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Puppy mill

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Bucky in room number three has delivered his pups during the night. He’s cowering in the corner, half lying half crouched on a pile made of pieces of shredded mattress, shielding the pups with his body from Steve.

This Bucky is one of the quieter ones. His spirit was so broken that Hydra had discarded him from the Winter Soldier program by the time Steve got to him, using him only for experimentation. ‘It was an accident,’ a technician told to Steve before Steve crushed his skull in his hand, ‘Too high voltage.’ Bucky’s never shaken the wiped, dazed look off his face, not even when he woke up for the first time in Steve’s arms after thawing out from the cryofreeze and Steve tried to reassure him that he was safe, that Steve had killed his handlers. Pliant and passive, he’s never fought back, never really showed any reaction to anything, never even looked Steve in the eye.

He is looking now. Not glaring, definitely not snarling or growling, but his eyes are sharp and his muscles tensed. For the first time, he looks like he’s alive, that there’s someone inside there, that there’s awareness in him.

Steve stays in the doorway and smiles at him. “It’s okay,” he says soothingly. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to take them away from you.”

Bucky’s upper lip twitches. Steve’s not sure whether it’s a shadow of a smile or a snarl. He’d like it to be a smile, but he does suspect the latter.

Steve eyes the room. There are bloodstains on the floor under Bucky’s bed, no doubt where he crawled to hide while pushing his litter out. “Did everything go okay? Any of you need medical attention?”

Bucky doesn’t answer him. Steve’s not surprised.

It’s not worth it to antagonize Bucky further. Steve learned his lesson about respecting the omega guarding its newborns after the first time he got bit, while Steve was trying to just make sure that the pups were healthy and breathing. Since then, he’s left the omegas in peace with the newborns — it’s more likely that the pups will get hurt in a panicked hustle like that than that there’s anything wrong with them in the first place.

Steve can give Bucky a few days to adjust, for his hormones to level down. He’ll come back later to take a proper look at the litter and Bucky.

As good as Bucky’s temperament is and as agreeable as he’s always been — how easily he’s let Steve take care of him and breed him — well, right now, with the way his eyes are fixed on Steve, Steve would be surprised if he didn’t lash out if Steve tried to pry the pups away from him.

Still, Steve’s gotta make sure Bucky has everything in the room he needs. The litter being premature by a week, and with him being preoccupied with the mission, Steve hadn’t stocked the cabinets in the room yet.

Eyes on Bucky, Steve takes a careful step inside the room, testing the waters.

Immediately, a warning growl rumbles from Bucky’s chest.

It’s not an alpha’s angry, loud, domineering growl telling someone to submit and give in or the alpha in question is going to punch the submission out of the target. It’s an omega’s growl, low and fierce. A trembling growl that tells Steve exactly how scared Bucky is, how all Bucky wants is for Steve to keep his distance — but also that if he doesn’t respect that growl, Bucky’s ready to fight to the death before letting him touch any of the pups.

‘A pissed off alpha may beat you half-dead, but a pissed off omega will not stop there,’ Steve’s mother used to say. ‘Not if there are pups on the line.’

It makes Steve’s alpha instincts swell in pride, seeing his omega live up to the old saying, reared up ready to defend their pups with his life, even knowing how much stronger and faster Steve is. As misdirected as that protective instinct is, it makes Steve relax.

He had worried that even pups wouldn’t be enough to bring back the spark to this Bucky’s eyes, but here he is, almost baring his teeth at Steve, after almost a year of staring at nothing and eating only when prompted.

“It’s okay, Bucky,” Steve repeats. “I’m so proud of you, sweetheart. You’ll make a good mother for them. I’m going to come inside now, but only to check the cabinets so I know if I need to bring anything for you. You need to eat, so you can take care of them.”

Bucky’s growl quiets back down to a hum that’s barely there. His eyes don’t leave Steve’s face.

Steve decides it’s a sign that Bucky won’t launch himself to try rip Steve apart, at least, so he walks slowly over to the cabinets. “Have you thought of the names yet?” he asks, not expecting any answers, but trying to soothe the omega with his voice. He opens the cabinet and counts the MREs and checks that the fresh fruits haven’t gone bad. He takes the baby bottles and the milk powder out and puts them on the counter, just in case Bucky’s having trouble producing milk. If that’s the case, there’s excess milk produced by a few others that will serve just fine in the long run, but for now, the milk replacer will do if needed. “Let me know if you decide on any, and I’ll write them down in the records.”

He feels Bucky’s eyes on him as he walks over to the sink and checks that the water is running as it should. Finally satisfied that Bucky has all the basic necessities he requires, for now, Steve walks back to the door.

“Ring the bell if you need me,” Steve says. “Otherwise, I’ll leave you alone for a couple of days.”

He closes the door and locks it. Through the one-way mirror in the door, he sees Bucky’s muscles finally relax as he’s left alone.

Steve watches as Bucky starts to tend for his pups. He continues licking them clean, a process which Steve seems to have interrupted — so the litter can’t be older than an hour or two if even that. He nuzzles them and nibbles their skins with his teeth to encourage the healthy blood flow. It’s hard to see how many he has in there, in the poorly constructed nest, but Steve can make out at least four, maybe five small pups — it’s a good-sized litter, which would explain why they were born so early.

When Bucky brings one to his chest and holds it tenderly while it searches for the nipple, Steve smiles and finally turns away. Bucky’s got this, and Steve’s more needed elsewhere.

His newest omega should wake up any moment now — and needs Steve to break him in.

 

 

Old file. Map of an island. Text in the upper left corner: "Project Greenhouse: Research Station 37. Local Data Collection and Research. Classification: D5." In the bottom right corner, a post-it note with a text: "Project Home: Brooklyn 2.0".