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"C'mon," Bucky says, breathless. "I got us a room."

Steve wrinkles his nose as Bucky grabs his elbow, steering him down the sidewalk. He can smell the pheromones swirling lightly through the air, the heady scent teasing at him. It's not just the rut that's rapidly descending on him, making him more aware of everything, but something deliberate.

"Did you--?" Steve asks, digging in his heels.

Bucky half-turns and flicks his eyes up and down. Steve knows the answer before Bucky even sets his jaw. "Wasn't gonna let you spend the night outside, was I? No different from when a dame makes up her face."

It is, Steve wants to say. The thought of Bucky massaging his throat, his chest, under his arms to stimulate the glands there, make himself smell like pre-heat just to get some unscrupulous alpha to give them a place to bunk for a while? It gets his hackles up. It's dangerous, too--some rutters have been known to try forcing themselves on "teasing" omegas, which is half the reason heat-simulating perfumes were made illegal back in the twenties.

"Just come on," Bucky repeats, dragging Steve forward again. They're getting looks from people on the street, and Steve tries to tell himself that it's just the odd couple they make and not the way Bucky's smelling. They’re always being stared at, always, because of Bucky. He’s tall, handsome, solidly built--he used let people think he was a beta, back in the boys’ home, before his heats started. He would still get away with it if they could afford suppressants, but those are being rationed so the lion’s share can go to omegas in the war. It’s illegal to sell from ration books, but that doesn’t really stop anyone, and suppressant chits can fetch up to a week’s worth of food. Tires and heat pills were the first things the government pulled from civilians, so Bucky’s been all-natural since December 1941, and they get looks because he’s the sort of omega an alpha dreams of mating. Everything about him screams “I can give you healthy children.”

And Steve? Well, Steve pretty much screams “I will probably die if I attempt to knot.” So the looks aren’t really new. All the same, he can feel himself glaring at anyone who lingers too long.

The place they end up at isn't the best, but they have their own room and there are locks on all of the doors, so it could be the Waldorf-Astoria for all Steve cares. When they step inside, Steve's hit with a wave of Bucky's scent, like he'd been rubbing up against every surface. An alpha woman is leaning against a doorframe, and she gives Bucky a key and a slow smile. Steve, practically a head shorter than both of them, feels himself puff up, stand on his toes. Bucky glances at him out of the corner of his eye and smirks, then starts pulling him toward the stairs.

On the landing between the second and third floor, they meet a descending beta, who takes one appraising look at them and says to Bucky, "Whatever he's paying you, I'll double it."

The bluntness of it--the double-barbed insult--makes Steve legitimately snarl, the instinctual sound rumbling deep in his chest. He doesn't have many alpha qualities, and he's only vocalized like this a handful of times in his entire life, but the oncoming rut and his own frustration at the entire situation are a powerful combination. It's not polite, and it's especially rude to direct territorial aggression at non-alphas, but Steve can’t bring himself to feel bad.

Bucky, cool as ever, only says “out of your price range,” and practically drags Steve up the last flight of stairs while he’s still rumbling at the nonplussed beta.

After they’re in their room and the door’s locked, Bucky whirls on him. “Stop, Steve, jesus. You’re gonna give yourself an episode.”

Steve chokes back the growling, because he’s right. His chest is already constricting, the strain of the sustained effort threatening to cause an asthma attack. But stopping the sound doesn’t mean he’s stopped the feeling, and he wraps his fists in the material of Bucky’s shirt possessively, which earns him a laugh.

A few more people stop and sniff around their door before the rut really sets in. Every time they hear interested pacing make the floorboards creak, Bucky throws his head back and starts making obscene sounds, his impression of a tied omega. He winks at Steve when he does it, and Steve finds himself caught in a no-man’s land of embarrassment, amusement, and sheer frustration.

He hadn’t even shown sexual traits until he was nearly fifteen, and everybody--including Steve--had been surprised when he woke up one night to find himself rubbing a half-hearted knot against Bucky’s thigh, a sticky patch of precome staining their sheets. The other boys had pegged him for an omega, and a bad one at that; one of the many jokes at his expense was that Barnes only liked him because Steve was even lower on the food chain than an omega with delusions of beta-status. Steve can still remember the feral grin Bucky’d given him after they’d heard that one for the first time, blood on his teeth from his split lip, and the way his voice had cracked when he’d said “I like you for a lot more’n that, Rogers.”

The nuns had pulled them apart after that first rut, stuck Steve in the alpha wing of the home and left Bucky in the section that housed omegas and kids too young for all of that stuff. They needn’t have worried, Steve thinks bitterly as Bucky strips him out of shirt and trousers. Years later, they’ve still never tied.

It’s not that they don’t want to--or that Steve doesn’t want to, rather. Bucky drives him crazy, like he does any red-blooded alpha or rut-cycle beta. It’s just that his traitorous body doesn’t agree. He’s spiking into his rut, and the only thing Bucky’s giving him in response is the smell of his teased-out pheromones, already mostly dissipated and not being replaced like they’d be if Steve was any real sort of alpha at all. More than once, Steve’s considered that maybe Bucky just claps to his side because he’s as “safe” as it can get, too weak both physically and sexually to bring the issue between them to a head. As it is, Bucky can use Steve as a shield every time someone wants him for a mate, and yet remain completely untied. Even if it’s true and that is Bucky’s primary motivation--an uncharitable thought, and Steve prays it’s just jealous rut-brain making him feel this way--well, maybe Steve owes him that protection for being so willing to take care of him. God knows it can’t be easy.

“Hey, you’re burning up,” Bucky says, forcing Steve’s attention back to the present. “Finally get you good?”

Steve nods, his mouth dry. Rut’s supposed to be the battle-cry of the alpha, a week-long surge of energy and hormones that turns leadership into dominance and desire into all-consuming need. As long as there are no omegas or betas around to trigger the mating urge in the early stages, it can lead to hyper-focus and almost terrifying strength. The Romans were the first to organize a standing military by the rut cycles of their soldiers--a trick they’d learned from the Teutones--and the ancient world had paid the price.

In Steve, though, it tends to manifest more like a cold that makes him a little irritable.

Bucky gets him lying down on the single bed in the room before prepping the washbasin. After a few minutes, he begins to swipe over Steve’s chest with a cool washcloth, soothing his flushed skin, before dipping down to his stomach and hips. Steve groans and Bucky shakes his head. "Now why can't you ever get like this when it's my turn, huh? Makes a guy feel hurt."

"Buck..." Steve whines. He doesn't know how to tell him that's all he wants, to react the way an alpha's supposed to when a close omega goes into heat. Or even for their cycles to just match up, just once, and see if tying fixes them. Right now it's just a torture, Steve's frail and short-lived ruts and Bucky's crippling twice-yearly heats, when they can hear every unmated alpha for half a block howling outside because Steve can't even get it up enough to scent the place. Even now, his rut's enough to make him more aggressive and half-inflated but not enough to trigger pseudo-estrus, so Bucky's just sympathetic instead of receptive.

"I know, I know," Bucky murmurs, leaning over him to adjust the pillow. His neck is right over Steve's face, and for a moment the overwhelming scent of Bucky's fading pheromones jolts something inside of him. Bucky startles and looks down at him, eyes going dark. Then Steve inhales wrong, his lungs catch, and the threat of the earlier asthma attack becomes a very real thing. There are hands on his back, then Bucky’s chest is pressed to his, setting an in-out, in-out rhythm that Steve tries to force his body to match.

By the time he can breathe again, the moment's gone. Bucky’s scent has changed from the sweetness of pre-heat to the acrid tang of worry that Steve generally associates with him, and his rut's settled into the level it'll maintain for a day or so before it peters into nothingness. Still Bucky hangs close, arm wrapped around Steve’s narrow shoulders. He’s got a hard-to-read expression on his face, and Steve’s sure he has to look like a mess. Pale and mussed and shaky, some cosmic joke where the punchline is his half-blown knot nudging up against Bucky’s hip because that’s just how the rut works.

“You wanna...?” Bucky asks, moving a hand between them, tongue darting out to wet his lips. But Steve knows it’s just a friendly offer, knows he’s not feeling it, so he closes his eyes and shakes his head. Bucky makes a sound low in his throat and sinks back to the side of the bed. When Steve opens his eyes, it’s to find Bucky with his head in his hands, and he’s ashamed that his own selfishness keeps him from letting Bucky go.

That night, while they’re curled up next to each other, Steve rests his head in the crook of Bucky’s arm and sighs.

--

The serum changes everything.

Two days after Erskine's death, he's hit by his first true rut. They strap him down in a basement and run tests on him, sending in only alpha doctors. But he can smell the others, even past the bleach and the alcohol, the betas and the omegas in the other parts of the building. And he knows they can sense him too, because they sneak down to his door sometimes, and the increased scent sets his blood on fire until they're chased away by alpha staff.

On the second day, they take off his cuffs and let him touch himself, half-wild with rut-brain. Some small and distant part of him, his everyday self, is mortified by the frantic way he self-stimulates, tireless and insatiable. The doctors measure everything: the width of his knot, the length of time it take for him to ejaculate, the quantity of output. In the hazy periods of relief he gets, he tries to remind himself that they did this before he got the serum, too, procured blood samples and urine samples, tried and failed to get a semen sample. It doesn’t work, and his deep-seated shame burns in his sinuses until the rut takes back over.

All he can think about is Bucky. He’s somewhere across the Atlantic by now, back on suppressants and fighting a war, but in Steve’s mind he’s caught in the middle of heat. There are scores of sketches of him like that in half a dozen books that Steve has owned and lost in the course of being a destitute artist in New York City, sketches that Steve drew as he sat nearby, helpless to aid despite his desire. But he doesn’t need those books now--his already excellent memory was only enhanced by the serum, and his mind is playing back the images like he’s at a picture show, in perfect Technicolor. Bucky on his knees and elbows on a mattress, head buried under his arms, keening. Bucky with a pillow between his thighs, rocking back and forth against the pressure. Bucky kissing him messily, hand inside Steve’s waistband, begging for him to just respond, christ, come on, I know you’ve got it in you, Rogers--

And he couldn’t do anything, because fingers and tongues are useless in the face of heat unless you’ve got the complementary pheromones to go with them. But in his mind he’s there, he’s right there, and the noises Bucky makes aren’t for the benefit of nosy neighbors but the real, satisfied whines of a knotted omega. Then he’s coming over his fist, and the doctors are making notes on clipboards, and he wishes the earth would up and swallow him.

--

Eventually the rut lets up and he gets shipped out on his new assignment. Senator Brandt is a mastermind and stacks the bond tour with nothing but mated pairs of alphas and omegas. How he found two dozen knockout dames that meet that specification is beyond Steve, but it’s a relief. Everything is so much worse for him now, like he’s finally going through puberty for real. Still, all it takes is Deborah (Miss U, mated to Miss S) baring her teeth and snapping at his throat once for Steve to get the picture, and for the most part after that the girls all treat him with the sympathy the mated have for buck alphas. When his second rut catches him by surprise in Kansas City, the show takes a week-long break and all the alphas take turn guarding the exits of his room, “lest Captain America terrorize the town's unsuspecting omegas.” Steve maintains that he’d never do that, but he appreciates the precaution anyhow.

Then the tour goes overseas, about four months in, and he ends up in Italy being booed off a stage. Seeing Agent Carter again makes having things thrown at his head worth it, though. He always finds himself tongue-tied around her--she is cool and competent, with a vice-like grip on control, everything a military alpha is supposed to be. Steve’s never met her like in his twenty-five years, and just being around her makes him feel like he can be better than he is. During training she’d inspired him, and he’d made a fool of himself trying to tell her that on the ride over to the lab. In retrospect, he’s glad she was sent out with SSR in the aftermath of the tragedy and wasn’t around for his disastrous first rut. He’s not sure he could’ve survived knowing she’d seen him like that. Not that crouching in the mud in bright blue tights is a much better scenario.

But then the other shoe drops, and all of his self-pity burns away quick and bright when he learns about the 107th. He’d like to say it’s duty and country that spur him to action, worry for his fellow soldiers or a sense of heroism. But he is, after all, just a man, and nothing occurs to him except Bucky. If the army knew he’d commandeered their weapons expert and an allied agent and sent them both deep into enemy territory just for the life of one omega, he’d have been dishonorably discharged before his feet even hit the ground, Captain America or not. But the look Agent Carter gives him as he throws himself out of the plane and into the anti-aircraft fire has something akin to pride in it, and Steve feels pretty all right about himself after that.

He finds Bucky more by luck than by skill. If he hadn’t gone to investigate the room he’d seen the doctor leaving, he would’ve still been searching when the base went up in flames. He knows that for certain, because he had been trying to follow Bucky’s scent, that old memory from countless nights sharing a mattress and a blanket. It had been scattered around the cells, faint but distinguishable, but he'd lost it on the way to where he’d been directed. He’d stood in the hallway, inhaling deeply like a horny first-time rutter trying to pick up a whiff of some stranger’s heat, and felt a growing sense of despair. No one’s ever come back, the Englishman had said, and he’d wondered if Bucky was just a stiff lump wrapped in old canvas by now. Then he saw the little beta scurrying away and had gone to look and--

Bucky doesn’t smell like Bucky. He stinks of chemicals and close quarters, unwashed body and sickness. And he looks small, far smaller than can be believed. But when his eyes slip open and he says “Steve...?” like that, well. For the first time in his life, Steve thinks he understands the phenomenon that’s supposed to give alphas an extra boost of strength and stamina when close omegas are in danger, because he finds himself doing things that even the serum shouldn’t allow. The tight bunch of panic in his chest when Bucky refuses to leave without him translates into a jump that’s more than difficult--it’s outright impossible. He knows, because the SSR doctors did a full battery of tests on how high and how far he can leap, and when his elbows slam into the metal grating of the walkway and Bucky bodily hauls him up, his personal best just went up by over seven feet.

They take two steps outside into the chilly pre-dawn mist before Bucky’s fight or flight instinct wears off and he goes, “sorry, uh,” and collapses bonelessly to the ground. Steve, still riding the high, checks to make sure he’s breathing, then slings him over his shoulder and goes to find the rest of the prisoners. If any of them are surprised to see Sergeant Barnes again--or surprised to see him being carried like a sack of potatoes across the back of a shield-wielding crazy-eyed alpha--they keep it to themselves.

By the time Bucky comes to, they’re eight miles closer to the Allied border, and Steve’s carrying him in his arms, pressed tight to his chest. “You couldn’ta put me in one of the trucks?” Bucky slurs, blearily peering over Steve’s shoulder at the line crawling along behind them.

Steve grunts noncommittally in response, then frowns. “Feel up to walking?”

Bucky swallows. “Yeah, just...”

They end up staggering along, Bucky with one arm hooked around Steve’s neck to steady himself. He still doesn’t smell right, and an astringent chemical stink seems to be coming out of his pores as he sweats. It’s making Steve nervous, and he’s so tightly wound that “nervous” is coming out as “angry.” Every time the wind shifts and he gets a new whiff, his jaw clenches and his grip on Bucky’s waist tightens. But he can’t really say he minds that much, given the circumstances. Not really.

--

He settles his new team with an unlimited supply of drinks--it isn’t like he has family to send his salary back to anyhow--and starts winding his way across the room to where he knows Bucky is. Three days on English soil have already done wonders for him; he looks worn-out still, tired still, but the sick gray tone of his skin is improving, and he’s starting to smell like himself.

Sliding into the chair next to him, Steve lets their shoulders brush for just a moment. Bucky turns his head and manages a tight smile. “That’s some crack team you’re putting together there,” he says, nodding to where Morita and Dugan are attempting to sing “God Save the King” and “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” simultaneously.

Steve gives him a crooked grin. “HYDRA did all the work, throwing you guys in a cell together. I’m just reaping the benefits.”

Bucky snorts.

“How are you?” Steve asks, perhaps a little too anxiously. As soon as they’d touched down in England, Bucky had been swept away into the depths of the SSR bunker for “debriefing and evaluation,” as Agent Carter had put it. After spending the first night anxiously pacing the streets outside and ineffectually demanding to be allowed to see his friend, Steve had been sent to meet with Colonel Phillips. He knew a distraction technique when he saw it, but there was a lot of info he’d picked up that had to be relayed. The second night the air raid sirens had wailed non-stop, punctuated with earth-shaking explosions, and Steve was trapped several blocks away. Other than a brief exchange when he’d picked Bucky up earlier in the evening and headed over to the pub, they haven’t really had a chance to talk.

Just then, the barkeep drifts over and asks if they need anything. He smells like an omega, and he leans over the counter to speak to Steve.

“We’re good,” Bucky cuts in.

Still making eye contact with Steve, the barkeep adds, “You let me know if there’s anything you need.”

"Uh-huh, will do," Bucky replies, his tone unusually surly. He scowls after him until he’s out of earshot, then sighs. “M’fine. I’d rather hear about you.”

Steve grimaces. “Not much to hear.”

Bucky looks at him incredulously. “You’re a foot taller, a hundred pounds heavier, and apparently a national icon.

“Oh, that,” Steve coughs. “Well, you know, you were gone, I got bored, had to do something with my time.”

Bucky points to his glass when a different barman passes by. “Well. If that’s what you end up accomplishing when I’m gone, maybe I should’ve given you your chance earlier.”

Steve’s not sure if that’s supposed to be a joke or not.

As he’s debating, a beta comes over and slides in on his other side, flashing him a smile. Steve ducks his head and smiles in response, still not used to just how friendly people are towards him these days. Then she brushes her hair back behind her ear and shakes her head a little, and suddenly the whole thing shifts to a totally new light.

She’s in the estrus swing of the beta cycle and the smell of upcoming heat is strong on her, promising fertility in just a day or two. It makes Steve lean forward instinctively, his alpha physiology finally working the way it's supposed to, a sympathetic rush of hormones triggering a proto-rut. He feels his face flush at his body's reaction, because he doesn't even know this girl, and he's already a quarter of the way to go-time.

A low rumble starts next to him, and Steve looks over bemusedly to see Bucky standing ramrod straight and deadly. His hands are clenched into white-knuckled fists, and his jaw is locked. It’s not a look Steve can say he’s seen on him much; Bucky’s usually been the type to lull others into a sense of security--use his omega status to his advantage--then sock them in the teeth hard enough to show them stars. Out-and-out aggression isn’t his style.

The girl breaks eye contact with Steve to send a couple of worried glances over at Bucky, then begins to slowly back away. Without thinking, Steve maneuvers himself between the two of them, using his newly-broad frame as a wall. As soon as the beta is outside pouncing distance, she whirls and dashes off, and Steve turns back to Bucky in confusion.

"Are you growling?" Steve can't help but ask, even as Bucky's exhale still sounds like a motorcycle engine.

"No," Bucky replies, voice low and rough and utterly betraying him.

"You nearly scared that poor dame to death," Steve says with a shake of his head.

Bucky turns to the bar and slams back his drink. "Not my fault if she changed her mind. She probably recognized you from the posters and thought twice about knotting an alpha who'd wear that ridiculous get-up."

Steve puts on his best wounded face, the one he saves for skimping cooks in the mess and old friends. Bucky just motions for another glass and throws that one down too. Steve blinks. "Hey, whoa."

"Don't 'hey whoa' me," Bucky bites back, voice scotch-raspy. "You wanna know how I am? I’ve been off suppressants for over a month, and I was supposed to be in full heat yesterday and I'm not even feeling it yet, and meanwhile you're stinking up the joint every time some damn breeder waltzes past."

"Bucky," he chastises. He's never let anybody call his friend a breeder when his heat's coming on, and he doesn't like hearing it now. Heats might not be a choice, but reproducing certainly is, and the word carries all sorts of ugly connotations these days.

But he forgets his righteous indignation when Bucky looks up at him, the dark circles under his eyes making him seem so young. His expression is openly despairing, like he's being betrayed, and it makes Steve’s breath catch. That’s when he reevaluates the important part of that outburst. “A month?”

“Yeah, a month,” Bucky replies miserably. “They took all our pills when they took our weapons. It was awful, you could hear the guys going on cycle; sometimes they split us up by country and sometimes by that. You had an entire cage full of detox heats going, and all around them the alphas were losing their goddamn minds. They threw me in a mixed cage, though. I kept counting down the days, thinking shit, it’s gonna be next week, how can I get out of this, and then I didn’t have to, because they did it for me. Dragged me up to that room, and the next thing I know it’s your stupid face above me and I can’t remember a thing. Except I was supposed to be in heat already, and I’m not, and nobody knows for certain why.”

Steve fights the urge to reach out and pull him into a one-armed hug, like they used to do when they were kids. But this isn't like then, like when they’d just gotten their ribs kicked in by some would-be gang--this is serious, terrible stuff, and he feels helpless. He’s always felt helpless where Bucky’s concerned, and that's one of his greatest regrets.

“The docs downstairs say it’s probably trauma, from malnutrition or stress or whatever, but they don’t even know if they’re gonna come back,” Bucky continues wretchedly. “Or if they’ll be right when they do. Oh god, it’s like I’m you all the sudden.”

“Hey,” Steve frowns, though his worry outweighs any offense he could’ve possible taken.

“But maybe this’ll just make it easier, huh?” Bucky says, and he’s motioning the bartender forward again. “Make it easier to be us without me wanting more. That’s probably the silver lining.”

“Hi,” a voice says from over Steve’s shoulder, and it’s a dame, another one, and he can smell it on her too. Any other time he’d be torn between embarrassed and flattered, but Bucky’s eyes have gone wide and hostile, and a noise starts up violently in his chest.

“Excuse us,” Steve replies, a grounding hand wrapped firmly around Bucky’s bicep. He means to be apologetic, because it’s not her fault, but he’s afraid the sudden strain of the situation leaks into his voice, because she goes a little white and quickly walks off.

“Let’s go,” Steve says suddenly, putting a hand flat between Bucky’s shoulderblades and giving a gentle push.

“The others,” Bucky protests half-heartedly, “and your tab--”

“We’ll come back. Just...let’s go outside for a minute. I need some air.”

What he really needs is time to think, time to process what he just heard. Because he’s getting the uncomfortable feeling that he’s been missing a very large piece of the puzzle for a very long time, like drawing the Manhattan skyline and forgetting to block out the space for the Chrysler Building. But he knows what he’s been seeing inside, because he recognizes those feelings as something he’s had before, and it's something he can help fix now.

As soon as they round the corner into a twisting alleyway, Steve leans down and kisses Bucky’s throat, scraping his teeth over the cords of muscle there.

“What’re you--” Bucky manages, then goes half-limp as Steve starts sliding his hands up under his jacket and shirt, thumbs catching on the bottom of his ribcage. He’s watched Bucky do this before but never tried it himself, and he just hopes he’s going at it right. For a long moment nothing happens, and he’s afraid he’s messed up, or that Bucky’s implication is right and whatever was done to him has damaged something vital.

But no, it’s an unfounded fear. The sweetness of pre-heat pheromones hits Steve full in the face, and he presses into Bucky’s neck and moans. Bucky gasps, actually gasps, as the air between them gets thick with the musky smell of alpha. Neither of them are in cycle, so it’s not really going anywhere on its own, but just the opportunity to finally do this has Steve rubbing himself up against Bucky’s hipbone while they flood the alleyway with scent like a pair of teenagers. If only the nuns could see us now, Steve thinks nonsensically, then inhales deeply and pulls back.

Bucky’s got a death grip on the lapels of his uniform, pale face frozen in confusion. “What the hell was that for?”

Steve laughs, and it comes out much throatier than he’s expecting. He slides his hands back out from under Bucky’s shirt, and sure enough, they're saturated with the smell of him. It’s strong enough to knock Steve straight back to Brooklyn, to long afternoons in the Botanical Gardens, the cold water off of Coney Island, eight years of sharing a mattress in whatever low-rent place would have them, thousands of doodles of Bucky’s mouth or eyes or hands or hair, the way his face looked lit up in purples and reds on the Fourth of July, the pained sound of his moan as the heat took him, the expression he could never parse when Bucky offered to tie with him during rut and it hits him now that it wasn’t pity, it was hope, hope, I know you’ve got it in you, Rogers--

Steve runs his hands over his own nape, under his jaw, through his hair. He pushes his fingers past his cuffs to rub over his pulse points, then below his collar to the dip in his clavicle. Bucky watches him silently, watches him spread the scent around, rub it into his skin to mix with his own. Then, when he’s satisfied, he repeats the process with Bucky, ghosting his thumbs over Bucky’s cheekbones, licking wet stripes where his shoulders meet his neck, pressing their foreheads together, painting him with alpha pungency. He doesn’t stop until it’s done, can’t stop for fear of his own embarrassment overcoming him and ruining what he’s got going.

“Until you come into heat again,” Steve explains, hands bracketing Bucky’s shoulders. They’d always seemed so broad before, and he hopes it’s just that he’s bigger now.

One more moment of silence, then Bucky tucks his head down. When he meets Steve’s eyes again, he’s more like his old self than Steve’s seen since before he enlisted, in the angle of his chin and the tilt of his brows. “God almighty, Steve, you never did know how to find a happy medium, did you? I fucking reek now, thanks.”

“Welcome,” Steve hums back, delighted.

Bucky shoves at him until he breaks free, then saunters back toward the entrance to the pub, Steve following happily. They’ve waited ten years so far, they can wait for Bucky’s cycle to fix itself, or Steve’s rut to come back around, whichever. In the meantime, every time a hint of Bucky’s scent drifts off his clothes, he’s just glad to be home.