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Hic sunt dracones

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There are stories: 

Stories of knights and the dragons they slayed. Stories of princes who conquered the great fire-breathing beasts terrorizing their kingdoms. Stories of how they saved their lands and won the hand of fair princesses in battle. 

This is not one of those stories. 

At least not in the strictest sense. 

 

When Bucky is a boy he’s told stories of the great dragon that guards the mountain their kingdom takes shelter in the shadow of. 

It’s a fearsome creature, he’s told by the other children in the palace, with sharp teeth, each one as big as a broadsword, and a thirst for the blood of young royals. It pillages villages, the cooks tell him while they indulge in his sneaking of apples and cheese, it leaves a wreckage of homes and rounds up young boys to be set to work in it’s cave so Bucky best behave or else the dragon will find him and add him to his hoard. 

“When I’m big, I’ll go slay the dragon,” Bucky tells his mother very seriously as she tucks him into his bed, “I’ll bring his head home to you and Father and everyone will know I’m a hero.” He’s sleepy, already drooping back into his pillow while his mother smooths his hair back from his forehead. 

“The dragon doesn’t need to be slain darling. We leave an offering at the bottom of the mountain and he leaves us well enough alone,” Winifred says, pressing a kiss to each of Bucky’s cheeks and then to his forehead. 

“But… slaying… pillaging… teeth like swords…” Bucky mumbles as he drifts off, already lost in dreams of climbing the mountain and slaying the dragon. 

 

Years later- about a million in the scope of a 10 year old, but only about five for anyone else- when Bucky is not quite grown and still entrenched in childhood enough to have dreams of slaying dragons and bringing honor to his kingdom (one that he’s starting to learn as he grows is smaller than the breadth and scope of what he imagines it as a child) Bucky sets off on a quest. 

It’s a foolish quest with no real plans- for Bucky is only 10 years old, after all- but it’s a quest nonetheless. 

So, with all the confidence of a 10 year old prince -which is to say, an awful lot of confidence- he sneaks past the gates and then, with a sack of food for lunch and a sword strapped to his back he sets off up the mountain. 

The dragon, he’s been told, lives near the top, circling over its territory with its eyes the size of boulders and a gaze that can spot a pebble from four villages away. 

Bucky is going to defeat it. He’s not exactly sure how, though he’s sure that a good few swings of his sword will do. And if not, he can surely improvise. All the best warriors do, and Bucky will be the best warrior. One day they'll tell as many tales of him as they do of Arthur and his knights. 

As he walks the ground grows steeper and the path disappears, the trees growing thicker, and somehow, despite the fact that they should be providing more than adequate shade, Bucky feels the sun beating down on him like a hot brand. 

Forever- h e has been walking forever, he decides sometime later when he stumbles upon a clearing where the ground levels out and a particularly large tree provides a shady cover over some soft looking grass. 

Bucky worries for a moment about fae because of how nice the spot looks, but his ma says that the fair folk dwell within their faerie rings and Bucky doesn’t see more than a few flat headed mushrooms that are scattered throughout the meadow. So, he throws himself down into the grass and thrusts his limbs out to either side, sinking into the soft grass. 

And then, he gets the fright of his life as a boy drops out of a tree and appears in front of him. 

“Who are you and what are you doing on our mountain?” The boy asks before Bucky can properly yell at him about nearly scaring Bucky to death. Bucky’s sure that’s a thing. He’s sure he’s heard that people can die from that sort of thing. 

“I’m James,” Bucky says, getting to his feet and drawing himself to his full height, which he’s pleased to note is quite a bit taller than the other boy. “Prince James, of the Kingdom of Brooklyn,” He adds, just in case the boy doesn’t know. 

“James?” The boy asks, making a face, “That’s a boring name.” 

Bucky prickles, frowning at the other boy. “It’s a fine name! A perfectly good name. What’s your name anyway? It better be a good one for you to be judging mine.” 

The boy puffs himself up and then with all the grandeur of a prince pronounces that it’s “ Steve.” 

Bucky blinks and then dissolves into laugher. “Steve! Steve’s not any better than James.” 

“Steve’s a perfectly good name,” Steve argues, glaring at Bucky until Bucky grabs him by his arms and drags him down onto the soft grass so that they’re sitting again. 

“Sure, sure, it’s fine. And so is James. Though really, I go by Bucky with my friends. Only my ma calls me James.” Bucky says, wrinkling his nose. 

“Friends?” Steve asks, plucking at the bits of grass beneath them. Steve’s knee is burning hot where it’s pressed against Bucky’s. 

“Yeah, friends. You know, people who you talk with and practice becoming knights with and climb trees with and all of that,” Bucky says in his best ‘this is an obvious thing, pal,’ voice. 

“I know what friends are,  James ,” Steve says, that glare back on his face. 

“Right. Well, I was just making sure. Anyway, you should call me Bucky instead, like I said.” 

“Oh,” Steve says, seeming to work something out in his head before he nods again, this time firmer and with a certain amount of bounce to it, “Right! Bucky. You didn’t answer my question.” 

“Wait, what question?” 

Steve’s quiet for a moment, watching as Bucky starts to pull food from his sack. It seems like as good a time as any for lunch, so he doles out hunks of bread and cheese and salted meat, and an apple for each of them. His ma says that good princes and even better kings are generous, after all. 

“What’re you doing? Wait- that wasn’t the question. Why are you on my mountain?” 

You’re mountain? No one owns the mountain except maybe the dragon. And I’m here to slay it. Now, eat your lunch,” Bucky feels a bit like he’s imitating his ma saying the last bit, but lunch is important and Steve is scrawny enough that Bucky’s half tempted to give him the lion’s share of the food. 

“Well that’s really rude. What’d the dragon ever do to you?” 

Bucky pauses, frowning at Steve because, well, “ Nothing . Not to me at least. But he’s out there, pillaging and stealing children to mine his gold in the mountains and all sorts of bad stuff. And if I can be the prince to beat him, I can bring honor to my kingdom.” 

Steve laughs, actually laughs! 

“This is a serious matter Steve,” Bucky insists, trying for the tone his mother used when she needs his father to, in her words, just shut up and listen for a moment, George. 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Of course it’s serious. It’s just, why would a dragon need to use children to mine gold from him? Sounds a little like a fairy tale if you ask me.” 

“I don’t know why, he just does. Wait, you live on the mountain right? You said it was your mountain. Have you seen the dragon? Are his teeth as big as swords? Does he have eyes the size of a peahen? Will he eat you for dinner and then use your leg bone to pick his teeth?” 

Steve blinks at Bucky like Bucky is a lunatic in the middle of town square spouting nonsense about witches or something. 

“You’re exceedingly strange, did you know that?” Steve asks and then he’s up on his feet, “Oops I think I hear my mother calling. Make sure you get home before dark. Thanks for the food.” And then he’s tossing an apple, snatching it out of the air and running off right off before Bucky’s eyes. 

“I don’t hear anyone, liar!” Bucky calls after him. 

He hasn’t defeated the dragon, but really, Steve is right. Bucky shouldn’t stay out past dark or else his ma might worry herself half the death. 

Slaying the dragon can wait til another day. 

 

Bucky grows, getting tall and broad as time goes by. 

As the years pass he still makes the treck up the mountain, still intends to slay the dragon and bring home the honor to his kingdom. And every time, he deems that the slaying of the dragon can wait til another day. 

Because every time he hikes up the mountain he finds Steve. 

Steve, who grows with Bucky but never gets quite as tall, nor quite as broad. Steve who Bucky always brings an extra apple for and who always pokes holes into Bucky’s best laid plans.

Steve who stretches out in the grass beside Bucky, or climbs trees with him, or splashes in the river of the creek.

Steve, who Bucky finds his eyes lingering on as the years pass, until he notices himself staring and has to wrench them away. 

The dragon slaying can wait til another day, until the dragon slaying stops being a point in all of it. Until Bucky starts going up the mountain with no plans other than to bother Steve. To tell Steve outlandish tales from court, or to lay in the grass with his head on Steve’s stomach while Steve weaves stories from nothing about mermaids who trade their tails for legs and love, or dragons whose treasures that they protect fiercely are not gold or diamonds, but rather people. 

 

And then the day when Bucky has to slay the dragon comes along. 

 

Bucky and Rebecca are crowded outside the door to their parents chambers, their ears pressed to the wood. 

“There’s been another attack,” Bucky hears his mother say. 

“Where?” His father’s voice is quieter than his mother’s and Bucky has to strain to hear it.

“What are they saying?” Becca whispers. 

“Shhh! Lemme actually listen and we’ll find out.” 

“That’s too close. It’s attacking our villages now and soon-” The voice of his mother getting louder and louder, huh. 

The door swings open suddenly and Rebecca and Bucky end up in a heap on the floor looking up at their mother. 

“Hi,” Bucky says. 

“Just coming to say goodnight. Nothing big. Definitely not wondering what we’re going to do about the dragon attacks.” Rebecca says from beside him. 

“Rebecca. James.” His mother says, nodding to each of them in turn. She’s trying to look judgmental, Bucky can tell, but Winifred is often much more amused by the antics of her two eldest than she is upset with them. 

“Mother,” Rebecca says, “Father. Now, about that dragon.” 

 

The day when Bucky must slay the dragon dawns bright and early and all Bucky wants to do as he hikes up the mountain is stop part way up and wait for Steve. He doesn’t, instead he keeps going, making the trek upwards until he reaches the dragon’s cave. 

 

The cave is hot when he steps cautiously into it. He doesn’t know why he expected something dark and dank, but it’s dry and warm and comforting, like laying in a patch of sun in late summer with the sound of Steve’s voice washing over him. 

He creeps quietly through the cave, sticking to the shadows, one hand on the hilt of his sword. He’ll surprise the dragon. He’ll fight it, defeat it, and his home will be safe. Their people will be safe. 

When he was a kid and he’d dreamed of fighting the dragon it’d always been for honor, for glory. It’d been as much about fairy tales as the stories Steve used to weave for him. 

Now, with the dragon’s attacks coming closer, reaching a town on their border, it’s become something more. 

As he rounds a bend he can see it. It’s smaller than Bucky expected, though by no means small. It’s about the size of a cart, curled around itself with its head on its tail. It’s whole body seems to rise and fall with every breath it takes, smoke curling out it’s nose. 

Bucky almost feels bad attacking it while it sleeps, but he thinks of his home, thinks of his people, then draws his sword and attacks. 

The dragon’s eyes blink open, it’s jaw shifts strangely, and a rumbling voice says “ Bucky?” 

Bucky stops, his sword mid swing, his entire body going still. “You know my name? How do you know my name?” 

“Of course I know your name, idiot,” The dragon says, and then it’s muscles are shifting, it’s scales rippling as the dragon shrinks, and there, where it had been standing before is- 

“Steve?” Because that’s definitely Steve. There’s still a few scales that are seeming to stick around on his neck and cheeks, and his eyes are still vividly yellow before he blinks a few times and they seem to fade back into his normal blue, but it’s very, definitely, Steve. “What. The. Fuck?” 

 

“Don’t freak out,” Steve says, his hands raised in a harmless gesture as he takes a cautious step towards Bucky. 

“Don’t freak out? Don’t freak out? My friend! Is a dragon! And he never thought to slide it into conversation at any point in the last fifteen years? I think I’m allowed to freak out.” Bucky insists, a little shrill than he thinks is appropriate for a knight, or a prince. He thinks he’s justified though. Steve is a dragon! Steve! Bucky’s best friend! This scrawny little shit is a dragon! 

“Oh right, cause that’s so easy to drop into a conversation with the guy who spent five of those years at least insisting he was going to slay my mother.” 

“Wait your mom? Is she here? Is she who’s been attacking villages? We leave offerings!”

“No, she’s not here,” Steve says, something seemingly sad in the way he says it, but before Bucky can question that, can find out why, he keeps going, “And you guys really don’t have to leave the offerings you know. I mean, we appreciate it and all, but it’s really not necessary we won’t- Wait, what do you mean attacking villages?” 

“What do you mean what do you mean attacking villages?!” Because of course they’re attacking villages. Even if Steve has never struck Bucky as the sort of guy who would do such a thing. He also hadn’t struck Bucky as a dragon, so really, that goes to show what Bucky knows about the guy. 

“I mean that I’m not attacking anything!” Steve insists, and then, “Alright. Calm down, and tell me everything.” 

So Bucky does. 

 

Several hours and multiple conversations later they’re picking through the brush as twilight sets in around them. 

“So you think this is a hydra?” Bucky asks, chopping through a tangle of branches and stomping his way through. 

“Not a hydra. I think it is Hydra.” Steve says. making his way along the path that Bucky is so generously clearing for him. 

“Wait, what’s the difference?” 

“A hydra is a water serpent with multiple heads. Hydra is a group of asshole warlocks attempting to take over the known world through magic and science or some other nonsense.” 

“And you think they’re who’s attacking the villages?” Bucky asks, turning to face Steve, walking backwards as he does. 

“No, I know they’re who’s attacking the villages.” 

“What about the dragon fire? The flying beast seen at the attacks? The eye witness accounts of an actual dragon? I believe you, Steve, but this isn’t looking so good for dragon kind right now.” 

“Turn around before you-” Steve says at the very moment Bucky’s foot catches on a tree root and he goes sprawling onto the ground, “-fall.”

Steve stares down at him, every inch of him judgmental. 

“Stop judging me,” Bucky says. 

“I would, but there’s just so much to judge,” Steve says, his eyes bright as he grabs hold of Bucky’s hands and drags him back to standing. He’s always been surprisingly strong for his size, but Bucky had always figured that was just Steve. Now he knows that it’s that Steve’s not actually human. It should bother him, he thinks, but mostly it just makes a lot of things make sense. 

“You’re such a jerk,” Bucky says, looping an arm around Steve’s shoulders once he’s upright again and continuing on their way, “Why are we friends again?” 

“Because you were an idiot and thought you could slay a dragon when you were ten.” 

They’re quiet for a moment after that, walking in companionable silence until Bucky can’t hold it anymore. 

“How do you know it’s Hydra? How do they have a dragon, Steve? Where’s your ma?” Bucky asks, quiet like maybe that won’t disturb his friend from the easy way he’s been walking, tucked into Bucky’s side, warmth radiating off of him in the way Bucky’s only ever known Steve to be. 

Steve goes still, pulling them to a stop just before a bubbling creek. “They have her,” Steve says, distant in a way that makes Bucky want to grab hold of him and pull him back, “The dragon is my mom.” 

“Your mom is working with Hydra?” Bucky asks, disbelieving. 

No,” Steve is vehement, his eyes flaring yellow in the dimness created by the trees around them, “My ma would never. Hydra-” 

Steve stops, dragging a hand through his hair fretfully and seeming to need a moment to parse out what he’s going to say. And Bucky can see it now, all the signs of strain that Steve has shown since he found him in the cave earlier. The smudges around his eyes, the tenseness to his shoulders, all of it. 

“Hydra takes people,” Steve says, “They find magic, those of us that have it, and they twist it- twist us until- until we’re just their pawns- mindless creatures that they can use to sow chaos and hurt people.” 

Bucky tugs Steve in a little closer, bringing his other arm up and around him as he squeezes him tightly. “We’ll get her back Steve. It’ll be like one of your dumb stories, a dragon and a prince teaming up to fight something terrible and wicked.” 

“I made those up,” Steve mumbles, his beak of a nose pressing almost but not quite painfully into Bucky’s shoulder. 

“Well obviously. The real stories of a dragon and his princely best friend are yet to be told, Stevie.”  

 

So it turns out that Hydra has a hydra. Bucky would curse his luck, but he’s pretty sure he has no luck. This is just some very bad planning on his and Steve’s part and some serious nefarious bullshit on Hydras. 

“Do you think we get dumber when we’re together, Steve?” Bucky asks, swinging his sword at one of the hydra heads as they snap vicious teeth at Bucky. 

“Don’t chop the heads off, you idiot!” Steve yells as he swings Bucky’s shield at another head, ringing it against the things skull with a clang. 

“You know what would be helpful, other than you bitching at me?” Bucky asks, sliding under one of the heads aimed his way and attempting to get closer to the belly of the beast, “If you would use the fact that you’re a fucking dragon to light this thing on fire.” 

“Oh,” Steve says, like he’s just now realizing that, and then he’s tossing the shield at Bucky and saying, “Duck!” 

Bucky catches it and does as he’s told, dropping to the ground with the shield over him as a stream of fire erupts from Steve’s direction. Bucky can feel the flames above him, almost too hot to handle, but more important than that is the eardrum rattling shriek of the hydra as it’s hit with the flames and then the crash as it topples over and back into the water it had come from. 

When it’s done, Bucky throws the shield aside and shakes out the edge of his shirt sleeve where it’d started to catch with the tiniest of flames, rolling his eyes at the sight of Steve in all his dragon shaped glory looking smug. 

“Yeah, yeah, so you beat a glorified water snake. I coulda done it if I’d had a chance,” Bucky insists half heartedly, feeling unreasonably proud of Steve. 

Steve lets out a puff of smoke that seems a little like mocking laughter. 

 

Across the water that the hydra lived in and through a waterfall is a cave that Steve tugs Bucky into. 

He’s human shaped again, leading Bucky through the cave with a warm hand on Bucky’s wrist, sopping wet from the water with his hair flopping into his eyes, and a confidence to his steps that seems infectious. 

“Steve,” Bucky says, trying to focus more on what they’re doing here than the warm pressure of Steve’s long fingers wrapped around his wrist still, “I probably should have asked this earlier, but I’m pretty certain being around you makes me at least twice as dumb, but what exactly is the plan here?” 

“Well, the plan is what it’s always been Buck. I go in, I fight, I rescue my mother, and we go home.” 

“Right. Right. So you’re just going to walk in there, all by yourself, and take down a group of warlocks?” 

“I mean, that was the plan before you showed up. Now we’re going to walk in there and take down a group of warlocks,” Steve says then pauses, dropping Bucky’s wrist as he looks hesitant suddenly. It’s not a look Bucky’s particularly used to seeing on his friend. “Unless- Well, you don’t have to come with me, y’know? You’re not- You’re not obligated to do this Bucky. This is my fight.” 

“Steve?” 

“Yeah?” 

“You’re a moron, did you know that? Of course I’m coming with you. Did you forget that I was coming to fight you because these assholes have been attacking my people? This is my fight too.” 

“Oh.” 

“Yeah, oh,” Bucky says with a shake of his head at his friend, “Now c’mon, let’s go rescue your ma. They can’t tell tales about us if we don’t do something spectacular, now can they?” 

 

The nice thing about going into a situation like this with no plan to speak of, is that generally the other side isn’t expecting you. 

Steve knocks one out with Bucky’s shield and Bucky gets another with the hilt of his sword before Hydra even realizes they’ve snuck in. 

And then it’s all chaos. 

There’s a dragon- Steve’s ma- encased in what looks like ice in the middle of the room and Steve is clearly doing his best to ignore it, focusing on the idiots throwing magic at them- blue and white hot and burning. 

And in the middle of the idiots is a girl, glowing red and reeking of magic even to Bucky’s perfectly human senses. 

“Get the girl out of here!” One of the warlocks yells. 

“I have a feeling we shouldn’t let them get the girl out of here,” Steve says and he’s grinning just a little too much for the fact that they’re in a room with a bunch of fucking Hydra warlocks and they all have magic. 

“You’re having too much fun with this. I can feel it,” Bucky says, swinging his sword and doing his best not to focus on the noise it makes when it makes impact with a warlock. 

“Well yeah, cause this bit is about to be fun,” Steve says and then he’s changing, bone and muscle shifting until he’s a dragon again. 

“Shit,” says a Hydra warlock moments before Steve roasts the guy. 

Bucky thinks it’s pretty excusable that he maybe gets a little distracted watching Steve take out these guys, but it’s a sight to see and Bucky spends maybe an inexcusably long moment just looking. 

And then Steve’s tail swings into the girl with red glowing hands, her head hitting the ground with a painful sounding crack and then- And then everything explodes all at once. 

There’s the cracking of ice- A roar- Something white hot slices through Bucky’s ribs- There’s fire so much fire- There’s Steve, above him, his eyes still yellow and shaking hands pressing to Bucky’s ribs- 

 

When Bucky wakes up every inch of him hurts and there’s something warm and solid pressed into his side and across his stomach. 

He blinks his eyes open and is greeted with the sight of Steve tucked into him, an arm draped across Bucky, and a few feet away the girl with the previously glowing red hands. There’s significantly less glowy now, which is good, considering Bucky’s head hurts so bad he thinks any weird magic things might make him keel over. 

“Oh thank god, you’re awake,” The girl says, moving closer until she’s over Bucky, prodding at where it hurts the most. “I used my magic to heal you, but, well, it was still worrying-” 

“Weren’t you one of the bad guys?” Bucky asks, and he knows he maybe possibly got stabbed by some asshole warlock but also he’s pretty sure he remembers who was on what side. 

“I- Yes- They- It wasn’t-” The girl says in starts and stops and Bucky can’t quite handle the look on her face, something scared and guilty and pained. 

He manages to sit upright, nudging Steve until he flops over off of Bucky and contorts until his face is smashed  into the small of Bucky’s back. Bucky’s not sure how it’s comfortable, but he’s also not going to question it too much. 

“Right,” Bucky says, taking the girl’s hands in his own and giving them a squeeze, “You’re magic right? Steve said they took people like him and twisted them. They do that to you?” 

“No,” She says, “They don’t have to twist much when they have your heart.” Which is an awful dramatic way to phrase something, but Bucky can roll with it. 

“They took someone from you?” Bucky asks. It’s a guess, but it seems like the sort of thing a power hungry group of warlocks bent on world domination might do. 

“My brother. They said they’d hurt him if I didn’t do what they wanted and now- now he’ll-” 

“We’ll get him for you,” Bucky swears, “We’ll get everyone.” 

 

“So we’re going to fight Hydra, huh?” Steve asks much later, when he’s replacing the bandage on Bucky’s middle so that they can start the long walk down the mountain and back to Bucky’s home. 

“Don’t even pretend you weren’t already planning on it the moment you learned they had more people like your mom and Wanda,” Bucky says, his muscles jumping underneath Steve’s knuckles when they brush against the soft skin of Bucky’s ribs. 

“Sorry,” Steve murmurs, removing his hands, “And you’re right. I already was. But like I told you earlier, you don’t have to be a part of this. This isn’t your f-” 

Which is about the point where Bucky cuts him off by kissing him. 

Steve’s eyes widen and Bucky thinks maybe- maybe this was a mistake, maybe he’s done the wrong thing ruined a decade and a half of friendship, maybe Steve didn’t want this, maybe- and then Steve is grabbing onto Bucky, kissing him harder, sweeping him up into it until he’s feeling dizzy with it. 

“Wow,” Steve’s voice is soft when they break apart, his forehead pressed to Bucky’s, sharing the same air. 

“Wow,” Bucky agrees, and then, “I trust I made my point pretty clear.” 

It seems to take Steve a moment to remember what they were talking about before Bucky kissed him, but when he does a slow grin spreads across his face and he catches Bucky in a quick kiss again. 

“Yeah- Yeah, I think you were pretty clear.” 

 

“James Buchannon Barnes,” Queen Winnifred’s voice is as sharp as the blade that nearly killed Bucky, but as she gets closer to Bucky, crossing the courtyard to get to her son he can see that every inch of her face screams of the worry that Bucky’s caused. 

“I’m okay, Ma, I swear,” Bucky insists, leaning heavily against Steve. 

“You couldn’t- you didn’t- did you not even consider taking anyone else with you when you went to fight a dragon, James?”  

“Ah, so you weren’t supposed to come fight us alone. Good to know,” Steve says like the traitor he is. 

“No, he was supposed to take knights,” Bucky’s mother says sharply before her gaze leaves Bucky entirely to focus on Steve, “And who are you?” 

“Oh, I’m Steve.” 

Which is, of course, the moment that Rebecca comes barreling in, skidding to a stop just behind Winifred. 

“So this is Steve!” Becca says, something delighted and far too mischievous to be allowed in her eyes as she side steps around their mother and slings an arm around Bucky, leaning across him to look at Steve. “I’ve heard so much about you.” 

“You have not,” Bucky insists, and then to Steve, “She hasn’t.” 

“Oh yes I have. He’d come home with all kinds of stories about you, Steve,” Rebecca practically crows and Steve, the bastard, looks like this is the best thing he’s ever been told. “He’d tell us ‘I’m going off to slay the dragon now,’ and our parents would let him go because we knew he’d just come home with more stories about whatever you got up to on that mountain of yours.” 

Really?” Steve asks, something far too bright in his eyes, “I didn’t know I’d made such an impression.” 

It’s a load of crap. Steve definitely knows he’s made an impression. He’s made such an impression that they stopped several times on their walk so that they could kiss against conveniently placed trees before one of them remembered that they’d kind of put themselves on a quest here. 

“How about we don’t talk about me and my embarrassing childhood and instead talk about how we went and got ourselves a war with Hydra?” Bucky asks, starting towards the castle and dragging Steve along with him. 

“James Buchanan Barnes, you did what?” Winifred’s voice follows. 

 

Hours later and Bucky has been seen by the court physician and is midway through eating a decent meal while explaining for what feels like the third time what the hell happened since he ran off to fight a dragon. 

“So let me get this all entirely straight. Hydra is-” Becca starts, she seems to be the one with the most questions, his mother staying mostly quiet in a way that Bucky isn’t sure bodes particularly well for him if he’s entirely honest. 

“A bunch of evil warlocks hell bent on taking over the world,” Bucky finishes for her, ripping a chunk of bread off his piece and sliding it onto Steve’s plate. 

“Right, and Steve is-” 

“A dragon, yes,” Bucky says and ignores Steve’s slight preening next to him. Dragons are strangely proud of being dragons, Bucky has discovered already. 

“And you saved the girl-” 

“Wanda-” 

“Who is-” 

“A witch, yes. They were using her as- What was it you called it Stevie?” 

“A sort of source, I guess. She’s born magic so they were using that to keep control of Ma,” Steve says at the same time Becca says, “ Stevie?” 

“And now we’re going to help take Hydra down and bring peace to the realm yada yada, that’s all of the story. I’m full. Let’s go to bed Steve,” Bucky says quickly, grabbing hold of Steve’s hand and tugging him up with Bucky as he stands. He can see the brightness in Becca’s eyes like she’s about to embarrass Bucky terribly. 

Steve, because he’s a brilliant not-quite-human, seems puzzled but follows Bucky easily as Becca chirps a very loaded “Goodnight boys. I’m sure we don’t need to have someone make up a bed for Stevie,” as they slip out the door. 

Steve’s willingness to follow evaporates as they turn a corner and Steve gets Bucky pressed up against the wall in an alcove, his hand warm in Bucky’s and every inch of him close. 

“Don’t need to make up a bed, huh?” Steve says, sounding terribly, terribly amused by all of this as he gets his mouth on Bucky’s jaw in a way that is definitely emotionally compromising. 

“Shut up-” 

“Stevie, huh?”

“You’re the worst-” 

“You talk about me, huh?” 

Bucky rolls his eyes at Steve, even if every bit of him feels fond of this idiot dragon. He should be terrified of everything that lies in front of him, he’s sure, and he is a little, but mostly he’s happy to have Steve, in his home and in his arms- smug and beautiful and about to lead Bucky and his whole damn kingdom into a fight against some fucked up warlocks with misplaced aspirations of world domination. 

“Yeah, Steve . Of course I talk about you. You didn’t think that kiss came out of nowhere, did you?” 

“No,” Steve says quickly, almost too quickly, “Well, maybe.” 

“You’re ridiculous,” Bucky says, like maybe Steve isn’t quite aware of that yet, and then he tugs his dragon in and kisses him again. 

 

There are stories: 

Stories of knights and the dragons they slayed. Stories of princes who conquered the great fire-breathing beasts terrorizing their kingdoms. Stories of how they saved their lands and won the hand of fair princesses in battle. 

Then there are stories of young princes who wander up mountains to slay the dragon and instead fall in love with them. Stories of a young prince who, alongside a dragon, fought a Hydra and saved a witch. 

Stories where they lead his kingdom into a war against the forces of evil -or rather, a nasty contingent of warlocks- and the prince falls and the dragon, of course catches him. Stories where instead of winning the hand of a fair princess, the prince gains the hand of the dragon. 

The latter stories are of course, for a different day.