He’s stronger than his father ever was.
He’s made all the right friends (powerful witches who strengthened his skin to tolerate the sun and Immortals who knew how to bend primordial magic to curb his bloodlust) and made all the right creatures indebted to him (werewolves to Hunt for him and goblins to guard his gold).
Then he finds his way over to the New World.
Ingeras rules for years, ushers in a golden age for his people.
He faces down all attempts at invasion – armies leave his lands with either a handful of survivors or none at all.
(He doesn’t know how it's possible – but he knows that his father still lives. He knows that the storm of bats that follow his armies isn’t natural.)
Once he’s old enough, he takes up his father’s sword and joins his men in battle. He fights with them, bleeds with them – and they love him for it. He carves out his kingdom in the Transylvania mountains and hills and doesn’t try to expand the borders.
The war mongers on his council want him to take his invincible army out past the mountains, they want to conquer the world.
“We could,” Ingeras tells them, his crown sitting heavy on his head, “but I don’t want the world. I want my people safe.”
As he keeps growing into that heavy crown, he makes it a point to go out to his villages – to see the people. He talks with them, jokes and drinks with them. And at night, when he’s haunted by his wars, he remembers the times spent in the villages, remembers why he fights.
His father never calls him Bucky, can't bring himself to say the name without curling his lips in distaste.
“I’m not calling you that,” he says, “your mother chose Ingeras and it’s still perfectly suitable.”
“Perhaps if we were still in the Old Country,” Bucky says with a small smile. His father has mostly been able to adapt with the times, but he never gives up on keeping old names. Always telling Bucky that names were important, that legends had to be called something true. Bucky just nods indulgently.
“And when will you be coming back home?” Vlad asks, digging a claw into the brick of the building Bucky was staying in.
“I like it here,” Bucky says, batting his father’s hand away from the building. “Stop trying to destroy my apartment.”
Vlad makes a face – a tight grimace that contradicts the mirth in his eyes. He won't say it, but he's happy that Bucky's happy.
“I think I know why,” Vlad says, his eyes straying over Bucky’s shoulder. Bucky turns, sees Steve and he can’t help but smile. “That’s the same way I used to smile at your mother,” Vlad says, smirking at his son.
“Hey, Buck,” Steve says, starting to dig around in his pockets for the key to the apartment.
“It’s open, Steve,” Bucky says, nodding his head at the door. He gestures to Vlad: “One of my uncles has come in from Romania.” Bucky introduces his father as his Uncle Vlad.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” Steve says and Bucky can see how Steve’s fighting with himself not to comment on the name Vlad.
“Pleasure’s all mine,” Vlad says, putting as much charm into his smile as he can. “I’ve heard so much about you. It’s nice to finally put a face to the infamous Steve.”
Steve laughs and shakes his head before he excuses himself and disappears into the apartment. Bucky flinches as he listens to the start of a rasp deep in Steve's lungs.
“If you come back home with him,” Vlad says after the silence has settled over them again, “you wouldn’t have to hide yourselves.”
“I know,” Bucky says, glancing at the door – listening as Steve moves around their apartment.
He’s thought about it before, of course he has. Going back home, hiding Steve and himself away in little villages – the ones that had long memories and were still loyal to his family. But he hasn’t told Steve what he is, doesn’t know if he can.
“You’ll have to wait,” Vlad says, pulling Buck back to now, “there's another war coming to Europe, and with the way the mountains shiver – it’s going to be bloody.”
“Okay, father,” Bucky says, nods before taking a step back and towards his door, “we’ll wait.”
He’s twenty-three when meets a young village girl – her eyes wide and blue, her hair blonde and catching the sun. He stops his stallion short and stares. And when she sees him, her eyes widen and she immediately drops into a curtsy.
“I’m sorry, my Prince,” she says. “I didn’t see you.”
“It’s fine,” he says, grinning.
Her name is Anica and when he finds out she’s betrothed, Ingeras sighs sadly.
“What a shame I’m too late,” he says, dramatically putting a hand to his forehead. He looks at her again, “Do you love him – your betrothed?”
“I do, highness,” she says, smiling.
“Then I wish you all the best,” he says, bowing and kissing her hand with a flourish.
Then he demands that he meet her husband-to-be to see if he's worthy (Ingeras finds that he is). He spends the rest of the night in the huts of the two families, laughing outrageously at their stories and answering questions about the myths that surround his father.
In the morning, hung over and sick, Ingeras turns to Anica’s father. “You people sure do know how to drink,” he says, glaring at the saddle of his horse and wondering if it wouldn't be prudent to just rest for the day.
The old man booms out a laugh and claps him on the back. The man’s next words are gargled when an arrow cuts into his neck.
When Bucky gets his draft letter, he laughs. Then he turns and pulls Steve in close, buries his nose in Steve’s neck and backs them up until they fall onto the bed.
“I’ll join you as soon as I can,” Steve says.
“You better not,” Bucky says, his lips moving against Steve’s skin.
He’s terrified at the thought of leaving Steve here, leaving him alone. He was so frail, so human – what if he got sick while Bucky was gone? Bucky’s been in love before, but not like this; Steve has him so completely gone that Bucky doesn’t know if he could stand to lose him.
“I need to tell you something,” Bucky says, pulling back so he could look Steve in the eye.
“You finally going to tell me that you’re a vampire?” Steve asks – and Bucky freezes, blinks, furrows his eyebrows, blinks again.
“Um,” he starts, sitting up on his elbows to look down at Steve.
“I’m not an idiot, Buck,” Steve says with a roll of his eyes. “I’ve known for a while.”
“Oh,” Bucky finally settles on saying.
Steve just smirks, but then his eyes fall to the draft letter on the floor. “Will you be okay?” he asks, looking up to Bucky.
“Yeah, Steve,” Bucky says, pulling Steve back into his arms. “I’ll be okay.”
Ingeras and his guard make short work of the bandits, but not before one of them gets a sword into Ingeras’s gut.
Ingeras screams and the man laughs. Then the sky overhead darkens and thunder shakes the ground.
Then it’s Ingeras laughing and the bandit screaming.
“Oh, my boy,” Vlad says, his fingers hover over Ingeras’s wound – they both know what a wound like this does to a man. Then Vlad asks, “Do you want to die like this?”
“No, I don't want to die,” Ingeras says; he knows what his father is offering him and he takes it without hesitation.
Bucky’s not okay.
His men are exhausted and dying and he wants nothing more than to savage whoever it is keeping them caged.
Then a little man in a long white coat comes down to look at them. He looks bored and irritated until he reaches Bucky, then he takes off his glasses and his mouth falls open. Weak magic comes off of him and Bucky wrinkles his nose at it.
“Seems we have a bit of a celebrity in our midst,” he says in German, leans forward. “You are a long way from home, Prince,” he waves a hand around. “You'll get no special treatment, though – you have no loyal subjects here.”
“If you know me,” Bucky responds in German, letting red seep into his eyes, “then you know what I can do to you.”
“Yes, just as I know what I can do to you,” the scientist says as he gestures to a man standing just behind him.
Bucky bites back a snarl when the soldier steps forward with silvered manacles.
“I am Dr. Zola,” the little man says, switching to English, “and if you don’t cooperate, your humans will suffer the consequences.”
The soldiers behind Zola cock and aim their weapons at the men standing behind Bucky. Then the manacles are being slapped onto Bucky’s wrists and he swallows down his shout of pain.
He feels his soldiers’ eyes on him, on how his flesh is burning away and he turns to look at them and says: “I’m sorry, boys.”
At the turn of the century, Ingeras travels to the New World. He wants to see what it is about the place that’s so special. When he gets there, he travels out beyond the cities, wanders into the dark woods and then heads south.
(The country’s not New, he finds. It’s Old and he learns that its natives have long been finely tuned into the way the Earth beneath them spoke, that they've danced with and earned the favors of the primordial magics that lived on here. He wanders down the rivers, through the mountains, and then down to the plains – but all of that the wide open space, the miles and miles of nothing, makes him nervous and he yearns for a cliff to put his back against.)
He goes back North and sees that the cities have grown bigger (he’d wandered for years now) and that machines have replaced horses.
He finally settles in New York City, spends the years wandering the streets. He loves Manhattan; he loves Brooklyn even more.
Then he meets a boy, frail and sickly and with the worst Irish temper out of anyone he’s ever met, getting beat up in an alley. The bullies are laughably easy to deal with and Ingeras can’t help but watch as the boy looks him up and down warily, wiping blood from his lip, from the corner of his eye.
Such a beautiful thing you are, Ingeras wants to say as he takes a step forward; he isn’t surprised that the boy doesn’t take a step back.
“Bucky,” Ingeras says, even though the boy in front of him never asked for his name, “my name’s Bucky.”
(The name that he adopts is one he'd picked up in his travels and he's always enjoyed the sound of it.)
“Steve,” the boy replies. He’s looking at Ingeras with a curious tilt to his head, as if he’s trying to figure something out. (Ingeras doesn’t know that Steve recognizes him as something other, he doesn’t know yet about the stories Steve’s mama tells him about Ireland's fairy folk and creatures who can shift their skins.) “It’s nice to meet you, Bucky,” Steve says as he holds out his hand.
“You, too,” Bucky says, taking Steve’s hand. “Want to get a soda or something?”
Steve smirks and Bucky falls in love.
The table beneath him is silver; the restraints across his wrists, biceps, chest, legs – they’re all silver. His skin is loose and he wants to shift, wants to call his creatures to his side – but he can’t and gods, he’s so tired.
The scientists poking and prodding at him suddenly scurry away, leaving Bucky alone to slide in and out of lucidity with nothing to anchor him save for the constant burning.
Distantly, he registers the explosions and wonders if he should panic.
Then Steve’s scent is flooding the room and Bucky knows he doesn’t have to panic because he must be dead.
“Bucky,” then Steve’s there, bigger than when Bucky’d left him in Brooklyn and burning hot.
“Steve?” Bucky asks, grins dopily up at him as Steve rushes to undo the straps. He pulls Bucky off the table, hurriedly walking him backwards. “What the hell happened to you?” Bucky asks.
For a moment he wonders if something had gotten him, had latched onto Steve. He’d kill his father if Vlad was responsible for this. (He isn’t.)
“I joined the army,” Steve says – and it’s definitely him. Only Steve would be able to pull off a one-liner in this situation.
They’re deep in the forests when Bucky grabs Steve’s hand and plants his feet, bringing them both to a stop. Steve turns around, lifts an eyebrow at Bucky.
“Just let me look at you,” Bucky breathes, he can hear the sounds of the other men Steve’s freed in the distance; and he just wants this minute with Steve. So Bucky takes him in – categorizes all the way Steve’s changed, both obviously and subtly. Yes, he’s bigger but his voice is the same; there's no rasp in his lungs and his heart is steady.
He runs the back of his knuckles over Steve’s jaw before standing up and burying his nose in Steve’s neck. There’s a new chemical tang to Steve’s scent that makes Bucky’s nose itch.
“I’m glad I found you,” Steve says, wrapping his arms around Bucky.
“You were supposed to stay safe,” Bucky says, his tone chastising as he presses a kiss to the pulse point at the base of Steve’s throat – he loves how he hears Steve’s heartbeat jump. So he nips at the spot again just to see if Steve’s heart will do it again (it does and arousal starts to spike in Steve’s scent).
“Bucky,” Steve says, his tone warning even as he steps closer. Bucky lets himself be herded until his back is against a tree.
“You’re as bossy as ever,” Bucky grins, “only now you’ve got the size to back it up.”
“Is this okay?” Steve asks; there’s hesitation in his voice that brings Bucky up short – there was self-doubt in Steve's voice.
“Oh, Steve,” Bucky pulls back. “How many times I got to tell you? I’m with you ‘til the end of the line. I don’t care how long that line is or what you look like.”
Bucky doesn’t tell him that he wants that line to last forever, that he wants them to lastforever. And Steve just smiles as if he hears all of that anyway (he probably did – ever since they first met, Steve’s had an uncanny ability to read him).
“Okay, Buck,” Steve says, leaning down and pressing a kiss to Bucky’s nose. And then he’s asking: “When was the last time you fed?”
Steve’s blood gets Bucky high. As in, a hallucinating-fuzzy feeling-giggling-mess-of-a-monster high.
(When Bucky comes down from it, there’s a chemical taste in the back of his throat. He snarls and try to shake the taste away.)
“I just don’t like him,” Bucky says, watching Howard walk away.
“You’re being ridiculous,” Steve says with a roll of his eyes.
“There’s just something about him that sets me on edge,” Bucky’s eyebrows furrow. Steve shoves at him but drops the issue; Bucky tries to do the same.
(That night, Bucky dreams about Mehmed for the first time in a long time. He jerks awake with a snarl and feels phantom rope burns around his wrists.
“What were dreaming about?” Steve asks. He’s not in their bed and Bucky realizes that Steve’s already had his nightmares tonight.
“Did I ever tell you about the Sultan Mehmed?” Bucky asks.)
It’s one of those rare days when there’s nothing for either of them to do.
Steve dozes on their mattress, his face turned towards the sunlight with his arms splayed out on either side of him. Bucky grins and falls onto the mattress, crawling his way up Steve’s body until he can tuck his head under Steve’s chin before wrapping his arms around Steve’s waist.
Steve mutters unintelligible words that not even Bucky can understand as he's being jostled. Bucky simply shushes him with a press of his lips to Steve's chest. He presses his ear down, listens for any rattling in his lungs, for any stutter in his heart.
"You worry too much," Steve says, not even opening his eyes as he slowly drags his fingers through Bucky's hair.
"Would you ever let me turn you?" Bucky asks. He can't bring himself to look into Steve's eyes, focuses instead on how Steve's heart rate has increased.
"Only if you come back," Steve answers after a moment. "We've been together for so long now, but maybe you'll change your mind about coming back to America after you're back in Europe."
"I'll always come back to you," Bucky says, vehement as he surges upwards, presses sweet-soft kisses to all the angles of Steve's face. "Always; no foolish war could keep me away. Even if I forget myself completely, I'll always remember you and I'll always come home."
"I bet you say that to everyone you fall for," Steve says, only half-joking as he lightly pushes at Bucky.
"I really don't," Bucky says seriously, he pulls back enough to stare into Steve's eyes - he wants to make sure that Steve can see just how much he means it. And when Steve looks back and grins, Bucky echoes it - knowing he's made his point.
A silvered bullet enters Bucky’s shoulder and he roars from the pain of it. He drops Steve’s shield in shock and then another bullet hits him and then another.
And then he falls.
(The sky darkens and Steve looks up, then he’s turning to the Commandoes and he shouts: “Get inside! No matter what you see or what you hear – just stay the fuck inside!”
“Steve—” Gabe starts, but Steve pushes him and the others towards the building.
“Now!” he shouts just as the chirps of thousands of bats begin to fill the skies.
Steve is slamming the door behind Dum Dum just as he feels claws digging into his shoulder and tearing at his uniform.
“Where is my son?!” Vlad screams.
Steve doesn’t shout from the pain, doesn’t stagger back or fall to his knees – he just looks at Vlad and says, “He fell. He was shot – I can only guess that they were silver bullets – and then he fell.”
Vlad screws his eyes shut and grabs at his hair. Then he whirls on Steve, shoves him back so hard he almost falls through the glass door he knows his people are behind.
“I thought you loved him?” Vlad shouts. “Why would you let him go if you loved him?!”
“He was everything to me!” Steve shouts back, uses every ounce of strength he has to shove Vlad away. “And if you think for one solitary second that I won’t hunt down every single person responsible for his death – think again! I will make them all beg for death as they drown in their own blood!”
Steve’s chest heaves as he fights to breathe past the rage that constricts his chest, closes his throat.
“And why should I leave my son’s vengeance in the hands of a human?” Vlad snarls, his fangs glinting.
“Because if you get in my way,” Steve growls back, his voice low and vicious, “I’ll kill you, too.”
Vlad snorts, grabs Steve by the chin and smirks at him: “I can see what my son loved about you. When you’re done playing at being a soldier, I’m turning you.”
“No, thanks,” Steve says, jerking his chin out of Vlad’s hand. “Just find him, make sure he isn’t left to rot out there.”
(Steve doesn’t tell Vlad that he’s never had much in the way of a life expectancy and the serum and the Captain America uniform haven’t changed that. He doesn’t tell Vlad that he wants to see Bucky (see Ingeras) again sooner rather than later.)
Vlad watches as Steve just slumps against the glass. He looks over Steve’s shoulder, sees the soldiers inside trying to get outside to help Steve. Slowly, Vlad backs away and the sky seems to clear just a little.
“When I find him,” Vlad says, “I will take him home. What’s left of him won’t be buried on American soil in a soldier’s grave. He's a prince - he'll have a prince's funeral.”
Steve doesn’t say anything, just nods – scrubs a hand over his face and ignores the still throbbing pain in his shoulder. When he looks up again, Vlad is gone and the clouds are fading rapidly from the sky.)
They tell him to ignore the pain, the burning in his shoulder.
“You need the pain, Soldier,” they tell him, a hundred different voices, all accented strangely, overlap each other and echo around in his head. “This pain will make you stronger.”
He believes them, thinks that he’s heard those words somewhere before.
The Soldier’s on a mission when something swoops down from the sky and seizes him – shying away from his arm for only half a second before snarling and ripping it away.
The Soldier throws his head back and screams.
(Vlad takes his son back to Romania and hides them away in their old castle.
It takes days of near-constant feeding before Ingeras recovers. Some of his memories return, mostly the ones from before his turning and then the years right after. He doesn’t remember America.
It takes months after that before he can even bring himself to think about leaving Vlad’s side.)
Ingeras and his father are patrolling the border villages when they hear about Iron Man.
“That’s interesting,” Vlad says, looking up at the little television from their spot at the bar, he sips at the pint in front of him.
Ingeras hums in agreement and sips at his own beer.
The months pass and then a thunderer falls down from the skies.
“That’s very interesting,” Vlad says, lets a wry grin spread across his face. “Should we go take a look?” he asks Ingeras.
Ingeras shrugs his shoulders, lengthens a claw and digs it into the table top – making a small indention.
Vlad doesn’t press.
“I’m missing something,” Ingeras tells his father, “it’s like there’s this part of me that’s just gone and I—dammit, it’s like I would know what it was if I just saw it!”
Ingeras runs his fingers through his hair, looks around the forest – as if waiting for whatever ghost he’s looking for to appear.
“There’s something that HYDRA took,” he continues, flexes the hand that grew back as soon as the silver arm had been ripped away, “something important.”
“Ingeras,” Vlad takes a step forward, waits until his son is look at him before he says: “Does the name Steve Rogers mean anything to you?”
Ingeras pauses before he shakes his head, says, “Should it?”
(For all that Vlad had hated Steve in the years when he believed Ingeras to be dead – he had seen the two of them together, had known that they were supposed to be forever. And hearing that Ingeras doesn’t even recognize Steve’s name – it breaks Vlad’s heart.)
Vlad is leading Ingeras towards the Smithsonian when the scent of fear spikes all around the city. It doesn’t take long for them to find a television – to see the portal opening in the sky above New York City.
“Come, son,” Vlad says, smirks when he sees a flash of a blue uniform. Ingeras looks at the man with the shield – the shield sending a thrill of aching through chest, but he doesn't know where it comes from. But then Vlad is pulling at his sleeve and they’re taking to the skies.
Their arrival is heralded by the screeching song of thousands of bats and the rumbling of thunder through the still standing buildings.
They don’t settle into human forms long enough to talk to the others who are fighting – instead, they dance along the edge of the city, keeping the alien-creatures just at the borders.
Ingeras recognizes Tony Stark and his Iron Man suit, recognizes Thor and Hulk. The red-haired woman’s scent is familiar and he watches as she’s launched into the air and rides one of the creature’s machines to the top of Stark Tower.
And then Iron Man is flying out towards the ocean. Ingeras squints, sees the missile – then he’s watching as Stark grabs it and makes for the portal.
Ingeras lands on the roof of Stark Tower, ignores the way the woman flinches away from him and her jaw drops.
“Don’t drop that scepter,” he says, keeping his eyes on the portal. A beat passes, then two, then she gets the order to close the portal – a small and distant voice cracking through an ear piece she has.
She hesitates only a second before she pushes the scepter all the way into the light field.
Tony Stark falls out of the portal and Ingeras stretches his wings and grabs him.
Ingeras lands and has only just set Stark down when he’s being yanked up – then he’s staring into too bright, too blue eyes.
Ingeras lands and then he feels like he’s falling all over again and there’s a name, a name right on the tip of his tongue and its burning his throat but he can’t quite get it out.
“Bucky?” the man asks, and he sounds so broken. Ingeras shakes his head – but he still reaches out, wants to touch this man’s face.
There are flashes in his mind’s eye, then – flashes of silvered manacles and explosions underfoot, of a sip of blood that sends him flying higher than any drug, of desperate-sweet kisses stolen under the cover of the darkest shadows.
“Steve,” the name is punched out of him.
“Bucky,” Steve pulls him forward, buries his nose in his hair, whispers, “Bucky, Bucky – Ingeras.”
It knocks Ingeras to his knees – his arms wrapped around Steve’s neck brings Steve down, too. He pulls back, takes Steve’s face in both hands.
“I knew I was missing something,” he says, leans forward so their foreheads touched, “I was missing someone. I'm sorry, I said I would remember, that I would come back.”
“You're alive - that's all I care about,” Steve says (Bucky - he's Bucky again - hears the truth in the words and he thinks he feels tears on his face; he hadn't even known that vampires could cry).
(Vlad gives them today, tells himself that once the city has been put back together and everything has settled – he’ll go back to being his overprotective self.
“Or you could not,” Bucky says, glaring at his father as he crosses his arms over his chest.
“I wouldn’t be worried if he were still that scrawny little thing that was on the precipice of death every winter,” Vlad retorts with a sniff, inspecting his fingernails and frowning at the dried blood and grime underneath them. “Now, who knows how long he’ll be around? I can’t have him stealing my only son from me!”
“You’re being ridiculous!”
The media takes things as well as can be expected. They implode.
It doesn’t help that barely a month later, Steve proposes. People make noises about how humans and vampires shouldn’t be allowed to get married – Bucky responds by very loudly proclaiming that since he's royalty, they would be getting married in Romania, anyway.
(All of Romania shows up to the wedding.)