S T E V E
When he eventually looked up and glanced at the time having finally finished his grading, he smiled to himself, stretching out the aches from hours of being hunched over his desk. The pizza he had ordered should be here pretty soon and he really did feel like it was pretty damn well deserved. Anyone who thought a teacher’s day was over when the school bell rang really needed to come and do the job for a year or two. That wasn’t to say Steve disliked his job because he didn’t – he loved it – but it was hard work.
He stood up from the desk he had in his second bedroom and stretched more languorously before gathering the marked papers and putting them safely back in the bag he used to carry his things to and from his classroom just as he heard a knock at the door.
Perfect timing, he thought to himself.
Leaving the spare bedroom-turned-part-time-office, he grabbed his wallet from where he’d thrown it down on his coffee table earlier that evening and walked to his apartment door, opening it without bothering to check who was on the other side. In his defense, he was pretty sure it would be the pizza delivery guy, after all. Who turns up unannounced on a Friday night?
But it wasn’t the pizza guy.
Steve’s mouth dropped open, because instead of a guy bearing a pizza box and some sides there stood Steve’s childhood best friend, Bucky Barnes. The same Bucky Barnes who should be out in DC – having moved out there a year ago now for work– and very much not stood on Steve’s doorstep here in New York City.
“Bucky?” he asked, almost checking that the man in front of him was real – as if Steve could imagine anything this real. Or mistake him at all, with those velvety eyes and the soft brunette hair, or that scent like fresh laundry and jasmine – soft, sweet and intimately familiar to Steve after all the years of being so damn close – albeit not as close as Steve had wanted to be.
“The one and only,” he replied dryly. “I… sorry I didn’t tell you I’d be coming on our call last week, it’s just that things have changed pretty drastically since then and I… I’m really sorry to do this to you, Stevie, but I needed somewhere safe to go. Can I come in?”
Steve stepped aside numbly, watching as the man came into his space before shaking himself back to nearly normal. Yes it was a shock to have his best friend turn up out of the blue but it was Bucky and after so long of having to contend himself with phone calls and video chats he was here and he just couldn't help this hitch in his hormones at the excitement of that. Until he saw the look on Bucky's face.
“Buck, you do know you’re always welcome, right?” He asked, for lieu of anything better to say. Bucky looked like a scared animal, almost pacing the front room of his apartment. This wasn't normal Bucky behaviour and he hoped that Bucky would actually start whatever conversation they were about to have and explain to him what was actually going on. If he didn't get it off his chest Steve worried he was going to implode in some way. Whatever it was, it was significant enough for Bucky to have flown, or driven, or whatever, across the country and end up standing on Steve’s doorstep with nothing but the rucksack on his back And that haunted look in his eyes.
Bucky turned, standing in Steve’s living room and looking more awkward than Steve had ever seen him in, though he had at least shed the rucksack and put it down on the floor next to him. “I mean, it’s all a bit awkward,” he admitted, and Steve could see he didn’t really know what to say.
“What is? Do you need somewhere to stay? You know you’re welcome here,” Steve asked cautiously, going for the easiest thing to offer, knowing that in some ways they were the hardest to ask for. Bucky had to know he was welcome here, but sometimes there was a difference in knowing that, and hearing it.
“I mean, I do, but it’s more than that,” he said, shifting his weight from foot to foot in a restless way. “Look, Steve… can we sit down?”
“I wasn’t sure why you were standing up anyway,” Steve nodded, trying to coax a bit of humour out of the situation, a bit of normalcy with his friend, but still absolutely mystified about what was actually going on here. “Can I get you anything to drink? I’ve got coffee, or beer, or just a coke? And pizza should be here soon and you know I always order too much…”
Bucky gave him a look. “I’m good, Stevie, stop fretting, please – just… will you just sit down so I can talk to you? We can sort out drinks after...you might need one”
A little surprised at the insistence Steve nodded dumbly, sitting himself down on the couch whilst Bucky took the small arm chair. “So, I don’t really know how to tell you what I need to tell you and I’m sorry again for just turning up like this. I was going to call, but I didn’t know what to say on the phone and… well. I guess that’s irrelevant now I’m here.”
Steve gave him a small smile and nodded, deliberately staying quiet. After telling him to stop fretting it seemed that now Bucky had started, rambling with obvious nervous energy.
Bucky took a deep breath and seemed to centre himself before starting in on what was obviously the meat of the matter “So anyway, things were going pretty well out in DC as you know – things are busy at SHIELD security and my promotion was going well. Well, it was going well until I kinda fucked up during my last Heat,” he said, wincing and his cheeks colouring.
“Oh shit, what happened?” Steve asked, his mind immediately running through various worst case scenarios, ranging from sleeping with someone inappropriate to going into Heat suddenly in the middle of the working day and several other options in between.
“I went to an Omega heat club – and I swear down Stevie, it’s a first and last time for it. I just… I don’t even know what possessed me. I guess I’ve been so busy with work I’ve had a really long dry spell and the Heat before this was practically unbearable. Like, something in me knew toys weren’t going to help with it this time, and I figured why not, you know? You have to prove you’re on contraceptives and clean when you sign in, it’s a night or so to work through the worst of it, and their Alphas are all checked out in the same way. It seemed like a really low risk way to have something with no commitment, exactly what I wanted” he explained.
As he spoke Steve fought not to wince – the idea of Bucky going somewhere like that felt sordid and it itched at Steve’s sensibilities. Steve knew that Heat and Rut management were natural parts of life, but knowing it and applying that knowledge to a situation were two different things. Probably because, if Steve was honest, he might have had some less than just-friends thoughts about Bucky over the years, especially when he was younger and sickly and Bucky had been as he was now, beautiful and strong and oh everything Steve could ever want or dream to be, but he also knew it wasn’t mutual.
Then again, Steve rationalised, trying to calm the itching of his hind brain, it wasn’t like Bucky would choose Steve of all people to help him through his Heat– for one thing surely Bucky would be able to remember Steve as the skinny kid he’d once been far too clearly for any physical attraction to happen on his end, and for another, they’d been miles apart, quite literally. It wouldn’t have made logical sense Steve knew, but his hind brain didn’t.
“Yeah, I get it,” he said, mainly to get Bucky to keep talking now he seemed to have some flow, but also in the hope they could move past the subject as quickly as possible. “So what happened?”
Bucky cleared his throat, looking more embarrassed than Steve had ever seen him which was concerning in itself given that Bucky had always been so confident and cocksure over everything.
“So, I go there. And everything starts getting a bit Heat hazy – I think I probably left it too late really,” he admitted and Steve got it – there was a reason that Omegas generally preferred to go into Heat fully in the safety of their own homes, and it wasn’t completely nest related despite the fact that it helped.
“And I… don't remember much, honestly. But things must have got – ah – sorted, because I come to when my Heat is mostly over and I get myself home. Honestly, I didn’t think about it too much because… well, I didn’t really want to,” he explained softly, and Steve nodded, encouraging him not to stop now that he'd started but a part of him was secretly glad that Bucky hadn’t thought more onit. “But then I get back and I go to shower – and as I, you know, take everything off and whatever – and… my boss’ card is in my pocket. And it must have been him, Steve, because after that at work he was watching me, and…”
“And…?” Steve prompted, already feeling his annoyance spiking, not at Bucky but either way hoping that it wasn’t showing in his scent though he knew that was futile with the tang of sour lemon on the air.
“Also he… made some comments. He wanted me to know it was him,” he said quietly, not meeting Steve’s eyes as he spoke.
Steve felt his fingers scrunch into fists at his sides and his jaw clench. “He made you feel bad about it? About something he probably had more control over than you?”
Bucky nodded, before biting his lip. “But there’s more. It’s… he’s Alexander Pierce, and…”
“Why does it matter who he is, Buck? He’s in the wrong here,” Steve ground out and Bucky shook his head. “You’re telling me you’ve quit your job because of this?
“Steve, don’t – just listen to me. I haven’t quit, I’ve taken what is technically a demotion and got myself transferred back to the New York office – no, the thing is, I… well. I’m pregnant, Steve. I must’ve been a bit late on my contraceptive shot and… well…” He said, finally bringing those storm grey eyes up to meet Steve’s own and oh.
Now Steve got it.
A single pregnant Omega was not the norm, and everyone knew that the Alpha parent had more rights over any child or would in the eyes of the court if they wanted to. Regardless Bucky was not going to have an easy ride from here on out if he planned on keeping the child.
“I… shit,” he said, unable to come up with anything more eloquent, glancing up at Bucky, his face showing how sorry he was that he couldn’t be more sensitive.
“Yeah, and Steve, I… don’t want to get rid of it. But the thing is that Pierce doesn’t have kids. Can’t have them in his marriage, his wife is a Beta – though whether that’s true or something else is up for debate,” he explained and oh fuck, of course this was more complicated. “And besides that, Pierce is… he’s not a nice guy, definitely not the sort that should have kids. For someone to be married to him I can’t imagine his wife would be any better, and can you imagine someone like that taking on a kid he’s fathered elsewhere? I could do so much better, and I want to, but I…”
“Buck, you’d be amazing,” Steve reassured him quietly, looking up at him. And Bucky would, Steve knew he would. He was so naturally warm and caring, and so good with his younger sisters, he always had been. Some people would put it down to being an Omega, but Steve knew better – it was just who Bucky was.
Hell, Bucky had been one of the main factors Steve had made it through childhood he was pretty sure – always pulling Steve out of a fight on the playground and tending to his wounds. It was just in his nature to care, and Steve knew that deep down Bucky had always wanted a litter of pups of his own.
He gave Steve a warm, genuine smile then at the compliment. “Thanks Stevie, but being amazing doesn’t help if I decide to keep the baby and Pierce puts two and two together with timings and decides that he wants his kid. Or worse, he does it before the kid is born and decides that he doesn’t want the kid.”
“No, it doesn’t,” Steve said and really, that second alternative was almost worse than the first. An Alpha parent held all rights over a child, even one that was currently unborn. He paused for a second. “I… how long do you have to… uh, make a decision?”
“You can ask how far along I am, Steve. And probably about four or five weeks, though it’s not like I can see a doctor without them immediately asking if the Alpha has been informed and getting involved,” he pointed out and yeah, alright, Steve hadn’t actually thought of that one, though in his defence it wasn’t like he’d been faced with an unmated pregnant best friend in his apartment before.
“So you’ve got some time?” He confirmed, mind still turning through all the various possibilities there could be for this.
“Yeah, but I know what I wanna do,” he said, looking at Steve with all the jaw-jutting determination Steve had ever known him to have. It was just a shame that right now there were so few available options.
Steve looked back at him and licked his lips. The thing was, for every bit as stubborn and up for a fight that Bucky Barnes could be, Steve Rogers could do it twice over. The ‘Scrappy Kid From Brooklyn’ genes were strong in him. “Are you sure?” He asked, though he was fairly sure he knew the answer.
“I’m sure,” he nodded. “I’m keeping it Stevie, if there’s any way that I can.”
“There has to be a way, Buck,” Steve said quietly. Though it was then that there was a knock at the apartment door again. “Shit, sorry Buck – that’s the pizza.”
“Hey pal, don’t let me get between you and food,” Bucky said with a small smile, something in his expression hitting Steve right in the gut. But he didn’t have time to analyse right at that moment exactly what it was or what it meant.
Instead, he fumbled for his wallet and paid the delivery guy, taking the boxes and bringing them to the coffee table.
“I mean it, Buck,” he said seriously as he put them down before moving to the kitchen and grabbing a beer for himself and a can of coke for Bucky, handing it over. “We’ll find a way, if that’s what you want to do.”
“It is, though I can’t help but think the search for how to make that a reality is futile,” Bucky insisted, finally starting to relax into the armchair as he took the drink from Steve.
Steve sighed. “Buck, there’s always a way – and you know, you’re still welcome to stay. By the fact you’ve turned up with a bag I guess the move was a last minute decision?”
As he spoke he began to open the pizza boxes, watching Bucky’s interest pick up being faced with food. His hind brain kicked in, a little happy to be providing for an Omega, especially a pregnant one, even if the Omega wasn’t his. Steve had his usual order, though it was more than enough for both of them given Steve usually had enough to satisfy his lunch requirements for the next day. Whilst he was careful to eat healthily during the week, weekends Steve allowed himself a bit of leeway, and leeway often looked like take out food.
“I… it was. A transfer opportunity I was qualified for opened up and they needed an immediate fill. I couldn’t risk passing it up because I just knew I needed to get myself as far away from him as possible as quickly as I could,” he explained, taking a piece of BBQ chicken pizza from Steve’s half-and-half and chewing the edge contemplatively. “I… yeah. Just for a few days, if that’s okay, Steve.”
Steve nodded, hearing the cost of those words and accepting help even though it was gladly and freely offered. “No problem, we’ll eat this and I’ll set up the spare room for you. And Buck, it doesn’t have to be just a few days. It’s for however long you need, you should know that.”
He shook his head then, glancing back at Steve. “I don’t want to put on you too much, even tonight is a lot when you weren’t given any warning.”
Steve shrugged. “What are friends for if not for times like this? Honestly, you’re welcome and it’s not like I don’t have the space.”
Bucky sighed and looked over at him, rolling his eyes though the motion showed fondness as well as mild irritation. “You’re too good to other people, anyone ever tell you that Steve?”
“Yeah, mainly you, pretty often,” Steve replied, picking up a slice from the pepperoni side of the pizza and chewing the end before opening one of the ranch dips and dunking it.
“Maybe you want to try listening to me once in a while, huh?” he asked, elbowing Steve in the side as he picked up a chicken dipper and dunked it in Steve’s dip.
“Hasn’t happened so far Buck, I wouldn’t hold your breath,” he replied with a small smirk on his lips as he took his next mouthful.
Bucky snorted then, popping the dipper into his mouth and chewing and swallowing. “Pal, if I tried that I’d probably suffocate,” he groused and Steve caught his eye then, smirking at him.
Almost immediately, they both started laughing and any residual awkwardness from the beginning of the evening was immediately gone as they tucked into their dinner.
Later on in the evening when Steve had made up the guest bed and put out fresh towels they were sitting side by side on the sofa, with Bucky leaning against Steve’s shoulder. He was breathing deeply and evenly, and the dead weight of him gave away the fact that if he wasn’t asleep, he was at least dozing.
Steve could smell his scent on the air surrounding them and he realized there was a little something else in there besides the normal fresh linen and jasmine, a little hint of something else, floral and different. He’d heard that Omega’s often took on a slightly different scent when they were expecting and maybe this was it.
It should have been weird but turning his head to press his nose into Bucky’s hair felt natural and he let the pheromones the man was letting off relax him as he let his mind wander.
It meant so much to him that it was his home Bucky felt safe to come to when he needed it. Of course, it was awful that he was in this position in the first place, but Steve’s Alpha pride couldn’t help but recognize that it was pride he felt at being thought of as safe. Buck's safe place in the same way he was his.
Maybe it shouldn’t have been such a surprise, he supposed, given how close he and Bucky had always been. Since meeting when they were children living in a fairly run down Brooklyn neighbourhood, they’d been pretty inseparable. Back then Bucky had been tall and dark and handsome in a way that Steve had never thought to be. He’d had problems with his back and his chest, and he still bore the scars from having the former fixed with surgery, dark on the otherwise pale expanse of his back.
They’d grown together, going through their childhood years and into being teenagers, everyone expecting (and both of them expecting, too, if the truth were told) that Bucky would present as an Alpha and Steve would be the Omega of the two if they were going to present at all. It would have made sense; Omegas were often slighter of stature than their Alpha counterparts and Steve certainly fit the bill. Hell, with his natural broad frame, if he hadn’t been an Alpha everyone was sure that Bucky Barnes would be a Beta at the least.
But it hadn’t worked out that way. Steve remembered even now Bucky’s first pre-heat. Knowing instinctively what was happening to his friend and ushering him to the safety of his home as soon as they were out of class. He remembered Winnie Barnes, Bucky’s mother, thanking him for what he’d managed to go before shutting her son in his room not wanting his baby sister, Becca, to see what was about to begin when it did.
The scent shouldn’t have bothered Steve like it did, but in the days after Bucky's first heat he couldn’t let go of it. That soft, sweet aroma haunted his dreams and daydreams for weeks after the event until finally it all culminated in Steve’s first Rut experience which brought on a hormonal rush that caused him to shoot up like a weed. The thing was, unlike a weed, Steve had become broad as well as tall. The trips to the gym he was taking to burn off his newfound energy added to the testosterone now coursing round his body caused him to gain muscles in places he’d assumed he never would.
Honestly, what Steve Rogers had gone through – except for very painful growing pains – could be described best as the textbook example of all the strong changes that could happen to an Alpha when they came of age.
And yet, despite being an Alpha to Bucky’s Omega, Bucky had never looked at him that way.
Really, that was fine. It was fine. It was fine.
Steve would far rather have Bucky’s friendship than nothing at all, and he’d been careful to swallow down his own errant feelings whenever Bucky had mentioned a date or brought someone home or had been texting some other Alpha or Beta who’d entered his life. Steve had even been happy when Bucky had landed the job of his dreams working for SHIELD homeland security, even if it had taken him across the country to DC and meant that he and Steve only saw each other when they were able to take trips or at holidays. As long as Bucky was happy he was happy.
Talking on the phone and via video call had helped fill some of the void, and they’d remained close for all that Steve had still missed him.
Really, all that Steve wanted for the beautiful man next to him – and really, it wasn’t weird for Steve to describe him that way because anybody with eyes could see that Bucky was beautiful – was for him to be happy and to have everything he wanted from life.
The thing was with his current situation, Steve wasn’t sure that there was a particularly happy way out of it.
Alpha parents held all the cards when it came to children, and if this Alexander Pierce guy was Bucky’s superior at work, then it suggested he might also be in a better financial position than Bucky as well as a better social one just by his designation.
He could see why Bucky would have run – the pain of losing a child you wanted despite circumstances would be horrible for anyone, but especially for an Omega parent who would likely have stronger ties already even to an unborn child, and that was if the guy didn’t want to wait until the child was born and take him or her from Bucky then which would be arguably worse. If this Alexander Pierce was in a committed relationship even with a Beta, he would almost certainly be seen as the best option for the child.
Steve sighed, wondering what Bucky would do from here. Regardless of what happened, healthcare providers would always first ask if he knew the Alpha because they would want the Alpha to help make decisions with regards to the care of Bucky and the child as if he couldn’t do it himself.
Steve sighed, smelling that sharp note of lemon in his own scent again as he let himself get riled about it.
“Whatever you’re doing it’s disturbing my nap,” Bucky murmured, pressing his face back into Steve’s shoulder and going heavier again and Steve couldn’t help but laugh. They really did know each other too well sometimes he thought, given that slight change in his scent was enough to rouse Bucky from his sleep.
Steve leaned against him trying to focus on the ridiculous rom com Bucky had put on and failing miserably. If only things worked out in real life like they did in these things.
That led to Steve, in a comfortable beer and pizza induced haze daydreaming about what might make this work out and really there was only one obvious solution.
For this to work out Bucky would need to find himself an Alpha.
But who would treat Bucky as well as Steve would treat Bucky? Especially without making this whole situation ten times more complicated.
Probably no one.
But what if…
Would that even work?
Steve’s mind raced ahead running through the scenario because what he was about to offer was both huge and ridiculous, but compared to how much he cared for Bucky was it really?
Steve ran a hand over his face.
“What are you thinking about? I can feel you fidgeting and I can practically hear your brain gears grinding,” Bucky mumbled sleepily, not even bothering to open his eyes from his doze.
“Buck, the baby – what if we say it’s mine?” He said suddenly, blurting it out with none of the nuance he had intended because well, how else could he suggest it?
At that, Bucky’s eyes snapped open as he sat up and looked at Steve - really looked at Steve. “What?”
“Think about it – it just makes sense, doesn’t it? We’ve always been best friends and I bet we could raise a great kid together. We pretend to be together, we pretend the pup is mine, my name goes on all the paperwork and you know I’d never do anything to take any decisions away from you. It’s perfect,” he said, looking over at Bucky earnestly.
Bucky, meanwhile, was looking at him like he had suddenly sprouted a second head. “Steve, you can’t just pretend that the pup is yours – fuck, we haven’t even seen each other in months, I mean…”
“You’re early enough we can just pretend the baby came a bit early. You came back this weekend, it happened, we’ve been seeing each other for a while and it just makes sense to keep it,” Steve replied, finding that as this came it did make sense in a completely mad way. “You don’t get asked any further questions, you get to make the decisions and once the pup is born we can amicably split up.”
Of course, Steve could do without the splitting up part, but he couldn’t exactly say that.
“Steve, think about what you’re offering here. I know you’re all about a crazy plan, but this is huge even as far as your ideas go – you know you would be legally claiming a child as yours, right? As in you’d be responsible in the eyes of the law for this kid going forward?” He asked, speaking slowly as if Steve were a complete idiot.
All things considered, he might be.
“I know. And Buck, I want to do this for you,” he said quietly and that was true, he realized in that moment. He really did want to make things right for Bucky.
Bucky sighed, moving from Steve a little, standing and stretching. “It’s so much Steve, you… Jesus.”
He wiped a hand over his face and looked back at Steve incredulously.
“I mean it, Buck,” he replied again wanting to reach for the man, to reassure him, but knowing it wasn’t his place even if under normal circumstances it might be accepted.
“I know you do, and that’s why I’m hesitating,” he admitted, and whilst Steve didn’t really understand that sentence he didn’t question it. “I… look, Steve. I’ve no doubt that you mean it right now, but I honestly think you should give yourself time to think about what you’re saying.”
“But you’d be willing to talk about the possibility tomorrow?” he asked, figuring that was not an outright ‘no’. Fuck, Steve realized then that he was goddamn invested in this ridiculous idea already.
Because they could do this.
“Sure, Stevie, I…” he trailed off, looking suddenly a lot smaller than he was and incredibly tired. “I think I should sleep now though, properly sleep, in a bed. It’s been a day.”
“It has,” Steve admitted, giving him a soft smile. “I’ve put towels out for you in the bathroom and you know where the spare room is.”
“Thanks, Stevie,” he said, giving him a sleepy smile. “You really are the best friend a guy could have. I knew there was a reason I came here out of anywhere else we’re kind of ride or die, huh?”
“’Til the end of the line,” Steve agreed with a small smile, quoting some old movie they’d seen as kids becoming obsessed with a few random lines from, that being one of them.
“That’s the one,” Bucky agreed, before giving Steve a lazy salute despite the fact that neither of them had ever been in the military and turning to head to the bathroom to ready himself for bed.
Listening to the general noises of Bucky puttering around, Steve relaxed back against the sofa. In a few minutes he would tidy the beer bottles, coke cans and pizza boxes, but for now he could relax and think, and really given what he had just offered he was strangely relaxed.
That told him everything he needed to know about how sure he was and that made him hope that Bucky would actually consider it.
After all, it really did just make sense, didn’t it?