the living room into the kitchen, skidding to a stop seconds before crashing into Natasha. “He’s hot. Like…really hot. And he’s bigger than you and has nicer arms than I do. He’s really nice too. And his eyelashes are like whoa. And he’s got a nice a-” He cut himself off when Natasha lifted an eyebrow with an amused grin. “I mean, he uh…he’s cool.”

“Uh huh…okay.” Bucky was less than comforted. His hot and Clint’s hot were two very different things, but Clint was confident enough in his sexuality that he helped Bucky scope out hot Alpha males from time to time and the guy did pretty well with helping Bucky pick out hot dudes. Sometimes anyway. Other times he was so far off the mark it was comical, but Bucky wasn’t entirely sure he was being serious about it those times.

“He really is handsome. He’s got blond hair and blue eyes and he’s definitely your type. I have a good feeling about him.” Natasha grinned deviously and Bucky whimpered. He was screwed and not in the super fun being pinned down and fucked six ways from Sunday kind of way. He knew better.

His date, when he had it, was going to be a terrible disappointment just like the last few he’d gone on. Alphas either hated him because he wasn’t the typical Omega type, wasn’t small, seemingly frail, or delicate; he didn’t look like he needed to be protected. Or they hated him because they saw him for how he looked and it made them want to dominate him even more and get pissed off when they realized they couldn’t. He might have been a desperately horny, technically virgin Omega, but he wasn’t stupid. He wasn’t going to let just any Alpha take him.

He could, he knew he could, but he wouldn’t. There were even services you could hire that would pair you with an Alpha for your heat or an Omega for your rut and they provided a very valuable service and had tons of rules and regulations to prevent mishaps. Bucky didn’t trust easy and while he knew it was a way to get through his heat, he’d rather just drink his awful tea than ever go through a heat again. He’d only had two in his life, one when he’d presented and one because his tea hadn’t worked. Usually he could start drinking it when he felt his pre-heat coming up and drink it a few times after, but last time it hadn’t worked at all and he’d been miserable the entire time. He was not going to let that happen again. Hence the new guy Natasha had pointed him toward.

He was supposed to be the best herbalist this side of the world. Bucky hoped it wasn’t all talk and he could actually mix him up something to keep his heat at bay. He didn’t want pups so didn’t need to go through his heat. That and heats were just fucking miserable and it was going to be even worse this time what with the full moon the same week.

***

Bucky wasn’t sure what he’d expected of the herbalist’s shop, maybe kind of shady and run down like the one he’d used previously, but he hadn’t expected this. The tiny front of the shop, barely as wide as an alley, was tucked in between two buildings. It looked decades old, and probably was, but whoever owned it kept it up so nothing was falling apart. The door was heavy dark stained oak with two small rectangular frosted glass windows that had Steve’s painted on them in gold. Bucky was pretty sure it was actually real gold and wondered if the herbalist was an alchemist or knew someone that was. He also figured that people only knew about Steve’s by word of mouth since the door or windows gave no other indication as to what lay beyond them.

He reached for the antique brass doorknob, half expecting the door to be locked, and blinked in surprise when it turned and the door opened before he reached it. He waited for someone to exit and when no one did he walked in to see two of the Fair Folk smiling at him. He smiled back out of habit and then bowed lowly. He didn’t have much to do with the Sidhe, didn’t know the proper protocols, but they must have appreciated the bow because they laughed and each of them pressed a kiss to his forehead, leaving a faint tingle on his skin, before leaving the store. He turned to watch them leave and the door closed behind them without being touched. How odd.

He walked further into the shop, nose already wrinkled against what he assumed would be the strong stench of various herbs and oils and candles. Places like this always burned his nose and made him sneeze. Instead he only scented a subtle blend of lemongrass and verbena along with other wolves that had probably been there for the same reason he was.

When he turned his attention back to the place instead of its scents he saw rows and rows of bookshelves, filled with more books than any one person could ever possibly read unless they had a hell of a lot longer lifespan than humans did and definitely more than what it had seemed possible from the outside. Magic. Which might explain the Sidhe, but it also could’ve been a witch. Half of the shelves were covered in glass jars and boxes full of herbs and crystals. Necklaces with various wire wrapped stones hung from a glittering display in the middle of the room. One wall was covered in what he thought might be pallets with grids of dark soil and leafy green things sprouting from them. More herbs he figured. On the back wall that shouldn’t exist was a jet beaded curtain that twinkled in the low light and the faint scent of a human drifted through. He frowned and wondered how the hell a human was going to help with the herbs to suppress his heat as he turned back toward one of the shelves.

“He’s not. But if he had to he would know how.”

Shit. Bucky turned back to see a handsome black dude walking out from behind the curtain that jangled delicately as it was moved.

“You shouldn’t judge people like that.”

“I’m a wolf. I trust my nose. Most humans wouldn’t know how.”

“Most humans don’t care to know as much about werewolves as I do.”

“Sorry. I’m looking for Steve? I guess. My friend Natasha sent me. Said someone here can help. The last batch of tea from my regular guy didn’t work.”

“How long has it been since you had a proper heat?”

“When I presented,” Bucky looked away from those too knowing eyes and shrugged. “The last one wasn’t exactly proper. My tea didn’t work so I had one, but-”

“It lasted five days and was twelve out of ten on the Holy Shit I’m Going to Die scale.”

“Eight and more like a seventeen. Wound up in the hospital for a couple days.”

The beaded curtain jangled again and Bucky looked over to see the most beautiful Alpha he’d ever seen in his life. The guy ticked all of Bucky’s boxes. The physical ones at least. Six feet tall, blond hair, blue eyes, perfect fucking lips, broad muscled shoulders that tapered down to a narrow waist, and long legs that ate up the ground as he walked toward him. Bucky swallowed the flood of saliva that filled his mouth and thanked the heavens for the super snug white t-shirt the Alpha was wearing. It looked painted on and Bucky wanted nothing more than to rub up against him and nuzzle him. Mark him up with his own scent so people would know he was off limits. Hot dude was hot and Bucky wanted to sit on his lap and ride him off into the sunset, full moon, whatever. Captain America, who? Jesus, this guy looked perfect. 

Handsome Black Dude laughed, clapped the now blushing blond on the shoulder, and then shook his head. “Looks like you can handle this one, Steve.”

“Yeah. Thanks, Sam.” It came out strangled and Bucky blinked then groaned and blushed crimson when he realized he must have said all that out loud instead of just in his head where only he and the Handsome Black Dude could hear. Of course he’d said it out loud. Why? Because fuck his life, that’s why. Awesome.

“Jesus, I’m so sorry. I do this thing sometimes where I stick my foot in my mouth and make people uncomfortable. Fuck my life.”

“Well,” the Alpha said with an unfairly attractive smirk. “At least I know you’re flexible.”

Bucky did not at all whimper. He refused to let himself sound like the needy Omega he really was. “Um...yeah. I uh...need something for my heat. So I won’t have one, I mean.”

“Sure. How soon is it coming up?”

“Full moon.”

The drawn out, “fuuuuck” didn’t make him feel any better.

“Exactly.” 

The herbalist blew out a heavy breath and rested his hands on his hips, looked like he was working himself up for something, then sighed again.

“I’m going to assume that you’ve been doping yourself up to your eyeballs so you wouldn’t have a heat.”

“Yeah, your assumption would be correct.”

“I’m also going to assume that since you’ve been doping yourself up with tea since you presented that you didn’t know you need to let yourself have a heat every other year. Otherwise your hormones will get fucked and then you’ll want to get fucked no matter what, and you’ll wind up in the hospital again. It can cause all kinds of problems, infertility for one and the longer you go without your heat, the higher chances you have of not being able to conceive.” Steve sniffed the air right next to Bucky and Bucky pretended not to see his pupils dilate slightly as he took in his scent. “You can get infections, which thankfully you haven’t got. Your glands can get infected or blocked up.”

“You don’t have to give me the whole spiel.”

“It’s not a spiel. It really can cause serious health issues. And if you want my professional opinion you need to let yourself have a heat this year too.”

Bucky shook his head. He was not going to go through that shit again. No way in hell. “Nope. I don’t want pups.”

“It’s not just about getting pups.”

“That’s exactly what a heat is for and even if I wanted them I’m not mated. The only Alpha I’m ever around is Natasha and she’s my best friend and is mated to a lovely walking disaster named Clint.”

“You know the Romanoffs? Wait, you’re Natasha’s friend she’s always talking about. James?”

“Bucky. She talks about me?”

“All the time. She worries for you.”

He growled in annoyance at his friend and hoped the blond didn’t think he was growling at him. The growls he wanted to make at Steve were much sexier. “I am perfectly fine on my own. I don't need a damn Alpha. Want one. Don't need one though.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, I mean...I don't want some asshole that's just gonna try to tell me what I can and cannot do. I want a guy that's gonna let me do my own thing while he does his and that's not gonna try to control my life just because I'd be his Omega.”

“Sounds like my kind of Omega.” Steve's eyes widened after he said it, he probably hadn't meant to say it out loud, and Bucky blinked. “I'm sorry. That was so unprofessional of me.”

“It's okay.” Just because that might be Steve's type of Omega didn't mean Bucky was his type. He fought to keep a pout off his face when he thought that. Steve probably had willing Omegas throwing themselves at his gorgeous fucking feet, because let's face it, they were probably gorgeous too, and Bucky wouldn't add up to any of them. He wouldn't be Steve's Omega.

“So, uh...can you mix me up some tea or no? Nat said you could help.”

“I'll make it for you if you really want it, but I strongly suggest that you have a heat this year. What happened last year will only get worse as time goes on. This year will be hard, but not as bad as last year.”

“Dude, I spent a few days sedated in the hospital last year, I don't want to go through that again. I hate heats. I hate that I'm out of control during them. I hate feeling like I'll die if I don't get a knot. I hate being alone.” Being alone was just about the worst of it. He was terrified of being alone during his heat. Had hated every moment of it, but couldn't bring himself to use the Omega services and get an Alpha he didn't even know to knot him.

Steve gave him a small reassuring smile. “I know, Bucky. Clint was miserable before he and Natasha mated. He wouldn't use the services either.”

“I don't want just any knot. No matter what my biology thinks.”

“You never asked Natasha?”

Bucky couldn't help the look of disgust. “Ew. No. She's like my sister.”

Steve laughed. “Okay, just asking. Look come to the back with me and you can think about what I've told you while I mix up a few things.”

“Yeah, okay.”

He followed Steve through the beaded curtain and into a small brightly lit room filled with tables and even more shelves of jarred herbs, powders, and crystals. What Bucky was certain was a giant antique mahogany table was in the center of the room with two rolling chairs next to it. Steve waved him toward one and he took it, spinning around in it twice for fun, then once more a lot slower so he could watch the blond work.

Where Steve had seemed awkward out in the front of the shop, probably because Bucky apparently had no filter where perfect Alphas were concerned, here he was in his element. He moved around the room, graceful as a dancer, grabbing various jars, pots, and tools from the shelves. Side-stepping around potted plants on the floor, spinning around a clutter of broken terracotta pots in one spot, and finally turned back to the desk with his arms full. Bucky stood to help him, but stopped at the shake of Steve's head. “I'm good. Thanks. You're supposed to be thinking.”

“Ugh, don't remind me.”

“But then I wouldn't be doing my job.” He only laughed when Bucky sneered at him with a quiet growl. A growl that Bucky had been told was terrifying. Apparently he'd been lied to all his life if Steve didn't feel threatened at all. Either that or Steve was just weird. Probably he was just weird. It would even out the Captain America levels of hotness and goodness radiating out from him, make him a little more human. Well, wolfy. Although Captain America was a werewolf, too.

Bucky had seen the Alpha shift before, big and blond and gorgeous. Bucky had whimpered and then because his life sucked he had started his heat right after. Bucky may have contemplated hunting Captain America down and beating his ass for that, but then he figured he wouldn't do much more than scent him and invite him back to his den, so yeah. And then he'd wound up in the hospital because his tea hadn't worked. So he blamed his shitty tea and shitty heat on Captain America.

“You're still not thinking about things.”

Bucky frowned at Steve who was now measuring out tiny spoons of dried herbs into a mortar and pestle. “How do you know?”

“You smell irritated.”

“That's a common occurrence, pal. I've been told I can sometimes be exceptionally grumpy.” 

Steve laughed again then shook his head. “This is serious. This is also one of those situations where the benefits outweigh the risks, in case you were wondering.”

Of course it was. On one hand, so what if he got where he couldn't have pups? He wasn't even sure he wanted them. On the other what if he finally met his perfect Alpha and they decided to have a litter or two? What if he wanted to give his Alpha all the pups ever? It probably wouldn't be any time soon, but still. Pups. 

Ugh. He was two weeks away from his heat and already his brain was turned to mush. Gross. He shoulda just got his tea from his regular guy and doubled up on it instead of coming here like Natasha had told him to. Hot and Blond had him thinking about pups after like thirty minutes. And then because his hormone addled brain hated him, he thought about giving Steve his pups. And now he had to think of something else because he was nowhere near the right league to be Steve's Omega.

The Sidhe that he'd seen on the way in seemed like a safe enough topic.

“Can I ask about the Sidhe that were in here earlier?” When Steve only hummed softly Bucky figured it was okay to ask. “Do you deal with the Fair Folk a lot?”

“Mostly just the twins. They’re old family friends.”

“Yeah?”

“Mmm. I’ve known them my entire life. They taught my ma before she came to the States and she and they taught me. Wanted us to know the old ways. My ma was a nurse and one of them had gotten hurt, something they couldn’t heal...I don’t know. Anyway Ma patched ‘em up and they hung around.”

“That’s neat.”

Steve laughed as he added a pinch of Brewer’s Yeast to the mortar and started grinding the herbs down into a powder with the pestle. “Yeah, pretty neat.”

“Can you tell me why they kissed my forehead before they left?”

All movement stopped, Bucky felt like even the clock was afraid to tick another second forward, and Steve slowly lifted his head to look up at him. “Did they say anything?”

“Nope. Just smiled and kissed my forehead then walked out the door.”

“Did you say anything to them?”

“No. The door swung open before I could touch the knob and they were standing there smiling at me. I bowed ‘cause I didn’t know what to do and they kissed my forehead and left. What does that mean?”

“I don’t know about all the Fair Folk, but from the twins it’s a blessing.”

“A blessing for what?”

The smile Steve gave him was strained; he obviously didn’t want to tell Bucky and only murmured, “just a blessing.” before grinding his herbs again.

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Not much does, these days.”

How unhelpful was that? Jeez. Bucky narrowed his eyes at the blond, carefully scenting him for a lie and only found a hint of mourning and sadness. He wanted to comfort the Alpha, wrap him in his arms and hold him close until the sour scent faded, but instead just patted his shoulder and watched him grind the dried herbs and yeast into a powder.

“What's this one for?” Bucky poked at the jar of Brewer's Yeast and Steve dropped the pestle and pulled it away from him.

“You don't need it.” He sat it and the Penny Royal aside, next to another jar that said Black Cohosh. “Someone is going to come in later. In a panic. They're scared. Pregnant, but they don't want to be.”

“Oh. So these…”

“Yeah.”

“Are you psychic?”

“No. The twins told me. I'm not to ask questions or even say a word to whoever comes in. I'm to sit the jar on the counter with the proper instructions and leave them be.”

“But why?”

Steve shrugged. “They have their reasons. Besides when the twins tell me to do something I do it. Learned that the hard way.”

“They bespell you?”

“I was a dog for two weeks,” he said, practically spitting out the words. Yeah, Bucky didn't like dogs either. Too many territorial disputes. “Life’s not so fun when you're a fucking poodle instead of a wolf.”

Bucky giggled like a nerd, he couldn't help it, and Steve gave him a shy smile. “I'm sorry, but that’s awesome. Can you imagine this giant fucking poodle about to tear your face off?”

Steve only blinked at him for a long moment then shuddered. “That's terrifying.”

“I know, right? You were super badass and didn't even know it!”

“I guess so, yeah.”

Bucky's mobile rang, the sounds of Metallica jerking him out of the weird kind of peace he'd found with Steve, and he frowned as he pulled it out of his pocket. Natasha. Probably calling to see if he'd gotten his tea yet.

“What, hussy?” Steve snorted and Bucky winked at him.

“Rude.”

“What's up?”

“Just checking on you. Did you go see Steve?”

“Yes, I came to see the freakishly hot herbalist about my tea,” he said as he spun in his chair. “Thank you for the fucking warning, by the way. I nearly swallowed my damn tongue and not only that, I managed to mentally jump his bones with a telepath in the building. And I said it all out loud, too. So there ya go.”

She cackled like a lunatic and he scowled at the sound of choking. Who the hell was choking?

“Are you still in the shop?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Is Steve still in the room with you?”

“Wouldn't matter anyways. His hearing is as good as ours. Probably better because he's like perfect.”

“Yes, it is.” Bucky blinked, spun his chair back around, and saw Steve blushing down at the table.

“Oh.”

Natasha continued cackling until he hung up on her in irritation.

“So uh...that happened.”

“It did.” Steve grinned, blush still present, then chuckled quietly. “Hey, I know right now is probably not the best time, but do you think...I mean, would you want to.”

“Want to what, Steve?”

“Have dinner with me tonight?” Steve gave him an awkward smile, oh no he didn't know how hot he was, and Bucky grinned. The hottest Alpha he'd ever seen just asked his ass out. He hated to turn him down, but he wasn't going to date until after his heat.

“I would. I really would. But not this close. I uh...I get PMS.” He hated admitting it. It made him feel grumpy just thinking about it, but fuck it. He'd been talking to Steve about his heat already.

“Is that the only reason?”

“Yeah.” Kind of. Mostly. Not really, but whatever.

Steve grinned, his eyes lighting up like crazy and Bucky gave him a confused smile in return. Steve then jumped up and ran out into the shop and then came back with a jar of leaves with a tag hanging off of it by a piece of twine.

“This is yours.”

“What?” He took the jar and read the little parchment paper tag. For Pre-moon Syndrome Relief. “People make this?”

“Not people. Just me. Try it out and let me know how it works.”

“Um...how much is it?”

“Free. You're doing me a favor. Testing merchandise.”

“I can't take this.”

“Please. You don't have to consider it a bribe for a date or anything. Honestly, I'm not sure if it'll even work. It's new.”

“What's in it?”

“A little of this and a little of that. A pinch of Wolfsbane.”

Bucky sat the jar on the table carefully and pushed himself away from the table. “Are you fuckin’ nuts? That shit kills wolves, Steve.”

“Not in this small an amount. In small enough amounts it has anesthetic properties.”

“How do you know you got the dose right?”

“The twins told me how much to use.”

“Oh.”

“So you want to try it out? Make some notes for me?”

Steve looked so damned earnest that Bucky couldn't tell him no. “Sure.”

When he left Steve's shop he only left with the jar of PMS relieving tea and a smile on his face. He pretended the thought of having a heat this year was only for his health and not because he was tempted to ask Steve to share it with him even though he'd just met him.